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Christopher Lancaster / Flickr

The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN)  announced on Thursday the creation of a subcommittee tasked with developing a Customer Assistance Program, similar to those available for electricity and natural gas utilities.

Two unrelated missing persons cases were solved when the bodies of the men each surfaced separately downstream in a river in West Virginia in recent days — with the death of one of the Pittsburgh men now being treated as a homicide, police said.

The cases of Andre Gray, 34, and Paul Kochu, 22, aren't related, except by the coincidence that their bodies each surfaced in the Ohio River in recent days, likely because of the spring thaw, city police Cmdr. RaShall Brackney said at a Thursday night news conference. Bodies can remain submerged for weeks or months when rivers are icy or the water is near freezing, but rise to the surface as temperatures warm.

In Kentucky, A Prairie Made By Coal

Mar 27, 2015
Reid R. Frazier / The Allegheny Front

Patrick Angel pulls his pickup truck off a small road in the hills of Eastern Kentucky, and points to a long ridge covered with dried, brown grass.

“If you didn’t know where you were, you'd think you were standing in a prairie land in South Dakota or Wyoming, because it’s all grass,” says Angel, a forester with the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM).

Litterbugs beware: There might be someone watching you.

A Pennsylvania environmental group has launched a new initiative to provide municipalities with the equipment to catch people illegally dumping trash on camera.

Essential Pittsburgh

Joyce Brabner and Mark Zingarelli produced a book last year that puts the history of AIDS into a vastly new perspective. With comic-book-style graphics and vivid, larger-than-life characters, Second Avenue Caper describes the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in America with the kind of humor and imagination that is seldom associated with such a poignant topic. 

Brabner talks about the heroes in this story in the fight against AIDS :

"The real heroes are my friends who made space in their crowded NY apartment for people who didn’t have the strength to walk up five flights of stairs. My friends who fed, cared, clothed everybody." -- Joyce Brabner

Also in this hour, AIDS researcher Dr. Charles Rinaldo and Alan Jones of the Pittsburgh AIDS Taskforce talk about the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. Furthermore,  Tom Baxter of Friends of the Riverfront and Carl Knoch of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy talk about their thoughts on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail.


Israel has been referred to as “Start-Up Nation” due to the strong entrepreneurial spirit displayed by its citizens, and a conference this week at The university of Pittsburgh is hoping to use a small group of visitors to foster that spirit here.

“Pittsburgh is very strong in medical device technology, drug innovation and medical IT,” said Paul Harper, Entrepreneurship Professor at Pitt. “Those happen to also be areas that Israel leads the world in.”

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh’s visitors and tourism bureau, VisitPITTSBURGH said 2014 was a strong year, but that 2015 is shaping up to be busier.

The organization released its annual report Thursday, highlighting the economic impact tourism has on the region. Each year the industry brings about $5.6 billion to the region and supports some 40,000 jobs.

Education Budget Makes Charter Schools Nervous

Mar 26, 2015

Advocates for Pennsylvania’s charter schools are worried that Governor Tom Wolf’s new education budget would force some schools to close their doors.

Wolf’s 2015-2016 education budget includes more money for preschool through college education, but one school group is feeling ostracized.

“Charter schools in Pennsylvania are already receiving far less per pupil than their traditional school peers,” said Kara Kerwin, President of the Center for Education Reform. “On average it’s about 30 percent less per pupil.”

Investments in Pittsburgh companies and the city’s technology sector continue to grow. A report by Innovation Works, an investment firm, and Ernst & Young LLP, a professional services company, found:

A Democratic state senator says a racist, anonymous letter sent to the Cumberland County home of the acting State Police commissioner raises troubling questions.

Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) is denouncing a letter sent to Acting Commissioner Marcus Brown that used a racial slur and referred to his decision to wear the Pennsylvania State Police uniform. The letter was delivered to Brown's mailbox Monday evening.

Alexis Gideon is a multimedia artist who has recently relocated to Pittsburgh. The New Hazlett Theater is a center for collaboration as well as an incubator for new ideas. Together they recently provided Pittsburgh with a unique world premiere event.

"The Crumbling" is a 21-minute stop-motion animation video opera set in a surreal dream-like town following the trials of a librarian as she tries to save her city from crumbling down around her. Much of the music is performed live by Gideon.

