Jess Lasky

News Fellow

Jess was accepted as a WESA fellow in the news department in January 2014.  The Erie, PA native attends Duquesne University where she has a double major--broadcast journalism and political science.  Following her anticipated graduation in May 2015, she plans to enter law school or begin a career in broadcast journalism.

Fun fact:  "I own all the Pokemon GameBoy games...and still play them!"


Southern Beltway
2:10 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Groundbreaking for New Section of Southern Beltway

Ground was broken  Monday on Phase 2 of the Southern Beltway (I-576) that will  eventually connect Pittsburgh International Airport to  the Mon Fayette Expressway.

This phase, totaling $550 million  includes construction of a 13-mile highway linking Route 22 with I-79 near McDonald and begins with the building of two bridges costing $14 million.

The project was made possible by Act 89, the $2.3 billion transportation funding plan, signed into law last November by Governor Tom Corbett who was present at the groundbreaking ceremony.

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1:58 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Workshops Seek To Stop Invasive Species In Pennsylvania

Hundreds of thousands of trees have been killed due to the invasive Emerald Ash Borer, and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) is holding workshops to teach landowners how to save their trees.

The insect was first found in Pennsylvania in Cranberry Township, Butler County in 2007. Since then the DCNR has been working to stop the spread in every way it can, but the species has already spread to 47 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.

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3:30 am
Mon May 12, 2014

CMU Creates Map To Track Wealth

Anyone can travel through 100 years of income history of 29 countries thanks to a new website created at Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab.

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Mental Health
3:30 am
Mon May 12, 2014

Pitt Receives Grant For Schizophrenia Research

The University of Pittsburgh has received a $10 million grant to be used to research a new hypothesis on schizophrenia.

The grant was received from the National Institute of Mental Health and will be distributed to the university over the next five years. The Silvio O. Conte Center for Translational Mental Health Research will be established because of the grant and will be directed by David Lewis, the chair of Pitt’s Department for Psychiatry.

The hypothesis focuses on the structure of the brain as the cause for schizophrenia.

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9:27 am
Thu May 8, 2014

Rally Pushes for School Scholarship Tax Credits

On the 13th anniversary of the Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC), State Senator Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) feels supporters still need to fight for the program.

“Do not assume that EITC will survive this budget or the next budget. It requires every year for us to be back here,” said Williams during a rally for the EITC on the capitol steps Wednesday.

The EITC gives a 75% tax credit to companies that donate to a scholarship fund. The tax credit increases to 90% if the company makes the donation for two consecutive years.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon May 5, 2014

Legislation Would Change Statute Of Limitations In Child Sex Abuse Cases

The criminal statute of limitations in Pennsylvania for children who have been sexually abused is currently until the victim reaches 50 years of age, but legislation in the House and Senate would change that.  

“Too many abusers are still in public and around children because of the statute of limitations,” said State Senator Rob Telplitz (D-Dauphin), sponsor of SB 1350. “And too many victims languish and have had to stand by helpless as other children are put at risk.”

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8:57 am
Sun May 4, 2014

National Aviary to Premiere Flying, Feathered Visual Symphony

The National Aviary in the North Shore is set to premier a visual symphony complete with birds, thanks to a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University’s Fine Arts Program.

The show was created to celebrate International Migratory Bird Day, on May 10th.

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Variety Bikes
5:00 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Variety Gives Away 500th Adaptive Bike

The average bike costs around $80, but for children with disabilities who cannot use a regular bike the value of riding is priceless. That is why Variety started a campaign 18 months ago to give away adaptive bikes for kids with disabilities, and Tuesday they gave away the 500th bike.

“There are so many things that children with disabilities are told they can’t do, or will never do. Well this is something that we’re able to facilitate so the kids can do it, and then feel good about themselves,” said Chief Executive Officer Charlie LaVallee.

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Fringe Fest
12:51 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Shadyside To Come Alive With Fringe Festival Shows

Twenty-six theater shows might seem like a day on Broadway, but the first Pittsburgh Fringe Festival is putting on these shows for two weekends.

The Pittsburgh Fringe Festival is part of an international project that started in Edinburgh Scotland, which celebrates the performing arts by putting on shows, workshops and forums.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon April 28, 2014

Pennsylvania Makes Efforts to Protect Animals

Pennsylvania is not known for its large population of sharks or elephants, but two state senators are taking steps to protect these, and some more common animals.

Sens. Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia) and Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) say that bullhooks, and shark fin trade need to be banned in our State. Bullhooks are wooden boards with sharp hooks on the end intended to cause pain.

