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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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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Tue December 16, 2014

State’s Auditor Backs Off Department Of Education

It appears the tensions have subsided, at least for the moment, between the state Department of Education and the commonwealth’s fiscal watchdog.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale blasted the agency earlier this month for being uncooperative with a performance review.

But he said more recently that the department has begun sending timely responses – beginning with one that was due last Tuesday.

“For the first time in the history of our audit of the Department of Education they met a deadline of supplying information,” said DePasquale.

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Essential Pittsburgh
1:47 am
Tue December 16, 2014

Tuesday Rundown: From Help Wanted to Warhol's Most Wanted

One of the enlarged images displayed by Andy Warhol at the 1964 World's Fair. Most Wanted No. 2, John Victor G.
Credit Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc.

These topics air Tuesday December 16, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

Pittsburgh's Low Unemployment

The Steel City continues to have lower levels of unemployment than most similarly sized cities such as Indianapolis, Kansas City and Cleveland. But will this trend continue? We'll talk with Mark Price, a labor economist with the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg.

Warhol's 13 Most Wanted

Fifty years ago, the 1964 World’s Fair opened in Queens, New York. Iconic pop culture artist, Andy Warhol was asked to take part in a set of public commissions for the exterior of the New York State Pavilion, one of the main venues of the fair. The images Warhol chose to display caused a scandal at first. Now they are part of a major exhibition currently on view at the Andy Warhol Museum. Jessica Beck is the assistant curator of the exhibition, she’s here to talk about the story of Warhol’s 13 Most Wanted.

WESA Celebrates - Miss Audie Hart

“Miss Audie” Hart plays many different roles at the Neighborhood Academy in Garfield. To a number of students she’s a grandmother. Some staff members see her as a mother figure. The love and support she provides to those at the Neighborhood Academy are the reason she is the subject of this week’s WESA Celebrates profile.

The Business of PANKS

It seems every demographic gets a name from young upward professionals (yuppies) to couples known as DINKS (double income no kids). This week business contributor Rebecca Harris looks at the newest demographic making headlines – PANKs (professional aunts, no kids). 

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Community
4:38 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

Latest Round of Housing Vouchers Given to Homeless Veterans

More than 100 homeless veterans in Pennsylvania will receive rental vouchers totaling nearly $560,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The newest batch of vouchers, 103 in total, is part of the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program, which has handed out more than $2 million in rental assistance in the state since October.

The vouchers will be given to housing authorities and veteran medical centers, which will help find veterans who need housing.  

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:32 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

J Street Looks at the US-Israel Relationship, and a Two-State Solution

Credit Rusty Stewart / Flickr

What impact could last month’s US elections, as well as the upcoming elections in Israel have on that region? 

We pose that question to our guest, J Street Chief-of-Staff Steve Krubiner, as he prepares for a discussion on the US-Israel relationship and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Find out why he's advocating for a two-state solution.

Essential Pittsburgh
3:52 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

A New Venue For Storytelling in Pittsburgh

Lisa Kirchner is an author and creator of the Pittsburgh Story Syndicate.
Credit Lisa Kirchner

Chicago has its 2nd Story, Baltimore has the Stoop and public radio has The Moth. They’re all storytelling series where everyday citizens relate a true-life story.

The Pittsburgh Story Syndicate became the latest venue for people to connect and share their stories after holding several events in the city earlier this month. Bringing her storytelling skills back to Pittsburgh was author Lisa Kirchner who joined us in Studio A to discuss her creation.

Kirchner, who lives in New York City, was involved with the Moth as a story coach and traveled to places such as schools and rehab centers to encourage people to share their stories.

“To be able to tell your story is a way to connect more deeply with other humans… going onstage can be a lot of fun and a great motivator of people to hone their skills,” she said.

On Mondays at Cannon Coffee in Brookline, all participants put their name into a hat. When a name is drawn, that person comes up on stage and has five minutes to tell a true story- with a beginning, middle, and end. Other than that, Kirchner says there are no rules.

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Community
3:37 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh Set to Move into Larger Space in the New Year

The Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh has a collection of artifacts and documents that have been in storage since it moved to its current space in Oakland more than two years ago. There just isn’t enough room there to display everything.

“We’ve been looking for space that we could unpack our artifacts, we could unpack our library and showcase was we can do educationally for several years now, we finally found the space and we anticipate being fully open by late spring,” said Joy Braunstein, director of the Holocaust Center.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:37 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

An Hour of Coding Makes A Difference For Female High School Students

Students at Oakland Catholic High School learning to code.
Credit OCHS

Pittsburgh has become a hub for technology and computer developments, thanks to institutions like Carnegie Mellon University and Google.

Local students who wish to one day join this field must learn at a young age the language of computers- coding.  

Last week students around the world took part in the second annual Hour of Code event in which they spent an hour learning computer code. The program was created by Hadi Partovi at Code.org to introduce individuals, not just students, to the coding process.

Oakland Catholic High School was one of the schools that participated in the event, and school president Mary Claire Kasunic stopped by Essential Pittsburgh to explain the significance of the program.

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2015 Budget
1:00 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

City Council Approves 2015 Budget

After approving a few last minute amendments, Pittsburgh City Council on Monday approved a $507.8 million operating budget, up from $487.1 million in 2014, as well as a $76.6 million capital budget and a five-year capital plan.

