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State Government
8:16 am
Sun September 21, 2014

Legislation Would Go After Employers Who Misclassify Workers to Avoid Benefits

A state lawmaker says Pennsylvania regulators are coming up short when it comes to enforcing a 2010 state law intended to target companies that misclassify their workers as independent contractors.

State Senator Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia) said there is room in the economy for independent contractors, but, “there is obvious abuse of the classification which denies employees rights, benefits and protections accorded under labor laws.”

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Community
4:50 pm
Fri September 19, 2014

Park(ing) Day Encourages Discussion of Public Space Use

Guaranga Gardner plays mini-golf Friday with his father and grandmother during Pittsburgh's Park(ing) Day.
Sarah Schneider 90.5 WESA

Between dancing and hula hooping, Guaranga Gardner played an 18-hole game of mini golf with his dad and cousin Friday afternoon in Lawrenceville parking spaces.

The toddler occasionally pointed to the semi-trucks passing-by the pop-up park his grandmother sat in.

The course was spread out in transformed parking spaces, each with its own layout or theme, such as Rebecca Mizkar and Laura Santore’s homage to their shared Carpatho-Rusyn heritage with Andy Warhol by displaying a Warhol portrait of his mother.

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Transportation
4:35 pm
Fri September 19, 2014

Pennsylvania's Highways Ranked Among Worst In Nation

Pennsylvania’s highways among the worst in the nation, according to a report released Thursday by a Los Angeles nonprofit.

The commonwealth has dropped from 40th to 41st in “overall highway performance and cost effectiveness,” according to the Reason Foundation’s 21st annual highway report.

David Hartgen, lead researcher and professor of transportation studies at the University of North Carolina, said the state’s high percentage of deficient bridges, narrow rural lanes and a high fatality rate has caused its rankings to slip.

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Economy & Business
4:26 pm
Fri September 19, 2014

Pittsburgh Metro Area Incomes Up; Poverty Rate Flat in 2013

Median household income in the Pittsburgh metro was up in 2013, according to U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

“For Pittsburgh, we see that the 2013 median household income was just over $51,000, the poverty rate was 12.8 percent and a little over 7 percent of the people in the metro area did not have health coverage,” said Ed Welniak, chief of the Income and Statistics Branch of the Census Bureau.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:59 pm
Fri September 19, 2014

Professor and Poet Terrance Hayes Reflects on his MacArthur Genius Grant

Credit The Associated Press

The MacArthur Genius Grants were announced this week. University of Pittsburgh Writing Professor and Poet Terrance Hayes was among the twenty-one recipients. He speaks with WESA Morning Edition host Josh Raulerson.

Essential Pittsburgh
3:54 pm
Fri September 19, 2014

The DEP Sends a Message to the Shale Industry With Record Fine For Range Resources

Credit Daniel Foster / Flickr

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced it has signed a consent order and agreement with Range Resources for violations at six of its impoundments in Washington County. The $4.15 million fine is the largest ever brought against a company in the Marcellus Shale era. We'll be joined by DEP spokesman John Poister.

Essential Pittsburgh
3:24 pm
Fri September 19, 2014

Permitting School Officials to Carry Concealed Weapons

Credit Paul Weaver / Flickr

State Senator Don White wants Pennsylvania school districts to be able to permit their staff to carry firearms in school buildings and on the grounds.

Supporters say his proposal would make schools safer but critics are arguing for more police. We talked with Senator White and Shira Goodman, Executive Director of Cease Fire Pennsylvania.

Here is what Essential Pittsburgh listeners on Twitter had to say about Senator White's decision to propose this legislation in response to the stabbings at Franklin Regional High School last spring.

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Keystone Crossroads
8:13 am
Fri September 19, 2014

Johnstown Reconsiders Its Industrial Rivers For Recreation

Bob Bridges of Coal Tubin' steers an inflatable boat called the shredder down the Stonycreek River in Johnstown, Pa. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

On a recent summer day, Bob Bridges inflated a boat called the shredder, loaded it on a trailer, took it to an inconspicuous pull off, and launched it into the Stonycreek River.

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90.5 WESA Celebrates
3:30 am
Fri September 19, 2014

Todd DePastino, Hosting Breakfast For Veterans

Todd DePastino
Credit Debbi Casini Klein / 90.5 WESA

Read and listen to a story about Todd DePastino as part of a series honoring the individuals who make a difference in people’s lives: 90.5 WESA Celebrates People Making a Difference.

