Thursday, July 31, 2008

Today's News-Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Developments in Shenandoah case

The FBI and Justice Department have opened an investigation into the fatal beating of Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah. This comes less than a week after local authorities charged three teens, two with criminal homicide, and ethnic intimidation charges. Charges are to be filed shortly against another for providing alcohol to the accused. The preliminary hearings for Brandon Piekarsky, Colin Walsh and Derrick Donchak have been postponed till August 18th. A juvenile suspect whose allegedly involved in the case has not been formally charged yet.

Pottsville man sentenced in meth lab case

A Pottsville man will do time in state prison for his role in operating a meth lab in the city. 38-year-old Charles Brilla, who worked with Michael Setlock Jr. to run the drug lab, pleaded guilty to drug related counts, and was sentenced yesterday by Judge Charles Miller. Brilla, who is already at the state prison at Mercer, faces at least two more years in jail. Brilla and Setlock were arrested in October 2007, with meth in their possession. Police uncovered the lab at Brilla's home.

Fair Royalty

Senior Citizens day at the Schuylkill County Fair featured the crowning of more royalty. Ron Kramer of Reinholds and Patricia Liptok were crowned King and Queen of the fair, chosen from 12 contestants. A new feature was added to the lineup in 2008, with four local church choirs singing in competition. Echoes of Grace, from Grace EC Church in Schuylkill Haven were the winners. Competitions in the show ring are featured on Dairy Day today. Award-winning Elvis tribute artist Shawn Klush from Pittston will strut his stuff on the M&T stage this evening.

Minersville woman hurt in hit and run in Minersville

An 89-year-old woman is still hospitalized following a hit and run in Minersville Tuesday afternoon. Rita Olexa was crossing at Fourth and Sunbury Streets when she was struck by a pickup truck that was backing up. The vehicle left the scene. A grey haired man in his 50's or 60's was reportedly driving a Ford F-150 is suspected. Anyone with information should call Minersville PD at 544-2333.

A New Philadelphia man is behind bars in Schuylkill County on burglary charges. It all stems from an incident Wednesday night around 10:30. Police say 24-year-old Patrick Hill broke into his wife's home by removing an air conditioner from a window. Hill was sprayed in the face with a chemical and fled. He was caught a short time later driving drunk. Police say Hill and his wife 28-year-old Wendy Hill are married but live in separate homes.

4 states, NYC threaten to sue EPA over emissions from ships, aircraft, off-road vehicles

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Pennsylvania and four other states say they will sue the Environmental Protection Agency if it does not act soon to reduce pollution from ships, aircraft and off-road vehicles. In a letter to be sent Thursday to the EPA, the five states and New York City accuse the Bush administration of ignoring their requests to set restrictions. The letter is a procedural step required six months before a lawsuit would be filed. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is joining California, Connecticut, New Jersey, Oregon, and New York City in the action. A coalition of environmental groups also says it is considering legal action against the EPA. Domestic and international flights account for 3 percent of the
country's greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions from cargo and cruise ships account for 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Tractors, snowmobiles, riding lawn mowers and off-road vehicles produced about 220 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2007. That's roughly the same amount as produced by 40 million cars, according to the petitions.

Lawmakers probe electrocutions of soldiers in Iraq

WASHINGTON (AP) - The attorney for the family of a Pittsburgh soldier electrocuted in Iraq says new documents contradict an initial federal report that said a private contractor was not at
fault. The report by the inspector general found no evidence that KBR Inc. or the Defense Contract Management Agency were aware of any life-threatening hazards at the Army barracks where Sgt. Ryan Maseth was electrocuted. Maseth's mother, Cheryl Harris, has filed suit in Pennsylvania against KBR. Her attorney, Patrick Cavanaugh, says the new documents include a work order that suggests that KBR employees installed the water pump implicated in Maseth's death. Cavanaugh says he "wouldn't be surprised" to see a subsequent report come to a different conclusion than the initial one. Lawmakers on Wednesday pressed officials from the company and the Pentagon to explain what has delayed the proper protection of U.S. forces in Iraq from deficient electrical work already being blamed for the deaths of at least 16 people.

Deterioration outruns repair money on Pa. bridges

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - An Associated Press analysis indicates that a dozen of the 20 busiest structurally deficient bridges in Pennsylvania have received no work in the past year beyond regular maintenance. Fourteen of the 20 bridges carry or are connected to Interstate 95 in Philadelphia, where a crumbling support pillar shut down the East Coast's major north-south artery for more than two days in March. The 12 that got only routine maintenance are scheduled for future work. Three others are listed as repaired, though two of those still have more work planned. Five more are listed as partially repaired with more work planned. The 20 Pennsylvania bridges carry an average of about 160,000 vehicles per day. Nineteen are in or near Philadelphia and one is in Pittsburgh. That span, the Saw Mill Run bridge on Parkway West, just south of the Fort Pitt Tunnel, is partially repaired with more work planned.

Specter seeks meeting with Raul Castro

WASHINGTON (AP) - Sen. Arlen Specter says he hopes to meet with Cuban President Raul Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during a trip to Latin America in August.
The Pennsylvania Republican tells reporters that he's "a firm believer in dialogue."
Presidential candidates argued earlier this year over when and under what circumstances a president should sit down with adversaries. Hillary Rodman Clinton accused Barack Obama of
embracing a too-lenient stance on such face-to-face meetings. GOP nominee John McCain has repeated the charge, which Obama - now the Democratic nominee - has repeatedly rebuffed.
Speaking to reporters on a wide range of subjects Wednesday, Specter said his experience has been that meeting with world leaders leads to change. Specter says he met with Fidel Castro during previous stops in Cuba and talked to him about drug interdiction. He says he wrote a
letter to Raul Castro requesting a meeting, but has not heard back.

DOJ joins probe of Mexican slain in Pa. coal town

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The FBI and Justice Department have opened an investigation into the fatal beating of a Mexican immigrant in a small northeastern Pennsylvania town. The federal involvement comes less than a week after local officials in Schuylkill County charged three white teens in this month's attack on Luis Ramirez, a 25-year-old father of two. A Mexican-American advocacy group applauded the decision. The victim was attacked July 12 when he crossed paths with a group of teens who had been out drinking before attending a block party in the town of Shenandoah, about 80 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Ramirez, a father of two, died two days later. On Friday, county officials filed homicide charges against two teens and ethnic intimidation charges against the pair and a third teen.

Judge to reconsider sentence for inmate who helped convicted murderer escape Albion prison

ERIE, Pa. (AP) - An Erie County judge says he will reconsider the sentence he gave an inmate who helped a convicted murderer escape from the State Correctional Institution at Albion.
Earlier this month, Judge Michael Dunlavey sentenced 26-year-old John David Gromer, of Philadelphia, to 2 1/2-5 years in prison. The sentence was concurrent with the five- to 10-year term Gromer is already serving for drug and weapons offenses. The prosecution wants Gromer to spend more time behind bars. Gromer admitted helping Malcolm Kysor escape on Nov. 25.
Authorities say Kysor hid in a garbage can while Gromer covered him then pushed the can onto the back of an open-bed pickup. Kysor was captured in California in April and returned to
Pennsylvania. He's charged with escape.

Pa. attorney testifies in own defense in death of girlfriend who fell from his truck

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (AP) - Trial continues Thursday for a former suburban Philadelphia prosecutor charged in the death of his girlfriend, who fell off his truck and died of a head injury last year. Richard Patton took the stand in his own defense Wednesday and said he did not see 34-year-old Heather Demou hanging onto his truck as he drove away from a Newtown restaurant in April 2007. He said he heard a thud and couldn't believe it when he saw her body
lying on the pavement. Under cross-examination in Bucks County Court, Patton denied that his relationship with Demou was abusive or that he was jealous or possessive. He is charged with homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter and recklessly endangering another person.
Patton previously worked as an assistant prosecutor in Bucks County and in the state attorney general's office.

Pa. search crews find body of 17-year-old swimmer in lake in Pine Grove Furnace State Park

CARLISLE, Pa. (AP) - Search crews on Wednesday found the body of a teenager who disappeared while swimming in a lake at Pine Grove Furnace State Park in south-central Pennsylvania. Officials say the 17-year-old boy vanished in Fuller Lake at about 4:15 p.m. Tuesday while hearing for shore with a group of other swimmers. The group was from Valley Youth House in Warminster, in suburban Philadelphia. Rescuers searched the 52-degree water with boats, divers and an underwater camera. Michelle Parsons of the Cumberland County
Department of Public Safety says the youth's body was recovered just before 5 p.m. She says an autopsy is planned to determine the cause of death. There were no lifeguards on duty at the 1.7-acre lake. The state, in order to save money, eliminated lifeguards at all state park beaches except Presque Isle near Erie this year.

AG reviewing 185 MySpace accounts of sex offenders after obtaining court order for records

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The state Attorney General's office says it is reviewing the MySpace accounts of 185 registered sex offenders who have accounts on the social networking Web site.
Attorney General Tom Corbett says the records were obtained from MySpace following a June 2008 court order issued by the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas. He says authorities want to find out if any sex offender has violated the terms of their release through use of the site. Corbett says such sites are supposed to be safe places for teens and young adults to connect with friends and meet new people. He says "convicted sex offenders have no business in that kind of an environment."

State welfare department wants suburban Pittsburgh personal care home to close

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The state is again trying to close a suburban Pittsburgh personal care home that officials say is unsafe. The Department of Public Welfare issued a non-renewal of license order to Windsor Place and banned new admissions to the Ross Township facility.
Windsor Place administrator Matt Harvey says the home has appealed the shutdown order and will continue operating. Harvey acknowledges that a resident who didn't want to take a shower in May was injured during an argument with a staff member. But he says the home handled the incident properly and has suspended the worker pending the outcome of a police investigation.
Harvey says the welfare department previously withdrew a January shutdown order for violation of regulations.

30,000 rare books destroyed in Pa. house fire

PLUMSTEAD, Pa. (AP) - Fire investigators are trying to find out what caused a blaze that burned down a 17th century stone barn in suburban Philadelphia, destroying 30,000 rare books. No one was injured, but all that was left of the newly converted historical barn after Tuesday's fire was the outside stone wall. Sixty-four-year-old Barry Cavanaugh and his wife, Peg, had thousands of collectibles and works of art inside the home, which had been renovated to fit the book collection. Neighbors apparently rushed into the burning home to try to save
some of the couple's valuables. Point Pleasant Fire Chief Scott Fleisher said he had to physically remove some people from the home. Hot, humid weather and the thousands of books made getting control of the fire difficult, Fleisher said. According to neighbors, the Cavanaughs owned the property for about 18 years and had just finished fully renovating and restoring the barn.

