Pittsburgh Current. Volume 3, Issue 26. Aug. 11-17, 2020

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MERCE LEMON DEBUTS HER DEBUT FULL-LENGTH, 'MOONTH' VOL. 3 ISSUE 26

Aug. 11, 2020 - Aug. 17, 2020

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POLICE IN PITTSBURGH AND ACROSS THE COUNTRY ARE USING MEDIA IMAGES AGAINST PROTESTERS. W H Y W E C A N A N D A LWAY S S H O U L D SAY NO


SUPPORT THE PITTSBURGH CURRENT AND THE FUTURE OF INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM

We are an influence-free, Independent alternative print and online news company in Pittsburgh Pa. As we’ve been reporting on the COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve seen firsthand the dramatic effect it’s having on businesses around southwestern Pennsylvania. This is especially true for small businesses like ours. While we remain steadfastly committed to reporting on the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak through the latest information and features, we need your help. Support independent journalism through a sustaining or one-time donation to the Pittsburgh Current. 80% of all donations go toward paying our staff and content creators, 20% will help keep the lights on. And 100 percent of it will ensure this city continues to have an alternative, independent voice. Even before canceling events and staying at home became the new normal, media companies like ours were struggling to keep things going. But we, like others, have found a way because people depend on our product, they like what they do and we feel that appreciation every day. We announced last week that we were temporarily halting our twice-monthly print publication and focusing on our online digital edition because people aren’t going outside, and the businesses where we distribute are all closed. The good news in all of this is that our digital edition will now be coming out weekly instead of bi-monthly. So beginning March 24, you’ll be able to get the Current every Tuesday (to make sure you get it delivered to your inbox, fill out our email signup on our homepage). We are a small team with a big mission and we’re stubborn enough to know that with your help we will get through this. The Current, like many small businesses, is at a crossroads. We plan on doing our part to get you the information you need to make it through this crisis, but we need your support to make sure we’re also able to report on the next one. You can donate by clicking the popup on our homepage or clicking donate below.

Donate to the Pittsburgh Current and the future of Independent Journalism Thank You,

Charlie Deitch

Publisher, Pittsburgh Current charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com

2 | AUGUST 11, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT


PA Coronavirus Small Business Assistance Program Round two is now open! Could your small business use some extra funds to cover COVID-19 related expenses and losses? Grants are available for small businesses that meet certain criteria and are being administered by the Northside Community Development Fund and other local CDFIs. The second round of funding closes August 28. All applications submitted before the close of this round will be considered for funding. See if this program could help you at NSCDFund.org/PABusinessGrants

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | AUGUST 11, 2020 | 3


STAFF Publisher/Editor: Charlie Deitch Charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com

contents

Associate Publisher: Bethany Ruhe Bethany@pittsburghcurrent.com

Vol. III Iss. XXV Aug. 4, 2020

Advisory Board Chairman: Robert Malkin Robert@pittsburghcurrent.com

NEWS 6 | Free Press 8 | School Reopenings 9 | GOP Wants Fall Sports 10 | Starving for Justice

EDITORIAL

Art Director: Larissa Mallon Larissa@pittsburghcurrent.com Music Editor: Margaret Welsh Margaret@pittsburghcurrent.com Visuals Editor: Jake Mysliwczyk Jake@pittsburghcurrent.com Social Justice Columnist: Jessica Semler jessica@pittsburghcurrent.com Contributing Writers: Jody DiPerna, Justin Vellucci, Atiya Irvin Mitchell, Dan Savage, Larry Schweiger, Brittany Hailer, Brian Conway, Matt Wallenstein, Emerson Andrews, Eric Boyd info@pittsburghcurrent.com

OPINION 12 | Larry Schweiger 14 | Rob Rogers 14 | Aryanna Hunter ARTs & ENTERTAINMENT 13 | Merce Lemon 14 | Anna Bruno 16 | Stone Throwers 17 | Event Listing EXTRA 18 | Savage Love 20 | Parting Shot

COVER PHOTOS: ED THOMPSON

Logo Design: Mark Addison TO ADVERTISE :

Senior Account Executive: Andrea James andrea@pittsburghcurrent.com Bethany Ruhe Bethany@pittsburghcurrent.com 4 | AUGUST 11, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

The Fine Print The contents of the Pittsburgh Current are © 2020 by Pittsburgh Current, LLC. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this publication shall be duplicated or reprinted without the express-written consent of Pittsburgh Current LLC. One copy per person. The Pittsburgh Current is published twice monthly beginning August 2018. The opinions contained in columns and letters to the editors represent the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Pittsburgh Current ownership, management and staff. The Pittsburgh Current is an independently owned and operated print and online media company produced in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Beechview neighborhood, 1665 Broadway Ave., Pittsburgh, PA., 15216. 412-204-7248. Email us or don’t: info@pittsburghcurrent.com.


