Saturday, December 30, 2006

Local News - Saturday Dec. 30

Two Vehicles Rollover on Interstate

Frackville State Police are investigating a two vehicle crash on Interstate 81 in Butler Township last evening. At approximately 7:25 p.m. two vehicles came together at the 118 mile marker in the northbound lanes of the Interstate. Both vehicles left the roadway and rolled down a 30 foot embankment. One of the occupants was flown to a trauma center. State Police were assisted at the scene by the Englewood Fire Co. of Butler Township, Goodwill Fire Co. of Frackville, Yorkville Hose of Pottsville, and Frackville, Shenandoah, Minersville, and Tremont EMS Squads.

Tailgate Stolen

An Ashland man has reported his tailgate was stolen from his 2000 white Dodge Ram while it was parked at Goodfellas Bar in Mt. Carbon. Charles Hughes reported to Schuylkill Haven State Police that between 11 p.m. December 14 and 2 a.m. December 15 that his tailgate was stolen while he was patronizing the establishment. Anyone with information is asked to contact Schuylkill Haven State Police at (570) 593-2000.

Minersville Man Charged with Intimidation

A Minersville man is in Schuylkill County Prison on charges of Intimidating a Witness. Buddy Noel was charged on November 14th with Arson, Criminal Conspiracy, Theft, Receiving Stolen Property, and Criminal Mischief related to the theft and burning of a vehicle. On December 21st he came into contact with a witness in the case while at Goodfellas Bar and spit in the persons face. He was arrested on December 28th and arraigned. He was unable to post bail and incarcerated.

Pine Grove Man Charged

State Police at Schuylkill Haven have released details of an incident in Washington Township on December 17th. Troopers report that Bruce Shaffer became involved in a domestic dispute with his two adult children when police were contacted. Upon learning this he threatened to shoot police before they exited their car and began loading a shotgun and sitting on the front steps of the residence with the gun on his lap. He was arraigned before Magisterial District Judge James Ferrier on charges of terroristic threats and disorderly conduct and was unable to post bail.

Motorcycle Crash in Mt. Carbon

A Pine Grove man was involved in a motorcycle accident at 11:25 p.m. on December 28th. Michael O'Neal was traveling on Main Street in the borough of Mt. Carbon when he struck a parked mini van. State Police at Schuylkill Haven report that O'Neal showed signs of intoxication and was transported to Pottsville Hospital where he refused to provide a blood sample to determine his blood alcohol content. Charges will be filed in this incident. State Police were aided by the Mt. Carbon Fire Department and Pottsville and Port Carbon Police.

North Manheim Crash

Schuylkill Haven State Police have released information on a two vehicle accident in North Manheim Township at 6:30 Thursday evening. A 2004 GMC Yukon driven by James Fitzpatrick of Pottsville was struck from behind by a 1994 Volkswagen Jetta driven by Matthew Umholtz of Valley View while stopped for traffic turning in front of him on route 443. No one was injured in the mishap and state police were assisted at the scene by the Orwigsburg Fire Department.

State News - Saturday Dec. 30

LEWISBURGPa. (AP) - Next year should bring big changes to Union County's 9-1-1 system. Currently, if you pick up a cell phone and hit the numbers 9-1-1, your call will go through -- but the operator won't knowyour exact location. Trouble is, many folks find it hard to describe where they are, especially in an emergency. That's where wireless 9-1-1 comes in handy, according to Union County Director of Emergency Services Tom Hess. He says the improved technology will reduce response times. The Union County budget for 2007 provides a little more than 583-thousand dollars for 9-1-1 enhancements, there is also about a (m) million dollars in state and federal funding for the project. But the county plans to issue more than two and a-half (m)million dollars in bonds to pay for improvements that should make the local system top notch. Hess says the new wireless 9-1-1 equipment will replace a system that's obsolete already.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A group that has been trying to market the North Side as a family destination is now trying to figure out howa slots parlor will fit into their plans. The North Side includes the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, twosports stadiums, museums, the National Aviary and the Carnegie Science Center. It will also soon be home to the Majestic Star Casino. Last week, the state regulators awarded the slots license to adevelop group that plans to build the casino there. Mark Fatla is executive director of the North Side Leadership Conference. He says he doesn't believe the area will lose it's family appeal once the casino comes.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) - Fire officials in Allentown, Pennsylvania, say an extension cord overloaded with Christmas decorations mayhave sparked a deadly fire this morning. The blaze swept through four downtown row houses, killing fivepeople and injuring several others. The Lehigh County Coroner's Office identified the victims asBarbara Houx, 52; Casundra Miller 28; Shawn Sandt, 22; Randy Keding, 27; and Allen Lindenmuth, 48. Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim says Miller was pregnant, buthe declined to say how far along. Authorities have ruled the fire accidental, though investigatorsare still trying to determine if wiring failed, an ornament shortedout or something else was involved. The decorations had beenplugged into a power strip, which was plugged into the extensioncord. Firefighters managed to control the blaze in about half an hour, but five people in the three-story home died. It had no working smoke alarms. Firefighters were able to rescue two adults and six children from the house next door.

LEHIGHTON, Pa. (AP) - Opponents of the planned demolition of a century-old railroad building at the Packerton Yards in CarbonCounty say they will go to court next week to try to halt the project. The Save Packerton Yards group is also appealing a determinationby the state Historical Museum Commission that the building lacks historical integrity and can be torn down. The Carbon County commissioners want the building in Mahoning Township removed to prepare the 57-acre site for industrial development. The storehouse was built around 1899 as part of the Lehigh Valley Railroad yard operations. It was deemed eligible for the National Registry of Historic Places in the 1990s. An earlier bid for a temporary injunction failed after a county judge said the plaintiffs had no standing because they were not county residents.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Officials with the Humane Society of Harrisburg Area say they removed a total of 101 animals living in squalor from a home where a woman ran what was advertised as an animal rescue service. Society officer William Sandstrom says, "The amount of feces in some of the cages could be measured in feet, not inches." The name of the business - which has a kennel license - has not been released and no charges have been filed. Officials say the Humane Society will have the 65 cats, 35 dogs and one pigeon vaccinated and examined by veterinarians before putting them up for adoption. But they'll have to be adopted quickly. Sandstrom says the shelter in Swatara Township is already at its capacity of about 300

National and International News, Saturday Dec. 30

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Saddam Hussein struggled briefly afterbeing handed over to Iraqi authorities, but grew calm in his final moments. Videotape shows him being led to the gallows and refusinga hood. Iraqi television is also airing images of what it says is his body after execution.

VATICAN CITY (AP) - The Vatican is denouncing Saddam Hussein's execution. A Vatican spokesman says it's no way to "reconstructjustice" in Iraqi society and says the execution could "fuel thespirit of revenge." He also reiterated the Catholic Church's opposition to the death penalty.

MADRID, Spain (AP) - Rescuers are searching the debris at Madrid's airport for one man after a car bomb exploded in a parking lot. Twenty-six people were slightly injured in the blast, which halted air traffic at the airport's new terminal.

PALM DESERT, Calif. (AP) - Thousands of people have paid their final respects to former President Gerald Ford, as crowds have beenfiling through a California church. Ford's body will be transported to Washington later this morning. Two services are planned there for Ford.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) - James Brown is being remembered in his hometown of Augusta, Georgia. More than eight thousand fans areexpected at this morning's public viewing of the man known as the "Godfather of Soul." Brown died of heart failure on Christmas morning in Atlanta.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Local News-Friday, Dec. 29th

A missing vestment from a chapel in Shenandoah has been found. The tabernacle, which was taken from the Chapel of Perpetual Adoration in the borough early in December, was found in the woods by police Thursday. The Pottsville Republican reports that Chief Matthew Nestor was walking in the woods and came across the vestment. Other than a few dents and some rust, the article is in reasonably good shape. A reward fund was quickly established by concerned parishioners and the community after the tabernacle was stolen. Police are continuing their investigation into the theft.

A Schuylkill Haven man was seriously injured in a two vehicle crash Thursday morning in Wayne Township. 20-year-old Brandon Blankenhorn was driving on Schuylkill Mountain Road around 11am. His car drifted across the yellow line and into the path of a truck operated by 48-year-old Mark Omlor of Pottsville. Omlor tried to avoid Blankenhorn’s car, but a dirt bank prevented him from getting far enough away. The vehicles crashed head on. Blankenhorn was trapped and had to be cut from the wreckage by emergency workers. He was flown to Lehigh Valley Hospital for treatment. His injuries were deemed to be serious by state police. Omlor was taken to Pottsville Hospital. Both drivers will be cited for traffic violations.

The Pottsville Bicentennial Year will come to a close with a big celebration in the city on New Year’s Eve. Activities for all ages and interests will be featured Sunday night to ring in the New Year. Beginning at 7pm, visitors to Pottsville can stop by various venues up and down Centre Street. Horse and Carriage rides will be featured, and live entertainment by the Breaker Boys will be headquartered at the Schuylkill County Historical Society. Test your knowledge of Pottsville history at the Bicentennial Headquarters on North Centre Street. The Sovereign Majestic Theatre will be open for a photo history program. The theatre renovations are now complete, and it is truly a showpiece for the city. A life sized CandyLand game will be open at Sovereign Bank on South Centre Street, also beginning at 7pm. The night culminates with the raising of the Yuengling Bottle at the stroke of midnight, with DJ music and a raffle for three great prize packages. Fireworks will be held at midnight, compliments of Legacy Bank and Legacy Trust Company. Its been a big year for the city, and we salute Pottsville for a great 200 years!