FDA finds salmonella strain at second Mexican farm

WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal health officials say the salmonella strain linked to a nationwide outbreak has been found in irrigation water and a serrano pepper at a Mexican farm. Dr. David Acheson, the Food and Drug Administration's food safety chief, is calling the finding a key breakthrough in the case. Acheson said the farm is in Nuevo Leon, Mexico. Previously, the
FDA had traced a contaminated jalapeno to a farm in another part of Mexico. Acheson and other officials were grilled Wednesday at a congressional hearing about why the investigation originally focused on tomatoes. The officials insisted that tomatoes still cannot be ruled out
and that it is quite possible that the outbreak was caused by several different kinds of contaminated produce.

Alaska Senator Ted Stevens is set to appear in federal court

WASHINGTON (AP) - Alaska Senator Ted Stevens will be in a federal court room today, where he's expected to plead not guilty to all seven felony charges he's facing. The government says the one-time U.S. Attorney never reported more than a quarter million dollars worth of gifts he got from an oil services company that did renovations on his home. Stevens says he's innocent and never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form. Meanwhile, Stevens keeps working. He's still performing his committee duties, and has voted on the Senate floor where some
colleagues have come by to embrace him and show their support. Yet several Senate Republicans have also already donated campaign contributions from Stevens to charity.

NYPD arrests man accused of killing woman, fleeing with his 4 kids, their mom

NEW YORK (AP) - A man accused of fatally stabbing a woman in a Massachusetts apartment and then fleeing with his four children and their mother faces murder charges. Police in New York say Rodlyn Petibois was taken into custody as he was walking down a Brooklyn Street. His children and their mother were found safe sitting under a tree in a park. Earlier, Massachusetts State police had said the children and their mother had been taken against their will. Amber Alerts were issued. But New York City police said they believed the family had not been abducted, but they said the details of the situation weren't available. The children's mother was not believed to be an accomplice.

Rescue work complete in New Mexico flooding

RUIDOSO, N.M. (AP) - The last of 900 people stranded by weekend flooding in Ruidoso, New Mexico, have been rescued. A foot bridge was built to retrieve the final three trapped when
remnants of Hurricane Dolly flooded the Rio Ruidoso, washing out 13 bridges and damaging some 200 homes. Road crews are now clearing debris, and state officials are working on drinking water. FEMA is expected to bring in portable bridges, but a spokeswoman for Ruidoso says that won't happen anytime soon. Officials say many residents and vacationers won't be able to return to their homes or cabins quickly. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has declared Lincoln County a disaster area, making it eligible for emergency money.

Body of girl who vanished while swimming found

NEW YORK (AP) - The body of the 10-year-old girl who disappeared Saturday while swimming in the waters off Coney Island in Brooklyn has been recovered. Police say Akira Johnson's body was discovered early Wednesday by a fisherman in Brighton Beach. The medical examiner's office has identified the body and ruled that she drowned after being pulled under by a rip current. Her disappearance was among a rash of swimming-related incidents in the area last week. At least six other people drowned or went missing while swimming.

No idle hands during Obama's convention speech

DENVER (AP) - The 75,000 Democrats expected to pack a football stadium for Barack Obama's convention speech in Denver won't be doing the wave. That's because many of them will be taking part in what could be the world's largest phone bank to boost voter registration. The audience will also be urged to text their friends. They'll be given call sheets created by comparing registration lists with lists of potential voters gleaned by mining consumer databases. An Obama adviser says, "If we do this right, we'll be unbeatable."

Newest McCain ad compares Obama to Britney Spears, Paris Hilton

AURORA, Colo. (AP) - John McCain's presidential campaign has released a hard-hitting TV ad comparing Barack Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. The ad suggests Obama is little more than a celebrity. Obama's campaign quickly responded with a commercial of its own,
dismissing McCain's complaints as "baloney" and "baseless." McCain's ad, titled "Celeb," is set to air in 11 battleground states. It features images of Obama on his trip to Europe last week
with video of Spears and Hilton.

Mortar kills family of 7 in Pakistan's Swat valley

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) - Pakistani police say mortar fire has killed a family of seven in a northern valley where security forces are battling Islamic militants. A police official said Thursday that the shell hit a house overnight as the family slept. The official says a man who worked in a local clinic died along with his wife and five children. It is unclear who fired the mortar round. Trouble flared in the region on Tuesday after militants kidnapped 25 security forces. Since then, fighting has reportedly killed 27 militants and seven troops. The violence jeopardizes the government's policy of offering peace deals to militants in a bid to combat their growing control of northwestern Pakistan.

Japanese: E-mail warns of more bombs in India

NEW DELHI (AP) - The Japanese embassy says it has received an e-mail warning of a bomb planted in a New Delhi market, and has warned its citizens to stay away from crowded public places. Nearly 30 explosions shook two Indian cities over the weekend, and 19 unexploded bombs have since been found in a western Indian city. E-mail warnings preceded those bombings. Japan's embassy says in a notice on its Web site Thursday that it has been warned of a bomb planted in the capital's popular Sarojini Nagar market. The notice urges Japanese citizens to stay away from public places, including markets, bus stops and religious institutions.
Sarojini Nagar was one of three New Delhi markets bombed in October 2005. Those blasts killed 62 people.

Attorney: Spears wants no contact with former friend Sam Lutfi

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A lawyer for Britney Spears says he won't seek an extension for a restraining order against Osama "Sam" Lutfi. But attorney Samuel Ingham says that that doesn't mean the pop star wants her former sidekick back in her life. Attorneys for Spears and her father, James, are expected to appear in a Los Angeles courtroom Thursday to give an update on the conservatorship. And a hearing on a temporary restraining order barring Lutfi from having contact with the pop singer is also scheduled for Thursday. Lutfi was a fixture in Spears' life during a period when the star exhibited erratic behavior, including being photographed without underwear, shaving her head and occasionally looking dazed in public.
Spears' father has control over his 26-year-old daughter's personal life and finances.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Today's News-Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Pottsville man injured in motorcycle crash

A Pottsville man was injured in a motorcycle/car crash in West Brunswick Township Tuesday afternoon. 60 year old James Weyand was traveling north on Route 61, near the intersection of South Liberty Street, and 56-year-old Clyde Whipple of Brackney, PA was following behind. Whipple was distracted by a cell phone call and ran into the back of Weyand's motorcycle. Weyand was thrown onto the highway. He was life flighted to Geisinger Medical Center. Whipple will be charged with careless driving. There were no other injuries.

Vigil in Shenandoah

A candelight vigil to honor the memory of Luis Ramirez was held last night in Shenandoah. More than 150 people were on hand, with impassioned calls for unity in the community in light of the attack that claimed Ramirez' life earlier this month. At a press conference held at the Vine Street playground prior to the service, representatives from the Mexican Legal Defense and Education Fund expressed their concerns about the investigation surrounding Ramirez' death and the negative feelings about immigrants who come to this country. MALDEF attorney John Amaya explains:


MALDEF called for federal justice officials to monitor the investigation. Three men have been charged already in the case, and additional arrests are pending.

LC&N files for bankruptcy

An area coal company has been taken to bankruptcy court. Lehigh Coal and Navigation, owes more than $7-million-dollars to creditors, and they want to ensure that they are paid. According to the Republican and Herald, LC&N has several weeks to respond to the Chapter 11 petition. Those who are owed money have asked the federal court to put the company under a trustee. Company officials say they will contest the petition by its creditors.

Bechtel wants a trial

A Morea man who is accused of multiple murders wants to withdraw his guilty plea and have his case taken to trial. 32-year-old Michael Bechtel pleaded guilty to four counts of first degree murder and related charges in 2004. Bechtel's estranged wife Raiehna, their 3 year old son Jacob and two friends were shot in August, 2002. A hearing was scheduled for yesterday, but cancelled by Judge D. Michael Stine. However, Mahanoy City attorney Jeffrey Markosky was appointed to represent Bechtel. Bechtel had been sentenced to four life terms in prison, and is in state prison awaiting further court action.

Tamaqua man in jail following chase

A Tamaqua man is in county jail after he fled the scene of a crash earlier this week in Pine Grove Township. Jonestown state police now say that Joel Angel Ramirez-Santiso was driving south on Interstate 81 early Sunday when he swerved and hit a car driven by Shirin Lowlaver of Silver Spring, Maryland. Ramirez-Santiso took off, but was picked up a short time later. He's charged with drunk driving and leaving the scene of an accident, and was jailed at Schuylkill County Prison.

Big loads leaving from Schuylkill Products

Oversized loads from Schuylkill Products, Cressona, bound for New York state, could slow traffic today and tomorrow. Routes 901, 183 and 61 are the affected routes. The loads will move out at 9 and 11am.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Allegheny County Council has approved a referendum question for the November election that will let voters choose between a 10 percent drink tax and increasing property taxes. County Executive Dan Onorato has said the drink tax is necessary to fund the county's subsidy of mass transit without raising property taxes.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A federal judge in Erie says a woman charged with plotting a bank robbery that left a pizza deliveryman dead has bipolar disorder and isn't mentally competent to stand trial. Judge Sean McLaughlin ordered Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong placed under the
federal government's custody for treatment. He wants an update on her in four months.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A homeless man will spend at between 15 to 30 years in prison for the stabbing death of a Pittsburgh man who let him stay in his home. Forty-one-year-old Clarence Turner was convicted in May of killing 54-year-old Glenn Smart.

CENTRAL CITY, Pa. (AP) - A New York City company is blaming the economy for its decision to halt plans on a $900 million waste coal-burning power plant in western Pennsylvania. Sithe Global Power LLC had announced plans for the plant in Somerset County in January. But it says plans are on hold until it finds a financial partner. The company had hoped the plant could be in production in 2013.

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush is turning up the heat on congressional Democrats over offshore oil drilling, just as they get ready for a summer break. The president plans to blast Congress again today for not opening up more coastline and the Alaskan Arctic.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Alaska Senator Ted Stevens could be facing the end of his political career. Already running against a tough Democratic challenger, an Alaskan political analyst says the seven-count federal indictment Stevens faces is "close to a political earthquake."

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Some broken water mains and minor gas leaks in homes make up some of the worst damage from yesterday's earthquake in Southern California. The 5.4 magnitude quake is the strongest to hit a heavily populated area of the state in more than a decade.

ATLANTA (AP) - A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals diabetic women who get pregnant are three to four times more likely to have a child with birth defects than other women. Nearly 40 types of birth defects were found to be significantly more common in the infants of diabetic mothers, more than first thought.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Cheech and Chong are getting back together. The duo, who broke up more than 20 years ago amid creative differences, will announce a new comedy tour today. It'll be called "Hey, What's That Smell."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Today's News-Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Change at the helm of SKIP

There is a changing of the guard in one county agency. Louise Huegel, who served at the helm of Schuylkill Keep It Pretty for the past 15 years, has announced her resignation. Her replacement as Executive Director, Robert Stablum, a retired Minersville school teacher. Huegel will wrap up her duties on August 29th.

Break ins at area businesses

Schuylkill Haven state police are investigating break ins at two Wayne Township businesses. Troopers have just released details about the incidents from last week. A large window was removed from Suglia's Pizza on Long Run Road to gain access, and about $300 dollars was taken from the business office. Unknown burglars also attempted to break in to offices at Hidden Valley Golf Course earlier that same morning. An alarm scared off the thieves. State police are still investigating both incidents.

