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

Ted S. Warren / AP

As the opioid epidemic continues, an unlikely service is offering support to those battling addiction: the Pittsburgh Poison Center.

Medical Director Michael Lynch said center’s new effort to combat opioid overdoses and addiction aligns with its mission to reduce poisonings through treatment advice, advocacy and education.

Anyone in western Pennsylvania battling opioids, or their loved ones, can call the Mr. Yuk line, or 1-800-222-1222, for help.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala said the deaths of three people in a car who were struck on Thanksgiving by a fleeing suspect could have been avoided if the police departments involved went about it differently.

US Census Bureau / Pittsburgh Today

The most recent data from the U.S Census Bureau show that while poverty in the Pittsburgh region dropped in 2015, it’s still higher than it was before the recession.

In 2015, 12.3 percent of those living in the Pittsburgh region had an income below the poverty level of $24,300 for a family of four. That’s down from the post-recession high in 2013 of 12.8 percent, but higher than it was when the regional benchmarking group Pittsburgh Today started tracking the number in 2005.

Mike McCune / flickr

Retailers will rake in millions of dollars today as the Christmas shopping season officially begins.  However, Black Friday is not what it used to be.

“Black Friday has really lost its luster in a sense," said Audrey Guskey, a marketing professor at Duquesne University.  "Cyber Monday is the shining star for Christmas this year.”

Find Some Flow

Three years ago, when Ian Neumaier started to think about playing games as a way to bring people together, he had no idea what he was getting into.

“We didn’t have a full understanding of the environment and the systems at play,” said Neumaier who eventually founded the nonprofit Find Some Flow.

Salvation Army USA West / Flickr

While a few bell ringers have already hit the streets before Thanksgiving, the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign kicks into high gear Black Friday, as volunteers brave the crowds in an effort to get a jump start on a record-setting fundraising goal.

Simon Lucey / CMU

A decade ago, computer face recognition usually involved little more than detecting faces in a crowd and maybe being able to match them to faces in a database.

“The first stage was sort of thinking about faces as nouns, as it were,” said Simon Lucey, associate research professor at Carnegie Mellon University Computer Vision Group. “But now we’re launching into this very interesting space in terms of, what are faces doing, sort of verbs. So, rather than who is that person or where is that person, it’s, how is that face moving?”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Richard Spear has breakfast in the Mercy Hospital cafeteria five days a week. He eats there before heading up to the eighth floor to visit with oncology patients.

“I go in and introduce myself to the patients,” he said. “And a lot of times they spill their heart out to me. Unfortunately for me, I get close to a lot of these people and sometimes it makes it very difficult.”

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

A report released by the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics is calling for judges in Allegheny County to rely less on bail to keep tabs on suspects awaiting trial on non-violent charges.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Nursing home residents who need extra care or specialized help after business hours are often sent to the emergency room. But as those visits can be expensive, disruptive and sometimes avoidable, a South Side company is offering another solution.

Curavi Health, which spun out of UPMC, created a mobile unit called CuraviCart that uses a video conference system, on-call doctors and other instruments a nursing home might need to help residents.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Nearly every day, William Moses uses public transportation and travels from his home on the North Side to Abiding Ministries in Allentown where he volunteers.

He first started with the ministries by serving breakfast to homeless people on the North Side.

“A friend of mine told me about it,” Moses said. “He said I should go down and help… because something good might come out of it.”

Richard Drew / AP

While stock markets initially dropped overnight after it became clear that Donald Trump had won the presidential election, they recovered throughout the day on Wednesday. Those fluctuations support the view of one Pittsburgh economist, who says we should take a “wait and see” approach to the economy.

Simeon Berg / Flickr

When Iowa-based IT and data company Involta broke ground last month on a new facility outside of Pittsburgh, it wasn’t just creating the average office building.

Located in Freeport, Armstrong County, the company’s new 40,000-square-foot building is planned to be a high security, high performance data center.

Data centers have one primary goal — making sure customers can access their data, be it healthcare, finance, or technology-related. And in order to accomplish that, center operators have to ensure their systems never fail.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

A small army of volunteers is helping voters in Allegheny County who unexpectedly find themselves in the hospital today.

Until the state legislature passed a law in 2006 creating emergency absentee ballots, there was no way for someone who missed the absentee deadline could vote if they could not get to the polling place. 

“When I signed up for this I thought we’ll just walk to their room with a ballot and they would fill it out and that would be it… But no, it’s an all-day process,” said Betsy Butler of Greenfield, a volunteer with the Election Protection Program. 

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Among the gauntlet of campaign workers looking to sway voters before casting their ballots at Northmont United Presbyterian Church in McCandless Tuesday will be Mary Lou English and her glass jars of soup.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Every Friday during the school year, Moira Kaleida gathers a group of volunteers at Pittsburgh Montessori School in Bloomfield to fill backpacks with food for students to take home over the weekend.

