Today's News - Thursday, November 21, 2013

Roughly 140 Penelec workers from Altoona, Ebensburg, and Bedford might be locked out of work because union labor negotiations that began in May have failed to provide a new contract. A spokesman for parent company FirstEnergy, says members of the Utility Workers Union of America Local 180 have been without a contract since August 31st. A last, best, and final contract offer was presented November 6th and, if it is not ratified by union workers by 6pm Sunday, a lockout will take effect at 7 Monday morning. It would be the first time FirstEnergy employees have been locked out. Union president Bob Whelan says the negotiations “nowhere near impasse and are progressing.”

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The non-profit group “Road To Recovery” held a news conference in Johnstown yesterday to urge any victims of Franciscan Brother Stephen Baker to come forward. He is believed to have abused hundreds of boys while working at Catholic schools including Johnstown’s Bishop McCort. Baker committed suicide last January after it was revealed that he had reached out of court settlements with a number of men in Ohio. Lawsuits continue piling up against the school and the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.

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Last month, Robert Edgar Jr. of Coalport was shot in the hip at George’s Tavern in Dysart. Now 56-year-old Russell Shick of Beccaria is scheduled for a preliminary hearing today. Shick was kicked out of the bar earlier that day for making nasty comments to a bartender and threatening her husband. Police say Shick returned later and fired multiple shots out of his vehicle. Three of them entered the bar. Shick faces four felony counts of aggravated assault. He is free on unsecured bail.

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The State Senate yesterday approved a $2.3 billion transportation funding proposal that aims to improve the state’s deteriorating bridges, highways and mass transit facilities. After final approval by the House, Governor Tom Corbett is expected to sign the bill which could leave Pennsylvania with among the highest fuel taxes in the nation and higher motorist fees that will rise with inflation. Tens of thousands of jobs are expected to be created.

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Following the Sandusky scandal, State Senator John Yudichak of northeast Pennsylvania was joined by Senator Jake Corman of Centre County yesterday in proposing changes to how the Penn State Board of Trustees is selected. Under Yudichak’s measure, there would be 25 members, but only 23 would be voting members. The plan would allow for eight alumni-elected trustees, five governor-appointed trustees, five agriculture industry-elected trustees, five trustees appointed by a business and industry trustee committee, and the state secretaries of education and agriculture who do not vote. The university president would no longer serve on the board.

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A survey is showing more school districts in Pennsylvania require fees to play in sports. The study from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the Pennsylvania State Athletic Directors Association found 38 percent of the 500 districts reported this year they charge the sports participation fee. That's compared to 13 percent three years ago. Twenty-two percent of the districts have a fee for other activities. The survey had a 37 percent response rate.

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Top officials at the White House and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services were worried about potential problems with the HealthCare.gov website. Emails written September 25th by White House Chief Technology Officer Todd Park and CMS Deputy Chief Information Officer Henry Chao detail fear in the White House that the site wouldn't work the way it was intended.

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Concerns are being raised by state insurance commissioners about President Obama's plan to stem insurance cancellations under the new healthcare law. They say it could result in higher premiums. Obama met with representatives from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners yesterday.

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Florida Congressman Trey Radel says he is taking a leave of absence after entering a guilty plea on charges of misdemeanor cocaine possession. Radel says he's entering an in-patient treatment facility in Southwest Florida and will donate his Congressional paycheck to a charity until he gets back to work.

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Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.S. has reached an agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai about what happens when U.S. and NATO forces have exited Afghanistan. The U.S. is expected to have a few thousand American forces remaining in Afghanistan to assist in counterterrorism efforts. Kerry said they will not be combat forces.

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Rain is likely to slow efforts to clean up the central Illinois town devastated by Sunday's tornado. The National Weather Service forecasts rain through the day and into the night in Washington, Illinois. Officials say one-thousand homes were destroyed in the town 15,000 people call home.

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The Federal Aviation Administration is taking steps to make sure overweight pilots and air traffic controllers don't fall asleep on the job. Under new guidelines, they will soon need to be screened for obstructive sleep apnea – a condition which can lead to daytime sleepiness and jeopardize the safety of passengers.

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Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal is demanding that all online vendors take down a video game based on the Newtown tragedy immediately. Blumenthal says the video game that depicts the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School last December is a vile game that mocks common decency.

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The Reverend Billy Graham could soon be released from the hospital. He was admitted to an Asheville medical center yesterday after suffering respiratory problems. A spokesman for the 95-year old evangelist says this is the same issue Graham had a few weeks ago.

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Today is the Great American Smokeout. The annual event aims to help smokers take an important step toward a healthier life. The smokeout, which is observed on the third Thursday of November, encourages people to quit smoking by giving them a date to stop.

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Not as many of us are planning to travel for Thanksgiving this year. Triple-A projects just over 43 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the holiday weekend -- that's a one and a-half percent drop from the 44 million who traveled last year.

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Adam Levine may have the "moves like Jagger," but most don't consider him the sexiest man alive. In an online poll on Popdust.com, 94 percent of respondents said "no way" to the Maroon 5 singer earning the 2013 title from "People" magazine. Levine won the cover this year over some other more traditionally sexy celebrities like Justin Timberlake and "Thor's" Chris Hemsworth. Only three percent of respondents agreed with the pick, saying "The Voice" coach deserves the title from the magazine, who has been putting its annual cover on newsstands since 1984. The remaining three percent said they were indifferent and didn't care about accepting Adam as the "Sexiest Man Alive."

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Americans and Brits don't have the best attitude toward holiday shopping. According to McCann Truth Central's "The Truth About Holiday Shopping," those in the U.S. are twice as likely as anyone else in the world to describe the task of purchasing presents as like "having a tooth pulled out." And nearly 35 percent of UK residents say scouring the stores for gifts is akin to "a military operation." Meanwhile, residents in emerging markets are more likely to enjoy buying gifts, saying it's like "winning the lottery" or "playing my favorite game." However, just under a third of respondents world-wide admit they'd "outsource" their holiday shopping if it were an option. In addition, 57 percent agree that early holiday advertising dampens their enthusiasm for shopping.

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