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Nuns back Obama on carbon rules

Written by Peter Smith on .

Organizations of women religious sisters, including one that's active in Pittsburgh, are backing new, stricter rules on carbon emissions under a plan released by President Obama this week.

The statement by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella group for most orders of nuns, says in part:

"Climate is a common good given to all and meant for all. Each of us has a responsibility to cooperate with God to protect our common home and to care for all of creation."

 

Both the nuns and President Obama cited Pope Francis' recent encyclical, Laudate Si, calling for urgent action on climate change.

Also endorsing the plan are the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, a Kentucky-based order that has sisters in Pittsburgh from the former Vincentian Sisters of Charity. The orders merged in 2008: 

 

"We acknowledge that for Pennsylvania, which is experiencing much concern around fracking for natural gas, that these regulations pose large challenges for the health of our people," the statement said. "Our hope is that we can all work together to face these challenges for the sake of future generations and our beloved planet."

 

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Study: Pittsburgh second to Philadelphia for number of Airbnb rentals in Pa.

Written by Kim Lyons on .

Pittsburgh accounts for about 400 of the nearly 2,000 listings in Pennsylvania on lodging website Airbnb, according to data from analytics website Airdna. That figure is dwarfed by, of course, by Philadelphia, which has 1,650 listings. Slightly more than half of Pittsburgh listings on Airbnb are for a private room, with about 41 percent listing an entire house or apartment.

The data contains information through June. Last month, Philadelphia began collecting an 8.5 percent occupancy tax from short-term rentals, including Airbnb listings, in preparation for an influx of out-of-town visitors during Pope Francis' upcoming visit. The city joined a list of about a dozen other cities where Airbnb handles the collection and remittance of the occupancy tax.

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Airdna provides reports, for a fee, to Airbnb hosts to help them determine if they're getting the best possible price for their rentals, compared to others in a given metro area. The reports are based on data "freely available on the Airbnb website," according to Airdna's methodology statement.

San Francisco-based Airbnb is one of several online short-term lodging rental companies that connect travelers with hosts in private residences who offer a room or an entire house, often for a lower rate than a hotel. The company is valued at more than $20 billion, with an estimated 1.2 million rentals around the world.

Under Allegheny County regulations, Airbnb hosts owe the 7 percent occupancy tax required of "an apartment-hotel which rents certain apartments or rooms for occupancy on a week-to-week basis, or other periods less than 30 days." Anyone hosting a short-term rental here is supposed to register his or her property with the county within 30 days.

 

 


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Nader takes another poke at Reed Smith

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

Ralph Nader hasn’t been able to get relief through the courts so now his attorney is turning to one of the most prestigious law schools in the country, warning its students about Reed Smith, the corporate law firm in Philadelphia that was involved in Pennsylvania’s “Bonusgate” scandal several years ago.
               

naderThe attorney, Oliver Hall, wrote an opinion piece published Monday in the Harvard Law School record, an independent campus newspaper.
               

In it, he questions why Harvard allows Reed Smith to participate in its on-campus job interview program for law students despite the Philadelphia firm’s role in the Bonusgate scandal. He says that he is certain Reed Smith violated the laws of professional conduct and “played an indispensable part in a criminal conspiracy that led to the felony conviction or guilty pleas of 11 defendants.”
               

Reed Smith's role in the scandal was helping House Democratic staffers challenge signatures on Mr. Nader’s nominating petitions in an effort to get him tossed from the presidential ballot in 2004. A Commonwealth Court jury later found that many of those staffers had been on state payroll while they were working on petition challenges, violating a law prohibiting campaign work on state time.
               

Reed Smith was never held accountable for its role, said Mr. Hall. He explores why in the opinion piece. Read it here. For more on the Post-Gazette's coverage of Bonusgate, click here.

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Rep. Murphy: 'This interview didn't happen'

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

“This interview didn’t happen.”

That’s what U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, told CQ Rollcall after its reporter’s questions didn’t go the way the congressman liked.

murphyThe “Interview That Didn’t Happen” was Wednesday after a press conference during which House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, responded to a video showing a Planned Parenthood executive discussing the harvesting of fetal tissue.

The video had gone viral on Tuesday, but Mr. Murphy, who is chairman of the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said he had known about it for weeks.

According to Roll Call, Mr. Murphy struggled to answer a question about why the video didn’t surface sooner if he knew about it weeks ago.

According to Roll Call, Mr. Murphy responded “Um. I don’t know why. All I know is I saw it and he said it was going to post it eventually, so that’s all I know. Then he abruptly ended the interview saying he should not be quoted and “This interview didn’t happen.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Murphy later told Roll Call that he had an obligation to do “due diligence” before starting an investigation. Read more here.

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RIP Nicholas Winton, Holocaust hero

Written by Peter Smith on .

WINTON 1A remarkable era came to an end Wednesday with the death of Nicholas Winton, who rescued hundreds of Czechoslovak Jewish children from death at Nazi hands in the late 1930s and lived long enough to be an enduring witness to what one person can do to resist evil.

Mr. Winton died at 106 in his native Britain. Many had signed petitions asking that this last living "Schindler" be honored with the Nobel Peace Prize, but alas, as the award only goes to living persons, that chance has now passed.

"I did it merely because it had to be done and nobody else was doing it," Mr. Winton told me in 1998 in Prague, when I was working as a freelancer and covered a reunion with many of the graying "children" he had rescued.

He is credited with rescuing 669 children, most of them Jewish, by arranging transports to Britain and Sweden. 

At the time a young stockbroker, Mr. Winton went to Prague at the request of friends who were working with refugees as Czechoslovakia was coming under Nazi occupation. He bent rules, falsified papers and did whatever else he could to enable the escape of children whose parents couldn't or wouldn't leave themselves. He always said he was most haunted by the failure to get the last and largest transport out of the country; the train trip was canceled due to the September 1939 outbreak of World War II.

But to see some of those he rescued, click here for one of the most powerful pieces of television you will ever see (hint: after the 40 second mark).

 

 

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