90.5 WESA's Essential Pittsburgh

Essential Pittsburgh airs weekdays from noon to 1 p.m. and is repeated at 8 p.m.
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, as well as featuring 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.
  • Dial (412) 256-8783 to leave a question or comment before or after the show.
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  • Continue the conversation on our station Facebook page.
  • Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
  • What stories are we missing? Send your thoughts to esspgh@wesa.fm 
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Essential Pittsburgh
4:37 pm
Mon November 25, 2013

State Transportation Funding Passed Through Compromise

Credit joseph a / Flickr

The PA state legislature has finally approved a transportation bill that would fund mass transit and infrastructure improvements. Governor Tom Corbett and many others in the state have been pushing for its passage for well over a year.

State capitol correspondent Mary Wilson says by leading the most recent round of compromises between Republican and Democratic Representatives, the House speaker should be credited for the final adoption of this contentious bill.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:33 pm
Mon November 25, 2013

Open Source Design Offers Greater Control Over Personal Gadgets

Credit Mariano Real Pérez / flickr

As the devices we use on a regular basis become more advanced and intuitive to use, they’ve also become easier to personalize. As a result, consumers wield more power over their own technology.

Matthew Casebeer Computer Scientist for MAYA Design, a consulting group that’s focused on simplifying devices and data. He finds that open source  design benefits all who share information through their devices, not just computer scientists that work on fixing problems for large groups of users.

He's interested in creating user-friendly authoring tools that allow consumers to write their own code.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:02 pm
Mon November 25, 2013

The Dark Side of Social Media: Criminal Activity Displayed Online

Credit Mehfuz Hossain / flickr

People share so much of their lives on social media, from vacation photos to music and book choices. This over-sharing of information has extended to the bold and casual admittance of criminal activity.

David Harris, Distinguished Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law University of Pittsburgh School of Law says the rape case in Steubenville, Ohio is an example of how ever-present social media can play an important role in criminal cases.

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Essential Pittsburgh
7:32 pm
Fri November 22, 2013

For Drew Carey, Stand Up is Not So Different From Hosting Price is Right

Comedian and host, Drew Carey
Credit Drew Carey / Facebook

Drew Carey is a stand-up comic, turned actor and producer, who produced and hosted two hit shows simultaneously, the long-running ABC sitcom The Drew Carey Show, which ran from 1995-2004, and the improvisational comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway?

In 2007, Carey became host of The Price Is Right, succeeding longtime host Bob Barker.

While he continues to have a successful TV career, Carey says stand-up comedy is something he's always enjoyed doing and it helps him in his work on the Price is Right.

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Essential Pittsburgh
7:01 pm
Fri November 22, 2013

Pittsburghers Relive Speeches of JFK & Share Remembrances

President Kennedy riding in a motorcade through Dallas, TX before being shot.
Credit Walt Cisco / Dallas Morning News

Fifty years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Pittsburgh's Prime Stage Theatre is presenting The Kennedy Legacy, a program where audience members can relive the powerful speeches of President John F. Kennedy and share remembrances of that time period.

Prime Stage artistic director Wayne Brinda was 13 years old in 1963. And even though he was just a kid, Brinda remembers exactly where he was when he heard the president had been shot. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:25 pm
Fri November 22, 2013

Assassination of JFK Set The Stage For Breaking News Coverage

CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite removing his glasses as he announces that President Kennedy is dead.
Credit CBS archives / Wikipedia

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy changed the lives of many, as well as the trajectory of world and media history. 

For professor Jeff Ritter, chair of the department of communication at La Roche College, TV coverage of the assassination set the stage for breaking news coverage in the future, and the trust Americans would have in veteran journalists such as Walter Cronkite.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:22 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

The Challenges Of Suburban Homelessness and Education

Homeless student Kevin Lee, Penn Hills graduate and winner of a national scholarship
Michael Lynch 90.5 WESA

Listen to an Essential Pittsburgh conversation hosted by Kevin Gavin, 90.5 WESA Executive Producer for Special News Projects.

