News

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

Bob Gradeck can’t stand the term “data-driven.”

It might seem odd that the project director of the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center would recoil at a data-centric phrase, but Gradeck sees data as tools and not answers.

The WPRDC is the repository for more than 150 data sets from Pittsburgh and Allegheny County government, as well as organizations throughout the region.

Children's Museum of Pittsburgh

A national program launched by the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh to support maker space development in schools is taking on a new set of national and local partners.

In 2015, the museum launched a year-long pilot program, Kickstarting Making, that supported 10 local schools in raising funds for maker space efforts. 

Paolo Braluca / Flickr

In the wake of a 39 percent jump in reports to Pennsylvania’s child abuse hotline in 2015,  the Auditor General’s office is examining the safety of at-risk children by assessing the stresses on caseworkers at children and youth agencies.

“Unfortunately, our audits have increasingly found high staff turnover and heavy caseloads affecting the care that children and youth service caseworkers can provide across the commonwealth,” Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said.

The review will cover 13 counties including Allegheny, Fayette and Cambria.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The Allegheny County Medical Examiners Office is one of only a few in the country that also has an in-house forensic laboratory.

90.5 WESA’s Deanna Garcia spoke with Medical Examiner Karl Williams about the facility and ongoing trends.

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

Three Mile Island Accident Changed His Entire Life

Mar 11, 2017
John Zeedick / AP

It's been 38 years now, but the long legacy of the March 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant lingers to this day.

The crisis touched off a public panic in central Pennsylvania, ultimately leading to mass evacuations. This, as mixed messages and outright misinformation from both the power company and public officials masked the truth and eroded trust when it most mattered.

Refugee Resettlement Already Winding Down In Some Pennsylvania Cities

Mar 10, 2017
Emily Previti / WITF

Imad Ghajar and his wife Marwa Hilani were born in Aleppo, Syria, met there, and didn't have plans to leave.

Then the war happened.

"Even in the schools, there wasn't security," Marwa, 37, said recently, through a translator, at her family's new home in Lancaster. "In the middle of the day, there would be a bomb, and someone would die. The area was not safe ever."

The dust from the explosions also made their daughter's asthma worse, and it was increasingly difficult and dangerous to get her treatment.

Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

Kenyale Cottingham has always wanted to help people. That’s why she’s training to become a paramedic.

“I feel like saving people’s lives will make everybody happy,” said the Westinghouse High School junior.

Cottingham is one of 15 students receiving paramedic training as part of the Pittsburgh Public Schools Career and Technical Education, or CTE, Emergency Response Technology program.

Charles Krupa / AP

The Wolf administration this week released new rules around prescribing buprenorphine to Medicaid recipients. The drug is often prescribed to people who are addicted to opioids as a part of medication assisted treatment.

Buprenorphine activates the same opioid receptors in the brain as drugs like heroin and oxycodone, but to a much lesser degree, in order to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. It also serves as an opioid blocker much like the life-saving drug naloxone, so users won’t feel euphoric effects from taking other opioids while on buprenorphine.

University of Pittsburgh

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program.

Each week reporters, editors and bloggers join veteran journalist and host Kevin Gavin to take an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region.

This week's stories include a look back on the career of medical pioneer Dr. Thomas Starzl, known as the "father of transplantation," who passed away last Saturday. Transportation continues to be a major issue in the region. We'll discover the latest plans to better connect the counties. And in our final segment, we'll get updates on the mayoral primary, Wilkinsburg a year after a tragic shooting and the Mon-Fayette Expressway.

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

  Plans are moving forward on the construction of a bus rapid transit system, or BRT, between the city’s two largest employment centers: Downtown and Oakland.

Developers proposed four route options based on analysis and public input. 

Bill Sikes / AP Photo

Pittsburgh is the only Pennsylvania city in 100 Resilient Cities, an initiative created by the Rockefeller Foundation to prepare urban areas to weather the shocks and stresses of the 21st century. Throughout more than a year-long process, Pittsburgh identified racial and socioeconomic inequity, aging infrastructure, public health, and severe weather events as the city’s greatest weaknesses.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Franklin Avenue in Wilkinsburg is a mostly uneventful place these days.

“It’s been quiet,” said Jackie Pendleton, who’s lived in the borough northeast of Pittsburgh for 34 years. “It’s been quiet since that incident took place down the street.”

Wayne Parry / AP

Pennsylvania’s current budget has a $100 million hole state lawmakers intended to fill with some kind of gaming revenue.

That money never came through.

Even so, Gov. Tom Wolf’s spending plan for next fiscal year optimistically calls for $150 million to be filled with even more unspecified gaming money, and lawmakers don’t seem close to a consensus on what to do. 

The gaming conversation at the Capitol often revolves around whether to legalize and tax online gambling.

Federal Cuts At EPA Will Trickle Down To Pennsylvania

Mar 9, 2017
Tom Whitten / Flickr

As a candidate, Donald Trump promised to drastically reduce the size and scope of the Environmental Protection Agency. A memo by the White House Office of Management and Budget indicates that’s still the plan. The memo outlines a proposed 25 percent cut to EPA’s $8-billion budget, including reductions in state grants for clean air and water programs.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh women rallied downtown Wednesday in solidarity against what some called decades of harmful and misogynistic policies.  

