Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Franco "Dok" Harris Addresses Violence

The shooting death of a five-year-old boy in Northview Heights Saturday has focused attention on the violence plaguing some Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Mayoral candidate Franco "Dok" Harris held a news conference at the Northview Heights Bridge this morning to hear from community leaders who work in those neighborhoods and to put forth his ideas about reducing the violence. Harris says getting police out of their cars onto the streets forging personal relationships in the community could help and would not cost money the city doesn't have.

El Gray of One Vision One Life says until a community takes responsibility for itself, all the policing in the world is not going to help--a sentiment echoed by speakers from the Northside Coalition for Fair Housing, by a group called One Hood, and by Franco "Dok" Harris himself. At the same time, the frontline workers say the reasons communities are not keeping their children safe range from drugs, fear of retaliation, babies having babies, and a lack of positive opportunities--all of which require remedies beyond the resources of communities by themselves. Richard Garland, Executive Director of One Vision One Life, says young people need jobs and job training as alternatives to drugs and violence.

Franco "Dok" Harris says as mayor, he would be out knocking on doors, encouraging people to overcome their fears and to take back their neighborhoods. He says it's not going to be accomplished in one or two mayoral terms but will require consistent leadership and commitment over a number of years.

Preliminary Hearings Held for G20 Arrestees

Many of those arrested during the G20 Pittsburgh Summit were in court today for preliminary hearings but they were not all treated equally. As the names were called some stepped up in suits and others in more casual attire but none of them were wearing the black masks seen during the protests Thursday and Friday. The defendants were given options that seemed to vary by the severity of the charge and when the arrest was made. Many of the University of Pittsburgh students were given postponements until October 21st. Pitt Sophomore William Taylor says he was in the wrong place at the wrong time when he was arrested Thursday night in Oakland. He says he is looking for community service or an outright dismissal of the charges at his October hearing. Taylor says he hopes the talk of the university reaching a deal with the Allegheny County District Attorney comes to fruition before his next court date. He admits it will be hard for anyone to determine which students were protesting and which were innocent bystanders. So he hopes all Pitt students will be let go. Taylor also hopes the students will not receive any campus disciplinary action either. Taylor says his public defender was “taken aback that the charges were not dismissed outright.” Some defendants were being offered reduced fines for quick pleas. Luke Rudkowski of New York was charged with disorderly conduct and failure to disperse. He says he was in town to collect video or his Internet page and to “get our message out.” That message includes conspiracy theories on 911 and drinking water. Friday night he was using a megaphone to speak out about 911 and was trying to remind people that their complaints should not be about the police but about the governments that sent them to the park. The judge and prosecution allowed him to pay a $100 fine and have the failure to disperse charge dropped. Rudkowski says he works and goes to school full time and does not have time to fight the charges. He says if he was from Pittsburgh or had he been arrested in New York he would have not taken the deal and would have fought the charges. Several of the arrestees say they have been told a class action suit against the city is being organized and a legal defense fund has been established. The ACLU has not commented on either of those claims.

Dems Debate Tobacco, Performing Arts & Marcellus Taxes

Rank-and-file House Democrats voiced concerns about the tentative budget deal during a four hour closed-door meeting yesterday. After the session ended, Majority Leader Todd Eachus announced the House will hold a vote on a Marcellus Shale severance tax.
Complaints were registered about potential taxes on small games of chance and live artistic performances, as well as the lack of a new levy on smokeless tobacco.
Majority Leader Todd Eachus says members also want to see a tax on natural gas extractions in the Marcellus Shale. He says the House will hold a vote on that issue today.

"It’s one of those issues as Democrats that we continue to feel strongly about—that as natural resources, in this case natural gas, are extracted from the ground, and they’re once and gone, that there should be a social benefit, not only for the commonwealth but the communities where that gas is extracted from. Our members want it, they’re going to get a vote on that."

Both Governor Rendell and Senate Republicans oppose a Shale tax, and it’s not included in the tentative agreement announced earlier this month.

Rank-and-file members still haven’t seen line item specifics yet, but several expressed concern about taxes on small games of chance and live artistic performances, as well as a plan to lease out state forest land for natural gas drilling.
That annoyed Allegheny County Democrat Nick Kotik, who says these talks should have happened months ago.

"It’s not a discussion that’s going to be productive now. It gets back to what I said—the Senate has agreed to certain things, and I don’t think they’re going to move off that position. So you can make all those comments and suggestions over and over and over and nothing’s going to happen from them. So you better look at the things you can agree on, vs. things you wish you could agree on."

York County Democrat Eugene DePasquale is upset the budget deal doesn’t include a tax on smokeless tobacco.

"The big issue that you’re hearing is there’s this tax on the arts, at least proposed, and not smokeless tobacco. News flash—smokeless tobacco causes cancer."

Eachus and other Democrats say the budget won’t be finished by Rendell’s Sunday deadline, though they’re committed to working through the weekend.

Dispute Over Leasing State Lands for Drilling

The tentative budget agreement counts on raising 60 million dollars by leasing out Pennsylvania forest land for natural gas drilling.
Governor Ed Rendell says that can be accomplished with 80,000 acres or less—but environmental advocates are skeptical.
Some House Democrats and environmentalists said last week that they were worried the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources would have to lease up to 200,000 acres of state forests to raise the needed funds, but Governor Rendell says the actual amount of land would be far below that.
Rendell says the commonwealth will use seismic imaging to identify especially lucrative plots of land.

"When we do that we believe we’ll actually be able to lease less acres. But the value of the acres, because of the seismic imaging, will go up. Because the companies will know that there’s a much greater certainty of a return."

That promise isn’t soothing the fears of David Masur, the director of advocacy group PennEnvironment. He says no matter how much land is involved, it’s wrong to force the DCNR to lease off land for activity he calls “potentially destructive” to Pennsylvania’s state forests.

"We would not say, the commonwealth needs to raise an extra hundred million dollars from selling liquor and beer, so the Liquor Control Board better start hitting the pavement and making sure people buy more whiskey and vodka. That’s not how we would do this."

Legislative leaders say DCNR officials would be the ones making final decisions on the leasing, though.

RAD Funds To Decrease In 2010

The Allegheny Regional Asset District is cutting its budget by 1% for 2010. RAD has proposed a $79.4 million budget that has only one increase in funding for its 89 assets. The Heinz History Center is the only asset to receive an increase in funding because it has taken control of the Fort Pitt Museum in Point State Park. Assets that have not received cuts in funding include parks and libraries, all other assets are receiving cuts in funding. RAD has lowered its budget because all of its revenue is from sales tax revenues and during the last year Pennsylvania has not produced as much sales tax revenue as in previous years.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Acklin: I'll Hire 200 Additional Officers

Independent Pittsburgh mayoral candidate Kevin Acklin says he will find $17 million dollars in the city budget to add 200 additional officers to the force. He says he will then send those new officers into the neighborhoods. Acklin made the announcement while outlining his public safety platform. He says that as he knocks on doors people are telling him that they only see police officers in their neighborhoods when a crime has been committed. Acklin says that is not good enough. The candidate says he will commit the officers to neighborhood patrols and to school and community events. He says he will also support neighborhood watches, domestic violence protection programs and programs for non-violent drug offenders. Acklin plans to create a neighborhood safety commission that will include public safety experts, active duty officers and community leaders. That commission will advise him on ways to make the neighborhoods safer. Acklin says he will also work to better equip officers with things such as personal GPS systems that allow dispatchers to better deploy the officers, better radios that work in “dead zones” and vests that can stop a bullet from an assault rifle. He also wants to provide incentives for officers to stay on the force. He says when an officer with 13 years of experience leaves for better compensation in the suburbs the city not only looses the experience but also $200-thousand in training. The candidate admits it will “hard work” to find the money in the budget but he says right now there are not enough officers on the force to keep the city safe. Acklin says he will seek more federal funding for the police department to help pay for his programs.

PAT Still Taking Comments on New Plan

The Port Authority of Allegheny County is stilling welcoming comments and suggestions about the final proposed plan to take effect next year, but that time formally ends September 30 at 4pm. The plan that is to be implemented next March includes introducing a rapid bus system from Oakland to Downtown and the airport, and renumbering and naming routes to make the system easier to learn and understand. Judi McNeil, spokeswoman for the Port Authority of Allegheny County, says approximately 2,000 comments have been received since the beginning of the formal comment period. McNeil says there have been mixed comments, varying from positive ones to ones pleading to keep specific routes from being cut. She also says others were confused about what kinds of changes were being made. For more information about the changes or to file a comment, go to

AAA Says Try No Texting for a Week.

