Pittsburgh Explainer

Life is busy, and it can be hard to keep up with the news. Every Friday morning, our podcast Pittsburgh Explainer helps you understand some of the most important news from Southwestern Pennsylvania. Hosted by WESA editor Liz Reid, you’ll hear from the reporters who cover politics, education, tech, health, arts and more, and get the real stories behind the headlines.

It’s the news you need, in the time you have.

Pittsburgh Explainer is hosted by Liz Reid and produced by Katie Blackley. New episodes come out every Friday. Listen on the NPR One app or subscribe on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcherSpotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Explainer is taking a break this week for the Thanksgiving holiday. Instead, we’re bringing you the first episode of 90.5 WESA’s new series, Land & Power.


Gene J. Puskar / AP

On this week's Explainer:

Allegheny County set a new record this week, with more than 2,000 new COVID-19 cases. Health reporter Sarah Boden reports state and county officials say they don't plan to put new restrictions in place, but are advising people to only interact with others in their home

Archives & Special Collections / University of Pittsburgh Library System

This week on Explainer we have something a little different -- the introduction to a new podcast called Land & Power.

In 2015, residents of the Penn Plaza apartment buildings in Pittsburgh learned that they’d have to leave their homes to make way for a new development. The news arrived like a pronouncement: this neighborhood, East Liberty, isn’t for you anymore.

John Minchillo / AP

  

All eyes are on Pennsylvania as ballots continue to be counted. If Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden takes the commonwealth, he’ll win the presidency. WESA’s government and accountability editor Chris Potter and reporter Lucy Perkins break down what’s at stake and what’s to come.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

This week on the Explainer:

COVID-19 cases are rising in Pennsylvania, with more than 40,000 people testing positive this month. Health and science reporter Sarah Boden breaks down the numbers, noting health officials say there isn’t a particular source of new infections.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

On this week’s Explainer:

Lucy Perkins / 90.5 WESA

On this week's Explainer:

WESA’s Lucy Perkins outlines what happened that caused nearly 29,000 misprinted ballots to go out to Allegheny County residents. County elections officials are blaming the error on a third-party vendor.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

On this week's Explainer:

Keystone Crossroads' Avi Wolfman-Arent reports that more than a half a million kids in Pennsylvania are learning to read right now. It's a demanding task in normal times, and considered by many to be the most significant event of a child's academic career. Remote learning could exacerbate existing gaps in literacy skills, which can impact a student's grasp of other subject areas.

Andrew Harnik / AP

On this week's Explainer:

Government and accountability reporter Lucy Perkins was there when former Vice President and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was in town this week, riding an Amtrak train through parts of Ohio and western Pennsylvania. 

Matt Rourke / AP

The coronavirus pandemic caused more than one million Pennsylvanians to vote by mail in the June primary, and state officials expect that number to roughly triple in November. With a little over a month until the election, the rules around voting by mail are still in flux, as several lawsuits make their way through the courts.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

An extra $500 per month will soon arrive for 200 Pittsburgh households. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said the city will start to make the payments later this year as part of a universal income pilot program. The initiative is funded by philanthropic donors and will go to very low-income families with an emphasis on homes run by Black women.


Photo by Vanessa German

  

Two women, lifelong friends, consummate their yearly hotel-room assignation on the eve of Y2K. A man and a woman, near-strangers, have sex in a car outside the hospice where both their mothers are dying. A woman writes a long letter to her sister, who never knew their wayward father, who just died. A girl grows up understanding, but forbidden to speak about, her mother’s years-long affair with their pastor – and then becomes close to the pastor’s wife and teen-aged son.

Marina Riker / AP

Both President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden were in Southwestern Pennsylvania this week.


Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh’s Public Art Commission will soon hold a public hearing on whether to remove the Christopher Columbus statue in Schenley Park. More than 14,000 people have signed a petition asking for the statue’s removal.

Ariel Worthy / 90.5 WESA

 

Anti-racist activists faced off with Pittsburgh police in Point Breeze Wednesday night, after talks with Mayor Bill Peduto broke down. Police used chemical agents and other less-lethal crowd control methods, and one person was arrested.

Ariel Worthy / 90.5 WESA

This week, Duquesne University held its first press conference in response to the demands of Dannielle Brown, whose son Marquis Jaylen Brown died on campus in 2018.


Dannielle Brown hasn’t eaten in more than a month. But she says she hasn’t breathed in nearly two years.

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA


Vice President Mike Pence was in Westmoreland County Thursday at a “Cops for Trump” event. He greeted a crowd of supporters outside the police station in Greensburg, most of whom weren’t wearing masks or social distancing.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA


The Pittsburgh Public Schools first day of school is scheduled for August 31st, just a little more than five weeks away. But it’ll be at least another week and a half before families know for sure what fall instruction is going to look like. While some districts are offering a hybrid model, with both online and in-person instruction, others haven’t made up their minds yet, including PPS.

David Zalubowski / AP

Despite mitigation efforts by the county to bring down surging coronavirus cases in Pittsburgh, new cases continued to be tallied in the triple digits this week. Officials blame a testing backlog for Tuesday’s record-setting 331 new reported cases

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA


The number of coronavirus cases continues to surge in the Pittsburgh region, with more than 2,000 new cases reported over the last two weeks.

Kiley Koscinski / 90.5 WESA


Allegheny County has reported record high numbers of new COVID-19 cases over the past week. On Thursday, the region broke 200 for the first time. The people infected are skewing younger and public health officials say many of them spent time in bars and restaurants or traveled out of state.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Anger over entrenched racism and white supremacy in American culture is boiling over, after the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other black people at the hands of police and private citizens. Regular protests continue in Pittsburgh and across the country, but many activists have pivoted from simply expressing rage to making demands.

And, after more than a month of COVID-19 case counts trending downward, Allegheny County saw a spike over the past week. Since last Friday, the county has reported 199 new cases.

Amy Sisk / 90.5 WESA


On this week’s Pittsburgh Explainer, we revisit a story from our series Still Working, produced by Margaret J. Krauss and Kevin C. Brown about how work shapes who we are and how we see the world.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA


There’s a discussion happening in Pittsburgh and around the country about the ways we as a society think about policing. People are questioning whether armed officers are really the ones who should be handling issues of mental illness, domestic disputes and broken tail lights.

Ariel Worthy / 90.5 WESA

The death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer on Memorial Day has inspired protests across the country. Here in Pittsburgh, demonstrations began on Saturday and have continued every day since.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

The coronavirus shutdown began just as winter turned into spring. Since then, people have been learning new skills, taking on home projects and figuring out how to navigate life in these strange times.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

As warm weather arrives in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf will consider lifting a number of pandemic restrictions throughout the next few weeks. Allegheny County still operates in the yellow phase of reopening, but residents can enjoy Memorial Day weekend at the newly reopened state parks.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County and 12 other Southwestern Pennsylvania counties have entered the yellow phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s reopening plan.

Daycares are allowed to reopen, as are many retail establishments and churches. Gatherings of less than 25 people are permitted, but individuals are still expected to socially distance and wear masks; restaurants are closed to dine-in customers; and gyms, movie theaters and casinos are all still shuttered.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Twenty-four northwestern and north-central Pennsylvania counties move into the "yellow" phase of Gov. Tom Wolf's reopening plan Friday. Businesses will begin to flip their "closed" signs to "open," all while taking precautionary health and safety measures. 

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