What Can Pittsburgh Do To Prevent Bioterrorism?

Nov 1, 2019


On today's program: What to expect one year from the 2020 elections; how tariffs are affecting some of PA’s steel workers; what PA can do to get ahead of a potential retirement crisis in manufacturing; and how Pittsburgh safety officials are preparing for the threat of bioterrorism.

Welcoming a new addition to WESA’s Friday programming
(00:00 — 12:26) 

National political analyst Amy Walter joined the Friday team for The Takeaway just over a year ago, lending her decades of experience probing politicians and pundits alike to a political news roundup produced in partnership with WNYC, PRI and WGBH. “The Takeaway: Politics with Amy Walter” is joining 90.5 WESA’s Friday calendar, broadcasting from 9 to 10 a.m. every week starting Nov. 8.

Just one year out from the 2020 elections, she says she hopes to spend lots of time in swing states like Pennsylvania, which went for Trump by about 44,000 votes in 2016. According to Walter, Pennsylvania will be an even more important battleground next year, because Democrats did so well in 2018. 

“Was that a sign that the state is going to go much more strongly for Democrats?” she asks, “or was that because it was a midterm election and Trump wasn’t on the top of the ticket?”

Walter joins WESA politics editor Chris Potter to talk about how critical issues like jobs, health care, a surging economy and impeachment proceedings are likely to affect who and how voters go to the polls.

NLMK asks Trump administration to "make the tariffs go away"
(13:54 — 17:50) 

President Trump promised his tariffs on imported steel would revitalize U.S. steel producers, but the policy has had the opposite effect for some mills in Western Pennsylvania. In the steel town of Farrell, WESA’s Lucy Perkins reports that workers at NLMK USA are living through drastic work reductions.

"The economy just isn’t there,” said Jim Wells, unit president for USW Local 101603 at NLMK. He said he hasn’t really seen the revitalization the Trump administration touts. “There’s not a lot I can really say about that.”

Manufacturing retirements push PA to prioritize STEM education
(17:52 — 22:46) 

Manufacturing is the second biggest jobs generator in Pennsylvania, and the sector increasingly requires workers to be skilled in math and science. Ahead of a retirement boom, some fear there could even be a hiring crisis.

Keystone Crossroads’ contributor Robby Brod reports a new state grant could help bridge the divide between classrooms and the needs of local industry.

“Some of the best practitioners of trigonometry are precision machinists," says Dan Fogarty, director of workforce development in Berks County, where he says there’s an especially large disconnect between the needs of the local economy and the amount of skilled workers. "Sometimes, (machinists) are actually better than people that teach math, because if you drill the hole in the wrong spot on the $7,000 part and it has to be scrapped, you probably don’t get to do that twice.”

Twisting technology to create, and thwart, a deadly threat
(22:52 — 38:46)

The impact of bioterrorism can be far greater than a traditional terror attack. Toxins hit quickly, can affect thousands and have long lasting effects, so what is Pittsburgh doing to prevent it? 

State deputy health secretary Raphael Barishansky and preparedness director Andrew Pickett were among more than 700 doctors, nurses, EMS workers, police and firefighters from across western Pennsylvania who met last month for an Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council and Bioterrorism Conference organized through the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security and Pennsylvania Department of Health. 

Barishansky says they work all the time on responding to a threat including drills this week in Philadelphia.

“We’ve devised systems through our planning, through our overall preparedness efforts, exercising and training, and those systems are robust.”

Pickett adds that while they are on honing their response skills, they also work secretly on ways to thwart attacks.

90.5 WESA’s Julia Zenkevich and Avery Keatley 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.