The PA Governor’s Conference for Women

October 13, 2010 - Leave a Response

Times are tough, and if you are a woman- looking for a job, looking for a way to help your family live better, or just looking for a recipe to be healthier–October 14, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center may be a destination for you. It is the seventh annual Pa Governor’s Conference for Women–co-hosted by Governor Ed Rendell and the Pennsylvania Commission for Women. It is non-profit, non-partisan, and one day, with 75 speakers from around the country. It was here in Pittsburgh two years ago, and they had the hosts of Biggest Loser as speakers, as well as Elizabeth Edwards. This year you can hear from author Kelly Corrigan, who wrote the best-selling, “The Middle Place.” The playwright who created ,”The Vagina Monologues,” Eve Ensler is also speaking. She  founded a global movement to end violence against women and girls. Mae Jemison, the first woman of color to go into space will be on the ground in Downtown, and there will be a Career Fair led by Women For Hire CEO Tory Johnson, She is the workplace contributor on ABC’s Good Morning America. The Fair will be from 2:30 to 5:30, and will feature workshops on career development and advancement.  There will also be one-on-one’s with people about resumes and interviews. All cool stuff.

And ,with the election front and center in many women’s minds, PA Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato will be on stage for an interview, as well as Susan Corbett, the wife of Tom Corbett, the Republican opponent.  I will be interviewing them separately, and asking questions important to the women of this state. Hope to see you there. For more information, go to


A Pepsi Refresher for Turtles

October 11, 2010 - Leave a Response

It is a bit of a lovable face, and, thanks to a lot of you out there, you will see more of them here in Pittsburgh. This is a rescued sea turtle from the Gulf Oil spill, being worked on at an Audubon facility outside New Orleans. This past summer, Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium veterinarian, Dr. Ginger Takle spent  two weeks down there rehabilitating the struggling animals. WTAE Channel Four Action News did a story about her efforts, and the Zoo’s application for a grant to rehab more of the sea turtles at our PPG Aquarium . The $25,000 grant  was the Pepsi Refresh Grant, part of the soft drink company’s “Do Good in the Gulf Effort.”  We placed a link to the voting on, and when we checked the next day, the Zoo was leading in the voting for the grant, thanks, in part, to you guys watching and taking action!!!!

Here is a link to the winning announcement:

The Zoo & PPG Aquarium is a partner in the Sea Turtle Second Chance program. It allows the Aquarium to expand its sea turtle facilities to help the Gulf facilities that are overwhelmed with the growing number of turtles affected by the spill. Here’s a quote from the Zoo’s press release, from assistant curator, Allen McDowell. “We can take sea turtles not directly affected by the oil spill, but who still need care and rehabilitative support and provide a home for them, freeing up space and medical staff to concentrate on the more urgent care of sea turtles affected by the oil spill…If they can be released back into the wild that is great. If not, they will have a home at the PPG Aquarium.”

And you will be able to see them through large viewing windows, to the left of the Aquarium entrance.  Know that you who voted after seeing and reading about the plight of this endangered species deserve a huge “thank you.”

Western Pennsylvanians In The Alps

September 12, 2010 - Leave a Response

It is more beautiful than any of us could have imagined. A trip into the Tyrolean region of Austria, and Bavaria, with a climactic viewing of the historic Passion Play in Oberammergau. The trip is with the Wisconsin company, Holiday Vacations, and WTAE, which advertised to people in our region months ago. I am representing the station as a host for 30 Western Pennsylvanians–and these three from left to right are Ann Wollman and Carol and Don Inman. All from Beaver Falls . Not shown is Ann’s husband, Dave, who was also taking a photo of the group. h This is our first afternoon in Austria, and this is Kitzbuhel, where we are staying for four nights. It is the famous ski resort, which, in the end of summer, is still a gorgeous vacation spot. I have never seen the Alps before, and their grandeur leaves you speechless. These are the mountains Wilde Kaiser, not far from Kitzbuhel, where the Austrian resistance fighters hid in caves during WWII. It was our second day out, on the way to Innsbruck–the site of the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics.

