Heads Up: Morning headlines for Nov. 21

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The 2012 election was weeks ago, which means it's long past time for this space to start linking to articles about ... the elections of 2014. Veteran Philly journo John Baer offers his take on possible Democratic challengers. Among the names being bandied about -- none of which Baer seems convinced will run -- are Senator Bob Casey (might prefer to wait until 2018, when gubernatorial race and the end of his Senate term coincide), state Treasurer Rob McCord (Baer's most likely pick) former Gov. Ed Rendell (gulp!), former Navy admiral, Congressman, and Senatorial candidate Joe Sestak (reporters should start setting aside large blocks of time for interviews now), and John Hanger (Rendell's secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection). Baer also names Congresswoman Alyson Schwartz, a largely unknown name out here, but a Democratic powerbroker and potential challenger for Tea Party Senate hero Pat Toomey ... in 2016.

Polling data out from Pittsburgh Today shows that Pittsburgh-region residents have mixed feelings about natural-gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. The key takeaway: Western Pennsylvanians support drilling by nearly two-to-one, 45 to 25 percent, and a majority believes it will be an economic boon. But more than eight in ten suspect drilling poses at least some threat to public health.

City councilor Ricky Burgess is offering legislation to help streamline the city's process for awarding contracts to minority- and women-owned firms. Meanwhile, in other equal-opportunity news, the city's school board has approved a plan to close "achievement gaps" between students of different races. You can read the plan for yourself; for now, suffice it to say that it largely doubles down on existing policies, which include stronger teacher assessment, more outreach to parents/community, and adopting more coursework in African-American history and culture.

Supposedly, the NHL lockout is costing the local economy some $2.1 million per game in lost bar/restaurant revenue, hotel room vacancies, and other ancillary spending. At least according to local tourism officials. I tend to be suspicious of economic-impact studies compiled by people who depend on the industry whose impact is being studied. But if this helps convince just one more Pittsburgher that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is an asshole ... it's worth it.

An early warning here: A series of protests at area Wal-Marts is planned for "Black Friday": Some details here; the event at the Waterworks location will apparently be drawing support from the good folks at One Pittsburgh. When these folks stand outside the stores, let's see if their vigil gets quite as much favorable media attention as the yahoos who sleep on strip-mall sidewalks overnight to get an extra 5 percent off.

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