Erika Beras

General Assignment Reporter

Erika Beras was 90.5 WESA’s Behavioral Health reporter and now does General Assignment and Feature reporting. Her work has aired on NPR, the BBC and other networks. She has won local and national awards for her reporting; among them a fellowship from The International Center for Journalists to travel to Poland and report on shale and energy in 2012. Prior to coming to Pittsburgh Erika was a reporter at The Miami Herald. She is a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

 

Ways to Connect

Matt Rourke / AP

 

Two new pieces of legislation aim to offer improvements to the lives of the nearly 15,000 foster children in Pennsylvania.

Ryan Melaugh / Flickr

 

The holiday season can be full of fun and excitement – but it can also be full of stressors.

Psychologist Frank Ghinassi of UPMC's Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic said those with recurring mood disorders should be especially alert this time of year.  

Kim Bentley / FLICKR

A new program promising to encourage local children to be more physically active in city parks is slated to roll out in the new year.

Now 18 months in the works, Pittsburgh Parks Rx tasks trusted adults, or “prescribers,” like teachers, school nurses and instructors at community organizations with giving out guides to local parks, animals and leaves.

Gavin White, community outreach coordinator for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, said the pamphlets are meant to encourage kids to get out and get moving.

Pittsburgh Public School’s national search for a new superintendent will be a multi-month, transparent process full of community input, Board President Regina Holley said Monday.

The process will begin in January with seven forums held from 6 to 9 p.m. at schools around the city. Childcare will be provided, and all events will be streamed at pittsupsearch.com. There will also be a dedicated email, voicemail and Twitter feed for public input, she said.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

When students Bishal Rai, Arpun Khadka and Gabriel Sahij walk into Concord Elementary School in Carrick, a welcome sign greets them in English, Spanish and Nepali. 

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

Long-time Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. announced his official bid for state attorney general at a luncheon for the Pittsburgh Building Trades Council on Wednesday. 

The event was held at the Sheraton at Station Square.

With his wife, Mary, and one of four sons, Steve, by his side, Zappala vowed to stand up to injustice and emphasized his desire to be a voice for Pennsylvania families.

Ryan Somma / Flickr

Local YMCAs have long-welcomed teenagers to play basketball and swim laps, but the Homewood-Brushton location will soon incorporate 3-D printers, recording studios and film production into a growing list of youth services.

Holly Lay / Flickr

The holidays can be a painful time for those who suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases, between the rich foods and changes in diet. But it can also take a toll on their mental health.

“The holiday season can be a very challenging time,” said Eva Szigethy, a psychiatrist at UPMC. She predominantly works with patients who have inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative Colitis. These diseases can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract – that’s everything from the mouth to the anus. There are no cures for the diseases, just ways to treat them.

Chris Breeze / Flickr

One of Pennsylvania’s most time-honored political traditions is tacking on a philanthropic arm this year as part of its annual fundraising weekend.

Every December, the state’s top politicians head to New York City to see and be seen at a long weekend of fundraisers, parties and one swanky gala collectively referred to as Pennsylvania Society. The group’s annual ball, set for Saturday, Dec. 12, is expected to draw about 1,300 people to Manhattan’s famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

A new study out of the University of Pittsburgh found that a text message program that aimed to help young adults cut down on binge drinking worked six months after the program ended.

The study is in the journal PLOS ONE.

Operation Better Block

Residents of Homewood heard the results of Operation Better Block’s resident-driven land use plan last week.

Demi Kolke, the group's community development manager, said watching the redevelopment boom in nearby neighborhoods like East Liberty made them realize that Homewood could be next. And they wanted to ensure that the community remained involved through the process, as it brings changes to the neighborhood. 

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

The newly-dubbed UPMC Rooney Sports Complex will house the Pittsburgh Steelers practice facility for 15 more years as it undergoes an additional $10 million expansion this summer, UPMC and Steelers officials announced Tuesday.

“And of course the major piece of the puzzle will be the expansion of the training facility on the first floor, which will include an expanded weight room and conditioning room,” said current franchise President Art Rooney II.

A+ Schools

A+ Schools' annual analysis of Pittsburgh Public Schools noted again a troubling academic disparity between the district's black and white students.

“The gap is in the 30s,” said Carey Harris, the Pittsburgh-based advocacy group's executive director. “That’s got to be a focus, and I think probably the No. 1 concern leading up to that (will) be attendance and suspensions.”

born1945 / Flickr

Homeless teenagers and young adults in Pittsburgh will soon have a drop-in center that will address a wide array of their needs.

The center will be called “412 Youth Zone” and will be targeted at youths between 16 and 24 years old, who are aging out of the foster care system. It will be located downtown in the Wood Street Commons building.

Local family agency Auberle will run the center and partner with other local agencies. They expect to serve about 1,500 young adults a year – that’s how many age out of the system.

Pittsburgh's location as a drug-trafficking corridor warranted the city's inclusion into a federal initiative aiming to stymie the nation's opiate epidemic.

