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While Pennsylvania’s legislative leaders argue over thresholds for prevailing wage projects and gasoline tax rates, one of the state’s most popular former governor’s is calling on lawmakers to act quickly. 

“Transportation infrastructure is key to not only the quality of life but your ability to be competitive,” said former Gov. Tom Ridge. “People will see that once Pennsylvania invested today in its future, they’ll get immediate results.”

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Ken and Deb Zuroski, along with their three kids, Tristan, 18, Haley, 15, and Ian, 7, aren’t a very serious bunch overall. On a recent afternoon, there was a lot of good-natured teasing going on around the dining room table of their Squirrel Hill home.

Flickr user jrgcastro

A federal judge says she's likely to put on hold a civil rights lawsuit over Pittsburgh's challenge to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's tax-exempt status.

Meanwhile, in the related state case, attorneys wrangled Monday over whether UPMC has employees.

The city sued UPMC in earlier this year, saying the medical center shouldn't be treated like a charity because it doesn't act like one.

Pennsylvania’s four state-related universities are arguing they should continue to receive special treatment under the commonwealth’s open records law.

State lawmakers are working on an update to the government transparency law last revised in 2008, which largely exempts Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln.

Valerie Harrison, general counsel for Lincoln University, says additional oversight would be cumbersome.

Youth Climate Activists Hold Power Shift Summit

Oct 21, 2013
Haldan Kirsch / 90.5 WESA

More than 1,000 protesters marched from the North Side to downtown Monday for the 2013 Power Shift summit.

Power Shift is an online community for youth climate activists who are calling for a “green economy” and a stop to mountaintop removal mining.

The protesters called for PNC Bank to stop financing mountaintop mining, which involves exposing and taking out upper seams of coal, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

According Rob Nelson, guest lecturer at Duquesne University’s annual History Forum and director of the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond, the last great historical atlas was published in 1932. It was called "The Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States," and it included a series of maps that illustrated how the nation changed over time.

Flickr user wildcellist

A proposed plan to re-configure downtown bus routes has been placed on hold. However, not without raising concerns among riders.

The plan, according to Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, is to reduce the overcrowding and gridlock that occurs on downtown Pittsburgh streets.

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Lack of Internet access can puts some kids at an academic disadvantage, says Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Linda Lane.

Comcast and Pittsburgh Public Schools are teaming together to offer another year of “Internet Essentials,” an initiative that provides low-cost Internet service to low-income families.

“Parents may have iPads, they may have smartphones that have connectivity, they may have desktop computers that are hooked to the Internet, or laptops,” Lane said. “But then we also have children who may have little of that or none at all, so that their access to the Internet is only at school.”

The Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) returned to PNC branches Monday to again protest the bank’s investments in mountaintop removal mining.

Last April EQAT protested at a PNC shareholder meeting in Pittsburgh to the point that the company’s chairman and CEO had to shut down the gathering.

Mountaintop mining involves removing mountaintops to expose coal, excavating the upper and lower layers of coal with remains placed in piles, and then re-grading and re-vegetating the site.

Pennsylvania’s Somerset County isn’t exactly the African Savanna, but as many as 20 elephants could be calling it home in the next few years.

The International Conservation Center broke ground Saturday on a 1-acre elephant cow and calf barn, to add to the 724-acre facility.

Pittsburgh Zoo CEO Barbara Baker said the barn will focus on elephant breeding to try and combat the declining population.

For cancer patients, the burden of treatment can be so heavy that their overall quality of life is overlooked as recovery takes precedence. Elements of wellness such as movement, touch, nutrition, and mindfulness will be addressed by The Hillman Cancer Center at its inaugural Integrated Cancer Wellness Fair on October 23 at UPMC Shadyside Hospital.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Bill Cosby once said “the essence of childhood, of course, is play.”

But play for children today is sometimes very different than it was even five or 10 years ago, as the prevalence of smart phones and tablets is changing the way children play and learn.

Take 4-year-old Max. He’s in preschool and is learning to read and spell, sometimes with the help of apps on his mom and dad’s iPhone or iPad.

When he's not busy representing Pittsburgh's East End in the state House of Representatives, Rep. Dan Frankel enjoys pleasure-reads about the political process. To him, it never feels like work.

Robert A. Caro, “The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Vol. 4

stockmonkeys.com

Pennsylvania is not like its neighboring states – it monitors prescriptions most prone to abuse, but turns a blind eye to other categories of drugs.  But that might not be the case for long.  

The program is intended to prevent drug abuse by allowing prescribers and law enforcement to check for patterns in a patient’s prescription history.

Elected officials and political strategists are trying to assess the effect of the 16-day federal government shutdown on political capital in Pennsylvania and most are finding it hard to see much damage.

Republican strategist Charlie Gerow thinks the shutdown debate will strengthen GOP candidates because it clarified their message.

“One is the incredible increase in the national debt, and two – the disaster of Obamacare,” Gerow said.

But after the shutdown-inducing fight, Republicans seem no closer to changing the Affordable Care Act or reducing the national debt.

Website Can Help Plan Your Fall Wine Tastings

Oct 21, 2013

Ever wondered which one of Pennsylvania’s 170+ wineries is nearest to you? Have you ever traveled to another county and found yourself wondering where you’ll get your next wine fix? Now you don’t have to with the Pennsylvania Winery Association’s new mobile website.

The association hopes it’s new website, logo, and tagline this (“Keep Tasting”) will get more people out for the fall wine season.

Jennifer Eckinger, executive director of the association, said the industry has been evolving quickly.

