See more of the story

It’s shocking to learn that over 50% of Minnesota waters are impaired, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (“56% of state waters impaired,” front page, Nov. 13). The agency recently reported that over 3,400 waterways in its latest inventory show a range of problems, with mercury as the leading contaminant.

And yet the MPCA had no problem approving a water-quality permit for the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine, located upstream of the Fond du Lac Reservation and Duluth area communities. The mine would discharge multiple pollutants into already-impaired waters.

These pollutants include sulfates, which increase the methylation of mercury in wetlands and sediments. Methylmercury is the form of mercury that contaminates fish and damages the brains and bodies of infants and children.

One in 10 babies along North Shore is born with unhealthy levels of mercury in his or her body, as of 2012. Pollutants from the PolyMet mine would only worsen this situation.

I can only conclude that the MPCA values mining interests far more than the health of Minnesotans who live downstream. This also seems true for many elected officials, including Gov. Tim Walz, who are on record in support of PolyMet.

Fortunately, the Minnesota Court of Appeals has put a hold on PolyMet’s water permit, due to “substantial evidence of procedural irregularities” in the way the permit was issued. Other permits for the mine have also been stayed.

Let’s hope that, unlike the MPCA, the court will decide in favor of clean water and human health. We definitely don’t need more impaired waterways in the “land of sky blue waters.”

Nancy Giguere, St. Paul

WAR CRIMES

Pardons aren’t so surprising after all

President Donald Trump’s pardoning of three members of the armed services accused or convicted of war crimes is just another example of his go-it-alone decisionmaking (“President pardons service members for war crimes,” Nov. 16). And not for the first time, conservative media appear to have shaped his decision, despite strong pushback by top military leadership. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy are rightfully concerned about how the pardons would undermine the military code of justice. Then again, I doubt that a commander in chief who cleverly and repeatedly avoided military service is even vaguely familiar with the Uniform Code of Military Justice as well as the military code of conduct, article VI: “I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions and dedicated to the principles which made my country free.”

Mark Bergherr, Burnsville

• • •

Reading “Pardons raise fears laws of war won’t apply” by Dave Philipps of the New York Times (Nov. 18), I was initially angered that our president would pardon a few convicted or charged war criminals, undermining the system of military justice.

But why should a few luckless grunts be imprisoned for crimes that the political class commits with impunity? Saddling our veterans with escalating PTSD and suicide rates is no less a crime.

Recall Lt. William Calley, lone scapegoat for the March 16, 1968, My Lai Massacre in Vietnam, a four-hour butchery of over 500 unarmed men, women and children interrupted only by a short lunch break.

As Nick Turse points out in his book, “Kill Anything That Moves,” My Lai was no aberration. It was U.S. policy, plausibly denied but quietly blessed by the commander in chief.

Turse found hundreds more war crimes had been suppressed. As he put it, after studying the records of the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group, a secret Pentagon task force, “I’d thought that I was looking for a needle in a haystack; what I found was a veritable haystack of needles.”

Until we start bringing to justice the real perps, the purveyors of criminal U.S. foreign policy — Bushes, Trumps, Johnsons, Nixons and Reagans, even saintly Carters, Clintons and Obamas, plus a Congress wholly owned by merchants of death — we should not only fear that the laws of war don’t apply, but that they have become a sick joke.

William Beyer, St. Louis Park

UNTESTED RAPE KITS

Minneapolis must do better

I was grieved to hear about the sudden appearance of 1,700 untested rape kits in the Minneapolis Police Department (“Mpls. finds 1,700 untested rape kits,” Nov. 16). I applaud them for coming forward with the latest review and stating they will be hiring three additional analysts to clear their backlog, but I cannot fathom how so many went unnoticed and untested for so long. Although many are deemed “restricted,” without the patient’s involvement in the case, this is no excuse.

Currently, some experts estimate that there are 250,000 untested rape kits in our country. Since when has rape become a crime that gets pushed to the back burner? Other cities have cleared their backlog of untested kits. It can be done. With the recent $38 million grant that was distributed in 2015 to clear backlogged kits, there have been 165 prosecutions nationally and 64 convictions. There has been new evidence to reopen cold cases, and serial rapists have been identified and brought to justice. Most importantly, victims and their families are receiving peace, justice and hope.

Minneapolis, you can do better. Let’s prioritize the victim. As the advocates at End the Backlog admonish, please make this right and send the message that justice for the victims of rape matters.

Lisa Ellenburg, Winona

• • •

Think about the headline that Minneapolis “finds” 1,700 untested rape kits. The police chief has no explanation. Think about that statement as well — no explanation! Some people in the department knew about this — these kits cannot walk by themselves to this secret shelf. The secret shelf was perhaps in a secret room, but the kits were being taken by someone into this room. Then the kits were conveniently ignored. Think about that and how wrong this is on so many levels. Think about all of these victims who have been waiting for justice only to be ignored!

There are people in the department who knew about this and then they got caught. There must be 100% accountability and then people must be fired, all the way up to the chief. This is totally inexcusable, and it will be worse yet if there is no accountability. Mr. Mayor, do your job!

Doug Jensen, Minnetonka

HEALTH CARE

A better system would help, but so would better participants

The letter decrying America’s 27th ranking in world health blames our health care system (“We rank 27th for a reason,” Nov. 17). However, to paraphrase, “The fault, dear Brutus, may not be within our health care system but within ourselves.” The points made by the writer are certainly valid and integral to the campaigns of current presidential candidates. Agreed, our health care system is flawed, expensive and unfair to many. But spending more is not currently working.

A partial explanation of our health care dilemma is the nature of Americans — we continue to fight for our freedoms by eating, drinking or smoking what we choose. We defend our right to drive fast, not exercise or not take meds as prescribed. Generally, no one can tell Americans what to do! But there are consequences to this defiant nature.

Alexander Adams, Minneapolis

We want to hear what you think. Send us a note here.