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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Group Says Casino Fight's Not Over

Citizens Against Casino Gaming in Erie County is not giving up its fight to shut down the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino.

On Friday, Judge William Skretney ruled that the casino can operate because of a decision by the National Indian Gaming Commission.

But the casino opponents say they're undeterred by the decision and will challenge it.

Four More Fires in Coatesville

Four more arsons have been reported in Coatesville, where more than 30 fires have been intentionally set in the past year.

The first fire started at around 12:35 a.m. The next started a few minutes later at another home down the street. At 3 a.m., the third fire was started, followed closely by the fourth.

These fires, and almost all of the others, have been started on porches. 17 fires have been set this month alone.

Coatesville is about 35 miles west of Philadelphia.

Hanger Disappointed in Ruling

Environmental Protection acting Secretary John Hanger Friday said he was disappointed in a Commonwealth Court judge’s decision that declared Pennsylvania’s state-specific Mercury Rule invalid and unenforceable.

“The Pennsylvania Mercury Rule is the most effective and timely way to reduce mercury exposure,” Hanger said. “The ruling makes Pennsylvania’s economy less competitive in the long run. Our Pennsylvania Mercury Rule enhances the quality of life here and promises to help attract new investment and new jobs by preserving the natural beauty of the commonwealth. We will continue fighting to protect Pennsylvanians from mercury exposure from all sources and we will carefully consider our legal options.”

Governor Edward G. Rendell’s administration developed the state-specific mercury rule in 2006 following a proposal for weakened regulation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under former President George W. Bush. The commonwealth’s state-specific policy would require mercury emission reductions at coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania and would achieve its goals years before the weaker federal program. Pennsylvania's Mercury Rule achieves at least 90 percent mercury reduction by 2015, and requires all facilities to meet an annual mercury emissions cap and prohibits mercury emissions trading that may create toxic “hot spots” of contamination.

To date, the department has approved a number of applications for the installation of controls to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. The department has also approved a number of mercury monitoring plans for these facilities. The court’s decision will prevent these controls and monitoring plans from going forward and further puts the public health and the environment at risk.

Hanger said the department is considering its options regarding the next step in the legal process.

For more information, visit www.depweb.state.pa.us, keyword: Mercury Rule.

Steelers Fan Can't Wear Jersey

Eighth-grader Tristan Carrick, an eighth-grader at Stepping Stones Academy (in Phoenix), didn't heed his principal's warning that he wouldn't be able to wear a Steelers jersey to school yesterday, when his classmates were given a break from their strict dress code of khaki pants and polo shirts to don Cardinals attire.

Tristan no longer has perfect attendance.

For the full story, go to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

President Obama's Weekly Address

Because WESB is running the Pitt/Notre Dame basketball game, President Obama's weekly address won't be on at the usual time. But, you can hear and see it here:



Cleanup Plan for Bush Industries

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has has finalized the cleanup plan for the Bush Industries site in Cattaraugus.

The 4.4-acre property was involved in commercial operations since the early 1900s and has been the location of a Standard Oil facility, an apple evaporator facility and a gas service facility. A previous environmental cleanup project in 2007 removed 3,400 tons of contaminated soil.

The requirements for the new cleanup will include installation of a soil cover, depending on its land use and implementation of a site management plan and environmental easement restricting the use of the site

No Death Penalty for Colegrove

A man convicted of killing his parents and brother near Towanda is being spared the death penalty.

A jury couldn't reach a unanimous agreement Friday on whether 32-year-old Steven Colegrove, of Deposit, N.Y., deserves capital punishment. That means he automatically gets life without parole.

The bodies of 60-year-old Joseph Colegrove, 56-year-old Marlene Colegrove and 36-year-old Michael Colegrove were found in their home on Aug. 8, 2007.

Prosecutors say Colegrove killed his family to collect an inheritance.

Winterfest in Roulette Today

From Solomon's Words for the Wise:

File photo from 2008 Winterfest Photo by James Jones


Roulette, on the western end of Potter County, in North Central Pennsylvania, is the place to go for winter fun on Saturday, January 31, 2009.

The West End Trailblazers Snowmobile Club is putting on their 7th annual Winterfest that starts at 10:00 am and runs until 4:00 pm.

They will have radar runs for the snowmobiles, hay rides for the kiddies, food and refreshments. There will be games, a money pit for the kids to dig for money, a clown, raffles & ripoffs, games and door prizes. Music will be provided by DJ Bill.

The event is held each year whether there is snow or not. The last few years, there wasn't much snow.

This year there is more than a foot of it out there. The snowmobile trails are marked to nearby communities if you want to ride your sled to the Winterfest.

If you have a sled to sell or are a dealer wanting to bring a display or demos, get up early and find your way to Roulette.

The event is held across the street from my home on the Kaple Century Farm. There's many acres to ride your sleds on, and a large area is plowed out for off street parking. In fact they are out there now making it bigger as a large attendance is expected.

The members of this club maintain several trails in the area which tie into trails maintained by other clubs in other areas.

One thing we want to caution you about is that there is no gasoline available in Roulette so fill your tank before you start. For more information go to the West End Trailblazers web site or call one of the people listed there.

It is suggested that you dress warm as the weather is forecast to be windy with a chilly high of only 16 degrees. Some of the activities are in the barn, out of the wind.

Hope to see you there, we'll be taking pictures.

Hymn Sing & Pork & Sauerkraut Dinner


When you are done at the Winterfest, ride on over to the Riverside United Methodist Church, on River Street, in Roulette.

