Charlee Song

90.5 WESA Newsroom Volunteer

Charlee Song has been covering news for 90.5 FM since 2000—an opportunity she considers a great privilege.  She finds almost every assignment interesting and really enjoys working with both the veterans and interns at WESA.

Ways To Connect

What started as an idea in November, 2012 has become a reality that might become a national model, according to Charles LaVallee, Chief Executive Officer of Variety the Children's Charity.  At a cost of $1,800 each, more than 700 bikes adapted to children with disabilities have been given away free of charge in the Pittsburgh region, and 250 more are available.  

Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC launched the MyMageePregnancy app about three weeks ago, which is available on the hospital's Facebook page.  

Spokeswoman Courtney McCrimmon said the app has already received more than 2000 views. Although some of the information applies specifically to Magee patients, the website has general information and is accessible to anyone.

McCrimmon said Magee created the app because some information on the web is not reliable.  

Executive Vice President Zach Zobrist of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania said the union is working with hospitals in the state to assure that specific protocols and procedures will protect health care workers.  

"That, to me, is the really clear thing the CDC came forward with," he said. "It’s not just providing employees with protective equipment, it’s giving them the training they would need on how to use that personal protective equipment. And that they have spotters and not just, ‘Here’s a handout on how to wear your equipment.’"

In 2008, billboards adjacent to a suburban highway in Israel were covered up, and accidents were analyzed compared to data from 2006 and 2007, when the billboards were visible. 

There was a significant decrease in the number of total accidents and in accidents with injuries. Damage-only accidents were not significantly affected.

Mike Dawida, executive director of Scenic Pittsburgh, has sent a letter asking Pennsylvania state legislators to make Pennsylvania highways safer by regulating billboards. 

The Pennsylvania House and Senate last week passed resolutions recognizing music therapy as a “valid therapeutic service,” which were very welcome to the state’s 400 board-certified music therapists, who serve about 41,000 state residents each year. 

Music therapists have at least a bachelor’s degree with extensive coursework in both music and psychology. They work in medical facilities, schools and in private practice. Music therapists may co-treat with physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists or work on their own.

The Urban Institute of Washington, D.C. has released its 12-month evaluation of the Allegheny County Jail Collaborative re-entry programs, concluding that they do in fact reduce recidivism. Members and supporters presented the findings at the jail.

Reducing recidivism saves tax dollars and enhances public safety. The collaborative works with those accepted into the program before and after they get out — with jobs, family support, cognitive behavioral intervention, and mental health or substance abuse issues.

Charlee Song / 90.5 WESA

Penn State Master Gardeners, as partners with the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, have been working in Point State Park refurbishing the historic flower beds put in on Earth Day. 

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has developed a 91 percent accurate genetic test to identify those patients whose prostate cancer is likely to recur. The new knowledge may lead to a clinical test, as well as future drugs and therapies.

With an eye on examining both the negative influences and positive capabilities of today’s media and technology on health, the University of Pittsburgh has created the Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health (CRMTH).  

Director Dr. Brian Primack said although every generation tends to think its innovations will have dire negative effects, there are reasons to think today’s larger-than-life media portrayals do  have a significant impact on sleep and cognition.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will provide additional funds to Pennsylvania for conservation planning for endangered bats on the state’s 3.8 million acres of public lands, bringing the federal total to $1.2 million dollars since 2012. 

A disease that disrupts hibernation has devastated bat populations in the northeast and spread to the Midwest.  

Kee Won Song / Special to 90.5 WESA

Agriculture is the leading economic enterprise in Pennsylvania.  Between 1982 and 1997, over a million acres were developed and converted to other uses—the equivalent of 209 acres a day.  In 1988, the state instituted a program to help slow the loss of prime farmland.

Charlee Song / 90.5 WESA News

Hand washing, floor scrubbing, sterilizing instruments--all standard techniques to thwart hospital-acquired infections.  Now UPMC hospitals are evaluating new technology to help prevent infections.  At Passavant Hospital, staff is using a robot to help sanitize a room with ultraviolet-C rays.  Fittingly, the robot’s name is “Violet”.

Dr. Joseph Romano, chairman of the Passavant Hospital Infection Prevention and Control Committee, said "Violet" is turned on after a room has been disinfected in the usual way. 

As the school year ends, summer learning loss, or "summer slide," might begin.  According to the National Summer Learning Association, the loss amounts to about two months in math for all students and two months in reading for low-income students, while unequal access to summer learning opportunities might  account for half the achievement gap between low- and high-income students.

In the 19th century, wealthy white Pittsburghers, including George Westinghouse and Andrew Carnegie, created estates in Homewood, which was a pastoral and welcome respite from the foul air generated by the industry. 

By 1940, the population was diverse, middle class and about five times larger than it is now.

Flickr user Claire Cook44

According to the Nation’s Report Card released last week by the Department of Education, the achievement gap narrowed slightly in Pennsylvania over the last two years.

As Pittsburgh-area schools consider ways to shrink the gap further, they might look to Montgomery County, Maryland.

That Washington, D.C.-area school district has dramatically reduced the gap while posting the highest graduation rate for black males in the nation.

