News

Communities With Casinos In Pennsylvania Concerned About Possible Funding Changes

10 hours ago
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

When playing the slots in Pennsylvania, casinos and gamblers aren't the only ones making money.

The state collects 54 cents for every dollar a player loses in a slot machine.

The state uses most of that money, about 34 cents, for reducing property taxes. The state's horse racing industry gets 11 cents and 5 cents goes to a state economic development trust fund. The remaining 4 cents is split among the communities that host the casino.

Chris / Flickr

A 124-year-old Pennsylvania fireworks business is set to plead guilty to failing to report more than 63,000 fireworks that were apparently stolen.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has already fined Zambelli International Fireworks $200,000 and ordered the company to close for two weeks.

Those penalties were announced in January. On Monday, company representatives are scheduled to plead guilty to a single count of failure to report the loss of explosive material. The New Castle company could be put on probation.

Verdict Turns Page In Penn State Child Molestation Scandal

13 hours ago
Matt Rourke / AP

Penn State is trying to turn the corner on the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal, but the former FBI director who authored a scathing report on it more than four years ago says more changes are needed, even after the conviction of the university's former president.

A jury's guilty verdict against Graham Spanier on Friday to a misdemeanor count of child endangerment made him the last of the three former high-ranking administrators to be held criminally culpable for how they handled a 2001 complaint about Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a team shower.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

If you have ever wondered how the Carnegie Museum of Art keeps it’s collection looking so good, the answer is Michael Belman.

Belman is the Objects Conservator for the museum. He evaluates proposed new purchases and checks items coming and going from the collection on loan.

But the biggest part of what he does is repair, restore and preserves three-dimensional fine art. Just keeping objects in the gallery dusted is an important first step. He talked to 90.5 WESA's Mark Nootbaar about his process. 

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

PicoCTF / CMU

What’s being billed as the largest hacking contest ever is launching Friday.

PicoCTF from Carnegie Mellon University aims to educate middle and high school students on the importance of computer security and tackle a common misconception – that hacking is bad.

“What hacking is about is understanding computers deeply and understanding how they function and how they may have bugs in them, how something may go wrong and being able to anticipate that,” said David Brumley, director of CyLab, CMU’s security and privacy institute.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Chris and Amanda Comeau said when their daughter Eleanor turned 10 months old, she hit lots of exciting milestones. She started moving around on her own a lot more, waving and gesturing and recognizing her grandparents on FaceTime.

Fact Check: ICE Report Inconsistent With Local Jurisdictions In PA

19 hours ago
Charles Reed/U.S. Immigratino and Customs Enforcement / AP

After President Donald Trump’s executive order, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were tasked with publishing reports on a regular basis showing how local law enforcement agencies respond to detainer requests, and what happens thereafter.

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

*This story was updated at 2:55 p.m. March 27, 2017 Uber's self-driving cars will be back in operation Monday afternoon three days after the company announced it had pulled the cars off the street. 

Chris Stalnaker

A handheld device that can detect bedsores is one of the designs aiming for a $50,000 grand prize at AlphaLab Gear’s Hardware Cup next month.

 

The device was designed by a team named Rubitection, which beat out six other groups and took home a $3,000 prize at the Mid-Atlantic regional qualifier last month.

 

The start-up incubator, located in East Liberty, is hosting the innovation contest for its third year.

 

Other designs included a robotic material-sorting waste bin and an assistive video-game controller for people in wheelchairs.

 

Matt Rourke / AP

Jurors deliberating in the child endangerment trial of former Penn State president Graham Spanier have asked to rehear excerpts from the transcript of testimony.

The panel on Friday reheard the testimony of Jack Raykovitz, who headed the charity for at-risk children founded by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

Raykovitz said then-athletic director Tim Curley told him a 2001 complaint about Sandusky showering with a boy was investigated and no wrongdoing was found, but Sandusky was told he couldn't bring children to university athletic facilities any longer.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

A new exhibit at Future Tenant aims to put a different face on Pittsburgh’s homeless population.

 

“The homeless are often seen as invisible people on the street, we ignore them, we walk by them, we just do our own thing,” said Daniel See, an art student at CMU.

Gene J. Puskar / AP File Photo

Population data has a way of freaking people out. After all, population determines federal allocation dollars, which trickle down to the state, county, and local levels, said Peter Borsella, a demographer with the U.S. Census Bureau, which released county and metro-area population estimates on Thursday. 

So let’s get this over with: From 2015 to 2016 Pennsylvania waved goodbye to just fewer than 8,000 people. Most counties lost population, though 19 posted some growth.

What's The Best Way To Protect People From Lead-Tainted Drinking Water?

Mar 24, 2017
Darron Cummings / AP

The problem of lead in drinking water has been well-known for years. But the tragedy in Flint, Michigan, where lead-tainted water poisoned hundreds of children and contributed to several deaths, has catapulted the issue into the spotlight.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

It's a sad day for the Social Club gang, this is our final episode. We're so grateful to everyone who's listened over the last few years and hope to share Pittsburgh happenings in a new format one day, too. 

