90.5 WESA's Essential Pittsburgh

Essential Pittsburgh airs weekdays from noon to 1 p.m. and is repeated at 8 p.m.
  • Hosted by Paul Guggenheimer

Essential Pittsburgh is a locally produced program from 90.5 WESA dedicated to developing a deep, ongoing exploration of critical issues affecting Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania.

Essential Pittsburgh features community leaders and newsmakers in the arts, sciences, technology, business, healthcare, government and education.

  • Call (412) 246-2002 from noon to 1 p.m. weekdays to participate in the discussion.  
  • Tweet your question to @esspgh
  • Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
  • What stories are we missing? Send your thoughts to esspgh@wesa.fm 
US Department of Education / flickr

Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings is the keynote speaker for this year's Barbara A. Sizemore Summer Conference on Urban Education, a one-day conference held by Duquesne University’s School of Education. Dr. Ladson-Billings has focused her research on critical race theory, and has dedicated multiple studies to determining best practices for teachers who are educating within a racially diverse student body. 

Ladson-Billings explains her fear of losing great teachers, and ultimately why she wrote The Dream Keepers: 

“One of the reasons that I wanted to do the study that resulted in the book, The Dream Keepers, was my fear that some incredible knowledge and skill was going out the door and no one was documenting it.” -Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings 

Also, Two German professors with the Acoustical Society of America uncover Pittsburgh's urban "soundscape," and an upcoming expo at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center takes a focused look at improving multi-modal transportation.

Gage Skidmore / flickr

Former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Rick Santorum has launched a second run for the White House. The 57-year-old Republican finished second to Mitt Romney for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. But this time around, there is some doubt about his ability to place in the top 10 of national polls, a prerequisite for participating in the first Republican presidential debate in August. We'll discuss Santorum's prospects with political commentator Joe Sabino Mistick, associate professor of law at Duquesne University.

Mistick explains how Santorum's populistic approach to the GOP presidential nomination could benefit his place in the polls:

"I think his opening up of this other tack, this blue collar families and blue collar worker...it could bear some fruit... He might get some traction and that's enough to knock over a lot of furniture over on the Republican side, and perhaps place himself in a position to make a deal." - Joe Sabino Mistick

Also in the program, Open Streets Pittsburgh takes away traffic on three and a half miles of city pavement, WESA Celebrates 16,000 years of regional inhabitants in McKees Rocks and Elaine Labalme explains why summer camp isn't just for the kids.

Loco Steve / flickr

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, Positive Train Control could have prevented the derailment of Amtrak 188 that derailed in Philadelphia earlier this month. Eight people died and more than 200 people were injured. Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Bob Casey is leading a group of Senators who have sent a letter to the Appropriations Committee calling on Congress to increase funding. It has been reported that it will take $2 billion to fully implement this technology. Senator Casey joins us by phone.

Casey explains that many transit agencies across the nation are in favor of updating train safety, but with so many other areas of the country's infrastructure in need of repair, allocating the funding to trains is a difficult task:

"What the Congress should do, if we're doing the right thing, is to not put Amtrak or any transit agency in the position of having to choose between safety technology like Positive Train Control on the one hand versus fixing crumbling bridges or other parts of the aging infrastructure." - Senator Bob Casey

Also today, Historic Harmony looks for support in protecting the ground George Washington walked on, and former Steelers linebacker Andy Russell welcomes Western PA's six Pro-Hall of Fame quarterbacks to the steel city for the Gridiron Gold. 

Copyright Martha Rial

The Manchester Bidwell Corporation was founded in 1968 by Bill Strickland with the intent of using the environment to shape people's lives. We’ll discover his philosophy for the creation of the guild. We’ll also speak to Chief Operating Officer of the National Center for Arts and Technology Paulo Nzambi and Vice President of Operations Kevin Jenkins on their roles within the Bidwell company.  

