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Pittsburgh Tuesday takes

| Monday, July 29, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Under the knife: Last week brought layoffs of 262 workers and elimination of 200 vacant jobs by Highmark — at the five hospitals it acquired in April to form its Allegheny Health Network (AHN) and at the corporate level. Also laid off were Allegheny Valley Hospital's CEO and two Forbes Regional Hospital administrators. AHN calls all this job-cutting “an essential step in our efforts to right-size the organization” toward restoring its financial health. Whether these layoffs truly are that or a major red flag for AHN's future remains to be seen.

Downhill champ: Congratulations to Elliott's Macaila Ziolkowski, 13. On Saturday, she became the first winner of the annual Greater Pittsburgh Soapbox Derby held in McKeesport to win in the national All-American Derby held in Akron, Ohio. Her stock-division triumph is welcome proof that not all youngsters today are too preoccupied with video games and social media to excel at less high-tech pursuits.

Pennant pivot?: The four-day, five-game series that the Pittsburgh Pirates began at home on Monday against the St. Louis Cardinals might not determine this season's outcome — once it ends, the teams still have nine more games against each other — but its implications are clear. With the Bucs and Cards dueling for best National League record, this series — to many, the biggest in PNC Park's history — could be a turning point, setting the tone and direction for the stretch drive. And Wednesday's trade deadline only thickens the plot. Let's go Bucs!

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