2021 Fall

How the Mighty Have Fallen

Last October, my husband and I were driving through the eastern Pittsburgh suburb of Forest Hills when our physics buff son Mark blurted out, “Hey, there’s an old atom smasher around here somewhere. Can we go see it?” “Atom smasher?” I asked, with a blank look. “What’s that? A Kennywood coaster?” “It’s a nuclear reactor,” …

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The Long War Had Definite Pluses

We are speculating about how the Taliban will govern Afghanistan the second time around. Last week I concluded that one prevalent fear – that the Taliban would protect terrorist groups that are a major threat to the West – is unlikely to happen. Previously in this series: “The Taliban and Future Terrorism: A Positive Take (You …

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Post-Pandemic Education Survey

More than a year after COVID-19 disrupted the education of 115,000 elementary, middle and high school students in Allegheny County, residents are concerned that it has impeded their progress and favor rethinking the way public schools go about teaching them. According to the results of a new survey, schools generally earn passing grades for the …

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Is There Such a Thing as Exercise Addiction?

Question: I began an exercise program about a year ago? Initially I worked out two or three times a week, but I felt so good that I began exercising five days a week, and now it is every day per week – sometimes twice a day. Lately I feel tired most of the time and …

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Shelley, Kiesel, Green, Lichtveld, Walker, Moynihan, Adore

The Rev. Austin Crenshaw Shelley will become the senior pastor and head of staff at Shadyside Presbyterian Church on Sept. 27. Currently associate minister at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia, Rev. Shelley is nearing completion of her Ph.D. in practical theology homiletics at Princeton Theological Seminary, where she received a master’s of …

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The Changing of the Guard

I have lived in Pittsburgh my entire 60 years, long enough to remember the smoke billowing from the South Side steel mills. I remember when they were shuttered and knocked down and, eventually, when the South Side Works rose from the ashes. Hard work, prosperity, disruption, change, renewal, prosperity: It’s a cycle I’ve seen over …

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An Elegy for Oscar

Some say we love our pets, particularly our dogs, because it pleases and comforts us to do so. I’m not convinced. From my experience with my own dog, who died helplessly of heart failure in his thirteenth year, I felt and still feel a sense of loss that is more than the absence of self-comfort. …

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PICT Emerges from the Darkness with a Brilliant “As You Like It”

It’s certainly more than a little ironic that the last play I reviewed before the pandemic shut down all the theaters nearly two years ago was a work by Shakespeare, set in a forest, and performed by PICT Classical Theatre in the Fred Rogers Studio at WQED. . . and now in reviewing the first …

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In the Used To Time

There was a guy who’d sing  his way to work, walking on the path  I’d bike down,  and he’d sing at the top of his lungs, and  sometimes he’d close his eyes and sometimes he’d throw his arms up and sometimes he’d do a little sway and snap  of the fingers and the string bag …

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Little Flower Blossoms

Little Flower stands with stately elegance where it has always stood, on a small bluff overlooking Woodland Road in Shadyside. Built in 1910 by Daniel Clemson, a steel executive who lived at Highmont on the corner of Fifth and Shady, it was a gift for his son, Ralph. With nine bedrooms and a large carriage …

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Afghan History and the Taliban

It’s difficult to remain an atoll of sanity in a typhoon of madness. Previously in this series: “A Positive Take (You Heard That Right) on Afghanistan, Part I” For two decades – from the 1970s to the 1990s – Afghanistan was constantly at war, either with outside states (the USSR) or with itself via civil wars …

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Unemployment, Labor Force Numbers Disappoint

Students returned to college campuses in September, but they failed to trigger a much-needed surge in the southwestern Pennsylvania labor force and employment, according to the latest Pennsylvania Department of Labor data.   At the same time, the region’s unemployment rate moved little, dipping from 6.2 percent in August to 6.1 percent in September – considerably …

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Casting a Net

You never know what you’re going to pull in when you cast a net. Not long ago, walking along Caswell Beach on Oak Island, N.C., I stopped to watch three elderly Asian men casting their nets. Now, I’ve done this many times. But not like they were doing it. I use a four-foot net, hold …

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Characters Successfully Drive Drue Heinz Prize-Winning Work “Now You Know It All”

Fiction is full of self-deception. Perhaps what makes J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield and Vladimir Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert two of the most interesting narrators in contemporary literature is the way they continually delude themselves into believing whatever they’re selling. In a similar vein, author Joanna Pearson shows herself to be a deserving winner of the 2021 …

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Big Time

If you are not yet awoke, Pittsburgh native Jen Spyra is on your side. Her jaw-dropping debut of 14 short stories runs the gamut from totally un-PC to downright offensive, but with such imagination and dark, disturbing humor that it’s kind of refreshing. Remember when it was okay to laugh at ourselves, to acknowledge that …

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A New Old Fashioned

As far as cocktails are concerned, it doesn’t get more classic than the Old Fashioned, a libation made with bourbon or rye whiskey, a sugar cube and a few dashes of bitters. The drink was supposedly invented by a bartender in Louisville, Ky. in 1880 and has become a staple in American bars. This play …

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Steelers vs. Browns: Assessing the Turnpike Rivalry

Dedicated to “all the sons who watched their first Steelers-Browns game with their fathers,” The Turnpike Rivalry: The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns ($24.95 Black Squirrel Books) is a sure thing, sparking nostalgia in even the most hardcore of these cities rabid fanbase. Penned by father-son duo Richard and Stephen Peterson, the book takes it …

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Trumka, Strassburger, Deitch, Krupp, Frank, Parham

Richard Trumka, 72: A native of Eighty Four, Pa., Trumka was the president of the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States. He followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather as a coal miner, working shifts in both college and law school. At the age of 33, he successfully ran …

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Survey: Businesses Can’t Find Workers

Southwestern Pennsylvania businesses are navigating a rough patch in their recovery from the disruptions caused by the COVID pandemic, with many delaying plans for returning to normal operations and most reporting trouble finding workers to fill open positions, a regional survey suggests. The findings reflect problems reported across the U.S. as the Delta variant of …

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Building Health Systems and Addressing Climate Change and Diversity

Q: With 18 years at the CDC and 40 years in public health, you’re particularly well qualified to analyze how the CDC has done during the pandemic. How would you judge its performance overall, and what specific strengths and weakness have been brought to light? A: Rather than critique the CDC, I’ll attempt to approach …

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The Best-laid Plans…

I’d collapsed into a chair beside the desk of the woman named Eth. Eth had her elbow on her desk and was resting her head on her hand. She was drinking coffee sideways so as not to have to move her head too much. Previously in this series: “My Big Moment” “If you don’t mind,” I …

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Brothers & Keepers?

Editor’s note: Between 1984 and 2019, attorney Mark Schwartz represented convicted felon Robert Wideman, ultimately securing a commutation of his sentence in 2019. This is his account of what transpired in the 35 years he dealt with Wideman and his famous older brother, the author of “Brothers and Keepers.” Over the past 40 years, I’ve …

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