Identity & Justice

The identity and justice desk explores how the makeup of the Pittsburgh community is changing, and digs into issues of diversity and equity.

Patriotic Cabs Provide Jobs for Veterans

Jul 24, 2013
Star Transportation Group

VETaxi is the most patriotic ride on the road. The Pittsburgh-based company owned by Vietnam veteran Robert Delucia hires American military veteran drivers, transports customers in American-built vehicles and uses solely American-sourced fuel.  As a branch of the Star Transportation Group, VETaxi aims to provide jobs to veterans where they are then given the opportunity to own and operate their own cab.

Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

Hundreds of men, women and children sang, screamed and chanted outside of the East Liberty Target Wednesday to call out one of the nation’s largest low-wage employers.

Residents are demanding that the development taking place in the East End directly benefit the community.

According to protesters, Target entered a “gentleman’s agreement” with the community before the store was built, saying that the shopping giant would hire East Liberty residents and offer them well-paying jobs to revitalize the community.

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s latest Pop Up project began Monday with rain splashing off vacant patio furniture, but the nonprofit believes the seats will soon be filled during lunch hours.

With its brightly colored bistro tables and chairs, the Pop Up Patio fills downtown's Strawberry Way from Smithfield Street to Montour Way.

Jeremy Waldrup, partnership president and CEO, said he hopes the month-long pilot program will encourage people to not only hang out downtown but also frequent nearby businesses.

Can the Steel City Be A Fútbol Town, Too?

Jul 22, 2013
Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

With their new stadium in Station Square, the Pittsburgh River Hounds are hoping that professional soccer will finally score in the “City of Champions.” The club, founded in 1999, is a part of the USL Pro League and has not had a successful history in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette Sports Writer Emeritus Bob Dvorchak explains that soccer has been unable to share in the popularity of the city’s other professional sports because it is the least established.  Despite high numbers at Steelers, Penguins and Pirates games, Pittsburgh may not be big enough to sustain a fourth professional sport.

Explosives Maker In PA Has 400 Times More Ammonia Than West, Texas, Plant

Jul 21, 2013
Martha Rial

On April 17, when 30 tons of fertilizer detonated in West, Texas, a shock wave traveling faster than the speed of sound crushed homes. Windows shattered seven miles away. The United States Geological Survey recorded a 2.1 magnitude tremor from the blast.
 
Fifteen people died, 12 of them firefighters and emergency responders, and 200 were injured.

The same chemical that blew up West — ammonium nitrate — is manufactured in Donora, Pa., 20 miles south of Pittsburgh.

The number of police pursuits in Pennsylvania has increased once again, according to state police.

Law enforcement agencies across the commonwealth reported 1,522 vehicle pursuits in 2012, up 69 from the previous year.

Eight hundreds pursuits began as simple traffic violations, registration plate violations or inspection violations, and 214 chases were initiated because of suspected DUI. Felony criminal offenses accounted for 228 pursuits, and 131 were due to a stolen or suspected stolen vehicle.

County, state and federal teams will finish conducting damage assessments Friday afternoon after flash floods and severe weather plagued the Pittsburgh region.

Alvin Henderson, chief of Allegheny County Emergency Services, said he and his teams are trying to restore a sense of normalcy.

“We’re working as quickly as we can to try to collect this data so we can find out what forms of assistance we’re hopefully going to be able to receive,” he said.

Assessment teams first visited areas hardest hit by the flooding.

A dozen speakers came out today to express their opinions about whether city police should be required to live inside the City of Pittsburgh - with a unanimous “yes.”

The public hearing was held on Councilman Ricky Burgess’s proposal to put the police residency issue on the November 5 ballot.

Those who testified all argued the same point - how could the police properly protect them when they don’t even know them.

Haldan Kirsch / 90.5 WESA

Protesters responding to the acquittal of George Zimmerman filled the courtyard of the Allegheny County  Courthouse Wednesday at noon.

Their shirts read “White Supremacy Acquitted Zimmerman,” and they held signs that said “Pittsburgh for Trayvon.”

Neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman was acquitted Saturday of murder and manslaughter of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.

Kaffeeeinstein / Flickr

The question of whether Pittsburgh police officers should be required to live in the city goes before arbitrators in September. 

