Friday, July 29, 2011

Feds propose air emissions standards at drilling sites
Thursday, July 28, 2011

Spurred by the ballooning development of Marcellus Shale and other shale gas plays in the South and West, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new emissions standards to control and reduce air toxins emitted from oil and gas drilling operations.

The EPA said the air pollution reductions from well drilling, leaking pipes and pipelines, storage tanks and compressor stations could be achieved using existing technologies already employed by several companies and required by some states, but not Pennsylvania.

The EPA was under a court-ordered consent decree to issue the proposed standards by today and take final action by Feb. 28, 2012. It will accept public comments on the proposed standards and hold three public hearings in the Pittsburgh, Dallas and Denver areas. Dates of the hearings were not announced but will be set soon, according to the EPA.

Clean Air Watch President Frank O'Donnell praised the EPA's approach for addressing air pollution from drilling operations.

"For an agency that's frequently derided as 'job-killing,' this proposal looks very promising," Mr. O'Donnell said. "It would not only reduce air pollution but would save industry money. It doesn't solve all the issues associated with fracking, but at least it would reduce the air pollution problems caused by it."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I'm Batman . . .

Catholic priests getting their own bobbleheads?! Too many jokes. My head may explode.

Erie bishop gets a bobblehead
Wednesday, July 27, 2011

ERIE, Pa. -- As a priest, he's probably not going to get a big head over it.

Erie Catholic Bishop Donald Trautman received a special gift in honor of his 75th birthday: A bobblehead in his likeness.

The Erie Times-News reports Bishop Trautman was presented with the swaying-headed statue last month at a gathering of priests from 13-county diocese.

Bishop Trautman calls the likeness "pretty close."

An Erie priest came up with the idea for the dolls, which were also distributed to all the priests in the diocese.

Bishop Trautman has sent his resignation letter to Pope Benedict XVI, as canon law requires for those turning 75. No replacement has been named.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Bucs got robbed.

And not one tax dollar collected . . .

Range Resources net income grows
Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Net income for Range Resources, Western Pennsylvania's dominant natural gas driller, boomed in the second quarter of 2011, increasing nearly six-fold to $51.3 million, or 32 cents per diluted share. The same quarter last year saw net income of $9.1 million and 6 cents per diluted share.

Revenue at the Fort Worth, Texas-based company increased 48 percent to $256.7 million during the quarter ended June 30.

The company attributed the rises to increases in production, with targeted drilling for natural gas liquids going up by 20 percent over the past year. Natural gas liquids like ethane are found in "wet" gas extracted from parts of the shale formation, and can be sold at higher prices on the commodities market.

Overall, production at the company was 76 percent natural gas, 17 percent natural gas liquids and 7 percent crude oil. Marcellus production went up by 100 million cubic feet equivalent per day, hitting 300 million.

In a statement, outgoing Range Resources Chief Executive Officer John Pinkerton said his company will continue to expand beyond its mid-Atlantic plays.

"In addition to the Marcellus, Upper Devonian and Utica plays in Appalachia, we are proactively expanding several other plays including the Mississippian Lime and St. Louis plays in our Midcontinent region," he said. Mr. Pinkerton will be replaced by Jeffrey Ventura as president and chief executive officer on Jan. 1. Mr. Ventura is currently president and chief operating officer of the company, and is credited with first pushing executives to explore the Marcellus Shale in 2004.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

DAVE: Beating the Braves is good for both the Phillies and the Pirates. If the Pirates can close the gap on the Braves for the Wild Card, then things will really get interesting for the rest of the season.

JIM: Walt Jockety says that the Pirates were a cute story for awhile, but they are not cute any more now.

I just spilled coffee on my computer keyboard. I don't deserve nice things.

DAVE: Some people on ESPN are calling the Pirates "America's team." It's a little premature for that. I love Clint Hurdle. I do. He is talking about going to a six-man rotation because most of the starters have not ever pitched an entire MLB season. It's brilliant. Correia is starting to show signs of fatigue. A six-man rotation during a pennant chase. That's awesome.

