Saturday, May 16, 2020

A letter to Post-Gazette's David Templeton

David, I read with interest your article today titled “Studies differ on how fast to open…”  I have a recommendation for future articles that could provide you with a more “attention grabbing” headline, and potentially serve a much needed good for our society. 

It pleased me to see that the last section of your article mentioned that there is a lot of overlap between the two sets of recommendations that you reported.  Personally I think this is the most news-worthy element of the report.  Now, can you imagine the shock of reading a headline which reads something like “Holy Cow, Economists Largely Agree!” Please pardon my drama, but I can’t help but try to make the case that in today’s environment, reporting on the differences is humdrum; it is not news.  Reporting on even a modicum of agreement would (think about it) be surprising, and draw nearly every reader in.  And then there is the other benefit.  The vast majority of my friends, both right leaning and left leaning, bemoan the polarity and division in our society.  Let’s face it, the media is both a reflection of that, and a reinforcement to same.  Reporting on areas of agreement would, in my view, unquestionably move us forward as a country or community, whether the direction is perceived as more conservative or more liberal.  Most of us want to see progress, paint it whatever color you choose.

I very much appreciate your including the ”Broader overview” section of your article.  Thank you!  Few articles report any agreement at all.  I wholeheartedly recommend that your future articles lead with the broader view section, emphasizing the commonality in purpose and process.  Now that would be news.

Sincerely,

Michael DiMonte

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Empowered Women

International Women’s Day 2020
Sunday, March 8th
A presentation by Jeanne DiMonte

I’m a team member of the St Paul’s Working for Justice Ministry.

This group is different from other justice groups in that it is not focused on one justice issue, but is more broad-based, touching on multiple justice issues.  Its goal is to inform, educate, and motivate members to action on various justice issues.  We meet monthly on the second Thursday of the month at 6:30 PM at St. Paul’s UMC.

We are a faith based ministry guided by the St Paul’s vision statement:  We will be an inclusive, diverse church loving others according to the teachings of Jesus and working for justice and peace in our world.” 

Working for Justice was started 2 years ago as a United Methodist Women’s initiative.  “Empowered Women Empowering Women and Men”

They brainstormed a list of justice issues and placed priorities on what to tackle first.  The list was: 
  • Women’s Issues
  • Anti-Racism
  • Domestic Violence
  • Poverty
  • Gun Safety
  • Human Trafficking
  • Immigration
  • Healthcare
  • Gerrymandering
  • Addiction
  • Climate and Environmental Justice
  • Interfaith Relationships

“Women’s issues” was the top priority.  As an aside, I think these are all “Women’s Issues” There is no shortage of justice issues. 

We have touched on just about all of these issues in the two years since our start.  This year we have added political justice to our list.  Politics, unfortunately, is a factor in nearly all of these justice issues and our vote counts.

We have marched in marches, organized a large book study, had presentations from team member and expert speakers on various topics.  We became a UM Reconciling Community and joined the Breathe Project.  We’ve had prayer vigils and police appreciation luncheons.  We readily pass on information provided by team members about what other justice groups are doing and other meetings going on in the communities.  All good ideas are accepted.

Shortly after the start of the group, two things happened that spring which changed both the both the structure of the group and the priority of issues.
  • Our beloved administrator, Faith Geer became sick, and several of the women who started the group, reset their priorities to care for Faith.  
  • Secondly, this can only be classified as “Life Comes At You Fast” we were faced with two critical issues that spring that we felt needed to be addressed: 

a.    Separation of children from their migrant parents.  We discovered that there were several organizations housing these children in the Pittsburgh area, so it is not something that is just happening on the border of Mexico.
b.    The homicide of Antwon Rose in Pittsburgh

Working for Justice sponsored a prayer vigil and information forum on these two topics and how they are affecting us locally and what we could do.  It was held on July 2 (holiday week) in our sanctuary and our sanctuary was filled.  People of many different faiths were in attendance.  This was our first major event.

