Today's News - Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A transgender student will not be allowed on the homecoming king ballot at Richland High School. The school board reinforced its previous decision that 17-year-old Kasey Caron should remain on the queen ballot. Kasey was born a female but identifies as a male. Kasey’s mother also asked the board to consider allowing Kasey to wear a male cap and gown at graduation, add gender identity to the school board’s bullying policy and create a gay-straight alliance at the school. The board said they would need time to address the issues.

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A second victim has died as a result of an early September crash. 79-year-old Kathryn Rager, of Shelocta, most likely died of injuries sustained in the September 4th crash where the driver of a Senior Life van apparently ran a red light in White Township, Indiana County and collided with a car. State police are still investigating.

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Congressman Keith Rothfus is focusing on student loan debt – all 17 trillion dollars of it. Rothfus met with students yesterday at Pitt-Johnstown and Central Cambria High School to address the subject, calling the students Generation Debt.

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State lawmakers returned to Harrisburg yesterday to begin the fall legislative session. During the last session, Governor Tom Corbett failed to win passage of three major priorities – increasing gas taxes to improve transportation systems, privatizing the sale of wine and spirits and changing the state’s major public employee pension systems. Each chamber has 20 scheduled voting session days through mid-December.

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 Pastor Ken Kline Smeltzer has now been fired from his job with a Centre County Church of the Brethren. Last month, Smeltzer officiated at a same-sex marriage at the home of State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham. Smeltzer told the “Centre Daily Times” Monday that “a few things have to play out” before he can speak more about the situation.

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The future of Pennsylvania’s only privately-operated prison is uncertain. A published report says Moshannon Valley Correction Center in Clearfield County could be in jeopardy of losing its federal funding. The lock-up houses people who are in the U.S. illegally and it is now competing with an Ohio prison for a contract renewal. Moshannon prison’s contract with the government was scheduled to run through 2016, but a cut in federal funding will likely leave one of the two facilities without a contract starting next year. The Moshannon prison is owned by a Florida-based group and employs 265 people.

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A state House committee is okaying measures that let school districts cut or do away with district property taxes. the bills would give districts tax options. The full House will now review the proposed bills.

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A Somali militant group is saying its militants are still holding out in a Kenyan shopping center they attacked over the weekend. Also, the al-Shabaab Islamists say the hostages they held in the Nairobi mall were still alive. The group is claiming to have communicated with the militants inside the mall.

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The UN General Assembly will hear from President Obama today. Obama is expected to speak extensively on Syria. Possible U.S. missile strikes against Syria were recently put on hold as a potential diplomatic solution took shape. The prospective deal, brokered by Russia, would have Syria put its chemical weapons stockpiles under international control.

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The number of deaths from AIDS and new cases of HIV around the world are down significantly compared to a few years ago. A United Nations’ AIDS group report highlights the finding and was released to coincide with this week's UN General Assembly meeting in New York.

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The Senate is considering a House plan to extend funding past September 30th, when the government runs out of money. The House Republican legislation includes a provision defunding the Affordable Care Act. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid used words like “extremists,” “fanatics” and “Tea Party anarchists” to describe Republicans who aim to defund the ACA.

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Former President Bill Clinton says he really doesn’t know if his wife Hillary will try to run for president in 2016. He was a guest of David Letterman on Monday’s “Late Show” and said there are plenty of other things the country should be focused on now.

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The holiday hiring season by retailers isn’t expected to be as bright this year. The consulting firm of Challenger, Gray & Christmas predicts that stores and distribution centers will likely add nearly 666,000 workers from October 1st to December 31st. That’s a decrease of 11-percent from last year.

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Burger King is adding a new kind of French fries to its menu that contain 40-percent less fat and also fewer calories. The move is part of an effort by the country's third-biggest burger chain to offer its customers more nutritious choices.

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Former President George W. Bush has no problem with his successor hitting the links. In an interview with the Golf Channel due to air Tuesday, Bush says he disagrees with those who say President Obama plays too much golf. Bush said he thinks Obama ought to keep golfing. “W” tells the Golf Channel that he knows “what it’s like to be in the bubble and I know the pressures of the job and to be able to get outside and play golf with some of your pals is important for the President.”

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Some local companies have made the “Best Places to Work in PA” list. The large companies group includes: Home Nursing Agency and Sheetz, both headquartered in Altoona and Somerset Trust Company. In the small company group, First Summit Bank made the list along with Senior Life Johnstown and Wessel and Company, all from Johnstown.

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A male gorilla at the Dallas Zoo is being sent to therapy for his apparently sexist attitude. Zoo officials say Patrick the gorilla will be sent to a zoo in South Carolina that is known for working with gorillas with behavioral problems. Officials say Patrick hasn't been very nice to the female gorillas he shares his space with in Dallas, biting one gorilla and sneering at others.

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