I guess that's why your loving wife and children took all of the iToys with them to Cape May.

JIM: America's team. that's funny. I do bet that they have a lot of people rooting for them though, at least in a casual kind of way.

How cool would it be if Detroit and Pittsburgh played in the World Series?

DAVE: Leyland versus the Pirates? Yeah, that would be a big series.

JIM: It could happen.
Parking Villain
Monday, 25 July 2011 12:05
Written by Rob Rogers

The parking rate increases in downtown Pittsburgh and surrounding city neighborhoods are ridiculous. These parking hikes send a "stay home" message to people who might otherwise want to come into the city to enjoy the restaurants, sports and entertainment venues. Surely the city can come up with a better way to generate some revenue.

Monday, July 25, 2011

DAVE: Rumor is that the Eagles are considering Brett Favre as a back-up to Vick. The motherfucker just will not go away. I hope the Eagles sign him.

JIM: How messed up is that?

I was driving home from the shore last night listening to ESPN radio and the guy on there said it's Favre's way of letting teams know that he's interested in playing this season again and seeing if there's a team out there who will give him a starting job. This guy was saying that Favre let it be floated out there that he's considering coming to Philly to be the back-up just to see if any team will call him and offer him a starting job. I also heard a rumor that he (or his peeps) called Seattle to see if they had any interest in signing him and Seattle didn't just politely decline, but pretty much said, "HELL NO!"

Hopefully, the entire league will say "HELL NO!". But, and I hate to say it, Philadelphia does make some sense. Andy Reid was Favre's QB coach in Green Bay at the start of his career and I would imagine still has a pretty good relationship with Favre. If the Eagles are really trading Kolb like everyone says, then they will desperately need a backup. I could see Reid calling Favre and asking him to come hold a clipboard for Michael Vick and make an easy couple of mil. And Favre might be thinking that chances are Vick will get injured at some point and he'll have a chance to play...

DAVE: I REALLY thought the Brett Favre saga was finally and mercifully over last season. The guy is a total egomaniacal nutjob who calls his own plays and doesn't do what's best for the team, but only what's best for him. I have absolutely no respect for Brett Favre, regardless of his accomplishments as a player.

JIM: I always tell people that I am one of those people they meet during their lifetime who never goes away (hence the way I've kept in contact with you, for example). but Brett Favre has me beat by a mile. I am an amateur compared to him.

Sportscaster John Fedko named Vincentian Academy president
Friday, July 22, 2011

Former Channel 11 sports director and anchor John Fedko has been named president of Vincentian Academy, the school announced this week.

Mr. Fedko retired from his position at WPXI after more than 20 years to spend time with his family, according to a press release.

As president of the Catholic high school in McCandless, Mr. Fedko will handle the budget, communicate with alumni and oversee fundraising and communication duties, said John Murray, chairman of the board of directors of Vincentian Academy. He will not handle academic matters.

Principal Sister Camille Panich is in charge of academics.

"When we saw John Fedko's application, we were surprised by it. We didn't think of him as someone in education," Mr. Murray said. "But he deals with things academics do not deal with."

Mr. Fedko has sent three of his five children to Catholic schools.

MICHELLE: He must need money for more hair plugs.

DAVE: It's like Shady Side Academy hiring Bob Pompeani to be their President. It's a bizarre move.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Take away Medicare and Social Security, but god forbid, don't raise taxes on the rich and don't take away our incandescent light bulbs. Did the republicans sign a pledge against CFL bulbs, too?

Thursday, 21 July 2011 10:20
Written by Rob Rogers

The light bulb wars have begun. Congress is considering legislation requiring higher energy standards for light bulbs. Some GOP factions (and Rush Limbaugh) are calling this a threat to our freedom. Really, that's where you are going to draw the line? Light bulbs? That is ridiculous. Government does the same thing when they regulate energy efficient appliances like washers and dryers. My biggest concern is ... what kind of light bulb will I draw when I show someone getting an idea? Those new spiral CFL bulbs are much harder to draw.

