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Essential Pittsburgh
4:52 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Local Voices React to Lifting of Travel and Commerce Restrictions

The Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago, an event which marked the symbolic ending to the Cold War. But you wouldn’t know it looking at the relationship between the United States and Cuba, who continued the mid-20th century conflict well into the 21st.

That was until President Obama announced on December 17 that the United States was taking steps to change its relationship with Cuba and ease restrictions on travel and commerce.

These steps will obviously have an enormous effect on the island nation, about 90 miles off the coast of the U.S. But it will also have an effect on many parts of the United States, including Pittsburgh.

Kenya Dworkin y Mendez, the Cuban-born associate professor of Hispanic Studies at Carnegie Mellon University and Scott Morgenstern, the associate professor of political science at the University of Pittsburgh discussed the matter on today’s Essential Pittsburgh.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:45 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

A Former Officer's Perspective on Appropriate Use of Force

Credit macwagen / flickr

For as long as there has been law enforcement, there have been arguments over how much force police reserve the right to use.

These arguments have come to dominate the national conversation in the wake of the police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York. This conversation has spread to Pittsburgh, in the form of regular protest demonstrations focused on local issues.

Sheldon Williams is a former Pittsburgh Police Officer and a member of the Citizen Police Review Board who answered some of the  lingering questions about the use of deadly force by police.

Williams said that he was somewhat skeptical about Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson’s testimony.

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Somerset Lake
3:21 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Somerset County Agrees to Match Donations to Save Lake

Commissioners of Somerset County have agreed to use drilling revenue to match any public donations to save Lake Somerset.

The lake has one of 12 “high hazard dams” in the state. The county is trying to save the dam to save the lake. The 253 acre lake’s water level has already been lowered by 6 feet to take pressure off the dam.

The county is also trying to make the land around the lake into a community park. It just has to wait for the Fish and Boat Commission to approve the plans, which Commissioner John Vatavuk thinks is very likely.

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Transportation
3:00 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

PUC OKs Conditional License for Lyft

The Public Utility Commission has approved with conditions the application by Lyft to offer ridesharing services statewide for two years.

“Those conditions mainly address the concerns the commission has been expressing all along that these companies are proving that they are using safe drivers and they are doing background checks on drivers, that the vehicles they are operating are safe, and that they have the proper insurance,” said PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher.

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Public Safety
2:27 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Authorities Announce Arrest in International Counterfeiting Scheme

Special Agent in Charge Eric Zahren, Secret Service Pittsburgh field office and David Hickton, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania announced an arrest in counterfeit scheme that saw fake bills passed through Pittsburgh area.
Credit Deanna Garcia

A counterfeit $100 bill used in Pittsburgh last year has led federal authorities to an international counterfeiting scheme and resulted in charges against a 27-year-old U.S. citizen living in Uganda.

“These Ugandan-manufactured counterfeit bills were being passed in our neighborhoods; specifically Oakland, Carnegie, McCandless Township and other places,” said David Hickton, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania. “It quickly spread to other cities throughout the country.”

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Environment & Energy
2:09 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Cuomo Gets Kudos, Scorn for New York Fracking Ban

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo listens to a speaker during a cabinet meeting at the Capitol on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. Cuomo’s administration will move to prohibit fracking in the state, citing unresolved health issues and dubious economic benefits of the widely used gas-drilling technique.
Credit AP Photo/Mike Groll

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is getting heaped with praise by environmentalists and scorn by business interests for a planned state ban on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, even as he insists the decision wasn't his.

Residents statewide remain almost evenly split on the issue, and the divisions are clear, pollsters said Thursday. The decision announced Wednesday followed Cuomo's re-election last month, which the Democrat won easily as expected.

Quinnipiac University Poll's Mickey Carroll said the political impact is likely to be limited and the decision was predictable.

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Youth Summit
1:44 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Students to Discuss Violence, Bullying in Summit Friday

Niya Ingram, a tenth grader at Brashear High School, listed “killing, bullying and…gangs” among the issues she and her peers are facing.

That’s why she is helping facilitate the Coalition Against Violence’s (CAV) “Strategies for Change” Youth Summit Friday in coordination with the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP).

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Health
9:19 am
Thu December 18, 2014

How the Hill District's Freedom House EMTs Helped Shape Modern Ambulance Care

Freedom House and Presbyterian Hospital staff pose for a photograph. The Freedom House Enterprise Ambulance Service served as the model for emergency ambulance medicine.
Credit Ben Spiegel courtesy of the University of Pittburgh

George McCrary knows the Hill District well. As he drives the windy streets, he points out the places he remembers from his days working as one of the nation's first emergency medical technicians in the late '60s and early '70s.