A New Philadelphia man will be charged with possessing drug paraphernalia. State police, while on routine patrol early this morning, found a suspicious vehicle parked along Route 209 at John’s Family Restaurant near Middleport. Inside the vehicle, James Costello the Third was alone in the vehicle. A search found two pipes with drug residue. Charges will be filed in District Court.

State News-Friday, Dec. 29th

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A newspaper is reporting that the owners of the Pittsburgh Penguins will meet with state and local leaders to discuss how to fund a new arena in the city and possibly avoid moving the team elsewhere. Penguins owners Mario Lemieux and Ronald Burkle wrote a letter Thursday to Governor Ed Rendell agreeing to a meeting sometime next week. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported the details of the letter on its Web site. Last week, Lemieux said his ownership group would explore moving the Penguins to another city. The announcement came a day after state regulators denied a slot-machine license to Isle of Capri Casinos, which had promised to build the Penguins a new arena. The Penguins' current home is Mellon Arena, a 45-year-old building the team says must be replaced for it to remain viable in Pittsburgh.

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) - Delaware State Police have identified a woman found dead Wednesday in a trash bag near off Interstate 495 near the Cherry Island Landfill. Police positively identified the woman through fingerprints as 42-year-old Aprille E- King of Philadelphia. Two workers collecting trash in the area found King's body around 8 a-m in tall reeds off the northbound ramp from 12th Street to I-495. King's death is being investigated as a homicide and an autopsy is being performed.

McKEES ROCKS, Pa. (AP) - The owners of a Pittsburgh area landmark bakery say they hope to have their fire-damaged facility operating again by the end of January. The Jenny Lee Bakery production plant was damaged in a fire last month. The family-owned business has still been producing some products but hopes to get things back to normal next year. The business was started by the grandfather of Lieutenant Governor Catherine Baker Knoll. The Baker family has sold baked goods around Pittsburgh since 1875. Customers say they have missed the bakery's fruitcake, fresh breads and hometown hospitality.

LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) - Company officials say the Miesse Candies factory that was destroyed by a fire earlier this year will be rebuilt and start producing candy in March. Frank Taylor The Third is one of the owners. He says the decision to rebuild the Lancaster factory and reopen one of Miesse's retail stores was made after a new ownership arrangement for the company was finalized over the weekend. Another owner says that architectural drawings for the rebuilt plant were completed this week and will be forwarded to the city next week for approval. An electrical malfunction sparked the March 16th blaze that destroyed much of the factory where chocolates had been made from a World War One-era recipe since 1955.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Residents and business owners in Luzerne County who sustained damage from a tornado that struck earlier this month can apply for low-interest loans to help pay for repairs. Homeowners, renters and business owners in neighboring Carbon, Columbia, Lackawanna, Monroe, Schuylkill, Sullivan and Wyoming counties are also eligible for assistance from the federal Small Business Administration. Up to 40-thousand dollars is available to homeowners and renters to repair or replace personal property. Federal regulations limit home loans to 200-thousand dollars for the repair or replacement of real estate. Business owners may borrow up to one-point-five (m) million dollars. Applications and program information are available from the Small Business Administration. The tornado in Mountain Top was one of two that roared through the state on December First.

National and International News-Friday, Dec. 29th

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - More hints that Saddam Hussein's execution could happen sooner, rather than later. His chief defense lawyer says the U-S, which has him in custody now, is asking that someone be authorized to receive his personal effects. That's believed to indicate Saddam will be turned over to Iraq soon.

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - State-run T-V says two Iranians, formerly held by American forces, have been released. Neither the U-S military nor the U-S embassy will comment. This appears to relate to two men, with diplomatic immunity, who were among a group of Iranians arrested as apparent insurgents.

PALM DESERT, Calif. (AP) - The formal mourning period for the late Gerald Ford focuses today on California with a public viewing in the church he and his wife attended after leaving Washington. Over several days, there will be funeral services in Washington and in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

UNDATED (AP) - New Year's holiday travelers are facing another snowstorm from the Rockies and the Plains states. Colorado's being hit again and the same system has shut two of New Mexico's highways. Storm warnings are up in parts of Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and Texas.

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) - Atlantic City, New Jersey's city council votes today on whether to ban smoking in gambling halls. Those are the only public indoor places left where it's allowed. When smoking was banned everywhere else, state lawmakers exempted casinos, worrying gamblers would go elsewhere.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Year in Review-2006

Here are some of the stories that made headlines in 2006:

By far, the biggest news story was the flood of 2006. For several days in late June, the heavens opened up and dumped more than a foot of rain on the county, reeking havoc on communities and causing millions of dollars in damage. Some of the communities which were hardest hit included Port Carbon, Gilberton, Schuylkill Haven and Landingville. Even the highest elevations were not spared damage. Major sink holes opened up on area roadways due to the flooding. Not since the Agnes flood of 1972 has such devastation taken place. Homes were destroyed, businesses wiped out and lives changed forever. Schuylkill County was declared a federal disaster area, and teams of support personnel from federal and state emergency agencies set up shop in the county for more than a month. In spite of all of the damage, thankfully, no lives were lost during the June flood.

Several major fires were at the top of the news in 2006. Among the most devastating blazes in 2006 were the fire that destroyed several businesses in Shenandoah in January, the destruction of the Cressona Textile Waste plant in March, and the Orpheum Theatre fire in November. On January 3rd, 3 businesses were destroyed on Main Street, including the tax collector's office. No one was injured in the blaze. The businesses are under reconstruction at this time. On March 26th, over a million dollars damage was done during a massive inferno at Cressona Textile Waste on Front Street. While suspicious people were reported seen leaving the building at the time of the early morning fire, no cause has yet been found. A former movie theatre and landmark in Orwigsburg went up in flames on November 11th, claiming two lives. The Orpheum Theatre, which had been converted into apartments, was ravaged by flames. Carol LaTorre, who lived on the second floor, was found in the rubble of the fire. Jacqueline Richman died a few days ago. In northern Schuylkill County, row home fires were sporadic during 2006. Due to the close proximity of homes constructed during the coal mining heyday, one property igniting leads to another.

It was not politics as usual during the mid-term elections of 2006. A long-time incumbent legislator was ousted in the May primary and newcomer took his place. The ill-fated pay raise in Harrisburg was the number one issue on voters minds this year. Representative Bob Allen, who served the 125th District for nearly two decades, was defeated by Schuylkill County Controller Gary Hornberger in May. But, newcomer Tim Seip, a social worker from Washington Township, won in November. Incumbents Neal Goodman and Dave Argall won re-election, but the pay raise theme was clearly evident in the campaign. In the state House and Senate, Democrats will be in the majority, by the narrowest of margins, when work resumes in January.
Governor Ed Rendell won an easy re-election over NFL Hall-of-Famer Lynn Swann, the Republican challenger. On the national scene, Congressman Tim Holden won a return trip to Washington. His opponent, Republican Matthew Wertz, dropped out of the race over a month before the election. Finally, Mr. Casey goes to Washington. State Treasurer Bob Casey won the junior Senator's seat from the Commonwealth, soundly defeating conservative Rick Santorum. Santorum was criticized for his support of President Bush, and the voters spoke their displeasure by voting him out.

A Donaldson man lost his life in a mining accident at the Buck Mountain Slope Mine near the village of Joliett on October 23rd.

Dale Reightler was one of 7 men working in the mine when a suspected explosion occurred. The other miners were able to leave the mine uninjured. Federal and state mine inspectors entered the shaft the following day to determine an exact cause of the accident. Several supervisors had their mining permits suspended as a result. Federal and state officials say that numerous safety improvements and controls must be made at the mine in the interest of safety. The region is dotted with underground mines. Their job is dangerous, dirty and difficult, and we are all the better for their hard work. Early in January, 12 men died in an accident at the Sago Mine in West Virginia.

The old adage “you can’t get there from here” held some truth this year, as motorists navigated area roadways. During the year, we received phone calls from hundreds of listeners who were stuck in traffic on Route 61. The north-south artery continues to push hundreds of thousands of cars from Northumberland all the way to Berks County. The stretch of 61 from north of the Cressona Mall through Schuylkill Haven continues to be a bottleneck, not only during morning and afternoon rush hours, but just about any time of the day. Discussions continue among the state and local leaders to find a solution to the problem. If and when that issue is resolved is anybody’s guess. Along Route 183, nary a week went by when we didn’t report another truck getting stuck under the Reading and Northern Railroad bridge in Cressona. The 11 foot, 8 inch underpass has seen 22 trucks and tractor-trailers become wedged under the bridge. Not only were vehicles and the bridge damaged, but it caused traffic nightmares. State, local and railroad officials have formulated a plan to warn truckers of the impending bridge. To date, bright yellow paint has been put on the sides of the bridge. Other improvements are expected in the spring.