Climate Crisis and Corrupt Politics By: Larry J. Schweiger Free Shipping Paperback $29.95 or purchase an eBook for $19.00 (Read the first 25 pages for free) There is only one earth and our world is undergoing dramatic changes brought on by the climate crisis and other human-induced ecological disruptions. The world's top scientists studying these threats and the forces behind them have been warning us for decades to end the use of fossil fuels or face catastrophic consequences. Their long-ignored warnings have become more dire. Larry Schweiger has long been on the front line of efforts to enact rational clean energy and climate policies and has witnessed efforts to undermine our democratic system that has been rigged leaving America hoodwinked and held hostage to dirty fuels. Climate Crisis and Corrupt Politics pulls back the curtain on the central role of big oil, coal, and gas interests in American politics through the flow of money to fabricated entities for independent SuperPAC expenditures for mass deception through distorted advertising. Larry wrote this urgent message aimed at parents, grandparents and young adults who care about their children forced to live on the ragged edge of an unprecedented climate crisis. This book is especially for leaders who understand that we must act now with a "Green New Deal" scale response. Together, we must confront and overcome the many toxic money influences, reverse a failing democracy and retake the reins of government to enact policies that secure our shared future and the future of life on earth.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | AUGUST 11, 2020 | 5


FROM THE EDITOR

PITTSBURGH POLICE ARE SEEKING PROTEST IM

“The inability to protect work product and sources would

BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTS

CHARLIE@PITTSBUR

O

n August 1, an individual wearing a Donald Trump “Make America Great Again” hat showed up at a protest in Shadyside and the hat ended up on the ground in flames. I was curious how it got there and I wasn’t the only one. I found out what happened by following the Twitter feed of freelance photojournalist Ed Thompson. Thompson does quite a bit of work for Pittsburgh Current, but sometimes he is out working for other companies or he’s out on his own as a freelancer hoping to sell some of his images. It is, after all, how he makes his living. Apparently Pittsburgh Police detectives also saw Thompson’s feed and were interested in how the hat ended up on the ground and in flames. I suppose they thought maybe a crime had been committed and that Thompson might be just the guy to help them out. He wasn’t. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t worried about future calls from the police. “They called me up and I said I didn’t want to give them my images of the altercation,” Thompson told me recently. “The cop replied, ‘so you don’t want to turn over your images?’ I said no and a short time later another detective called me and said, “are you sure you don’t want to turn over your images? And I said no again. “They wanted photos of the altercation that took place. I don’t have them and even if I did I would never turn them over. You can’t do your job properly if people think you’re all of a sudden working for the police. We’re not cops, we’re journalists. It caught me off guard.” But as a freelancer in particular, Thompson said he wasn’t sure if he had the same protections that photographers from one particular company has. If the police ever showed up at his door, would he have to hand them over? 6 | AUGUST 11, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

Pittsburgh Current Photos by Ed Thompson

And that goes for media companies as well. Most people think the state’s Shield Law would protect them but that only protects a journalist from revealing a source. Images aren’t covered under Shield says Madeline Lamo, a staff attorney with the Reporter’s Committee For Freedom of the Press. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t protected, she says. Aside from Shield laws, reporters also have something called reporter's privilege which is derived from the First Amendment and protects reporters’ work product, Lamo says. So, in short, if you are a journalist, freelance or otherwise, you don’t have to give photos or anything else to the police. Well, at least not right initially.

The privilege provision is a means the police can issue a s to prove that the reporter's priv “There are certain criteria th showing it’s relevant to the ca all other avenues to get the ev have the opportunity to object you get a subpoena, that certa just hand over your work.” There’s something problema to use a journalist’s work as ev make cases. For example, how blurb on TV news that the pol


FROM THE EDITOR

MAGES FROM PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHERS

d kill newsgathering. It would hijack the independent press.

SBURGH CURRENT EDITOR

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“qualified privilege.” That subpoena but then they still have ivilege doesn’t apply. hat the police have to meet like ase or that they have exhausted vidence,” Lamo says. “But you t or oppose the motion. Even if ainly doesn’t mean you should

atic about police agencies trying vidence in cases or even to w many times have we seen a lice are asking for help from the

public to identify suspects caught on security cameras. Recently, we have seen these kinds of tactics used. The problem is, it makes it impossible for a journalist to do their job if the people we’re covering think we’re merely a surveillance arm of the police. It also doesn’t help when news agencies, usually TV stations, readily turn over their footage. In a lot of cases it’s to curry favor with their police sources. There is an attack on reporter privilege nationwide. In Seattle, police are demanding that five media companies turn over all unpublished photos and videos of protesters so they can use it as an

investigative tool. The companies have declined and are fighting the subpoenas. But the scariest part of all is that a judge sided with the police and ordered the work product to be turned over. The companies are appealing, but a judge ruling that way is a scary thing. “The inability to protect work product and sources would kill newsgathering. It would hijack the independent press,” Lamo says. What I can guarantee right now is that this paper will not share information, images or video with the police. And if we are issued a subpoena, we will challenge it to the end. And even then, to be honest, we still won’t turn it over. All we have in this business is our integrity and that’s not something we will ever sacrifice. PITTSBURGH CURRENT | AUGUST 11, 2020 | 7