More than 300 people gathered outside the City-County Building -- most wearing red, the demonstration's nationally designated color -- to show the power of women and female-identified workers in society.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

With no exceptions, the $1 million Safe Water Plan will distribute water filters to city residents to reduce exposure to lead. People living within the city’s boundaries are eligible to receive one, regardless of income level, whether they rent or own, or who their water provider is.

While it’s a start, Mayor Bill Peduto said this is not a long-term solution.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Nearly two-dozen representatives from southwestern Pennsylvania worked together to come up with ideas for how to improve transportation in the area.

The Regional Transportation Alliance of Southwestern Pennsylvania released its findings Wednesday in the report Imagine Transportation 2.0.

The alliance surveyed more than 500 community and governmental groups to build a list of seven broad overarching principles and “50 ideas to explore.”

Google Maps

Three teenagers have delivered an anonymous apology note and $50 to the Pennsylvania library where they sprayed a swastika using shaving cream in a parking lot.

The teens left the envelope containing the note and the money in a book depository at the Exeter Community Library. Police and firefighters were called to wash away the graffiti on Friday. The envelope was found by library workers on Monday.

The teens' note says they are "three stupid teenagers apologizing for our heinous acts."

The teens go on to say that they didn't intend to offend or hurt anyone.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

State House members kicked off their third and final week of budget hearings with an all-day Q&A with education officials.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed plan includes a $100 million boost for general education funding, which returns the allocation almost to its 2011 peak.

But talk has centered on what’s getting cut.

With the commonwealth facing a nearly $3 billion structural deficit, the 2017-18 budget proposal is significantly leaner than Wolf’s last two.

Education Secretary Pedro Rivera noted, that put his department under some pressure.

Tourism, Training And Tax Incentives: DCED's 2017 Budget

Mar 8, 2017
J. Scott Applewhite / AP

The Department of Community and Economic Development oversees a wide array of state programs, from business and workforce development to tourism to Main Street improvements. DCED is also responsible for Act 47, the state's distressed cities program. 

Frank Franklin II / AP

This story was updated at 2:51pm on Wednesday, March 8, 2017.

Allegheny County Council voted to ban the use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices in all public places where smoking is also prohibited after a lengthy debate Tuesday evening.

Residents on both sides of the issue spoke passionately about whether people should be allowed to vape in restaurants, theaters, retail stores, athletic arenas and other public spaces.

Kevin Gavin/Sarah Kovash/Pittsburgh City Council

Incumbent Mayor Bill Peduto will face two opponents in the May party primary.

Officials with the Allegheny County Board of Elections confirmed Tuesday that North Side Councilwoman Darlene Harris and former Peduto supporter Rev. John Welch both filed petitions ahead of the 5 p.m. deadline.

With March In Rearview, Women Nationwide To Walk Out For ‘A Day Without A Woman’

Mar 7, 2017
Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Organizers of the January Women's March are calling for women to take the day off and encouraging them not to spend money Wednesday to show their economic strength and impact on American society.

Blogtrepreneur / Flickr

With the recent indictment of former National Security Agency employee Harold Martin for allegedly stealing 50 terabytes of top-secret NSA reports, the world of cyber security is once again turning its attention to inside threats. 

However, experts at Carnegie Mellon University have been trying to fight insider threats for more than a decade.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf isn't ruling out any particular kind of casino-style gambling expansion under consideration by lawmakers, but he says tax revenue to the state can't be a zero-sum game.

Wolf said Tuesday that he'll look for a gambling expansion that brings in new revenue to the deficit-wracked state government.

Wolf made the comments during an interview with the editorial board of Pennlive.com. Some lawmakers warn that a gambling expansion could cannibalize existing forms of gambling or the state lottery.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Many American cities are struggling with police-community relations, and racial divisions are often the heart of the problem.

On this week's episode of 90.5 WESA's Criminal Injustice, Pitt law professor David Harris talks to David Kennedy of the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

Raif Smallkaa / Flickr

Get out your best green garb for the parade and St. Patrick’s Day parties this weekend. But before guzzling down some green beers, Social Club’s Sarah Kovash, Josh Raulerson and Rachel Carlson of Yelp Pittsburgh check out Pittsburgh Winery in the Strip District.

Syma Hajian joins us to talk about what’s new at the winery – and how they don’t actually make wine by stomping grapes with their feet (yes, she’s heard that “I Love Lucy” joke already).

Above-Average Winter Temperatures Are Jumpstarting The Growing Season

Mar 7, 2017
Julie Grant / Allegheny Front

While many of us have been enjoying the mild winter, it has some food producers double checking the calendar. For instance, March is usually prime season for boiling the sap from maple trees down into syrup. But at the farm Nathan Goodell’s family has worked for seven generations in northeastern Ohio, record-high winter temperatures have pushed everything way ahead of schedule.

The Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh

Once an automobile showroom, the building that houses the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh will soon have a little more room to grow.

The organization serves approximately 6,000 women, children and families each year, but has run out of room to house them.

“We have been over capacity every night for a few years,” said Board Chair Sara Davis Buss. “In fact, in 2016, we turned away over 700 people who needed our services.”

Evan Vucci / AP

President Trump has signed a revised executive order, barring travel to the United States from six majority-Muslim countries and suspending the U.S. refugee program. It's similar to the president's January order that was blocked by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. But this latest order leaves Iraq off the list of barred countries. The White House cites more cooperation with the Iraqi government in vetting people who apply for U.S. visas. The latest order also specifically states that it does not apply to legal permanent U.S. residents or current visa holders.

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