AAA is calling on all drivers to give up distracted drive for a week to prove to themselves they can do it for life. The campaign comes as the national motor club is pushing to get laws banning texting while driving passed in all 50 states by 2013. 18 states currently have such laws on the books and a bill banning the practice in Pennsylvania is slowly making its way through the state legislature. AAA spokesperson in Pittsburgh Brian Newbacher says the slogan “try it for a week, do it for life” has a double meaning. He says you can give up distracted driving for the rest of your life and maybe save your life in the process. He says it’s just like smoking, if you can give it up for a week you can do it forever.
Newbacher says texting is a double danger for drivers. Not only are drivers taking their eyes off the road for up to 5 seconds at a time but they are also mentally distracted by the message itself. He says recent studies show at least 80-percent of respondents support bans on texting and a recent survey of AAA members found that number to be 93%. That comes at the same time that a national study found 1 in 5 drivers admit to texting while driving at least once in the last month and Newbacher says the number is even higher for drivers under the age of 20. The AAA campaign is focusing on texting while driving but Newbacher says it is going after all distracted driving including cell phone use, personal grooming and eating.

PA Budget By End of Week?

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and legislative leaders say they’re in the home stretch of the budget process, and are vowing to stay in Harrisburg until a spending plan is signed into law.
The House and Senate resume voting sessions Wednesday. Leaders from both parties say lawmakers will keep working until there’s a budget, and the governor is challenging them to finish up by Sunday.
In the meantime, Rendell says the Department of Revenue is processing invoices so it can begin rolling out payments to priority line items like child care reimbursements, basic and special education funding and children’s health insurance as quickly as possible.

"We’re hopeful that they will receive payments within four to six business days after a budget is signed. All other payments should be received within ten business days of the budget enactment. And that includes operational payments for utilities, leases, information and technology services."

Both House Democratic and Senate Republican leaders say they’re hoping to meet Rendell’s Sunday deadline, but Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi says t “six to twelve” separate bills need to pass before the budget process is complete.

"Certainly certain parts of it can be finished by Sunday. I think that it is possible that all of the various bills—the tax code, the fiscal code, the general appropriations bill—could be done by Sunday, but that is probably best-case scenario."

He says right now, the most contentious issue is legalized table games, and that debates are continuing over what the tax rate and licensing fees will be.
There’s also discussion over whether “category 3” venues—those are large, established resorts—would be able to have table games, or increase the 500 slot machine limit that’s currently in place.

Monday, September 28, 2009

G20 Already Paying Dividend

Regional economic development officials say the G20 is already paying off for the city. Visit Pittsburgh CEO Joe McGrath says his organization estimates $35 million was spent by out of town guests related to the G20. About half of that was spent last week. And he says the summit is already paying off in convention bookings. He says before the G20 the number 2 reason for not choosing Pittsburgh for a convention was that the city was not glamorous enough and that has changed. He says he expects to ink one deal for a convention in 2011 today and another next week for a 2014 event and both mentioned the G20 coverage as the deciding factor. McGrath says the conventions should each bring about a million dollars to town. Allegheny Conference Executive Dennis Yablonsky has a similar story. He says he received a call Friday from an international company that had been reading about Pittsburgh in their local papers and would now like to come to the city to talk about doing business in Pittsburgh. Another official estimated that the number positive news coverage about the city was equal to $100 million in advertising.
McGrath says he understands that many downtown business lost revenue Thursday and Friday but he says he thinks many of them broke even for the month due to extra business in the weeks leading up to the G20. He pointed to several dinners held at area restaurants for out of town delegations in the last month. He says the Japanese Government asked him to recommend the best Pennsylvania red wine and then ordered 200 bottles for an event. McGrath also noted that while revenues were lost downtown it was sent to other parts of the region. He says golf courses reported increases in rounds played Thursday and Friday.

Five Indicted On Charges Of Fraud

The former CEO and founder of Latrobe bottler Le-Nature's Inc. has been indicted on charges of fraud and money laundering by U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan. Gregory J. Podlucky and four others are charged with defrauding investors of $806 million dollars. Le-Nature's Inc. filed for bankruptcy in 2006 and has been under investigation since then. If found guilty of the charges the accused could be sentenced to life in prison.

Police Respond to Some Complaints

Pittsburgh public safety officials say they are pleased with the way officers performed last week related to the G20. Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Michael Huss says in total, there were 3,078 officers on duty in the city last week from federal and local agencies across the country. When asked if that was a bit over kill Huss answered that all estimates leading up to the event were that there would be more protesters and, “I liked [the officer’s’] odds.” A total of 188 G20 related arrests were made and 6 people remained in custody Monday at noon. Pittsburgh Assistant Police Chief Paul Donaldson responded to several questions about how police responded to rallies in Oakland Thursday and Friday where all but 19 of the arrests were made.
When asked why protesters were forced to leave Schenley Plaza before 11:00pm Thursday Donaldson, who gave the order to disperse, says he was concerned by the size of the crowd and the safety of the dignitaries at Phipps. When asked the same question about Friday he said they had intended to allow the protesters to stay in the park until 11:00pm but ordered them to leave at 10:42 because he felt conditions in the park had deteriorated and the crowd needed to be broken up. He said police also wanted to prevent the problems seen Thursday night. He was also asked about claims by Pitt students that they were swept up in the crowd Thursday night and arrested. Donaldson answered saying he was reviewing those arrests and would drop charges where he felt it was appropriate but he says he is not sure how that could happen. He says an order to disperse was given and the crowd moved from the park across Forbes Ave. The order was given again 15 minutes later and the crowd did not respond until officers began making arrests. He says those running away then, “Were not dispersing as much as they were trying to avoid arrest.”
5 complaints have been field with the Pittsburgh Office of Municipal Investigations related to the police actions in Oakland. When Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper was asked about civilian video posted to the internet that shows police in riot gear appearing to force a handcuffed suspect to kneel before a line of officers while another officer took a picture, he said he was aware of the video but did not know who took the picture or why and he is not investigating the incident because there are more important things to investigate such as homicides. Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl says every aspect of the city’s response to the G20 will be evaluated and he encouraged anyone with a complaint to file it with the proper authority.

Groups Complain About Police Tactics

G20 protesters and members of independent media organizations are calling for more police accountability in the wake of the rallies and arrests Thursday and Friday. Nigel Parry is with the Minnesota based group “Twin Cities Indymedia” which got its start documenting police and protester interactions and the Republican National Convention last summer. He says National Special Security Events like the G20 and the convention are like tornadoes- they tear into town bringing a city some money and international notoriety while leaving lawsuits and public unease in their path. Parry and others complain that members of the media were forced away from the areas where arrests were being made and any journalists that remained were arrested and their recording confiscated. He says the first amendment and the right to a free press is squashed when the act of gathering facts via notes, audio recording, still photos or video recordings is prevented. Others at a news conference at the Thomas Merton Center Garfield called for the city to be held accountable for the actions of the officers and to hold hearings and independent investigations on the matter. Independent journalists Dan Fiedt called on police to make the videos they took and the radio communications among officers available to lawyers representing those arrested. No one at the news conference said they had field suit against the city but several said they are talking to lawyers about the possibility of taking such action.

Group of Doctors Who Are "Mad As Hell" to Visit Pittsburgh

A group of Oregon doctors are traveling cross country on their way to Washington D.C. to show support for a national health insurance program will stop in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, September 29Th to hold a town hall meeting in the North Side. The doctors are traveling in an RV and visiting twenty cities as they advocate for a single payer system. The group who call themselves "Mad As Hell Doctors" will answer questions and discuss the benefits to a single payer system as they see it. The doctors first got the idea to travel to Washington after being upset at the pace of reform efforts in the Capital. Once they arrive in D.C. the doctors will hold a rally and other events to promote their cause.

