Jessica Nath

News Fellow

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations.  She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.

Her career goal is to work as a foreign news correspondent "hopefully in radio."

Fun fact:  "Would love to travel internationally...starting in South Africa."

Ways To Connect

When most Pennsylvanians are incarcerated, the Department of Corrections must foot the bill for their health care costs.

That’s according to Susan Bensinger, Deputy Press Secretary, who said the department works to pay that bill in a way that provides community-standard care for the inmates while utilizing taxpayer money in the most efficient way possible.

A study released Tuesday by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation suggests that the department has been successful in that mission.

Marine Sgt. Doug Vitale was leading his squad through Afghanistan in 2011 when he stepped on an improvised explosive device and lost both his legs above the knee.  Because he lost so much blood, he also suffered strokes on both sides of his brain.

“He’s still in a rehab program, for almost three years now, to continue to get better and improve,” Alexis Vitale, Doug’s wife, said. “And he is, he does continue to get better, but we work for a long time for small things at this point, but he’s determined and he’s hard working and keeps going.”

With the Fourth of July this Friday, you might be seeing firework tents scattered throughout the state -- however, much of what is for sale in those large tents cannot be purchased by most Pennsylvania residents.

Pennsylvania state law allows residents to buy and use items defined as “ground and hand-held sparkling devices,” “novelties” and “toy caps” by the American Pyrotechnics Association.

However, according to Adam Reed, Pennsylvania State Police Public Information Officer, the law is strict when it comes to more-explosive items.

Lyft

The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has slammed the brakes on ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber in Pittsburgh effective immediately.

PUC Administrative Law judges have granted the emergency petition by the PUC Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement to issue cease-and-desist orders for the companies.

The two-judge panel wrote that they were not “blind or deaf to the public opinion,” but that the commission’s duty to ensure public safety is more important than the convenience of the companies.

A Norfolk Southern train carrying empty ethanol tank cars rear-ended a westbound intermodal train Wednesday afternoon in Sewickley, causing a fire and prompting the precautionary evacuation of nearby residents.

Two crew members were hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries, according to Alvin Henderson, Allegheny County chief of emergency services. Two firefighters were also treated at the scene for heat exhaustion.

Western Africa is currently experiencing the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, and the Brother’s Brother Foundation (BBF) in Pittsburgh is asking for donations to help protect the medical staff trying to contain it.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Ebola virus disease has a fatality rate of up to 90 percent.  Nearly 400 people throughout Western Africa have died from the virus since March - including patients and the medical staff taking care of them.

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

After years of competing, Larimer has finally won a $30 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to move forward with redevelopment plans.

The announcement was made Monday by Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Commissioner and Assistant HUD Secretary Carol Galante at the Kingsley Center.

“This is really big,” U.S. Representative Michael Doyle (D - PA - 14) said. “We were up against 43 other communities all across the United States of America, this was a serious competition.”

Google Maps / 90.5 WESA

Little scraps of land and traffic islands are scattered throughout East Liberty, but for a long time nobody knew who owned many of them.

This is the problem East Liberty Development Inc. (ELDI) ran into while trying to acquire a parcel of land for redevelopment.

“This is the challenge of rebuilding our city is that we have lots of narrow, little pieces of land,” Kendall Pelling, ELDI Director of Land Recycling, said. “And so to do a new development often times it requires acquiring property from multiple different owners.”

Edgar Degas is perhaps most famous for his brightly colored paintings of ballerinas in 19th century Paris – but you won’t find any of those works in the exhibition at the Frick Art & Historical Center that premiered Saturday.

That’s according to Sarah Hall, Director of Curatorial Affairs, who said this exhibit will instead give visitors a glimpse into Degas’s other works that she described as “subtler.”

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there could be a shortfall in the highway trust fund (HTF) as soon as mid-July.

For much of the country, that could mean a halt to construction on bridges and roads.

“What we’re facing in transportation is the transportation equivalent of a government shutdown, it is that simple, but it is that stark and disturbing if folks don’t start (to) surrender some of their predispositions on what should happen next,” U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) said.

About 15 to 20 percent of Americans has dyslexia, a disorder that results in slow or inaccurate reading, poor spelling and writing or confusing similar words.

But many cases go undetected, making schooling difficult for those who have it.

A new bill that aims to address this issue just passed the House and Senate this week and awaits Gov. Tom Corbett’s signature.

According to Senator Sean Wiley (D-Erie), the bill enables the Pennsylvania Department of Education to establish a Dyslexia Screening Pilot Program.

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

Bishnu Timsina and Puspa Nepal are from Bhutan, but they spent much of their lives in refugee camps in Nepal.

This is because the Bhutanese government found those with Nepali origin a threat to political order and decided to act on that “risk” in the late 1980s.

“(The) government started putting them into jail, raping the young girls and women, beating family members,” Bishnu said. “And they were also asked to sign volunteer migration forms by the government of Bhutan and they were told that you have to leave the country.”

More than 60 percent of the 25,000 jobs available in the Pittsburgh region require specialized technical training - but only 40 percent of them require a four-year degree, according to the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board.

That’s why the Pittsburgh Promise and Pittsburgh Public Schools are offering a new trade education program for 10th, 11th and 12th grade students starting this September.

A lot more information about Pennsylvania’s state-related universities could be revealed soon.

The Senate State Government Committee unanimously approved legislation to expand Pennsylvania’s Open Records Law to the state-owned universities.

Pennsylvania State University, Temple University, the University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University are mostly exempt from the Open Records Law, which calls for transparency of finances and other information to the public.