Corona wins Schuylkill County Idol

A Shenandoah teen wins Schuylkill Idol 6. 19 contestants opened the event nearly a month ago, and now, 18-year-old Aldaliz Corona's musical talent earns her the coveted title. She beat out competitors Heidi Quinn of Mahanoy City and Samantha Wood of Pottsville. In addition to a $1-thousand-dollar Schuylkill Mall shopping spree and other goodies, Corona will perform Saturday night at the Schuylkill County Fair.

Pottsville teen suffers minor injuries in Berks Crash

A sleepy Pottsville teen suffers minor injuries in a Berks county crash Sunday morning. 18-year-old Ashley Spitler was northbound on Route 61 and fell asleep. The car went into a ditch and hit a barrier at Kuzan's Hardware. Spitler's Honda Civic then hit several pieces of equipment in the parking lot. The crash happened at 4:15am Sunday.

Boscov's chief says company not ready to collapse

A Pennsylvania retail chain is not on the brink of collapse. Boscov's Chairman Kenneth Lakin said that the 49-store-retailer is not filing for bankruptcy protection, but acknowledges that sales are "weak" overall. Rumours surfaced about the future of the company last week after a story in the New York Post indicated that Boscov's was in trouble. The company has closed a store in New York state and is considering closure of others. Retail consultant Burt Flickinger the Third said that he expects Boscov's to survive the slowdown in sales, due to the economy.

Winners at County Fair, from left:
2008 Queen Darla Romberger, Miss Pennsylvania 2008 Kendria Perry, Princess Emily Field and Little Miss Allison Mika


That's 18-year-old Darla Romberger of Pitman, the 2008 Schuylkill County Fair Queen, who was crowned last night. She is joined by 12 year old Princess Emily Field of Pottsville, and 11 year old Little Miss Allison Mika of the Williams Valley area. All totaled, 19 girls competed in the three categories for the fair crowns. For Field, who has competed before, the feeling is great:


Monday was Family Day at the fair, with the music of the country rock band Abilene. Another full day of fun is on tap today for Kid's Day. Musical entertainment tonight features the oldies, with the Fabulous Greaseband.

Report says 1 in 4 U.S. bridges needs upgrading

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Pennsylvania's secretary of transportation calls the commonwealth "a poster child for bridges with significant needs" for repair. Allen D. Biehler says the average age of bridges in Pennsylvania is 51 and there are roughly 6,000 deficient bridges. A report released Monday by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials says one out of every four U.S. bridges needs to be modernized or repaired. The group
estimates that cost to be at least $140 billion. The news conference announcing the report was held in North Philadelphia near the spot where a 6-foot crack in a concrete support pillar beneath Interstate 95 forced three days of emergency repairs in March. The work shut down the busy highway and choked secondary roads with 185,000 vehicles that were detoured daily.

Trial to open for driver accused in shooting death of 14-year-old cyclist

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Opening statements are scheduled Tuesday in the case of a driver accused of shooting a 14-year-old bicyclist to death a year ago in Philadelphia. Defendant Charles T. Meyers is charged with murder and firearm violations in the death of Tykeem Law on July 14, 2007. A prosecutor and defense attorney spent most of Monday picking a jury
before Common Pleas Judge Shelly Robins New. Law and other youths were riding near the Italian Market when police allege that Meyers honked and yelled at the group. At a September preliminary hearing, Meyers' attorney at the time suggested that his client felt threatened after Law reached under his T-shirt. The youth was unarmed. Authorities allege that Law was standing on the side of the street, and he and Meyers argued briefly before the defendant fired
a .22-caliber handgun.

Suburban Pittsburgh man acquitted of 1999 strangling death of Pittsburgh man

PITTSBURGH (AP) - An Allegheny County jury has acquitted a suburban Pittsburgh man of strangling a man to death nearly a decade ago. Jurors cleared Sean Carter, of Wilkinsburg, on Monday in the September 1999 killing of 41-year-old Curtis Tolliver in the victim's apartment.
Carter was arrested last year after police said a witness had recently come forward with information that led to Carter's arrest.

Philadelphia store owner's wife dies of injuries from robbery shooting that killed husband

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Friends and relatives are mourning the death of the wife of a murdered Feltonville store owner who died of injuries she suffered in a robbery that killed her husband last month. Police say 45-year-old Bintou Soumare died Sunday night at Temple University Hospital. Forty-one-year-old Amissi Ndikumasabo was pronounced dead at the scene of the July 15 robbery at his Urban Wear clothing store. Nineteen-year-old Thomas Foggy has been charged with murder and related offenses. Police say he will now face a second murder charge, and they are seeking a second suspect in the case. Relatives and friends say they will try to raise money to have her body sent back to her native Mali, where her husband was laid to rest Saturday. A four-day mourning period begins Tuesday at the Masjid Tawbah mosque in the Frankford section of the city.

Philly-area priest, ex-principal named in abuse probe; Church relieves him of duty

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (AP) - A Philadelphia-area priest has been removed from duty while the church investigates a sexual-abuse complaint. The Rev. Gerard J. Hoffman served as principal of the city's Roman Catholic High School from 1993 to 2002. He previously led St. Piux X High School in Pottstown. The 63-year-old Hoffman most recently worked at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Doylestown. Messages left for him there were not immediately returned.
The archdiocese says the abuse allegedly occurred more than 30 years ago and involved a minor. The church will now determine if the complaint is credible. A 2005 Philadelphia grand jury report accused church leaders of covering up decades of abuse by at least 63 priests.

DA decides against seeking death penalty in Pa. campsite stabbing, burning of body

GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) - Prosecutors in Adams County say they will not seek the death penalty against a man charged with stabbing a teenager to death and setting his body on fire.
Jason R. Armstrong, of Carroll Valley, is accused of killing 19-year-old Andrew Scott Bosley, of Orrtanna, in May. Prosecutors allege that Armstrong stabbed Bosley 142 times and then set his corpse on fire. The body was found in a wooded area where the two had been camping near the Ski Liberty resort, where they formerly worked together. District Attorney Shawn Wagner calls the case "horrendous," but says the crime does not fit the legal criteria for the death penalty.
Public defender Jeff Cook says his client is relieved. Authorities have said Armstrong told an ambulance team that Bosley became enraged and pulled a knife, and he pulled his own.

Consol plans W.Va. coal-to-liquid plant

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia political leaders are applauding a plan by Pittsburgh-based mine operator Consol Energy to build an 800 million-dollar plant to turn coal into methanol and gasoline. Governor Manchin says the Marshall County plant will lead to
more environmentally friendly uses for coal and could be key to America's energy security. Senator Jay Rockefeller says the plant shows West Virginia isn't waiting around for others to solve the energy crisis. The plant would use mostly marginal coal that would be thrown
away from Consol's Shoemaker Mine to produce 720,000 metric tons of methanol annually for the chemical industry. Methanol also would be used to produce about 100 million gallons of 87-octane gasoline annually.

US Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled to hold hearing on Great Lakes compact this week

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate Judiciary Committee this week takes up a compact to prevent the diversion of water from the Great Lakes, one of the world's largest sources of fresh water. Lawmakers from Great Lakes states including Pennsylvania unveiled legislation last week that would provide congressional approval for the compact. Minnesota Democrat Jim Oberstar is leading efforts in the House. Under the agreement, negotiated among eight states, remote states or countries are prohibited from tapping into the lakes from their natural drainage basin with rare exceptions. The hearing, scheduled for Wednesday, will be chaired by Senator Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat. President Bush, in a statement released Monday night, urged Congress to approve the compact.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House has revised its economic predictions, offering a gloomier outlook on both growth and unemployment. It now says gross domestic product will grow only 1.6 percent, while the jobless rate is expected to climb to 5.3 percent this year, and 5.6 next year.

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush has affirmed the execution of a former Army soldier convicted in four murders and eight rapes 20-years-ago. Bush's decision about the life of Ronald Gray marks the first time in 51 years a president has made that decision about a member of the U.S. military.

BAGHDAD (AP) - Operation "Omens of Prosperity" is underway in the Iraqi province of Diyala. The goal is to clear al-Qaida in Iraq militants from what's considered the last major insurgent
stronghold near the capital.

MARIPOSA, Calif. (AP) - A wildfire burning almost completely out of control near California's Yosemite National Park has burned 25 homes since Friday. About 3,000 firefighters, some from as far away as Greece, are trying to protect hundreds of other homes that have been evacuated.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Federal Trade Commission wants the entertainment industry to start tying popular TV and movie characters to more nutritional products, instead of the typical
cereals and soft drinks they're usually attached to. In 2006, 1.6 billion dollars were spent on marketing directed at young people.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Today's News-Monday, July 28, 2008

Trucker dies in crash on I-81

A fiery crash claims the life of an Alabama trucker. Sunday afternoon around 1pm, 38-year-old Robert Poth of Tuscaloosa, Alabama was southbound on Interstate 81 at mile marker 106 when he lost control and crossed the northbound lanes, flipping his tractor. The truck caught fire and killed him. Traffic in the northbound lanes of I-81 were closed for several hours for cleanup. Jonestown State Police handled the investigation.

Pottsville man seriously hurt in crash

A Pottsville man is seriously injured in a crash in Washington Township Sunday night. 55-year-old Gregory Wagner was eastbound on Route 443 before 6pm when his car crossed the center line. He swerved to avoid oncoming traffic and struck a utility pole. Wagner became trapped and had to be removed by emergency personnel. He was flown to Hershey Medical Center, where he is in serious condition this morning. Schuylkill Haven state police are investigating.

Schuylkill County Fair opens

The cake was cut to open the 25th Schuylkill County Fair Sunday night. What began as a 4-H fair at Penn State Schuylkill in 1983 has become a destination for people of all ages the last week of July in Summit Station. County and state officials joined current and former board members to welcome visitors to Preview Day. Dan and Galla (gah-lah), a variety duo from Huntington County entertained the crowd of about 2-thousand opening night. Today is Family Day at the Schuylkill County Fair, with gates opening at 4pm, with country band Abilene on the M&T Bank stage at 7 and 9pm. Admission is just $6. The crew from Step Up To the Mike and the Pulse will broadcast live from the fair, beginning at 10am, on WPPA.

Cancer warning adds wrinkle to parenting debate

NEW YORK (AP) - A warning from the director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute has struck a nerve among some parents. Dr. Ronald Herberman says people should limit cell phone use because of a possible cancer risk - especially when it comes to children, whose brains are still developing. Herberman's warning was based on early, unpublished data -- and came despite numerous studies that haven't found a link between increased tumors and cell phone use. Nonetheless, some parents are adding it to other reasons to resist their children's entreaties for their own cell phones. Statistics from the Pew Research Center show just how deeply
ingrained in our daily lives cell phones have become. Fully 78 percent of all adults own them, including 86 percent of 18-29 year-olds and 55 percent of Americans 65 and older. Pew doesn't
compile statistics on those under 18. Text messaging, on the other hand, is the province of the young: 74 percent of 18-29 year-olds do it but only 6 percent of the 65-plus crowd.

