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Walter Stein / AP

In 1948, twenty people died when thick smog settled over the small town of Donora, just south of Pittsburgh. But is the city prepared if it happens again?

Paul A. Selvaggio / Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium

At the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, inside a tall concrete room, kept warm and humid, is a series of cages filled with the most illegally trafficked animal in the world: the pangolin.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

The Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities have lived on a hill in Millvale for more than 100 years: they started a hospital and a high school and taught generations of children.

But over the years their numbers have dwindled, and the order has decided to sell its 25-acre campus, Mount Alvernia.

James Benney III / General Photograph Collection, Detre Library & Archives Heinz History Center

Even before Pittsburgh was topping “most livable” listicles and getting attention as the “next Brooklyn,” it attracted travelers from around the country.

Kevin Sousa / Studio for Spacial Practice

A long-awaited restaurant in Braddock is set to start taking reservations this weekend.

Superior Motors is the latest venture of Chef Kevin Sousa. 

Ally Ruggieri / 90.5 WESA

For the 12th year, furries have descended on Pittsburgh for the annual Anthrocon at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

This year’s theme is: “Take me out to the Ballgame” and runs through Sunday.

It’s considered one of the largest furry conventions in the world and organizers estimated that about 8,000 people are taking part this year. 

All weekend, Pittsburghers can expect to see colorful anthropomorphic suits adorning its sidewalks, as well as locals posing for pictures and photographs.

Why Is Pennsylvania Called A Commonwealth?

Jun 27, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Ever wonder about something you see or hear in the region that you wish our reporters would explore? Now's your chance!

Here's how it works: Share your questions with us. Then, we'll let the public vote on the one they want us to investigate. Finally, if your question wins — and if you're game — work with us to get to the bottom of it.

Google Maps

After the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, or SPC, tabled the four-lane toll road extension of the Mon-Fayette Expressway in March to gather more information, the 10-county planning agency voted Monday night to add the highway segment to its list of recommended projects.

Bill Gardner / 90.5 WESA

The language on the controversial black and yellow Sprint advertisement that blankets part of Pittsburgh’s Mt. Washington has been changed, amid legal battles over the sign’s permit.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

An independent bookstore chain in Pittsburgh is opening its third location on the South Side this week.

Amazing Books owner Eric Ackland still has quite a few bookshelves to fill. The 4,600-square-foot space on East Carson Street is about five times larger than his Downtown and Squirrel Hill locations.

“Most people assume a third store is evidence of great success,” he said. “In our case, thank God we’re seeking it out, but we need to thrive and we need a location to grow into.”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

On a recent Tuesday morning, trucks filled with asphalt fed the black steaming material into a paving machine as it crept along Saline Street in The Run. Klaus Libertus has lived there for two years and said, before the paving crew arrived, driving down the street was "vibrating."

But it had its benefits.

“If you had kids in the back you wanted to get to sleep, it would help," he said. "I mean they used to say 'the patches had patches.'"

Molly Riley / AP

An organ transplant can be a life-saving procedure for people with serious medical conditions, but the drugs used to ensure the patient’s immune system doesn’t reject the organ can have severe side effects.

Damian Dovarganes / AP, File

Pennsylvania handed out licenses to 12 companies to grow marijuana for medicinal uses last week, and is expected to license producers and dispensaries soon. However, it could be tough for those businesses to get bank accounts.

Although Pennsylvania has legalized medical marijuana, it's still illegal at the federal level. That means all of the proceeds from growing, producing or selling it are illegal as far as the federal government is concerned.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

A crowd of about 30 people gathered at the former Penn Plaza apartments in East Liberty on Thursday, where the development’s owners are tearing down the remaining building. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

On a weekday afternoon in Pittsburgh’s South Hills, a few dozen adults are standing within taped yellow boundaries, sneakers scuffing a gym floor, lobbing what looks like a bright green wiffleball back and forth over a short net with soft, square paddles.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

 

Last year, Hopewell Memorial Junior High School started noticing some negative race-based comments being made among students. Studies show safe environments are essential for learning, and being victim to identity-based harassment can be especially detrimental in school.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County has thousands of employees, but one of them has a rather unusual title. 

PIZW / Flickr

The bright purple airplane landing at PIT on Friday inaugurates year-round, nonstop service to Reykjavik, Iceland. It’s just one of several new destinations added to the airport this year.

While Pittsburgh will never be the hub it was throughout the 1990s, the goal is to make it really work for the region, said Alyson Walls, airport communications manager.

Kris Hart

If there's a checklist for starting a political campaign, one item would have to be, "Am I qualified to run?"

Businessman Kris Hart planned to announce his candidacy for governor of Pennsylvania in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, Thursday, but quickly changed his plans after he learned — from me, I'm afraid — that he didn't meet the state residency requirement to serve as governor.

Googlemaps

The League of Women Voters is leading a new lawsuit seeking to throw out the map of Pennsylvania's congressional districts as an unconstitutional gerrymander that favors Republicans and violates the rights of Democratic voters.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in the state Commonwealth Court. It is the first to challenge districts originally drawn by Republican state lawmakers in 2011. It says Pennsylvania's map is one of the worst gerrymanders in the country.

Jana Kasperkevic

On Sunday, 23 percent of Puerto Rico’s eligible citizens went to the polls, and 97 percent of them voted to make Puerto Rico America’s 51st state. That’s about half a million people. The vote was nonbinding, and because of the low turnout, it might not be enough to persuade Congress to convert Puerto Rico from a commonwealth to a state.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Fourth grade students at Propel Hazelwood gathered in a circle around another student summarizing a class text. As she spoke, each student gave her a thumbs up or a thumbs down.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Nowhere in the country can someone work 40 hours a week at a minimum-wage job and afford a two-bedroom apartment, according to a study from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

On average, a Pennsylvanian earning minimum wage would have to work 83 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom rental.

There are a lot of misconceptions about low-income earners. Primarily, that they’re not working hard enough, said Phyllis Chamberlain, executive director of the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Mary Ann Merranko went to see one of her favorite bands, Rusted Root, at the now defunct venue The Beehive in Oakland in 2001.

She made her way to the front of the crowd and ended up right next to the speaker. When she emerged onto Forbes Avenue later that night, she noticed a ringing in her ears.

Maranie Staab / Facebook

Pictures of young refugees from the war-torn countries of Syria and Iraq have been defaced with spray paint at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Arts Festival.

Journalist Maranie Staab, of Pittsburgh, is currently in Iraq photographing the ongoing crisis there in Mosul. She posted a photo of the defaced images and a message for the vandal or vandals on Facebook: "If the person that did this happens to see this, I would welcome the opportunity to speak to you about these kids."

The two defaced pictures showed refugee children. The vandals X-ed out their faces with spray paint.

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

The Port Authority of Allegheny County makes changes to its bus schedules four times a year. The next one, coming up on June 18, will affect 15 routes

Keith Srakocic / AP

The Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival is underway all this week in Pittsburgh.

The event runs until June 11 and features exhibits throughout Point State Park, the Cultural District and the Gateway Center.

Argo AI

Uber is not the only self-driving car game in town. Ford announced in February that it would invest $1 billion over five years in Pittsburgh-based Argo AI. The company has been quietly building its team, with the goal of putting self-driving cars in production by 2021.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Terry Grantz stood on a swaying dock, pointing to a massive, off-white concrete block. He’s the manager of Lockwall One Marina, a private facility in the Strip District below the Cork Factory Lofts.

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