Supreme Court Limits Civil Asset Forfeiture, Rules Excessive Fines Apply To States

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that the Constitution's ban on excessive fines applies to state and local governments, thus limiting their ability to use fines to raise revenue. The court's decision, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was announced by her on her second day back at the court. Ginsburg missed in-person arguments at the court for the first time in her quarter century on the Supreme Court bench after undergoing surgery for lung cancer late last year. The...

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Elaine Meder Wilgus served as emcee for Nerd Nite (wearing a dress she made from a book).
Bill Arden / Bill Arden

“Nerd Nite” has come to Central Pennsylvania! The first event in a monthly series took place last week State College.

Semih Eser, a professor of Energy and Geo-Environmental Engineering, started off the evening with Turkish music on guitar. He played to a capacity crowd, gathered for the inaugural Nerd Nite at Webster’s Bookstore Café.

“I’m at Nerd Nite because I want to be surrounded by my fellow nerds,” said Bill Arden of State College, a retired college astronomy teacher. He sat at a table in the back.

What does Arden think of when he hears the word “nerd?” 

Penn State THON Raises $10.6 Million For Pediatric Cancer

Feb 18, 2019
Penn State's THON raised more than $10 million for pediatric cancer.
Maddie Biertempfel / WPSU


Penn State’s student-run dance marathon, or THON, revealed this weekend it raised $10.6 million dollars for pediatric cancer this year.

Thousands of students and spectators gathered in the Bryce Jordan Center for 46 hours to celebrate the fundraising efforts for families and children battling cancer.


One of those families was the Damesheks, who lost their 12-year-old daughter Emilia in 2016. Her mother Natalie gave an emotional speech during the final hours of the event.


Penn State Greek Life Two Years After Piazza's Death

Feb 18, 2019
The Beta Theta Pi fraternity house where Penn State student Timothy Piazza was fatally injured in Feb. 2017.
Min Xian / WPSU

Just over two years ago, Penn State sophomore Timothy Piazza died from injuries sustained at an alcohol-fueled bid acceptance party at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house.

Penn State took swift action. It permanently banned Beta Theta Pi, halted all fraternity parties and implemented other sanctions meant to make Greek life safer.

Now two years have passed, two new classes of students have arrived, and two years’ worth of new regulations have been instituted. So, what’s changed?

Fraternity member Brannon DeWolf said there’s less partying.

This episode is the first in a series examining the state of democracy around the world. First up is Hungary, a country that's often referred to in a group of countries in central and Eastern Europe that are seeing authoritarian leaders rise to power. You might have heard of Viktor Orbán or know that the country is in some way associated with George Soros, but beyond that, it's not a place many of us spend a lot of time thinking about.

Mark Focht is the Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer for New York City Parks.

He previously worked in Philadelphia for more than 15 years, including serving as First Deputy Commissioner of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation.

He talks with us about his passion for improving the quality and accessibility of urban environments and how green spaces help our health and well-being.

Helge Overas / Creative Commons

An archive recording of the WPSU Blues show as aired on February 16, 2019 and hosted by Max Spiegel. 

In the first hour, hear tracks from Nina Simone, Paul Brasch, Johnny Shines, Watermelon Slim, The Yardbirds, Frank Zappa, Leon Redbone, Shelia Wilcoxson, Eric Bibb, Ry Cooder, G-Love & The Special Sauce, and more.

In hour two, hear Leadbelly, Larkin Poe, Dr. John, Cephas & Wiggins, Roy Bookbinder, Greg Brown, Taj Mahall, Professor Longhair, Buddy Guy, Mary Flower, and more.

An archive recording of the WPSU Jazz Show as broadcast on February 15, 2019, and hosted by Greg Petersen.

The show has a Valentine’s Day theme and in the first hour, hear tracks from Gerry Mulligan, Brad Mehldau Trio, Chris Botti, Dave Brubeck Quartet, Dee Daniels, Joe Pass Quartet, John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman, Johnny Costa, and more.

In the second hour, hear Joshua Redman, Kenny Barron, Diana Krall, Nat King Cole, Ray Brown Trio with Ulf Wakenius, Monty Alexander Trio, Louis Armstrong & His Orchestra, Billie Holiday, and more.


