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 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.  

  • Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
  • What stories are we missing? Send your thoughts to esspgh@wesa.fm 
Wilfredo Lee / AP Images

The Pennsylvania Primary is just over two weeks away and the Democratic presidential candidates have begun making appearances in Pittsburgh with the Republicans soon to follow. We'll talk with 90.5 WESA reporter Virginia Alvino and Multimedia Editor Megan Harris about the message candidates are trying to get across and how it's resonating with Steel city voters.

Daniel Lobo / flickr

Only 15 percent of Pennsylvania mothers breastfeed their babies up to six month without supplement, according to a recent CDC study. Despite the health benefits of breastfeeding, many mothers receive conflicting messages, especially after they have their first child. In her article “Barriers to Breastfeeding,” PublicSource reporter Andrea Frazier looks at why breastfeeding rates in the Pittsburgh region have been unusually low and what health professionals are doing to increase awareness. We’ll also hear from Ellen Rubin of La Leche League, a local organization helping women successfully breastfeed their children through education and outreach.

Michel Martin On Hosting NPR's 'Most Tinkered With' Program

Apr 8, 2016
NPR

Last month Weekend All Things Considered host Michel Martin was in Pittsburgh. She moderated NPR Presents Going There with Michel Martin: Reinventing the American City; an evening of conversation and performance at the August Wilson Center. She joins us for a conversation about the event, the current political climate and hosting NPR’s “most tinkered with” show.

Justin Tsucalas

They say grass is always greener on the other side, but where is it most creative? That is the question former NPR correspondent Eric Weiner tries to answer with his newest book, The Geography of Genius. Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer spoke with Weiner about the book and the search for the world’s smartest places.

90.5 WESA

For nearly four decades, NPR host Diane Rehm has graced the airways, interviewing actors, poets and musicians alike.  Later this year, she will step away from the microphone and into the next chapter of her life, a chapter without her husband John “Scoop” Rehm, who passed away last year from Parkinson’s disease.

In her latest book, On My Own, Rehm recounts her husband’s passing, life on her own and the right to dying with dignity. 

Using 'Surgery Robots' To Perform Minimally Invasive Procedures

Apr 7, 2016
Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Since the introduction of robot-assisted surgery in the early 1980s, engineers and medical professionals have been working to perfect the technology and increase public awareness of the machine’s benefits. As part of its mall walkers program, the Westmoreland Mall invited health professionals from Excela Health to explain the purpose and workings of one of their most advanced robots, the DaVinci surgical system. Essential Pittsburgh’s Katie Blackley spoke with physicians James Longhi and Michael Szwerc about their experience with DaVinci and minimally invasive surgery.

Exploring Pittsburgh's Future As A Leader In Robotics

Apr 7, 2016
Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh is known as a leader in the steel, sports, livability, and…robotics?  As the technology and robotics field continues to expand, entrepreneurs and start-up companies have flocked to Pittsburgh for a chance to work with cutting-edge researchers and generous investors. 

Recently, the Pittsburgh-based Alpha Lab Gear hosted an event with the MIT Enterprise Forum to draw attention to the exciting happenings regionally in the field of robotics.

Terry Renna / AP Images

A pair of Pennsylvania natives foresee big things for NASA’s current crop of astronauts.

“I think we’re going to see (Mars) in our career,” said Lt. Col. Andrew R. Morgan, of New Castle, who joined the space program in 2013.

Veteran astronaut and Emsworth native Michael Fincke orbited Earth for 363 days between 2010 and 2011, setting a record for longest cumulative time in space before fellow astronaut Scott Kelly surpassed it late last year. Like Kelly, Fincke began training in 1996.

John Picken / flickr

Coyotes have settled into Pittsburgh's parks, ravines and woodlots. Post-Gazette outdoors writer John Hayes said in a recent column "it's likely that people are spotting coyotes more often because the two species are learning to live closer together. Hayes joins us to discuss this fascinating development.