Carnegie Mellon University science students want you to know that they’re just like the rest of us.

That is why they are hosting The Story Collider, a national storytelling project that produces live shows and podcasts, Monday night at the Rex Theater.

Graduate and undergraduate CMU students with majors ranging from computer science to physics and biology will share stories about how science has impacted their lives. 

The Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) thinks the best way to celebrate Pittsburgh’s air is by “gasping” for it after a 5K.

GASP will be hosting its first-ever Clean Air Dash and Festival Saturday.

The Air Dash - a certified 5K - will take runners through the Three Rivers Heritage Trail in South Side Riverfront Park.

Rachel Filippini, Executive Director of GASP, said the goal is to celebrate Pittsburgh’s progress towards reducing air pollution and re-energize people to continue working towards cleaner air.

90.5 WESA Weekend Watch 10/19 & 10/20

Oct 19, 2013

4 local comics artists are coming together this week for Copacetic Comics’s Spooky Party. Four edgy publications by local artists and editors see their releases at the party.

Latino Graduation Rates Subject of PA Summit

Oct 18, 2013

While 83 percent of Pennsylvania students as a whole graduate high school, one in three Latino students drops out of school.

That’s according to a new Graduation Nation report from America’s Promise Alliance, the country’s largest coalition of educators, businesses, nonprofits and policy makers focusing on improving academic achievement.

A measure that would help some convicted criminals clear their record has been passed by the Pennsylvania Senate and is on its way to the House.

Senate Bill 391 would allow individuals who were convicted of a non-violent misdemeanor of the third or second degree and have not been arrested or prosecuted for seven to ten years following the completion of their sentence to have their record expunged. 

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Former city police Chief Nathan Harper has pleaded guilty to federal charges that he conspired to steal police funds deposited into unauthorized credit union accounts and willfully failed to file income tax returns.

The guilty plea was entered Friday in a hearing before U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon and is the latest incident in a remarkable fall from grace for Harper who joined the city's police force in 1977 and rose through the ranks before being appointed chief in 2006 by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

Harper, who is 60-years-old, will be sentenced Feb. 25.

Steel workers and green industry representatives met today to discuss the future of sustainable resources in the United States.

The panel discussed ways of getting a younger generation of energy leaders and producers, as well as the federal government, more committed to developing a clean economy.

Some believe dependable Production Tax Credits (PTC) could be the answer.

Companies that produce wind, geothermal and other types of renewable energy are eligible for a PTC, which provides a 2.2-cent per kilowatt-hour benefit for the first ten years of operation.

Officials with Edinboro University say the school won't cut bachelor degree programs in music and music education as it works to address a budget deficit. In July, the state system of higher education school had said that it might cut the music programs because there were only 70 students enrolled in them. Now, the school's interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, Michael Hannan, said the music department will not be cut, but will be restructured a bit.

Madame Presidenta: Why Not Us?

Oct 18, 2013
wikipedia

As the granddaughter of a woman who fought for women’s rights in the suffragist movement during the early 20th century, the work that Heather Arnet, CEO of the Women and Girls Foundation, has done is enough to make any grandmother proud.

Her newest project, a documentary titled Madame Presidentá: Why Not Us?, examines the global power of women and specifically, the work of the first female president of Brazil Dilma Rousseff.

The goal for the film, she says, was not to point out how America has not succeeded in putting a woman in the White House. Her aim, as her grandmother so pointedly says in the film, was to figure out “How the hell did they do that?” and look at the eighteen countries worldwide who do have women in power. 

Filming and Reporting in a War Zone

Oct 18, 2013
Justin Merriman / justinmerriman.blogspot.com/

Kalpana Biswas, filmmaker and Board Chairperson of Women in Film and Media Pittsburgh, decided to make a film about women and children in Afghanistan, but she had no experience when it came to filming in an area of conflict.

This led her to ask journalists in the Pittsburgh area for advice on how to prepare. One of the major questions that she asked was, “How do I go through filming without endangering myself?”

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Despite an online petition with more than 4,636 signatures (as of this story being published), the Rubber Duck Project will leave Pittsburgh on Sunday night.

“From the beginning we always said October 20th is its date,” said Paul Organisak, vice president for programming at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. “The work of art has always been, was meant to be, a temporary installation. The power of it is the concentrated period of time to bring people together knowing that they must get down to see it.”

CSX Corp. plans to build a $50 million truck-to-train freight transfer station in one of Pittsburgh's poorest suburbs.

Officials in McKees Rocks hope the mile-long facility, which stretches into neighboring Stowe Township along the Ohio River, will jumpstart plans for a business park next to it. McKees Rocks Mayor Jack Muhr says, "This is the kind of development project that can pave the way for more growth."

This weekend budding entrepreneurs and those curious about launching a startup will gather in Pittsburgh for Startup Weekend. It’s part of a global grassroots movement that follows a basic model: participants pitch their startup ideas and they get feedback from peers. Teams form around topic ideas which are determined by votes and then comes 54 hours of business model creation, coding, designing and market validation.

Shale Gas Fuels Gulf's Chemical Industry

Oct 18, 2013
Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

Standing beneath a tangle of pipes, ductwork, and grated catwalks at BASF’s massive ethylene unit in this small refining city on the Gulf Coast, Andy Miller pointed to a large metal box a few feet above his head.

Inside, a fire burning at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit produced an industrial-scale whine.

“If you look up into this little peephole, you’ll be able to see some of the firing,” Miller said.

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