Deanna Garcia

General Assignment Reporter

Deanna fell in love with public radio in 2001, when she landed her first job at an NPR station: KRWG-FM in Las Cruces, NM, where she also attended college. After graduating with a degree in journalism and mass communications, she spent a summer in Washington, D.C. as an intern at NPR's Morning Edition. Following that, she was a reporter/All Things Considered Host at WXXI in Rochester, NY. Before coming to Pittsburgh, Deanna was the local All Things Considered host for KUNC in northern Colorado. In her spare time, Deanna enjoys watching movies and TV shows on DVD (the Golden Girls and Little House on the Prairie are among her favorites), bicycling, yard work, and reading.

 

Ways To Connect

Allegheny County has responded to a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union and a woman who is caring for four children without receiving financial help. The ACLU filed the suit on behalf of Tracy Schaeffer who has taken care of her grand nieces and nephews since 2012. The suit alleges Schaeffer was not notified of her options to become a certified foster parent.

The American Red Cross Blood Services provides about 40 percent of the blood used in transfusions across the country. In honor of Black History Month, the organization is urging people of all ethnic groups to donate blood.

“Blood from a donor with a similar ethnic background as that of the patient is less likely to cause complications, particularly for patients whose chronic conditions require repeated transfusions,” said Marianne Spampinato, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region.

Allegheny County has launched an online information portal that will put in one place information from various departments.

“You can go into the Health Department, look at their air quality index, you can look at the courts as far as their records, of course we have the property assessment records, there’s treasury data,” said William McKain, Allegheny County manager.

Such portals have been used in other cities, according to McKain.

Following last year’s passage of a bill allowing licensed volunteer fire companies and social organizations to sponsor small betting pools, one state lawmaker spoke on the Senate Floor this week and said groups are still being punished for that with Superbowl or March Madness pools.

One of the challenges many veterans face when they re-integrate into civilian life is finding a job. Though many veterans operate heavy machinery, drive specialty vehicles or perform other specialized duties, additional training and testing is required before they can get a job outside the military. A bill introduced in the state House would change that.

Rachellynn Schoen / Heinz History Center

One of Pittsburgh, and America’s, most iconic figures, Mister Rogers, had one of the longest-running children’s programs on television. Now, for the first time, the sets and props from the show will be on display to the public.

On the fourth floor of the John Heinz History Center is the special collections gallery, which is organized by neighborhood: there is an Irish neighborhood, an African American neighborhood and a "Neighborhood of Make-Believe."

Hoping to increase the number of successful liver transplants, a new organ preservation system is being tested which uses what’s called a “machine perfusion” technique.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine say the new system pumps cooled, oxygen-rich fluid into donor livers. This keeps the organs in excellent condition for up to nine hours before transplantation.

Before he took the oath of office, Gov. Tom Wolf said that as governor he would push for legislation that would implement paid sick leave for employees of businesses with 50 of more employees. That has some business groups in the state concerned.

“We’ve gone through this issue before,” said Gene Barr, president of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. “The problem isn’t in having people get sick time, it’s in government mandating or dictating exactly what that structure needs to look like.”

The Pennsylvania General Assembly will go back into session Jan. 20 with new leadership at the helm. But much of the committee leadership is from outside of the Pittsburgh area. Of the 23 House committees, only two Republicans from the southwestern corner of the state are committee chairs.

“Committee chairs are very important positions,” said House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny). “It is driven by seniority. The chairs in both parties are the most senior folks.”

Human trafficking is the second largest criminal enterprise in the world, second only to drug trafficking, according the FBI.

Sex trafficking is the most common form of human trafficking, and in an effort to try and find and identify those involved in the crime, researchers at CMU are developing online tools that go after a major vulnerability for sex traffickers — the need to advertise.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Citywide, there were 71 homicides in Pittsburgh in 2014, well above the 10-year average of 55. The last time the number was in the 70s was 2008, when there were 74 homicides.

“This is a public health emergency,” said Chief of Pittsburgh Police Cameron McLay. “It’s having a disparate impact on our underprivileged and our communities of color.”

Twenty-six of the 2014 homicide cases have been cleared by arrest. There are 28 active investigations, eight cases with strong suspects and six pending grand jury or district attorney review.

The Obama administration laid out designs Wednesday to issue the first regulations to cut down on methane emissions from new natural gas wells, aiming to curb the discharge of a potent greenhouse gas by roughly half.

The White House set a new target for the U.S. to cut methane emissions by 40 percent to 45 percent by 2025, compared to 2012 levels. To meet that goal, the Environmental Protection Agency will issue a proposal affecting oil and gas production, while the Interior Department will also update its standards for drilling to reduce leakage from wells on public lands.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner is releasing an analysis of county-owned vehicles that she said reveals a number of issues including misuse, fraud, lack of oversight and major gaps in usage data.

In a summary of the audit, released Tuesday, Wagner said it took about a month for the county to give her office the number of vehicles in the fleet. She said that needs to be fixed.

