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.

Logan Ingalls / Flickr

Everyone has that one Halloween they remember -- sleeping with one eye open after a terrifying movie, gorging yourself on trick-or-treating loot and that one embarrassing childhood costume you just can't get over. Here are some tales from the WESA and WYEP offices of Halloweens past. 

How an unexplained recording can make you internet famous

Brian Siewiorek – WYEP Production Director

In a previous life, Brian worked as a reporter.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Everyone has that one Halloween they remember -- sleeping with one eye open after a terrifying movie, gorging yourself on trick-or-treating loot and that one embarrassing childhood costume you just can't get over. Here are some tales from the WESA and WYEP offices of Halloweens past. 

When your dad's inability to use tools is the scariest thing about Halloween

Megan Harris -- WESA Digital Editor/Producer

Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

Holding her newly minted citizenship certificate and voter registration application, Sumebha Gupta grinned.

“I just wanted to give my vote to be counted,” she said. 

Gupta is one of 39 people who became a United States citizen this month, many of whom cited the upcoming presidential election as their major motivation. 

“I feel excited," said Omar Coker, originally form Sierra Leone. He said registering to vote was "definitely a must."

WhiteHouse.gov

According to the Department of Justice, around 70 million Americans have criminal records which hinder their chances of finding jobs. Monday, the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County signed the White House’s Fair Chance Business Pledge to help those who have done their time get a second chance.

Ex-Attorney General Gets 10 To 23 Months In Jail For Perjury

Oct 24, 2016
Matt Rourke / AP

 

Former Attorney General Kathleen Kane was sentenced Monday to 10 to 23 months in jail for illegally disclosing details from a grand jury investigation to embarrass a rival and lying about it under oath.

Kathleen Kane To Receive Sentence Monday

Oct 24, 2016
Bill Fraser / Bucks County Courier Times/AP

 

Supporters of Democrat Kathleen Kane once hoped the ambitious lawyer might reach the U.S. Senate.

But the one-term Pennsylvania attorney general instead will learn Monday whether she's going to jail in a perjury and obstruction case that stemmed from a political feud.

The case is being heard in Montgomery County, where former President Bill Clinton stumped for her in 2012.

Kane's lawyers say she has been punished enough after losing her career, law license and reputation. They will ask for probation or house arrest so she can raise her teenage sons.

Traisaun Leake / Hazelwood Youth Media Justice

If a student misbehaves in a Pittsburgh Public School, the administrators are bound by a disciplinary code. But which reactions are punitive? Which are restorative? And what's more likely to help the student and his or her classroom culture?

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

The ballroom in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center where the P4 Conference is taking place this week is lit more like nightclub than a conference center. Bright green and blue lights shoot up the walls, a sharp contrast in the dimly lit room. A rapper takes the stage, spitting acapella rhymes that simultaneously praise and critique the city he loves. In the back of the room, an artist turns his words and the rest of the day’s speeches into comic strip-like panels.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

 

The City of Pittsburgh has roughly 13,000 city-owned vacant lots available for purchase. But how to start the process of buying that property can be complicated. Here’s a simple, step-by-step look at how to buy one. (You can also scroll down to the flow-chart below.)

 

Hometown Pride Still Alive In A Declining Steel Town

Oct 17, 2016
Jessica Kourkounis / for Keystone Crossroads

On this episode of Grapple, you’ll hear reflections from a steel town in the Pittsburgh region. Back in the 1950s, the city of Clairton was booming with about 20,000 residents. But today there are far fewer people living there and fewer job opportunities than before. You’ll hear from someone who used to work at the mill and also from someone who had to leave Clairton to find work elsewhere. Lastly, you’ll hear about the first settler of Clairton and how the family he was part of was woven into Clairton’s history.

Gwen's Girls / Facebook

In Pittsburgh, African American girls are three times more likely to be suspended than white girls and 11 times more likely to be referred the juvenile justice system.  The statistics come from a new "State of the Girls" report by the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work in partnership with Gwen's Girls, a nonprofit that helps young disadvantaged girls throughout the city. 

rob zand / flickr

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has filed suit against Veolia Water North America-Northeast LLC, which managed the authority for three-and-a-half trouble-filled years.

“They botched the procurement and implementation of a new automatic water meter reading system. They failed to properly bill PWSA customers. And they mishandled the change in chemical related to lead corrosion control at the water treatment plant,” said PWSA Board of Directors Chairman Alex W. Thomson.

Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership / YouTube

 

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and other groups are trying to scare pedestrians straight off their cellphones.

The new "Look Alive" safety campaign features actors dressed as the Grim Reaper and zombies who will tell people to look up from their cellphones if they're seen walking and texting. A special computer program will also be used to flash safety messages to cellphone users who are on certain web browsers while they walk.

Google Maps

 

Usually, inadequate representation lawsuits go like this: your lawyer does a bad job defending your case, you're found guilty, and then you seek a new trial on the grounds of insufficient counsel. It's a single response to a single instance of misrepresentation. 

But what if a public defender system is so chronically underfunded and understaffed that criminal defendants know going into their case that they won't be able to get a proper defense? Must they wait, individually, for their case to be tried and then hope for some sort of relief? 

