Opinions

Wed
26
Jun
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It’s Getting Much Harder To Have A Civil Talk

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

We were once told that you had to get the reader to agree with you three times before he or she would be willing to read the rest of what you had written. You had to create common ground to build mutual respect for a civil conversation. As a country, it appears our common ground is disappearing.

Political conversation in America is becoming more difficult. It doesn’t mater whether that conversation is with friends and family, acquaintances we meet from time to time, or a group of strangers.

Based on a recent survey by the Pew Research Center those conversations are becoming stressful “experiences that they prefer to avoid.” Pew also found that “large majorities say the tone and nature of political debate in the United States has become more negative in recent years – as well as less respectful, less fact-based and less substantive.”

Wed
19
Jun
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Americans Turning Off The News

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

“Who will govern the governors? There is only one force in the nation that can be depended upon to keep the government pure and the governors honest, and that is the people themselves. They alone, if well informed, are capable of preventing the corruption of power, and of restoring the nation to its rightful course if it should go astray. They alone are the safest depository of the ultimate powers of government.

Thomas Jefferson
Third U.S. President

Thomas Jefferson, along with his co-author of the U.S. Constitution James Madison, would be dismayed if they saw the state of citizen participation and interest in their government today. They would be fearful for the future of the Founders’ experiment in self-government.

Wed
12
Jun
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You Won’t Even Know You Are Being Manipulated

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

Less than two years ago, researchers at the University of Washington used computer technology to produce a fake video of former President Barack Obama giving an address. With a sophisticated program, they had a computer view 17 hours of his speaking on a variety of topics in different places at different times in his presidency. The computer learned how his mouth moved as he spoke the words of a speech.

Those researchers were then able to literally put words in the president’s mouth. They were able to take words Obama had spoken, create a sentence he had never uttered, and have it appear that he was, in fact, delivering a speech with those words coming from his mouth. The effect was so realistic that most people couldn’t tell the video had been fabricated.

Wed
05
Jun
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Bilingual Means A Better Opportunity For Students

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

Among the regrets we have when we travel around America, or to foreign countries, is that we don’t know a second language. We’ve picked up a smattering of words to get by in Spanish, but the ability to converse is far beyond our skills.

In Benson High School, we took a couple years of French, which was followed by three quarters of college French. We still recognize words, but the verbal skills have faded away. It is difficult to maintain knowledge of a language when no one around you speaks it. Inevitably, what was learned fades from disuse.

Wed
29
May
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Facebook And The ‘Poisoning of Information’

 By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

“Wherever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government... whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”
Thomas Jefferson to Richard Price, 1789

 “(You believe) the fastest way to destroy democracy is to poison the information,” CNN Reliable Sources host said to guest Scott Pelley Sunday morning in an interview. Pelley was the CBS evening news anchor and is a host for the CBS 60 Minutes program. Stelter was interviewing him about his new book, “Truth Worth Telling.”

 “This is the thing that worries me most about our beloved country,” Pelley replied. “We have gone from the information age into the disinformation age….

Wed
22
May
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Listening To Our Youth Could Bring Them Home

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

Too often, we define our efforts to attract people to the community by what we want when we should be defining it by what those we are trying to bring here are seeking.  In looking to fill our needs, we pass by the needs of those we want to keep or have return, to our rural town.

Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Kentucky and many other states with large rural areas are all trying to figure out a way to keep their young people around, as well as for ideas in bringing them home.

A recent study completed in New Hampshire spent 10 years following a group of nearly 900 young people from a small rural county, questioning them through the years about their attitudes toward their hometown. They watched how their answers evolved and at the common threads that ran through their replies.

Wed
15
May
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Rural America Needs Investment To Stop Polarization

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

America is becoming ever more polarized. We see it in the dysfunction in Washington and St. Paul. Moderate elected leaders are rare as the fringes of their parties control elections by dominating candidate selection in primaries while the majority of the electorate sits on the sidelines.

The internet, with is ability to learn what we like and don’t like in the news, feeds us with information that reinforces our prejudices. Rather than a source of trusted news, it is known for spreading rumors and intentionally false and misleading information.

Social media that consumes our online time end up not being very social at all. In fact, they have us in bitter disputes, raging at one another with diminished tolerance for those with differing opinions. Rather than unite us, it divides us.

Wed
08
May
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Extinctions Exploding At Rate Never Seen

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

“Nature  is in more trouble now than at any other time in human history, with extinction looming over 1 million species of plants and animals.”

That was the lede paragraph of a story this past week by Associated Press Environment reporter Seth Borenstein on the depressing and ominous news from a more than 1,000-page report issued by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. It is a group of 450-plus conservation scientists, and the report was approved by representatives of the 109 participating nations.

Wed
01
May
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Climate Change Should Be Taught In Our Schools

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

You can’t escape the stories of the impacts of climate change these days. It weaves its way, undeniably, into the extreme weather the world is now experiencing.

Wildfires are becoming more frequent and intense, such as the ones that ripped through California last year. Droughts are becoming more expansive and last longer, heightening fire dangers.

As the atmosphere warms, it holds more moisture, creating more downpours and flooding of “biblical” proportions. Minnesota has seen a 42 percent increase in the number of heavy precipitation events it records – rainfalls of 8, 10 and even 17 inches over just two days have been recorded.

High-temperature records are falling at twice the rate of low-temperature records.

Tue
23
Apr
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What Will Bring People To The Benson Area?

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

Swift County, District 777 Public Schools, and City of Benson residents are getting practiced at giving their input to elected officials. It is a refreshing change. Too often citizens sit on the sidelines and complain.

But over the past year, citizens have given their input in shaping a $26.3 million school levy for construction of a new performing arts center, the addition of classrooms onto the Northside Elementary School for early childhood classes and day care, for new gymnasium space, for new classrooms at the senior high dedicated to 21st Century learning approaches, a new cafeteria and kitchen at the Northside, and for a new band room.

Now, through the new Swift County Community Perspectives Committee, citizens will be giving their thoughts to county commissioners on a potential new justice center or coming up with another approach to meeting county building needs.

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