'Mighty' Etna: The Greening of a Blue-Collar River Town

2 hours ago
Lou Blouin / The Allegheny Front

Some days, it might be easier if Mary Ellen Ramage simply left her right arm constantly in the air in a waving position. As the perpetually cheery borough manager of the small river town of Etna, Pennsylvania, the stream of greetings and hugs simply comes too quickly to allow time for a break. Often, the shouts of “Hey, Mary Ellen!” fly past from passing pickup trucks before she can identify the voices. But being able to patch together who they are from the back of a vehicle is one of the perks of “literally knowing everyone in town.”

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

A new study out of the University of Pittsburgh found that a text message program that aimed to help young adults cut down on binge drinking worked six months after the program ended.

The study is in the journal PLOS ONE.

ICTY Photos / Flickr

A funny thing happened on the way to the referendum.

A year and a half ago, it seemed that getting a proposed constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot would be the hard part. This week, the state Senate cast the final vote in the years-long process to put the question to voters: should the age limit for state judges be changed from 70 to 75 years?

Kristi Jan Hoover

A black and yellow helmet sits on the floor of Janet Hoover’s kitchen. It’s perched on top of a pair of boots and an old miner’s lamp. The helmet label reads, “Fasloc: Keeps the Roof Over Your Head.” 

Iain Watson / Flickr

A candlelight peace vigil is planned in East Liberty next month. As East End Cooperative Ministries Executive Director Michael Mingrone imagines it, thousands of people from across faiths and walks of life will line the streets, candles in hand, conveying a message of solidarity for as far as the eye can see.

“We really wanted to focus on the act of peace and how it’s created,” said Mingrone. “The concept is we create peace within ourselves and our homes and then it gets shared throughout our community, to our country, to the world.”

Michael Coghlan / Flickr

Screening and treating prison inmates for Hepatitis C would help reduce the number of infections in the general population according to projections made by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and Massachusetts General Hospital. 

What Parts Of Your Thanksgiving Meal Are Genetically Modified?

Nov 26, 2015
Dan Tentler / Flickr

Watching what we eat during the holiday season usually refers to how much we’re consuming. But if you’re a person who’s concerned with food issues, you might have a trickier time spotting genetically engineered foods. The U.S. is not among the 60 countries that require the labeling of GMOs. So to give you a little help on what part of your Thanksgiving plate might be genetically engineered, the Allegheny Front’s Julie Grant decided to look into the issue. Here’s a breakdown of some traditional holiday foods to pay special attention to.

On the holiday plate

Lessons Learned From Raising A 43-Pound Monster Turkey

Nov 26, 2015
Jessica Reeder / Allegheny Front

When it comes to the Thanksgiving turkey, size matters.  A 2o-pounder from the supermarket freezer is usually enough to secure some bragging rights for the cook. But for hobby farmer, Ken Chiacchia, a bird that size would hardly raise an eyebrow. He regularly raises heavyweights that get twice that size. But for him, what’s worth bragging about isn’t how big they get—it’s how they’re raised:

I sing you the song of “Turkmenistan”—a 43-pound monster of a Tom turkey we raised on our little farm.

Thomas Kohler / Flickr

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Pennsylvania residents lost more than $20.8 million to internet fraud in 2014.

This holiday season, the Pennsylvania Bankers Association is reminding people to be safe with their banking information when shopping with a credit card, whether online or in person.

What Is The Carbon Footprint Of A Typical Thanksgiving?

Nov 25, 2015
Jack Amick / Flickr

Mike Berners-Lee may not be an expert on the American Thanksgiving. A native of the UK, he’s never actually had the pleasure of experiencing one. But as one of the world’s leading researchers on the carbon footprint of—well—everything (he even wrote a book subtitled “The Carbon Footprint of Everything”), he’s plenty familiar with the impacts of the foods that star in the traditional Thanksgiving Day spread.

Counties May Sue PA Over 5-Month Budget Standoff

Nov 25, 2015
David Flores / Flickr

Pennsylvania's cash-strapped counties are saying enough is enough as the budget impasse in Harrisburg nears its sixth month. They are exploring a lawsuit to force the state to release funds, and at least one already declared it will protest by withholding millions of dollars it collects in state real estate transfer taxes and court fees.

The stalemate between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican lawmakers has meant a lack of state funding for school districts, counties and nonprofits, which in turn have reduced staff, slashed services and borrowed money to cover costs.

Capitol Recap: Proposed Municipal Pensions Fix Would Allow Skipping Public Bids

Nov 25, 2015
Emily Previti / Keystone Crossroads

The exemption would apply to 98 percent of Pennsylvania's municipal retirement systems.

Susquehanna Township's figured out a way to save $40,000 a year, every year.

That's three percent of their budget, freed up. Without compromising anything for residents, or firing anyone.

But to public officials in the 25,000 person community, getting there was almost not worth the trouble.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state Senate will begin a process next month that could topple the commonwealth’s embattled attorney general, Kathleen Kane.

A special Senate panel voted 5-2 to recommend that the full chamber take up the question of whether or not Kane can do her job with a suspended law license. The procedure would begin only with approval from the full Senate. Following that, there would be a public hearing to let Kane defend herself. Then, the Senate could ask the governor to remove Kane with a two-thirds majority vote.

