Disrupting Terror Plots Before They Happen

Jun 25, 2019

On today’s program: What the new UPMC and Highmark agreement means for patients; a Pittsburgh author releases his debut novel; Aliquippa is using a federal grant to improve access to fresh food downtown; and a terrorism expert explores how counter-terrorism has evolved. 

UPMC and Highmark shake hands on 10-year deal
(0:00 – 12:10)

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Monday that UPMC and Highmark have agreed to a 10-year deal allowing Highmark insurance customers to use UPMC doctors at in-network rates. The deal comes just days before a previous consent decree was set to expire between the two companies. 

Shapiro tells The Confluence that talks between the heads of the two companies were increasingly productive over the last week and that the new agreement is a win for patients. 

“We can’t lose sight of the fact that their voices were heard in this process,” he says. “This was a combination of people power and tough talks, and ultimately corporate responsibility. I think that’s a great lesson here, and I think it’s a great template for getting things done, not just in Western Pennsylvania, but across the board.”

90.5 WESA’s Sarah Boden reports UPMC declined to explain why they offered the deal or what Highmark insurance carriers can expect July 1. 

Comedy and Franz Kafka inspire Pittsburgh writer’s debut novel 
(13:07 – 17:50)

Pittsburgh-based author Adam Erlich Sachs says he often finds himself drawn to narratives that involve “an obscure logic working itself out.” His debut novel, “The Organs of Sense,” draws from his own love of mixing realism and surrealism and takes inspiration from everything from sketch comedy to Franz Kafka to tell a fictional, fable-like story whose protagonist is the real-life, 17th century German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz. Sachs talks about the book with WESA’s Bill O’Driscoll.

Federal grant could be a welcome boost for food access in Aliquippa 
(17:54 – 27:55)

Aliquippa is the only city in Pennsylvania to receive one of 14 Local Foods, Local Places grants through the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program, which doesn't have a set dollar amount yet, seeks to improve access to fresh food and support downtown reinvestment. 

Donald Walker, chairman of the Aliquippa Economic Development Corporation, says he hopes to see a grocery store return to the city and fund partnership programs that could bolster local businesses downtown. 

Aliquippa has been designated financially distressed for more than 30 years, but in Apil submitted an exit plan to be completed by 2022. Walker says programs like Local Food, Local Places will help the city pull itself out of Act 47. 

Foiled North Side bombing bears hallmarks of modern FBI investigations
(28:00 – 39:11)

Federal officials arrested a man accused of plotting to bomb a church in Pittsburgh's North Side last week. Michael Kenney, program director of international affairs at Pitt's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, says the arrest is the latest example of the sophisticated strategies employed by organizations like the FBI to prevent terror attacks.

Officials tracked the online movements of suspect Mustafa Alowemer, who allegedly showed signs of violent extremism. Prevention strategies used by the FBI have advanced to meet modern threats before plans are carried out, Kenney says, and there's now a strong emphasis on monitoring social media movements, the dark web and other online resources to foil would-be attacks.

Kenney's latest work, "The Islamic State in Britain: Radicalization and Resilience in an Activist Network," published last year. 

90.5 WESA's Julia Zenkevich, Julia Maruca and Hannah Gaskill contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.