Thursday, February 28, 2008

Former CIA Officer Speaks on Waterboarding

A former CIA officer says he believes waterboarding is torture. John Kiriakou is speaking at the University of Pittsburgh today on ethics in intelligence. Kiriakou was involved in the questioning of Abu Zubaida, the first high-ranking al-Qaeda member captured after 9-11. Abu Zubaida was uncooperative until his captors submitted him to waterboarding. Kiriakou had already moved on to another assignment by that time.
Kiriakou is conflicted on waterboarding. He says in the short window after 9-11, he thinks the United States needed to do whatever it took to forestall another attack. But he says he believes the United States now needs to take the moral high road.
Kiriakou says he's had a mixed response from his former colleagues on his decision to speak out. He says about a third believe he should have kept his mouth shut; another third have supported him. He says another third have told him they are similarly conflicted on the issue.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

$1.5 Million In Fares Await Unfolding, Deposit

More than two dozen barrels of fare money are sitting in a Port Authority vault because there hasn't been enough staff to unfold the dollar bills. The 15 employees of the cash room did not work a collective 769 hours in December alone, when a fare increase is bringing in 16% more bills, according to PAT spokesperson Judi McNeil. She says that's 3 to 4 times the average, and because of work practices they can't pull from other departments.
The amount, which is roughly one month of fares, would earn roughly $5,000 a month in interest if deposited in a bank. McNeil says that less than .001% of fare box revenues, but they are concerned and are trying to get the money deposited as soon as possible. She says they're balancing overtime to ensure a gain, and are looking at temporarily reclassifying vacant finance department positions to help shrink the backlog. They're also considering outsourcing the whole process to a bank.
McNeil says she can't say when the backlog will be cleared, but the barrels remain in a guarded, secure vault.

Myron Cope Dies at Age 79

Steelers broadcasting legend Myron Cope has died. Cope died of respiratory failure after years of health problems. Cope was part of the Steelers broadcasting team for 35 years, contributing colorful exclamations like "yoi!" to the fan lexicon. Former Steeler Andy Russell says Cope was a dear friend who got along well with the players, but still had his say about their play on the field. Cope also created the Terrible Towel, which fans wave in the stands. In 1996, Cope surprised the Allegheny Valley School by giving it the trademark to the Terrible Towel. The Allegheny Valley School cares for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Cope's son, Danny, lives there. Proceeds from the Terrible Towel have raised $2.2 million for the school. The University of Pittsburgh is encouraging fans attending tonight's basketball game against Cincinnati to bring their Terrible Towels in Cope's honor.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

CeaseFirePA comes to SWPA

The advocacy group CeaseFirePA is upping its efforts in southwestern Pennsylvania by enlisting the support of doctors at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh police department and local residents to put pressure on lawmakers to pass tighter gun control legislation. Specifically the group would like to see laws adopted that limit the number of guns and individual can purchase in a month and force gun owners to report all lost or stolen guns. Mike Tracy is a sergeant in the Pittsburgh police department’s gun unit. He says police often trace guns used in crimes back to the original owners who either tell them they did not known the gun was missing or simply did not bother to report them stolen. Tracy says when police trace several guns back to one owner and none of them have been reported lost or stolen they will begin to investigate. Local CeaseFirePA member Jana Finder says she is tired of hearing that there is nothing she can do to stop gun violence and she is going to push hard for tighter laws by calling on everyone to write letters and vote. Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper says right now gun laws mostly deal with gun violence after it has already happened and the state needs laws that will help prevent gun violence.

Drink Tax Revenues Pour In

The first numbers are coming in on the new drink tax in Allegheny County. Treasurer John Weinstein told DUQ News that at the end of Monday they had received forms and money from 1,020 of the 2,200 liquor license holders in the county. They collected about $1.7 million and he expects the remainder of the bars and restaurants to submit their forms by Thursday or Friday. Weinstein says although the participation rate has been "pretty good" so far about 30% of the forms that have been processed were filled out incorrectly. Weinstein is an opponent of the 10% tax on poured alcoholic drinks and says revenues to subsidize mass transit could have been generated in a better manner. But Weinstein says it is the law and failure to comply can result in fines and possible jail time.

