News

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council members heard testimony from local residents Tuesday on a bill that would ban the use of exotic animals in performances within city limits.

Ron Gongaware, 57, of White Oak is a member of the local Syria Shriners group based in Cheswick. He said the legislation would effectively end his organization’s Shrine Circus, which has been raising money locally for free children’s hospital services since about 1950. 

“And that circus is our biggest fundraiser we have, so the ban of those exotic animals would be a tragedy for us,” Gongaware said.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

A Pittsburgh man's lawyer says his client has accepted a $125,000 settlement more than six years after the man — who is black — says three white police officers wrongfully arrested him and then beat him.

Attorney Joel Sansone says his 24-year-old client, Jordan Miles, decided to end the litigation and put the events behind him. Miles wasn't immediately available to comment.

City council plans to take up legislation on the proposed settlement on Tuesday. A spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto says the deal was reached during federal mediation.

Meet Herb, A Robot To One Day Help Around The House

1 hour ago
Carnegie Mellon University

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's Personal Robotics Lab have spent years working on ways to make robots execute subtle, human-like movements in the hopes of helping around the house. 

With cameras for eyes, two thick arms and the occasional bowtie, Herb – an acronym for home exploring robot butler – only recently learned to move a cup across a table.

"We’re trying to get robots to be able to work in a home environment," said Carnegie Mellon University Ph.D. student Jennifer King. 

Jose Luis Magana / AP Images

A Baltimore judge cleared Edward Nero, the second of six police officers to stand trial in the Freddie Gray case, of all charges on Monday.

Gray sustained a fatal spinal cord injury while in police custody last April. The previous trial of Officer William Porter resulted in a mistrial, the state plans to retry Porter later this year.

Entreprenuer Examines Factors Behind Successful Startups

3 hours ago
Sean Ammirati

It seems we hear about Facebook almost every day but does anyone remember Friendster? Why do some companies seem to strike gold while others simply strike out? Our guest Sean Ammirati went in search of an answer to this question and chronicles his findings in the book The Science of Growth: How Facebook Beat Friendster – and How Nine Other Startups Left the Rest in the Dust.

Brad Larrison / NewsWorks

 

Tommy Joshua was working in the garden when a guy from his neighborhood rode by on a bike and gave him some bad news.

"Some dude, some like arbitrary man," Joshua said, "told me straight up, 'Yo dog, they got a plan to like, take this whole jawn over. You're doing all this in vain.'"

In a five-year affordable housing strategy announced Monday, state government officials said they’ll invest Medicaid funding into affordable housing programs over the next five years.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania lawmakers made a step to continue helping the state's young people with disabilities find fulfilling careers and enter the work force.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Olga Welch said the biggest challenge she faced when named the dean of Duquesne University’s School of Education in 2005 was adapting to a new environment.

“The real challenge for a new leader is to learn your context and not assume what worked in another context will work in a new one,” Welch said.

How Long Will Philadelphia Hang Onto Its Spot As America’s Fifth Largest City?

23 hours ago
Matt Rourke / AP

 

When the United States conducted its first national census in 1790, Philadelphia was the second largest city (after New York) in the country, boasting 28,522 people. 

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council members and education activists say it’s time for Pennsylvania lawmakers to prioritize affordable early childhood education in the state’s budget.

Game 6 'Ultimate Test' In Pens' Quest For Stanley Cup

May 23, 2016
Gene J. Puskar / AP Images

For a Pittsburgh sports fan, the Monday afternoon blues are all too familiar following a Steelers loss on a Sunday.  Today’s Monday blues are brought to you by the blue and white, or rather, the Tampa Bay Lightning, whose quick overtime rally them to defeat the Penguins 4-3 to lead the series 3-2 Sunday night. 

Bob Dvorchak, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sportswriter Emeritus, joined Essential Pittsburgh to discuss this playoff series and the Penguins’ chances of a Cup run. 

Paul Weaver / flickr

Five years ago, the Penn Hills School District was in $11 million in debt. Today, a recent audit revealed the district is $170 million in debt and is also under investigation for alleged mismanagement of money.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is a part of the team tackling 74 pages of an audit detailing the district’s spending from July 2012 through June 2015 and revealed spending habits that led to what DePasquale describes as “almost unsurmountable” debt.

User m01229 / Flickr

In Pennsylvania, it's illegal to hunt on a Sunday. The hunting ban has its roots in the state’s “blue laws," which date back to the late 17th century outlawing certain activities on Sundays.

A new bill sponsored by Senator Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny, Westmoreland) would allow hunters to take part in their sport any day of the week, including Sunday.

Flickr user Giulia Forsythe

Graduate students at Carnegie Mellon University will spend 24 hours this week trying to “hack” the brain using big data.

W&J College

Longtime civil rights activist and Georgia Congressman John Lewis received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree and delivered the commencement speech recently at Washington and Jefferson College. He is celebrating his 30th year representing the Georgia fifth district and reflected on his lifetime of activism with Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer.