Megan Harris / WESA

In the fields and forests of Pennsylvania’s Elk County, love triangles, unrequited advances and fevered courtships have a unique soundtrack.

Netflix

Good news if you like your cup of coffee with a serving of snark from your favorite grumpy diner owner. Two Pittsburgh cafes are turning into Luke’s Diner of Gilmore Girls fame on Wednesday.

Early-rising Gilmore Girls fans can nab a free cup of coffee starting at 7 a.m. at Big Dog Coffee in the South Side and Bookshelf Café in Morningside, in addition to coffee shops and cafes across the country.

1971 Pirates Reflect On Historic All-Black Lineup

Oct 3, 2016
Gene J. Puskar / AP

The 2016 Major League Baseball season has reached the playoff stage and for the first time in four years, the Pirates will not be part of it. But, at this time 45 years ago, the Pirates were on their way to winning the World Series with a diverse group of players that made history in a way that rivaled Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Amongst some pretty worn-down storefronts in Sharpsburg, seven miles from downtown Pittsburgh, Memories Sportsman and Taxidermy Shop has operated since 1990.

In the musty, cluttered space, owner Sam Stelitano, 65, sells new firearms and collectable ones, like original Smith and Wesson’s and Civil War muskets. But look above the rifle-lined counters, and you see his real passion.

Flickr user Travis Estell

When Erie native Ida Tarbell was investigating John D. Rockefeller and his Standard Oil Company more than a century ago, she had to crisscross the country to search through public records and interview sources in person.

Her 19-part series in McClure’s magazine, titled The History of the Standard Oil Co., is credited as the first example of investigative journalism and had a direct influence on the 1909 antitrust lawsuit that eventually broke up the company.

Margaret J. Krauss / Keystone Crossroads

Trib Total Media’s shift toward a digital-only model is playing out amid a larger narrative of an entire industry in transition.

It's A Girl! Philly Zoo Determines Baby Gorilla's Gender

Sep 27, 2016
Matt Rourke / AP

Workers at the Philadelphia Zoo have finally determined the gender of a baby gorilla born last month, and it's a girl.

The baby's 21-year-old mother, Honi, had been holding it so closely after its birth Aug. 26 that zookeepers couldn't confirm if it was male or female.

The zoo is encouraging the public to help name the baby western lowland gorilla.

It is partnering with a sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo that rehabilitates Grauer's gorillas whose families have been killed by poachers.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

After more than 21 years in public safety, Sheldon Williams said he had little reaction to the news that the Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Political recommendations are nothing new, he said, and don’t always carry a lot of weight for union members.

Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

The Catholic Charities Free Health Care Center offers free medical and dental services to some of Pittsburgh’s poorest uninsured and underinsured residents. 

Volunteer Medical Director Dr. Edward Kelly helped launch the clinic nine years ago. The retired orthopedic surgeon spends at least three days a week seeing patients, filling out paperwork and organizing other teams of volunteers who make the services possible.

Joshua Franzos / Pittsburgh Foundation

 

A foundation in Pittsburgh will dedicate 60 to 70 percent of its grant making to address poverty and disparity in the region. 

Depending on the news outlet, Pittsburgh is a lot of things: it’s Steel City or the Paris of Appalachia; it’s the new Brooklyn; it’s the best place to eat, it’s the most underrated American city. 

But for many, the debate about whether or not Pittsburgh merits all this chatter is immaterial: 30 percent of people in the region live at or near poverty.

Mahanoy City: The End Of Coal Country

Sep 21, 2016
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

On episode 01 of Grapple, we explore how Mahanoy City transformed from a vibrant coal town into a distressed community struggling with job loss, low home values, blight, and fire. 

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

That vote was part of the national organization’s choice to endorse Trump, announced Friday. Pittsburgh FOP President Robert Swartzwelder wouldn't say how many officers cast votes during the August meeting. He would only say the vote represented the 730 officers who pay dues. He said he hasn’t heard any pushback from officers who may disagree with the endorsement.

Drug Suspect Issues Facebook Warning Not To Call His Phone

Sep 21, 2016
Sean MacEntee / Flickr

Police say a Pennsylvania drug suspect who dropped his cellphone while running away from police took to Facebook to warn his friends not to call that phone number.

Lackawanna County detectives say 25-year-old James Lee Hankins, of Scranton, ran away after police tried to arrest him for an undercover drug deal involving heroin and cocaine on Monday afternoon.

Submitted / PennLive.com

  Some residents in a small Pennsylvania town say plastic bags were left on their lawns that contained rocks, lollipops and a flier seeming to advertise for the Ku Klux Klan.

The flier read: "Are there troubles in your neighborhood? Contact the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan today."

 

Keystone Crossroads launches its first podcast Sept. 21.

Grapple will give voice to people living and working in distressed communities both big and small.

Judge Upholds Researcher's Conviction In Wife's Poisoning

Sep 20, 2016
Keith Srakocic / AP

  A judge has upheld a jury's verdict that a former western Pennsylvania medical researcher purposely killed his neurologist wife by cyanide poisoning.

Sixty-seven-year-old Robert Ferrante has been serving life in prison since an Allegheny County jury convicted him in November 2014 in the April 2013 death of 41-year-old Dr. Autumn Klein.

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