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Mayor Peduto tours Astrobotics offices in the Strip

Published by Robert Zullo on .

When he was a little kid, growing up amid the excitement of the space race and the moon landing, Mayor Bill Peduto wanted to be the first "astronaut baseball player."

Turns out, Hizzoner lacked both the math and hitting skills to fulfill that dream and had to settle for a career in politics.

"Anybody my age has a certain affinity for space," Mr. Peduto, 50, said to the employees of Astrobotic Technology Inc. during a visit Friday to the company's Strip District offices. Astrobotics, which aspires to be "FedEx to the moon," was created out of a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University in 2007 to compete for the Google Lunar XPRIZE, aimed at landing a privately funded robot on the moon by 2017. The company is also working to pioneer "affordable planetary access that promises to spark a new era of exploration, science, tourism, resource utilization and mining."

 
Mayor Bill Peduto tours the Strip District offices of Astrobotics, which designs and builds robots for use in space.Mayor Bill Peduto tours the Strip District offices of Astrobotics, which designs and builds robots for use in space.
 

Mr. Peduto viewed the prototype lunar lander, named Griffin, that Astrobotics is designing to carry a rover designed by Carnegie Mellon. The first private, non-governmental entity to land a robotic rover on the moon, drive it 500 meters and send high-definition pictures back wins $20 million.

"Pittsburgh is going to the moon," said William "Red" Whittaker, the company's chairman and chief science officer, who developed CMU's National Robotics Engineering Center from seed funding. "The trick to anything is seeing the future and making it happen."

The mayor came away impressed.

"What is happening here is leading the world. It's not something that is simply another industry. It is an industry that is being pioneered in Pittsburgh. It's using Pittsburgh products and Pittsburgh talent and bringing people to the city," he said. "Pittsburgh is in competition with Silicon Valley and with Boston in robotics, autonomous vehicles, lunar expeditions. ... We are on a world map."

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Lunchtime links: 5 things to read this afternoon

Published by Mike Pound on .

Attorney General Kathleen Kane (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)Attorney General Kathleen Kane (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

1) The temporary suspension of Attorney General Kathleen Kane's law license brought predictable reactions from the people who will seek her seat in 2016, a clarification by the state Supreme Court – which said today the suspension won't begin for 30 days – and two fairly distinct reactions from Kane herself. I guess we should be grateful that she said anything at all.

2) If you'd asked us six months ago, we would have liked Scott Walker's chances among his likely opponents in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. But a series of puzzling incidents and the tide towards true outsiders – as in Donald Trump and not a sitting Republican governor who has spent a lot of time in the spotlight recently while battling unions and fending off a recall election – led to his steady decline. The last straw for Mr. Walker, who suspended his campaign Monday night? A post-debate CNN poll in which Mr. Walker didn't register enough support to even get past the 1-percent mark.

3) Mr. Walker and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry – the other Republican quitter – have learned a lesson the hard way: bucketloads of super PAC cash don't always translate to a successful campaign. Sometimes you've got to raise some money of your own.

4) As we took a look at a new Harper Polling survey of the Democrats seeking the party's nomination for next year's U.S. Senate campaign, we were struck by one number: 28 percent, as in the percentage of registered Democratic voters who said they had not made a decision to support either Joe Sestak or Katie McGinty. The number is striking, because that's potentially a whole bunch of people available to take a look at the candidacy of John Fetterman, who announced his run after the poll was conducted.

5) In the past, visits to the United States by a sitting pope made for an uncomfortable few days on the part of Democrats, who faced the uneasy task of balancing respect for the man with beliefs that may not fall in line with the teachings of the church. This time around, the shoe – in the form of the simple black oxfords favored by Pope Francis – is on the other foot.

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UPDATED: Kane grateful ... or maybe not

Published by Mike Pound on .

er kane speech Pennsylvania Attorney General

Attorney General Kathleen Kane -- who will apparently keep her job while she battles criminal charges -- released this reaction to the state Supreme Court's decision to temporarily suspend her license:

While I am disappointed in the court's action I am grateful that the court recognized my constitutional rights both as a democratically elected official and as a citizen of the Commonwealth. The court, in specifically recognizing my continuing authority as Attorney General of the Commonwealth, today allows me to continue the good works of this office: work which has transformed our war on sex crimes and fraud; work which will also root out the culture of misogyny and racially/religiously offensive behavior that has permeated law enforcement and members of the judiciary in this Commonwealth for years.

