Today's News - Wednesday, April 9, 2014

He was supposed to represent himself at his attempted homicide trial, but at the Cambria County Courthouse yesterday, Kevin McGee of Johnstown decided to let an attorney from the public defender’s office handle the case. McGee is charged with firing shots into an empty Richland Township police cruiser in 2012. He was shot in the stomach by an officer when he refused to put down his gun. The prosecution is expected to rest its case today.

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Today, the State Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on an appeal filed on behalf of Ernie Simmons. He was on death row in 2009 for the 1992 murder of 80-year -old Anna Knaze of Johnstown when the higher court ordered a new trial. Instead, Simmons pleaded to thirrd-degree murder and was released from prison with credit for time served. He was placed on probation for six months to ten years, but returned to jail after he allegedly threatened to kill a man. The Cambria County District Attorney’s Appellate Division plans to argue that Judge Timothy Creany ruled correctly when he revoked Simmons’ parole in February 2011. This is expected to be a precedent-setting decision that could have impact on probation and parole violations.

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The EZ Shopper in Beaverdale was robbed on Saturday night, now Cambria County Crimestoppers is offering a $1,000 reward to anyone who can supply information leading to the arrests of whoever is responsible. If you have any leads, call 800-281-16-80.

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36-year-old James Unger and 27-year-old Heather Kohler were arrested and jailed on Monday for dealing heroin from their home in the Brownstown section of Johnstown, which is located within 1,000 feet of an Alternative Community Resource Program building, an agency that helps at-risk youth. Courts give harsher sentences to dealers who sell within school zones.

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President Walter Asonevich delivered the State of the College address yesterday at Penn Highlands Community College. He highlighted the school’s growth, including new campuses and a double in student enrollment over the last decade. He also discussed various business partnerships the school has which allow it to offer high quality education and graduate students ready for the needs of the regional workforce.

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The number of deaths on Pennsylvania roadways is falling. PennDOT officials said yesterday that the number of deaths last year was the lowest since the state began keeping records in 1928. Unbuckled fatalities, speeding-related crash deaths, fatalities involving drunk drivers and deaths attributed to single-vehicle crashes all declined. Fatalities involving distracted drivers have increased.

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AAA Fuel Gauge says Western Pa. gas prices rose another fraction of a penny, remaining at $3.65 a gallon for a fourth straight week. Today’s national average is $3.56, three cents more than one week ago and ten cents more than one month ago.

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First Energy last week announced that fixed rate customers will have to pay a $5- to $15 extra fee due to high heating costs during a brutally-cold January. Now the “Altoona Mirror” reports the Utility Workers Union of American has petitioned the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to reject First Energy’s plan. Union officials say “fixed” should mean “fixed” and the contract language doesn’t allow the company to charge more.

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Penn State announced yesterday the complete list of head coaches who will join football coach James Franklin on the annual coaches caravan. Men’s hockey coach Guy Gadowsky, men’s volleyball’s Mark Pavlik, softball head coach Amanda Lehotak and Lady Lions coach Coquese Washington will participate at various stops. They’re joining wrestling coach Cael Sanderson and women’s volleyball coach Russ Rose. The tour begins May 1 with an evening reception at Pegula Ice Arena. Registration for the general public is underway.

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The next step in former Penn State President Graham Spanier’s lawsuit against Louis Freeh remains up in the air. According to StateCollege.com, the presiding judge asked the State Superior Court not to change his decision to delay the suit. The court is considering an appeal from Freeh’s attorneys. Spanier wants his criminal case resolved first.

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Two more signals in the Indian Ocean are giving searchers some hope. Australian authorities say they've detected two more electronic signals that may be from the black box on board missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston says the latest pings are in the same area where signals were picked up a few days ago.

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The U.S. is sending a Navy warship to the Black Sea. The guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook is scheduled to enter the Black Sea no later than Thursday. It's part of the latest American show of military support for Eastern European allies worried about Russia's troop buildup along its border with Ukraine.

