Today's News - Thursday, February 27, 2014

A fire in Jennerstown. The Oakton Hotel caught fire aruond 3 a.m. this morning. More details have not yet been released.

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Lemmel Myers of Johnstown was already charged in the July shooting death of Leslie Schetrompf at a West End apartment. Now “The Tribune-Democrat” says he now faces more charges. More than eight grams of heroin, drug paraphernalia and a firearm were found at the apartment building in the 100 block of Fairfield Avenue. Police learned that Myers was acting on behalf of the building’s owner as the superintendent and had keys and access to all of the apartments. A preliminary hearing on the drug charge is scheduled Tuesday.

 

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For the second time this year, the head of a hospital in Somerset County is being replaced. Windber Medical Center CEO Barbara Cliff will step down from her post Friday the hospital announced Wednesday. Thomas Kurtz, the president and CEO of Windber Research Institute, will serve as interim president and chief executive officer at the hospital. Earlier this month, Ronald M. Park Jr. abruptly resigned as the head of Somerset Hospital after only 13 months.

 

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Ebensburg attorney Tim Burns is still recovering from a concussion after being clubbed by handcuffed death-row inmate Andre Staton during a Blair County courthouse hearing in May. Yesterday, a senior visiting judge from Centre County refused to throw out the civil lawsuit burns filed against Blair County, the commissioners, the sheriff, three deputies who were in the courtroom at the time and several others. The defendants have 20 days to respond to his complaint. The judge dismissed Blair County Judge Daniel Milliron and District Attorney Richard Consiglio from the lawsuit.

 

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In Cambria County court today, sentencing is scheduled for Carrolltown bar owner Gerald Lowmaster who pleaded guilty to laundering money from his son’s multimillion-dollar drug ring. Gerald faces up to 20 years behind bars. George Lowmaster is due at sentencing in May. Earlier this week, his mother, Dolly, was sentenced to five years probation including one year on house arrest. Dozens of other members of the operation were also arrested.

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Governor Tom Corbett is trailing in the polls against several of his democratic challengers.  A Quinnipaic University poll released yesterday shows voters would currently support York businessman Tom Wolf over Corbett 52 to 33 percent. The poll also shows five other Democrats tracking ahead of Corbett. The poll surveyed 1,400 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 2.6 percent.

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There is a new powerful pain-killer on the market called zohydro, which is a time-release form of the narcotic hydrocodone. Yesterday, more than 40 consumer groups, health care agencies and drug and alcohol prevention programs called on the FDA to rescind its approval of the capsule  which they say could easily be snorted or injected and possibly more deadly than heroin and other opoids. Attorneys general from 28 states, including Pennsylvania, have been in touch with the FDA.

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Attorney General Kathleen Kane is asking people to report drastic increases in their electricity bills.  She said yesterday that her office has received hundreds of calls over the past few weeks from people who have switched to variable-rate pricing. Kane says her office will study the complaints to determine if consumers were improperly overcharged and will take action if necessary. Consumer complaint forms are available at attorneygeneral.gov.

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The LGBT Center of Central Pennsylvania is applauding Highmark Blue Shield for offering a family plan to same-sex couples.  The move was announced yesterday and a spokesperson for the company said the new benefits packages have been submitted to the Pennsylvania Insurance Department.  Officials hope to have the plans available this spring.

 

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A controversial bill that would have allowed Arizona's businesses to refuse service to gay patrons and others based on religious belief will not become law.  In an announcement yesterday evening, Governor Jan Brewer said she vetoed the bill because she believed it would cause more problems than it purports to solve.  

 

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President Obama is introducing a plan to lower the extremely high unemployment rate in the African-American and Hispanic communities.  Today Obama will outline an initiative he's calling "My Brother's Keeper."  The announcement at the White House is expected to include a gathering of young men Obama met last year in his adopted hometown of Chicago.  The President talked with them about the problems of gangs, drugs, gun violence, and substandard schools in their neighborhood.

