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.
  • Follow #EPLive on Twitter or tweet your question to @esspgh.
  • 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
4:44 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

Rebecca Harris Travels to Washington With a Focus on Small Business

The White House Business Council hosts roundtables throughout the year to get input from the business community at-large.
Credit Chris Wieland / Flickr

The bad weather currently blanketing the northeast did not keep our intrepid business contributor, Rebecca Harris from making it to the nation's capital Monday.  She sat on a business roundtable at the White House which focused on the government's interest in local businesses. 

Harris received the invitation from Sam Brown, Director of the White House Business Council, a part of the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs.

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Essential Pittsburgh
1:54 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

The World Cafe Sense of Place Series Comes to Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh area band, Donora will be featured on the World Cafe Sense of Place Series this week
Credit World Cafe Live / WXPN

David Dye, host of WXPN's World Cafe Live came to Pittsburgh back in November for the Sense of Place Series. The collection of interviews and performances airs this week.

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Essential Pittsburgh
12:00 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch: Bricolage Raises Funds Following Theft

Last Saturday, during a production of Bricolage Theater's "Midnight Radio Animated Holidaze" show, a thief robbed the offices of computers and personal items. Ironically, Animated Holidaze includes a telling of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

In an email sent out this morning the owner of Bricolage wrote:

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How We Grieve
3:30 am
Tue December 10, 2013

For Victims of Violence, Memorials Built to Last

After his 26-year-old brother Anthony was killed in a robbery in 2008, Jason Rivers (pictured) and his family decided to dedicate an East Liberty basketball court in his memory.
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

How We Grieve: This the first in an occasional series exploring the ways people express their feelings in the aftermath of a death.

Some memorials to homicide victims are made of flowers, candles and photographs. Others are built to last.

Memorials to victims in the Pittsburgh region often hide in plain sight, but their message is far from veiled. Those behind the memorials say they're an attempt to turn despair into something positive.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:57 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

In 2013, Words Matter in Sports, But Profanity is Unavoidable

After a long tenure at the Associated Press John Affleck is now Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society at Penn State.
Credit Penn State University / College of Communications

In a recent op-ed for the Associated Press, sports journalist  John Affleck, examines modern sports culture and language. As evident from the title of the article, in 2013 Words Matter, Even in Sports.

“Really, I think it was the Incognito/Martin mess down in Miami that really drove it home for me that what we were really seeing this year was a set of stories where the behavior of sports figures was just completely beyond the bounds of anything you would think of as acceptable in a professional environment.”

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:37 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Black and White Festival Focuses on Holiday Diversity

Mark Clayton Southers is the founder of Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company and the Black and White Festival. The festival is playing until December 17 in the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre.
Credit Mark Clayton Southers

A decade ago, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre embarked on a yearly event called the Theater Festival in Black and White, which pairs black directors with white playwrights and vice versa.

These one-act holiday plays offer an opportunity for local theater artists from different backgrounds to work together in a professional environment. Pittsburgh Playwrights founder Mark Clayton Southers and Managing Director Eric Smith have been working very closely with the Black and White Festival.

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Essential Pittsburgh
1:57 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Making Child Abuse Easier to Define in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania legislators could vote this week to overhaul the state's child abuse laws.
Credit 90.5 WESA

The Pennsylvania Senate could be voting on legislation this week to overhaul the state's child abuse laws.

Three Senate committees have advanced six bills, the most important of which would change the definition of what constitutes child abuse, making it tougher and bringing it into line with the standards used in many other states.

The new wording would include, “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to a child.” It also lists a number of acts that would constitute abuse, such as kicking, burning or forcefully shaking or striking a child less than one year old.

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Military
12:26 pm
Sun December 8, 2013

As Armed Forces Scale Back, PA Young People Often Disappointed

Recruiters for the U.S. Marines canvass shopping plazas, high schools and job fairs for potential soldiers.
Credit Alexandra Kanik / PublicSource

An all-honors student and varsity soccer player, Luc LaChance could have had his pick of colleges when he left Slippery Rock High School in Butler County.

Instead, he chose to enlist with the U.S. Marines, where he will be trained as an infantryman — what the 17-year-old describes as “the common soldier.”

Eric Enslow, a 25-year-old Shaler Township resident with a master’s degree, joined the Navy after an exhaustive search for teaching jobs in Southwest Pennsylvania. His choice in the military was an intelligence job, which he was denied because of student-loan debt.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:28 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Pittsburghers Pay Tribute to Nelson Mandela

Art Baldwin holding memorabilia from the 1993 South African election and 1994 Inauguration of Nelson Mandela
Art Baldwin

As the world pays tribute to former South Afican President Nelson Mandela, two Pittsburghers share their personal remembrances with us. Brenda Berrian from the University of Pittsburgh Africana studies department met Mandela on December 6, 1991 when he visited Pittsburgh. She called him "South Africa’s greatest son."