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President Obama is going to speak later today at the Fort Hood memorial service in Texas. Army Specialist Ivan Lopez opened fire at the military base last week, killing three and injuring 16 others. White House spokesman Jay Carney says President Obama's remarks will focus on the victims and their families.

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It's another day of emotional testimony in the murder trial of South African track star Oscar Pistorius. The Olympic and Paralympic sprinter is continuing his account of what happened the night he shot and killed his girlfriend. Pistorius insists he believed an intruder had broken into his home near Pretoria when he fired shots through a bathroom door and killed Reeva Steenkamp before dawn on Valentine's Day last year.

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Some doctors are making millions on Medicare. The Obama administration is releasing payment information on the giant healthcare program for seniors. Figures for 2012 show Medicare paid $77 billion to nearly 900,000 healthcare providers.

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About six-and-a-half-million vehicles are being recalled by Toyota. The company announced today that it had found problems with the steering and seats of certain models. The recall includes RAV4 SUVs, Yaris subcompact cars, Urban Cruiser SUVs and Hilux pickups.

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Investigators in Kansas City, Missouri say there's a link to at least some of the 13 recent shootings on area highways and roads. So far three people have been wounded in the shootings which started a month ago. No injuries have been reported since Sunday.

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More than a dozen people are suing the Walt Disney Corporation, saying a recent policy change violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. The families aren't happy with Disney's decision to cancel its "guest assistance card" program which they used to help their autistic children who can't wait in long lines for rides. Disney dropped its old policy because of reports that disabled people were being paid to escort people through parks.

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The U.S. isn't doing enough when it comes to civil rights. That's according to Jimmy Carter, who told an audience at the LBJ Presidential Library Civil Rights Summit that there's still a "gross disparity" between white and black employment and the quality of education. The former president thinks too many people accept it because they believe LBJ's signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enough.

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A major data security threat is putting computer users at risk. Researchers with Google and a smaller firm say "Heartbleed" is a flaw in widely-used encryption software called OpenSSL. The bug's been around for about two years.

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The death of a Marine standing guard at North Carolina's Camp Lejeune is being investigated. A sentry at the camp's main gate reportedly fired his weapon, killing another Marine guard Tuesday evening. The base says the incident is not being considered a terrorist act or an active shooter situation.

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The California family rescued from their sailboat is expected back home Wednesday. Eric and Charlotte Kaufman and their one and three-year-old daughters are aboard the USS Vandergrift, which will port in San Diego in the morning. The California Air National Guard had to rescue the family after their sailboat became disabled roughly one-thousand miles west of Cabo San Lucas and their youngest daughter fell seriously ill.

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Comcast and Time Warner are set to testify before a Senate committee. Executives are expected to defend merger plans in today's hearing on the more than $45 billion deal. The merger is raising concerns about how much control Comcast would have over broadband, cable rates and the content of American television.

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The Ultimate Warrior is dead at 54. World Wrestling Entertainment announced the former pro-wrestler's death late Tuesday, just 24 hours after he appeared on WWE's "Monday Night Raw" telecast. Last week he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

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There's a petition going around aimed at keeping newly-signed Jets quarterback Michael Vick away from the team's training camp site. The Change.org petition stems from anger over Vick and the federal dogfighting conspiracy charges against him back in 2007.

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The University of Connecticut women's basketball team is taking home another national championship title. The Huskies dominated Notre Dame last night in Nashville, winning 79-to-58. The women's team joins the men's squad as national champs, marking the second time in the last decade that both teams have won it all in the same year.

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A New York nursing home is being sued for hiring male strippers to entertain its elderly residents. The son of an 85-year-old woman says he was shocked when he saw a picture of his mother stuffing dollar bills into a dancer's underwear. The suit filed on behalf of Bernice Youngblood says she was placed in offensive physical harm and was confused when a muscular, almost nude man approached her.

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Extremely hot Habanero peppers are being blamed for the hazmat scare at a Colorado school yesterday. Thirty students and an aide had to be decontaminated after being exposed to six peppers scattered in wood chips at the school's playground. The school will reopen tomorrow after an environmental services team investigated the area and gave it the all clear.

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