Charles Addams is one of my heroes. I had to draw Uncle Fester lighting it up!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Brewed On Grant: Worst Dressed
Wednesday, 20 July 2011 08:57
Written by Rob Rogers

GQ magazine ranked the top 40 worst-dressed cities in America. Pittsburgh came in third. Boston was number one. Philly was only ranked sixth worst-dressed (in your face World Series Champs!!!) Knowing how competitive Pittsburghers are, I figured someone out there will try to find a way to get us a higher ranking. Bring on the black and gold wifebeaters! I mean the tank top, of course ... not the idiots who hit their spouses. As far as I know, we still haven't broken into the top 40 wife-beating cities in America.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Call it karma . . .

Friday, 15 July 2011 08:51
Written by Rob Rogers

Rupert Murdoch is reeling from the phone hacking scandal at his British tabloid "News of the World." Some are wondering whether the scandal will cross the Atlantic and negatively affect his other properties. The worst part of this story is the fact that it was all done in the name of gossip and scandal, not in the name of news or rooting out corruption. It would still be wrong but easier to understand. Hacking a murdered teenager's phone is just disgusting. I guess it shouldn't be surprising coming from the man who created Fox News.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

DAVE: What, if anything, do you think of Hope Solo's looks? I am finding myself attracted to women to whom I didn't used to be attracted. I must be going through some kind of phase. It's probably called being single.

JIM: I go back and forth. Sometimes, she looks good. Other times, not so much.

DAVE: I'm not a big fan of facial moles. Hope Solo has a bunch of moles on her face. When she wears make-up or is photographed and photoshopped, the moles are not as obvious and she looks better, I think. Good figure, though.

JIM: I imagine that being with a woman who has a body like that can make up for a lot of facial moles.

DAVE: Amen to that.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Uproar means the end of 'Fracosaurus' coloring booklet
Friday, July 15, 2011

The Fracosaurus is now extinct.

Talisman Terry, the "friendly Fracosaurus" star of a coloring book published by Talisman Energy, will no longer be around to explain the natural gas drilling process to youngsters. The Canadian company announced plans Thursday to stop distribution of the controversial children's book.

"Talisman Terry's Energy Adventure" was a 24-page booklet that explained natural gas drilling in kid-friendly fashion and could be downloaded from the Calgary-based energy company's website. It had been distributed at community fairs in northeastern Pennsylvania since 2009.

As dinosaurs do, Terry is going out with a bang. Everyone from a Massachusetts congressman to a Comedy Central star has taken aim at the Fracosaurus wearing a hard hat and a smile.

Talisman Terry's stance was overt and unapologetic: Drilling for natural gas in formations such as the Marcellus Shale is smart, safe and American.

In the coloring book, the same plot of land didn't look much different in "Before Drilling" and "After Drilling" illustrations. If anything, the "after" image seemed more pastoral: New trees had been planted; a bald eagle soared over the hill; a rainbow appeared.

The Post-Gazette reported on the coloring book last month, and the book's rosy view of the controversial industry was lambasted by critics as dishonest propaganda.

While Talisman Energy's 2010 record of 145 violations by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection was cited by critics, the children's coloring book brought more attention and the company felt it distracted from the business at hand.

"We're going to take our company's focus to where it should be," said Natalie Cox, spokeswoman for Talisman Energy USA. "It's received much more attention than a children's book ever should. It was just a lollipop for kids."

Since the unexpected publicity, Ms. Cox said the company has received requests for copies from school teachers and even from a man who lives in France, a country that has banned the hydraulic fracturing extraction process Terry helps explain. The company has not tracked how many copies of the book were printed.

The halt of the coloring book's distribution caps an eventful week for Terry.

Last Friday, U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., referenced the Fracosaurus in prepared remarks critical of the natural gas industry's environmental record.

"The lovable dinosaur playfully promotes the benefits of natural gas and paints a picture of a magical world filled with smiling rocks and grinning animals," said Mr. Markey. "The problem is that unless you are a 'FRACK-A-SAURUS' named 'Talisman Terry,' this world doesn't exist."

