News

In the West, Coal's Boom Resonates Across the Land

Apr 3, 2015
U.S. Geological Survey

Driving south of Gillette, Wyoming, through an arid and austere landscape once home to herds of bison, you pass coal mine after coal mine, for 70 uninterrupted miles, carving deep troughs into the prairie.

Detre Library and Archives / Sen. John Heinz History Center

The old Allegheny County Jail towers over Ross Street. Built of foot-thick blocks of pink Worcester marble, the complex hasn’t held a prisoner since July 27, 1995, but it still manages to impart a chill. Inside, visitors can tour an old cellblock: small and bleak.

Castrin Austin/Flickr

An event billed as the Pittsburgh Rockin' Reunion will take place this weekend. Joining us for a look at Pittsburghers who made rock ‘n’roll music in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s is Ed Salamon, author of the book "Pittsburgh's Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll."

"All of the elements that created rock 'n roll were present here in Pittsburgh. A lot of musicologists say it's a combination of jazz, of pop, of rhythm and blues. All of those musics existed here in Pittsburgh, and they cross-pollinated in Pittsburgh as in few other places." - Ed Salamon

Also on today's show: Justin Hayward--singer, songwriter, and lead guitarist for the legendary rock group The Moody Blues--remembers a long career of classics, and WYEP's Mike Sauter lays out the steel city's rock 'n roll future: Ringo, Rosanne Cash and none other than The Rolling Stones. 


The State of Funding Equity in Pennsylvania / The Education Trust

Pennsylvania has the third largest education funding gap in the nation between districts with the highest and lowest poverty rates.

That’s according to a new report from the Education Trust, an education policy organization, which called this gap “devastatingly large.”

“It’s another piece of evidence to indicate that we have a real problem with the school funding system here in Pennsylvania,” Patrick Dowd, executive director of Allies for Children, said.  Allies for Children is one of more than 50 organizations that have united for the Campaign for Fair Education Funding.

Jaime Dillen-Seibel / Flickr

Groups of local activists concerned about climate change took to New York City’s streets last September for the Climate Action March, and now they’re launching Pittsburgh350.org, an affiliate of the national 350.org.

Warwick Powell, a member of the steering committee, said the group will work to raise awareness about the increase of carbon in the atmosphere.

Ready to stretch your legs and hunt down some eggs this Easter weekend? 

Families with children aged 3 to 10 years can check out the Annual Egg-cellent Egg Hunt at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History on Saturday, April 4. The first 600 children will be admitted. 

Also, the National Aviary is hosting Eggstravaganza on Saturday and Sunday, April 4 and 5. The Easter Bunny will be available for photos, and a duck feeding and other "quack-tacular" activities will be offered to guests of all ages. 

The Pennsylvania House Committee on Human Services heard from mental health workers and advocates Thursday about the challenges faced by those living with mental illness. The main topic was the stigma surrounding mental illness. That stigma, according to each speaker, is a major barrier to health care.

The legislative task force studying the state's death penalty is once again pushing back its deadline.

The panel was supposed to finish its work in December 2013, but it has repeatedly extended its timeline. Now, the agency putting together a final report says it might need until next year.

Becky Wetherington/Flickr

In commemoration of World Autism Awareness Day, Lu Randall, Executive Director at Autism Connection of PA and April Artz,Coordinator for the EmployAble program at the Squirrel Hill Career Development Center, are working to place adults with mental health issues in STEM jobs. The EmployAble program, which provides supportive services along with their job placements, acquired the funds to include services for adults on the autism spectrum in 2014.

Asked about the challenges faced by job seekers on the autism spectrum, Artz explains:

"When people go to apply for a job, there's still a lot of concern on their end about disclosing or talking about it to their employer. And I think in some ways that is justified because there is still a lot of misunderstanding despite the fact [that] this is very prevalent, and this is sort of being a human, we still have a lot of stigma and anxiety around this."

Explaining her outlook on helping the people she works with to seek employment, Randall says: 

"I see my role, in particular, as providing kind of a cross-cultural explanation of a group that's really not well understood. And it's very similar, when we listen to the issues, to any other minority groups in the past or currently who have a hard time being taken seriously, being respected, not having stereotypes put out there that are untrue."

