The week that was: Dialing back on robo-calls

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Dialing back on robo-calls

The Federal Trade Commission has offered a $50,000 cash reward for whomever comes up with the best solution for blocking robo-calls, those stinkbug sales calls that have been illegal since 2009 but keep finding their way to your phone anyway. With monthly robo-call complaints to the FTC increasing from 65,000 to 200,000 a month the past two years, David Vladeck, director of the agency's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said the winner will be "a national hero." For those feeling weary of this election cycle, however, you should know that the ban does not include those prerecorded calls from politicians.

A different kind of courtship

Last year at this time, they were courting each other. Last week, Highmark and the West Penn Allegheny Health System were in Common Pleas Court over a dispute about whether Highmark had breached the affiliation agreement the two parties signed last Halloween, which would free West Penn Allegheny to look for other possible partners to help it right its financial ship.

Despite their disagreement about whether a breach occurred, officials for both sides still say they still think they're made for each other.

Higher Ed gets a lower credit rating

Moody's lowered the credit rating from Aa2 to Aa3 for Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education because of declining enrollments, slumping state support and growing construction debt. Also factored in was an ongoing contract dispute with the system's faculty members.

Closing in on a housing recovery

Pittsburgh region home sales rose year over year for the 12th consecutive month, with closings on 128 more homes in September than in September 2011. "We can definitely say the real estate recovery is here to stay, at least locally and in the residential home market," said Dan Murrer, vice president of South Side-based RealSTATs.

Landing another direct flight to Houston

Good luck trying to find a direct Southwest Airlines flight from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia -- that service was dropped nearly a year ago -- but beginning April 14 the popular airline is adding a daily flight from Pittsburgh International to Houston's William P. Hobby Airport.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said the move was spurred by the growing Marcellus Shale industry here, as many of the energy companies have headquarters in Texas and other parts of the South. United Airlines already offers four to five daily flights to George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.


Steve Twedt: or 412-263-1963.


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