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A fraternity at Penn State University has been suspended as police investigate allegations that members used a secret Facebook page to post photos of nude women, some of whom appeared to be sleeping or passed out.

According to a copy of a State College police warrant obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, a former member of the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity came to authorities and told them about the page. The former member also turned over printouts from the page on a computer thumb drive.

Police say some Facebook posts also related to hazing and drug deals.

State Sen. Sean Wiley (D-Erie) has introduced Senate Bill 128, which would address the cost and performance of cyber-charter schools that aren’t related to school districts. In those schools, each is paid the same amount per student per district. That fluctuates depending on the district.

In one part of the state you’d be paying $6,000 per student, and in other parts of the state the payment is as high as $15,000 per student. That adds up to over $400 million a year.

“This is a complete draw on our public school system,” Wiley said.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Gov. Tom Wolf wants to cut property taxes and keep them low, but not just by shoveling more state aid toward school districts – his proposal would also attach more strings to their taxing power.

Essential Pittsburgh: A Conversation with Governor Wolf

Mar 16, 2015
Tom Wolf / Flickr

Now that Pennsylvania is transitioning to a full Medicaid expansion, what happens if the Supreme Court decides to unravel Obamacare? And will Gov. Tom Wolf’s death penalty moratorium survive a lawsuit filed by the Philadelphia DA? Hear the answers to those questions in his first Essential Pittsburgh interview since the election.

Regarding his plan for using the sales tax to help the Commonwealth's budget deficit, Wolf explains:

"We simply can't keep doing what we're doing -- that is, consume public goods but not pay for them, and we've been doing that for years and years. It's a bipartisan thing, but we need to finally address that, and be honest about the deficits, and I want to do that. - Gov. Wolf

Also in the program, Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak discusses ongoing efforts by UMPC workers to unionize, Evelyn Roche tells the story of Guinness beer, WESA contributor Margaret J. Krauss gives some history of LGBT culture in Pittsburgh, and business contributor Rebecca Harris talks women in the workplace.

Bicyclists and motorists who use the Birmingham Bridge’s northbound off-ramp to Oakland/ Forbes Avenue will need to learn an alternate route, following the ramp’s closure Monday due to construction.

The ramp closure is the first part of a multiyear, $28.5 million construction and repair project on the Birmingham Bridge that PennDOT intends to complete in the summer of 2017.

The Pittsburgh Technology Council has launched FortyX80, a nonprofit group with the focus of accelerating the amount of capital investment coming into the region for innovation, startups and existing companies.

“We have incredible investors here in our region, we have a few strong venture funds, but they can only do so much” said Tech Council President and CEO Audrey Russo. “We can’t always count on them to do what needs to be done, and it wouldn’t be fair.”

Irina Zhorov / 90.5 WESA

Municipal pension funds in Pennsylvania are underfunded by a combined $7.7 billion, and many local lawmakers are pointing to state-level reforms as the solution. 

The State House of Representatives’ Urban Affairs Committee met with local leadership in Pittsburgh Monday to learn about what exactly municipalities want to see happen in the state Legislature.  

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto compared the municipal pension problem to a sinking boat.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

University of Pittsburgh chancellor Patrick Gallagher calls the volume of healthcare data in the United States “staggering.”

“(It is) fast approaching a zettabyte,” Gallagher said, referencing the equivalent of one trillion gigabytes. “Even the terminology doesn’t make sense to many of us.”

Gallagher made the comments Monday at a joint news conference with Carnegie Mellon University and UPMC. The three institutions have announced a multi-million dollar collaborative initiative to harness vast amounts of health care data to “revolutionize healthcare and wellness.”

U.S. Department of Education

“This is not just an education law,” says U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, “this is a civil rights law.”

Duncan is referring to the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA, which is up for reauthorization by Congress. 

“The law is outdated and fundamentally broken. We need Congress to get past this dysfunction and fix the law,” Duncan said.

President Lyndon Johnson signed ESEA as part of his war on poverty. The original intent was to ensure that federal resources would help disadvantaged and special-needs children.

Measuring the Power of the PA Millennial Boom

Mar 16, 2015
Ohad Cadji / PublicSource

This year, the Millennial generation will eclipse the Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, totaling 75.3 million, according to U.S. Census data.

For our purposes, the Millennials are that broad group born between 1981 and 1997, making them between the ages of 18 and 34 in 2015, as defined by the Pew Research Center.

