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Thursday, April 27, 2017

U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus seems to be increasing his support for President Donald Trump, but why?

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 3:49 PM


Those familiar with U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley) know he doesn’t make many substantial efforts to enter the limelight; he’s pretty low-key. (In fact, as City Paper has documented over the years, Rothfus is so low-key that he’s never even held a public town hall and often avoids talking to reporters and to constituents who hold different political viewpoints.)

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Video shows Pittsburgh City Councilor Darlene Harris in verbal altercation with cyclist on city streets

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 1:24 PM


Pittsburgh City Councilor Darlene Harris (D-North Side) is running for mayor, but her campaign hasn’t produced many detailed plans on how she plans to improve the city. Instead, she’s provided a critical, almost-laser-like focus on one issue: bike lanes.

Harris recently rated Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s mayorship as a “D-minus,” telling WTAE on April 18 because Peduto “put all these bike lanes in.” And, for her closing statement of an April 19 mayoral debate, she said, even though bike lanes weren’t brought up during the debate, “We did not talk about bike lanes at all this evening, and I wonder why? We have nothing with bike lanes, no safety attached to it, no studies, nothing. And someone is going to get seriously hurt. … Public safety is very important to me.”

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hundreds of U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy's constituents hold town hall without their representative

Posted By on Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 2:18 PM

More than 200 consituents fill the Bethel Park Community Center at a town hall event without Rep. Tim Murphy. - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • More than 200 consituents fill the Bethel Park Community Center at a town hall event without Rep. Tim Murphy.
Ever since the inauguration of President Donald Trump, U.S. Congressman Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair) has been hearing it from many of his constituents. Groups like Mondays With Murphy and 412 Resistance have formed, both with the goal of meeting with Murphy and sharing their views, many of which run counter to what the Republican lawmaker supports.

For weeks, constituents have flooded his office with calls and protested outside his Greensburg and Mount Lebanon offices. A group of six constituents even tried to speak to him at a talk he held at Duquesne University, but Murphy cancelled that event at the last second to dodge their questions.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto takes on Donald Trump instead of primary challengers in new campaign ad

Posted By on Tue, Apr 18, 2017 at 12:10 PM


Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto's first television advertisement for the mayoral election isn't your typical campaign ad. Instead of taking on his opponents in the upcoming May primary election, Pittsburgh City Councilor Darlene Harris and activist Rev. John Welch, Peduto takes on U.S. President Donald Trump.

The ad that began airing today touches on subjects like economic investment and affordable housing. Peduto has been criticized by those who say the city lacks affordable housing. In the video Peduto says the city has "affordable housing in every neighborhood."

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Pittsburgh mayoral debate to be broadcast April 19 on WTAE at 7 p.m.

Posted By on Mon, Apr 17, 2017 at 12:44 PM

Darlene Harris (left), Bill Peduto (center), John Welch (right) - PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATES
  • Photos courtesy of the candidates
  • Darlene Harris (left), Bill Peduto (center), John Welch (right)
Pittsburgh's mayoral race hasn't really taken off like many Pittsburghers might have thought. Initially, the entrance of Rev. John Welch, known for his progressive activism and protests against UPMC, was predicted to sway incumbent Mayor Bill Peduto to the left. And when City Councilor Darlene Harris (D-North Side) entered the race, some believed Harris, with her old-school, more conservative approach, would pull Peduto to the right. Local political observers seemed ready for challengers to tackle Peduto, or at least watch him tight-rope walk between these two sides.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

These Southwestern Pennsylvania reps questioned Syrian air strikes under Obama, but support them under Trump

Posted By on Tue, Apr 11, 2017 at 12:43 PM

Bill Shuster (left), Tim Murphy (center), Mike Kelly (right)
  • Bill Shuster (left), Tim Murphy (center), Mike Kelly (right)
Many were quick to praise President Donald Trump for his decision on April 6 to bomb a Syrian air base with ballistic missiles in response to the Syrian government killing more than 80 Syrians with chemical weapons. Pundits, politicians and regular Americans applauded Trump’s decision to retaliate against the Syrian government’s chemical attack on its own citizens.