And on Monday, Terry was treated to a vicious lampooning by comedian Stephen Colbert on cable channel Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report." Mr. Colbert presented doctored pages that he said had gone missing from the book, the last of which showed a depressed Terry lighting himself on fire in the shower.

Friday, July 15, 2011

"Uh, I left the report with someone, I just don't remember whom."

Pa. examines why report on tests was ignored
Schools flagged for results contend state never investigated
Thursday, July 14, 2011

A report analyzing irregularities among the standardized tests of nearly 1 million students arrived at the state Department of Education in July 2009 and "basically sat on a shelf," agency spokesman Tim Eller said Wednesday.

The report only came to light last week, when an online publication ran an article about it, and the department is trying to determine why its findings were never acted upon, Mr. Eller said.

The 2009 analysis of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams flagged roughly 50 of the state's 747 districts and charter schools and stated that anomalies -- improbable results as calculated by several measures -- could indicate cheating by students or school officials.

However, several school districts in southwestern Pennsylvania that were flagged in the report said they were never contacted by the education department about the results.

George Batterson, superintendent of the New Kensington-Arnold School District, said he found it "kind of shocking" that he was first notified by a reporter -- and not state education officials -- about test results from the third grade of his district's Fort Crawford School.

The report was commissioned by Shula Nedley, who was director of the education department's Bureau of Assessment and Accountability. She said she wanted to restore analyses of test data, including an examination of erasure marks made on the standardized exams given annually in grades 3 through 8 and 11.

Ms. Nedley, who is now a consultant in Pittsburgh, said the impetus for the analysis was less to detect cheating than to have a third party validate test results in the eyes of federal officials responsible for ensuring that schools comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

"This is an issue of data quality," she said. "One of the big purposes that this report fills in my way of thinking is to provide us with evidence of the quality of data so the feds will approve of our plans and have faith that the data from our schools is valid and accurate. The intent of this report wasn't grounded in suspicions of any particular school district."

Ms. Nedley, formerly the longtime top testing official for Pittsburgh Public Schools, said she recalled that the report arrived in her Harrisburg office in July 2009, about a week before she departed her position to move to the private sector in Pittsburgh.

"I can comment that it was left with instructions. I left it with one of the staff," Ms. Nedley said.

She added that she could not recall the specific person to whom she delegated responsibility.

"The people in my bureau, the senior staff in my bureau knew about the report. They were involved with the development and approval of the report. The report arrived ...[my] last week there, and it was included in my to-do list when I left," Ms. Nedley said.

"The intent was to have conversations with school districts to the point of, 'Hmm, you made great improvements this year, in fact way beyond what we typically see in a year. Can you tell me how you did it?' [Partly] to question, 'Is this data really valid?' "

Mr. Eller said the education department was trying to figure out why the report was never acted upon.

"We do care about it, and that's actually part of the internal investigation to find out what fell through the cracks," he said.

Ms. Nedley had a guess.

"Sometimes when people in politically appointed positions leave office," she said, "those things that are associated with them go out the window."

The 2009 report was unearthed by Philadelphia Public School Notebook, an online publication, which sought state data in May about the 2009 standardized exams, Mr. Eller said. The report was brought to the department's attention Monday.

The analysis by Data Recognition Corp. of Minnesota, which also develops and scores the exams, also was supposed to be carried out in 2010 as part of its three-year contract but was cut out of the budget, Mr. Eller said.

Education Secretary Ron Tomalis directed that the analysis be redone this year. The cost of the analysis this year is $113,000, and a report on this spring's exams is expected by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, Mr. Eller said, the department is in the process of asking the individual school districts flagged in the report to look into the findings and report back.

"The secretary, he is concerned with what the report shows, which is why he ordered a follow-up" Mr. Eller said. "As far as whether it points to anything significant, we're not going that far at this point."

In some cases, flags were raised not by erasure marks but simply because certain groups of students -- such as economically disadvantaged or special education -- grew or shrank by a large percentage.

Those results could accurately reflect true changes. Or, Ms. Nedley said, they could represent a manipulation of the district's demographics by administrators.

