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Monday, January 29, 2018

Pittsburghers call on Sen. Bob Casey to oppose 20-week abortion-ban bill

Posted By on Mon, Jan 29, 2018 at 4:05 PM

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner at today's press conference - CP PHOTO BY SABRINA BODON
  • CP photo by Sabrina Bodon
  • Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner at today's press conference
On Jan. 26, news broke that Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey (D-Scranton) planned to vote in favor of a federal bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. Earlier today, several groups organized at the Allegheny County Courthouse in Downtown Pittsburgh to call on Casey to change his mind.

In an effort between organizers of activism groups Tuesdays With Toomey, New Voices Pittsburgh and the Greater Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the press conference called for Sen. Casey to “trust women and their doctors” by voting no on the federal Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act that would ban abortions after 20 weeks.

Diane Ryan Katz, vice president for programs and public education with the Greater Pittsburgh Chapter of the ACLU, said that while the United States is a nation governed by laws, bills pertaining to women’s rights to abortion have no place.

“Anybody should be able to access abortion care whether at two weeks or 22 weeks, because the human body and the human experience does not follow these arbitrary legal timelines,” Katz said. “Congress, including Sen. Casey and the White House, have no place meddling in the confidential relationship we have with our trusted medical professionals.”

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Pennsylvania legislators call on state to recommit to Paris Climate Agreement goals

Posted By on Thu, Jan 25, 2018 at 2:03 PM

Sen. Wayne Fontana at today's press conference - CP PHOTO BY REBECCA ADDISON
  • CP Photo by Rebecca Addison
  • Sen. Wayne Fontana at today's press conference
When President Donald Trump evoked Pittsburgh's name last year, as part of his rationale for withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on climate change, many Pittsburghers weren't having it. In a tweet that has since gone viral, Mayor Bill Peduto reaffirmed Pittsburgh's commitment to the agreement, and environmental activists and organizations redoubled their efforts.

Months later, that fervor hasn't died down. At a press conference at the Allegheny County Courthouse earlier today, Pennsylvania legislators voiced their support for the ideals laid out in the Paris Agreement. To back it up, they've proposed legislation directing the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to reduce statewide greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 percent by 2025.

"President Trump stepped backward with the Paris Accord on climate change, and now it's time for Pennsylvania to step to the forefront and become a leader," said Pa. Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), one of the bill's sponsors. "We have a responsibility to act. Today, Pennsylvania is fifth among U.S. states in terms of population, but we're third in carbon pollution."

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Monday, January 22, 2018

Pennsylvania Supreme Court throws out state's partisan gerrymandered Congressional districts

Posted By on Mon, Jan 22, 2018 at 6:24 PM

Pennsylvania's current U.S. Congressional Districts
  • Pennsylvania's current U.S. Congressional Districts
No more packing all the Democratic votes into a small number of urban Pennsylvania U.S. Congressional districts. No more Goofy kicking Donald Duck, a common descriptor for Pennsylvania's 7th U.S. Congressional District.

On Jan. 22, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the state's current U.S. Congressional District map, which was drawn by Republicans in 2011, was unconstitutional according to the Pennsylvania Constitution. The 5-2 decision affirmed the plaintiffs' claims that Republicans sought partisan advantage when drawing the maps. The decision was cast along partisan lines, with Democrats calling for the current map to be struck down and the court's two Republicans dissenting.

According to the order issued by the state Supreme Court, the new maps will be redrawn by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, currently in Republican control, by Feb. 9. Gov. Tom Wolf (D-York) will then have until Feb. 15 to OK the map and submit it to to the state Supreme Court. The new maps will be available by Feb. 19 and will apply to the May 15 primary election and subsequent elections. However, they will not apply to Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District special election on March 15 between Conor Lamb (D-Mount Lebanon) and Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth).

The order also says "congressional districts composed of compact and contiguous territory; as nearly equal in population as practicable; and which do not divide any county, city, incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary to ensure equality of population."

In the current map, county splitting is very common. The 12th Congressional District, which stretches from Beaver County in the west all the way to Cambria County in the east, splits five different counties. Berks County in the eastern part of Pennsylvania doesn't have enough population to support its own congressional district, but is split up into four different districts regardless.

Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Marcel L. Groen issued the following statement on the decision: “The order issued by the Supreme Court today found that the congressional map violates Pennsylvania’s constitution and has provided the methodology for new maps to be submitted and acted upon before the end of February. I want to thank and compliment the attorneys and parties who brought this before the Supreme Court and helped right this obvious wrong.”

The Pennsylvania Republican Party has yet to put out a statement. But Mark Davin Harris, of Pittsburgh-based conservative political firm Cold Spark Media, tweeted after the decision that "PA Supreme Court ruling is an insane and unconscionable power grab. It’s a legal joke and a thinly veiled partisan hack job. They should be ashamed."

However, it's unclear if anything can be done to change it. Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia) tweeted it's "not clear" if the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case if it is appealed, since the issue pertains to the state constitution, not the U.S. Constitution.

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Special election for 35th State House District planned for Tuesday

Posted By on Mon, Jan 22, 2018 at 4:41 PM

Fawn Walker-Montgomery (left) and Austin Davis
  • Fawn Walker-Montgomery (left) and Austin Davis
Yesterday’s Women’s March was all about getting out the vote, and this week, some Allegheny County residents will have the chance to do just that in the first election of the year. Tuesday, Jan. 23, marks the special election for the 35th State House District.

The election for the state House seat vacated by former state Rep. Marc Gergely is set between McKeesport natives Democrat Austin Davis and Republican Fawn Walker-Montgomery.

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Friday, January 19, 2018

Daniel Smith Jr., an openly gay candidate, is running against homophobic Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe

Posted By on Fri, Jan 19, 2018 at 5:00 PM

  • Photo courtesy of the candidate
  • Daniel Smith Jr.
Daniel Smith Jr. is a Butler County native and longtime resident, who grew up in Zelienople and now lives in Adams Township with his husband, Don. He has been paying close attention to his state representative, Daryl Metcalfe (R-Cranberry), for years. Smith has grown frustrated as Metcalfe has continually focused on bombastic and divisive issues, such as opposing same-sex marriage and attacking immigrants’ rights. Over the years, Smith felt that with every controversial Metcalfe issue that made headlines, Pennsylvania’s 12th House District suffered from being cast in a negative light.

Then a video was released in December 2017 of Metcalfe freaking out when his colleague, state Rep.Matt Bradford (D-Montgomery), touched him on the elbow during a committee meeting on land use. Metcalfe exclaimed, “I am heterosexual. I love my wife, I don’t like men, as you might. Stop touching me all the time.” The video went viral and was mocked on Jimmy Kimmel Live and Late Night with Stephen Colbert.

“The moment he had at the committee meeting, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” says Smith. “Yes, what [Metcalfe] said pissed me off. But I saw the rest of the representatives in the meeting shake their heads. And I was thinking, ‘How does a district keep voting for this person?’ Then I thought, I needed to do something.”

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Braddock Mayor John Fetterman finds himself in the hot seat in campaign for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor

Posted By on Fri, Jan 19, 2018 at 3:35 PM

John Fetterman - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • John Fetterman
Mayor John Fetterman found himself in the hot seat Tuesday night during an hour-long Q&A with the University of Pittsburgh’s College Democrats.

Fetterman is running for lieutenant governor in the upcoming election, and Pitt’s Young Democratic Socialists on hand took the opportunity to challenge him on some of his progressive stances. The local branch of the Democratic Socialists of America met with Fetterman in December and declined to endorse him in the upcoming election.

Prior to the event this week, the Young Democratic Socialists, lead by co-chair Sean Bailey, researched Fetterman’s positions on a wide range of issues. At the event, they quizzed him on topics ranging from fracking and abortion laws to minimum wage and nonprofit laws.

“We wanted to differentiate between a strong progressive platform and the Fetterman campaign, and I think we did,” Bailey said.

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

In North Fayette, President Donald Trump touts tax cuts in speech on the economy

Posted By on Thu, Jan 18, 2018 at 5:04 PM

  • CP photos by Charlie Deitch
On Jan. 18, President Donald Trump spoke to a crowd of about 200 invited guests at H&K Equipment in North Fayette Township, extolling the benefits of the recently passed tax-cut bill. The president claimed that many of the recent announcements by corporations about employee bonuses and expansions were due to the tax-cut bill.