Essential Pittsburgh / WESA

Former congressman Joe Sestak is running for the U.S. Senate by walking. He's making a 422-mile trek across the state to better connect with Pennsylvanians. Joe Sestak joins us in Studio A for a talk about his plans to challenge Senator Pat Toomey and why the state's Democratic party doesn't want him to run.

Sestak comments on his opponent Senator Pat Toomey's action regarding Iran and the nuclear weapons issue:

"What I saw is the unrivaled respect that the presidency of the United States has as the foremost instrument to secure our freedoms and our security overseas. To actually have had Senator Toomey sign a letter that says disregard our presidency shows reckless abandon of the responsibilities of a Senator, it shows truly no experience in world affairs and it also shows a disregard for the security of America, placing politics above security." -- Joe Sestak

Also in this hour, a Pittsburgh artist's sketches of servicemen are finding their way back home and Louis Ortiz, star of the documentary "Bronx Obama" and the President's closest doppelganger visits for a screening of the film. 

Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

When Diane Faust started losing her eyesight in 2008 as a result of optic nerve damage, she didn’t know where to turn, but she knew she had two options.

“I could hide in my house the rest of my life, ignore the outside world,” Faust said. “Or, I could try to gain as much of my independence back and get back to as much of a normal life as possible. Those folks have been so instrumental in helping me to do that.”

The Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority for the city of Pittsburgh met on Wednesday afternoon for its regular quarterly meeting. Among the topics discussed were efforts by City Controller Michael Lamb to move paper invoices to an electronic format.

Lamb said this project would save the city $115,000 annually. Of the $25,000 they originally had for this project, he said they had spent $18,000 on the E-Docs system, had $7,000 remaining and requested an additional $16,000. The ICA agreed to grant them this money.

The state’s Right-to-Know law is growing up.

The seven-year old statute giving citizens greater access to government records is yielding more complex cases as record requests are appealed and challenged in the courts.    

“Despite a decrease in the number of appeals that were filed with our office, we’ve seen an increase in the actual work that we have to do,” said Open Records Acting Director Nathanael Byerly in a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.

Preparing For The Worst, Delco First Responders Simulate Oil Train Accident

Mar 25, 2015
Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The increasing number of rail cars carrying crude oil through Pennsylvania means a rising risk of accidents. Recent derailments caused trains to explode and incinerate areas along tracks in Illinois and West Virginia, threatening waterways.

So far, Pennsylvania has been lucky. Within the past year and a half, oil trains traveling through the state derailed in Philadelphia, Vandergrift and McKeesport, but none of them exploded.

Back in the sumer of 2013, that wasn’t the case in the Quebec village of Lac Megantic, where an oil train crash killed 47 people. Five bodies were never recovered, having been incinerated.

Gov. Tom Wolf proposed big increases in higher education funding, and schools are starting to get back to him about whether they'd be able to keep tuition increases low — or nonexistent — in return.

Wolf's budget includes an $81 million bump in state funding for the four state-related schools: Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln University.

In return, the governor asked the schools to keep any tuition increases within the rate of inflation.

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File

H.J. Heinz Co. is buying Kraft Foods, creating one of the largest food and beverage companies in the world with annual revenue in excess of $28 billion.

The deal was engineered by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and the company that owns Heinz, Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital. Berkshire and 3G will invest $10 billion in what will come to be known as The Kraft Heinz Co.

No one has ever seen dark matter, and its origin is unknown, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon, Brown and Cambridge universities believe they may have evidence of another characteristic of dark matter.

The researchers found that a newly discovered dwarf galaxy orbiting our galaxy, the Milky Way, shows evidence that it’s emitting gamma rays.

Turn out your lights.

That’s what several Pittsburgh organizations are doing Saturday from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. during Earth Hour. The organizations are hoping to spark awareness about sustainability.

This year, much of Pittsburgh’s skyline will be dark.

Anna Siefken, of the Green Building Alliance, hopes to see the entire community come out to watch the lights go out.

Tony Webster / Flickr

Controversy continues to surround Governor Wolf’s nominee for State Police Commissioner Marcus Brown. The former Maryland State Police Commissioner has come under fire for wearing the PA State Trooper uniform. He is now under investigation for allegations of misdemeanor theft. We get the latest on the beleaguered nominee with Patriot News Capitol Reporter Christian Alexandersen.