The University of Pittsburgh’s Center on Race and Social Problems hosted a program Wednesday called “A Call to Conscience:  Effective Policies and Practices in Educating African American Males.”

The keynote speaker was John Jackson, president and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education in Cambridge, Mass., who said research is clear that races are 99.6 percent the same genetically, so differences in educational performance must be caused by social policies and practices.

Legislation to change the name of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare to the Department of Human Services passed the House before it adjourned for the summer but the Senate left Harrisburg without taking any action on the revised bill.  The Senate is scheduled to reconvene in September. 

Under the Affordable Care Act, each state’s governor must decide whether to expand Medicaid, with the federal government picking up the whole tab for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter.

The Pennsylvania Senate supported expansion in a vote Friday night, but there is a different attitude in the House.

Steve Miskin, spokesman for the House Republican Caucus, said the House has not and will not consider expanding Medicaid as it exists now.   

When it rains in Pittsburgh, chances are raw sewage will be discharged into its rivers because so many pipes receive not only sewage, but also storm water, and the system can't handle the volume.  

When this happens, the Allegheny County Health Department issues combined sewer overflow (CSO) flag alerts between May 15 and September 30.

Pennsylvania’s Act 13 Marcellus Shale impact fees from the state’s 6,000 wells so far amount to $400 million: $204 million for 2011 and $198 million for 2012 (because the price of natural gas declined). 

A fixed amount goes to agencies that oversee the industry, and the rest goes to local entities. 

Counties where drilling takes place get 60 percent of the remainder, while 40 percent goes into the Marcellus Legacy Fund, which is accessible to all.

The “Roadshow for Growth” bus tour came through Pittsburgh Wednesday in an effort by GE Capital and Slate Magazine to focus on the importance of middle market businesses, those with revenues between $10 million and $1 billion. 

It’s “Great Outdoors Month” across the nation, and for the fifth year, just about every one of Pennsylvania’s 120 state parks has planned something special to encourage people to explore outdoor recreation. 

There’s a Twilight Paddle in Moraine State Park on Tuesday geared toward people who have never kayaked before, a wildlife program focusing on bears at Keystone State Park on Thursday and an early morning wildlife viewing by boat on Friday at Ohiopyle State Park, just to mention a few.

An 18th century replica cannon was fired for the first time Wednesday morning at the Fort Pitt Museum at Point State Park.

A six-person crew of colonial re-enactors used all the proper protocol and ceremony in firing a blank round in the 600-pound cannon, which was made entirely in Western Pennsylvania.

Andy Masich, president and CEO of the Senator John Heinz History Center, said only an expert could tell this gun from an original. 

Many students rely on free and reduced price meals during the school year and still need help over the summer.

In 2012, the Department of Agriculture served 2.3 million children at 38,800 sites on a typical summer day through the Summer Food Service Program. 

Free meals are available at sites all over the country to anyone 18 and under, or 21 and under if disabled, according to Cindy Moore of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. People can go to any location — no registration or documentation is necessary.

To comply with federal law, the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority submitted a plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in January to reduce sewage overflows into creeks and rivers at a cost of $2.8 billion. 

At the same time, ALCOSAN requested an 18-month extension to do a study of incorporating "green" infrastructure components proposed at public meetings. Now the people who advocated those changes say they are being shut out of the process.

B-PEP, the Black Political Empowerment Project, held a news conference Wednesday morning in Homewood to announce that the group has asked the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County for a moratorium on the demolition of structures in black communities. 

B-PEP member William Anderson said the rapid demolition of properties that could easily be rehabbed is the beginning of gentrification that will force Homewood residents out.   

Farmers markets are opening all over the region with fresh, wholesome and affordable produce, and there are efforts to make sure everyone is able to share in the bounty.  

Ken Regal, Executive Director of Just Harvest, said the 160,000 residents of Allegheny County on Food Stamps have often been unable to use them at farmers markets because vendors usually only accept cash. 

This year, however, Just Harvest will staff kiosks at two Citiparks farmers markets where Food Stamps, as well as commercial debit and credit cards, can be used to buy tokens.  

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is celebrating “VA Research Week,” highlighting the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories at Bakery Square, where robotic technology is being used to improve the mobility and function of people with disabilities.  

The KitchenBot can be programmed to make an entire meal; the Cueing Kitchen is a cabinet layout with appliances that gives audio prompts to those with cognitive disabilities so they can function in the kitchen.

Two high school students from the Pittsburgh region are finalists in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair this week in Phoenix, where more than 1,500 high school students from more than 70 countries will present their solutions for real-life problems. Last year's fair was here in Pittsburgh.  

Rishi Mirchandani, a sophomore at Fox Chapel Area High School, has developed a new algorithm for dividing something that is desired by multiple individuals. 

The Mattress Factory, known for its installation art, has received a $100,000 grant from the Benedum Foundation to continue its educational outreach in western Pennsylvania and extend it into West Virginia.  

Felice Cleveland, the museum's director of education, said artists create educational tools called "The Space I'm In" to be used in K-12 classrooms by pairs of teachers: one art teacher paired with a teacher from another subject. Together, they develop a series of inter-disciplinary lessons to present core curriculum to their students.

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