Also in the program, Pitt professor Michael Kenney talks about why some Americans become interested in joining ISIS, and travel contributor Elaine Labalme gives suggestions on where to go for some extra March Madness.

 

Flickr user Joseph Wingenfeld

The Port Authority of Allegheny County has been studying the prospect of running a rapid bus line through Uptown from Oakland to downtown for several years now, and though the project is still several more years from becoming a reality, city planners are bracing for a wave of development along the Fifth Avenue and Forbes Avenue corridors.

Bishop David Zubik announced Wednesday the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh will no longer charge to annul marriages.

The diocese is answering the call of Pope Francis, who previously proposed the elimination of all fees related to sacraments, including marriage, and in this case, the annulment of that union. According to the Rev. Thomas Kunz, judicial vicar for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, the annulment fees have prevented some Catholics from experiencing the sacraments within the church.

Via: WYEP.org

The Three Rivers Arts Festival has announced its headliners, giving Pittsburghers something to look forward to later this spring.

This year’s theme for the 10-day festival, June 5-14, is UNSEEN/UNHEARD and it focuses on musicians new to the festival, emerging artists, or with new music to debut.

You take the good with the bad.

That’s what officials at the Allegheny County Health Department said about the sixth annual County Health Rankings released last week.

According to the report, the county improved from 40th to 34th in health outcomes, but fell from 15th to 19th in health factors, which include measurements of health behaviors, social and economic factors and physical environments.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget increases spending for education, among other things, but with a looming deficit, that means finding new revenue sources.

Wolf has proposed reducing the types of industries who are currently tax-exempt, among them – the arts. Under the proposal, admissions to the performing arts, museums and historical sites would be taxed at 6.6 percent. While they haven’t taken an official stance on the proposal, the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council (GPAC) said there are some questions.

Art Store's Prices Reflect Gender Wage Gap

Apr 1, 2015
Courtesy Photo/ Elana Schlenker

Gentlemen, beware: the owner of a new Pittsburgh art store will be charging you extra.

Elana Schlenker wants her pop-up store “76<100” to raise awareness about the fact that, according to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, the median earnings of a female full-time worker in Pennsylvania is 76 cents to every dollar earned by a man. To make her point,  Schlenker will charge men full price for the artwork she sells, while women will receive a 24 percent discount.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

A county prosecutor says she'll review evidence and other material from an investigation that prompted a grand jury to recommend that Pennsylvania's attorney general be charged with perjury and other offenses.

Mary Wilson / WITF

For weeks, GOP lawmakers have been braying at Gov. Tom Wolf's budget proposal to reduce property taxes, saying it doesn't go far enough.

Farmers are also cottoning to that idea.

"We wouldn't support the proposal in its current state," said Mark O'Neill, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Every Wednesday, at a former Catholic school building in Brookline, more than 100 children gather for “People are Always Learning Something” or PALS, enrichment – a weekly co-op. The families there homeschool their children, and pretty much everyone said they’d been asked by one or more people how their children socialize if they are homeschooled.

Flickr User, Creative Commons

With many people hoping for an end to the chilly weather, one group of Pennsylvanians is eager for the cold snaps to continue.

Pennsylvanian maple camps usually produce more than 100,000 gallons of maple syrup each year, with 146,000 gallons bottled in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Essential Pittsburgh: Re-Drafting 'You and The Police'

Apr 1, 2015
macwagen / flickr

The original version of the pamphlet titled "You and The Police" has been around since the mid-1990s, published after Jonny Gammage's death during a traffic stop. Now, the Pittsburgh police bureau has collaborated with the Black Political Empowerment Project, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Citizen Police Review Board on an updated version of the brochure, which they hope will be distributed in public schools and churches across the city. The handout offers tips on how to handle interactions with the police at traffic stops, within a private home and during an arrest. B-PEP Founder Tim Stevens, ACLU Legal Director Vic Walczak, and Executive Director of the CPRB Beth Pittinger explain the new information and why the city believes the pamphlet's re-introduction is necessary.  Walczak cautioned that, though he thought the brochure is helpful and would minimize negative police interactions, it wouldn't completely solve the problem. 

"There's no silver bullet. No matter how good the brochure is and how wide a distribution you put out, it's not a guarantee that everything is going to be hunky dory. You're going to have misunderstandings. Some employees, like in any business, are not going to follow the rules or do the right thing."- Vic Walczak

Also today, Joe Wos presents the story of the "world's greatest liar" (a Pittsburgh-er, of course) in honor of April Fool's Day. 


