Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Today's News-Tuesday, February 24, 2009


A number of customers served by the Blythe Township Water Authority are under a boil advisory today due to a main break yesterday. Customers in Primrose, Black Heath, Pine Hill, Schaeffers Hill and Hecksherville are reminded to boil their water for at least one minute before using it. The advisory remains in effect for 48 hours.


As we prepare for the Lenten season that begins tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, this Tuesday, Fastnacht Day, will afford people a last minute opportunity to scarf up donuts and other treats. Church groups and donut makers across the region have been hard at work over the past week, mixing the gooey concoction, with and without mashed potatoes, to meet the demand. The Fastnacht is a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition that people look forward to every year, so enjoy. The Pottsville Salvation Army, through the generosity of a local business, is offering free coffee and donuts to anyone who'd like to stop by their Sanderson Street location today from 9am till 1pm.


The candidates for the 29th Senatorial District race will meet for a debate tonight at Hamburg High School. The Berks County GOP has put together the free public event, scheduled for 7pm in the LGI room at the high school. Doors open at 6:30pm. Representative Dave Argall and Schuylkill County Clerk of Courts Steve Lukach are seeking the seat held by the late Senator Jim Rhoades. John D. Forrester, News Editor of the Reading Eagle, will moderate the debate. Members from the audience can submit questions for the candidates prior to the start of the debate. The special election is next Tuesday, March 3rd.


Two Schuylkill Haven men were injured in a two vehicle crash early Sunday in Washington Township. 20 year old Travis Arbegast was driving west on Route 895 near the village of Rock when he went through a stop sign at the intersection with Hilltop Road. He failed to see 48 year old Edward Neidlinger, and the two vehicles collided. Arbegast's truck went over a stone culvert, hit a utility pole guide wire and ended up in the yard of a home. Neidlinger's SUV hit a Penn DOT marker and ended up in a yard along Route 895. Both men were taken to Schuylkill Medical South for treatment. Neidlinger was suspected of driving under the influence.


Registration for homestead or farmstead exemptions for property owners are due this Friday. State lawmaker Tim Seip is reminding everyone who has not applied for the exemption, used to provide a state-funded reduction in school property tax bills on primary homes and farms, to contact their school districts for an application. If you have already been approved for an exemption, you need not apply again unless the property deed or address has changed. If you are unsure about whether the home or farm is currently approved, call the Schuylkill County Assessment office at 628-1024. Only properties registered as homesteads or farmsteads are eligible for the reduction through the homestead exclusion.

To receive an application, people can call their school district’s business office:
· Blue Mountain, 570-366-0515
· Hamburg Area, 610-562-2241
· North Schuylkill, 570-874-0466
· Pine Grove Area, 570-345-2731
· Pottsville Area, 570-621-2900
· Schuylkill Haven Area, 570-385-6736
· Schuylkill Valley, 610-916-0957
· Tri-Valley, 570-682-9013
· Williams Valley, 717-647-2167

Feds: Ex-Pa. senator spent big, always wanted more

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A federal prosecutor says a once-powerful Pennsylvania senator lived in his own world where rules that apply to others didn't apply to him. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Zauzmer says Vincent Fumo vastly overpaid his Senate staff for their extra work and blind loyalty. He says state employees may have been in it for the money or possibly, in Zauzmer's words, "for proximity to the throne." Many former staffers testified during Fumo's four-month trial, admitting they kept track of income from their boss's rental properties. They also oversaw mansion renovations and drove a state vehicle to Martha's Vineyard to meet Fumo's borrowed yacht. The defense is expected to give its closing argument Tuesday.

Official connected to corrupt Pa. judges to resign

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) - A northeastern Pennsylvania row officer who had been in business with two corrupt judges plans to resign next month amid an unfolding corruption scandal. Luzerne County prothonotary Jill Moran says in a letter of resignation to Gov. Ed Rendell that she will leave office March 13. Moran told the governor that "circumstances in the Luzerne County Courthouse" had made her presence in the office "a distraction." Two Luzerne County judges who pleaded guilty to fraud earlier this month were involved in a failed township development project with Moran. A bank has filed suit against Moran and the judges, saying they defaulted on $4 million in loans. The prothonotary is the custodian of civil court records. Moran is in the last year of her second term. She has not been accused of any criminal wrongdoing.

