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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. They’ll go behind the headlines taking an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region.

Trump Gives Pipeline Industry A Boost, But Leaders Warn Against Complacency

Jan 26, 2017
Kyle Pattison / Public Herald

Donald Trump’s public support of big pipeline projects is giving the industry a shot in the arm. But it still faces hurdles from state and local opposition, according to industry leaders.

On Tuesday, Trump signed executive orders to revive the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, and expedite environmental reviews on some projects. 

Transformazium

Three artists involved in public art in New York City were looking for a change when a friend of theirs suggested they come to Pittsburgh to rehabilitate property through a program to help communities address blight.

The Allegheny County Vacant Property Recovery Program introduced them to a neighborhood and an opportunity to use local resources and artistic creativity to transform ideas into real social and economic benefits.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) announced Thursday that State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh will shut down by June 30, 2017.

Courtesy of Julia Metelsky

While millions marched in protest of President Donald Trump, several Pittsburgh clothing designers took their resistance to the runway.

The event last week in Lawrenceville highlighted the intersection of fashion and politics through new collections.

Scientists Rush To Backup Climate Data

Jan 26, 2017
NASA

Since President Trump’s inauguration, the climate change page at whitehouse.gov disappeared. Reuters also reported that climate references were to be removed from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, though it appears that’s been delayed.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

It’s been three weeks since the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) announced five prisons were being considered for closure: State Correctional Institutions Pittsburgh and Mercer in the western part of the state, and Waymart, Retreat, and Frackville in the east.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

A package of bills in Pittsburgh City Council intended to help immigrants and refugees living in the city drew its first opposition during debate Wednesday.

Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith said since Councilman Dan Gilman introduced the suite of six bills last week, her office has gotten calls both for and against the measures.

Mining Permit In State Park Halted By Judge

Jan 25, 2017
Friends of Ryerson State Park / Facebook

A judge has ordered a halt to mining underneath a state park in Greene County. Environmental Hearing Board Judge Steven C. Beckman issued the order Tuesday, regarding a Consol Energy plan to expand its Bailey mine complex beneath Ryerson Station State Park. Environmental groups had argued the plan would have damaged a high-quality stream in the park.

Katie Meyer / WITF

In one of the state Capitol’s busy lobbies, there’s a clock that tracks unfunded pension liabilities. All day and night, that clock ticks upwards, adding billions of dollars to Pennsylvania’s debts every year.

The clock’s overseen by a small, dedicated group of pension overhaul advocates and on Tuesday, they dragged it up to the Capitol’s main rotunda to make a renewed call to lawmakers: find a way to halt the clock’s rising numbers, once and for all.

courtesy: David Hickton

During David Hickton’s tenure as U.S. Attorney for Western Pennsylvania, from 2010-16, his office took the lead in pursuing cyber crimes and terrorism.

Now, Hickton is starting a new career path as founding director of the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security.

“With the appointment of David Hickton, the University of Pittsburgh is poised to offer significant contributions to the national discussion on cyber-related issues affecting personal, national, and global security and privacy,” said Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

A group of 75 teachers, parents and administrators have finished reviewing options for a new literacy curriculum for Pittsburgh Public School Kindergarten through fifth grade students.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Ride-sharing service Uber announced Tuesday it will fund all rides for women to the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. 

Free rides will also be provided to legal, medical and other appointments for those staying in the shelter through the $10,000 donation from Uber.  

Michael Henninger / CMU

Supercomputers help people crunch big data in a number of fields, from research to weather forecasting, but not everyone has access to one or the technical savvy to make it work. Though, a new supercomputer could offer more access.

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center just launched the second phase of its supercomputing system, called “Bridges,” last week. It’s among the largest supercomputers in the U.S., but according to Pittsburgh Supercomputing Senior Director of Research Nick Nystrom, it is probably the most democratic one available.

AP

Pittsburgh's tallest building is for sale, and the U.S. Steel Tower could go for a sky-high price.

Real Estate Alert, a trade publication that first reported the listing, says the 64-story, triangular office building could fetch $350 million. The current owner, 601W Cos., a New York holding company, paid $250 million for the building in 2011.

The owners have spent $60 million upgrading the building and boast two major tenants, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which has corporate offices there, and U.S. Steel.

Google Maps

Pittsburgh's mayor and acting police chief on Tuesday met with the family of a homeowner fatally shot by officers responding to a home burglar alarm.

Police say officers shot 57-year-old Christopher Thompkins after someone fired gunshots in their direction as they arrived at Thompkins’ home about 4 a.m. Sunday.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

A western Pennsylvania elementary school has been closed for two days so the district can deal with high level of lead in its water, which comes from a well.

Butler Area School District Superintendent Dale Lumley apologized to irate parents who attended a Monday meeting about the problems at Summit Elementary.