ACLU lawsuit over campaign lawn signs settled

Today South Park Township settled a lawsuit with the ACLU over an ordinance that prohibited political lawn signs on public property outside of thirty days before an election. South Park has agreed to amend its laws to allow homeowners to put up political signs at any time of the year. The issue first gained momentum when Dr. Joseph Rudolph posted a sign in support of his son who was running for political office.

Army Colonel Says Iraqi Police Still Need Support

Iraqi police need the continued backing of Coalition forces, according to a U.S. Army Colonel who's speaking in Pittsburgh today. Thomas Evans is a member of the Current Affairs Panel at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle. He says the challenge in Iraq has been training about 300,000 police officers after law enforcement there had completely disintegrated. Evans says Coalition forces have trained the officers, put them on a standardized radio system, and equipped them. Now, he says, they're regaining the trust of the Iraqi people, who had become accustomed to paying bribes if they wanted to report a crime.
Still, he says, some corruption remains. For the short term, and Evans says he doesn't know how to define "short term," he believes Coalition forces need to be in Iraq to make sure police keep control.
The Current Affairs Panel is speaking at the University of Pittsburgh's student union at 4 pm and will be at libraries in Mount Lebanon and Peters Township later tonight.

Monday, February 25, 2008

New Director Named for Natural History Museum

Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh named Samuel McElroy Taylor, Ph.D., the new director of the Museum of Natural History today.
Taylor has spent his career working with science-based museums across the country, including the California Academy of Science, and American Museum of Natural History in New York. His first job was as a Program Specialist for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and he says he's glad to come back. While he's sometimes envied his colleagues that didn't bounce around different institutions, he says that experience gives him the perspective and confidence to step into the director role and know that it's where he wants to be right now. He says the great thing about the Carnegie Museums are their collections, and he wants to make them more visible during his time here to enhance education.
Taylor takes the place of Billie DeWalt, who left the position after 6 years to help found a new museum for musical instruments in Phoenix, Arizona. Zhe-Xi Luo and Dave Smith have been acting Co-Directors since DeWalt left in January, 2007. Taylor will begin work from the Director's office April of this year.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Sports Concussion Research May Apply to Military

Pittsburgh has been at the forefront of research into sports-related concussions. Now that expertise may be used to help the military. DUQ's Katherine Fink reports:

Listen to the full-length story here.

Carnegie International Artists

The name of the 40 artists whose work will comprise the 55th Carnegie International art Exhibition will be released today. DUQ's mark Nootbaar reports the artists come from more than a dozen countries and represent a wide variety of styles.

Listen to the full-length story here.

View art work 1 here.

View art work 2 here.

Carnegie International: The Artists

The names of the 40 artists whose work will comprise the 55th Carnegie international will be officially released later today. They come from more than a dozen countries and represent a wide variety of styles. One of the first artists chosen by Carnegie International Curator Douglas Fogle was Swiss born sculptor Thomas Hirschhorn. Fogle says Hirschhorn brings to his work many of the sensibilities of the exhibition, which looks to explore the question of what it means to be human today. Like many of the artists in the show, Fogle says Hirschhorn can make something wonderful out of everyday materials.

Another artists using every day objects in new and creative ways is Haegue Yang. She creates art, using items such and mini blinds, air conditioners, theater lights and even scent machines used by department stores. Yang says she will collect much of her material from local sources before she installs in Pittsburgh to make sure she gets the right feel.

The work of American born artists Doug Aitken will grace the fa├žade of the museum. He is creating a new film that explores the “new American landscape” and he says he was inspired by the exhibition subtitle “Life on Mars.”

