News

Evan Vucci / AP

Several congressional districts around Philadelphia are shaping up as battlegrounds in the mid-term elections next year.

The often-quoted Cook Political Report just changed its outlook for one of them, the 6th District held by Republican Ryan Costello, from "likely Republican" to "lean Republican," giving the incumbent a more narrow advantage in his re-election battle.

The 6th is one of a ring of districts in the Pennsylvania suburbs that the National Democratic Campaign Committee is targeting next year.

Matt Rourke / AP

Governor Tom Wolf has allowed an incomplete state budget to become law without his signature after a marathon negotiating session yielded no agreements between his administration and GOP leaders.

Eric Risberg / AP

The FBI has used the same protocols to process DNA for the last 20 years. It requires a human analyst to make comparisons based on subjective choices and simplified genetic samples.

Mark Perlin's product, True Allele, uses a different method. It's a program that lets computers process every high and low point in a piece of DNA – no comparisons or required.

On this episode of the Criminal Injustice podcast, host David Harris talks to Perlin about the program and how DNA analysis can be more powerful, faster and accurate.

Susan Walsh / AP

Somerset County Commission Chair Gerald Walker said when he got a call from the White House saying he and all the other county commissioners in the state would be invited to a July 13 meeting at the White House, he thought it might be a joke.

“You have to wonder if that’s the real deal when you just get a phone call like that out of the blue,” Walker said.

When the printed invitation arrived in the mail a few days later, he knew it was real.

Chris Knight / AP

A judge is hearing evidence of worried texts from Penn State fraternity brothers as he considers whether there's enough evidence to send charges related to a pledge's death to county court for trial.

Testimony resumed Monday in a preliminary hearing for the Beta Theta Pi chapter and 16 of its members, accused in the February death of 19-year-old pledge Tim Piazza after a night of heavy drinking.

Prosecutors introduced a text from the house pledge master that said "it's over" and that he didn't "want to go to jail" for it.

90.5 WESA

A grant from the Hillman Foundation will help the Port Authority of Allegheny County in its search for a new CEO.

The $100,000 gift will cover their $91,575 contract with Krauthamer & Associates of Maryland, plus a portion of $20,000 in expenses. Krauthamer recruited Allegheny County Airport CEO Christina Cassotis. 

Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation

Take a walk through downtown or  the North Shore and it seems everything, from Pirates caps to government buildings to Heinz Field, radiates black and gold. The colors are synonymous with Pittsburgh sports and culture.

NPR

This week, Republicans in Congress will try to rally votes behind a bill that proposes major changes to the way Americans get health care and how much they pay. In Pennsylvania, millions could be affected. Use this Q&A to explore how the bill would affect you.

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Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania State Police are searching for a crash victim who stole the pickup truck of a Good Samaritan who stopped to help him.

Police don't know the crash victim's name, saying only that he smashed into a guide rail on Interstate 79 near the Carnegie exit. When the pickup driver pulled over to help him, police say the crash victim jumped into the man's pickup and drove off, dragging the pickup drive about 100 feet before the man released or fell off the vehicle.

Gov. Wolf To Let Unbalanced Spending Bill Become Law

Jul 10, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

*UPDATED: July 10, 2017 at 5:10 p.m. 

For the second straight year, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will let a state budget bill become law despite the fact that it is badly out of balance as he presses Pennsylvania's Republican-controlled Legislature to approve a tax package big enough to avoid a credit downgrade.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

One Pittsburgh-based online magazine is celebrating it's first birthday this month. QueerPGH volunteers and contributors say they hope to create a hub of content by and for the queer community in Pittsburgh.

David Clarke pulls up the newly launched website from Pittsburgh’s Department of Finance and points out all the different ways residents can search for properties.

“You can either enter a parcel number or a street you’re interested in,” said Clarke, business intelligence manager for the city’s finance department. “Or we just have featured properties up here that we think people would be particularly interested in.”

Workers Compensation Institute

The use of prescribed opioid painkillers among workers' compensation claimants is falling in Pennsylvania at a rate slower than most other states.

The Workers Compensation Research Institute, or WCRI, looked at the number of prescriptions and the strength of the drugs given to injured workers who were off work for at least seven days but did not have to have surgery. Using data from 2009 to 2015, the institute found the use of opioids decreased by 10 percent in Pennsylvania.

StoryCorps

Ashok Gurung discusses his efforts to help the Bhutanese refugee community in Pittsburgh.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Speaking Friday at the National Energy Technology Laboratory near Pittsburgh, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry emphasized the link between energy innovation and national security and talked about what he sees as coal’s strong future.

Calling his position as energy secretary “the coolest job” he’s ever had, Perry thanked the standing room-only crowd of scientists and researchers for their work in advancing energy technology, specifically when it comes to coal.

Mark Lennihan / AP

Lawmakers are still struggling to reach consensus on how to pay for the state budget. One of the most likely ways they’ll get money to fill a more than $2 billion hole is by borrowing against a state fund created by a 1998 multi-state settlement with tobacco companies.

