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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  • What stories are we missing? Send your thoughts to esspgh@wesa.fm 
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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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Essential Pittsburgh
5:04 pm
Tue November 12, 2013

Working Like a Dog

Cindy Otto at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center trains dogs and aims to use them to detect diseases in humans.
Credit John Donges/Penn Vet / wdc

Dogs are called man’s best friend for good reason. They have served with distinction in the military, sniffed out bombs and been caring companions to people with disabilities.

New research now pinpoints advances in the use of dogs to diagnose human diseases and help solve environmental problems.

Dr. Cindy Otto, of the University of Pennsylvania’s Working Dog Center, notes that some diseases and bacteria have a special odor, which dogs can smell. Medical studies in Europe have shown that some dogs can even pinpoint people with cancer.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:36 pm
Tue November 12, 2013

Trend Shows More Shelter Animals Find Homes

Credit Jerry Wong / flickr

Lost and stray animals are finding their way to better homes, according to a recent trend at animal shelters.

According to business contributor Rebecca Harris of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University, fewer pets are landing in animal shelters and the number of euthanized dogs and cats has decreased. What has emerged is a trend toward adopting these unwanted animals, instead of going to a pet shop or breeder.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:29 pm
Tue November 12, 2013

Blood Brother Comes Back to Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh native Rocky Braat is known as Rocky Anna by the orphans he lives with in India, Anna is a term of endearment meaning big brother.
Credit Blood Brother Film

This week, the award-winning documentary, Blood Brother comes to Pittsburgh's  Three Rivers film festival. It's about a remarkable Pittsburgh man named Rocky Braat, who has made a drastic change in his life in order to help others.

Rocky made the decision to change his career path and gave up his life in the Steel City to go to India and live with children at an HIV/AIDS orphanage.  His best friend from school, director Steve Hoover decided to follow Rocky and chronicle his journey.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:27 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

Father and Son Go to War

Credit Flickr

It has been twelve years since the US war in Afghanistan began, and for some families the conflict spans two generations.

Army Colonel Tom Stokes, and Air Force Reservist Brenden Stokes, a father and son duo, both served in Afghanistan within months of each other.

Colonel Stokes was deployed to Afghanistan as a behavioral health social worker whose job is to provide behavioral prevention and outreach to soldiers in the most harsh locations.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:35 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

Reporting on America's Longest War

War reporter Carmen Gentile
Credit Carmen Gentile / Facebook

Pittsburgh native Carmen Gentile, has been an embedded freelance reporter with American troops throughout the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, America’s longest war.  

Despite a slow removal of troops from the Middle East, Gentile says the violence is far from under control.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:10 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

What Makes a Child a Gold Star Child?

Gold Star Children, was founded in 2008 to raise awareness about American child survivors whose mothers or fathers were killed or died while serving in the US military.
Credit Gold Star Children

An estimated five-thousand American children have lost a parent to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001.

Children who have lost a parent to war are the subject of the documentary Gold Star Children: Two Generations Sharing Loss and Healing, premiering today on the Pentagon channel.

The film’s writer, producer and director Mitty Griffis Mirrer, is a gold star child. Mirrer says the documentary is about helping the current group of gold star children.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:44 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

Examining the John F. Kennedy Assassination: Half a Century Later

Forensic Pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Cyril Wecht, world renowned forensic pathologist and former Allegheny County coroner, remembers exactly what he was doing when he heard the news that President John F. Kennedy had been shot.

“Ironically I was standing in an autopsy room looking at a gunshot victim, a victim of homicide,” says Wecht.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:55 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

When Clubhouse Culture Goes Too Far

While “boys will be boys” may seem a likely excuse for some, in the wake of hazing allegations against Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, many fans believe the teasing of Jonathan Martin crossed the line into inappropriate bullying.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sports Writer Emeritus Bob Dvorchak says the NFL does exist in a “culture of hazing,” but usually the tasks forced on rookie players are not so cruel.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:23 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

Pittsburgh Ranks Eighth in Car-Less Commuting

Credit Dan Brubaker Horst / Flickr

From biking, to walking, to riding public transit, depending on your neighborhood, commuting to work in Pittsburgh can be easily accomplished without driving a car.

The Institute for Quality Communities at the University of Oklahoma (IQCUO) agrees and has ranked Pittsburgh 8th among big cities for car-less commuting. After sifting through census bureau data by the American Community Survey on primary means of transportation to work, Pittsburgh emerged as a biker-walker friendly city.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:41 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

Autumn Coastal Destinations with the New Girl

This is an ideal time of year to see the famous light houses of the Outer Banks.
Credit Nathan Adams / Flickr

Coastal Destinations make for the best fall travel, according to travel contributor Elaine Labalme.

With better prices on off-season and cozy spots for cuddling, Labalme outlines her top five waterfront excursions. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:36 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

PA Gains Investment Revenue from Divestment in Iran, Sudan

Three years after the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania began divesting from companies taking part in “scrutinized activities” in Iran or Sudan, it has not resulted in a loss of investment revenue but rather a net gain.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:45 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

Following Landslide Win, Peduto Looks Ahead

Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Bill Peduto does not move into the mayor's office until January, but he said his work has already begun.

Peduto said Wednesday his first order of business was to notify all directors to hold off on hiring new people and not to move forward with plans that would impact future years without consulting his chief of staff Kevin Acklin.

The 49-year-old Peduto captured 84 percent of the vote in Tuesday's election, easily defeating a pair of opponents in a city where Democrats heavily outnumber Republicans.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:24 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

Post-Election Day Wrap Up

Former Pittsburgh city councilman Bill Peduto wins the mayoral election.
Credit Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

It may be no surprise that Bill Peduto is now Pittsburgh mayor-elect. But some may be surprised that Peduto celebrated in Homewood last night as the results were tallied.

According to 90.5 WESA's Mark Nootbaar and Kevin Gavin, the Homewood location could be an attempt to show a focus on neighborhoods that Peduto feels have been ignored by previous administrations.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:18 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

A Review of the Pennsylvania Governor Race

Governor Tom Corbett officially announces that he is running for a second term as Pennsylvania's governor.
Credit 90.5 WESA

Governor Tom Corbett officially announced Wednesday that he will be running for a second term.

“Why?" he says "Because we’re not done yet.”

According to John Baer of the Philadelphia Daily News, many Democrats may argue that Corbett is done. Corbett is taking a multi-city tour throughout Pennsylvania, which Baer says will make him more visible to the public.

No matter what happens, Baer says Corbett will make history with his re-election campaign.

“He is either going to be the first ever incumbent governor to lose in Pennsylvania or he is going to be the Lazarus of Pennsylvania politics.”

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:10 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Stressing the Importance of Transportation Funding

The "City of Bridges" is having some problems finding funding to repair some its famous spans.
Credit Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh is sometimes known as the city of bridges, but without additional funding, bridges in disrepair are likely to be weight-restricted and mass-transit systems will have to scale back projects.

This month, legislative leaders are reportedly continuing discussions about transportation funding in the commonwealth and hope to map out a proposal that could be voted on by mid-November.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:09 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

A Fresh Viewpoint on Pittsburgh Public Transit

Architect Intern Ben Samson designed a new and improved transit system for Pittsburgh for his graduate thesis.
Credit Ben Samson

Architect intern, Ben Samson, created a proposed transit map for Pittsburgh in his graduate thesis at Virginia Tech. The map has since gone viral and people are talking.

Samson believes his plan speaks to the core of what the city needs. He says he started working on this project because of his combined love for architecture and Pittsburgh. He wanted to take on the biggest architectural problem in town, the transit system.

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