“You can do extraordinary things if you have the right people around you. Part of the message is…you don’t have to go to the world, you can bring the world to your neighborhood, and it’s not where you start that matters, it’s where you end up.” -Bill Strickland 

Also, we'll talk about the Bidwell Training Center-- an institute of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation and home to the Manchester Craftsman's Guild, a league of youth and adults working in tandem to create a one-of-a-kind growth and learning experience. 

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Encouraging women to enter the STEM fields may not be a matter of how, but when. As part of WESA’s Life of Learning initiative, guest host Andy Conte of the Tribune Review talks with Theresa Richards, who is CMU’s FIRST  (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Program Coordinator, about mentoring young girls in STEM fields. Also taking part in the conversation is 9th grader Lauren Scheller-Wolf, a past participant on the Girls of Steel robotics competition team.

Scheller-Wolf encourages young students to be a part of Girls of Steel:

“It’s an amazing opportunity. You will learn so much, but it’s the kind of learning that is so fun you don’t realize you’re learning anything.” -Lauren Scheller-Wolf

Also in the program, historian John Brewer takes us on a photo tour of black life in America from the Pittsburgh Courier, and Robert Miles is making life a little easier with a downtown concierge service. 

Ed Massery, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

Since its founding in 1996 the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy has worked with the city to maintain its historic parks. The conservancy is currently in the process of renovating one city park. Joining guest host Elaine Labalme to address the current state of the parks and what these green spaces mean to the city is Director of Community Projects Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Heather Sage.

Sage addresses the challenge of air quality in the Pittsburgh area in connection with parks and green spaces:

"There's countless amounts of research that tell us you know our lives are better, we're healthier, our mental health is improved, our physical health is improved if were active and living and spending time outdoors. So just spending time intentionally improving those park spaces is very directly and indirectly helping peoples health..." -Heather Sage

Also in the program, TED Talks make their yearly Pittsburgh visit at the ever-expanding local TEDx conference and Smallman Galley is a local restaurant incubator that's giving potential restaurateurs the tools and templates for success.

Gates Foundation / Flickr

The Wilkinsburg School District is undergoing changes. It’s putting resources toward renovating the district’s two elementary schools. In addition, our guest , acting superintendent Dan Matsook is seeking an education partner to take the district’s middle school students. He sits down with guest host Kevin Gavin to address the challenges facing the Wilkinsburg school district. 

Matsook talks about the possibility of partnering with neighboring school districts, and the benefits it has over merging: 

“The plan we set in motion was to meet with representatives from the districts and to talk about the pros and cons of what this partnership could potentially be. What would be the hurdles? And what would be the questions you want answered?” - Dan Matsook 

Also, a program at LaRoche College keeps students globally-minded after events like the devastation in Nepal and the Green Apple Day of Service connects local people and organizations to non-profits. 

opensource.com / flickr

Companies such as UberLyft, and Airbnb have been growing in popularity in the Pittsburgh region. Today’s special look into the sharing economy begins with Robert Morris University Economics Professor Brian O’Roark, who discusses the business models and the effects of the sharing economy. 

According to O'Roark, the sharing economy itself is not new, but the widespread scale of it is a recent development:

"The idea of a sharing economy has actually been around for some time, but this taking off of the sharing economy -- the expansion of the sharing economy to things like tools and meals and even clothes -- is much more of a recent phenomenon." -- Brian O'Roark

Also in the program, Sociologist Kimberly Creasap talks about the role of trust in the sharing economy. In addition, we hear from Pittsburghers Bruce Chan, Andrea Wetherald and Frank Battista about their own experiences with different sharing platforms. And finally, Marty McGough of Campos Research Strategy compares the new system of sharing to older models.

Joining us in studio are Pittsburgh City Council members Deb Gross and Corey O’Connor. They are co-sponsoring a green infrastructure legislative package. If adapted the legislation would establish special green zones in key areas of the city. We’ll discover how they’ll work and the impact they could have on Pittsburgh.

O'Connor explains their efforts for more sustainable development:

"We want to enforce more green infrastructure so that when we get more water run off we can hold that water. We don’t need pipes as much as we needed 10 and 15 years ago. We’re starting to think more sustainable development." -Corey O'Connor  

Also in the program, we'll celebrate the 100th year of operations at Pyrex's Charleroi plant, and Nick Drombosky addresses the mechanic's responsibility in making commuting by bike accessible to everyone.