But the American Lung Association is up in arms against the proposal—saying it’ll probably divert vital resources away from state anti-smoking programs.

Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

The general manager of TechShop Pittsburgh is hopeful the community workshop space can stay open beyond the anticipated closing date of Sept. 1.

“I don’t want to set any expectations that we can’t deliver on, but that’s what we’re working on,” said Gadsden Merrill, who was part of the original staff at TechShop Pittsburgh when it opened in Bakery Square in 2013.

San Jose-based TechShop announced June 1 it planned to close its Pittsburgh location.

Climate Change Forces Local Birds To Breed Sooner

Jul 7, 2017
Powdermill Nature Reserve

Several species of birds that call southwestern Pennsylvania home are breeding as much as three weeks sooner than they did 50 years ago.

If the shift continues, bird populations could begin to decline, according to Powdermill Nature Reserve Avian Research Coordinator Luke DeGroote.

Researchers at the facility in Westmoreland County, run by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, have been capturing and banding birds since 1961 and have seen a shift, which DeGroote links to climate change.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Every morning, the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium’s new 177-pound baby African elephant takes a stroll through the grounds.

“She knocks over the trash cans, she knocks over any signs she can find,” said Willie Theison, elephant program manager at the Pittsburgh Zoo. “She just thinks she’s the baddest little girl.”

Govenor Tom Wolf / Flickr

The clock is ticking for Pennsylvania lawmakers to find more than $2 billion to balance the state's budget. No agreements were reported Monday, three days after .

Alex Nixon / 90.5 WESA

The Seneca Rocks area of West Virginia's Monongahela National Forest re-opened Friday morning after a nearly week-long, 5-acre fire tore through the western base of its north peak.

Officials said climbers should use caution when re-entering the area because of unstable footing along access routes and possible changes to climbing routes. The feature's hiking trail and observation platform were both impacted by the fire, but have been cleared of immediate hazards, officials said.

Hilary Harp & Suzie Silver / Courtesy of the Artists

A chandelier full of high heels and beads hangs above a cheetah print rug and gold wallpaper, which now adorn the window of Future Tenant on Penn Avenue. Throughout the gallery hang various mirrored balls and pictures. It’s all part of an exhibition opening examining the influence of disco on modern culture.

New York-based curator and Hampton Township native Emily Colucci said disco is generally seen as superficial, but she contends there is value to exploring disco’s aesthetic and cultural impact.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Just off Penn Avenue, where Bloomfield meets Friendship and borders Garfield, a gate opens onto a narrow courtyard surrounded by low-slung storage garages. They may look as though they’ve seen better days, but Kristin Hughes thinks their best lie ahead.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

It’s easy to keep track of time from most streets downtown: the Allegheny County Courthouse chimes play every 15 minutes, as well as strike the hour; twice a day they sing.

“Noon and five,” said Jim Reardon, the county’s director of facilities management. “It counts off whatever hour it has to be ... and then we play a particular song, whichever song is picked for that day.”

Alex Popichak / 90.5 WESA

In 1892, the country’s largest trade union, the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers, took on the world’s largest manufacturing firm, the Carnegie Steel Corporation. Carnegie’s plant manager Henry Clay Frick increased production demands, but refused to increase wages. Frick eventually locked workers out of the facility spurring a strike.

Only about a fifth of the workers at the Homestead Works Steel Mill were skilled workers represented by the union. But the nearly 3,000 workers agreed to strike for better wages and working conditions.

House GOP Leader: No Agreements In Pennsylvania Budget Talks

Jul 6, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

The Republican leader in the GOP-controlled Pennsylvania House of Representatives says there haven't been any agreements reached in a six-day-old budget stalemate over the state's deficit-ridden finances.

Majority Leader Dave Reed told House GOP members in a Thursday memo that he's also opposed to a "broad-based" tax increase and favors trying to raise money by expanding casino-style gambling and further privatizing the sale of wine and liquor in Pennsylvania.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

A task force formed in May to make recommendations on policies and programs to protect Allegheny County residents from lead is hoping to provide its suggestions by November.

The nine-member task force will hold its third meeting Friday.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

The last month of the fiscal year was a decent one for Pennsylvania, revenue-wise, with returns coming in slightly higher than expected. But it comes at the end of a year of unexpectedly dismal earnings.

The commonwealth ended 2016-17 with its revenues over a billion dollars below projections. Its expectations for the new fiscal year are more modest.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Andrea Rosso thinks, in the future, doctors who work with older adults will regularly time them walking down hallways. But it won’t be to find out if they’re slowing down for physical reasons; it will be to determine if they are in the early stages of cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Scientists have known for about five years that slower walking speeds are linked to cognitive decline. Now researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are starting to figure out why, and they believe that the connection lies in a region of the brain called the right hippocampus.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Aaron Anthony, his wife Lauren Kokai, two-year-old daughter Adelaide, and their long-haired cat Cyrus recently moved into a single family home in Anthony’s hometown, Shaler. It’s just north of Pittsburgh, along the Allegheny River.

“A hidden gem,” Kokai said. “There’s lots of kids running around, rugrats on bikes.”

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