Mark Nootbaar

Special Reporter

Mark Nootbaar is a native of Illinois but moved to Pittsburgh more than 16 years ago to become the Assistant News Director at National Public Radio Charter Member Station WDUQ. As assistant News Director, Mark served as WDUQ’s lead reporter and morning assignment editor. After WDUQ was sold in 2011, Mark moved with the frequency to the new station to become the Senior News Editor. In 2016 he returned to his reporting roots as Special Reporter and in that context oversees such reporting projects as 90.5 WESA Celebrates, Tech Reports, and more.

Mark has also worked in Illinois and Texas. He lives in the North Hills with his lovely wife and daughter.

 

Ways to Connect

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

In many developing countries, families routinely cook on open fires, often in poorly ventilated homes. According to the World Health Organization, the smoke from those fires lead to the premature death of more than 4 million people each year.

In rural Uganda, families often burn dried banana leaves.

"Which doesn’t combust very well, so it’s very inefficient so it makes a lot of smoke,” said Josh Shapiro, an engineer with Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab

Heiko DeWees

Andrew Carnegie had a personal bagpipe player on his payroll and the university that bears his name shows its Scottish roots through its signature green and red tartan plaid and mascot, Scotty

Those are not the only ways Carnegie Mellon University upholds its Scottish heritage. Tucked deep in the halls of CMU’s University Center is a small room packed with bagpipes and drums. It’s where Andrew Carlisle has had his office for the last seven years.

Matt Rourke / AP

After vetoing a similar measure last year, Gov. Tom Wolf says he will sign recently passed legislation that substantially changes the Office of State Inspector General.

The office was created in 1987 by Gov. Robert Casey through an executive order. Since then, it has grown to more than 300 employees and bill sponsor Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster County) said it needs to be codified to make sure a future governor does not eliminate the office.

Google.com

The Peduto administration is hoping a recently passed program aimed at reducing the number of unused properties held by the federal government will help the city take control of the former VA site on Washington Boulevard.

Pittsburgh wants to take control of the unused VA site and convert it into a first responder training facility and a storage area for heavy equipment

PACast

Data from 2016 is still being calculated, but according to Gov. Tom Wolf, the number of drug overdose deaths is continuing to rise in the commonwealth. 

In an effort to combat the opioid epidemic, he is encouraging anyone connected with the fight to take a newly created certificate program.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Artificial lungs have been around for decades, but they’re usually large devices that force the patient to remain in a hospital bed until their lungs improve or they’re able to undergo a lung transplant. 

But University of Pittsburgh Medical Devices Laboratory Director Bill Federspiel has developed a more mobile, wearable device.

Susan Walsh / AP

Somerset County Commission Chair Gerald Walker said when he got a call from the White House saying he and all the other county commissioners in the state would be invited to a July 13 meeting at the White House, he thought it might be a joke.

“You have to wonder if that’s the real deal when you just get a phone call like that out of the blue,” Walker said.

When the printed invitation arrived in the mail a few days later, he knew it was real.

Workers Compensation Institute

The use of prescribed opioid painkillers among workers' compensation claimants is falling in Pennsylvania at a rate slower than most other states.

The Workers Compensation Research Institute, or WCRI, looked at the number of prescriptions and the strength of the drugs given to injured workers who were off work for at least seven days but did not have to have surgery. Using data from 2009 to 2015, the institute found the use of opioids decreased by 10 percent in Pennsylvania.

Powdermill Nature Reserve

Several species of birds that call southwestern Pennsylvania home are breeding as much as three weeks sooner than they did 50 years ago.

If the shift continues, bird populations could begin to decline, according to Powdermill Nature Reserve Avian Research Coordinator Luke DeGroote.

Researchers at the facility in Westmoreland County, run by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, have been capturing and banding birds since 1961 and have seen a shift, which DeGroote links to climate change.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

A task force formed in May to make recommendations on policies and programs to protect Allegheny County residents from lead is hoping to provide its suggestions by November.

The nine-member task force will hold its third meeting Friday.

Jason Redman / AP

The Congressional Budget Office predicts 14 million Americans who currently have insurance would be without it next year if the Senate Republican version of the health care overhaul bill is adopted.

That's leaving officials behind some rural health systems worried.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Oxygen is something that many of us take for granted. But many people with breathing disorders can't take it in on their own -- and it's especially difficult for people living in poor and remote parts of the world. 

Scientist Wendy Zhang recalled the difficult decisions a physician in Gabon, Africa had to make as the result of limited resources. 

"On some, she had to make the heart-wrenching decision of which baby to live and which baby to die just because they don’t have oxygen to supply both,” Zhang said.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

While being grilled by the Pittsburgh City Council during a reappointment hearing Wednesday, PWSA board member and City Department of Finance Treasurer Margaret Lanier said dealing with lead needs to be the system’s top priority.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

During a special Pittsburgh City Council meeting Tuesday, public safety officials called on Gov. Tom Wolf to sign legislation that would allow officers more latitude in using their body cameras.