This I Believe: I Believe In Forgiveness

Feb 14, 2019

My dream had always been to play basketball in college. But during my junior year of high school, I got a severe concussion. In the months that followed, I went through concussion therapy, different drugs and steroids, and seven different doctors. By August 21, 2015, I was progressing well in therapy—so well that I was going to be cleared that day. I was in the car with my sister on my way to my very last appointment. I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to play basketball again for my senior season, and then in college.

Two Centre County commissioners talk with Gov. Tom Wolf
Anne Danahy / WPSU

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced Wednesday the state is going to build the stretch of U.S. Route 322 in Centre County known as the missing link. The project will cost $670 million dollars and will, Wolf said, make “the long-awaited route connection a reality.”

“As they say, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step and that’s what we’re doing here,” Wolf said while making the announcement in a hotel outside of State College where the current two-lane highway runs.

Developers for the Patton Crossing project in the State College area submitted a sketch plan for public comment on Wednesday.
Image Provided

Developers for the Patton Crossing project in the State College area submitted a sketch plan for public comment on Wednesday.

In the proposed plan, the Patton Crossing project will have a main entrance on North Atherton street. Three one-story commercial buildings will face the busy road.

The hotel, which was originally placed on the south side of the project, has been brought to the center of the 28-arce lot, farther from the Park Forest neighborhood.


NPR Stories

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Bergen County, New Jersey, was certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2017 as the first community in the country to end chronic homelessness.

Chronically homeless people, as defined by the National Alliance To End Homelessness, are “people who have experienced homelessness for at least a year, or repeatedly, while struggling with a disabling condition such as a serious mental illness, substance use disorder, or physical disability.”

KCRW DJ Valida Carroll (@Validaaajoins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to share a range of uplifting music — from L.A. folk to global house tracks — to chase the February blues away.

Copyright 2019 WBEZ Chicago. To see more, visit WBEZ Chicago.


One of our listeners wrote in to ask why Americans are addicted to tipping and just can't seem to quit. This is a subject near and dear to our hearts: doesn't it seem like we're tipping everywhere these days? It's a also a great behavioral economics question. Tipping is one of those conventions that defies both common sense (why do we tip for some services and not others?) - and the rules of economics (why do most people prefer restaurants that don't include fixed service charges in their prices?).

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Julián Castro On His 2020 Presidential Platform And Living The 'Immigrant American Dream'

Democratic candidates in the 2020 presidential election are already crisscrossing the country, trying to gain traction ahead of next years primaries. One of them is   Julián Castro , the former mayor of San Antonio and secretary of Housing and Urban Development under former President Obama, whos hoping to be the first Latino president of the United States. Castro says on Day One in office, his first step would be signing an executive order recommitting the U.S. to the Paris climate agreement....

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Supreme Court Blocks Texas From Executing Mentally Disabled Man

Finding that a Texas court hadn't followed its instructions, the U.S. Supreme Court has declared that a Texas man who killed a store clerk during a botched robbery attempt "is a person with intellectual disability" and therefore cannot be put to death. This is the second time the Supreme Court has weighed in on the case, which stems from a 1980 robbery in which Bobby J. Moore shot and killed a store clerk. The issue before the court has been whether Moore lacked the intellectual capacity to...

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GOP Candidate's Son Says He Warned Of Potential Illegal Activity In N.C. Election

Updated at 9:34 p.m. ET On day three of a hearing meant to get to the bottom of an absentee ballot scheme in the as-yet-undecided U.S. House race in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District, Republican Mark Harris' son testified that he warned his father about the political operative at the investigation's center. All eyes now are on Harris, who is expected to testify first thing Thursday morning about what he knew was going on in the eastern part of the 9th District, and when he knew it....

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An Acoustic Ecologist Who's Losing His Hearing Wants To Help Us All Be Better Listeners

The art of truly listening to nature gets schooled out of most of us from an early age. But after acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton started losing his hearing, he decided he wanted to help us relearn the skill. As journalist  Ashley Ahearn ( @aahearn ) reports, Hempton  and a small team put together a special series of his favorite recordings — from the grasslands of Canada to the rain forests of Hawaii — in order to preserve those sounds . His new podcast, produced in partnership with...