“He was always a family oriented man. A plain man, wanting to be with his children, his grandchildren, all of his friends. He said, ‘I did what I did on behalf of myself and the future of my family and other generations.’ But he basically just wanted to be in his house surrounded by his loved ones. So he would not want to be on a pedestal.”

Pittsburgh area resident, Arthur Baldwin, was a senior level official for the National Energy and Technology Laboratory and the chair of the continent of Africa for fossil energy for the US Department of Energy. He worked with Mandela in South Africa on reconstruction and development of the nation's energy plan.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:50 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Ending Street Harassment in Pittsburgh

The four founders of the Pittsburgh chapter of Hollaback! are (Left to Right) Alison Winters, Akirah Robinson, Heather Dougherty, and Maggie Graham.
Credit Hollaback! Pittsburgh / http://pittsburgh.ihollaback.org/

Street harassment is a public form of sexual harassment that many people have witnessed, experienced, or engaged in.

For the most part, women are told to ignore cat calls and lewd behavior when walking down the street, but what if it happens on a daily basis?

Hollaback is an online initiative that was created in New York City to give people a place to vent or talk about their experiences with public harassment.

Now four Pittsburgh women have formed a local chapter of Hollaback.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:06 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

Rules of the Road & Off-Road for ATVs & Dirt Bikes in Pittsburgh

Many are seeking tighter laws to prevent ATV and off-roading in resident areas around the city.
Credit Robby Green / flickr

Off-road riding on ATVs, and dirt bikes can be a great form of recreation for people of all ages.

But with recent reports of these vehicles being driven through Pittsburgh neighborhoods illegally, some residents are looking for tighter restrictions.

Tom Mershimer is an ATV and off-road motorcycle instructor Mines and Meadows  ATV/RV Resort who has been riding and racing off-road vehicles for most of his life. He's an enthusiastic rider, but he's seen some of the problems when it comes to the rules of the road, and off-road.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:32 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

Museums in Washington D.C. Have More to See This Fall

From free museums to unique restaurants, travel contributor Elaine Labalme talks about why now is one of the best times to visit Washington D.C.
Credit Noclip / wikipedia

With summer heat a distant memory, plenty of free museums and not a lot of travel time required – it’s a great time to visit our nation’s capital.

Travel contributor Elaine Labalme shares some of her favorite spots in Washington D.C. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:29 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

Everlasting Holiday Television Classics with Joe Wos

The soundtrack of A Charlie Brown Christmas was a daring endeavor for CBS and Vince Guaraldi
Credit Guaraldi / Wikipedia


A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and How the Grinch Stole Christmas are holiday television staples.

They are aired every single year despite being filmed several decades ago. So why do they still endure?

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:38 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

Vanished: The Missing Men of WWII

Wil S. Hylton is a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine, and author of Vanished: The 60 Year Search for the Missing Men of WWII
Credit Wil Hylton / Facebook

In his new book, Vanished: the Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II, author Wil S. Hylton recounts the story of a group of missing WWII servicemen.

"The Big Stoop Crew" got it’s name from its commanding officer, Frank Arhar, a native of Johnstown. Described as a big, incredibly friendly man, his nickname “ Big Stoop” came from a popular friendly giant character in a popular 1940 serial film. Once the group got their own plane, they named it and their crew after him.

Hylton says he first discovered this story as an embedded journalist with the Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command, also known as J-PAC. Their mission is to track down missing aircraft from the last one hundred years of military conflict, and attempt to recover and identify the remains of military personnel.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:30 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

New WWII Memorial Reflects Pittsburgh in Glass & Steel

The Southwest PA WWII Memorial is due to be unveiled Friday on the North Shore
Credit SWPA WWII Memorial

This Friday, Southwestern Pennsylvania World War II memorial will be unveiled on the North Shore. Larry Kirkland, the artist behind the project says it was a long time coming.

“The memorial has had four different locations and four different designs. It really has been a challenge. No one had any idea how complicated building something like this would be and we had no idea how to go about fundraising for it,” he says.

The memorial is meant to represent Pittsburgh's unique role in the war, "very quickly they shifted from making pickles to making airplanes" he explains.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:37 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Ambassador Peter Tomsen on a Regional Way Forward for Afghanistan

Peter Tomsen will be speaking at a conference titled, “Afghanistan: A Regional Way Forward” at the University of Pittsburgh this Thursday and Friday.
Credit World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh

As the year draws to a close, many Americans are looking forward to 2014, the year we're scheduled to withdraw combat forces from Afghanistan, ending the longest war in US history.

But many questions remain about the roles the global community and Afghanistan’s neighboring nations will play in the years to come.