Anti-Smoking Programs Will See Cuts In Funding

The proposed State Budget contains a 50% cut in funding for Tobacco Free Allegheny. As a result the anti-smoking group is planning on cutting 9 of its 12 programs on September 30Th. The three programs that will remain include two prevention programs that target school age children and a cessation program that focuses on the workplace. If the proposed budget stays as is Tobacco Free Allegheny will only see $1 million from the state as opposed to the previously expected $2.1 million. The reduction in funding is part of an overall $16 million reduction statewide.

Duquesne Light Project in Allegheny Commons Park

Duquesne Light is planning on building a "crossover station" above ground in the East Park of Allegheny Commons to upgrade the high power line system that runs under the park.
The structure will be large, 28 x 9 x 9 and will be on the lawn on Cedar Avenue where the Fresh Fridays farmers market is held.
A meeting hosted by Councilwomen Tonya Payne and Darlene Harris and the Allegheny Commons Initiative will be held Monday evening at 6:30 in the New Hazlett Theater.
Allegheny Commons is Pittsburgh's oldest park. It was designed in 1867 and Allegheny Commons Initiative Project Director Alida Baker says it serves as the front yard for 7,000 people.
Her group has been working to restore the park.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

100+ Arrested in Oakland

Hours after the G20 leaders had left town, there was one more clash between police and protesters last night. About 400 people were gathered at Schenley Plaza including protesters, students and the curious. Pamphlets had been handed out during the "Peoples March" earlier in the day to attend event that night at Schenley Plaza. Police declared it an unpermitted gathering and order the group to disperse. When they failed to do so, police dispensed tear gas and fired rubber bullets. More than 100 were arrested.
Vic Walczak, legal director of the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union, admitted it's difficult to balance public safety duties without overreacting and said in many cases police behaved commendably...."But what we saw in Oakland Thursday evening and last night was police losing patience and there does appear to be an overreaction. When you have a lot of students who are simply minding their own business, trying to get out of the way, trying to disperse but have no place to go, that's a problem."
Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Michael Huss commended the work of city police, out of town officers and other law enforcement over the last couple of days and said the training the officers received before the G20 will have lingering benefits.

Protesters Leave Bridge

Follow this link to a video of protesters coming off the 7th Street Bridge and heading to Allegheny Commons Friday.

83 G20 Arrests Made Thursday

Pittsburgh Public Safety officials released arrests and damage numbers after the G20 Pittsburgh summit came to an end but before the Friday night protests in Oakland. Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Michael Huss says a total of 83 G20 related arrests were made and the protesters did an estimated $50,000 damage. One man allegedly did the bulk of that damage. Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper says state police witnessed David Japengo breaking 20 windows at a Citizens Bank branch and several other windows following the rally Thursday Night in Oakland. Harper says based on the information from the State Police officers they were able to track down and arrest Japengo a short time later. The damage attributed to Japengo alone reached $20,000. Harper says when he was taken into custody Japengo gave the name Jon Doe and then Eric Blair before police learned his real identity. Police say Japengo is 20 or 21-years old and lives in California. It is believed he came to Pittsburgh just to protest the G20. Allegheny County chief of emergency service Robert Full says as of 9:00 Friday night 40 G20 arrestees were still in the county jail.
Huss praised the officers deployed in the G20 security and all of the agencies involved. He says the special training and additional equipment given to the officers and added to the city’s property list will have a long-term effect on the city’s ability to respond to any situation.

Free Food For the Protesters

When the G20 protesters ended their march from Oakland to the North Side Friday they were greeted in Allegheny Commons Park with a free meal. The lunch of beans and rice on flat bread was prepared by the group Seeds of Peace. The group was the focus of a federal court fight earlier in the week. The group claimed it was being harassed by police who they felt were forcing landowners to evict them and the bus they use to prepare the meals. The judge did not agree but left the door open for a civil suit. Seeds member Peter Nolan says ultimately the police did not slow them down. He says they were able to attend all the events they wanted to attend and provide all the meals they had intended to deliver. Joe Shade and Elliot Rivera came in from Irwin to protest and say they were happy the kitchen was around. “Everyone gets hungry right?” asked Shade. Seeds of Peace travels cross-country from event to event providing support to protesters.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pres. Obama: Pittsburgh Perfect Venue for G20

President Barack Obama wrapped up the two-day G20 Summit in Pittsburgh with a news conference in which he thanked the leaders and citizens of Pittsburgh, which he called the "perfect venue for this work.....during the dinner that I had with world leaders (at Phipps Conservatory) so many of them commented on the fact that some time in the past they had been to Pittsburgh, in some cases 20 or 25 or 30 years ago, and coming back they were so impressed with the revitalization of the city."

The president said the summit was relatively tranquil and protesters should realize that world leaders are trying to shape a global economy that helps poor people.

Listen to the President's news conference.

Protest Groups Attract Attention Downtown

In addition to the march in Oakland today, protest groups appeared around various locations downtown today. Members of the March 4 Freedom carried Ethiopian flags as they chanted messages opposing that country's prime minister, Menes Zenawi. Spokesman Kassa Ayalaw says Zenawi has violated the human rights of Ethiopians and should not have been allowed to attend the summit.

Members of Oxfam International wore masks of world leaders' faces to oppose what they say is a lack of attention to social justice issues like hunger and poverty. Oxfarm members held signs with messages like "No Time to Talk About Poverty" and "Poverty: Not on Our Agenda."

Governor Calls for Action on Climate Change

Governor Ed Rendell says he hopes the G-20 summit will bring new attention to the issue of climate change. He spoke at the August Wilson Center today. Rendell says Pennsylvania is doing its part with laws that require the state to reduce its carbon emissions. And he says the state is providing incentives for renewable energy companies. Earlier today, Rendell appeared at Carnegie Mellon University. where he announced that a Korean firm would build plants in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to manufacture electric vehicles.

The governor also says he supports cleaner-coal technologies like carbon sequestration. He says it's not clear yet whether carbon sequestration can be completely clean, but it's worth a try. Kumi Naidoo with the Global Campaign for Climate Action, who appeared with the governor, says he thinks investments need to be focused on energy alternatives that have a proven impact.

First Spouses Visit CAPA

Friday morning, the spouses of the G-20 leaders and other international organizations toured the Creative and Performing Arts School before taking in a series of performances.
The students and faculty at CAPA had been preparing for the event for months. When she spoke to a room of about two hundred students First Lady Michelle Obama said she had been looking forward to the event the entire week.
The first lady and twenty other spouses spent about twenty minutes visiting classrooms where students were simulating what a typical schoolday is like. The school offers different majors – visual and literary arts, theater, instrumental and vocal music and dance. Mrs. Obama visited a ballet studio and the orchestra room.
They then posed for a “family photo” in the schools Cabaret Room for members of the media. The women laughed and joked amongst themselves as cameras clicked frantically.
In the school’s auditorium, students sat on the main floor while the spouses sat in the balcony.
CAPA Principal Melissa Pearlman introduced all of the spouses who rose in their seats to cheers and Mrs. Obama who entered to a standing ovation from two hundred students in the auditorium.
She said there were a number of reasons why she wanted to bring the international visitors to CAPA.
"We’re here because I want to introduce them to some of America’s finest, most accomplished young people. I wanted to come here because I wanted to showcase the value of arts education – and you put that on display," she said.
She said the fact that it gives the chance to young people to discover their voices and to develop their talents should be an opportunity that is available to children around the world.
"I wanted to come here because this school embodies the belief that President Obama and I share – and that is the arts aren’t just a nice to do if you have a little time, right? It’s not just a hobby, although it can be a very good hobby. It shouldn’t be something you do just because you can afford it," she said.
She said the arts aren’t just part of our national life but at the heart of it. She called the arts, the process of taking and giving and borrowing and creating across cultures a form of diplomacy that we can all take part of.
She spoke of her work promoting the arts to young people in Washington D.C. and encouraged CAPA’s students to continue sharing their gifts.
As she took her seat, Principal Melissa Pearlman spoke.
Performances followed. The CAPA Choral Ensemble sang an ode to the G20. Country Singer Trisha Yearwood performed.
There was a modern dance performance by two students.
Then Yo-Yo Ma and CAPA Junior Jason Yoder performed a cello-Marimba duet. Before playing, Yo-Yo Ma spoke of the international collaboration of musical genres, instruments and the materials the instruments are made of.
"I’d like to think that together, we can have a musical summit on stage," he said.
Sara Bareilles, played piano and sang her hit song Love Song. The first lady had said the song is on her Ipod. The performances ended with the Choir again.
The performers then stayed for a question and answer session with the students while the spouses went on to their next event at The Andy Warhol Museum.