Mr. Eller said he did not anticipate that widespread cheating would be uncovered. Instead, the department expects to find mundane problems involving coding issues or students who did a lot of erasing to redo their answers after realizing they had skipped a question.

"I think any number showing up is of concern. It doesn't mean that there's guilt, but any inconsistency showing up is of concern," Mr. Eller said.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cheating on state standardized tests is becoming a problem in this country. Using these tests as a measure of student achievement and teacher competency simply DOES NOT WORK. Not only does preparation for the tests bog down the educational process, but many students do not even take the tests seriously. Then teachers and administrators, who are under pressure for their students to improve, change answers on student answer sheets to increase scores before returning the tests to the state. This practice is starting to become exposed in different parts of the country, and it was only a matter of time before they got to Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh area. This story is so completely fucked up because the teachers and administrators act as though the students are being accused of cheating. No, folks, it's YOU who are being accused of cheating. Not the students. Standardized tests (thank you Bush's No Child Left Behind) are ruining education, and now they are causing possibly normally decent educators to do things that are unethical and inexcusable.

8 district school units flagged in bid to find cheating
Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Eight school districts and one charter school in southwestern Pennsylvania were flagged multiple times in a 2009 "data forensics" analysis of standardized test scores that could indicate cheating.

But representatives of several of those districts said they were unaware of any untoward conduct on the part of students, teachers or administrators, and were quick to note that the report did not conclude that cheating took place.

"You can say there may have been cheating, but that does not conclude there was cheating. I do not believe our students cheated. I do not believe our teachers allowed them to cheat," Monessen City School District superintendent Cynthia Chelen said Tuesday.

The report noted irregularities among test scores from grade four at Monessen Elementary Center.

Data Recognition Corp., which develops the exams taken by students in the state's 3,000-odd schools, analyzed the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment for the 2008-09 school year for grades three through eight and 11.

As part of a contract with the state Department of Education under the administration of former Gov. Ed Rendell, Data Recognition Corp. analyzed a variety of measures, including erasure marks on test sheets.

Several dozen schools were flagged multiple times across the state, and the results were broken down by grade level.

In addition to Monessen, the districts listed in this part of the state as having irregularities in various grades were:

• New Kensington-Arnold Area School District (Fort Crawford School)

Connellsville Area School District (Bullskin Township Elementary School, Clifford N. Pritts Elementary School, South Side Elementary School, Connellsville Area Career and Technical School)

Uniontown Area School District (Benjamin Franklin Elementary-Middle School)

• Gateway School District (Moss Side Middle School)

• Big Beaver Falls Area School District (Beaver Falls Middle School)

• Pittsburgh Public Schools (Sterrett Classical Academy)

• Belle Vernon Area School District (Bellmar Middle School)

Ambridge Area School District (Ambridge Senior High School)

Also listed was Midland-based Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School.

"We contacted [the education department] today and learned that results flagged for PA Cyber appear primarily to have been caused by larger than expected numbers of students taking the PSSA in certain subgroups as a result of enrollment growth in the school," the school said in a statement.

"Also, a very small number of individual students performed better than they were predicted to statistically. There were NO results flagged for PA Cyber for irregular patterns of erasures."

Ebony Pugh, spokeswoman for Pittsburgh Public Schools, said the flags for Sterrett resulted from a 27 percent jump in the number of economically disadvantaged students and had nothing to do with erasure marks.

Tammy Stern, interim superintendent in Connellsville, which was flagged the most of any district in the region, was taken unawares by the report.

"I didn't know of any possible cheating. I wasn't even in central office during that school year. I was head principal at the high school at the time," Ms. Stern said. She added that there had been much turnover at the school. "I don't even know what kind of investigation could be done at this point."

Although the report is dated July 2009, it came to light only last week through an article in Philadelphia Public School Notebook, an online publication.

Andy Porter, dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, reviewed the report for the Notebook.

In an interview with the Post-Gazette, Mr. Porter praised the state for contracting the report, deemed the data analysis "reasonable" and said even one alert indicating a possible irregularity in test-taking should prompt a review.