How To Talk Politics At Thanksgiving Without Causing A Family Feud

Nov 25, 2015
Didriks / Flickr

Talking politics with family and friends at the holidays is supposed to be a big no-no. But sometimes you can’t help yourself. So if you’re going to walk down that dangerous road, we at least wanted to provide a few pointers. This week, Kara Holsopple chatted with psychologist Mary Beth Mannarino about how you can take on issues like climate change at Thanksgiving—but avoid a family feud. Here are some highlights from the interview: 

On how to deal with hot button issues like climate change at family gatherings

Budget Negotations Drag On Through Thanksgiving

Nov 25, 2015
Marc Levy / AP Images

It’s been almost 150 days since the July 1st budget deadline and after the protracted budget stalemate between Governor Wolf and the legislature began dragging on for months, we heard it would all be worked out by Thanksgiving.  With Thanksgiving tomorrow and little prospect for a compromise, we turn to 90.5 WESA Capitol reporter Mary Wilson to see what’s happening in Harrisburg and what issues are tying up budget negotiations.

Frankie Leon / flickr

Last year the popular retailer Target fell victim to a high profile hacking. As we head into the holiday shopping season could this happen again and what is its impact on the economy? We’ll pose these questions to  Robert Morris University Economics Professor Brian O’Roark.

LV Lights / Flickr

In Allegheny County, 22 hotels owe more than $790,000 in unpaid taxes, penalties and interest.

The County Controller, working with the Treasurer’s office, conducted an audit uncovering the unpaid taxes.

Controller Chelsa Wagner said her office has an agreement with the Treasurer’s office, which collects the taxes, to take charge of more difficult audits such as this one.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Many people are eager to give back during the holiday season, collecting toys for children in low-income families or serving Christmas dinner at a soup kitchen.

Edgewood Resident Wins Rhodes Scholarship

Nov 25, 2015
Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

With past recipients including former President Bill Clinton and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, the Rhodes Scholarship is one of the most prestigious awards in the academic world. Out of the over 32 winning students this year, two of them are from Pennsylvania and one is from right here in Pittsburgh. Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer sat down with the winner, University of Pennsylvania senior Jenna Hebert, to talk about what winning the award means to her.

Ryan Loew / For Keystone Crossroads


The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development is removing Clairton’s distressed city status.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The acting commissioner for the State Police is poised for a full state Senate vote after receiving unanimous approval from a key committee on Tuesday.  

Colonel Tyree Blocker is returning to the agency 10 years after he retired. 

Start Up Finds New Use For Medical Technology With Marine Life

Nov 24, 2015
Mussel Prevention Program / California Division of Boating and Waterways



Since boating began, sailors have been vexed by barnacles and algae that attach to ship hulls. The sea life puts a drag on movement through water.

Illustration by Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA



How To Pilfer A Semi-Abandoned, Iowa Tree Farm

Josh Raulerson,* 90.5 WESA Morning Edition Host

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Autumn brings about changing leaves, crisp-cool weather and a trend much more vexing: deer-related car crashes.

November is peak mating season for deer, Pennsylvania Game Commission biologist Jeannine Fleegle said.

“Bucks are on the move a lot more, because they’re looking for a date,” she said. “And there’s not much else they see. They’re not paying attention to roads – not that deer are very good at crossing roads anyway – but with these increased movements, the probability of them getting hit of course goes up.”    

Matt Bauman / Youtube

Pitt graduate student Matt Bauman is studying bio-engineering. However an informal look at the speed of traffic in Oakland is garnering a lot of attention. Matt Bauman joins us to discuss his findings and the Pittsburgh agencies that are taking notice.

New Health Care Company Helps You Choose The Right Plan

Nov 24, 2015
Fotos GOVBA / flickr

Open enrollment regarding the selection of a health care plan offers a lot of options. How you do sort through what’s  available and choose the best option for you or your family? We’ll pose that question to Dan Harding, co-founder of Health Sage a Pittsburgh company helping to empower consumers when it comes to health insurance options.

Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale Drives Boost In Nation’s Proven Gas Reserves

Nov 24, 2015
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY


Nationwide, the amount of gas that producers can afford to get out of the ground, broke records in 2014, topping 388 trillion cubic feet, according to a new report from the Energy Information Administration. 

Pittsburgh City Council is one step closer to prohibiting large trucks from parking on residential streets overnight.

“In a residential community you shouldn’t be able to leave you large trucks. A – it’s a public safety concern on many of our narrow streets, B – residential community is meant for residential parking,” said Councilman Dan Gilman. 

Clotee Allochuku / Flickr

This year's Black Friday isn't expected to be much different from the previous year's. 

Last year, 87 million Americans went shopping on Black Friday, spending more than $1.5 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

Pittsburgh Health Innovators Finalists In Global Innovation Competition

Nov 24, 2015
Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

With an initial pool of 192 applicants, the HITLAB World Cup Innovators Summit brings high stakes competition to healthcare innovators internationally. Two Pittsburgh companies, Rubitection and Ristcall, are among the five finalists who will be traveling to New York City in search of the coveted $10,000 grand prize. Rubitection CEO Dr. Sanna Gasperd and Ristcall CEO Srinath Vaddepally sat down with Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer to discuss their products and their prospects in winning the competition.