It was on these streets where a young McCrary was a member of the Freedom House Enterprise Ambulance Service, which served as the model for emergency ambulance medicine.  

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Health
8:01 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Holiday Grief Is Natural But Should Be Addressed, Expert Says

We have all heard of the “holiday blues,” but until you or a loved one actually experiences them you might think it is more something of myth than of reality.

“Everyone at times can experience grief around the holidays,” said Anna Boettcher, Medical Director of Community Psychiatry at Pittsburgh Mercy Health System. “Just because of those warm thoughts and if those expectations are not met … then it can be a depressing time of year for some people.”

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Art From the Ground Up
3:30 am
Thu December 18, 2014

As Slow Danger, Artists Find New Ways to Merge Music and Dance

Taylor Knight and Anna Thompson create dance and music as Slow Danger.
Credit Courtesy of Slow Danger

Anna Thompson and Taylor Knight, who create both dance and music as Slow Danger, were drawn to each other’s willingness to explore new ways to interact with their art form.

Beginning with dance, they soon began creating their own music for their performances. Knight said it was inevitable for their art to “merge and intersect in that way.”

"The movement and the music, for us, goes hand in hand,” Knight said.

Thompson and Knight said their intention is to present an ambiguous identity that isn’t Anna, isn’t Taylor, but rather “this otherness that we create through.”

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City Government
3:30 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Affordable Housing Measure Approved by Planning Commission

Pittsburgh City Councilman Daniel Lavelle is one step closer to delivering on a promise to constituents that affordable housing would be a key part of the revitalization of the Hill District.

The Planning Commission on Tuesday voted unanimously in favor of a proposed change to city code governing specially planned districts, or SP districts.

“Specially Planned Districts are those districts like Southside Works, Station Square … the Pittsburgh Technology Center, and Washington’s Landing,” said zoning administrator Corey Layman.

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Health
3:30 am
Thu December 18, 2014

High-Dose Flu Vaccine May Provide Better Protection for Those in Long-Term Care Facilities

When it comes to protecting those most vulnerable to influenza, a high-dose flu vaccine may be most effective.

That’s according to the findings of a study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine which found that giving a high-dose vaccine to elderly people in long-term care facilities helped build immunity. Each year in the U.S. there are 3,000 to 49,000 influenza-related deaths.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:02 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Thursday Rundown: Making Sure Police Use of Force is Proportional to the Crime

Credit Elvert Barnes / Flickr

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

Cuba Policy Changes

As the United States takes steps to change our relationship with Cuba and ease restrictions on travel and commerce, with a place President Kennedy described as an "imprisoned island," we'll talk with Cuban born Carnegie Mellon University Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies Kenya Dworkin y Mendez and University of Pittsburgh associate professor of political science Scott Morgenstern. What opportunities does this create for Pittsburgh?

When Police Use Deadly Force

As public outcry continues in the wake of the police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York, former Pittsburgh Police Officer Sheldon Williams answers lingering questions about the use of deadly force by police. What obligation do police officers have to make sure the use of force is proportional?

Travel Segment

With the year coming to a close and holiday celebrations abounding, Travel contributor Elaine Labalme stops by with suggestions to help you answer the musical question, "What are you doing New Year's Eve." 

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Government & Politics
6:14 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Corbett Calls Sting Charges 'Satisfying'

Gov. Tom Corbett said Wednesday that he's pleased charges have been filed against two additional public officials ensnared by a sting operation that began under his tenure as attorney general.

"It's satisfying to see when there appears to be enough evidence to charge somebody and let a jury make the decision as to whether they're innocent or guilty," said Corbett, speaking on Radio Pennsylvania's Ask the Governor program.

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Government & Politics
5:06 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Senate Bill Enables Disabled to Set Up Tax-Free Savings for Education, Long-Term Care

It’s being called the biggest piece of legislation to affect disabled Americans since the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act was passed by the Senate Tuesday by a vote of 404-17.  It allows Americans with disabilities or their families to set up a tax-free savings account in order to prepare for long-term care.

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Marcellus Shale
4:44 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Report Claims Negative Impacts of Marcellus Shale Drilling

While the population in Marcellus Shale drilling towns has not increased, crime, housing costs and other negative impacts have.

That’s according to the left-leaning Keystone Research Center and the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center’s report "The Shale Tipping Point: The Relationship of Drilling to Crime, Truck Fatalities, STDs and Rents in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio."

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:15 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Are Local Prosecutors to Blame for Failure to Prosecute Police?

Credit David Harris

The public outcry over the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men, at the hands of white police officers continues to spark protests around the country. 

