Today's News - Wednesday, October 2, 2013

In federal court this week, a Somerset County woman pleaded guilty to running a drug ring in Roaring Spring, Blair County. 25-year-old Nichole Rankin of Tire Hill is now facing decades in a federal prison. Sentencing is set for February 18th. Joseph Castro of Roaring Spring and Peter Donato of Tire Hill were also busted in July of last year. Police seized more than 6,000 bags of heroin with a street value of over $180 thousand. They also nabbed a number of weapons, including two sawed off shotguns, and $16 thousand in cash.

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Conemaugh Township police are searching for two people who they said stole a UPS package from the front porch of a Tire Hill residence. A man and a woman allegedly took the package from a home on Soap Hollow Road last Thursday. The homeowner caught the act on surveillance video. If you have any information about the theft, contact Conemaugh Township police.

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A healthcare facility is looking to reduce its tax bill as local government and a school district are asking it to increase the amount it pays in lieu of taxes for its non-profit holdings. The Tribune-Democrat reports that Representatives for Conemaugh Health System will meet with the Cambria County Board of Appeals tomorrow to reduce its property assessment by $270,000 annually. But Cambria County, the City of Johnstown and Greater Johnstown School District are asking for an increase that is more than its current $500,000 in payment in lieu of taxes. That number has not been revealed.

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency says federal disaster aid is now available to  Pennsylvania for the areas affected by severe storms, tornadoes, and flooding this past June and July. The commonwealth and eligible local governments and certain private non-profit organizations can get federal aid on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of damaged facilities. Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures for all counties in the state.

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AAA Fuel Gauge says Western Pennsylvania gas prices fell almost seven cents to $3.48 this week. The national average for regular unleaded is $3.39, which is seven cents cheaper than last week and 20 cents cheaper than last month. Today’s price represents a year over year discount of 39 cents from 2012. The most expensive gasoline in the nation can be found in Hawaii at $4.25. The lowest pump price is in South Carolina AT $3.10 AND TRIPLE-A EXPECTS several more states to fall below this threshold in the coming days and weeks.

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Millions of consumers are now looking for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act and State Attorney General Kathleen Kane is warning everyone to protect their personal information during the open enrollment period, which could bring with it a rise in financial, medical or insurance identity theft scams. Open enrollment began yesterday for people who buy their own health coverage or who are uninsured.

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Lawyers for former FBI Director Louis Freeh are tired of waiting for Former Penn State President Graham Spanier to complete filing a civil lawsuit against him, accusing Freeh of making libelous statements over what Spanier knew about Jerry Sandusky’s crimes. Freeh is asking for a complaint to go along with that lawsuit within 20 days or have it thrown out. The complaint must give specific allegations. The request was approved in Centre County Court.

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A new bill forcing public secondary schools in Pennsylvania to offer online learning opportunities is making its way through the State House. According to Penn-Live, the legislation cleared the House Education Committee Tuesday. It would require schools to enhance course offerings by opening online courses to students in grades 9 through 12, starting in the 2015-16 school year.

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The government shutdown is extending into another day today.  The Senate wrapped up Tuesday without a deal with the House on extending funding to get the government running again.  That means there will be another day of closed national parks and national monuments, and no pay for thousands of government workers.

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President Obama is calling off a trip to Malaysia while the federal government is shut down.  The President was set to address an entrepreneurship conference in Kuala Lampur next week, but will send Secretary of State John Kerry in his place.

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It's another day of open enrollment for people trying to sign up for healthcare under the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act.  Online insurance exchanges were plagued by technical issues on their first day yesterday.

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Sources say three of the top 20 Microsoft investors are trying to show Bill Gates the exit sign.  They're lobbying the board to force Gates to step down as chairman of the software giant.  Gates founded Microsoft 38 years ago and owns about four-and-a-half-percent of the $277 billion company.

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California kidnapping survivor Hannah Anderson is once again answering questions online about her ordeal and giving new clues as to what really happened when she was taken.  In one recent exchange she insinuates that her abductor might have handcuffed her to keep her from running away. 

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A new report indicates Los Angeles and other Southern California counties lead the U.S. in sentencing convicts to death.  The report out today shows Los Angeles County had 228 inmates on death row at the beginning of the year.  That’s more than double that of Harris County, Texas, which came in second place. 

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Why walk the Great Wall of China when you can have your bodyguards do it for you?  Pictures posted on Justin Bieber’s Twitter tour account show the pop star doing just that recently.  The 19-year-old singer is seen perched on the shoulders of two of his bodyguards as they walk the historic trail. Bieber’s entourage is seen following closely behind on foot. 

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Part of Alex Rodriguez’s defense as he appeals his Biogenesis suspension is that he didn’t know the substances he was taking were banned.  The “Daily News” reports the New York Yankees third baseman and his lawyers have built their case around the idea that A-Rod thought the drugs he got from Biogenesis were innocent legal supplements.

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As the cold temperatures of winter approach, the American Gas Association says it expects natural gas to remain the most affordable heating option for most residential customers.  It’s basing that statement on a rich supply that has lowered production prices. 

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National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is underway and experts say women can take steps to reduce their risk.  Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle say women of all ages should work to reduce their body weight and make sure to get regular physical activity. 

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Occupy Wall Street is launching a debit card.  The movement began fundraising two weeks ago.  The Occupy folks say the prepaid card is for people who don’t use banks.  ATM withdrawals are one-dollar-95-cents each.

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