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Letters to the editor: Data mining; Polarized and politicized world

Data mining


It's high time that all of us who use the world wide web should learn how to protect our personal online identity. I found out this week that if I want to continue using my bank's online bill pay, I must give them permission to search through all the online activity recorded on my computer hard drive. It's called "data mining" and it definitely doesn't end with banks. Basically any company wanting to make money nowadays does data mining.

But why does my bank need to know what websites I visit as long as I don't overdraw my checking account? It's just another invasion of my privacy. I'm going to surrender the online bill pay privileges offered by my bank and go back to writing paper checks. I'm also going to use the tools in my browser that allow me to delete all my browsing history, my cached web content and all stored site data.

The days of George Orwell's dystopian novel "1984" are upon us. Big Brother is watching. Good luck in finding a bank that keeps its nose out of your personal life.

Harlen Menk


Polarized and politicized world


We are living in a time period of incredibly politicized, polarized, and even toxic politics of anger that manifests itself in hate. From the top of the White House on down, tactics are those of bullying and the spouting of noxious and dishonest rhetoric that seeks only to stir up further anger against anyone other than ourselves.

By ourselves, I mean those nice white Christian citizens who feel compelled to rout out those of different religious beliefs or skin color. In particular, two frequent letter-writers (including one from last week) sow the seeds of prejudice against those who are different from them. Both regularly use this newspaper to elevate their politics of bigotry.

Good white Christians do not hate, nor do they espouse demeaning stereotypes and bigotry against others. The same is true of good Muslims and good darker-skinned immigrants who also oppose hate. Hatred is toxic, and it hardens our hearts. I've learned this the hard way, and while I am a devout Christian Catholic, I'm not entirely free of anger that borders on hatred. But — I am trying to become better.

I think it is important that we do try to be respectful of people with whom we disagree.

It's also important to be honest (we do not have a poorly vetted refugee program). And while I don't expect everyone to agree me on issues, I do hope we can agree that we must speak up when people of a different race or religion are denigrated. Otherwise, in the words of Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, we are complicit with it.

Jackie Brux

Town of River Falls

Cuts in rates for disability services


We professionals who live in western Wisconsin but serve Minnesotans with disabilities in the Twin Cities metro area need to make the general public aware of a serious issue that is being overlooked. The issue is a possible 7 percent cut to rates that fund services for Minnesotans with disabilities. This 7 percent cut will have a devastating effect on Minnesotans who receive home and community based services (HCBS).

Minnesota uses a standard formula called the Disability Waiver Service System (DWRS) that sets the funding rate people receive so that they can get the support services needed to live and work in the community. Minnesota lawmakers then wrote in rate increases to provide adequate support for enhancing services and paying direct support staff a living wage.

However, the availability of these support services is being threatened by a glitch due to current federal Medicaid rules where there is now a conflict between past investments in HCBS and future rate increases. These services are critical and cannot be reduced.

For those of you who are concerned about the devastating effect this cut will have on services for Minnesotans with disabilities, you can help by spreading the word via mainstream media, social media and word of mouth. The legislative session ends on May 21 so there is a sense of urgency in addressing this serious matter.

Patrick Bilbrey

River Falls