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 www.votespa.com
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 alleghenycounty.us. 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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Rare Shakespeare book at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University

Posted By on Thu, Sep 22, 2016 at 9:00 AM

Shakespeare's First Folio, on display in Carnegie Mellon's Posner Center - PHOTO COURTESY OF JUDITH PEARSON
  • Photo courtesy of Judith Pearson
  • Shakespeare's First Folio, on display in Carnegie Mellon's Posner Center

In honor of the 400th anniversary of the most famous playwright's death, Carnegie Mellon University is exhibiting its rare copy of the First Folio — the original compilation of William Shakespeare’s works and one of the most valuable published books in the world. 

The university got its hands on a copy through the bequest of local art collector and patron Charles J. Rosenbloom, in 1974. The Folio will be available for viewing by the public at the Posner Center Monday through Friday, from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., through Nov. 30.

In 1623, the First Folio was made possible by publishers and actors who had collected 36 of Shakespeare’s plays and printed them together. Only about 750 copies were printed. Three additional editions of the folio were made over time due to their popularity. 

During the exhibition, CMU will also host social and educational events. On Nov. 4, there's "Teaching Shakespeare at Carnegie Mellon," a conversation between professor Peggy Knapp, a member of the school's English Department, and professor Michael Witmore, the former Carnegie Mellon faculty member who now directs the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Nov. 5 brings a calligraphy workshop on Shakespeare’s “secretary hand” handwriting style.

All events are at the Posner Center, located on CMU's campus, in Oakland.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Pittsburgh's SPACE gallery hosts Spotify event to discuss correlation between art and economic inequality

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 3:12 PM

In Downtown’s SPACE gallery, infographic banners hang with titles like “Youth Unemployment versus Song Energy,” and printed song titles with the word “money” in them are scattered across the walls. This new exhibit, WeShouldDoItAll, was hosted on Sept. 20 in conjunction with a panel discussion on the correlation between the arts and income inequality, as well as a new Spotify video detailing the 2016 presidential nominees’ plans to address income inequality.

Cindy Croot (center) and Josh Berman (right) - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Cindy Croot (center) and Josh Berman (right)
About 20 people attended the panel discussion, which centered around art’s role in helping and hindering income inequality. Josh Berman, of food-access advocacy group Just Harvest, participated in the discussion and said art and music are “ways to tell stories about issues that are important to my generation.”

University of Pittsburgh professor of theater arts Cindy Croot agreed, but added that access to working in the arts needs to be equitable. “Since many arts internships are unpaid, they are usually only given to people who can afford to work for free,” said Croot. “We need to ask ‘who have the opportunity and who has access?’”

Berman added that in order to get projects funded that address inequality, artist can play a role by using their form to effectively tell stories of economic inequality’s impact. Bernamn said that it’s important to let the residents directly impacted tell their own stories.

The panel also discussed the negative effect art can have on a community, as artist moving into a blighted neighborhood tends to be followed by gentrification. Croot said this is a consistent problem in many cities, but said that having community members “empowered” to make art themselves could bring vibrancy to a neighborhood with less threat of gentrification.

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ModCloth pop-up shop makes final stop in Pittsburgh

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 11:46 AM

  • Photo courtesy of Electric Lime Studios
Polka-dot lovers unite! Have you heard? Women in Pittsburgh are singing swoony praises right now because the ModCloth IRL ("in real life") pop-up shop has made its way to Pittsburgh, ModCloth’s birthplace. Located at 625 Smithfield St. Downtown, this is the last stop on the Modcloth’s IRL tour. The IRL pop-ups have visited cities such as Austin, Denver and Portland.

  • Photo courtesy of Electric Lime Studios
At this pop-up shop,  you have the chance to feel, inspect and try on some of ModCloth’s signature quirky attire in an array of sizes from XS to 4X. The store has on-site ModStylists to help you achieve that retro look, pair together coordinating pieces for your body type, and even to take your measurements. The best part is: free shipping to your door within 1-2 days.

  • Photo courtesy of Electric Lime Studios
The shop also offers in-stock merchandise you can take home with you including a one-of-a-kind custom Pittsburgh graphic tee only available at the store. The shop also features products from local Pittsburgh brands such as No Sleep Boutique, Moon Pine, Steel City tees and more. Certain days will even feature in-store musical performances and temporary tattoo stations.
  • Photo courtesy of Electric Lime Studios
A fun array of vintage items are also available in-store that aren’t online, making this shop a pretty unique shopping experience.

Head on down soon because the pop-up shop closes on Tue.,  Sept. 27. It is worth the visit, if for nothing else than to buy a taco-shaped clutch and a gold "yinz" necklace.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Pittsburgh’s Retooled Day of Giving is Tomorrow

Posted By on Tue, Sep 20, 2016 at 11:20 AM

Back in May, technical problems forced the shutdown of the Day of Giving in Pittsburgh and dozens of other cities across the country. Tomorrow, the Pittsburgh Foundation is offering a stand-alone, Pittsburgh-only online Day of Giving, a chance for people to support their favorite local nonprofits.

The incentive to give tomorrow is that the Pittsburgh Foundation is providing nearly $200,000 in matching funds — for Allegheny County-based nonprofits, that’s $94,000 left over from May’s incentive pool plus another $100,000, according to a statement released Monday by the Foundation. (There are also matching funds available in Westmoreland County and Butler County.)

Nearly 1,000 nonprofits are listed on the site as eligible for gifts, in categories ranging from the arts to human services and science, health and technology. Many of the groups have raised their own matching funds as well, which will take your dollars further still.

Over the past six years, the Day of Giving has raised $41 million for nonprofits in the three counties.

This year, donors can also pre-schedule gifts. (As of this past Monday, more than $100,000 in donations had already been logged.)

The Day of Giving will be managed by Denver-based firm CiviCore replacing Kimbia, the Austin, Texas-based crowdfunding outfit the Pittsburgh Foundation said it used in the abortive Day of Giving in May.

The Day of Giving runs 8 a.m. to midnight tomorrow. For more info, see here.

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