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Arts & Culture
4:06 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

World Book Night in Pittsburgh

Dave Ninehouser, director of HearYourselfThink, gives out a free book to a passerby for World Book Night.
Credit Julian Routh

Twenty lucky people in the Cultural District in Pittsburgh received free books from the HearYourselfThink Project Wednesday for World Book Night.

Across the country, 25,000 volunteers handed out half a million books to encourage reading.

“We can open folks’ eyes to the power and joy of reading, and we’re talking to folks in the street asking them ‘have you read a good book lately’ and starting the conversation. It’s really great to be out here getting books into folks’ hands,” said director of HearYourselfThink, Dave Ninehouser.

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3:00 am
Mon April 21, 2014

CMU Develops New Way To Save Energy In The Workplace

A new way to reduce energy in the workplace developed at Carnegie Mellon University could save companies thousands of dollars.

The Intelligent Dashboard lets employees know how much energy they are using at their desk. Developers say this will encourage workers to take action to save energy by unplugging devices that are not in use.

“We wanted to investigate if there is any good way to show their energy usage and if there is any good way to motivate them to conserve energy at work,” said Ray Yun, PhD students and lead developer.  

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6:36 pm
Sun April 20, 2014

Pension Plan Reform for Police and Fire Fighters

Pension Plan Reform proposed by Rep. Seth Grove (R-York) could save municipalities from the $6 billion in debt, according to supporters.

The reform would only be for police and fire fighters that are newly hired.  

“We’re trying to be proactive. We’re trying to save and protect those pensions for current employees and current retirees by trying to restructure our pension system, make it sustainable from now and until the future,” said Grove.

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7:12 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Pittsburgh Promise Grows Closer To Its Goal

Since 2008, the Pittsburgh Promise made a pledge to pay for the higher education of city high school residents, and this past week it reached the 70 percent mark in raising the money it needs.

But to continue the program for the next 30 years the organization would have to raise $250 million, and so far it has collected $173 million.

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2:02 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Wildfire Prevention Season in Pennsylvania

April showers bring May flowers, yet April is one of the worst months for wildfires in Pennsylvania. 

Mid-March through Mid-May is designated as fire prevention season in Pennsylvania. Terry Brady of the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) said there were easily more than 100 wildfires in Pennsylvania .

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Government & Politics
7:09 pm
Sun April 13, 2014

New Way to Pay for Affordable Housing Proposed

Sen. John Blake has purposed a new way of paying for the housing trust fund which is intended to pay to repair and build affordable houses across Pennsylvania, except it has no money.

Act 105 was passed in 2010, but the counties have had a hard time using its provisions due to the lack of funds. Currently payments are to come from Marcellus Shale impact fee, but Blake says it is never getting there. Instead, he wants to add fees to real estate related legal filings.

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Flower Property
2:50 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

Pittsburgh Cut Flower Property Not for Sale

After pursuing buying the Pittsburgh Cut Flower (PCF) property for three years, the Allegheny Land Trust (ALT) has learned the land is no longer for sale.

The 180 acres in Richland Township were developed in 1922 by the then Company President Fred Burki. The dozens of greenhouses on the property grew 2.5 million roses every year for about 100 years.

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Equal Pay
9:22 am
Mon April 7, 2014

Time for Equal Pay

With Equal Pay Day Tuesday, April 8th, woman’s rights advocates are calling for a new law that closes loopholes allowing employers to pay female workers less than males doing the same job.

According to the Census Bureau women make 77 cents for every dollar that a man earns. In Pennsylvania counties that disparity ranges from 54 to 83 cents for each dollar according to American Association of University Women. In a woman’s lifetime she can expect to make $500,000-2 million dollars less than her male counterpart according to Deborah Vereen, a specialist in inclusion strategies.

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11:57 am
Tue April 1, 2014

67th Annual Maple Festival To Be Held This Weekend In Somerset County

You have probably heard of chicken, cotton candy or corndogs on a stick, but can you picture maple syrup?

If you are oblivious to the makings of maple syrup, you might think that this is impossible, but at this year’s 67th annual Maple Festival in Somerset County it is almost as common as a corndog on a stick.

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Public Safety
8:15 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Gun Forum Calls for Owner Responsibility and Government Involvement

The League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh (LWVGP) has released the results of a study of gun violence in the region and the results are wide ranging and at times a bit confusing.

The League held a forum in October involving 150 participants from different backgrounds, and spent the past months reviewing the findings.

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Public Assistance
2:01 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

DPW Closing East Liberty Office

UPDATE: 4/1/14 11:09 am

The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare has announced that it will continue to offer services in East Liberty.  It is in the process of looking for a new permanent home for the office.


A Department of Public Welfare office in Pittsburgh is closing, and Just Harvest is taking a stand for the workers and families that will be affected.