NEWS

PA G E 7

WESTERN PA. SCHOOLS SHOULD NOT RESUME BUSINESS AS USUAL, STATE SAYS BY MARY NIEDERBERGER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDUCATION WRITER

MARY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

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chool districts in Allegheny County should be considering either hybrid or fully online school attendance models for the start of school, according to new recommendations issued today by the state Department of Health and Department of Education. State Health Secretary Rachel Levine and state Education Secretary Pedro Rivera, in a media call with reporters, outlined a new designation system for counties that school superintendents can look to in deciding how to operate their schools for the 2020-2021 school year. “The idea is to provide another tool in the toolbox,” Levine said. The recommendations are not mandates but were created in response to school superintendents’ requests for more state direction on how to reopen schools safely, Levine said. Under the system, counties are designated as having low transmission, moderate transmission or substantial transmission of COVID-19 cases. The health metrics used to determine the designations are the incidence rate and the percent positivity of diagnostic testing. Recommendations for low transmission counties are for full in-person learning or a hybrid model. For moderation transmission counties, either a hybrid model that includes

a reduced number of students and social distancing of six feet in buildings or fully online models are recommended. All students, staff and visitors must follow the

universal mask order issued by Levine in July.

8 | AUGUST 11, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

Online only is recommended for counties designated as high transmission areas. Those metrics are available for every county at the health department’s COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard.

Only one county in the state — Union — currently holds the substantial designation. Levine and Rivera said their departments are working closely with the three school districts and one career and technical education center


NEWS in that county on reopening plans. Many of the cases in Union County are linked to a federal prison. Allegheny is among 41 counties with moderate transmission, along with Armstrong, Beaver, Fayette, Lawrence, Washington and Westmoreland counties. Pittsburgh Public Schools have announced they plan to have fully online classes for at least the first nine weeks. Another 25 counties have a low transmission designation, which has a recommendation for full in-person instruction or a blended learning model. Levine said her team will “do deep dives and will work with county (school) superintendents” in any county that falls into the substantial range and recommend fully online learning. “All of the actions we have taken are designed to be precise and to be targeted to stop the spread of this very contagious COVID-19 virus,” Levine said. The designations will be updated weekly, based on the metrics and if districts’ designations change they may want to prepare for change in their educational model, Levine said. But health and education department officials recommend changing their instructional models only after experiencing two consecutive weeks of the same designation. Matthew Stem, deputy education secretary for the office of elementary and secondary education, recommended that districts take the time they

need — even up to a full nine weeks — to effectively switch education delivery systems. However, in the event of a significant, widespread outbreak schools may need to transition to a remote-only system more swiftly. Rivera said districts should be prepared for changes to their educational plans as time goes by because both the virus and guidance “are continuously evolving.” He said his department is trying to provide the best guidance to keep students and staff safe along with providing the “best education models possible.” Rivera acknowledged that counties hold multiple school districts — Allegheny county has 43 — and that school districts will “have different instructional footprints.” Levine also fielded questions about the state’s recommendation that no school sports happen until January and about parent’s frustrations with their students not being in school full-time in many districts this fall. The health secretary said “there are really no good choices” and the recommendations are being made to protect the health of students. She and Rivera said they hear daily from parents who want their children back in school and those who want instruction to be fully online. “On any given day I am asked to keep students home, to send them to school and everything in between,” Rivera said.

HOUSE GOP ROLLS OUT FALL SPORTS, SCHOOL REOPENING BILLS BY JOHN L. MICEK - SPECIAL TO THE PITTSBURGH CURRENT INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

Days after the Wolf administration recommended the optional postponement of the fall sports season, a Republican lawmaker says he wants to take that power out of the administration’s hands and give decision-making power back to local school districts. At a news conference Tuesday, Rep. Mike Reese, R-Westmoreland, said the Democratic administration’s abrupt announcement last week “sent shockwaves” through Pennsylvania’s athletic community, and sent the state’s main sanctioning body, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, scrambling to set policy. “Why now, right before the academic year begins, are schools not able to make their own decisions about sports?” Reese said in a statement issued by his office. “Will similar announcements be forthcoming about regarding other extracurricular activities? These should be local decisions.” Last week, in a joint statement, the Departments of Health and Education said the guidance was only a “strong recommendation” and “not an order or mandate.” “As with deciding whether students should return to in-person classes, remote learning or a blend of the two this fall, school administrators and locally elected school boards should make decisions on sports,” the statement reads. Reese was joined at Tuesday’s news conference by Rep. Jesse Topper, R-Bedford, who rolled out a bill that would allow students to repeat a year of schooling to make up for any ground lost during the pandemic-induced shutdown this spring. Repeating a longstanding Republican complaint, Reese and Topper both faulted the administration for not showing the data it has used to make many of its reopening decisions. During a briefing Monday, state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine admitted that there wasn’t “a lot of granular data,” used to formulate what is still optional guidance on fall sports. In a briefing with journalists, Levine, a pediatrician by training, said the decision to recommend postponing all interscholastic athletics until January 2021 came from mainly from national data. Levine did not cite any local or state-level data that drove the decision, FOX-43 in York reported. PITTSBURGH CURRENT | AUGUST 11, 2020 | 9


