POST-GAZETTE MAILROOM EMPLOYEES AUTHORIZE STRIKE
VOL. 3 ISSUE 25
Aug. 4, 2020 - Aug. 10, 2020
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Vol. III Iss. XXV Aug. 4, 2020
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NEWS 6 | Post-Gazette labor strife 8 | Fresh Fest goes Virtual 9 | PPS classes will start online
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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 4, 2020 | 5
POST-GAZETTE MAILROOM EM
he workers in the mailroom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette may have the highest concentration of employees with the most longevity. Of the 38 employees, half of them have more than 40 years of service with the company. The other 50 percent are newbies, they only have 25 years or more at the paper. For those unfamiliar with the job, these workers handle the paper once it comes off the press. They put in inserts, they bundle the product and they get them to the truck. And they do that for every publication printed at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (including the Pittsburgh Current in the preCOVID world). These workers are old school newspaper people. They’ve been around and they’ve watched the industry change over the years. So, it only made sense that when the union held a strike authorization vote over the weekend, it was done old school. “We met in a parking lot on Saturday,” said Steve Stasenko, president of the Pittsburgh Mailers Local 22/CWA Local 14842, and a 43-year veteran of the paper himself. “We told them where we were in terms of negotiations and told them that the company said it made its last best offer. The offer isn’t a good one, I asked if they wanted to hold a hand vote on whether or not to authorize a strike. They said yes and a strike authorization was approved unanimously. “That doesn’t mean we’re going on strike, necessarily, but it’s certainly the first step in that process.” Labor issues at the Post-Gazette are nothing new. In fact over the past few years, things have been downright nasty. The 6 | AUGUST 4, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT
BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTS
last contract expired in 2017. Employees across the board haven’t had a raise in 14 years and have actually given back salary in the form of benefit compensation. And while things have been bad for awhile, all indications are that they are probably going to get a lot worse. In mid-May, the P-G announced it was offering buyouts in an effort to cut the newsroom by 24 employees. By the mid-July deadline, 14 employees decided to leave including features writer Sharon
Eberson, columnist Brian O rell Sapp and Michael Sant Reed Ward, and business w point, there is no word on l newsroom is in the process tion vote of its own. On July 27, Post-Gazette impasse in negotiations wit which represents editorial e posed working conditions t
MPLOYEES AUTHORIZE STRIKE
SBURGH CURRENT EDITOR
O’Neill, Photographers Dartiago, spurts reporter Paula writer Steve Twedt. At this layoffs are coming, but the s of taking a strike authoriza-
management declared an th the Newspaper Guild, employees. They then imthat Guild President Mike
Fuoco says, “strips us of many of the rights and benefits the Guild has negotiated in good faith over the last 85 years. We no longer have a contract.” What they have done -- bargain in bad faith for more than three years, declare an impasse when there was none, impose conditions based on a non-existent impasse -- is not only morally wrong it is not lawful under the National Labor Relations Act but they do not believe in the rule
of law,” Fuoco said. “We have filed Unfair Labor Practices charges about their actions but as we've seen in the past, even if we receive a positive ruling from the NLRB's Pittsburgh regional office, they will appeal and appeal and appeal until they get a ruling to their liking from the Trump-appointed board in Washington, D.C.” The P-G ran a small un-bylined story about the newsroom impasse on July 28 entitled “Post-Gazette implements new contract.” And while an impasse was declared with News Guild members, Stasenko says that final ultimatum has not yet been issued to his union, and he says while the union wants to continue negotiating, he would not be surprised if an impasse is declared by the P-G against his bargaining unit. Both unions have the same problems with the company’s “final offer.” That offer includes major cuts and increased contributions to healthcare benefits, a reduction in vacation and sick/personal time and the ability of management to layoff employees at will and with a total disregard for seniority and without severance. It’s not a good deal for workers, Stasenko says, and it effectively eliminates unions at the paper. “We have negotiated concessionary contracts with the company between 2007 and 2013,” Stasenko says. “I think we have a proven track record of good-faith negotiating. “But this final offer isn't a reasonable offer at all. If we were to sign this deal, then there’d be no reason for us to collect union dues because this offer eliminates any right that we have to collective bargaining. It would essentially kill the unions.” PITTSBURGH CURRENT | AUGUST 4, 2020 | 7
PA G E 7
VIRTUAL FRESH FEST KICKS OFF AUG. 8 BY NICK EUSTIS - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER
raft beer is an industry that has seen tremendous growth in America in the past ten years, with over $27 billion in sales in 2018. But when it comes to who reaps the rewards, one group overwhelmingly benefits. According to the Brewer’s Association, over 76 percent of those who work in the craft beer industry are white. The lack of black representation in craft beer drove Day Bracey, Ed Bailey, and Mike Potter to found Fresh Fest in 2018, the nation’s first beer festival focused on black-owned breweries. The idea was a hit, with 1200 attendees in 2018, and over 3,000 attending the next year. The festival received national attention, even becoming the subject of a short documentary, called “A Fresh Perspective.” Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Day Bracey and his team to rethink Fresh Fest 2020, scheduled to take place August 8, and determine how to give people what they love about the festival safely. “Some really love beer, some really just love black people and opportunity, some like the educational aspect of it, some just like the music, some people love the food,” said Bracey. “We wanted to incorporate all of that into it...at a high quality.” Bracey and his team ultimately created Fresh Fest DigiFest, developing an app through which ticket holders can navigate the virtual festival. With their $10 ticket, attendees will
Fresh Fest founder Day Bracey. (Pittsburgh Current Photo)