Local News-Thursday, Dec. 28th

It’s official…there will be no property tax increase on the county level in 2007. By unanimous vote, the Board of Commissioners approved a $42.6 million dollar general fund budget, with no increase in taxes for the third year in a row. The spending plan, which was proposed in November, was ratified as presented. The property tax millage remains at 11.98. The ongoing review of cost overruns by Parente Randolph, covering provider contracts in the county MH/MR program appears to be nearing an end. Chairman Frank Staudenmeier announced that a draft cost adjustment report has been received from the firm for program years 2002 through 2004. ReDCo, the service provider, will have until mid-January to review the findings. The final report is expected to be made public at the end of January. The state Bureau of Financial Operations continues to be involved in the process, which has been underway for nearly three years. The board also adopted a LERTA resolution for a portion of Schuylkill Haven. The commissioners heard a presentation last week about the tax break program for commercial and business development in the borough. Schuylkill Haven borough and school district have already adopted similar resolutions. Final approval was given for a pay adjustment to all county employees not otherwise covered by a collective bargaining agreement, effective January 1st.

The Schuylkill County Prison Board met for the final time in 2006 Wednesday. Warden Eugene Berdanier reported that Pottsville Fire Chief Todd March conducted a fire vulnerability assessment at the prison earlier this month. March commended the prison staff for their quick response to the dryer fire at the prison on November 2nd. The water main problem at the prison has been fixed. It appears that several issues outside of the prison caused water pressure problems. Several other repairs were made to plumbing at the prison as well. The population at the Schuylkill County Prison continues at high levels. An average of 305 inmates were incarcerated during December. The peak level was 323 during the month. The ongoing question of whether the county will build a pre-release center remains in limbo. Board Chairman, President Judge William Baldwin pressed the county commissioners for an indication of if or when the project will move forward. Commissioner Chairman Frank Staudenmeier told the board that County Administrator Bill Reppy has been meeting with a committee to explore all options, including the feasibility of building a new prison. Monies from the US Department of Agriculture has not yet been secured, and the proposed site, adjacent to the Frackville State Prison, has not yet been approved by the state Department of Corrections. Commissioner Mantura Gallagher felt that other steps can be taken by the county to move the process along before making a final determination. Baldwin said that as many as 90 inmates, currently in prison, could be serviced at a pre-release facility.

Fire gutted an apartment in Shenandoah Wednesday morning. The blaze broke out at 1401 W. Laurel Street before 7am. The Pottsville Republican reports that the apartment was located on top of a garage, but fire damage was limited to that structure. The apartment was inhabited, but no one was inside at the time of the fire. A cause is not yet known. The investigation continues.

Schuylkill County row officeholders will forego a raise for 4 years. During a special meeting last night at the County Courthouse, the Commissioners announced that they, along with other elected officials, and the county administrator, will have their salaries frozen at 2007 levels from 2008 through 2011. The previous four years had salary increases established by the previous board of commissioners. They are entitled to a 3 percent increase in 2007. The move is being made as part of the county’s pledge to keep costs under control. There have been no tax increases for the past three years on the county level.

State News-Thursday, Dec. 28th

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - State Senate leaders are promising to end the practices of late-night votes and voting on bills that are barely available to the public. They say they will overhaul the body's inner workings as a way to instill public confidence.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Defense Department says two soldiers from suburban Philadelphia were killed in separate incidents in Iraq. They are 21-year-old Army Sergeant Jae Moon of Levittown and 25-year-old Army Sergeant John Bubeck of Collegeville.

STRASBURG, Pa. (AP) - Police have used genetic testing on the remains of a newborn girl whose killing has remained unsolved for three years. Police say the tests show the girl found at Amish Sycamore School in Strasburg was predominantly of European descent.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) - A Schuylkill County couple has filed afederal lawsuit alleging that a police chief conspired with their son's killer to make it look like a suicide. Shawn Nihen, who no longer serves as Coaldale police chief, declined to comment.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Governor Ed Rendell plans to take the oath of office for a second term on January 16th. It's to be followed by a series of related events in Harrisburg and the concert and ball at the Farm Show Complex that night.

National and International News-Thursday, Dec.28th

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq was not supported by former President Gerald Ford. In a 2004 interview that was released after his death, Ford told The Washington Post that he "very strongly" disagreed with Bush's justifications for invading Iraq in 2003.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - At least 23 Iraqis have been killed in three bombings in Baghdad today. The deadliest attack occurred near a stadium in the eastern part of the city. A bomb planted under a car killed 12 people and wounded 26 others who were waiting in line to buy kerosene.

CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) - President Bush will make remarks today after he meets with top military and diplomatic leaders at his Texas ranch. They'll be discussing a new Iraq strategy. The White House calls it a "non-decisional" gathering.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards officially launches his 2008 campaign for president today in New Orleans. Edwards says the city still devastated by Hurricane Katrina best demonstrates his concerns about there being two Americas economically.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A federal appeals court says investigators can have access to the names of 100 baseball players who tested positive for illegal drugs in 2003. The ruling could bolster the government's perjury case against Barry Bonds if he is one of those who tested positive.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Local News-Wednesday, Dec. 27th

A man from Tamaqua is charged with sexual abuse and possessing child pornography. 36-year-old Timothy Dunstun, was arrested for having child pornography on his computer and having sexual contact with a girl. Police would not say how old the girl is. Dunstun also faces related charges including sexual exploitation of a child and indecent assault. He is locked up in Schuylkill County Prison on $50-thousand-dollars bail.

An August accident, in which a Pine Grove woman died, results in the arrest of a Tremont man.
Hegins Township police now say that 23-year-old Neil Hatfield is charged with vehicular homicide while driving under the influence, involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and related charges pertaining to the August 19th crash in Hegins Township. That crash claimed the life of 22-year-old Shannon Sullivan of Pine Grove, who was a passenger in Hatfield’s car. The Pottsville Republican reports that Hatfield was arraigned late last week after a thorough investigation. Police say that Hatfield was driving drunk on the night in question, and failed to stop at an intersection in Valley View. The car struck a rock embankment and rolled over. Sullivan died at the scene, but Hatfield recovered from his injuries. Hatfield was released on bail, and will have a preliminary hearing next week.

Funeral services were held for the second woman who died in the Orpheum Theatre fire in November. Jacqueline Richman died of lingering injuries from the blaze on November 11th in Orwigsburg. Ms. Richman passed away last Friday. Carol LaTorre’s body was found in the rubble of the devastating blaze. The Pottsville Republican reports that the investigation into the fire continues, the official cause has not yet been determined. The official determination of Latorre’s identity is still pending the receipt of DNA tests on the woman. Both women lived in an apartment in the building, which housed the former theatre.

A Shenandoah man is under arrest for assaulting his stepson. Shenandoah police were called to the District Court office of William Slezosky, where a 14-year-old told officers that he was assaulted by his stepfather, Michael Teaschencko. The man reportedly choked and kicked the boy during the fight. The boy suffered bruises and cuts as a result. Teaschenko was charged with simple assault, harassment and child endangerment.

A Pine Grove woman is the victim of theft in Lebanon County. Jonestown State Police report that Connie Hershey had the contents of her purse stolen at a business in Lebanon County Tuesday. The thief got away with personal money, and monies from a sewing business, and fled the scene. The amount of money taken was not released. Troopers are continuing the investigation.

State News-Wednesday, Dec. 27th

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Unusually warm weather is forcing many Pennsylvania ski resorts to scale back operations or postpone opening for the season. Blue Knob Ski Resort in Blair County was scheduled to open
today. Now, it expects to make snow tonight and tomorrow and open some of its slopes on Thursday.
Other ski resorts have scaled back their operations. Seven Springs Mountain Resort has nine of 32 trails open. Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Macungie opened three of its 22 trails on December 14th, but closed four days later because the cold weather didn't stick around and it was too warm to make snow. To appease the weather gods, Bear Creek plans toss some skis into a bonfire on Friday as part of a Sacrifice to the Snow Gods

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (AP) - A small plane has crashed at an airport near Johnstown. The Federal Aviation Administration says the twin engine, propeller-driven Cessna 414 crashed at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport at about 3:55 p-m. The F-A-A says the plane was en route from Morgantown, West
Virginia, to Teterboro, New Jersey.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission plans to ask for public comment on a five-year-old petition by an activist group that wants the agency to require nuclear power plants to station guards at plant entrances. Members of the nuclear watchdog group Three Mile Island Alert developed the petition as a deterrent to terrorists who think an unmanned entrance gate is a sign that a successful attack is
possible. Since the terrorist attacks, Three Mile Island has beefed up security, adding concrete barriers, fencing, guard towers and more security officers. Last January, Three Mile Island's operator, AmerGen Energy Company, moved its armed guards posted at the entrance a few hundred yards back to a vehicle checkpoint. It said the move would consolidate security at a crucial entryway and prevent the guards from being isolated along Route 441, which runs past the plant on the Susquehanna River. Critics, however, said the move would leave unprotected two bridges to the island.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Thousands of Pennsylvania doctors may be eligible to join a lawsuit over a Blue Cross health plan's reimbursement rates. That's because a federal judge has granted the plaintiffs class-action status. The suit charges that Keystone Health Plan Central systematically lowered its reimbursement rates to doctors through various practices. It says the plan by bundled or changed procedure codes, failed to pay legitimate claims on time and undercounted the number of patients assigned to doctors in the managed-care plan. The plaintiffs accuse the health maintenance organization of fraud and racketeering. Lawyers for Keystone haven't returned phone calls seeking comment today.

