On today's program: How DNA from veterans could help cure societal ills; the FBI is investigating Gov. Wolf’s environmental oversight of a pipeline; redistricting, school closures and tax increases are all possibilities for Pittsburgh Public Schools; PA attorney general Josh Shapiro is talking opioids in D.C. today; and why some customers can’t link their PNC accounts to apps like Venmo.
The VA’s Million Veteran Program wants a few good DNA samples
(00:00 — 12:22)
Since launching in 2011, more than 800,000 people have joined the Million Veteran Program, a national research initiative to learn how genetics, lifestyle and military exposures affect health and illness.
Bea Chakraborty, research coordinator for the Pittsburgh VA, says they're hoping to recruit far more Western Pennsylvanians--especially women, young people and people of color.
“Even with 800,000 people, we have [only] about 9% of those are women veterans,” she says. “The research can only be as good as the demographics that you put into it.”
Data is recorded blind and used to study better methods for prevention, early intervention and treatment for conditions including depression, PTSD, cancer and more. Veterans of all ages and experiences are encouraged to contribute.
Corruption investigation begins over Mariner East permits
(13:42 — 17:42)
Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration is being investigated by the FBI over construction permits on the multibillion-dollar Mariner East pipeline project, which carries natural gas across Pennsylvania to an export terminal in Delaware County. The Allegheny Front's Reid Frazier discusses the story--first reported Tuesday by the Associated Press--with his StateImpact Pennsylvania colleague Susan Phillips.
Wolf said Wednesday he’s not aware of any wrongdoing.
PPS won’t rule out anything in efforts to make education more equitable
(17:43 — 30:44)
Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent Anthony Hamlet says he'd consider closing more schools, dowsizing administrative departments, reorganizing which schools students attend and increasing local property taxes if it ultimately means getting city kids a better education.
“We still have 65 percent of the market when it comes to public education (in Pittsburgh),” he says, acknowledging that leaves room to grow. “I don’t want to compete against charters. I want to make sure we have the best products for our students … If we want to change the district and change the narrative, we have to invest.”
At a city budget address Tuesday, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said he thinks finances at Pittsburgh Public Schools are so dire that the district should be under state oversight. The district operates independently from the city, and the mayor has no say in state matters. District administrators say it would help to get back the tax revenue the city has diverted to itself for 15 years; the process began when Pittsburgh itself was in financial trouble.
Hamlet tells The Confluence’s Megan Harris that he doesn't want back payments, but ending the annual $20 million in diversions would go a long way in helping recover from a stable but precarious financial situation.
He says he knows not all Pittsburgh Public students get the same education. An internal study shows the district's enrollment has dropped about 17 percent in the last 10 years.
“Right now, no, we’re at different levels,” he says, pointing to disparities across race, gender and income level. “We want to make sure that anywhere you go, irregardless of the zip code, you will have the same quality of education.”
Hamlet says he's open to meeting with Peduto any time.
What to look for as Josh Shapiro meets with fellow AGs today
(30:47 — 34:45)
Attorneys general from across the nation are meeting today in Washington, D.C., to finalize a proposed $48 billion settlement with many of the major players in the opioid industry. Attorney General Josh Shapiro told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Rich Lord that he and fellow attorneys general plan to "work through a few remaining issues, to get to the point where we can dot i's and cross t's on the global settlement."
PNC customers are upset over issues with cash-sharing apps
(35:06 — 38:55)
PNC Bank customers have been complaining online for months that they’re having trouble connecting through third-party payment apps like Venmo, inspiring threads on Twitter and Reddit dedicated to discussing the problem. 90.5 WESA's Kathleen J. Davis explores what customers are hearing from PNC.
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.