Friday, September 30, 2016

Zombies fill Federal Street for Pittsburgh Pirates Zombie Night at PNC Park

Posted By on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 1:33 PM

Pittsburgh's long-lasting love affair with the walking dead continued this week as the undead convened on Federal Street for a costume contest during the Pittsburgh Pirates' Zombie Night at PNC Park.

Contestants of all ages donned face paint and went before judges with their best zombie impressions. Mike Wenzel won first place with a blood-splattered shirt and a baseball embedded into his forehead. Coming in second was Lonnie Phillips, an undead pirate wearing a bird on her shoulder. Tied for third were Madison and Sawyer Ketchum, two adorable zombie kids also struck by baseballs. And coming in fifth was Deanne Myres, a zombie mother holding an undead baby.

Check out our photo slideshow from the event below. If you dare.

Pittsburgh Pirates' Zombie Night at PNC Park
Pittsburgh Pirates' Zombie Night at PNC Park Pittsburgh Pirates' Zombie Night at PNC Park Pittsburgh Pirates' Zombie Night at PNC Park Pittsburgh Pirates' Zombie Night at PNC Park Pittsburgh Pirates' Zombie Night at PNC Park Pittsburgh Pirates' Zombie Night at PNC Park Pittsburgh Pirates' Zombie Night at PNC Park Pittsburgh Pirates' Zombie Night at PNC Park

Pittsburgh Pirates' Zombie Night at PNC Park

CP photos by John Colombo

Click to View 31 slides

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Western PA Humane Society and Pittsburgh's Animal Rescue League to merge

Posted By on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 1:17 PM

A dog-walking volunteer at Animal Rescue League - CP FILE PHOTO BY HEATHER MULL
  • CP file photo by Heather Mull
  • A dog-walking volunteer at Animal Rescue League
Yesterday evening, the boards of two of Pittsburgh's animal shelters voted to merge into one. The coupling of the Western PA Humane Society and the Animal Rescue League and Wildlife Center will take effect at the start of the new year in January. 

“Over the years, the Animal Rescue League and Wildlife Center and the Western PA Humane Society have become more alike with regard to philosophies on animal welfare and the programs and services we offer,” Joseph Vater, Animal Rescue League board president, said in a statement. “A merged organization will provide greater [efficiency] in animal-care processes, staff training and bringing best practices to one organization. We will be able to save more animals and serve more animals.”

Both shelters have an open-door policy which means no animal is ever refused. However, the shelters are not no-kill shelters and do euthanize animals for health reasons or because of an animal's temperament.

“Our two organizations have a long history of collaboration,” Humane Society board president David Grubman said in a statement. “Now, by building on the strengths of each group, we will create a singular, more powerful voice that will enhance our outreach to the Western Pennsylvania region. It will be beneficial to adoptions, animal care, animal control and fundraising.”

Cats waiting to be adopted last year at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society - CP FILE PHOTO BY LISA CUNNINGHAM
  • CP file photo by Lisa Cunningham
  • Cats waiting to be adopted last year at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society

According to the shelters, both locations — the Humane Society, on the North Side and Animal Rescue League, in the East End — will remain open, and as of now, staff will not be cut. ARL Executive Director Dan Rossi will be the CEO of the merged organization, and Humane Society Managing Director Hala Nuemah will become chief administrative officer of the new organization. Grubman will serve as president of the new board.

“We have a lot of details to work out,” says Rossi, “but we will be launching this new organization with a talented, compassionate staff and a phenomenal group of volunteers. We’re excited about the expanded capacity and potential and the broad array of programs and services that will be under one organizational umbrella.”

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules parts of state fracking law unconstitutional, strikes down environmentally unfriendly rules

Posted By on Thu, Sep 29, 2016 at 4:00 PM

Anti-fracking protesters outside of Mars Area High School in Butler County in July 2015. - CP PHOTO BY ASHLEY MURRAY
  • CP photo by Ashley Murray
  • Anti-fracking protesters outside of Mars Area High School in Butler County in July 2015.
Anti-fracking advocates and environmentalists rejoice, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court just issued you a win.

On Sept. 28, in the state Supreme Court case of Robinson Township v. Commonwealth, judges struck down many provisions of Pennsylvania’s oil and gas law, Act 13. The law passed in 2012, during Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration, and established regulations and zoning rules on natural-gas drilling. But some rules drew ire from environmentalists, and the recent state Supreme Court ruling addresses some of them.

Drillers are no longer permitted to use eminent domain to seize private, subsurface land for storage of natural gas; private wells must now disclose hazardous spills; and doctors are now allowed to inform patients of side effects associated with fracking sites, overturning the "doctor gag order."

“The Supreme Court’s ruling will restore to all Pennsylvanians the power to regulate natural gas fracking in their own communities as they see fit,” wrote state Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery County) in a press release. “It lifts the senseless and unconstitutional restriction on physicians that barred them from discussing how proprietary fracking chemicals may be affecting patients’ health.”

