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 

Challenges Facing American Muslims

Dec 8, 2015
Wikipedia

Leading Republican candidate Donald Trump made headlines again when he called for a complete ban of Muslims entering the United States in light of recent acts of terror associated with ISIS on the home front.  Critics have called this proposal a “ratcheting up of the rhetoric aimed at American fears about members of the Islamic faith.”

“This would be hilarious if it was not so sickening and dangerous to the fabric of American society,” says Pittsburgh Muslim leader Safdar Khwaja. Khwaja recently wrote an article for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette called “They are not Islamic. They are not a state. They are Dae’sh,” in which he highlighted the often misunderstood differences between traditional Islam and the so-called Islamic State.

Area Bridge Closures Impact On Mass Transit

Dec 7, 2015
Wikipedia

The closure of the Greenfield Bridge is resulting in detours for commuters in private vehicles and those taking public transportation. However, the structure spanning I-376 isn’t the only bridge closing in the region. Three bridges where Braddock, Rankin, North Braddock and Swissvale come together have closed for repairs resulting in the rerouting of traffic and bus routes. Jim Ritchie, communications officer for the Port Authority joined us to address how this is impacting mass transit.
 
“We want the bridges to be safe and be able to accommodate the vehicles we have going throughout the county,” says Ritchie.

Good News-- More Ice Downtown This Winter

Dec 7, 2015
Katie Blackley / 90.5 fm WESA

The temperature is starting to drop, Christmas music is playing on all the radio stations and mall Santas are popping up all over the place. The Christmas season has begun and in Pittsburgh that means it is time to go skating downtown. 

The PPG ice skating rink has been expanded for the 2015-2016 season. The rink now boasts a surface area of 12,000 square feet, an increase of 28%, making it able to accommodate 100 people at any given time. This places the rink at 2/3 the size of an NHL rink and 67% larger than the Rockefeller Center ice sheet.

Repairing Pennsylvania's Aging Bridges

Dec 7, 2015
Luke H. Gordon / flickr

Hundreds of bridges across the commonwealth are in desperate need of repair or replacement. Many of them are in Allegheny County. Since Pennsylvania is home to some of the oldest infrastructure in the country, a public-private partnership is working to replace a number of these bridges.

COD Newsroom / flickr

A grant awarded to the Community College of Allegheny County is designed to provide education and training in healthcare professions to low-income individuals. We’ll learn about the program from Jodi Campano, account executive for Workforce Development at CCAC.

Spreading Awareness About HIV Treatment Options

Dec 4, 2015
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Last month, actor Charlie Sheen revealed that he is HIV-positive, opening up a conversation about the virus and the progress that’s been made in treatment and prevention.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working to inform patients and health care providers of a new, anti-viral pill that they estimate can drastically reduce the risk of infection.  Here to tell us more about this treatment and discuss why it hasn’t been adopted by clinicians in the region are Dr. Ken Ho, an HIV specialist at the University of Pittsburgh and Jason Herring, director of programs and communications at the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force.

Combating Poverty In Western Pennsylvania

Dec 4, 2015
Linus Bohman / flickr

Poverty is on the rise in Western Pennsylvania. A new study put out by the Urban Institute in Washington estimates that the number of households below the poverty line has jumped up by 2% since 2012.

Fortunately, there are local groups combating that rise. Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer sat down with Maxwell King, the president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Foundation, to see why poverty around Pittsburgh is so high and what can be done about it.

Keith Srakocic / AP Images

Anticipation is rising as the University of Pittsburgh Panthers and Duquesne University Dukes basketball teams clash in the annual City Game on Friday night, a Pittsburgh tradition which dates back to 1932.  With so much at stake for bragging rights, former Pitt point guard and current assistant coach Brandin Knight, and former Duquesne forward, Robert Morris University coach, and now color commentator for Duke’s basketball radio broadcasts Jarrett Durham previewed the matchup with Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer.

TEDx Youth Founder Previews This Weekend's Event

Dec 3, 2015
TEDxYouth Shadyside / Facebook

Some high school seniors take relax a bit in their final year of school. Not Shaan Fye, a senior at Shadyside Academy. Not only is he the founder of the Atlas Business Journal and the manager of the Shadyside Finance and Entrepreneurship Club, but he is also the organizer of the Shadyside TEDx Youth event this weekend at the August Wilson Center.

