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Local
7:05 am
Mon May 7, 2012

Disability Book, “Our Friend Mikayla” Sent to Every PA Elementary School

Teachers and students in every public elementary school in Pennsylvania will soon have access to a book that its authors hope will help us all better understand the lives of those with special needs.

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Government
7:00 am
Mon May 7, 2012

New Measure Would Cut Taxes, Close Loophole for Businesses

House lawmakers have passed a business-friendly tax measure that would bring the corporate net income (CNI) tax rate down by 3% over the next several years. Whether it's possible to implement such a bill and still balance the budget, however, remains unclear.

"I, at this point today, don't know that we're in any position to reduce the CNI in order to balance this budget," said Governor Tom Corbett. While Corbett said he is still mindful of his campaign promise to consider lowering the CNI rate, he maintained his priority now is on passing a balanced budget.

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Arts
7:00 am
Mon May 7, 2012

Mary Frances Cooper

Mary Frances Cooper, President and Director of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, loves the heft and texture of a good book. But, as she tells Speaking Volumes, Cooper also sees a bright future for libraries and readers through digital publishing.

Her recent reads include:

Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

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Local
7:00 am
Mon May 7, 2012

Salvation Army Launches Gateway to Needy

The Salvation Army's Western Pennsylvania Division has completed a major overhaul of its website to better serve its volunteers, donors, and especially those in need. Fran Brace, the division's director of development, says because thousands of families' lives in the region depend on the services of the Salvation Army, it's critical that the electronic gateway to the organization is user-friendly.

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Health
7:00 am
Mon May 7, 2012

Researchers Find Sharp Increase in Wheelchair Breakdowns

Wheelchairs break 40% more often than they used to, according to a new study by researchers at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The incidence of breakdowns in previous years was already high, according to senior author Dr. Michael Boninger, but a surge in failures since 2006 has left more people with spinal-chord injuries in inconvenient and unsafe situations.

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Local
7:00 am
Mon May 7, 2012

Carnegie Library Of Pittsburgh Seeks Public Input On Future Plans

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is reaching out to the community for suggestions on a five-year plan for the library by holding the second in a series of workshops to help frame the path for the future.

More than 150 community leaders and residents participated in the first round of strategic planning discussions in February and March, which focused on four core areas: "The Library in the City," "The Future of Libraries," "Library Funding and Fundraising," and "Connecting with our Community."

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Economy
11:41 am
Sun May 6, 2012

State Agency Cracks Down on Fraudulent Unemployment Claims

The state's jobless numbers may be dropping, but an office created last July to root out unemployment compensation fraud says its work is not slowing down any time soon.

Jim Tillman is head of the Office of Integrity in the state Department of Labor and Industry. He said new tools to prevent online fraud are being added to an existing program to keep people from collecting unemployment benefits when they return to work.

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Environment
11:30 am
Sat May 5, 2012

Post Natural History, Now

You've probably heard the saying, "Don't mess with Mother Nature." But all around us, scientists, corporations, and even farmers are doing just that: breeding corn to resist pests and herbicides, inserting genes into salmon and spawning generations of lab specimens.

An arty crowd gathered in a suite of dark rooms got the first peek at a curiosity shop of exhibits. The black paint was barely dry on the cases, lit to reveal live sea monkeys swimming around a beaker and a stuffed white lab rat making a last stand on its hind legs — and then there were the domestic cat testicles.

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Government
6:09 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Romney Speaks in O'Hara Township

Presumed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney brought his campaign back to the Pittsburgh region today.

Nearly 200 supporters showed up to hear Romney deliver his message of job creation at Sauereisen, a construction materials company in O'Hara Township.

"This is a sad time in America when people who want work can't find jobs," Romney said.

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Local
5:50 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Pennsylvania's First Lady Reads to Faison Kindergartners

Pennsylvania First Lady Susan Corbett read the book Amazing Grace to kindergartners at Pittsburgh Faison K-5 School in Homewood this morning and discussed it with older students. The book is about a little girl who wants to play Peter Pan in the school play but is told she can't because she is black and a girl. Grace achieves her goal by the end of the book, teaching the lesson that with perseverance and hard work, dreams can come true.

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Economy
5:27 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Township Supervisors Discuss Impact Fee, Cost Savings

The Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS) is holding its 90th annual conference this weekend. PSATS director Dave Sanko said this year, out of deference to a new era of limited resources, everyone's focus is on saving money.

"Local governments are not looking to Harrisburg or Washington for money, but they are looking for mandate relief and to enable them to be able to do things more effectively, more efficiently, get rid of the some of the goofy rules that stand in their way that cost them money," Sanko said.

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Local
3:25 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

House Okays Expansion of Homestead Exemption

Legislation to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to allow for the exclusion of up to 100% of the value of a principal residence from property taxes has been unanimously approved by the state House.

Representative Rick Saccone (R-Washington & Allegheny Counties) said the legislative process to protect Pennsylvania homeowners from the burden of skyrocketing property taxes has begun to move in the right direction.

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Local
3:21 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Tunch and Wolf’s Annual 20-mile Walk Through Pittsburgh Honors those who Help Homeless

The 20 mile walk took a group of participants to 16 Pittsburgh neighborhoods on Friday. They stopped in Market Square downtown on their way to Mt. Washington to hold a small ceremony honoring citizens who've stepped up in the last year to help the Light of Life Rescue Mission.

