Pittsburghers not very Bible-minded, report says

Written by Peter Smith on .

I'm not sure how much I buy this study, but here goes:

Pittsburgh ranks as the 67th most-Bible minded metro area in the nation, according to the American Bible Society and The Barna Group. The former distributes Bibles and Bible-study tools in various languages, the latter has years of experience conducting research in religion, mainly of interest to evangelicals.

The survey measured Bible-mindedness on two things -- how often people said they read the Bible, and how much they believe in the Bible's accuracy.

Not surprisingly, the most Bible-minded states are in the ... Bible Belt. Topping the list: Woo, woo, Chattanooga, there you are. It's followed by Birmingham, Roanoke/Lynchburg, Springfield (Mo., not the Simpsons' hometown, presumably), Shreveport, Charlotte, you get the idea. Here's the complete report

The least Bible-minded? Providence/New Bedford, Albany, Boston, San Francisco. No surprises there-- they're all part of the Chosen Frozen of Polar Vortex Proportions. But how on earth did Cedar Rapids, Iowa, get to be the fifth lowest on the list? I mean, I know Iowa is a somewhat red state with gay marriage and all. But still, fifth?

Closer to home, the most Bible-minded part of Pennsylvania is Altoona-Johnstown at 40th, and about fifth-highest of all places outside the Bible Belt. Sounds about right. Further down is Philadelphia at 57, Pittsburgh at 67.

OK, help me out here. I know I'm new here, but does anyone think Philadelphia is more religious than Pittsburgh? How about Spokane, Portland, Ore., or Miami, all of which ranked as more Bible-minded. Pittsburgh has a higher percentage of religious adherents than any of those cities. If this survey is valid, then I'm guessing that Pittsburgh's hugely Catholic religious flavor would have worked against it in this survey: While Catholics revere the Bible, their piety doesn't necessarily involve regular Bible reading or in belief in the Scriptures' literal truth. In contrast, the evangelical piety of the Bible Belt is more, yes, Bible-minded. The main thrust of the survey makes sense, but there are enough puzzlers in there to make me wonder.

Rouding out the Keystone cities:

Harrisburg/Lebanon/Lancaster/York: 69

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: 84

In nearby states, Charleston-Huntington, W.Va., is 11, Columbus, Ohio, is 47 and Toledo, Ohio, is at 88.


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Punxsutawney dreaming: Were Bill and Phil both confused?

Written by Mila Sanina on .

Bill Murray does not have an agent. It's hard to know his schedule or his plans. He is a private person, but, rumor has it that when fans are lucky enough to run into him on the street, he frequently surprises them by being approachable and very generous. 

So, four days ago he surprised us again by showing up on Reddit for an Ask Me Anything session

groundhog-day-bill-murray-5People submitted more than 500 questions for him, then they voted up those they wanted to be answered and Bill Murray got to pick which ones to answer. The questions were all over, folks inquired about his views on peanut butter and pickle sandwiches, his thoughts on recreational marijuana, the Monuments Men script and the current cast of SNL.

His answers are funny, witty and sincere. 

Someone asked: "What is it like being so awesome?"

Bill Murray: "Well, nothing prepared me for being this awesome. It's kind of a shock. It's kind of a shock to wake up every morning and be bathed in this purple light."

There was also a question about a movie every Pennsylvanian must have heard about it if not seen:

"Every year my dad and I watch Groundhog Day together on Groundhog Day. It's one of my favorite movies of all time. What was it like filming the same scenes over, and over, and over?"

Bill Murray:  "Well, that part was fine, the filming of the scenes over and over because you know that's what the story is. The scripts is one of the greatest conceptual scripts I've ever seen. It's a script that was so unique, so original, and yet it got not acclaim. To me it was no question that it was the greatest script of the year. To this day people are talking about it, but they forget no one paid any attention to it at the time. The execution of the script, there were great people in it. It was a difficult movie to shoot because we shot in winter outdoors. If you ever get to go to Puxatawney, you should go, it is one of the few things that is BETTER than advertised. It's really something to see. But doing the movie, shooting the scenes over and over, it's like an acting challenge. It's like doing a play and those same scenes over and over and again, so you can try to make it better or deeper or funnier than you made it previously."

Added: Nice quote, right? And a strong endorsement of Punxsutawney from Bill Murray... except, as one of our editors pointed out, Groundhog Day was shot almost entirely in Woodstock, Illinois and not in Punxsutawney, Pa., every person in Woodstock knows it, apparently, there is even a plaque in the town square where Bill Murray's character stepped into a puddle. So, was Bill confused beyond the typo? 

In all fairness to Bill Murray, although the movie was not shot in Woodstock, he did visit Punxsutawney to do research and then to promote the movie, as @BillyRayKDKA and @jtkola pointed out on Twitter. In fact, Erik D. Scholl (‏@BigMother40 on Twitter) tweeted that both Bill Murray and Harold Ramis were in Punxsutawney in 1992 on Groundhog Day before starting the filming, and Erik D. Scholl met them both.


If you want to read more quotes from Bill Murray and find out his views on Mendel, you should definitely read the entire AMA with Bill Murray.

Have you ever participated in Reddit's AMA? Do you have a favorite? Is there any Pittsburgh newsmaker you think should do a Reddit AMA?