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) - Republican Senator Arlen Specter Syria's president wants to resume peace negotiations with Israel. After meeting with Bashar Assad today in Damascus, Specter said,
"Assad stated an interest in negotiating with Israel to try to bring a peaceful settlement to the Syrian-Israeli dispute under the U-N doctrine of land-for-peace." Specter visited Syria despite loud objections from the Bush administration. He did not say what conditions Assad gave for restarting talks with the Israelis.
Peace negotiations between the neighbors broke down in 2000. Syria has said it would resume negotiations but only within the framework of a comprehensive peace process. Damascus wants the return of the entire Golan Heights, occupied by Israel in the 1967 war.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The Pennsylvania State Police says its troopers investigated more than nine hundred crashes over the four-day Christmas holiday weekend in which eight people were killed.
There were more than three hundred injuries, and about 10 percent of the crashes - including three fatals - were deemed alcohol-related. Troopers handed out nearly 13-hundred speeding tickets and made
more than 250 drunken-driving arrests. The figures pertain only to state-police investigations, not to crashes investigated by other Pennsylvania police agencies. Last year, over a three-day Christmas driving period, two people were killed in about 600 crashes in Pennsylvania.

STROUDSBURG, Pa. (AP) - The annual foreclosure rate in Monroe County appears to be on the rise again for the first time in three years. Figures released by county Prothonotary George Warden show 806
home foreclosure filings in 2006 through December 19th. That's 266 more than (the 540) in 2005 and 188 more than (the 618) in 2004. Warden notes that the 806 filings represent only the foreclosures for which lien holders have initiated action against home buyers. Some parties reach agreements before buyers lose their
homes. A record-setting 941 foreclosures were filed in 2003. Some have cited predatory lending and deceptive sales practices as culprits. Other factors include a slowing housing market and steep terms of the record-high number of mortgages issued by subprime lenders.

CLEVELAND (AP) - Striking union members in Cleveland, Ohio, are scheduled to vote tomorrow on a new contract with Alcoa. The Pittsburgh-based aluminum company and United Auto Workers Local 1050 announced on Christmas Eve that they'd reached a tentative deal on a contract covering 830 workers.
A statement from the two sides says if union members give their approval, they'll return to work one week from today. The strike at Alcoa's Cleveland Works began November Sixth. Details of the new contract have not been disclosed.

CHICAGO (AP) - A University of Pennsylvania researcher says popular heartburn drugs as Nexium, Prevacid or Prilosec are often used when patients don't really need them -- and that can be dangerous. Doctor Yu-Xiao Yang is the co-author of a large study published today. It found that taking such drugs for a year or more can raise the risk of a broken hip markedly in people over 50. Yang says doctors should make sure patients have good reason to stay on heartburn drugs long term. A spokeswoman for the company that markets Prevacid says the safety of such drugs have been well established by rigorous studies. She says the new study doesn't prove or disprove a connection to hip fractures. The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

National and International News-Wednesday, Dec. 27th

WASHINGTON (AP) - Funeral arrangements are to be announced sometime today for former President Gerald Ford, who died last night in Rancho Mirage, California. It's expected there will be events in California and Washington, with burial at the Ford presidential museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

UNDATED (AP) - Vice President Cheney is remembering his former boss, President Gerald Ford. A former chief of staff, Cheney praised Ford for giving the country the "strength, wisdom and good judgment" it needed as it recovered from what he called "the greatest constitutional crisis since the Civil War.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Gerald Ford had offers to play pro football but opted to study law instead and later became president. Ford played championship football at the University of Michigan. The late former president got his political start as a volunteer in the 1940 presidential campaign, then was elected to Congress in 1948.

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel says it will renew pinpoint attacks against Palestinian rocket launchers, after rockets fired from Gaza injured two Israelis. But the prime minister's office says Israel will otherwise abide by a month-old truce in Gaza.

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran's parliament is urging the government to "revise" its ties with the U-N nuclear agency, after the Security Council voted to impose limited sanctions. But lawmakers stopped short of recommending that Iran sever relations with the International Atomic Energy Agency over Tehran's nuclear program.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Local News-Tuesday, Dec. 26th

Two Auburn area men were hurt in a one vehicle crash Christmas Day. 24-year-old Jason Tryon and his father, Terry, were traveling north on State Route 183 near the Schuylkill/Berks county line, when their car went out of control. The car slid up an embankment and rolled over twice, came back down the bank onto the highway. Both men were wearing their seatbelts, but suffered minor injuries. They were flown to Reading Hospital for treatment. Traffic was backed up for about 45 minutes following the midday crash.

A Minersville man is under arrest following a hit and run crash Christmas Eve in Branch Township. A man, later identified as 41-year-old Joseph Kaczmarek, sheared off a telephone pole on Dowdentown Road and fled the scene. Witnesses at the scene said that Kaczmarek was apparently intoxicated. State police found a copy of his driver’s license and went to his home, where they found him asleep. They report that he was severly intoxicated, but he denied he was involved in the crash. Kaczmarek was positively identified by the witnesseses as the driver of the truck. He refused a blood alcohol test, but was arrested and, after arraignment, was taken to Schuylkill County Prison. The crash happened around 7pm Sunday night.

A Pottsville man will continue serving his sentence on drug charges after a state court upheld the conviction.
A panel of judges from the state Superior Court ruled Friday that 38-year old Richard Hause Jr. was not the victim of an unlawful search of his car in June, 2003 that was parked along Route 61 near the borough of Orwigsburg. The Pottsville Republican reports that the ruling means Hause will continue to serve the 4-to-8-year sentence imposed by County Court Judge D. Michael Stine in May, 2005. The non-jury case found Hause guilty of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and related offenses.
State police at Reading had charged Hause with possessing methamphetamine, numerous plastic baggies and two scales. The goods were found in Hause's vehicle on June 24th, 2003. Hause contended that the search was illegal.

State News-Tuesday, Dec. 26th

BUTLER, Pa. (AP) - Neighbors say a man who killed his girlfriend and her son before killing himself was pleasant and easygoing. Neighbors in Butler, about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh, say they didn't see it coming from 60-year-old Joel Bodley. A short time after wishing his neighbor a merry Christmas, he killed 55-year-old Debby Chuba and her 17-year-old son, Andrew. Then he called 9-1-1 and told police there were three bodies in his home. By the time police arrived, he'd shot himself. Autopsies are planned for all three bodies from the Christmas double murder-suicide.

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) - A 20-year-old college student is accused of raping a 12-year-old girl in Williamsport. According to court papers, the girl told police that Shaun Cormier forced her into a bedroom of a Williamsport house and raped her, leaving her with injuries that required surgery. According to an affidavit from police Agent Raymond Kontz, when Cormier was questioned by police he acknowledged having sex with the girl, but his account was different from hers. He did not eleborate. Cormier is a student at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. He is being held in the Lycoming County Prison in lieu of 200-thousand dollars bail.

CARLISLE, Pa. (AP) - A mobile crisis intervention service is now in place for Cumberland and Perry counties. It will allow police to get professional help when dealing with mentally unstable people. Local crisis centers have workers who specialize in dealing with mentally unstable people, but they were not always available to accompany police to a scene. Taylor Andrews, a board member of a mental health advocacy group, says it meets a real need and he applauds the counties for taking the step. Andrews says his only concern is whether two mobile workers will be enough to cover both counties. Dauphin and York counties have similar mobile services.

BLOOMSBURG, Pa. (AP) - A cat stuck inside a wall in Bloomsburg was rescued by firefighters, who used a thermal-imaging camera to pinpoint where the animal was. Lois Kessler says her cat, named Kitty, fled Sunday when her grandson tried to pet her. Kitty hid in a closet and fell through a hole in the floor, then got lost in the space between the floorboards and the ceiling of the story below. Assistant Fire Chief Don Long says firefighters used the camera to find the cat's exact location, then cut through the drywall to free the animal. She then fled and hid under a couch.

WASHINGTON CROSSING, N.J. (AP) - Unlike Christmas 1776, the bad weather this year waited until General George Washington crossed the Delaware River. Raindrops greeted the re-enactor and about 100 of his troops as they arrived by boats on the New Jersey shore. Washington was played by Robert Gerenser of New Hope, Pennsylvania. He crossed with his 15-year-old daughter Kiersten. Son Robert Junior was part of an artillery unit. He is a second lieutenant in the Army. The event honors the daring Revolutionary War attack that began on Christmas 1776. After landing in New Jersey, the Colonial troops surprised Hessian soldiers in Trenton and helped turn the tide of the Revolutionary War.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The hectic and historic year 2006 saw Pennsylvania move closer to becoming one of the nation's biggest commercial gambling states. A year from now, the state could boast slot-machine gambling parlors in every corner. By 2009 or 2010, Governor Ed Rendell projects that slots could take in an estimated three (b) billion dollars a year, money that would go toward property and other tax cuts. Pennsylvanians can expect the SugarHouse Casino and Foxwoods Casino Philadelphia to sprout on opposite flanks of the Ben Franklin Bridge. The Majestic Star Casino will join Pittsburgh's two major sports stadiums on the Ohio River. And Sands Bethworks Casino is touted as a new life for the now-stilled flagship factory of Bethlehem Steel.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - When Tim Schieber bought a luxury town home a year ago, he didn't think it would be hard to find a buyer for his old Bucks County stone farmhouse. But it ended up taking 15 months, a 190-thousand-dollar price cut, 16-thousand dollars worth of remodeling and a new real estate agent before he and his wife could sell the home. After years of gains, the Pennsylvania real estate market slowed down in earnest this year as buyers balked at paying ballooning home prices and speculators left the market. A growing economy, low mortgage rates and new types of loans had fueled a decade-long housing boom. But declining affordability has put a dent in the market, especially in eastern Pennsylvania. While there are signs the market may be stabilizing, analysts say it's still too early to say whether a bottom has been reached.

SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) - More and more people are opening their real presents in the days after Christmas - and it's not because they are exchanging what they didn't want. That's more people are doing what 68-year-old Natalie Kizer of North Scranton does for her eight grandchildren, ages one to 28: buying gift cards. This year, she bought 400 dollars worth. Retailers are responding, too. Many expand their hours in the days after Christmas as consumers across the country start to redeem an estimated 25 (b) billion dollars in gift cards they find under the tree and in their stockings. Officials say that, in addition to after-Christmas clearance sales, gift cards are increasingly driving the sales. In 2003, gift cards represented about six-point-six percent of consumers gift-buying budget; this year, its expected to be more than 19 percent.

National and International News-Tuesday, Dec. 26th

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Car bombs in Iraq have killed at least 29 people. The worst incident was a coordinated attack in western Baghdad that killed 25 people. Two car bombings in eastern Baghdad killed four policemen. A bomb in a market of central Baghdad killed another four people today.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - U-S military deaths in Iraq now exceed the number of people killed on Nine-Eleven. Three U-S soldiers died today in a roadside bombing in Baghdad. A number of those who died in Iraq joined the military in response to Nine-Eleven.

NEW YORK (AP) - Let the buying resume. Christmas is over and many retailers are opening early today in hopes of improving their holiday bottom lines. It's hoped fresh, new merchandise and even bigger discounts will help reel in the shoppers. Pre-Christmas sales fell a bit short of expectations.

BALI, Indonesia (AP) - Two years after the devastating Asian tsunami, thousands in Indonesia have taken part in disaster drills. Elsewhere, mourners and survivors marked the anniversary by lighting candles, visiting mass graves, and observing two minutes of silence.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is scheduled for surgery today on the leg he broke while skiing with his family. He returned to the state yesterday. The surgeon says the operation to secure the bone will take about two hours.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Local News-Friday, Dec. 22nd

A much-needed community center is in the works in Pottsville. A parcel of land that was formerly used by PPL will become a multi-use facility, operated by Barefield Development Corporation and the Pottsville Housing Authority. According to the Pottsville Republican, the lot on Coal Street will be transformed in to a building that will house a fitness center, classrooms and other services for the benefit of the entire community. The project is still in the planning phase, but officials say that it will be completed over the next three years. In the meantime, the lot will be turned into a skating rink as soon as the weather gets cold enough. Later next year, basketball courts will be available for public use. Funding for the project is expected to come from a variety of sources.

A tip from a concerned Minersville resident resulted in the arrest of a borough man earlier this week. Borough police now say that Raymond Brown the Third was walking in the area of Second and Sunbury Streets Tuesday with a rifle, acting suspiciously. A short time later, another resident came to the police station and said that Brown had knocked on his door, pointed the gun at him and demanded money. The man gave him money, and he took off. Brown was taken into custody without incident. He was arraigned on charges of burglary, robbery, aggravated assault, theft and other offenses.

Pennsylvania State and local police are conducting increased DUI enforcement during the holidays in an effort to keep drunk drivers off the roads. During the Christmas and New Year’s holiday periods last year, there were 510 alcohol-related crashes and 14 people were killed. In 2005, alcohol-related crashes on Pennsylvania roads claimed 579 lives. PennDOT and The North Central Highway Safety Network urge drivers to be safe to follow some simple guidelines. Use a designated driver, never give alcohol to minors and by all means, wear your seatbelt. Remember, Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving. Even one drink can seriously impair judgment and could lead to a crash. So, whether attending a party or visiting with friends or family, the right decision this holiday season is not to drink and drive. PennDOT annually invests $2.8 million in DUI enforcement, which includes funding for approximately 540 sobriety checkpoints around the state.

A Frackville woman was injured after crashing into a telephone pole in Pottsville Wednesday night. City police say Tiffany Botzer was driving on Railroad Street when she lost control of her car and hit a pole. She suffered a head injury and was taken to the hospital. A child who was a passenger was not hurt. The car was severely damaged. The investigation continues.

After a lot of work, and numerous council votes, the borough of Tamaqua has a budget deal in place. Council passed the final spending plan Wednesday night. The body had hoped that no tax increase would be necessary, but it appears that a 1-mill property tax will be instituted to balance the 2007 spending project. Several votes and in-depth discussion highlighted this week’s meeting. The purchase of a fire truck and continued flooding cleanup of the Wabash Creek were major sticking points in the budget. After several votes, the Tamaqua council voted to pass a tentative budget. That final vote is expected on December 28th.

State News-Friday, Dec. 22nd

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) - Eight Marines are charged in the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha last year. Four Marines -- including a Pennsylvania native -- were charged with murder in the biggest U.S. criminal case involving civilian deaths to arise from the war in Iraq. The Marine Corps says the other four charged were officers who weren't there but were accused of failures in investigating and reporting the deaths. A squad leader, Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, was charged with murdering 12 people and ordering other Marines to murder six people after a roadside bomb killed one Marine and injured two others.
Lance Corporal Justin Sharratt, from Washington Township, Westmoreland County, south of Pittsburgh, stands accused of the unpremeditated murder of three Iraqis.

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush has issued 16 pardons and commuted the sentence of an Iowa man who was convicted on drug charges. Six of the federal offenses were drug crimes, while others included bank fraud, mail fraud, the acceptance of a kickback, a false statement on a loan application and conspiracy to defraud the government over taxes. On the pardons list is a Pennsylvania woman: Patricia Ann Hultman, of Kane, Pennsylvania. She was sentenced in October 1985 to one year of imprisonment on drug charges. With this batch, Bush has issued 113 pardons and commuted three sentences in his nearly six years in the White House. A pardon amounts to federal forgiveness for one's crime, while a commutation cuts short an existing prison term.

FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) - Members of the United Mine Workers overwhelmingly approved a new five-year contract with the Bituminous Coal Operators Association. The new contract includes the largest pay increase since 1974. The union says 80 percent of the U-M-W members who voted approved the contract. The union wouldn't release the vote total. The contract covers only workers at unionized subsidiaries of Pittsburgh-based Consol Energy. Union miners will receive a 20 percent across-the-board salary increase over the life of the contract, which will take effect January First. They also will receive an immediate one-thousand-dollar bonus. Future retirees' pensions will increase by ten dollars per month. Health benefits were maintained with no increase in co-payments.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Thomas Eakins' masterpiece "The Gross Clinic" is going to remain in Philadelphia. City officials say a huge fundraising drive yielded tens of (m) millions of dollars that will prevent the sale of the painting. Mayor John Street says a 10 (m) million dollar donation by the Annenberg Foundation, coupled with three separate three (m) million dollar contributions, will cap the effort to retain the painting. The mayor says the painting belongs in Philadelphia just as much as the Liberty Bell and the city's sports teams. Arts supporters have been trying to raise money by a Tuesday deadline imposed by the painting's owner, Thomas Jefferson University. The university announced in November that it was selling the canvas for 68 (m) million dollars to help fund expansion efforts.

EASTON, Pa. (AP) - A man has pleaded guilty to killing his younger brother at their mother's house and dismembering the body. Twenty-six-year-old Stephen Austin, of Birdsboro, was sentenced to 21 to 42 years in state prison yesterday after his guilty plea to third-degree murder, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence. Austin killed his 22-year-old brother, Jonathan Austin, during an argument in May at their mother's home in Upper Mount Bethel Township in Northampton County. Police say they found Jonathan Austin's severed head and hands in Stephen Austin's Jeep when they arrested him, along with a shovel and ax.
Austin's attorney says he is satisfied with the plea agreement.

DENVER (AP) - The Denver Nuggets are set to resume their schedule at the Pepsi Center tonight with a game against Sacramento, two days after a blizzard forced the cancellation of their matchup against the Phoenix Suns. New star acquisition Allen Iverson could be joining them. He's expected to fly to Denver today. Denver will be without star Carmelo Anthony who is serving a 15-game suspension for a weekend on-court brawl during the Nugget's game against New York. The league hasn't set a makeup date for the Suns-Nuggets game. The Nuggets say Andre Miller, who was traded to the 76ers, is expected to fly to Philadelphia today.

National and International News-Friday, Dec. 22nd

DENVER (AP) - "We can't go home; the highway's closed. We can't get to the car; it's 10 miles away. And the hotels are not cheap." That lament from a woman stuck at Denver's airport sums up the plight of many still stranded by a major snowstorm. The airport is expected to reopen today for the first time since Wednesday morning.

BEIJING (AP) - The first disarmament talks since North Korea tested a nuclear device have ended without any agreement. Delegates from the U-S, North Korea and four other countries met for five days in Beijing. No further talks are scheduled at this time.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Saying California's prison system is "out of control," Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is proposing a series of reforms. They include a major building program and changes in the parole system.

