Last updated: February 20. 2013 3:47AM - 499 Views

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Tech no alternate for real face time

I'm an advocate for technology when it comes to medical advances and improving education, but I'm definitely not for technology, i.e. cell and smart phones taking the place off face-to-face interactions.

Picture this if you will: a young mother waits at the street corner to meet her two young children as they exit a school bus. She greets them with hugs, but then quickly turns her attention to her smartphone with her head down, while she strings her children behind her as they make their way along the sidewalk.

Unfortunately, I witnessed this firsthand just a couple of weeks ago in Wilkes-Barre. I'm sure the famous American painter, Norman Rockwell, would not be pleased if he had to depict a holiday dinner scene in today's America. If he did, the scene might look a little something like this: family members, of all ages, engrossed with their cell/smartphones either playing virtual games, answering emails or text messages, or just simply surfing the Web. There would be very little or no conversation, or eye contact, for that matter. Heck, some of these devices would probably make their way as guests to the dinner table, as well.

Who knows, maybe thousands of years from now the human body might adapt to these modern devices. Perhaps, the pads of our fingertips will become enlarged, or maybe even pointy, so we can better engage with the itty-bitty keyboards on our cell/smartphones.

Maybe I'm an old soul, but I think that face-to-face conversations are becoming a lost art. With face-to-face conversations, a person can communicate by using varying tones, facial gestures and eye contact. This past weekend my 8-year-old nephew and I went to our favorite place, The Lands at Hillside Farms. We had such a good time walking the trails, having boat races with sticks in the creek, and feeding the animals, including the gang of ducks that chased after us for food. Several times, I caught the biggest smile on my nephew's face. The source of his joy came from participating in simple activities, ones that have been enjoyed by droves of children throughout history.

Sad to say, but just an hour before our trip, my nephew stared blankly at a Sponge Bob Squarepants TV episode. He became so hypnotized by the show that several times he didn't even acknowledge questions asked of him.

In my opinion, we need to disconnect from our cell/smartphones and televisions now and again and reconnect with our families and friends in face-to-face interaction.

Change will lead to better service

I would like to add some context to the issue addressed in The Times Leader on Jan. 11 concerning the new state payroll and management system for direct care workers.

The delays some people are experiencing are temporary and we are working rigorously to ensure everyone is paid appropriately, in accordance with the program rules and state and federal tax requirements.

It is important to know that the state Department of Public Welfare is ultimately creating new opportunities for Pennsylvanians with developmental disabilities, physical disabilities and older residents with issues related to aging by focusing on consumer-directed care.

They are doing this by moving the management of the program's payroll and other responsibilities to one experienced entity for greater accountability.

This will enable more consumers who wish to direct their own care to take advantage of this unique program opportunity. Pennsylvanians can now more effectively direct their home worker services by hiring their own staff and setting wages within their budgets. This will empower Medicaid recipients in a way they never experienced before.

Research shows that allowing people to truly be consumers leads to greater independence, more satisfaction with services and more cost-effective decisions because they can purchase what they want and need, not what agencies dictate. This also means that along with a living wage, their care workers have overtime protection, workers' compensation and other guarantees that strengthen their employment status.

Obama needs to become a leader

We are quickly approaching the time when the Congress must and will approve an extension of the debt ceiling. The question is when and under what conditions this approval will occur.

Should approval not occur until after the deadline, and if in fact the Treasury does not timely pay principal and interest to U.S. creditors to whom we now owe $16.4 trillion, the credit rating of the United States of America will suffer, resulting in higher interest rates and reduced sources of money to borrow going forward -- as well as even more debt.

The U.S. government has been spending like a drunken sailor. Our illustrious Congress has not approved any budget in years, with the Senate preferring free and unfettered spending on unearned entitlements. Our president has sat foursquare with the Senate.

President Obama says that if we do not timely approve the extension, we will be regarded as a deadbeat nation. Although we are not yet fully deadbeat, we are certainly well on the way. Every failure to control spending so that it does not exceed revenue brings us closer to formal deadbeat status. Our credit rating has already been downgraded from AAA to AA+, and another downgrade is predicted for this year whether or not we timely raise the debt ceiling. A lower credit rating means that fewer creditors are willing to lend, and means higher interest rates and many billions more of interest payments on our massive debt that will not be available to those in real need.

