Friday, February 23, 2007

National and State Headlines-Friday, Feb. 23rd

CAPITOL HILL (AP) - Senate Democrats are drafting legislation that could take back the original authorization for the U-S invasion of Iraq. They're working on final wording. One version of a new resolution might restrict U-S troops to fighting al-Qaida and training Iraqis.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Jurors return for a third session today in the Lewis Libby perjury trial in Washington. They're trying to decide whether the man who was Vice President Cheney's chief of staff obstructed the investigation into who leaked the identify of a C-I-A agent in a White House spin control operation.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center says it's taking steps to make sure there's no repeat of the release of a homeless paraplegic who was left crawling on Skid Row. California lawmakers are weighing legislation to make homeless dumping a crime.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Britney Spears' manager confirms to The Associated Press that she's back in rehab at a drug and alcohol center in Southern California. She and estranged husband Kevin Federline have agreed to temporarily share custody of their two children.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Officials in Harrisburg are continuing their investigation into the handling of a winter storm that stranded hundreds of motorists on some Pennsylvania highways for two days. A state House committee is scheduled to hold a hearing today to find out what went wrong during the storm that began February 13th. The state Senate held its own hearing on the matter yesterday, during which the head of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation apologized for the disaster and promised it wouldn't happen again. The state made national news when a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 78 in eastern Pennsylvania, as well as large sections of I-81 and I-80, were clogged with stranded motorists.

CLEARFIELD, Pa. (AP) - Authorities say Interstate 80 in Clearfield County is open in both directions this morning. The highway had been closed since 5:30 p-m in both directions between exit 111 in Pennfield and exit 120 in Clearfield because of whiteout conditions and a flash-freeze. Authorities say there were several minor accidents and a jack-knifed tractor-trailer, among other problems. Traffic was rerouted through the towns of Clearfield and DuBois during the closure. The highway was reopened after several hours.

GREENSBURG, Pa. (AP) - An inquest will continue today in Greensburg into the death of a 14-year-old boy who was killed with a state senator's gun. An attorney for Senator Robert Regola says the lawmaker will testify if called. But Regola's teenage son, who was friends with the boy, will not testify. The inquest into the death of Louis Farrell began yesterday to determine whether the boy shot himself intentionally or accidentally, or was shot by someone else. A state police forensic expert has testified that blood droplets
found near the gun barrel and under Farrell's fingernail were consistent with the boy shooting himself at close range. Farrell lived next door to the Regolas. No charges have been filed in the case.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Philadelphia Orchestra has named an interim musical director while it searches for a new director. Musicians were advised after last night's concert at the Kimmel Center that Charles Dutoit will serve as chief conductor and artistic adviser. Beginning in September 2008, Dutoit will lead the Orchestra in up to eight weeks of concerts in Philadelphia and on tour. The 70-year-old Swiss-born conductor made his Philadelphia Orchestra debut in 1980. He directed the Orchestras summer series at The Mann Center between 1990 and 1999. The orchestra announced in October that Christoph Eschenbach
will be departing as musical director after a three-year run. The 66-year-old Eschenbach is remaining as conductor until the end of the 2007-08 season and will return for concerts in January and February 2009

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Governor Ed Rendell says the federal government has approved Pennsylvania's plan to expand state-subsidized health insurance for children who are ineligible for federal welfare benefits. That means Pennsylvania will be able to offer the expanded Children's Health Insurance Program benefits -- an initiative known as "Cover All Kids" -- as early as next month. The guidelines for the program known as CHIP had limited eligibility to families earning 235 percent of the federal poverty level -- about 47-thousand dollars for a family of four. The expansion will provide partially subsidized insurance for families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level -- about 60-thousand dollars for a family of four. It will also institute a sliding monthly premium based on ability to pay. Families with higher incomes can obtain coverage if they meet certain criteria.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The Speaker's Commission on Legislative Reform is recommending that the state House make all its financial records available electronically. It's also in favor of phasing out private vehicle leases for lawmakers. If the entire House approves the records proposal, the public will get electronic access to all state representatives' expense records as well as information about the accounts controlled by the two parties' leaders. The lone "no" vote was cast by Philadelphia Democratic Representative Mark Cohen. He says that disclosing every detail about legislative spending will discourage people who are not wealthy enough to pay expenses out of their own pockets from running for the House. The commission also recommended the House eliminate private leases that allow members to spend up to 650 dollars a month on vehicles.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The trial for indicted state Senator Vincent Fumo will likely last three to four months and will not get under way until early next year. That's the word from attorneys on both sides of the case, who attended a hearing yesterday in federal court in Philadelphia. Prosecutors say they expect to call at least 100 witnesses over roughly two months. Fumo's attorney says he could probably present his case by the spring of 2008, but that he wouldn't be certain until he reviews the prosecution's documents. The sides are expected to meet again in about six weeks to reassess the timetable. Fumo is one of Pennsylvania's most powerful politicians. He is accused in a federal indictment of misusing about two (m) million dollars in public and charitable funds for his own personal benefit.

WASHINGTON (AP) - An attorney with Pennsylvania roots has been asked to handle legal fights the White House expects with the new Democratic Congress. Fred Fielding is no stranger to Washington, having worked as legal counsel to both Presidents Nixon and Reagan. Now, the 67-year-old lawyer is back to work for President Bush. Fielding will be busy. Congressional Democrats plan to investigate the Iraq war, suspected government fraud and White House decision-making on environmental policy, secret surveillance and other matters. Fielding was born in Philadelphia and grew up on a farm in Bucks County. He later attended Gettysburg College and the University of Virginia's law school on scholarships.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Philadelphia Mayor John Street has unveiled a three-point-nine (B) billion-dollar budget proposal that calls for hiring 200 new police officers. But the spending plan would also reduce the number of city employees by two-point-five percent in many departments. Street's budget contains some unexpected cuts, including a one-million-dollar decrease in the city's contribution to the Community College of Philadelphia. He also proposes dipping into the city's 171 (m) million-dollar surplus to help cover an 89 (m) million-dollar deficit. The mayor says that because of skyrocketing pension and employee-benefit costs, the budget he outlined will leave challenges for the next administration.


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