Analyst Says G20 Must Branch Out

Political analyst David Shorr of the Stanley Foundation says while G20 leaders have been doing a good job of discussing and solving international economic issues, they should expand their focus. Shorr says such a large grouping of influential world leaders is the perfect opportunity to discuss other issues such as climate change and nuclear proliferation. Shorr says major international organizations like the U.N. and the G20 should work together toward the same end.

Shorr says the true test of the G20’s effectiveness in the future will be its ability to deal with a range of issues, and move past what he calls the “artificial division” of discussing just the world’s economy.

A Rainbow of Protest Groups March Against the G20

The largest protest of G20 Summit began in Oakland early this afternoon and traveled through downtown to the north shore. Contingencies representing a spectrum of issues were on hand to make their case. A number of groups started off in different parts of Oakland and joined up with the main march at the intersection of Craft and Fifth Avenue. Aaron Hughes, with Iraq Veterans Against the War called on leaders to pull out of Iraq and give Veterans fair treatment. He says he felt as though his humanity was taken from him when he was fighting for the U.S. in Iraq. Calvin Clinton Sr. stood holding a banner for the African American Workers Union--he says it is appropriate the G20 meeting take place in Pittsburgh because he believed the city was a microcosm of the world. He says inequality is present here between races just as it is between rich nations and poor nations. Bebe heads a group of hula-hooping anarchists--she says they aren't here to be violent, but they do want the G20 out of Pittsburgh now. The protesters were peaceful and stayed on course. Law enforcement was scattered along the route watching as the demonstrators, sang, chanted and waved banners as they marched, alerting the public, the media and the G20 leaders to their causes.

Unusual Morning in Downtown Pittsburgh

A typical workday downtown is normally overflowing with with pedestrians and traffic during morning rush hour. Today, however, as a result of the road and business closures during the G20 Summit being held at the convention center, there's an unusual, desolate mood to the city. Some groups of pedestrians walk through town, some workers and others curious passersby, dodging police barricades and tents.

On Smithfield Street, Sbarro business owner Angelo Parente decided to remain open, and says he doesn't regret doing that even if he's losing business. Parente explains everything being closed and boarded up leaves a bad impression on the visitors that are here.

Continuing down to Liberty Avenue to a more heavily guarded area, different groups of protesters stand on the sidewalk to bring about their specific messages.

Standing at the corner of Seventh and Liberty, a man from Miami Beach has several cardboard signs leaned against him. His name is Bob Kunst, and he's president of the group Shalom International. He made his way to Pittsburgh from New York City, where he was protesting at the United Nations gathering earlier this week.

Kunst wants the international leaders to shed more light to the nuclear arms issue in Iran. He calls the G20 a "dog and pony show" that doesn't discuss the important issues that threaten peoples' lives.

1st Ladies tour Warhol Museum

After seeing a performance by Yo-Yo Ma at Pittsburgh's CAPA High School the wives of the G20 leaders went to the Andy Warhol Museum where they had lunch and went on a tour led by 1st Lady Michelle Obama. French 1st Lady Carla Bruni said that she was excited to see the museum and thought that the CAPA school and the performance by Yo-Yo Ma were fantastic. She said she wished that she could stay in Pittsburgh longer because it is so beautiful and regrets only having a day and a half to visit.

Visitors Like Pittsburgh, Not G20

Journalists from across the world have gathered at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, but many of them find it difficult to see as much of the city as they’d like. Security sometimes makes entering the convention center a 45 minute process, causing reporters to loathe leaving the building.

Being cooped up in one building doesn’t allow journalists to see very much of the city, but Heather Scott of Market News International in Washington, DC says she likes Pittsburgh – just not the summit.

“The stuff that I don’t like has been to do with the organization of the conference and the logistics. I just think it’s been nightmarish getting around the city, just getting here. I’ve never quite experienced a conference where it’s been so hard to get in and out.”

Anchor Deborah Rottner for RTT News in Buffalo says the summit just wasn’t organized very well.

“The way that this conference has been run, it feels like the press has been a little more of an inconvenience than anything else. But the city itself has been great.”

Scott and Rottner agree: while Pittsburgh continues to challenge their preconceptions, the G20 continues to give them a headache.

WWF Says China, Brazil Leaders in Green Movement

Director of the World Wildlife Fund’s Global Climate Initiative Kim Carstensen says the notion that the United States and the European Union are the world leaders in climate change is a myth. He says emerging economies like China, India, and Brazil are in many cases doing much more than the U.S. and the E.U. in terms of energy efficiency. Carstensen says everyone needs to do more in regards to finance, though, because undeveloped countries are not given enough aid for combating climate change, and they will be among those hit hardest by this problem. Carstensen says the ideas world leaders put forth during the G20 summit will give political momentum to topics discussed at the Copenhagen climate conference in December. He says the negotiators of that summit will take the ideals of their heads of state to the table to hopefully get real policy change started.

Indonesian President to Address Climate Change

One aspect of the climate change challenge is deforestation--especially in the third world. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will speak to the G20 about the need for developed countries to provide developing nations with aid so they can preserve their forests without retarding development and economic growth.

Rizky Andriati Pohan (pictured on the right) reports for the daily newspaper "Jurnal Nasional" in Jakarta. She says Indonesia, which is 70% forest, has preservation laws to prevent over-cutting, but private companies reward local governments financially to ignore the laws.

Street Medics Give Aid

Nearly every time you see a street protest this week you can expect to see a group of people who call themselves “street medics.” The medics are usually on the fringe of the rallies and marches and even if they are wearing the same dark colors favored by many of the protesters you can easily identify them. Just look for the red crosses taped to their clothes and the first aid kits with the street medic logo. The logo features a raised fist with a serpent wrapping up the arm. They travel in groups and don’t like to give their names but they say they have been busy “giving treatment to those looking to exercise their rights.” Most of the treatments are for exposure to pepper spray or other crowd dispersal gas. One Street medic who says he is a certified wilderness first responders says the treatment is a wash with saline solution followed by a liquid antacid and water. Some of the street medics are EMTs and med students. Some are veterans of several protests and others are seeing their first action. The medics usually carry masks and goggles to protect their eyes and lungs while they give aid but such equipment could be deemed illegal if the medics are using it to avoid being dispersed by police. The Wilderness first responder says that is a risk but it is “a problem to make it illegal to protect ones respiratory system.” There is no centralized authority over the medics and they describe them selves as a “collective.”

Chinese Correspondent Covers G20 Issues

Lucas Zai is a correspondent for the Jiefang Daily newspaper in Shanghai. He will be focusing on economic and financial developments at this G20 summit. Although Chinese exports have declined in the current economic downturn, he says there's confidence the crisis will be overcome and GDP growth will reach 8% this year.

Although Chinese leaders deny their high exports and low consumption created the crisis, Zai says the government does encourage its citizens to spend more. But without enough insurance in case of illness, Zai says people think they have to save.

Noting that high U.S. tariffs on Chinese tires will go into effect tomorrow, Zai says he's heard American paper companies will now sue Chinese companies for dumping goods. He thinks protectionism is not a good idea in the midst of an economic downturn.

G20 Spouses To Andy Warhol Museum

First Lady Michele Obama will host a luncheon today on the North Side. Museum Director Tom Sokolowski says many of the guests may already know Andy Warhol's art through traveling exhibitions seen by 8 million people in 49 cities around the world over the last ten years. Or, it's possible some of them have been to Pittsburgh before--Sokolowski says the Warhol gets more international visitors than other museums or tourist attractions in the city.

Sokolowski says the museum was a natural choice as a G20 venue because Andy Warhol's rise from blue collar roots to world fame as an artist parallels Pittsburgh's transformation from blue collar industries to a high-tech economy.