Gov. Tom Wolf is earning a reputation as a social-media savvy executive.

Wolf took to Facebook to answer questions sent in from around the state and selected by his staff. He answered about a dozen of them during the live, video-taped exchange.

Topics ranged ranging from Wolf’s budget proposal and plans for tax increases and accompanying tax relief, to his desire to raise the state’s minimum wage and sign legislation protecting Pennsylvanians from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

 The “Fight for $15” will take to the streets of Pittsburgh April 15th.

A small group of fast food workers and Pittsburgh organization heads gathered Tuesday in front of the Northside McDonalds to announce plans to strike for an increased minimum wage.

Lolene Germany, a worker at KFC, said the strike will call for fair treatment in the workplace as well as fair wages.

“We wanted to let people know that if you support what we’re doing and you feel like you’re being disrespected at work, wherever you work – at a healthcare, fast food, retail – just come out and fight with us,” Germany said. “And let them know that you’re going to get your respect and you’re going get what you deserve.”

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Just two years ago, your options for getting a ride in Pittsburgh were pretty much limited to public transportation, taxis, or for those in higher income brackets, executive car services and limousines.

But when ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft rode into town in with their slick mobile apps, quick response times and, in the case of Lyft, their hot pink mustaches, a sea change that had already taken hold in cities such as San Francisco and New York began closing in on the Steel City.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The city of Pittsburgh along with the Heinz Endowments has announced P4: People, Planet, Place and Performance — a framework for a model of redevelopment of city spaces.

It will consider the four “Ps” when looking at future development and will connect resources and initiatives already working in the city.

Eye On The Inside: Do Cameras In Nursing Homes Protect Or Intrude?

Mar 31, 2015
Debbie McGee / PublicSource

As suddenly as he lost his ability to speak last fall, Stuart Sanderson’s connection to the world outside his Philadelphia nursing-home room was severed because of anxiety over a simple webcam.

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

The oldest park in Pittsburgh is getting a facelift. A section of Allegheny Commons around a popular Northside fountain will be rebuilt this summer.

The Allegheny Commons Initiative is a volunteer group, that up until recently was handling most park matters. The group wanted to undergo a multimillion dollar project that would restore the park to its heyday, but was met with some funding challenges.

So the Initiative partnered with Northside Leadership Conference, and with the Pittsburgh Park Conservancy.

Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA

For many, the mention of "homeschooling" conjures negative stereotypes about the people who practice it: Homeschool families are religious fundamentalists who shun secular society, or libertarian ideologues who reject the whole idea of public education on principle.

Chatham University

Our guest Cokie Roberts has long been familiar to NPR listeners. She offers political commentary during Morning Edition on Mondays and provides analysis for ABC News. This year, Ms. Roberts is being honored as Chatham University’s Elsie Hillman Chair in Women and Politics. On Wednesday she’ll present the lecture An Insider’s View on Washington, D.C.

Asked about how she manages her own political beliefs when reporting on political issues, Roberts explains:

"When you do it as long as I have, you stop, really, having political beliefs. You care about the issues, and you care that people understand the issues, but you see both sides all the time. And you see people who make a lot of sense on one side, and people who don't make any sense on the same side and vice versa. So it's really a question of just trying to explain it." -- Cokie Roberts

Also in the program, Career Consultant Sasha King offers up tips for peer evaluations, Margaret J. Krauss re-lives Pittsburgh's Whiskey Rebellion and business contributor Rebecca Harris preps us for impending holy holidays with the business of Easter. 


State environmental officials have granted a request to give the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County more time to include more "green" solutions to the region's sewer system problems.

The antiquated sewers overflow during heavy rains because storm drains are tied to sewers in a way no longer permitted under environmental laws.

The department said Monday that it will provide an 18-month extension to a March 30 deadline for a plan to fix the problem.

Area educators gathered Monday to discuss best practices in promoting student achievement in public education at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit’s first Learning Together conference.

The day-long conference featured 50 round-table discussions and sessions showcasing what regional educators do to increase achievement in schools.

The Allegheny Intermediate Unit is one of 29 units in Pennsylvania. It provides specialized education services to the 42 suburban Allegheny county school districts.

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