NEWS

PA G E 7

STARVING FOR JUSTICE

DOCUMENTING DANNIELLE BROWN'S HUNGER STRIKE TEXT AND PHOTOS BY KATE HAGERTY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTOR

INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

Editor's Note: This is an ongoing series following parent Dannielle Brown's hunger strike as she seeks justice in the death of her son JB Brown, a Duquense University football player in October 2018. On day 18 of Dannielle Brown’s hunger strike, Duquesne University issued a public statement appearing to acquiesce to all of her demands for an independent investigation into the death of her son, Duquesne running back Marquis Jaylen Brown. However, talks stalled between Ms. Brown and members of the school administration, leaving Ms. Brown to continue her hunger strike. Over the next two weeks, the exhaustion that accompanies fasting had begun to affect Ms. Brown, but her commitment to finding justice in her son’s death has held firm. On the 34th day of her fast, she held a living funeral in honor of her own life.

“I wonder if Duquesne University sees the presence of God in Ms. Dannielle. I wonder if a university that centers Jesus and his mother Mary look at Ms. Dannielle with that same reverence. This is a woman of God, and Jaylen was a child of God.” - Jasiri X of 1 Hood Media

10 | AUGUST 11, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

As night falls, citronella candles burn. Membe take turns staying with Ms. Brown at Freedom

“I will be here. So they can see me. I can walk was starving on Freedom Corner. Now I’ll be s


ers of the community m Corner overnight.

NEWS

Dannielle catches a mid-day nap in the white rocking chair she brought from her home in Washington DC.

Guests to Dannielle’s Living Funeral arrange flowers around the symbolic coffin. As of Thursday, August 6th, her hunger strike had lasted 34 days.

Jasiri X and Brittney Chantele of Pittsburgh arts collective 1 Hood Media

on this campus and go to the bench. I’ll bring the flowers with me. Let’s let Duquesne know. I starving right here at Duquesne.”

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | AUGUST 11, 2020 | 11


OPINION

THE NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL IS SEEKING TO TERMINATE THE NRA: THE ORGANIZATION IS IN A WELL-DESERVED DEATH SPIRAL BY LARRY J. SCHWEIGER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST

INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

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fter more than 120 mass shootings since 1982, Americans overwhelmingly want responsible gun legislation. Who can ever forget the articulate and brave Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students organizing many street protests calling for action after the deadly Parkland, Florida, in February 2018? According to a 2019 Pew Survey, around nine-out-of-ten American voters favor preventing people with mental illnesses from buying guns. Overwhelming majorities of both Democrats (93%) and Republicans (82%) favor background checks closing the loopholes for private gun sales and gun shows transactions. Yet after so many heartbreaking mass shootings including the eleven people killed and six others injured in a hate crime at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, Congress, blocked by NRA’s Republicans, has failed to enacted proper gun laws despite the repeated carnage. At the time of the Parkland shooting, President Trump indicated in private conversations to lawmakers and aides that he was open to endorsing extensive background checks in the wake of the two mass shootings. When the word got out, Trump got a call with National Rifle Association’s CEO, Wayne LaPierre. Trump changed his tune and has since gone radio-silent. Few single-issue organizations have amassed as much power and influence in Washington DC and state capitols as the National Rifle Association. The NRA spent a staggering sum on behalf

NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre.

of Trump’s campaign in 2016, relentlessly attacking Hillary Clinton. They own him, and he knows it. For Trump, re-election support from the NRA overrides concerns for school children. The NRA campaign contributions to Trump and congressional Republicans in 2020 was dramatically out of proportion to what the group could raise and spend in the past. The NRA spent more than $54 million on the 2016 elections, with about $30 million going to Trump’s 2016 election. According to Federal Election Commission data, in 2016, the NRA spent more than $30 million compared to 2012 when the group spent about $13 million to try to unseat

