Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Today's News-Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Monday's fire in Pottsville gutted a home at 307 Fairview Street. Crews from all 7 Pottsville fire companies were able to extinguish the blaze quickly, but the damage was extensive according to Pottsville fire officials. Two people escaped from the apartment building and tenants in the upper floors were not home at the time. The investigation is continuing as to what caused the blaze, but it appears to be accidental.

The trial for three Shenandoah teens in connection with the death of a Mexican illegal last summer is expected to begin soon. The exact date has not been released by court officials. Brandon Piekarsky, Colin Walsh and Derrick Donchak are alleged to have taken part in the beating death of Luis Ramirez Zavalla at a Shenandoah playground in July, 2008. The Republican Herald reports that President Judge William Baldwin has set the start date for the trial, but is not releasing that date to the public. Piekarsky and Walsh are charged with criminal homicide and related counts. Donchak is charged with aggravated and simple assault and associated charges. A teenaged boy is being charged as a juvenile.

A Tamaqua man and two passengers were involved in a crash in East Brunswick Township Monday night. Frackville state police indicate that 20 year old Damian Shoff was northbound on Cold Run Road and failed to stop at a stop sign at the intersection with Schuylkill Road. He lost control of the vehicle and it struck a tree with the right side of the vehicle. Shoff and an unidentified passenger were life flighted to Lehigh Valley Hospital. A second passenger was flown to St Luke's Medical Center, Bethlehem for treatment. The extent of their injuries is not known. The crash happened around 6:20pm last night.

A Schuylkill County man was arrested after police say he drove his vehicle into Penn State's Chemistry Building, causing an estimated $20-thousand-dollars in damage. Police say Keith Kripp of McAdoo, allegedly fled after the crash, shortly after 1 Sunday morning. Police caught up to him and a blood alcohol test showed Kripp had a blood alcohol content of .241. Kripp was arraigned Sunday on charges of D-U-I, risking a catastrophe, criminal mischief, reckless driving and related charges. Kripp was released from the Centre County prison after posting 10 percent of $10,000 bail.

Federal judge blocks charges in Pa. 'sexting' case
SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) - A federal judge says he isn't ruling yet on the merits of a lawsuit filed against a prosecutor on behalf of three northeastern Pennsylvania teenagers. But for now, he's banning Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick Jr. from filing child porn charges against the girls for racy cell-phone pictures of themselves. U.S. District Judge James Munley issued a temporary restraining order Monday against Skumanick. The prosecutor has said he would pursue felony charges against the girls unless they agree to participate in a five-week after-school program. But the teens say they didn't consent to having the pictures distributed to classmates' phones. They also say the photos aren't pornographic but protected First Amendment speech. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit last week on the girls' behalf. Munley says he'll hear arguments on the ACLU lawsuit in June.

Md. mom pleads guilty in cult starvation death
BALTIMORE (AP) - A 22-year-old former member of a religious cult has pleaded guilty to starving her 1-year-old son to death after making an unusual deal with prosecutors in Baltimore: If Javon Thompson is resurrected, Ria Ramkissoon's plea will be withdrawn. The body was found more than a year after his death in the shed behind an elderly Philadelphia man's home. Defense lawyer Steven Silverman says Ramkissoon believes the resurrection will occur. He says he's not pursuing an insanity defense because his client will fare better under this deal. Ramkissoon also agreed to testify against four other members of the now-defunct religious group known as 1 Mind Ministries. All are harged with first-degree murder. Court papers say the cult members stopped feeding the boy when he refused to say "Amen" after a meal.

Judges' kickbacks prompt bills by Pa. legislator
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A Pennsylvania state senator is planning legislation to protect the rights of juveniles after two judges pleaded guilty to taking millions of dollars in kickbacks from
youth detention centers. A senior aide to Republican Sen. Lisa Baker of Luzerne County said Monday that one of ths bills being written would make it mandatory for juveniles to be represented by a lawyer in court. Currently, juveniles may waive that right. Baker's chief of staff Jennifer Wilson says the details of the bills are still being discussed with juvenile law advocacy groups, judges and others. Last week, the state Supreme Court overturned hundreds of juvenile convictions in Luzerne County. Justices say one of the judges violated the constitutional rights of youth offenders who appeared in his courtroom without lawyers.

Ex-Philly officer on trial in drug-dealer heists
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A lawyer for a now-fired Philadelphia police officer accused of using badge to rob a drug kingpin of $40,000 says he earned a good living and thus had no motive to rob. Malik Snell is also accused of driving the getaway car in a botched home invasion in Pottstown. Snell is is on trial in federal court for a second time after a jury deadlocked last fall on the home-invasion robbery charges. The indictment was later expanded after drug kingpin Ricardo McKendrick Jr. agreed to testify for the government. Defense lawyer Jack McMahon attacked McKendrick's credibility in closing arguments Monday, saying the government built its case on a posse of criminals. He acknowledged that Snell broke many police regulations, but says he didn't commit any crimes.

Philly news execs got bonuses before bankruptcy
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A lawyer for the company that publishes The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News says the company owes the city about $450,000 in property taxes.
Anne Aaronson says an official from Philadelphia Newspapers disclosed that Monday at a meeting of lawyers involved in the bankruptcy. Meanwhile, Philadelphia Newspapers Chairman Bruce Toll confirms that top executives received December bonuses, weeks before the company filed for bankruptcy. Toll says Chief Executive Brian Tierney and two others were doing a "very good job" and had not gotten raises since the 2006 purchase. A Philadephia Magazine blog cites Toll as saying Tierney received a $350,000 bonus and two others $150,000 each. Toll told The Assoicated Press he doesn't remember the amounts.

Eachus suggests Corbett consider resigning as AG
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania's House Democratic leader says Republican Tom Corbett should think twice about running for governor from the state attorney general's office.
Rep. Todd Eachus told a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon Monday that the presumptive GOP candidate for Virginia governor resigned as that state's attorney general because staying in the office would be unfair to taxpayers. Corbett is overseeing an ongoing investigation of alleged
legislative corruption that so far has resulted in criminal charges against 12 former members or former staff of the House Democratic caucus. Corbett was re-elected as attorney general last year. He has not declared his candidacy for the 2010 election, but has formed an exploratory committee. Eachus says he is not urging Corbett to step down, but only to consider what the Virginia candidate decided.

Pa. prosecutor: Baby died of alcohol poisoning
TUNKHANNOCK, Pa. (AP) - A prosecutor in northeastern Pennsylvania says he plans to pursue charges against the parents of a 6-month-old baby who died of alcohol poisoning.
Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick said Monday the baby's blood alcohol content was .205 - well over twice the legal limit for adult drivers. Skumanick says the level was so high that lab technicians tested it a second time, then sent a sample to another lab to confirm the results. A coroner's investigation recommended involuntary manslaughter charges against the parents. Skumanick says he's working with state police trying to determine how to charge the parents, who lived in an apartment near Tunkannock when the baby boy died in 2007.

Pa. man accused of killing wife in front of kids
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) - A northeastern Pennsylvania man accused of shooting his wife dead as their three children watched is in custody. Wilkes-Barre police say 34-year-old Donnell Buckner was cornered Monday evening on the roof of an old factory. He was placed in the bucket of a Fire Department ladder truck and lowered to the ground. Police say he shot Kewaii Rogers-Buckner on Sunday night in their Wilkes-Barre home. The children are in the custody of Luzerne County child-welfare authorities. Buckner was jailed Monday night.

National Weather Service confirms Pa. tornado
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - The National Weather Service confirms that Sunday's severe weather in south-central Pennsylvania was a tornado. A meteorologist at the weather service office in State College confirmed Monday that it was a tornado that hit Lancaster County. Randy Gockley, the county's emergency management coordinator, said Monday that he thought property damage would be at least $2 million to $3 million. Three people were taken to hospitals with minor injuries.

Philly row house fire kills 3 generations
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A fast-moving house fire has killed members of three generations of a Philadelphia family, including a young girl. Fire officials say 8-year-old Kaira Cooper, her mother Linda Cooper and grandmother Jacqueline Cooper died shortly after midnight Monday in the North Philadelphia fire. Officials say one of the women jumped from a second-story window but was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at a hospital with burns and a head injury. The bodies of Kaira Cooper and the other woman were found in an upstairs bedroom.
Executive Chief Daniel Williams says the Philadelphia Fire Department had installed smoke detectors in the home. The fire is still under investigation.

Penn St. student with meningitis improving
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - A Penn State University student diagnosed with bacterial meningitis is improving. A university spokeswoman says the 20-year-old male was upgraded
over the weekend from critical to serious condition at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.
The school said Monday there have been no other cases. At East Stroudsburg University, a male student there has also been hospitalized for meningitis. Health workers at each school are working to identify anyone else who may be at risk. Meningococcal meningitis is a contagious and potentially fatal infection of the central nervous system. It is typically not transmitted by routine contact but is spread by saliva or through close, prolonged contact with an infected

Philly archdiocese closing 2 Catholic schools
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is closing two more Catholic schools because of declining enrollment. Church officials announced Monday that Saint Benedict elementary school in Philadelphia and Saint Ann elementary school in Bristol will close at the end of the academic year in June. Only five students re-registered to attend Saint Ann next year after officials announced tuition would be $4,000 per parishioner and $5,000 per non-parishioner. This year's enrollment at Saint Benedict, in Philadelphia's East Germantown neighborhood, was 164. That number was projected to fall to 150 next year. The Office of Catholic Education will help teachers and students relocate to other Catholic schools.

Body pulled from river near PNC Park in Pittsburgh
PITTSBURGH (AP) - An autopsy is set on the body of a man pulled out of the Allegheny River near PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Police say a passerby spotted the body about 9 a.m. Monday and
alerted authorities. Police Cmdr. Thomas Stangrecki says there are no obvious signs of trauma on the body. Police say the man has been identified as 53-year-old George Moon. They say Moon was last seen in February. Police say his family reported Moon missing on March 28 when they were unable to contact him at his Pittsburgh home. Stangrecki says the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office will perform an autopsy.

