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.

 

Ways To Connect

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. 

While many holiday gift givers will be heading out to the stores Monday and Tuesday for a few last-minute gifts, Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord is offering another solution: give to a loved one’s college fund.

Following fatal traffic accidents, the duty of informing loved ones often falls to a state police officer.

“There is probably few more tragic events in the life of a Pennsylvania state trooper,” said Frank Noonan, PA State Policy Commissioner. “And it’s even more tragic when we find that the accident was caused by a drunk driver because all of those are preventable.”

Nick Frost / 90.5 WESA

Apple has chosen a Pittsburgh-born app as its free app of the year.

Duolingo teaches people how to speak a new language, and it's been downloaded more than 10 million times since being released a year ago. 

Duolingo CEO Louis Von Ahn said more than a billion people are trying to learn a new language. He believes two-thirds of them are from the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder, and the reason they are learning a new language is because they are trying to get ahead in life.

Tim Murphy / murphy.house.gov

The shootings and Sandyhook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. focused the nation’s attention on mental health care but now that the tragedy is a year behind us, debate on the subject has waned.

However, U.S. Congressman Tim Murphy (PA-18) is hoping to throw it back into the spotlight with a bill he is calling the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.

When Andrew Carnegie decided Pittsburgh needed an art museum he did not have any artwork to put in it, so he devised a plan to build a collection using a regularly occurring art exhibition.

“The genesis for the (Carnegie) International, when it was built in 1896 by Andrew Carnegie, was to bring new art to Pittsburgh and to find ‘the old masters of tomorrow’ and collect them for the museum,” said 2013 Carnegie International Co-Curator Tina Kukielski.

A group of Pennsylvania state lawmakers is gathering momentum on a package of bills that deal with issues as diverse as “revenge porn” and pay equity.

Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks County) said the overarching theme is that all seven bills deal with strengthening the lives of women in Pennsylvania. 

“When women are healthy and protected by Pennsylvania’s laws, Pennsylvania families will be stronger and more stable,” said Schwank, who co-chairs the Legislature’s Women’s Health Caucus. “This package is a major step in that direction.”

National Aviary

As the snow falls on the city, a few of those flakes are finding the bald heads of a pair of birds at the National Aviary that many hope will someday find love on the North Shore. 

The Aviary recently obtained a pair of Andean condors with the hopes of getting the pair to breed. But with the male checking in at 43 years of age and the female 36 years old, these are no spring chicks.

Small groups of parents and education activists gathered in Pittsburgh and across the country Monday to mark a “National Day of Action to Reclaim the Promise of Public Education.”

“The promise of public education is how we help and actually do our collective responsibility to ensure every single child can dream his or her dreams and achieve them,” said Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers president.

Some of the leading minds in sustainable business models will gather in Pittsburgh Tuesday for a rapid-fire event exploring what has become known as the triple bottom line.

“This is the essence of sustainability,” said Court Gould, Sustainable Pittsburgh executive director. 

The group is putting on the conference, Sustainability EXPOsed.

When auditors from the Pittsburgh City Controller’s office went to Public Works storage yards this summer, they found some equipment was missing, but they also found equipment that was not on any list.

Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb said he does not think there was any criminal intent. Instead, he thinks it was just a matter of not properly using the right management systems.

At the request of the Peduto transition team, the Pittsburgh City Council opted Tuesday to wait at least another week before voting on an early retirement offer. Debate last week indicated that the vote would have been close and that there were still several unresolved issues.

Every year, the city of Pittsburgh collects about $10 million in taxes that many members of the Pittsburgh Public School Board feel is rightfully the district’s. 

Now, Pittsburgh Mayor-elect Bill Peduto says he might be willing to send the cash back to the district, but only if the city’s nonprofit sector steps up with a few dollars of its own.

“It has never come up for discussion,” Peduto said, “but that has to happen in conjunction with a long-term commitment from the major nonprofits, because we don’t have enough money to just open up our budget and give anybody money.”

If you’re looking to work off some of Thursday’s turkey and pumpkin pie with a nice walk, you might consider adding in a healthy dose of history as well. Historic Harmony is offering a series of hikes along the Connoquenessing Creek Saturday with none other than George Washington leading the way.

The focus of the hike will be to commemorate the 260th anniversary of Major Washington’s mission to Fort Duquesne to ask the French to leave the area. It comes on the exact date that the 21-year-old George Washington stayed on the north shore of the creek at a Delaware Indian Village.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Temperatures remained above freezing much longer into the night Tuesday than expected, bringing more rain than snow to southwestern Pennsylvania.

However, it was enough to prompt the Pittsburgh Public School District to issue a two-hour delay.  Several other schools in the county followed suit.

By the time most alarm clocks were going off the rain had turned back into snow, but road conditions throughout Allegheny County were just wet for the start of the morning commute.

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