4 shot in tavern near Pittsburgh

McKEES ROCKS, Pa. (AP) - Police are seeking a 28-year-old man charged in a weekend shooting at a tavern near Pittsburgh. Two men and two women were shot early Sunday at Becker's Cafe in McKees Rocks. Police say Marlin Jackson is charged with four counts of
aggravated assault, four counts of recklessly endangering another person and one count of carrying a firearm without a license. There was no immediate word on what prompted the shooting.

Woman dies in Philadelphia house fire

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A Philadelphia woman died in a fire that broke out in her home in the city's Olney neighborhood. Witnesses say the woman's boyfriend stood on the roof Sunday
morning holding their baby, scared to throw the 3-month-old girl to people below. Once he did so, he tried to save his girlfriend. She died at a hospital. There was no immediate word on the cause of the fire.

Pa. nonprofit director's pay raises concerns

WYNNEWOOD, Pa. (AP) - Several communities have dropped out of the National Night Out program and the federal government has cut off support in reaction to the executive director's salary. Matt Peskin gets more than $300,000 a year in pay and benefits for running the National Association of Town Watch, based in the Philadelphia suburb of Wynnewood. Some communities in Minnesota are going ahead with block parties on the same night as National Night Out. But they're not part of the national program, so they call it Minnesota's Night to Unite. The National Association of Town Watch mostly promotes the National Night Out event and provides awards to communities judged to run the best events. It provides little assistance for neighborhood watch programs.

Philly skyscraper's huge HD screen wowing visitors

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Philadelphia has a new tourist attraction -- its newest and tallest skyscraper. The Comcast Center has a huge atrium wall where a cast of dancers and acrobats seem to come to life. Mostly by word of mouth, the enormous video installation has been drawing a growing stream of visitors to the 975-foot tower. The video wall has thousands of hours of content to offer at five times the resolution of a typical HD television. City tourism officials said they added the Comcast Center to their Web site after both residents and tourists began asking for more information about the attraction.

N.J. man dies when swimming at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

DELAWARE WATER GAP, Pa. (AP) - Authorities say a man drowned after deciding to take a swim in the Delaware River. The body of Michael Salazar of Hillside, N.J., was recovered Saturday after a search that took about two hours. A family friend, 18-year-old Kimberly Delacruz of Belleville, N.J., says Salazar began splashing and calling for help. She says his wife thought he was joking for a minute before the group realized what was happening. Salazar was at Kittatinny Point for a picnic with his wife, their 8-year-old son and friends. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area spokeswoman Kathleen Sandt says nobody should swim at Kittatinny without wearing a personal flotation device.

Pa. motorcyclist dies in crash with Amish buggy

MEADVILLE, Pa. (AP) - Police say an accident involving an Amish buggy in northwestern Pennsylvania claimed the life of a motorcylist. Police say a group of Amish people fishing at Pymatuning State Park had their horse tied up on Friday night. But the horse broke loose and pulled the buggy onto Route 6 east of Linesville, in Crawford County. The unlighted buggy collided with a motorcycle operated by 42-year-old Duane Forsythe of Beaver Falls, who was killed. His passenger, 44-year-old Catherine Fosnaught, also of Beaver Falls, was injured. The horse wasn't hurt.

Funeral Monday for Ohio St. pres.'s son-in-law

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A private funeral is planned Monday in Virginia for the son-in-law of Ohio State University President Gordon Gee. Thirty-one-year-old Dr. Allan Moore died Thursday from injuries he suffered in a motor scooter crash in suburban Philadelphia two
weeks ago. Family members are to attend his funeral in Danville, Va., where Moore grew up.
A memorial service will come later in Boston, where Moore met his wife, Dr. Rebekah Gee, while the two were medical residents at Massachusetts General Hospital. Gordon Gee's daughter was with her husband on a Vespa scooter that collided with a sport utility vehicle in Bryn Mawr. She
sustained broken bones and head injuries and is undergoing rehab at Ohio State University Medical Center.

Fragments found on jet, perhaps from oxygen tank

MANILA, Philippines (AP) - Authorities have found what may be key evidence in the investigation of last week's mid-air explosion aboard a Qantas jumbo jet. A valve and other fragments that could be from a missing oxygen tank have been found inside the jet. An Australian safety investigator says the pieces were found close to where the missing tank was stored beneath the passenger cabin. Neville Blyth says they will be tested to see if they came
from the tank, which is designed to provide passengers emergency oxygen. The missing tank has become the focus of the probe into what tore open a car-sized hole in the plane's fuselage at 29,000 feet and forced an emergency landing in the Philippines.

Death toll rising

BAGHDAD (AP) - Police say they believe three suicide bombers who struck in quick succession Monday in Baghdad were women. At least 26 people have been killed and 85 wounded in a series of attacks on people streaming toward a Shiite shrine. They're making an annual pilgrimage to mark the death of an eighth-century saint. The attacks came despite heavy security measures. Hundreds of women have been assigned to conduct body searches of female
pilgrims. Yesterday, gunmen ambushed pilgrims south of Baghdad, killing at least seven.

Vacant prison becomes symbol of waste

BAGHDAD (AP) - A vacant prison north of Baghdad is being held up as a symbol of waste and contractor shortcomings in rebuilding Iraq. Some 40 million dollars was spent building the prison at Khan Bani Saad, which was supposed to provide more than 1,000 jobs in volatile Diyala province. But the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction says it's been a failure. Stuart Bowen says only a couple of buildings are useful. And they will never be used to hold prisoners.
Bowen estimates that about 4 billion dollars spent in the U.S.-bankrolled Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund has been wasted. That's around 20 percent of the total. The head of the local municipal council calls the empty prison compound "a big monster that's swallowed money and hopes."

Bush to meet with Pakistan PM

WASHINGTON (AP) - The situation in Afghanistan will be among the topics addressed today when President Bush sits down at the White House with Pakistan's prime minister. The U.S. is growing increasingly frustrated over Taliban militants using bases in Pakistan to launch attacks in Afghanistan. Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani's government has preferred to strike bargains with the region's tribal leaders. Pakistan has also been hesitant to allow U.S. or other forces to strike at militant camps on its soil. U.S. and Afghan officials complain those safe havens are a major factor in a recent deadly surge in Taliban attacks. An arms deal will also be talked about. Bush wants Congress to let Pakistan take two-thirds of the money given for anti-terrorism programs and use it to upgrade its aging fleet of F-16s. Critics say the refurbished warplanes could be used by Pakistan against rival India.

Neighbor says suspect 'really nice guy'

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - One neighbor says the man charged with murder in Sunday's church shooting in Knoxville, Tennessee, is "just a really, really nice guy" who often worked on his motorcycle and would take long weekend trips. Police have been searching Jim Adkisson's suburban duplex but are not commenting on anything they found. Two people were killed in the attack including church usher Greg McKendry who's being praised as a hero for shielding others. Linda Kraeger died a few hours later. Seven other people were injured; five remain hospitalized in serious or critical condition. Witnesses say the gunman started firing as children were performing a play at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. No kids were hurt. The FBI is assisting in the investigation for any possibility of a hate crime. One witness says the gunman shouted "hateful" words before opening fire.

Fire destroys 12 homes

MARIPOSA, Calif. (AP) - An out-of-control wildfire is still burning near an entrance to Yosemite National Park in California. So far it's destroyed 12 homes and 27 other buildings. Officials
have ordered the evacuation of nearly 200 homes that are in immediate danger. About 2,000 face some threat. But some people have decided not to leave and hope to fend off any flames approaching their property. One homeowner says he's freaking out because flames are within 100 yards of his home. A state spokeswoman says the fire was started by someone doing
some target shooting. A different wildfire forced 4,000 people to evacuate the Los Angeles zoo yesterday. It's since been contained, but some California condors and two vultures had to be relocated after flames came within about 1,000 feet of their enclosure.

Search for people reportedly swept away

RUIDOSO, N.M. (AP) - Authorities in New Mexico are searching the Rio Ruidoso after reports of two people being swept away. Flooding has hit the resort area of Ruidoso after the remnants
of Hurricane Dolly dumped up to 6 inches of rain and forced the evacuation of about 300 people.
Residents and tourists were evacuated from homes, campgrounds and a recreational vehicle park.

'Several fatalities' reported in Kentucky wreck

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - State police say a fiery crash in central Kentucky has caused "several fatalities." They're not being more specific than that yet. A state police news release says a passenger vehicle heading south on Interstate 71 crossed the median and struck a
tractor-trailer in a northbound lane Sunday night. Both vehicles burst into flames. The driver of the tractor-trailer wasn't hurt, according to state police.

Banks to reopen today

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - As of today, customers of 1st National Bank of Nevada and First Heritage Bank N.A. will be doing business at Mutual of Omaha Bank. The latest two banks to fail were shut down by federal regulators Friday. They were owned by the Scottsdale, Arizona-based First National Bank Holding Company. First Heritage operates in California. First National has branches in Nevada and Arizona. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation says all depositors will still have access to their money, including funds in excess of FDIC insurance limits. The FDIC also says account holders can write checks, and use ATMs and debit cards to get their money. The FDIC says the takeover of the failed banks is the least costly resolution of the situation.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Today's News-Saturday, July 26, 2008

Three charged in beating death of Shenandoah man

Three suspects are charged in the beating death of 25-year-old Luis Ramirez. 16-year-old Brandon Piekarsky and 17-year-old Collin Walsh are charged with one count each of criminal homicide-aggravated assault-ethnic intimidation along with multiple felony charges. 18-year-old Derrick Donchak faces one count each of aggravated assault-ethnic intimidation-hindering apprehension-selling and/or furnishing liquor to minors and other offenses. The trio were arraigned yesterday by District Judge David Plachko. Piekarsky and Walsh were taken to Schuylkill County Prison. Donchak will be held on 10 percent, $75-thousand-dollars bail. Their preliminary hearings will be held on August 4th in Shenandoah. Ramirez died of injuries suffered a fight in the borough on July 14th.

Attempted theft by deception

Frackville state police are looking for the culprits who attempted to scam an Illinois man out of personal financial information. A call was made from a pay phone at the New Ringgold Market to Jim Crowe of Marysville, Illinois. The caller attempted to disguise their voice like an automated attendant for a collect call. They tried to get Crowe's credit card number, but were unsuccessful. Police remind consumers to never give out personal information to suspicious callers.

Police still on the lookout for robbers/shooters in Berks holdup

The victim of a shooting during an armed robbery in Berks County Wednesday is improving, but state police are still looking for the bandits. Hamburg State Police were able to interview 48-year-old Louis Lucibello of Fair Lawn, New Jersey yesterday, but was unable to shed much light on the robbery and shooting at Mancino's Pizza Shop in Mount Aetna. The three are described as dark-skinned Hispanics, who gave orders in both English and Spanish during the robbery. Crime Alert Berks County are offering a reward up to $5-thousand-dollars for information in the case, leading to arrest. Their number is 877-373-9913.

