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Letters to the editor, 08/19/03

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Many deserve thanks for a successful national conference

On behalf of the board of directors of the Urban League of Pittsburgh, we write to express our gratitude to the people of Greater Pittsburgh who made the recently concluded 2003 National Urban League Conference a spectacular success. Based on initial reports, the conference generated more than $4 million of revenue for local businesses, and Greater Pittsburgh had the opportunity to favorably refresh in grand style the perceptions of Pittsburgh held by approximately 3,400 conferees, among them some of the most influential opinion-makers and other leaders in the nation.

After the original 2003 host city selection was revoked and a whirlwind competition with a number of prominent cities was completed, Pittsburgh was selected to host the conference just 10 months ago. Pittsburgh's challenge was to do in 10 months what is typically accomplished by host cities over a two-year planning period. And Pittsburgh responded as one, meeting every challenge presented by the high standards of the national conference and exceeding every goal of the Urban League of Pittsburgh.

Consensus among national conference veterans is that Pittsburgh hosted one of the best national conferences ever. The enormous success of the conference demonstrates to us in prophetic terms that when Greater Pittsburgh leadership works together toward a common goal -- Pittsburgh wins. And the address to the conferees by the president of the United States underscores the importance of the Urban League movement and its relevance as an integral part and partner of the national effort to resolve core issues affecting urban America.

To the local and state government officials who supported our efforts, to the corporations and foundations that provided critical financial and in-kind support, to the media which gave the conference positive and informative coverage, to the individuals and community groups who participated in the planning efforts and to the many volunteers who gave their time to welcome and assist our guests throughout the conference: a heartfelt thank you!

The Urban League of Pittsburgh is honored and supremely proud to take a bow on behalf of Pittsburgh . . . still the City of Champions.

President and Chief Executive Officer
Urban League of Pittsburgh

Pushing their agenda

In the editorial "The Gay Bishop" (Aug. 7), the Post-Gazette states, and I quote, ". . . gays are increasingly acknowledged as a valued part of our society."

The PG feels the gays are getting more involved in every sector of society. What is happening is that the gay organizations are pushing their agenda relentlessly and the news media picked up on this and are giving them tremendous coverage.

Mainstream America respects the gay population as fellow human beings, but will never accept their agenda or way of life.


Insulting moral relativism

I take great issue with Reg Henry's comments about God and Scripture ("The Same God Wears Different Hats," Aug. 12 column). Worse even than the appalling misinterpretations that do abound and lead to such destructive practices as nursing a baby while driving, refusing blood transfusions or allowing sexual practices of any type to proliferate are his false humility and false definition of Christian love.

Love, as defined by Scripture, is not just patting ourselves on the head, shrugging our shoulders and figuring that we can't really know what is moral and surely God, in his grandfatherly way, will fix it all up in the end.

God's love cares for our well-being and wholeness, for our life and our soul's salvation. We can't afford to nullify the word of God by a simple-minded moral relativism. It is insulting not only to our intelligence, but to anyone of sincere faith.

Sewickley Hills

The end of the road

Mayor Tom Murphy says the city's situation is but a pawn in Harrisburg. No, the real pawn has become our kids. The mayor is choosing to play a chess game with our kids.

Crossing the kids over streets without the supervision of crossing guards is much like running pawns up a chessboard to capture the game. The mayor is sending the pawns into action to do the fighting while keeping one's own knights, bishops, rooks and queen idle.

The ax fell recently and it makes a great illustration of willing recklessness. A summertime closing of pools and recreation centers forces kids onto streets with less police coverage. Let's start school without crossing guards and terminate emergency medical technicians from the EMS squad.

These moves signal the end of the line for the Great Race and the rapid advancement for the finish of Tom Murphy's stay on Grant Street.

In Europe, when leaders are unable to advance political agendas, they resign. Mayor Murphy is spent, useless and must resign soon.

South Side

Editor's note: The writer was a Republican candidate for mayor in the 2001 primary election.

Progressing downward

No longer living in the Pittsburgh region, I read the Internet edition of the Post-Gazette each day. As such, I've become quite accustomed to the caterwauls regarding spending cuts and population loss. Perhaps I can offer a former insider's opinion.

The handy-dandy Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines a beggar as "a person who lives by asking for gifts." That said, as an ex-resident I believe it is absolutely within my realm of expertise to state that southwestern Pennsylvanians are not beggars. No, after reading the Aug. 7 article "City Families Upset About Pool, Rec Center Closings," it is obvious that the regional mind-set is such that folks there don't have the decency to ask for gifts; instead, they demand them.

I have just one question to ask all those quoted whiners: When, exactly, did it become the city of Pittsburgh's responsibility to provide entertainment and care for your children?

This attitude, this assumption of convenience regardless of cost, combined with antiquated unionization and 19th-century-style machine politics, in my humble opinion, is the primary reason why the young and productive have been fleeing your city in massive numbers.

Pittsburgh likes to view itself as a progressive city and it is, though not in the assumed sense. Instead it is a city progressing toward irrelevancy and ghost-town status.

Oh, but slot machines will cure all that.

Columbia, S.C.

Is the debt never paid?

The front-page coverage of a respected Penn State professor who committed crimes as a rash 17-year-old ("Exposed Teacher at PSU Resigns," Aug. 2; "Penn State Professor Murdered 3 in 1965," July 26) raises some questions.

The purposes of the criminal justice system are to deter, to punish, to remove dangerous offenders and to reform them so they become good, law-abiding citizens. However, when these objectives are achieved, isn't it cruel and unusual to continue punishing?

Doesn't this excessive approach undermine the intended protections for society and all its members? It inhibits an alternative mind-set. Why transform one's behavior to become a law-abiding, worthy contributor to the community if your debt is never paid? Why earn freedom through conscientious efforts when those regretted mistakes become lifelong shackles? After one strike, you should not be out of a future.


These marijuana myths have been refuted

The article "Teenager Recalls Spell Marijuana Cast Over Her" (Aug. 7) repeated nearly every myth and urban legend about marijuana as if they were proven facts. Most were refuted long ago. To take just a few:

Today's marijuana is not seven to 14 times stronger than what was used in the late 1960s. As University of Southern California psychology professor Mitch Earleywine explains in his book, "Understanding Marijuana" (Oxford University Press, 2002), these calculations are based on small numbers of poorly stored samples in which the THC (the component that produces the "high") had degraded.

Marijuana is not highly addictive. While a small percentage of users become dependent on marijuana, that percentage is much smaller than for tobacco or alcohol. The Institute of Medicine, in a report commissioned by the White House, found such dependence to be "mild compared to dependence and withdrawal seen with other drugs."

Marijuana does not damage the immune system. While some research suggests immune system effects, the Institute of Medicine found "the magnitude is small" and may have no relevance to human health. Studies of medical marijuana use by AIDS patients found that the marijuana-using patients actually gained immune system cells and kept the HIV virus under better control than those given a placebo.

We agree that teens should not use marijuana, but hysterical exaggerations of its effects will only cause young people to disregard important messages from adults.

Director of Communications
Marijuana Policy Project
Washington, D.C.

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