Pa. teens charged in "ultimate fighting" bout
CORRY, Pa. (AP) - Police are charging two 16-year-old northwestern Pennsylvania boys in juvenile court for staging what they called an "Ultimate Fighting Championship" that left both
bloody. Corry police Chief Fred Corbett says police began investigating Friday when the mother of one boy told police she believed her son had been jumped and attacked. The other boy was treated for head injuries at a local hospital. Corbett says police determined the boys agreed to fight each other, mimicking the popular tournament-style fights made popular on television.
Corbett says Monday that both boys are being charged with simple assault in Erie County Juvenile Court. Corbett says simple assault charges are often filed in mutual combat situations.

WASHINGTON (AP) - London is the first stop on President Barack Obama's overseas trip that's beginning today. He'll be attending a summit of the world's economic powers and has scheduled sit-downs with the leaders of Britain, Russia and China -- all major players in the U.S. financial system.

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - The country's latest food safety scare involves pistachios. The government is warning people to stop eating all foods containing the nuts, while they figure out the source of possible salmonella contamination. A California-based processor is recalling a portion of pistachios it has been shipping since last fall.

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - Officials in Fargo, North Dakota, compare their plight to an action movie where the hero stares down one disaster after another. The level of the swollen Red River has been dropping -- but the city has been smacked by a blizzard that threatens to batter the levees holding back a flood.

BAGHDAD (AP) - A suicide truck bomber has plowed through a sandbag barrier at a police station in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The blast killed at least 7 people and wounded 17.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korea says it will put two detained American journalists on trial. The reporters for former Vice President Al Gore's San Francisco-based Current TV are accused of entering the North illegally and committing what the government calls "hostile acts."

Monday, March 30, 2009

Today's News- Monday, March 30, 2009


Sunday's weather may have been a sure sign of spring as heavy thunderstorms roared through Schuylkill County mid afternoon. While reports of damage were minor across the region, several customers of PPL Utilities were without power overnight. The same can't be said for people in Lancaster County, where a possible tornado may have destroyed five trailer homes in Clay Township. Three people suffered minor injuries. Officials from the National Weather Service will survey the area in Lancaster County to determine if in fact a tornado touched down there.


State police are investigating a break in at a Girardville bar overnight Saturday. Troopers report that someone took several bottles of booze from Dave Eye's Bar on Second Street. The break in was discovered yesterday. Frackville state police are handling the investigation.


A thief was busy outside a home in East Brunswick Township Saturday afternoon. Frackville state police report that 40 year olf Kemper Ritchie of New Ringgold took 8 to 10 50 gallon plastic drums from Jimmy Ritchie's home on Cold Run Road around 4pm. Theft charges will be filed against Kemper Ritchie.


An area education institution is expanding. McCann School of Business and Technology is planning to open a campus in the Lehigh Valley, according to school officials. Getting its start in Schuylkill County more than 100 years ago, the school has campuses in Pottsville, Scranton and Hazleton. They are also planning a campus in Carlisle as well. The Lehigh Valley campus, when completed, is expected to serve up to 500 students.

Philly DA candidate vows appeal of removal

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The campaign manager for a man running for Philadelphia district attorney says he will appeal the candidate's removal from the primary ballot. Democrat Seth Williams was kicked off the May 19 ballot Friday by a judge who ruled that he had failed to disclose all sources of his income as required by law. Campaign manager Dan Fee says the
appeal will be filed Monday and the campaign will continue. Williams, an attorney, ran for district attorney in 2005 and narrowly lost to incumbent Lynne Abraham, who is stepping down. Attorneys for rival Dan McCaffery say Williams failed to disclose more than $11,000 he received from his campaign committee, which Williams says was reimbursement for campaign expenses.

Pa. pesticide maker vows steps to protect lions

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The manufacturer of a pesticide blamed by conservationists for the poisoning deaths of lions and other animals in Kenya says it is taking "aggressive action" to prevent misuse of the product, halting sales to the country and trying to buy back existing supplies. Carbofuran, marketed as Furadan by Philadelphia-based FMC Corp., is used to control insects and other pests on crops such as corn, rice and sorghum. But conservationists say herdsmen in East Africa trying to protect their flocks have taken to using the pesticide to poison lions, hyenas and other predators. Milton Steele, vice president for agricultural products of
Philadelphia-based FMC Corp., told The Associated Press in an interview Sunday that the company has no proof that the product was involved. But he says FMC has suspended sales to Kenya, is trying to buy back remaining supplies and wants to work with conservationists to resolve the problem.

Man held for trial in fatal shooting of Pa. hunter

BEAVER, Pa. (AP) - A man has been ordered to stand trial in the death of a fellow hunter shot last year in western Pennsylvania as his 9-year-old son sat nearby. Twenty-one-year-old Daniel Logan was held for trial on separate counts of shooting at or causing injury to a human being and reckless endangerment in the death of 35-year-old Duane Smith, of Frankfort Springs. The charges were filed under the state's game law. A game commission officer says Logan acknowledged having fired at a deer in the direction of Smith and his son on Dec. 13 in
Hanover Township. But another hunter who has not been charged says he also fired at the deer, and officials say state police are testing the guns of both men.

Man charged as driver in Pa. van shooting

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A western Pennsylvania man has been charged in the shooting deaths of two men in a van in Pittsburgh last summer. Thirty-eight-year-old Victorio Hinton, of McKeesport, was arraigned Saturday night on two counts of criminal homicide and one count of criminal conspiracy in the killings of Christopher Brandyburg and William Walker, of Beaver Falls. Pittsburgh police say he was driving the van in which they were shot July 5. Forty-two-year-old Allan Moorefield, of Pittsburgh, was quickly arrested and charged with homicide. But authorities say Hinton denied that Moorefield was the shooter and named another man. Moorefield's trial was scheduled to begin Monday but has been postponed. Hinton remains in Allegheny County Jail without bond pending a preliminary hearing Friday. It was unclear whether he has an attorney.

Villanova set for 1st Final Four since '85

VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) - Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats are back on campus. celebrating their trip to the Final Four. Scottie Reynolds flashed the "V" sign with one hand to a booming crowd on Sunday and used his other arm to keep that lucky ball wrapped tight. Villanova's 24-year Final Four absence is over all because of Reynolds' clear-path, half-court race to the rim that gave the Wildcats a 78-76 victory over Pittsburgh in the East Regional final. The stunning layup with a half-second left led all the local news shows Saturday night and was being replayed all the next morning. It will surely have a permanent spot on the March Madness highlight reel.
Villanova's charter flight home from Boston was delayed about two hours, but once the Wildcats were back on campus, they were greeted by nearly 1,000 delirious fans at the Pavilion. Wright,
Reynolds, Dante Cunningham and other players addressed the crowd in a brief rally where they promised the tournament run wasn't over yet. Wright cautioned the excited crowd that the Wildcats have two more games to get. Villanova will face North Carolina in one national semfinal, while Connecticut takes on Michigan State.

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama plans make an announcement this morning crucial to two big automakers. The government has found that General Motors and Chrysler submitted inadequate restructuring plans required to get more bailout money. Each company gets a brief deadline to get it right.

DETROIT (AP) - General Motors Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner is stepping down immediately under White House pressure which includes a major management shakeup. Chrysler Chairman and CEO Robert Nardelli gets to stay as last ditch efforts are mounted to save the auto giants.

BANGKOK (AP) - There's been a nosedive on Asian stock markets today. Trouble at American automakers and other downbeat news has investors thinking recent optimism about economic recovery might be premature. Stock futures point to more losses today on Wall Street.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Cigarette users are about to see more of their money go up in smoke every time they buy a pack. The single largest federal tobacco tax increase ever takes effect Wednesday. It's to finance an extension of a kids' health insurance program.

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Tiger Woods is all the way back from knee surgery. Woods came from five shots behind in the final round to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational by one shot by sinking a 12-foot birdie put on the last hole. It's the first win of his comeback. The Masters is in two weeks.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Today's News-Saturday, March 28, 2009


Spring is a time for new plants to grow and life to begin anew. For third graders at Schuylkill Haven Elementary, the season provides a hands-on experience in witnessing how life starts. Classes have taken in eggs from a local farmer and nurtured them until they hatch. Teacher Laura Rhody explains the process:


Caring for the eggs provides important lessons that aren't found in any textbook:


The brood hatched this week, and were sent to an area farm on Friday. Schuylkill Haven third graders have been given this valuable experience for several decades.


The Arts are alive and well in Schuylkill County, and a $15-hundred dollar grant awarded this week gives the Block of Art program, scheduled for mid April in and around Pottsville, a shot in the arm. The Schuylkill County Visitors Bureau turned over the funds to Schuylkill VISION to bring art exhibits, poetry, live music and hands on projects to several county venues. Schuylkill VISION Executive Director Joanne Parulis explains the partnership between VISION and Block of Art:


Thaylo Kersey, proprietor of Many Worlds Gallery in Pottsville, says that Schuylkill County provides a great backdrop for the arts:


The Block of Art three day event runs from April 17 to 19th. For more information, log on to www-dot-allthingsgood-dot-biz.


A Schuylkill County lawmaker has joined a group that is working to build robust and green communities across the state. Hanson Quickel has more from the State Capitol with State Senator Dave Argall.



With state tax revenue on the decline as the result of the sour economy, Pennsylvania's education budget is coming under closer scrutiny this year-more than ever before. Howard Ondick has this report:



The accident 30 years ago today at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg changed how the government regulated nuclear facilities. CBS correspondent Erin Moriarity spoke with Jane Fonda, star of China Syndrome...the film which seemed to foreshadow the problem.