get access to six YouTube channels which will broadcast content from musicians, artists, brewers and more throughout the day of the festival. The app contains the schedule for these events, as well as a directory of black-owned breweries nationwide, virtual taprooms so guests can interact with each other, and information on special beer
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collaborations. “We have an app for the festival that makes everything make sense,” said Bracey. “We didn’t want to make it all about the beer, and we didn’t want it to be twelve hours of people talking over a Zoom call.” Much of the festival will take place virtually, but Fresh Fest 2020 will also feature live per-
formances from local musicians, including Brittney Chantele and Byron Nash, at venues throughout the Allentown neighborhood. Audience capacity will be capped and social distancing maintained. “The only people that will be in person in Allentown are the acts,” said Bracey. Bracey emphasized how
NEWS important it was to him that the artists featured are properly compensated for their work, considering the substantial impact COVID-19 has had on live music. “I think it’s important that artists get paid to work. I think it’s important that our sponsors and the people supporting this festival know they’re money and support is going to these artists in a very difficult time,” said Bracey. This dramatic shift to a digital festival was a massive adjustment for Bracey, forcing him to think differently about how to organize. “We went from event planners to TV producers,” said Bracey. “With this, we’re worried about how we can bring in professionals to film an event without anyone touching a virus. It’s different.” Moving digital also necessitated a complete rethinking of the guest experience. “We have to plan how they’ll move about a virtual space, and also how we relay the information needed to successfully navigate that virtual space,” said Bracey. Having a digital beer festival also means figuring out a way for guests to enjoy beer from home. To that end, several black-owned breweries partnered to create special collaborative beers for the event. These collabs are sold in eight packs at select pickup locations in the greater Pittsburgh area, as well as online via the Tavour app. “We’re hoping that people will get the beer, invite some people over and have these COVID-friendly gatherings,” said Bracey. For tickets and more information: https://freshfestdigifest.com/tickets
PITTSBURGH SCHOOLS WILL SPEND FIRST NINE WEEKS OF SCHOOL FULLY ONLINE
BY MARY NIEDERBERGER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDUCATION WRITER MARY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
he first nine weeks of school will be online for the 23,000 students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools. That decision was made by the Pittsburgh school board today when its members approved a resolution introduced last week by school director Kevin Carter for the district to delay its hybrid in-person reopening and start with online education. Most board members said their vote was based on the safety concerns for students, staff and the community as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to spike in Allegheny County. Several board members said they understood the child care hardships their decision would create for some families but said that safety had to be the top priority in their vote. “At the end of the day we need to realize unless we can guarantee the health and safety of everyone, not just in the buildings, but their families, we cannot be requiring in-person instruction. It just is not fair,” said school director Terry Kennedy. Board member Sala Udin warned that the online lessons could last longer than nine weeks, depending on the virus status in the community. “It may well extend to 2021 before we can reasonably expect for a vaccine to be available. We must hope for the best but plan for the worst,” Udin said. Udin, along with other board members, expressed concern about minority students, special
education students and other vulnerable populations in the district and said they will hold the administration responsible for making plans to meet their needs. That was also included in Carter’s resolution.
Board member Devon Taliaferro said she wants assurance that every student will have a computer device and internet service at the start of school on Aug. 31. It’s unclear if that will happen. The district released a report about technology devices Friday that shows 18,719 of the 25,891 devices ordered are on backorder because of a nationwide backlog, with some not expected to arrive until October 20. Last week district spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said that it was expected that all students should have access to a computer device for the start of school if those who have family computers available continue to use them. School director Pam Harbin said every family in the district should be contacted multiple times to determine their needs. Harbin also stressed that students with disabilities must have their needs met during the online curriculum. The board vote followed a public hearing Wednesday that lasted more than four hours during which dozens of teachers provided testimony saying they were afraid to return to their classrooms given the high covid-19 case numbers in recent weeks in Allegheny County. They also questioned whether mitigation measures that were
outlined in the district’s safety plan were feasible -- in particular requiring students to wear masks and remain at the desks for the full school day. Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers President Nina Esposito-Visgitis also provided testimony urging the board to choose the online-only option for school opening. The Pittsburgh board’s decision comes during a week when other districts also decided to open with full-time online classes. On Monday, the Riverview school board voted to open school with virtual classes for the first nine weeks. On Tuesday, the Wilkinsburg school board approved online classes for the foreseeable future. Also Tuesday, the School District of Philadelphia announced it would use remote learning through mid-November. The Pittsburgh board also approved its COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan for when students return to school. All districts must submit such a plan to the state Department of Education before reopening school buildings. The plan was created with the help of some 300 community volunteers and experts who spent time in July discussing and studying best practices for mitigating the spread of the virus in schools. At the start of that effort, virus case counts in the county were much lower. Board President Sylvia Wilson said the plan will still be used when students return to school buildings.