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President Barack Obama. The question remains, where did the surge in new money to the NRA’s campaign coffers come from? With flawed election laws, the group is not required to disclose funders, nor are they prevented from taking foreign money. There has been much speculation that money came from Russia since NRA’s leaders have been actively courting Russian oligarchs in recent years. We will never know because the NRA does not have to disclose its funders and the Federal Elections Bureau is now the toothless and leaderless compliments of Trump. The NRA has long been one of the most inflexible right-wing

political organizations in the U.S. using hyped-up fears of a slippery slope to gun confiscations by Democrats to attract funding from reactive naïve gun owners. Gun owners bought the big lie that background checks and closing loopholes would lead to gun confiscations. In 2007, Richard Feldman, a former high-ranking NRA employee, watched the organization go off track and wrote a book called "Ricochet: Confessions of a Gun Lobby," where he revealed NRA's successful fundraising strategy thrived on manipulating its most rabid members. NRA succeeded with establishment media providing “invaluable fodder for the fundraising drives in NRA semiannual crisis du jour." To the "cynical glee of the NRA's leaders," the media helped their fundraising by calling for legislative action after covering a deadly mass shooting. However, there is no evidence that the 2016 election triggered such a large-scale crisis. There is little likelihood that the enormous surge in campaign spending came from the organization's largely aging, white, middle-income, blue-collar base. The Old National Rifle Association: It is hard to imagine a different NRA, but there once was, and it lasted for more than 100 years. The NRA was initially incorporated in New York in 1871 as a 501-c4 tax-exempt organization with an original mission focused on improving shooting skills for the military and gun safety. Union General Ambrose Burnside is mostly remembered for his civil war service, his dramatic facial hair that spawned the name "side-


OPINION burns," and for launching the National Rifle Association in 1871. After his varied war experience, Burnside wanted to teach shooting skills to improve the soldiers' dismal shooting abilities. After the Civil War, an official study found that Union troops, on average, fired about 1,000 rounds for every bullet that struck a Confederate soldier. (Wisconsin “Black hats” were a notable exception to this pattern.) For its first century, the NRA actually lobbied for rational gun laws working closely with police departments and other governmental agencies to promote gun safety and marksmanship. In 1968, Retired General Maxwell Rich was head of the NRA. He and the board of the NRA were more open-minded about reasonable gun laws than we might imagine today. General Rich worked with lawmakers to make the 1968 law more workable. They agreed to end the mail-order sale for firearms like the Italian Mannlicher Carcano rifle that Lee Harvey Oswald ordered from an ad in NRA’s American Rifleman. General Rich and his COO Dale Gaskill were planning on moving the organization's headquarters out of D.C. to Colorado Springs. Gaskill was in the middle of building a Conservation Center there and a National Shooting Center in northern New Mexico. (Full disclosure: I was an NRA certified Hunter Safety Instructor in the 1960s and 70s.) When I was first trained in 1964, the organization was devoted to hunting, wildlife conservation, the promotion of marksmanship, and gun safety. There was little mention of protecting the Second Amendment. Moving "green" and accepting the 1968-gun law was a bridge

Letitia James

too far for Harlan Carter. Carter, a hardline former border guard from Texas, was once convicted of second-degree murder of a Mexican-American Ramon Casiano. Carter was sentenced to a light term of three years in prison. The conviction was later overturned. Carter had no interest in conservation and whipped up a grassroots campaign based on a hardline position that the Second Amendment was absolute and that the NRA should oppose all gun laws. He won the election and took over the organization replacing board members and firing General Rich. Dale Gaskill, seeing the dark direction that NRA was headed, resigned. Until Harlan Carter overthrew the NRA leadership, the NRA along with its hunters generally took responsible positions on wildlife conservation, hunting issues and other related resource matters. That has changed. The organization has opposed critical conservation measures like steel shot, Mo Udall's Alaska Lands legislation, and scores of other necessary conservation measures. In recent years, the NRA has repeatedly campaigned for anti-conservation lawmakers so long as they voted right on guns. Many of these same lawmakers were passing laws favoring the fossil fuel industry while hurting

wildlife conservation and diminishing resources for hunters. Since Carter, the grassroots have valued CEO's who where hardliners but not necessarily good fiduciary managers. It has had more than its share of exploitive CEOs. When President Reagan fired him, Ray Arnett became NRA’s CEO and ended up running the NRA into the ground. According to the Violence Policy Center, Arnett was ousted for putting his female friend on the payroll and for many other indiscretions. Other CEO's mismanaged the institution by outsourcing critical elements for years. None, however, has been as bad as the crew that controls NRA today. Attorney General Letitia “Tish” James takes on the NRA Following a lengthy investigation and audit, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the NRA charging the organization with illegal conduct diverting millions of dollars away from the mission of the organization for personal use by senior leadership, awarding contracts to the financial gain of close associates and family, and doling out lucrative no-show contracts to former employees to buy their silence and continued loyalty. The chief executive of the National Rifle Association and several top lieutenants were engaged in a decades-long pattern of fraud. According to the lawsuit filed last week, they raided the coffers of the gun-rights group for personal gain, draining $64 million from the nonprofit in just three years. The suit charges NRA explicitly as a whole, as well as Executive Vice-President Wayne LaPierre, former Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Wilson “Woody” Phillips, former Chief of Staff and the Executive Direc-