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A Parent-To-Parent Campaign To Get Vaccine Rates Up

Updated at 5:31 p.m. ET In 2017, Kim Nelson had just moved her family back to her hometown in South Carolina. Boxes were still scattered around the apartment, and while her two young daughters played, Nelson scrolled through a newspaper article on her phone. It said religious exemptions for vaccines had jumped nearly 70 percent in recent years in the Greenville area — the part of the state she had just moved to. She remembers yelling to her husband in the other room, "David, you have to get...

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Southwest Grounds Planes, Blames Labor Dispute With The Union

After pulling planes and canceling hundreds of flights, Southwest Airlines is offering an apology to travelers — and blaming the union that represents aircraft maintenance technicians. Last week, the Dallas-based airline took more than 40 of some 750 aircraft out of service at four Southwest locations, spurring flight delays and cancellations. As a result, the company declared an operational emergency. The unprecedented number of grounded aircraft followed a CBS investigation that highlighted...

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Insurers Hand Out Cash and Gifts To Sway Brokers Who Sell Employer Health Plans

The pitches to the health insurance brokers are tantalizing. "Set sail for Bermuda," says insurance giant Cigna, offering top-selling brokers five days at one of the island's luxury resorts. Health Net of California's pitch is not subtle: A smiling woman in a business suit rides a giant $100 bill like it's a surfboard. "Sell more, enroll more, get paid more!" In some cases, its ad says, a broker can "power up" the bonus to $150,000 per employer group. Not to be outdone, New York's...

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U.S. Hate Groups Rose 30 Percent In Recent Years, Watchdog Group Reports

Updated at 2 p.m. ET For the fourth year in a row, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization that tracks hate groups, reports that hate and domestic extremism are rising in an unabated trend. The center found a 30 percent increase in U.S. hate groups over the past four years and a 7 percent increase in hate groups in 2018 alone, according to the center's annual "Year in Hate and Extremism" report. The group designated 1,020 organizations as hate groups in 2018, a high of at...

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The Power Of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Anger

When Martin Luther King, Jr. was in high school, he won an oratorical contest sponsored by the Negro Elks. He and a beloved teacher were returning home in triumph, riding on a bus, when some white passengers got on. The white bus driver ordered King and his teacher to give up their seats, and cursed them. King wanted to stay seated, but his teacher urged him to obey the law. They had to stand in the aisle for the 90 miles back to Atlanta, Ga. "That night will never leave my memory," King told...

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Supreme Court Limits Civil Asset Forfeiture, Rules Excessive Fines Apply To States

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that the Constitution's ban on excessive fines applies to state and local governments, thus limiting their ability to use fines to raise revenue. The court's decision, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was announced by her on her second day back at the court. Ginsburg missed in-person arguments at the court for the first time in her quarter century on the Supreme Court bench after undergoing surgery for lung cancer late last year. The...

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EXCLUSIVE: Aspen Words Literary Prize Unveils Its Finalists

Out of 16, just five remain. The Aspen Words Literary Prize, now in its second year, has trimmed its longlist of 16 nominees to just five finalists. The books on the shortlist, unveiled Wednesday, all manage to "illuminate a vital contemporary issue and demonstrate the transformative power of literature on thought and culture," according to Aspen judges. Still in the running for the $35,000 prize are: There There , by Tommy Orange; Friday Black , by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah; An American...

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When Nazis Took Manhattan

On the evening of Feb. 20, 1939, the marquee of New York's Madison Square Garden was lit up with the evening's main event: a "Pro American Rally." The organizers had chosen the date in celebration of George Washington's birthday and had procured a 30-foot-tall banner of America's first president for the stage. More than 20,000 men and women streamed inside and took their seats. The view they had was stunning: Washington was hung between American flags — and swastikas. The rally was sponsored...

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As Pope Holds Sex Abuse Summit, U.S. Catholics Not Hopeful For 'Bold Moves'

Never in the history of the Roman Catholic Church has a pope ordered bishops from around the world to come together and consider how many priests abuse children sexually and how many church officials cover for the abusers. The scandal of clergy sex abuse has deep roots in church history, but church leaders have been notoriously reluctant to acknowledge it and deal with the consequences. Not surprisingly, when Pope Francis summoned more than 100 bishops to a meeting in Rome to address the ...