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

 One of the most contentious political races is taking place between Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner and her predecessor, Mark Patrick Flaherty. As election day nears we’ll hear from the candidates who recently spoke with WESA Senior News Editor Mark Nootbaar. (Starts at 8:08)

Flaherty, who has previously served as county controller, explains why he wants to return to the office:

"The [county controller's] office is in a state of crisis and chaos...unfortunately, they've thrown too much politics into a very professional process-- the auditing process. When the controller's office can't do its job anymore, you need somebody to come in and point the office back in the right direction and fix it." -Mark Patrick Flaherty

When asked why her experience as controller has been extensive enough to be elected over Flaherty, her predecessor, Wagner points out her budget as it compares to Flaherty's:

"I've done more with less. When you look at my spending, I am still spending less than my opponent and predecessor did four years ago. You're not going to find that anywhere else in county government."- Chelsa Wagner

We start the hour with updates from the Philadelphia Amtrak train derailment. Also on the program, Facebook enters into a controversial deal with the country's major news corporations to directly host their content, and Elaine Labalme preps us for summer travel.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The American Civil Liberties Union and the City of Pittsburgh have reached an agreement on "cutting-edge" improvements to police hiring methods, including strengthening minority hiring procedures. The settlement agreement stems from a federal class action lawsuit filed by the ACLU in August 2012 on behalf of minority applicants who scored high in Pittsburgh Police testing but were passed over for job offers. We'll speak with Ellen Doyle, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs.

Doyle says that previously, the city of Pittsburgh was being forced to diversify its ranks by hiring an African American and a woman for every four hires, as outlined in a Supreme Court order. She explains that this is no longer the case:

"The city was reporting for a number of years that [the police force] was disproportionately white in terms of the population of the city. But the difference between what happened with the prior federal lawsuit and what happened now is that the Supreme Court has seriously reduced the use of any race-conscious remedy." -Ellen Doyle 

Also on the program, after rioting and chaos in Ferguson and Baltimore, how should police departments adapt? How can departments encourage minorities to join the police force?

Jason Pratt / flickr

Despite the urban unrest that has garnered national headlines in recent weeks; many people are still choosing to live in cities as opposed to suburbs. What factors need to be in place for residents to co-exist, and even thrive, in a “happy city?” We’ll pose that question to Urban Experimentalist Charles Montgomery author of the book Happy City. Also taking part in the conversation is Pittsburgh Design Center CEO Chris Koch to fill us in on what can be done to make Pittsburgh a happier city.

Montgomery touches on the key factors in achieving a "happy city":

"The most important ingredient for human happiness is social connectedness, positive experiences with family and friends, and high levels of social trust. The happy city is most of all a social city." -Charles Montgomery

Also in the program, Pittsburgh and Citiparks present their new Spark! film series to engage Pittsburgh's cultural diversity. WESA Celebrates the history of Kennywood, and Rebecca Harris has the business of accommodations.

Essential Pittsburgh: Pitt Chemist Alters Genes With Light

May 11, 2015
pixabay

Gene manipulation by scientists has been taking place for a while. Joining us in studio is Pitt chemist Alexander Deiters who’s had a breakthrough in this area. He is the first to create a light tool for gene editing. We’ll discover how it works and what it means for the future of gene research.

Deiters explains how they target a gene in order to manipulate it: 

"Nothing is 100% perfect, so you always have effects on to other genes, which is certainly not desirable. If you have that systemic in your entire body it could cause significant problems, but if you could limit that to certain locations like cancer for example you may be able to minimize these off target effects using light as a trigger for genetics." -Alexander Deiters

Also in the program, the book "We Could Not Fail" tells the story of the first African Americans in the space program, set in the formative years of the Space Age and prior to the Civil Rights Act. 