Matt Monahan is also thinking about “Life on Mars.” While working on the pieces for the show he has been playing the David Bowie tune of the same name. Monahan works in paper, foam and a long list of other materials and he says he has not yet decided on what he will use for the International.

WDUQ’s Mark Nootbaar speaks to many of the artists in the version of the story aired this morning on WDUQ FM.

WDUQ’s Mark Nootbaar will examine a different aspect of the Carnegie International every month through the opening of the show.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Saudi Students Organize 4th Annual Open House

The Saudi Students House has organized its 4th annual open house about Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Students House comprises students from Saudi Arabia who attend the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, and Duquesne University. The goal of their open house is to open up avenues of communication with Americans who do not know much about Saudi Arabian culture. The event is being held on Friday, Feb. 22nd, in the William Pitt Union Assembly Room at Pitt. It will start at 4:30 and conclude at 9 pm.

Birmingham Bridge Reopening

PennDot press officer Jim Struzzi said the Birmingham Bridge might reopen one lane in each direction as early as late next week. the temporary traffic pattern would be on the southbound lane of the bridge. the bridge has been inspected and no other repairs are needed. PennDot also inspected the Neville island bridge which is of similar design, and found no problems. The total reopening of the bridge might not come for months as the northbound side is retrofitted to prevent a similar occurrence.

Workshops Will Outline Casino Employment

CCAC and the Northside Leadership Conference are sponsoring a series of 12 free workshops that will help people land jobs with Pittsburgh’s new casino, which is set to open in May of 2009. The workshops will cover the types of jobs that are available, the qualifications needed, the state work credentials required, background checks and the resources needed to help individuals gain employment. There will not be any job applications accepted at the workshops. They are simply informational sessions providing resources to help ensure future employment. The first session is Tuesday, Feb. 26th at the YMCA of Homewood from 6 to 9 pm.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

One Hill to go before County Council

The One Hill Coalition will be in front of County Council tonight demanding action on two fronts. First is for a public hearing on the community benefits agreement they are trying to reach with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Secondly, they will voice their support for a Bill Robinson bill that would strongly encourage a Community Benefits Analysis to become commonplace when there is new development or other issues that would warrant such an analysis.

Illegal Aliens in Jail

U.S. Senator Arlen Specter was in town to tour the Allegheny County Jail Sentenced Housing Unit. After the tour he held a discussion regarding identifying criminal undocumented immigrants. He said the system is broken because of how hard it is to deport the illegal alien. Specter said part of the problem in deporting the illegal immigrants is their home country does not want to take them back. As a proposed solution to that problem Specter referenced a bill that he supports that would halt visas or government aid to countries that refuse to take their citizens back. He spoke today with some illegal immigrants who are currently held in the Allegheny County Jail. Specter said one of the inmates, an illegal mexican who was there because of a DUI charge, would gladly accept deportation over his sentence. While another inmate who is Syrian in jail on a burgalry charge would rather stay in the country. Specter said the problems encountered in identifying illegal immigrants in jail and having them deported is a part of the larger issue of immigration and hasn't been addressed because there has not been a comprehensive immigration bill.

Monday, February 18, 2008

August Wilson Home Closer to Historic Preservation

Playwright August Wilson won acclaim for his Pittsburgh Cycle, set partly in his childhood home in Pittsburgh's Hill District. Wilson passed away in 2005, and his nephew Paul Ellis, Jr. now owns the structure. The process Ellis began to have the building designated a historic structure is nearing its close, despite delays in Pittsburgh City Council.
In a public hearing today, family, fans, and community members all spoke in support of preserving the artist's home. The city's Historic Review Commission recommended approval because of its ties with regional and national cultural development. Ellis wants to use the now-vacant home as a retreat for writers. Wilson's sister Frieda Ellis says the house is important to the life and future of the Hill. The Young Preservationists Association and Preservation Pittsburgh also gave their support.
Some speakers used part of their allotted 3 minutes to chastise Council members for dragging their feet in getting the nomination to a vote. According to the city code, the nomination expired in early February, but council will proceed with a vote next week because it wasn't Ellis' fault. Marimba Millones of the Hill Community Development Corporation asked the Council to look into the matter and report its findings. Councilwoman Tonya Payne represents the Hill and chaired the Planning, Zoning, and Land Use Committee at the time. She says she doesn't think an investigation is necessary.
Councilman Ricky Burgess recently introduced a measure to extend Council's time to vote on historic nominations, with a provision that if they're recommended by the Historic Review Commission, they automatically pass even if council takes no action.
Councilman Bill Peduto said they will begin addressing this and other procedure problems tomorrow in Council.