OpenBiome

They're not as ubiquitous as blood or sperm banks, but another kind of biological substance also sits in cold storage ready to treat desperately ill or ailing patients. In Pittsburgh, the use of stool banks for fecal transplants is on the rise.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Oxford Development Company’s apartment project for the Strip District, The Yards at 3 Crossings, will have hundreds of people living about 100 feet from the south bank of the Allegheny River as early as this year. 

Paul Hertneky

Author Paul Hertneky grew up in the Rust Belt town of Ambridge, north of Pittsburgh. He described his childhood as idyllic, filled with close knit communities and constant playmates. He chronicles his experience in his new book, Rust Belt Boy: Stories of an American Childhood.

“We didn’t have a lot of money,” said Hertneky. “We did have a lot of community.”

Bob Gaffney / Flickr

Pennsylvanians with aging family members are underutilizing many of the state’s assistance programs, Department of Aging officials said.

Secretary Teresa Osborne said the department could be doing more to inform the public.

“While we’re doing an okay job of it, we need to do better,” she said. “So, what better opportunities are we going to take advantage of in order to ensure that the services and support that are available to older Pennsylvanians and their caregivers are known before somebody is in a crisis mode?”

Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation / Facebook

Experience all things Wilkinsburg this weekend at “Link on Penn,” a community event celebrating local businesses and organizations in the Pittsburgh suburb

Tim Murdoch, Steering Committee member for Leadership Development Initiative says this partnership with the Wilkinsburg community was inspired by the positivity and good news arising from the neighborhood.

    It’s National Burger Month. Yes, it is also National Bike Month. America is really into theming months right now. That’s completely fine with us, because it inspires exciting events all around the city. WESA’s Josh and Sarah and Yelp Pittsburgh’s Rachel are here for all your burger-eating needs.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

This month, Pittsburgh officials and members of the organization Donate Life are encouraging locals to consider becoming organ donors.

According to Donate Life, there are more than 8,000 people in Pennsylvania waiting to receive organ transplants. Most transplanted organs come from deceased donors, but just 46 percent of Pennsylvanians are registered eye, organ and tissue donors. While advocates are working to increase that number, they're also looking for more options to meet the demand.

For some, like Steve Debakawitz, that’s a living donor.

Eli Christman / Flickr

More than 10 years ago, Amtrak decreased the number of trains running daily from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg from two to one. Representatives from the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership traveled to the state capital this week requesting an increase.

Lucinda Beattie, vice president of transportation for the partnership, said the increase makes economic sense. Her group estimated increasing service to Harrisburg would cost $10.5-13 million and allow 400,000 new trips each year. By contrast, a mile of highway costs about $8 million.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

In November of 2013, Bert Dorazio decided he wanted to be part of World Kindness Day, so he called up a friend.

“I said, ‘Why don’t we go down to a grocery store, get in line behind somebody and after they check out all their groceries let’s pay for their groceries?’” Dorazio said.

Dorazio said his friend thought it was a good idea and after hanging out near the check out line at the Giant Eagle on the South Side for a few minutes they chose a women with a cart full of food.

Megan Fair / 90.5 WESA

For many, Uber is the go to app for a quick ride to the ballgame or the bar. But Thursday, drivers spent the day delivering curbside cuddles.

Pittsburghers were offered $30 for a 15-minute visit from Western Pennsylvania Humane Society puppies between  11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Golden retriever mix Boudin and lab mix Betty gave snuggly sneak peaks early Thursday outside the City-County Building.

“They’re, like, so soft and squishy and cuddly,” Ashley Robinson, city clerk secretary, said cuddling Boudin. “I feel like I’m a little kid now.”

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Musical artist Benjamin Scheuer is no stranger to heartbreak. He lost his father early into his teenage years, suffered a difficult break up in his adulthood and was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer at the age of 28. For many, such intense trials would be enough to stifle their spark, but Scheuer decided to turn the bad into something good.

Frankie Leon / flickr

District judges in Westmoreland County are trying a new approach to addressing drug abuse in their community. They’ve implemented an Alternative Adjudication Program for defendants charged with minor drug crimes focusing on rehabilitation rather than jail time. We’ll ask Harrison City District Judge Helen Kistler and Westmoreland County Judge Jason Buczak about the new program.

A grand jury is recommending no criminal charges against officials in a western Pennsylvania school district where two teachers have already been convicted of having sex with students, and two more face related charges.

The 100-page grand jury report issued by the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office says the Plum Borough School District had "systematic failures to protect students" but that no school official broke laws requiring police to be notified of teacher-sex allegations.

Dimitris Kalogeropoylos / flickr

University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health Science is entering the battle against the nationwide opioid epidemic.

Donald Burke, dean of Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health, said opioids affect every major demographic group in the country. He is working to compile data on the epidemic from several different sources.

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