Friday, December 25, 2009

Today's News-Christmas Day 2009

Pa. high court backs ruling on mercury pollution

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania's highest court is upholding a decision to throw out a state rule that required coal-fired power plants to cut mercury emissions beyond federal standards. The state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini was correct when he called the rule unlawful, invalid and unenforceable. The 2007 rule was challenged by Allentown-based PPL Corp., which owns two coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania. The administration of Gov. Ed Rendell fought industry resistance for approval of the rule, which made Pennsylvania the first major coal-mining state to attack mercury.
However, a federal judge last year required mercury to be restored to a list of hazardous pollutants that Pennsylvania state law prohibits it from regulating.


Top Pa. prosecutor probes federal health care deal

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett is looking into the constitutionality of a provision in a federal health care reform bill that lightens Nebraska's funding burden. Spokesman Kevin Harley said Thursday that Corbett and seven other Republican state attorneys general are discussing the matter. The provision in question would require the federal government to pick up Nebraska's full tab for an expansion of Medicaid, a health care program for the poor and disabled. Corbett says all other states, including Pennsylvania, are required to pay those expenses, and it would be unfair for them to foot the cost of Nebraska's Medicaid recipients. The bill passed the U.S. Senate on Thursday morning.
Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson secured the special provision. He voted in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.


Auditor: Pa. Capitol eatery uninspected since 2005

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania's rodent-infested Capitol cafeteria was not inspected for four years, despite a law requiring annual checks for health and sanitation. Auditor General Jack Wagner said Thursday that he received assurances in 2005 that the Agriculture Department would inspect it. He says his auditors later received false assurances that the department was inspecting it regularly. Agriculture Department press secretary Justin Fleming says the agency is looking into whether it gave false assurances or not. An inspection last week found evidence of a severe rodent infestation, which is considered an imminent health risk.
The ground-floor cafeteria is now closed and is not expected to reopen until January. It is a popular coffee and lunch spot for statehouse visitors and employees.


CO poisoning reported at YMCA in northeastern Pa.

CARBONDALE, Pa. (AP) — Nine people at a northeastern Pennsylvania YMCA have been taken to hospitals with possible carbon monoxide poisoning. Emergency workers responded to the YMCA in Carbondale around 10 a.m. Thursday after people there started reporting feeling nauseous and lightheaded. Lackawanna County's emergency management director, Robert Flanagan, says nine people were then taken to area hospitals. Their conditions have not been released, but Flanagan says the injuries are not believed to be serious. He says the fire department, the gas company and contractors are trying to determine the source of the fumes.
Carbondale is about 115 miles north of Philadelphia.


Woman takes purse with $5,000 from Pa. Wal-Mart

DICKSON CITY, Pa. (AP) — Police in northeastern Pennsylvania say a woman walked off with a purse that contained about $5,000 in cash on Christmas Eve. Police released an image from surveillance video Thursday in hopes of identifying the woman who took the purse from a bench inside a Wal-Mart store in Dickson City. In addition to cash, police say the purse contained various credit cards, passports and birth certificates. Dickson City is just outside Scranton, a little more than 100 miles north-northwest of Philadelphia.


Police: Pa. bar robber desperate for Xmas cash

MIDLAND, Pa. (AP) — Police say a man desperate for cash to buy his children Christmas gifts has been jailed on charges of robbing a western Pennsylvania tavern. Online court records don't list an attorney for 37-year-old Darryl Foster, of Midland, who remained in the Beaver County Jail Thursday. Midland police say Foster wore a mask, a hooded sweat shirt and gloves when he grabbed money from a register and demanded a bag of money from a safe at the Riviera Lounge about 1:20 a.m. Wednesday. Police found Foster by following footprints in the snow. Police say the suspect told them he was "going crazy, and had no money for his children for Christmas because he could not find a job." Foster allegedly stole $985, at least some of which police recovered.