In fact, three Southwestern Pennsylvania U.S. Representatives publicly issued with strong praise for Trump’s air strikes. Mike Kelly (R-Butler) tweeted on April 7, “Tonight the world's greatest force for good stood up to pure evil. We're doing the right thing. #Syria #Leadership #GodBlessAmerica”

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Pittsburgh-area candidates for judges and sheriff meet with police-accountability group

Posted By on Fri, Apr 7, 2017 at 11:27 AM

Superior Court judicial nominee William Caye speaking to forum attendees - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Superior Court judicial nominee William Caye speaking to forum attendees
On April 5, a handful of candidates for local judgeships and Allegheny County Sheriff met with members of the Alliance for Police Accountability and general members of the public to make their cases for office. Elections like these generally get little attention, but Brandi Fisher of the APA says her group and others should follow these elections.

“We wanted to do this forum because judges are not talked about enough,” she told the 15 attendees. “This is important when we talk about reforming the criminal justice system.”

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

How Southwestern Pennsylvania reps voted in rolling back internet rule meant to increase privacy

Posted By on Tue, Apr 4, 2017 at 4:01 PM

President Donald Trump made it official on April 3. The Obama-era rule meant to take effect by December 2017 which would have prohibited internet-service providers (ISPs), like Comcast and Verizon, from collecting browsing histories and selling them to advertisers without permission, was scrapped when Trump signed SJ 34 this week.

Internet users shouldn't freak out too much, though. No internet rules will change from how they currently operate. Despite sensational headlines circulating on the web, browsing histories can’t be purchased by individuals and then used for blackmail, etc. It's more likely that ISPs will continue to build huge data sets with users’ histories, and offer those data sets to advertisers for monetary reimbursement. But the roll-back of the rule does mean that internet users no longer have the option to surf the web without companies using their browsing history to sell them shit.

Screenshot of poll asking how Americans feel about rollback of internet-privacy rule. - IMAGE COURTESY OF TODAY.YOUGOV.COM
  • Image courtesy of today.yougov.com
  • Screenshot of poll asking how Americans feel about rollback of internet-privacy rule.

Companies like Google and Facebook have always — and would have continued to even under the now-axed rule — had the ability to mine users’ data to and sell it to advertisers. But for internet users who wished to avoid that, certain browsers, tools and programs offered more protection, by not saving cookies and discarding IP addresses. Now those options for the privacy-seeking users have been rolled back, since virtually everyone needs an ISP to access the internet.

Even though the ruling doesn’t change anything, the rollback of the Obama-era rule is still extremely unpopular. According to a YouGov poll taken on March 31, 74 percent of the Americans wanted Trump to veto the bill and only 11 percent wanted him to sign it. Even respondents who identified as Republicans hated the rollback. Only 14 percent of GOP respondents wanted the rule to go through and 75 percent wanted a veto.

SJ 34 passed by a 215-205 margin in the U.S. House and by a 50-48 margin in the U.S. Senate. That means if six reps in the House or two senators in the Senate had switched their votes, the bill would have died. Because the bill is so widely unpopular among the public, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party speculated that legislators who supported SJ 34 may have had some financial incentive to vote in favor, and published a list of the telecom industry’s contributions to their campaigns. However, Sen. Bob Casey, who voted against the change, also has received campaign money from telecom industry.

So who are those legislators that pushed through a very unpopular resolution? City Paper would love to write a list detailing all of the legislators in the House and Senate who voted for SJ 34, but that would be mind-numbingly long. Instead, CP  provides a list of the Pennsylvania legislators in our coverage area and how they voted on the rollback of internet privacy.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Lehigh): YES

Toomey voted in favor of SJ 34 and his press secretary, Steve Kelly, in an email to CP, offered this explanation: “The actions taken by Congress do nothing to weaken longstanding federal and state privacy laws or investigatory powers. Rather, Congress rolled back a regulation passed by President Obama’s FCC in late 2016 which does not equally apply privacy rules across all online entities. Senator Toomey hopes that the FCC and the FTC will work together to develop uniform privacy requirements.”