Study Says Medicare Bidding Won't Lower Costs

A study by two Robert Morris University Professors and funded by the Pennsyvania Association of Medical Suppliers says thousands of small medical suppliers will be forced out of business by competitive bidding, ultimately raising costs to taxpayers and consumers.
The bidding plan is part of a 2003 federal overhaul, and officials from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services says it will save $1 billion by the year 2010. Pittsburgh is one of 10 metropolitan areas chosen to adopt the plan in 2008, with 70 more signing on in 2009. Study co-author Stephen Foreman says small companies won't be able to compete with large suppliers, and since CMS controls most of the market, they won't be around for the next bidding cycle, and there will be less competition to keep prices down. Foreman says he doesn't know of any provisions for small suppliers, but according to the CMS website, suppliers with an annual gross revenue under $3.5 million are accorded some protection. In each product category, there is a 30% participation target for small suppliers, if they're willing to accept the lowest bid price. They can also network and submit a collective bid for consideration.
Suppliers will know within the next 4 weeks which bids are accepted for the Pittsburgh region.

Friday, February 15, 2008

PennDot says Birmingham Bridge needs more work

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation engineers say they will have to replace a bearing system on the Birmingham bridge that failed Feb 8 causing a portion of the span to drop 8 inches. crews are now shoring up the span and designing a new bearing system. Penn Dot Dist. 11 Executive Dan Cessna says design work and weather will determine how fast repairs can be made but the goal is still to get half of the bridge open by the last week of Feb. At first only the south bound side of the bridge will be open with one lane in each direction. The rest of the bridge has been inspected and Cessna says it is safe. A similar bridge on I-79 over Nevil island has also been inspected and deemed safe. The cause of the 8-inch drop has not yet been determined.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Casino Garage Design is Appealed

A spokesman for Majestic Star would not say whether an appeal of the casino garage's design will affect the building's construction schedule. Yesterday, the Riverlife Task Force filed an appeal with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The appeal seeks to invalidate the Pittsburgh Planning Commission's approval of the garage, which the Task Force says dwarfs the casino and could ruin views of the city skyline. Construction of the casino began in December. The building is currently scheduled to open in May of next year.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Civil Rights Pioneer Speaks in Pittsburgh

A woman who helped organize the 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama spoke in Pittsburgh today. Juanita Jones Abernathy spoke at PNC's downtown headquarters as part of events for Black History Month. Abernathy distributed fliers to alert black residents of the bus boycott. She is also the widow of the Reverend Ralph Abernathy, who was pastor of the First Baptist Church in Montgomery and best friend of Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. Juanita Jones Abernathy says she was taught from a young age to stand up for herself. She says she once left behind more than $100 worth of groceries in a store because a clerk helped a white customer with her bags but refused to help Abernathy. She says young people need to take the ideals upon which the civil rights movement was based and "take them to the next level."

Cleanup Begins on Former Nuclear Dump

The Pennsylvania DEP and the EPA will be monitoring the clean up work of 1.2 acres in Armstrong County where dumping of low-level radioactive waste once occurred. The Park Township Shallow land disposal area consists of ten trenches that contain contaminated pieces of clothing like booties and gloves, along with containers and equipment that were once used at the BWX technology's former parks nuclear fuel fabrication facility. Because of funding constraints the effort could take as long as 10-20 years to complete or as short as a year or two.