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

  More than twenty children lined the stage at the CLO Academy of Musical Theater today to rehearse songs from their Cinderella production - and now even more children can take part in future productions.

That’s because the PNC Foundation has awarded the academy a four-year, $800,000 grant.

Only 17 percent of parents believe reading is a top summer priority for their children.

That’s according to Reading is Fundamental (RIF) and Macy’s, which released a survey regarding parents’ attitude’s towards reading Wednesday.

The survey also showed that children spend almost three times as many hours weekly watching TV or playing video games as they do reading during the summer.

Kathryn Heffernan, Pittsburgh’s RIF assistant director of communications and development, said accessibility to books is one of the issues.

About 750 miles of sewer laterals, or the pipes that connect private homes to the publicly-owned main sewer lines, run underneath Pittsburgh – many of which are damaged.

That’s according to Senator Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny), who said repairing and replacing these pipes can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $35,000, and that burden falls on the homeowners.

But he said his legislation aims to solve that problem.

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, there were as many as 20,000 concentration camps during from 1933 to 1945 — used for forced labor, transit camps and even killing centers for 11 million victims.

But many don’t believe this actually happened, and others just simply never learned about it.

That’s what House Bill 1424 — which just passed the Senate this week — aims to fix.

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh might not have its own beach, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have a giant sandcastle.

Sculptors Rusty Croft and Kirk Rademaker from the Travel Channel’s show Sand Masters transformed a five-ton pile of sand into a work of art in Market Square Thursday.

The artists co-own the business Sand Guys and have been professionally sculpting sand since 1997.

VisitErie, Erie County’s tourism promotion agency, hired the “masters” to create the sculpture for its “Hello Summer, Hello Erie!” advertising campaign.

President Barack Obama wants some advice from Pittsburgh’s “maker” community.

That’s why Mayor Bill Peduto hosted a roundtable Monday afternoon to discuss the achievements and future of the city's “Maker Movement,” which refers to using tools such as 3D printers and computer-aided designs to build everything from circuitry to jewelry.

“After extensive analysis and prayer,” the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik has decided to move forward with the closure of four facilities.

He announced Sunday plans to close the Holy Child Catholic Elementary School along with the St. Ignatius, Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Barnabas church buildings.

According to Michael Latusek, superintendent of Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese schools, enrollment for the K-8 school has dwindled over the years.

Toy lasers might seem harmless enough, but that cheap gadget could momentarily blind a pilot of a plane with hundreds of passengers – even if it’s thousands of feet overhead.

That’s according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which is launching a campaign to prevent such disasters from happening.

Pointing a laser into an airplane is a federal offense with a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Those attending the 55th annual Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival will find portraits of air, a 4 story figure named Lady Pneumatica and a tribute to the Fort Pitt Block House.

The festival that runs today through June 15 has a theme of aesthetic creativity and environmental sustainability.

“Many of our art installations explore either the built environment and architecture or the natural environment and how our actions can impact and affect the natural world around us,” Veronica Corpuz, Director of Festival Management, said.

United Way of Allegheny County announced that it raised $33,987,061 from its 2013 campaign-- 2.3 percent increase from the previous year’s total.

Marking its fourth consecutive year of growth, the charity surpassed its internal goal of  $33,883,317.

Bob Nelkin, United Way President, said he believes the charity continues growing because donors are able to see the impact of their donations.

Garfield has not had its own grocery store since 1987, but that's going to change Thursday with the opening of a Bottom Dollar Food.

The store will be located at 5200 Penn Ave. on the same site of the neighborhood’s previous grocery store, a Giant Eagle.

Richard Swartz, executive director of the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, said the neighborhood has several convenience stores, but residents need an actual grocery store.

Gov. Tom Corbett is calling on UPMC and Highmark to put their patients first.

The contract between UPMC and Highmark is set to expire by December 31st, 2014.

UPMC said that it does not intend to extend the contract, which means that Highmark patients will not receive in-network rates for UPMC services.

Preserving history can be an expensive task, but the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) is trying to make it a bit easier by handing out grants.

This year, the commission awarded $1.9 million to 130 museums and official county historical societies throughout the commonwealth.

“These grants are used for general operating support,” said Howard Pollman, PHMC spokesman. “So that really helps some museums and historical societies operate in some way because those kind of dollars are often very difficult to come by.”

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

There’s a new bird in Pittsburgh, but instead of being giant and yellow, this one barely weighs two pounds and has a soft black coat of baby down fur.

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium welcomed its first-ever macaroni penguin hatchling May 12.

Though it isn’t even a month old, lead aquarist and penguin keeper Katy Wozniak said it has become quite vocal.

Drivers planning to take the Parkway East (I-376) into the city will have to find an alternate route this weekend.

The inbound Squirrel Hill Tunnel will be closed from 9 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday.

According to PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan, crews will be paving the road surface of the inbound tunnel and replacing the bridge expansion dam.

“Bridges flex, so there is an expansion dam between the two portions of the bridges,” Cowan said. “It’s minor work compared to the paving of the tunnel. That’s the main work.”

Eight-year Bloomfield resident Christina Howell said she realized that she was always traveling out of the neighborhood to go to festivals and markets.

As the program manager for the Bloomfield Development Corporation, that was a bit upsetting.

To help fix this problem, the organization decided to create a place where businesses and residents could interact within the neighborhood.

As a result, the new Bloomfield Saturday Market is kicking off this weekend with locally sourced food and entertainment.

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