My sister, Marcia Hersey, and I, in keeping with the Olympic spirit, visited the Olympic ski jump site, where there is now a cafe. It is still the site of world ski jumping competitions, and a training facility. It had one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen. And this is a view of the Olympic torch.

Prior to our ski jump excursion, our whole group gathered in the Old Town, where our Innsbruck guide, Eva,

gave us an hilarious account of the days of Emperor Maximilian and the Holy Roman Empire in Innsbruck’s cultural heyday in the 15th and 16th century. This roof you see is real gold. The beauty of  this region is only rivalled by its rich and fascinating history. And we are all highly entertained, and well-fed–of course!!!!

Saving Turtles and Remembering Rocky

August 31, 2010 - Leave a Response

It is one of the faces of the Gulf oil disaster, and one that Pittsburgh has been helping through the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. One that you can still help through August 31st. The Zoo is competing for a 25 thousand dollar grant that is being awarded by the Pepsi Refresh Project. The Project  is $1.3 million for support of projects and communities in the Gulf in the wake of the BP spill. And what a horrible wake it has been for thousands of hard-working families. Not to mention a host of species , some of which are endangered.

Here is the link where you can still vote through today (August 31).

This is Dr. Ginger Takle, who spent several weeks in the Gulf, rescuing and rehabilitating sea turtles covered and filled with oil. She was at the Audubon Aquatics Center , part of the Audubon Nature Institute near New Orleans. Ginger was there for 2 weeks in July. The vast majority of those turtles treated were Kemps Ridley, the most critically endangered of all the sea turtle species. Ginger and the Zoo were part of a nationwide effort that included veterinarians and vet techs from zoos around the country. The effort continues with the drive for the grant, to bring sea turtles here to the Zoo’s Aquarium to continue their rehabilitation, and then re-introduce them to their natural habitat.

And as we in the Pittsburgh strive to help bring new life to animals in another region, animal lovers here are mourning the loss of a favorite at the Pittsburgh Zoo–Rocky.

Rocky came to the Zoo from Cleveland 27 years ago, when he was a year-old cub. He had to be put down two weeks ago because of the crippling arthritis that had made it almost impossible for him to move. Media outlets around the city, and zoo faithful paid tribute, not only to

the magnificent 1200 pound Kodiak (whose species is native to Alaska), but to the special keeper, Mo Brown, who was his buddy the last 11 1/2 years.

One of the special memories I will have is spending an afternoon with Rocky and Mo three years ago. This photo was taken right after I had fed Rocky one of his favorite foods–grapes!  He took them so gently from my fingers, and the experience left me breathless. His head was massive. Mo was with him the day he and Dr. Stephanie James put him to sleep, and Mo kissed that great big head goodbye. Rocky is buried at the International Conservation Center in Somerset County, a beautiful wild area that is a fitting resting place for Mo’s beloved bear.

Meet Tassy

August 17, 2010 - Leave a Response

This is Tassy Filsaime.  A 19 year-old Haitian earthquake  survivor who is, in the midst of the horror of crushed homes, lives, and unimaginable poverty, trying to survive cancer. Why does he matter? Because it is a lesson that one life always matters. The young man who is bringing him to our attention here in Pittsburgh and beyond , knows this, and is asking us to believe it with him.

So meet Ian Rosenberger. He is a former  “Survivor”  contestant, but he doesn’t really want to talk about that. The surviving he is focusing on are the people of Haiti, whom he decided he had to touch personally, by going there. How many of us think of it, but decide to send the money, and let someone else do it. Ian is the someone else, and what he needs is simple, and actually easy for those of us who need a face for the cause.

Ian met Tassy at a church he was visiting. Tassy was a voice in the church choir, and did he have a voice, according to Ian. Ian learned that the deformity on Tassy’s face was actually a cancerous tumor that is growing at a rapid rate. A rate that will kill him, if it is not removed. It was on Ian’s second trip to Haiti that Tassy approached Ian and asked for help. “Can you help me?” Ian’s response was , ” I don’t know, I hope so.”