Silver anniversary for Schuylkill County Fair

Its a silver year for the Schuylkill County Fair, which gets underway tomorrow. The annual rite of summer at the Fairgrounds in Summit Station is sure to please young and old alike. Contests, competitions, rides, food and entertainment pack the week. Opening ceremonies get underway at 6pm Sunday. Scheduled to appear on the M&T Bank Stage during the week are country, oldies and gospel acts. The headliner on Friday is country sensation Mark Chestnutt, and Monkees front man Davey Jones closes the fair on Saturday. For a listing of all thats going on at the Schuylkill County Fair, log onto

Quick work by bystander saves man's life in Tamaqua

Quick work by a Tamaqua man saves the life of a Lansford man following a crash in Tamaqua early Friday. Robert Hertzog was driving on East Broad Street when his car hit a house after losing control. His vehicle ended up on its side. 19-year-old Matthew Houser raced to Hertzog's aid, putting out the fire and helping him until emergency crews arrived. Houser is in Lehigh Valley Hospital in critical condition.

New ways to garden

Environmentally conscious gardeners are concerned about the cost of keeping a lush, green garden through the brown days of mid-summer. But, a horticulturist in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences presents an option that uses less water. More from Gary Abdullah.


A Tower City man is the victim of a burglary at his business. Between Wednesday and Thursday, thieves broke into Darryl Koperna’s business on Hill Street and took three chainsaws, then cut 300 feet of copper wire which was connected to a generator. State Police at Lykens are investigating.

Pa. mother of 4 beaten, drowned in pool

REINHOLDS, Pa. (AP) - Police are searching for the killer of a mother of four who was severely beaten, then drowned in her family's swimming pool in southcentral Pennsylvania. Forty-five-year-old Jan Roseboro died at her home in Reinholds on Tuesday night in what investigators say was a homicide. No charges have been filed and authorities have not identified a suspect. Investigators say Roseboro's husband, Michael, called 911 about 11 p.m. Tuesday and told dispatchers he found his wife in the pool. When police and medics arrived, they found him performing CPR on her. Jan Roseboro was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital.
Lancaster County's coroner says an autopsy on Wednesday found that Roseboro was "brutally beaten" and had water in her lungs.

Erie merchant cleared in counterfeit Nike case

ERIE, Pa. (AP) - Swoosh! There go the criminal charges against an Erie shop owner who was accused of selling counterfeit Nike athletic shoes. An Erie County jury has acquitted 28-year-old Adam Swift. Swift's M&T Clothing store was one of four stores police raided in February after a security firm hired by Nike traced counterfeit shoes from China to the Erie area. But defense attorney David Ridge says prosecutor's couldn't prove Swift knew the shoes were counterfeits. While other store owners had previously received "cease and desist" letters from Nike, Ridge says Swift never got one. More than 100 pair of the shoes were seized at the store. Authorities say the shoes were shipped directly from China to Erie.

Professor whose 'last lecture' touched hearts dies

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Randy Pausch has died. The Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor's "last lecture" about facing terminal cancer became an Internet sensation and a best-selling book. In it, Pausch talked about living the life he had always dreamed of instead of concentrating on his impending death. The book "The Last Lecture" jumped to the top of nonfiction best-seller lists after its publication in April, and remains there. Pausch says he dictated the book to Jeffrey Zaslow of the Wall Street Journal by cell phone. He later wrote that the lecture was intended for his three young children, but "if others are finding value in it, that is
wonderful." At Carnegie Mellon, he became recognized as a pioneer of virtual reality research.
Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September 2006 and chronicled his treatment on his Web site. The university says he succumbed this morning at his home in Virginia. He was 47.

Bikers, pedestrians seeking better Web maps

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - With the old gas-guzzler in the garage, you've got your bicycle ready and your sneakers laced up. Now all you need is a map of the quickest, safest routes for riding around town. But, not so fast. As more commuters consider ditching their cars to save money on gas, Internet mapping services, cities and community groups are being pushed to lay out the best routes for biking and walking - just like drivers have found online for years. Technical and practical roadblocks stand between such a network becoming ubiquitous, but there are signs of progress. Google just launched a walking-directions service. MapQuest is reporting more use of its "avoid highways" function and offering a walking directions service on cell phones. And some cities have developed detailed online maps to help walkers, bikers and transit-riders find the fastest routes.

Obama wrapping up overseas trip

PARIS (AP) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's election-season trip abroad wraps up today in Britain. He's holding talks with British officials and is planning a news
conference. Obama has intended his trip through war zones, the Mideast and Europe in part as his debut on the international stage. He's hoping it will reassure skeptical voters in the United States about his readiness for the presidency. Yesterday in France, Obama warned Iran not to wait for the next president to take office before yielding to Western demands to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. He said the pressure on Tehran is only going to build. Obama held private talks and a news conference with France's President Nicolas Sarkozy.

McCain takes to the airwaves

UNDATED (AP) - Republican presidential candidate John McCain gets in some electronic campaigning today. He'll speak by satellite to a forum on disability issues and has a morning radio address scheduled. McCain has been stepping up his criticism of Democratic candidate Barack Obama over Iraq. Yesterday in a Denver speech to Hispanic veterans, McCain ridiculed Obama, saying his Iraq policies amount to "the audacity of hopelessness." Still, McCain told CNN that Obama's call for a withdrawal from Iraq in 16 months is "a pretty good timetable," but only if conditions on the ground permit. McCain has struggled this week against Obama's overseas tour. He's repeatedly emphasized his own long background in the military and Congress and scolded Obama from afar.

FDIC takes over two more banks

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Come Monday, customers of 1st National Bank of Nevada and First Heritage Bank will be doing business with Mutual of Omaha Bank. The latest two banks to fail were shut down by federal regulators yesterday. They were owned by the Scottsdale Arizona-based First National Bank Holding Company. First Heritage operates in California. First National has branches in Nevada and Arizona. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation says all depositors in the failed banks will still have access to all their money, including funds in excess of FDIC insurance limits. The FDIC also says account holders can access their funds over the weekend by writing checks or using ATMs and debit cards. The FDIC says the takeover of the failed banks is the least costly resolution of the situation.

Housing bill headed for passage

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate is set to give final congressional approval today to what's being called the most significant housing bill in a generation. The bill is aimed at helping hundreds of thousands of people keep their homes by getting them into more affordable mortgages. It also creates a financial lifeline for the nation's mortgage giants should they need it.
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd calls it a win-win. But many conservative Republicans are blasting the bill as a bailout for unscrupulous lenders and irresponsible homeowners who got way in over their heads. President Bush originally threatened a veto but now plans to quickly sign it as vital for the economy.

Bush praises AIDS bill

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush is welcoming congressional approval of a big boost in America's global fight against AIDS. The president is using his weekly radio address for a rare
thank-you to the Democratic-led Congress. Lawmakers this year authorized a new, five-year, 48-billion-dollar commitment to the campaign against AIDS, malaria and other diseases, especially in Africa. It's a signature, Bush initiative already credited with saving or prolonging millions of lives. Though some conservatives balked at the cost, the measure passed with bipartisan support. Bush is to sign it Wednesday, cementing what he sees as a key and largely overlooked piece of his presidential legacy. The current 15-billion dollar effort ends in September.

Two girls killed in Kentucky hit-and-run accident

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Police in Louisville, Kentucky, have arrested a man in connection with a hit-and-run accident that killed two children yesterday. Louisville Police Sergeant Mike Minniear says the driver ran a red light while fleeing a traffic stop and hit the four and five-year-old girls and a woman. The woman has been hospitalized with injuries that are not believed to be life-threatening. It happened during the evening rush hour near the University of
Louisville campus. Police say an officer had pulled the car over about a-half mile from where the girls were hit. And when the officer approached, the car drove off at what police say was "a
very high rate of speed." The officer gave chase, then stopped to help when he saw the girls. The fleeing car was found abandoned about three blocks away.

Fatah supporters arrested in beachside blast

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Hamas security forces in the Gaza Strip have arrested dozens of supporters of the rival Fatah organization after an explosion apparently directed at Hamas
members having a picnic on a beach. The explosion in a parked car near the crowded Gaza City beach yesterday killed three Hamas members and a six-year-old girl. Two more members of the group died today at a hospital. If the blast did target Hamas activists, it would be the
deadliest such attack since the Islamic militants ousted Fatah-allied security forces from Gaza in a violent takeover more than a year ago. One Fatah member says at least 40 of the group's supporters were rounded up early today. Gaza's Hamas government meets today but hasn't yet directly accused Fatah of involvement.

Australian investigators study jet hole

MANILA, Philippines (AP) - Australian investigators have arrived in the Philippines to begin looking at a Qantas jumbo jet with a giant hole in its fuselage. The Boeing 747-400 was cruising at 29,000 feet with 346 passengers aboard yesterday when it was shaken by what passengers
describe as a loud bang. Oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling and the plane descended rapidly as debris flew through the cabin from a hole in the floor. The jet was en route to Melbourne, Australia, from London, and passengers had just been served a meal after a stopover in Hong Kong. The pilot managed to land it safely minutes later at the airport in Manila. Nobody was hurt. Qantas Chief Executive Officer Geoff Dixon tells reporters he
was horrified when he saw pictures of the gaping hole near where the right wing attaches to the fuselage. He says it's too early to speculate on what caused the damage.

China bends one-child rule in quake area

BEIJING (AP) - China's strict controls on the size of families is being relaxed in the region devastated by an earthquake in May. Lawmakers in the hardest-hit province are waiving the typical rule of one child per family for parents whose children died or were disabled in the disaster. State media report that exemptions passed by the Sichuan legislature Friday formally relax the family-planning rules. Under the exemptions, families whose only child died or was disabled or whose two children were both disabled may now have another child. So can families in which one parent was disabled by the quake. The magnitude-7.9 quake left nearly 70,000 people dead in China's worst natural disaster in 30 years. Among them were children from 18,000 families. The deaths of many children in school buildings that collapsed stirred public anger across China.

AG sues Missouri funeral home over mishandled bodies

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The state attorney general's office is trying to shut down a mid-Missouri funeral home accused of improperly handling bodies. According to a lawsuit, the body of a woman who died from hepatitis was stored in an electrical room for 10 months without
being embalmed or refrigerated. The lawsuit comes after state inspectors found several bodies,
some in advanced states of decay, that had been left outside refrigerators and not embalmed. In one coffin, inspectors found a body along with a garbage bag filled with organs from other people. The lawsuit names the Warren Funeral Chapel, along with Harold Warren Senior and Harold Warren Junior. It seeks civil fines and a court order blocking the company from operating.
No comment yet from the Warrens.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Today's News-Friday, July 25, 2008



The Drama continues to unfold in one Schuylkill County borough. In an impromptu borough council meeting the motion was made, by a 5 to 1 vote to reinstate Police Chief Dave Mattson. This most recent suspension comes from an order from Mayor Chris Morrison, saying Mattson was "insubordinate". The dynamics between Mattson and Morrison stems from department scheduling issues. Borough officers are taking this issue before the state Labor Relations Board in Harrisburg on August 19th.