WHITE HOUSE (AP) - President Bush will visit wounded troops at Walter Reed Army Hospital today before heading to Camp David for Christmas. Visiting the troops and awarding Purple Hearts has been a holiday tradition for the president since the Iraq War began in 2003.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The engineer is getting the blame for a deadly train derailment in Chicago in 2005. The National Transportation Safety Board says he didn't pay attention to the signals and was going too fast. Two people died and nearly 120 others were hurt.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

State News-Thursday, Dec. 21st

NEW BLOOMFIELD, Pa. (AP) - A man who killed two hikers along a remote stretch of the Appalachian Trail in 1990 is scheduled to be resentenced today. The Perry County district attorney says the county can't afford to keep fighting efforts to appeal the death sentence of 54-year-old Paul David Crews. The D-A says Crews has agreed to drop his appeals in exchange for receiving two life sentences without the possibility of parole. Crews was sentenced to death in 1991 for raping and stabbing to death 25-year-old Molly LaRue of Ohio, and fatally shooting her hiking partner, 26-year-old Geoffrey Logan Hood of Tennessee. The hikers were killed as they slept in a wooden shelter near Duncannon, about ten miles north of Harrisburg.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Allegheny County Council's special committee on government reform will hold a meeting today to discuss recent water main breaks affecting Mon Valley municipalities. Council President Rich Fitzgerald says the county will work with local officials to determine what's causing the breaks and to prevent them from recurring. Other officials have asked the Public Utility Commission to investigate the breaks, which have left some residents without

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (AP) - Democrats say their candidate has taken a lead in a recount of a tight race for the state House of Representatives. A lawyer for the Democrats says a Chester County judge is to rule today on the status of about a dozen challenged ballots. But he says the Democratic candidate is up by 26 votes in the hand recount, so the challenged ballots can't affect the outcome. It's unclear whether the Republican candidate will concede in the race that decides which party controls the House.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Pittsburgh Steelers and Pirates say a slots parlor near their stadiums will cause major congestion on game days. But traffic is one reason why the North Side proposal got the slots license. The Hill District and South Side are more congested. Two large parking garages have been built on the North Side since P-N-C Park and Heinz Field opened in 2001. Another may be built along with the casino. The Pittsburgh Penguins are also disappointed, for a different reason. They were hoping the Hill District proposal from Isle of Capri could get the state's nod. That company was offering to build a new Penguins arena at no cost to the team or taxpayers.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office has confirmed that bone fragments unearthed by crews renovating Point State Park are human. The office says the fragments are from more than one person and from a burial more than 50 years old. Forensic anthropologists conducted the preliminary examination of behalf of the office. The office says a final report will provide more detailed information. At the forks of the Ohio River, Point State Park is the site of Fort Pitt, a strategic location in the mid-1700s and the namesake for the city that sprung up around it. A crew digging a trench for temporary water lines uncovered bones December 7th about 40 yards behind the Fort Pitt Blockhouse, the only surviving building of the original fort.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Several creditors have opposed a short-term financing plan by the bankrupt maker of Iron City and other beers. A federal bankruptcy judge is scheduled to consider the proposal at a hearing today. The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority and other creditors have objected to Pittsburgh Brewing Company's request for court approval of 500-thousand dollars from a secret investor. They have cited stipulations that would give the lender precedence over their claims. The 145-year-old brewery filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December last year.

State News-Thursday, Dec. 21st

NEW BLOOMFIELD, Pa. (AP) - A man who killed two hikers along a remote stretch of the Appalachian Trail in 1990 is scheduled to be resentenced today. The Perry County district attorney says the county can't afford to keep fighting efforts to appeal the death sentence of 54-year-old Paul David Crews. The D-A says Crews has agreed to drop his appeals in exchange for receiving two life sentences without the possibility of parole. Crews was sentenced to death in 1991 for raping and stabbing to death 25-year-old Molly LaRue of Ohio, and fatally shooting her hiking partner, 26-year-old Geoffrey Logan Hood of Tennessee. The hikers were killed as they slept in a wooden shelter near Duncannon, about ten miles north of Harrisburg.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Allegheny County Council's special committee on government reform will hold a meeting today to discuss recent water main breaks affecting Mon Valley municipalities. Council President Rich Fitzgerald says the county will work with local officials to determine what's causing the breaks and to prevent them from recurring. Other officials have asked the Public Utility Commission to investigate the breaks, which have left some residents without

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (AP) - Democrats say their candidate has taken a lead in a recount of a tight race for the state House of Representatives. A lawyer for the Democrats says a Chester County judge is to rule today on the status of about a dozen challenged ballots. But he says the Democratic candidate is up by 26 votes in the hand recount, so the challenged ballots can't affect the outcome. It's unclear whether the Republican candidate will concede in the race that decides which party controls the House.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Pittsburgh Steelers and Pirates say a slots parlor near their stadiums will cause major congestion on game days. But traffic is one reason why the North Side proposal got the slots license. The Hill District and South Side are more congested. Two large parking garages have been built on the North Side since P-N-C Park and Heinz Field opened in 2001. Another may be built along with the casino. The Pittsburgh Penguins are also disappointed, for a different reason. They were hoping the Hill District proposal from Isle of Capri could get the state's nod. That company was offering to build a new Penguins arena at no cost to the team or taxpayers.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office has confirmed that bone fragments unearthed by crews renovating Point State Park are human. The office says the fragments are from more than one person and from a burial more than 50 years old. Forensic anthropologists conducted the preliminary examination of behalf of the office. The office says a final report will provide more detailed information. At the forks of the Ohio River, Point State Park is the site of Fort Pitt, a strategic location in the mid-1700s and the namesake for the city that sprung up around it. A crew digging a trench for temporary water lines uncovered bones December 7th about 40 yards behind the Fort Pitt Blockhouse, the only surviving building of the original fort.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Several creditors have opposed a short-term financing plan by the bankrupt maker of Iron City and other beers. A federal bankruptcy judge is scheduled to consider the proposal at a hearing today. The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority and other creditors have objected to Pittsburgh Brewing Company's request for court approval of 500-thousand dollars from a secret investor. They have cited stipulations that would give the lender precedence over their claims. The 145-year-old brewery filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December last year.

National and International News-Thursday, Dec. 21st

DENVER (AP) - Roads are closed in a number of states and so is Denver's airport as a major snowstorm blasts through the region. As many as three-thousand passengers are stranded at Denver International Airport.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - U-S Defense Secretary Robert Gates is spending another day in Iraq assessing the situation there before reporting on it to President Bush. He has been hearing doubts from war commanders about what could be accomplished by a possible increase of U-S troops in Iraq.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - The U-S military says a roadside bomb and combat injuries have claimed three American lives in Iraq. Meantime, police say at least 14 people have been killed and 21 wounded by a suicide bomber who struck a group of police volunteers at a police academy in eastern Baghdad.

SAN DIEGO (AP) - Officials at Camp Pendleton, California, have scheduled a briefing to announce charges against as many as eight Marines in the shooting deaths of 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq, in November of 2005. It's the biggest U-S criminal case to emerge from
the war in terms of people killed.

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey is about to become the fifth state to grant gay couples all the rights and responsibilities of marriage. The governor plans to sign the civil union legislation during a ceremony in Trenton this morning. The law is in response to a state Supreme Court ruling.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Local News-Wednesday, Dec. 20th

An autopsy has been completed on the remains of a man found in Foster Township. According to County Coroner David Dutcavich, the autopsy was done at Lehigh Valley Hospital. Results indicate that no foul play was involved, and that the man died of natural causes. Additional tests will be completed to try and determine an exact cause. The unidentified man was found in the bottom of a stripping pit. Authorities will try to ID the man using fingerprints and dental records. The investigation continues.

A Tuesday morning fire destroyed a barn in Hegins Township. State police say that fire erupted in the structure on Orchard Road after 8am. The barn was owned by Mark Stover. Several farm animals and a litter of puppies perished in the blaze. The reported cause was a heating lamp, and has been deemed accidental. Damage is estimated to be $250-thousand-dollars.

The closing of a textile factory in Auburn may have a positive side for the displaced employees. We reported to you yesterday that Auburn Apparel is planning to close their plant at the end of this week. Now, a local garment manufacturer has offered jobs to the 38 employees. The Pottsville Republican reports that Walter Meck, Chief Executive of Fessler USA, a long time Schuylkill County manufacturer, is providing an opportunity to the displaced workers to come work for his company. Auburn Apparel is taking some of their manufacturing overseas, prompting the closing. Fessler USA has 5 plants, including Schuylkill Haven, Deer Lake and Orwigsburg.

An abrupt lane change forced a rush-hour accident on Route 61 Monday. The unknown driver was southbound on Route 61 in the passing lane and made an unsignaled lane change at the Palo Alto split. The pickup truck was hit by a car driven by Kimberly Yarrish of Schuylkill Haven. After the collision, Yarrish pulled off to the side of the road, but the other driver failed to stop. Yarrish's car was moderately damaged and had to be towed from the scene. The investigation continues. An early Tuesday traffic stop leads to the arrest of two illegal immigrants in Delano Township. Frackville troopers stopped a speeding car on Interstate 81. Inside, they found 24-year-old Jose Torres and 26- year-old Maria Zalazar, both of Hazleton. During the subsequent ID check, they found that both were in this country illegally. They were both taken to Schuylkill County Prison. They face deportation by federal authorities.

