Haldan Kirsch

News Fellow

After completing a 2013 summer internship in digital content at 90.5, Haldan joined the WESA newsroom as a fellow in September. The native of Roaring Spring, PA will graduate in May from Duquesne University with a B.A. in broadcast journalism.

Following graduation Haldan hopes to work in photography and/or video for a newspaper or magazine "somewhere near water...preferably a beach."

Fun fact:  "I hold my high school record for the shot put."

Ways To Connect

Franklin Regional School District

In the wake of the mass stabbing at Franklin Regional High school in which 21 students and 1 adult were injured, the school district has distributed clear backpacks to students to be used during the school day.

The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council (GPAC) joined arts advocates from all over Pennsylvania in the capitol Tuesday to lobby legislators for financial support of the arts.

According to GPAC CEO Mitch Swain, the main points of focus are a re-establishment of the PA Governor’s School for the Arts, additional funding for the Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission and the approval of a proposed budget that allocates $9 million in funds to the arts.

In July 2013 State Representative Dave Reed (R-Indiana) set out to travel the state and learn more about poverty as a part of what he’s called “Empowering Opportunities: Gateways Out of Poverty.” Ten months later, Reed has issued his preliminary report on poverty in the commonwealth.

Reed, who chairs the House Majority Policy Committee, conducted his evaluation through hearings, roundtable discussions, and tours in rural, suburban, and urban parts of the state.

Reed says that there is one common factor.

This year marks the 81st anniversary since the start of the Holocaust.

Between 1933 and 1945, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party systematically slaughtered more than six million European Jews. This week the State Senate passed a resolution to observe “Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust” during the week of April 27 through May 4. 

April 28 has been designated as a day of remembrance internationally.

State Sen. Mike Stack (D - Philadelphia) says Pennsylvanians should remain vigilant against all tyranny and bigotry.

Federal investigators in Western Pennsylvania have uncovered a national identity theft scheme that has been in operation for nearly a decade. Thieves used stolen IDs to open bank accounts, obtain credit cards and file fake tax returns that caused the IRS to pay millions in fraudulent funds.

Five suspects from New York, Rhode Island and Tennessee are being charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

According to a study by Trust For America’s Health published last October, Pennsylvania has the 14th highest drug overdose mortality rate in the United States, with 15.3 per 100,000 people dying from drug overdoses. According to the same study, overdoses from prescription drugs now outnumber those from heroin and cocaine combined.

When he was sworn into office in January, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto tipped the scales at 240, the heaviest he’s ever been. Since then he’s dropped 12 pounds and has pledged to lose another 38 as a part of the Live Well initiative that he launched today alongside Allegheny County executive Rich Fitzgerald

According to Mayor Peduto’s non-profit and faith based manager Betty Cruz, Mayor Peduto’s shows how passionate the Mayor’s office is about this program.

Act 47 was introduced by the Pennsylvania state legislature in 1987 as a means of helping financially distressed cities recover and avoid bankruptcy. 27 years later, several municipalities that were placed under Act 47 oversight have never rebounded.

State Senator Rob Teplitz (D – Dauphin) hopes stronger legislation would help these municipalities have their distressed status removed, while at the same time preventing other municipalities from entering Act 47.

Chaney Lewis had lunch Friday, but plans to not take another bite for the next 168 hours.

UPMC workers, faith leaders and community activists gathered in front of the US Steel Building Friday to begin a week-long fast in protest of UPMC’s treatment of it’s workers.

Two UPMC employees will fast the entire week while protesting outside of UPMC’s downtown headquarters on Grant Street as a part of what they are calling Fast For Our Future.

Opponents of a state bill that would replace school property taxes with a sales tax have voiced their concerns for small businesses and the poor should the bill be passed. According to an analysis by the PA Independent Fiscal Office, this bill would cause $2.6 billion in cuts to funding for school districts in the next five years.

According to PA Education Law Center Executive Director Rhonda Brownstein, the possible effects of this bill would be devastating to school districts across the state.

Mayor Bill Peduto is having a “night out” to meet with Pittsburgh residents and address their concerns about the city with help from his staff.

“Mayor’s Night Out” aims at increasing transparency in city government and encourages civil engagement.

“This is just the next step — meeting with residents one-on-one to hear their concerns, and he’s going to be doing this throughout the year, and throughout his term, and he’s also going to be meeting with them here in the city county building as well,” said the mayor’s spokesperson Tim McNulty.

Legislation that would allow universities to separate from Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) has been introduced in the state Senate, and that might cause an increase in tuition for some students. 

If SB 1275 is signed into law, any of the 14 state-owned universities that have enrollment over 7,000 students and the adequate finances would be eligible to secede

According to PASSHE spokesperson Kenn Marshall, allowing universities to leave the State System could be detrimental to students.

Pennsylvania lawmakers are trying to decide if the states youth should have only limited access to tanning beds. Legislation that would regulate access to tanning salons for those under 18 is currently under consideration by the Senate. Pennsylvania would join 36 other states that have already imposed similar restrictions.

Pittsburgh firefighters are asking state lawmakers to ban chemicals found in flame-retardant furniture.

According to Pittsburgh Firefighters Deputy Chief Frank Large, studies have found that these chemicals increase the number of cancer deaths in firefighters inhaling the chemicals. Flame-retardant materials that are found in 85 percent of couches in American homes become carcinogens when ignited in a house fire.