“Nobody else really knows and understands what this kind of thing means to the veterans that come to it.”

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Black Lung
3:25 am
Fri September 19, 2014

Federal Legislation Aims to Reduce Fraud in Black Lung Cases

“Justice delayed is justice denied” is a refrain that U.S Senator Bob Casey (D- PA) has been repeating as he fights to get black lung benefits into the hands of coal miners in a more timely manner.

After working for several months to break up the backlog in black lung benefits claims, Casey announced plans Thursday to introduce legislation aiming to reduce fraud in miners’ cases.

According to Casey, the case backlog is in the thousands now and grows by substantial numbers each year.

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Essential Pittsburgh
10:15 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Friday Rundown: Permitting Firearms on School Grounds

Credit Ken / Flickr

These topics air Friday September 19, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

Firearms in Schools?

State Senator Don White wants Pennsylvania school districts to be able to permit their staff to carry firearms in school buildings and on the grounds. Supporters say his proposal would make schools safer but critics are arguing for more police. We'll talk with Senator White and Shira Goodman, Executive Director of Cease Fire Pennsylvania.

Range Resources Receives Record Fine

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced it has signed a consent order and agreement with Range Resources for violations at six of its impoundments in Washington County. The $4.15 million fine is the largest ever brought against a company in the Marcellus Shale era. We'll be joined by DEP spokesman John Poister.

MacArthur Grant Recipient

The MacArthur Genius Grants were announced this week. University of Pittsburgh Writing Professor and Poet Terrance Hayes was among the twenty-one recipients. He speaks with WESA Morning Edition host Josh Raulerson. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:59 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

TEDxYouth@HotMetalBridge : A Fresh Perspective on Millennials

Credit TEDxYouthHMB / Facebook

At age 15, Sophia Sterling-Angus attended her first TED talk, the first TEDx Grandview. She was so motivated by the event that she began to plan her own TEDx. Now as a 17 year old high school senior at the Ellis School for Girls, Sophia organized a group of volunteers to create TEDxYouth Hot Metal Bridge at the Carnegie Museum of Art on September 7th.

One thing that made this event unique was the fact that it was developed with a younger demographic in mind and by teenagers. Find out how Sophia Sterling-Angus developed the TED talk and what she thinks about the future of TED.

Essential Pittsburgh
4:38 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

How Do Musicians Survive in 2014?

Credit SouthernWI / Flickr

When Justin Currie was the lead singer for the band Del Amitri, he scored a top ten single in the U.S. and was heard regularly on top 40 radio.

But earlier this month he had sold only nine tickets to his upcoming solo show at the Club Cafe.

That's when he posted a desperate message on Facebook saying that he was going ahead with the show and that the people of Western Pennsylvania ought to show up. He joins us along with WYEP Program Director Mike Sauter to discuss the business model for the modern musician.

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Arts & Culture
4:33 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Social Club for the Weekend of Sept. 19

This week, 90.5 WESA’s Josh and Yelp’s Rachel talk free things and beer this week, or as they put it: “We seem to have developed a theme here.” This week the Club features Oktoberfest in September, free stuff, the farm-to-table festival and racing wiener dogs. Listen for why, “I’ll be showing people around my private lounge where I sit around, you know, in my high-backed leather chair and smoke a pipe.”

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:30 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

It's That Time of Year: Upcoming Fall Festivals and Fairs

In case the football games, cooler weather and heralding of all things pumpkin flavored escaped your attention, the celebration of the autumn season has begun.

This week our woman for all seasons, travel contributor Elaine Labalme, joins us with a lineup of fall fairs and festivals you might enjoy. 

Check out the details about these upcoming events:

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Pennsylvania
4:06 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Slain PA Trooper Eulogized As 'Impeccable' Officer

An honor guard carries the casket of Pennsylvania State Trooper Cpl. Bryon Dickson from his funeral service, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014, in Scranton, Pa. Dickson was killed on Friday night in an ambush shooting at the state police barracks in Blooming Grove Township. Authorities are looking for 31-year-old Eric Frein, of Canadensis, who has been charged with killing one trooper and wounding another outside the barracks.
Credit Matt Slocum / The Associated Press

Cpl. Bryon Dickson was an impeccable officer who put his family first, friends and colleagues said Thursday at the slain state police trooper's funeral as a manhunt for his killer continued 40 miles away.

Dickson "was no ordinary trooper," police Commissioner Frank Noonan told hundreds of mourners gathered at St. Peter's Cathedral in Scranton.