Police Brace for More Protests

Authorities are Bracing for more protests as the leaders of the Group of 20 continue their summit in Pittsburgh.
About 2 dozen demonstrators were arrested yesterday in several neighborhoods including Bloomfield, Garfield and Lawrenceville when anarchists in an unlawful march clashed with police. Later in the evening, 42 people were arrested as protesters and students refused to obey a dispersal order. Police say 6 people were treated for injuries and other medical problems including reaction to pepper spray. Protesters complained about the city's response calling it "bumbling and violent." Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl commended the police for making "swift decisions" and sending a message that "unlawful behavior" would not be tolerated.
The morning after, there were three main indicators that the Oakland neighborhood was the site of the police clashes —a heavy concentration of state troopers and National Guardsmen, television news trucks, and several broken windows
Standing in front of a shattered pane at an American Apparel store on Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh resident Peter Landwehr questioned whether last night’s marchers were protesting corporatism, or merely looking to cause damage.

"I think with American Apparel, because American Apparel has a lot of baggage associated with it, people—you kind of understand what that’s about. But then if you go and see a smaller, locally-operated store and you see a smashed window, you start to wonder what they’re doing."

Landwehr and others on the streets near the University of Pittsburgh agree last night’s crowd was mostly made up of students looking for some excitement, and blame a small group of serious protesters for setting off the clashes with police.
Officials used horses and lines of officers in riot gear to push back the crowds, before resorting to pepper spray and sonic cannons later in the night.

First Lady and Other Spouses to Tour CAPA

The Today Michelle Obama and other spouses of the G-20 Leaders will tour CAPA in downtown Pittsburgh and take in a student performance even though school isn't actually in session.
Today, she and other first spouses will tour the building and take in a student performance.
Of the school’s 860 students, 250 will be there today, doing their best to recreate a school day or what administrators call “in the moment learning.”
Melissa Pearlman is the school’s principal. She says selecting the students who will partake in today’s event was primarily dependent on academic and artistic excellence.
CAPA is a pre-professional arts training school in the city’s cultural district. It serves sixth through twelfth graders. A typical day consists of four hours of academic courses and three hours of work in the student’s major- whether that be instrumental or vocal music, dance, literary arts, visual arts, technical or musical theater. To get in, students audition or present a portfolio. The average GPA is a 3.2. reflecting the educational belief that artistic exploration and academic excellence go hand in hand. Ninety-nine percent of last year’s graduating class went on to college, many pursuing careers in the arts.
Principal Pearlman says they didn’t put in an application for a visit during the summit.
Because of the security perimeters, students and teachers are meeting at selected spots across the city to be escorted to CAPA in buses by the Secret Service and School Police officers.
The performances will all be pieces of classic American repertoire. Professional acts will also be a part of the show at the school.

Listen to the story here.

The View From Outside the G20

Of fifty-four countries in Africa, only South Africa is in the G20, but Tanzanian newspaper reporter Mobhare Matinyi says interest in G20 policies is intense across the continent because developing nations suffer the consequences of financial problems in the highly developed economies of Europe and the U.S. Tanzania's tourist industry, for example, with attractions like Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti Park, has been hit hard by the global economic downturn.

From the media room at the convention center Thursday, Matinyi offered a political and economic primer on Tanzania, which became independent in 1961. Uniquely in Africa, it has never had a civil war, a coup d'etat, or dictator.

Police Confront Handful of Protesters, Crowd of Curious Students in Oakland

A crowd gathered yesterday evening next to the Carnegie Library in Oakland near the entry area to the Phipps Conservatory. But there were at least two small protest groups in the midst of the horde.

The Save Darfur Coalition got to Schenley Plaza early hoping world leaders would spot them as they drove in their motorcade to Phipps for dinner. But attention was soon diverted to the spectacle of “Collective Thresholds” a performance art group dressed up in wild costumes made of shredded rags, plastic bags, cardboard and body paint. Their theme was something along the lines of “If you think we’re outrageous, you should check out the G20."

But the main event was not the protests. What started out as a small gathering of students hoping to catch a glimpse of the G20 leaders’ motorcade as it headed to dinner at Phipps last night turned into something more.It was when the battalion of riot police converged on the bridge behind the library that the students began to crowd into the street. And the bigger and louder the crowd grew, the more students it attracted, trying to catch a glimpse of the spectacle. They stood around, taking pictures for their facebook pages, joking nervously about law enforcement standing in formation at such a close distance. And they waited to see some action. It was when a handful of demonstrators got too close that the police acted. Suddenly officers on horseback came charging down the street, flanked by a line of baton wielding police shoving everyone in their paths as they marched forward. Most of the students ran, others walked until the police established a new perimeter at the corner of Schenley Plaza.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Police and Protesters Clash in Oakland

A crowd gathered Thursday evening next to the Carnegie Library in Oakland near the entry area to the Phipps Conservatory. Most of the people were onlookers, but some small protest groups were in the midst of the horde.
The Save Darfur contingency got to Schenley Plaza early hoping world leaders would spot them as they drove in their motorcade to Phipps for dinner. But attention was soon diverted to the spectacle of “Collective Thresholds” a performance art group dressed up in wild costumes made of shredded rags, plastic bags, cardboard and body paint. Member Mariel Salms says their theme was something along the lines of “If you think we’re outrageous, you should check out the G20”

"We can't see them, we can't talk to them. No on has jurisdiction over what they do."

But the main event was not the protests, instead, throngs of students crowded the street trying to catch a glimpse of the riot police massed on the bridge behind the library. When the students and a few rowdy demonstrators got too close the police several times ordered them to disperse. Police then used what was believed to be smoke canisters to scare them way. But when that failed the officers moved forward on horseback and foot, moving everyone in their path back with batons until they re-established a perimeter at the edge of Schenley Plaza.

City Public Safety Assessment Released

Pittsburgh Public Safety officials met with reporters last night as the protests outside of the Phipps were still underway. At that time Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper said between 17 and 19 arrests had been made. Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Michael Huss says he was proud of the way his officers acted and he was pleased with how well the officers from out of town were trained. He says they all worked together quiet well. Huss says no officers were hurt while making arrests but one did have a seizure and another hurt his back while lifting a heavy object not related to the protests. Harper noted that no protesters taken into custody were injured. Harper says of the 13 protests staged Thursday (before the Phipps event), only one became problematic. That was the unpermitted march that began in Lawrenceville and then bounced around through several neighborhoods. Chief Harper says the protesters were fired upon using either rubber bullets or beanbags and “C-U gas in the vapor form” in efforts to disperse the crowd. Pittsburgh police became the first police force in the United State to use a “sonic device” as a means of crowd control. The city recently purchased the truck-mounted devices that emit a high-pitched sound intended to make protesters very uncomfortable. Harper says he was happy with its effectiveness. A damage report listed 10 broken windows in the Boston Market on Baum Blvd. Also on Baum, a window was broken in the BMW showroom, and a window was broken at a KFC. The door of the PNC Bank on Liberty in Bloomfield was also broken, and spray paint was tagged on a building on South Millville Ave. Police responded to calls for ten suspicious packages, but none posed a danger.
Huss thanked the citizens of Pittsburgh for helping police during the protests. He says, “The city will not tolerate this type of illegal behavior. The city has a very robust public safety plan.” He says, “When things get out of hand, they will respond quickly and swiftly and take whatever actions are necessary.”
Allegheny County Emergency Services Director Robert Full says countywide 911 calls were slightly slower Thursday than normal.

Police use O-C Gas

Protesters and police clashed in several Pittsburgh neighborhoods yesterday, but it all started with an unauthorized rally and march in Lawrenceville. Protesters began in Arsenal Park in Lawrenceville under the watchful eye of police. After hitting the streets police allowed the group to get to the corner of Penn and 34th before setting up a barricade. At that point police for the first time in the United States used a sonic crowd control device that hurt protesters' ears and then used the same speakers to boom out a warning. Lawrenceville resident Tamira McBride says she was OK with the protesters coming through her neighborhood. She says, “I think this is real. I think this is right. Why do you keep trying to take away from the poor and give to the rich? Give it back to us.” Mc Bride says she felt the police were just trying to show off. After dispersing temporarily, the protesters gathered again on 37th street and this time rolled a dumpster at police who used O-C gas to send them on their way. Police continued to chase protesters from one standoff to another through Bloomfield, Oakland and other neighborhoods. Several arrests were made. The protesters were calling for a wide range of things including the end of capitalism and the end of Canadian seal hunts.

Climate Change: Momentum, But Much Work Remains

Climate change might take a back seat to global financial challenges at this G20 Summit, but it's still a top priority for some groups.
Jennifer Havercamp of the Environmental Defense Fund is hoping this G20 lays the groundwork for a successful agreement at the Climate Conference in Copenhagen in December.
"I'm encouraged by momentum but still a lot of work is (left) to be done."