UPDATED, 4 p.m.: A revised statement from Ms. Kane has a decidedly different tone:

I am disappointed by the action taken by the Supreme Court today. It is important to note that the order specifically states that "this order should not be construed as removing Respondent from elected office." I continue to maintain my innocence and plan to keep fighting to clear my name while serving out the rest of my term in office. I am confident the hundreds of employees of the Office of Attorney General will continue protecting the people of Pennsylvania with the same high level of energy, dedication and professionalism they have always displayed.

To this end, in the wake of the Commonwealth Court hearing, I've instructed my office to engage in a comprehensive review of all emails sitting on OAG servers to fully comply with the RTKLs. Our preliminary review has generated emails of government officials, including law enforcement officials and judges, heretofore unknown to us. These emails will be fully released either as public documents defined by the Commonwealth Court, or at my discretion.

The statement refers to last week's hearing in Commonwealth Court on the legalities of releasing the pornographic emails that Ms. Kane says are behind her prosecution.

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Court suspends Kane's license

Published by Mike Pound on .

kane suspension

The state Supreme Court wasted no time in slapping Kathleen Kane with a temporary suspension of her law license. And that brings us to a question. The state constitution states the following about one important requirement for those serving as attorney general:

No person shall be eligible to the office of Attorney General except a member of the bar of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

Does the suspension mean Ms. Kane, who faces a felony charge of perjury and other counts after being accused of leaking grand jury testimony, is not a current member of the bar? Note that the order, issued this morning, takes care to specify that it "should not be construed as removing (Ms. Kane) from elected office and is limited to the temporary suspension of her license to practice law."

We expect a response from Ms. Kane soon; her office issued the following statement today:

We plan to review the court's decision and make a statement once the review is completed.

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Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane departs after her preliminary hearing Monday, Aug. 24, 2015, at the Montgomery County courthouse in Norristown, Pa. Kane is accused of leaking secret grand jury information to the press, lying under oath and ordering aides to illegally snoop through computer files to keep tabs on an investigation into the leak. (Christopher Dolan/The Times & Tribune via AP)Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane departs after her preliminary hearing Monday, Aug. 24, 2015, at the Montgomery County courthouse in Norristown, Pa. Kane is accused of leaking secret grand jury information to the press, lying under oath and ordering aides to illegally snoop through computer files to keep tabs on an investigation into the leak. (Christopher Dolan/The Times & Tribune via AP)

1) Today could be interesting, if you're following the Kathleen Kane saga; it's the first day that Pennsylvania Supreme Court could decide whether to suspend the state attorney general's law license. And that's not even the most interesting part. Should that occur – particularly if the decision is split between party lines – our friends at philly.com say Ms. Kane would seek the recusal of Justice J. Michael Eakin, a Republican who was tied to the pornography email scandal that started this whole thing in the first place. Need a refresher on Eakin's involvement? He said he received several of the smutty messages from fellow Justice Seamus McCaffery – he's the one who resigned from the court because of the scandal – who later threatened to expose Justice Eakin's involvement if he didn't try to convince then-Chief Justice Ronald Castille to back away from his investigation of the emails.

2) Ben Carson doesn't think a Muslim should be president of the United States. We wonder how Dr. Carson would have reacted when confronted by someone in the not-too-distant past who said a black man shouldn't be president.

3) Sure, it's a reaction to ads that support Gov. Tom Wolf in the ongoing state budget standoff, but we're intrigued by the idea of legislation, proposed by former Senate majority leader Dominic Pileggi, to beef up reporting standards for "dark money" non-profits.

4) With the first Democractic debate just over three weeks away, we're getting down to the point where Vice President Biden will have made a decision about a presidential run. The folks at fivethirtyeight.com find that a Biden candidacy would pull voters almost exclusively away from Hillary Clinton; conversely, if the veep decides to sit out the campaign, Ms. Clinton's tumbling poll numbers could get a boost back to the levels she enjoyed in the spring.

5) He hasn't been a conventional mayor. He's anything but a conventional candidate. And with its concluding statement – "I want to be able to do more for not only my community but also, you know, my commonwealth" – John Fetterman's first video for his U.S. Senate campaign makes a powerful and unconventional statement about what Braddock's mayor hopes to accomplish. And in this year that unconventional candidates are gaining more traction than ever before, we're betting that Joe Sestak and Katie McGinty have noticed.

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