Feds say W.Pa. father of twin victim is fugitive

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Federal marshals say a suburban Pittsburgh man has fled to Vietnam to avoid trial on charges that his 9-year-old son accidentally shot and killed his twin brother.
Authorities have charged 67-year-old Michael Lanese, of Upper St. Clair, with flight to avoid prosecution. Investigators say Lanese flew to Vietnam in September and plans to marry there to avoid prosecution in Allegheny County. Lanese didn't show up for his Oct. 13 trial on involuntary manslaughter and other charges for allegedly not securing his weapons. One of the boys fatally shot the other at home on Oct. 18, 2008 while Lanese was reading a book. The United States doesn't have an extradition treaty with Vietnam, but Lanese could be extradited if he's found in a country that does have a treaty.


Dismissal upheld of long-missing Pa. woman's suit

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by a western Pennsylvania woman who ran away as a teenager and lived with a school security guard for a decade. In a ruling Wednesday, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal judge's ruling that the statute of limitations for Tanya Kach to sue expired two years after she turned 18 in 1999. Kach was 14 when she ran away to live with Thomas Hose, then 37, in McKeesport. Kach resurfaced in 2006 and says he kept her against her will. Hose is serving five to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to sexual assault and other charges. In April, Kach reached a confidential settlement with Hose's former security company.


Police set up memorial fund for slain Pa. officer

PENN HILLS, Pa. (AP) — A suburban Pittsburgh police department has set up a Fallen Heroes Fund to raise money for a monument and financial aid for some local high school graduates.
Thirty-two-year-old Penn Hills officer Michael Crawshaw was shot and killed responding to reports of an armed robbery and murder at a home Dec. 6. Thirty-two-year-old Ronald Robinson, of Pittsburgh, has been ordered to stand trial on charges he killed the officer and a man at the home. Donations will be used to build a monument to Crawshaw. But his family also wants to fund financial aid for Penn Hills High School graduates who plan to major in psychology or social work in college. Crawshaw had a degree in social work and a minor in psychology.


Pa. student suspended for wearing Santa suit

WALLINGFORD, Pa. (AP) — A suburban Philadelphia teenager has been suspended for wearing a Santa Claus suit to school. Michael Hance says he told his principal that he planned to wear the suit to Strath Haven High School and hand out candy canes. The 18-year-old senior says the principal told him that wasn't a good idea because it would be a distraction. But he wore the suit anyway, with regular clothes underneath in case he was asked to take it off. He got nabbed a few minutes after he walked into his first class on Tuesday. The district says in a statement Hance was suspended for the day for "defiance of authority." Hance says the school could have just given him a detention.

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican says it will review its security procedures. This, after a woman who'd been involved in a 2008 security breach jumped a barrier in St. Peter's Basilica during Christmas Eve Mass last night and knocked down the pope. He wasn't hurt, and continued with the Mass.

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Hours after he was knocked down at the start of Mass at St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Benedict has delivered his traditional Christmas Day blessing. He looked tired and unsteady, but otherwise fine. The Vatican says the pope's busy Christmas schedule remains unchanged.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Forecasters are warning of blizzard conditions into this evening in parts of the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. Highways in the East are expected to be covered with ice. And the South is supposed to see some gusty thunderstorms.

KABUL (AP) — A NATO spokesman calls it a "horrible act" that "exploits" a young American soldier. The Taliban have released a video showing the only known U.S. serviceman in captivity in Afghanistan -- Bowe Bergdahl of Idaho. In the video, he denounces the U.S. conduct of the war there and U.S. relations with Muslims. Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban more than five months ago.

WYTHEVILLE, Va. (AP) — More details are emerging about the man accused of holding three people hostage for eight hours in a Virginia post office this week. The St. Petersburg Times says Warren Taylor was released in 1998 from a Florida prison after serving four years for shooting his ex-wife. He was also convicted of lewd and lasciviious behavior with a child.


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