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Duquesne Exhibit
2:03 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Art Exhibit to Open at Duquesne

Duquesne University will open an art exhibit by Andrew Hairstans called A Model for Asylum Tuesday at the Les Idees Gallery on Duquesne’s campus.

Hairstans said the exhibit focuses on a housing project in Glasgow, Scotland. He said the project has to do with modernist British housing and how it is used by asylum seekers.

“I became interested in the area because originally they were at one point the tallest housing complexes in Europe and they were also used to house at one point they were used to house asylum seekers from all over the world really."

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:34 pm
Wed March 19, 2014

Police Review Board Still in Need of Members But Hopeful About New Administration

Beth Pittinger is the Executive Director of the Citizen Police Review Board (CPRB).
Credit Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh’s Citizen Police Review Board (CPRB) has recently been criticized for its lack of effectiveness, but despite having three empty board seats and a mayor and city council who are taking a long time to fill the posts, the board feels it is getting a lot of work done.

Many of the current board members were never officially appointed.

“On October 31st the terms expired. Nobody was succeeded by appointment as of December 31st, so 30 days had lapsed and they were automatically retained in their seats and then what happened was individuals moved. They relocated and were then disqualified from continuing with the board which created the two city council vacancies,” said Beth Pittinger, CPRB’s Executive Director.

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Arts & Culture
10:47 am
Tue March 18, 2014

Events Planned for 20th Anniversary of the Andy Warhol Museum

The Andy Warhol Museum will be honoring its 20th anniversary in May with renovations, parties and a few surprises.

Among the changes to come will be a shuffling of the collection so that for the first time the museum will be presented in chronological order to take visitors through the life of Andy Warhol.  

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Drug Abuse
9:20 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Efforts Made to Reduce Prescription Drug Abuse

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50 people die every day from prescription drug overdoses nationwide, and the commonwealth and a physicians group want stricter regulations for Pennsylvania.

“Prescription drugs are getting into the wrong hands via many different channels … This is an issue we are taking very seriously at the Medical Society, and believe that physicians need to play their role in fighting this crisis,” said Michael Fraser Executive, vice president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

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Free Museum
5:35 am
Wed March 5, 2014

Free Admission at Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History

Looking for something fun to do on a Thursday night? The Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History will be offering free admission on all Thursday evenings throughout March.

From 4-8pm everyone is admitted and parking is only five dollars after 5pm. “A lot of people might not be aware we are open on Thursday nights every week until 8, so if you’re having trouble finding time to come to the museum, you can always go on a Thursday night after work,” said Jonathan Gaugler, Media Relations manager for Carnegie Museum of Art.

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10:14 am
Tue March 4, 2014

Pittsburgh Ranks Better At Saving Money Than Philadelphia

Pittsburgh’s rivalry with Philadelphia is older than most can remember, and this year, Pittsburgh has something else to brag about.

According to a new ranking, Pittsburghers are better at saving money. released a ranking of America’s 100 most populated cities and found that Pittsburgh is ranked 54th. While Pittsburgh might not have even been in the top half, it was at least ranked higher than 92, which is where Philadelphia landed.

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7:41 pm
Sun March 2, 2014

'Project Prom' Aims to Have Young Adults Well Dressed, and Well Behaved

Prom is a rite of passage that many young Americans to go through, so Project Prom in Allegheny County is working to make every young adult well dressed and well behaved for the night.

The County Department of Human Services (DHS) is putting on its 11th annual Project Prom, where eligible girls can receive free prom dresses from various local boutiques and individuals who donate dresses. The dress giveaway starts March 15, and on March 29, the shop will be open for public sale, where girls can purchase dresses for no more than $25.

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Tunnel Ice
4:56 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Ice Delays Squirrel Hill Tunnel Traffic

Motorists using the westbound Squirrel Hill Tunnel along the Parkway East (I-376) have been dealing with delays due to a buildup of ice. Steve Cowan Press Officer for PennDOT District 11 says the inbound tunnel has a water flow problem, and in the winter, when temperatures get below freezing, this leads to the temporary shutdown of the tunnel so workers can melt the ice.

Cowan says that a contractor is looking at a way to fix the water leak problem, but he’s is not sure when that will be completed.

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Environment & Energy
5:19 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Leaking Dunkard Township Gas Well Expected To Be Capped Soon

One gas well is still leaking after a fatal blast at an adjacent gas well in Greene County. One of the Chevron Lanco wells in Dunkard Township caught fire on Feb. 11, and three days later a second caught fire.

Both fires are now out and the first well is capped, but the second well that caught fire is now releasing gas. The Department of Environmental Protection and Chevron plan to have the well capped sometime Tuesday, “if all goes well.”

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