Recidivism Drops at Allegheny County Jail

The University of Pittsburgh has released a study regarding recidivism in the Allegheny County Jail. The study found that the Allegheny County Jail Collaborative has reduced the amount of inmates who find their way back to jail after release. The study found the county saved $5.3 million a year. Allegheny County's rate of recidivism is now 16.5%, compared to the national average of 33.1%. The Jail Collaborative includes social services that, among other things, provide inmates with access to drug and alcohol counseling, job placement, and GED preparation.

Community Benefits Agreement

In cities around the country--Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, Denver, Milwaukee--developers and community coalitions are signing legally binding "Community Benefits Agreements", or CBAs, for big projects funded with public money. DUQ's Charlee Song reports on the attempt to achieve Pittsburgh's first CBA--for the Hill District.

Listen to the full-length story here.

PHEEA Paying for Hiding Records

Hours before a vote in the state House of Representatives to open up government records to the public, three media outlets won legal costs from a state agency that denied access to its paperwork.

A Commonwealth Court judged awarded $48,000 in legal fees incurred by a Harrisburg newspaper, the Associated Press, and a Pittsburgh television station to be paid by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.

The outlets fought PHEAA for nearly two years in court over access to financial records. Ultimately the journalists prevailed - and discovered the agency spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on board retreats, including cigars, alcohol, and falconry instruction.

Deborah Musselman with the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, which advocates for access to government records, says this is a win for all state residents. "It's got to be a victory for access because the agency was found to be in violation of the open records act. So it's appropriate that they would pay those costs."

Meantime, Musselman says her organization continues to support Senate Bill 1 - which was approved by the House Monday night. If enacted, proponents say, it would take the state's record access law from being one of the worst in the nation to perhaps one of the best.

Low-Income Tax Rebates On The Way From the State

Low-income working Pennsylvanians are one step closer to a $400 rebate from the state. The state House Appropriations Committee Monday passed a $131 million dollar plan to help 475,000 residents who earn less than $32,000 dollars a year.

Pittsburgh single mom Jennifer England told lawmakers the money would make a big difference in the lives of her two children. "I'm sure that all across Pennsylvania there are working families with children that spend way too much time practicing the art of self-denial. To families like mine, $400 can change the tenor of an entire year."

But Republican Representative Dave Reed questioned the wisdom of creating a state program while awaiting the details of a similar federal program. "I would just suggest from a general policy standpoint that perhaps we're getting a little bit ahead of ourselves by moving this bill so quickly this week. We don't even know what the impact of the federal program is going to be."

Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf countered that everything the state could do will complement federal economic stimulus plans. "If it works as intended... that's going to help everybody. It's going to help middle class folks, it's going to help working families, it's going to help entrepreneurs with businesses."

Despite Republican opposition, the measure did pass the House Appropriations Committee, and now goes to the full House for approval.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Birmingham Bridge Closed for 2 Weeks

The bridge connecting Oakland to the South Side of Pittsburgh will remain closed while crews work to repair the southbound bridgespan and pier, after part of the deck dropped nearly 8 inches early Friday morning.
PennDOT spokesman Jim Struzzi says crews are now erecting temporary shoring towers to take weight off of the 60-foot pier while they inspect under the bridge and see what repairs and replacements are needed. There is no cost estimate at this time. A complete re-inspection is nearly completed, showing a structurally sound bridge, and the dropped span is an isolated incident.
Struzzi says PennDOT was alerted to the problem after a 9-1-1 call reported a bulge on the bridge. Once the magnitude of the damage was known, the bridge was completely closed. A girder slipped off a rocker bearing, which allows the bridge to respond to temperature changes. Struzzi says nearly every bridge has rocker bearings, and there are very few problems with them that can't be anticipated by inspections.