“This is a banner day for Pittsburgh,” Mayor Bill Peduto said. “With the help of City Council and our financial overseers — and especially our residents and employees — this budget clears a path to fix our financial problems for good over the next five years.”

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Remake Learning
7:38 am
Mon December 15, 2014

Remember Shop Class? In Beaver Falls, It's Greener Than Ever

Beaver Falls High School students Brad Dawson (left) and Tanner Dobson work on a project in their technology education class. Students at the school have been learning how to make solar panels and build hydro and wind generators.
Ryan Loew 90.5 WESA

At Beaver Falls High School, Tim Liller teaches technology education, or the class typically thought of as "shop."

Once a staple of high school education, shop class has fallen by the wayside with the decline of American manufacturing. But here, Liller's students still learn the basics, including how to wire a home and fix small engines. And more recently, they've also been learning how to make solar panels and build hydro and wind generators.

These are skills Liller hopes they can build on when they graduate.

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Economy
3:30 am
Mon December 15, 2014

Report: Trade Deficit with China Cost PA 122,600 Jobs in 12 years

A report released by the Economic Policy Institute found 122,600 jobs don’t exist in Pennsylvania because of unbalanced trade with China.

Nationally, the trade deficit cost 3.2 million jobs between the same period of 2001 and 2013.

Most U.S. trade comes from manufactured goods rather than agricultural and war materials such as oil or services such as health care, therefore most job creation or loss dependent on trade is manufacturing.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon December 15, 2014

Looming Contract Renegotiation Adds to Budget Murkiness

You can put another thing to the list of reasons drafting the next state budget won't be a cake walk: the commonwealth's labor costs are likely to go up next year.

In recent years, new governors have had to revisit contracts for most of the state's roughly 73,000 employees within their first year in office. The same is true this time.

Most contracts will be up next July, and renegotiation means pay raises and potentially higher costs for employee health care and leave.

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Business scams
3:30 am
Mon December 15, 2014

Better Business Bureau Urges Holiday Shoppers to Look Out for Scams

It wouldn’t be an American holiday without con artists trying to scam innocent online shoppers.

This holiday season, keep on the lookout for warning signs that might indicate you’re being targeted by a scammer.   

The most prominent scam this year is the fake package delivery email, according to Caitlin Driscoll, public relations director for the Better Business Bureau of Western Pennsylvania. These emails claim they contain links to package tracking information, but are really out to break into your computer.

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Community
3:30 am
Mon December 15, 2014

Food Pantry Uses Amazon to Make Donating Easier

The largest food pantry in the region has added another way to donate in the hopes of reaching a wider group of would-be givers. A group of volunteers set up an Amazon Wish List for Northside Food Pantry and selections can be shipped directly to the facility. It’s been up for about a year and has been successful.

“Almost every day, there’s a UPS truck coming here with boxes full of groceries for our pantry that are off of the Amazon Wish List,” said Jay Poliziani, director of Northside Common Ministries and the Pantry.

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Essential Pittsburgh
7:39 pm
Sun December 14, 2014

Monday Rundown: Seeing the Importance of Coding For the Next Generation

A kindergartener coding in October 2014
Credit Kevin Jarrett / Flickr

These topics air Monday December 15, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

US-Israel Relationship

What impact could last month’s US elections, as well as the upcoming elections in Israel have on that region? We’ll pose that question to our guest J Street Chief-of-Staff Steve Krubiner, as he prepares for a discussion on the US-Israel relationship and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Cracking the Code

Last week students around the world took part in the Hour of Code event in which they spent an hour learning computer code. Locally, an event was held at Oakland Catholic High School. As part of WESA’s Life of Learning Initiative we’ll discover how the event went and what it could mean for the student’s future with School President Mary Claire Kasunic.

Pittsburgh Story Syndicate

Chicago has its Second Story, Baltimore has the Stoop and public radio has The Moth. They’re storytelling series where everyday citizens relate a true-life story. Beginning this month the Pittsburgh Story Syndicate becomes the latest venue for people to connect and share their stories. Bringing her storytelling skills back to Pittsburgh is author Lisa Kirchner who joins us in Studio A. 

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City Government
10:24 am
Sun December 14, 2014

CMU Students Present Privacy and Surveillance Report to Police Chief, Councilman

After voting in favor of a 2015 budget amendment that would speed up the timeline for deployment of body-worn cameras for police officers, Councilman Dan Gilman on Wednesday held a post-agenda meeting on surveillance and privacy.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:01 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

News from the World of College and Pro Football

Credit Parker Anderson / Flickr

NFL owners have voted unanimously to adopt six game minimum suspensions for domestic or sexual violence and other crimes.

The changes come after the NFL was criticized for its handling of alleged off-field violence by high profile players. But will the players go along? 

John Affleck, Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society at Penn State, offers his assessment and also talks about the upcoming departure of Pitt football coach Paul Chryst for Wisconsin.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:33 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

With A New Governor In The New Year, Will PA Have New Options For Healthcare?

Credit Tom Wolf / Flickr

Carnegie Mellon University Health Law professor Gary Kaplan joins us to talk about how Pennsylvania’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act could change under the Wolf administration.

Professor Kaplan represents private employers in advising them on health care plan options. So what do employers need to know about the UPMC and Highmark contract in 2015?

Kaplan explains that Wolf is interested in going with a different plan for the implementation of the Medicaid expansion than what Tom Corbett had planned. 

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