ATV accident injuries New Ringgold man

A New Ringgold man was seriously injured in an ATV accident near New Ringgold last night. Frackville state police say that 54-year-old Joseph Ray was riding an ATV on Pine Valley Road when he lost control and struck a pole, causing the vehicle to spin. Ray was thrown onto a stone parking lot. He was partially pinned under the bike. He was MedEvac'd to Lehigh Valley Hospital where he remains in critical condition this morning, suffering from severe head trauma. Troopers say Ray was not wearing a helmet. The crash happened around 9pm Thursday night.

Crash injuries Shenandoah man

A Shenandoah man suffers injury in a crash in northern Schuylkill County Wednesday afternoon. David Yashinsky was attempting to pass another vehicle on Route 924 when he lost control of his Chevy Cavalier, traveled across a lawn and struck a tree. His car came to rest on top of a small embankment. Yashinsky was taken to Pottsville Hospital for treatment. He'll be cited by state police for traveling at an unsafe speed.

Court date changed in meth trial

Court proceedings against five people accused of running a methamphetamine ring have been delayed several months. The federal case was slated to get underway Monday in Harrisburg against three Georgia men, an Indiana resident and an Argentinian native. They are accused of distributing 500 grams of meth in Schuylkill and five other Pennsylvania counties. Police seized 23 pounds of the drug during the investigation. The defendants requested a delay until October. Jesus Barrios and Esperanza Ferrer are on supervised release from jail. Carlos Cegledi, Francisco Barios and Ramon Ferrer remain in prison until the trial.

PA use of seatbelts garners more money from federal government

PennDOT has received a $28 million dollar grant from the federal government for increased seatbelt usage by Pennsylvania drivers. The state was among five states to qualify for the Safety Belt Performance Grant, for having more than 85 percent seatbelt usage over the past two years. $14-million-dollars will be used to install rumble strips on 25-hundred miles of state roads to alert motorists of fixed objects to reduce crashes. Other funds will be used to make other improvements, and $1-million dollars will go to PennDOT's Smooth Operator aggressive driving initiative.

Haven area woman hurt in Berks Crash

A Schuylkill Haven woman was hurt in a Berks county crash Wednesday afternoon. 22-year-old Lauren Kressley was driving south on Route 183 when she lost control of her vehicle on the wet road. Her car spun into the path of a truck operated by 40-year-old Michael Shafer of Schuylkill Haven. Kressley was taken to Pottsville Hospital for treatment of moderate injuries. Shafer wasn't hurt. Charges are pending against Kressley. place in June of this year.

Nader plans to ask Pa. Supreme Court to reopen ballot access case; cites Dem bonus charges

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Ralph Nader says he'll ask the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to reopen a case stemming from a successful effort to remove him from the ballot in the 2004
presidential race. Nader says his case should be re-examined in light of political corruption charges against Democratic state legislative officials who allegedly helped organize a legal challenge that knocked him out of the race. The Supreme Court in 2006 upheld a lower court order for Nader and his running mate to pay $81,000 in court costs in the case. Nader is fighting that judgment. A grand jury alleges that as many as 50 taxpayer-paid legislative employees reviewed signatures on Nader's petitions in an effort to disqualify him from the ballot.

Tennessee mom accused of poisoning baby in Pittsburgh sent to state mental hospital

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A mother accused in Pittsburgh of deliberately injecting her 4-month-old son with salt water will be sent to a state mental hospital. Officials say 21-year-old Amber Brewington suffers from severe depression and is being tested for Munchausen by Proxy syndrome. The Tennessee woman appeared in court via videoconference Thursday for a competency hearing. Allegheny County Judge Jeffrey Manning ordered that Brewington
be sent to Mayview State Hospital for no more than 90 days. Psychiatrist Christine Martone testified that Brewington needs to be tested for Munchausen, a syndrome in which a caregiver fakes or induces illness in others to generate sympathy. Martone says Brewington also has a borderline personality disorder and admits to having suicidal thoughts.

Pa. woman accused of ripping baby from womb found competent despite psychiatrist testimony

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A suburban Pittsburgh woman accused of cutting an infant from a slain woman's womb has been found mentally competent by a judge to assist in her defense.
Allegheny County Judge Jeffrey Manning said at a competency hearing Thursday for Andrea-Curry Demus that a preliminary hearing in her case can proceed. A psychiatrist testified at the hearing that the woman is a paranoid schizophrenic who is a danger to herself. Thirty-eight-year-old Curry-Demus, of Wilkinsburg, is charged with homicide, kidnapping and related offenses in the death of 18-year-old Kia Johnson, of McKeesport. Authorities say Curry-Demus tried to pass off Johnson's newborn son as her own last week.

Police: Pa. trooper sought sex with girls 8 and 10

MEDIA, Pa. (AP) - Authorities say a Pennsylvania state trooper tried to solicit sex with 8- and 10-year-old girls and planned to bring candy and toys to their meeting. Officials say 39-year-old Cpl. Albert Silveri III initiated conversations online with an undercover officer posing as the
girls' mother. Silveri was arrested at his suburban Philadelphia home after police traced the America Online account to him. Authorities say the sexually explicit communications took place
over several months on a state-issued laptop found in his vehicle. He is being held on $250,000 bail at the Delaware County Prison on charges that include solicitation of child rape. It's not clear
if he has an attorney.

1-year-old Pa. girl dies after attacked by family dog, police later shot and kill animal

ERIE, Pa. (AP) - A 1-year-old girl is dead after being attacked by her family dog in a Millcreek Township cemetery. A spokeswoman at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh says the child died after being brought there from Hamot Medical Center in Erie. The girl's mother is being treated at Hamot Medical Center for injuries sustained trying to protect her daughter in the attack.
Police followed the dog into a nearby neighborhood and shot and killed it. Authorities say the attack happened Thursday morning at the Laurel Hill Cemetery. Officials have not released the name of the mother or child. Millcreek Township police say they are still investigating the

Gambler linked to disgraced referee gets NY prison sentence for scandal that rocked NBA

NEW YORK (AP) - Two former classmates of disgraced referee Tim Donaghy will spend over a year in prison for their roles in the betting scandal that rocked the NBA. James Battista, a professional gambler, was sentenced in New York on Thursday to 15 months in prison for making bets based on inside tips. His co-defendant, Thomas Martino, got a one-year sentence for paying the referee thousands of dollars for the tips. Both defendants apologized in court on Thursday. The three men attended high school together in Springfield, Pa. Donaghy, a resident of Bradenton, Fla., will be sentenced on July 29. He pleaded guilty last year to charges he conspired to engage in wire fraud and transmitted betting information through interstate commerce.

UNDATED (AP) - Both presidential candidates will be meeting with international leaders today. Democrat Barack Obama sits down in France with President Sarkozy. Republican John McCain is slated to meet the Dalai Lama in Aspen, Colorado.

NEW YORK (AP) - Wall Street investors are looking to end the week on a positive note following yesterday's steep losses. The Dow dropped 283 points, erasing gains of nearly 170 points Tuesday and Wednesday.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) - A three-yard wide hole has forced a Qantas jetliner to make an emergency landing in the Philippines. Passengers report hearing a loud bang and the jumbo jet started to descend. An airport official in Manila says part of the cabin floor gave way and part of the ceiling collapsed.

PHOENIX (AP) - One man is in critical condition after police say he was shot by a former student at a Phoenix community college. Two bystanders were also shot. Police say the shooting stems from a dispute between suspect Ryan Smith and the man who was critically wounded.

HARLINGEN, Texas (AP) - Things are getting back to normal in South Texas now that Hurricane Dolly has largely dissipated. Businesses have reopened in the area as the cleanup from the storm continues. Officials are warning of downed power lines. A man was electrocuted on the Mexican side of the border.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Today's News-Thursday, July 24, 2008
















Not-guilty plea planned in Pa. womb-cutting case

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The lawyer for a Pittsburgh-area woman accused of cutting an infant from his mother's womb says her client plans to plead not guilty. The lawyer for 38-year-old Andrea Curry-Demus, Angela Carsia, says a preliminary hearing is scheduled for Friday. But she says an Allegheny County judge will hold a hearing Thursday to determine whether the Wilkinsburg woman is mentally competent to proceed. Curry-Demus is charged with homicide, kidnapping and related offenses in the death of 18-year-old Kia Johnson. Her decomposing
body was found Friday in Curry-Demus' apartment.

McCain credits Bush for drop in oil price

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) - John McCain is crediting the recent $10-a-barrel drop in the price of oil to President Bush's lifting of a presidential ban on offshore drilling. McCain, who has been advocating such action during his presidential campaign, argues the psychology of lifting the ban has affected world markets -- even though a congressional ban remains in place. Speaking in Wilkes-Barre, he criticized Barack Obama for opposing drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf.
The Arizona Republican also took another swipe at Obama's Iraq policies, saying they amount to "unconditional withdrawal." McCain said Obama's plan to withdraw U.S. troops over a 16-month period "could lead to a resurgence in our enemies, and we would have to come back."

Chairman of Pa. education board resigns

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The chairman of the State Board of Education says he's leaving the board after Gov. Ed Rendell asked him to give up his leadership post. Karl Girton says Rendell asked him on Friday to step down as chairman but stay on the board until the governor leaves office in 2011. After taking the weekend to think it over, Girton decided to leave the board altogether. Girton says he doesn't think he'd be effective on the board once he gives up the chairmanship. The resignation is effective Aug. 1. During his tenure, Girton presided over updates of the state's academic standards and the adoption of new early-childhood education standards, among other policy changes.

Pittsburgh cancer center warns of cell phone risks

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The head of a cancer research center is urging his faculty and staff to limit their cell phone use. Dr. Ronald Herberman of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute is worried about the possible risk of brain cancer. He says there's a "growing body of literature" linking long-term cell phone use with adverse health effects, including cancer. He's basing his warning on early, unpublished data. Herberman is urging his faculty and staff to keep cell phones away from their heads, and use the speakerphone or a wireless headset. He says children should use cell phones only for emergencies. Other researchers point to numerous studies which have found no link between cell phone use and brain tumors. The Food and Drug
Administration says if there is a risk it's probably very small.

Pa. judge won't reduce sentence for triple killer

LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) - A Lancaster County judge says a teenager who killed three members of a family must serve three consecutive life sentences. On Wednesday, Judge David Ashworth denied a motion by a lawyer for 17-year-old Alec Kreider to make the sentences concurrent.
Ashworth says Kreider bragged to a fellow inmate that he would kill again if he got the chance. The judge says he believes that and wants to make sure Kreider never has the opportunity.
Kreider killed Tom and Lisa Haines, and their 16-year-old son, Kevin, in May 2007 in their Manheim Township home. Their daughter, Maggie, was able to escape.