A Tremont man will spend time in state prison for manufacturing meth. Brian Hoke Jr. will spend at least four years in state prison for manufacturing drugs at a home in Pottsville. The Pottsville Republican reports that Hoke, who was found guilty on charges in May, was sentenced to serve 4 to 8 years for his crimes. Hoke was arrested by Pottsville police after a raid at a home on North Second Street in November, 2004. Hoke's counsel contended that there was insufficient evidence to convict him for manufacturing meth, among other issues. Judge Cyrus Palmer Dolbin ruled against those claims. Hoke can appeal the sentence in state Superior Court.

A local hospital's home health department is among the most elite providers in the country. The Pottsville Hospital and Warne Clinic's Home Health Department was named to the 2006 HomeCare Elite, putting them among the most successful home care providers in the country. The review names Medicare-certified agencies whose performance measures in quality, improvement and financial performance are among the top 25 percent in the country. The review also indicates those providers in the top 100 and 500 nationwide. The 2006 HomeCare Elite is the first performance recognition of its kind in the home health industry. The 2006 HomeCare Elite is brought to the industry by OCS, Inc., the leading provider of healthcare informatics and DecisionHealth, publisher of home care’s most respected independent newsletter Home Health Line. The data used for this analysis was complied from publicly available information.

State News-Wednesday, Dec.20th

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania gambling regulators are planning to award licenses for five standalone slot-machine casinos today. The decisions by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board could make Philadelphia the country's largest city with a casino and bring gambling to the outskirts of the historic Civil War battlefield at Gettysburg. The slots licenses -- two for Philadelphia, one for Pittsubrgh and two for the rest of the state -- are being chased by 13 bidders. The board is making its decisions after five weeks of public hearings on the casino plans that wrapped up last week.

BENSALEM, Pa. (AP) - Officials at Philadelphia Park say they had more than ten-thousand customers for the slot-machine parlor on its first day. The horce racing track about 20 miles north of downtown Philadelphia now features a gambling hall with 22-hundred slot machines, a bar and buffet. Its opening yesterday was more subdued than the crowds that flocked to the state's first slots parlor last month near Wilkes-Barre. The opening of Philadelphia Park is expected to create competition for Atlantic City casinos. And some potential gamblers who stopped by say they won't stop heading to the Jersey Shore.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Philadelphia-based Aramark Corporation is expected to go private for the second time in 22 years. Shareholders of the nation's largest food service company are expected to vote today for a six-point-three billion dollars leveraged buyout offer. This is the second time long-running Chief Executive Joseph Neubauer is leading an investment group to take Aramark private. The first was in 1984, to thwart a hostile takeover from corporate raiders. This time, Neubauer believes that Aramark's shares do not adequately reflect the value of the business and performance. He wants Aramark to escape the pressure of having to meet Wall Street's quarterly expectations.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A former Philadelphia bank executive has pleaded guilty to bank fraud and embezzlement. Edward Mawhinney worked at National Penn Bank. He says he made 700-thousand dollars from a complex six-point-two million dollar embezzlement scheme. Prosecutors say the 37-year-old Sewell, New Jersey, man misappropriated the rest of the money. That includes four-point-three million dollars in unauthorized loans he steered to a group of dentists. Unless the two sides reach an agreement, the judge may have to rule on the disputed loss amount before the sentencing scheduled for March.

EBENSBURG, Pa. (AP) - A former Boy Scout leader awaiting a new trial on charges he sexually abused a boy has pleaded no contest to indecent assault as part of a plea agreement that will make him eligible for parole in January. Under the agreement, 50-year-old Charles A Miller will be sentenced to one to two years in prison and seven years of probation. Miller had been convicted in March 2005 of sexually abusing one boy in his Boy Scout troop and corrupting the morals of another. He was sentenced to five and a-half to 20 years in prison and has been in prison since the conviction. Miller was granted a new trial in September after the state
Superior Court said Cambria County prosecutor Michael Carbonara committed prosecutorial misconduct.

READING, Pa. (AP) - Officials say a former Reading School Board president and youth athletic league official is charged with an armed bank robbery. Police say 44-year-old Ricky Dennis Pegram was arrested at his home in Reading on Monday and accused of robbing a Citizens Bank branch on Friday evening. Police in Lower Providence Township, Montgomery County, say several people identified Pegram from security camera footage shown in the news. Court records reviewed by the Reading Eagle newspaper show that Pegram's home is scheduled to be auctioned at a sheriff's sale next month. The current vice president of the school board, Karen McCree, says she's shocked. She adds that she hopes people won't forget all the good that Pegram has done.

National and International News-Wednesday, Dec. 20th

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - New defense chief Robert Gates is in Baghdad, seeking advice from military commanders as President Bush develops a new Iraq war strategy. Gates arrived in Iraq just two
days after taking the oath of office.

WHITE HOUSE (AP) - President Bush says he agrees with those who contend the military is stretched too thin. He says in a Washington Post interview that more troops are needed to fight the war on terrorism. Bush also says the U-S is neither winning nor losing in Iraq.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A report says the commander of U-S forces in the Middle East will be leaving his post in March. The Los Angeles Times reports Army General John Abizaid submitted retirement plans shortly before Donald Rumsfeld was pushed out as defense secretary.

UNDATED (AP) - Just days before Christmas, several states will be getting a blanket of white. Forecasters say some areas in the Plains could get up to two feet of snow. The weather shut down parts of Interstate 40 in Texas and New Mexico last night.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Maybe we could all take a lesson from Mexico. A new A-P-Ipsos poll says more than half of Mexicans rarely experience stress in their daily lives. The same survey says three-fourths of people in the U-S and many other industrialized countries feel stress every day. The top U-S worry: finances.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Local News-Tuesday, Dec. 19th

A body of a man was found at the bottom of a coal stripping pit in Foster Township Sunday morning. State police say the fully-clothed man was about 6 feet tall with brown hair and a graying beard. The body appeared to be there for some time. An autopsy will be performed on the remains to determine an exact cause of death. Anyone with information should call Schuylkill Haven State Police.

A Gordon man was struck and injured in Butler Township while cleaning up another accident Monday. Crews were clearing an accident scene on Gordon Mountain Road around 5pm when 58-year-old Charles Lynch was attempting to load one of the wrecked vehicles onto a flatbed truck. Joanne Zerby of Ashland was driving south on Gordon Mountain Road and struck Lynch and then the tow truck. Lynch was thrown down an embankment. He was taken to St. Catherine Medical Center for treatment. His injuries were not life-threatening. State police expect to file charges after completing the investigation.

Ongoing work on water systems in and around Mahanoy City may result in cloudy water. Mahanoy Township Authority has been undergoing water line construction on South Main and Pine Streets recently, prompting officials to issue water boil advisories. Residents in Mahanoy City, and Mahanoy Plane should boil their water during this time.

A Tamaqua police officer was injured during a battle with a Lehigh County man Monday. Borough police responded to reports of a break in at a home on Elm Street early Monday. The suspect, 29-year old Junior Marte, of New Tripoli fled the scene but was found a short time later. Police struggled with Marte, as he tried to take one of the officers’ firearms. Corporal Dwayne Hacker was hurt during the struggle. Finally, officers were able to subdue Marte and take him into custody. According to the Pottsville Republican, Marte was arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault, and related offenses. He was taken to Schuylkill County Prison, being unable to post bail.

An Auburn textile factory is set to close this week. Citing movement of manufacturing long underwear out of the country, Auburn Apparel will lay off 38 workers and close its doors this week. The Pottsville Republican reports that the factory, operated by Performance Sports Apparel of Reading, made long underwear since 1995. The factory moved its operations to the former Wright’s Knitwear building outside of Auburn borough in 2004.

Frackville police have solved two hit and run cases which happened over the past two weeks. The first incident happened on December 2nd, where 21-year-old Eugene Blackwell the Third hit a parked car on South Second Street and fled the scene. The second occurred on December 9th, where 42-year-old David Revak struck a parked car owned by Joseph Vivacqua (viv-ah-kwa) on West Chestnut Street with his pickup truck. Revak took off because he was driving with a suspended license and without auto insurance. Both men will be charged with various motor vehicle offenses.