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | AUGUST 4, 2020 | 9
LESSONS FROM THE MISHANDLED COVID-19 PANDEMIC BY LARRY J. SCHWEIGER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST
here are many lessons from the mishandled COVID-19 pandemic that should inform us as we face the fast-approaching climate crisis. President Trump claimed on March 18th that the pandemic “snuck up on us.” Later, during a press briefing, he added that the virus is “a very unforeseen thing.” That claim was not true as it was clear at the time that we were facing a fast-spreading novel virus. It was one of his earliest attempts to avoid responsibility. Now, with more than 155,000 deaths, Trump has misled millions by downplaying the importance of the virus and of wearing masks as he has misled millions about the risks of climate change. The climate crisis is not sneaking up on us, there is ample evidence that it is fast approaching. Don’t let politicians say we do not know enough or downplay the danger ahead. The science is solid and overwhelming. While failing to use good judgment or common sense, defying top medical scientists’ warnings, Trump held a controversial rally in Tulsa on June 20th. There were scarcely any masks and purposely no social distancing. Not long after the rally, Tulsa hit alarming new highs in COVID infections. One of the attendees, Herman Cain sat in a crowded space without a mask and tested positive nine days later. Cain was hospitalized on July 2nd, and from his hospital bed tweeted in all caps, “PEOPLE ARE FED UP!” apparently over the criticism of the controversial Trump rally at Mount Rushmore on the 4th of July. Herman Cain's death should be a message to Republi-
Donald Trump fields questions from the media on COVID-19, while those that actually know something about the virus, sit near by.
cans everywhere. We must listen to the medical professionals and research scientists. One can only hope that Cain’s death will force new realizations on the unmasked followers of Trump to respect science warnings. There are several lessons from the mishandling of the pandemic that should be applied to the climate crisis. To date, the raging epidemic makes it clear that the flawed libertarian attitudes against wearing masks, social distancing, and taking the other necessary steps to protect our health or the community's health have made things much worse across the Nation. Intensified fires worldwide,
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massive floods, hurricanes, typhoons, and increasing heatwaves have not awakened the Republican Party. Our continued failure to move to clean energy will have profound consequences in the days ahead. Trump’s retreat on clean energy will make things much worse. We have been forewarned and we must follow science and act responsibly. It seems that hardened right-wing political ideology wins against medical science and climate science every time. Has a significant segment of America abandoned evidence-based reasoning for political ideology? We must not Ignore science It has been widely-understood
in scientific circles that the risks of disease and pandemics are heightened by over-population, global travel, and trade. Even widespread deforestation increases the human interface with elements of nature, including previously unknown bacteria and viruses. In 2011, Paul Epstein, MD, and Dan Ferber wrote a book, "Changing Planet, Changing Health: How the Climate Crisis Threatens Our Health and What We Can Do about it." Their book focused on how climate change is altering disease patterns and presenting a warning that the human health risks are increasing from climate change. The linkage between the climate
OPINION crisis and cholera, malaria, Lyme, asthma, and other health risks are well-known. We now know that minorities have much more asthma and air pollution increase the COVID-19 risks to the poor and minorities forced to live in some of the worst polluted places in America.
Public health researchers have warned for years about the growing threat of a pandemic in the face of increased globalization of commerce. President George W. Bush and President Obama took the warnings seriously. They were beefing up the CDC's rapid response capacity and providing international assistance to address emerging new diseases wherever they may begin. Trump's vision was to "deconstruct the administrative state" in every agency. The CDC was not spared. Vital programs established during the Bush and Obama administration were eliminated. Budgets were slashed, and the pandemic headlights were turned off around the world.
Federal agencies and even some members of the Trump administration warned about the dangers of the pandemic. At the same time, Trump compared the virus's severity to the flu, arguing that it "will go away.” The Washington Post documented twenty-two times that Trump claimed the coronavirus would go away The Nation's best pandemic modelers have repeatedly underestimated the number of illnesses and deaths principally because they failed to fully considered the perverse influence that populist governors, legislators, and Trump have had on the low-information segment of the public. While promoting freedom of choice and the rapid reopening of the economy, they have inexplicitly discouraged simple public health guidelines and made wearing a mask a political issue.
Trump has also repeatedly denied the risks of climate change while dismantling the Obama policies and programs to curb emissions. On November 26th, 2018, the Fourth National Climate Assessment issued a warning about the potential impacts of climate change across America. "With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century - more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many US states… Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century." Asked about the findings that unchecked global warming would wreak havoc on the US economy, Trump said: "I don't believe it." The Federal report warned that climate change would cost the US hundreds of billions of dollars annually and damage public health. Rejecting this warning, Trump has aggressively pursued a pro-fossil fuels agenda. Trump assigns political motives to scientists as he did with Mueller and his team of investigators. At a Michigan campaign rally on March 29th, 2019, Trump called the Russian investigation "a plan by those who lost the election to try and illegally regain power by framing innocent Americans - many of them, they suffered - with an elaborate hoax.” In the same way, Trump has a consistent response to any adverse scientific assessment that he considers "bad news" that may jeopardize his reelection. He is fond of calling such things a “hoax”
and “fake news” to deflect attention. During a February 28th campaign rally in South Carolina, Trump likened the Democrats' criticism of his administration's response to the new coronavirus outbreak to their efforts to impeach him, saying, "this is their new hoax." He knows the hoax claim activates his conspiracy theorist base who distrust science, the media, and government. Trump spawned a revolt against our top health scientists who were doing their best to keep us safe. Trump propagates the notion of a "deep state" bent on spawning conspiracy theories. Trump has attempted to be rid of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who is shown by polls to be regarded as a truth-teller by a majority of Americans. Trump knows the political risks of firing Fauci but has repeatedly undermined his messages. The Washington Post reported that Trump sidelined the CDC over the last several months, which prompted four former CDC directors to pen an op-ed in The Washington Post that argued no other president had politicized the CDC as Trump has.
