Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Today's News-Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Travel for Thanksgiving

For thousands of folks in the Commonwealth, today means the race is on to get to that Thanksgiving destination. The Pennsylvania State Police-through their annual "Click It or Ticket" campaign reminds people that tomorrow's holiday is the busiest time for motorists to be on the roads:


Safety checkpoints are set up all throughout the state until November 30th. That's an effort to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities resulting from traffic crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday driving period. For more information on "Click It or Ticket" or to find a state police barracks closest to you, log on to the state police website...PSP-DOT-STATE-DOT-PA-US.

Dinner is served

The countdown is on to Turkey Day! In fact, the first Thanksgiving celebration dates back to 1621 where the Plymouth colonists and native American Indians shared an autumn harvest feast. This annual holiday has evolved since that time. One tradition that remains still in Schuylkill County is finding the perfect bird. T102 News spoke with the Vice President and General Manager, Duane Koch, of Koch's Turkey Farm who says he sees the same faces year after year:


Listen to a pre-Thanksgiving holiday interview with Duane Koch this morning on Step Up to the Mic at 10am.

Travel plans with AAA

Despite the current economic slump, local vacation experts are saying now is the time to plan that next escape while saving yourself some green in the process. Triple A travel agent Ann Kline says Schuylkill County families are thinking about brighter days in 2009:


Thanksgiving to Christmas is a slower time for vacation travel. However, Kline says one of their biggest deals heading into the new travel year is a trip to the happiest place on earth-Walt Disney World:


For more information on holiday travel or for tips on planning that next vacation, you may log on to Triple A's website-AAA-DOT-COM.

Shopping made easier with STS

Shoppers looking for another way to get around this holiday season can hop aboard the Holiday Express with STS. Schuylkill Transportation System riders can board the bus for the next 4 Fridays and ride all day on any bus for just a dollar. Senior citizens can still ride free with their bus pass. Children up to the age of 8 can ride free with a paying adult. Kids nine through 12 ride for just 50 cents. And, passengers can win great prizes from area merchants by riding the Holiday Express. The Holiday Express begins on Black Friday. For more information, call STS toll free at 800-832-3322.

Bear harvest strong on first day

Pennsylvania bear hunters had a strong first day of hunting in the opening day of bear season. The Pennsylvania Game Commission reports a preliminary harvest of more than 17-hundred bears in 50 counties. That's an increase of more than 700 bear as compared to the first day in 2007. In Schuylkill County, 18 bears were reported taken, compared to 7 last year.

Low income earners pay larger share of income taxes

Taxes...we all have to pay 'em. But some people are paying "more" than their fair share during this time of economic turmoil. A new budget report says that's the case. Sharon Ward is the director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. Her organization's study claims that the state's flat personal income tax rate is unfair to working families...taking more than 12 cents of every dollar they earn, while those with far more money pay just over 4 cents on every dollar:


Opponents say that the rich should not have to pay more taxes simply because they earn more money. But Ward says that without a progressive income tax, Pennsylvania's state tax system has no way to offset regressive sales and property taxes:


Ward says the state could also expand the sales tax or add a tax on natural resource extraction as a way to generate more revenue.

Son pleads guilty in death of mother, 83

POTTSVILLE, Pa. (AP) - A Northumberland County man whose 83-year-old mother died the day after police say he kidnapped her from a nursing home has pleaded guilty to charges that officials say caused her death.
The Republican Herald reports that 58-year-old Robert Netchel, of Mount Carmel, avoided a prison term by pleading guilty Tuesday in Schuylkill County Court to recklessly endangering another person and unlawful restraint. Judge Charles Miller sentenced him to five years probation and ordered him to pay costs. Prosecutors dropped seven other counts including involuntary manslaughter and kidnapping. Netchel was accused of forcibly taking his mother from the Schuylkill Center Nursing Home to his home April 30. An autopsy found that stress from the incident resulted in Ruth Netchel's death.

Pittsburgh transit labor dispute settled

PITTSBURGH (AP) - There's a tentative agreement to settle the labor dispute at Pittsburgh's transit agency. That's according to a statement released jointly Tuesday night by the Port Authority of Allegheny County and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85. The union had been threatening to strike Monday. The 2,200 employees represented by the union are continuing to work under the terms of the contract that expired June 30. The new agreement is to take effect once the union membership and the Port Authority board ratify it. Terms of the agreement weren't released in the joint statement and it was not immediately clear how long ratification will take.

Obama to meet with governors on economic crisis

WASHINGTON (AP) - President-elect Barack Obama plans to meet
with nearly all the nation's governors in Philadelphia next Tuesday. They'll discuss how the economic crisis is crimping states and their budgets. The discussions at Independence Hall are being hosted by
National Governors Association Chairman Ed Rendell, the governor of
Pennsylvania, and Vice Chairman Jim Douglas, the governor of Vermont.
Douglas says 40 governors and governors-elect plan to attend the group discussion, which was put together just in the last few days. Douglas says some of them grumbled about the short notice but virtually all have cleared their schedules to attend.