“Because of tax cuts, Apple just announced a $350 billion expansion,” said Trump of the California-based tech giant. “Apple is gonna build plants, they are going to build a big campus. … The center of America’s resurgence is the tax cuts. ”

Trump also said that his tax-cut bill was having positive effects on H&K Equipment, an equipment-supply company to area manufacturers. "The signs of America's comeback can be seen at H&K,” said Trump. “They will be making a $2.7 million capital investment."

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U.S. Congressional candidate Rick Saccone tallying fiscally conservative, anti-union support

Posted By on Thu, Jan 18, 2018 at 12:51 PM

A screen shot of the Ending Spending Inc. TV ad supporting Rick Saccone - IMAGE COURTESY OF YOUTUBE
  • Image courtesy of YouTube
  • A screen shot of the Ending Spending Inc. TV ad supporting Rick Saccone
During his 15 years as a U.S. congressman, former Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair) held strict socially conservative views, but supported enough liberal economic views that some considered him a moderate. Murphy resigned amidst scandal last year, and a special election for his seat will be held March 13.

Pennsylvania state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth) was nominated by Republicans to compete in the election against former U.S. Assistant Attorney Conor Lamb (D-Mount Lebanon). And recent support from conservative and libertarian political-advocacy organizations suggest Saccone is more economically conservative than Murphy.

Saccone has been endorsed by economically conservative political-advocacy groups FreedomWorks for America and the Club for Growth, groups that have opposed Murphy in the past. And even though Saccone will speak at an event in North Fayette with President Donald Trump on Jan. 18, Saccone's support also suggests that he has different economic policy priorities than Trump, who won the district handily in 2016 thanks, in part, to populist, protectionist economic policies like criticizing free trade.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Summer Lee touts Democratic-socialist policies in campaign event for District 34 state house seat

Posted By on Tue, Jan 16, 2018 at 5:15 PM

Summer Lee at Portogallo Peppers ‘n’ At in Braddock on Jan. 15 - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Summer Lee at Portogallo Peppers ‘n’ At in Braddock on Jan. 15
On Jan. 15, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, when state house candidate Summer Lee got up to speak in front of the crowd of more than 150 packed into Portogallo Peppers N'at in Braddock, she spoke of a rarely cited detail about King.

“A lot of people don’t know this, but Martin Luther King was a radical,” said Lee. “He called for an end to capitalism. He wanted to unite poor people. He knew that if we can’t end that system, we would fail in our goals.”

King, after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, in 1964, and the Voting Rights Act, in 1965, began to campaign against the effects that capitalism had on poor people of all races and backgrounds. In a 1967 speech, King said, “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

Lee is running as a Democrat in the primary election against incumbent Paul Costa (D-Braddock), whose Pennsylvania state House District 34 encompasses towns like North Braddock, Swissvale, Forest Hills and other nearby boroughs.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette moves Trump's 'shithole countries' quote at behest of conservative publisher John Block

Posted By on Fri, Jan 12, 2018 at 5:03 PM

Tweet from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette
  • Tweet from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Yesterday, President Donald Trump referred to Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as "shithole countries." The remarks were made during a discussion with U.S. senators about a new bipartisan immigration bill.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here," Trump reportedly said. "We should have more people from Norway.”

As is typical following Trump's customary inflammatory comments, the reaction was swift. CNN's Don Lemon opened his show saying, "This is CNN Tonight. I’m Don Lemon. The president of the United States is racist."

CNN's Anderson Cooper took time on his show to reflect on his experience covering natural disasters in Haiti and the people he met there. “Let me be clear, the people of Haiti have been through more, withstood more, fought back against more injustice than our president ever has,” an obviously choked-up Cooper said.

Predictably, on the other side of the aisle, Fox News pundits were blasé about Trump's comments. "This is how the forgotten men and women of America talk at the bar," said Fox's Jesse Watters.

But here in Pittsburgh, John Block, the publisher of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette apparently believes Trump's remarks were too inappropriate for the front page.  A tweet posted by the P-G's verified Twitter account last night states, "Our publisher is requesting us to remove @realDonaldTrump's "vulgar language" from the lede in our @AP story about his vulgar language."

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