New Pittsburgh School Board Prepares For Upcoming Challenges

Dec 3, 2015
Nick Amoscato / flickr

The Pittsburgh School Board is facing a number of challenges. Among them budgeting and staffing issues as well as a search for a new superintendent. Joining us to address the work ahead is school board president Thomas Sumpter.

PWSA Meter Reading Challenges Continue To Impact Customer Bills

Dec 2, 2015
Emilian Robert Vicol / flickr

Throughout the last year, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has been implementing a new system for transmitting meter reading data.  Many customers immediately saw changes to their bills, with some complaining of excessive charges, and even one filing a class-action lawsuit over the problems.  Recently Pittsburgh City Council has pressured the organization to change the appeal process for the new bills and the overall culture of customer service at PWSA. Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Deb Gross who serves on the PWSA board as well as PWSA Executive Director Jim Good answer questions about the new meters and clarify what the authority is doing to improve their service.

Paris Climate Talks From A Pennsylvania Perspective

Dec 2, 2015

A number of world leaders are in Paris this week to address the issue of climate change. Some are calling this the planet’s last best hope to reduce the impact climate change is having on the environment. We’ll get reaction to the climate talks from a commonwealth perspective with Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of Penn Future.  We’ll also hear from Mark Dixon, filmmaker and environmental activist currently in Paris at COP21.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Civil rights activist and self-taught lawyer Chen Guangcheng made headlines in 2012 when he escaped house arrest in China and fled to the United States Embassy in Beijing.  He is in Pittsburgh for the second time to read from his memoir, “The Barefoot Lawyer.” Guancheng and his translator, Danica Mills, joined Essential Pittsburgh to reflect on his life and his thoughts on human rights throughout the world.  

Technology And The Millennial Brain

Nov 30, 2015
Allan Ajifo / flickr

Recent studies show the average millennial (those born between 1980 and 2000) spends 18 hours a day consuming media, with the majority online or on their mobile device.  According to the PEW Research Center, 90% of millennials use social media.  As technology continues to become more prevalent in the lives of young people, just how much is brain development influenced?

Elaina Zachos, Public Source reporter and author of “Technology is Changing the Millennial Brain,” says that the areas of the brain most affected by technology are the prefrontal cortex and cerebellum.  These areas control personality, cognitive function and communication skills. 

Budget Negotations Drag On Through Thanksgiving

Nov 25, 2015
Marc Levy / AP Images

It’s been almost 150 days since the July 1st budget deadline and after the protracted budget stalemate between Governor Wolf and the legislature began dragging on for months, we heard it would all be worked out by Thanksgiving.  With Thanksgiving tomorrow and little prospect for a compromise, we turn to 90.5 WESA Capitol reporter Mary Wilson to see what’s happening in Harrisburg and what issues are tying up budget negotiations.

Frankie Leon / flickr

Last year the popular retailer Target fell victim to a high profile hacking. As we head into the holiday shopping season could this happen again and what is its impact on the economy? We’ll pose these questions to  Robert Morris University Economics Professor Brian O’Roark.

Edgewood Resident Wins Rhodes Scholarship

Nov 25, 2015
Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

With past recipients including former President Bill Clinton and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, the Rhodes Scholarship is one of the most prestigious awards in the academic world. Out of the over 32 winning students this year, two of them are from Pennsylvania and one is from right here in Pittsburgh. Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer sat down with the winner, University of Pennsylvania senior Jenna Hebert, to talk about what winning the award means to her.

Matt Bauman / Youtube

Pitt graduate student Matt Bauman is studying bio-engineering. However an informal look at the speed of traffic in Oakland is garnering a lot of attention. Matt Bauman joins us to discuss his findings and the Pittsburgh agencies that are taking notice.

New Health Care Company Helps You Choose The Right Plan

Nov 24, 2015
Fotos GOVBA / flickr

Open enrollment regarding the selection of a health care plan offers a lot of options. How you do sort through what’s  available and choose the best option for you or your family? We’ll pose that question to Dan Harding, co-founder of Health Sage a Pittsburgh company helping to empower consumers when it comes to health insurance options.