tor of General Operations Joshua Powell, and Corporate Secretary and General Counsel John Frazer with failing to manage the NRA’s funds and failing to follow numerous state and federal laws, contributing to the loss of more than $64 million in just three years for the NRA. According to a statement given to the press, in the complaint, “Attorney General James lays out dozens of examples where the four individual defendants failed their fiduciary duty and used millions upon millions from NRA reserves for personal use, including trips for them and their families to the Bahamas, private jets, expensive meals, and other private travel. In addition to shuttering the NRA's doors," Attorney General James seeks to recoup millions in lost assets and stop the four defendants from serving on the board of any not-for-profit charitable organization in the state of New York again. Attorney General James made clear, “The NRA’s influence has been so powerful that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets. The NRA is fraught with fraud and abuse, which is why, today, we seek to dissolve the NRA, because no organization is above the law.” LaPierre responded to the lawsuit calling it “an affront to democracy and freedom. This is an unconstitutional, premeditated attack aiming to dismantle and destroy the NRA – the fiercest defender of America’s freedom at the ballot box for decades. The NRA is well governed, financially solvent, and committed to good governance. We’re ready for the fight. Bring it on.” The lawsuit will no doubt provide LaPierre with “invaluable fodder” for the next fundraising drive to pay lawyers and accountants. He will need them.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | AUGUST 11, 2020 | 13


OPINION

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OPINION DONALD TRUMP'S EXECUTIVE ORDER ON UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS DO LITTLE TO HELP AMERICANS

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BY ARYANNA HUNTER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

didn’t always pay attention to politics. Certainly not in the way that I do

now. Growing up, my family didn’t have conversations around the dinner table about policy or how or why the government was doing something. We were just working to get by. My mom was in black pants, a crisp, white button -own shirt, and bow tie, hauling trays of food from table to table as a waitress. My father was in a black Dickies shirt and often found underneath his tow truck or attending to the occasional backed up toilet at the hotel where he worked in maintainence. We were a part of the working poor. Each of my parents worked more than 40 hours a week and still didn't have enough to buy food to last the whole month. Now, as Americans are thick in the middle of a global pandemic, unemployment rates are skyrocketing, and families are unsure of where their next meal is coming from. I think about whether or not these folks, that are just working to get by, are paying attention to politics. You’d think that right now that it would be hard not to. Our social media feeds are constantly updated with news stories and headlines that grab your attention.

But I think the reality is that people are worried about their unemployment benefits running out, their kids going back to school, and whether or not they are going to get evicted for not being able to pay their rent or keep their lights on. The stress that families are under right now is a heavy burden to bear with no relief in sight. Democrats and Republicans in Congress are a million miles apart when attempting to negotiate a deal and the executive order signed by the President on Saturday, attempting to go around Congress isn’t going to provide much help. The President is requiring cash strapped states to chip in on the extended unemployment benefits which would potentially total $400. It creates limitations on who is eligible to receive benefits and because this action isn’t authorized by Congress, the government will need to create a whole new system to provide this benefit to Americans meaning this won’t happen anytime soon. The President also didn’t reinstate the eviction moratorium – putting Americans at risk for homelessness, potentially creating even a bigger problem as we are heading towards the Fall and Winter months.

Schools are starting back up and there is a nationwide shortage on Chromebooks, so the digital divide is growing even greater. You don’t have internet or a laptop at home? Guess your kids get to go to the classroom and you get to hope they don’t get sick. According to research by Nicholas Carnes, associate professor of public policy and political science at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, “The average member of Congress spent less than 2 percent of his or her entire pre-congressional career doing the kinds of jobs most Americans go to every day. No one from the working class has gotten into politics and gone on to become a governor, or a Supreme Court justice, or the president.” It's any wonder Congress can’t reach a deal. These are the elite of America who have by all accounts never held the kind of jobs that the vast majority of Americans do every day, fighting over $600 a week for people who can’t afford to pay their rent, buy groceries, keep the electricity on, they just don’t get it. In a few short months we will be voting for the next President of the United States, but we are also going to be

voting for members of Congress, State Representatives, up and down the ballot. It is far past time that we start electing people who are from the working class, that have had to live paycheck to paycheck, maybe when we do we will stop seeing senseless bickering over how little we will provide to Americans who are facing some of their most challenging days.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | AUGUST 11, 2020 | 15


A&E

FULL 'MOONTH'

