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President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of Mexico is right to suggest, as he did this week, that the U.S. change its priorities in aid to Central America from security to economic aid. U.S. President Donald Trump's call to cut this aid would be harmful to both the fight against poverty and our national security.

Cutting resources to these countries for short-term political interests wastes taxpayer money and limits the effectiveness of programs designed to save lives and further American interests abroad. Our use of foreign assistance aims to create the conditions under which aid is no longer necessary, investing in future American trade partners and allies, as articulated by the Trump administration.

In the Northern Triangle, which consists of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the U.S. is working to help address the root causes of migration including brutal violence, hunger and instability in vulnerable communities. This assistance represents just 0.035% of the entire U.S. federal budget. While the governments in the Northern Triangle face challenges, most U.S. assistance is focused on working with local partners, and the U.S. maintains increasingly strong, transparent oversight and evaluation capabilities to constantly monitor aid resources to ensure they are used for their intended purposes.

Cutting aid to these countries as a response to the migration crisis on the Southern border is counterproductive and subverts the Trump administration's own efforts to champion effective foreign assistance.

Sean Ericson, Minneapolis

LEGISLATURE

The bare minimum for women

Do our leaders mean to tell us that of all the myriad bills to improve Minnesota women's lives — including a state Equal Rights Amendment, a federal ERA resolution, a paid family leave bill, the Women of Color Opportunities Act, plus restoring staffing to the Office on the Economic Status of Women, etc. — all that our Legislature may walk away accomplishing this session is to abolish the draconian practice of men raping wives?

Really?

Betty Folliard, St. Paul

GAS TAX

Next time, try estimating road need

I congratulate the Minnesota Legislature and Gov. Tim Walz for not passing the gas tax increase. While I believe the cause is just, the method to fund the effort contained too much blue sky. Regressive taxes, such as a gas tax, should not be levied on the poor, workers and farmers at any level without more justification than was given to support the defeated gas tax increase. All I saw in the proposal was a "feel good" number.

I encourage the Legislature and governor to revisit the tax and arrive at a number that has some basis. Example: How about offering a county-by-county summary of road and bridge needs and an estimated cost if 100% of these needs could be met? After assembling these numbers from all counties, determine what level of projects could feasibly be completed in a year (preferably by county). With this knowledge and cost in hand, identify the tax level that would support this effort. This will pass.

See, that wasn't so hard.

Richard Burton, Ramsey

SOCIAL MEDIA

Let private companies set speech policies to curtail online hate

A recent letter writer expressed unease about the "Christchurch Call" ("Regulate tech, or democracy dies," May 18), the self-policing agreement to limit online hate and bigotry, signed by several social media companies and the governments of New Zealand and France in response to the mosque bombings in New Zealand. His main concern seems to be that religious-based hate speech regarding homosexuality will be curtailed on social media platforms and thus "freedom of religious expression" will be infringed upon. Private companies like Facebook and Twitter can set whatever speech policies they wish, not unlike most people's employers. However, the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld public hate speech as protected under the First Amendment (with the exception of speech that promotes violence to a person or group).

The letter writer's solution is government regulation of social media companies as public utilities, which would bring them in compliance with First Amendment free speech rights. Think about that. The government eliminates a private company's speech policies — leading to hate speech anytime, anywhere across all social media. The Christchurch Call attempts to break that cycle with the hope of preventing more mass shootings and bombings. Who doesn't want that? Well, it's my observation that the people who are most concerned that their hate speech rights are being restricted are people who perceive their power slipping away in America.

After all, hate speech and the inevitable violence that follows are effective tools used to maintain dominance over the perceived "other." Hate speech can be subtle and wrapped in nice-sounding phrases like "freedom of religious expression."

Steve Millikan, Minneapolis

ABORTION

An unborn child doesn't need citizenship rights to not be killed

In response to the law professor concerned about the legal complications of recognizing the personhood of an unborn child ("The anti-abortion flurry, taken to its logical conclusion," May 21), surely the specific rights she mentions can remain contingent upon live birth. As a human being, the unborn child has a natural right to be supported in its mother's womb and not to be deliberately destroyed. He or she does not yet have any need for a name or a social security number or citizenship rights.

I am convinced that common-sense solutions to her concerns can be found if there is a will to do so.

Richard Berquist, St. Paul

ST. THOMAS ATHLETICS

A cowardly ousting from the MIAC

As a graduate of Augsburg College, and a member of its Athletic Hall of Fame, I am thoroughly disgusted with the presidents of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Their decision to oust the University of St. Thomas without any input from coaches, alumni and the general public is jealousy-based and cowardly.

St. Thomas has not violated any league rules and over the years has not dominated in any sport (including football) more than Augsburg has in wrestling or St. Olaf in musical activities.

The league presidents have changed the old saying, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going," to, "When the going gets tough, stealthily eliminate the competition."

Perhaps the colleges that introduced this travesty should form their own league, and like a Little League baseball team, no longer keep score. Simply hand each school a participation trophy at the end of the season.

Lowell Ziemann, Gilbert, Minn.