One of the many legal aspects being called into question in these instances is the role of local prosecutors taking the cases to grand juries. Pitt Law Professor David Harris examines the part that local prosecutors have played in these cases.

Harris says that local prosecutors often have ties to police departments, thus producing a possible conflict of interest. Although sometimes local prosecutors do indeed prosecute police, Harris acknowledges that concerns about impartiality are justifiable.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:09 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Untold Stories behind Holiday Songs

Credit Pamla J. Eisenberg / Flickr

From “Jingle Bells” to “White Christmas,” many of our most popular holiday songs have interesting stories behind them. Pop culture contributor Joe Wos tells us the stories behind some of our favorite holiday songs.

Wos singles out “Jingle Bells” as possibly the first Christmas pop song. Originally intended as a Thanksgiving song, “Jingle Bells” became a popular drinking song and ultimately became associated with Christmas.

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Essential Pittsburgh
1:59 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Why US Representative Mike Doyle Voted against the Latest Spending Bill

Credit US House of Representatives

Four days ago, Congress put final approval on a long term one-trillion dollar funding bill, the main item on the year's agenda. The measure provides money for nearly the entire government through September 30, 2015.

But the spending bill has plenty of critics, including Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, who called it "the worst of government for the rich and powerful.”

Pittsburgh Congressman Mike Doyle voted against the bill and explains that he did so because it contains “egregious provisions,” including a rider that allows banks to make risky investments that are FDIC insured, thus putting taxpayers at risk for private investment. Citigroup actually wrote the terms of the provision, Doyle emphasizes.

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City Government
7:52 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Facing Tough Budget Obligations, Pittsburgh Sees Opportunities in Grant Funding

As Pittsburgh struggles with financial obligations such as increased health care and pension costs, it still wants to pursue initiatives that improve quality of life. That's where grant funding comes in.
Credit AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Leigh Halverson is the deputy chief of staff for economic development in the Peduto administration, and on one wall of her office is a row of pink post it notes, with different dollar amounts written on them.

“$440,000 from the foundations this year to support our Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment,” she says. “$200,000 from the National League of Cities for our Healthy Together campaign … $75,000 for our green and healthy homes initiative.”

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Essential Pittsburgh
12:09 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Wednesday Rundown: Weighing the Power of Local Prosecutors

Credit Emmanuel / Flickr

These topics air Wednesday December 17, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

Local Prosecutors

The public outcry over the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men, at the hands of white police officers continues to spark protests around the country. One of the many legal aspects being called into question in these instances is the role of local prosecutors taking the cases to grand juries. We’ll examine the part local prosecutors have played in these cases with Pitt Law Professor David Harris.

US Representative Mike Doyle Explains His Vote on the Spending Bill

Four days ago, Congress put final approval on a long term one-trillion dollar funding bill, the main item on the year's agenda. The measure provides money for nearly the entire government through September 30, 2015. But the spending bill has plenty of critics including Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, who called it "the worst of government for the rich and powerful.” Pittsburgh Congressman Mike Doyle voted against the bill and he joins us to explain his decision. 

Holiday Songs

From Jingle Bells to White Christmas, pop culture contributor Joe Wos gives us the stories behind some of our favorite holiday songs.

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Essential Pittsburgh
8:10 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

The Story Behind Andy Warhol's 13 Most Wanted

A recreation of Andy Warhol’s “13 Most Wanted Men” banner was installed for the opening of the Warhol Museum's exhibition.
Courtesy of the Warhol Museum Twitter

Fifty years ago, the 1964 World’s Fair opened in Queens, New York. The organizers commissioned work from Andy Warhol, to be displayed on the facade of the New York State Pavilion, one of the fair’s main venues. 

According to Jessica Beck, assistant curator at The Warhol Museum, the NY World's Fair was all about “Peace through understanding, and man’s place in this changing and shrinking world.” 

She says it was meant to be a family-friendly attraction. 

But at that time, Andy Warhol was still experimenting with pop art, and growing in notoriety. For his commissioned work, Warhol created “Thirteen Most Wanted Men,” a mural composed of 22 head-and-shoulder mug shots taken from a booklet created by the New York City Police Department with images of the most wanted criminals of 1962. The painting, unsurprisingly, caused a scandal. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
7:29 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Pittsburgh Maintains Low Unemployment, But Blue Collar Jobs Still Struggle

Construction workers standing below the PNC Tower being erected in Downtown Pittsburgh
Credit Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh continues to have lower levels of unemployment than most similarly sized cities such as: Indianapolis, Kansas City and Cleveland. 

The Steel City weathered the economic crisis of 2008 better than just about any of these cities and its low unemployment and housing prices have drawn residents back to the area. But will this trend continue?