Charter schools in the commonwealth have grown rapidly. Over a five year period beginning in 2006, enrollment in the state increased by 54 percent, and according to the most recent data, 6 percent of Pennsylvania students now attend a charter school.

But a study by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at Penn State has found that charter schools are more racially segregated than their public school counterparts. 

In the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown and, more recently the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, Mo., a brochure is going out to the Pittsburgh community outlining rights, responsibilities and realities of police encounters.

“For instance, you have the right to curse at a police officer, but it’s not a good idea in most cases to do that,” said Tim Stevens, president and founder of the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP), “so we’re talking about what your rights are, what your responsibilities are as a citizen and what the reality is.”

The relatively new product Palcohol, or powdered alcohol, has many concerned with its safety, including a Pennsylvania state senator who is looking to have the intoxicant banned.

Sen. Shirley Kitchen echoes the concerns of many that this product will lead to more problems with teen drinking. They believe the product would be easier to conceal and transport. Also some are concerned drinks could be spiked with the power, making them much stronger than intended.

Fund To Help Cancer Patients Preserve Fertility

Mar 16, 2015
Submitted

“I can’t imagine not having my daughter now,” said Amanda Hopwood-Brophy, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at age 28.

She underwent fertility preservation treatments along with a chemotherapy regimen until being declared cancer-free. She now has a two year old daughter.

Allegheny Health Network (AHN) has launched a program to help more patients like Hopwood-Brophy have children even after undergoing cancer treatments.

Essential Pittsburgh: The High Cost of Protection From Abuse

Mar 16, 2015
Rae Allen / Flickr

When faced with an abusive partner, many women seek out a restraining order to get protection and regain some control over their lives. But according to a new study from the University of Pittsburgh, getting out of an abusive relationship can be quite costly for women who try to obtain restraining orders. Sociologists Melanie Hughes and Lisa Brush address the financial disruption in women’s lives when they petition the courts to leave abusive relationships. 

Lisa discusses the focal points and the results of this study.

"What we really wanted to understand was if we compared women to themselves before and after they went through the process of petitioning ... did they have a boost in their earnings and an increase afterwards in the wake?”

She continues by presenting the other possibility for the results.

“Or was there an economic shock or a stall in their earnings? And in fact we found out that the period right around the time when they’re petitioning is full of all kinds of turmoil and um pretty much everybody experiences a shock and lots of women experience a stall in their earnings.”

Also, in this program we speak with Attorney Lisa A. Borelli Dorn about what it takes to file a protection from abuse order. And what prospects does the RMU men's basketball team have for making it to the Final Four? 

There are laws in Pennsylvanians making it illegal to discriminate against someone for a wide array of reasons, from sex to ancestry, but the LGBT community remains unprotected.

A senate bill that will be introduced by Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) could change that.

“Right now Pennsylvania is one of few states where discrimination is legal based solely upon who you love, and many of us on both sides of the aisle are ready to put an end to this,” said Farnese.

On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Pittsburgh is one of six cities designated as a pilot site for a national initiative to strengthen and improve the relationship between law enforcement and the community.

It's called the National Initiative for Building Community, and it’s a partnership between the Department of Justice and legal experts from institutions such as the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Yale Law School.

Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

Public safety officials from around the Pittsburgh region joined U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) at the Allegheny County Courthouse today as he announced his support for a bill that would form a national train derailment task force.

The Railroad Emergency Services Preparedness, Operational Needs and Safety Evaluation, or RESPONSE ACT, would create a new set of training and resource recommendations for derailment first responders. It would be a subcommittee under the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Gateway to the Arts

Early childhood learners outperform their peers when they are taught with an arts-integrated background, according to an independent study of a model used in 11 Pittsburgh area schools.

dansheadel / flickr

In school we were all taught about the number represented by the symbol π. Our understanding of the number might be a bit foggy, but most of us remember it has something to do with a circle and that it is 3.14.  In reality, the irrational number (by definition) goes on forever, but it starts with 3.141592653. 

For the last several years, the popularity of so-called “Pi Day,” or March 14 (3/14), has been growing in the U.S., and Saturday will mark what many are calling “Super Pi Day,” where we can add the next two digits of the mathematical super number (3/14/15). And if you really want to geek out you can make sure you are near a clock at 9:26:53 a.m. (3/14/15 9:26:53).