Pa. youth court corruption creates legal headache

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) - The Pennsylvania judge handling a judicial corruption case faces the daunting task of deciding how to restore the rights of children convicted of serious offenses.
Judge Arthur Grim began looking those cases Friday after the state Supreme Court overturned hundreds of minor juvenile convictions in Luzerne County. The overturned convictions stem from millions of dollars in kickbacks that a juvenile court judge took from youth detention
centers. Grim's review is raising a complicated set of legal issues. Chief among them is whether kids convicted of serious crimes should have their cases expunged. He also has to consider the impact of any changes on victims. Grim hopes to issue recommendations by June.

Fired Pa. turnpike boss can get $6,100 pension

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission chairman fired by Gov. Ed Rendell can receive a maximum annual state pension of about $6,100. The estimated figure is an Associated Press calculation based on information provided by the State Employees' Retirement System under a Right-to-Know Law request. The part-time job paid $28,500 annually and Mitchell Rubin served on the commission for nearly 11 years. Rendell ousted Rubin from the job on Monday citing "overwhelming" evidence that he accepted a no-work contract from a state senator for $150,000. The contract was described in the recent corruption trial of former state Sen. Vincent Fumo of Philadelphia. Rubin has not been charged with any wrongdoing, but Rendell says it is inappropriate for him to stay on the commission.

Toomey keynotes major Pa. conservative conclave

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania conservative leaders are gathered on the outskirts of Harrisburg for two days of talking politics and hearing from Republican hopefuls for U.S. Senate and governor. The Pennsylvania Leadership Conference opened Friday and wraps up Saturday.
Pat Toomey is Saturday's keynote speaker. The former congressman from Lehigh County gave Sen. Arlen Specter a tough primary challenge in 2004 and is likely to run again next year.
Conservative activist Peg Luksik of Johnstown has already declared her candidacy in that race and is moderating a panel discussion of family issues. Also slated to speak Saturday are state Attorney General Tom Corbett and former U.S. attorney Patrick Meehan. Both are expected
to compete for the GOP nomination for governor in 2010.

State police fatally shoot man in W.Pa.

FREDONIA, Pa. (AP) - State police say a western Pennsylvania man who fired a gun at state troopers has been shot and killed. State police Capt. Scott Neal says troopers accompanied a mental health caseworker to the home of 45-year-old Walker McGarvey Jr. in Delaware Township, Mercer County. Neal says the caseworker and troopers were talking to McGarvey's relatives outside the home Friday afternoon when McGarvey emerged with a gun in his belt. Neal says police used a Taser on McGarvey after he refused to drop the gun. Police say the Taser had no effect, possibly due to McGarvey's heavy clothing, and McGarvey fled. After running about 100 feet, McGarvey fired two shots at troopers, giving one a superficial
wound to the hand. Police then shot and killed McGarvey.

Police: Philly officer dealt drugs to informant

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Federal authorities have accused a Philadelphia Police officer of selling drugs including crack cocaine. Thirty-three-year-old Philadelphia Police officer Alhinde
Weems is facing conspiracy and weapons charges for allegedly selling narcotics to a police informant. Weems' arrest on Friday came after a three-month investigation. He is being held
without bail. Philadelphia Police Deputy Commissioner Richard Ross says the five-year veteran dishonored the badge with his actions. Authorities say Weems could face 25 years in prison if
convicted. He has been suspended from the force with intent to dismiss.

Opening statements given in Pa. baby-killing trial

ERIE, Pa. (AP) - A northwestern Pennsylvania prosecutor says a man showed "a pattern of abuse" that led to the fatal beating of his girlfriend's 3-month-old son. Erie County Assistant District Attorney Raquel Taylor told a jury Friday that 20-year-old Damere Talmadge inflicted a fatal brain injury to the baby, Tah-Meere Talmadge. Taylor says Talmadge did so while the two were alone in their Erie home on June 14. He died in a hospital two days later. Defense lawyer Jamie Mead told jurors the only evidence against Talmadge would come from relatives of the baby's mother, Ciearra Johnson. He says neighbors will testify that Talmadge was a good
person and took better care of the baby than Johnson did. The trial resumes Monday.

Regulators shut down bank in Georgia with office in Philadelphia

NEW YORK (AP) - A bank based in Atlanta that had a loan production office in Philadelphia has been shut down by regulators. Omni National Bank is the 21st federally insured bank to fail
this year. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was appointed receiver of the bank. It had $980 million in assets as of Dec. 31. The bank had branches in Atlanta and Dalton, Ga., as well as Chicago, Tampa, Fla., Houston and Dallas. In addition to its loan production office in Philadelphia, it had one in Birmingham, Ala. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency says losses depleted the bank of most of its capital and it would have been unable to recapitalize itself without government assistance.

NJ man admits to 7 bank robberies in 3 states

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) - A New Jersey man has admitted robbing seven banks in three states over a five-week period in the summer of 2008. Keith Cummings pleaded guilty to a seven-count criminal information during an appearance Friday in U.S. District Court in Camden. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, but the actual penalty is likely to be far less under federal sentencing guidelines. Sentencing is scheduled for July 8. The 34-year-old Pennsauken man admitted that he brandished a handgun - which turned out to be a pellet gun - when he robbed four banks in eastern Pennsylvania, two in southern New Jersey and one
in Illinois. The robberies occurred between July 31 and Sept. 5, and Cummings was arrested three days after the last robbery.

Pittsburgh Foundation gives $25K for mural move

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Pittsburgh Foundation is giving the Port Authority of Allegheny County $25,000 to help pay for the restoration and relocation a Pittsburgh subway station mural. The 60-foot-by-13-foot ceramic tile mural by Romare Bearden, "Pittsburgh Recollections," depicts working men and women and transportation. It was installed in 1984.
The mural is attached to a wall of a station that's being replaced as part of the authority's light rail extension project. Officials say it will cost $1.1 million to clean and move the mural to a new station. With the Pittsburgh Foundation money, about half that amount has been raised. The mural has been appraised at $15 million. Bearden, who died in 1988, was considered one of the 20th century's most innovative American artists.

Philly 'burbs grapple with billboard proposals

SPRINGFIELD, Pa. (AP) - In Philadelphia's suburbs, tree-lined streets and upscale homes lie in tony communities built along the old Main Line railroad. Elsewhere, cars travel on a stretch of road dubbed the "Golden Mile." The names speak of prosperity and security, but some residents are concerned about efforts to say other things along their roadways - on 14-foot-by-48-foot billboards. Billboard proposals have proliferated in recent years, forcing suburban officials to balance legal access and speech requirements with unhappy residents. The officials also are running up against a series of state court rulings that favor the industry. A businessman who wants to erect 18 billboards says properly developed outdoor signs can benefit business, government and residents without detracting from the quality of life. Many residents oppose the signs and are asking township officials to stop them.

'Dumbest criminal in Pennsylvania' arrested

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A retired police chief says he was robbed by "probably the dumbest criminal in Pennsylvania." It happened Friday morning at police officers' convention near Harrisburg, where 300 narcotics officers from Pennsylvania and Ohio were gathered.
John Comparetto says as he came out of a stall in the men's room, a man was pointing a gun in his face and demanding his money. Comparetto gave up his money and cell phone. But when the man fled, Comparetto and some colleagues chased him. They arrested 19-year-old Jerome Marquis Blanchett of Harrisburg as he was trying to leave in a taxi. When a reporter asked Blanchett for comment as he was led out of court, he said, "I'm smooth."

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Forecasters say they expect a storm system that brought a springtime blizzard to the Southern Plains to clear out of Oklahoma by day's end. The weather is blamed for at least two traffic deaths, one in Oklahoma and the other in Kansas.

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - A city official in Fargo, N.D. says: "Now it's time to stand and defend." Sandbagging operations have wound down against the rising Red River, which is expected to crest tomorrow. Forecasters predict a crest of up to 43 feet, the same level as the city's levees.

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is assuring the nation that he's keeping tabs on floods roiling the Midwest. Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address that he's putting the federal government's weight behind efforts to avert a disaster.

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama's onetime choice for commerce secretary is criticizing the White House budget plan. In the Republican radio and Internet address, New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg accuses Obama of excessive spending that will mushroom the
national debt.

EAGLE RIVER, Alaska (AP) - Alaska's Mount Redoubt is continuing its volcanic explosions. The mountain erupted twice Friday, sending ash clouds 40,000 and 51,000 feet into the air. The series of eruptions began last Sunday.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Today's News-Friday, March 27, 2009


Eight men vying for the Republican nomination for the 124th Legislative District seat discussed property taxes, education and jobs before a select committee of Berks and Schuylkill county party members Thursday night. When the vote was tallied, political veteran Jerry Knowles came away with the nod. The 60-year-old Tamaqua man, who has been in Harrisburg for the last 13 years as a member of Dave Argall's staff, accepted the nomination, He ackowledged that not all supported him but said he'd work for everyone:


Knowles will face Democratic challenger Bill Mackey of Andreas, who was endorsed by his party Wednesday night. The special election to replace Dave Argall will be held on primary day, May 19th.


Senator Dave Argall called for party unity behind Jerry Knowles in the race for the 124th Legislative District special election on May 19th. Argall, who held the seat serving Berks and Schuylkill counties for more than two decades, spoke after the vote of party conferees last night in Orwigsburg. He said that the Republican party is down seats in the state House, and called for everyone to work together:


Eight candidates were allowed 5 minutes to address the conferees, with time for questions and answers. Jerry Knowles, Barron "Boots" Hetherington and Roy Timpe Jr. made it through the first cut, with Knowles receiving the majority. The 17 conferees who voted for Knowles were selected from the entire 124th district. The seven week sprint now begins to the May special election to replace Dave Argall.


Shenandoah police are looking for three men who robbed a borough convenience store earlier this week. After 1am Tuesday, the men entered the Turkey Hill Minit Market on Main Street and demanded money from the store safe. The clerk, being unable to comply, $30 dollars was taken from the register by one of the men, brandishing a knife. The men are believed to be in their late teens, between 5 feet 8 and 6 feet tall. Two are described as white males, one believed to be of Hispanic origin. Contact Shenandoah police if you have any information that may aid in their investigation.