"If there's one flag, that's something to be investigated because to get a flag, you have to have a result that is just completely beyond anything expected to happen by chance," Mr. Porter said.

Mr. Porter also asserted that any true cheating problems that were uncovered probably had to do less with students than with teachers or administrators concerned with merit pay and avoiding sanctions.

"I don't think we're talking about student cheating here at all. We're talking about adult cheating," Mr. Porter said.

School districts are obliged under the federal No Child Left Behind Act to boost test scores and make certain annual progress or risk being sanctioned in various ways.

Former Education Secretary Gerald Zahorchak, who stepped down last year, said he hadn't seen the report. However, he said he did not find it unusual that its contents were not made public, and he said in an interview Tuesday that he doubted it was the first time such an analysis was carried out.

Typically, Mr. Zahorchak said, allegations of cheating on the part of educators are confidential and end up at the state's Professional Standards and Practices Commission. If an investigation finds evidence of cheating and discipline is meted out, the results are published in an annual report.

While the current education administration in Harrisburg is sorting out what to do about the 2009 report, it appears there might be unintended consequences.

Ms. Chelen, the Monessen superintendent, said the report would prompt her to address her teachers and advise them to curtail students from changing answers on tests to prevent any future allegation of impropriety.

After spending 20 years in the classroom, Ms. Chelen said that could have a chilling effect on students who legitimately want to change their answers after taking time to think through the question.

"Now the students are going to feel they can't go back and change their answers," Ms. Chelen said. "I've watched kids take tests for years. They do make changes, and teachers encourage that -- [to] go back and check your answer. That's going to be difficult to tell them not to do that anymore."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

DAVE: Tomlin has lost control of James Harrison. I hate to say this, but it's time for Harrison to go. The Steelers do not put up with that kind of crap.

MICHELLE: He really has become a loose cannon.

Although can Tomlin really say anything currently?

DAVE: I had dinner with my parents last night, and as devoted DWTS fans, it's funny how they both think highly of Hines Ward and don't think he was driving drunk because he's such a "good guy." Meanwhile, they both think Ben is a total douche bag.

The Harrison comments are all they are talking about on ESPN this morning. I really don't think that the Steelers will put up with this. They will trade or cut him, I suspect, when the strike gets settled.

MICHELLE: LOL – it’s so true! I am not a DWTS fan, but Hines appears to have such a genial personality and people think the best of him always. Ben always appeared aloof and came across as a jerk in interviews that people could easily assume the worst. I will be curious to see if his upcoming marriage changes him in any way.
Did you know that the solution to many problems with electronic devices is to unplug the device for a few moments? I can only imagine how many calls companies such as Comcast, Motorola, and Microsoft get that could be avoided by just unplugging the electronics.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Do you know who I am? I am the secretary of health!"

Pa. health secretary orders jackets to give official look
Monday, July 11, 2011

HARRISBURG -- Stop! In the name of the secretary of health!

Eli N. Avila, Gov. Tom Corbett's secretary of health, has ordered up new blue windbreakers on the taxpayers' dime, with Department of Health emblazoned on the front and back. The windbreakers, for Dr. Avila and his executive staff, also display the state seal on a retractable flap.

In all, the Health Department said, nine of the windbreakers have been ordered, at a cost to the state of $553.82.

Dr. Avila also dipped into his own pocket this year to have a badge made for himself, with Secretary of Health around the state seal -- until Mr. Corbett's office nixed this idea.

Such are the latest actions of a Cabinet member who briefly made news in the spring after his dispute with a Harrisburg diner owner over the freshness of his eggs ended with Dr. Avila allegedly shouting, "Do you know who I am? I am the secretary of health!"

That episode prompted an angry letter to Mr. Corbett from the diner owner's lawyer. Separately, a state worker complained in writing that an Avila aide had made a stink over the blocking of the health secretary's parking space -- by a bloodmobile.

Dr. Avila, a physician with an extensive background in medicine and public health in New York state before Mr. Corbett recruited him, declined numerous requests to be interviewed for this article.

His spokeswoman, Christine Cronkright, said the windbreakers had been ordered specifically for use when responding to emergencies. Dr. Avila believes they are necessary for easy recognition to ensure speedy access to the scene, she said.

