No, Oklahoma-based singer/songwriter JD McPherson is in no mortal danger: the musician will be partaking in WYEP's Final Fridays concert series at Schenley Park on July 27th.
McPherson has become synonymous with the R&B-influenced rock-and-roll scene. His 2010 debut, Signals And Signifiers, was treated to a major-label release by Rounder Records this past April. The album shot up the charts, debuting at number one on the Billboard Heatseekers and hit 161 on the Billboard 200. McPherson pulls influences from rock-and-roll trailblazers such as Little Richard and Fats Domino (as well as some left-field influence from Wu-Tang Clan and the Pixies).
The show this Friday will be held under the tent at Schenley Plaza in Oakland. It starts at 7 p.m. and is free to the public.
As creative Pittsburghers it's almost impossible to not be touched by the city's own jazz traditions. And with names like Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller putting Pittsburgh on the map as a hip hop town, the goals of the crew behind tonight's Cool Like Dat event — bringing the two genres together — are on point with the times.
Inspired by the Digable Planets song "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)," the event came about out of a conversation between artist Darrell Kinsell, jazz singer Anqwenique Wingfield and the gallery team at Rocking Horse Artspace. The crew decided that their collective goal was to create an event that allowed artists and audience members alike to explore the creative freedoms of both genres.
"We all made reference to the Digable Planets' hip-hop classic "Cool Like Dat," Guru's Jazzmatazz, A Tribe Called Quest's Midnight Mauraders, Billy Strayhorn, and J-Dilla's Suite for Ma Dukes as points of inspiration regarding the feel and aesthetic that we were aiming to recreate," says Kinsell via e-mail.
They've secured early support from 720 Music and Clothing Cafe and the emerging artist program Jazzspace, and will be featuring some of the most talented artists in the city, including Gene Stovall, Yah Lioness, and Wingfield herself. The event is tonight from 7:00pm until 11:00pm, cover is a $5.00 donation.
Short answer: Not exactly.
There's been a lot of buzz about this Talking Points Memo report, which notes that when Pennsylvania's Voter ID bill is argued before Commonwealth Court tommorrow, the state will not be arguing that in-person voter fraud has been a problem, or that it will be one in the coming November election. The report is based on a "stipulation agreement" -- a legal filing in which both sides spell out things they won't be arguing over in court. And in this case, both the ACLU, which has sued to overturn the law, and state officials agree they won't be arguing over how often voter fraud happens. According to the agreement, the state "will not offer any evidence in this action that in-person voter fraud has in fact occurred in Pennsylvania and elsewhere." Nor will they argue "that in person voter fraud is likely to occur in November 2012 in the absense of the Photo ID law."
But that doesn't necessarily mean that, as the Talking Point Memo headline asserts, "Pennsylvania Admits There's No In-Person Voter Fraud." They're simply choosing not to argue about it, which isn't the same thing.
As the stipulation agreement notes, the state's "sole rationale for the Photo ID law," is contained in a response to written questions filed by the ACLU. And in that answer, the state makes quite clear that it has plenty of suspicions that Voter ID does take place ... and that one purpose of the law is to ferret out such cases.
State officials "are aware of reports indicating that votes have been cast in the name of registered electors who are deceased, who no longer reside in Pennsylvania , or who no longer reside in the jurisdiction where the vote is cast," the state's answer asserts. And without some proof of ID, the state contends, "there is a risk that votes may be cast in the names of registered electors who are dead or who have left [the area] by a person other than the registered voters ... Requiring a photo ID is one way to ensure that every elector who presents himself to vote [is] the person that he purports to be, and to ensure that the public has confidence in the electoral process. The requirement of a photo ID is a tool to detect and deter voter fraud."
Elsewhere in its response, the state cites a smattering of reports, including one by WPXI-TV, alleging outdated voter rolls including dead people, as well as a variety of other irregularities in Philadelphia especially. And it notes that part of the reason state officials lack knowledge of voter fraud is that conducting elections is largely the job of county officials.