"Pittsburghers want to give of themselves, and to see a high school girl raise $8,000, that blows me away!" said Former Steeler Lineman Tunch Ilkin.

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Government
3:02 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Another Attempt to Extend Low Interest Rates on Student Loans

In 2007, the College Affordability Plan gradually reduced interest rates from 3.4% to 6.8% on Federal Direct Stafford loans. If allowed to expire on July 1st, the interest rates on the student loans will return to 6.8%. U.S. Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA-14) is calling on Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Bob Casey (D-PA) to pass H.R.4816, known as Stop the Rate Hike Act of 2012.

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Economy
1:40 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Potential DPW Policy Changes Could Endanger Disabled

Advocates are warning that some policy changes by the state Department of Public Welfare (DPW) are endangering the agencies that provide services to people with disabilities in their homes and communities.

Disability rights activists are renewing their call for a meeting with the governor about proposed budget cuts and changes to programs. A group of 26 people, many in wheelchairs, chanted outside the governor's office Thursday, saying their repeated attempts to schedule a meeting had been denied.

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Local
8:30 pm
Thu May 3, 2012

Altoona Gets Distressed Status

Altoona is joining Pittsburgh and nearly 20 other cities in Act 47 status. The city of 46,000 received permission Thursday to enter the program for "distressed municipalities." The move comes as some in Harrisburg are wondering if the program itself might be inadequate to help Pennsylvania cities struggling to deal with badly eroded tax bases.

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Local
8:15 pm
Thu May 3, 2012

Philadelphia’s Mayor Joins Ravenstahl and Fitzgerald to Discuss State Budget

Three of the most powerful non-state office holders in Pennsylvania have made their opposition to Governor Tom Corbett's proposed budget known. On Thursday, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter joined Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald to discuss how proposed cuts would affect the state's two largest metro areas.

"The proposed cuts in the governor's budget will have wide ranging effects in every city, in every county, in every neighborhood in the commonwealth," said Nutter.

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Local
7:15 pm
Thu May 3, 2012

Pennsylvania Loses Extended Unemployment Benefits

With Pennsylvania's unemployment rate creeping below the federal threshold, the U.S. Department of Labor has informed the state that it can no longer offer Extended Benefits (EB). The last payable week for the long-term unemployed will be May 12th.

Pennsylvania's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.5% in March, down from the 7.6% February rate. The U.S. rate came in at 8.2%. Pennsylvania has been below the U.S. rate for 47 consecutive months.

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Transportation
5:09 pm
Thu May 3, 2012

Business Leaders Call for PAT Funding Solution

Representatives of Pittsburgh's business community are warning state legislators that local companies would be seriously hurt by the Port Authority of Allegheny County's plan to cut service by 35%.

The Port Authority plans to drop 46 of its 102 routes in September, a necessary response to its $65 million budget deficit. The authority went through a similar round of cuts last year.

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Local
4:39 pm
Thu May 3, 2012

Shadyside Will be Home to Pittsburgh’s First Bike Corrals

The bicycle parking will accommodate between 6-12 bikes or more when complete. The corrals will be in Shadyside at the corner of Walnut and Bellefonte, and will be on the street. In an area where parking is a hot commodity, area business leaders were willing to give up a couple of spaces for the project.

"But what we found is an area where there is no parking, on both sides, so we're not losing one parking spot. At the same time, we're making it safer because it is constantly used by people illegally," said Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto.

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Local
1:44 pm
Thu May 3, 2012

Panel Gets Feedback On Redistricting Redux

The panel that failed in its first effort to redraw state House and Senate district lines began taking public comment Wednesday on its latest preliminary plan.

At the first of two hearings yesterday, reapportionment commisioners heard testimony from high-profile speakers, including state Sen. Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson Co.). The Senate President Pro Tempore objected to the panel's decision to move the district of a retiring state senator rather than one that had lost more population.

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Health
8:29 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Environmental Groups, Citizens, Urge Health Board to Pass New Air Guidelines

Members of the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) and Allegheny County residents implored the County Board of Health Wednesday to pass updated and strengthened air toxic guidelines (ATG), the document used to permit new sources of air pollution in the county.

GASP Executive Director Rachel Filippini said the hope was that the board would have new guidelines to consider at their meeting on Wednesday, but they didn't.

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Health
7:12 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

County Health Board Names Interim Director

The Allegheny County Board of Health has appointed Ronald Voorhees as interim director. This comes after the board ousted County Health Director Bruce Dixon after 20 years on the job. He'll be leaving in early June.

"It is the intention of the board to hold a national search for a permanent director, and that process will begin. We've already posted the job description," said Board Chair Lee Harrison.

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Local
7:10 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

New VA Facility to Streamline Services

In a space that was until recently a parking lot now stands the newest addition to the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System.

It took more than a decade for it to come together, but the new facility in Oakland is being touted as the future of veteran-centered health care.

New features include 78 private beds for psychiatric care in the same building as an outpatient primary-care center that providers hope will streamline services.

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Government
7:00 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

City Council Approves Special Fund for Civic Arena Parking Tax

Pittsburgh City Council has given preliminary approval to a bill that would divert parking tax revenue from the former Civic Arena site into a special fund for Hill District redevelopment.

After hours of discussion, the heated debate was cut short and a six-member majority approved the bill. A few Council Members had raised concerns as to the legality and fairness of a special fund to benefit just one neighborhood.

Councilman Patrick Dowd disagreed with that notion.

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