US Ambassador Peter Tomsen, a University of Pittsburgh alumni, returns to Pittsburgh this week to try to address those questions.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:06 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Millennials Driving the Business of Tattoos

Over one-third of all Millennials have at least one tattoo.
Credit Kenzie Saunders / Flickr

Tattoos were once the domain of sailors and bad guys in movies and television. Over the past two decades the art of inking has increased.

Tattoo parlors are everywhere and they’ve achieved the ultimate pop culture status of reality shows devoted to the craft.

Business contributor Rebecca Harris says Millennials are driving the trend.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:30 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

The Jewish 20th Century Through the Experiences of One Family

One of David Laskin's relatives who immigrated to the US was Aunt Itel, a "genius at branding" who founded the Maidenform bra company.
Credit David Laskin

David Laskin is a Seattle based writer and author of the award-winning book, The Children’s Blizzard.

In his latest work, The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century, Laskin tells the stories of three branches of his family: European victims of the Holocaust, pioneers of Palestine, and those who immigrated to America and founded the Maidenform Bra Company.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:01 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

Remembering Dr. Rex Crawley

We remember the work of Dr. Rex Crawley
Credit Robert Morris University

Dr. Rex Crawley was a longtime professor at Robert Morris University and founder and co-director of the Black Male Leadership and Development Institute.

He died last week of complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was 49.

We spoke with him in June, as the institute’s week-long workshops were getting underway and talked about the need for such an institution in Southwestern PA.

Dr. Crawley is survived by his wife, Daria and two sons, Xavier and Vaughan.

Essential Pittsburgh
3:40 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

Jockeying Begins For the Role of City Council President

Current City Council President, Darlene Harris
Credit pittsburghpa.gov

As Bill Peduto gets set to take over the mayor's office, in Pittsburgh City Council the jockeying to overtake Darlene Harris as president has begun.

Pittsburgh City Paper editor Chris Potter says in his opinion, the three likely candidates would be Harris, Ricky Burgess and Bruce Kraus.

While both Burgess and Kraus bring more diversity to a position that has been predominantly heterosexual and white, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writer Nafari Vanaski says the focus should be on their credentials, not just the fact that they represent minority groups.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:56 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

Rounding Out High School & College Football Season with Bob Dvorchak

Bob Dvorchak talks about why so many universities now go to bowl games.
Credit Pallyboy33 / Flickr

December marks the convergence of three major events in the sports world, the start of bowl games for College Football, PA State playoffs for High School football championships, and the deer-hunting season.

Bob Dvorchak , Pittsburgh Post Gazette Sportswriter emeritus and host of the blog, Sports ‘n ‘at, shows his viewpoint on the bowls and says the motivation for having so many of them is simple.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:44 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

Racial Inequality in America’s Neighborhoods

Professor Patrick Sharkey talks about his new book on neighborhoods and racial inequality
Credit NYU School of Social Work

In the new book, Stuck in Place: Urban Neighborhoods and the End of Progress Toward Racial Equality, Dr. Patrick Sharkey, an associate professor of sociology at New York University, explores what he calls some of the most persistent forms of racial inequality.

From gaps in income to academic test scores, he looks at race and neighborhoods over multiple generations.

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Essential Pittsburgh
1:01 pm
Wed November 27, 2013

Author Amy Tan Explores Her Family Story with New Perspective

Author Amy Tan was in town for the Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures Monday night speaker series
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5WESA

Through her new novel The Valley of Amazement author Amy Tan explores the struggles of mother-daughter relationships.

She says the staging of the book's characters in a Chinese courtesan house, was partly inspired by what she learned from an old photo of Chinese women, which reminded her of her grandmother.

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Essential Pittsburgh
1:00 pm
Wed November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving & Hanukkah Traditions Converge with Thanksgivukkah

American Gothikkah is just one of the images used to popularize the once in a lifetime holiday, Thanksgivukkah.
Credit Thanksgivukkah/Modern Tribe / Facebook

This year we will experience a once in a lifetime convergence of holidays. Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah occur on the same day.

In celebration of what she calls a "Jewish-American mashup," Dana Reichman Gitell, a native of Squirrel Hill, has popularized the term “Thanksgivukkah” online.

She says most people are tickled by the playful cultural juxtaposition of imagery that can be found on sites like Modern Tribe.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:35 pm
Tue November 26, 2013

Millennials Return Home: The Business of the Boomerang

Credit Rebecca Harris / Chatham Center for Women's Entrepreneurship

As Thomas Wolfe famously stated, “You can’t go home again.” Yet millennials in Pittsburgh aren’t taking heed.

Along with Cleveland and Albuquerque, Pittsburgh was recently listed in an article by The Atlantic as a town luring back its townies.

Business contributor Rebecca Harris comments on this trend and how it can affect the city’s demographics and economy.

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