Guests include: Elizabeth Kneebone, Fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-author of Confronting Suburban Poverty, Chuck Keenan, administrator in Allegheny County's Bureau of Homeless Services, Kyoko Henson, a home and school visitor for the Penn Hills School District, Joe Lagana, founder and CEO of the Homeless Children's Education Fund, and homeless student Kevin Lee, winner of a national scholarship, with his mother Tamara Williams

There are nearly 20,000 homeless school age children in Pennsylvania and that’s a small portion of the 1.2 million across the country.

Local and national experts gathered in Pittsburgh on Friday for the fourth annual Homeless Education Network Summit to discuss an issue of rising concern: suburban poverty, homelessness and the challenge of education.

Since 2000, the number of poor people living in the suburbs grew by 64 percent. And today, about 16.4 million poor people are living in suburbs, compared to 13.4 million in the cities.

Allegheny County is no different.

In the Pittsburgh region alone, the suburban poverty rate increased 15.7 percent between 2000 and 2011; while the city saw a 6.3 percent increase.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:20 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

State Schools Struggle for Funding

Edinboro University is one of four PA-owned universities that has made budget cuts in the last year.
Credit Galladia / flickr

Pennsylvania's state-owned universities are in an uncomfortable situation. Declining student enrollment numbers have left universities like Edinboro, Clarion, East Stroudsburg and Mansfield with less tuition revenue and the unfortunate task of cutting programs and faculty.

In the increasingly competitive higher education market, these state schools are struggling to retain students.

To address this competition, schools add more amenities that budgets may not allow.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:15 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

Western Europe Finds Common Ground in Braddock, PA

North Braddock, overlooking the steelworks.
Credit Joseph A. / Flickr

Recently a French film crew came to Braddock, PA sensing that the fate of Braddock might well be the same for Western Europe.

What they discovered is: From George Washington to Andrew Carnegie, through the French and Indian War, to the collapse of the steel industry, these few acres along the Monongahela River have always been a battleground.

The film Braddock America – which played at the Cannes Film Festival and the Three Rivers Film Festival– lets the people of Braddock tell their stories, as they weave together the past, the present, and the future.

Co-directors Gabriella Kessler and Jean-Loïc Portron have different backgrounds and experiences but they found common ground in Braddock.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:31 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

Pittsburghers Aiding the Victims of Typhoon Haiyan

Loading medical supplies to ship to the Philippines.
Credit Brother's Brother Foundation / Facebook

In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines on November 8th, organizations all over the world have been sending aid to the victims.

Locally, Brother’s Brother Foundation is working with the Philippine American Medical Society of Western Pennsylvania to move medical supplies to the Philippines.

Luke Hingson, president of Brother’s Brother says his organization has been active in the Philippines since the 1950s. One of the inherent problems when responding to natural disasters is the uncertainty of what to expect from the situation.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:55 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

In Line Behind A Billion People: What Scarcity in China Means For Pittsburgh

Where can Pittsburgh fit in when it comes to the world's fastest growing economy?
Credit Lim CK / Flickr

China has one of the world's fastest growing economies. But, how do changes in China affect people in Pittsburgh?

PNC Vice President and Senior International Economist Bill Adams is co-author of the new book, In Line Behind A Billion People: How Scarcity Will Define China’s Ascent in the Next Decade.

Looking at the state of its current economy, and projections for the future, Adams is concerned about what happens if China runs out of the things it needs to keep growing.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:02 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

Arsenals & Agreements: Pittsburgh's Role in WWI & Reshaping Europe

The Pittsburgh Agreement historic marker sits at the corner of Penn Avenue and Seventh Street in the Pittsburgh Cultural District
Credit Joseph / flickr

Seeds of Independent Czechoslovakia Began in Pittsburgh

Behind the doors of the Czechoslovakian Nationality Room in the University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning is a copy of the 1918 Pittsburgh Agreement.

The little-known document outlines the desires of Czech and Slovak community members to form an independent Czechoslovakian nation. E. Maxine Bruhns, director of the University of Pittsburgh Nationality Rooms and Intercultural Exchange Programs, celebrates the city as the founding region for Czech independence.