While other Presidents have done their share of economic cheerleading, none have pushed Americans to act in ways that jeopardizes life and threatens the long-term economy and all of this for Trump’s ill-advised political purpose. Trump and his minions have pushed the responsibility to the governors and failed to develop a National strategy. Trump misled many in the belief that a rapid restart of the economy will be safe. Now he is pushing all schools to reopen. A recent editorial in the Lancet, a leading medical journal, warned that false information is a "threat to public health.” The large-scale flow of misinformation “makes it harder
for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when needed, and has become a major threat to public health.” According to a CNN report, the editorial also warned that the spread of misinformation on Covid-19 is “highly organized political or pseudoscientific bodies that are experienced at using nefarious techniques to propagate their narratives” causing a “growing mistrust in science and experts” and “poor and confusing responses by political and government leaders…” We have seen this attack on scientists by Trump before. In October 2018 Fox News interview, Trump accused climate scientists of having a "political agenda" and said he was unconvinced that humans were responsible for the earth's rising temperatures. The pandemic has caused far too many deaths and has left too many Americans with horrific health consequences that may be permanent. Trump has ignored the informed counsel of both medical scientists and the climate scientists alike. We are now paying the price in human lives and profound economic consequences for the mishandled pandemic. Our children and their children will pay a terrible price for the continued failure to confront the climate crisis. Ironically, investing in a clean energy economy could pull us out of this economic tailspin, but Trump will have none of it. The Trump administration has profoundly failed America will not be able to get us out of this pandemic nor will they acknowledge and confront the threat of massive climate disruption.
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | AUGUST 4, 2020 | 11
OPINION WHERE'S THE OUTRAGE?
'IF DOGS IN AN ANIMAL SHELTER WERE TREATED LIKE THIS, THOUSANDS WOULD RIOT' BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR CHARLIE@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
The voice on the other end of the line was frustrated, scared and pissed off. The man lives at Renewal Inc. on Third Avenue, Downtown near the Allegheny County Jail. It’s a facility that contracts with the county and the state to house offenders in diversionary programs for drug and alcohol treatment. It’s also a place where inmates can go after they are released from prison for a place to live and a chance to re-enter the community. A lot of the residents have jobs, like one of the guys who called me last week. He’s got a job and has been going to work faithfully. Well, until five other people in his unit were diagnosed with COVID-19. The virus was detected only after a resident was transferred to a state institution, where testing is mandatory on all new inmates. There is no universal testing program for county detainees at either alternate detention facilities or the Allegheny County Jail. Last month, the jail’s entire inmate kitchen staff was exposed to a positive individual whose virus was only detected when he went to a state facility. The Renewal resident says all potentially exposed inmates were tested and given a two-week quarantine and then tested. Five inmates tested positive and the quarantine was extended another two weeks followed by retesting. Based on the current timeline, the resident, who asked for anonymity, will likely miss six weeks of work. And that’s only if he doesn’t catch the virus in the meantime. “The guys who are sick now, they’re not really isolated from us,” the resident said. They can leave their rooms, they come down to the vending machines
where we are. Right now, we’re just sitting around waiting to get sick. “I’m trying to get my life back together and if I miss six weeks of work or more, I’m going to lose that job. But it doesn’t seem like anyone is taking it seriously.” The resident’s account of things was independently verified by other sources. To be clear, it’s not just Renewal. It’s just renewal’s turn. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, inmates in Allegheny County haven’t received proper treatment. I’ve talked to dozens of sources since March inside the jail and with knowledge of jail operations and one fact is abundantly clear: the jail was not ready for COVID-19 and did little to fix the situation as it unfolded. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of people at the top of the jail’s hierarchy have said a lot of things to try and dismiss the concerns of inmates, their families and a small determined group of advocates and public officials. They act offended when the suggestion is even made that there may be problems inside the facility. They brush off concerns that they’re not being transparent about their procedures and their mitigation efforts. But I have talked to scores of people who all tell the same stories and voice the same concerns. COVID-19 has been and is being mismanaged in our correctional facilities and no one with the power to fix it seems to give a damn. I have heard terrible stories from inmates who aren’t receiving enough to eat, who are isolated from their friends and families because visitation is suspended and
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A small protest was held outside the jail two weeks ago. (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
phone calls will cost you a king’s ransom just to say hello to your spouse, parents or kids. The public has been misled about a lot of the jail’s COVID-19 response. The timeline we produced earlier this year outlines a great deal of it and we have written story after story about what’s going on. But still, those in power to do something about it, do nothing. Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner and Allegheny County Councilors Bethany Hallam and Liv Bennett have been on the front lines of this fight, trying to make a difference, to improve transparency and push for universal testing because 20 percent of people are likely asymptomatic carriers of the disease. However, they have been thwarted at every turn. Instead, county officials and members of the jail’s administration team are going to need Tommy John surgery at some point because they’re going to seriously injure themselves by patting themselves on the back. They tout the couple of thousand inmates they released early to lessen the spread of COVID-19, but those numbers
are a smokescreen. Throughout this whole situation, the jail’s average daily population has only decreased by at most, 500 or 600 inmates and the jail’s population has been steadily rising since May. Meanwhile, inmates and employees are constantly at risk and their requests to make the workplace safer for everyone have been ignored. It’s easy for people to start making ridiculous statements about “make them serve their time,” but the majority of people being held in the jail haven’t been convicted of anything. In a lot of cases, they just can't make cash bail before trial; it’s the worst kind of poor tax. The saddest thing to me, though, is that there should be greater outrage about the way these people have been treated, or not treated in a lot of cases. If dogs in an animal shelter were treated like this, thousands would riot in the streets. But they’re not cute, little puppies. They’re flawed human beings caught in a system that’s making them face a potential death sentence thanks to COVID-19 for alleged infractions in some cases that amount to the seriousness of shoplifting, or less. And why does this continue? Because the general public is so quick to blame inmates for the position they’re in without looking at the totality of the circumstances. Because in a city with a robust media population, this publication is the only one covering the issue on a regular basis. And because the jail has leaders like Warden Orlando Harper and Laura Williams, the chief deputy warden for healthcare services, that are too arrogant to listen to a suggestion that didn’t come out of their own mouths first. Two people that I don’t think I’d want running a dog pound, let alone a jail. Although like I said, if we were dealing with the treatment of puppies, the public-at-large might finally hold them accountable.
