AP PA Headlines: New judge sought in Penn State frat death

PA Headlines


BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) — Prosecutors want a new judge to be appointed as they pursue reinstated criminal charges in the death of a pledge after a Penn State fraternity party earlier this year.  The hearing Thursday will determine whether a new district judge will preside over what will be a second preliminary hearing.  District Judge Allen Sinclair in September threw out involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault charges against eight defendants in the February death of 19-year-old Tim Piazza, of Lebanon, New Jersey.


Other charges were forwarded to county court for trial. Prosecutors recently added additional charges based on recovered footage from the house’s security system.  Authorities say Piazza suffered a fractured skull, damaged spleen and other injuries and consumed a dangerous amount of alcohol the night of a pledge ceremony.


HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — An outspoken and conservative Pennsylvania state lawmaker is the target of calls to resign or be demoted after he interrupted a committee meeting to accost his Democratic counterpart for touching his arm and suggest the man might be gay.  Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday called Rep. Daryl Metcalfe’s comments offensive and discriminatory. Wolf’s spokesman says the governor doesn’t think Metcalfe should chair a committee that handles civil rights legislation.


Metcalfe chairs the State Government Committee. His comments and committee meetings routinely stoke anger from Democrats.  In Tuesday’s meeting, Metcalfe said , “stop touching me all the time” and “I don’t like men, as you might,” after Democratic Rep. Matt Bradford placed his hand on Metcalfe’s forearm while sitting next to him and speaking.  House Speaker Mike Turzai declined to discuss the issue Wednesday. Metcalfe didn’t respond to a call seeking comment.


HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s governor announced Wednesday changes to the state’s regimen of standardized tests that are designed to reduce their impact and length.  The Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, the state’s standardized testing system, will last two weeks next year, down from three, said Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf . The testing will also be moved to later in the school year, giving students a few more weeks of learning beforehand.

David Volkman, the state Education Department’s executive deputy secretary, said in a news release that the agency was responding to pressure to refocus on learning.


“This improved schedule, along with the changes we made to the structure of the tests earlier this year, will address those concerns while maintaining the accuracy of the assessment,” Volkman said.  Dolores McCracken, president of the state’s largest teachers’ union, praised the changes.  “Gov. Wolf gets it on standardized testing,” said McCracken, who heads the Pennsylvania State Education Association. “He’s heard and understands what teachers, parents and students have been saying for a long time — that PSSA testing schedule should be pushed later into the academic year, to allow for more quality instructional time.”


PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A jewel-encrusted medal owned and worn by George Washington is going on display in Philadelphia for the first time since it was presented to Washington in the city 233 years ago.  The Diamond Eagle is the badge of office of the president general of the Society of the Cincinnati. The organization was founded by officers of the Continental Army at the end of the Revolutionary War to preserve the revolution’s memory.


The Eagle was presented to Washington by officers of the French Navy and designed by military engineer Pierre L’Enfant. It was fashioned in gold and silver and embedded with nearly 200 diamonds, emeralds and rubies.  The Eagle will be on display at the Museum of the American Revolution from Wednesday to March 3.


HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Republican-penned legislation in Pennsylvania to prohibit coverage for gender or sex reassignment surgery and services under taxpayer-paid insurance programs is on ice after lawmakers realized their own health insurance covers it.  The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jesse Topper, said Wednesday he decided to pull the bill from the House’s debate calendar a day earlier so he could find out more about the coverage.


The fact that House members have coverage through their own insurance plan emerged during a closed-door Republican discussion just before the bill was to go to a floor debate.  A similar provision passed the Republican-controlled Senate in October over the protests of Democrats.  Republicans say Pennsylvania can’t legally extend the coverage.  The House bill would prohibit coverage of doctor and hospital services, prescription drugs and counseling.


PITTSBURGH (AP) — A Pennsylvania judge will decide whether raccoons are protected animals or vermin meant to be disposed.  Allegheny County officials say 68-year-old William Killgallon has been charged with felony animal cruelty after Pittsburgh police say he admitted to drowning trapped raccoons in a barrel. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports Killgallon’s attorney argued Tuesday that his client should not have been charged in the first place.