Mark Price, a labor economist with the left-leaning Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg, discusses Pittsburgh’s prospects going forward. In particular, he explains that economic recovery has not yet affected those in blue collar jobs. 

“Two sectors that are going to be important for Pittsburgh, two sectors that have not performed well at all for obvious reasons would be manufacturing and construction… that reflects the deepness and the nature of the recession.”

Overall, however, Price does feel good about the economy going forward.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:56 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Are You A PANK Or A PUNK? What These Demographics Mean for Business

"What more can we say?"- Essential Pittsburgh Assistant Producer and resident PANK, Heather McClain
Credit Sarahnaut / Flickr

In today’s competitive marketplace, companies are always looking for the next overlooked demographic to exploit. Some past examples include Young Upward Professionals (Yuppies) and couples known as DINKs (double income no kids).

The next overlooked demographic to get its own nickname are PANKs, which stands for: Professional Aunts, No Kids. 

Business contributor Rebecca Harris explains the PANK concept and their effect on the marketplace.

She says this group consists of child-loving women who do not have children of their own, and no, they're not spinsters

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Public Safety
5:19 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Police to Test Electronic Gunshot-Detection System in Homewood

Pittsburgh police plan to test an electronic gunshot-detection system later this month in a three square mile area stretching from the East Hills to East Liberty.

Councilman Ricky Burgess, who represents the neighborhoods, said there are three reasons for installing the ShotSpotter system, which can pinpoint the location and direction of shots fired.

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Business
2:59 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Southwest Airlines Ground Crew Union Protests at Pittsburgh International Airport

Members of Transport Workers Union of America’s Local 555 picketed Southwest Airlines at the Pittsburgh International Airport Tuesday, distributing flyers and holding signs as part of a larger protest involving 15 airports.

The union of grounds crew workers including ramp, operations and freight agents is in mediation with Southwest Airlines since the contract became amendable in June 2011. Under the Railway Labor Act, airline labor agreements do not expire, rather, they become amendable. Until the amendments are agreed upon, the previous contract is upheld.

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Transportation
2:54 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

New Airport Authority CEO Wants to Add More Nonstop Flights

A woman with more than two decades of air service experience was introduced Tuesday as the new CEO of the Allegheny County Airport Authority.

Christina Cassotis, 50, of Boston, will take over in January as CEO of the authority, which manages the Pittsburgh International Airport in Findlay and Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin.

Although she doesn’t see Pittsburgh becoming a hub for air traffic again, Cassotis said she wants to attract airlines to the city and add more nonstop flights.

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Government & Politics
2:46 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Former County Controller to Challenge Chelsa Wagner in 2015

Mark Patrick Flaherty announces he is running for Allegheny County Controller, challenging fellow Democrat Chelsa Wagner who currently holds the post. Flaherty was Controller from 2004 to 2011.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Former Allegheny County Controller Mark Patrick Flaherty has announced his candidacy for the post currently held by Democrat Chelsa Wagner. Flaherty, who held the post from 2004 to 2011, will seek the Democratic nomination.

“I really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to getting back and helping people and meeting a lot of people out there on the campaign trail and seeing what ideas and what suggestions they might have to improve efficiencies of county and all governments in Allegheny County,” said Flaherty.

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Community
11:20 am
Tue December 16, 2014

Brother's Brother Sends More Help to Battle Ebola

As the Ebola outbreak rages on in West Africa, charitable organizations scramble to get needed supplies to hospitals that treat victims.

One of those organizations, the Pittsburgh-based Brother’s Brother Foundation (BBF), is set to send a large shipment of medical supplies to Sierra Leone – one of the two countries hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak.

“Happily the problem is not as big as they thought,” said Luke Hingson, president of BBF, speaking in regards to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. However, “it is still sadly killing one- to two-thousand people a month.”

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Community
3:30 am
Tue December 16, 2014

Pittsburgh Looks to Immigrants as Economic Development Tool

Ammar Nsaif, originally from Iraq, immigrated to Pittsburgh about two years ago. He's an electrical engineer, but he's had trouble finding a job in his field.
Credit Photo courtesy of Ammar Nsaif

When Ammar Nsaif was eight years old, in Iraq, he often thought about his future wife and kids, and about the car, house and business he’d own.  As an adult, he became an electrical engineer and made his 8-year-old self proud. He said he had a reputation with family, friends, and neighbors as a doer, always working and growing his business. “I did very well,” Nsaif said.

He lost everything when he fled Baghdad suddenly, in 2006. Nsaif, 39, said he received a death threat from terrorists because of his work with an American company. They’d already killed an older brother.

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