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Check out "From the Newsroom," TribLive's newest top stories podcast, hosted by TribLive's Zac Gibson. Each week's episode will feature a discussion with a TribLive reporter about a recent story from Western Pennsylvania.

Podcast: Penn State and the higher education divide

Is there an impending higher educational divide?

Penn State announced the restructuring plan for its branch campuses this week. Two local branches, Fayette and New Kensington, will be consolidated under the Allegheny branch. This also comes with a 10% decrease in staff and faculty for all bridge campuses. Simultaneously, Penn State’s main campus, University Park, plans to expand to facilitate an increase in fall enrollment. 

TribLive higher education reporter Bill Schackner joins host Zac Gibson to discuss the situation.

This is From the Newsroom:

From the Newsroom Podcast: The state of Pittsburgh’s inclines

In this episode we’re talking about a Steel City identity staple, the Pittsburgh inclines.

The Monongahela Incline and its slightly younger sibling, the Duquesne Incline, were built in the 1870s to easily and quickly transport Pittsburghers to their destinations throughout the city.

Pittsburgh was once home to 15 inclines, or funiculars, at one time, but as time passed the railways were eclipsed by the efficiency of trolley systems and later cars.

Reporter Ryan Deto joins host Zac Gibson to discuss the state of the inclines in Pittsburgh.

This is From the Newsroom.

From the Newsroom Podcast: Expert insight on Trump’s hush money trial

 

Former President Donald Trump was found guilty on 34 felony counts in his New York hush money trial on May 28, becoming the first former president to become a convicted felon.

For many observers, the focus was on Trump’s reaction, while Trump and his supporters claimed the trial was rigged.

Some legal experts focused on the American judicial system and whether it worked in this case.

Paula Reed Ward, TribLive’s federal and Allegheny courts reporter, joined host Zac Gibson to discuss the case and various experts’ view of the legal system.

This is From the Newsroom.

From the newsroom: TribLive unpacks the exclusive interview with Marc Fogel

Marc Fogel is an international teacher from Oakmont. Until the fall of 2021, the 63-year-old traveled to various countries teaching history. In August 2021, Marc was detained and arrested in Russia for the possession of 17 grams of medical marijuana, the drug prescribed legally in Pennsylvania for his back and knee pain.

Fogel is currently serving a 14-year sentence in a Russian penal colony. His family has taken up the call to urge President Joe Biden to bring him home.

To the family’s disappointment, Biden has yet to address Fogel by name.

Last week, TribLive was able to sit in on a call between Fogel and his 95-year-old mother, Malphine.

Host Zac Gibson is joined in this episode by Community Engagement editor and Opinion columnist Lori Falce to discuss this experience, listen to Fogel’s interview, and tell us more of his story.

This is From the Newsroom.

Pittsburgh’s ties to Oppenheimer and the Atomic Age

 

The promise — and peril — of the power of the atom cast long shadows over Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania.

News Editor Jon Silver talks about Pittsburgh’s ties to the Atomic Age and J. Robert Oppenheimer, the creator of the atomic bomb. Oppenheimer’s wife, Katherine “Kitty” Oppenheimer, was born in Aspinwall.

Silver wrote a story about the region’s connections to the atomic age in the summer of 2023, when the blockbuster movie “Oppenheimer” was in theaters and renewing interest in the topic. His research lead him to several Pittsburgh connections to the atomic age.

Listen to Silver and producer Zac Gibson discuss the topic. And then Silver does an author reading of his story.

 

From the newsroom: Controversy surrounds Pittsburgh’s questionable payments to contractor

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey’s administration is embroiled in a controversy involving questionable payments to a contractor.

The city’s Department of Parks and Recreation department has paid Mario Ashkar almost $23,000 for his work as a contractor. The payments have been via municipal credit cards, known as p-cards, which has lead to concerns and scrutiny.

Ashkar, 36, of the city’s North Side, was recently charged in connection with several ethnic intimidation incidents.

Questions have arisen about why Ashkar was permitted to work as a contractor for the city after previously being fired from a different department.

TribLive’s Pittsburgh city hall reporter Julia Felton breaks down the story.

From the newsroom: What is going on at Westmoreland County’s register of wills

 

In Westmoreland County, commissioner Ted Kopas has called for the resignation or removal by impeachment of the Register of Wills Sherry Magretti Hamilton.

Earlier this month, two judges found Hamilton in direct criminal contempt on three counts: disobedience or neglect by an officer of the court; official misconduct as an officer of the court; and misbehavior in the presence of the court and obstructing the administration of justice.

A Greensburg attorney has been appointed to serve as conservator over the office. The position gives the lawyer authority over all operations of the Register of Wills Office, where adoption records are processed and filed along with guardianships, wills and estates.

Hamilton has not spoken about whether she will resign or what she will do going forward.

TribLive’s Government and Politics reporter Rich Cholodofsky joined host Zac Gibson to explain what led to this call for removal and the consequences Hamilton could face.

This is From The Newsroom.

From the Newsroom podcast: A look at the student protests at Pitt

Over the past few weeks, universities and colleges across the country have seen unrest tied to the growing public sympathy for Palestinians in the Israel-Hamas war.

The University of Pittsburgh also saw a version of this national protest with its own Schenley Plaza as the site of students’ pro-Palestine encampment.

Universities across the nation, including Yale, NYU, Arizona State and Columbia, have seen protests by coalitions of students, faculty and other supporters erupt.

Protesters are calling for their institutions to divest themselves from any war-related investment in Israel. Many also want statements condemning “genocide in Gaza.”

These institutions have tried to disband the encampments with methods ranging from vacating deadlines and warning of suspension to escalated tactics like restricting access to university properties or requesting the involvement of law enforcement.

TribLive’s higher education reporter Bill Schackner joined host Zac Gibson to talk about his reporting covering this story and explain the Pitt student protests.

This is From The Newsroom:

Podcast: Butler County is Ponderosa’s last frontier in Pennsylvania

This week’s episode feature reporter Joyce Hanz joining Zac Gibson to dive into the nostalgia and loyalty surrounding the last Ponderosa Steakhouse in Pennsylvania.

Butler County has one of the last of 16 Ponderosa restaurants left. It is located in Center township. Visitors travel from New York ,Virginia, Ohio and Erie to get a taste of the western-themed buffet.

Hanz walks through her reporting experience and explain why Ponderosa holds such significance in the hearts and stomachs of locals and visitors alike.

This is From the Newsroom.

 

What Summer Lee’s win over Bhavini Patel in Democratic primary means for the general election

In this episode, a look at the aftermath of the high stakes Pennsylvania District 12 congressional contest between Democrats, Bhavini Patel and incumbent Summer Lee.

Political reporter Ryan Deto joins Zac Gibson again to dissect the primary results and provide some insight into the profiles of these candidates. They discuss what may have decided this race and take a glimpse at what the general election contest could look like.

This is From the Newsroom.