Features & Special Reports

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Friday is the deadline for city leaders to either comply with or appeal to the Court of Common Pleas an order from the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records to reveal details of its application to have Amazon establish its second headquarters in Pittsburgh. 

Brian Siewiorek / 90.5 WESA

After 14 years of being designated "financially distressed," on Monday the city of Pittsburgh exited Act 47 state oversight of its finances. State officials hailed the city's return to fiscal good health.

90.5 WESA's Kevin Gavin spoke with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto about the city's financial future.

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

Keith Srakocic / AP

There are sports rivalries, and then there are teams that Pittsburgh fans love to hate.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Pittsburgh loves its sports heroes, and they often love the city back. 

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

Katharine Eagan Kelleman began her new job Tuesday as the CEO of the Port Authority of Allegheny County. She takes over at a time when the transit agency has a lot on its plate, everything from a proposal to build a Bus Rapid Transit link between downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland and beyond, to devising a cashless fare enforcement system that doesn’t profile certain riders.

Keith Srakocic / AP

The Steelers ended the season earlier than many fans were hoping for, with a 45-42 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, and one person who was definitely paying attention was NPR Morning Edition host David Greene.  

Greene spent just six years of his childhood in Pittsburgh, but still considers Pittsburgh to be his home and the Steelers to be his team. He spoke to 90.5 WESA's biggest sports fan, Kevin Gavin, about how his time in Pittsburgh shaped parts of his life.

 

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA


  Fourteen years after entering Act 47, the city of Pittsburgh appears to be very close to exiting the program, which places financially distressed municipalities under state oversight.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald is halfway through his second term in office. 90.5 WESA's Kevin Gavin sat down with Fitzgerald to discuss his goals for the county in 2018.

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

KEVIN GAVIN: Let's start with what you think were the major developments during 2017 before we start talking about the new year. 

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

When Bill Peduto is sworn in to his second term as mayor of Pittsburgh Jan. 3, Kevin Acklin will no longer be his chief of staff. 

Acklin, a corporate attorney, announced last week he’s returning to the private sector.

But Peduto is not only losing his chief of staff. Over the last four years, Acklin also served as the city’s chief economic development officer.

“It's hard to replace someone that's irreplaceable,” Peduto said. 

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has warned that Republican efforts to cap Medicaid funding would cost the state billions of dollars, and that might impact senior citizens in nursing homes.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

In many developing countries, families routinely cook on open fires, often in poorly ventilated homes. According to the World Health Organization, the smoke from those fires lead to the premature death of more than 4 million people each year.

In rural Uganda, families often burn dried banana leaves.

"Which doesn’t combust very well, so it’s very inefficient so it makes a lot of smoke,” said Josh Shapiro, an engineer with Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab

Ally Rugierri / 90.5 WESA

The Peduto administration unveiled the city’s first EcoInnovation District plan Tuesday, focusing on the Uptown and West Oakland neighborhoods.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Artificial lungs have been around for decades, but they’re usually large devices that force the patient to remain in a hospital bed until their lungs improve or they’re able to undergo a lung transplant. 

But University of Pittsburgh Medical Devices Laboratory Director Bill Federspiel has developed a more mobile, wearable device.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Oxygen is something that many of us take for granted. But many people with breathing disorders can't take it in on their own -- and it's especially difficult for people living in poor and remote parts of the world. 

Scientist Wendy Zhang recalled the difficult decisions a physician in Gabon, Africa had to make as the result of limited resources. 

"On some, she had to make the heart-wrenching decision of which baby to live and which baby to die just because they don’t have oxygen to supply both,” Zhang said.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The implementation of cashless fares on the Port Authority of Allegheny County’s light rail system has been put on hold until the interim CEO completes a review of concerns about the process.

Why Sort Your Trash If A Robot Can Do It For You?

Jun 27, 2017
Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Increasingly, when you find a trash can in a public place it has at least two openings—one for trash and one for recyclables. But according to Charles Yhap, humans don’t do a very good job of sorting what they throw in those cans.

