Friday, October 17, 2014

Hill District pastor opens community center in son's memory

Posted By on Fri, Oct 17, 2014 at 4:00 PM

On the anniversary of his son's death, Rev. Glenn Grayson joined his family, elected leaders, and the community for the grand-opening of a new Hill District community center created in his son's memory.

"Four years ago today, our family received the worst news that has ever happened to us," Grayson said. "We didn't think we could make it, but we decided to turn bad into good."

Rev. Glenn Grayson
  • Rev. Glenn Grayson

Rev. Grayson's son, Jerron Grayson was shot and killed in October 2010 at a post-homecoming party at California University. A student at Hampton University, he had been home visiting his family and friends for the weekend.

The building that bares Jerron Grayson's name will house Rev. Grayson's nonprofit, the Center that CARES, an organization that offers children and adults recreational and educational services.

"I think it's beautiful," said Tanya Shoffner, a CARES counselor, while touring the $2 million center. "It's a really nice vision Rev. Grayson has. It's going to give kids something to do to get them off the street."

The newly renovated center is located in the formerly abandoned building of the Ozanam Cultural Center. That center once served as a space for youth in the community in the same way the Center that CARES hopes their new center will.

"Growing up this was the only place we had to go," said Hill District resident Beatrice McCoy, who says she went to the center as a child in the 70s. "We need somewhere positive for the kids to go today. There's so much violence, parents need somewhere they can feel safe sending their kids."

"I think it's really great for the community," said Sean Farr, who grew up across the street from the center. "It's going to give our kids something to do, not just to keep them off the streets but to educate them."

African Methodist Episcopal Zion Bishop Louis Hunter was with the Grayson family in the time following their son's death. At today's ribbon-cutting ceremony he donated $1000 to the future of the center.

"Anytime I see people, and churches in particular, trying to better the community in which they serve, I have to make a sacrifice to be here and contribute to it," Hunter said.

Local horror-movie buff's travel guide

Posted By on Fri, Oct 17, 2014 at 3:12 PM

A local photographer's new travel book covers some scary ground in Western Pennsylvania and around the country. Danielle Fox has details in Program Notes.

GMO Foods Forum Tomorrow

Posted By on Fri, Oct 17, 2014 at 12:40 PM

The East End Food Co-ops’s second annual Know Your GMOs event features a local expert on the subject as well as folks from the local food community committed to going GMO-free.

The expert is Denise Caruso, a senior researcher in Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Engineering and Public Policy. Her 2006 book Intervention: Confronting the Real Risks of Genetic Engineering and Life on a Biotech Planet questions the regulatory framework for genetically modified organisms, and the possibility of unintended consequences in their use. Caruso is a former New York Times technology columnist.

Other speakers include Trevett Hooper, owner and chef at the restaurants Legume and Butterjoint; Justin Pizzella, the Co-Op’s general manager; and Bryan Petrak, research and development director for snack-bar company NuGo Nutrition.

The speakers will be followed by a panel discussion and Q&A session. Free copies of Intervention will be available to all attendees.

The event will also feature informational tables and free samples of Non-GMO Project Verified products and a raffle.

Genetic modification of food is common in the U.S., especially in animal-food crops like corn and soy. U.S. regulators have largely allowed such practices, but others say the products are risky or have been insufficiently studied for their effects on human health and the environment.

According to a Co-op press release, 64 countries either ban or label GMOs. And 37 states in the U.S. have seen movements to label GMO foods. The Co-op’s buying guidelines favor products that are Non-GMO Project certified.

Know Your GMOs takes place from 6:30-9 p.m. tomorrow in the Connan Room, in the Jared L. Cohon University Center, on CMU’s campus.

The free event is timed to coincide with Non-GMO Month.

For more information, see here.

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Pa. House GOP makes sure medical marijuana won't see a vote this session

Posted By on Fri, Oct 17, 2014 at 11:18 AM

Barring some sort of 11th-hour miracle, the state's medical marijuana legislation — passed a few weeks ago by the state senate will not get a vote on the house floor.

The news came in Friday from state Rep. Ed Gainey who attempted to have the language from Senate Bill 1182, which would legalize certain forms of medical marijuana, inserted as an amendment to Senate Bill 405 which deals with generic prescription medications. Gainey decided to make the move when House leadership decided not to call the senate's medical marijuana bill to the floor and instead refer it to a committee for hearings — which will not happen this year.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai has stated he is against the bill which would allow medical cannabis to be used by sick patients including children suffering from intractable epilepsy, a condition that can cause a child to have hundreds of seizures every day. In fact, if the House really wanted to hold hearings on the matter they could have done that in July when Gainey introduced a companion bill in the house, which was also sent to committee, never to receive a hearing.

