Mark Nootbaar

Senior News Editor

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 where he is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the 90.5 WESA newsroom. Mark has also worked in Illinois and Texas. He lives in the North Hills with his lovely wife and daughter.

 

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John Hanger has withdrawn as a Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania Governor. The former Secretary of the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection made the decision official Thursday morning. 

The region’s real estate market in February tumbled compared to the same time in 2013, but many who keep track of the market say a lot of that dip had to do with the weather.

“Look at what we experienced last year in early spring, great weather, everybody was out and about,” said Barbara Kohl, West Penn Multi-List Chief Operating Officer. “This year it was total devastation, freezing rain, sleet, tons of snow. It’s really tough to get people motivated and moving to go out to open houses, and even look at homes, when the weather is so bad.”

The three Pittsburgh police officers accused of violating Jordan Miles’ civil rights will be back in an federal courtroom Monday, and the lawyer representing Miles says the jury could hear some new evidence.

A jury in August of 2012 found that the actions of officers Richard Ewing, Michael Saldutte and David Sisak did not rise to the level of malicious prosecution as had been alleged in the civil trial, however that same jury remained deadlocked on the allegation that the men falsely arrested Miles and used excessive force while doing so.

On average, a veteran in the Pittsburgh areas has to wait one day shy of a year between the time they apply for disability benefits and the day they are approved.

Though the backlog has been shrinking, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey says it is not falling fast enough, and in an effort to fix the situation, he and bipartisan group of six senators have introduced legislation aimed at fixing the system.

The Veterans Administration deems a claim to be backlogged after it has been in the system for more than 125 days. By its own admission, there are nearly 400,000 cases on that list.

Update 12:07 p.m.

Hundreds of protesters organized by the Service Employees International Union have left the area outside the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's offices downtown, after Mayor Bill Peduto issued a statement asking them to "disband" and "return home."

Peduto's statement indicates he's cutting short a Washington, D.C. trip to return to Pittsburgh Tuesday and hopes to "resolve these conflicts."

Updated: 10:35 a.m.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett's office says his hernia surgery went well and he's resumed his role and powers as governor.

Corbett returned to Pittsburgh to have the outpatient surgery performed at Allegheny General Hospital so he could recover in his Shaler home. 

Corbett was under general anesthesia from 7:10 a.m. to 8:35 a.m. Spokesperson Jay Pagni said the governor "was in great spirits" as he left the hospital.

Corbett will remain in Shaler through the weekend and return to work in Harrisburg Monday.

Courtesy of PNC

The glass skin is starting to be installed on Pittsburgh’s newest skyscraper, and Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Group says it will help make the building more energy efficient in the long run and is helping to grow the local economy in the short term.

The so-called "curtain wall" is actually two layers of glass held in place by steel and recycled wood in a manner that creates what might be best described as a massive storm window.

Gov. Tom Corbett on Wednesday officially began seeking federal approval for his plan to bring billions of federal Medicaid expansion dollars to Pennsylvania to cover a half-million working poor residents through private health plans, although advocates for the poor and uninsured called it bureaucratic and punitive.

A Pittsburgh man serving three life terms for setting a fire that killed three Pittsburgh firefighters is set to get a new trial.

Allegheny County Judge Joseph Williams on Wednesday ruled 36-year-old Gregory Brown Jr. deserved the new trial because prosecutors didn't reveal that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms paid one witness a $5,000 reward.

That witness testified he wasn't promised any money for his testimony, which Williams said could have been used to impeach his credibility had Brown's defense known about the reward.

A former president of Carnegie Mellon University is bringing his clout and his ability to raise money to a relatively new institute on campus designed to explore the intersection of energy use, production and policy.

Starting July 1, CMU President Emeritus and University Professor Jared Cohon will add to his business card the title of Scott Energy Institute Director.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

If you walk down any street these days you are likely to hear a Pittsburgher proclaiming, “I am so ready for this winter to be over.”  Snowfall and low temperature records have been set throughout the northeast and Pittsburgh has been averaging well below normal when it comes to thermometer readings and well above when it comes to snow.

All that has led to higher-than-normal insurance claims and Pennsylvania’s largest homeowner’s and auto insurance provider, State Farm, has been feeling the pinch. 

Marina Weis / 90.5 WESA

UPDATE: 1:19 p.m.

When Pittsburgh City Council gathered Tuesday it offered a wide range of opinions on how the Public Works Department handled the most recent storm.  Councilwoman Darlene Harris came down on the critical side.

“This morning on the way to work, I came down what you would call an emergency route, to find a bus sideways on the street, cars stuck everywhere sideways, with a salt truck sitting there with only sand on it,” said Harris.

Current and would-be politicians will be downloading ballot petition forms starting Tuesday as they prepare to run in the May primary. 

Candidates and their supporters can begin collecting signatures next week and then have a little less than a month to get the required number, which changes depending on the office being sought.  At least six candidates have said they plan to run in the Democratic primary for governor.

A 26-year-old political newcomer is hoping to swing the 3rd Congressional District in Pennsylvania back into the Democratic column.

Dan LaVallee officially announced his campaign Friday with a Youtube posting and then began a tour of the northern portion of the district that stretches from Cranberry to Erie.

“To me it’s about getting to everyone in our area figuring what we can do to move forward,” said LaValle.

Gov. Tom Corbett plans to ask lawmakers for a $10 million increase for early education grants in his budget address next week.

The proposal would amount to a 16 percent increase in funding for the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts program.

"Our Pre-K Counts programs consistently deliver high-quality pre-k education," Corbett said. "We’re not talking just babysitting, we’re talking care, we’re talking about teaching, we’re talking about nurturing."