MERCE LEMON'S DEBUT FULL-LENGTH HAS BEEN A LONG-TIME COMING

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couple years ago, Merce Lemon was living far from home and feeling lonely. “I was texting my friend a lot when we were both looking at the moon,” the Pittsburgh-based singer/ songwriter recalls. “And we kept trying to meet each other in dreams. We were trying to paint a picture of the place we were going to meet, and then think about it really hard before we went to sleep and find each other.” Lemon ended up getting a couple songs out of that time period, specifically “Moon Shots” and “Chili Packet,” both which appear on her debut full-length record Moonth, which was released on Bandcamp this past Friday. But that original story, with its romantic blend of playfulness and bittersweet longing, does a pretty good job of encapsulating Lemon’s artistic appeal. “Maybe you’ll visit/my brain in a dream/lead with a joke and then vanish again,” she sings over the melancholy swirl of “Chili Packet,” then sways to some undisclosed conflict: “I don’t want your sorrys/They’re not going to do/I am the one that is sorry to you.” (“I asked that person, ‘what I should write a song about?’ And

BY MARGARET WELSH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MUSIC EDITOR MARGARET@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

Merce Lemon (Photo Courtesy of Katie Krulock)

they said ‘chili packet,’ Lemon laughs. “And, obviously, it's not about a chili packet.”) Her intimate lyrics feel like scraps from a diary or letters

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saved in a shoebox. And her attention to mundane sensory detail (see: “Golden Lady Sauerkraut”) -- punctuated by sage poetic gems and wrapped in idiosyncratic

melody -- gives the listener a lot to dig into. Lemon grew up in a family of music lovers. Her parents played in bands and their house was full of records and


A&E tapes. “My dad was always practicing in the basement so there was a drum kit downstairs and any instrument I wanted to play.” Some of her first experiences onstage were singing with Kimya Dawson whenever the anti-folk icon, who was friends with her parents, played a show in Pittsburgh. Between the ages of 7 and 12 Lemon started an a capella group and then a punk band. In her late teens, Lemon moved to Seattle. There she recorded her 2017 EP, Ideal for a Light Flow With Your Body, followed by 2018’s Girls Who Jump In. This past March, Pittsburgh label Crafted Sounds reissued both records as one cassette, titled Ride Every Day. The bedroom-recording sound of Ride Every Day spotlights Lemon’s knack for writing brief, catchy indie-pop songs. Moonth is a much fuller-sounding record, recalling eclectic folk ensembles like Steeleye Span and urbane, off-kilter weirdos like the Roches. The band’s lineup includes Lemon’s dad, Greg Pierce, on guitar, Pittsburgh music scene veteran Jim Lingo on bass, Alec Ebeling on drums, and Noa Lipski singing harmonies. This record, which was mostly recorded live, also features instrumental contributions by a variety of friends and family members, including Lipski’s dad Eric on cello and fiddle, flute by Jessica Leigh, and even some quick vocals by Lem-

on’s mom, Alisa Dix. “Puddles” opens with a sample from instrument-builder and experimental noise artist (and family friend) Michael Johnsen. Moonth was recorded about a year and a half ago. “I feel like I've been holding on to it for so long,” Lemon says. “I went through a phase of hating it, and I had to fall in love with it again.” She

shopped around for a label to release the record, but -- a DIY artist at her core -trying to find a comfortable situation was a drag. “I was scared of contracts and that whole world.” In the end, Moonth was co-released by two local labels, Crafted Sounds and Darling Records. “It’s all been on my terms, Lemon says. “That’s what I was looking for, I'm not looking

to be molded into something. [But] it would be cool to not have to do everything by myself.” (Another bonus of working with small, supportive labels: since she’s not self-financing, Lemon has the leeway to donate her earnings, and 100% of profits from Moonth will go to the Pittsburgh-based Black Unicorn Library and Archives Project.) In quarantine, Lemon -- who under normal circumstances works as a bike courier for Pin-Up Posters Courier Collective -- has been spending her time participating in protests, volunteering, and packing and delivering produce for Who Cooks for You Farm. “I feel like i’ve been very close to food and nature through quarantine,” she says, “It's keeping me sane.” As for many of us in quarantine, Lemon has struggled to create: “I was just bummin’ to the point that I wasn't making anything.” But with Moonth finally out in the world, “I’m kind of coming out of that, and feeling inspired by everyone around me and just looking to collaborate more, to ease back into it. “I think [the record] needed some space. I'm excited to release it and feel like I have room to make new things now. It felt like it was crowding me a little bit.” For more information visit mercelemon.bandcamp.com

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | AUGUST 11, 2020 | 17


EXTRA

Savage Love Love | sex | relationships BY DAN SAVAGE MAIL@SAVAGELOVE.NET

I’m a 38-year-old bi woman who has been sleeping with a married male coworker for the last eight months. We’re a walking cliché: I’m a nurse, he’s a doctor, and one night he ended up spilling a lot of personal information about his marriage to me (sexless, non-romantic, she might be a lesbian) before asking if he could kiss me. I declined. Three months and many text messages later, I met him for drinks. The next thing I know we are falling in love and spending as much time together as we can manage. Even though he is married and has kids, this has been one of the best relationships of my adult life. He loves me in ways I never thought possible. (He even savors my COVID-19 curves.) The obvious problem here is that he is married and his wife allegedly doesn’t know about his unhappiness in their marriage. We have to arrange our dates around his work schedule and his lies to his wife. I find myself becoming increasingly jealous of the time he spends with his wife and his inability to spend more time with me. I want him to confront the issues in his marriage and I want him to at least attempt being honest with her so we can figure out if it’s even possible for us to move forward. My question is this: How do I have this conversation with him without it seeming like an ultimatum? I adore him and I don't think he’s lying to me about his marriage. But I long to have more freedom in our relationship. I love that I finally found someone who treats me so well when we are together but my heart is breaking because our love exists in the shadows. It’s a win/win for him—he gets his marriage, his kids, his “real