State News-Tuesday, Dec. 19th

BENSALEM, Pa. (AP) - Philadelphia Park, the home track of Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones, opens the first slot-machine parlor in southeastern Pennsylvania today. It's expected to compete with the casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Late this morning , the racetrack is set to open a gambling hall with 22-hundred slot machines, a bar and buffet. Racetrack officials anticipate that the slots revenue will increase the size of the purses at the track. That would attract bigger bets and better horses. This is the second licensed slot machine parlor to open in Pennsylvania. The first was the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs racetrack near Wilkes-Barre. It opened November 14th.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Would-be casino owners are getting one last chance to pitch their proposals to state gambling regulators today. Thirteen applicants are competing for five standalone slots licenses -- those not connected to resorts or racetracks. Each applicant has the option of speaking to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for up to 15 minutes. The board is scheduled to announce who will get the licenses tomorrow. Two are for Philadelphia, one for Pittsburgh, and two for other parts of the state.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A rally against the proposed takeover of Delta Air Lines by U-S Airways is planned today at Harrisburg International Airport. The event is one of ten being held in cities across the country as part of a nationwide campaign called "Keep Delta My Delta!" Spokesman Dave LaTorre says a merger of the two airlines would likely mean fewer airline choices and higher fares for Pennsylvania customers. LaTorre says Delta employs more than 350 people in Pennsylvania and has a statewide economic impact of one-point-three (b) billion dollars.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A state judge says there will be a hand recount of 23-thousand ballots in a close legislative election. The judge rejected Democrats' call for a faster machine count for the election determining who controls the state House of Representatives. However, the Commonwealth Court judge did order the recount between Democrat Barbara McIlvaine Smith and Republican Shannon Royer to be completed by Tuesday of next week - the day after Christmas. Republicans have said they want a hand recount because they are concerned about evidence that some ballots may not have been properly scanned.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - All ten labor unions at Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News have ratified contracts with the papers' owners. The largest of them, The Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia, held its ratification vote last night. Union president Henry Holcomb says 498 members voted to approve the three-year deal and 69 voted to reject it. Union leaders had urged members to approve the deal despite major concessions in it, saying it can be improved in the future. The company says it will need to lay off workers soon, but hasn't said exactly how many.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - An activist who won a split decision after suing last year to challenge the governmental pay-raise law has filed a new Commonwealth Court complaint. Gene Stilp is trying to stop judges from receiving cost-of-living increases. The Harrisburg man is seeking an injunction to prevent payment of what he claims are illegal raises. The defendants are Supreme Court Chief Justice Ralph Cappy, state Treasurer Bob Casey and state court system administrator Zygmont Pines. Stilp's lawsuit led the state Supreme Court to declare lawmakers' midterm pay raises unconstitutional. But he lost an effort to have the legislative procedures that were used to pass the law also ruled unconstitutional.

National and International News-Tuesday, Dec. 19th

IPSWICH, England (AP) - A second suspect has been arrested in connection with the killings of five prostitutes in eastern England. Police say a 48-year-old man was arrested today in Ipswich, where the women worked. A 37-year-old man who was arrested yesterday says he's innocent.

HOOD RIVER, Ore. (AP) - Oregon Sheriff Joe Wampler says the search for two missing climbers on Mount Hood will continue as a rescue effort for now. But with more bad weather expected midweek, Wampler says their chance of survival is minimal if they didn't find shelter. One climber already has been found dead.

WHITE HOUSE (AP) - The White House says President Bush will no longer answer if asked whether the U-S is winning in Iraq. Spokesman Tony Snow calls it "playing the game." At his Senate confirmation hearing, new Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U-S is not winning the war.

WASHINGTON (AP) - New crash test results show the downside to fuel-saving economy cars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has given poor ratings to two versions of the Hyundai Scion, the Toyota Yaris and the Kia Rio.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - If you've ever watched "Tom and Jerry" or "The Flintsones" or "Yogi Bear," then you know the names Hanna-Barbera. Cartoonist Joe Barbera has died at the age of 95. Bill Hanna died in 2001.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Local News-Monday, Dec. 18th

Two were injured in a one vehicle mishap in West Penn Township Saturday morning. A car driven by 57-year-old Alan Rish of Kelayres was southbound on Route 309, just south of the Lehigh County line when it crossed two lanes of traffic onto the northbound side. The car hit the guiderail, up an embankment and struck a tree. Rish and his passenger, Cheryl Rish, were both taken to St. Luke’s Hospital for treatment. The investigation continues.

Schuylkill Haven State Troopers are investigating a theft at a local grocery store Saturday. Two males and a female were at Aldi’s on Route 61 around 1:30pm, and took 20 frozen lobster tails from the store. The seafood is valued at almost $280 dollars. State police are still looking for the thieves. If you have information, call the barracks at 593-2000.

The problem of elder abuse is growing across the nation in general, and in Schuylkill County in particular. From theft, to other forms of exploitation, the elderly are vulnerable to people who may befriend or take care of them. A community event to bring attention to the issue has been scheduled for next month. The Elder Abuse Task Force of Schuylkill County will hold a free event at 8am Friday, January 5th at the Wall Auditorium at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center. The program “An Introduction to Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation” is co-sponsored by the Task Force and the Temple University Institute on Protective Services.

A Pine Grove man has been identified in a hit and run crash from last week. State police at Schuylkill Haven now say that Jeffrey Hoppes pulled out of the Paradise Pub parking lot Wednesday night, and lost control of his pickup truck on the wet roadway, striking a parked SUV. Hoppes left the scene after the crash, and did not report it to authorities. However, witnesses at the scene were able to identify him. He was charged with the hit and run on Thursday.

Someone passed a counterfeit bill at a bar in New Philadelphia, and state police are looking for them. Sometime late Thursday or early Friday morning, a patron at Moe’s Pub used a $20 dollar bill to make a purchase. That bill turned out to be bogus. Information is limited at this time about the identity of the person who passed the bill. Frackville State Troopers are investigating.

Senate Democrats have outlined reform measures to be introduced whenthe new Senate session begins on January 2nd. Senator Jay Costa says his idea is to adopt needed reforms as operating rules that Senators must follow immediately when the Legislature reconvenes January 2nd. Some of the rules would force Senators to wait 24 hours to consider a bill after amending it, and wait 72 hours before final passage, making senators more accountable.

State News-Monday, Dec. 18th

MEADVILLE, Pa. (AP) - Former Pennsylvania Governor Raymond Shafer is being remembered as a visionary leader and a compassionate man. About 250 people gathered yesterday at Allegheny College in Meadville for Shafer's funeral. He served as governor from 1967 to 1971. Former governors William Scranton, Richard Thornburgh and Tom Ridge were among the mourners. Shafer oversaw tax increases to finance social programs and overhauled the state constitution. He died last week at the age of 89.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Leaders of a union representing more than 900 workers at The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News are urging their members to ratify a three-year labor contract. Diane Mastrull is the head of the bargaining committee for The Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia. Mastrull says she's angry about the contract. But she says it's far better for the workers than what management wanted. Mastrull says if union members let their anger consume them and reject the contract, it will, in her words, "destroy the papers, destroy jobs and destroy families." Voting begins at 7 p-m tonight. The Guild is the largest of ten unions at the Inquirer and Daily News. It represents editorial, circulation, advertising and clerical workers.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A South Philadelphia man accused of pretending to be a doctor making house calls and assaulting elderly women is due in court. Christopher Donahue was 29 when he was charged last year with rape, harassment and other offenses. Opening statements are scheduled today. Police say Donahue would call women, who have ranged from 70 to 86 years old, then appear at their homes 15 minutes later.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania lawmakers have a personal stake in the state's generous pension system. Critics are saying that will make it much harder for them to deal with the pending benefits crisis.
In 2012, the cost of subsidizing pensions for state workers and school employees is expected to jump from less than one (b) billion dollars to more than three (b) billion dollars a year. The cost is being driven in part by big increases lawmakers approved five years ago. State workers and teachers received a 25 percent pension boost, while most legislators got a 50 percent increase. Nearly all lawmakers are now entitled to collect three percent of their peak salary for each year of service. That compares with two-and-a-half percent for teachers and most others in the state workers' retirement system.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A newspaper is reporting that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has spent 25 (m) million dollars getting the state ready for slot-machine gambling over the past two-and-a-half years.
That includes leasing new cars for five of the board's seven members and paying some of the highest salaries in the state. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review also found that four board members spent a total of more than 12-thousand dollars on travel to the western U-S and Canada. The paper says taxpayers are footing almost all the bills, but that casinos are supposed to reimburse the state as they start opening. A spokesman for the gaming board says the expenditures were necessary for business. He also says the trips helped members
gather information to develop Pennsylvania's gambling regulations.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A published report says that a recently appointed member of the state gaming board won thousands of dollars at casinos in recent years -- despite being a critic of gambling when he served as a legislator. According to tax returns obtained by The Philadelphia Inquirer, former Representative Mark McNaughton won 15-thousand-500 dollars between 2003 and last year. The paper says McNaughton, a Harrisburg Republican who left the Legislature last month, did not disclose the winnings on his state
ethics forms. McNaughton says he didn't think he had to report them. McNaughton had for years opposed efforts to expand gambling in Pennsylvania and voted against the law that legalized slot machines
here. He says he was only acting on the wishes of his constituents.

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) - Virginia's Episcopal Bishop Peter Lee says the denomination will assert legal claims of ownership over the property of breakaway congregations. Seven parishes, including two of Virginia's largest, announced today that their members have voted to leave the U-S branch of the world Anglican Communion. A lengthy and expensive legal fight could erupt over the church properties, which are worth (m) millions of dollars. Two of them plan to place themselves under the leadership of Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria. He has called the growing acceptance of gay relationships a "satanic attack" on the
church. The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has been at odds with the national denomination over the same issues, but hasn't seceded.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A U-S Air Force sergeant is dead after a nightclub altercation turned violent.
Philadelphia police say it happened at about 1:30 a-m yesterday at a club in the city's Lawncrest neighborhood. The airman was at the club with his pregnant wife when someone made a comment
about her. That led to an argument and four men attacked the airman. The club was cleared out, but the argument continued on the sidewalk. The airman was fatally stabbed and another man who tried
to break up the fight was hospitalized. The airman had been scheduled to go to Iraq next week.