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Excerpts from recent Minnesota editorials

12/24/2013 1:15 PM
By Associated Press

Minneapolis Star Tribune, Dec. 22

Senate and the CIA should release torture reports

America's military might, foreign aid and diplomatic outreach are all essential elements of U.S. foreign policy. But they're far less effective if the United States itself does not live the values it espouses. The use of torture in the post-9/11 era not only violated those values but contradicted national and global conventions.

It's well past time to reckon with this recent past, in order to avoid repeating similar mistakes in the future. Accordingly, three key documents detailing and analyzing the use of torture should be made public.

It has been a year since the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence produced a 6,000-plus-page, 35,000-footnote report on the Central Intelligence Agency's rendition, detention and interrogation program. These practices were carried out in America's name, and Americans have a right to know what happened. The committee is negotiating with the CIA on how much of the report needs redaction. We urge that only portions needed to protect sources and methods be redacted, and that the CIA not be allowed to use this process as a way to protect itself and sympathetic lawmakers.

A unanimous, bipartisan vote to release the report would send a strong global signal that the United States will hold itself accountable. A partisan split, conversely, would confirm that there is opposition even to this fundamental American value. The committee should heed the bipartisan call of 58 notable national-security, military, diplomatic and religious leaders who have signed a statement drafted by four human-rights groups, including the Minneapolis-based Center for Victims of Torture, that supports the report's release.

In addition, the CIA-produced rebuttal to the Senate report — as well as another internal, undisclosed CIA analysis — should be released with as little redaction as possible.

President Obama was elected in part because of his clear and correct opposition to such practices. He should use his power to coalesce senators and prod the CIA to cooperate. It's time for transparency, and for America to live up to its values.

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The Free Press of Mankato, Dec. 20

Don't give up on river cleanup

The Minnesota River Board may have collapsed under the weight of its own bureaucracy, but its demise shouldn't be a reason for elected leaders or citizens to begin ignoring the significant environmental threats to the state's namesake river.

In fact, now is the time for a renewed emphasis on river cleanup. Public energy needs a new spark. It's up to citizens, the Minnesota Legislature, federal environmental officials and the agriculture community to pick up the charge of the river's environmental health.

The River Board seems to have disintegrated for a number of reasons after a 17-year run. The board over the years lost representation from about 40 percent of the counties in the basin, going from representation of 37 at the beginning to 22 counties at the end.

The board attempted to encourage expanding the list of stakeholders from farmers to canoeists but apparently to no avail. "It wasn't supposed to be a bunch of commissioners sitting around saying we don't want to do much, which was the flavor of a lot of the commissioners," said Blue Earth County Commissioner Drew Campbell, who was on the River Board executive committee.

Campbell makes a good point. Trying to get that many county commissioners to come to consensus on anything would be akin to herding cats in a dog pound. It's tough enough for even seven county commissioners to come to agreement at times, much less 37.

The interests varied from county to county. More urban counties of the basin had much different interests than the rural, agricultural counties.

The makeup of the original basin board may have been a mistake from the beginning, given the diverse interests of those counties.

While building stakeholder coalitions can be a laudable goal, if it takes 17 years of trying without success, one has to question the model. It appears we are back to the drawing board.

The meeting agenda on Monday (Dec. 16) where the board voted to disband seemed to offer only two alternatives: Keeping an ineffective board in place or creating a somewhat more nimble basin authority with the ability to levy fees or taxes.

The idea was similar to how the Red River basin group works. The plan would have called for one elected representative and one appointed person from each of the 13 basins along the Minnesota River.

Still, under that plan, there would have been 26 people on the new board, which again, is problematic. Taxing authority seemed to be another roadblock. In the end, the board voted 11-6 to disband, but also agreed to recommend the Legislature look into the idea of a basin wide board.

Farmer and drainage contractor Kent Bosch told The Free Press he was opposed to a new taxing authority or bureaucracy and that plenty of groups have been working on projects to clean up the river.

"We've made tremendous progress in cleaning the water up with voluntary and cooperative efforts. We have a lot going on now that's working," he told The Free Press.

But many of those projects while important were small and had little impact on the overall health of the river. The large issues have not been addressed by the board or for that matter counties along the river.

An in-depth report on the river by The Free Press in 2011 showed that only five counties in the state have taken actions to enforce state environmental laws requiring buffer strips on agriculture land next to streams, rivers and lakes.

The bigger issue, of course, is farm drainage. Counties, state, nor the federal government seem eager to wade into that politically charged issue.

Few have suggested regulating tiling of farmland, but study after study shows those drainage tiles have a significant and detrimental environmental impact on the river.

The demise of the Minnesota River Board shouldn't be interpreted as an indicator river cleanup is somehow complete or successful. Not even close. The demise of the board should be an alarm the public's enthusiasm for cleaning up the river may be waning at a time when the threats are gaining.

The Legislature should not only take the problem seriously, but also decide the most effective way to attack it and put that plan in place soon.

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The Mesabi Daily News of Virginia, Dec. 21

EIS too long, complex? What the?

You have to give Minnesota preservationist groups credit for their shameless nature when it comes to proposed copper/nickel/precious metals projects in northeastern Minnesota.

These groups have steadfastly been opposed to what will be a new era of mining and jobs for the Range, regardless what an Environmental Impact Statement, years in the making, would eventually say.

OK, fine. Why expect anything different from these anti-mining, anti-jobs people.

But now that the EIS for PolyMet's NorthMet project near Hoyt Lakes is complete and online for public comment, including of course all the bad and negative things that will automatically flow so easily from opponents, the Minnesota Environmental Partnership has a new complaint — one that the group says should extend the comment period, thus delaying the project even further.

This one is a doozy.

This time that organization, which represents 27 environmental, civic and business groups, basically says the EIS is too well done.

Unreal.

The partnership is requesting that the comment period be extended by three months — from 90 days to 180 days — because the 2,200-page EIS is "too long and too complex."

My goodness, how dare the EIS be too thorough, too complete, too accommodating.

The partnership has deep pockets. It can afford to have people spend three months going word by word through the EIS, if it so desires.

But a new delay for the PolyMet project because its EIS is too detailed is an absolutely ludicrous position.

The DNR and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should respectfully tell the partnership there will be no extended comment period.


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