life,” and me too. But I can’t even text or even call him freely and I certainly couldn’t rely on him in an emergency. I want this to work. I don’t necessarily want him to get divorced, Dan, as I fear it would cause him to resent me, but that would honestly be my preference. What should I do? Outside The Home Exists Romance What are you willing to settle for, OTHER? If you can’t live without Dr. Married and you can only have him on his terms—terms he set at the start, terms designed to keep his wife in the dark—then you’ll have to accept his terms. You can only see Dr. Married during office hours, you can’t call or text him, and you’re on your own if you have an emergency outside office hours. But agreeing to his terms at the outset doesn’t obligate you to stick to his terms forever. Terms can be renegotiated. But unless you’re willing to issue an ultimatum, OTHER, Dr. Married has no incentive to renegotiate the terms of your relationship. Zooming out for a second: I get letters all the time from women who ask me how issue to an ultimatum without seeming like they’re issuing an ultimatum. I don’t get many letters from men like that for good and not-so-good reasons: men are socialized to feel entitled to what they want, men are praised when they ask for what they want, and consequently men are likelier to get what they want. To get what you want, OTHER, you’re gonna have to man up: feel entitled, act entitled, make demands. And you gotta be willing to walk. You have to go in fully pre-

18 | AUGUST 11, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

pared to use the leverage you actually have here—your presence in Dr. Married’s life—or nothing will change. His circumstances have required you to live in the shadows if you wanted to see him and maybe that worked for you once. But it doesn’t work for anymore and Dr. Married needs to understand that if his circumstances don’t change—if he doesn’t change them—then he’s going to lose you. There’s a middle ground between divorce, your preferred circumstance, and things staying exactly as they are. Dr. Married’s wife is surely aware that her marriage is sexless and non-romantic—assuming he’s told you the truth—and if his wife’s actually a lesbian, well, perhaps she’d like the freedom to date other women too. (Or date them openly, I should say; for all we know she’s been getting some pussy on the side herself.) If they want to stay together for the kids, if they have a constructive, functional, low-conflict loving partnership, and it would be possible to daylight you without anyone having to get divorced, maybe you could settle for those terms. I’m a bi man in a straight marriage. We have two young children. My wife and I have been working through some relationship issues. Because of these, she has not been open to sex with me and for eighteen months our marriage has been essentially sexless. I’m not happy with this, but we are working on things. Since we stopped having sex, I have been using my wife's used panties to masturbate. I work from home and do a lot of the household work, including laundry. Every couple of weeks, I will take a couple of her panties from the laundry. I rub myself with one pair and sniff the other one. I enjoy the way the fabric feels and am turned on by knowing that they’ve been rubbing up against her pussy. It makes me feel very close to her. I finish by ejaculating into her panties and then I rinse them out and wash them. I’m very

careful not to stain or damage them. This is something I do to feel more connected with her sexually. I don't get hard thinking that she's wearing panties I came in; I get hard thinking about coming in panties she's worn. But I worry that I’m violating her—which is not something I want to do. I know that if I were doing this with a stranger's panties, or with the panties of someone I knew but was not in an intimate relationship with, it would be at best creepy and at worst a sex crime. But she’s my wife, and although we are in a hard place right now, we’re trying to find our way back to each other. So, is this an acceptable way for me to get off while we work on our relationship? Or is it a violation? Wonders About Nuzzling Knickers I’m torn, WANK. If you and the wife were fucking, WANK, she might enjoy knowing that, however many years and two kids later, you’re still so crazy about her that you’re down in the laundry room perving on her dirty panties. But you aren’t fucking and things are strained for reasons you didn’t share. So you need to ask yourself whether this perving, if your wife were to find out about it, would set you two back. If you think it would—if, say, your wife isn’t fucking you because she feels like you don’t respect her opinions, her boundaries, her autonomy, etc.—then the risk (further damaging your marriage) has to outweigh the rewards (momentarily draining your sack.) That said, WANK, if perving on your wife’s panties—without damaging or staining them—is helping you remain faithful during this sexless period of your marriage… and sustaining your attraction to your wife though this difficult time… well, an argument/rationalization could be made that your wife benefits from this perving. And these aren’t stolen panties—these aren’t a stranger’s panties or a roommate’s panties—these are panties


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