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Hospital policies that restrict how pharmaceutical companies may market their drugs to doctors change physician prescribing behavior, according to a new study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study, a joint effort of Carnegie Mellon University and six other higher education institutions, showed that when such policies were in place, marketed drugs were prescribed 8.7 percent less often while non-marketed drugs were prescribed about 6 percent more often.

George Widman / AP

At least four Pennsylvania cities are urging state Senators to reject a bill that would prevent municipalities from banning plastic shopping bags or imposing fees to curb their use.

Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, York and Erie say that single-use plastic shopping bags are environmentally damaging, and increase waste-disposal costs for cities around the Commonwealth. They also argue that the bill, HB1071, would infringe on cities’ rights to run their own affairs.

Pennsylvania Sees Biggest Shortfall Since Recession

May 2, 2017
Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania is heading into the 2017 budget season with its biggest revenue shortfall since the recession.

The state Department of Revenue is reporting that it has a shortfall in excess of $1 billion, now 10 months into the fiscal year. That's more than 4 percent, a bigger margin than at any point since 2010.

It leaves budget makers with an even bigger budget gap than expected with just nine weeks left in the fiscal year.

The Department of Revenue attributes April's poor tax collections, in part, to the U.S. economy recording its slowest quarter in three years.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh public safety officials are trying to determine why a rain-activated gate failed to automatically stop traffic from entering a low-lying roadway where four people died in an August 2011 flash flood.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation installed the $450,000 system in 2012, but it's now operated and maintained by the city. The system uses rain sensors that can trigger three swinging-arm gates and several lighted caution signals meant to keep motorists off Washington Boulevard.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Utility companies were working to restore power to hundreds of people still without electricity a day after severe storms swept through Pennsylvania, downing trees, power lines and possibly spawning several small tornadoes.

The National Weather Service in Pittsburgh says investigators will be heading to Butler, Clarion and Forest counties to determine whether tornadoes touched down Monday afternoon.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh’s median home price is up more than 9 percent since this time last year, according to Zillow. It also estimated the city's median monthly rent is more than $1,300 -- a jump from 2016. As the city’s real estate market and apartment rates boom, some lower earners haven’t been able to keep up.

Mike Groll / AP

A state House panel is considering a plan to help fill significant budget gaps that have been left open for gambling revenue.

The Gaming Committee held a public hearing Monday on a longstanding proposal to legalize video gambling terminals in bars and other businesses.

The bill being discussed is House Bill 1010, which would allow up to 35,000 terminals in bars, social clubs, and other such businesses.

Proponents say it could earn $100 million in its first year, and $500 million annually once it’s fully implemented.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Demonstrators on the City-County Building’s steps downtown Monday called for legislation recognizing Pittsburgh as a sanctuary city. It was part of several May Day events in the city, which traditionally call for workers’ rights.

Miles Gehm / Flickr

A large portion of western Pennsylvania, including the Pittsburgh region, is under a tornado watch until Monday evening.

The watch also covers counties in West Virginia and Ohio, and is expected to remain in effect until 7 p.m.

Yo Ho Ho! Pennsylvania Aims To Smash US Embargo On Cuban Rum

May 1, 2017
Ramon Espinosa / AP

Pennsylvania's Cuban rum run got its start in a chance meeting last fall in the parking lot in front of the state Capitol.

"'You know, we have rum,'" a visiting Cuban government liaison told state Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, who was walking to his car when he was introduced to her as the senator whose committee oversees how alcohol is sold in Pennsylvania. "And I'm like, 'Yeah, we should buy some.'"

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

After school, many Hazelwood kids migrate to the library. Some stick to computers and scroll through the internet, some huddle in a corner to read books and a pair of 12-year-olds play chess.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Socialists, immigration advocates and others are planning May Day demonstrations across the state.

Organizers including Make the Road Action in PA say hundreds of immigrants will protest Trump Administration immigration policies at Pennsylvania's capitol.

Similar groups are planning two marches in Pittsburgh, including one starting at the City-County Building's steps at 2 p.m.

Dave Martin / AP

A man has been cited for disorderly conduct after police say he "freaked out" when he saw a Confederate flag displayed in a Pennsylvania hotel window as part of a Civil War-themed wedding.

The (Easton) Express-Times says police charged the man with making the disturbance at the Hotel Bethlehem on Saturday. His name wasn't immediately released.

Police Chief Mark DiLuzio says the man was cited for "freaking out, screaming and yelling" and creating a "very aggressive and disorderly scene."