Estimates show more than a one billion dollar deficit going into the fiscal year beginning in July.

A small battle is brewing over the legality of sports betting in Pennsylvania, and it’s pitting the state police commissioner against a state senator with social clubs left in the middle scratching their heads.

Reaction from southwestern Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address has unsurprisingly been mixed.

Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA 18) was pleased to hear the president say that he wanted to work with Congress but was a bit concerned with his willingness to “go it alone.” The president spoke of using executive orders to make progress on pet projects as diverse as encouraging the increase of minimum wage to creating a new retirement savings option for working Americans.

Penn State University Lunar Lion

A crew at Penn State is hoping to use crowd funding to help get a rocket to the moon. 

The team is working on grabbing the Google Lunar Xprize which is offering more than $40 million dollars in prizes to anyone who can safely land a craft on the moon, travel 500 meters above, below, or on the Lunar surface, and send two “Mooncasts” back to Earth. Half of the money will go to the first successful mission, but there are other milestone accomplishments that can free up some funding.

The team at Penn State, known as Lunar Lion, is looking to keep its effort on track by raising $406,536 through the crowd funding site rockethub.com.

A report released Thursday by the American Legion finds that the VA Pittsburgh Health System has responded well to the outbreak of Legionella in 2011 and 2012 that took the lives of at least five veterans. 

However, the report finds the Veterans Administration needs to empower the 152 hospitals in the system to better communicate during a crisis.

Jacob Gadd, American Legion deputy director for healthcare, said that since the outbreak the Pittsburgh VA has formed a water safety committee, which had made important recommendations that have been implemented.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection continues its swing through southwestern Pennsylvania Thursday night as it takes testimony on proposed changes to the rules that govern gas and oil drilling in the state.

The DEP took input for several hours Wednesday night in Washington County and will be in Indiana County Thursday night ant the IUP Convention and Athletic Complex. The rules change, known as Chapter 78, represents the first major overhaul in decades.

An energy supply and consumption watchdog group is taking its fight against a proposed moratorium on shale drilling in Pennsylvania to the lawmakers sponsoring the bill and to their constituents. 

The Consumer Energy Alliance sent a letter to State Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny) asking him to pull the legislation from consideration.  SB 1100 was introduced in September and was referred to the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee where it has languished ever since.

What is the best way to build an AC/DC hybrid power system? What does the power grid control system of the future look like?

Those are the types of questions researchers and students at the University of Pittsburgh are hoping to answer with Thursday’s opening of a new electric power systems lab.

The lab was created with the support of the Dublin, Ireland-based power management company EATON, which has offices in the Pittsburgh area. 

As the cold descended on the region overnight Monday, the number of warming centers open throughout Allegheny County grew.

Centers in Carnegie, Clairton, Munhall, Oakdale, Shaler, West Deer, and West Mifflin were open all night.  Several other location in the county and five in the City of Pittsburgh were to open Tuesday morning.

Temperatures dipped as low as nine degrees below zero over night and are expected to clime to just seven above throughout the day.

Wind chill temperatures are expected to dip to more than 30 below zero in southwestern Pennsylvania Monday night and Tuesday morning, which means exposed skin could freeze in less than 5 minutes.

As the region begins to experience low temperatures not seen for nearly two decades, city and county officials are preparing for the worst.

Allegheny County has joined up with city officials to staff the Emergency Operations Center.

The Associated Press reports temperatures will continue to fall throughout the day and will not stop until hitting an expected low of nine below zero. Wind gusts of up to 30 miles an hour will result in wind chills of 31 below zero.

Early detection of breast cancer is one of the most important factors when calculating survival rates, but a Magee Hospital surgeon thinks he has found a way to help women who’s cancer is not detected until it has already spread to their bones.

Patients who first present with stage four breast cancer with bone metastasis have a short life expectancy, but a study of 278 women in Turkey suggests that by sending the patient directly to the operating room might be able to help hundreds of American women each year survive.

The first order of business after City Council swears in its newly elected members Jan. 6 is to choose a new president who will run the council for the next two years. The semi-annual election is always fraught with back room deals and unlikely alliances.

“That vote won’t be decided until five minutes before that meeting,” said Jim Motznik, former Pittsburgh City Councilman (2001-2010) and current District Municipal Court Justice.

Social service agencies are always struggling to find the best way to reach those who need help and the same holds true for agencies that care for animals.

Animal Friends is hoping to reach thousands of dogs and cats in some of Pittsburgh’s poorest neighborhoods using a door-to-door approach funded through a $50,000 grant from the PetSmart Foundation.

Starting in 2014, Animal Friends will send crews into a few North Side neighborhoods to offer free spay and neutering, vaccinations and flea treatments.

When Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services’ top economist looks forward to 2014, he is doing it with cautious optimism.

“We think we can sustain (good economic growth) for at least one more year and maybe for several beyond that,” said PNC Chief Economist Stuart Hoffman.

Hoffman thinks the economy will see GDP growth inching up and unemployment inching down. By the end of 2014 Hoffman is predicting GDP growth of 2.5 percent and an unemployment rate of about 6.5 percent. 

On the local employment front, new jobs in construction will lead the way.

The 2013 economy might have stumbled a bit coming out of the gate, but at least one local economist says it recovered well.

“As the year went on it gathered some momentum,” said PNC Chief Economist Stuart Hoffman.

The year began with “sequestration” which reduced government spending nearly across the board and made several tax law changes including a hike in the payroll tax from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent, a phase out a some key tax exemptions, an increase to the so-called death tax, and an increase in the top marginal tax rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent. 

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