Michael Lynch

News Fellow

The Erie, PA native has been a fellow in the WESA news department since May 2013. Having earned a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Duquesne University, he is now pursuing an M.A. in multi-media management. Michael describes his career aspiration as "I want to do it all in journalism."

Personal fun facts:  "a typical Penguins' and Pirates' fan;" inaugural recipient of the Roy McHugh Prize for Writing Excellence, and vinyl record collector.

Ways To Connect

More than 112,000 vehicles run on compressed natural gas (CNG) in the United States, the majority of which are commercial fleets, according to the Department of Energy, and those motorists now have one more place to fill up in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission officials Thursday unveiled three CNG fueling stations at the New Stanton Plaza in Westmoreland County. It is the first of the turnpike’s 17 plazas to offer the alternative fuel and is only accessible for westbound travelers.

The Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (ICA), a state operated financial oversight committee, has rejected Mayor Bill Peduto’s nearly $508 million 2015 spending plan Tuesday for a second time.

The ICA said the city continuously ignored the board’s request for financial information, including property tax and parking meter rate adjustment specifics, as well as failing to provide a “signed EMS contract.”

Autism Speaks, a national advocacy organization, has awarded nearly $930,000 in grants to community groups nationwide, including some in Western Pennsylvania.  

Grants totaling $5,000 each will go to UPMC’s Theiss Early Autism Program, a development center for children diagnosed with autism, and Intermediate Unit 1, an educational support agency.

The Theiss Early Autism Program will use the grant to enhance its Community and Family Involvement initiative.

The Allegheny Conference on Community Development launched a job search website Monday designed to connect veterans with energy and manufacturing opportunities in the region.

The Service to Opportunity initiative, which is free for veterans and employers, allows vets to upload their resumes and helps connect them with career opportunities based on their individual skill set.

Women’s health advocates in Pennsylvania are calling on the Corbett administration to extend a low-income women’s health insurance program set to expire at the end of the year.

The Women’s Health Caucus sent a letter Thursday to state Human Services Secretary Beverly Mackereth asking for a one-year extension of the SelectPlan for Women program, which provides coverage for gynecological exams, emergency contraception and breast and cervical cancer screenings for an estimated 90,000 women in the commonwealth.

BNY Mellon and the BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania are teaming up with The Forbes Funds to help local nonprofits solve social challenges through technology.

The bank is putting up $500,000 and its foundation is investing $550,000 in a competition that will bring together nonprofits and private sector entrepreneurs to develop technological innovations.

Matt Zieger, executive-in-residence for social innovation at The Forbes Funds, said the nonprofit community is often held back from technology adoption because of underfunding.

Republican Mike Kelly will represent Pennsylvania’s third congressional district for a third two-year term after defeating Democratic challenger Dan LaVallee with about 60 percent of the vote.

Kelly, a Butler resident, spoke with LaVallee following the returns, and said both were happy to have run clean campaigns.

“I think that what we’re both very pleased with is the fact that we kept it above the belt,” he said. “We didn’t throw dirt on each other. We didn’t do a lot of things that you see on some other campaigns.”

Allegheny General Hospital and UPMC Presbyterian Hospital are the first in the region to offer a minimally invasive heart surgery that allows physicians to operate as the heart beats.

The MitraClip is designed to treat degenerative mitral regurgitation (MR), a heart condition where blood flows backwards through the mitral valve, forcing the heart to pump even harder to get the blooding moving in the right direction. MR causes fatigue, shortness of breath and heart failure.

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded nearly $1 million to University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering to improve nuclear power plant safety.

Principal investigator and Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering Kevin Chen will use the $987,000 to develop radiation-resistant fiber optic cable sensors capable of measuring properties such as temperature, pressure and hydrogen levels in the event of a nuclear emergency.

Cathleen Bailey

Sam Robinson doesn’t consider himself to be an artist, but he sure can tell a story.

“I kind of got used to asking questions and learning about things from my father,” he said. “So certainly that heritage has made it easier for me…”

The 64-year-old tour guide is one of 12 regional artists and storytellers being honored by the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area Wednesday for their work in preserving history and culture.