Barb Crawford / flickr

There’s no shortage of people committed to a brighter future for Pittsburgh. This week a cross section of educators, innovators, visionaries, students and residents will gather to imagine the city’s future. We’ll preview OPT412 with former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy and Senior Manager Communications for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Scott Roller.

Marc Levy / AP Images

Gov. Tom Wolf says he'll sign an executive order to prohibit discrimination by state contractors against people who are lesbian, gay or transgender.

Wolf said during Essential Pittsburgh on Wednesday that he had hoped the Legislature would pass legislation designed to outlaw discrimination based on someone's sexual orientation or gender identity.

Daniel X. O'Neil / flickr

The state agency charged with watching Pittsburgh’s finances, the Intergovernmental Cooperation Agency, was recently exposed through a Tribune Review investigation to have been destroying 92 percent of their own financial records since its formation in 2004. Trib reporter Carl Prine broke the story and has been tracking invoices and documents from the ICA. He joins us to talk about the investigation and what it means for the city of Pittsburgh.

Marketing The Founding Fathers In Modern Culture

Apr 5, 2016
Dodge / Youtube

There's a public lecture taking place tonight on Penn State's New Kensington campus with a rather unusual title; "Muscle Cars, Lattes and Rooftop Grilling: How We Sell the Founders and Why It Matters." We'll talk with the speaker, Bowling Green University professor Andy Schocket. He says: "For a long time, we have slapped the names and images of the founders on products and services from life insurance to beer to plumbing. What is fairly new is how these recent advertisements, like so many facets of our lives, have become politicized."    

A Conversation With U.S. Senate Primary Candidate Katie McGinty

Apr 5, 2016
Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

  President Obama and Vice-President Biden have thrown their support behind our guest Katie McGinty. She’s one of three candidates running in the U. S. Senate primary where the winner will go on to challenge incumbent Republican Senator Pat Toomey in November's election.   McGinty is looking to return to Washington where she was once a key environmental advisor in the Clinton administration.

Hightlighting The Homewood Community

Apr 4, 2016
Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

To many Pittsburgh residents, the word “Homewood” typically invokes a negative image. For those living in Homewood, however, the community is vibrant, growing and hopeful. During today’s Essential Pittsburgh, we’ll explore the many different sides of Homewood through conversations with city leaders, community organizers and local businesses.

Something Better To Come / Facebook

For 14 years Oscar nominated director Hanna Polak followed the life of a young homeless girl named Yula who was living in a Russian garbage dump. She chronicles Yula’s experiences and talks about hope in her new documentary, Something Better to Come. Ahead of the film’s screening at the Carnegie Mellon University International Film Festival, Polak spoke with Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer.

Free Speech And The Firing Of Wendy Bell

Apr 1, 2016
Christopher P / flickr

The firing of award-winning journalist and 18-year WTAE-TV news anchor Wendy Bell made both local and national news. Wednesday, Pittsburgh's ABC-TV news affiliate  “ended its relationship” with the news anchor, deeming her comments “inconsistent with the company’s ethics and journalistic standards.”

David Brossard / flickr

A team of nine volunteers in Allegheny County, over the last year, has been reviewing every aspect of county government. This review, required by law, must be done every ten years. WESA’s Mark Nootbaar is reporting on the series of recommendations released by the commission and joins us to discuss the government review commission.

Early Dyslexia Identification Essential For Student Success

Mar 31, 2016
Sam Greenhalgh / flickr

20 percent of school-aged children in the United State are impacted by dyslexia or similar language-based disorders. Because it’s an invisible disability, dyslexia is difficult to diagnose, especially in young children. New research suggests early detection could be key in ensuring these students receive the services they need to succeed. We’ll ask Pittsburgh Region Chair Christine Seppi and board member Daphne Uliana of the Pennsylvania Branch of the International Dyslexia Association about new pilot programs and legislature moving through the Commonwealth. The annual conference is being held next week.

Third and fourth grade students with dyslexia are invited to enroll at Provident Charter School in Troy Hill, which opens this fall. 

General Michael Hayden On Counterterrorism Techniques

Mar 31, 2016
William B. Plowman / AP Images

How far should a country go “in the name of national security?” For retired Air Force 4 Star General Michael Hayden, it’s all about the circumstance.