Havercamp says the fact that G20 nations are felling financially strapped is a real concern......"A lot of money is needed but the cost of inaction is greater, and if we wait, the cost will only increase."

She says a global cap on carbon would lead to much less expensive ways to reduce emissions.

Australia's Prime Minister Speaks at Carnegie Mellon

Australia’s Prime Minister spoke to a crowd of over five hundred people at Carnegie Mellon University late Thursday afternoon.
Two hours before the Prime Minister delivered his speech at least a hundred people waited to be seated. First in line was Jordan Rosenfeldt, a senior at Carnegie Mellon University who had never seen a sitting head of state speak and thought it'd be an interesting enriching experience.
This is Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s first visit to Pittsburgh, who is here for the G20 Summit. He called Pittsburgh’s economic reinvention a model the world can learn from.
He said the people of Pittsburgh have demonstrated themselves to be resilient, adaptable and creative and is in many respects a living essay for the capacity of America as a nation to constantly reinvent itself.
He spoke of the need to reform finance institutions, the economic impact of climate change and the need to create global policies that will reduce greenhouse gases. He said he will urge his fellow world leaders to do so during the next two days.

Russian Chief Has High Hopes for Summit, U.S. Relations

Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvedev spoke to University of Pittsburgh students on Iran’s nuclear situation, the global economy, U.S.-Russia relations and more tonight, taking questions from students of Pitt’s Center for Russian and East European Studies.

Medvedev says he’s okay with Iran pursuing nuclear energy, but only for peaceful purposes. He says Iran needs to join “responsible countries” like the U.S. in agreeing to a non-proliferation treaty of nuclear arms. He says sanctions might be inefficient, though, and thinks we should continue to challenge the Middle East country to be accountable for its nuclear energy.

“Trying to stimulate it into peaceful research, in nuclear energy, at the same time, push it to make all its programs transparent and open, and not an issue of concern for the Middle East and the globe,” said Medvedev, through an interpreter.

Medvedev says topics of concern between the United States and Russia have become easier under the Obama administration, in part because of the good personal relationship he holds with the president. He says he hopes this bond with the U.S. and other countries will help make this G20 summit productive.

Visit Pittsburgh Assisting G20 Visitors

Official tourism agency Visit Pittsburgh has been working a lot harder this week to be accommodating to national and international visitors. With the agency receiving an influx of questions, Beverly Morrow-Jones, Visit Pittsburgh Executive Director of Communications, says they’ve received many kinds.

She says the questions go beyond “Where can I get a bite to eat?” much of the time. Visitors are curious of Pittsburgh’s history and why the summit is here.

Two booths inside the Convention Center will continue to answer visitors’ questions about the city and the things to do.

Group Comes to G20 to Talk About World Hunger Crisis

The Hunger Project, an international organization whose headquarters is in New York City, has representatives at the Convention Center bringing awareness about worldwide hunger and poverty to the G20 Summit. The Hunger Project Vice President John Coonrod says they specifically are telling those from G20 countries about the pledge President Obama made at a G8 Summit in Italy over the summer. Coonrod says the President committed $20 billion toward food security, and Hunger Project representatives are urging G20 countries utilize that resource. He says the hungriest need to be fed, noting women living in third world countries. The Hunger Project has programs in 13 countries, with fundraising programs in an additional 10 countries.

EU Official says U.S. and Europe Must Lead

The president of the European Commission of the European Union spoke at the University of Pittsburgh today. Jose Manuel Barroso told the crowd that Europe and the U.S. had the clout and global reach to offer effective and positive leadership for the world. He warned that this is no time for complacency and that they must keep up the momentum for reforming the financial markets. Barroso says the nations' leaders need a "grand bargain" that will challenge developing countries to mitigate emissions in order to receive foreign aid. Barroso received an honorary doctorate in public and international affairs during a ceremony at Alumni Hall.

Global Unions Issue "Pittsburgh Declaration" - Call for Job Creation

The International Trade Union Confederation issued a “Pittsburgh Declaration” today, insisting that the G20 Summit must be a jobs summit. AFL CIO President Richard Trumka and President Emeritus John Sweeney laid out what they want from the economic leaders. Trumka grew up in southwestern Pennsylvania and began his career in the coalmines and he says that just like the energy barons that ripped off laborers then, the bankers on Wall Street have cashed in at the expense of workers today. Sweeney says that despite the murmurs of signs of “green shoots” in the economy, 60 million workers worldwide have yet to see any sign of improvement.

The Pittsburgh Declaration includes a number of demands, including setting up a meeting of labor ministers from the G20 with a specific focus on reforming the markets; ensuring banking regulatory reforms not be put on the back burner; giving developing nations a greater voice at the International Monetary Fund; and making sure global economies are fair and balanced so there isn’t a repeat of this devastating global crisis. A delegation from the ITUC will meet with President Obama later today to discuss their concerns.

The Pittsburgh Declaration can be found HERE.

Iraq Veteran Still on Job

Journalists assigned to the Convention Center have to go through a security checkpoint at Mellon Arena. A Belgian shepherd, or Malinois, that sniffs bags for explosives is a veteran of three tours in Iraq. Her handler says she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and will take off running if she hears gunfire or other loud noises.

Instead of directing her to each bag as it came along, he was lining up many bags so she could rest between searches.

PNC's Hoffman on G20 Economic Issues

Leaders of the G20 member nations will be huddled at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh to tackle the world economic crisis and whether to tighten regulations in the banking industry. Among those interested in what will be accomplished is Stuart Hoffman, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist with the PNC Financial Services Group. He spoke with DUQ'S Alexandria Chaklos.

Listen to the interview.

G20 Leaders to Visit Phipps

The leaders of the G20 begin their summit in Pittsburgh this evening, not at the Convention Center, but rather with a tour and a working dinner at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden. It’s the “greenest” in terms of energy and building efficiency, public garden in the country. When President Obama and the other leaders arrive, they are likely to enter through the glass-domed Welcome Center. That’s where DUQ’s Kevin Gavin met up recently with Phipps’ Executive Director Richard Piacentini for a tour.

Listen to the interview.

Unpermited Marchers Pass Through Downtown

After the Rally and concert in Point State Park about 100 protesters gathered and began an impromptu march up Fifth Ave. The group was lead by a small band and carried signs that read “Dreaming beyond the G20” “Acting beyond the G20” and “A better world beyond the G20.” The protesters left the Park and stayed mostly to the sidewalks as they traveled through downtown. They quickly drew the attention of police who followed in squad cars and vans but did not get out of them. The marchers were escorted by a civilian police volunteer who told them when it was safe to cross a street and motioned them back onto the sidewalk when they began to stray. Often the marchers struck up the chant “What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like.” The group walked by the new PNC building without much notice and spent a few moments in front of the Mellon center yelling, “Governments should bail out the people not the banks.” After moving through Uptown and into the Hill District the crowd dispersed without incident. More unpermitted marches are expected Thursday.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rally and Concert at Point

The rally for Clean Energy Jobs at Point State Park last night drew about 500 people for music and motivation. The event sponsored by the United Steel Workers Union, The Alliance for Climate Protection's Repower America Campaign, and the Blue Green Alliance featured a few local bands and national acts including Joan Jett and Kathy Mattea between speakers like the head of the Sierra Club, the President of the AFL-CIO and Blue Green Alliance executive director David Foster. Foster says the nation needs policies that move people from the unemployment line to the assemble line. He says, “We can create millions of jobs building the clean energy economy -- whether it's manufacturing the parts for windmills, building hybrid car batteries or weatherizing homes to make them more efficient. By transitioning to a clean energy economy, we can revitalize America's manufacturing sector and boost our economy for the long run -- by creating jobs here at home." AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka praised Pittsburgh for its transformation and notes that is why President Obama chose Pittsburgh for the G20 summit. However he says, “it was the hard work of Pittsburghers that made the transition possible, not globalization.” Trumka says by putting together the power and interests of labor and environmentalists the combined movement can create the economy of the future.

