Friday, August 29, 2008

Today's News-Friday, August 29, 2008

Shenandoah teens given options for attending school

Two Shenandoah teens, accused in the beating death of a Mexican illegal immigrant have been given options to continue their education by the Shenandoah Valley school board. 16-year-old Brandon Piekarsky and 17-year-old Colin Walsh were released on bail earlier this week, but the high school seniors cannot return to the classroom. The school board voted in executive session to provide them homebound instruction, taught by a school professional, to earn their high school diploma. Two other options include home-schooling to earn a GED or enrolling in an online cyber school which requires Walsh and Piekarsky to be disenrolled from Shenandoah Valley. A decision by the boys parents must be made by the end of the day today.

Disabled man dies in Shamokin fire

An early Thursday morning fire killed a disabled Shamokin man. The fire was reported around 5am at an apartment building at 709 West Chestnut Street. 65-year-old James Bannon, who lived on the first floor died, and four others were left homeless. Fire investigators say that the flames started in Bannon's apartment near his bed. The cause is undetermined at this point, but appears to be accidental. The investigation continues.

Rallies set in Shenandoah Saturday

A branch from the state's civil rights law enforcement agency is calling for unity this weekend. In conjunction with the anti-immigration protest being held at Babe Ruth Field in Shenandoah, this community unity rally will be at Kahllat Israel Non-Denominational Christian Church. Investigator-trainer with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission-Ann Van Dyke-explains why this weekend's even is so important for the people of Shenandoah:


Van Dyke hopes the borough will post the friendship posters the participants make during the rally. A key responsibility the Human Relations Commission has is to help communities with different types of civil tension.

Labor Day travel expected to be down this year

National travel experts are predicting another decline this holiday weekend. Triple A reports the Labor Day weekend will be the third consecutive travel period with a projected year-to-date decline in travelers. The agency says only around 34-million-Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home, as opposed to the near 35-million from a year ago. Many consumers are concerned about the economy and opting for other means of transportation. Even with the most recent decline in gas prices, a spokesperson for Triple A Schuylkill County says the cost is dependent on global factors:


Research for holiday travel projections are derived from the travel industry association's holiday travel forecast model. For a complete 50-state-list of average daily gas prices, log on to

Third person pleads guilty in Schuylkill Products case

A third man implicated in the Schuylkill Products fraud case has pleaded guilty in federal court. The Republican and Herald reports that 59-year-old Romeo Cruz of West Haven, Connecticut pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the state and federal transportation departments. He joins two former executives of the Cressona-based concrete beam manufacturer, who schemed to use a minority based business in Connecticut to gain more than $100 million dollars in valuable government contracts. Dennis Campbell and Timothy Hubler pleaded guilty to federal charges earlier this year.

Crash injures two in Schuylkill Township

Two people were injured in a Thursday morning crash in Schuylkill Township. State Police say 22-year old Anthony Paltanavage of New Philadelphia was driving on Moss Glen Road just before 6:30 when his S-U-V crossed into the opposite lane of travel where it was hit head-on by a car driven by 51-year old Michelle Heisler of Tamaqua. Paltanavage was seriously hurt and taken to Schuylkill Medical Center South. Heisler had moderate injuries and was treated and released. Paltanavage and Heisler were both wearing seatbelts. Paltanavage will be cited for causing the accident.

Obama and Biden on board for post-Denver bus tour

DENVER (AP) - Barack Obama and Joe Biden are setting out on a campaign by bus in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio after wrapping up the Democratic National Convention. If that sounds like a familiar pattern, it should. Republicans George Bush and Dick Cheney took a whistlestop tour by train of Ohio, Michigan and Illinois after leaving their national convention in 2000.
And Democrats Bill Clinton and Al Gore launched a 1,000-mile post-convention bus tour in 1992 that took them to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. The point of these trips is to build momentum in battleground states after the conventions. Obama and Biden will be accompanied by their wives, Michelle Obama and Jill Biden. The candidates hope to build support in the three critical industrial states. They also aim to take away some of the attention focused on Republicans as they gather in Minneapolis-St. Paul to nominate their candidate, John McCain, and his yet-unnamed running mate.

Obama cannot win without Pennsylvania

DENVER (AP) - Joe Biden says his running mate, Barack Obama, will be unable to win the White House without taking Pennsylvania. The Delaware senator is a native of Scranton and made the remarks to the Keystone State's delegation at the Democratic convention. Obama has struggled to gain support from white, working-class voters, and he's hoping Biden can help him avoid a repeat of his Pennsylvania primary loss. Polling in Pennsylvania finds the race to be close. A Quinnipiac University poll conducted last week showed Obama with a 7-percentage-point lead in the state over McCain, but neither with more than 50 percent. Biden is a popular figure in Pennsylvania. He's worked with the state's political leaders throughout his more than three decades in the Senate and is often referred to as Pennsylvania's third senator.

