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Celebrating women of Pittsburgh & the world

Written by Mila Sanina on .

How the hell did they do it?

How did Brazil, Ireland, Burundi, Ecuador, Philippines, Finland, Liberia, Argentina, Kyrgyzstan and so many other countries managed to put a woman in the president's seat? And the U.S., one of the most wealthy and developed democracies on the planet hasn’t? Why?

That's the question Heather Arnet, CEO of the Women and Girls Foundation in Southwest Pa., was determined to find an answer to in Brazil, which elected its first female president, Dilma Rousseff, in 2010. Ms. Arnet wanted to know, so she went, she asked, and then created a documentary about her quest.

The first audience for Arnet’s film was, fittingly, the Women and Girls Foundation (WGF) gala held in the August Wilson Center on Saturday. The event celebrated women of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania who brought the world to Pittsburgh, and put Pittsburgh on the map for people from all over the world. Among those in attendance were many accomplished, inspiring, and smart, women who could be candidates for the presidency themselves. By the end of the evening it seemed like Heather Arnet's question echoed in all their minds; all wondering the same, "Why haven't we had a Madame President yet?"

Many of the 18 women honored that night -- educators who made Pittsburgh an attractive place to study, business leaders that attracted global investors to the city, Pittsburgh doctors who saved lives here and fought cancer on the frontiers of Latin America and Africa, female leaders helping disaster-stricken and war-torn communities in Haiti and Afghanistan, empowering girls in Zimbabwe and Liberia -- have been trailblazers and living role models for women in their professions.

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There were exemplary young women on the stage too: Laila Al-Soulaiman, who after having lost 15 family members in Syrian Civil War, has been working to bring awareness of the violence happening in Syria. There was Sarah Pesi, who after being harassed by a man at age 13, discovered that she could not obtain a restraining order in Pennsylvania because to do so "she had to be related to or have dated the man," and since neither described her case, she took it upon herself to push anti-stalking legislation.

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Each of their life stories was humbling and breathtaking. I, for one, kept wondering, how the hell did they do it? It was clear that these women weren’t working on these issues because they earned a living from it, rather, they worked to enrich the world with achievement and hope, to serve as examples of what’s possible and one day (perhaps) be able to tell their daughters and granddaughters, "One day you too can become the U.S. president."

But the loud trumpets heralding the women and girls' achievements in Pittsburgh and the world could not drown out the sour notes of reality:  In Pennsylvania's General Assembly, out of 253 members, only 45 of them are women. Many Pennsylvania companies and institutions have never had a female chief executive, and policies and efforts designed to limit girls' and women's freedoms and opportunities abound.

Take, for example, birth control. In her documentary, Heather Arnet interviewed a young woman from Brazil, who recently moved to the United States. She told a story of how she went to a pharmacy in the U.S. to get birth control pills over the counter only to find out that they were not available without a prescription, and then for only one month at a time. In her native Brazil, she was able to buy enough for a year without any prescription, no questions asked.

There were more examples in the film which highlighted the gap between the United States and other countries where women are equal partners in policy design, law-making and leadership roles. They all lead to one conclusion: we are lagging far, far behind.

The crowd of inspiring women who gathered at the August Wilson on Saturday proves through their actions every day that a lot has been accomplished. But Ms. Arnet’s film is a reminder that there is still a lot to be done.

 Let’s answer the question: How the hell will we do it, ladies?

 

 

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Will we see Comet ISON in our morning sky?

Written by Pete Zapadka on .

 

Let's be clear: Comet PanSTAARS was an astronomical disappoinment earlier this year. Astronomers had hoped the interloper to this corner of the solar system would put on a brilliant display in the skies over Earth.
 
But it barely reached naked-eye visibility in mid to late March.
 
Fast-forward to Comet ISON, also expected to be a brilliant visitor starting later this month. Chances are you've heard about it.
 
The comet's visit to our area of the solar neighborhood has been anticipated greatly since its discovery in September, 2012, by the 16-inch reflector of the International Scientific Optical Network near Kislovodsk, Russia.
 
Comet ISON will make its closest approach to the sun on Thanksgiving Day at just 1,150,000 miles, awfully close to our star's searing heat. How will the comet, which effectively is a dirty snowball visiting the inner solar system for the first time since it left the distant Oort Cloud, react to its close pass to the sun? Will it survive or break apart? Will it become brilliant or will it fizzle?
 