Large says firefighters are given state of the art technology to filter the smoke they breathe in, but that isn’t enough to protect them from these chemicals.

Robert Morris University (RMU) men’s ice hockey has reached a second landmark in two years with their first trip to the NCAA Division 1 tournament. The program gained exposure last year hosting the tournament’s semi-final and championship rounds, The Frozen Four.

The Colonials earned their tournament spot after winning the Atlantic Hockey (AHA) title for the first time since entering the conference in 2010.

RMU Director of Athletics Craig Coleman says winning the conference championship is a huge accomplishment after a slow start to the season.

A state house committee wants to take a closer look at extreme electricity rates that left consumers shocked this winter. 

High energy demand during extreme cold spikes in January and February caused huge spikes in electricity costs across Pennsylvania. Consumers who agreed to pay variable electric rates are now receiving bills and are finding the numbers hard to believe. According to Rep. Peter Daley (D-Fayette/Washington) who co-chairs the Consumer Affairs Committee, some citizens saw rates far beyond their monthly income.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has announced his office will perform audits of five healthcare research programs across the state including, Pittsburgh’s Magee-Women’s Research Institute and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

More than 2 billion people in the world have access to the Internet, but what does the future hold for the web? Will the Internet become more censored, or more open? How will the 5 billion individuals without access get connected to the web?

A new poll by Robert Morris University (RMU) shows November's gubernatorial election might be an historic event.  According to the survey, Gov. Tom Corbett faces an uphill reelection challenge in a race that’s historically dominated by the incumbent. Of those questioned, 29.4 percent of likely voters currently hold a favorable impression of the Republican governor.

Six Democratic candidates for governor will debate tonight during the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit hosted by Keystone Progress. According to Executive Director Michael Morrill, this will be the first opportunity for candidates to rebut each other’s arguments unlike earlier forums.

Morrill says the candidates are going to face questions unlike any they have heard before.

Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium

Valentine’s Day was two weeks ago, but the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium hopes that love is still in the air. Two female polar bears have been flown in from Sea World San Diego to join the zoo’s Koda for mating season.

Polar bears typically mate between March and June, and Zoo officials are hopeful that 9-year old male, Koda, will breed successfully with at least one of  three females.

The two visiting females, Szenja and Snowflake, might have to wait their turn for some attention from Koda as he currently only has eyes for Kobe the zoo’s only resident

State Auditor General Eugene Depasquale joined Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto Wednesday to announce recommended reforms addressing the $6.7 billion of underfunded municipal pension liabilities in Pennsylvania.

According to Depasquale, 47 percent of municipalities in Pennsylvania are considered distressed when it comes to their ability to fund employee pensions. As a solution to this statewide concern, Depasquale issued 13 recommendations for state legislators to enact.

A Pennsylvania coal advocacy group is claiming that coal-fired power plants can’t meet federal emission requirements, and residents are paying the price.

According to Pennsylvania Coal Alliance CEO John Pippy, restrictions from the Environmental Protection Agency are causing the shut down of coal-fired power plants that he thinks are still needed as a short-term solution for electricity demands.

The Public Utility Commission, or PUC, is reviewing the policies and rules of electric generation suppliers after numerous complaints about abnormally high energy bills.

The PUC has received more than 750 informal complaints from Pennsylvania residents concerning their energy bills. The commission is concerned about customers under variable rate contracts.

Frigid temperatures have brought frosty casino earnings, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

Total casino revenue in January was down 7 percent, or 14 million dollars compared to January of 2013. Board officials say the extreme winter weather that passed over the region last month kept many patrons out of casinos.

January saw a 1 percent decrease in revenue from table games and an 8.7 percent decline in revenue from slot machines. According to board spokesman Doug Harbach, this variation is new for the industry.

The 22 overdose deaths related to fentanyl-laced heroin in Western Pennsylvania recently have drawn increased attention to drug use in the area, and an unexpected trend is being found.

According to Allegheny County Medical Examiner Karl Williams, the average age of overdose victims has risen in recent years. Middle-age men and women in suburban and rural areas are now some of the most common victims of overdose.

Haldan Kirsch / WESA

In 2006 the European Union banned the use of antibiotics to promote growth in farm animals. The US  has yet to follow suit and today 80% of the antibiotics used in the nation are being fed to animals in factory farms according to Food & Water Watch.  That group is calling for a federal ban on the non-medicinal use of antibiotics in animal feed, which is believed to promote antibiotic resistant bacteria in humans.

Antibiotics are also used to prevent and control diseases that can breakout in the confined animal pens.

A measles outbreak at a past Super Bowl has state officials concerned for the health of guests visiting Northern New Jersey for this year’s matchup. To contain any possible outbreaks, the New Jersey Department of Public Health has enlisted the help of a Pittsburgh company to take a proactive step against any health problems.

An amendment that would increase protection for victims of stalking could get a final vote Monday in the Pennsylvania House after a five-year effort by its teenage author.

Haldan Kirsch / WESA

Thirty-one years ago Martin Luther King Day became a federal holiday to commemorate the civil rights advocate. The third Monday of January now serves as an opportunity for individuals and organizations to honor King’s legacy through public service

In celebration of Martin Luther King Day, Knowledge to Empower Youths to Success (KEYS) Service Corps members volunteered to assist with the upkeep of the Carnegie Library of Homestead Music Hall.