African American Steelworkers in Pittsburgh

As part of DUQ's Pittsburgh 250 initiative and in recognition of Black History month, DUQ'S Charlee Song edited Carnegie Mellon History Professor Joe Trotter's story of Pittsburgh's African American steelworkers, who first came to the city in the late 1800s.

Listen to the full-length story here.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Cranberry talks to residents about future developmment

3,000 Cranberry Township homes will soon receive surveys asking for input on how the municipality is responding to resident’s needs and how they would like to see their community look in the future. The questioners will touch on issues such as service levels, transportation, recreation and water and sewer issues. A committee drawing up a long-range plan that will set goals into the year 2030 will use the data. The survey will also serve as a benchmark for future surveys. Township spokesperson Peter Longini says Cranberry has been growing for the last 20 years and expects to continue to grown for the next 15 years. Right now about 60-percent of the land is developed. The 30 question surveys will be sent out the week of Feb 11th.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Pennsylvania Democratic Primary Crucial?

The tight race for the Democratic nomination for president between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama could mean an historic event for Pennsylvania - a relevant presidential primary election.
Pennsylvania may hold a significant number of Democratic delegates at 188 - but its late April 22nd primary usually means the nomination is already decided.

Muhlenberg College Political Science Professor Chris Borick says this could be the year that changes that trend.

"In essence we're inching towards relevancy, something I would have said seemed impossible last fall or even a few months ago. But the way this thing has been breaking, it seems that we're increasingly becoming a place that the candidates might have to turn to as we move into the later spring."

In terms of which way the state might lean, Franklin and Marshall College political scientist Terry Madonna said although the most recent Pennsylvania polls showed Clinton way ahead, that could change.

"My best guess is that would close dramatically should they begin to campaign in the state and run television commercials, because that's been pretty much true in every state where the race has been joined by the two candidates."

Madonna says if the race is still tight after the Texas and Ohio primaries on March 4th, the candidates would likely spend much of the following six weeks campaigning in the Commonwealth. Voters in Pennsylvania's Democratic Primary will select 103 of the state's 188 delegates. 27 are super delegates including the governor and members of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation. The final 58 delegates will be chosen at the State's Democratic meeting June 6th and 7th.

ANNUAL MINORITY ENTERPRISES CONFERENCE

Representatives of Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (MWDBE) met today to discuss strategies, best practices and recount success stories for winning minority contracts for public and private projects around the region.

Keynote speaker Keith B. Keys of KBK Enterprises spoke to DUQ about the qualities they and others look for when deciding to award a contract. He noted that vendor relations and orgainized, accountable finances are essential qualities of a viable, competative company.

Also in attendance was Don Barden of PITG Gaming. Barden is developing the Majestic Star Casino on the North Shore. Though he did not commit to a specific percentage of contracts that he would award to minority businesses, he did say that it was important to him to diversify the work, and he hoped that minority contractors would make themselves stand out from the competition.

In an aside he also mentioned that he would be pushing for table games to be legalized in time for the casino's opening in 2009. In response to questions of whether it was smooth sailing from here on out with the construction project, Barden laughed and said the he hoped so, because he has begun to feel like a marathon "hurdle jumper."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Rendell Budget Proposal Tops $28 Billion

Pennsylvania Governor Rendell is calling on the General Assembly to pass a budget for the coming fiscal year that deals with the economic slowdown, health care, infrastructure and other issues. The governor's spending plan totals $28.3 billion, 4.2 percent more than this year's budget.
Rendell led off his address to the legislature with the economy, repeatedly urging lawmakers to take action now on an economic stimulus package...

"Doing nothing is not an option if we want to protect the gains we've made together since 2003. But by acting now, we can stimulate Pennsylvania's economy, protect our citizens from the impact of the national downturn and continue to make the Commonwealth more competitive in the battle for jobs and opportunities."