A state legislator from a much more rural portion of Pennsylvania wants to make it legal for farmers to grow industrial hemp. 

State Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) said the level of THC, which gives cannabis its psychoactive effect, is so much lower than the plant used in the drug trade that it can hardly been considered in the same conversation.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Doug Rehrer started graduate school at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 1978.

“It was a fun time but you always had to be aware of your surroundings because you could end up in a very bad situation,” he said.

Rehrer is not talking about his religion classes.

Ricky Romero / Flickr

Kyle Bibby, a University of Pittsburgh professor of civil and environmental engineering  has been studying the microorganisms in Pittsburgh's drinking water. He's received some help in this endeavor from students at the Pittsburgh Gifted Center and the Carnegie Science Center. Professor Bibby explains what we may, or may not want to know about the microbes in our tap water.

"We like to think of water as "sterile," but really nothing is sterile, in the sense that microorganisms exist everywhere. Understanding what's there is essential to understanding why it's safe. It's also just very scientifically interesting." - Professor Kyle Bibby

Also in this hour, the once in a lifetime date Super Pi Day arrives, host Guy Raz of the TED Radio Hour stops by, and the New Girl gives a guide to traveling the States with the luck of the Irish.


Flickr user Joseph A

“A child's zip code should never determine her destiny; but today, the community she grows up in impacts her odds of graduating high school, her health outcomes, and her lifetime economic opportunities.”

So reads the U.S. Department of Housing Urban Development’s web page on its Promise Zone program, which aims to counteract the effects of poverty.

In the wake of a disaster, your next meal might not be the first thought that comes to mind – but when hunger strikes, the Salvation Army has that covered, too.

The organization will reveal a new custom $100,000 disaster response unit Saturday at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Pittsburgh.

Michael Riemer, director for Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services for Western Pennsylvania, said the unit basically looks like a food truck.

On Thursday, Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) and Carlow University signed an agreement allowing students to earn their associates degree at CCAC and then seamlessly transfer to Carlow University.

“In so doing, together our two institutions are helping to ensure that future graduates have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in our diverse and changing world,” said CCAC President Quintin Bullock.

In case you’ve missed the sudden onslaught of green decorations around the ‘burgh, this Social Club is all about Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations!

For those interested in an authentic Irish experience, Rachel and Josh tip you off on how to tell if you’re in an authentic Irish pub, and recommend the top Irish watering holes around town guaranteed to provide the best Saint Patrick's Day celebrations.

Not one for shamrocks and whiskey? On Friday night, the Carnegie Science Center is hosting their 21+ Night, H2OH, and the Thrill Mill will host a Yoga + Wine Mixer.  

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The state Commonwealth Court must decide whether to consider a lawsuit filed by schools and advocates that attempts to force the state Legislature to boost education funding.

Essential Pittsburgh: Investigating Greek Life

Mar 12, 2015
Jeff Simms / Flickr

A video of members of the SAE fraternity at University of Oklahoma performing a racist chant has been garnering national headlines. It also places a spotlight on the negative aspects of Greek life at institutions of higher education in the United States. Atlantic Monthly magazine writer Caitlin Flanagan conducted a yearlong investigation of Greek problems titled The Dark Power of Fraternities. And Eric Kelderman writes about Greek life for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Talking about the enduring popularity of the rather old-fashioned tradition of fraternities, Flanagan says:

“You would think if there were something as un-modern, essentially un-modern, as a fraternity -- you know, clubs that are largely all white, clubs that are exclusionary in all sorts of ways and that have real problems in terms of violence against women -- you would think in modern America those would be the sort of things dying on the vine. You’d think there’d be no role for them at all anymore. And yet they are currently at kind of a zenith of popularity. So we’re really stuck here with a system that nobody knows what to do with but that hundreds of thousands of young men absolutely love.”

Asked about the challenges of university oversight of fraternities and sororities, Kelderman explains:

“Universities have struggled with this idea of holding Greek organizations accountable. They’re private organizations, they often live in privately owned housing, and that creates a number of complications …”

Also in the program, former August Wilson Center CEO Andre Kimo Stone Guess and Robert Morris University Director of Special Programs and Student Community Standards offer their perspectives on contemporary fraternity culture.
 

  

Flickr user DrivingtheNortheast

Pittsburgh’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and celebration is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday. We’ve put together a list of what you need to know to make the most of the day.

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