Why have Democrats and Republicans become so divided? And why can’t Congress seem to agree on anything?

These are the questions that American voters have been asking themselves for years, and new research might finally have an answer.

According to a report released by Carnegie Mellon University, these extreme political differences are the result of close and heated elections.

Researchers have found voters on opposite ends of the political gamut tend to favor more polarizing candidates when an election is thought to be close.

Health and breast cancer awareness advocates delivered 150,000 petitions to the Susan G. Komen offices in Pittsburgh Friday, urging the nonprofit to cut ties with the oil and gas industry.

Groups, including Breast Cancer Action, New Voices Pittsburgh and Food and Water Watch, are urging Komen to refuse a $100,000 check from oil and gas extraction company Baker Hughes, which, according to Forbes.com, saw a net income of roughly $1.6 billion over the last 12 months.

Why do certain cancers spread in bones?

The National Cancer Institute has awarded $2 million over five years to the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine to answer that question.

Researchers will look for ways to repress X-box binding proteins (XBP1s), a molecule that regulates the production of other inflammatory proteins that boost tumor cell growth, in hopes of treating multiple myeloma bone disease.

Dozens gathered at the Allegheny County Courthouse courtyard Friday in support of legislation that would increase penalties for those convicted of child abuse.

House Bill 2411, which is sitting in the Senate judiciary committee, would take endangering the welfare of a child from a first degree misdemeanor to a felony if the child is found to have a serious bodily injury or be near death. The offense would increase one degree if the child is under six years old.

Carnegie Mellon University will lead a five-year, $5 million project funded by the National Science Foundation to improve educational outcomes for teachers and students.

Computer scientists will build LearnSphere, an online database designed to store information on learning. Researchers will be able to use the data to study how students learn, while educators can find out how to create better courses in content and delivery.

Project leader and CMU professor Ken Koedinger said LearnSphere will help eliminate what he calls the “expert’s blind spot.”

The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that would test energy efficient technologies in state buildings.

The State Agency Green Technology Act aims to reduce the commonwealth’s carbon output while saving money, increasing energy conservation and promoting new environmental technologies.

Sen. Matt Smith (D-Allegheny) said, under the bill, state buildings would invest in products such as energy efficient insulation and windows that hold heat in the winter and releases it in the summer.

There are four automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) in the Pittsburgh City-County Building, and more than 70 on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University, but how many are in Allegheny County? That’s what the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine wants to know.

The school is hosting the region’s first HeartMap Challenge, a public scavenger hunt to locate all of the county’s AEDs, which are small briefcase-sized electronic devices that can be used to help someone in cardiac arrest.

The National Institutes of Health has awarded $11.8 million over five years to the University of Pittsburgh to study the hereditary roots of cleft lips and palates.

Orofacial clefts are small gaps in the lip or palate that form in a baby’s mouth when the child doesn’t develop properly in the womb. These occur in one of every 700 births around the world, according to Mary Marazita, a Pitt professor and director of the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics.

The federal government has awarded nearly $3.4 million to be doled out over the next four years to the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health to establish one of 10 public health training centers across the nation with the hopes of improving national health.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) selected Pitt to create the Region 3 Center, which will provide free training sessions to public health professionals in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

There are only six session days left on the calendar this session for the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and municipal police are lobbying for a set of bills that would allow them to use radar guns.

Senate Bill 1340 and House Bill 1272 would allow all police officers in the state to use the devices, not just state troopers, who have been using radar for more than 50 years. Neither has received a vote.

Municipal police departments have multiple options when it comes to catching speeders.

With the hope of being able to help epilepsy patients who have not responded to other treatments, Allegheny General Hospital Friday opened a unit designed to monitor and evaluate those who suffer from the condition.

The division includes four private rooms, each equipped with a video camera and an EEG (electroencephalography) device, which, combined, allows physicians to record patient behavior and their neurological activity.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday it’s partnering with Schneider’s Dairy and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to expand the state’s milk distribution program.