Time will tell. Until recently, ISON looked as though it would be another . . . well, to coin a phrase used by astronomers, a dud. But breaking news! Comet ISON has brightened over the past few days to a point at which observers in very dark sites can see it without using binoculars or a telescope. Keep up the faith -- maybe, just maybe, it'll be a brilliant object soon in our morning sky.
 
NASA offers this view of what might come from the comet. It's wise to stay updated with reports from Sky & Telescope, amateur astronomy's top magazine.  It'll offer finder charts and more for Comet ISON.
 
While your eyes are on the sky, don't forget about Comet Lovejoy. Sky & Telescope is a good source for follow it and other comets visible now.
 
Remember: turn off the TV and turn onto the night sky.
 
(Pete's astronomical tweets are available at https://twitter.com/pzapadka).
 
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          (A recent photo of Comet ISON by the Hubble Space Telescope)

 

 

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Thanksgivukkah: A once-in-a-lifetime holiday

Written by Kim Lyons on .

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Image by Kim DeMarco for ModernTribe. Courtesy of Dana Reichman Gitell

 

She’s not trying to create a new holiday. She’s adamant this is not another Festivus. But the first day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving this year, which happened in 1888 and apparently won’t happen again for 78,000 years, so Pittsburgh native Dana Reichman Gitell thought the holiday convergence was worth marking.

Thus, “Thanksgivukkah” was born.

“I was driving to work and came up with the word, and I thought ‘this should be a Facebook page,’” she said. Gitell trademarked the word “Thanksgivukkah” and launched the concept on social media. It grew quickly, buoyed by an article in the Wall Street Journal, and a listicle on Buzzfeed. "We were adding 1,000 new Facebook fans a day at that point, so we knew it had caught on."
Gitell says she thinks a lot of people responded to the natural symmetry between the two holidays.

“Both are festivals of gratitude, so there are a lot of layers and a lot of things in common,” she said. “This is an opportunity to celebrate the Jewish American experience and celebrate this country.”

Gitell, who lives in suburban Boston now, credits her childhood in Squirrel Hill with establishing her firm footing in Jewish religion and culture.

“I had an incredible childhood in one of the most vibrant Jewish communities in the country,” she said. “It was cool to be Jewish. Outside of Israel, where but in America could I have a childhood like that.”

Gitell and her sister-in-law worked with artist Kim DeMarco to come up with a Thanksgivukkah logo, and contacted Modern Tribe, an e-commerce website that sells “hip Jewish gifts” to see if there was interest in a Thanksgivukkah themed-items. 

Not only was Modern Tribe interested, demand for Thanksgivukkah t-shirts, cards and posters was so great that the shop is opening its first brick-and-mortar pop up store this weekend in Atlanta. Ten percent of the proceeds will go to Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, a nonprofit charitable organization.

There’s even a Thanksgivukkah song, written by students at Gitell’s son’s Jewish day school in Norwood, Mass. The kids are scheduled to perform the song at Plimoth Plantation this week.

Gitell said her own Thanksgivukkah feast will include turkey and sweet potato latkes, while her sister-in-law Deborah Gitell plans a Thanksgivukkah festival in Los Angeles.

The overall response to the Thanksgivukkah celebration has been positive, Gitell added. “All of the Jewish organizations who have heard of it have had good things to say,” she said. “I think that’s because there is some depth to it, and some legitimate religious ties between the two holidays.”

She plans to celebrate the once-in-a-lifetime event, but will put it to rest after this year. “I felt in my heart like this was a love letter to America, and an opportunity for American Jews to celebrate both holidays and enjoy them together.”

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Dana Reichman Gitell models one of the Thanksgivukkah t-shirts.

 

 

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OK, Bill Peduto won. What should he do next?

Written by Mila Sanina on .

Congratulations, Pittsburgh, you have a new mayor!

Congratulations, Bill Peduto, it's you!

The Pittsburgh twittersphere has been such a buzzy place since yesterday because of it. Albeit the outcome was not at all surprising, it felt like Pittsburghers' ideas and hopes that have been in hiding during the Ravenstahl administration, got suddenly unleashed.

