Monday, July 12, 2010

Today's News-Monday, July 12, 2010

A Schuylkill Haven man is dead following a crash on the Gordon Nagle Trail early this morning. State police at Schuylkill Haven say 30 year old Jeffrey Metza was eastbound on Route 901 near Northeast Prestressed concrete plant when he apparently fell asleep and his Chrysler Sebring went off the road. Metza, startled awake, tried to correct the vehicle and his vehicle began to spin. The car traveled across a grassy field, hitting a tree stump and a signpost. Police say Metza was not wearing his seatbelt, and was pronounced dead at the scene by Schuylkill County Deputy Coroner Katherine Schuck. The crash happened around 3am.

Fire damaged the poolhouse at the St. Clair community pool last night. The Republican Herald reports that the blaze apparently started in a video game machine around 9:45pm. While the fire was quickly contained, pool officials say the water will have to be drained from the the pool, causing it to be closed down for several days. Reports say several men leaving the St Clair Fish and Game spotted the smoke, alerting firefighters.

Transportation needs: Maybe forgotten but not gone
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Among the many big-ticket issues competing for the Legislature's attention in a financially challenging election year, Pennsylvania's transportation funding crunch seems destined for the back of the bus. Lawmakers won't reconvene until mid-September, leaving only weeks before they break for the final stretch of the election campaigns. And the prospect of any legislative activity after the Nov. 2 elections is cloudy at best. Leaders of both parties have promised in advance to spend much of that time revisiting a pair of politically thorny subjects left dangling from this year's budget negotiations. They are a new tax on natural gas drilling and the creation of an independent fiscal agency in the Legislature. These days, long-term funding for maintenance of Pennsylvania's transportation system is a tattered patchwork quilt. Federal regulators scuttled a plan to institute tolls in Interstate 80 that would have provided half of a projected $1 billion a year for transportation maintenance. Earlier this year,
an advisory panel said the commonwealth must increase spending by $3.5 billion a year to adequately maintain highways, bridges and transit systems. Gov. Ed Rendell's proposals to tax the profits of major oil companies or lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike went nowhere. He is pressing the Legislature to return to Harrisburg this month to deal with the problem.

Bombs strike World Cup watchers in Uganda, American among 64 killed
KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) - Several members of a Pennsylvania church group were among those wounded in twin bombings in Uganda that ripped through crowds watching the World Cup final. At least three of the church group members were wounded in the attack, including a teen from Selinsgrove. The bombings killed 64 people in all, including an American. Two blasts bearing the hallmarks of international terrorists ripped through crowds at a rugby club and a restaurant in Kampala. The deadliest attack occurred at the rugby club as people watched the game between Spain and the Netherlands on a large-screen TV outdoors. The second blast took place at an Ethiopian restaurant. Kampala's police chief said he believed Somalia's most feared militant group, al-Shabab, could be responsible for the attack. Al-Shabab is known to have links with al-Qaida, and it counts militant veterans from the Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan conflicts among its ranks.

AP: Pa. lawmakers tapped grants while deficit grew
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Even as the state government staggered under a multibillion-dollar budget shortfall, Pennsylvania lawmakers continued to tap a hush-hush pool of grant money for their pet projects back home. All told, an Associated Press analysis shows legislators have requested about $210 million since July 2008. That's according to documents released by the governor's office under a Right-to-Know request. The sum works out to $830,000 for each of 253 legislative districts. The grants are nicknamed WAMs, for "walking-around money," and are spent on everything from playground equipment to police cruisers. A top aide says Gov. Ed Rendell is keeping his commitment to approve the grants. One top lawmaker points out that grant programs were dramatically reduced in the budget approved last October.

Tug boat crew being interviewed in federal probe of Philadelphia duck boat crash that killed 2
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Federal investigators have been spending the weekend interviewing crew members of the tugboat towing a barge that struck an amphibious tourist boat, plunging three dozen people into a Philadelphia river in which two of them drowned. Keith Holloway, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, says the 10-member team wants to know what the five crew members saw and heard during Wednesday's crash. Officials say one
thing they want to know is whether the crew heard distress calls that the duck boat crew says were made. Holloway said Sunday that investigators are also looking over the duck boat, which was pulled from the river Friday along with the bodies of two Hungarian students, for impact marks and signs of mechanical failure. A memorial was held Saturday for the two victims. Thirty-three other passengers and two crew members were rescued.

1 dead, 2 injured in western Pa. shooting
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Police in western Pennsylvania are investigating a shooting that left one person dead and two others injured. Police say the shooting happened at about 3:20 a.m. Sunday in the East Hills neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The Allegheny County medical examiner's office says 24-year-old Arika Hainesworth was taken to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, where she was pronounced dead shortly after 4 a.m. Two other people were taken to the same hospital for treatment. Officials have not released their names or the extent of their injuries, and they say no arrests have been made.

