Same-sex marriage activists kick off Pa. campaign
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Proponents of same-sex marriage are launching a campaign to legalize it in Pennsylvania - the last holdout among the Northeast states.
News conferences trumpeting the "Why Marriage Matters" campaign, sponsored by the national advocacy group Freedom to Marry and the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, are slated for Wednesday in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
Evan Wolfson, who grew up in Pennsylvania and is the president of Freedom to Marry, said the campaign's goal is to encourage "neighbor to neighbor" conversations about why marriage is important to same-sex couples and their families.
There are at least six federal and state legal challenges to the 1996 state law that effectively bans same-sex marriage and recognition of such marriages from other states.
LACROSSE TEAM-BUS CRASH
Pa. police: Team driver unconscious in March crash
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Investigators have concluded that the bus driver for a Pennsylvania college lacrosse team was unconscious when the vehicle crashed in March, killing him and a pregnant coach.
State police said Wednesday that they found evidence of heart damage in the body of Anthony Guaetta.
The 61-year-old was at the wheel of the bus carrying the Seton Hill University women's lacrosse team when it left the Pennsylvania Turnpike, hitting a guard rail and a tree.
Police say Guaetta may have suffered a heart attack or stroke, but he was too badly injured to say for sure. Tests showed no signs of drugs or alcohol.
Authorities found no skid marks or evidence Guaetta tried to brake.
The crash also killed coach Kristina Quigley and injured other passengers.
Western Pa. county starts fining AWOL jurors
EBENSBURG, Pa. (AP) - They can't say they weren't warned.
A western Pennsylvania county has begun fining no-show jurors $100 each, after months of warning citizens that too many people are ignoring jury summonses.
Cambria County court administrator William Valko tells the (Johnstown) Tribune-Democrat (http://bit.ly/1f6X7Un ) that six people were fined $100 on Tuesday - and 11 others were ordered to return at a later date for jury duty.
County Judge Timothy Creany issued a stern warning when 45 of 215 residents were AWOL after being summoned in February. Things improved somewhat when 28 of 183 people didn't show up in April, but the county's judges have been mulling ways to improve responses and, finally, resorted to fines.
Creany says summonses are being clarified "to make it clear that it's not an optional thing, that they must appear."
Former Fortune 500 exec charged in fatal NH crash
LEBANON, N.H. (AP) - A former Fortune 500 executive who lives in New Hampshire is set to be arraigned on charges that he caused a crash that killed a Vermont couple.
Fifty-three-year-old Robert Dellinger served as senior vice president of finance at PPG Industries Inc. and has held top level posts at Sprint Corp. and Delphi Corp.
The attorney general's office says Dellinger, of Sunapee, recklessly killed 29-year-old Jason Timmons and 24-year-old Amanda Murphy, who was eight months pregnant. They say his vehicle crossed over the median Saturday on Interstate 89 in Lebanon and crashed head-on into the couple's SUV. The couple was from Wilder, Vt.
Dellinger, who suffered minor injuries, was scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon in Lebanon on two counts of manslaughter.
His lawyers did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
W. Pa. firefighter fired after union theft charges
SHARON, Pa. (AP) - A western Pennsylvania firefighter has been fired in the wake of charges that he stole $5,150 from the labor union where he had been secretary.
Thirty-two-year-old Jason Scott Clepper, of Sharon, was fired by the city on Monday.
He has waived a preliminary hearing on charges he stole the money from the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 417. A Sharon district judge was told that Clepper had already repaid the money before waiving the charges, which means he must now face the charges in Mercer County Common Pleas Court.
Clepper was charged on Nov. 18 and had been on administrative leave. He was fired after city officials held a separate hearing on the matter because he was a government employee.
Pa. Dem gov hopeful Wolf says he's raised $2.9M
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Tom Wolf has become the first Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Pennsylvania to reveal his 2013 fundraising total.