Before the court decision, frackers didn’t have to disclose all the chemicals they used in their drilling process (chemicals that could make their way into groundwater). Doctors could gain access to a list of the chemicals only if they signed a confidentiality agreement preventing them from telling their patients. Fracking companies claimed that revealing all the chemicals would tip off competitors to their methods.

This led politicians including Leach to promote bills that would force frackers to publicly disclose all their chemicals. But those efforts were held up in committee, and never saw votes. State Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Squirrel Hill) was among those who attempted to pass such legislation. He praised the court’s ruling in a statement made on Sept. 28.

"The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has protected patients and doctors by striking down the gag rule in Act 13,” wrote Frankel. "Patients trust that their doctor is telling them the truth, the whole truth, and that their health is the doctor’s primary concern. We should protect that trust.”

The fracking industry was not as thrilled with the decision.

“We’re disappointed in aspects of the court’s ruling,” wrote David Spigelmyer, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, in a Sept. 28 statement. “[It] will make investing and growing jobs in the Commonwealth more — not less — difficult without realizing any environmental or public safety benefits.”

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Icelandic writer, Björk collaborator Sjón at Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum Tomorrow

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2016 at 3:22 PM

Sjón, a novelist, poet and playwright known for working with fellow Icelander Björk, reads tomorrow as part of City of Asylum’s Jazz Poetry Month.

  • Photo courtesy of Kristinn Ingvarsson
  • Sjón
Sjón is an award-winning writer whose novels include The Whispering Muse, The Blue Fox and From the Mouth of the Whale; his books have been translated into 35 languages. His latest novel is Moonstone, released in August by FSG.

His history of collaborations with Björk include his lyrics for the 2000 Lars Von Trier film Dancer in the Dark.

Sjón reads at the City of Asylum tent, on the North Side, at Thu., Sept. 29, at 7:45 p.m. Admission is free but reservations are recommended here.

And FYI, this week’s Jazz Poetry Month performances conclude with two nights of shows by acclaimed European jazz musicians making their U.S. debuts.

Russian saxophonist Alexey Kruglov and Estonian guitarist Jaak Sooäär’s trio will perform at the COAP tent on both Friday and Saturday. They’ll be joined between sets and for jazz-poetry collaborations by poets Ediwah Adler-Belendez, of Mexico, and Lithuania-born, Pittsburgh-based Rita Malikonyte Mockus.

Those shows are at 8 p.m. nightly this Friday and Saturday. RSVP here for Friday and here for Saturday.

The City of Asylum tent is located at 318 Sampsonia Way.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

As Pennsylvania’s voter-registration deadline approaches, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald calls for Election Day volunteers

Posted By on Tue, Sep 27, 2016 at 2:08 PM

  • Image courtesy of
It’s National Voter Registration Day, and there are just two weeks before Pennsylvania's voter-registration deadline on Oct. 11. (For those not registered and interested in voting in this year’s general election on Nov. 8, visit the state’s voter-registration website by Oct. 11.)

Many pundits, politicians, bar-goers, bus riders and just about everyone has said this is one of the most important presidential elections ever. The two presidential nominees, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, squared off last night in New York state for their first debate, and portrayed two starkly different assessments of the state of the U.S and the world beyond.

Clinton portrayed mostly positivity and said the country needs to follow in the steps of President Barack Obama; she advocated for increasing taxes on the very wealthy and providing debt-free college for students. She also attacked Trump directly quite a bit. Trump painted a bleaker picture, saying the U.S. had many problems that required a strong leader to tackle, including mentioning at least a dozen times that many cities needed more “law and order.”  

Pennsylvania voters also have some big statewide decisions to cast votes for, including who will be the next state Attorney General and U.S. Senator. Heck, there's even an opportunity for a new state Speaker of the House, for anyone upset with current Speaker Mike Turzai. Not to mention a bunch other state legislators up for election.

With all this commotion over the 2016 election, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald is requesting volunteers to staff county election booths on the big day. “The heaviest-trafficked election is always the presidential election,” said Fitzgerald in a sit-down with City Paper last week.

Fitzgerald expects popular polling spots to have very long lines, and he doesn’t want wait times to deter anyone from voting.

“We want everybody to vote,” said Fitzgerald. “Participation in democracy is a very positive thing, and hopefully if we have enough workers at all the different polling places, then lines [shouldn’t] back up. Presidential years, that is when everyone shows up.”

Those interested in volunteering can visit the county’s website at Volunteers are paid about $100 for their day of service.