A New York man is jailed following an incident in Shenandoah this week. Police say that 24 year old Givaun Brown, Brooklyn, New York reportedly threatened Arthur Needham of South White Street with a knife and took his car. Brown was charged with making terroristic threats and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. He was arraigned and taken to the county lockup in lieu of $10 thousand dollars bail.

Hundreds of Pa. juvenile convictions reversed

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) - The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has overturned likely hundreds of juvenile convictions issued by a corrupt judge. The high court on Thursday voided the convictions of many youth offenders who appeared before former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella from 2003 to 2008. Federal prosecutors charged Ciavarella and another judge with
taking $2.6 million in payoffs to put juvenile offenders in private lockups. The judges pleaded guilty to fraud last month and face sentences of more than seven years in prison. The juveniles whose records were expunged were low-level offenders who appeared in Ciavarella's courtroom without lawyers.

Pittsburgh, Villanova to meet with Final Four berth at stake

UNDATED (AP) - Pennsylvania will be represented in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament.
Big East rivals Pittsburgh and Villanova have advanced to the East Regional championship on Saturday. The winner of that game heads to Detroit for the Final Four. Top-seeded Pittsburgh advanced with a 60-55 win over Xavier, while Villanova beat Duke for the first time in more than 50 years, 77-54. F

Ex-legislator says he's innocent of corruption

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The lawyer for a once-powerful former Pennsylvania state lawmaker says corruption charges against former House Democratic Whip Michael Veon are "clearly politically motivated." Defense lawyer Joel Sansone says it's no coincidence that Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett has only charged Democrats. Corbett has said he's investigating allegations of corruption by both Democrats and Republicans and he's filing charges when they're appropriate. Veon and an aide, Anna Marie Perretta-Rosepink, are accused of
siphoning millions of dollars in state grants from a nonprofit organization for personal benefit. Perretta-Rosepink says she's "100 percent innocent."

Global warming giving nuclear new claim to clean

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. (AP) - A Gallup Poll released in recent days shows 59 percent favor the use of nuclear power. That's the highest percentage since Gallup first asked the question in 1994.
If the U.S. nuclear industry is hitting a new high point, Saturday marks the anniversary of its low point. Thirty years ago, the partial meltdown of Three Mile Island's Unit 2 near Harrisburg
put the perils and shortcomings of nuclear power under the world's microscope. The industry says it has made major safety advances since then. Three decades later, fears of an atomic catastrophe have been largely supplanted by fears about global warming, easing nuclear energy into the same sentence as wind and solar power. Dogged by price spikes and an environmental assault on carbon dioxide emissions, fossil fuels are the new clean-energy pariah.

Pro- or anti-nuke? Depends how you ask

UNDATED (AP) - Americans' support for nuclear power skidded in polling after the Three Mile Island accident 30 years ago and slipped more after the Chernobyl disaster seven years later. In
more recent years, nuclear power has regained popularity, but the level of support depends greatly on survey question wording. A variety of national polls have found support for nuclear power climbing - as long as the survey question provided a rationale for building new reactors. For example, questions sometimes mention reducing U.S. dependence on foreign energy or helping to curb global warming. In contrast, ABC News-Washington Post polls since 2001 asked
simply "In general, would you favor or oppose building more nuclear power plants at this time?" That question finds majority opposition.

Suspect in Philladelphia officer's slaying held for trial

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A Philadelphia judge says a man accused of killing a police officer is a "domestic urban terrorist." Municipal Judge Patrick Dugan ordered 33-year-old Rasheed
Scruggs to stand trial for murder. Scruggs is accused of fatally shooting Officer John Pawlowski on Feb. 13. Two officers, including Pawlowski's partner, testified that they were responding to a report that Scruggs was robbing a cab driver when the defendant opened fire from a concealed weapon, killing Pawlowski. Scruggs was wounded in the ensuing shoot-out with police and
spent a week in the hospital. He appeared in court with a walker. Scruggs' lawyer says he offered to waive the preliminary hearing to spare the feelings of the slain officer's family. He says prosecutors declined his offer.

Chu, Solis bring 'green jobs' money to Pa.

OAKDALE, Pa. (AP) - Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis have announced $102.5 million in green jobs funding while visiting a community college near Pittsburgh. The cabinet secretaries are making the visit Thursday as the Obama administration touts $102.5 million for energy efficiency and conservation projects in Pennsylvania as part of $3.2 billion earmarked for such projects nationwide. Chu and Solis are visiting a training facility at the Community College of Allegheny County in Oakdale. Allegheny County is getting a little over $8 million, second only to Philadelphia which received $14.1 million, the most of any
city or county in the state. The Pennsylvania Office of Energy and Technology Deployment is getting more than $23.5 million.

65-mile stretch of Pa. turnpike to close for 5 hours

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A 65-mile stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike is to close for five hours starting late Saturday night so two bridges in Cumberland County can be demolished.
The closing affects the area between Breezewood and Carlisle. Eastbound traffic is to be diverted off the turnpike starting at 11 p.m. Saturday and westbound traffic at 11:30 p.m.
Drivers who are diverted off the turnpike are to be given cards with detour directions. By 4 a.m. Sunday, the turnpike should be open to one lane of traffic in each direction and traffic should be back to normal by 8 a.m. Sunday. The one-lane restriction is to give the contractor
time to do cleanup work after the blasting.

FBI slay suspect faces arraignment on new charges

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A Pittsburgh-area woman already accused of murdering an FBI agent who came to arrest her husband on drug charges says she's "absolutely not guilty" of new drug
trafficking and weapons charges. Forty-year-old Christina Korbe entered the plea when she was arraigned by a federal magistrate in Pittsburgh on Thursday afternoon. Korbe has been jailed since she shot and killed agent Samuel Hicks, who was the first of several officers to enter her Glenshaw home in a pre-dawn raid Nov. 19. Korbe's attorneys have portrayed her as a soccer mom who shot Hicks only because she feared he was an intruder endangering her children. Last week's superseding indictment accuses her of trafficking cocaine since 1990 and with illegally possessing drugs and a gun. Korbe's attorney, John Elash, has not returned a call for comment.

2 roadies from Spears tour arrested in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Pittsburgh police have arrested two road crew members who worked for a contractor on Britney Spears' concert tour, accusing them of assaulting police. Police say they saw 34-year-old Rockey Lee Dickey Jr., of Manhattan Beach, Calif., hitting another man on a city sidewalk while on patrol about 1 a.m. Thursday. Police say when officers stepped in, Dickey swung at one of them, knocking off his hat. They say 23-year-old Alex Montes, of Valencia, Calif., then put an officer in a headlock. Police say they had to subdue Dickey with a Taser.
Both men were being held in the Allegheny County Jail on charges of assault and public drunkenness charges. It was not immediately known if they had attorneys. Spears' Web site has a statement saying the men worked for a contractor, not directly for the concert tour. It says the tour doesn't "support or tolerate this type of behavior."

Police puzzled by Pa. youth football coach slaying

CLAIRTON, Pa. (AP) - Homicide detectives are stumped by the fatal shooting of a youth football coach near Pittsburgh who has no known ties to the drug trade and is known for his community work with children. Allegheny County police Lt. William Palmer says there's no clear motive for the shooting of 28-year-old Demonje Rosser, of Clairton. Police say Rosser was shot near his home in the suburb about 10 miles southeast of Pittsburgh about 12:30 a.m. Thursday. Police say his wife was home when he arrived and heard a single gunshot. He
died a short time later at Jefferson Memorial Hospital. Palmer says it appears Rosser was a "clean-cut" guy, well-known for his work with children. Rosser coached the Clairton Bears midget football team and used to coach a seventh-grade football team.

Fairchild Semiconductor to close Pa. factory

MOUNTAIN TOP, Pa. (AP) - A semiconductor company is closing its northeastern Pennsylvania factory, costing more than 200 people their jobs. San Jose, Calif.-based Fairchild Semiconductor says it's closing the factory in Mountain Top, Luzerne County. But Fairchild says it will maintain a small office in the area for technology and product line functions. Fairchild also plans to close a factory in Bucheon, South Korea. The company says the factories should be closed by June 2010.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to furlough 167

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette told 167 managers and non-union workers that they must take a week of unpaid leave over the next three months. The newspaper reports Thursday that employees were told about the furloughs Wednesday. The furloughs are to be taken in April, May or June. The newspaper said further furloughs may also be ordered later
in the year. The Post-Gazette joins many other newspapers across the state and country that have furloughed employees this year to cut costs. This week, The Express-Times in Easton and Harrisburg Patriot-News also announced they would be furloughing some employees.

Pa. city: 2 banks robbed 500 yards, 3 hrs apart

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. (AP) - Police have arrested a man suspected of robbing two suburban Pittsburgh banks about 500 yards apart in a little more than three hours. Police in New Kensington say a man with a handgun robbed the Citizens Bank branch in a Giant Eagle supermarket about 10 a.m. Thursday. A Parkvale Bank in a shopping plaza next door was robbed about three hours later. Police say they arrested a suspect after a short foot chase in
nearby Arnold. No other details were immediately available. The banks are located on Tarentum Bridge Road, a major roadway in the city along the Allegheny River.

Mass AG reaches final Big Dig accident settlement

BOSTON (AP) - The Massachusetts attorney general has settled with a Pennsylvania-based Big Dig contractor over the 2006 collapse of a tunnel ceiling, concluding all litigation in an accident that killed a Boston woman. Attorney General Martha Coakley said in a statement Thursday
that designer Gannett Fleming has agreed to pay $1.5 million into a Central Artery maintenance trust fund. The The Camp Hill, Pa.-based company, which designed the ceiling, will also pay $50,000 to the city of Boston and forgo $150,000 in payments from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. Coakley has also reached a settlement agreement with Sika Corp.
It made the epoxy glue used in the ceiling that collapsed. Sika, in turn, sold the product to Powers Fasteners Inc., which has already settled. Sika has agreed to pay $200,000 into the trust fund, which is being used for upkeep on the $15 billion tunnel complex.