So, for one last time, 90.5 WESA's Sarah Kovash, Josh Raulerson and Rachel Carlson of Yelp Pittsburgh fill you in on what's happening this weekend. 

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

At the age of 13, Alex Hoffman was already using alcohol and marijuana. By 14, he was on juvenile probation.

“I wouldn’t stop smoking weed, I wouldn’t stop drinking, so I kept failing drug tests and that lead to my first time going involuntarily into juvenile rehab,” Hoffman said.

It was not his last involuntary commitment. He bounced in and out of programs and jail for years before getting clean three years ago, at the age of 21. He remembered being dropped off at a juvenile facility by his parents on his 16th birthday.

Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program.

Each week reporters, editors and bloggers join veteran journalist and host Kevin Gavin to take an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region.

Is A Petrochemical Boom Heading For Pennsylvania?

Mar 23, 2017
GoogleEarth

Shell is expected to begin constructing its $6-billion petrochemical plant in Beaver County later this year. But a new, state-commissioned report says that may be only the beginning for Pennsylvania’s petrochemical industry.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh collection

When Emily Eckel moved to Knoxville, a neighborhood south of downtown Pittsburgh, she was told to buy special subsidence insurance, just in case the abandoned coal mine beneath her house ever caved in. She'd never heard of it.

“I just started imagining this vast maze of coal mines under the city," she said. "I was picturing coal miners going in with a pickaxe or a shovel and a yellow canary and a cage and mining all day. I don’t know if it was like that, and I would like to know.” 

It was not exactly like that, at least not in Pittsburgh.

As In Flint, Cost-Cutting May Be To Blame For Pittsburgh's High Lead Levels

Mar 23, 2017
Steve Johnson / Flickr

Inside the bowels of the Pittsburgh Water Treatment Plant, what looks like a row of high-quality science fair entries hums with pipes, tanks and motors. Gina Cyprych points to a plywood structure with the number “12” on it. It’s rigged with a loop of plastic and metal pipes.

“The metallic-colored one is a lead pipe. It looks grey,” says Cyprych, the acting head of water quality for the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA), which provides 300,000 people with their drinking water.

casey.senate.gov

Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey said Thursday he has “serious concerns” about Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch and plans to vote against his confirmation.

Thursday marks the fourth and final day of confirmation hearings for Gorsuch. Congress is expected to vote Monday, April 3.

Jury Gets Case In Trial Of Penn State's Ex-President

Mar 23, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Attorneys for Penn State ex-President Graham Spanier on Thursday declined to call any witnesses to counter accusations that he acted illegally in handling a 2001 complaint about Jerry Sandusky showering with a boy, sending the case to jurors for deliberation.

Judge Neil Gorsuch has been grilled by the Senate Judiciary Committee for more than 18 hours of questioning over two separate days, and the proceedings are not finished yet. On Thursday, the committee hears testimony from witnesses about Gorsuch's qualifications to be a justice of the US Supreme Court.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Sabrina Spiher Robinson and her husband Ted Robinson live on a hill in Upper Lawrenceville. From the set of steep steps leading to their front door, they can see the Allegheny River. But mostly what they see are construction scars.  

 

Matt Rourke / AP

On the heels of a survey finding Pennsylvanians support efforts to reform the state justice system, one lawmaker said he plans to introduce what he called “clean slate” legislation.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

A Bike Pittsburgh survey from earlier this month found that about half of local cyclists approve of self-driving cars on city streets.

The advocacy group launched the survey in an effort to find out how cyclists and pedestrians felt about the driverless technology and about 800 people weighed in.

Wolf Urges Mixed Pennsylvania Delegation To Defeat GOP Bill

Mar 22, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Reaction to Republican health care legislation speeding toward a vote was mixed Wednesday among Pennsylvania's 18-member U.S. House delegation, as Gov. Tom Wolf made another attempt at urging them to defeat it, saying it would jeopardize people's lives.

In a letter Wolf's office released publicly, the Democratic governor said the GOP health care bill would blow a $2.5 billion to $3 billion hole in the state government's deficit-riddled finances.

David Goldman / AP

Families of people hurt or killed by police would not learn the identity of the officer involved for 30 days or until the completion of an investigation under a new bill making its way through the Pennsylvania legislature.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

About an hour east of Pittsburgh, in Indiana, Pa., inside a windowless building set far back from the road, the scientists at Environmental Service Laboratories test all kinds of things for safety and compliance with regulations, from drinking water to toys to hazardous waste.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Four years ago, City Councilwoman Darlene Harris considered a run for mayor of Pittsburgh but ultimately decided not to enter the race.

“I take care of my mother and she was ill, and I was just too worried about her,” Harris said.

Four years later, without any fanfare, Harris made a different decision. Although she never held an announcement party or even a news conference to declare her candidacy, Harris is on the May Democratic primary ballot in an effort to unseat Mayor Bill Peduto.

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