"We had the opportunity to improve the lives of Pennsylvania families suffering from cancer, Multiple Sclerosis and other horrible conditions who would benefit from a medical marijuana prescription. Unfortunately, the Republicans decided that other matters are more important than this critical health care issue, which has overwhelming support from people across Pennsylvania," Gainey said. "It's obvious that Republican leaders know we had the votes to adopt my amendment, but they preferred to avoid the issue to delay its inevitable passage.

"The Senate held two public hearings on the bill and vetted it carefully in their chamber before passing it overwhelmingly with bipartisan support. I'm confident that this is a good piece of legislation that can help very sick people live better lives."

Passage of the senate's medical marijuana bill was truly a bi-partisan effort. While it was always championed by Democrat's like state Sen. Daylin Leach, it found success when conservatives like state Sen. Mike Folmer picked up the gauntlet and began selling the measure across the state. The bill now goes back to square one and will have to be passed again by the senate. But Gainey said he is confident.

"It doesn't look like it's going to happen this year, but I will be back at it again next year and we'll have even more support to ensure that our sick friends, family members and neighbors have access to the best medicine available to relieve their pain and other harsh symptoms."

Gainey's full release appears after the jump.

Continue reading »

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

UPDATED: Daryl Metcalfe really doesn’t like immigrants

Posted By on Thu, Oct 16, 2014 at 1:00 PM

Anyone who has followed the illustrious career of Butler County’s own state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe wouldn’t ever mistake him for a supporter of Latino immigrants.

He has introduced numerous pieces of legislation to make English the state’s official language, supported measures to punish businesses found to be employing undocumented workers, and tried to pass a bill that would have allowed police officers to ask for the immigration status of a person pulled over during a “lawful stop.”

But his newest piece of legislation takes the cake. The man who has vowed to stop the “illegal alien invasion,” as he has called it on numerous occasions, wants to “suspend the harboring of illegal alien youth.”

At least those are the words in the headline of a press release (printed in its entirety after the jump) announcing legislation he plans to introduce that would “suspend the state-issued licenses of any care facility entering into a contract with the Federal Office of Refugee Resettlement to provide housing to unaccompanied illegal alien youth.”

“Since October 2013, 66,000 unaccompanied illegal alien youth crossed the United States’ border. The year prior, only 35,000 crossed the border. Teenagers account for 84 percent, although the number of younger youth making the journey is increasing rapidly,” Metcalfe said in the release. “Since October 2013, 66,000 unaccompanied illegal alien youth crossed the United States’ border. The year prior, only 35,000 crossed the border. Teenagers account for 84 percent, although the number of younger youth making the journey is increasing rapidly.”

Metcalfe’s release spouts a lot of the rhetoric that has been spewed in recent months as young Latino refugees have come to the country seeking asylum from danger in their own countries.

“Pennsylvania residents have expressed concerns that unaccompanied illegal alien youth entering the Commonwealth could be carrying contagious diseases and that older youth could be members of violent gangs,” Metcalfe said in the statement.

However, as a July City Paper story and countless other media have pointed out, those fears are unfounded and amount to little more than good-old American fear-mongering.

Metcalfe might know this for himself if he bothered to talk with some of Pennsylvania's immigrant population, but as he told City Paper in 2007, "I don't speak Mexican."

UPDATE: ACLU PA legal director Vic Walczak calls the proposal “heartless and illegal.”

"If these folks are coming into the state through a federal immigration program, they can’t say they’re not going to participate," Walczak says. "The state of Pennsylvania cannot make that kind of immigration determination."

Walczak echoed that this isn't Metcalfe's first time supporting anti-immigrant legislation.

"Metcalfe hasn’t learned from his support of the ill-fated Hazleton legislation,” an ordinance in Luzerne County city that "would have required all landlords to check the immigration status of tenants and required all employers to check the immigration status of employees in ways that are beyond what federal laws allows." The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the law was unconstitutional.

"I think it’s heartless because these are child refugees who come from horrendous circumstances," Walczak said of Metcalfe's announcement earlier today. "If there are people who want to give them a temporary home, bless them — don’t punish them."