The arrival of the Agreement’s primary author, Thomas Masaryk, spurred what Bruhns says was the “largest political rally of its time.” He came to Pittsburgh to seek support for the new nation.

Following his successful visit, the document was sent to President Woodrow Wilson, who began to recognize an independent Czechoslovakia.

Pittsburgh in World War I: Arsenal of the Allies

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:36 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

When "Silly Remarks" Become Landmarks: The Gettysburg Address 150 Years Later

An 1863 daguerreotype of Lincoln, at the time of the Gettysburg Address. He was 54 years old.
Credit Alexander Gardner / Wikipedia

150 years ago President Abraham Lincoln stood in Gettysburg, PA, at the site of one of the most important battles of the American Civil War to consecrate a cemetery for those who died for the Union cause. Lincoln’s speech was brief but had a lasting historical impact.

In the new book titled, The Greatest Speech Ever: The Remarkable Story of Abraham Lincoln and His Gettysburg Address, Judge James L. Cotton, Jr. looks at the influence Lincoln's famous words.

“The Gettysburg Address has just as much meaning and relevance today as it did 150 years ago,” says Cotton.

But he says the address received little appreciation in Lincoln’s lifetime.

The Retraction Heard 'Round the World

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:50 pm
Mon November 18, 2013

Banning Contact Sports for Young Players

Bob Dvorchak is sports writer emeritus for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Credit Bob Dvorchak / Sports n'at

Robert Morris University recently reported that nearly half of all Americans say they would favor a ban on contact football for kids that have not yet entered middle school.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sports writer emeritus, Bob Dvorchak said on Essential Pittsburgh, “I think it speaks to the heightened awareness of head injuries on all levels of sports and especially youth sports.”

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:02 pm
Mon November 18, 2013

When Trying Cold Cases, Time Can Be the Biggest Challenge

Credit University of Pittsburgh Law School

We've made considerable advancements in the last several decades of forensic science.  DNA testing has given us the ability to pinpoint culprits that may have never been caught just a few decades ago. 

This opens up the possibility for cold cases like the recent trial of the 1979 Catherine Janet Walsh homicide to finally go to court, and for justice to hopefully be obtained for the victims. 

But new evidence doesn’t always mean justice will be cut and dry.

Essential Pittsburgh legal contributor and University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris, says the most difficult challenge when opening a cold case is tracking down witnesses.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:33 pm
Mon November 18, 2013

Hedging Your Bets and Other Solutions for Workplace Dissatisfaction

Credit Miranda Everitt / Flickr

For many Americans, the workplace is exceptionally challenging for all of the wrong reasons. Some employees hate their jobs because they’re not in a position where they can excel, or perhaps they're victims of workplace bullying. Essential Pittsburgh's Paul Guggenheimer explored these reasons with Sasha King, independent career consultant.

“There is a big issue in that a lot of employees are overqualified for their positions, yet because of such a highly competitive job market, people are sticking with jobs they normally would have moved on from already,” says King.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:36 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

Gen. Michael Hayden on Why NSA Spying is Reasonable

Credit CIA / Wikipedia

In the wake of the Edward Snowden/NSA scandal, people all over the world are up in arms about their personal information being collected without their knowledge.

In America, citizens think their privacy is protected by the Fourth Amendment.

"Whatever happened to prohibiting unreasonable search and seizure?” asks Essential Pittsburgh host, Paul Guggenheimer.

According to General Michael Hayden, former Director of the CIA and NSA, the keyword is unreasonable.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:16 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

What's the Big Deal About Big Data?

Credit Flickr

Day in and day out, we generate data through credit card transactions, mobile Apps, even when we’re commuting to work, we’re generating data. And all of that data has potential uses for the private or public sector.

This week, some of the leading minds in what’s now called big data gathered in Pittsburgh to talk about ways to utilize this information.