The structure of the group changed to truly being a team-based structure.  While we do have a convener to keep us all on track, different people in the group will suggest a topic and run with it.  Several sub-groups have been formed.  One of the largest sub-groups dealing with environmental justice issues including fracking and the Cracker plant being built in Beaver County has become a group onto itself. We have at least four other sub-groups working on various issues. 

One of the sub-groups that is active now is on Human Trafficking.  In January, one of our team members did a presentation on Human Trafficking based on information that she received here in November with the presentation on “Human Trafficking, Yes, It’s here is Pittsburgh.”  Our group wanted to get more information about the topic, so Megan has arranged for a speaker, Sherill Rudy, from the organization “Living for Liberty” to speak to us about Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention”.  This presentation will be held this coming Thursday, March 12th at 6:30 at St Paul’s.  This is our March meeting.  Anyone who would like to attend is invited to come to this meeting or to join our group.  I have hand-outs for anyone who is interested.

To finish up, I’d just like to make a comment on “Why do we do this?”  I was struggling a little with this since it can seem frustrating at times and you can easily question whether you are making a difference.  Yesterday, I got my answer.  I listen to Krista Tippets’ podcast, On Being, and her interview yesterday was with Nicholas Christakis and entitled “How We’re Wired for Goodness”.  Krista’s introduction is as follows:

Nicholas Christakis is the director of the Human Nature Lab at Yale, He does research that focuses on the evolutionary role of human goodness: capacities like love, friendship, teaching, and cooperation. “These are some very positive, amazing qualities that are shaped by natural selection, are encoded in our genes, and are universal in humans, and that are good and that serve to countermand some of our vile propensities, which, alas, we also have,” he says.

Christakis points out how, in a world filled with evidence of the bad things humans are capable of, we often overlook our propensity toward goodness or take it for granted. “For too long … scientists and citizens on the street have focused on the dark side of human nature, on our propensity for selfishness and tribalism and cruelty and violence, as if this were a natural or normal or primary state of affairs,” he says. “And yet, I think the bright side has been denied the attention it deserves, because, equally, we are capable of love and friendship and teaching and cooperation and all these other wonderful things. And, in fact, I would argue those qualities are more powerful than the bad qualities and, therefore, in some ways, much more important.”

I’ve found this to be a powerful exercise in understanding the kind of communities we must continue to grow and cultivate together.

That’s why we do this!

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Practical Voting Help

Try out Allegheny County’s new voting system at the library.

Northland Public Library

Northland Public Library 300 Cumberland Rd, McCandless Twp.


Drop in and try out Allegheny County’s new voting system. We'll be running a mock election with hand-marked ballots, as well as a ballot-marking device.

Monday, January 13, 2020


JANUARY 2020 MEETING MATERIALS





















WORKING FOR JUSTICE 1/9/20 MEETING


Attendees:  Peggy Amatangelo, Vince Amatangelo, Jeanne DiMonte, Michael DiMonte, Mary Ann Love, Nancy McKnight, Rick McKnight, Ann Mitchell, Nancy Naragon, Kate Neville, Anne Penne, Glenn Smith, Data Sterling, Jeff Sterling, Megan Zivic

Michael DiMonte opened the meeting reminding everyone of Service of Solidarity at Temple Ohav Shalom on Friday evening.


Human Trafficking

Megan Zivic shared information she learned at a November 17 educational forum at Kearns Spirituality Center titled “Human Trafficking, Yes It’s Here in Pittsburgh.”  Megan provided both a Power Point presentation and video.  The speaker was Sr. Jeanette Bussen (Sisters of St. Joseph) from the Beaver County Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition.  The event was sponsored by Pittsburgh North People for Peace.  