John Marino / Wikipedia

The end of a three-year agreement between the Port Authority and the Steelers and Rivers Casino corporations that enabled T riders to reach Allegheny Station free of charge may upset the transit system's free fare zone. Without funds from either organization, the Port Authority must either pick up the tab itself or start charging riders who use the T stop to attend sporting events. Alex Zimmerman has been covering the story for the City Paper and joins us to discuss the issues surrounding the suspension of the deal. 

Zimmerman says the change is due, in part, to the Port Authority's desire to separate subsidies from advertising rights for the two stations on the North Shore:

"Port Authority went to [the subsidizing entities] and said 'We're happy to continue our agreement with you, but we want to retain ad rights.' ... The Steelers and casino aren't saying much about what their negotiating position is." -- Alex Zimmerman

Also in the program, local entrepreneur Mont Handley describes the peat moss substitute that he invented, Margaret J. Krauss tells an untold story about Pittsburgh during WWII, and Johnstown Tomahawks representative Chad Mearns talks about Johnstown's recent recognition as "Hockeyville USA."

In a three-day hearing last week, the United Steelworkers made its case for adjunct professors who work at Duquesne University to collectively bargain with the school for better wages and working conditions. In 2012, a majority of adjunct professors at the university's McAnulty College of Liberal Arts voted to be represented by the Adjunct Faculty Association of the USW. But Duquesne has refused to recognize the AFA-USW, contending that its religious affiliation provides it with an exemption from federal law regarding collective bargaining. We'll talk with Dan Kovalik, the union's lead lawyer in the case and Clint Benjamin, an adjunct English instructor at Duquesne and CCAC.   

"The Catholic church is very clear that they respect the rights of working people to organize, and that is an unconditional right. Charles Douherty and Duquesne cannot answer that concern. They have no basis under their own Catholic faith that they claim to follow for objecting to unionization." - Dan Kovalik

Also on today's program, 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, and Elaine Labalme has summer theater haunts. 

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA News

Last Tuesday, five local high school students engaged the community in a panel discussion focused on keeping classrooms relevant to students' everyday lives and their future goals. Recorded live at the Community Broadcast Center, panelists presented a critical reflection of the standards modern students are held to and how they sometimes overshadow learning. 90.5 WESA's Life of Learning series focuses on learning and education activities, opportunities and challenges in the Greater Pittsburgh area. 

Amma Ababio, for instance, voices concern about where -- and how -- schools and teachers place the emphasis on learning:

"So much of school is because of GPA, because you want to get into a good college for your GPA, because of the SAT test, and it detracts from learning. It detracts from actually learning material. It becomes 'How well can you memorize something in forty-five minutes? How well can you memorize something in two months?'" -- Amma Ababio


Robyn Lambert

If walls could talk could be the premise for a tour of vacant homes taking place this weekend in Wilkinsburg.  The Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation  and Carnegie Mellon University students are combining their efforts to attract potential residents to the borough. How do they plan to accomplish this task? We’ll find out from Wilkinsburg CDC Communications & Outreach Coordinator Marlee Gallagher and Carnegie Mellon School of Public Policy and Management at Heinz College student Kenneth Chu.

Gallagher says that although they're encouraging a change in the area, the community's overall well-being and identity is still in the forefront of the initiative:

"I don't think it is gentrification necessarily. At the WCDC something that we strive to do and will continue to strive to do is to help the existing businesses that are in Wilkinsburg. We're working on a big small marketing campaign to show the Pittsburgh region and beyond what is in Wilkinsburg, what Wilkinsburg has to offer; and we do want more businesses to move in but its not necessarily to push out the businesses that are there. That's not something we ever want to see happen." -Marlee Gallagher

Also in the program, the Austin-based innovation movement titled "Black Sheep" stops in Pittsburgh to hear stories of renewal on its "America's True North" tour and business contributor Rebecca Harris puts a spotlight on Wilkinsburg. 

Fibonacci Blue / flickr

The six Baltimore police officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray have been charged with a number of crimes, including murder and manslaughter. Pitt Law Professor David Harris joins us to explain the details behind the charges and what they mean.