NY ringleader in stolen body parts case slated to enter guilty plea in Philadelphia on Friday

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A former oral surgeon who has acknowledged trafficking in stolen body parts is scheduled to plead guilty in the case Friday in Philadelphia. Authorities say 44-year-old Michael Mastromarino was the mastermind of a multimillion-dollar scheme to loot hundreds of
corpses and sell bone and tissue for transplants. He was sentenced in New York to 18 to 54 years in prison after apologizing to the grieving survivors. Defense attorney Charles Peruto Jr. said through an assistant Thursday that details of the plea have not been worked out. Peruto and prosecutors have said Mastromarino would end up pleading to only a few of the approximately 1,700 counts. He has been seeking a deal in Philadelphia that would run concurrent to his New York sentence.

Federal agency issues warning on popular bassinet

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission is warning parents and caregivers to immediately stop using a popular brand of bassinet after the death of a second baby attributed to the product. The warning covers the Simplicity 3-in-1 and Simplicity 4-in-1 bassinets. Commission spokeswoman Julie Vallese says the danger is so severe that the agency was compelled to issue the warning late Wednesday ahead of a likely recall.
Wal-Mart, one of the largest distributors of the product, says it is pulling the bassinets off of its shelves and its Web site. Last week, a 6-month-old Kansas girl was strangled after trying to slip through the metal tubes that run down the side of the bassinet. In September 2007, a 4-month-old Missouri girl died after being caught between the rail of her Simplicity 4-in-1 bassinet and
the mattress. Simplicity, of Reading, Pa., recalled about a million cribs in September 2007 after reports of three deaths and seven babies who had become entrapped in its cribs.

Pittsburgh prosecutors seek to jail Carnegie Mellon professor who got 3 DUIs in 8 days

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Prosecutors in Allegheny County are asking a judge to jail a computer science professor who has been charged with drunken driving three times in eight days.
Prosecutors say they are afraid 51-year-old Carnegie Mellon professor Jeffrey Hunker may harm himself or someone else. A judge is scheduled to hear their bond revocation motion on Friday. In the first case Aug. 17, police say Hunker drove through a neighbor's yard, ran over a small tree and hit a house. In the second, they say, he was seen at the wheel of his heavily damaged car and failed a field sobriety test and a blood alcohol test. The third arrest came Sunday. Hunker isn't returning calls on the charges. He was computer security director in the Clinton administration and later was dean of CMU's public policy school.

Trucking firm owner sentenced to 5 to 10 years in Poconos shooting of contractor

STROUDSBURG, Pa. (AP) - The owner of a trucking company has been sentenced to five to 10 years in state prison in the August 2006 shooting death of a contractor in the Poconos. A judge convicted 36-year-old Ray Anthony Velez of Jackson Township in May of voluntary manslaughter and use of a prohibited offensive weapon in the death of 60-year-old Armando Guardiola. Prosecutors say Guardiola and two other men came from New Jersey to Velez's home in Monroe County to discuss a worker's compensation issue. During an argument, they say, Velez shot the victim with a sawed-off shotgun. Velez says he acted in self-defense because he and his 7-year-old daughter were alone in the house with the three men.

Army Experience Center at Pa. mall aims to educate, offer inside look at the life of a soldier

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The new Army Experience Center opening Friday at the Franklin Mills Mall is not exactly a store, although it is trying to sell something - the military life. The center is staffed by soldiers eager to share their experiences and stocked with high-tech simulators, video gaming stations and interactive exhibits. It's a new frontier in marketing for Army officials who hope to give the public a better understanding of today's military. Chief marketing officer Edward Walters says the Army offers more than 175 careers - from water purification specialist to intelligence analyst - but not many people know it. Officials say the Army has met recruiting targets for the past two years and is on pace again this year to meet its goal of 80,000. But The Associated Press found last year that the Army has been offering more sign-up incentives and has also relaxed rules on age and weight limits, education, and drug and criminal records.

Western Pa. man pleads guilty to setting fires at historic amusement park ballroom, church

MEADVILLE, Pa. (AP) - A northwestern Pennsylvania man is to be sentenced Nov. 7 for setting fires that destroyed an amusement park ballroom and damaged a church. Twenty-year-old Nickolas Dean Pope, of Hartstown, pleaded guilty Thursday in Crawford County Court to two counts of arson on Thursday in Crawford County Court. Authorities say he set fire to the 164-year-old Harmonsburg Presbyterian Church on Jan. 13, causing $180,000 in damage. He also
set a Feb. 1 fire that destroyed the 99-year-old Dreamland Ballroom at Conneaut Lake Park, causing an estimated $1.5 million in damage.