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Faith, values and the drilling industry

Written by Peter Smith on .

oilpatchAs a newcomer to Pittsburgh, I received a gift of a book about the city and its surroundings, intended as an introductory guide to new residents as well as visitors. While helpful in many ways, it also shows how can change in a short time. It dates back to 2008 -- up to date on most things, although old enough that I plan to call ahead before trying out its restaurant recommendations.

But I was especially startled by what, in hindsight, is a glaring omission in the story of Pittsburgh's economy today. It has the usual story of Steel City-to-Rust Belt-to-revitalization. But when it mentioned the current economic drivers, it focused on such areas as education, medicine and high tech. Oh, there was a mention of the 19th century Titusville oil rush. But nothing, nada, nic, about the current boom -- getting underway while the book was headed to print -- in oil and gas drilling throughout southwestern Pennsylvania.

Such an omission would be hard to miss now that the industry is going full-bore (pun half-intended). In just the last couple of days, we've had at least three stories on the industry, all of them in some way involving its ethical or spiritual dimensions. My colleague Anya Litvak wrote about actor Dick Hughes' turn from modeling for a Chevron ad to becoming an anti-fracking activist and about the mixed responses to an industry-environmentalist consortium trying to get companies to comply with sustainability standards that are stricter than government regulations.

And I wrote this profile of the Oilfield Christian Fellowship, with chapters at various drilling sites around North America and beyond, that has been meeting in the Pittsburgh area. The fellowship reflects the strong evangelical flavor of the Bible Belt states that have long been the base for the oil and gas industry. "The amazing thing about this industry is the amount of Christianity in it," said one participant in the ecumenical group. 




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Friends of Cathy Cairns seek assistance

Written by Kim Lyons on .

Cathy Cairns was a staff writer the Post-Gazette long before I got here, so I never worked with her. But reading up on her a little bit, I wish I had.

cathy cairnsCathy Cairns/photo courtesy David RohmIn a 1988 Q&A with the Beaver County Times, when she was executive director of the Aliquippa Alliance for Unity and Development Corp., Ms. Cairns said she had "never seen anything in Aliquippa I didn't like" and, that her dream was to see "the mills torn down and replaced by competitive employers."

In that interview, she talked about her arrest at a demonstration at the former LTV Steel Corp., and confessed the habit she couldn't break was "putting together unusual projects that shouldn't work, but do."

Ms. Cairns is currently battling cancer, and is in hospice care. The prognosis isn't good, her friends say, and they've started a crowdfunding campaign to help with her final bills, and to ensure she receives a proper burial:

Did you know Cathy Cairns? Her friends would like to hear from you.


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How Pittsburgh's open data might compare to other cities'

Written by Ethan Magoc on .

potholes pittsburgh 311Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto watches the pothole patching crew from Pittsburgh Public Works Division 5 fill potholes with asphalt cold patch on Sutherland St. in Pittsburgh's Sheraden neighborhood on Jan. 15, 2014. Seeing where people request pothole help and how frequently they're filled could be easier if Pittsburgh's open data legislation passes.                                  (Bob Donaldson / Post-Gazette)


After Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak introduced an open data bill at a Tuesday press conference a lively online discussion followed on the city’s proposed legislation.


It was met with overall enthusiasm, but beyond basics like pothole locations and crime reports, it doesn’t yet have specifics in line with what groups like Pittsburgh Data Works are hoping to see.


Thirty five cities and a handful of counties have adopted open data, according to


To explore potential implications of the proposal for Pittsburgh, let’s take a look at what other cities are doing in the open data realm:


  • 311 reports: Honolulu as opposed to Pittsburgh offers its 311 hotline dataset in an easily downloadable format. In Pittsburgh, the data needs to be requested before it can be analyzed. For example, reporter Emily DeMarco while working on 2012 Pittsburgh pothole investigation for PublicSource had to file a right-to-know request, the request was denied “on grounds that releasing the records would have a chilling effect on the public’s use of the call center,” DeMarco wrote. “But by that point, another city official had emailed me a redacted version of the database.”

  • City employee salaries: Want to know how much each person on the Boston city payroll takes home? From the schools superintendent to the lowest-paid janitor? Boston offers such reports on an annual basis. They include overtime, so you can see how many police made at least $50,000 in overtime pay. (Answer: 130.)
  • Violation tickets: Champaign, Ill., summarizes its most commonly issued violation tickets over the past decade. Alcohol-related citations accounted for about half of each year’s total. On the same Champaign site, by the way, you can see a detailed inventory of every one of the 26,940 trees the city owns — if you’re into that sort of thing.
  • Towed vehicles: Baltimore lists a live log of cars the city has had to tow. Time towed, storage yard, license plate number and vehicle make are among the items included. About 61,000 vehicles have been towed there since October 2010.
  • Fire hydrants: Integral to putting out fires in a city, but where exactly are they located? Do certain neighborhoods have more than others? Madison, Wisc., offers an answer in map form on its data portal.
  • FOIA requests: Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications updates daily its list of received Freedom of Information Act requests.
    • Benjamin Smith, Pittsburgh’s open records officer, said he doesn’t know if Pittsburgh would offer something similar. When asked about a list of all-right-to-know requests, Smith said, “I’ve never had that kind of request.” Meta, right? As for the average number of right-to-know requests, according to Smith, Pittsburgh receives about one a day.

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