Considering the charges, Harris explains how they figure into the usual categories of homicide charges:

"In the universe of homicide charges, there are different possibilities. One is first-degree murder, one is second-degree murder, then you go to manslaughter and then, maybe, negligent homicide. ... Both of the types of homicide charges involved here do not involve intentional killing. They involve degrees of reckless behavior." -- David Harris

Also in the program, Nazila Fathi talks about her book "The Lonely War," which paints an intense and intricate portrait of post-revolution Iran, and Pittsburgh cartoonist Joe Wos explains Mazetoons, his newly syndicated puzzle/cartoon hybrid.

Chuck LeClaire

This Saturday is the Pittsburgh marathon. In addition to thousands of adults running and walking many children will be running their “final mile” as part of the 2015 Kids of Steel Program. Promoting healthy exercise and nutrition habits in younger runners are Patrice Matamoros, CEO of the Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon, and Michele Nichols, program director for Kids of Steel. (Starts at 20:20)

Matamoros explains that Kids of Steel grew out of the Pittsburgh Marathon's desire to see kids grow up with an early discovery of running as a sport:

"The American Medical Association was starting to say that kids of this generation were going to have a shorter life span than their parents...We certainly didn't want to leave them out and watch their parents and their guardians getting healthier and watching the kids' health not making improvements." -Patrice Matamoros

Also on the program, Dr. Ron Roth, Pittsburgh Marathon medical director and emergency medicine physician joins Dr. Kelley Anderson, overseer of elite runners, to instruct marathon runners on how to stay healthy in Sunday's predicted high heat. Emily Gordon is a biochemistry major at UCLA who won her very first marathon and has already qualified for the 2016 Olympic trials. 

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

In the wake of its 2001 riots, Cincinnati assembled an Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations, the results of which were released earlier this week. Cincinnati police studied community problem solving, revised use-of-force policies, worked to eliminate biased policing and collected data on police stops. In light of the recent events in Baltimore, former Pittsburgh Police officer and overseer of riot control Sheldon Williams, along with Andrew Conte, who was present at the 2001 Cincinnati riots, join us to discuss what other major cities can take away from large-scale riots. 

Giving his analysis of how the Baltimore case showed how rioting can sometimes interfere with the objectives of a demonstration, Conte says: 

"When you have this kind of rioting that goes beyond spreading the message to causing property damage and people are getting injured, they start to lose the impact of the message... The focus has to be on the message and -- yes, breaking the law, perhaps --  but doing it in a way that emboldens your message. In this case, they lost control of the narrative." -- Andrew Conte

Williams emphasizes that demonstrations like the ones seen in Baltimore can get out of hand easily, and that's why law enforcement needs to be ready with an appropriate response:

"This type of behavior has the ability to just spur out of control into a point where people -- and not only just property, but people -- can get hurt. So, that's why you have to have the response necessary to quell that type of activity" -- Sheldon Williams

Also in the program, Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra conductor Robert Bernhardt talk about their upcoming collaborative performance.

AP Photo/Wally Santana

The Nepalese-Bhutanese community is the largest refugee group in Pittsburgh. In the aftermath of last weekend’s devastating earthquake in Nepal, we’ll discover how members of the local Nepalese-Bhutanese community are reaching out to aid their homeland with Bibhuti Aryal President / Co-Founder Rukmini Foundation.

Aryal tells how the actions of aid hope to raise awareness and support the people of Nepal:

"We need help from all our neighbors far and wide and we hope we can get a strong Pittsburgh community to come and mourn with us but also help us with the rebuilding efforts. It's part educational to show the scale of the damage and how much it is effecting our country and our people here as well but also to provide some hope that there is something we can do as a global community to make a difference. - Bibhuti Aryal

Also in the program,  Michael Kobald of the Soarway Foundation had several employees caught in the earthquake. Sasha King explains how networking doesn't have to be an overwhelming process, and Founder and CEO of Belt Publishing Anne Trubek describes how Belt is choosing to anthologize Pittsburgh.