"[C]ounty boards of elections, the district boards of elections, and their respective staffs are in the best position to detect and respond directly to election frauds committed in their respective jurisdictions," the response argues.
I can see why skeptics are running with the stipulated agreement, and using it as a basis for criticism. Democrats have understandably seized on the fact that Gov. Tom Corbett himself didn't prosecute any voter fraud cases when he was the state Attorney General. Hell, I made a joking tweet about the stipulation agreement myself last week. What's more, even after reading a fuller explanation of the state's position, it's not as if they have a particularly strong case. Many of the voting irregularities it cites are more than a decade old, took place in other states, or both. Some of them are simply canards: Chris Briem at Null Space, for example, has previously addressed the myth of dead voters showing up at polls.
Still, it's a distortion to say the state has admitted voter fraud never takes place. There are all kinds of reasons why lawyers decide against making an argument in court -- questions of jurisdiction, whether evidence is admissable, and so on. But that doesn't mean state officials can't, or won't, make the case on the courthouse steps.
In fact, I'm now hearing that the secretary of the Commonwealth, Carol Aichele, plans to hold a press conference in about an hour. We'll see how she pleads in the court of public opinion.
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It seems as though Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper has become less critical of the three police officers accused of beating former CAPA high school student Jordan Miles than he was a year ago.
In a deposition Harper gave in June 2011 he said the three officers -- Michael Saldutte, David Sisak and Richard Ewing -- should have preserved the Mountain Dew Bottle that they the officers say they mistook for a gun the night of Jan. 12, 2010. However, under cross-examination this morning, Harper said the bottle wasn't "relevant" to the five charges: prowling, loitering, escape and two counts of aggravated assault.
Harper said the bottle would not be "evidence in a criminal trial but it would be evidence in a civil case." Harper said food and beverage items are not accepted at the city's evidence storage and said even if the bottle had been collected, "it would have been disregarded."
He sounded a somewhat different note a year ago. In court yesterday, Miles attorney Kerrington Lewis read from a deposition in which Harper was asked that if the soda bottle should have been collected as evidence. At the time, a transcript says, Harper replied, "That is correct."
At various times during his testimony, Harper indicated that if Miles' version of events is true then officers did not have a right to stop him and the use of force was unjustifed. However, if the officer's version of events are true, then the officers' actions were reasonable.
Harper was still testifying at the lunch break and should finish this afternoon. But before the break, Lewis attempted to ask a question that has been on the minds of many in the community for the past two-and-a-half years. The officers say they thought Miles was armed and that he went to great lengths to protect, hide and reach for the object in his right pocket -- behaviors they say led them to believe it was a gun.
But if it was a soda bottle after all, Lewis asked, would it make sense for Miles to try to conceal it in the first place? Attorneys for the officers objected to Lewis asking that question. Their objections led Judge Gary Lancaster to ask Harper a question that got a few laughs from the jury and the gallery.
"In your 35 years as a police officer, have you ever seen a situation [where an individual involved in a struggle] decided 'I sure could use a cold drink right now?'" Lancaster asked.
Harper indicated that he had not.
In testimony yesterday afternoon, Harper was also asked about testimony from last week regarding the use of the phrase "gun, money and drugs" by city officers. Miles claims the three officers did not identify themselves as police officers when demanding those things. And an investigator with the Office of Municipal Investigations who looked into Miles' complaint had reported that the phrase was frequently used by police.
But when Lewis asked exactly how many officers used that phrase in the course of their work, Harper answered, "to my knowledge none."
This afternoon, Tuesday jurors are likely to hear from one of Miles' most important witnesses, Monica Wooding. Wooding's house was where officers allege Miles was prowling and sneaking around on Jan. 12, 2010. During Miles' preliminary criminal hearing, Saldutte testified that Wooding was in an upper window of her home when officers shined a light on Miles' face and asked if she knew him and if he had permission to be at her home. Saldutte testified that he did not.