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Panel Talk on August Wilson’s Relationship to Pittsburgh Tonight

Posted By on Mon, Sep 26, 2016 at 11:23 AM

For as much as Pittsburgh celebrates the work and legacy of the Pulitzer-winning playwright, it’s easy to forget that August Wilson's relationship with his hometown was a complicated one. Wilson, after all, was molded not only by the richness of life in the Hill District, where he set most of his plays, but also by the racism he experienced growing up here.

Actor Eugene Lee poses with a photo of August Wilson prior to the 2015 Pittsburgh Public Theater production of "How I Learned What I Learned" - CP FILE PHOTO BY HEATHER MULL
  • CP file photo by Heather Mull
  • Actor Eugene Lee poses with a photo of August Wilson prior to the 2015 Pittsburgh Public Theater production of "How I Learned What I Learned"
And of course, he achieved his greatest successes only after leaving Pittsburgh in 1978, at age 33, for St. Paul and Seattle.

Tonight, experts gather to discuss what organizers call Wilson’s “deep love-hate relationship” with Pittsburgh.

Panelists at the free event include Eugene Lee, a playwright and actor who has played Wilson in several productions of Wilson’s monologue How I Learned What I Learned (seen here last year at Pittsburgh Public Theater); University of Pittsburgh history professor Laurence Glasco, who is writing a biography of Wilson; and Vanessa German, an actress and artist who has performed in Wilson’s plays.

August Wilson and Pittsburgh: Birthright and Burden is moderated by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette senior theater critic Christopher Rawson and P-G columnist Tony Norman.

The program, presented by the Pennsylvania Council on the Humanities, is part of the Pulitzer Prize Centennial Initiative.

It takes place at 6:30 p.m. in the Frick Fine Arts Building auditorium, at 650 Schenley Drive, Schenley Plaza, in Oakland.

Registration is required. Register here.

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Donald Trump in Pittsburgh: Drilling into the candidate's nonsense on natural gas

Posted By and on Fri, Sep 23, 2016 at 3:43 PM

Donald Trump during a Sept. 13 campaign stop in Aston, Pa. - PHOTO BY MICHAEL VADON
  • Photo by Michael Vadon
  • Donald Trump during a Sept. 13 campaign stop in Aston, Pa.
Donald Trump came to Pittsburgh Thu., Sept. 22, to talk energy policy at the Marcellus Shale Coalition’s Shale Insight Conference and Pittsburgh City Paper brought you a live blog from every moment of the protests outside. 

Later that day, we noticed that an anonymous commenter on the blog left this note to us:

“This is ridiculous. The man gave a speech that was more important than the insignificant protesters. You're story should be focused on the fine policies he presented today!”

While we did watch the live stream, you are right, “unnamed angry person.” So our staff decided to take a look at Trump's "fine" speech, particularly the portions about natural gas. To be honest, we're not so fine with it.

According to press reports, his talk was a lot of noise made to reassure the industry that he’s on its side. But even leaving aside the fact that a continued reliance on natural gas would be a climate disaster, his promised fixes were as ridiculous as his premise.

First, Trump promised to boost production of both coal and natural gas. That’s effectively impossible, given that the rise in gas production in the fracking era is the main cause of the decline in coal production.

Trump’s vow to deregulate gas production suggests that the industry is currently hamstrung — unable to produce. Yet the reason gas prices continue hovering near an historic low is that it’s so easy to drill that there’s a gas glut. It’s hard to see how stripping rules protecting the environment, and the communities in which drilling operations and pipelines operate, would help when from the industry’s perspective there is too much gas already (and when, in fact, the country is now the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas). Moreover, most gas regulations are enacted not by the federal government, but at the state level, something over which a Trump administration would have no control.

Then there’s the assumption that all that gas is going to revive American manufacturing — yesterday, Trump singled out the steel industry for rebirth. Cheap natural gas has helped manufacturers here. But there’s plentiful evidence that the gas industry is more interested in lucrative overseas markets, where the price is higher, than in using their product to “make America great again,” unless by “America” you mean shareholders, and by “great” you mean “richer.”

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Final weekend for the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival

Posted By on Fri, Sep 23, 2016 at 10:30 AM

It happens every year around Labor Day. You start getting that itch to dress like a knight, eat giant hunks of meat, and take in a joust or two. There's time, you think, the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival goes on all month. Well, the time has cometh, as they say down in West Newton every weekend from late August until the end of September. The final weekend of the fest is nigh 'n'at

This weekend will feature an Oktoberfest theme with German food and dancing, as well as the normal events and the Artisan Marketplace. The festival — located at 112 Renaissance Lane in
West Newton — is open from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are available at a discount in advance and at the box office. 