The wealthy York businessman said Wednesday he has received contributions totaling nearly $2.9 million with nearly three weeks left in the year. That's in addition to the $10 million of his own money Wolf has said he will contribute to his primary campaign.
Wolf says his fundraising shows Pennsylvanians are responding to his message that he would bring fresh ideas to the governor's office. There are seven other declared candidates.
Campaign spokesmen for U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz and former Environmental Protection Secretary Katie McGinty refused to reveal their fundraising numbers.
The state allows candidates until Jan. 31 to file detailed reports of their contributions and expenditures for 2013.
More people in Pa. pick plan on insurance exchange
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - More people are signing up for insurance through the federal health care law's new marketplaces, with nearly 12,000 Pennsylvanians signed up through the end of November.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released the figures Wednesday. That's up from 2,200 a month ago.
Besides people who picked a plan, the department says 74,000 Pennsylvanians submitted applications to cover 137,000 people, such as themselves, their spouses and children.
About 40,000 were deemed eligible to enroll in a plan that's partially subsidized by a federal tax credit to make it less expensive for consumers.
The figures reflect the first two months of signups amid troubles with the federally run website, Healthcare.gov, which is a primary gateway to the marketplace. Insurers expect the rate of people enrolling to increase in December.
TWO DEAD IN HOME
Investigators still unsure why Pa. couple died
LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) - Investigators in central Pennsylvania are still working to determine who, or what, killed a couple found dead in their home on Thanksgiving.
Authorities say they found no obvious signs of trauma on 50-year-old Darryl Morton and 54-year-old Aida Cora.
Police came to their Lancaster house on Nov. 28 after a 911 call from Morton's son. It appeared the couple had been preparing for a holiday celebration.
District Attorney Craig Stedman says officials haven't ruled out anything, including possible carbon monoxide poisoning.
The county coroner tells the Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era (http://bit.ly/IFcrwN ) that he's still waiting for the results of toxicology tests.
Closings under way in PA charter school fraud case
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Federal prosecutors have asked a jury to convict a Philadelphia charter school operator of defrauding taxpayers of more than $6 million.
They say the trial evidence shows that Dorothy June Brown collected more than $4 million in two years alone.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Costello detailed the case in closing arguments Tuesday. He reminded jurors that funding for charter schools comes from taxpayers.
Costello said that Brown's four schools had little independent oversight, despite the appearance of an outside board of directors.
Defense lawyers for Brown and two co-defendants get their turn to talk to jurors Wednesday.
A defense witness testified last week that Brown's higher-than-average pay may be appropriate given the high test scores her schools reported.
DOG RESCUE FATAL FIRE
Coroner: Man dies while rescuing dogs in Pa. fire
ELDERTON, Pa. (AP) - A man has died trying to rescue his dogs from a fire at his rural western Pennsylvania home.
State police in Kittanning say 43-year-old Terry Verner, of Plumcreek Township, escaped the fire, but was killed when he went back inside to rescue his dogs. The township is about 35 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
Armstrong County Deputy Coroner Brian Myers says investigators learned the man and his cousin made it out of the house safely about 2 a.m. Wednesday before Verner heard a dog or dogs yelping and went back into the house.
The cause of the fire was under investigation, but there was no sign that it was of suspicious origin. State police say Verner often used a wood burner in the home.
2 W. Pa. couples, fifth friend charged in eggings
MEYERSDALE, Pa. (AP) - Police say two couples and a fifth person have been charged with more than $9,000 damage to homes and vehicles caused by six cases of eggs in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Somerset attorney Michael Kuhn is representing all five defendants and didn't immediately return a call for comment.
The (Somerset) Daily American (http://bit.ly/J5Hzph ) reports 24-year-old Brandon Wilson and his 21-year-old wife, Krista, of Stoystown, and 21-year-old Caleb Miller and his 20-year-old fiancee, Samantha Miller, both of Rockwood, were charged along with 24-year-old Zachary Miller, who is stationed at Minot Air Force Base, N.D.