Panel - Challenging The G20's Agenda of Corporate Globalization

About two hundred people packed Monumental Baptist Church in the Hill District Wednesday afternoon, to hear speakers such as Noble-Prize winning Joseph Stiglitz and Emira Woods, who works in foreign policy at The Institute for Policy Studies.
Stiglitz, the former Chief Economist of the World Bank says we need to retrofit our financial markets.
"Our economies are not working to their potential. At the same time, we have huge unmet needs in climate change, in poverty, so an economic system in which there is huge economic capacity and huge unmet needs. If you can’t solve those problems, that economic system is not functioning the way it should be,'' he said.
Emira Woods spoke of the need for the G20 leaders to speak for all people, including those who don’t have representatives at the summit.
Other speakers included Leo Gerard, President of the United Steel Workers and Carl Redwood Junior of The Hill District Consensus Group. The panel kicks off a series of events that look at the adverse impacts of G-20’s deregulation, privatization and free trade policies.

Transformation River Cruise Tour

The Pittsburgh Regional Alliance hosted a cruise aboard the Riverquest Explorer this afternoon to tell the story of Pittsburgh’s economic and environmental transformation. Some G20 visitors had their own lessons to teach.

A magazine correspondent from China, a G20 researcher from Canada—both attributing much of the current world economic crisis to “global imbalances”. John Kirton, director of the G20 Research Group at the University of Toronto, says there was an illusion of vibrant economic growth before the downturn, but it was based on Americans shopping 'til they dropped on money borrowed from China.

Zengxin Li is a correspondent for Caijing Magazine, the leading Chinese business publication. On the subject of the newly imposed U.S. tariff on Chinese tires, he says eliminating the $17 Billion dollar market will just result in more tires imported from India, Indonesia and Brazil. He says until the exchange rate is corrected and the Chinese reduce saving and increase consumption, the same old problem will just reappear in different guises.

Similarly, John Kirton says as Americans have started saving in response to the recession, other countries need to start consuming so Americans can export and the world economy achieve some balance.

G20 Told to Change IMF and World Bank

A loose group of non-government organizations came together yesterday under the banner of the “Global Civil Society Coalition” to call on G20 members to support poor countries with better economic policies. Tim Noonan is the global campaign director of the International Trade Union Confederation. He says the Pittsburgh Summit needs to be a “jobs summit.” He says while bankers may be seeing a recovery, the poor people of the world are not. And there cannot be a successful or moral recovery without global job creation. He says he is also calling on the members of the G20 to allow poor countries turning to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund for help to take some of the same counter cyclical steps the bigger nations are taking. He says deficit spending is needed not only from the world’s largest economies but in the developing economies as well. Gorgui Sow of the African Network campaign on Education for All says those loaning institutions need to allow the struggling countries to spend more on education while still accepting loans. He says all countries must spend at least 20% of their budgets on educations and an international fund needs to be created to help those that cannot reach that threshold. Finally, Jubilee Zambia Program Officer Privilege Hang Andu says the length and interest rates tagged to the loans must also be changed. He says old loans given to corrupt governments must be forgiven and new loans must come with a long enough payback times to allow for economies to grow before the nations are stifled with high debt payments.

Clergy Call For Hunger Policy

Religious leaders from around the country met with a high-ranking member of the US G20 delegation on the eve of the Pittsburgh Summit and asked for hunger issues to be made a higher priority in the coming days. The leaders came together under the umbrella of the international organization “Bread for the World” to say that economic recovery should not be measured by a bank’s balance sheet but should be measured by the number of people no longer hungry. Steve Colecchi of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops says the leaders need to know that hunger is not just a number on a report. He says hunger has a face, “It’s the face of anguished parents helplessly watching their children languish in hunger, its the gaunt face of people ding at an early age ravished by preventable illness, and the faces of children whose growth is stunted and education impaired forever.” The religious leaders noted that the percentage of children with out enough food fell from 33% in 1990 to 26% in 2006 but when food prices spiked in 2007 and the recession hit in 2008 the number once again began to climb. Members of the group say they know pressure is exerted on world leaders by people with much more power than a group of clergy but with the power of prayer they have more power than anyone to influence the leader’s decisions. National Association of Evangelicals Spokesperson Galen Carey says it is not enough to repackage programs that are already in the works and call it progress and he called on leaders to live up to their past promises to combat hunger. Steve Gutow is the president of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs. He says it is clear the effects of climate change hardest hit the poor and it is also clear that they will also be hardest hit by the practices that will prevent climate change. He says leaders must make policies that will lessen the blow. He says, “We must be smarter than we think we are.” The members of the G20 will discuss at least one resolution dealing with monetarily assisting emerging countries in implement green practices.

Panel Says Developing Nations Must have Voice in Foreign Aid

A panel of experts on global development gathered today at the University of Pittsburgh to talk about the needs of the economies that will not be represented at the G20 Summit. The panel members agreed that developing nations must have a guiding voice in determining how foreign aid is distributed. Tim Adams, former undersecretary of the U.S. Treasury cautioned that all too often, the leaders of poor countries sit back and allow industrialized nations to run the show.

Dr. Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development says they’ve been pushing for the US and Europe to give up their lock on appointing the heads of the IMF and World Bank, so that leaders of emerging economies have a chance to make key decisions. She also says they are advocating for a “cash-on-delivery-aid” where foreign aid is paid to developing countries when they can show measurable progress.

Meanwhile, David Lane of Bono’s ONE organization acknowledged that it may be hard Americans facing financial hardship to recognize their connection with poor people in Africa. But beyond the moral argument, Lane says it is in everyone’s interest to have strong global economies with healthy, educated populations.

9 Protesters Arrested for Hanging Sign From West End Bridge

Several members of the environmental group Greenpeace this morning unfurled a banner from the West End Bridge warning of the dangers to the planet's climate from carbon dioxide emissions. Four of the activists were dangling over the Ohio River. Pittsburgh Police Assistant Chief William Bochter says officers talked to the protesters to convince them to return to the bridge deck. The activists did climb back up and are safe according to a spokesman for the group. Bochter says 9 members of group were arrested and will be charged with various misdemeanors. One is also being charged with conspiracy.
Greenpeace's global warming campaign director Damon Moglen says world leaders meeting at the G20 must act. "They must put money on the table to support developing countries. It is critical for G20 leaders to agree to kick-start economic recovery through clean energy investment."
President Barack Obama told a Climate Summit at the U.N. that the U.S. is "a serious partner in the fight against global warming."

United Steel Workers Host Teach-In

The United Steelworkers are hosting an all-day teach-in on Human Rights, Global Justice and the G-20 on Wednesday.

About a hundred people attended the teach-in on Wednesday. United Steelworkers President spoke to the group about the challenges workers are currently facing. He says we've hit an unemployment rate of nearly eighteen percent if you count the people who have given up looking for work.

United Steelworkers Director of Education Lisa Jordan said they regularly hold educational sessions but this one is specifically being held because of the G20 Summit.

Sessions included anti-sweatshop legislation and race, gender and globalization.

Former CIA Chief on Climate Change as Security Issue

President Barack Obama told leaders at a United Nations Climate Summit that the U.S. is “determined to act” against global warming, is a serious partner in the fight, and “will meet our responsibility to future generations.”
At the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, leaders will discuss helping developing nations with the cost of curbing emissions of greenhouse gases.
But, former CIA Director Michael Hayden says officials are also talking about the national and international security implications of climate change. The retired 4 star Air Force General spoke with DUQ’s Kevin Gavin.

Listen to the interview.

Help on this report from DUQ’s international liaison Dan Doyle.

Agency Leaders Say They're Cooperating, Ready for the Summit

The heads of a number of security and safety agencies recently held a media briefing to outline security details. They say they are prepared for the G20 summit and the protests thanks to close cooperation and support between regional, state and federal agencies.

Jim Gehr, Special Agent in charge of the Secret Service office in Pittsburgh says big events like the baseball All-Star game and the election campaign last year helped prepare the region for these type of big, high stakes events. But he says this one is even bigger in terms of security. In response to questions about CIA hold ups on issuing protest permits, Gehr says the decisions were absolutely up to Pittsburgh officials, though they were delayed in handing them out by the CIA's need to determine the security zone around the convention center. Gehr also said that Pittsburgh's topography offers both security challenges and benefits, but he's confident downtown will be safe for the summit.

Major General Randy Marchi of the Pennsylvania National Guard was at the briefing and says that 2,500 guards are at the ready should they be needed. But for the most part, he says they will be on hand to help out with the tasks of traffic direction, crowd control and other duties that keep the city moving smoothly.