Koji Sasahara / AP, File

Faculty and staff from several schools at Carnegie Mellon University are joining forces in an effort to accelerate the science of Artificial Intelligence.

University leaders said they hope that by pulling together more than 100 faculty through the creation of CMU AI, it will maintain the university’s role as a leader in the field.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Increasingly, when you find a trash can in a public place it has at least two openings—one for trash and one for recyclables. But according to Charles Yhap, humans don’t do a very good job of sorting what they throw in those cans.

“Americans typically achieve, when they have a 50-50 chance between two bins, it’s usually 30 percent,” said Yhap.

With that in mind, Yhap launched a company called CleanRobotics with a flagship product called Trashbot.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh is using a quarter-million dollars in state grants to launch its effort to have a fossil-free vehicle fleet but 2030.

The funds from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Alternative Fuels Grant program must be matched dollar-for-dollar by the city.

The first grant is worth $80,000 and will be used to purchase as many as 10 electric vehicles.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

On a recent Tuesday morning, trucks filled with asphalt fed the black steaming material into a paving machine as it crept along Saline Street in The Run. Klaus Libertus has lived there for two years and said, before the paving crew arrived, driving down the street was "vibrating."

But it had its benefits.

“If you had kids in the back you wanted to get to sleep, it would help," he said. "I mean they used to say 'the patches had patches.'"

Damian Dovarganes / AP, File

Pennsylvania handed out licenses to 12 companies to grow marijuana for medicinal uses last week, and is expected to license producers and dispensaries soon. However, it could be tough for those businesses to get bank accounts.

Although Pennsylvania has legalized medical marijuana, it's still illegal at the federal level. That means all of the proceeds from growing, producing or selling it are illegal as far as the federal government is concerned.

Carnegie Mellon University via Creative Commons

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are hoping a new quarterly report will help policymakers and the public keep track of the carbon dioxide impact of the nation’s electricity industry.

Along with reporting the total amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere by all electricity plants, the quarterly Power Sector Carbon Index will break down the data by the type of generating plant.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

CMU Robotics Institute assistant professor Stelian Coros was working to find ways to make animated characters navigate their simulated environments, such as in a video game or a movie, when he realized his work could be used to design and virtually test robots.

“And what I’m really excited about is moving towards a new paradigm where robots will be able to approach the complexity of biological structures in both form and in function,” Coros said. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County has thousands of employees, but one of them has a rather unusual title. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

A deal that is expected to grow the region’s biotech sector has been inked by established biotech firm Helomics and the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse.

“We did a survey… and one of the things we recognized is the scientific community [in Pittsburgh] is missing an incubator where diagnostic people, pharmaceutical people and biotech people can get together,” Pittsburgh Life Science Greenhouse President and CEO James Jordan said.

Jay LaPrete / AP

Time is running out for the millions of Pennsylvania eligible for a delinquent tax amnesty program being offered by the state.

The state legislature created the program as part of the 2016-17 budget with the expectation of collecting an additional $100 million in back taxes.  That’s on top of the roughly $600 million in back taxes collected each year by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.

Under the program, the state will waive the 5 percent penalty and half of the interest.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

When police are called to the scene of a drug overdose they can treat it as a crime scene or an accident scene.  Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala wants it to be treated as a crime scene.

“Over the last year in Allegheny County, we’ve trained about 50 different police departments what they should do when they come on the scene,” Zappala said. “You have to move quickly [to gather evidence] but detectives have been trained specifically in those kinds of things.”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Until this week, the Mid Mon Transit Authority in Donora had eight Compressed Natural Gas, or CNG, fueled buses but no permanent place to fill them. That's changed thanks to a public-private partnership between the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Trillium CNG.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

RE2 Robotics first spun out of Carnegie Mellon University in 2001 to build off-road vehicles for the U.S. Department of Defense, but now its researchers are working to develop the next generation of robotic arms.

The 40 people who work at the Lawrenceville-based company now focus on building arms for robots used to defuse improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Despite a bomb threat for Market Square called in to Pittsburgh Police Saturday morning, a few hundred protestors marched from the City County Building on Grant Street to show their disdain for President Donald Trump.

Margaret Sun/90.5 WESA and Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

In a strongly worded statement, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto rejected President Donald Trump’s use of Pittsburgh in his announcement of the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The Allegheny County Airport Authority has handed out more than $2 million in grants to small airlines to entice them to expand service at Pittsburgh International and the head of the authority says more can be expected.

The largest of the grants was made a year ago to California-based OneJet, which since then has expanded service from its original two cities to a total of seven.

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