Flooding hits historic eastern Pa. buildings
BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) - Officials in eastern Pennsylvania are trying to determine the extent of flooding damage to four structures in the historic area of Bethlehem. Flooding along the Monocacy Creek following rains early Saturday damaged four structures in the Colonial Industrial Quarter. Historic Bethlehem Partnership president Charlene Donchez Mowers says tree branches also slammed against the buildings and a couple of windows were broken. Officials worry that the damage might be worse than during Hurricane Ivan six years ago. They say about four or five feet of water seeped into the 1761 Tannery and 1762 Waterworks, a national historic landmark. Water also seeped into the 1869 Luckenbach Mill, which houses the partnership offices. A few months ago, repairs were completed to the waterwheel system at the Waterworks building, but Mowers says part of the system was under water Saturday.

Pa. panel: Nix school-zone minimum drug sentences
YORK, Pa. (AP) - A state panel is recommending that lawmakers repeal the mandatory minimum sentences imposed for drug offenses in school zones, letting judges determine the sentence based on existing guidelines. The Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing says mandatory sentences are used inconsistently across the state. And officials say since the zone extends 1,000 feet from the edge of school property, it includes people living blocks away. York County District Attorney Tom Kearney said his office decides whether to invoke mandatory sentences on a case-by-case basis, but it's a tool that he wants to keep in his arsenal. And Stewart Weinberg, superintendent of the Dallastown Area School District, said drug-free school zones help to keep drugs off of school property. But defense attorney Christopher Ferro says the law disproportionately affects defendants in urban areas because of the number of school buildings.

Philly nightlife district shut down due to crowds
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Police in Philadelphia shut down 11 blocks of a popular nightlife district after thousands of young people threatened to overwhelm the area. Spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore said the crowds apparently swelled Saturday night following the Greek Picnic, an annual event that draws members of black college fraternities and sororities to the city. He says local teenagers unaffiliated with the gathering often flock to South Street afterward. After the street was shut down between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. Sunday with the help of mounted officers, part of the crowd estimated at up to 20,000 people headed toward Broad Street, prompting reports of disturbances there. Vanore says the problems were relatively minor, resulting in 15 arrests for summary offenses such as disorderly conduct and underage drinking.

1-vehicle crash in western Pa. kills 2 men
ROCKWOOD, Pa. (AP) - Authorities in western Pennsylvania say a vehicle went out of control on a curve and crashed, killing both occupants. State police in Somerset County say the crash happened at about 11:43 p.m. Saturday on Route 281 in Upper Turkeyfoot Township. The vehicle hit an embankment and went airborne for about 111 feet, striking two trees before landing upside down. Police say the 23-year-old driver and his 21-year-old passenger, both men from Garrett, were thrown from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene. Their names were not immediately released.

Eastern Pa. racers ride belt sanders for charity
BIRDSBORO, Pa. (AP) - Around an eastern Pennsylvania parking lot, motors sputter into life and racers zip around the track. About 300 people crowd the sidelines as one competitor pulls away at the last moment to win and then powers down the victorious vehicle - a belt sander. Yes, it's the annual charity belt sander race by Bertie's Inn in Exeter Township, now in its 20th year. Inn owner Peter Thomas says other people race belt sanders "but we're the only ones who ride them." Thomas said the idea took root when he and his wife, Anne, were looking for a charity event to benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Society. A carpenter who was a customer said he sometimes rode belt sanders when he was bored. Over the years, the quirky race has become hugely popular and raised more than $250,000 to fight multiple sclerosis.

LONDON (AP) - BP says it's still too early to estimate a final cost but Gulf oil spill costs now stand at $3.5 billion. The company also says it will be several days before it knows if a new
cap with a tighter seal will allow the capture of all the crude spewing from the gusher.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House hopes the Senate can move quickly on a top legislative priority -- the financial overhaul as Congress gets back to work today. Democrats may have won over several lawmakers who had problems with the measure, including a handful of Republicans.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - The sinking of a South Korean warship will be the topic of discussion tomorrow between North Korean and U.N. military officials. A statement says colonels from the U.N. Command and North Korea will meet to prepare for general-level talks on the March 26 sinking of the warship that killed 46 South Korean sailors. North Korea denies sinking the ship.

NEW YORK (AP) - The tough economic times have taken a predictable toll on credit scores. FICO Inc., which keeps tabs on such things, says more than 25 percent of consumers now have poor scores. The company says historically, that level is just 15 percent. Less access to credit could be slowing the economic recovery.

WASHINGTON (AP) - It's the holy grail of weight loss medicine -- significant results delivered safely. The first of a trio of new weight loss drugs gets officially unveiled this week. With U.S.
obesity rates nearing 35 percent of the adult population, expectations are high for the first new prescription drug therapies to emerge in more than a decade. One will be reviewed by the FDA
Monday while the others are in October and December.


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