But for Ian, hope means taking action. Back in Pittsburgh he called a lot of doctors, and as luck, or  God, would have it, a surgeon who had also donated time to Haiti, whom Ian knew, was a maxofacial surgeon at Allegheny General. The operation costs a half million dollars, but Dr. Jeb Blaugrund, and others have knocked down the price to 30 thousand. 30 thousand to save a life.

Ian is headed back to Haiti on August 19, to tell Tassy that the operation is a go, that he will come here to Pittsburgh. But there is still work to be done, and Ian has made it a party. On August 26th, at the Priory’s Grand Hall on the North Side, you can help Tassy with a celebration of Haitian art, music,and life, by attending A Night for Tassy.  For information check out our story that aired last week on our website:

I hope to see you there.

Behind the Scenes Of Rhino Romance

July 16, 2010 - Leave a Response

He is a handsome guy–15 year old Jomo, an eastern black rhino, member of a critically endangered species, only 4200 in the wilds of eastern and southern Africa, 66 in AZA accredited zoos. Thursday night, members of The Pittsburgh Zoo’s Grow Wild Society had a behind the scenes meeting with Jomo, and his lady love (hopefully),

Azizi.  65,000 strong on the continent of Africa in 1970, the  black rhinos’double horns–desired by poachers– have proved to be their undoing. But aggressive anti-poaching has made inroads. Nevertheless, the message this night to the guests was the need to inject new genes into the captive population, so it is healthier, and so the numbers can be maintained  to teach people why saving the wild population is  essential.

Jomo is still figuring out how to make babies, but there has been progress. During Azizi’s last opportunity, Jomo was doing everything right, but a heavy downpour made it too muddy for good footing. Important when you weigh about a ton.

But this week-end, Zoo staff say this lovely lady I am petting, may be ready again. And if it happens, there could be a baby rhino in 15 and a half months. Everyone was thrilled with the visit–a benefit of the Society. And more exciting news involves the Zoo’s International Conservation Center. In the next several years, it will have a global center for reproducing these magnificent creatures through artificial insemination, infusing the captive population with fresh genes from the wild–without having to bring the wild donors here.  It is a delicate balance. As habitats disappear, the argument is that zoos both teach conservation with their animals, and provide insurance against extinction.  If you touch a rhino, you will understand.

Learning From “Lost”

May 24, 2010 - 9 Responses

I laugh with the wonderful people from about how infrequently I blog. They have been so kind not to banish me entirely, and I will try to work on my procrastination in the future. A Future without “Lost.”

I have hardly slept at all. Consuming as much as I can on the Internet. For all its faults, the Internet has been the Island campfire around which we Losties are gathering, and sweet solace for me, since most of my friends think I am nuts, and more than a bit obsessive, about the show.

I am completley satisfied, and deeply moved, by the finale. I admit, though, I had fought the notion of a purgatory-like, reincarnation, transitional-to-the-other side universe for the last month . But now it seems to be the only ending that was fitting. And I just discovered, by reading one blog, that Jack was originally intended to die at the end of the pilot, as it was first presented. But the creators deemed him too strong a character. I was SUCH a Sawyer fan, Desmond fan, Jin fan, and Sayid fan, that it has taken the full six years for me to embrace Matthew Fox’s character. But you had me at the end, Jack.

I think this episode,and the entire season, will be watched again, and again, once it is all available on DVD. I have read some musings indicating that the focus of this season was  to get Jack “home.” But I don’t think it is the entire story. Maybe I am superimposing what I want the finale to be (don’t we all do that?), but look at the paths on which the other characters found themselves. Sawyer was a cop, working through his loss and issues. Desmond was working for Penny’s father, and was pulling people together, rather than running. Hurley was telling Sayid that he was a “good” person, despite what others were trying to make him believe–often for their own benefit.

Miles was having a relationship with the father he really had never known. It goes on. Was Ben still alive, or just having to spend more time understanding his failings? And interesting that Jack was a father, having to learn and live what his father might have gone through with him. I  still haven’t figured out when they all died. And Jack’s father cryptically–or, not so–depending on your level of understanding of this, tells him that some have died before him and some , after him.  I am not sure the timeline is important. Ironic, that we have become so obsessed with time in this series. Yet, time–when this or that happened–didn’t seem to matter in this two and a half hour weep-fest.  I do believe that the Island was real–some spiritual focal point in the universe, whatever your beliefs are. And when they took the stone out of the pool of light, I thought, what was all that– let’s take the stone out, put it back, etc.But turning the Light off humanized Smoke-Monster. Monster didn’t count on that! Took his power, so Kate could kill him. I love that. The Avenging Angel! Then, Jack had to turn the light back on. Quite the metaphor.