The governor is proposing one-time $400 payments to 475 thousand low-income Pennsylvanians families; increasing the state's debt limit and funding infrastructure improvements that would provide work for the construction industry.
Among failed initiatives that Rendell is reintroducing are his "energy independence strategy" and the half-billion-dollar Jonas Salk Legacy Fund for medical research.
On health care, the governor says the expansions of PACE and PACEnet made for a good start -- but he notes too many people lack much-needed health coverage...

"There really is only one answer. We must tell our sickest Pennsylvanians that we're going to help them by ensuring access to health care for every citizen, and we're going to do it this year."

To pay for the health insurance, Rendell is proposing a 10 cents a pack increase in the cigarette tax and extending the tax to cigars and smokeless tobacco.
Rendell wants the state to borrow 600-million dollars over three years to fix structurally deficient bridges, spend 100-million dollars on flood control and boost basic education subsidies by 291-million dollars.

Casino License Suspended

State gambling regulators have voted to permanently suspend the casino license of embattled Mount Airy Resort owner Louis DeNaples.
Despite objections raised by DeNaples counsel about the perjury charges filed against him by the Dauphin County district attorney last week, state Gaming Control Board Chair Mary Colins says her panel must act to protect the interests of the Commonwealth.

"The allegations regarding the lying to the board by the licensee is probably one of the most serious allegations that can be raised and that is why the Board took this action."

The board also appointed a trustee to oversee the casino and related facilities, former Shippensburg University President Anthony Ceddia.
Meantime DeNaples' lawyer John Donnelly says the appointment of the trustee goes beyond the power of the gaming act.

"The probability will be an enormous amount of expense attached to it that we think is unnecessary. And also the scope of the power of this trustee, as I understood. I'd like to review the opinion, but the scope seems overly broad."

Donnelly says DeNaples' legal team is considering whether to appeal that portion of the Board's order.

Chemical Leak Not Dangerous

A 10-second power outage at Neville Chemical made one resin reactor overheat. As a safety mechanism, a mixture of hydrocarbons was released into the air around noon yesterday and dissipated within an hour.
Guillermo Cole, spokesman for the Allegheny County Health Department, says the amount released was not harmful, though it did smell. He says the vapors are like gasoline fumes, and recommends opening up houses where the odors still linger.
Cole says if the small amount of vapors hadn't been released, the reactor would have exploded, causing fires and the release of more hydrocarbons.

Casino License Suspended

Reappointment Goes Ahead, Despite County Council GOPs

Airport Authority chairman Glenn Mahone was almost blocked for reappointment by Republicans on Allegheny County Council, with support of Democrat Jim Ellenbogen.
Councilman at-large Chuck McCullough says Mahone has presided over the financial mismanagement of the Airport Authority for the last 5 years, and the county can become more fiscally responsible by removing him from his current position. He says Mahone has been uncooperative in repaying $42.5 million to the county.
Mahone was quoted as calling McCullough "uninformed."
McCullough says it's not a partisan issue, but one of good government. The 5 votes failed to block the reappointment, which extends Mahone's tenure to 2012, but it still has to come before committee.
McCullough also wants to launch an evaluation of the Airport Authority, Port Authority and sanitary authority Alosan. He says each has horrible financial track record, and while he's not advocating privitization or elimination, there needs to be a closer look at how to make these systems financially viable, if that's possible.
Mahone could not be reached for further comment.

Police Clear Weapons From a Block in Homewood

Police say they're cleaning up a block in Homewood where abandoned homes have been used to stash weapons and drugs. Thirty pistols, hunting rifles and assault weapons were on display at Pittsburgh Police Headquarters today. And authorities say there were many more seized from the homes over the last year and a half. One of the weapons is believed to be the one that killed 12-year-old Jolesa Barber on the North Side in an alleged gang-related dispute last month. This block of Inwood Street in Homewood is right across from Westinghouse High School. U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan says drug dealing has gone on there between noon and 2 P.M., not long before school lets out. Now that an abandoned church and homes have been cleared of weapons, the city plans to demolish them. But Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala says there are many more Inwood Streets. And although eight men were arrested in connection with the weapons and drugs in Homewood, one man remains on the loose. Zappala says that man has connections as far away as Uniontown. He's asking for more cooperation from anyone who knows about similar activities on their streets.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Bill would privatize liquor sales in PA