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - Doubts are rising along with the Red River in North Dakota. People in Fargo are increasingly wondering if they can hold off the waterway, which is expected to crest at up to 43 feet. Officials are stepping up sandbagging operations and vowing to build the dikes higher and higher to try to prevent flooding.

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is expected to announce his strategy for the war in Afghanistan. Officials say the president plans to send thousands of more military and civilian trainers on top of the 17,000 combat troops he's already ordered. The strategy includes no timeline for withdrawing troops.

BEIJING (AP) - Chinese health officials say that hand, foot and mouth disease has sickened 41,000 people across the country and killed 18 children so far this year. The outbreak appears more widespread than in recent years, although a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization says that could be partly due to more awareness.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The octuplet mom's new home is quickly filling up. Two more of the world's longest surviving octuplets went home Thursday night. That means Nadya Suleman is caring for a total of 12 children at her four-bedroom home in Southern California. Two babies remain in the hospital.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The murder case against music producer Phil Spector is in the hands of a California jury again. The case was turned over to the jurors after the prosecution concluded its
rebuttal to defense closing arguments. Spector is being retried in the shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson six years ago.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Breaking News

Seventeen Republican conferees from Berks and Schuylkill Counties selected Jerry Knowles of Tamaqua as their republican candidate for the 124th State Representative special election. Tune into T-102 and AM-1360 WPPA tomorrow morning for the complete story.

Today's News-Thursday, March 26, 2009

One half of the special election slate in the 124th Legislative District is set, as told by Schuylkill County Democratic Chair Ed Kleha:


In a secret ballot, 65 year old Bill Mackey of Andreas was given the nod to face the Republican challenger May 19th to take the seat once held by Dave Argall. Mackey, who ran unsuccessfully against Argall twice for the House, and Steve Schickram, made their case for selection before members of the Democratic Executive committee Wednesday night. A reported third candidate did not appear for the meeting. Republicans from Berks and Schuylkill county meet tonight to make their selection from a half dozen candidates.


More county residents are unemployed than at any time in recent memory. PA Career Link offers an event today that will HELP those who need it most. The Help is Here Program at Fairlane Village Mall has the information for those who've been laid off or lost their jobs due to the economic slowdown. Cheryl Powis, Career Link specialist explains:


The program is free, and available resources will help unemployed workers deal with the life change and possibly get workers back on their feet quickly. The event begins at 10am, and runs until 3pm. For information, call Career Link at 622-5253.


Two people were flown to trauma centers after a wild four-car mishap Wednesday morning in West Brunswick Township. State Police say the accident happened on Route 61 between Molino and Deer Lake. 45-year old Patricia Konnick of Orwigsburg was stopped to make a turn when she was hit from behind by 52-year old Michael Malewski, also of Orwigsburg. Konnick's car was forced into the oncoming lane where it was hit by a pick-up driven by 40-year old Bryan Denion of Pottsville. After impact Denion's truck went onto a guardrail and became airborne flipping in mid-air and landing on its roof down an embankment. 34-year old Thomas Foerster of Pottsville swerved to avoid Konnick's car as it sat in the southbound lane and his pick-up went onto Old Route 61 Road where it slammed into a tree. Konnick was flown to Reading Medical Center and Denion was flown to Lehigh Valley Medical Center, both had moderate injuries. Malewski had minor injuries and was taken to Schuylkill Medical Center South. Foerster wasn't hurt.


One half of the slate for the 124th Legislative District special election has been made, following a meeting of county Democrats last night. Democratic committee chair Ed Kleha explains the process of choosing their candidate:


Mackey has run twice against Dave Argall. Now that Argall has moved to the state Senate, Mackey will face a Republican challenger, who will be selected this evening by a select committee of Schuylkill and Berks Republicans.


MOUNT CARMEL - Firefighters were able to avoid a gas explosion when a garage went up in flames Wednesday night in Mount Carmel. The fire broke out just before seven p.m. at 228 South Chestnut Street garage owned by Mike Moleski. Crews were concerned as to the fire spreading to a propane tank and an acetylene tank inside the garage. The heat and flames destroyed the garage, a 1994 Jeep Cherokee, part of a swimming pool and part of the deck of a neighboring swimming pool. No word on a cause or a dollar amount on those damages.

Suspect in Philly officer's slaying due in court

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A preliminary hearing is scheduled Thursday for a man charged with killing a Philadelphia police officer. Rasheed Scrugs is charged with fatally shooting 25-year-old
Officer John Pawlowski in February. Police say Scruggs was trying to rob a cab driver when Pawlowski arrived on the scene. They say Scrugs fired several shots from a gun inside his jacket at the officer. Scrugs was also injured in the shootout and spent about a week in the hospital before being released to prison. His lengthy rap sheet includes arrests for armed robbery and auto theft. His lawyer did not immediately return a message Wednesday. Pawlowski was the seventh Philadelphia police officer killed in the line of duty in less than three years.

Pa. Supreme Court gives victory to ousted judge

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A former judge in northeastern Pennsylvania has gotten a victory from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The court ruled Wednesday that the panel that stripped former Luzerne County Judge Ann Lokuta of her judicial duties should re-examine the case.
The state Court of Judicial Discipline found in December that Lokuta failed to perform her judicial duties, terrorized courthouse workers and had employees run personal errands. She has maintained she was the target of a vendetta by other judges, who have since pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges. The Supreme Court says in light of the corruption, the lower court should re-examine the allegations against Lokuta. And the court says an election for Lokuta's seat must not be held until the matter is settled.

Former W.Pa. lawmaker Veon faces corruption charge

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A former western Pennsylvania lawmaker is facing corruption charges for allegedly funneling taxpayer money through a nonprofit for personal benefit. State Attorney General Tom Corbett says a grand jury determined the Beaver Initiative for Growth was established primarily for former state Rep. Mike Veon's personal and political purposes. Veon
lost his seat in 2006. Corbett says only 23 percent of the $4.7 million the nonprofit spent over a two-year period went to program expenses. Veon faces theft, conspiracy and conflict of interest charges. Former Veon staffer Anna Marie Peretta-Rosepink is also charged. Veon and Peretta-Rosepink already face charges in a separate corruption investigation. Call to their attorneys were not immediately returned Wednesday.

Top Pa. senator says grant programs broke down

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania's top state senator says a breakdown in the state's grant programs evidently allowed the alleged misuse of money by a lawmaker. Sen. Joe Scarnati, who also is the lieutenant governor, spoke Wednesday after new criminal charges were announced against former state House Democratic Whip Michael Veon. Prosecutors say Veon misused some of the millions of dollars in state grants he directed to a nonprofit group he started. Separately, a federal jury in Philadelphia convicted former Sen. Vincent Fumo last week in a similar case. Fumo misused money from a nonprofit group he founded and had partly funded with state grants. Scarnati says a state agency should ensure each grant recipient
is qualified and every dollar is spent for a valid purpose.

Shogan drops nomination bid for Pa. Supreme Court

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - One of four judges vying for the Republican nomination for an opening on Pennsylvania's Supreme Court is out of the race. Jackie Shogan, a Superior Court judge from the Pittsburgh area, cited personal reasons that include not wanting to compete in a
heated primary fight. Shogan's withdrawal leaves three other candidates for the GOP nomination in the May 19 primary. They are Superior Court Judge Joan Orie Melvin, Superior Court Judge Cheryl Allen and Philadelphia Judge Paul Panepinto. Orie Melvin is the party-endorsed candidate.

Pa. auditor general to probe state building sale

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner says his Office of Special Investigations will examine the planned sale of the State Office Building in Pittsburgh.
The Department of General Services says the state will save $14 million by selling the building and moving about 800 employees to leased office space. But Wagner said Wednesday he thinks the price is too low. He says the 1.3 acres in downtown Pittsburgh on which the building sits would be worth more than the $4.6 million sale price announced Tuesday even if it were vacant.
Wagner says the state has agreed to buy Pittsburgh's Municipal Courts Building for $9 million. Wagner says that building is one-fifth the size and is in a less desirable location.

Teens sue Pa. prosecutor over racy cellphone pics

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) - Three northeastern Pennsylvania teenagers are suing a prosecutor who has threatened to file child pornography charges against them over racy cellphone pictures.
Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick Jr. says he'll pursue felony charges against the girls unless they agree to participate in a five-week after-school program. But the plaintiffs say they didn't consent to having the pictures distributed to classmates' phones. They also claim the photos aren't pornographic but protected First Amendment speech. One picture shows two of the girls in their bras. The second picture shows another girl just out of the shower with a towel wrapped around her waist and her top exposed. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday on the girls' behalf. The suit seeks to block the
prosecutor from filing charges.

Utah dad in jail after Pennsylvania arrest

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Police say a father arrested in Pennsylvania seven months after disappearing with his two children has been extradited to Utah to face criminal charges.
Wayne Frederick Brown is charged in 3rd District Court with two third-degree felony counts of custodial interference. Salt Lake County prosecutors contend Brown should have returned the children to their mother, whom Brown was divorcing. Brown was arrested last month after he and the children, ages 2 and 4, were spotted walking a rural Pennsylvania road. The Salt Lake County sheriff's office says deputies picked up Brown in Lancaster, Pa. on Sunday. Brown has been booked into the Salt Lake County jail. A hearing is scheduled for April 7.