Buzzword Pgh

PNC announced on Saturday that it will grant $1.5 million to Buzzword Pittsburgh, an organization in Homewood that engages families with young children to develop vocabulary and language practices. Buzzword is one project of the Grow Up Great initiative supported by the Carnegie Science Center, the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. Sally McCrady, president and chair of the PNC Foundation, describes PNC's investment and Buzzword Pittsburgh.

Describing the efforts of Buzzword Pittsburgh to connect with children, McCrady explains:

"Fun is the key here, and our partners have just done a fabulous job of working together to create really fun activities that the whole family can be engaged in and really focus and take advantage of kids' natural sense of curiosity." -- Sally McCrady

Also in the program, retired Colonel Stuart Herrington shares stories from Vietnam in a new PBS documentary, Margaret J. Krauss tells the story of South Park and business contributor Rebecca Harris describes the business of medical devices.

The American Council on Germany

The goal of the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh has been to promote a better understanding of international affairs. Since 2010 Steve Sokol has been president of the organization. Before he leaves the Steel City to take on a new role as President-Elect of the American Council on Germany, he joins us for an exit interview.

Sokol says that engaging the younger generation in global affairs is not always easy, but not doing so would leave the city at a great disadvantage:

"It's a much bigger argument to be making constantly...that what happens around the world matters to us. I firmly believe that in this increasingly multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual world of the 21st century, even if one doesn't go out into the world, the world is coming to us." -Steven Sokol

Also on today's program, Nafari Vanaski writes her final column for the Tribune-Review, and Pittsburgh's oldest commercial building is in danger of being beyond repair. 

Brock Fleeger / flickr

Former Pirates pitcher Kent Tekulve was known as a workhorse out of the bullpen during his 16 year Major League Baseball career. He led the majors in games pitched four times, appearing in 90 or more in three different seasons. Tekulve saved three games in the 1979 World Series including the winner, as the Pirates defeated the Baltimore Orioles. But the biggest save of his life came last fall when he received a life-saving heart transplant. Teke, as he is known, joins us to talk about his recovery and return to the airwaves as a member of the Pirates broadcast team.

Kent Tekulve (starting at 28:10) remains humble despite all of his successes:

I never thought of myself as a Hall of Famer. I think I'm just very proud to be able to do what I was able to do and to compete against a whole lot of Hall of Famers and have some success against them while I was playing.

Also in today's show: Pittsburgh design firm MAYA and StoryCorps team up to create a mobile version of the StoryCorps recording and archiving experience, and the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds begin their season, giving the sport of Ultimate Disc a firm foothold in the Pittsburgh area. 

Lawrence Jackson / Wikipedia

Mayor Peduto recently announced his support for Natalia Rudiak's call for a Will of Council in regards to an international trade deal that might go straight to Congress without input from state and city representatives. Rudiak, along with other local and national legislators, worries that "fast-tracking" the trade agreement with Asian nations will give multinational corporations new, sweeping offshore profits and limit sovereign governments from regulating environmental quality, land use, food safety and telecommunications. Rudiak joins us to explain her reservations about the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Asked to discuss critics' concerns regarding the trade deal, Rudiak explains that one of the biggest fears is loss of employment:

"We're talking about hundreds of thousands of jobs being potentially lost. That's what we saw from NAFTA, that's what we saw from CAFTA, that's what we saw from the U.S./Korea trade deal. ... What's scary about this is that we're talking about 21 countries that represent 40% of the country's GDP, so it's sort of like NAFTA on steroids." -- Natalia Rudiak

Also in the program, 1960s pop star and native Pittsburgher Lou Christie looks back on his musical career as he his honored by the Pittsburgh Rock 'n Roll Legends Award, and travel contributor Elaine Labalme warns us to not wait and to start planning for the beach.

theatlantic.com

As part of the EverPower Earth Day Festival today in Market Square, Robert Swan is appearing in Pittsburgh. Swan is the first man ever to walk to both the North and South poles. He is currently an advocate for the protection of Antarctica and renewable energy.

