Today's News-Friday, February 29th
A fire that heavily damaged a Friedensburg home earlier this week is being deemed accidental. The James Gordon family of four were ousted from their home on Monday at 1390 Long Run Road. Investigators say that the homeowner started a coal furnace with a propane torch and set it aside in the laundry room. According to the Republican and Herald, the torch was still burning and started the fire. Damage estimates are in the neighborhood of $50-thousand-dollars.
A toxic pile of material that has troubled the residents of Rush Township is expected to be cleaned up by fall. The "fluff" pile, the remnants of recycled wire and by-products at the former Eastern Diversified Metals plant near Hometown has been on the EPA's priority list for a number of years. The federal agency reports that the pile will be capped by September, according to the Republican and Herald. Folks who live in that area wanted the pile removed, but federal officials determined that placing a permanent cap on the site would be a better way to contain the problem. Soil around the pile was also contaminated, and local water supplies were potentially at risk. The two year project to construct the cap began in September, 2006.
Are you fed up with the rising prices of gas, oil and other fuels? Everyone is! Oil futures for a barrel of crude went above $102 yesterday. Motorists are reeling from a 19 cent per gallon increase over just the past two weeks, and some experts are predicting that it will reach $4 per gallon by the spring. All of this is getting attention in Harrisburg, where the state House is expected to vote on a plan that would break Pennsylvania’s dependence on Middle East oil. State Representative Tim Seip says that the plan would boost the economy by investing in the production of homegrown fuels and other alternative energy sources like wind and solar power:
Governor Rendell has also made energy independence a priority in his second term.
Motorists planning to travel through east central Pennsylvania tomorrow are advised to be alert for potential snow and freezing rain in their travels, based on weather forecasts. A snow advisory will be in effect for this afternoon and tonight for Schuylkill County. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) encourages all motorists to pay full attention to their driving, especially during winter when weather can quickly change and turn driving conditions sour in an instant. PennDOT is warning motorists to be prepared in the event today’s weather escalates into a rapidly-moving “clipper” storm with white-out conditions and low visibility.
PennDOT is planning for this potential storm and will activate its interstate message boards tomorrow with warnings to motorists to be prepared. Simple, common sense tips for safe driving include reducing speed in response to decreasing visibility, maintain a safe distance between vehicles and be aware of the potential that vehicles may be stopped on the highway or along the shoulder. PennDOT reminds motorists that state law requires drivers to turn on their headlights anytime their vehicles wipers are in continuous or intermittent use due to weather or other atmospheric conditions such as fog or mist. Motorists who do not comply with the law could face a fine of $25, but with fees and other associated costs, the penalty would approach $100.
Schuylkill County's office of Veterans Affairs has received the praise from the Adjutant General of Pennsylvania, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Major General Jessica L. Wright sent a letter to County Commissioner Frank McAndrew thanking Brenda Zechman and her staff of the County Office of Veterans Affairs for their outstanding job of serving the needs of the veterans of Schuylkill County. Major General Wright said the office’s customer service-oriented outreach and support have enabled Schuylkill County to maximize federal compensation awards and pensions for its veterans. She said the county office was one of the premier veterans support agencies within the Commonwealth in providing first-class service to veterans and their beneficiaries.
A New York man was arrested by Cass Foster Township police Wednesday afternoon. Officers conducting a speed trap on Route 901 and the Old Buckhorn Road clocked Stephen Arzoomanian of Haverstraw, New York going 75 miles an hour in a 55 mile per hour zone. Police had to pursue Arzoomanian onto I-81 before stopping him. A records check also found that he was driving with a suspended license. His vehicle was impounded.
Are you getting enough sleep? New figures from the Centers for Disease Control suggest fewer and fewer of us are. Ten percent of the almost 20-thousand-people surveyed say they did not get enough sleep any day of the prior month. Thirty-eight percent said that they didn't get enough sleep on seven or more of those days.
Wilkes-Barre Catholic students plan walkout
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) - Some students at Holy Redeemer High School in Wilkes-Barre say they'll walk out of class Friday. It's to show support for their teachers' effort to unionize. The Diocese of Scranton has been unwilling to recognize the union. Classes were canceled Thursday because most teachers called in sick. The sickout was organized by the Scranton Diocese Association of Catholic Teachers. Union president Michael Milz says the student protest is a surprise. He says the teachers didn't discuss the labor dispute with their students because it would have been unprofessional. The diocese didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
NRC chairman says napping guards report wasn't fully reviewed
WASHINGTON (AP) - The chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says more should have been done to investigate a tip that security guards took naps on the job at a nuclear plant. The NRC announced a special investigation at the Peach Bottom plant in south-central Pennsylvania in September. But that wasn't until a video of guards sleeping in a "ready room" surfaced. Months before, the NRC got a letter from a former employee who was writing on behalf of current employees. NRC Chairman Dale Klein says the letter's author asked not to be contacted. Klein says the agency made a mistake by honoring that request. Klein's remarks came in tesimony in a Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee hearing.
Former Pa. state representative, aide charged with forgery
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A former state representative from Erie and her aide are being accused of forging dozens of signatures on the lawmaker's nominating petitions. Linda Bebko-Jones and chief of staff Mary Fiolek were charged based on a grand jury investigation. Bebko-Jones is a Democrat who served from 1993 until last year. Prosecutors say the two generated the fake signatures in March 2006 by combing the Erie phone book and Bebko-Jones' personal address book. Bebko-Jones is facing charges of forgery, tampering with public records, false swearing, conspiracy and other offenses. Fiolek is charged with similar offenses. They're scheduled to turn themselves in next week.
LONDON (AP) - Britain's Prince Harry is being immediately withdrawn from Afghanistan after news of his front-line deployment leaked in the media. The British Defense Ministry says there was concern that news coverage could put Harry and his fellow troops at increased risk. Britain's prime minister calls the prince's service in Afghanistan "outstanding."
LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. (AP) - Police in Georgia have a suspect in custody in connection with shooting deaths of a sheriff's deputy and her two young daughters last night. Their bodies were found by police inside their home in suburban Atlant. Police aren't releasing any information on the suspect.
UNDATED (AP) - While Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton lead rallies in Texas today, their campaigns are sending high profile stand-ins to Tuesday's other prized state. Bill Clinton will be stumping on behalf of his wife in Ohio. Caroline Kennedy will be visiting the suburbs of Cleveland to recruit Obama voters. Tuesday's primaries in both states are considered crucial in the Democratic race.
SINGAPORE (AP) - For the first time in history, oil prices broke the $103-a-barrel mark in trading overnight. The combination of a weak dollar and the prospect of lower interest rates is drawing more cash into the oil market. One analyst predicts prices will drop at some point, but not in the near future.
CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (AP) - She was born in 1912, but a Wisconsin woman is only celebrating her 24th birthday on this leap day. Tillie Iverson was born on February 29th 96 years ago. She says she doesn't like being a leap-year baby because she's had to celebrate her birthday February 28th some years, and March 1st on others. With her true birth date coming only once every four years, Iverson feels she's been a little "shorted on birthdays."