Most charges dropped in Pittsburgh 'intervention'

PITTSBURGH (AP) - An elderly Ohio couple and another man who were accused of kidnapping the woman's older sister from her dilapidated Pittsburgh home will get probation after prosecutors dropped the most serious charges. Allegheny County prosecutors dropped kidnapping, assault and false imprisonment against 73-year-old Laura Stewart, her boyfriend, 76-year-old Earl Cross of Shaker Heights, Ohio, and another friend, 48-year-old Darnell Randall, of Pittsburgh, on Wednesday. They remain charged with unlawful restraint. Authorities say they forcibly took 86-year-old Evelyn Poynter, from her apartment in December. Stewart and Cross then drove her to Ohio. The three will enter a probationary program for first-time offenders. If they complete it, their records may be expunged.

US judge hears plea to stop extradition to Canada

SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) - A federal judge says a northeastern Pennsylvania woman fighting extradition to Canada must put up $100,000 bail by Friday to remain free. Mary Beth Harshbarger maintains she thought she was shooting a bear when she fired the shot that killed her husband, Mark, during a 2006 hunting trip. Canadian officials say it was too dark to safely fire a weapon. They have charged the 43-year-old Meshoppen woman with criminal negligence causing death for the shooting near Buchans Junction, Newfoundland. Harshbarger asked U.S. District Judge Thomas Vanaskie on Wednesday for an emergency order stopping the extradition. Vanaskie said Harshbarger must pay the bail or surrender to federal marshals
by 2 p.m. Friday to make sure she doesn't flee while he's considering her request.

2 arrested in Philly suburbs as predator suspects

BENSALEM, Pa. (AP) - Authorities have arrested a Drexel University student and a New Jersey dentist in a continuing crackdown of suspected online predators in suburban Philadelphia. Bensalem Township police say their Special Victims Unit monitored explicit sexual conversations the two men were having with what they thought was a 14-year-old girl. The online teen was actually an undercover officer. Police say they arrested the dentist when he showed up Tuesday night for a rendezvous at a shopping center in Bensalem Township. The student was arrested on Feb. 16. The men are identified as 24-year-old Arun Kurikote-Antony, an Indian national in the United States on a student visa, and John Lackner, a 44-year-old dentist from Cherry Hill with a practice in Vineland, N.J.

US appeals court grants review in Pa. wife slay

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A federal appeals court has ordered a new evidence hearing for a western Pennsylvania man convicted of killing his estranged wife. The ruling Wednesday says Kevin Siehl may be able to prove his lawyers did not sufficiently challenge blood and fingerprint evidence found at the scene. Siehl was convicted of killing his 29-year-old wife Christine in
Johnstown in 1991. He maintains his innocence. Meanwhile, the national Innocence Project is fighting the state for DNA testing of blood found on a washcloth, knife and cigarette butt.
Innocence Project lawyer Craig Cooley says he is pleased the federal courts are granting a review of the defense mounted at trial. Siehl is now in his early 50s.
Pa. man surrenders in bath water scalding of twins

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A man wanted for allegedly scalding his fiancee's twin boys in hot bath water has surrendered to authorities in Philadelphia. Police say 22-year-old Jason Carter turned himself in Tuesday and was being held for arraignment on charges including aggravated
assault, endangering the welfare of a minor, and recklessly endangering another person.
Investigators say Carter was caring for the twins at their home March 18 when police received a 911 call reporting that the boys had been injured. Police say the youngsters had second- and third-degree burns to their lower bodies. The boys are being treated at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children. Their names have not been released. Police say the reason for the scalding is unclear.

Man dies from Philadelphia house fire

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A 77-year-old man has died and his wife was taken to a hospital for observation following a fire in their home in Philadelphia's East Falls neighborhood. The fire broke out late Wednesday morning in the basement and was quickly brought under control.
The names of the man and his 59-year-old wife were not immediately released. Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers says investigators are working to determine the cause.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner heads back to Capitol Hill today to outline plans for overhauling the entire financial regulatory structure. The new legislation
would allow government takeover on non-bank financial companies.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Commerce Department today is expected to downgrade last quarter's gross domestic product even more. It's expected to be revised to a 6.5 percent drop instead of 6.2 percent. Economists say that glimmers of hope in other sectors are not a signal of an end to the recession.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - Space shuttle Discovery astronauts will use a laser-tipped inspection boom today to give the wings a last once-over. The safety inspection is standard procedure that was put in place after the 2003 Columbia disaster. Landing is
scheduled Saturday.

KABUL (AP) - Nine police officers have been killed by insurgents in southern Afghanistan. The Interior Ministry says the officers were attacked in Helmand province today. Lightly armed police bear the brunt of militant attacks across the country.

WASHINGTON (AP) - An Army task force says it's making progress inspecting U.S.-run facilities in Iraq for electrical hazards. A spate of electric shocks in showers, including three deaths, prompted the move. About 65,000 facilities out of 90,000 still need to be inspected.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Today's News- Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Firefighters from Berks and surrounding counties battled a smoky fire in Hamburg Tuesday afternoon. The blaze destroyed several garages and damaged the Windsor Press building at the corner of Third and State Street. The alarm was called in before 1pm, and assistance provided quickly by crews from Schuylkill and Lehigh counties. Windsor Press owner George Mitten tells us what happened:


He credited firefighters for knocking down the blaze quickly:


Power was cut by Met Ed in parts of downtown Hamburg while crews fought the fire. An investigation into the cause continues.


In a continuing sign of the economic times, an area employer is shutting its doors. Craftex Mills in Auburn, a fabrics manufacturer, is closing, leaving about 80 people without jobs. The company was acquired by the Canadian company Victor Group. Craftex has been in business since 1903. According to reports, the company at one time employed more than 200 people.


A well trained, well informed workforce is key to economic success. That was the message at the first annual Schuylkill County Career Fair at Martz Hall Tuesday, sponsored by the Northeast Pennsylvania Manufacturers and Employers Association. All told, around 800 high school students from 10 area schools attended the 5 hour forum. Sara Hodon, MAEA Director of Workforce Development explains why they hosted the event, and what businesses participated.


Nearly 40 different vendors, from industry and education, took part in the Career Fair.


The first Democratic candidate for the 124th Legislative District seat has come forward. Bill Mackey, Andreas, a familiar foe of former seat holder Dave Argall is seeking a spot on the May special election ballot to replace Argall, who won the 29th District Senate seat held by Jim Rhoades of Mahanoy City. Rhoades died last year, but was posthumously re-elected in November. County Democrats will meet tonight to decide on their candidate. On the Republican side, two more candidates have announced interest in seeking the nomination. 35 year old Larry Padora Jr. of New Ringgold, and Matthew Haak of Lenhartsville have joined a widening field, which will be decided by a select group of Republican conferees from Berks and Schuylkill counties Thursday night.


A Lebanon woman, upset that she couldn't get a drink refill at a Pine Grove area fast food restaurant, took her frustrations out on the store manager. Schuylkill Haven state police report that 47 year old Mary Ann Gruber came through the McDonald's drive through last night, and wanted a drink refill. When she was told that no refills were allowed for drive thru customers, she refilled her cup anyway. When the restaurant manager told her it wasn't allowed, she threw the cup at the manager. She was charged with harrassment.


A wide variety of choices for education and career opportunities exist here in Schuylkill County. That fact was clearly evident Tuesday at Martz Hall in Pottsville, site of the first annual Career Fair for high school students. The event was sponsored by the Northeast Pennsylvania Manufacturers and Employers Council. As MAEA President Darlene Robbins said, there is much to offer to keep the future workforce here in Schuylkill County:


More than 700 students from 10 area schools visited with business, education and military vendors.

We're all looking for more efficient ways to get around. One way is to use the sun....That cutting edge technology, made by college and high school students, was on display at yesterday's Career Fair at Martz Hall. Gary McCready, Program Manager of the Energy Industry Partnership, explains:


Pa. Sen. Specter to oppose card check
WASHINGTON (AP) - In a setback for organized labor, Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter says he will oppose a bill that makes it easier for workers to form unions. Specter was the only Republican to support the Employee Free Choice Act two years ago. Unions were hoping he might be the crucial 60th vote needed to overcome an expected GOP filibuster of the measure when it's taken up this summer. Specter said his vote to end debate on the bill two years ago was not support for the merits, but instead for Congress to take up the issue of labor law reform.

Pa. House GOP wants new gas drilling on state land

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Republicans in Pennsylvania's House of Representatives are proposing a plan to expand natural gas drilling on 390,000 additional acres of state forest land. The Republicans proposed the plan Tuesday as an alternative to Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell's plan to impose a severance tax on natural gas production. Drilling is a major issue in Pennsylvania since exploration companies are eager to tap the natural gas trapped in the Marcellus Shale rock formation. Republicans say the leasing under their plan would take place over the next three years and provide $260 million per year. Rendell expects his 5 percent tax on gas production to provide $236 million to the state budget in its first full year. The state raised $190 million last year by leasing 74,000 acres of state forest to drilling companies.

Gas well company says Pa. township targeting it
AVELLA, Pa. (AP) - A natural gas drilling company says in a federal lawsuit that a southwestern Pennsylvania township is unfairly targeting it with ordinances and permit fees. Range Resources-Appalachia LLC, of Canonsburg, says three ordinances passed last year illegally limit its rights to develop gas leases in Blaine Township, about 25 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. The company wants an injunction and damages. The township hasn't responded to the federal lawsuit filed Tuesday. The gas company says a $300 fee on temporary structures, and another ordinance requiring extensive background information on subcontractors who may spend just hours working on a well are excessive. The company also says an ordinance that declares corporations don't have individual rights under the law is illegal.

W.Pa. boy held for trial in death of dad's fiancee
NEW CASTLE, Pa. (AP) - Lawyers for an 11-year-old western Pennsylvania boy accused of killing his father's pregnant fiancee say they plan to file a motion to have him tried in juvenile court. Jordan Brown is charged as an adult in Lawrence County. A district judge ruled Tuesday that he stand trial. His lawyers say they need to get more forensic evidence before they can file their motion to have his case transfered to juvenile court. District Attorney John Bongivengo says the case belongs in adult court.