Synopsis:
                January is Anti-Slavery Month
                 Up to 40 million people are trafficked each year
                 Forced Labor trafficking accounts for 150 billion dollars
                 Many local and global agencies are fighting to end modern day slavery
                 Ethical shopping info

Slavery Footprint:   http://slaveryfootprint.org/

Megan will follow up with local anti-human trafficking groups to find out their needs and more about educational presentations the groups offer.  Glen and Kate suggested maybe we could have an event explaining what can do to spot and help.  Dara suggested finding out organizations in Pittsburgh focused on this area and asking them what we can do. 

Our group is interested in:  
                1.  how to recognize trafficking
                2. what steps to take if you do recognize trafficking

Oceans – Climate change Impacts

Rick McKnight showed a series of pictures depicting ocean damage due to climate change.  Have lost 50% of world’s fish since 1970.  Many people get their primary food from ocean.  Food availability is now down drastically.  Oceans are losing oxygen so nutrients can’t get there.  With warming of ocean, fish need more oxygen.  Rick also had pictures of some invasive species that have been brought in with the help of man.  180 gray whales beached on West Coast believed to be from starvation. Coral dying because of sun screen.   Is also over fishing (everything gets caught in nets) and have pirates who were formerly fishermen.  A lot of pollution ends up in the oceans; also a serious problem in lakes.  He had a slide of the top 12 highest-polluting countries.  China was highest and the U.S. was the 12th highest (but U.S. sent a lot of its waste to China which could have made China’s high).  With sea level rise, 40% of U.S. population will be impacted:  loss of people’s livelihoods, food, territorial disputes, etc.   

Rick commented that Sierra magazine says humans consume a credit card worth of plastic each week.  Rick also suggested looking at       https://climate.law.columbia.edu/Silencing-Science-Tracker


Gun Violence

Vince reported a member of the Coalition for Safe Community Places probed and learned INPAX (indoor shooting range in McCandless Crossing) had not renewed their annual permit or paid the fee.  So were operating without a permit.  Vince and some other coalition members had a meeting with new McCandless Town Manager, new Police Chief, and Council member Carolyn Schweiger (who is on Public Safety Committee).  They attributed the town’s not noticing to both a new Town Manager and new Police Chief within a couple of months.  In addition to getting the permit issue corrected, it was agreed they will conduct unannounced visits to check for compliance.  The Coalition has been asking McCandless Crossing businesses to post “no guns allowed” signs.  After the fact, it was learned one of INPAX’s pitches when trying to locate in McCandless Crossing was the ability of the township’s police to use the facility.  Both the new Town Manager and Police Chief said an association with a private business would be inappropriate.  

2020 Focus and Priorities

Michael showed our social justice focuses and priorities on a screen and a discussion was held about their being highly dependent on the election.  After much dialogue, those present voted and all agreed there’s a big need to educate voters about social justice issues because who’s elected will be the preponderant factor in social justice achievement.  Mary Ann, Nancy, and Vince volunteered to help Michael with a possible social justice education event. 

Open Discussion

One of the things learned during the open discussion is Larry Schweiger has a new book titled The Climate Crisis and Corrupt Politics:  Overcoming the Powerful Forces that Threaten Our Future.  Its Amazon link: 


Thursday, January 2, 2020

Palau sunscreen ban: Pacific island becomes first nation to prohibit varieties considered toxic.

Check out this article at EuroNews.


Before you buy sunscreen for your next Caribbean vacation or ski trip...  Did your know there is scientific evidence that the chemicals found in most sunscreens are toxic to corals, even in minute doses. [Hmm... I wonder if these particular sun screens are so bad for corals, are so good for us?]  Palau President Tommy Remengesau said...."Toxic sunscreen chemicals have been found throughout Palau's critical habitats, and in the tissues of our most famous creatures," he added. With Palau's popular dive sites regularly packed with tourists, there were concerns a build-up of these chemicals would irreparably harm the reefs.

Check out some alternatives here: Travel+LeisureHow to Know If Your Sunscreen Is Killing Coral Reefs — and the Brands to Try Instead

A letter to Post-Gazette's David Templeton David, I read with interest your article today titled “ Studies differ on how fast to open...