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Economy & Business
2:23 am
Fri January 4, 2013

Butter Sculpture Shows PA Agriculture Pride

Another year, another Pennsylvania Farm Show: the butter sculpture has been unveiled at the 97th annual agricultural extravaganza beginning Saturday.

The 2013 butter sculpture is an array of Pennsylvania-produced agricultural products – among them, chicken, wood, wine, and mushrooms.

Dairy Princess Maria Jo Noble of Bradford County was on-hand for the unveiling, but she didn’t get an early look at what one presenter called the “buttery masterpiece.”

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Government & Politics
8:08 pm
Thu January 3, 2013

New Year, New Medicaid Reimbursement Rates

Primary care physicians and practitioners who treat Medicaid patients will receive higher reimbursement rates in 2013.

For the next two years, primary care providers will get the same payments for treating Medicaid patients as they would for Medicare patients. The payments for Medicare patients have traditionally been higher.

The increase will be paid for by the federal government as part of an Affordable Care Act initiative to boost access to primary care and preventive medicine.

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Government & Politics
7:28 pm
Thu January 3, 2013

Senator: Penn State Fines Should Be Used for PA Abuse Victims

The $60 million Penn State was fined in July by the NCAA should be used for child abuse victims' programs in-state rather than nationally, according to State Senator John Yudichak (D-Luzerne).

Yudichak announced his support of Senator Jake Corman’s (R-Centre County) legislation directing the fine levied against Penn State to be used within the commonwealth. The fine is one of the sanctions issued by the NCAA against the university as part of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

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Government & Politics
6:45 pm
Thu January 3, 2013

Controller Calls for Greater Accountability for County Property Tax Exemptions

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner released an audit Thursday of the Office of Property Assessments (OPA) that calls for greater accountability, increased transparency, and oversight of all tax relief and tax forgiveness programs. 

One of the key findings of the audit is that Wagner believes there currently is inadequate oversight for tax exemptions granted to non-profit and charitable organizations. The county is responsible for going out every three years to ensure a property’s tax-exempt status is still warranted. That, according to Wagner, isn’t happening.

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Environment & Energy
6:33 pm
Thu January 3, 2013

Pennsylvania’s Second Biggest Wind Farm Now Online

Right before the New Year, two new Pennsylvania wind farms became operational, including the state’s second largest. The Twin Ridges Wind Farm in southern Somerset County is a 140 megawatt facility, which can create enough electricity to power more than 45,000 homes each year.

“In total we had about 170 megawatts come online in the last week, bringing Pennsylvania’s EverPower portfolio to just over 200 megawatts and pushed us over 500 megawatts nationally,” said EverPower Wind Holdings Spokesman Dan Lagiovane.

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Government & Politics
4:09 pm
Thu January 3, 2013

Rep. Doyle: Tax Reform, Spending Cuts Will be "Step Two" of Deficit Reduction

After voting for the legislation that averted the so-called "fiscal cliff," U.S. Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA14) said Wednesday that Congress and the President must continue working to find an additional $400 billion to $600 billion to put toward reducing the federal deficit.

Doyle said the fiscal cliff deal garnered about $600 billion in revenue after allowing taxes to raise for only the wealthiest 2% of Americans, while continuing unemployment compensation payouts and delaying automatic cuts to federal programs.

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Transportation
1:18 pm
Thu January 3, 2013

Water Main Break Snarls Downtown Traffic

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) says its expects repairs to be completed by 11 pm Thursday to a water main that burst this morning in downtown Pittsburgh causing traffic problems and icy conditions but streets will remain closed through Friday's morning rush hour. 

PWSA Director of Operations Tom Palmosina said the contractor has completely exposed the split pipe and workers are in the process of installing the new 12-inch ductile iron pipe.  

“We are fortunate that no one is without water."

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Education & Learning
9:09 am
Thu January 3, 2013

Students Plunge into Pittsburgh Poverty

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Pittsburgh-area students attending the University of Notre Dame will take the "Urban Plunge" into the city from Thursday to Saturday.  It's the 35th year for the event that aims to raise awareness about social justice and poverty through local programs hosted by social justice organizations including Just Harvest and the Thomas Merton Center.

