Larkin Page-Jacobs

Reporter/Host, All Things Considered

Larkin got her start in radio as a newsroom volunteer in 2006. She went on to work for 90.5 as a reporter, Weekend Edition host, and Morning Edition producer, before taking on her current role as the All Things Considered host in 2009. She has won regional and statewide awards for her reporting, including stories on art, criminal justice, domestic violence, and breaking news. Her work has been featured across Pennsylvania and nationally on NPR.

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The flu season is reaching its peak and many have been feeling the effects.

That’s according to Dr. David Nace, director of long-term care and flu programs for the Division of Geriatric Medicine at UPMC and medical director at the University of Pittsburgh Institute on Aging.

Nace says the flu has been widespread this season, but not as virulent.
“We’re certainly seeing a lot more overall activity than we did last year, in terms of numbers of hospitalizations," he said. "What’s interesting though is last year we saw a lot more critical illness.”

Governor-elect Tom Wolf has named Dennis Davin, 52, director of Allegheny County Economic Development, as secretary for the Department of Community and Economic Development.

Davin has worked for the county for 10 years and also serves as director of the County Redevelopment Authority and executive director of the Industrial Development Authority.

After pushing for a grocery store in Pittsburgh's Garfield neighborhood for years, Bottom Dollar Food opened on Penn Avenue in June.

In November it was announced that another grocery chain, ALDI, Inc. had bought the low-cost food company for $15 million and would be closing the city's Bottom Dollar stores, including the six-month-old facility in Garfield. It is unclear whether another grocery store will open in its place.

As we speed toward the new year, the Pittsburgh region offers up a glut of holiday activities. Here are some ideas to help you get out of the house.  

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

In June, the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Larimer was awarded a highly competitive $30 million Housing and Urban Development Choice Neighborhoods grant.

The money will go toward building 350 mixed income housing units. But the grant is just one step in a long and ongoing process of turning the neighborhood around.

Larimer is a small neighborhood, and much of it is made up of open space. Blocks are scored with empty lots and vacant houses. Many families moved away for better schools and less crime, leaving behind mainly elderly and low income residents.

Do not expect to hear much out of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture for the next few months.

According to Pittsburgh Foundation spokesman Doug Root the Center will be entering a "quiet period" as an interim governing body has the facility assessed and searches for a new permanent oversight board.  

The temporary panel will include the heads of the Heinz Endowments, R.K. Mellon and the Pittsburgh Foundation — the three foundations that were instrumental in orchestrating a purchase of the bankrupt building from Dollar Bank.

A new Pennsylvania law was enacted Monday changing the Department of Public Welfare's title to the Department of Human Services.

Pennsylvania's DPW had been the last in the country to include the word "welfare" in its title — a term some considered weighted with negative connotations. DHS spokeswoman Cait Gillis said another problem is that the name was not reflective of the work they do at the department.

Pittsburgh’s Department of Public Works will conduct a pothole “blitz” beginning Monday.

Department director Mike Gable said they have been patching potholes from last winter all spring, summer and fall, but the window for the production and use of “hot mix” is closing soon.

“That’s the stuff you’d rather work with rather than the cold patch,” Gable said. “Last year we learned with the cold patch it’s a very temporary fix. The hot mix bonds better, stays in the hole better and we get longevity out of it.”

The ride-sharing service Uber has won conditional license approval across the state, including Pittsburgh.

The two-year experimental service will only go into effect if Uber meets a number of conditions laid out by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission within the next 30 days. One of those conditions is that Uber drivers get insurance coverage for all three stages of their customer interactions: making themselves available via the Uber app, connecting with a passenger and dropping the passenger off at his or her destination.

Courtesy photo

In 1999, Lisa and Sumner Bemis met at a bar during a Penguins hockey game. She was intrigued by his unusual name, “and the fact that he had a Camaro," recalled Lisa.

"I loved muscle cars, " she said, "so it worked.”

Less than three years later they were married. After the Sept. 11 terror attacks happened Sumner was deployed as part of the National Guard and was in Iraq from 2005-2006. When he returned, Lisa was overjoyed to have him back. But she said he was a different person.

Although Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District leans Democratic, voters delivered another two-year term to Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus Tuesday with 59 percent of the vote.

Supporters, family and friends gathered at a victory party at Rochester Inn Hardwood Grill in Westview. Though this election was starkly different from 2012’s, constituents appeared just as passionate. Bill Strait from Wexford said he supported Rothfus because Strait is fearful for the future of the country.

Route 28 outbound, heading away from the city, will be closed overnight through Saturday as workers begin the final push in a four-year project to streamline the artery that runs along the Allegheny River from the northeast.

The major construction, which eliminated traffic lights and created separate exit and entry lanes for the 31st and 40th street intersections, has meant ever-changing traffic patterns and lots of congestion. This last phase includes adjusting lanes, paving and removing and adding barriers.

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

A recent story about the disparity in Boy and Girl Scouts course offerings at the Carnegie Science Center caught fire online. The outrage was made all the more contentious because the seemingly single course offered for Girl Scouts centered on creating beauty products.

Pennsylvania is doing slightly below average when it comes to economic performance. That's according to left-leaning policy group Keystone Research Center, based in Harrisburg. Center economist Stephen Herzenberg noted that job growth, thus far in 2014, is better than 2013.