Dickson, 38, was gunned down late Friday outside his rural barracks in the Pocono Mountains. The days since have been "a whirlwind ... fueled by stress and gallons of coffee," Noonan said.

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Pennsylvania Casinos
3:58 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Casino Report Details Minority, Female Hiring

Of the nearly 20,000 employees at the ten casinos and two resort casinos in Pennsylvania, 44 percent are female and 31 percent are racial minorities, according to a report released Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB).

The percentage of women employees is approximately 2 percent greater than the previous year, while the percentage of minority workers is about the same.  At the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh 40 percent of its 1,774 workers are women, 26 percent are minorities.   

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CO2 Emissions
3:56 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Report: PA Ranks 3rd Worst in Country for CO2 Emission

A new report finds that Pennsylvania emits the third most carbon dioxide in the country.

PennEnvironment released the report, “America’s Dirtiest Power Plants,” Thursday – which found that Pennsylvania tails only Texas and California.

The report took 2012 data – the most recent available - from the Environmental Protection Agency and ranked power plants in the United States according to their CO2 emissions.  It then compared each state to total carbon emissions of entire countries.

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Environment & Energy
3:23 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Range Resources To Pay $4M Drilling Waste Fine

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced it has signed a consent order and agreement with Range Resources for violations at six of its impoundments in Washington County.
 
“We have fined Range Resources $4.15 million, the largest fine that has ever been brought against a company in the Marcellus Shale era,” said DEP spokesman John Poister.
 
In addition, Range Resources has agreed to close five impoundments and upgrade two others. The impoundments in question are used to store water.
 

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Education
2:40 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Pittsburgh-Area Teachers Surprised By Google, As Classroom Wishes Fulfilled

Students in an AP calculus class at Pittsburgh Taylor Allderdice High School will each have a graphing calculator to work with, thanks to funding from Google.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

As school budgets continue to shrink or remain flat, many teachers are left short of needed equipment, or have classroom wish lists that don’t fall into budgeting priorities.

Enter the website DonorsChoose.org.

Through Donors Choose, teachers submit requests and then anyone can donate to whichever project they chose – hence the name.

On Thursday, Google announced it was fully funding the requests of 79 Pittsburgh-area teachers.

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Community
10:23 am
Thu September 18, 2014

Salvation Army To Host 6th Annual 'Most Amazing Race'

Thirty-two teams are gearing up to put both their mental and physical capacities to the test for a good cause. The Salvation Army of Western PA is hosting its 6th annual “Most Amazing Race” Saturday, September 20th, to benefit youth in Allegheny County.

In recent years there has been an increase IN demand for youth programming provided by the Salvation Army. Funds generated through the “Most Amazing Race” will allow the organization to keep its doors open according to Donna Fencik, Salvation Army Divisional Director of Fundraising

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:45 am
Thu September 18, 2014

Thursday Rundown: A New Generation of TED events

Credit TEDxYouthHMB / Facebook

These topics air Thursday September 18, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

TEDxYouth@HotMetalBridge

At age 15, Sophia Sterling-Angus attended her first TED talk, the first TEDx Grandview. She was so motivated by the event that she began to plan her own TEDx. Now as a 17 year old high school senior at the Ellis School for Girls, Sophia organized a group of volunteers to create TEDxYouth Hot Metal Bridge at the Carnegie Museum of Art on September 7th. One thing that made this event unique was the fact that it was developed with a younger demographic in mind and by teenagers. Find out how Sophia Sterling-Angus developed the TED talk and what she thinks about the future of TED.

Justin Currie

When Justin Currie was the lead singer for the band Del Amitri, he scored a top ten single in the U.S. and was heard regularly on top 40 radio. But earlier this month he had sold only nine tickets to his upcoming solo show at the Club Cafe. That's when he posted a desperate message on facebook saying that he was going ahead with the show and that the people of Western Pennsylvania ought to show up. He joins us along with WYEP Program Director Mike Sauter to discuss the business model for the modern musician.

Fall Festivals

In case the football games, cooler weather and heralding of all things pumpkin flavored escaped your attention, the celebration of the autumn season has begun. This week our woman for all seasons, travel contributor Elaine Labalme, joins us with a lineup of fall fairs and festivals you might enjoy. 

Read more
Government & Politics
5:37 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

State Audit Expanded To Review Tomalis

The state’s top fiscal watchdog says an ongoing audit of the state Department of Education will now also look into certain employees, including Ron Tomalis, the former secretary and special advisor to the governor who resigned under a cloud of criticism this past August.