A&E ON HER DEBUT EP, MALEENA EXPLORES GRUNGY TEEN POP BY MARGARET WELSH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MUSIC EDITOR MARGARET@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
Maleena Bruises to Prove It www.facebook. com/MusicByMaleena On her debut EP, Bruises to Prove It, Maleena brings the kind of confidence one would expect from someone who has been performing onstage since at least age 9. Now 18, having logged a couple busy years playing bass in the rock band Chip & the Charge Ups, is fulfilling what she describes as a lifelong dream, releasing her own solo record. Bruises to Prove It doesn’t stray too far from the highly produced poppunk/power pop of the Charge-ups. Here, her frank, Ari up-sings-the -Greasesoundtrack voice bends slightly towards the Sandy end of the spectrum. Billed as “sweet and sentimental,” Bruises to Prove It is an unabashedly teenage record, dealing with first heartbreaks, feelings of groundlessness, nostalgia, and -- of course -- how to deal with trust fund babies. Younger people may relate, but musically, the EP is likely to appeal to listeners who can only remember
their teens. Maleena’s songwriting occasionally offers shades of the classic teen pop of the ’50s and ’60s, but in terms of performance and production this record looks more directly to ’80s stadium rock, ’90s grunge and even the radio rock of the early aughts.
Maleena has clearly developed her own sense of performative flair in her years of appearing with choirs and rock camp bands and with her current band, but it's also easy to see where she draws influence from her dad, who is the “Chip” in the Charge Ups and previously fronted the
hair metal band Chip DiMonick: anyone familiar with those projects will find a familiar theatrical tone in Bruises to Prove It, albeit with a few more slow dances. Having achieved her solo record dream, I’m curious to see where Maleena takes her music from here.
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A&E U P P E R S T . C L A I R N AT I V E A N N A B R U N O ' S D E B U T N OV E L S E T S A H I G H B A R
S TO R I E S E X A M I N E S T H E I N T E R S E C T I O N O F R E L I G I O N A N D S E L F - E X P R E S S I O N BY JODY DIPERNA - PITTSBURGH CURRENT LIT WRITER JODY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
It may not be possible to ever really know anybody else's story. And if you do, maybe you don't know the full story, with complicated histories and sticky contexts. Which stories stay with us, which pass us by and how do we decide whose life is important? Anna Bruno's new novel, 'Ordinary Hazards,' released this month (Atria Books) sifts through all of those kinds of questions. "The starting point for me was the bar, really. I was thinking about being in public places and there are all these people around you who have stories," Bruno said of her first novel. "You never know what those stories are -- they could be incredibly sad or incredibly happy -- all those kinds of stories that people have that you just don't know about as someone else in the bar or cafe. I wanted to put the reader in that position, to be in the bar with this woman." The book will make readers (like me) nostalgic for pre-coronavirus times, when you could lose a night perched at an unpretentious bar like The Final Final, an aptly named last stop in an unnamed college town in upstate New York. From the old tin ceiling to the acrylic flooring, it is the kind of place you've been in if you've ever lived in a small town and sought solace in a not hip
place. In addition to the college kids who pass through for a quick shot on their way to someplace better and more exciting,
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Bruno populates the bar with regulars who have earned ease with one another, even though some have sharp elbows, and a bartender who pours a perfect drink and arbitrates disputes
with a look. "I hate that stereotype of the small town losers in the bar. I hope people see these characters. Yes, they spend a lot of time in a bar, but they also have
A&E their own kinds of success and rich lives, so I wanted to build that in," she explained. Anna Bruno grew up in Upper St. Clair, where one would never find a broken-in joint such as this, but the Final Final is an aggregate of places in Ithaca, where she got her MBA, and in Iowa City, where she now teaches at Iowa State University. The story stretches along the arc of a single night, with Emma as our window into this world. Tremendously successful in business and finance, Emma drinks too much, obsesses about her dog, and struggles with loss and the elusive nature of happiness. She both interacts with the folks at the bar and ruminates about all of the events that brought her to this barstool, nursing one Maker's Mark after another, contemplating her career choices, her upbringing and her relationship with her Ex-, Lucas. Bruno's own business background was essential to writing a character who thrives in the business world. Emma runs a hedge fund. She teaches business at the local college. She has written the (fictional) book, "The Breakout Effect," a sort of business book that is more Michael Lewis than Tony Robbins, which sells like hotcakes among the corporate strivers and investment aspirants. Emma is off on book tour more often than not. "This was an interesting opportunity for me to tie in the MBA business background," Bruno said. Emma's book is about the power of stories and
how those stories can skyrocket someone to the pinnacle of the business world. "She's trying to understand success through stories -- when you look at successful business people or politicians, a lot of it is the sto-
ries that they tell, maybe, more than the actual facts of what they did." Emma and her ex, Lucas, are literary thinkers, too. Lucas, in particular, though he works in the family drywall business, has an expansive world of
the mind. His way of leaving this small town is through his intellect and reading. One of the books that Emma and Lucas discuss is the novella, 'The Death of Ivan Ilyich,' Leo Tolstoy's meditation on death, the consequences of life without meaning and purpose, and what it means to truly live. In Bruno's hands, the Tolstoy callbacks help the reader understand how these people ended up here, with Emma at the bar and Lucas noticeably not. "Emma's at this point of reckoning, where she has to consider what success is. The book is looking at other kinds of success. There are different kinds of financial success, but also as a human being, living a fruitful life," Bruno explained. For those outside of small towns, there can be a notion or narrative of what small town life is like -- limited and narrow and not fully realized. These are easy to reach for stereotypes which 'Ordinary Hazards' pushes back on in order to get beyond facile notions and put the reader in this small bar in this small town. "Everyone has stories, we just largely don't know them. Sometimes, in finding out those stories, or in telling them, we become different, people become different to us, we start to understand them," according to Bruno. Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures is hosting a virtual event, Anna Bruno in conversation with Sarah Elaine Smith, on August 27th.