Bill Peduto's supporters went like this:

Smiley face

And said things like this:

And some were looking at their laptops and went like this:

grooving

And some others took it to a whole new level and welcomed him to the mayor's seat at his door, quite literally:

 

 There were a lot of congratulatory tweets sent to @billpeduto last night, but Pittsburghers were not limiting themselves to pleasantries. Messages like, "Congrats! Now get to work! And I have lots of ideas where you should start!" were aplenty.

Here are some of them:

They were those who reminded him of his promises made:

Some cautionary notes

And then there were suggestions for some specific and immediate change...

Also it looks like the Peduto magic has already started working, as noted by our own Heather Schmelzlen:

As for the future, Bill Peduto, please just make Pittsburgh even more awesome than it is...

...just like that, k? Thx.

awesome trick

 

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A very Pittsburgh Halloween

Written by Heather Schmelzlen on .

Need some last-minute Halloween costume inspiration? Take a cue from these folks, who are adding a little Pittsburgh spirit to the holiday.

Sports costumes are always popular because they're easy. Throw on a jersey and you're almost there. Bonus points for copying the facial hair of your favorite player.

 

If you're missing the rubber duck, don't worry -- you're likely to see some out tonight.

Post-Gazette classical music critic Liz Bloom even got in on the fun (yes, she wore this to the office today).

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Liz, visiting the former home of her muse. (Jacob Sanders/Post-Gazette)

 

But our favorite costumes this year are the ones you won't find in stores.

Callen Wallace of North Side was a hit with his tribute to Isaly's chipped-chopped ham. The getup even made it onto Reddit earlier this week, where someone called it "The greatest costume a Pittsburgher could wear."

hoohaham

(Matte Braidic/Faceburgh)

Fresher? Yes. Leaner? Sure. Hammier? Definitely.

But the winners of the first-ever Pittsblogh Halloween Costume Contest are these guys...

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(Photo courtesy of Gina Stiger)

Gina Stiger of North Hills sent in this photo of her two children, niece and nephew as the Pirates Pierogies. From left to right are Jada Davies, 6, as Jalapeno Hannah; Gianna Aguglia, 8, as Oliver Onion; Kaden Stiger, 5, as Sauerkraut Saul and Chase Aguglia, 7, as Cheese Chester. Gina said her mother, Diane Aguglia, made all of the costumes.

 

We think these costumes will be pretty hard to beat, but tell us -- what are you going as this year?

 

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Cultural Trust gets its own day for bringing Rubber Duck to Pittsburgh

Written by Pittsblogher on .

Whether you liked it or not, the Rubber Duck brought many-many visitors to Pittsburgh, young and old...

We had a lot of stories on the Rubber Duck (some would argue, waaaay too many), we had stories about how much joy it brought to Pittsburghers and people who came to see the giant duckzilla floating in the waters of Pittsburgh.

So....

"Whereas, over 100,000 people attended the Rubber Duck Bridge Party on September 27, 2013 to welcome the Rubber Duck to Pittsburgh, and,

Whereas over one million people visited the Rubber Duck during its stay from September 28 through October 20, 2013...."

... and so on and so forth (read all the reasons listed below)

...The Council of the City of Pittsburgh declared October 29th, 2013 to be Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Day!

provlamation

culturalTrust

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This week & month at post-gazette.com

Written by Pittsblogher on .

TGIF! It’s a been a long-looong week for us on the web desk … with ups and downs in our web traffic for various reasons that have nothing to do with snow.

Because of the digital migration onto a new content management system, we didn’t have a chance to update Pittsblogh this week.

But since it’s the last Friday in October, here are some of the most read stories on post-gazette.com this month:

* Obituary: L.C. Greenwood / Big part of Steelers' Steel Curtain

* Giant rubber ducky quacking tonight in Pittsburgh

* Pierogi Fest gives Pittsburgh another way to say, 'We love you, dumpling!'

* Westinghouse drops Highmark; Aetna to handle all health insurance

* Tony Norman: Protection of giant duck goes overboard

One of our top stories from social media was from the Pop Noise blog: Sharon Needles joins Rocky Horror cast.

And our top video ...

We feel like there's a trend here, but we can't quite put our wing ... err, finger ... on it. Anyway, hope your weekend is just ducky!

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