Democratic Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said the in-progress audit will review special advisors, contractors and short-term employees.

“It’s not just about Mr. Tomalis,” DePasquale said. “It’s an issue broadly about are people being hired and they don’t have an actual role to play?”

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Government & Politics
5:26 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

State Senate Committee Passes Bill To Abolish Property Taxes

A bill to eliminate school property tax in Pennsylvania was advanced by the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday on a 6-5 vote.

The “Property Tax Independence Act” would replace property taxes by increasing the state income tax from 3.07 percent to 4.34 percent; sales tax would jump from 6 to 7 percent (8 percent in Allegheny County), together generating an estimated $12 billion for public schools annually.

But, Sharon Ward, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, said the numbers don’t add up.

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Economy & Business
5:25 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Pittsburgh Incubator Lands $800K Federal Grant

A business incubator in Pittsburgh has landed a nearly $1 million grant to help attract new investors. 

The $800,000 federal grant was awarded to Innovation Works to support its fairly successful AlphaLab program.

AlphaLab brings early-stage businesses into its workspace on the South Side where it provides the entrepreneurs with a small cash investment, goal-specific education, key mentorship opportunities, and an entrée into the Pittsburgh high-tech community.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:17 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Scottish Highland Games Return to Ligonier

A bagpipe performance at the Ligonier Highland Games
Credit Sandra Cole of Indiana, PA / ligonierhighlandgames

Break out the bagpipes and dust off that kilt because the Ligonier Highland Games are back this weekend, celebrating Celtic culture for a 56th year.

The festivities start Saturday morning at Idlewild Park with dancing, drumming, harping and piping contests, along with a Scottish-breed dog show.

The Heavy Athletics begin at 9 a.m. where the region’s biggest and baddest compete in events such as the caber toss, where contestants throw what looks like a telephone pole end-over end through the air. Athletes will also participate in the hammer throw and sheaf toss, where a 16 to 20 lbs. bundle of straw is launched into the air with a pitchfork.

Richard Wonderly, executive director of the games, said the athletics were originally used hundreds of years ago to prevent confrontation between Celtic clans.

“By getting together to show off your feats of strength, it helped to intimidate the other clans to avoid combat,” he said. “So basically, it was a way to say, ‘Here’s our guys, look how big and strong they are. Maybe you don’t want to mess with us.’”

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:03 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Can Living Near a Fracking Site Cause Health Problems?

Credit Ari Moore / Flickr

 A new study has found that residents in Western Pennsylvania living close to natural gas drilling sites were twice as likely to report health problems than those living farther away. We talk with the study's lead author Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, who says public health researchers surveyed nearly 500 adults and children in Washington County, southwest of Pittsburgh.

Essential Pittsburgh
1:59 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Pittsburgh Views as the Scottish Independence Vote Approaches

Credit Màrtainn MacDhòmhnaill / Flickr

Tomorrow, Scots will vote on possible independence from England, one of the most important issues facing the Scottish people and their heritage. We talk with Ron Linden, director of the European Studies Center and professor of political science at the University of Pittsburgh, as well as with John Kelman, one of the many natives of Scotland living in the Pittsburgh area, who talks about which way he'd like to see the vote go.

Government & Politics
12:34 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Rothfus Fights Federal Overreach

Congressman Keith Rothfus (PA-8) has come out strong against a proposed expansion of the Clean Water Act -- the act which regulates quality standards for all of the surface water in the United States.

Rothfus referred to the proposed CWA expansion as “federal government overreach” and backed up his words by voting in favor of the Regulatory Overreach Protection Act (House Resolution 5078). The resolution is designed to block any attempt to expand the Act’s definition of “waters of the United States.”  

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Arts & Culture
11:26 am
Wed September 17, 2014

Pitt Professor Terrance Hayes Among 2014 MacArthur 'Genius Grant' Winners

In this Sept. 8, 2014 photo provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, poet Terrance Hayes poses for a photo at his home in Pittsburgh. Hayes was named Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, as one of 21 people to receive a "genius grant" from the Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation.
Credit The Associated Press

Twenty-one people, many of whom are doing work that touches on race relations, same-sex marriage, climate change and other issues that are dominating the news, have each been awarded "genius grants" from the MacArthur Foundation.

The Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation this morning has announced this year's recipients of the grants that have been awarded since 1981. Recipients can spend the $625,000 any way they like.

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