I am still crying this morning. Partly because it is so damned moving watching some of the greatest romantic couples in television re-unite–I am such a Sawyer and Juliet fan. Even more than Desmond and Penny. But it is close. And, I admit, Jack and Kate had to be together.

But, getting back to the Tears. The greatest gift of art ( and I believe, as wildly entertaining as “Lost” was, it was definitely great art) is often in its lessons. And lessons there are in abundance in the series. It is, after all, a six-year morality play. I only hope I can “let go” now that it is over.

Painted Dog Pups Entertain

April 3, 2010 - Leave a Response

They are amazing, and their story of survival at the Pittsburgh Zoo, while well-known, bears repeating. This photo is from Thursday’s media day at the African Painted Dogs exhibit. It was only their second day out, and watching them hop, shy away from shadows of birds, and tumble down the hill–all as a pack–was so rewarding for all the keepers who had helped them survive all these months. They had made their actual debut outside the day before, and explored for two hours.

This is one of the photos from Thursday taken by the Zoo’s talented photographer, Paul Selvaggio. You can see in the background that the observation deck was packed. I can’t imagine what it will be this week-end. Someone told me there must have been 10 thousand Zoo visitors on Good Friday. And I can’t think of a better way to spend the week-end than check out these magnificent creatures. Many call them the most efficient predators in Africa. But they are in dire straits–critically endangered, with only 3,000 left in the wild. Habitat encorachment, domestic dog disease, animal trading, poaching snares, and ranchers have all contributed to their situation. (another Paul photo) The Zoo has partnered with a fascinating zoologist in Zimbabwe named Greg Rasmussen, who is a strong advocate for the species. I have interviewed him on one of his visits here. You can read more about his conservation efforts with The Painted Dog Conservation Project at It is hard to believe that we are in danger of losing these animals that once numbered over half a million in sub-Saharan Africa.

And we almost lost our residents after they were born to the female, Vega, October 25. She died two days, later, despite initially looking like she was handling all 9 pups sucessfully. So Asst. Mammal Curator Karen Vacco, and other keepers joined with the Western Pennsylvania Society, and found this amazing mixed breed shelter dog, who had just weaned her pups. She was a perfect surrogate, and five of the nine pups survived. (more photos by Paul). Karen told me Thursday that they believe the use of a surrogate domestic dog is unprecedented in saving a litter. The pups were then weaned, and hand raised, while Honey, the hero substitute Mom, was adopted by a teenager,  Marissa Smail ,and her family. Marissa has been deeply involved with zoo educational projects, and is in love with the Painted Dogs. Here is a better picture of Honey enjoying her new home.

And here are  the pups at three months, the end of January, inside the Dog exhibit, safe from the frigid weather .

They don’t bark, but vocalize in high-pitched chirps. They can run 30 miles per hour for nearly 30 minutes (that is what makes them such great hunters, combined with their highly sophisticated pack cooperation). Their social structure is so complex, that they care for their sick and injured, to try to keep the whole pack healthy. And the entire pack cares for the pups of the lead male and female.

By the way, the two adult males, Draco and Puck–father and uncle of the pups, have been moved to the Oglebay Zoo in Wheeling. Since there is no mother to protect them, the Zoo did not want to take the chance that the pups and the adults might not blend well. The adults are being lovingly welcomed by a female at Oglebay, whose companion had died.