Jerome Pesenti, Chief Scientist of big data at IBM, Pittsburgh DataWorks board member and co-founder of Vivisimo, says he wants to make big data more accessible and make it possible to draw more insight from the data generated.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:23 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

Robert Reich Discusses Wealth Gap & the Film Inequality for All

Robert Reich discusses the problems and possible changes that can be made to create widespread prosperity in America.
Credit Inequality for All Film / Facebook

The number of Pittsburgh residents living at or below the poverty level has increased nearly 9% since the fall of 2007, according to the Urban Institute

The documentary, Inequality for All, focuses on the fact that one half of all Americans have zero wealth, no savings, no assets that outweigh their debts, no retirement savings or investments.

The film grew out of the economic lectures of former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich at the University of California at Berkeley.

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Behavioral Health
4:48 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Is Internet Addiction as Damaging as Drugs, Alcohol and Gambling?

Credit ebayink / flickr

Internet addiction is said to be more pervasive than alcoholism in the United States, and while treatment is available, how do you know when you need it?

Dr. Kimberly Young is founder of the Center for Internet Addiction at Bradford Regional Medical Center in central Pennsylvania, the first inpatient treatment program for Internet addiction in the nation.

Dr. Young says she first encountered internet addiction in 1994 when she learned that a friend’s husband was spending more than 50 hours a week in AOL chat rooms, at a time when internet usage was billed by the hour.

“It made me wonder, ‘could people get addicted to the internet in the same way we talk about drugs, alcohol, food, and gambling?’,” says Young.

From there she met people who have experienced job-loss, weight-loss and ruined relationships, because they couldn’t control their use of the internet.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:06 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Bill Peduto's New Administration More Diverse Than Pittsburgh Itself?

Bill Peduto once referred to as the mayor of the East End, invites the whole city to take part in his administration.
Credit Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

As Bill Peduto rolls out ideas for his new administration, Pittsburgh City Paper editor Chris Potter notes that the transition is an interesting honeymoon time period for the city and the mayor-elect. Diversity, accountability, and transparency have been common buzzwords for the emerging team.

He symbolically embraced the diversity of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods when he chose to hold his election night victory party at Homewood's Greater Pittsburgh Coliseum.

From there Potter says the Peduto cabinet is shaping up to be more diverse than the city of Pittsburgh itself, and not just for racial and ethnic reasons.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:29 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Getting Away With That Special Someone Before the Holidays

Find some relaxing and scenic places to visit before the hustle and bustle of the holidays. El Tovar Hotel is one of the premiere lodges in the Grand Canyon region.
Credit Dustin Williams / Flickr

With winter on the way, there’s no better time to escape the early snows by flying south, taking in gorgeous views, or embracing the snowy winter, with high alpine excursions.

Travel contributor Elaine Labalme shares her top four favorite pre-holiday destinations.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:22 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

No Horizon Anymore: A Yearlong Journey at the Bottom of the World

Still from the film No Horizon Anymore
Credit Keith Reimink / No Horizon

When Keith Reimink graduated from film school in New York City it was just a year after 9/11, and there was no film work to be found anywhere in the city.

His solution? Get as far away as possible and work as a cook in the interior of Alaska. This job spawned fifteen years of cooking and traveling.

Reimink's travels eventually lead him to the South Pole in 2009 and resulted in the self-directed, self-funded documentary No Horizon Anymore: A Year Long Journey at the Bottom of the World

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:04 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

A Conversation with the Iconic Diane Rehm

Diane Rehm in studio A
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Celebrated NPR host, Diane Rehm conducts her daily interview show with a distinct curiosity and a distinctive voice.

As host of The Diane Rehm Show for more than 30 years she was the first radio talk show host to interview a sitting president in the Oval Office.

With no formal radio training, Rehm says she has always felt at home on the air.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:24 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Looking at the Achievement Gap, Students Still Left Behind

Dr. Pedro Noguera
Credit University of Pittsburgh Center for Urban Education

When the No Child Left Behind program was implemented in 2002, it had an overall goal of closing the achievement gap between disadvantaged student groups and well-off students and making schools and teachers accountable for the performance of their students on new math and reading standardized tests.

More than a decade later, the program has not had the desired results, says Pedro Noguera, the Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University. Students and schools in lower income areas continue to not do as well on standardized tests as students in more affluent areas.

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