The food bank will now be able to purchase milk from Schneider’s at a reduced rate and then, after covering 15-30 percent of the cost, sell it to food pantries for an estimated 50 cents a quart.  Those pantries, spread across 11 counties will in turn give it for free to in-need Pennsylvanians.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services has awarded more than $300,000 to two Pittsburgh museums.

The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh was able to snag $149,611, while the Carnegie Museum of Natural History received two grants, one for $25,000 and another for $147,462.

Pennsylvania’s highways among the worst in the nation, according to a report released Thursday by a Los Angeles nonprofit.

The commonwealth has dropped from 40th to 41st in “overall highway performance and cost effectiveness,” according to the Reason Foundation’s 21st annual highway report.

David Hartgen, lead researcher and professor of transportation studies at the University of North Carolina, said the state’s high percentage of deficient bridges, narrow rural lanes and a high fatality rate has caused its rankings to slip.

A bill to eliminate school property tax in Pennsylvania was advanced by the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday on a 6-5 vote.

The “Property Tax Independence Act” would replace property taxes by increasing the state income tax from 3.07 percent to 4.34 percent; sales tax would jump from 6 to 7 percent (8 percent in Allegheny County), together generating an estimated $12 billion for public schools annually.

But, Sharon Ward, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, said the numbers don’t add up.

Sandra Cole of Indiana, PA / ligonierhighlandgames

Break out the bagpipes and dust off that kilt because the Ligonier Highland Games are back this weekend, celebrating Celtic culture for a 56th year.

The festivities start Saturday morning at Idlewild Park with dancing, drumming, harping and piping contests, along with a Scottish-breed dog show.

The Heavy Athletics begin at 9 a.m. where the region’s biggest and baddest compete in events such as the caber toss, where contestants throw what looks like a telephone pole end-over end through the air. Athletes will also participate in the hammer throw and sheaf toss, where a 16 to 20 lbs. bundle of straw is launched into the air with a pitchfork.

Richard Wonderly, executive director of the games, said the athletics were originally used hundreds of years ago to prevent confrontation between Celtic clans.

“By getting together to show off your feats of strength, it helped to intimidate the other clans to avoid combat,” he said. “So basically, it was a way to say, ‘Here’s our guys, look how big and strong they are. Maybe you don’t want to mess with us.’”

Marcus Charleston

In September of 1914, 250 veterans from across the U.S. and its territories gathered at the Schenley Hotel in Pittsburgh to form what would become the largest veterans’ advocacy group in the nation, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

The hotel is now the William Pitt Union, but former military members and public officials are assembling there once again to mark the organization's centennial.

“The people can feel that the community supports veterans around here,” Matt Hannan, president of Pitt-Vets, said, “but they don’t understand the legacy of what the veterans have committed to the community and contributed and that that legacy continues.”

Three companies, a nonprofit and a healthcare provider in Allegheny County have been awarded about $844,000 in state grants for alternative-fuel vehicles.

The Alternative Fuel Incentive Grants are meant to help organizations make the switch to compressed natural gas, propane or electric-powered light- to medium-weight fleet vehicles.

Pittsburgh Region Clean Cities was able to snag nearly 500,000 for its Western Pennsylvania Alternative Fuel School Bus Program, which will use $250,000 toward the purchase of 50 propane-powered buses.

Incoming Police Chief Cameron McLay vowed to restore trust and rebuild morale in the police bureau during his first public appearance in Pittsburgh Friday.

McLay, who was nominated for the position by Mayor Bill Peduto Sept. 2, will begin work Monday, replacing acting Chief Regina McDonald. McDonald had been serving in that post since February 2013, when former chief Nate Harper resigned. Harper is serving 18 months in federal prison for using approximately $32,000 in city funds on personal expenditures.

Before the fires were extinguished or the cleanups began, archivists from the Smithsonian museums had already started collecting artifacts from the sites of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Thirteen years later, Alima Bucciantini, an assistant professor of public history at Duquesne University, wants to know what kind of impact the immediate exhibition of these objects had on the telling of the story of 9/11.

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