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Monthly discussion series Speakeasy Science begins tonight

Posted By on Wed, Oct 15, 2014 at 11:56 AM

An informal talk by a wind-power expert from Carnegie Mellon begins CMU's new series held at bars and cafes. Danielle Fox has details on this event at Biddle's Escape in Program Notes.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

GOP incumbent Keith Rothfus to debate Democratic challenger tomorrow

Posted By on Tue, Oct 14, 2014 at 1:15 PM

If you're living in the 12th congressional district, you might not know much about the U.S. House candidates you'll have to choose from this November.

Political neophyte Erin McClelland is mounting a challenge to Tea Party incumbent Keith Rothfus, a Republican with a record that includes votes against Superstorm Sandy relief and against re-opening the federal government during last October's shutdown.

Political analysts roundly agree the race isn't competitive — Rothfus has raised $1.7 million to McClelland's $244,660. But the debates — which start tomorrow — could be McClelland's shot at gaining some ground and name recognition (Rothfus' T.V. ads, for instance, don't mention McClelland and she doesn't have the cash to flood the airwaves with ads of her own).

We'll have more about how the district went from being one of the most competitive in the country to being safe for an ultra-conservative like Rothfus in print and online tomorrow. If you live in the district, or just like political theater, you might want to drop by one of the debates.

Here are details for each of the three debates:

Wednesday, October 15, 7:00 PM
doors open at 6:30 PM
Hosted by the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce
Auditorium, Student Union Building
Penn State Beaver
100 University Drive
Monaca, PA 15061


Friday, October 17, 7:00 PM
doors open at 6:30 PM
Hosted by the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat and WJAC/WCRO Radio
University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown
Heritage Hall, Living Learning Center
450 Schoolhouse Road
Johnstown, PA 15904


Tuesday, October 28, 6:30 PM
doors open 6:00 PM
Hosted by the Somerset Daily American
Laurel View Village
2000 Cambridge Drive
Davidsville, PA 15928

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Free vinyl at Jerry's this weekend

Posted By on Wed, Oct 8, 2014 at 1:50 PM

Jerry Weber never met a record he wouldn't buy.

So this weekend, he's giving away as many as 25,000 of them. For free.

The catch? You'll have to accept a sealed box of 100 records — limit one box per person — and take whatever you get.

Now that the boomers are dying,"I just get calls every single day from all over the tristate area. I give them a few bucks for the records I can use, then I give the rest away."

These giveaways, Weber says, are only going to get more frequent.

Weber estimates about 75 percent of the records he gives away are "playable" — especially if they're less poplar. That Jane Fonda workout album, for instance: definitely playable. A popular Zeppelin album, not so much.

Weber sees the giveaway as a kind of charity. The boxes and labor costs mean he loses money on the venture, though he hopes to make some of it up with increased traffic in the store.

"I buy everything — the good, the bad and the ugly," Weber says. "I’m a weirdo, I can’t throw records in a dumpster."

The giveaway starts Friday and runs through Sunday.

Jerry's Records. 2136 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill. 412-421-4533

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Correction: AAP show at Mine Factory opens Sat., Oct. 11

Posted By on Wed, Oct 8, 2014 at 11:25 AM

Today's edition of City Paper mistakenly lists the opening reception for this Friday.

The show is a group exhibit curated by Tom Sokolowski, former head of The Andy Warhol Museum.

The free opening reception runs 6-9 p.m. at the Mine Factory, 201 N. Braddock Ave., in Point Breeze. The exhibit runs through Oct. 25.

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Off the Record preview performance tonight

Posted By on Wed, Oct 8, 2014 at 8:43 AM

Today’s City Paper includes a preview item about tomorrow’s Off the Record XIV: Mysteries of Pittsburgh! , the long-running musical-comedy spoof that local stage performers, media types and even some real live politicians put on for a worthy cause (this year, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank).

Another option is tonight’s special preview performance of the show at the Byham Theater, benefiting another worthy group. Same cast, same material, but the proceeds help out Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh. Since 1965, BBBS has sought to help children facing adversity by putting them in professionally supported one-on-one relationships with adult volunteers.

Tickets for the preview show are $25. A $50 VIP ticket includes a pre-show event at nearby Alihan’s Mediterranean Cuisine, including hors d’oeuvres, two drink tickets and live music, and preferred seating at the Byham.

The show itself starts at 8 p.m. More info is here.

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