Police probe latest Coatesville arson suspect
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Investigators are trying to determine if a firefighter charged with two arsons in a fire-plagued eastern Pennsylvania town could be responsible for other blazes. Thirty-seven-year-old Robert Tracey Jr. was charged Monday with lighting two small trash fires in Coatesville last week. Authorities say he was a firefighter in the town of 11,000, which has had nearly two dozen arsons so far this year. Investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives say they are still searching for a possible motive. Special agent Tom Stankiewicz says the agency is looking for any possible links between Tracy and other unsolved fires. Tracey's wife says her husband told her he didn't set the fires in Coatesville. Police have made about a half dozen arrests in connection with the fires.

Pa. factory mentioned in Obama news conference
PITTSBURGH (AP) - The president of a company that reopened a western Pennsylvania window factory last week to make energy-efficient windows says he's "surprised, shocked and honored." That's the reaction that Serious Materials CEO Kevin Surace had after President Barack Obama mentioned his Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company in his news conference Tuesday night. The company is the new operator of the former Kensington Windows plant in Vandergrift, about 24 miles east-northeast of Pittsburgh. Surace met Obama on Monday but says he didn't expect the president to mention the meeting in his prime-time news conference. Obama's stimulus package includes money to improve the nation's energy efficiency.

Developer to buy state building in Pittsburgh
PITTSBURGH (AP) - A developer will buy the 16-story State Office Building in Pittsburgh and convert it into a hotel or apartments. River Vue Associates LP, of Canonsburg, was the only bidder to meet the state's $4.5 million minimum for the building. River Vue, which is affiliated with Millcraft Industries, bid $4.6 million. General Services officials say the state will save $14 million by selling the building and moving about 800 employees to leased office space. Some of those workers might move to Piatt Place, the office and condominium complex that Millcraft is redeveloping at the former Lazarus department store site downtown. Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner has argued the state should wait to sell the building until the economy and real estate market improve.

Pa. ex-policeman jailed for using job to get sex
DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (AP) - A former police officer in suburban Philadelphia has been sentenced to three to 23 months in the Bucks County Prison for intimidating a woman into sex acts. Bristol Borough Officer Samuel Anderson responded to a 911 call on Aug. 29 from a woman involved in a domestic dispute. A prosecutor says Anderson defused the situation, but then coerced the woman into engaging in a sex act. The prosecutor says the woman felt too intimidated to say no to Anderson, who was in full uniform and had his service weapon with him.
Anderson pleaded guilty to official oppression and was sentenced Monday. Defense lawyer Richard Fink says the judge said he would have issued a harsher sentence if not for letters and testimony about Anderson's positive work.

Pew study assesses failed Pa. turnpike lease plan
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - An independent study of the unsuccessful plan to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a private company says officials could have done a better job selling it to lawmakers. The Pew Center on the States sought to draw lessons from the Pennsylvania project for other states considering similar public-private transportation projects. Authors of the study say financial assumptions about the project were overly optimistic and that the Rendell administration lacked a clear plan for spending the new revenue. They also said the debate focused too much on short-term issues and not enough on the long term. A partnership between a Spanish company and a unit of Citigroup made the highest bid - $12.8 billion for a 75-year lease, but the plan died last year for lack of legislative support.

TSA: Mule drivers need security clearances
EASTON, Pa. (AP) - Score one for the bureaucracy: Mule drivers at an eastern Pennsylvania historical park need the same federal security clearance as port workers. The Homeland Security Department has refused to grant an exemption to workers who operate a mule-pulled boat at the National Canal Museum in Easton. The decision means the small museum will have to pay $420 for four Transportation Worker Identification Credentials. A federal anti-terror law typically requires the clearance for workers who need unescorted access to secure areas of ports and ships. Republican Congressman Charles Dent says he's disappointed. He sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Tuesday asking her to reconsider. He calls it a case of "a bureaucracy not paying attention to common sense." The museum says it might increase the ticket price for a canal ride.

Philadelphia police officer injured in crash
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A police officer is recovering from injuries she got in a car crash in downtown Philadelphia. The 48-year-old officer was trapped in her police car for about 10 minutes following Tuesday night's two-vehicle crash and had to be cut out of the car. She was taken to a hospital with a leg injury and listed in stable condition later Tuesday night. Police Chief Charles Ramsey says it's possible she has a broken pelvis. No other injuries were immediately reported.

Pa. county to appeal ruling on sex offenders
PITTSBURGH (AP) - A federal court ruling that struck down restrictions on where registered sex offenders may live in the Pittsburgh area is being appealed. Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato said Tuesday that the county will appeal U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster's ruling, which was issued Friday. The judge says the ordinance conflicts with state laws meant to help rehabilitate sex offenders. The ordinance aims to ban sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of schools, licensed child care facilities, community centers and public parks. The American Civil Liberties Union says that would mean offenders would have virtually no place to live in the county. The county councilman who introduced the bill says it's on solid legal ground.

$5,000 reward offered for Pa. murder fugitive
CLAIRTON, Pa. (AP) - A $5,000 reward is being offered for a suburban Pittsburgh man who disappeared after he was charged with fatally shooting a woman and wounding her husband during a drug-fueled robbery attempt a year ago. Allegheny County authorities say 43-year-old James Garland Watts, of Clairton, hasn't been seen since he fatally shot 40-year-old Shawnta Lee, and wounded her husband, 53-year-old David Lee on March 24, 2008. The county says David Lee is offering $4,000 for information leading to Watts' arrest on top of a $1,000 reward by Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers. The case was featured on Fox TV's "America's Most Wanted" last year. Police say Watts shot the couple while trying to rob them of money to fuel a cocaine binge. Watts was a longtime acquaintance of the couple.

Harrisburg, Easton newspapers to furlough workers
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Full-time employees of The Patriot-News in Harrisburg will be required to take 10 unpaid days off over the next five months to help cut costs. Editor and Publisher John Kirkpatrick said Tuesday the Harrisburg paper is also changing its retirement benefits. In Easton, full-time employees at The Express-Times also were directed take 10 days off without pay in 2009. Both papers are owned by the Newhouse family's Advance Publications, which publishes daily newspapers in nearly two dozen cities. Advance announced Monday it was ordering 10-day furloughs and a pension freeze at nearly all its dailies.

Sold! Bargain-hunters buying groceries at auction
DALLAS, Pa. (AP) - When Kirk Williams held his first grocery auction in rural Pennsylvania last month, nearly 300 people showed up. Astonished by the turnout, he's scheduling auctions at locations throughout northeastern Pennsylvania. Williams operates Col. Kirk's Auction Gallery near Bloomsburg. He says in this economy, sales of baseball cards, estate jewelry and other auction staples have "fallen off a cliff." As consumers seek relief from the recession and spiraling food prices, grocery auctions are gaining in popularity as an easy way to cut costs. The sales operate like regular auctions, but with bidders vying for dry goods and frozen foods instead of antiques and collectibles. Some auctioneers even accept food stamps.

Cape Air begins service between Lancaster, BWI
LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) - Cape Air has begun service from Lancaster to Baltimore-Washington International Airport. The inaugural flight departed Lancaster Airport just after 6 a.m. Tuesday. The takeoff marked the return of commercial flights from Lancaster after an 18-month hiatus. Cape Air is operating nine-passenger Cessna 402 twin-engine planes and offering five round trips daily, seven days a week. Roundtrip tickets are $100. Lancaster Airport Authority' finance and marketing director Joyce Opp says Cape Air has sold more than 360 tickets so far for flights from Lancaster during the next 60 days. One first-day flyer, Gabrielle Rogers, of LItitz, was making a connection to Florida. She said it saved her from having to drive so far.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fire damages Hamburg business, garages

Fire damaged a Hamburg business and destroyed several garages this afternoon. Crews from Berks and Schuylkill counties were called to Third Street, near the intersection with State Street before 1pm. According to eyewitnesses, the fire began in garages near the Windsor Press, and spread to adjoining buildings.

Here is video from today's fire:

Today's News- Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Another Republican candidate has thrown his hat into the 124th District race to replace Dave Argall. Jerry Knowles, a former Schuylkill County Commissioner and Tamaqua borough councilman, is seeking the nod from his party to run in May's special election to replace Argall, who won the 29th District Senate seat earlier this month. It was once held by Jim Rhoades, who passed away last year. Seventeen Republican conferees from Berks and Schuylkill County will meet Thursday to choose their candidate. Knowles joins Barron "Boots" Hetherington of Ringtown, Patrick Daly of Perry Township and Roy Timpe of Maidencreek Township, all who are seeking the nomination.


With less than two months until the May primary, county Democrats are preparing for another special election. According to Schuylkill County Democratic chairman Ed Kleha, an executive board meeting is scheduled to be held Wednesday evening to nominate a candidate. The special election is to replace former state Representative of the 124th District, Dave Argall. Argall won the 29th state Senate seat held by Jim Rhoades, who was re-elected posthumously in November. Rhoades died in October from injuries suffered in a head-on crash in Monroe County. Once a candidate is selected, it will then go the state executive committee for final endorsement. Speaker of the House Keith McCall announced the special election to be held on May 19th, which is also primary day.


A Pottsville man is jailed following a weekend incident in the city. Pottsville police now say that Devon Benhart and his wife Farrah Ann were arguing about disciplining their son Saturday night. According to reports, Devon Benhart threw an aquarium across the room toward his wife. It smashed against the wall. He then pushed her against the wall, causing minor injuries to the woman. Devon Benhart was charged with simple assault and harrassment, and was jailed in the Schuylkill County Prison after he couldn't post bail.

A Tuscarora man and woman are charged with theft. Michael Machay and Janelle Hartz are being charged after they took power tools and an air conditioner from the Walnut Street home of Kevin Machay Tuesday morning. State police at Frackville handled the investigation.