“360 Strategy” coordinates federal agents, local officers and community groups into a three-fold approach, said Gary Tuggle, Special Agent in Charge for the Philadelphia Division for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. 

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

 

The state auditor general said Tuesday that he wants to disband a financial oversight group that's no longer needed in order to funnel funds into city pensions. 

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

  County Controller Chelsa Wagner might appeal a decision Friday that prohibits her from auditing the performance of most county authorities.

Wagner may conduct performance audits of entities subject to county jurisdiction, including the jail and county police and health departments, but can’t assess its Airport Authority, Sanitary Authority, Port Authority and the city-county Sports Exhibition Authority, Common Pleas Judge Joseph M. James said Friday.

David Amsler / Flickr

 

One of the many victims of Pennsylvania’s budget impasse is domestic violence organizations that rely on government funding.

With the impasse well into its fourth month, organizations that rely on state or federal funding aren’t getting either, and there are fears that some may have to temporarily shutter their doors. That means victims of domestic violence may not get the help they need.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP File Photo

Leaders and community members released a local “playbook” on Friday reflecting how Pittsburghers can best harness their collective efforts to meet President Barack Obama’s challenge to become a My Brother’s Keeper Community.

Carnegie Mellon University

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are printing 3-D hair.

The three-dimensional printers, which translate objects from a digital file into hard, typically plastic objects, have been harnessed to make whistles, shoes, automotive parts and medical devices. But hair is a new, softer, more pliable frontier.

CMU's development team says producing 3-D hair is similar to and inspired by the way stringy strands come out in small bits when a glue gun is used.

New Hulton Bridge Opens

Oct 20, 2015
Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA News

  A new Hulton Bridge, which connects Harmar and Oakmont, opened  Tuesday afternoon after a celebratory ribbon cutting.

Construction on the 4-lane bridge began in September 2013.  It cost $65 million and replaces a 2-lane 109 year-old- bridge over the Allegheny River.  

StockMonkeys.com / www.stockmonkeys.com

Moody’s Investors Service last week maintained Pennsylvania’s bond rating at Aa3 but revised its outlook to "negative" from stable  on the state's general obligation debt.

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was 5.3 percent in September, down a tenth of a percentage point from August, according to numbers released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor and Industry.

The state tracked two-tenths of a percentage point above the U.S. rate of 5.1 percent, unchanged since August.

Two Pennsylvania senators convened a field hearing on opiate abuse Thursday at Allegheny General Hospital in an effort to jumpstart support for a bill filed in July.

Natalie Maynor / Flickr

This week, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced nearly $35 million dollars in funding for grant programs that will support local and regional food systems, including in Pittsburgh. The funds come from the Farm Bill, which allocates $30 million dollars a year for these initiatives.

Pennsylvania is receiving ten of these grants; one, of nearly 100,000 is coming to Pittsburgh. It will go toward Three Rivers Grown LLC, which is an aggregator. They purchase food and connect wholesale buyers and producers so suppliers are ensured a safe supply of regionally produced food.

FLICKR USER WILD CELLIST

The newly launched Regional Transportation Alliance of Southwestern Pennsylvania (RTA) is hoping it will be able to improve connectivity – and with that also improve the quality of life in the region.

The public-private partnership that will look at transportation issues in the 10-county region through a community lens was launched Wednesday.

The RTA will be led by a 22-person, mostly-male, steering committee.  It's members represent both the private and public sector throughout the region.

Falconhurst Development broke ground on an $11.5 million multi-site restoration and new construction project in Wilkinsburg on Monday.

Scheduled to open in 2016, the development will include four long-vacant buildings erected at the turn of the century and a set of new townhouses in and around the Hamnett Place neighborhood, which is listed on the National Historic Registry. The development is led by Landmarks Development Corporation, a real estate arm of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA News

Chris Williams, 34, tilts a delicately etched wooden cube from side to side. His body shifts as it sends out electronic tones. It’s poplar. It’s organic. It’s electronic. It’s… a game.

The box, dubbed Coral, is Williams’ first foray into audio memory entertainment for the visually impaired. With wires and electronics hidden in a laser-engraved, wooden enclosure, the toy produces tonal sequences its players identify and match by rotating in four directions, similar to the children’s game Simon. Players can also use the custom carvings as tactile cues, he said.

The state's highest auditor launched an investigation Tuesday into the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, Pittsburgh’s state-appointed financial overseer.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto requested the audit in August, asserting the ICA has illegally withheld $12.8 million in state gambling funds the city earns by hosting Rivers Casino. The ICA was established in 2004 to help Pittsburgh avoid bankruptcy. It controls millions the state gives Pittsburgh every year and can disapprove city budgets.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

Braddock Mayor John Fetterman announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate during a mid-day house party Monday.

“I would never pander to you by saying that I alone can fundamentally change Washington D.C. anymore than I could bring back the 14 furniture stores that Braddock once had,” he said,” But what I can promise you is that I will fight in a principled, collaborative way that my 14 years of service here in Braddock demonstrates.”

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