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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette publisher hangs on Donald Trump’s jet in a ‘more than memorable’ experience

Posted By on Thu, Sep 22, 2016 at 5:13 PM

Donald Trump and Post-Gazette Publisher/Editor-in-Chief John Robinson Block
  • Donald Trump and Post-Gazette Publisher/Editor-in-Chief John Robinson Block
Earlier this year, an online news site reported on a possible primary-election endorsement of Donald Trump by the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

In that report, Philadelphia-based Billy Penn talked to sources in the P-G newsroom who were unhappy about any possible endorsement. The website wrote: “Some Post-Gazette reporters are worried about their paper’s credibility should it support the billionaire candidate who’s campaigned on a platform that includes deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants, building a wall between the United States and Mexico and banning Muslims from entering the country.”

If staffers were worried then, they couldn’t have been happy to learn that John Robinson Block, the paper’s publisher and editor-in-chief, spent a little time in Toledo Wednesday hanging out on Donald Trump’s private plane and getting his picture taken with the Republican presidential nominee. The visit was even documented in the Toledo Blade, the P-G’s sister publication in Ohio.

According to the paper: “After the campaign rally, Mr. Trump met with Blade Publisher and Editor-in-Chief John Robinson Block and Blade Editorial Page Editor Keith Burris on his plane at Toledo Express Airport.”

Sources tell City Paper that the photo was posted on Block’s Facebook page under the caption: “In 39 years of full time journalism I’ve met many interesting people. This one was more than memorable.” Both men are smiling and Trump is giving a thumbs up.

Asked via email for comment about the photo, and whether it could suggest that the P-G might be slanted toward Mr. Trump, an email from the Post-Gazette’s Deb Sacco read: "Mr. Deitch, Over the course of his career, Mr. Block has been photographed with many people. Attached, is another ..."
Post-Gazette Publisher John Robinson Block getting a photo with Hillary Clinton, although not on a private plane
  • Post-Gazette Publisher John Robinson Block getting a photo with Hillary Clinton, although not on a private plane
However, despite also shaking hands with Hillary Clinton, there are obvious differences between the two photos, not the least of which is that only one was taken on a private plane. Judging from the appearances of its two subjects, the Clinton photo also appears to have been taken some years ago, rather than during a hotly contested presidential campaign.

CP also contacted Michael A. Fuoco, president of The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, which represents the paper’s union employees, to get his take about the photo.

“I don’t feel the guild can make a comment on the actions of the publisher and editor in chief,” Fuoco said. “But, regardless of what happens in the fall, if we do endorse for president, we will have no opinion about that. We are completely separate from that and we stay away from it.”

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Clarion University helps business grads transition to workforce

Posted By on Thu, Sep 22, 2016 at 4:01 PM

With an unemployment rate of 7.2 percent and underemployment at 14.9 percent among recent college graduates, according to a 2015 study by the Economic Policy Institute, a college degree is not the guarantee of employment it once was.

To ease the transition from college to the workforce, students at Clarion University have a new program available to them — CUmentor, started by the Center for Career and Professional Development and the College of Business Administration and Information Sciences.

Started in fall 2015, the program matches up interested business students with Clarion graduates to help guide the fresh-faced job-seekers through the ropes of professional development.

Josh Domitrovich, Clarion’s coordinator for career mentoring and internships — and also a two-time Clarion graduate himself — has been in charge of the program since its inception.

“It’s a great way [for alumni] to give back in a meaningful way,” Domitrovich says of CUmentor, especially in light of the sometimes difficult financial circumstances that many recent college graduates find themselves in.

Clarion alums can give their time and experience to students — currently limited to the business school — as a “professional out in the field.” Participating students have engaged in mock interviews with mentors, asked for advice on internships and even inquired on managing work-life balance, according to Domitrovich.

Matching students with alums requires some ingenuity on the part of the university. To deal with the number of students seeking help — 70 for the first year — and set them up with a meaningful mentor, Clarion looked into using software. The cost, however, seemed prohibitively high.

“A majority of these softwares range [near] $10,000,” Domitrovich says. “[And] budgets from the state are tight.”

So, Clarion decided to source the software in-house. Led by Clarion professor Jon O’Donnell, who has taught computer science for 21 years and at Clarion for 18, students put together the software themselves. The match-making starts with a test.

“Mentors and mentees to fill out an application form with a lot of questions on it,” O’Donnell says. Each applicant gets questions about majors, industries and personal information such as gender, sexuality and athletic experience. Participants also rank the importance of these answers, and the data is fed into the algorithm.

The algorithm matches participants based on the answers, and gives a list of best matches to Domitrovich.

While O’Donnell has found professional success without an opportunity like the mentor program, he recognizes the importance of the program in a new job market.

“I wish I had it now looking back,” O’Donnell says. “Having faculty and advisers telling students you have to be on this stuff from the first day, that’s new and that [is] valuable.”

While initial returns have been favorable, the program’s still too new to have concrete data on CUmentor’s effect on participant’s eventual employment.

Domitrovich did note jobs and internships have come directly from mentors, and that Clarion hopes to “track employment rates”  for participants. And the goal for next two years is to expand the program to the rest of Clarion’s students.

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