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.


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