Mom accused of poisoning infant appears in court

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A preliminary hearing in Pittsburgh for a mother accused of poisoning her infant with saltwater is postponed until August. The hearing for 21-year-old Amber Brewington of Duck River, Tenn., was initially scheduled for Wednesday. Brewington, her arms and legs shackled, appeared in court on Wednesday dressed in burgundy prison garb. Her court-appointed attorney says a first behavioral evaluation is inconclusive. Brewington will be reevaluated. Brewington faces charges of attempted homicide for allegedly poisoning her 4-month-old son, Noah King. Earlier this month, King was transferred from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. to the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, where he remains in critical but stable condition.

Unisys move on hold during fight over red signs

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A Unisys Corp. official says red-lighted signs atop a Philadelphia skyscraper are a "critical" part of the decision to move corporate headquarters downtown. The company's headquarters, with 225 jobs, are now in the Philadelphia suburb of Blue Bell. Vice President of Corporate Operations Lawrence Wieser says the information technology company has delayed plans to move its headquarters downtown because of the controversy. He spoke at a city zoning board hearing over whether to allow the signs. Opponents of the signs say the red lights would be an aesthetic nightmare. Several dozen people attended the hearing, but time ran
out before they could testify. The zoning board continued the hearing until the fall.

Pa. state trooper charged with assault

HAZLETON, Pa. (AP) - A state trooper from the Hazleton barracks is charged with assault and witness intimidation. Cpl. Michael Hartzel is accused of using excessive force, then telling another trooper to keep quiet. Hartzel was arrested and is suspended without pay. Hartzel was among seven troopers who responded to a disturbance at a Hazle Township trailer park earlier this year. An internal investigation concluded that Hartzel "intentionally stomped" on a
man's head while he was lying on the ground. No one answered the door at Hartzel's home when a reporter went there to get his side of the story.

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) - Texas Governor Rick Perry has declared 14 counties in south Texas disaster areas because of Tropical Storm Dolly. He's scheduled to fly over the region today. Dolly has been pumping out prodigious amounts of rain since making landfall yesterday. Some places could get 20 inches.

BERLIN (AP) - Barack Obama has begun the European leg of his overseas trip. He's in Berlin, where he's been given a friendly greeting by Chancellor Angela Merkel. He's to address a huge outdoor gathering this evening before heading to Paris and London tomorrow.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - One of the stars of the U.S. Olympic team could miss out on a trip to Beijing. Swimmer Jessica Hardy has tested positive for a banned substance. She has just two weeks to pursue an appeal.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Some two million poorer Americans get a pay hike today. The federal minimum wage goes up by 70 cents an hour to $6.55. Nashville, Tennessee, car-wash worker Walter Jasper is happy to see it, particularly with food and gas prices up, too.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - A judge in New Zealand is fed up with cutesy names. He's ordered a new name for a nine-year-old girl. Her parents named her "Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii." A lawyer says she was so embarrassed by it, she didn't even tell her friends.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Today's News- Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Homicide case now being handled by DA, state police

The investigation into the death of Luis Ramirez is now in the hands of the Schuylkill County District Attorney's office and the Pennsylvania State Police. While no charges have been filed yet in Ramirez's beating death on July 12th, DA Jim Goodman and other officials met at the courthouse yesterday to continue the probe. Goodman told WPPA/T102 News that the case has many facets and they are making sure that its being done in a thorough manner before any charges are filed. Ramirez died from injuries on July 14th at Geisinger Medical Center.

Blight Hearing


That's State Senator Jim Rhoades during opening statements of yesterday's hearing of the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee at the county courthouse. The panel convened its second hearing to gather testimony about the problem of neighborhood blight. Senate Bill 1291 has been proposed to hold property owners accountable for maintaining their properties, and the legal means to cut down on run-down properties. Testimony was offered by local and state authorities who say they are doing all they can to fight blight, but current laws don't provide enough teeth to go after those who own the properties. Schuylkill Community Action Director of Housing and Community Development Jeff Feeser says that there are several thousand vacant and blighted properties in Schuylkill County:


A similiar bill has been introduced in the House by Representative Todd Eachus of Luzerne County. The bills are expected to be considered when the Legislature reconvenes in the fall.

Three finalists are left in the Schuylkill County Idol competition. They are Aldaliz Corona of Shenandoah, Samantha Wood of Pottsville and Heidi Quinn of Mahanoy City. The contestants performed three songs each, two personally chosen by them, and one by the judges. 28-year-old Quinn added some props to her performances of "Puttin on the Ritz" and "Don't Rain on My Parade". Quinn said she's having a ball:


The public has until this Sunday to vote for the winner. The champion will be named on Monday, July 28th. The prize package includes a one-thousand-dollar shopping spree, and the opportunity to perform at the Schuylkill County Fair.

Historical Society burglarized

Shenandoah police are searching for clues as to who broke into the borough Historical Society. According to the Republican and Herald, someone broke into the building on South Main Street and removed copper tubing from the building's heating and plumbing system. The thieves also took other items as well. The break-in was discovered on Monday. Losses, not including the value of the copper, are in excess of $1-thousand dollars. Anyone with information should call Shenandoah police.

Thefts in Berks

State police are investigating two thefts in northern Berks County. Someone took $800 dollars in tools from Roger Dyer's pickup truck in Upper Bern Township overnight Monday. Thieves found a hidden key for the vehicle and took the items. In a separate incident, someone took copper wire and aluminum from Carol Ann Reinert's pickup truck in Greenwich Township. The items are valued at $975 dollars. Anyone with information should contact Hamburg State Police at 610-562-6885.

UNDATED (AP) - While Democrat Barack Obama is in the Middle East continuing his overseas trip, Republican John McCain will be campaigning today in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. McCain's presidential campaign has not been helping tamp down speculation that he may soon announce his pick for a running mate. McCain is scheduled to travel to New Orleans later today.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Hershey, the nation's largest candymaker, is reporting higher second-quarter sales and profits as it benefits from a price increase and streamlined production. The Hershey Co. says it earned $41.5 million, or 18 cents a share, for the three months ended June 29. Sales were up 5 percent , boosted by a price increase and growth in some of Hershey's key brands.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Hundreds of legislative employees believed to have been illegally paid from state coffers for political campaign work will likely not be asked to return any money. Instead, the attorney general plans to pursue repayment from the dozen people charged in alleged House Democratic schemes to illegally use millions of tax dollars for politicking.

WASHINGTON (AP) - A federal appeals court says it agrees that the Child Online Protection Act is overly broad and vague. The decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia also found the law violates the First Amendment. That's because online filtering and other parental control tools offer a less restrictive way to protect children from inappropriate content.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A former state lawmaker convicted of conflict of interest and a bizarre fake anthrax threat will serve the remainder of his sentences in a halfway house or under house
arrest. Jeff Habay had been scheduled to report to jail by Aug. 1. But a judge said Tuesday that Habay did not deserve to go to jail after losing his office, his pension and his reputation.

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) - Forecasters say Hurricane Dolly could approach Category 2 status, where winds blow at least 96 miles-per-hour, when it slams into coastal towns straddling the Texas-Mexico border today. Winds are blowing around 85 miles-per-hour right now.

JERUSALEM (AP) - Palestinian leaders say Barack Obama promises to immediately be a "constructive partner" in the peace process between Israel and Palestine, should he win the presidency. An aide to President Mahmoud Abbas says Obama told Abbas he would "not waste a minute."

SINGAPORE (AP) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is talking about her meeting with North Korea's foreign minister today. The two talked informally about the next step in the dismantling of the north's nuclear weapons program. Rice says the discussions were "interactive" and "actually very good."

WASHINGTON (AP) - The House expects to vote on a massive mortgage rescue bill today, and it could become law as early as this week. The Treasury Department's request for a federal lifeline for mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac sped up the deal, and led the White House to drop most of its objections to the bill.

CHICAGO (AP) - The Chicago Sun-Times says friends of Drew Peterson, whose third wife was murdered and fourth wife is missing, wore a wire when they were with him for Illinois State Police. The husband and wife duo recorded seven months of conversations, starting shortly after Stacy Peterson disappeared last year.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Today's News- Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Fire at Shenandoah welding shop

Fire damaged a welding shop in Shenandoah last night. According to a supervisor at the Schuylkill County Communication Center, fire crews from Shenandoah, Frackville and Mahanoy City were called out before midnight to the building in the 400 block of East Arlington Street. Firefighters were released from the scene around 2:30 this morning, but several personnel remain on scene at this hour to watch for hot spots. The extent of the damage is not yet known.

Break in at clinic in Ringtown

Frackville state police are looking for the burglars who broke into a clinic in Ringtown. Sometime between Sunday night and Monday, unknown persons forcibly entered the Northern Valley Medical Center. Police are unsure if anything was taken. Anyone with information should call the Frackville barracks at 874-5300.

Schuylkill VISION expanding

Schuylkill County's VISION program is expanding, thanks to a large grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Economic Development. The monies will be used to bolster staff, by adding two full time employees. The Schuylkill Education Project will teach area students about Schuylkill County businesses, culture and products made here. The Schuylkill Information Project will give young people the opportunity to use technology in the community. Other monies from the Regional Development grant will enhance VISION's website,, and the Media Development Project is expected to build communications with the county's media outlets. VISION was started in 1997 to address quality of life issues in Schuylkill County.


The investigation into the fire at Mr. D's Interiors continues. WPPA/T102 News spoke with State Police Fire Marshal Michael Kowalick in Reading yesterday about the Friday night blaze that destroyed the business in Minersville. Kowalick said that Trooper Kevin Reichert is conducting the probe into the cause of the multi-alarm fire. Residents in the apartments to the rear of the building are cleaning up from smoke and water damage. A fire from a piece of equipment reportedly sparked a fire at Silberline Manufacturing in Tamaqua on Saturday afternoon. WPPA Reporter Kerry Dowd was the first to provide details from the scene shortly after it happened at the Tamaqua manufacturing plant. Fire Marshal Kowalick says that his office is not conducting an investigation into that fire.

Two County men face jail time on drug charges

Two Schuylkill County men are going to jail for selling drugs. Judge Cyrus Palmer Dolbin sentenced 53-year-old Ronald Harper Sr. of Pottsville to three consecutive terms of 27 to 54 months for delivering heroin in the city in 2007. According to the Republican and Herald, Harper pleaded guilty to drug charges earlier this year. 35-year-old Phillip Tilghman of Saint Clair faces three to 6 years in state prison for selling cocaine. Tilghman was found guilty in June on drug related charges. He was sentenced by Judge Jacqueline Russell.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Federal Communications Commission will have to think twice before penalizing a television station for flashing its audience. In a victory for CBS, a federal appeals court in Philadelphia has thrown out a $550,000 indecency fine for Janet Jackson's
breast-baring "wardrobe malfunction" in the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. A panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the FCC "acted arbitrarily and capriciously" in issuing the fine for the fleeting image of nudity. The panel noted it lasted just over
half a second. But the long-term significance of Monday's ruling remains unclear. The Supreme Court has decided to take up a broadcast indecency case this fall - the first since 1978.