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A&E O N A N E W S I N G L E , S TO N E T H R OW E R S EXPLORE A NEW MOOD
S TO R I E S E X A M I N E S TBY H JUSTIN E I NVELLUCCI T E R S-EPITTSBURGH C T I O NCURRENT OF R ELIGION AND SELF-EXPRESSION CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
Here’s the set-up. The Pittsburgh-based soul musician known as Dr. D had just gone through a break-up a while back and was looking to get back out there. One night, when out on the town with a young woman, he got a text from his ex-girlfriend and, frustrated, closed his tab and ended the date, going home by himself. “I just sort of let it ruin my night,” says Dr. D, who by day is a civil rights attorney – we’re guessing under a slightly different name. “I was so mad at myself, letting something from my past affect my present and my future.” Frustrated, the good doctor poured himself a whiskey – and another – and wrote the song “Energy,” which is now a single that the soul septet he fronts, Stone Throwers, is self-releasing on streaming platforms Aug. 7. “Late last night, I was thinkin’ bout how you done me wrong/ Rolled outta bed to scribble down this song,” Dr. D sings on the track in a smoky near-falsetto over twinkling keyboards and sensual, if subdued, horns. “I can’t give you more of my energy/I must treat my heart more carefully.” The song has a casual, jazz slinkiness to it and emotive, dueling male/female leads compliments of Dr. D and
Dr. D of Stone Throwers
guest singer Rosanna Spindler of acts Buffalo Rose and Scott & Rosanna. (The track was produced and mixed with a careful ear by engineer Chalk Dinosaur.) The new track,
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though, is miles removed from the last Stone Throwers single, “Game,” a banger in many respects of the word that was accompanied by a fun-loving little video. That is by design,
the band says. “I want it to be vulnerable and honest,” Dr. D tells the Pittsburgh Current. “It’s a resolution to do better, to not let yourself be drained of energy.”
A&E “While we do have a lot of songs like [“Game”], I wanted our recorded work to reflect the diversity of moods we explore,” he added. “The moods are there, if you want to hear them. And the soul groove’s there, too.” One of the more understated details of the song, which does roll into a kind of medium-heart boil by its close, is the colorful bass line from four-stringer Simon Howard. The notes, which are far from spotlight-stealing, at once restrained and deceptively florid. “I guess that’s sort of the bass player’s and the rhythm section’s role in the band,” laughs Howard, a Rochester, N.Y. transplant who co-founded Stone Throwers a few years ago with Dr. D. “What is the groove? When we’re writing music, that’s my number one priority.” Howard likes the mood of “Energy,” whose jazz club incantations flirt with the emotive soul stylings of Bill Withers – minus, maybe, the staccato hip-hop vocal delivery about halfway through the tune. “It’s a little bit different than ones we normally do,” Howard says. “This one? It gets there. But it’s got a nice, slow build.” The new one-off single will be available through Spotify, Apple Music, even Deezer. Dr. D jokes that he doesn’t know anyone who’s listening to the band much on Amazon Music but they’re planning on putting it out there, too. “You can say, ‘Alexa, play Stone Throwers,’ and we’ll come up,” Dr. D jokes. “And that’s alright.”