Where is leadership from our president in working to resolve this? Playing chicken with the House -- refusing to make any spending concessions even after having won the recent tax increase on millionaires and billionaires as well as on everyone else who currently pays Social Security taxes, and stating that no ransom will be paid to get the debt limit bill passed is not leadership.

Petulant refusal by the single most powerful man in government to sincerely and timely lead negotiation to accomplish the right thing, combined with the attempt to embarrass Republicans by blaming them for any interruptions in Social Security payments, etc. should not be mistaken for leadership.

If in fact there are payment interruptions, it will be primarily the result of President Obama's lack of leadership in pressing progressives in the Senate to negotiate reasonably with the House toward finding spending-reduction solutions.

What obviously is required is both extension and spending reduction, and only action by the president will lead us in that direction.

We already know he's a tough politician. What we need now is an effective statesman.

Letter insulted 5 million in NRA

Anneliese Moghul did a fine job insulting five million members of the NRA. President Theodore Roosevelt was a lifetime member of the NRA, as am I. Most of us are veterans of the wars. Persons of your ilk and your ancestors – who date back to the American Revolution – if they had their way, would be the Rittenhouse Square Towers of Philadelphia, sipping their tea with crumpets at 4 p.m. The Union Jack would be in the corner, God Save the King, your song!

I wonder if the men at Concord Bridge, Bunker Hill and Valley Forge could come back and read your letter and others of traitorous attitudes and thought ….what would they think?

The great part is, there are more of us than there are of you.

Corbett's lottery another giveaway

As the House Democratic Policy chairman for the past four years, I recognize the crucial role public hearings play in vetting an issue. Hearings are essential for analyzing issues and educating people on the potential impact of policy changes. That is why I question the Corbett administration's disregard for this useful tool in its investigation of selling our state's lottery to a foreign company.

It would've been prudent for Gov. Tom Corbett, before considering, and let alone signing a bid, to first determine if the state lottery ought to be sold. Judging by the slow trickle of information released by his office, it seems the investigation he began last spring was far from exhaustive.

The governor disrespected the General Assembly as well as Pennsylvania residents when his administration announced an agreement had been reached between the Commonwealth and British-owned Camelot LLC on Jan. 11, just three days prior to a scheduled public hearing before the Senate Finance Committee.

Judging by the standing room only attendance at this three-hour hearing, there seems to be massive interest in this issue on the part of the public.

The lottery is a profitable asset. Owned and operated by the people of Pennsylvania, the lottery grew a record 8.5 percent last year driving net profit up by over $100 million. Every cent in profit goes to programs benefiting our seniors and we owe it to them to ensure that their funding won't be sacrificed as a result of privatization.

Further, Pennsylvania is only the third state to privatize the lottery. Other states offering limited case studies demonstrate its pitfalls. Illinois went to a privately-operated system in 2010.

That state is now in court fighting the operator which is attempting to change the terms of its contract after it fell short of its revenue estimates. Indiana had a struggling lottery when it sought privatization, not the $1.06 billion operation the commonwealth boasts.

According to Chicagobusiness.com, in Illinois there was an intense bidding war to run the lottery. And in neighboring, New Jersey (also considering privatization) Gov. Chris Christie has heard from several U.S.-based and international firms. Governor Corbett gave Pennsylvania's Lottery to the sole bidder.

Perhaps the reason Pennsylvania received a single bid is because our lottery is run so efficiently, limiting what actions private company can take to make it more profitable. In fact, Camelot Global Services' $34 billion offer only promises a growth rate of about 3 to 4 percent annually over the next 10 years -- we're achieving that without privatization and all the profits go to Pennsylvanians; not to CEO salaries or stockholders.

The only real potential for increased revenue from this deal comes from the governor's promise to allow Camelot to expand gaming, something the state can do without giving over control to a foreign corporation.

Regardless of Gov. Corbett's true motivation, to the citizens of Pennsylvania this looks like one more generous handout to big business.

Leigh Ann Wiedlich Wilkes-Barre Marc H. Fenton President PCG Public Partnerships LLC Harrisburg Bruce Kerr Dallas Fred Murray Shavertown State Rep. Mike Sturla D-Lancaster Chairman, Democratic Policy Committee

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