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From The Lumineers To 'Rattlesnake' Kate, Neyla Pekarek Goes Solo

After eight years of playing cello and singing with The Lumineers , Neyla Pekarek left the band this past fall. In January, she struck out on her own with a solo album called Rattlesnake . It's a concept album based on the true story of Colorado's Rattlesnake Kate, who rescued herself and her 3-year-old adopted son from an attack by killing more than 140 snakes in 1925. Neyla reflects on the courage she found by digging into Kate's story as she was going solo and shares why she felt it was...

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West Virginia's Education Bill Dies As Teachers Strike

Updated Tuesday at 4:27 p.m. ET Teachers spent only a few hours striking before West Virginia's House of Delegates effectively killed a new bill that would pave the way for charter schools and private school vouchers in a state that relies primarily on public education. Cheers came from the rooms in the Capitol where teachers on strike had assembled, and Fred Albert, president of West Virginia chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, told The Associated Press, "It was very clear today...

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Uranium Ore Stored At Grand Canyon Park Museum May Or May Not Pose Health Risk

Updated on Feb. 20 at 11:10 a.m. ET For many years, three buckets full of uranium ore sat in a museum building at the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Tours often visited the museum collection building, with children on tours sitting next to the buckets for a half-hour. Recently, the park's safety, health and wellness manager, Elston "Swede" Stephenson, sent out an email to National Park Service employees and approached the Arizona Republic to warn that people in the building were ...

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Chinese 'Ivory Queen' Sentenced To 15 Years In Jail In Tanzania

A convicted Chinese trafficker known as the "ivory queen" has been sentenced to 15 years in jail by a Tanzanian court. Yang Fenglan, who has lived in Tanzania on and off for decades and operated a Chinese restaurant, was found guilty of working with two Tanzanian men to smuggle more than 800 pieces of ivory between 2000 and 2004, as Reuters reported. Yang and the men – Salivius Matembo and Manase Philemon – were convicted of "leading an organised criminal gang," according to the wire service....

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Take Note: Penn State Laureate John Champagne

Champagne is a professor of English and chairman of the Global Languages and Cultures program at Penn State Behrend, the Erie campus. He'll talk about politics, art, and the role of art in fascism.

WPSU's Art for the Airwaves Contest

Deadline: 5:00 p.m. on February 28. The winning work will be reproduced as a limited edition poster, to be offered as a "thank-you" gift during WPSU-FM's April fundraising drive.

Gospel Roots of Rock & Soul

Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul is a special four-part weekly radio show celebrating Black gospel music's profound influence on rock and soul music. Sundays at 9:00pm & Thursdays at 1:00pm in February.

Attention Teachers: NPR Student Podcast Contest

Submissions for the NPR Student Podcast Challenge are now open! This contest is for teachers with students between 5th and 12th grade. Read the rules and submit at the link below.

Listen to Morning Edition, weekdays from 5:00am to 9:00am & Weekend Edition, Saturday & Sunday from 8:00am to 10:00am on WPSU-FM.

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Get The Free WPSU App!

Take public media anywhere you go with the WPSU mobile app available for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android and Amazon devices.

Turn Your Old Car into Public Radio!

Got an old car? The Car Talk Vehicle Donation Program will take it off your hands & turn it into great public radio on WPSU-FM. To donate your car, visit the link below or call 1-866-789-8627. Thanks!

NPR's "Planet Money/How I Built This"

Saturdays at 7:00am: “Planet Money” and “How I Built This” are two half-hour shows that together make a one-hour weekly program on business and entrepreneurship from NPR.

WPSU's Community Calendar

Find out what's happening in Central & Northern PA on WPSU's Community Calendar! Submit your group's event at least 2 weeks in advance, and you might hear it announced on WPSU-FM.

Add your voice!

Write an essay for WPSU's This I Believe or BookMark. Click below for details.

Get your NPR News Fix This Weekend!

Listen to the latest from NPR News this weekend on Weekend Edition, Saturday & Sunday mornings, 8:00-10:00am; and All Things Considered, Saturday & Sunday evenings, 5:00-6:00pm on WPSU-FM.

Keystone Crossroads: Rust or Revival? explores the urgent challenges pressing upon Pennsylvania's cities. WPSU is a contributing station.

WPSU Podcasts

Subscribe to our podcasts and stay on top of your world with WPSU.

Reasons To Stay

In case you missed WPSU's Regional Murrow Award-winning series, "Reasons to Stay," which explores what keeps people in central Pa, check it out at the link below.