Today's News - Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Police say Laura Replogle was driving along Route 985 near Boswell Monday afternoon when a dead tree crashed down onto her windshield. Just last week, 8-year-old Ryleigh and 6-year-old Mickayla Friewald of Johnstown died when a tree fell onto the moving car they were riding in just 13 miles away in Conemaugh Township. Their mother, who is 8-months pregnant, was seriously injured and the driver was also hurt. Replogle, who is believed to be pregnant, and her adult passenger were taken to Somerset Hospital to be checked out. Four children, ages 3 through 7 who were riding in the back, were not injured.

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During Thunder in the Valley weekend, state police conducted numerous traffic enforcements and criminal intelligence activities. They made 22 DUI arrests around Cambria County and issues 381 traffic citations. Police also made six arrests for drug law violations and two summary arrests for public intoxication. They handed out 148 written warnings.

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The fire that destroyed the former Slammerz Bar building in Meyersdale, Somerset County, Sunday evening has been ruled arson. The fire chief says more than one million gallons of water were needed to fight the flames, which used up almost an entire tank of the borough's water supply. Municipal authority crews also had to work overtime hours to fix leaks left behind from the surge of water needed to fight the fire. One firefighter was taken to the hospital for heat exhaustion, but was released Monday morning. The water authority has a boil advisory in effect as a precaution, but expects everything to be back to normal by Thursday.

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Governor Tom Corbett is breaking his record of signing the state budget by the start of the fiscal year. He turned down the $29 billion GOP-crafted spending plan last night because it lacked what he called "meaningful pension reform." State lawmakers passed the new budget, which increased spending by just under two percent but did not raise taxes. Pennsylvania's two pension systems are in the red nearly $50 billion, and Corbett says he wants a budget that will prevent a hole like that in the future.

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State lawmakers sent Governor Tom Corbett a $29.1 billion budget, but he refused to sign it, saying he wants to work with the legislature toward meaningful pension reform. The bill, which seeks to plug a massive deficit without increasing taxes, was passed by the Republican majorities in both houses over the objections of Democrats who said it favors the haves over the have-nots.
Corbett is seeking re-election and faces a strong challenge from Democrat Tom Wolf, who maintains a wide lead over Corbett in independent polls.

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Hit and run violations in Pennsylvania now carry penalties similar to a three-year sentence for DUI homicide. Governor Tom Corbett signed “Kevin’s Law” yesterday following a tragedy involving a 5-year-old boy in December 2012. The law also amends the permissible length of a school bus, and has provisions prohibiting texting or hand-held cell phone use while driving a commercial or motor carrier vehicle.

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Electricity rates are going up, but Peoples Natural Gas says residential customers will see no increase in their bills this quarter. Spokesman Joe Gregorini says the cost recovery rate has dropped just slightly from $5.53 per thousand cubic feet to $5.48.

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Jerry Sandusky plans once again to fight his conviction. According to StateCollege.com, Butler County defense attorney Al Lindsay recently notified Centre County Court that he is representing Sandusky with a post-conviction relief petition. The petition is available to wrongfully convicted defendants and is often used as the final legal option by those sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty.

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A state appeals court had refused a request by former FBI Director Louis Freeh to force former Penn State President Graham Spanier to proceed with his civil lawsuit. Superior Court Monday said it did not have jurisdiction to reverse a county judge's decision allowing Spanier to keep the matter on hold while his criminal case is pending. Spanier has filed a brief saying he's planning to sue for defamation but he hasn't issued a written complaint laying out the allegations.

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Republicans are cheering the Supreme Court's ruling on birth control while Democrats are condemning it.  The high court said some private companies with religious objections do not have to provide coverage for certain types of contraceptives to employees.  Monday's 5-4 decision deals a blow to the birth control mandate in the healthcare reform law. 

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President Obama plans to act alone on immigration reform.  Speaking from the Rose Garden Monday, Obama criticized inaction in the House and vowed to start taking executive actions on immigration reform.  The Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill a year ago but it never gained traction in the Republican-led House.

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Six months after its full implementation, Obamacare is bringing both relief and frustration to millions of Americans.  While some have been able to see a doctor for the first time in years, others have seen a rough road marked by technical glitches and bureaucratic confusion. 

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Iraqi lawmakers are meeting today for the first time since elections as they try to find a way out of Iraq's civil war.  The first order of business appears to be the formation of a new government.  Iraq's parliament is expected to move fast as militants continue to close in on Baghdad. 

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A direct-mail firm will pay more than 24-and-a-half million dollars to settle a veterans fundraising scam in a settlement announced today.  New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says that Quadriga Arts ran misleading ads to raise money, then billed the charity millions of dollars more than it raised. 

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President Obama is calling Bob McDonald the right man to guide the embattled Veterans Affairs Department.  Obama nominated the former Procter and Gamble CEO as VA Secretary on Monday.  McDonald is also a U.S. Army veteran.  The VA has been under fire for systemic scheduling problems and for allegedly falsifying appointment records.

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Close to 100-thousand customers are without power in Chicago following severe thunderstorms.  Monday night's storms featured high winds and heavy downpours.  There are reports of downed trees and damaged homes. The storms also resulted in hundreds of flight cancellations and delays at O'Hare International Airport.  

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Colorado's attorney general wants a county clerk to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses. The "Denver Post" reports Attorney General John Suthers is giving the Boulder County Clerk's office until noon Tuesday to stop issuing the licenses.  The report says if the office does not obey his order, it will face further action from his office.

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The U.S. is strengthening its military presence in Iraq.  The Pentagon announced Monday it will send around 300 additional troops as well as helicopters and drone aircraft to the war-torn nation.  About 200 forces arrived in Iraq Sunday to reinforce security at the U.S. Embassy, support facilities and the Baghdad airport.

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President Obama wants to offer more protection to transgender federal employees.  He announced Monday night he's preparing an executive order that would protect federal employees from workplace discrimination on the basis of gender identity.  Obama made the announcement during a reception celebrating LGBT Pride Month. 

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General Motors is announcing another massive recall.  It's actually six separate new safety recalls.  About seven-point-six million vehicles are affected, many dating all the way back to model year 1997.  Meantime, Chrysler's latest recall was expanded Monday.  It now includes some older crossover and minivan models because of ignition switch problems.

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The Rim of the Pacific exercises are underway in Hawaii.  The world's largest annual maritime exercise began Monday and now involves 22 nations.  Brunei and China are this year's newest participants.  For the next month, Pearl Harbor is playing host to almost 50 ships and more than 200 planes from around the world. 

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Shia LaBeouf has reportedly checked into rehab.  X17Online claims the "Transformers" actor was followed from his Hollywood home Monday to a private facility known for treating celebrities.  The website also says LaBeouf was seen carrying the Alcoholics Anonymous "Big Blue Book." 

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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he's taking control of his life after two months at a rehab facility.  In a statement Monday, Ford remarked that he was in complete denial about his addiction to alcohol and drugs and became his own worst enemy.  He said that the staff at the rehab facility saved his life and forced him to confront his personal demons.  

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