Republican State Senator Rob Wonderling has proposed a bill that would privatize the states liquor sales. Under his bil the state would sell two thirds of the states liquor stores immediatly and the remaining one third would be offered to a private equity firm with the state controlling a 49 percent share. Wonderling says the bill would provide convience in the form of lower prices to the consumer, and would modernize the system.

City-wide Wi-fi on Hold

The city of Pittsburgh has decided to put its plans for city-wide Wi-fi internet on the back burner, because of worries about cost, and whether or not the technology will be obsolete soon. The city will re-visit this issue in the future to decide if the city and the technology are ready.

Pittsburgh to get two "Splash Zones"

The Pittsburgh City Council has unanimously passed a bill that allows the Department of Public Works and Recreation to construct two "Splash Zones" within the city. One will be in the Troy Hill neighborhood and one will be in Beechview, across from Beechwood Elementary School. The quarter of a million dollars allocated in the bill is not enough to build one of the "Splash Zones" but city officials are confident that they can find funding for the water parks through other means, including some private investment. No completion date was announced.

Fight over Hill CBA continues

The chairman of One Hill went before the Sports and Exhibition Authority board yesterday to call on its members to vote no one any agenda item related to the construction of a new arena for the Penguins. Carl Redwood says the team has not been a willing participant in the negotiations for a community benefits agreement or CBA. One Hill has been trying to reach a deal with the team and elected officials to guarantee jobs and other benefits for Hill District residents. Redwood says if the SEA gives all of the needed approvals before a deal is reached there will be no incentive for the Penguins to ever come to the table. He says he feels like his organization is being strung along. County Executive Dan Onorato says that is not the case. He says he and other officials are negotiating in good faith and he expects to reach a deal soon. However, he says, the residents of the hill are not the only people he represents.

Three parties to blame in convention center failure.

A year long study into a partial collapse of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center has found that the design was bad, improper materials were used, the materials were poorly made and expansion joints were not assembled properly. In February 2007 an expansion joint failed causing a beam supporting a loading dock to fall to the street below. No one was hurt. Engineers from the firm Wiss Janney examined the broken joint and similar joints throughout the building. The joints were designed to allow bolts to pass through slots in angle irons allowing an I-beam to expand and contract. The study found that the slots were not smooth forcing the bolts to ride up over bumps as they slid. It was also determined that construction crews added washer plates causing the threads of the bolts to rest on the metal of the slots rather than the smooth bolt shanks. A bolt was also missing at the joint and an alignment pin had replaced another. Finally, the study found that the wrong steel was used to make the angle irons. The engineers told the Sport and Exhibition Authority to re-inspect the joints in a year and again in 5 years. The SEA says it has spent 4 million dollars on the accident. 4 million has been recovered from the insurance company and the SEA says it will go after the architect and general contractor for the rest.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Secrecy in the Name of Security

Sometimes the government has to keep secrets in order to keep people safe. But Steven Aftergood with the Federation of American Scientists says too often, the government wrongly classifies information that should be open to the public. Aftergood is speaking at the University of Pittsburgh's Frick Fine Arts Building at 4:30 pm. He's expected to talk about how government secrecy plays into current controversies like the government's domestic surveillance program, the detention of suspected enemy combatants, and long-term plans for Iraq.

Aftergood says the government spends about $9 billion annually keeping secrets. If it's justified, he says that's money well-spent. But he believes the government too often keeps secrets to hide its own incompetence. He also believes government secrecy has been increasing over the last decade. After the 9-11 attacks, he says people were willing to accept more secrecy in government in the name of safety. But he thinks public opinion shifted as opposition grew against U.S. policy in Iraq.