"In a couple different interviews, [Marcus Brown] made the point of using the word honor and showing respect for the people he's going to lead. He said that to lead the organization it would make sense for him to wear the uniform...The retired state troopers have been pretty vocal, especially on social media and online, about their feelings...One retired officer said [Brown's] decision to wear the uniform was to show his power and authority." - Christian Alexandersen

Also in this hour, cities around the globe go dark this Saturday in honor of Earth Hour (including parts of Pittsburgh), we revisit the history of the Fort Pitt Block House, and the Farm to Table Food Conference connects Pittsburghers directly to their local growers. 


When the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection asked for public comment in December regarding rules about conventional oil and gas development, the department received an “unprecedented amount” of submissions.

That’s according to Scott Perry, deputy secretary of the department’s Office of Oil and Gas Management, who said tens of thousands of people reached out to the DEP, showing intense interest.

According to a recent poll conducted the Pennsylvania Medical Society, there have been changes in the experiences people have had accessing health care.

“It seems that most patients are able to access health care within a reasonable period of time,” said Karen Rizzo, a practicing physician and President of the Pennsylvania Medical Society.  “It seems that their out-of-pocket expense is increasing for about 37 percent of the patients surveyed.”

Of the 700 people polled, 53 percent said their out of pocket expenses were about the same, and 8 percent saw a reduction in cost.

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File

When Gov. Tom Wolf was campaigning, he said if elected he would place a severance tax on Marcellus shale gas in the commonwealth, and now he’s moving forward on a plan to do just that. The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, however, doesn’t agree with some changes.

A top Republican in the state Senate said Monday that he's prepared for a late budget.

The commonwealth's spending plan is due June 30, and in recent years the GOP caucuses followed the lead of former Gov. Tom Corbett and his priority to meet that deadline.

This year, Senate Republicans have insisted their top priority is passing a public pension overhaul that reaps short-term and long-term savings for the state's deeply indebted retirement systems.

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said if pension talks stretch into the fall, so will the budget process.

Mary Wilson / WITF

Col. Marcus Brown is an outsider wearing an insider’s uniform, and it’s threatening to sideline his career with the Wolf administration.

Words Without Walls / Chatham University

Words Without Walls is a program at Chatham University teaching creative writing to residents of Pittsburgh-area correctional facilities and drug treatment centers.The instructors are students in Chatham’s MFA program in Creative Writing. Joining us in Studio A to discuss the program and a special book launch taking place this Friday are  MFA Program Director and Author, Sheryl St. Germain and Jonny Blevins, a student and instructor in the program.

Explaining her ambitions for the program, St. Germain says:

"It was not just the idea that we thought we could help people tell their own stories, and that would heal. Obviously that was really important, but it was also important for me as a director to get students from our program working with alternative populations. ... It's a way to get students to interact with members of the community." -- Sheryl St. Germain

Also in the program, Carnegie Mellon professor David Shumway talks about the upcoming Pittsburgh Humanities Festival, and business contributor Rebecca Harris explains the business impact of having a baby.


Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

Righting the wrongs of the past appeared to be the theme at a groundbreaking for the Lower Hill redevelopment infrastructure, which will be a 28-acre mixed-use development.

“This project will directly benefit our local economy and residents of the Hill District for decades to come through additional development and job creation,” state Sen. Wayne Fontana said at Monday's groundbreaking.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Alcosan rates are set to increase 11 percent in 2016 and again in 2017, and activists with the Clean Rivers Campaign and Action United are calling on the sanitary authority to implement a Customer Assistance Program, or CAP, to help low-income rate payers.

Activists held a rally in Market Square Monday afternoon, handing out fliers alerting passers-by to “skyrocketing sewer rates.”

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

The Roberto Clemente Bridge will be closed starting at 9 a.m. Tuesday and will remain closed until April 10 to allow crews to do repairs and add a new feature.

“We are doing some deck repairs out there, we’re replacing some drainage on the bridge and we’re also installing bike lanes on the bridge that will go across the bridge and tie into the bike lanes that are currently on Penn Avenue,” said Michael Dillon, deputy director of Public Works for Allegheny County.

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