 

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A federal judge says Texas' ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.  U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia handed down the ruling yesterday in San Antonio but also issued a stay, which means the ban will stay in effect for the time being.  Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor, is expected to appeal the decision. 

 

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Secretary of State John Kerry is warning Russia not to take military action in Ukraine.  Russian President Vladimir Putin put 150,000 combat troops on high alert for war games near the former Soviet republic.  Kerry also said the U.S. is considering one-billion-dollars in loan guarantees for Ukraine. 

 

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President Obama is proposing a $300 billion overhaul of the nation's highways, bridges and rail lines.  Speaking in St. Paul, Minnesota yesterday, the President said maintaining and boosting critical transportation programs will boost the economy.  The four-year proposal would be paid for by closing tax loopholes.

 

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GOP House Speaker John Boehner is praising a top Republican's blueprint for tax reform.  Michigan Congressman Dave Camp says he aims to craft a tax code which is simpler and more fair.  Camp, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, said a streamlined tax code will help boost the economy.

 

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People in Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's home state of Sinaloa are calling for the jailed Mexican drug lord to be freed.  Hundreds of people rallied on Wednesday and called on the Mexican government to release the head of the Sinaloa drug cartel.  Demonstrators told reporters that Guzman created jobs and kept rival cartels out of Sinaloa. 

 

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A black clergy organization is launching an online petition to have U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder impeached.  The Coalition of African-American Pastors announced this week that it's encouraging Congress to impeach Holder, who is African-American, for refusing to enforce laws against same-sex marriage.  The president and founder of the coalition, Reverend Bill Owens, told a National Press Club audience that Holder violated the oath of office by trying to coerce states to "fall in line" with what Owens called the same-sex marriage agenda.

 

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A soldier at Fort Carson is at the center of a growing controversy for not saluting the American flag, and posting about it on Instagram.  Major Earl Brown with the 4th Infantry Division in Fort Carson says post leaders are investigating reports about the soldier's post.  Private First Class Tariqka Sheffey  reportedly posted a selfie with the caption, quote "This is me laying back in my car hiding so I don't have to salute the 1700 flag." 

 

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Over a dozen workers have tested positive for radiation exposure following an accidental release earlier this month of high levels of radiation at an underground nuclear waste site in New Mexico.  A field office manager says it's too early to speculate on the health effects or if any treatment may be needed. 

 

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Boston Marathon runners are being told to leave their backpacks at home this year.   Organizers say runners will have to use a clear plastic bag provided by the race if they want to bring a change of clothing.  The ban is part of precautions taken after three people at the race were killed by bombs in 2013. 

 

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Sony is shutting down about two-thirds of its U.S. retail stores.  The TV and game console maker announced Wednesday that it's closing 20 stores and cutting about a thousand jobs.  The layoffs are part of a larger strategy that involves cutting about five-thousand jobs globally. 

 

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Boeing is taking smartphone security to the next level.  The aerospace and defense contractor unveiled a smartphone Wednesday that will delete its data and become useless if anyone attempts to open the casing.  The Boeing Black Smartphone is designed for government agencies and contractors who need to keep their communications secure.  

 

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Newly released footage is giving the public a look into Justin Bieber's jail cell.  The star's attorneys were unsuccessful in their attempt to block the release of the police videos from his arrest in Miami last month.  Now clips of the pop star's time in jail are circulating online. 

 

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NASA says it's identified more than 700 new planets outside of our solar system.  Four of the 715 newly-discovered planets appear to be in the so-called "Goldilocks Zone" which could make it possible for them to sustain life.  

 

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Picking healthy foods at the grocery store is about to get a little easier.  The Food and Drug Administration is proposing some changes to nutrition labels, which are found on packaged foods and drinks.  The new label design makes the total calorie count easier to spot and puts emphasis on added nutrients, such as sugar, Vitamin D and potassium. 

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