She said Dr. Avila had been a first responder during the 9/11 terrorist attacks and "believed in the need for identification among first responders to efficiently ensure public health and safety."

Ms. Cronkright emphasized, "These jackets are only to be used when acting in an official capacity."

Dr. Avila, appointed in January and confirmed by the Senate in May, has pledged to visit all abortion clinics in the state to make them aware of tougher new regulations. He made the pledge to legislators after a grand jury found that the West Philadelphia clinic run by Kermit Gosnell, who faces murder charges, had undergone no state inspections for 17 years.

Asked if Dr. Avila intended to wear his jacket on clinic visits, Ms. Cronkright said: "Not sure."

She said Dr. Avila had the badge made up before he came to Pennsylvania from New York, where he was Suffolk County's chief deputy commissioner of health, adding that top health officials there carry badges for identification.

Ms. Cronkright called the badge "a mock-up" based on Dr. Avila's Suffolk County badge but said he had since gotten rid of it at the insistence of Mr. Corbett's office.

Asked to elaborate, she said: "The administration decided against that form of identification, and the mock-up was disposed of."

Pennsylvania generally does not issue badges to employees who are not in law enforcement. Instead, the state's civilian workforce is issued ID cards that typically display a photo and a job title or department name.

Those who carry badges or wear uniforms include state troopers; special agents, narcotics agents, civil investigators and consumer-protection agents with the attorney general's office; wildlife conservation officers with the state Game Commission; park rangers with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; and waterways-conservation officers with the Fish and Boat Commission.

Administration officials, even top ones, "get the same type of ID cards that everyone else has," said Troy Thompson, spokesman for the Department of General Services, which issues the cards.

Asked if any high-ranking official in Gov. Ed Rendell's administration had a special badge or jacket, Steve Crawford, who was Mr. Rendell's chief of staff, said: "No badges, just scars."

As secretary of health, Dr. Avila is paid $139,931 and oversees a Health Department with a budget of about $300 million.

In May, his actions became fodder for watercooler talk after The Inquirer and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the argument with the diner owner over the freshness of the eggs in his egg sandwich.

Weeks after the argument, a city health inspector descended on the diner at Dr. Avila's request. The health secretary later issued a statement saying he had felt a duty to report what he believed were unsanitary cooking conditions.

A separate event in the spring involving Dr. Avila's parking space also set off talk among state employees and prompted one written complaint.

On May 10, a bloodmobile from the Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank was parked in front of the state's Health and Welfare building in Harrisburg, apparently impinging on Dr. Avila's designated space.

In the complaint, a Department of Public Welfare employee told of having been in line to give blood when an aide from Dr. Avila's office arrived and insisted the bloodmobile back up so the aide could park Dr. Avila's car in his space.

This aide "was rather unpleasant to the bloodmobile employees and told them that no one had gotten the secretary's permission to use his space and they were not permitted to use it," said a copy of the complaint obtained by The Inquirer.

Ms. Cronkright said Dr. Avila would not comment on the complaint.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Really?! Dude. No more TV for you.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Thursday, July 7, 2011

As my vast and loyal readership already know, I tend to be a little slow coming to the newest technology. Last night I experienced wireless internet in my home for the first time. It was as good as I had anticipated.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I have not had what used to be called in the old days, "Pirate fever," since 1992. It's been well-documented on my blog over the years. Long story short: My dog's name is Sidney Bream. But as a quiet observer, it is apparent to even my critical, unbelieving eyes that the young Pirates are playing well for the first time since, well, 1992. And while I still remain a lover scorned, sometimes I do feel a bit of the sniffles coming on.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

AMA wants advertisers, fashion magazines to stop using software to 'skinny up' models
Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Madison Avenue, take heed: The American Medical Association has weighed in on the controversial and widespread practice of photoshopping models and actresses -- Kate Winslet, Faith Hill and others -- to make them look younger, thinner and/or more voluptuous.