A Chain of Charity

March 20, 2010 - Leave a Response

It was one of the highlights of the Oscar Bash for the Pittsburgh Film Office two weeks ago. Getting to meet two of the most remarkable young women in our area, who have grabbed both headlines and hearts since the devastating earthquake in Haiti.  Jamie and Ali McMutrie. The photo, from left to right, is Jamie’s husband, Doug Heckman, Jamie, me, Jamie’s younger sister, Ali, UPMC’s Leslie McCombs, and brilliant blogger, Virginia Montanez, a wonderful supporter of Jamie and Ali.  Their work in Haiti to rebuild the orphanage continues, but it is hampered by the dramatic drop-off in charitable interest. There seemed to be a  a spasm of compassion the week after the quake, and now donations to the region have dropped off–some say by as much as 75 percent. But the sisters, and their supporters, like Leslie,  continue to work tirelessly to find homes for orphans not yet placed, and continue orphanage work in Haiti. At the same time, there are other charitable organizations in Haiti that  have Pittsburgh connections, and are striving to cope with the long-term disaster effects on one of the poorest countries on the planet.  This is a photo from Hospital Albert Schweitzer,  founded, managed and supported by people from our area. It is 40 miles from Port-au-Prince and has become a major health care facility

in the quake’s aftermath. Just last week, they announced they have opened a long-term prosthetic and rehabilitation center in partnership with the Haitian Amputee Center. A friend of mine, Bridget Miller, is one of the many from this region who can’t imagine how hellish life there must be now. Back in 2003, she moved there to work for the hospital, leaving behind a pretty comfortable life for several years. Many of us think about going, we send our money, but it is the McMutries’ and people like Bridget, who sacrifice so much more. They contribute a part of their lives. And while I am talking about hospitals and heroes, the man in this picture is a hero to so many parents whose children suffer from cystic fibrosis, and other lung diseases.  Geoff Kurland is a pediatric pulmonologist, who has his own courageous story. His book,  My Own Medicine, chronicles his victory over cancer, over two decades ago. Geoff was diagnosed with a rare leukemia, that has a low survival rate. He fought it and won, and has been in remission for 21 years. The gorgeous woman next to him is his wife, a Teaching Professor at CMU in architecture and public policy. This was a celebration by the many fellows he has guided at Children’s Hospital through the years.

Another person whose life is a mission of charity, that has made Pittsburgh a better place.

30 Years

March 4, 2010 - 5 Responses

It was the night they won–the Miracle On Ice Team. My then-husband and I had arrived in Pittsburgh, a day ahead of the moving van, and settled into a hotel in Monroeville, to discover the impossible had happened. The USA Hockey team had beaten the dreaded, overwhelmingly favored Soviets. We waited eagerly for the game to be shown later in the evening. Both of us  had connections to hockey, having become  friends with players for the Birmingham Bulls, a number of who had gone on to the NHL.

That my 30 year anniversary in Pittsburgh should coincide with another USA Olympic team, playing in a gold medal game, is fitting. To sit in the sports department, screaming wildly for Zack Parise and his tying goal. To collapse almost in unison with the fallen figure of Ryan Miller as Pittsburgh’s beloved Crosby of Canada dashed the hopes of the scrappy, young USA team. Surrounded by my co-workers, it was an appropriate exclamation point to three decades of amazing sports experiences, lasting and enriching friendships, and an appreciation for a culture of champions that runs deep in this city.

It was why I decided to come. The vision of The Chief beckoned, during a pre-game Super Bowl interview-talking about the friendliness of the people. People with whom I have shared Super Bowls, Stanley Cups, and MLB Division Championships (I missed the 79 World Series by half a year).

Now, 30 years later, I am sitting across from another remarkable Pittsburgh figure, Coach Dan Bylsma–not even 40–a winner of the Stanley Cup in his first year of coaching?!

And watching  an ESPN interview with Sidney Crosby, someone a number of us in the newsroom have had the pleasure to meet. The Face of Hockey, and a self-effacing one at that.

There have been remarkable, sometimes wrenching, news stories. Shanksville, Quecreek, Ivan, The Blizzard of ’93. Senseless, murderous rampages, heartwarming stories about the courage of children, the strength of charity,  and the birth of elephants and wild dogs. The list goes on and on. For all of us who are fortunate to cover the news in the City of  Three Rivers, it has been a rich tapestry of events.

Thank you to all of you who have shown  such good will and uncommon kindness. I intended to come for 3 years, and wisely, made it 27 more.