However, a short time later Wooding testified that knew Miles very well, and that incident with officers never happened. Miles has also said that he was never presented to anyone that night. Last week he testified that he was taken from the ground to the police transport vehicle.
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Leverage Models, the new project of Stars Like Fleas mastermind Shannon Fields, is hitting the road this summer to promote the project's two EPs, Interim Deliverable and Forensic Accounting, both released by Hometapes.
The two EPs were recorded by Daniel James Goodwin, who has worked as producer for many Pittsburgh-based bands such as tech-metal wizards Orgone and post-hardcore punks Clearview Kills. The albums also feature Pittsburgh punk and metal veteran Jeff Gretz on percussion; Gretz is known for his work in Conelrad and Zao.
Fields is touring with In One Wind, featuring yet another Pittsburgh expatriate, and CAPA graduate, Angelo Spagnolo (you can read about Spagnolo and In One Wind here).
Welcome to another installment of MP3 Monday! Today's song comes from New Shouts, a local indie rock band made up of Cor Allen and Derek and Mario White. The band is playing Brillobox this Friday, July 27th, with Host Skull and DJ Dave Zak. The show will mark the premiere of the newest New Shouts member, keyboardist Michelle Horsley. Horsley is a classically trained organist who officially joined the band this past May. Check out "Gazes In The Dark" below.
[Download link expired, sorry!]
A doctor who began treating Jordan Miles in October 2011 says the 20-year-old will have "lifelong difficulties" due to the beating he took at the hands of three Pittsburgh police officers.
Dr. Maria Twichell, the clinical director for UPMC's Sports Medicine Concussion program, testified in a federal civil cast this morning that Miles came to see her last year with a host of symptoms. They included headaches, dizziness, short-term memory loss, nausea, nightmares, flashbacks and depression. Miles also complained of a loss of sensation in his face, particularly under his right eye.
Miles was an 18-year-old CAPA high school honor student when he had an altercation near his mother's home in Homewood on Jan. 12, 2010. Miles says he was merely walking down the street when he was stopped by three officers -- Michael Saldutte, Richard Ewing and David Sisak -- asked for money and gus and drugs and then attacked and beaten as he attempted to flee from the men that he says he didnd't know were police. The officers claim they did ID themselves and had probable cause to stop Miles because he was lurking around the side of a house in the area.
In court today, Twichell said Miles doesn't remember everything that happened on Jan. 12, 2010, but remembers some of the blows he took, including a hard blow to the right side of his forehead. Twichell says Miles told her he had also been having trouble doing things he had been able to do in the past, like math and other school work because he had trouble focusing and remembering things.
Twichell ordered a neruological exam of Miles and eventually concluded that he was suffering from post-concussive disorder, and that he had suffered brain damage to the right side of his brain. She diagnosed him with both cognitive disorder and anxiety disorder.
Miles' attorney, J. Kerrington Lewis, asked Twichell about Miles' future prospects.
"Jordan will have lifelong difficulty from his injuries," answered Twichell, who added that recovery from a trauma typically wanes after two years. "I think where Jordan is now is what we can expect going forward."
On cross-examination, defense attorney Bryan Campbell asked Twichell if a subject, particularly one involved in litigation, could magnify his symptoms, or even outright make them up. Twichell testified that the tests performed on Miles had safeguards designed to see if a patient was "magnifying symptoms or false reporting."
"Jordan passed all validity measures," Twichell testified.
Campbell also introduced Miles' application for a driving permit, dated June 6, 2010. That report contained a "health assessment report" in which Miles checked a box indicating that he was not suffering from dizziness. Twichell testified that symptoms can often present themselves as time goes on.
Campbell also asked Twichell about the fact that the emergency room report listed Miles as "awake and alert" the night of the incident.
"Being awake and alert doesn't mean a person didn't have a concussion," Twichell testifed. "The other option would be comatose."
