Pa. transportation secretary defends highways law
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The head of Pennsylvania's highway agency says he's not surprised that some people aren't happy about the billions of dollars in higher fees and taxes to fund transportation needs but says others are voicing their support.
Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch told reporters Wednesday he didn't expect people to celebrate over higher gas taxes and motorist fees. But he's also hearing from those who believe the cost of doing nothing would have been greater.
Schoch says talk of promising special projects to get the bill passed is "comical" because a decade's worth of needs is laid out on the department's website.
Schoch says the near-term focus will be on bridges, safety and increasing mobility. He says decisions about raising speed limits from 65 to 70 mph may be made this spring.
Pa. woman charged with stabbing man she met online
SUNBURY, Pa. (AP) - An 18-year-old central Pennsylvania woman is charged with killing a man she met on Craigslist and dumping his body in an alley before meeting her husband to celebrate his birthday.
Northumberland County prosecutors said Wednesday that Miranda Barbour of Selinsgrove is facing homicide and other charges in the stabbing death of 42-year-old Troy LaFerrara of Port Trevorton.
His body was found Nov. 12 in Sunbury. Investigators said he had been stabbed about 20 times.
According to court documents, Barbour told police she occasionally meets men in exchange for money. Police said she admitted stabbing LaFerrara after he groped her and put his hands around her throat.
Barbour is being held without bail. A preliminary hearing is set for Dec. 10.
Caskets found by excavation crews at Philly school
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A disturbing discovery has been made under a Philadelphia elementary school playground.
Philadelphia Water Department crews doing excavation work behind William Dick Elementary School on Wednesday afternoon unearthed several coffins and headstones.
The city Department of Licenses and Inspections and the Historical Society have been called in to figure out how old they are and determine if remains are still present.
Montco GOP pick successor to disgraced ex-chair
JEFFERSONVILLE, Pa. (AP) - Republicans in the Philadelphia suburb of Montgomery County have a successor to former chairman Robert Kerns, who is facing criminal charges.
Members of the Montgomery County GOP Committee elected state Rep. Mike Vereb on Wednesday night.
Vereb, a fourth-term legislator, holds a leadership post in the House majority caucus.
County committee director John Kelemen says Vereb would serve at least through a scheduled party reorganization in the spring.
The 66-year-old Kerns faces charges he drugged and raped a female employee of his former law firm after a work-related party in October. He's free on $100,000 bail and maintains he is innocent.
He resigned in November.
ELDERLY MOTHER STABBED
Police: Pa. man stabbed mother after argument
CARLISLE, Pa. (AP) - Police say a Pennsylvania man used three different knives to kill his elderly mother after the two argued about his drinking.
Court documents filed Wednesday provide new information on Tuesday's slaying of 85-year-old Mary Tolbert in her Carlisle home.
Authorities allege Paul Tolbert stabbed his mother to death and stole her money to buy crack cocaine. He is charged with criminal homicide, robbery and tampering with evidence for allegedly trying to clean up the crime scene.
Investigators say Tolbert stabbed his mother in the neck in her living room. They say he and his mother's roommate moved the body into the bedroom and began cleaning the living room.
The roommate, Alison Gail Green, is charged with receiving stolen property, abuse of a corpse, evidence tampering and drug charges.
Duquesne U., NC company in cancer drug deal
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Duquesne University has licensed the rights for a large group of cancer drugs to a North Carolina company.
Duquesne says in a Wednesday release that the deal with Flag Therapeutics of Raleigh, N.C. is one of the largest licensing ventures in the school's history. It includes the rights to numerous water-soluble drugs that grew out Dr. Aleem Gangjee's research at Duquesne.
Dr. Alan Seadler, Duquesne's associate provost for research and technology, says the deal will hopefully lead to new life-saving drugs for people battling cancer.
Flag Therapeutics says it hopes to rapidly move toward starting clinical trials for the drugs. To become widely available the drugs would need to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and clinical trials are a part of the review process.
DA: Pa. man burned in home arson has died
SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) - A northeastern Pennsylvania man has died several weeks after being badly burned in an arson fire at his home.
Lackawanna County District Attorney Andy Jarbola tells The Times-Tribune that 78-year-old James Brown died Tuesday night.
Prosecutors allege his son Kevin Brown torched his family home on Nov. 22 in hopes of killing his napping father. Witnesses told police the father was pulled from the flames by neighbors as his son sat in the backyard.
Jarbola said the elderly man's death means the attempted homicide charge against Kevin Brown could be changed to homicide. He said a decision will be made after the results of Brown's psychological evaluations are released.
SOCIAL MEDIA SITE-WITNESSES
Philly teen pleads guilty to Twitter intimidation
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A Philadelphia teenager pleaded guilty in juvenile court to using his Twitter account to intimidate a crime victim.
The Philadelphia Inquirer said the 17-year-old Martin Luther King High School student pleaded guilty Wednesday in Family Court to witness intimidation and terroristic threats.
He used Twitter to post a photo of the victim and copies of secret investigative documents related to a 2012 attempted shooting.
Police initially suspected the teenager was linked to a now-defunct anonymous Instagram account called rats215, which posted witness' photos next to statements they gave police. Prosecutors said the investigation continues but the teen isn't accused in that case.
Assistant District Attorney Jan McDermott said she would ask for "a significant period of confinement" to a juvenile treatment facility when he is sentenced Dec. 16.