“Americans typically achieve, when they have a 50-50 chance between two bins, it’s usually 30 percent,” said Yhap.

With that in mind, Yhap launched a company called CleanRobotics with a flagship product called Trashbot.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

 

Last year, Hopewell Memorial Junior High School started noticing some negative race-based comments being made among students. Studies show safe environments are essential for learning, and being victim to identity-based harassment can be especially detrimental in school.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

By eighth grade, Christian Carter had been suspended from school a dozen times. The first time was in 3rd grade for what he described as questioning his teacher. Most were for one or two days.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

CMU Robotics Institute assistant professor Stelian Coros was working to find ways to make animated characters navigate their simulated environments, such as in a video game or a movie, when he realized his work could be used to design and virtually test robots.

“And what I’m really excited about is moving towards a new paradigm where robots will be able to approach the complexity of biological structures in both form and in function,” Coros said. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

A deal that is expected to grow the region’s biotech sector has been inked by established biotech firm Helomics and the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse.

“We did a survey… and one of the things we recognized is the scientific community [in Pittsburgh] is missing an incubator where diagnostic people, pharmaceutical people and biotech people can get together,” Pittsburgh Life Science Greenhouse President and CEO James Jordan said.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania’s unfunded pension liability stands at $70 billion. In other words, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, what Pennsylvania owes in pensions for retired and active state employees and public school teachers is only funded at about 60 percent.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

RE2 Robotics first spun out of Carnegie Mellon University in 2001 to build off-road vehicles for the U.S. Department of Defense, but now its researchers are working to develop the next generation of robotic arms.

The 40 people who work at the Lawrenceville-based company now focus on building arms for robots used to defuse improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

Every day, about 200 barrels of something called produced water bubbles out of each of the roughly 9,600 shale gas wells in Pennsylvania. The water is laced with chemicals and minerals, and since energy companies have been fracking gas wells, they have tried to figure out the best way to deal with it.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

One day after the inauguration of Donald Trump, women, men and children marched in Washington, D.C. and in cities across the country, including Pittsburgh.

Women were encouraged to run for office at all levels: federal, state and local. But was that call to action taken to heart and was it reflected in the recently held Pennsylvania Primary?  

CMU via Youtube

Touch screens have become part of our everyday lives, but the technology has its limits. They are always relatively flat and are fixed to another product, like a cell phone or a computer.

But researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have figured out a way to make just about any object into a touch sensitive device.

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

  Among the supporters at Mayor Bill Peduto’s primary election night victory party was Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

“We've had a good relationship for a long time,” Fitzgerald said.  “We talk all the time … we have a very similar outlook in how we try to govern.”

Fitzgerald has been county executive since January 2012, two years longer than Peduto has been mayor, and he's looking forward to continuing to work together. 

“It works better for the region when that happens,” Fitzgerald said.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

In 2007, Mike Formica had just sold his tech start up and was looking for something to do when he was approached by a group of scientists from The University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. 

They wanted a device that would detect joint swelling in the hands of people who suffer arthritis. Formica jumped on board and started to look for a solution, but wasn’t happy with what he found.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

When voters in Allegheny County go to the poles May 16, they will see the names of at least 14 candidates hoping to become a judge.

While it is often difficult for parties to find candidates to run for other offices, it is virtually never a problem to fill the slate with lawyers looking to earn a seat on the bench.

So why is that?

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania is on track to have medical cannabis on dispensary shelves come next April, according to Gov. Tom Wolf.

However, the legally permissible forms of medical marijuana might be more varied than originally thought.

The law, as passed, allows medical cannabis in pills, oils, topical treatments and liquids. 

“There is no THC in (those) forms of the marijuana,” Wolf said. THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the part the creates a high.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

On May 16th, Allegheny County primary voters will choose their party’s nominees to run for Allegheny County Council. Democrats, who have a two-to-one registration majority in the county, are expected to retain their majority during the general election this November. That leaves Republicans and some critics frustrated.

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