Last week’s Pittsburgh news, today #28: “special interest terrorism”

For those who may not read the news everyday, but would still like to know what's going on in Pittsburgh.

East Palestine Photo © K. Gerard Painter Jr. via Pittsburgh Media Partnership.

The latest from East Palestine

  • Another Ohio train derails. This time, its contents were nonhazardous, unlike the original derailment, which had hazardous chemicals aboard, even though some of the train cars were marked as “non-hazardous.” 
  • Independent testing finds risks.  A team from Carnegie Mellon and Texas A&M found elevated levels of a chemical of concern in the air near East Palestine.
  • Norfolk Southern’s PA pittance. Governor Shapiro said Norfolk Southern will pay Pennsylvania over $7 million to cover the cost of damaged emergency vehicles and more. (Compare that to the $7.5 billion Norfolk Southern spent on share repurchases in recent years.)
  • Ohio law enforcement links Erin Brockovich to potential for ‘special interest terrorism’ threat. According to an intelligence bulletin obtained by Yahoo News: “events planned in East Palestine by the environmental activist Erin Brockovich could prompt a terrorist threat from violent extremists.” The Ohio Statewide Terrorism Analysis & Crime Center Terrorism Analysis Unit report assessed that after Brockovich’s appearance, “special interest extremist groups will continue to call for changes in governmental policy.”  According to the report, “such extremists conduct acts of politically motivated violence to force segments of society, including the general public, to change attitudes about issues considered important to the extremists’ cause.” Said one former FBI official: “Almost all of the activity described in this report is rightly protected by the First Amendment and poses no threat of harm, and therefore should be of no interest to terrorism intelligence units.”
  • Watch Brockovich’s town hall


Party Dems bequeath endorsements. Over 1,400 committee members voted on who the Democratic party machine will throw its weight behind in May’s primary elections. Among the notable results: John Weinstein defeated Sara Innamorato and Michael Lamb in a close contest for the county executive endorsement; county councilperson Bethany Hallam beat back a strong challenge from Joanna Doven; and Matt Dugan won the DA endorsement over 7-term incumbent District Attorney Stephen Zappala. Chris Potter reports for WESAMORE: Jon Moss of the Union Progress notes that many candidates did not seek committee endorsement. Said county executive candidate, Liv Bennett: “The ACDC fees are an example of how public office has been designed for people of means and not those who are impoverished or the working class.” Read it in the Union Progress.

No more doctor noncompetes?  The FTC is looking to end noncompete clauses for doctors. Would this also impact so-called nonprofit healthcare systems, like UPMC and others? Sarah Boden reports for WESA

Fish fry app unites. Volunteer coders’ new Lenten fish fry map “unites two rich seams of western Pennsylvania culture — tradition and innovation.” Ted Anthony reports for the Associated Press

ACJ care ‘grossly inadequate’. In a lawsuit, experts say mental health care at Allegheny County Jail is ‘grossly inadequate.’ Paula Reed Ward reports for the Tribune Review. MORE: From March’s JOB Meeting: ACJ seeks medical director. Julia Zenkevich reports for WESA.

McCormick eyes Senate run. Hedge Fund CEO David McCormick, who narrowly lost to Dr. Oz in the 2022 Republican Senate primary, is planning another run in 2024, this time for Bob Casey’s seat, and with the backing of a Mitch McConnell aligned super PAC that could make all the difference. Brian Slodysko reports for the AP. MORE: Former gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano hasn’t ruled out a 2024 Senate run, either. Holly Otterbein reports for Politico.

Haters hate Gisele. In an opinion piece, Monica Hesse criticizes an emerging caricature of Gisele Fetterman.

One last slice at Vento’s.  Franco’s Italian army has no home; after 67 years, Vento’s in East Liberty is no more. WPXI reports.

A Pittsburgh “Cop City”? As protestors descend on Atlanta, some local residents see “parallels between Cop City and an expensive police training center” planned for Lincoln-Lemington. Jordana Rosenfeld reports for Pittsburgh City Paper. MORE: “Pittsburgh’s police officers ratify contract with raises, new disciplinary structureTony LaRussa reports for the Tribune Review.

Poor air persists during inversions. A Mon Valley inversion rule designed to protect residents from sustained exposure to particulate matter “doesn’t do enough, soon enough, to prevent health damage,” speakers told county council. Quinn Glabicki reports for PublicSource.

Mon Incline returns. The Monongahela Incline–that’s the one nearer the Smithfield Street Bridge–is back, after an $8 million renovation. A ride on the over 150-year-old funicular costs $2.75. Ed Blazina reports for the Union Progress.

Remembering Natiq. Natiq Jalil, founder of The Coloured Section Black Artists’ Collective, passed away suddenly last November. January’s Downtown Cultural Trust gallery crawl was dedicated to his memory. Now, Black Pittsburgh staff profile Natiq in a new feature, unfinished business, based upon interviews with the artist shortly before he passed away.

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He is a 2x 2023 Western PA Press Club Golden Quill award winner, in feature and business reporting. And a 3x finalist in the investigative reporting category.

He is a 2018 first prize winner in environmental reporting from the Keystone Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for reporting on lead in Pittsburgh’s drinking water.

In 2022 and 2021, he was awarded a grant from The Gumshoe Group to support his investigative reporting.