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Environment & Energy
9:51 pm
Wed January 2, 2013

Mystery Disease Affecting Smallmouth Bass in Susquehanna Prompts Calls to Put the River on Impaired

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is investigating a disease being found in smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna, Schuylkill, and Delaware Rivers.  Lesions are being found on the fish and hatchlings are dying off in significant numbers. The problem is that the culprit hasn’t been found.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission wants a portion of the Susquehanna to be placed on an impaired rivers list. But the DEP said if that were to happen, the agency would have to say why it’s impaired which means identifying certain pollutants that need to be reduced.

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Health
9:20 pm
Wed January 2, 2013

Plunging Temperatures Leave Furry Friends at Risk

As the temperatures in the Pittsburgh region dip to near single digits overnight, and remain below freezing during the day, pet owners are advised to make sure their cats and dogs are kept warm. The Humane Society of Western Pennsylvania receives calls each winter about dogs and cats left outside in freezing weather with no shelter. The first thing a pet owner is advised to do when the temperature drops is to bring dogs and cats indoors.

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Government & Politics
7:27 pm
Wed January 2, 2013

Effort to Raise Retirement Age of PA Judges

State Senator Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton) is making another attempt to raise the retirement age for Pennsylvania judges and district justices.  In the commonwealth, once judges reach the age of 70, they can continue to serve their 10-year term as a senior judge, but at a reduced salary, receive no health insurance benefits, and are not awarded any paid sick or vacation days.

Boscola said "70 is the new 60," and argues 70 is too early for judges' retirements.

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Government & Politics
7:26 pm
Wed January 2, 2013

State Offers Crisis Grants for Home Heating Emergencies

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is now offering crisis grants to help needy Pennsylvanians repair broken furnaces and replenish heating fuel.

Wednesday marked the first day that crisis grants are available in addition to LIHEAP's cash grants to help low-income families pay utility bills.

"We open the crisis program in January as the temperatures in Pennsylvania really begin to plummet and heating one's home becomes a lifesaving measure," said Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW) Secretary Gary Alexander, in a written statement.

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Government & Politics
4:55 pm
Wed January 2, 2013

Corbett Files Suit to Throw Out NCAA Sanctions Against Penn State

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett announced this morning that he intends to file a federal antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA in an effort to overturn what he called "harsh penalties" against Penn State.  The sanctions came in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Corbett said the NCAA exceeded its authority in imposing the penalties.  He said the NCAA's sanctions, which the university agreed to, harm past, present and future students.

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Government & Politics
12:49 pm
Wed January 2, 2013

Fiscal Cliff Deal Done But Much Work Remains

A last-minute deal will keep the U.S. from driving off the so-called "fiscal cliff," but higher taxes and continued political fighting in Washington threaten to shake the fragile economy well into 2013.

A bill passed by Congress late Tuesday averts widespread tax increases and delays deep spending cuts that had threatened to return the country to recession. World stocks went up in response.

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Economy & Business
8:38 am
Wed January 2, 2013

Thousands of Homes in PA Without Heat

The Public Utility Commission (PUC) says too many homes are headed into the coldest part of the year without heat from a utility service. 
This year there appear to be about 15-hundred fewer homes without gas or electric services compared to last year’s survey.
And that count may be inflated as some homes are double-counted because they have neither gas nor electric services.

But the observed lack of utility services in nearly 16-thousand households could lead people to resort to potentially unsafe heating sources.

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Transportation
8:38 am
Wed January 2, 2013

Massive Rt. 219 Project to Begin Late Spring/Early Summer

The long-awaited stretch of Route 219 in Somerset County between Meyersdale and Somerset is projected to begin in late spring or early summer.  PennDOT district 9, which includes Somerset County, is in the final stages of securing the necessary permits from the Department of Environmental Protection.  Proposals began circulating for this 11-mile stretch of Route 219 nearly 40 years ago. 

