Thursday, March 26, 2009

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.


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