But City Councilman Ricky Burgess believes that all voters in the city should have a say in the matter, not just the three members of the arbitration panel.

“I think that the arbitration, whatever the results are, will probably be appealed and come before a judge,” said Burgess, who is sponsoring legislation to put the issue on the November ballot.

Storms Roll Through Pittsburgh Area

Jul 16, 2013

UPDATE: 12:00pm Approximately 250 Duquesne Light customers are without power this morning.  Spokesperson Joey Vallarian said crews are expected to have all service restored this afternoon.

UPDATE: 7:00 am  Approximately 1,400 Duquesne Light customers are without power this morning.  Spokesperson Joey Vallarian said crews are expected to have all service restored this afternoon.

Less than a week after heavy rainstorms triggered flash flooding and power outages, the Pittsburgh area is seeing a repeat with storms rolling through the region.

Are Gratuities Becoming Gratuitous?

Jul 12, 2013
David Dugdale / Flickr

A recent article in the online magazine Slate called Tipping is an Abomination calls for the end of this practice. It’s a custom that originated in Europe. It transferred across the ocean when wealthy Americans returned from the continent. At first is it was slow to catch on but now it seems tip jars are as ubiquitous as cell phones.

Local Goodness: Roadtrip for Ripe Cherries and Erie Beaches

Jul 12, 2013
Rhonda Schuldt / Local Goodness

Nestled in the northern edge of Erie County is a region of rich and fertile farmland slowly becoming recognized for grape growing, vineyards and a seasonal favorite: cherries. Rhonda Schuldt of Local Goodness suggests some favorite destinations in Erie, PA including local diners, beaches and fruit farms.

They're trying to keep a stiff upper lip in Missouri, but the ruggedly handsome truth is that the American Mustache Institute is relocating from St. Louis to Pittsburgh.

The Mustache Institute released the news Friday morning. The group calls itself the world's only facial hair advocacy and research organization.

Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith says in a statement that attracting the Mustache Institute is a significant win "from an economic development and good looks standpoint." A press conference at City Hall is scheduled for 11 a.m.

Currently, the Pennsylvania State Police is 12 percent below full complement, but the increased funds from the new budget might close that gap.

The 2013-14 budget includes an additional $15 million for state police - bringing the department’s total budget to $210 million.

Public Information Officer Adam Reed said this money will help the department fill some vacancies.

“For us, that means that we can avoid some very critical decision that may have been looming without proper funding like hiring and closing additional stations” Reed said.

UPDATE: 12:19 p.m.

PennDOT is reporting that of state routes closed in Allegheny County, Route 4057 (Locust Street/Roosevelt Road) is closed between Center Avenue in Emsworth Borough and Mt. Nebo Road in Ohio Township.

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While other 11-year-olds were outside playing with their friends, Lilli Curry was fighting a bone cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma in the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas.

Ewing’s Sarcoma is found mainly in children and is treated with chemotherapy, surgery or radiation.

Lilli’s family bought her an iPad to help time pass more easily during her chemo and surgical treatments.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

UPDATE: 9:47 a.m. Thursday

After heavy rain from storms Wednesday brought flash flooding across the Pittsburgh region, officials are advising that some roadways remain closed Thursday. More details here.

All weather warnings and watches for Allegheny County have expired, and the National Weather Service is forecasting a slight chance of showers for the Pittsburgh region before 11 a.m. Otherwise, Thursday is expected to be mostly cloudy with a high near 77.

A day before a scheduled preliminary hearing, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala announced he's dropping charges against a Pittsburgh teacher who was arrested outside a meeting about police/community relations.

Dennis Henderson, a 38-year-old teacher at the Manchester Academy Charter School, was arrested June 26 in Homewood after leaving a Community Empowerment Association meeting.  

Southwestern PA in Need of Blood Donations

Jul 9, 2013

The Red Cross says it needs your blood today.

The Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region services 80 hospitals in 100 counties in six states, including nearly all of southwestern Pennsylvania. Spokeswoman Marianne Spampinato says they are starting to get a dangerously low levels.

Blood donations always drop in the summer, and Spampinato said with the Fourth of July falling in the middle of the week, donations were extremely slow all of last week.

The Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region needs to collect 700 units of blood a day to keep up with demand.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Since 2006, furries, or people fascinated with anthropomorphics, have descended on Pittsburgh for Anthrocon. It's billed as the world's largest furry convention, and this year, organizers expected the event to attract more than 5,500 participants.

"Anthrocon has become so deeply entwined with Pittsburgh itself," said Anthrocon CEO Samuel Conway. "This is a magnificent city, and heck, if they want to keep having us, we'll keep coming back."

Thousands of people have been flocking to the visitor center at Gettysburg National Military Park for the 150th anniversary of the three day battle.

The facility displays about 1,300 historical items at any given time. But it barely scratches the surface of the entire collection.

Through the years, the park has acquired about one million artifacts, mostly by donation.

The National Park Service's Greg Goodell says each one helps to tell the comprehensive story of the Battle of Gettysburg.

The man who wrote probably the definitive book on the building of the Brooklyn Bridge will have a bridge named for him in his native Pittsburgh.

The 90-year-old Sixteenth Street Bridge, which links the Strip District and the North Side, will be rededicated Sunday as the David McCullough Bridge in honor of the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian.

McCullough will be joined Sunday — his 80th birthday — by family members, friends, fans and local officials for the unveiling of the plaque formally renaming the bridge.

Gettysburg Mayor William Troxell is busy welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors to his hometown this week.

He calls the 150th anniversary of the largest battle ever fought on American soil a wonderful event for Gettysburg and the nation.

Troxell brings plenty of perspective to this week’s sesquicentennial events. His is one of the few faces in the crowd that was also here for the 100th anniversary in 1963.

In fact, Troxell was here for the 75th too. He was 11-years-old when President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Eternal Light Peace Memorial in 1938.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Billed as the world's largest furry convention, Anthrocon is returning to Pittsburgh Thursday through Sunday. The much-anticipated Pittsburgh tradition is expected to attract more than 5,500 participants, some in costume, some not.

“We’re all furries,” said Anthrocon Inc. CEO Samuel Conway. “That’s the catch-all term for the fandom. We are furries. The people in the costume – we refer to the costumes, our own little lingo, they are fursuits. So they are fursuiters, the people who are wearing them.”

Cars are buzzing by faster than the posted speed limit.

Groups of children are dodging cars trying to make it to the other side of the street.

All of this going on over the shoulder of Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak.

The councilwoman, joined by representatives from Bike Pittsburgh and community residents, stressed the need for an upgraded traffic safety system Wednesday outside of the Carrick Regency High Rise along Brownsville Road.

The Lawrence County woman who lost custody of her child after testing positive for drugs after eating a poppy seed bagel has settled her suit against the county and the hospital where the test was preformed. 

The American Civil Liberties Union took the case of Elizabeth Mort in 2010 and announced the settlement with Jameson Hospital and Lawrence County Children and Youth Services Tuesday. The two entities will pay $143,500 to settle the suit. 

Matt Paul / witf

Ceremonies and re-enactments this week are marking the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Three days of fighting in July 1863 on the rolling hills of Gettysburg claimed the lives of 51,000 men in what many historians call the turning point of the Civil War.

Now, 150 years later, work is underway to ensure the hallowed ground looks nearly identical to how it was when Union and Confederate troops met on those fields. But Gettysburg National Military Park has undergone many changes since the famed battle.

With 150th Anniversary, Gettysburg Comes to Life

Jul 1, 2013

On this day 150 years ago the Battle of Gettysburg began. By the time the three-day battle was over, nearly 8,000 Americans were dead and another 40,000 were wounded or missing. But the battle changed the tide of the Civil War. 

This week, thousands of spectators will gather in Gettysburg to mark the anniversary, as Civil War re-enactors play out some of the key skirmishes that made the three-day battle so memorable. That means Gettysburg Chief Historian Scott Hartwig will be busy.

Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg to Leave in 2014

Jun 28, 2013
University of Pittsburgh

The University of Pittsburgh will soon be looking for a new chancellor.  Mark Nordenberg told the University’s Board of Trustees Friday that he will leave the post in the summer of 2014.

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