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Health
8:38 am
Wed January 2, 2013

With Health Insurance Costs on the Rise, Pittsburgh Still Lower than Some

Between 2003 and 2011 Pittsburghers with a family health insurance policy saw their annual premiums on average increase 51 percent, from $9,193 to $13,850, according to a new report from The Commonwealth Fund, a foundation that seeks to improve health care.

Nationwide the average family premium increased more than $5,000.

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Government & Politics
8:38 am
Wed January 2, 2013

Grant Helps to Convert Fleets to Natural Gas

The Department of Environmental Protection is offering $20 million to help upgrade the municipal, non-profit, and commercial fleets to run on natural gas. The grant is part of Act 13, which sets regulations for oil and gas drilling in Pennsylvania.

Lynda Rebarchak, spokesperson for the DEP, said the money is to retrofit “fleet vehicles.”

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Transportation
6:33 pm
Tue January 1, 2013

Travelers Experience Falling Gas Prices Across Region

Gas prices have been trending downward in the U.S. for the last several weeks, and that trend is expected to continue into 2013. That’s according to AAA East Central, which covers Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.

“It is expected to continue unless something happens that affects the supply or the demand then we do expect them to trend downward, this is usually the time of year when gas prices do fall,” said AAA Spokeswoman Bevi Powell.

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Transportation
5:33 pm
Tue January 1, 2013

Wireless Waterways Brings Broadband to Pittsburgh’s Rivers

Barges and other river traffic moving through Pittsburgh might soon be using a broadband wireless network to announce their arrival and keep everyone a little bit safer.

The Port of Pittsburgh Commission (PPC) is developing a first-of-its-kind network that it feels could have uses in busy inland waterways across the country. 

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Government & Politics
3:40 pm
Tue January 1, 2013

Ball In Boehner's Court After Senate Approves Fiscal Cliff Deal

The Senate spent the first few hours of the New Year ironing out the final details of a plan to roll back a package of automatic spending cuts and tax increases that technically went into effect at midnight.

The vote was 89-8 in favor of the compromise, which now goes to the House for a final vote as soon as Tuesday — and where passage is far from assured.

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Economy & Business
8:58 am
Tue January 1, 2013

Urban Innovation21 Launching New Business Start-up Innitiative

A public-private economic growth organization in Pittsburgh is hoping an additional $100,000 in grants to small businesses in Homewood will help jump-start the micro economy.  Urban Innovation21 has attracted national attention for its mission to ensure that the region’s rapidly growing innovation economy is inclusive and benefits all communities.

The Pittsburgh region has begun to rebound from the economic downturn but many neighborhoods have yet to see unemployment and other economic indicators recover. 

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Government & Politics
8:58 am
Tue January 1, 2013

Is There a Skills Gap in PA?

Not all economists buy the notion that states are suffering from a skills gap – the phenomenon of having plenty of open jobs but not enough skilled workers to fill them. Some say those jobs would fill up fast if the wages were higher.

But Secretary Alan Walker, head of the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development, said newly minted welders and commercial truck drivers can make more than new teachers, for example.

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Arts & Culture
8:58 am
Tue January 1, 2013

Duquesne Theater Troupe Celebrate 100th Anniversary with a Look to the Future

Duquesne University’s Red Masquers is the oldest amateur theater company in Pittsburgh. It’s currently celebrating its 100th season. In that time, a lot has changed for the group, most notably – venue.

“We have floated around on campus from various theaters, we’ve had theaters burn down – twice, theaters ripped down, and we’ve been homeless until around the 1990s when they built a theater for us called Peter Mills Auditorium,” said John Lane, director of theater arts at Duquesne.

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Government & Politics
8:11 pm
Mon December 31, 2012

Casey Talks on Fiscal Cliff

With hours to go until the “fiscal cliff” deadline and no definitive plan in place, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) says no matter what occurs on New Year's Eve, there is still a lot of work that lies ahead.

“There’d still be a lot left undone. So we’re going to have a lot of work to do in the early part of 2013 and if we focus on what’s best for middle-income families in America and whats best for the economy and don’t bring in an idealogy and kind of no-compromise approach to every debate, I think we’re going to be a lot better off,” he said.

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