THE CAN'T MISS BY EMERSON ANDREWS - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
August 4 Davis Consulting Solutions hosts a free four-week virtual series on professional development for those seeking employment or who wish to improve their skills. This week’s program covers Professional Development and Personal Marketing. Further sessions will be held Aug. 11, Aug. 18 and Aug. 25, and participants can choose to attend any or all of the sessions. Registration is required. 10 a.m. Free. facebook. com/events/1756219377850426
August 5 1Hood Media hosts their podcast This Week in White Supremacy, covering events for an adult audience with some humor and Hip-Hop, and is available for free via their Facebook page. 6 p.m. Free. facebook.com/1HoodMedia
Row House Cinema hosts the Pittsburgh Premiere of An American Pickle, filmed in Pittsburgh itself. The virtual premiere will feature an interview with director Brandon Trost and will be streamed via HBO Max. 8 p.m. Free. facebook.com/ events/643304506288078 Central Outreach Wellness Center hosts their Be True, Be You support group for transgender and non-binary adults. 4 p.m.127 Anderson St. Ste 101. Timber
Court Building. Free. facebook. com/events/299780274473334
Carnegie Science Center and East End Brewing Partner for a virtual event for International Beer Day. Production experts will explain the science of beer with a demonstration from the Science Center, while East End Brewing will provide an at-home beer tasting of four different brews and two can glasses, available for pickup at the brewery or home delivery. 6:45 p.m. Free to attend, $75 for beer tasting case. facebook.com/ events/765966860872083
August 8 Fresh Fest Beer Fest and Drinking Partners Podcast host a Digital Beer Festival featuring live music, podcasts, forums and more. Participants can order two four packs to be shipped to their home. Each four pack will feature a Dark, Hoppy, Sour and Lager to sample. Attendees can purchase just a ticket or a ticket and various souvenirs for increasing prices. 12 p.m. $10 general admission. freshfestdigifest.com 412 Food Rescue and Pittsburgh Public Schools hold a Farmers to Families Food Distribution Event at Pittsburgh Clayton Academy 6-12. The event is contactless and does not require reservation for those picking up
food for their household. Organizers are still looking for volunteers to help distribute food to the families in need, and those interested should register. 10 a.m. 1901 Clayton Ave. Free. facebook.com/ events/713978639453023
August 9 Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium celebrates Elephant Day with their mascot, a visit to the herd and treats from Custom Cakes by Brooke while supplies last. Due to safety restrictions, elephant photos will not take place. The event is included in admission prices. 11 a.m. 7370 Baker St. Free for kids 2 and younger, $15.95 for kids ages 2-13, $16.95 for seniors, $17.95 general admission. facebook.com/ events/1512159915634165
August 10 Beth El Congregation of the South Hills holds the first of three virtual evenings in their annual Current Events Series. The event begins with an At Home Happy Hour, followed by the group’s first guest speaker, Pete Dinardo, a teacher at Mt. Lebanon High School, discussing "Polarization and Partisan Divide in America”. 7 p.m. Free. facebook.com/ events/1246256559047654
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | AUGUST 4, 2020 | 17
Savage Love Love | sex | relationships
BY DAN SAVAGE MAIL@SAVAGELOVE.NET
'm a gay guy who’s involved with a guy I met a few months before COVID-19 took off. He's a great guy, smart, funny, hot, healthy and easy to be around. It started as a hookup but we have chemistry on several levels and, without either of us having to say it, we started seeing each other regularly. We both live alone and decided to be exclusive due to the pandemic. I honestly don't know what we're doing here. It’s some combination of friends, fuck buddies, and married couple all at the same time. I wanted to just keep a good thing going but he just threw me a curve ball that I need help figuring out how to handle. Out of the blue he told me he held back telling me about his foot fetish. He says he’s had very bad experiences with guys who weren’t into it. He's been keeping it to himself and looking at stuff online. I’m pretty vanilla and not into it, but I know kinks are a thing for a lot of guys and I’m willing to help out a good guy. I’m a longtime reader of yours, Dan, and being GGG is important to me. So I asked him to tell me what that means and what he wants to do. He wants to massage, wash and kiss my feet and suck my toes. Ok, that’s not hot to me, but it’s probably doable once in a while. He thankfully doesn’t need me to do anything with his feet. But there was more. I can’t believe I’m writing this: He asked if I would let him paint my toenails sometimes! WTF? He could barely say it and looked kind of sick after he did. We're both conventional cis men. Neither of us are into fem stuff. He claimed it’s not about making me femme. He says it’s just a hot thing for him. I know there's
no explanation for why people have kinks but do you have any ideas what this is about? I didn’t respond at all and we haven’t talked about it since. I’m not proud of that. I’m freaked out by this and not sure what to make of it. I don’t want to ask him directly if this is the price of admission because that seems too big a price to pay and I really don’t want it to be his price. Freaked Out Over Terrific Person’s Erotic Revelation Vibe From your panicked response, FOOTPERV, you’d think this poor guy wanted to cut your toes off and masturbate while you bled out. Dude. He just wants to paint your toenails—as prices go, that’s a very small price to pay for smart, funny, and hot. Yeah, yeah: you’re both conventionally cis and presumably conventionally masculine. Since we’ll never know what caused him to have this particular kink—kinks really are mysteries—let’s just run with that: He thinks this is hot—or his dick thinks this is hot—because guys like you aren’t supposed to have painted toenails and guys like him aren’t supposed to paint toenails, FOOTPERV, and this small transgression against gender norms makes his dick hard because it does. While it’s not always the case with all kinks, in this instance the most obvious explanation is the likeliest explanation. Moving on… You say he’s a great guy, you say you enjoy being with him, and you say you’re a longtime reader. So you had to know that I was gonna say this: buy some fucking nail polish already and leave it on the nightstand where he can see it and let him paint your fucking toenails. And if you really hate it, FOOT-