Students were given bottled water for two days earlier this school year after water tests in August found lead.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Autonomous vehicles, ubiquitous broadband internet, improved energy systems — attendees at the U.S. Conference of Mayors buzzed with the potential technology in store for their cities.

In the 20 years the internet has existed, it has revolutionized the way we interact with the world, said Joanne Hovis. She’s president of CTC Technology & Energy, an IT consulting firm in Maryland.

Ex-Harrisburg Mayor Pleads Guilty In Wild West Museum Artifacts Case

Jan 23, 2017
Diana Robinson / Keystone Crossroads

A former mayor pleaded guilty Monday to 20 counts of receiving stolen property related to his ill-starred effort to bring a Wild West museum to his central Pennsylvania city.

Former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed, 67, faces serious health problems and felt pleading guilty was the right thing to do, his lawyer said.

"We think this is an opportunity now to move on with his life and get the treatment he needs for his illness," said attorney Henry Hockeimer Jr.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

To make the move to its new space, the Animal Rescue League paraded dogs, wagons full of cats and even a snake two blocks down Hamilton Avenue in Homewood Monday.  

Chief Executive Officer Dan Rossi said the old, smaller facility was always over capacity.

Winslow Townson / AP

A Boston man described by his lawyer as a "die-hard Patriots fan" has pleaded not guilty to pulling a fire alarm that roused the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers from their hotel beds ahead of their playoff game against New England.

Dennis Harrison was released on personal recognizance at his arraignment Monday on charges including disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace.

Police say the 25-year-old East Boston resident pulled the alarm at the Logan Airport Hilton at about 3:40 a.m. Sunday. Authorities quickly determined it was a false alarm.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

It's possible that Bret Grote gets more mail from state prison inmates than anyone else in Pittsburgh.

As the co-founder and legal director of the Abolitionist Law Center, he says he is “dedicated to the abolition of race- and class-based mass incarceration.”

The non-profit law firm provides legal services for people who are incarcerated.

Google Maps

The ex-wife of a Pittsburgh homeowner fatally shot by police responding to a burglary call says officers "shot the wrong guy."

Brenda and Christopher Thompkins were in bed when they spotted an intruder in the house at about 4 a.m. Sunday.

Christopher Thompkins grabbed Brenda's gun and was headed downstairs when he fired at the intruder. Police say two officers who responded to a security alarm thought the shots were fired at them. They returned fire and killed Thompkins.

Corrections Officials Tell Senators Prisons Can Close Safely

Jan 23, 2017
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

Pennsylvania corrections officials are telling state senators they can close two prisons without jeopardizing the security of staff, inmates or the public.

Monday's joint Senate committee hearing comes four days before the Department of Corrections is to announce which two prisons it'll close. The hearing in the state Capitol is packed with corrections officers and their supporters.

The two prisons are to be chosen from a list of five prisons: Frackville, Mercer, Pittsburgh, Retreat and Waymart.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 FM WESA

Earlier this month, the Pittsburgh Planning Commission rejected plans to redevelop the former Penn Plaza site in East Liberty, saying not enough public input was given. Last week, the developer filed an appeal saying there had been ample opportunity for public input.

Before the appeal was filed, Mayor Bill Peduto’s chief of staff Kevin Acklin said the administration stood behind the commission’s decision and will stay involved.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Gina Merante grabbed a banana bunch from a red wall lined with gradually ripening fruit. She shuffled past boxes of apples and red peppers and pointed outside, past the large display window at the front of her store, Linea Verde Green Market.

John Minchillo / AP

 

While Washington, D.C. prepared for the inauguration of Donald J. Trump, more than 300 mayors gathered blocks from the White House for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

They chatted, they swapped cards, they exchanged insight on engaging seniors, dealing with hunger, and and how to pay for infrastructure.

While Pennsylvania mayors said they’re largely hopeful that the new administration will work with cities, they’re not holding their breath.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Masses of people flooded parks, streets and city squares around the world Saturday marching in solidarity in a show of empowerment and a stand against President Donald Trump.

The crowds of women, men and children stood in the rain, snow and sun. Many wore pink "pussyhats" to mock the new president.

As they moved through streets or gathered in parks, they voiced support for women and immigrants' rights, health care, Black Lives Matter, education and other causes. Many carried signs with messages such as "Love trumps hate" and "Women won't back down."

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

 

Thousands were out demonstrating in Pittsburgh in Saturday's unseasonably warm weather. 

 

As many as 25,000 were estimated to have packed downtown as part of the Women's March on Pittsburgh, a sister march of the national one in Washington D.C. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Hundreds gathered in the Hill District Friday afternoon and pledged to uphold civil rights in Pittsburgh at the People’s Inauguration.

Representatives from social justice groups, including Fight for Fifteen, Planned Parenthood and the Black Lives Matters movement addressed the crowd about the importance of inclusiveness going into the administration of President Donald Trump.

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