Casey: No tolls on interstates without benefit for nearby towns

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - U.S. Sen. Bob Casey says he opposes tolls on interstate highways unless there are clear economic benefits to communities along the road. The Pennsylvania Legislature has voted for a plan to put tolls on Interstate 80 to help finance an expansion of state highway and bridge repairs. But federal regulators rejected the plan last fall. Casey told The Associated Press that he won't rule out supporting a bill banning tolls on interstates. The Pennsylvania Democrat says that might be the only way to prevent damage to communities along the highways.

Sen. Casey says he won't run for Pa. governor in 2010

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Sen. Bob Casey says he won't run for governor next year -- but he might in a later election. Casey ran for governor in 2002 but lost the Democratic primary
to now-Gov. Ed Rendell. He then ousted conservative Republican Sen. Rick Santorum in 2006. Casey told The Associated Press that he's "had enough elections for a while," but he didn't rule out running for governor again at some point down the road. Casey's father, Robert Casey Sr., was a popular two-term governor.

GOP scolds Pa. governor's budget, spending

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania Senate Republicans had tough words for Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell's top budget makers during an Appropriations Committee hearing. Monday's hearing was on the first day of four weeks of scrutiny by the Senate Appropriations Committee as the state seeks to fill budget gaps this year and next. Venango County Sen. Mary Jo White told Budget Secretary Mary Soderberg that the state should allow more gas drilling on 2 million acres of state forest land. York County Sen. Mike Waugh questioned whether it's wise to drain most of the state's contingency reserve fund. That's what Rendell is proposing. And Appropriations Chairman Jake Corman of Centre County says Rendell's proposed budget could create a disaster unless the economy stages a dramatic turnaround.

DA says had no option in charging slay suspect, 11

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A western Pennsylvania prosecutor says he'd consider pursuing the death penalty against someone accused of killing his father's pregnant girlfriend -- if only he were 18 years old. Eleven-year-old Jordan Brown is in the Lawrence County Jail, separated from adult inmates. District Attorney John Bongivengo says state law prohibits him from filing criminal homicide charges against Jordan Brown in juvenile court. To get the case moved to juvenile court, defense attorney Dennis Elisco must convince a judge the boy can be rehabilitated in that setting. Bongivengo says the juvenile system can only hold Brown until he's 21 and he fears releasing a 21-year-old who's willing to kill someone.

Pa. 'music church' dispute settled out of court

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A man who organized concerts in rural southwestern Pennsylvania has settled his dispute with Fayette County officials. William Pritts argued that the concerts were part of religious expression, so he didn't need a permit. The county had said his Church of Universal Love and Music was a sham he created because his 2001 application for a zoning exemption was rejected. Pritts' lawyer, Gregory Koerner, says terms of the settlement reached Monday are confidential. But he describes the accord as "mutually satisfactory" and says Pritts will be able to continue with his venture. County lawyer Marie Milie Jones confirmed that an agreement was reached Monday but said the details were still being worked out.

Phila. man accused of rural Pa. jailbreak attempt

LOCK HAVEN, Pa. (AP) - A 23-year-old Philadelphia man charged in the rape of Lock Haven University students is now accused of trying to break out of jail. Domenique Thomas Wilson has denied involvement in the Feb. 1 attack in which three female students were attacked in their off-campus apartment and two of them were raped. Clinton County Correctional Facility Warden Tom Duran says Wilson made a "serious attempt" at escape on Friday, but it was "very preliminary." Police say he tried to remove caulking from around a window in his cell and then tried to kick out the window. A message left Monday for Wilson's lawyer, Public Defender David Lindsay, was not immediately returned. Wilson's preliminary hearing on rape and other charges is scheduled Tuesday.

NE Pa. police bemoan lack of animal shelter

STROUDSBURG, Pa. (AP) - Police say last month's closing of a northeastern Pennsylvania animal shelter has been compounded by a rescue group being told it can't take in strays.
Stroud Area Regional Police Lt. Brian Kimmins says he can no longer pick up stray animals because he has no place to take them. The Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals closed its shelter near Stroudsburg on Jan. 29. That led to Camp Papillion Animal Rescue taking in strays. But the group says it got word from state officials on Monday that it may not take in strays without a public facility where people can come in and see the animals. Camp Papillion says it's tried to get in touch with the Pennsylvania SPCA about renting its closed shelter building, but hasn't heard back.

Pa. court OKs beer sales at cafes run by Wegmans

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A trade group for Pennsylvania's beer distributors plans to appeal a court ruling that says a supermarket chain can sell six-packs. The Commonwealth Court ruling says Wegmans Food Markets can sell beer in the restaurants attached to its grocery stores. Attorney Robert Hoffman says the Pennsylvania Malt Beverage Distributors Association will appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. He says the distributors could face considerable losses if regulations are changed by the courts. Wegmans lawyer R.J. O'Hara says a limit of two six-packs on take-out purchases will ensure that grocery-linked restaurants won't devastate business at beer distributors.

