Saturday, May 24, 2008

Today's News-Saturday, May 24th

SCHUYLKILL COUNTY - Its the unofficial kickoff to the summer. But Memorial Day is so much more. The federal holiday, marked on the last Monday of May, was originally known as Decoration Day, to honor Union soldiers who died in the Civil War. After World War One, it was changed to honor all men and women who gave the last full measure and died in military service, and to pay tribute to those who served our country. Parades, ceremonies and observances will take place in nearly every community in Schuylkill County. We owe those who died, and those who have served, a truly sincere debt of gratitude and thanks for protecting our freedom. If you see a veteran today, thank them for their service. And have a safe and happy Memorial Day.

POTTSVILLE - Schuylkill County Prison employees thwarted an escape attempt Wednesday, according to Warden Eugene Berdanier. According to a press release issued Friday, Berdanier said a correctional officer discovered a cell window had been "tampered with" during a routine cell check Wednesday morning. After a search of the cell, corrections officers found the cell's inmates were hatching an escape plan. As reported in the Republican Herald, the window was "intentionally damaged … to compromise the security of the window for use as an escape route," the press release stated. Corrections officers also found a homemade, 30-foot rope in the cell. Pottsville police are conducting an investigation and Berdanier said criminal charges against the inmates, who were not identified, are pending. No further information was available Friday.

ASHLAND - An Ashalnd man has been charged on various drug related counts by federal prosecutors. The U.S. Attorney's office filed charges against 46-year-old Michael Stockunas of distributing methamphetamine, illegal gambling and money laundering. A federal grand jury handed down the indictments Wednesday, according to the Republican and Herald. From January, 2004 until this year, Stockunas would gather methamphetamine from California, Nevada and in Pennsylvania, and distribute it across the county. He allegedly used bookmaking profits to pay for the drugs. If found guily, Stockunas could face a long prison sentence and possible forfeiture of a million dollars. A hearing is expected next week in federal court.

CRESSONA - Transportation for three area schools was disrupted due to vandalism Friday. We first reported to you early yesterday that unknown individuals left the air out of tires, and damaged valve stems on more than a dozen buses at R&J Transportation, causing the start of classes to be delayed two hours for Blue Mountain, Schuylkill Haven and St. Ambrose schools. Several field trips had to be cancelled for those schools. Sometime overnight Thursday, the vandals entered the company property along Route 183. R&J is the bus contractor for the districts. While it is not certain, several buses had the number "08" painted on the back of the bus windows, possibly a prank by graduating seniors. State police at Schuylkill Haven are investigating.

TAMAQUA - PennDOT is planning to update motorists about improvements to Route 309 next week. A public plans display will be held Tuesday from 7 to 9pm at the Tamaqua Community Center , 223 Center Street. Engineers will discuss plans for Route 309 in the business district, designed to reduce congestion. PennDOT estimates that average daily traffic volumes exceed 14 thousand cars in downtown Tamaqua.

NEW YORK (AP) - The summer driving season is under way and gas prices continue to climb. In previous years, prices would peak around Memorial Day. Now, the best bet is they'll continue to go up into the summer. The average as of yesterday was $3.88 a gallon.

WINDSOR, Colo. (AP) - There are no reports of injuries from a set of tornadoes that rolled through parts of Kansas last night. It's the second straight night that twisters have hit the region.

YINGXIU, China (AP) - The earthquake death toll in China has surpassed the 60,000 mark. And China's premier says it could eventually break 80,000. The estimate is an increase over what officials had previously said was the expected number of deaths.

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) - Foreign aid agencies are expressing hope, but also skepticism, about a promise by Myanmar's military government to open its doors to outside cyclone relief help. Agencies are calling on the government to clarify the rules for operating in Myanmar's devastated areas.

SILVER LAKE, Wis. (AP) - Three children, their school bus driver and a trucker have been seriously injured in a crash in Silver Lake, Wisconsin. The bus was stopped with its lights flashing yesterday when a semi hit it from behind. Authorities think the trucker had been choking on some soda.

GILROY, Calif. (AP) - Fire crews are struggling to gain control of a persistent wildfire in California's Santa Cruz Mountains. The five-square-mile blaze has torched 28 buildings, most of them homes. Only about a-quarter of the fire is under control. Gusty winds have hampered firefighting efforts.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - More than 45 countries and regional organizations are planning to take part in a donors conference in Myanmar tomorrow to gather funds for cyclone survivors. Myanmar's rulers estimate the losses from the storm at about 11 billion dollars, although relief officials doubt that's accurate.

WASHINGTON (AP) - A Pennsylvania soldier who gave his life to save those of his comrades in Iraq will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Nineteen-year-old Army Private First Class Ross McGinnis jumped on a grenade that had sailed into a Humvee. The explosive killed him, but the four other soldiers in the vehicle survived.

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) - Two missing scuba divers from the U.S. and Britain have been rescued after spending a night floating in the ocean over Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The man and woman were spotted today, nine miles from their dive site after an 18-hour search.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both campaign in Puerto Rico today. Clinton has apologized for a reference to the assassination of Robert Kennedy who was gunned down while campaigning in June 1968. Clinton was trying to explain why she shouldn't drop out.

McALLEN, Texas (AP) - A minor leaguer is on his way from Calgary, Canada, to Texas after being traded this week for the unlikely price of a bag of bats. John Odom is headed to the Laredo Broncos who got him from the Calgary Vipers for 10 maple-wood bats. Odom says he "doesn't really care" about his small price. And he says it'll make a better story if he makes it to the big leagues.


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