Pa. government pension fund posts 14 percent loss

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania state government pension
fund investments fell sharply during the first nine months of the
year. Officials are warning that year-end totals may end up even
worse. The State Employees' Retirement System said Tuesday its
investments lost 14.4 percent for the year through Sept. 30. The pension fund shed $4.3 billion dollars from July 1 though Sept. 30 alone, ending up with a value of $29.3 billion. At the end of 2007 it was worth about $35 billion. The stock market has been hit with steep declines in October and November, and Pennsylvania's pension fund is warning that the year-end accounting may show much worse results.

Allentown, Pa., home is destroyed in explosion

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) - The American Red Cross says at least 12
adults and seven children have been displaced by a house explosion
in Allentown. The blast injured two brothers living in the house, heavily
damaged two neighboring homes and launched a wheelchair 40 feet up
into a tree. Fire Chief Robert Scheirer says "it's amazing" that the
brothers in the house survived. They are 52-year-old Cesar Coto and
41-year-old Miguel Irizarry. A neighbor, Bob Walko, says the explosion was so big he thought an airplane had crashed. He says it shook his house and knocked pictures and clocks off the walls.

Ruptured gasoline line closes Rt. 22 in W.Pa.

MURRYSVILLE, Pa (AP) - A ruptured gasoline transmission line has
prompted officials to close a major road in suburban Pittsburgh and
evacuate nearby businesses, schools and a nursing home. Officials say a ball joint in the six-inch line failed about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in Murrysville along Rt. 22 while a Sunoco Logistics crew was working on it.
An estimated 2,000 to 3,000 gallons of gasoline shot as high as 100 feet into the air before the leak was stopped before noon. No injuries have been reported, but officials ordered the evacuation as a precaution.
The Department of Environmental Protection says some of the gasoline spilled into Turtle Creek, killing fish. Traffic is being detoured and officials say Rt. 22 could be closed for several hours as cleanup continues.

Delayed I-99 stretch finally open

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - A long-delayed stretch of Interstate
99 in central Pennsylvania is finally complete. Workers put the finishing touches this week on an eight-mile stretch of the four-lane highway in the State College area. The project had been delayed for years because of concerns about acid-producing rock displaced in the path of the highway.
Federal, state and local transportation officials hope the $700 million project will help with economic development in the region. The highway now links the Pennsylvania Turnpike at Bedford to Interstate 80 at Bellefonte.

Funeral held for FBI agent killed in Pa. drug raid

BALTIMORE (AP) - FBI agents and police officers from several states joined family members to say goodbye to an FBI agent killed in a drug raid in suburban Pittsburgh. Special Agent Sam Hicks's funeral was held Tuesday at the Cathedral of Mary of Queen in Baltimore, the city where he had been a police officer for five years. FBI Director Robert Mueller told a packed cathedral that although he didn't know Hicks personally, he had learned from Hicks' family and colleagues that the agent was "something of a superhero, full of strength and energy." Mueller presented Hicks' widow, Brooke, with a memorial star and told her that she and her son, Noah, would always be part of the FBI family. U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Hicks' name would be added to the Hall of Honor.

Ex-ACORN worker gets home term in voter fraud case

MEDIA, Pa. (AP) - A suburban Philadelphia man will serve house arrest for falsifying 18 voter-registration cards. Jemar Barksdale worked briefly this year for the voter-turnout group ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. The 34-year-old Chester man must serve six to 23 months of home confinement after his sentencing Monday in Delaware County. Barksdale must also pay the group $574 restitution after pleading guilty to forgery, theft and other charges. ACORN officials say Barksdale is a "bad apple." A call to his listed defense lawyer was not immediately returned Tuesday. He is one of thousands of part-time workers ACORN hired nationally this year to sign up 1.3 million new voters.

Knoll fondly remembered at Pittsburgh funeral

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll was remembered
as energetic, compassionate and generous at her funeral in Pittsburgh.
Friends, relatives and colleagues say the first female lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania will forever be an inspiration to women nationwide.
Knoll's family said the service at St. Paul Cathedral was an occasion to celebrate a life full of accomplishments. Gov. Ed Rendell said that with all of Knoll's achievements, she was always in a rush to do more. He joked that if Knoll is as full of ideas in death as she was in life, St. Peter's head is spinning. Knoll died Nov. 12, just four months after being diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer.

CHICAGO (AP) - President-elect Barack Obama is holding his third
straight news conference in as many days, this time to announce
he's forming a new economic advisory board. Obama says he wants to
show Americans that on January 20th he'll be ready to work.

NEW YORK (AP) - After three straight positive sessions, futures
trading suggests a lower open on Wall Street today. Investors are
cautious ahead of a series of economic reports that touch on jobless claims, personal incomes and spending, and durable good orders.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The jury is suggesting they've reached a verdict in three of the four charges against a Missouri woman accused of harassing a 13-year-old girl on the Internet. They've asked a judge in a note if the fourth charge can have a hung jury, but he'll have them deliberating again later today.

WASHINGTON (AP) - With Christmas shopping nearly in full swing,
consumer advocates warn if a toy fits inside the tube from a toilet roll, it's too small for little children. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group also says parents should be watching for hazards related to soft plastics and lead contamination.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Venus, Jupiter, and the crescent moon will be
crowded together to light up a corner of the southwest sky by the end of this weekend. They're the three brightest objects you can see, and it'll be more than 40 years before they appear that close again.


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