Even before being sworn in on Jan. 20, Gov.-elect Tom Wolf is already working to ensure the transition from current Republican Gov. Tom Corbett to him is a smooth one.

A number of transition teams are taking on issues including aging, banking, agriculture, environmental protection and community and economic development. Co-chairing the economic development team is Dennis Yablonsky, president and CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Economic Development and his counterpart in Philadelphia, Rob Wonderling.

Citing efforts aimed at increasing efficiencies and reducing recidivism, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections announced a 908-person drop in the inmate population within the state prison system.

“This is the largest one year drop in the population since 1971 and only the fourth time in the past 40 years that the DOC population has shown an annual decrease rather than an increase,” said DOC spokeswoman Sue Bensinger.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Gov.-elect Tom Wolf has named director of Allegheny County Economic Development, Dennis Davin, as the secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. One of the reasons, Wolf said, is the Pittsburgh region’s economic growth.

“Basically what I’m trying to do and what I want to do as governor is capture the magic that really we see out here in Western Pennsylvania,” Wolf said. “In so many ways, the successes that everyone here as experienced in term so economic development is what I think we need to capture for the rest of Pennsylvania.”

Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay has continued to get national attention following the tweeting and going viral of a photo of him holding a sign reading, “I resolve to challenge racism @ work #EndWhiteSilence.”

McLay spoke to Katie Couric for Yahoo! Global News.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Less than a month after they hatched, two baby African penguins will now be on display along with their parents and other penguins at the National Aviary. The hatching of chicks is a somewhat rare and much-celebrated event.

As part of the ongoing Live Well Allegheny Initiative, the county on Friday will encourage employees to take the stairs, rather than the elevators in the workplace.

“It’s a great way to get a little exercise," said Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Department of Health. "It’s very convenient and very efficient, and does have some real benefits.”

E-cigarettes are marketed as a healthier alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes. The use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, is on the rise in popularity among adults and teens.

Since it’s a new technology, the health effects aren’t fully understood, but officials are warning that small children could be at risk from exposure to the liquid used in e-cigarettes.

With his first year as mayor of Pittsburgh coming to a close, Bill Peduto said the first term was exhausting, but satisfying. He said the job is everything he thought it would be and more, though said there are some surprising aspects, namely having to deal with personnel matters.

“You have 3,500 employees, a certain percent of them are going to have issues with the people they work with and those issues don’t get resolved as you’d think – well a lot of them do – through the directors of personnel, they actually work their way all the way up the food chain,” Peduto said.

Many gym regulars dread the first of the year – it’s often a time when gyms get overcrowded with newcomers, making good on the popular New Year’s resolution to exercise more.

But, come February and March the crowds die down. Why? Because, as with many New Year’s resolutions, people tend to give up on the exercise one fairly quickly. There could be a number of reasons, including goals that are too big and lack of planning.

As 2014 nears its end, investors are looking forward to 2015, and unfortunately, so are scammers.

The Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities has listed the top four emerging threats facing investors in the New Year. They are binary options, marijuana industry investments, stream-of-income investments and virtual currencies and cyber security risks.

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History has some 22 million objects and specimens relating to the history of life on Earth.

Starting in 2015, Stephen Tonsor will take over as director of science and research. He will also head the museum’s Center for Biodiversity and Ecosystems.

Visitors to this year’s farm show can play detective at various stations providing information and hands-on lessons.

“Investigating about the roles of bees in food production, measuring the height of horses or learning how sap becomes maple syrup,” said Logan Hall, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture spokesman.

Allegheny Health Network has announced a multi-year collaboration with Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Medicine. This is in addition to a partnership announced earlier this year between the two institution’s cancer centers. This collaboration will, among other things, explore ways to be more economically efficient.

A recent national poll found that support is on the rise for banning youth from playing contact football before they reach high school.

Robert Morris University Polling Institute and the Center for Research and Public Policy conducted the same poll in 2013 and 2014, asking participants if they would support or oppose a ban on youth playing contact football.

Deanna Garcia

A counterfeit $100 bill used in Pittsburgh last year has led federal authorities to an international counterfeiting scheme and resulted in charges against a 27-year-old U.S. citizen living in Uganda.

“These Ugandan-manufactured counterfeit bills were being passed in our neighborhoods; specifically Oakland, Carnegie, McCandless Township and other places,” said David Hickton, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania. “It quickly spread to other cities throughout the country.”

When it comes to protecting those most vulnerable to influenza, a high-dose flu vaccine may be most effective.

That’s according to the findings of a study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine which found that giving a high-dose vaccine to elderly people in long-term care facilities helped build immunity. Each year in the U.S. there are 3,000 to 49,000 influenza-related deaths.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Former Allegheny County Controller Mark Patrick Flaherty has announced his candidacy for the post currently held by Democrat Chelsa Wagner. Flaherty, who held the post from 2004 to 2011, will seek the Democratic nomination.

“I really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to getting back and helping people and meeting a lot of people out there on the campaign trail and seeing what ideas and what suggestions they might have to improve efficiencies of county and all governments in Allegheny County,” said Flaherty.

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