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.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium showed off its Amur leopard cub on Friday, as zoo keepers continue to help it acclimate to its enclosure.

The 3-month-old cub was born in February, the first for mother Candy, and is the first of its kind born at the zoo in 16 years, officials said. Curator of Mammals for the zoo, Ken Kammerer, said he's been watching the cub very closely because the Amur leopard is the rarest animal in the world. 

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

A recent effort to collect teddy bears for Pittsburgh police officers to hand out to children in emergency situations far outstripped its intended scope.

In 1680, English nobleman Edward Coke codified his country's common law regarding fetal homicide.

"[T]his is a great misdemeanour, and no murder," Coke wrote of the intentional death of a fetus in utero "by Potion, Battery, or other cause."

Gene J. Puskar / AP

All taxpayers in Pennsylvania pay for the state police, and the state police serves all taxpayers. It just serves some taxpayers a bit more.

According to the Pennsylvania State Police, 1,287 of the 2,561 municipalities in Pennsylvania have no local police force. 

Don Stranger

Ask a Pittsburgher where the best pizza in the city is and you’re bound to get a different answer depending on which pie lover you ask.

For anyone looking to make an informed decision, more than a dozen pizza shops will come together May 14 for the second Steel City Pizza Fest in Lawrenceville.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Lindsey Coy and Mindi Doyle work in a nice office Downtown for People’s Natural Gas, but they spent the last week counting down the days until they could sand off layers of peeling paint from an old East McKeesport door.

waferboard / flickr

More than $18 million in grants will help Allegheny County’s homeless population by funding housing and jobs programs in the region.

Social service agencies in the county were recently awarded $3.6 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, to combat homelessness. And in March, another $14.6 million in HUD grants was doled out to assist women, teens, veterans, ex-offenders and other homeless individuals.

Daniel Lobo / Flickr

As Allegheny County’s Latino population grows, the Port Authority is trying to make sure non-English speakers can access translation services.

To increase awareness, PAT is launching a campaign with billboards and brochures at bus shelters in neighborhoods with large Latino populations, including Brookline, Beechview and Oakland.

Bill Rand / Flickr

City officials are slated to receive $1.2 million in reimbursement funds six months after the federal government first pledged to support redevelopment along the corridor of Forbes and Fifth avenues in Uptown.

We Want To Hear About Your Favorite Teacher

May 2, 2016
Thomas Favre-Bulle / Flickr

Who was the best teacher you ever had? And what made him or her so great?

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Many of the men who met in an empty storefront between Guntown Vape and Nice Ink Tattoo on Canonsburg's West Pike Street last week had visible tattoos and closely shaved heads.

They were armed with a rainbow of rubber bands and brightly-hued hair brushes, while Joe Cafeo taught them how to fashion the perfect ponytail and braid.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Domestic abuse victims in Pennsylvania will no longer have to wait for as long as two years to get a divorce from spouses convicted of abuse.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation on Thursday which makes two major changes to how courts deal with domestic violence divorce proceedings.

Greg Sciulli

While many vacant homes continue to crumble in Wilkinsburg, a select few will have their stories told.

The Wilkinsburg Vacant Home Tour began as a project by Carnegie Mellon University to address the issue of urban decay in the borough. The Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation adopted the tour during its second year.

Port Authority of Allegheny County

 

A man convicted of beating a black man and pushing him onto subway tracks in Pittsburgh almost a year ago has been sentenced to three to six years in prison.

Twenty-two-year-old Ryan Kyle was sentenced Wednesday in Allegheny County. He pleaded guilty in February to aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation and robbery conspiracy as prosecutors dropped an attempted murder charge.

Seth Perlman / AP

 

More than 100 water systems in Pennsylvania have had lead levels above a federal threshold at least once since 2013, according to an Associated Press analysis of the data.

Rebekah Zook / 90.5 WESA

Debbie Thackrah said she never expected her initiative, Feeding the Spirit, to be as large as it is today, considering its humble beginnings in 2011.

“My running partner and I ... started running with five dollar bills to slip under their knapsacks so it would be there when they woke up,” she said. Thackrah, on her morning runs, was seeing an ever-growing homeless population in her town of Greensburg, spend the night in open, public spaces.

“It made me really upset,” she said.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Neighbors are optimistic about the latest plan to create offices, restaurants, apartments and maybe a new public market in the Strip District's historic produce terminal.

Mora McLaughlin / 90.5 WESA

Anyone who visits a Community Recreation and Healthy Active Living Center in Pittsburgh can meet with neighbors or grab a bite to eat. Now, they can also surf the internet with free Wi-Fi.

Citiparks and the Department of Innovation and Performance announced the installation of free Wi-Fi in 22 of its centers throughout the city.

The announcement was made at the Greenfield Healthy Active Living Center on Wednesday.