Firefighter charged in latest Pa. arsons
COATESVILLE, Pa. (AP) - A firefighter whose mother was displaced in a December arson about 35 miles west of Philadelphia is now charged in two small trash fires set Friday night. He is 37-year-old Robert Tracey Jr., who was arraigned Monday and taken to Chester County Prison in lieu of $2 million bail. There weren't any reports of injuries or significant damage in Friday's fires, which were set a few blocks from each other in Coatesville. Tracey is the sixth person to be arrested in connection with arson in Coatesville and nearby areas since February 2008. Dozens of deliberately set fires have plagued the area in that time, including some that displaced people from their homes and one that killed someone.


Pa. governor announces 5 stimulus projects

BENSALEM, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell says five projects funded by the federal economic stimulus will increase energy efficiency while creating 155 jobs. Rendell says the companies doing these projects are adding more than $19 million of their own to the $3.7 million in stimulus grants. Five projects were approved Monday by the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority, all involving energy efficiency. Rendell announced the projects while visiting a Bucks County window factory that expects to grow because of incentives in the stimulus. The projects include Bridge Business Center LP in Bucks County, Cumberland County roofing manufacturer Carlisle Syn Tech and the Sysco Food Services warehouse in Philadelphia. The others are the Williamsport Hospital and Medical Center and Campus Square Partners
in Dauphin County.


Hidden City Philadelphia fest brings new to old
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A new summer arts festival wants to return the spotlight on some of Philadelphia's faded and overlooked landmarks. The Hidden City Philadelphia festival will turn them into stages for contemporary performance and visual art. Nearly four years in the making, festival will take place in nine locations from May 30 to June 28. Local and national artists will present music, dance, video, sculpture and mixed media shows created specifically for the participating sites, reflecting the venue's history or architecture. The monthlong festival is being staged in historic buildings - some in use, some long shuttered.

Carnegie Mellon president says school doing OK
PITTSBURGH (AP) - The president of Carnegie Mellon University says the Pittsburgh school is in solid shape despite losing $49 million worth of endowment funds in an alleged fraud. University President Jared Cohon spoke Monday to a group of mostly university employees. He says Carnegie Mellon will "take every legal means" it can to recover the money caught up in the
Westridge Capital Management scandal. The university is already suing Westridge. About 6 percent of CMU's operating budget comes from its endowment. He says there will be cutbacks due to the economy, but the unversity will work to keep layoffs to a minimum. Without providing a number, he said some layoffs have already happened.


Rendell removing Pa. turnpike chairman
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Gov. Ed Rendell is removing Chairman Mitchell Rubin from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. The Associated Press has learned Rendell informed Rubin of the action Monday in a letter released by the governor's office. Rendell said in the letter that Rubin has received a target letter from federal prosecutors stemming from activity that was
described in the recent federal corruption trial of former state Sen. Vincent Fumo of Philadelphia. The governor said the indictment against Fumo says Rubin and his company received $150,000 from the state for work that apparently was never done. A jury in Philadelphia convicted Fumo of all 137 corruption counts against him. Rubin's wife, longtime Fumo aide Ruth Arnao, was convicted at the same trial of all 45 counts against her.


Allegheny Tech. CEO's pay falls by half in 2008
NEW YORK (AP) - The chairman, president and chief executive of Pittsburgh-based titanium producer Allegheny Technologies Inc. received compensation valued at $11.5 million in 2008. L. Patrick Hassey's pay is down 54 percent from the $25.2 million he was awarded a year earlier, according to an Associated Press analysis of a Securities and Exchange Commission. Hassey received a 2008 base salary of $907,917, compared with a 2007 base salary of $880,042.
Hassey didn't receive a bonus in 2008. In 2007, he was awarded a bonus of $323,886. His performance-based cash bonus fell to $5.5 million in 2008 from nearly $18 million in 2007.
Hassey also received perks valued at $722,645 in 2008, up from $567,172 in 2007.


Activist sues ethics panel over secrecy rules
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Citizen activist Gene Stilp is suing the State Ethics Commission over some of its rules. Stilp filed his suit in U.S. District Court on Friday, naming commission director John Contino and state Attorney General Tom Corbett as defendants. Earlier this year, Stilp paid a $500 fine to settle an ethics commission complaint that alleged he violated commission rules by telling reporters in November that he was about to file a complaint against certain public officials. In his lawsuit, the Harrisburg resident says that rule violates the First Amendment protection of free speech. He is seeking a court order barring enforcement of that and certain other commission rules.


Philly archdiocese removes priest from duty
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A priest in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been removed from duty after a church panel found evidence he sexually abused a minor more than 30 years ago.
The Archdiocesan Review Board found credible the abuse allegation against the Rev. Gerard J. Hoffman, who was a principal or faculty member at four Philadelphia-area schools over a 26-year period. The board had been investigating Hoffman on a sex abuse allegation since July 2008. That case could not be substantiated, but the board found evidence to support a separate, unrelated allegation they received during their investigation. Archdiocese officials say Hoffman has agreed to a supervised life of prayer at a suburban Philadelphia home for retired priests.


Allstate agents in court over contractor status
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A federal appeals court is being asked to revive a lawsuit over Allstate Insurance's decision to switch about 6,400 agents from employees to independent contractors.
In arguments Monday, a three-judge panel questioned the lower court's brief order that dismissed what the panel called a complex and important case. A group of agents argue that Allstate illegally switched them from employees to independent contractors in 2000. They claim age discrimination and other violations. Meanwhile, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accuses Allstate of retaliating against a small group of agents who would not sign releases required to continue as contractors. Allstate's lawyer argued that the conversion was a legal plan designed to save money.


Philadelphia law firm disbands, citing economy
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A major Philadelphia law firm founded in 1903 is disbanding, citing the economic crisis. WolfBlock LLP has more than 300 lawyers. The firm announced Monday that the partners have voted to shut down, but not immediately. They plan to keep operating for several months so the transition will be orderly for clients and employees. WolfBlock says its core practice is real estate law and the recession has hurt that greatly. The credit crisis is another factor it the decision to close. In addition to its Philadelphia headquarters, WolfBlock has offices in Boston; Cherry Hill, N.J.; Harrisburg, Pa.; New York; Norristown, Pa.; Roseland, N.J., and Wilmington, Del.


Pa. security guard shot by shoplifting suspect
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Police have identified the suspect sought in the shooting of a security guard at a Philadelphia supermarket. Police are looking for 29-year-old Jermaine Goodman, also known as Zahid Abdul Maheek. He has addresses in West Chester, Malvern and West Philadelphia. Police say he shot a security guard at a Pathmark supermarket on Sunday afternoon after being confronted about shoplifting. The guard was shot once in the forehead and once in the shoulder. He was initially hospitalized in critical condition but was listed as stable by Monday evening.


Bodies of 2 missing snowmobilers found in Maine
GREENVILLE, Maine (AP) - Wardens have recovered the bodies of a Pennsylvania couple who disappeared four days ago while snowmobiling in the Moosehead Lake area. The Maine Warden Service said the bodies of 41-year-old Clifford Achenbach and his 42-year-old wife, Denise Achenbach, of Pen Argyl, Pa., were spotted by helicopter Monday frozen in the ice on the
lake's East Outlet. Lt. Pat Dorian said the couple apparently hit open water after dark Thursday night while riding their snowmobiles on the lake. The Achenbachs failed to return that night to their hotel in Moosehead Junction Township, near Greenville. The couple checked into the Moose Mountain Inn on March 16 and planned to check out Saturday. Dorian said a missing persons report was received Monday, triggering an air and ground search by 15 wardens.


Lawyer says chemical-weapon law misapplied to case
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A defense lawyer for a woman convicted of trying to harm a romantic rival says his client was wrongly prosecuted under a chemical-weapon law aimed at terrorists, not housewives. Lawyer Robert Goldman argued his appeal Monday of the six-year sentence being served by Carol Anne Bond of Lansdale. The former Rohm & Haas laboratory technician admits she left deadly chemicals on the victim's front door handle and in her car's tail pipe. The victim - her husband's one-time mistress - was not injured. Goldman told the federal appeals court that the statute is flawed and was also misapplied to Bond's case. U.S. prosecutors say the crime is appropriately a federal concern. The judges did not indicate when they will rule.


Stay n' save: Philadelphia hotel offering $1 rooms
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A hotel in downtown Philadelphia is trying to stimulate business by offering hotel rooms for just a dollar. The Alexander Inn is offering five rooms at the special rate
four nights a week through mid-June during its "Guest Stimulus Program." Hotel managers say the rooms range from $119 to $169 daily but can be booked for just $1 if reserved no more than a month in advance. General manager John Cochie hopes the promotion will lead to new guests who will in turn become repeat customers. He says guaranteed reservations have more than doubled since the promotion began earlier this month. Cochie says it's a good deal for the city, too. Visitors will have extra dough to spend in restaurants, shops and theaters.

HONG KONG (AP) - The rally on Asian stock markets is extending another day following Wall Street's big Monday. The Dow gained nearly 500 points on two pieces of news: the Obama administration's plan for ridding banks of bad debts and an unexpected rise in existing home sales. Tokyo is posting the biggest gains so far today, with the Nikkei up more than 3 percent.

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is holding a prime-time news conference tonight. He's expected to use it to try to cool anger over insurance giant AIG's bonus payments and put the focus back on his efforts to right the financial sector and revive the economy.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are making a rare joint appearance before a House committee today about the bailout of insurance giant AIG and the bonuses it handed out to some employees. Bernanke and Geithner are likely to again call for legislation that would allow the government to safely
dismantle a big financial institution like AIG to minimize any damage to the nation's financial system.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The investigation into the deadly crash of a single-engine plane in Montana Sunday is focusing on the possibility that ice may have been a factor. Weather forecasters say the plane flew through a layer of air where conditions were right for icing. Fourteen people died in the crash, including seven children all under the age of 10.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - David Letterman says he's a married man. He and his longtime girlfriend Regina Lasko married last week in Montana. They began dating in 1986 and have a five-year-old son, Harry.