Local Headlines

Important stories from the Pittsburgh region.

Darlene Harris / Facebook

A Pittsburgh city councilwoman who's running for mayor is defending Facebook pictures of herself riding a circus elephant and a camel, saying she just wanted to "see how they're taken care of."

Democrat Darlene Harris posted a picture of herself atop the Shrine Circus elephant and another riding the camel. The circus was at PPG Paints Arena over the weekend.

Harris, who's running against Mayor Bill Peduto in the primary, rejected critics' claims that circus animals are abused, saying, "Those animals are taken care of better than some people take care of people."

Tim Tierney / Wikimedia Commons

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program.

Each week reporters, editors and bloggers join veteran journalist and host Kevin Gavin to take an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region.

This week on the The Confluence, Pittsburgh Today has released its regional annual report looking at key issues affecting the region, from economic factors to transportation to arts and culture. It also assesses how the Pittsburghers' quality of life fairs when compared to 14 other regions.

Humane Pennsylvania

The Humane Society says a cat was tied up, doused in gasoline and placed into a plastic trash bag that was nearly crushed in a Pennsylvania garbage truck.

Troopers Detail Response To Sniper Targeting Their Barracks

Apr 5, 2017
Rich Schultz / AP

State police troopers on Wednesday described for a jury how they responded in the chaotic minutes and hours after a sniper targeted their barracks, shooting two troopers from a wooded area across the street during a late-night shift change.

Janet B. Campbell / The Erie Times-News via AP

A woman convicted in a bizarre bank robbery plot that left a pizza delivery driver dead when a bomb strapped to his neck exploded has died in prison.

Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong died Tuesday of natural causes, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said. Her last location in the federal prison system was the Federal Medical Center-Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, bureau spokesman Justin Long said.

Cosby Prosecutors Seek To Use Jokes About Date Rape Drugs As Evidence

Mar 31, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Prosecutors preparing to try actor Bill Cosby on sexual-assault charges want to use not only his explosive deposition testimony about getting quaaludes to give to women before sex but also his riffs on trying to slip women the supposed aphrodisiac Spanish fly.

In a court filing Thursday, they say the comments show his familiarity with date rape drugs and should not be dismissed as "merely jokes." They quote Cosby making Spanish fly references in his 1991 book "Childhood" and in an interview that year with talk show host Larry King.

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program.

Each week reporters, editors and bloggers join veteran journalist and host Kevin Gavin to take an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Game of Thrones fans have three new reasons to visit the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium’s new Jungle Odyssey exhibit.

Joining the exhibit are three 4-and-a-half-year-old capybaras – who can weigh 150 pounds and are known as the world’s largest rodent – all named after an interesting slew of Thrones characters, including Lysa, Varys and Melisandre.

Lead mammal keeper Kathy Suthard said she chose the names based on the dynamics she observed between the three animals.

Bruce Smith / AP

Authorities in western Pennsylvania say a construction crew found a cache of buried cannonballs at the site of an old civil war arsenal in Pittsburgh.

Public safety officials say the crew found about 20 cannonballs Monday at the site in the Lawrenceville neighborhood.

The police bomb squad responded to the scene but decided to allow the construction company's subcontractor to remove the cannonballs.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

A Pittsburgh nonprofit wants to replace the controversial black and yellow Sprint sign on Mt. Washington with a Hollywood-style letter sign.

Scenic Pittsburgh sent a letter to Louisiana-based Lamar Advertising, which owns the 7,200-square-foot billboard, asking them to donate or sell the property to the organization. Lamar is in a legal battle with the city of Pittsburgh, which claims the company is violating zoning regulations.

Verdict Turns Page In Penn State Child Molestation Scandal

Mar 27, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Penn State is trying to turn the corner on the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal, but the former FBI director who authored a scathing report on it more than four years ago says more changes are needed, even after the conviction of the university's former president.

A jury's guilty verdict against Graham Spanier on Friday to a misdemeanor count of child endangerment made him the last of the three former high-ranking administrators to be held criminally culpable for how they handled a 2001 complaint about Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a team shower.

Matt Rourke / AP

Jurors deliberating in the child endangerment trial of former Penn State president Graham Spanier have asked to rehear excerpts from the transcript of testimony.

The panel on Friday reheard the testimony of Jack Raykovitz, who headed the charity for at-risk children founded by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

Raykovitz said then-athletic director Tim Curley told him a 2001 complaint about Sandusky showering with a boy was investigated and no wrongdoing was found, but Sandusky was told he couldn't bring children to university athletic facilities any longer.

Uncovering The Hidden Poison Of Lead In Our Environment

Mar 24, 2017
Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program.

Each week reporters, editors and bloggers join veteran journalist and host Kevin Gavin to take an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region.

Jury Gets Case In Trial Of Penn State's Ex-President

Mar 23, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Attorneys for Penn State ex-President Graham Spanier on Thursday declined to call any witnesses to counter accusations that he acted illegally in handling a 2001 complaint about Jerry Sandusky showering with a boy, sending the case to jurors for deliberation.

Prosecutor: Not Reporting Jerry Sandusky Let Pure Evil 'Run Wild'

Mar 21, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

The failure of Penn State's former president to report child molestation accusations against Jerry Sandusky allowed evil "to run wild," prosecutors said Tuesday at the start of Graham Spanier's trial. A defense attorney accused prosecutors of trying to "criminalize a judgment call."

Opening statements got underway in the long-delayed criminal trial against Spanier, who faces felony charges of child endangerment and conspiracy for how he handled a 2001 report that the former assistant football coach had abused a boy in a team shower.