They were charged Tuesday after surveillance video showed some of them buying the eggs at a Wal-Mart.
Berlin Borough police Sgt. Rodney Norman says the vandalism occurred Oct. 27 and "just seemed like a good idea at the time to them."
AIR SHOW-BLUE ANGELS
Navy's Blue Angels commit to W. Pa. air shows
LATROBE, Pa. (AP) - The Navy's Blue Angels have committed to perform at one of western Pennsylvania's biggest air shows the next two years.
The precision jet team will appear at the Westmoreland County Air Show in 2014 and 2015 at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport. The airport is in Unity Township, near the legendary golfer's hometown of Latrobe, some 45 miles east of Pittsburgh.
The Blue Angels last performed at the air show in 2012, which drew 75,000 people over the two-day event.
The team was supposed to perform next year at Wings Over Pittsburgh but had to cancel.
Blue Angels spokeswoman Amber Lynn Daniel says, "This was a great opportunity to stay in the area. The more Navy presence we have there, the better.
ARREST DEATH AT HOSPITAL
Police probing man's arrest death at Pa. hospital
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Pittsburgh police are investigating the death of a man that occurred during his arrest by a University of Pittsburgh police officer at one of the school's affiliated hospitals.
City police spokeswoman Diane Richard says 39-year-old Ricardo Martinez, of Wilkinsburg, went to UPMC Shadyside hospital after 5 p.m. Monday for "mental health issues." His family acknowledges Martinez had mental health issues, but disputes he was taken to the hospital Monday for that reason.
Pittsburgh police say a campus officer responded when Martinez allegedly began choking a doctor. The officer and hospital security wrestled Martinez to the ground and he lost consciousness while being handcuffed and died a short time later.
Richard says it appears Martinez - who was 6-foot-2 and weighed 350 pounds - had a heart attack. The medical examiner has not released a cause of death.
Unhappy athletes snubbed by Temple U trustees
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Trustees at Temple University snubbed dozens of athletes who tried to speak with them about the decision to cut seven sports.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports (http://bit.ly/IP9md8 ) more than 100 students and alumni tried to address the board at its meeting Tuesday. But officials adjourned without hearing from them.
Temple announced last week that it would drop sports including rowing and baseball to save $3 million and address gender gaps in the distribution of scholarship money.
Nine coaches will lose their jobs, and more than 150 returning student-athletes will be affected.
On Tuesday, board Chairman Patrick O'Connor told the athletes to schedule a meeting with university officials if they want more information about the decision.
Students say they'll continue to fight the cuts.
PRESQUE ISLE-DEER HUNT
3-day deer hunt begins on Erie's Presque Isle
ERIE, Pa. (AP) - A three-day deer hunt at Presque Isle State Park in Erie is on.
The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will let 85 hunters into the park each day through Friday for antlered and antlerless deer.
The annual hunt is designed to thin the herd at the peninsular park that juts into Lake Erie.
Hunters may use shotguns with slugs, black-powder muzzleloaders or archery equipment. The hunters had to sign up in advance and must take a mandatory safety session each morning.
Pa. Lottery's new Penny not so lucky after all
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Looks like this Penny wasn't so lucky after all.
The perky character who promotes the Pennsylvania Lottery is being phased out. That's according to PennLive.com (http://bit.ly/IPcEgw ).
The red-headed spokeswoman, played by an actress, appeared in lottery commercials, billboards and other ads. But Penny apparently didn't connect with ticket buyers.
Instead, the Lottery has begun running a marketing campaign focusing on seniors.
State officials say the new ads convey how healthy, active older residents contribute to a community's well-being. Lottery proceeds fund programs for seniors.
Penny had replaced Gus, the popular mascot affectionately referred to as the second-most famous groundhog in Pennsylvania.
Gus, though, won't be coming back. Officials say he's enjoying his retirement.
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