Bob Full, Allegheny County Emergency Services Chief could not say enough about the cooperation and communication between security agencies. He also expressed appreciation for law enforcement from around southwestern Pennsylvania that have stepped up when Pittsburgh asked them for help. He says EMS will have double the amount of work during the summit-- they will continue to provide the same level of service that residents expect, while anticipating extra safety situations due to the influx of visitors and protesters. He says they have expanded their shifts to make sure that personnel are on hand. Full admitted that it might feel like a bit of a let down if they do not end up using any of the resources and extra training they've learned during the summit, but ultimately he wants a safe event that can exemplify the regions preparedness and capabilities.

There will be 40 agencies on hand during the summit, with 4,000 law enforcement officials.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Judge: City Not Harassing Seeds of Peace

Federal Judge Gary Lancaster ruled against a protest support group that claimed it was being harassed by Pittsburgh police. Seeds of Peace provides food to protesters who are “exercising their right to free speech.” The Nebraska based organization drives a reconfigured school bus into an area where protesters are gathering and then sets up a mobile kitchen to distribute free meals. For a time after it arrived in Pittsburgh last week the bus was parked on a residential street in Polish Hill but Pittsburgh police sighted it for blocking traffic and had it towed. Testimony from the officer involved claims none of the Seeds of Peace members near the bus at the time were able to find keys or move the bus. One member testified that they were not given the chance and the keys were inside the bus. Instead they had to wait for the person whose name was on the registration. The bus was eventually towed and the group paid more than $200 to get it out of the pound.

The group then parked on private land in Lawrenceville. They had permission from the lessee and a man who was subletting the property but not from the owner. That sub lessee testified that police came to the property a day later and asked to search for weapons. An officer involved says they thought people might be illegally living on the property that among other thing is used to store old bricks and used steel. He says police have a heightened awareness to that type of activity and material in the lead up to the G20 Pittsburgh Summit. The following day the landowner met with police, a building inspector and the leaseholder and decided the bus had to leave. The lawyers for the plaintiffs hinted that the city intimidated the landowner with the threat of inspections and fines.

Seeds of change once again packed up their belongings and took the bus to a third location but were stopped by police as they were just yards away from pulling into the parking lot that they thought they had permission to use. An ACLU legal observer testified that several squad cars and officers quickly arrived and went over nearly every imaginable state and city law that could govern vehicle operations, and interstate commerce including the need for a special license to operate a bus. Eventually the landowner called and asked Seeds of Change to leave by noon Tuesday. He reportedly told them neighbors had asked him to evict the group because the number of police in their neighborhood concerned them.

The judge found that the plaintiff’s constitutional rights were not violated and that even though they intend to help others express their rights of free speech it does not mean that they can ignore local zoning and traffic laws. The denial of injunctive relief does not prohibit the plaintiffs from seeking monetary damages at a later date. The Group moved the bus to Trinity Lutheran Church on the north side. An ACLU of Pennsylvania web site reports, "A few hours after parking the buses at the Northside location, approximately 25 police officers surrounded the parking lot where the buses were parked but left after about half an hour."

AIDS Group Marches on G20

A group of protester gathered downtown a few days before the beginning of the G20 Pittsburgh Summit to call for more funding for AIDS treatment worldwide. The event began with a rally at the corner of Grant St. and Liberty Ave where speakers called for the leaders of the G20 nations to not only talk about climate change and economic recovery at this week’s meeting but to also focus and what they say is the 70% of the world population that does not have access to HIV AIDS treatment. Jennifer Flynn with the group Health Global Access Project organized the event. She says President Barack Obama promised during the campaign to fully fund the Global Fund to Fight AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria to the tune of $50 billion dollars and she says nearly all of the other member nations did the same. However, she says funding for the program has been “flat lined.” Flynn says that has lead to many nations simply running out of aids fighting drugs. Flynn warns that not only will that lead to more deaths, it will also lead to he various diseases become stronger and more drug resistant. She says every year 30 million people die from AIDS and HIV worldwide and the leaders of the G20 nations have the power to change that. Flynn is also calling on the G20 ministers to put pressure on drug makers to lower their prices. She says pumping money into the program helps today but lower drug prices could lead to poorer nations being able to buy the drugs with out international help. The Marchers were under the watchful eye of police during the entire event but they were allowed to march under and around the convention center carrying signs and chanting for change. Similar groups were not allowed to access that same route over the weekend.

Water Main & Fire Hydrant Updates in County

The Pennsylvania American Water company has announced a series of approximately a dozen water main installations and fire hydrant improvements in the Pittsburgh region. Pennsylvania American Water External Affairs Manager Gary Lobaugh says the $5.6 million series will take place from now until the end of 2009. He says there may be minor closures on streets where improvements are being made.

Alternative Conference

With all the hype involved with the G20 in Pittsburgh this week, a coalition and political party are organizing a conference of their own to take place tonight. The Libertarian Party is conducting a grassroots alternative to the G20 called the Freedom Conference. Coordinator Tom Kawczynski says they are going to educate attendees about the history of the G20, and are also discussing the costs and consequences of policies made.

However, he says that the event is going to not only appeal to those with a Libertarian viewpoint, but also appeals to anyone that believes in small government and transparency.

“I think that everyone, regardless of their political affiliation, can find something in this conference,” Kawczynski says.

The event will also include three guest speakers: Authors Edward Griffin, Thomas Woods and Joan Veon. It will begin at 7p.m. at Soldiers and Sailors Hall in Oakland, September 22. Cost is $25, $10 with valid high school or college identification. For more information, visit

FBI Brings In Extra Agents

Jeff Killeen, a Special Agent with the FBI says the preparation for the G20 Summit is the most organized event he has been involved in in his 25 years of law enforcement. He says local, state and federal agencies are all working together to make this a good, successful and safe event.

He could not give a specific number as to how many FBI agents would be here for the summit, but he said there would be more than usual, including investigative, intelligence and analytical officials.

He said the FBI's responsibility is to prevent anything that is against federal law and to assist other law enforcement.

Killeen says because of the region's geography, there are some challenges to providing security, but because the leaders will be meeting at limited places, in some ways it will be easier.

1,200 State Police in Pittsburgh for G20

Among the approximately 4,000 law enforcement officers expected for the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, are about 1,200 members of the Pennsylvania State Police Department. State Police Commissioner Colonel Frank Pawlowski says most of those 1,200 are state troopers who will "assist the U.S. Secret Service and Pittsburgh Bureau of Police in keeping the city safe, protecting the delegates and allowing the protesters to exercise their rights."
Pawlowski says the troopers will be involved in dignitary protection, motorcade protection and site protection. He says they've brought special units including their aviation unit, mounted units bomb squad, canine squad and SWAT team.

River Closings During the G-20

The Coast Guard will close an approximate five mile, Y-shaped section of Pittsburgh's rivers during the G 20 Summit.

Lieutenant Commander Scott Higman says the closures on the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers will begin 6a.m. Thursday and end 10p.m. Friday.

The Coast Guard will patrol with about 1o armed 25-foot boats and a cutter. City of Pittsburgh Police will patrol with two boats and state police will have at least one.

The restricted zone will extend from the West End Bridge on the Ohio River to 500 yards north of the 16th street bridge on the Allegheny River and to the tenth street bridge on the Monongahela River.

Speak-Out Protests Police Harassment

Protesters gathered this morning downtown for a “speak out” against the treatment of residents and peaceful organizations by police. Jeff Puget, a resident of Uptown says he’s not associated with a protest group, but felt compelled to call out the police for their behavior. He says many friends who are residents have been harassed and intimidated — whether its having high beams flashed through their windows at night, a constant police presence outside their homes or a crack down on "non-issues" like tickets for parking the wrong way in an alley or not having the correct reflectors on bikes. Puget says at the heart of the matter is a lack of accountability for the thousands of out of town law enforcement officials that have converged on Pittsburgh. He says administrators like Mayor Luke Ravenstahl should have created a mechanism to keep police behavior in check when he agreed to hold the G20 in Pittsburgh. Puget also noted that police haven’t been doing their homework on protest groups and are wrongfully cracking down on peaceful activists like “Seeds of Peace” — a group that provides food to protesters at demonstrations around the country.