Pittsburgh Health Innovators Finalists In Global Innovation Competition

Nov 24, 2015
Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

With an initial pool of 192 applicants, the HITLAB World Cup Innovators Summit brings high stakes competition to healthcare innovators internationally. Two Pittsburgh companies, Rubitection and Ristcall, are among the five finalists who will be traveling to New York City in search of the coveted $10,000 grand prize. Rubitection CEO Dr. Sanna Gasperd and Ristcall CEO Srinath Vaddepally sat down with Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer to discuss their products and their prospects in winning the competition.

Remembering The Legacy Of Alternative Rock Station WXXP

Nov 23, 2015
WXXP / Facebook

A reunion is set to take place later this week for one of Pittsburgh’s most influential radio stations. WXXP was only on the air for two years but it left a lasting impact on many. WESA Jazz Host Bob Studebaker takes us back to the halcyon days of this alternative rock station.

 

Can A Combined Global Effort Stop ISIS?

Nov 23, 2015
Flickr

In the wake of the attack on Paris that left 130 dead, many are concerned that ISIS has shifted its focus toward global aggression rather than the insurgency in Iraq and Syria.  University of Pittsburgh associate professor and terrorism expert Michael Kenney has analyzed the situation in the Middle East and addressed the potential effectiveness of a global coalition fighting ISIS.

Aboard The USS Requin

Nov 20, 2015
Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

The USS Requin will be open for tours again on Saturday after being closed for over two months for repairs. The submarine was commissioned in April of 1945 in the closing days of World War II. This year marks the 70th anniversary since it began its service and the 25th year since it arrived at the Carnegie Science Center in 1990. We'll take a tour with submarine coordinator Maria Renzelli.

The Story Behind The Creation Of The Unisphere

Nov 20, 2015
Flapane / Wikipedia

It was the architectural centerpiece of the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair. It’s been seen in movies and television shows. It’s the iconic New York City landmark the Unisphere. Joining us with a detailed look at the creation of this structure is Robert Morris University professor Daniel Short author of the book Unisphere: Symbol of the 1964-1965 New York’s World Fair.

Reflecting On The Design Of Peter Muller-Munk

Nov 20, 2015
Peter Muller-Munk / Carnegie Museum of Art

Peter Muller-Munk, a German immigrant to Pittsburgh, rose from being a relatively obscure silver smith to one of the top designers of consumer products in the 20th century. The Carnegie Museum of Art will be telling his story in a new exhibit titled “Silver to Steel.” Rachel Delphia, co-curator of Silver to Steel,  joins us to talk about the exhibit and the works of Muller-Munk.

Penn State Students To Make Historic Trip To Cuba

Nov 19, 2015
Penn State

The Penn State men’s baseball team will make history the week of Thanksgiving when it travels to Cuba to play against teams from the Cuban National Series.  It will be the first time a U.S.-based team at any level has played against teams from the country’s premiere baseball series. 

The group making the trip includes fewer than fifty players, coaches, and staff, along with eight sports journalism students from the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

After a life threatening car crash last May award-winning theater director Mark Clayton Southers has returned to work. His production of August Wilson’s  play “The Piano Lesson” runs through Saturday at the downtown center bearing the late Pittsburgh playwright’s name. Mark, along with his wife Neicy, joined Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer to talk about how the accident and road to recovery have changed him.

Marketing To A Multicultural Populace

Nov 19, 2015
Börkur Sigurbjörnsson / flickr

According to the last United States census the number of people who identify as a mix of races grew by a larger percentage than people who reported a single race. This impacts our society on a number of levels. These changing demographics have not been lost on businesses recognizing the need for their products to appeal to multicultural consumers. Joining us for a look at what a multicultural approach means for the future of business is Vanitha Swaminathan, Professor of Business Administration at University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

As Syria continues to be shattered by its civil war, the U.S. and Russia are at odds about the best strategy to stabilize the nation and neutralize ISIS. While The Islamic State and other extremist organizations add to the complexity of the conflict, there are many questions to be answered. What are Moscow's goals in Syria? Should the U.S. play a more active role? We'll put those question to Dr. Colin P. Clarke, Associate Political Scientist for the RAND Corporation.

Simon Brass / flickr

Children of incarcerated parents face social, emotional and academic difficulties at a far higher rate than their peers.  These kids are at increased risk for negative behavior and potential future criminal activity.  One group, Amachi Pittsburgh, is working to stop the cycle of incarceration and provide opportunity for children. 

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