Thompson invites defeated Democratic foe to DC

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - Rep. Glenn Thompson has invited the Democrat he defeated in last fall's election to be his guest Tuesday when President Barack Obama makes his first address to Congress. Thompson succeeded retiring Rep. John Peterson, keeping the sprawling north-central Pennsylvania district in Republican hands. Democratic Clearfield County Commissioner Mark McCracken lost the general election race to Thompson, a Centre County health care executive. Thompson says McCracken will join him for Obama's State-of-the-Union-style speech to Congress. He says he looks forward to working with McCracken and other officials regardless of party affiliation to help bring and preserve jobs in the district.

Phila. newspaper company due in bankruptcy court

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A hearing is scheduled Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the company that owns Philadelphia's two largest newspapers. Philadelphia Newspapers Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Sunday, citing debts of $390 million. The company said it will continue normal operations without interruption during the debt-restructuring process.
On Monday, the largest union at the company, the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia, advised its members that senior management said the union contract would be honored. The contract was reached in 2006 and lasts through Aug. 31 of this year. The union says it
expects to begin negotiations for a new contract soon.

Philly piloting program to protect drinking water

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The city of Philadelphia has received a $2 million federal grant to develop a contamination warning system for drinking water. Environmental Protection Agency officials said Monday that they chose Philadelphia because of its existing water quality protection programs and its commitment to increase water security. The contamination warning system will focus on detecting and, in some cases, preventing tainting of the drinking water distribution system. The scope of the project may expand to include sampling analysis, customer complaint review, enhanced security monitoring and public health surveillance. New York, San Francisco, Dallas and Cincinnati are also participating in the pilot program, which aims to develop models that can be replicated in other cities.

Philly archdiocese starts $200M capital campaign

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Philadelphia's Roman Catholic archbishop says it won't be easy to raise $200 million over five years in this economy, but it needs to be done. Cardinal Justin Rigali says the archdiocese can't pretend that its needs don't exist. Of the $200 million, $70 million would go directly to parishes for improvements such as repairing leaky roofs and fixing crumbling masonry. The plan includes $30 million in seed money for two new suburban high schools and an $18 million tuition assistance program for elementary school students. A 12-parish pilot program exceeded expectations, giving the archdiocese hope that fundraising momentum can be maintained despite the current economic uncertainty. Rigali announced the fundraising campaign on Monday.

Pa. Catholic church becomes Seventh-day Adventist

HAZLETON, Pa. (AP) - A former Roman Catholic church in northeastern Pennsylvania is becoming a house of worship for Seventh-day Adventists. A 16-member congregation is fixing up the Hazleton building and plans the first service there March 7. The group had been renting space at another church in Hazleton one day a week. Unlike most other Christian denominations, Seventh-day Adventists hold services on Saturdays. Real estate agent Robert Nilles says he was surprised to find a buyer planning to use the building for a house of worship. He says there had been other prospective buyers who were thinking of a secular use for the real estate.

WASHINGTON (AP) - He's going to be straight with the American people. That preview of President Barack Obama's speech tonight comes from his press secretary, Robert Gibbs. He tells MSNBC that Obama wants to be "honest about where we are" with the challenges facing the nation. As for how Obama plans to cut deficits in half by the end of his first term, Gibbs says much of that will come from reduced spending in Iraq.

LONDON (AP) - The hopes of a quick fix for the U.S. banking sector are fading, and that's bringing stocks lower around the world. Wall Street finished yesterday at its lowest levels in 12
years. One analyst says investors still want to see more details about the administration's plans to save financial firms.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The nation's biggest sheriff's department is warning that hundreds of jobs could be cut -- and thousands of inmates could be cut loose. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca
tells The Associated Press that budget cuts could force him to close two jails and eliminate the staff positions there. He says nearly 4,000 inmates could be released early.

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - With help from crews from out of state, utility workers in Maine are making progress in getting the power back on. More than 140,000 people were without power yesterday because of a windy storm that dumped 2 feet of snow in some areas. About half of them have had their power restored.

LONDON (AP) - For the first time, Agatha Christie fans can see the English holiday home where the writer spent her summers, and where she entertained guests by reading from her thrillers. After two years of restoration work, the house called Greenway in southwest England is opening to the public this weekend.


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