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

City of Pittsburgh

This is the first in a three-part web series looking ahead to 2017 with members of Pittsburgh City Council.

Pittsburgh's nine Democratic City Council members will soon find themselves governing in an era where Republicans control not only the state legislature, but both houses of Congress and the presidency. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Deb Schmersal glides around the floor, holding hands with her partner, Jeffrey, as they dance. Their moves aren’t perfect, but that’s not the point at Yes, You Can Dance!

The organization, founded in 2011, uses dance to promote wellness for people with special needs, chronic degenerative diseases and disabilities.

Over the past six years, it has grown and blossomed with the help of some dedicated volunteers, including Schmersal.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

The celebration in Pittsburgh City Council chambers Tuesday over the creation of a Housing Opportunity Fund was short-lived. Even before the final vote was taken, the focus turned to finding a revenue stream to support the fund.

“We have now created a box with a bow and wrapping paper but there is no gift in it,” Councilman Ricky Burgess said.  “We are now telling low- and moderate-income people in Pittsburgh that they count. The question is will we actually mean it?”

Jed Conklin / AP

The benefits of treating ear infections with antibiotics for 10 days far outweighs any benefit associated with reducing a child’s exposure to the medication, according to researchers at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

“No question,” said Alejandro Hoberman, the hospital's division chief of general academic pediatrics. “Even more than what we expected. The five-day treatment did not work.”

Hank Mitchell / Flickr

As fake news stories continue to pepper social media pages, some companies are taking an active approach to banning the spread of misinformation. Facebook is focusing on the "worst of the worst" offenders and partner with outside fact-checkers and news organizations to sort honest news reports from made-up stories.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council gave final approval to a 2017 budget Tuesday that’s balanced by $10 million in casino revenues.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Pennsylvania’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program seems to be performing well  in its first four months, with more than 60,000 health care professionals using the database.

The program, called PDMP for short, launched in August and includes more robust reporting requirements for doctors and pharmacists.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

 

During his final year in college, Steelers cornerback Artie Burns’ mother Dana Smith had a sudden heart attack and died. With his father in prison, the 20-year-old had to worry about his two younger brothers, aged 15 and 12 at the time.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Dominic “Mickey” Sgro leaned on the back of a highly adaptive, metallic pink bicycle shaking his head. His friend is bragging on him again.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council has given preliminary approval to the creation of a “Housing Opportunity Fund,” but didn’t create a revenue stream for it.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

A bill given preliminary approval by the Pittsburgh City Council Wednesday would extend the use of parking meters in the South Side until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. City officials plan to enforce the new parking rules in February.

Identified Technologies

The logo may look like a drone, and the drone might get all the attention on the job site, but the leadership of Identified Technologies Corporation in Larimer says drones are not the focus of their growing company.

“We do use them as a tool as part of this work flow, but the drone has become the least interesting and least special part of the work flow,” said Dick Zhang, the company's CEO and founder.

They use commercially available drones and cameras to create two and three-dimensional models of construction sites to help monitor progress.

Noah Brode / 90.5 FM WESA

On Monday, the Pittsburgh City Council gave preliminary approval to a budget amendment that would pull $285,000 out of the city’s paving fund and spend it on community service efforts.

Pittsburgh’s 2016 budget allocated $75,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and another $74,000 for the Pittsburgh Community Services hunger program, but those lines were zeroed out in the 2017 budget proposal submitted by the mayor’s office.

HealthCare.gov

Pennsylvanians looking for health insurance have a new option to help them find the right coverage. HealthPlanRatings.org is a plan comparison tool created for the state by nonprofit Consumer’s Checkbook.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

 

When Larry Nugent retired from his job as a sheet metal worker, he thought he would spend his days boating, fishing and hunting. In reality, all he did was set down his paying job for a volunteer effort that keeps him busy each week.

In 1991, his church, Bethlehem Lutheran in Shaler, began picking up unwanted furniture and delivering it to those in need.

“I joined in, probably around 2001, because I had a pickup truck,” Nugent said. “It has just grown.”

ShotSpotter

Pittsburgh City Council has given tentative approval to a contract that would extend the city’s gunfire detection program for a fifth year. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Could a virus offer a cure to cancer?

That’s the question researchers at Western Oncolytics, based in Harmar, are trying to answer. In fact, they’re hoping to start clinical trials in 2017.

Chief science officer Stephen Thorne said the idea that a virus could help kill cancer has been around for a century, but only since the 1990s have scientists been able to modify DNA to create a virus specifically designed to fight cancer.  

The first wave of research focused on creating a virus that could only grow inside a tumor.

Jon Olav Eikenes / Flickr

A recent study found the number of concussion diagnoses in Pennsylvania is spiking, but that’s not necessarily because they’re happening more often.

The report from Blue Cross Blue Shield found concussion diagnoses among 10 to 19-year-olds in the state jumped 85 percent between 2010 and 2015. The report doesn’t specify how the concussions were received, nor does it speculate as to why the numbers are increasing.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Eric Luster grew up in a three-bedroom 1920s-era home on a quiet dead end street in Homewood. It was a self-described good childhood, but he thought he would have a better future in Atlanta, Ga., so he moved out of town to raise his five children.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority proposed mixing green and gray infrastructure to reduce the amount of raw sewage flowing into the Ohio River. 

The draft “Green First Plan” calls for millions of dollars in water retention systems that are both above and below ground. The systems would range from cement cisterns that hold water during rainy days to be processed later, to green spaces that can absorb storm water runoff into the ground.  

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

When someone is incarcerated, they family members – especially children – can be forgotten, but Elizabeth Mansley works hard to remember them. 

Last year, Mansley, a Mt. Aloysius College associate professor of criminology, and her students launched The Storybook Project.

“The idea actually came from my daughter,” Mansley said.

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.

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