November slot-machine revenues dip at Pa. casinos
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Total revenue from slot machines in Pennsylvania casinos is down more than 1 percent from a year ago.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board said Wednesday revenue fell 1.3 percent in November compared to the same month in 2012.
The slot machines brought in just under $190 million, and generated $102 million in tax revenue.
The drop-off is 2.2 percent if the revenue figures are limited to the 11 casinos that were up and running last year. Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin has been open since July.
The most revenue in November came from Parx Casino outside Philadelphia, which generated $28.7 million. In second is Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, at $24.2 million. In third is Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh at $23 million.
The casinos together have nearly 27,000 slot machines.
ASPIRING TEACHER SLAIN
Charges in 2008 Philly murder of Minnesota teacher
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A convicted killer already serving a life sentence has been charged in the shooting death of an aspiring teacher gunned down for his iPod a month after moving to Philadelphia.
Beau Zabel moved from Austin, Minn., to Philadelphia in May 2008 and was scheduled to start work in Philadelphia public schools. The 23-year-old man was shot dead a month later in a robbery.
The Philadelphia Inquirer said Marcellus Jones was charged Wednesday in the murder. He is already serving a life sentence for killing his get-away driver in the Zabel killing.
Authorities said last month that charges were imminent. They said a witness stepped forward to tell police that Jones displayed the iPod and claimed he killed Zabel after realizing it wasn't a more valuable iPhone.
BURGER FLIPPING DUI
Cops: Pa. man drove DUI, flipped at Mickey D's
SHREWSBURY, Pa. (AP) - Police say a man was driving drunk - and too burger-flipping fast - when his car overturned at a McDonald's drive-thru lane.
Online court records don't list an attorney for 21-year-old Homer Weikel IV, who was charged Tuesday for the Nov. 24 crash at the restaurant in Shrewsbury Township, York County.
The York Dispatch reports police determined Weikel accelerated too fast pulling away from the drive-thru window just after 1 a.m. His Hyundai Sonata hit a curb, went over a stone wall, and flipped.
Police say Weikel and a 21-year-old female passenger were taken to York Hospital with moderate injuries, while two others in the car weren't hurt.
A phone call Wednesday to a number listed under Weikel's name and address was not immediately returned.
Gov hopeful Tom Wolf to give $15,000 to food banks
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Tom Wolf says he'll donate cash to food banks instead of hosting one of the many receptions surrounding the upcoming Pennsylvania Society dinner in New York City.
In a letter to supporters Monday, the wealthy York resident said he plans to contribute $5,000 apiece to food banks in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.
Wolf says his decision underscores the fact that he is a different kind of candidate - a businessman who has not previously run for public office. The former state revenue secretary says he hopes this approach will help unite all Pennsylvania families in friendship.
The black-tie dinner at Manhattan's Waldorf Astoria, one of the premier gatherings for Pennsylvania politicos, is Dec. 14. Wolf and his wife Frances plan to attend.
CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS
Pa. bill would expand carbon monoxide alarm law
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A bill that would require many apartment owners and landlords in Pennsylvania to install carbon monoxide alarms is on its way to Gov. Tom Corbett.
The bill passed the Senate, 47-1, on Wednesday. The House approved it late last month. There's no word if Corbett will sign it.
Pennsylvania requires carbon monoxide alarm in newly built homes and existing homes with fossil fuel burning heaters or appliances and or an attached garage.
Under the bill, apartments within 18 months also would have to be equipped with a carbon monoxide alarm if there's a fossil fuel-burning heater or appliance, fireplace or attached garage at the dwelling.
Landlords would be responsible for installing an operational device. Tenants would have to replace the batteries and replace the device if it's removed or broken.
US customs agents seize illegal khat in Philly
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Customs agents in Philadelphia have seized more than 100 pounds of khat (KAHT), a stimulant commonly used in parts of Africa and the Middle East but illegal in the United States.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Wednesday that agents intercepted three international air parcels at a mail facility near Philadelphia International Airport.
The parcels came from Austria and were destined for Connecticut and Illinois. Officials say khat was hidden inside rolls of fabric and corrugated paperboard.
The drug had a street value of more than $33,000.
Khat is an evergreen shrub whose leaves are typically chewed. The plant is a legal stimulant in many countries.
Pa. asked to bid on attracting Boeing plant
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania is among the states hoping to compete for a new Boeing aircraft assembly plant.
Department of Community and Economic Development spokesman Steve Kratz said Wednesday the company contacted the state on Tuesday, asking for proposals to attract a plant to build the new 777X aircraft.
Kratz says the state is looking at what it might offer as a competitive proposal that also takes into account the use of taxpayer dollars.
He says the large number of potential jobs makes Gov. Tom Corbett very interested.
The company is approaching states, asking them to bid on the production of the plane after its machinist union members rejected a proposed contract with concessions on pensions and health care costs.
Buddy bench at Pa. school helps foster friendships
YORK, Pa. (AP) - A central Pennsylvania second-grader has come up with a great idea for kids at his school: a buddy bench.
Christian Bucks saw that some of his friends at Roundtown Elementary School didn't have anyone to play with. So he convinced his school to bring in a buddy bench.
Here's how it works: If students feel lonely on the playground, they can go to the buddy bench and another student will come to the bench and ask if they want to play or talk.
Christian's mom said he first learned of the buddy bench concept when his father began discussing possibility moving abroad temporarily. They discovered that a school in Germany used a buddy bench.
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