Paul Sableman / Flickr

A pop-up lab on Liberty Avenue could play a key role in the street’s future. Life on Liberty is an initiative created by Envision Downtown to gather input about one of the city’s busiest streets.

Jury Selection Begins In Penn State Ex-President's Trial

Mar 20, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Jury selection began Monday in the trial of Penn State's former president on charges that he put children at risk by mishandling child sex abuse complaints about retired assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

Evan Vucci / AP

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program.

Each week reporters, editors and bloggers join veteran journalist and host Kevin Gavin to take an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region.

This week's topics include how President Donald Trump's budget could impact the commonwealth. NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro joins us in studio for a wide-ranging conversation about covering elections and the role of journalists of holding people in power accountable. And, as enrollments and the number of high school graduates in Pennsylvania decline, we'll discuss how the state universities are coping with these challenges. 

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Public safety officials in Pittsburgh have announced plans to bring back a mounted police unit to help patrol the western Pennsylvania city.

The department said Wednesday that it was in the "early phases" of re-establishing the mounted unit after a 14-year absence to patrol the entertainment districts and for numerous special events.

Several full-time officers will be part of the unit in the special deployment division and others will serve as needed.

Brian Siewiorek / 90.5 WESA

A big blast of winter weather is expected to blanket much of the Northeast in heavy snow just days before the official start of spring.

The National Weather Service in Pittsburgh has issued a winter weather advisory for Pittsburgh, with 3 to 6 inches of snow expected after 8 p.m. Monday. Areas outside of Pittsburgh, including the surrounding counties and parts of West Virginia, could see 4 to 8 inches. The advisory is expected to remain in effect until 11 p.m. Tuesday night.

Refugee Resettlement Already Winding Down In Some Pennsylvania Cities

Mar 10, 2017
Emily Previti / WITF

Imad Ghajar and his wife Marwa Hilani were born in Aleppo, Syria, met there, and didn't have plans to leave.

Then the war happened.

"Even in the schools, there wasn't security," Marwa, 37, said recently, through a translator, at her family's new home in Lancaster. "In the middle of the day, there would be a bomb, and someone would die. The area was not safe ever."

The dust from the explosions also made their daughter's asthma worse, and it was increasingly difficult and dangerous to get her treatment.

Honoring Dr. Thomas Starzl, A Medical Pioneer

Mar 10, 2017
University of Pittsburgh

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program.

Each week reporters, editors and bloggers join veteran journalist and host Kevin Gavin to take an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region.

This week's stories include a look back on the career of medical pioneer Dr. Thomas Starzl, known as the "father of transplantation," who passed away last Saturday. Transportation continues to be a major issue in the region. We'll discover the latest plans to better connect the counties. And in our final segment, we'll get updates on the mayoral primary, Wilkinsburg a year after a tragic shooting and the Mon-Fayette Expressway.

Google Maps

Three teenagers have delivered an anonymous apology note and $50 to the Pennsylvania library where they sprayed a swastika using shaving cream in a parking lot.

The teens left the envelope containing the note and the money in a book depository at the Exeter Community Library. Police and firefighters were called to wash away the graffiti on Friday. The envelope was found by library workers on Monday.

The teens' note says they are "three stupid teenagers apologizing for our heinous acts."

The teens go on to say that they didn't intend to offend or hurt anyone.

Chris Sloan / Flickr

 

The Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown has agreed to take more steps to protect children from sexual abuse. 

Defense Firm Claims Exec & Former Owners To Blame For Humvee Fraud

Mar 6, 2017
Manu Brabo / AP

A Pennsylvania defense contractor said two brothers who formerly owned the company, and their former chief financial officer, are to blame for an alleged $6 million scheme to overcharge the Defense Department for Humvee window kits.

Ibis Tek LLC, of Butler, issued a statement Sunday night saying the business was sold last month to a group of independent investors.

The investors' statement said former co-owners Thomas Buckner, 67, of Gibsonia, and John Buckner, 65, of Lyndora, were removed as directors of the company in January, along with former CFO Harry Kramer.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program.

Each week reporters, editors and bloggers join veteran journalist and host Kevin Gavin to take an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region.

This week’s topics include a look at what could happen in Pennsylvania if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. We'll discuss the contract negotiations between Mayor Bill Peduto and the Fraternal Order of Police. Also, we'll look at plans to get funding to repair Pennsylvania's bridges and roads.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

March is coming in like a lion for most of Pennsylvania, with severe weather moving across the state and bringing everything from tornado warnings and hail to flash-flood watches and thunderstorms.

Judge Rules Bill Cosby Case To Be Decided By Outside Jury

Feb 27, 2017
Bill Fraser/Bucks County Courrier Times / via AP Pool

 A jury from outside the Philadelphia suburbs will be brought in to decide the sexual assault case against Bill Cosby, a judge ruled Monday, rejecting a defense request to move the trial itself because of worldwide media reports that brand the actor a "serial rapist."

Montgomery County Judge Steven O'Neill said jurors will remain sequestered during Cosby's June trial on charges that he drugged and molested a former Temple University employee in 2004.

Headstones Vandalized At Jewish Cemetery In Philadelphia

Feb 27, 2017

Philadelphia police say approximately 100 headstones have been damaged at a Jewish cemetery in the northeastern part of the city. The vandalism occurred less than a week after a similar episode in a Jewish cemetery near St. Louis, where more than 150 graves were targeted.

Port Authority of Allegheny County

A white man convicted of throwing a black man onto the downtown Pittsburgh Wood Street T-station tracks has been sentenced to three years in federal prison. 

It is the first federal hate crime to be prosecuted in the region.

Ryan Kyle, 23, of Brentwood, was sentenced to three years in prison, a sentence that will run concurrently with his state prison term for the same assault.

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