Fired Philly TV anchor charged in e-mail scandal

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The lawyer for fired Philadelphia newscaster Alycia Lane says there's no doubt that former co-anchor Larry Mendte acted out of jealousy. Lawyer Paul Rosen says it started when Lane was offered a new contract in 2005 that paid her about $100,000 more a year than Mendte made. Federal prosecutors say Mendte snooped into Lane's e-mail
accounts hundreds of times. Prosecutors say he then leaked information that appeared in gossip columns. Lane was fired in January when the station said her personal life made so much news that she couldn't report the news effectively. Mendte was fired from Philadelphia's CBS affiliate last month after FBI agents searched his home and seized his computer. His attorney says Mendte "will accept full responsibility for his actions."


Phila. officers fired on; suspect wounded

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - More than 50 shots were fired as Philadelphia police confronted a murder suspect, but no officers were injured. The suspect, whose name wasn't immediately released, was shot in the hip and arm during Monday's shootout in Southwest Philadelphia.
A police spokesman, Lt. Frank Vanore, says the suspect fired directly at a police car when police first confronted him. He later shot out a police car's back window and the officer in that car
fired her gun through the windshield. The wounded suspect was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.


Arrest made in 1999 murder of Elk County woman

ST. MARYS, Pa. (AP) - Police have made an arrest in a nine-year-old murder case in Elk County. Authorities have charged 33-year-old Lawrence Donachy of St. Marys with criminal homicide and other counts in the 1999 slaying of hairdresser Irene Challingsworth. Police have said the 57-year-old Challingsworth was stabbed in the neck several times at her home in St. Marys, which she also used to run her beauty shop. Her partially nude body was found by a
customer. St. Marys police Sgt. Thomas Niklas says Donachy has been arraigned in district court, but referred additional comment to District Attorney Bradley Kraus. A message left late Monday for Kraus was not immediately returned.


3 to stand trial in Pa. graduation party shooting

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) - Three men have been ordered to stand trial in Lehigh County Court in a homicide that happened at a graduation party in May. Charges against 20-year-old Tahreel Maleek Townsend, of Brooklyn, N.Y., and 17-year-old Brandon Anthony Figueroa, of Allentown, were held for court at a hearing Monday. The third defendant, 29-year-old Tariq Qaadir Bailey, of Allentown, waived his right to a hearing. Figueroa is charged as an adult with homicide and conspiracy to commit homicide, while Townsend and Bailey are charged with conspiracy to commit homicide. All are being held without bail. They are charged in the death of 22-year-old Jimmy Ortiz. He was among dozens of people at a party May 10 to celebrate his brother's
graduation from Moravian College.


Man gets life for killing Robert Morris students

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A Pittsburgh-area man avoided the death penalty and will instead spend life in prison for killing two Robert Morris University students and wounding his girlfriend.
Twenty-three-year-old H. Paul Visnansky, of West View, has pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted homicide in the Jan. 22 shootings. Police say he fatally shot 22-year-old Jonathan Gilbert, of Monaca, and 20-year-old Michael Tatalovich, of Aliquippa. Police say Visnansky shot the men when he found them studying at the North Fayette apartment of his 20-year-old girlfriend Michelle Machusko. Machusko still has trouble speaking and her right side remains paralyzed. Visnansky isn't commenting on the pleas.

YONKERS, N.Y. (AP) - A gathering for professional wrestlers at a suburban New York City restaurant ended with the arrest of a wrestler known as "The Sandman." Yonkers police say that when officers arrived at the restaurant Sunday night, 45-year-old James "The Sandman" Fullington was flinging glasses from a tray at employees. A police spokeswoman says the 6-foot-4-inch, 280-pound Fullington, from Wayne, Pa., also threw several glasses at police, injuring two officers. Charges against Fullington include felony second-degree assault. He has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Fullington wrestled in Extreme Championship Wrestling and World Wrestling Entertainment.

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (AP) - The operator of two Bucks County landfills says it is suspending plans to dump radioactive sludge from the Limerick Nuclear power plant until public concerns can be addressed. Waste Management officials say the company is responding to public reaction to the plan following news reports in the Bucks County Courier Times. The company planned to accept 750 tons of sludge containing radioactive Cesium-137 and Cobalt-60 at its Falls and Tullytown landfills. Nuclear Regulatory Commission health physicist Betsy Ulrich says the "extremely small quantities" pose "extremely small risk" to the public. Department of Environmental Protection official David Allard says no increased risk of radiation exposure exists even for truckers and landfill operators handling the material. The Tullytown Council says it will fight any plans to dump radioactive waste.


Texas prepares for Dolly

McALLEN, Texas (AP) - Forecasters don't expect Tropical Storm Dolly to turn into a major hurricane, but people in Texas are getting ready for bad weather. Residents along the Texas-Mexico border are stocking up on plywood, generators and flashlights as emergency officials track a storm that could dump 10 to 20 inches of rain and trigger serious flooding. A hurricane warning is up and Dolly could make landfall late today or early tomorrow. Texas Governor Rick Perry has activated 1,200 National Guard troops for storm duty. During Hurricane Rita in 2005, more people died in accidents fleeing the storm than were killed by the severe weather on the Texas Gulf Coast. Shell Oil says it's evacuating workers from rigs in the Western
Gulf of Mexico.

Obama heads to Jordan and Israel next

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) - Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama intends to visit Sderot in southern Israel tomorrow. That town is a frequent target of rockets fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza. The Illinois senator also intends to meet with Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on the West Bank tomorrow, as well as with Israeli leaders. He is due in Jordan later today for talks with King Abdullah. Aides say Obama wanted to visit Sderot to gain a firsthand view of life in a part of Israel that has come under military attacks. His schedule indicates he intends to spend only slightly more than an hour on the ground.

Another McCain lobbying controversy

WASHINGTON (AP) - A top foreign policy adviser to John McCain has lobbied on behalf of a long-time GOP fund-raiser caught up in a controversy over whether he sought to sell access to the Bush White House. According to records on file with Congress, Randy Scheunemann
lobbied the House and Senate, the State Department and the National Security Council on behalf of two of Stephen Payne's companies. Earlier this month, the Sunday Times of London published an article and released a videotape in which Payne suggested to a politician from Kazakhstan that he could help arrange meetings with top Bush administration officials. A contribution to the Bush library was suggested. The McCain campaign said Scheunemann did not lobby on any
specific legislation on behalf of either company. Payne says he did nothing wrong.

UPDATE: Oil speculation the focus of vote today

WASHINGTON (AP) - A bill aimed at cracking down on oil price speculation faces a test vote today in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says tighter controls on speculation in the oil markets will help lower prices at the gas pump. Republicans are looking to add a provision to the bill, calling for more offshore exploration. Meanwhile, oilman T. Boone Pickens goes before a congressional panel, touting his plan to reduce U-S dependence on foreign sources
of oil. He envisions thousands of wind turbines in the country's midsection and says they would provide 20 percent of the nation's electricity needs. Pickens also sees natural gas taking the place of gasoline and diesel fuel in transportation.

Lawyer: Karadzic arrest 'against the law'

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) - A lawyer for Radovan Karadzic says the former Bosnian Serb president was arrested Friday on a bus, not Monday evening in a raid as authorities have claimed. The attorney tells AP Television News that on Friday, Karadzic "was taken to some place and kept in" a room. He calls that "absolutely against the law." Karadzic is accused of orchestrating mass killings, including the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica. In the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, streets have been jammed with Bosnian Muslims celebrating the arrest. Heavily armed special forces have been deployed around the war-crimes court in Belgrade as dozens of Karadzic supporters gathered nearby.

Blackwater plans shift from security business

MOYOCK, N.C. (AP) - Blackwater Worldwide says it's moving away from private security contracts, and focusing instead on other types of military contracts. The contracts have earned the company hundreds of millions of dollars. But Blackwater executives say they've unfairly become a symbol for all contractors in Iraq. The company says it will no longer bid on security contracts, though it will continue guarding U.S. officials in Iraq for the time being. Its future now lies in training, aviation and logistics areas. Blackwater has expanded its aviation division, offering airplane and helicopter maintenance and dropping supplies into hard-to-reach military bases. Blackwater contractors are under investigation for their involvement in a shooting in Baghdad in September that left 17 Iraqis dead.

Gates questions combat training by contractors

WASHINGTON (AP) - The military's use of private contractors for combat and security training is coming under scrutiny from the Pentagon chief. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is asking Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen how widespread the outsourcing is and
how much it has cost over the past decade. In a memo released to The Associated Press by Virginia Senator Jim Webb's office, Gates asks if the military fully understands the "implications in terms of quality, responsiveness and sustainability." Gates also asks if "appropriate red lines" have been established to determine what types of security training can be contracted out and what can't. Gates' memo came after Webb raised concerns about the role of private contractors, specifically Blackwater Worldwide.

Plant recalls jalapenos after salmonella found

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Texas plant where health officials found salmonella on a single Mexican-grown jalapeno is recalling its fresh peppers. The Food and Drug Administration's food safety chief says the discovery of the same strand of salmonella in the nationwide outbreak on the pepper is a "very important break." But the case isn't closed yet. And tomatoes, the original suspects in the outbreak that has sickened more than 1,200 people in 43 states, aren't totally exonerated yet. The FDA hasn't said how far produce from the plant near the Mexican border may have traveled, although it's not considered a major processor. Investigators are trying to figure out where the pepper became tainted -- on the farm, in the plant in McAllen, Texas, or at some stop in between. For now, the FDA is warning against eating fresh jalapenos and
products made with them, such as fresh salsa. Tomatoes now on the market are considered safe to eat.

Two confirmed killed

HONOLULU (AP) - The Coast Guard is backing off from a report that three bodies have been recovered off Guam after the crash of a B-52 bomber. It now says two bodies have been found, not three. Both of the dead crew members were wearing life vests. Roughly 3,000 square miles of ocean are being searched for the remaining members of the six-person crew. The unarmed B-52 was en route from Guam's Andersen Air Force Base to conduct a flyover in a parade on another part of the island when it crashed into the Pacific.

GM, utilities join to study electric car impact

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - General Motors is looking down the road to solve potential problems for the electric cars it plans to roll out in about two years. G-M has joined with more than 30 utility companies to address potential issues from tax incentives for the vehicles to where and when they can be plugged in for recharging. GM hopes to bring the Chevrolet Volt rechargeable car to
showrooms in late 2010. It's being designed to run on an electric motor powered by lithium-ion batteries. When fully charged, it will be able to go 40 miles on battery power. For longer trips, a small internal combustion engine will recharge the batteries to keep the Volt moving. GM and the utilities plan to announce the partnership Tuesday at a conference on plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in San Jose, California.