Women & Girls Foundation of Western PA / Facebook

Fifty-six years after the Equal Pay Law took effect in Pennsylvania, politicians and advocates gathered in Market Square in downtown Pittsburgh on Tuesday to call attention to the continuing pay disparity in the state and nationwide.  

Margot Callahan

Margot Callahan, of Highland Park, is providing her voice for a stranger – literally. She’s one of thousands of people who have donated their voices to people with vocal disabilities, caused by a range of factors such as a stroke, cerebral palsy or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

VocaliD is collecting those voices and using them for voice software devices. The goal is to provide a more accurate representation of the actual person’s voice, rather than being stuck with a robotic generic one.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

 

A Pittsburgh man arrested a third time on drug and weapons charges stemming from a police search three years ago is a suspect in a cookout ambush last month that killed five people, including a pregnant woman, a detective testified Thursday.

Allegheny County Detective Steve Hitchings testified at a bond hearing that Robert Thomas is a suspect in the March 9 cookout shootings in Wilkinsburg and has been told he's a suspect, KDKA-TV first reported Thursday.

A fired Pittsburgh police sergeant accused of wrongly pushing and punching a drunken man at Heinz Field and then lying about it says he's fighting the criminal case against him.

Ex-sergeant Stephen Matakovich has been indicted by a federal grand jury. He's appealing his firing.

Defense attorney Blaine Jones said Wednesday they're prepared to fight the case wherever they need to fight it.

The police chief and the public safety director agreed to fire the 22-year veteran for using what was deemed to be "unreasonable" force during the arrest in November.

Variety

Variety, a charity that gives away adaptive bikes, strollers and communication devices for children with disabilities, will be taking their services on the road this spring.

The “Life Changing” tour began in late March and will continue into May. They will make 15 stops throughout Pennsylvania and West Virginia to give away 150 products, as well as fit 35 children for their new devices.

The organization's kickoff event took place last week, with a “bike parade” at St. Francis University in Loretto, Pa. Eight individuals received new bikes.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Since 1961, the Pennsylvania State Police have been able to use radar to hand out speeding tickets, but municipal police in the state have been denied the same authority. 

“We trust them with a gun, we trust them with a Taser, we should be able to trust them with a radar gun,” Whitehall Borough Mayor Jim Nowalk said.

Nowalk was among a small, but vocal group that gathered Tuesday in Harrisburg to call on lawmakers to lift the ban. 

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Emily Ahlin said three years ago, no one at the University of Pittsburgh really talked about sexual assault. 

“But I helped lead orientation week this year,” said Ahlin, a junior. “One of the things we had the kids do was a bystander intervention training. That didn’t exist my freshman year, and that exists now.” 

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

The National Aviary’s sloth is now 5 months old and finally has a name.

Aviary officials said he was named Valentino by an anonymous donor who bid for the naming rights.

“I mean, look at that adorable face. It’s just very Valentino to me,” said Cathy Schlott, curator of behavioral management and education, who works with Valentino. “How can you not fall in love with that face?”

Valentino, a two-toed sloth purchased from a breeder in Florida and acquired in February, also had his 5-month checkup this week.

Rebekah Zook / 90.5 WESA

Deanna Blincow has been working with the Orphan Care Ministry since its conception in 2007, and serving as its director since 2012.

Within this time frame, she has witnessed at least 25 families she knows personally go through the intense process of adopting a child, and has counseled countless others.

“My husband and I adopted two children out of an orphanage in Russia, so we did an international adoption about 17 years ago. That’s really what started it for us,” Blincow said.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Members and allies of the transgender community are gathering in Pittsburgh on Thursday to raise awareness about transgender issues.

Events celebrating Transgender Day of Visibility are taking place across the state, including the Steel City at 6 p.m. at the Persad Center in Lawrenceville.

Members of the local transgender community are planning to share their personal stories and how they’ve been affected by discrimination.

Canadian2006 / Wikimedia Commons

An adult homicide charge has been filed against a 14-year-old Mount Pleasant boy after he allegedly shot and killed his 13-year-old friend while playing with a handgun in a neighbor’s house.

A Westmoreland County judge will now have to decide whether to decertify the case, which would send it to juvenile court for a maximum possible sentence of seven years, when the boy would turn 21.

Monroeville attorney Patrick Thomassey, who has represented juveniles facing adult charges, said the limitations of juvenile courts' jurisdictions in Pennsylvania make that a tough choice.

Magnus Karlsson / Flickr

Syrup producers don’t have as much to celebrate at this year’s Pennsylvania Maple Festival.

Somerset County is the biggest producer of maple syrup in the state and home to the Pennsylvania Maple Festival, celebrating spring maple tapping over the first two weekends of April. Warm weather has meant a lower yield for sap, however.

Farmers, like Jason Blocher who operates Milroy Farms in Salisbury, Somerset County, are feeling the effects. Blocher said his family's been in the sap business a long time. 

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