Kelly also noted that the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission still have the power to investigate unjust privacy practices, even though the Obama rule was rolled back.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Scranton): NO

Casey voted against SJ 34 and sent this comment to CP  by email: “Pennsylvanians have a reasonable expectation that their internet browsing history is private, which is why I voted against this resolution.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Forest Hills): NO

Doyle voted against SJ 34 and, on March 28, spoke in front of Congress in opposition before the bill came to a vote. "Today we are waiting waist deep in the swamp," said Doyle. "The American people did not ask for this resolution. In fact, no company will even put its name behind this effort. ... No consumer has made an argument that this even makes sense. I challenge every member of this body, at your next town-hall meeting to have a show of hands of how many people thinks it's a good idea to allow your internet-service provider to sell their personal information without their permission."

Doyle also started a petition asking Trump to veto the bill. However, the petition only garnered 3,650 signatures of its 100,000 goal.

U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Butler): YES

Kelly voted in favor of SJ 34 and his office didn’t return a request for comment on why he voted for the bill, nor has Kelly made any public statement. Somewhat ironically, Kelly participated in an event with Google on March 13 in Sharon, Pa. meant to teach kids how to protect their privacy while using the internet.

U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley): YES

Rothfus voted in favor of SJ 34 and in fairly typical Rothfus fashion, didn’t return a request for comment on why he supported the bill, nor offered any public statement.

U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair):
YES

Murphy voted in favor of SJ 34 and his press secretary, Carly Atchison, directed CP to Murphy’s public newsletter which says: “Murphy strongly supports online privacy rules to protect sensitive personal and consumer digital information. The Congressman voted in favor of the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 387) which passed the House earlier this year and sets the highest standard for government access to private internet communications. The Email Privacy Act protects emails, data and digital communications by requiring authorities to obtain a search warrant before gaining access to any such forms of communication.”

The newsletter also states the “net effect” of the rollback is “zero” and “Congress’ decision to kill the FCC’s proposed rules will leave in place data collection and use policies exactly as they are.”

However, according the YouGov poll, Americans appeared to want Congress and President Trump to make internet privacy better, not just leave it the way it is.

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Monday, April 3, 2017

Constituents call for U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy to support investigation into Trump ties to Russia

Posted By on Mon, Apr 3, 2017 at 5:28 PM

Consituents rally in front of U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy's Mount Lebanon office. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MYKIE REIDY
  • Photo courtesy of Mykie Reidy
  • Consituents rally in front of U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy's Mount Lebanon office.
On April 3 around noon, more than two dozen constituents rallied outside U.S. Congressman Tim Murphy’s office in Mount Lebanon, calling for Murphy to support an independent investigation into President Donald Trump and his possible ties to Russia. The group calls themselves “Mondays With Murphy,” and they have been requesting meetings with Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair) and demonstrating in front of his Mount Lebanon and Greensburg offices for weeks. (Murphy even went as far as cancelling an event at Duquesne University to avoid answering questions from a small group of constituents in February.)

On March 20, FBI Director James Comey announced the bureau is investigating possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. The House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-California), is also investigating the president, but Nunes has been criticized for allegedly meeting with White House officials on March 21, without notifying his committee. (The Senate Intelligence Committee is also investigating.)

Because of the confusion around Nunes' actions, many — both Democrats and Republicans — have been calling for an independent investigation into the Russian matter, not just one carried out by members of Congress. Mykie Reidy, of Mondays With Murphy, agrees.

“It’s clear that Devin Nunes has conflicting loyalties and cannot conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the Trump campaign’s entanglements with Russia,” said Reidy in a press release. “A number of Republicans in Congress have publicly acknowledged that fact; we would like Congressman Murphy to be among them.”

Carly Atchison, press secretary for Murphy, didn’t return request for comment for this story.

Murphy has been relatively quiet on the Trump-Russia front. In a February story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who resigned after it was revealed that he held undisclosed meetings with Russian officials during Trump's campaign, Murphy’s office said in a statement: “Congressman Murphy believes General Flynn made the right decision to resign.”

Murphy hasn't made any other public statement since about Trump and Russia. That is not good enough for Reidy and other Mondays With Murphy participants. They are circulating a petition asking Murphy to make a public statement in support of an independent investigation. The group is also still waiting to get a face-to-face meeting with Murphy.

Reidy says that two Murphy staffers came out to address the group during the April 3 rally, but none of them promised the group that they could speak with their representative.

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