Comcast to set official limit on Internet use to deter bandwidth hogs

NEW YORK (AP) - Comcast Corp., the nation's second-largest Internet service provider, says it will set an official limit on the amount of data subscribers can download and upload each month.
The cable company says it will update its user agreement on Oct. 1 to say that users will be allowed 250 gigabytes of traffic per month. Comcast has already reserved the right to cut off subscribers who use too much bandwidth each month, without specifying exactly what constitutes excessive use. Customers who go over the limit are contacted by the company and asked to curb their usage. Comcast floated the idea of a 250 gigabyte cap in May. The
company mentioned then that it might charge users $15 for every 10 gigabytes they go over, but the overage fee was missing in Thursday's announcement. Comcast has said curbing the top users is necessary to keep the network fast and responsive.

Pa. man gets 15 to 30 years in prison for strangling woman, dumping body in trash bin

WASHINGTON, Pa. (AP) - A western Pennsylvania man has been sentenced to 15 to 30 years for strangling his girlfriend during a fight over drugs and money, then dumping her body in a trash bin. Twenty-eight-year-old Joseph John Natale, of McKeesport, pleaded guilty Thursday to third-degree murder and abuse of a corpse. Authorities say he beat and strangled 22-year-old Amanda Lynn Faux. Her body was found Jan. 6 by a man retrieving papers from the
trash bin outside her apartment building. Police say Natale confessed to grabbing Faux around the neck after she hit him over the head with a glass pitcher.

Pa. man, 60, gets 6 to 15 years in prison for bludgeoning wife with crystal rock, marble lamp

ERIE, Pa. (AP) - An Erie man has been ordered to spend six to 15 years in state prison for bludgeoning his wife with a decorative crystal rock and a marble lamp. Sixty-year-old Richard Valentine pleaded guilty in July to a general count of homicide and agreed to let a judge determine his degree of guilt. The judge later ruled the death voluntary manslaughter, not murder. Prosecutors alleged that the killing was premeditated. But Valentine says he hit 59-year-old Anna Valentine in the heat of the moment after they argued.

Federal appeals court refuses to rehear deportation case of W. Pa. man who was Nazi guard

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A federal appeals court is refusing to rehear the deportation case of a retired western Pennsylvania steelworker who served as a Nazi concentration camp guard and later became a United States citizen. Anton Geiser's only recourse now is to appeal to the U.S.
Supreme Court. His attorney has declined comment. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled in June that 83-year-old Geiser, of Sharon, should have his citizenship revoked and be deported. The court said his work as a guard meets the type of persecutory conduct banned under the Refugee Relief Act. His attorneys had wanted the three-judge appellate panel or the entire 3rd Circuit to rehear the case. The appeals court refused last week.

Corzine says he won't block hikes on tolls for 4 Philly-area bridges, train line

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine says he will not block a toll hike for four Philadelphia-area bridges. Corzine has veto power over decisions by the Delaware River Port
Authority, but says he won't exercise it in this case. The toll hikes will go into effect Sept. 14 for the Betsy Ross, Ben Franklin, Walt Whitman and Commodore Barry bridges. Drivers will pay $4, up from $3. The tolls will go to $5 in two years. Fares on the agency's PATCO Speedline commuter trains will also go up by 10 percent on Sept. 14 and again in 2010. Corzine said that without the increase the DRPA would not be able to make important improvements such as the redecking the Walt Whitman Bridge.

DENVER (AP) - With a stirring speech that doubled as a blistering attack on Republican policies, Barack Obama has accepted the Democratic nomination for president. Obama vows to scrap
President Bush's economic policy and replace it with one that'll help hard-pressed families.

DENVER (AP) - John McCain is expected to unveil his vice presidential choice at a rally in Ohio today. The top choices are thought to be Mitt Romney and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) - Tropical Storm Gustav is expected to become a hurricane later today, as it spins away from Jamaica and back out into open water. So far the storm has killed 67 people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - U.S.-led coalition forces say they've killed a dozen militants after a gunbattle in Afghanistan. Coalition forces were looking for a militant responsible for moving
foreign fighters from Pakistan into Afghanistan when they were fired on.

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) - The Sydney Symphony Orchestra says it faked its performance in the 2000 Summer Olympics opening ceremonies. Officials say it was entirely prerecorded. And even then, it wasn't all them. The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra recorded parts of the performance.


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