He argues raccoon are vermin that are not protected under an animal cruelty law.  Deputy District Attorney Jennifer DiGiovanni disagreed, saying “a raccoon is very different from a cockroach.” DiGiovanni contends animals like raccoons should be killed humanely, not drowned in a barrel.  The judge says he will issue a decision if the two sides can’t reach an agreement.


NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania gas station is testing whether blue lights in bathrooms can discourage drug use by making it difficult for people to see their veins.  The Sheetz gas station chain has installed the lights at its New Kensington location as a pilot project.  A Sheetz spokesman says the company is working with local police on the initiative.


Nick Ruffner says the lighting is designed to help customers and employees “avoid dangerous situations.” He says it’s being tested at that store “for the time being.”  New Kensington resident Nathan Murray Sinicki tells WPXI-TV the bathroom’s blue hue is jarring at first. But he says if the unorthodox deterrent is found to work he supports it.  WJAC-TV reports 179 people have died from drugs in Westmoreland County this year..”


Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved




NEW YORK (AP) — The anti-harassment #MeToo movement has been named Time magazine’s Person of the Year.  In the wake of revelations about Harvey Weinstein and other men, millions have shared their stories about being sexually harassed and assaulted.  The announcement was made Wednesday on NBC’s “Today” show, where longtime host Matt Lauer was recently fired amid harassment allegations.  Other finalists included President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping and quarterback Colin Kaepernick.


NEW YORK (AP) — Two longtime hosts for a New York City public radio station have been suspended while the station investigates unspecified accusations of inappropriate conduct.  New York Public Radio CEO Laura Walker announced the suspensions of WNYC’s Leonard Lopate and Jonathan Schwartz on Wednesday.  She said the company wants to ensure a “harassment-free workplace,” but didn’t give details of accusations.


Lopate told The New York Times he was “baffled.”  He said he hadn’t been told what the allegations were about but expected to be cleared.  WNYC reporter Ilya Marritz said on the air that he had spoken with women who made complaints about both hosts.  Attempts to find a phone number for Schwartz were not immediately successful.  The move follows reports of harassment by retired WNYC host John Hockenberry, who has apologized.


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles will become the nation’s largest city with recreational pot after the City Council voted to license sales next year.  After months of debate and political snags, the council approved rules Wednesday to usher in commercial sales and cultivation set to begin in less than a month under an initiative approved by state voters.


Under the Los Angeles regulations, residential neighborhoods would be largely off-limits to pot businesses, and buffer zones would be set up around schools, libraries and parks.  However, with the new year just weeks away — and the holidays coming — industry experts say it’s not clear how many businesses, if any, will be ready to open their doors on Jan. 1 to hordes of anxious customers.  Medical marijuana has been legal in the state for two decades.


DENVER (AP) — A former radio DJ who was ordered to pay a symbolic $1 to Taylor Swift for groping her at a photo op says he mailed her a Sacagawea coin last week.  David Mueller provided a letter to The Associated Press showing the payment was sent Nov. 28. Mueller previously told the AP he intended the coin featuring a prominent Native American woman as a final jab at the singer in a case her side called a win for all women.


Swift was among the “Silence Breakers” named as Time magazine’s person of the year. In a story published Wednesday, she said she hadn’t received the dollar.  Mueller had sued Swift claiming she falsely accused him of groping her and sought up to $3 million. A federal jury in Denver ruled for Swift.


TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – The little blue pill that’s helped millions of men in the bedroom is turning white. Drugmaker Pfizer is launching its own cheaper generic version of Viagra rather than lose most sales when the impotence pill gets its first generic competition next week. Pfizer Inc. will begin selling the white pill at half the $65-a-pill retail price on Monday, when its patent-protected monopoly ends. Generic maker Teva Pharmaceuticals can start selling its version then, but isn’t disclosing the price. Many more generics go on sale next summer, which will steadily slash the price of generics, possibly by 90 percent.


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ticketmaster admits it’s slowing down the process for Taylor Swift fans trying to buy tickets to her concerts. Ticketmaster head of music David Marcus tells Billboard magazine tickets are being processed at about 18 tickets per show per minute, as opposed to the usual 2,000 per minute. He says that fights off bots and scalpers. Swift is using a Verified Fan system to sell tickets and Marcus says all fans who were verified will be able to buy tickets this week. He warns against people buying Verified Fan codes on eBay, because each code corresponds to an individual Ticketmaster account and you can’t use someone else’s code..


Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved




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