Swan explains how traveling through wilderness changes a person's perception of the world:

"You realize that actually we, the human race, tend to feel that we can dominate the wilderness...dominate our planet. When you have walked the South pole or the North pole you know how small we really are, how insignificant we really are and how our world is a hell of a lot more powerful and if we carry on as we are it'll just spit us out."

Also in the program, Chatham is in the process of building the first campus in the world to be built solely for the study of sustainability, and Joylette Portlock of Communitopia helps us to see the positive side of a historically negative topic: climate change and our evolving environment.

dfbphotos / flickr

Since 2004, the amount of radon present in Pennsylvania air has steadily increased -- an increase that our guest Dr. Joan Casey notes began the same year that the state's first fracking sites became operational. Dr. Casey recently published her findings that quantify PA radon levels, and she joins us to discuss the possible cause of its decade-long spike as well as what PA residents can do to protect themselves from the toxic gas, which is the second leading cause of lung cancer nationwide. 

Asked about the importance of checking radon levels in the home -- especially homes near hydraulic fracturing sites -- Casey explains:

"Radon is colorless, it's odorless, but it's also this carcinogenic gas. And so, it is important for people in Pennsylvania to be checking their indoor radon levels because we know that historically Pennsylvania has had a lot of radon, and there are potentially new pathways opening up due to this industry." -- Dr. Joan Casey

Also in the program, Illah Nourbakhsh and Bea Dias explain how CMU's CREATE Lab has developed an affordable way for families to test the indoor air quality of their homes, Jody Bell describes a lending program for the devices that is being offered by the Squirrel Hill branch of the Carnegie Library, Margaret J. Krauss takes us through the saga of the polio vaccine, and Rebecca Harris breaks down mobile businesses.

Borya / flickr

A conversation with award winning New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast about her graphic memoir “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant” which takes a head on look at issues involved with aging, dying and death. She's speaking in Pittsburgh on Thursday at Temple Rodef Shalom in Oakland to benefit Family Hospice and Palliative Care.

Chast explains her reasoning for sketching her mother as she lay dying-- it jump started her memoir:

"It was something to do. There's nothing really to do when you're sitting at your parents' bed side and you want to be with them but they're in that stage of life where they're not really talking anymore and sleeping most of the time. I wanted to be with her in a deeper way and for me drawing is part of that."

Also in this program, Nancy Spielberg's latest film, Above and Beyond, tells the story of a group of Jewish American pilots flying for Israel in its War of Independence. 

Lollie-Pop / flickr

What’s being described as a major effort to forge a new model of urban growth and development is underway. The P4 international summit has brought experts from around the world to the Steel City and we’ll talk with one of them, Amory Lovins, Co-founder and Chief Scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute. He’ll talk about what the renewable power revolution means for cities like ours.    Amory Lovins shares some of the benefits of using renewable energy in relation to fossil fuels: 

"Just the routine improvement in both wind and solar power have made them already cheaper than new gas power in almost all of the country."

 Also in this hour Jason and Melora Angst from the Artisan Tattoo parlor speak about their plan to save their shop, and Elaine Labalme shares the best hiking and biking spots in Pittsburgh. 


Scott Davidson / flickr

This week a video was released of an Arizona officer using his police cruiser to intentionally run down a suspect-- the latest event involving a police officer's overt use of force. It comes shortly after the shooting death of Walter Scott, as he was running away, by an officer in South Carolina. Are law enforcement officials using an increasing amount of what is sometimes deadly force? We're posing that question to Pitt Law Professor David Harris.

Harris suggests that while it's unlikely that deadly force on the part of police has actually increased, video footage of it has become more common, and increased accountability has followed:

"I don't know that we have evidence that it's worse. I do think there's a greater awareness, a much greater likelihood that we'll have video proof, and, you know, when you see it, even on only a cellphone camera, it's just different than hearing a report of it afterwards. And that's why I think that this seems to be a kind of watershed moment." -- David Harris

Also in the program, a new book co-edited by Trabian Shorters observes the everyday lives of 40 black men, paining a picture of how black men are "living, leading and succeeding" in modern America.

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