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While President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron were having a news conference in Paris celebrating the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I, Liu Xiaobo, the well-known Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Peace winner, lay dying (literally) of stage IV liver cancer in a heavily guarded hospital, unable to see his wife. In response to a question from a Chinese journalist as to what Trump and Macron thought personally of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump and Macron managed only praise. Trump said, “Well, he’s a friend of mine. I have great respect for him … . A great leader. He’s a very talented man. I think he’s a very good man.” Macron commented, “I have a lot of respect for President Xi … .”

Wow. I felt sad that these two presidents could praise a leader who imprisoned Liu Xiaobo for 10 years for initiating a petition calling for democracy, didn’t allow his release for timely treatment of his liver cancer and kept his wife from him under house arrest. It would have been a nod to Liu’s heroism in defense of democracy and liberty if Trump or Macron would have at least mentioned their concern for Liu’s well-being during their news conference. The rest of us, however, can remember Liu. We can thank him for his bravery in negotiating the safe passage of protesters during the Tiananmen Square uprising. We can honor him by taking his words to heart — words written before his trial: “Hatred can rot a person’s wisdom and conscience. An enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation and inflame brutal life and death struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and hinder a country’s advance toward freedom and democracy.”

Judy Ostendorff, Bloomington

SUN COUNTRY AIRLINES

A new CEO is named. What will it mean for passengers?

Oh-oh. Looks like you can kiss those Sun Country Airlines perks goodbye soon, like the free carry-on bag and soft drinks.

The “hometown airline” said goodbye this week to its previous CEO, Zarir Erani, and said hello to its new CEO, Jude Bricker, who comes from Allegiant — an ultra-low-cost airline that charges lots of passenger fees. I could be wrong, but Sun Country may adopt the current U.S. airline industry business model more aggressively. You know, the nickel-and-dime model, charging customers fees on just about everything.

It wouldn’t exactly be a surprise. The U.S. domestic airlines are largely run by the finance guys, who long ago concluded that charging their customers added fees is the wave of the future — the wave they need to ride for primary, top-line revenue growth.

And what a wave it is. During 2016, airlines pulled in $41 billion in “ancillary” customer fees. And as I write this, I’m sure there is an airline senior manager, somewhere in the U.S., now dreaming up what other fees you can be charged for on your next flight.

Guess I’d better get used to those added-value, optional-service fees. And to those comfortable, paper-thin seats. Hey, wait a minute — I can pay another fee, to avoid paying all the standard fees. Awesome!

Neil F. Anderson, Richfield

HEALTH CARE BILL

Here’s one way to describe the latest Senate plan

Here’s a parable that I think fits the current U.S. Senate health care plan: “A member of Congress walks along the beach and sees a man drowning. He thinks: I could save that man. But if I do, I have taken away his choice to sink or swim. Anyway, he is not worthy of my help. So he passes the man by. But first, he sees the man’s clothing on the beach, so he rifles the guy’s pockets and extracts the cash to share with his more deserving rich friends and donors.”

Does this congressman care about his fellow Americans?

“Choice” is a hollow promise for millions under this plan, a focus-group buzzword for the bill’s architects. Here will be the choices for many: food or medicine, medical bankruptcy or earlier death, charity care at an emergency room or hoping the symptoms don’t get worse. It’s one thing for those of us who have relatively good health at the moment, but we need to reach outside ourselves and think about the millions of children, elderly and disabled citizens who are currently relying on us to protect their interests as well. They are fellow Americans, too.

Edward Plaster, Edina

ELECTRIC VEHICLES

Don’t think current limitations will be obstacles for all time

With electric cars on the cusp of becoming the new automotive means of transportation, there have been repeated letters to the editor about the lithium-ion batteries and their time-consuming recharging rate and the limit of approximately 200 miles per charge. We should not see these issues as locked in place. Look to the Middle East, specifically Israel. The electric car has taken off there, and the newest battery is made of sacs of polypeptides that can store and discharge electricity and allow a 300-mile run, and charging requires five minutes. Other options in Israel are stations that will swap out a low battery for a fully charged one without any wait at a charging station.

Innovation will make this new technology of electric cars become more and more desirable and convenient in our country as well.

Stuart Borken, St. Louis Park

WOMEN IN THE WILDERNESS

In portraying trip as novel, column reinforced stereotypes

I am writing in response to Dennis Anderson’s July 9 column “Women learn and live on wilderness outing.” As a native Duluthian, I grew up with annual trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Quetico Provincial Park. I was raised by avid outdoors people, parents who moved from Kansas to Ely, Minn., in the 1970s to work at outfitters, setting up visitors for wilderness trips. My mother went on to start a business leading groups of women to the BWCA.

I was disappointed to see Anderson portray a women’s trip to the northern wilderness as some sort of revolutionary experience. As Anderson himself acknowledges, women make up a quarter of overnight BWCA visitors. By singling out this experience as novel, by highlighting the fact that the women slept on the ground in tents as if women aren’t tough enough and by ending the piece with a reference to the wine supply, Anderson perpetuates the very “social-cultural stereotypes” he cites as a reason for women’s limited engagement with wilderness experiences.

I am glad these women, as any first-timers to the wilderness, had a positive experience in a place that is unique and dear to many of us as Minnesotans. But the fact that six women managed to plan and execute a trip to Quetico is not surprising or novel, and portraying it as such is an insult to women.

Emily Cook-Lundgren, Kigali, Rwanda

GRANDMOTHERS AS FLOWER GIRLS

One example gets the attention, but this is not novel, either

I enjoyed the recent article about a Mankato woman who is to be a flower girl at her granddaughter’s wedding (Variety, July 12). I’ve been there, done that! I am 80 years old and was the flower girl at my granddaughter’s wedding last year — 2016. It was quite a thrill to walk down the aisle throwing flower petals. In fact, the grandmother of the groom was a flower girl with me, so that was even more fun — having two grandmothers throwing flower petals.

I believe this is the current popular tradition. I’m very surprised that the news media made such a fuss about this Mankato woman, because it’s sort of old news nowadays. And, yes, I “loved it,” too.

Sandra Bjorndahl, White Bear Lake