“We know that 62 percent of kids in Pittsburgh Public Schools are economically disadvantaged, so this came out of the need to make sure kids have food on the weekends,” Kaleida said.

The kids usually get two lunches, two breakfasts and some snacks tucked inside their backpacks.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

This week, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a series of bills aimed at fighting the opioid epidemic in the state but the legislature let several bills expire without a vote.

Allegheny County Department of Health Director Karen Hacker said she supports the actions of the state in general, but she would like to see more done to combat the opioid epidemic.

Among the laws passed, Hacker said she is most interested in a bill calling for more education for medical professionals on safe opioid prescribing.

Richard Pedroncelli / ap

The Allegheny County Board of Health has placed e-cigarettes under nearly all of the same regulations as traditional cigarettes when it comes to use indoors. The vote Wednesday came after a series of speakers asked for the policy to be rejected.

Former smoker Dale Ray spoke in opposition to the regulations. He said he had diminished lung function due to his smoking habit. He said tried to quit smoking several times but it never stuck until he tried e-cigarettes.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

With one week until Election Day, Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey made an appearance at an empty Downtown Pittsburgh apartment to drum up support among millennials.

The apartment, located above Proper Brick Oven & Tap Room on 7th Street, attracted a few dozen supporters – about half appeared to be millennial aged.

Among Toomey’s young potential supporters was University of Pittsburgh student Joey Pickens. Though originally from Maryland, Pickens is registered to vote in Pennsylvania.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Three years ago, Joel Johnson was thinking about getting out of contracting for a “more rewarding career,” but he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. After a discussion with his brother Justin, they decided to focus on 3-D production.

They noticed that when it came to 3-D production tools, there was a gap between the stuff a weekend crafter would use and the machines a manufacturer would use.

Bon Secours

UPMC is continuing its overseas growth with an announcement this month that it's opening a second cancer center in Ireland. The health care provider opened the Whitfield Cancer Center in Waterford, Ireland 10 years ago. The second effort will be a joint venture with Bon Secours in Cork, Ireland.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

 

It takes 10 full-time employees, a supervisor and some temp workers several months to ready the voting machines for Election Day.

 

“The logistics of getting this all together, it’s amazing,” said Mark Wolosik, Allegheny County Election Division Manager.

 

Delivery of nearly 4,700 voting machines to 850 different polling places today begins today, but the work started just days after the April primary.

 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

A team of graphic designers and marketing consultants are working their way through five neighborhoods to help local entrepreneurs.

The group Up To Know Good is spending its third year setting up pop-up storefronts in less-affluent neighborhoods. This week Up To, as its known for short, will pop up in the North Side and the Hill District the following week. 

Discover Downtown Johnstown Partnership

Johnstown has held a holiday parade for two decades, but it wasn’t until Melissa Radovanic joined the Discover Johnstown Partnership that it really began to “light up.”

“I said to the group that I wanted us to be known for something and that we were going to have a name for ourselves,” said Radovanic, who was elected president of the volunteer organization three years ago.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

City officials are looking for ways to fill a $10 million hole in the 2017 budget after the state Supreme Court declared a uniform casino tax unconstitutional.

The court struck down the provision that sent millions of dollars to host municipalities – either 2 percent of a casino’s slot revenues or $10 million, whichever was more money.  The court gave the legislature 120 days to fix the law.

Healthcare.gov

 

Prices for health care coverage on Affordable Care Act exchanges nationwide are going up 25 percent, but in Pennsylvania that number is more than 32 percent and for some in southwestern Pennsylvania the increase will be nearly 50 percent.

After Highmark and UPMC requested rate hikes for 2017, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department approved even bigger hikes in an effort to bring stability to the market.

Mark / Flickr

Pennsylvania officials are making progress on rules to govern the state's new medical marijuana program, including how dispensaries will operate and the fees paid by growers and processors.  

The Department of Health on Tuesday posted draft regulations for dispensaries .

No facilities in Pennsylvania have been approved to sell medical marijuana, but there are 103 families in the state who can already legally own the drug.

SkinJect / YouTube

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer over the course of their life

But thanks to a new device from a Pittsburgh-based company called Skinject, some people with skin cancer may be able to skip invasive surgeries.

“Skinject is a totally new approach to handling this problem which is growing throughout the world as more and more people expose their skin to the sun,” said the company’s CEO James Nolan.  

Ed Ivanushkin / flickr

Many people may not realize how little of a charitable donation goes toward fighting the cause at hand.

State Rep. Tony DeLuca (D-Allegheny) found this to be a problem for some his constituents who were solicited by charities seeking donations to fight cancer. In some cases, as little as less than 1 percent of money raised goes toward aid.  

Richard Drew / AP

 

Restrictions on what Medicaid and Medicare will cover for nursing home patients can often lead to unnecessary hospitalizations – an estimated $8 billion in unnecessary hospitalizations each year, in fact.

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