In a vote at its annual convention recently, the nation's largest medical association adopted a new policy to "encourage advertising associations to work with public and private sector organizations" to establish guidelines that would discourage airbrushing or retouching in advertising, "especially those appearing in teen-oriented publications."

"Extremely altered models can create unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image," leading to eating disorders and other child and adolescent health problems, said Barbara McAneney, a spokeswoman for the AMA on the issue.

She cited a notorious 2009 advertisement for Ralph Lauren, where "a model's waist was slimmed so severely, her head appeared to be wider than her waist."

That photo and others like it -- where wrinkles, fleshiness and other marks of what might be considered a normal, even beautiful human face and body are erased to sometimes cartoonish proportions -- caught the attention of younger medical students, who raised the issue at the AMA convention, Dr. McAneney said.

"They had had enough," she said. "We must stop exposing impressionable children and teenagers to advertisements portraying models with body types only attainable with the help of photo editing software."

This isn't just about aesthetics, she added. One study found that 53 percent of 13-year-old American girls are unhappy with their bodies, and by the time they turn 17, that number rises to 78 percent. Not only that, but a University of Central Florida study found that almost half of all girls between ages 3 and 6 worried they were fat.

Response from websites devoted to women was enthusiastic but cautious.

"This institutional stand is definitely a cause for celebration, but don't put on your party hat just yet," wrote Pia, a poster at

"While the first step is always the most important, I hope AMA doesn't end at only 'encourag[ing] advertising associations' to stop their practices. Because it's not just the advertisements in magazines that are the problem. It's ads everywhere. In fact it's other media like billboards, commercials, music videos, movies -- even cartoons. I applaud the AMA for taking this first step. It's powerful and important and will hopefully lead to great strides towards long-term change in how women and girls are portrayed everywhere."

In fact, the AMA is only the latest organization to speak out on the issue.

Over the past decade, several organizations have mounted campaigns urging advertisers and magazines to stop the practice of photoshopping, including the Dove Self-Esteem Foundation, whose 2006 video showing the computerized transformation of a model's face for a billboard advertisement was widely viewed on

In 1998, Oprah Winfrey was asked to appear on the cover of Vogue and, she said, she dieted strenuously so as to be deemed thin enough. In 2009, Vogue's editor, Anna Wintour, defended photoshopping during an interview on CBS's "60 Minutes," saying it makes people "look their best."

"That's one of the things that makes me rather angry, that I don't understand," Ms. Wintour said in the interview. "That if you look wonderful, does that make you less important? Less powerful? Less serious?"

Indeed, Conde Nast, which owns Vogue, doesn't seem to have disavowed the practice. On this month's cover of W, a fashion magazine owned by the company, Pittsburgh's own Christina Aguilera appears in a photo that some online commentators claim was thinned and drastically photoshopped., an online website that satirizes -- and sometimes eviscerates -- celebrity culture, was once out front on the issue, sponsoring a $10,000 contest in 2007 to find an example of the most blatant airbrushing.

The winner? Redbook, which, in before-and-after photos obtained by Jezebel, dramatically altered its cover photograph of singer Faith Hill on its July 2007 cover -- not just by erasing her wrinkles, but shrinking the circumference of her already slender left arm.

At the time, Redbook's editor-in-chief called the retouching "in line with industry standards" and vowed to track down the individual who released the unretouched photographs.

No word on whether he or she was ever caught.

Efforts last week to contact the editors at, which was bought the following year by the magazine corporation Conde Nast -- which owns Vogue and W -- were unsuccessful.

In fact, most representatives of magazines and advertisers appear reluctant to speak out on the issue. Phone calls requesting interviews with the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the American Association of Advertising Agencies were not returned.

Friday, July 1, 2011

JIM: What the hell is up with this???

DAVE: Stop watching OMG Yahoo for your (entertainment) news. I don't think they ever broke up.

JIM: Damn it. I don't want Pippa to have a boyfriend.

DAVE: She probably takes it up the bum, you know. All the kids are doing it.

JIM: I wouldn't know anything about that.

DAVE: Me, neither. I just know that all the kids are doing it. Probably even Pippa.