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PERV, if it freaks you out to have polished toenails—or if your masculinity is really so fragile it shatters under the weight of toenail polish—then you don’t have to do it again. But I also gotta say… as off-the-wall sexual requests go… this is a small ask. If you were claustrophobic and your boyfriend wanted to mummify you, FOOTPERV, or if he wanted to use you as a urinal and you weren’t into piss, I would totally give you a pass. Some sexual requests are big asks and the third “G” in GGG (“good, giving, and game”) has always been qualified: “game for anything—within reason.” Some sexual requests are huge asks, some prices of admission are too steep, and some desires can only be accommodated by people who share them. But this request—what your COVID-19 spouse wants to do to you—is a small ask and a small price, FOOTPERV, in no way comparable to being turned into a mummy or used as a urinal. So smoke a little pot, put your feet on the nice man’s lap, and try to take pleasure in the pleasure you’re giving. If I sound a little impatient, FOOTPERV, I apologize. We live in a deeply sex- and kink-negative culture and our first reaction when a partner discloses a kink is often a knee-jerk negative reaction to the idea of kinks at all. In the moment we can fail to distinguish between the big ask/steep price and the small ask/small price. And I hope you can see the compliment this great, smart, funny, hot guy was paying you when he asked. He felt safe enough to share something with you that other guys have judged and shamed him for. Take the compliment, buy the nail polish, pay the price. I am a 37-year-old female who, almost three years ago got out of a six-year toxic, violent relationship with a man I believe I loved. After I left him for good my life started to improve in so many ways. However, it seems that my once very
healthy sexual desires have died. Ever since we broke up I haven't felt any sexual needs or attraction towards anybody. I honestly think there’s something wrong with me. I can't even picture myself having intimacy again. A year ago, I went out on a couple of dates with a man younger than me, he was cute and very interested in me but I just didn't feel the connection. I really don't know what to make of this situation. Any advice is profoundly appreciated. Just Another Gal Could it be a coincidence? Besides ridding yourself of a toxic and abusive ex—and that’s harder than people who haven’t been in an abusive relationship often realize and I’m so glad you got away from him—did something else happen three years ago that could’ve tanked your libido, JAG? Did you go on meds at the time for depression or anxiety? Could an undiagnosed medical condition that came on at roughly the same time create a libido-tanking hormonal imbalance? Did you go on a new form of birth control in anticipation of the sex you’d soon be having with other, better, nicer, hotter, kinder men? If nothing else is going on—if you aren’t on meds for depression or anxiety, if you’ve had your hormone levels checked and they’re normal, if a new form of birth control isn’t cratering your libido—then the most obvious and likeliest answer is probably the correct one: three years after getting out of an abusive relationship, JAG, you’re still reeling from the trauma. And the best advice is also the obvious advice: find a sex-positive therapist or counselor who can help you work through your trauma and reclaim your sexuality. Even if you were to get your hormone levels checked or adjust your psych meds or switch to a new birth control method, I would still recommend seeing a counselor or therapist.
ESSAY FUGITIVE NIGHT BY MATTHEW WALLENSTEIN PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
In the 1970s my father worked for a few years in the youth detention center. There were a lot of kids there for a lot of reasons. One was Z, 15 or 16 years old. He had delusions, he would get confused. He had his problems and was not bright on top of it. Z was polite and could be kind some of the time, but often snapped and was prone to violence. Eventually my father left his job at the detention center and worked briefly at the state hospital. He ended up leaving and started buying and selling antique furniture. He enjoyed the job, learning more and more as he went, digging through old houses and barns, the discoveries, the characters he met. He and mother were living in a former one-room schoolhouse by a river. It was miles outside of town. My mother had recently moved from New Jersey to live with him. The house was at the end of a dirt and gravel driveway up a hill in the woods. It was largely isolated, removed from the world. Their closest neighbor was a quiet man who mostly kept to himself. This was years before I was born, but I would live the first nine years of my life there. One night, about supper time, there was a knock on the door. My father answered it. At first he didn’t recognize the person standing there. He realized it was Z who was by then in his 20s. “What are you doing here?” My father said. “I, I’m hungry. I need to talk to ya.’ I need some advice.” “Well come on in and tell me
what your story is.” He waved his arm in a circle inviting Z to follow him inside. Z said, “Welp, I was at the prison and they sent me down to the state hospital. They were, uh, they were going to evaluate me.” He said this slowly but plainly. “ I just wanted to get out for a little while. So I threw some boiling water in a guy's face, one of the workers, and I jumped out the window. The second floor window.” My father listened to his story. He had no idea how Z had known where he lived or how he could have found out. “Well, I been gone about four hours and I know they’re lookin’ for me,” Z said. “You know, with the hot water action and escaping.” The house was at least 5 or 6 miles from the state hospital. He would have had to have gone straight there if he was on foot, or there was a chance he could have hitch hiked. “I just needed to get out for a
little while. I know I’m gonna’ be in trouble.” “Listen, you know you got to call them up and turn yourself in. Or else I can do it. Because, first of all, you’re in serious serious trouble already, you’re going to be in much worse trouble if you don’t turn yourself in. And I’ll be in serious trouble if I don’t turn you in,” said my father. “Well, you go ahead and call ‘em, you should turn me in,” said Z. “I’ll tell you what, I know you’re hungry. Sit down, relax. Once you eat I’ll just drive you down there and drop you off at the front gate. We can call and tell them what time to expect you. We don’t need to tell them anything else. But first you will get dinner. I’ll give you some cigarettes. Then we can head over.” “Oh that’s good, yeah. I just wanted to get out for a little while.” So they sat down at the table and
they ate. And my father handed him a cigarette. He ended up smoking a few more and my dad just gave him the pack. “There’s no sense giving ‘em to me because they’ll take ‘em away as soon as I walk in. I won’t even be able to trade ‘em with anybody for anything, because they’re gonna’ take ‘em away. Don’t waste ‘em.” “Okay.” “But I will take another one.” “Okay.” They walked outside and got into the car. Smoke rose between Z’s fingers and curled upwards. He sucked at the cigarette and blew smoke out the window. My father drove up past the farm that sold flowers, around the curve of the river, past the store where he bought gas and Cokes and Camels sometimes, to the prison where he dropped off his passenger.
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PA R T I N G S H OT PITTSBURGH CURRENT PHOTO BY JAKE MYSLIWCZYK PITTSBURGH CURRENT | AUGUST 4, 2020 | 20
A global pandemic can't stop Fresh Fest. Post-Gazette mailroom workers authorize a strike. A debut EP from Maleena and a debut novel from An...
Published on Aug 4, 2020
A global pandemic can't stop Fresh Fest. Post-Gazette mailroom workers authorize a strike. A debut EP from Maleena and a debut novel from An...