In his new book “Playing to the Edge,” Hayden addresses both the good and bad accounts of enhanced interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation.

Understanding Islam: Voices From Pittsburgh

Mar 30, 2016
World Affairs Council

Islam is practiced by1.6 billion people around the world and is often misunderstood by many non-Muslims. On this special edition of Essential Pittsburgh, we present a discussion on the beliefs and practices of Islam held before a live audience at the Community Broadcast Center in cooperation with the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh. Our special guests include Safdar Khwaja, President of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Wasi Mohammed, Executive Director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

From police body cameras to consent decrees to excessive use of force, almost every legal question you can imagine is covered in University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris’ new podcast, Criminal (In)Justice. Inspired by heightened public interest in law enforcement and the legal system, Harris says he’s using the podcast to have in-depth conversation about issues pertinent to listeners.

The Man Who Watches U.S. Government Spending In Afghanistan

Mar 29, 2016
Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction will deliver "An Existential Threat: U.S. Oversight of and Responses to Corruption in Afghanistan" tomorrow on the University of Pittsburgh campus. He joins us to discuss his presentation which will focus on how to train future generations of America's foreign policy professionals to deal with complex problems in insecure environments.

Porter Prize Recipient Presents The Case For Vaccinations

Mar 29, 2016
Partha Sahana / flickr

Awarded in recognition of an individual’s exceptional performance in health promotion and disease prevention, the Porter Prize is a prestigious honor. The recipient of this year’s award is our guest Dr. Paul Offit, a physician, educator, virologist and author.  He is also the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  

Early Positive Racial Identity Could Help Close Achievement Gap

Mar 28, 2016
Office of Child Development / University of Pittsburgh

As Pittsburgh becomes more diverse, how can we ensure young children are maintaining a positive racial identity throughout their development? In a recent study by the race and early childhood collaborative, researchers dive into the concept of identity among preschool and kindergartners. We’ll have representatives from the University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development and the School of Education Center for Urban Education tell us about the need for the study and best practices going forward.

Historical Days That Changed Pittsburgh

Mar 25, 2016
Brian Donovan / flickr

2016 is a big year for Pittsburgh. As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of its incorporation, we’re spending some time sifting through some of the city’s most significant moments.  In a recent article for Pittsburgh Magazine, Robert Morris University editor and adjunct professor Mark Houser highlighted a dozen of those moments in an article called “Looking Back: 12 Days That Changed Pittsburgh.”

RMU Hockey Forward And Hobey Baker Award Nominee Zac Lynch

Mar 25, 2016
Robert Morris University

Robert Morris University hockey star Zac Lynch is a top ten finalist for college hockey’s version of the Heisman Trophy, the Hobey Baker Award. But rather than waiting for his name to be called, Zac is trying out with the American Hockey League's Portland Pirates, the top affiliate of the NHL's Florida Panthers. He joins us to talk about his stellar college career and Pittsburgh's pipeline to the Nattional Hockey League.  

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

The Christian season of Lent spans six weeks leading up to Easter. For some, that means giving up something they love like chocolate, television or profanity.

Mary Kate Ranii, 25, of Shaler Township said this year she wanted to sacrifice trash.

Does Offering Free Contraceptives Violate Religious Freedom?

Mar 24, 2016
Jacquelyn Martin / AP Images

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week putting faith-based groups’ rights to adhere to religious doctrine up against a woman’s right to access free birth control. We’ll discuss Zubik vs. Burwell with University of Akron law professor Wilson Huhn.

With Budget Impasse Ending, What's Next?

Mar 24, 2016
Matt Rourke / AP Images

After battling the legislature for nearly nine months, what finally convinced Governor Wolf to allow the the supplemental budget to close out Fiscal Year 2015-16? And while the state budget crisis is over for now, what will happen between now and the next budget deadline on July 1? We'll talk with John Micek, editorial and opinion pages editor for the Harrisburg Patriot-News and PennLive.

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