Today's News - Thursday, January 2, 2014

Somerset County residents are bracing themselves after commissioners voted on a new budget which contains a 23 percent tax increase. Some folks say they will attend more commissioners’ meetings in 2014 to keep better tabs on the county’s spending.

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An SUV struck a pedestrian in a hit and run accident in Johnstown on Tuesday evening. The accident happened around 9:20 p.m. at the Roxbury Avenue intersection. The victim was taken to Memorial Medical Center for minor injuries. Anyone with information should call city police.

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Expect to pay a little more at the pumps. The new transportation law took effect yesterday, and a PennDOT spokesman says gasoline taxes went up by 9-and-a-half cents and almost 13 cents per gallon for diesel fuel. Money will go to fund bridge, highway, and mass transit improvements. Despite the increases, AAA expects gas prices to drop slightly in 2014.

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Bill O’Brien is expected to be officially introduced as the Houston Texans head coach today according to “The Houston Chronicle.” The “Centre Daily Times” reports that defensive line Coach Larry Johnson will serve as interim coach and will maintain contact with current players and recruits. Penn State has formed a search committee and has developed a short list of candidates. Athletic Director Dave Joyner will meet with the media this morning at 11.

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Several residents of a Minneapolis apartment building are still unaccounted for and feared dead this morning after an explosion and fire early on New Year's Day. Fourteen people were hurt, with six critically wounded, after the fire ripped through a grocery store on the ground floor and the upstairs apartments.

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It didn't take long for the first major winter storm of 2014 to develop and threaten the Northeast. Forecasters say at its height the storm will likely affect upwards of 70 million people. That's also going to cause problems with air travel. New York City is under a winter storm warning with up to ten inches of snow possible over the next couple of days.

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More than 50 passengers from a Russian ship trapped in ice off Antarctica have been rescued by helicopter and taken to an Australian vessel. The Russian ship has been stuck in thick ice for more than a week, some 15,000 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia.

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Thanks to some anonymous hackers, the phone numbers and usernames of more than 4.6 million Snapchat users have been posted online. An unofficial website called SnapchatDB uploaded the list with phone numbers partially censored, but they said the uncensored database could be released under certain circumstances. That website, however, was no longer up and running as of late last night.

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The family of a 13-year-old Oakland, California girl left brain-dead after tonsil surgery has a new ally in the battle to keep her on life support. The family of the late Terri Schiavo says its foundation is overseeing efforts to get Jahi McMath transferred from Children's Hospital Oakland to what the group calls "a safe place."

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A shadowy hacking group that supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is claiming responsibility for breaching the social media accounts of the Internet calling service Skype. The Syrian Electronic Army posted messages on Skype's Twitter feed and Facebook pages yesterday telling people not to use Microsoft emails because they are monitoring and selling data to the government.

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Police in Northern California are investigating the death of a Catholic priest as a murder. Eureka Police Chief Andy Mills says the body of the Reverend Eric Freed was found by staff in the rectory of St. Barnard Church Wednesday morning. Mills added that there are no suspects at this time.

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Colorado is now officially the first state in America to allow legal, retail sales of marijuana for recreational use. Around three dozen stores and dispensaries were cleared by the state to sell pot beginning Wednesday morning. Colorado officials predict the sales will ultimately gross more than $550 million in annual revenues.

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Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is reported to be near death. The 85-year-old Sharon has been in a coma since he suffered a major stroke in January 2006. Sharon's condition has apparently worsened in the last few days as he battles serious kidney problems.

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Scientists expect temperatures around the world to rise at least seven degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100. In a new study published in the journal "Nature," researchers at the University of New South Wales say the jump will occur if carbon dioxide emissions are not scaled back.

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The NHL is eagerly waiting to see whether the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium set an attendance record for a hockey game. It's in the hands of Guinness World Record officials. The announced attendance at yesterday's game was 105,491.

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A trip to the grocery store in Los Angeles may end up costing you more than you plan for. A ban on single-use plastic grocery bags took effect Wednesday in the city of Angels. Customers now have to bring reusable bags to carry their groceries out of the store or pay ten cents per paper bag.

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One of the stars of TV's "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" is dead. James Avery, who played the beloved uncle Phil on the ‘90s sitcom, died Tuesday night at a Los Angeles hospital. Avery recently underwent surgery for an undisclosed illness. He was 65.

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The San Carlos Park, Florida man who won a recent nationwide contest to meet the cast of the TV series "Breaking Bad" is caught up in his own drug drama. Ryan Carroll was arrested after a drug raid on Tuesday. The 28-year-old is charged with possession of synthetic narcotics and other misdemeanor charges.

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More than a dozen people are under arrest following a demonstration at the Rose Parade in Pasadena. Police say 19 protesters were taken into custody for trying to stall the Sea World float at the start of the parade route New Years morning. PETA posted a photo on Twitter of the activists getting arrested.

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