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley stopped by the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center in Oakland on Tuesday. Without getting into specifics, Cawley thanked employees for helping make Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania competitive in the technological arena.

"Technology and research play a significant, if not critical, role in creating opportunities and fostering that robust economy that we all want and need," he said.

Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

Whether a cultural center can also be a hotel is one of the questions at the heart of the fight over the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

This week a group of foundations made a case for their $7.2 million bid to buy and maintain the center as it is. A hotel developer, bidding $9.5 million, believes the two entities can co-exist.

Pennsylvania investigators have faulted site managers in a report on a Chevron natural gas well fire in Dunkard Township, Greene County that killed a worker in February.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Zer068 is an identifying number for convicts from the 3rd District of Pennsylvania who go to federal prison.

It’s also the name of a fledgling company.

Founder Daniel Bull is trying to walk the line between honesty about his past and giving himself and others a second chance.

Zer068 has been created specifically to help people with felonies or crimes, a past they would like to forget, overcome that past," Bull said. "We get it, we’re there, we understand what you’re about and we’re here to help.”

The "titans of industry" will be speaking at a jobs summit taking place next month, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Secretary. Julia Hearthway said the "Governor's Jobs 1st Summit" will be speaking to employers about making sure their workforce is ready to embrace a changing industry landscape. She said it will also feature a discussion between Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and business magnate T. Boone Pickens.

Courtesy photo

Teresa Ferguson was not on Facebook before October 2008. Now she finds it indispensable.

Ferguson uses the site to manage the Facebook page of her daughter Ginny Kleker, who after years of battling a deep depression, ended her life at age 31.

Shortly after her daughter’s death, Ferguson accessed Ginny’s Facebook profile and posted a soul-baring letter describing her daughter's vibrant personality and mental health struggles. She also shared her thoughts as a mother about Ginny's suicide.

The Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble begins its new season July 11 and artistic director Kevin Noe stopped by the WESA studios to talk about the organization and what they have planed for their audience. He began by describing how the ensemble performs. 

The takeaway: Allegheny County's fiscal condition is good, but policy makers shouldn't be complacent because challenges are on the horizon.

That's according to County Controller Chelsa Wagner, who released her 2013 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report Tuesday.

The report shows that the county’s fund balance stands at $28 million — up $15 million from the previous year,  and Standard & Poor’s rating agency has upgraded the county’s debt from A+ to AA-. Wagner also noted that jobs increased by more than 20,000 making the region home to more than 1.2 million employees.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Like many older industrial cities, the Pittsburgh region has its share of blight. According to the most recent data from the 2010 census, there are more than 50,000 vacant houses in Allegheny County.

For more than a century, federal, state and city governments have tried to address the issue. Today, a new generation of tools is being used in attempts to clean up blighted neighborhoods.

If a city were a human body, then blight is a disease, according to Aggie Brose, deputy director of the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation.

Readshaw Carries the 36th Legislative District

May 20, 2014

With the election in hand for the 36th Legislative District, State Rep. Harry Readshaw said he felt a deep sense of gratitude and respect for his constituents and knows they feel the same way about him.

“I think they appreciate what I’ve done during the last 10 legislative sessions,” Readshaw said, “and I just love these people.”

Four and a half centuries after he was born, the work of William Shakespeare continues to be performed across the globe, and Pittsburgh is marking the Bard’s birthday with a set of celebratory events.

Yvonne Hudson, artistic director with the art series Poet’s Corner, said they will be holding two events Wednesday to commemorate Shakespeare’s 450th birthday.

The City of Pittsburgh has landed a highly regarded candidate to head the Department of City Planning.

Ron Gastil formerly served as planning director for Seattle and director of the Manhattan office for the New York City Department of City Planning. He said he is excited about the new administration.

“One that has a combination of real commitment to neighborhoods, and a big picture vision,” Gastil said. “It is also a city that is excited and believes that you can plan your built environment and plan your communities, and address questions of sustainability and equity.”

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Caroline Combemale moves to her own rhythm. She has been shaped by a loving family, a tenacious personality and a hunger for new experiences. But her life has also been shaped by hardship.

The 15-year-old grew up in Belgium and often lapses into hushed French when she talks to her mother Laura. When they moved to Pittsburgh, where Laura is originally from, Combemale (pronounced Coom-beh-mel) was in grade school.

In 2009 a gleaming performing arts space opened to great fanfare in downtown Pittsburgh. The distinctive $42 million-dollar building is as long as the block it occupies, and the corner of the building looks like the sail of a ship made in glass and stone.

In 2009, a gleaming performing arts space opened to great fanfare in downtown Pittsburgh.

Named after renowned playwright and native son August Wilson, it was meant to be a hub for African-American theater, art and education.

Today, the August Wilson Center is for sale, unable to pay its bills. But many wonder why it was allowed to get to this point.

August Wilson grew up in Pittsburgh’s Hill District in the 1940s and '50s. He met Sala Udin in parochial school.

The VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System is celebrating its annual "National Salute to Veteran Patients," a week-long series of events that applaud veterans' sacrifices and draws attention to those receiving medical care.

In Pittsburgh, the VA will hold events at both its University Drive campus in Oakland and H.J. Heinz campus in O'Hara Township.