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

On May 16th, Allegheny County primary voters will choose their party’s nominees to run for Allegheny County Council. Democrats, who have a two-to-one registration majority in the county, are expected to retain their majority during the general election this November. That leaves Republicans and some critics frustrated.

Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County kicked off its Lead Safe Homes Program last week, which helps residents identify and remove lead-based paint hazards in their homes.

The program consists of $4 million, partially funded by a grant through the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Office, which will be used to provide lead remediation in 175 homes.

Spencer Neuharth via USFWS Mountain-Prairie / Flickr

Lead isn’t the only harmful substance that can make its way into drinking water.

Chemicals from pharmaceuticals, pesticides and personal care products can all end up in the water supply.

Chris Stalnaker / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Public Schools has aggressively marketed its vacant school buildings for the last five years. It’s sold 13 in that time and put out a request for proposals in January for the remaining nine. The district gave organizations two months to figure out a development plan.

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority board of directors on Friday approved a cooperation agreement with the City of Pittsburgh to enter into a contract for consulting on the potential restructuring of the authority.

What Happens When You Mix An NFL Draft With Watercolors?

Apr 28, 2017
Emma Lee / WHYY

Art is having a hard time competing with football.

The NFL draft has taken over most of the Parkway, as well as the famous Rocky steps that lead to Philadelphia Museum of Art, completely blocking its front entrance.

The museum will remain open during its regular hours throughout the draft, via it West side entrance, at the rear of the building near the Schuylkill River.

Jim Bourg / AP

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.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The “Soul of Kennywood” is how some refer to the band organ that sits in the center of the park’s carousel.

It’s a century old and each year before the park opens for the summer, it gets serviced. For the last two years, Joe Hilferty has been the man tuning and fixing the organ, which consists of a series of wooden pipes encased behind a pane.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

It’s been a good news, bad news year for the arts when it comes to the state budget debate. 

The budgets proposed by both Gov. Tom Wolf and the House Republican Caucus keep funding for the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts at $9.6 million, as well as $2 million for museums.

However, both budget proposals move the funding out of the general budget where it has traditionally resided.

The governor’s plan funds the arts and other line items through the issuance of bonds. But the Republican Caucus rejected that proposal.

Bell Tolls As Police Ambush Killer Gets Death Sentence

Apr 27, 2017
Rich Schultz / AP

The bell atop the Pike County Courthouse last tolled the fate of a condemned killer in the 1980s.

On Wednesday, it rang again.

Eric Frein, the would-be revolutionary who shot two Pennsylvania troopers, one fatally, in a late-night attack at their barracks, was sentenced to death late Wednesday. The jury's decision that Frein should die by lethal injection brought a shouted "yes!" from a gallery that included high-ranking state police brass, the slain officer's mother and the trooper who suffered debilitating injuries after Frein shot him with a high-powered rifle.

Matt Rourke / AP

Sentencing has been scheduled for three former top officials at Penn State University who were convicted of child endangerment in the Jerry Sandusky molestation scandal.

Former university president Graham Spanier, former vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley will be sentenced June 2 in Harrisburg.

Curley and Schultz pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child endangerment. Spanier went to trial and was convicted in March. His lawyer said he will appeal.

Make the Road Pennsylvania / Facebook

More than 100 Hispanic-owned businesses in and around the eastern Pennsylvania city of Reading plan to close on May 1.

The move organized by Make the Road PA is to celebrate International Workers' Day but also to protest the immigration policies of the Trump Administration.

The Berks County business owners have signed a pledge to close that day, and are urging people not to shop that day.

Reading and Berks County have some of the highest concentrations of Hispanic residents in the state.

The group is also planning marches in Reading and Harrisburg that day.

David Bachman Photography

When Sean Gibson was first approached by a musician wanting to write an opera about his great-grandfather, he was a little skeptical.

Rick Bowmer / AP

A bill that could potentially eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood facilities in Pennsylvania has passed a state Senate committee. 

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

Regulators say Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program remains on schedule after hundreds of applications poured in from those who want to grow, process and dispense the drug.

Health Secretary Karen Murphy said Wednesday her agency has received more than 500 packages, some containing multiple applications.

Teams are sorting, evaluating and scoring the applications with a goal of issuing permits by the end of June. Licensees will have six months to get up and running.

midquel / Flickr

New data suggests that Pittsburgh sewer overflows may be 15 percent greater than prior estimates, which were based on data from 2003. A new report from the RAND Corporation analyzes data collected by ALCOSAN between 2004 and 2013.

 

Furthermore, the volume of water overflowing from local sewers could rise in coming decades, according to Jordan Fischbach, co-director of RAND’s Water & Climate Resilience Center.

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