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Three members of the Citizen's Police Review Board have submitted their resignations, leaving the spots open for City Council to appoint new members.
The resignations of board chair Deborah Walker and members Tom Kolano and Debora Whitfield will be effective July 31, according to CPRB Executive Director Beth Pittinger.
Walker, a long-time board member who holds a seat reserved for law-enforcement professionals, is leaving to complete her doctorate degree. "Between the class schedule and school work, there was a scheduling conflict," Pittinger says. "She's gone above and beyond in her service to the board."
Kolano and Whitfield are both moving out of the city, making them ineligible to serve.
Interested applicants for Kolano and Whitfield's seat need only be a city resident to apply. To apply for Walker's seat, applicants must be a city resident and have experience law-enforcement professional, but cannot be an active-duty officer at the time of their board service.
Those interested in serving should contact their city councilor. City council will have to nominate three separate names for each seat and ultimately whittle that down to one per seat. The mayor will then have 30 days to act on the resolution. If he fails to act, city council can appoint the members.
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For those fearful that the state's controversial Voter ID bill is a mere Republican power-grab, there's good news and bad news this week.
You may be familiar with the outrage surrounding the first contract let out by Gov. Tom Corbett's Administration: As Philadelphia City Paper Daniel Denvir reported earlier this month, a quarter-million-dollar voter-notification contract was won by the Bravo Group, a firm with strong ties to the GOP and to Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. That prompted lots of whining from the usual suspects, and this morning, Talking Points Memo disclosed that Bravo Group was apparently doubling down, having subcontracted minority-outreach work to a firm that has done consulting with the GOP committee.
But maybe the fix isn't in. A new, larger voter ID contract has been let to a Pittsburgh firm ... one which doesn't have strong GOP ties.
Red House Communications has won a $1.8 million job to create broadcast and print ads, as well as other outreach materials in the voter ID campaign. And if anything, Red House's politics appear to be tinted blue.
Gloria Blint, the firm's president and CEO, has a modest track record of supporting Democrats. A check of FEC records shows that she gave $250 to Barack Obama's 2008 campaign. That same election year, she also contribute $1,500 to former Erie Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper, who went on to win that race, and another $1,500 to Stephen O'Donnell, who lost his challenge to Republican incumbent Tim Murphy. Blint previously contributed $2,000 to Georgia Berner, a New Castle businesswoman who mounted a progressive challenge to Jason Altmire.
On the state level, Blint made a 2009 contribution of $1,000 to then-Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato -- who was of course gearing up to take on Corbett himself in the following year's gubernatorial race.
My initial search hasn't turned up any other political activity by Red House execs, unless you count its PR director having worked a two-decade-old stint for a Republican Congressman.
Meanwhile, the Department of the Commonwealth has been doing some outreach of its own, sending out letters to voters who may lack ID. We had one of those letters forwarded to us, which you can see for yourself here (identifying information has been redacted).
It's all fairly straightforward, spelling out what forms of ID will be acceptable at the polls, and what documents you may be required to provide in order to get a photo ID should you need one. But one assertion jumps out:
"[T]he Department of State is working with PennDOT to develop an alternative form of photo identification for voting purposes only that would be available to those who are unable for some reason to obtain a PennDOT photo ID."
That's a reference to a little-noted alternative the state is busily working on, due out sometime in the next few weeks. The goal is to provide though so far state officials could "not elaborate on specifics of the new cards, or describe what the lesser requirements might be for obtaining one."
Sounds great. Except ... wouldn't it have been nice if state officials had figured all this out BEFORE they began dropping letters into the mail? Wouldn't it have been nice if the letter had been able to spell out all the options a voter had? So people could take advantage of them?
Some critics -- including the famously evenhanded G. Terry Madonna -- have argued that any Voter ID law should be at the very least delayed ... precisely to deal with such logistical problems. On the other hand, maybe Republicans have a new argument against suspicions that Voter ID is a sophisticated back-door power grab: "We're just not that organized!"
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