They are having a Hymn Sing starting at 4:00 pm followed by a Pork and Sauerkraut Dinner that is open to the public.

Cost is $7 for adults, and $4 for kids under 10.

Havers Beats Cowburn in Coudy

Bradford's Mark Havers recorded a 4-3 decision over current PIAA Class AA wrestling champion Dirk Cowburn Friday night – in Coudersport.

The Owls wrestling team handed the Falcons a 51-14 loss, improving Bradford's record to 5-2 in the league. They trail only Port Allegany and Smethport, who are both unbeaten.

The Owls are in action again Tuesday in Johnsonburg.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Tops Updates Recall List

Tops Friendly Markets, today announced that Tops Sundae Cones and several additional varieties of Perry’s Ice Cream, Detour Health Bars, and one variety of Turkey Hill Ice Cream have been added to the list of recalled products as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to investigate a multi-state salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter products.

The following products have been recalled as a precautionary measure as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to investigate a multi-state salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter products. The removal of these products is a precautionary measure, and based on the current state of the investigation, the FDA recommends that consumers avoid eating products that have been recalled and discard them. It is important that we communicate the following two points to customers:

1. ) All of these products have been pulled from our shelves and a complete list of recalled items is available at www.topsmarkets.com under “Product Recalls”. Please refer to this list, as some manufacturers have recalled multiple UPCs or varieties. Tops will continue to update the list when/if new recalls are announced.
2.) To lean more about the FDA’s investigation customers can visit www.fda.gov or by calling 1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332).
RECALLED ITEMS THAT ARE NEW TO THIS LIST ARE HIGHLIGHTED IN BLUE

1/30/09 Detour Runner Energy Bar, BR CHPB, 1.76 oz - 73391300816
1/30/09 Detour Biker Energy Bar Toffee, 1.76 oz - 73391300824
1/30/09 Detour Low Sugar Protien Bar, 3oz - 73391300586
1/30/09 Detour Carmel Peanut Protein Bar, 3 oz - 73391300321
1/30/09 Detour Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars, 3.2 oz - 73391300392
1/29/09 Perry’s Sundae Tracks, 48 f oz - 7576750030
1/29/09 Perry’s Hot Fudge Sundae IC, 8 f oz - 7576739008
1/29/09 Perry’s Hot Fudge Sundae, 48 fl oz - 7576720036
1/29/09 Perry’s NSA Mexican Sundae, 48 fl oz - 7576722504
1/29/09 Perry’s Peanut Butter Tracks, 48 fl oz - 7576700237
1/29/09 Perry’s Cone Nutty Sundae, 24.4 fl oz - 7576782040
1/29/09 Perry’s Buffalo Sabres Sundae, 48 fl oz - 7576750060
1/23/09 – Can Do Kids Evergy Bar CK/CR,1.41 oz – 85426000102 (This item was discontinued as of 11/23/08)
1/23/09 Can Do Kids Energy Bar Chocolate, 1.41oz – 85426000101 (This item was discontinued as of 11/23/08)

1/20/09 Cliff Bar Peanut Butter Builder Bar, 2.4 oz - 72225260141
1/20/09 Cliff Bar Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch, 2.4 oz - 72225210130
1/20/09 Cliff Bar Mojo p/b Pretzel Bar, 1.59 oz - 7222521262
1/20/09 Cliff Lun Peanut Butter Cookie Bar, 1.69 oz - 72225210061
1/20/09 Cliff Bar Mojo Mountain Trail Mix, 1.59 oz - 72225210561
1/20/09 Cliff Lun Nutz Over Chocolate, 1.69 oz - 72225210310
1/20/09 Cliff Bar Crunchy Peanut Bar, 2.4 oz - 72225210120
1/20/09 Cliff Bar Peanut Butter Energy Bar, 1.27 oz - 72225219412
1/20/09 Cliff Mojo Mixed Nuts Bar, 1.59 oz - 72225210531
1/20/09 Health Valley Granola Bar peanut Crunch, 6.1 oz - 3574215483
1/20/09 Nature’s Path Organic Optimum Peanut Butter , 2 oz – 5844977715
1/20/09 Cliff Bar peanut Butter Organic, 7.62 oz - 72225219202
1/20/09 Zone Prf Chocolate Peanut Butter SS, 8PK - 63810259478
1/20/09 Zone PRF Chocolate P/B Bars 5PK, - 63810220473
1/20/09 Zone PRF Chocolate Peanut - 63810220101
1/20/09 Zone PRF Peanut Toffee Bar - 63810258911
1/20/09 Pediasur Nutripals PB Chocolate, 6PK - 7007459569
1/20/09 Pediasur Nutripals PB Chocolate, 6 PK - 7007453392
1/19/09 Perry's Peanut Butter Chip Frozen Yogurt, 1.5 qt - 7576729704
1/17/09 Little Debbie Peanut Butter Crackers, 12 ct - 2430083152
1/17/09 Little Debbi Peanut Butter Bars, 11.5 oz - 2430004128
1/17/09 Little Debbie Cheese Crackers with Peanut Butter, 12 oz - 2430083150
1/16/09 Perry's Premium Ice Cream - Peanut Butter cup, 1.75 qt - 7576700226
1/16/09 Perry's Perfectly Churned Creamy Light Ice Cream Peanut Butter Cup, 1.75 qt -7576722309
1/16/09 Little Debbie Peanut Butter Toasty Crackers, 7.44oz - 2430004163
1/16/09 Little Debbie Peanut Butter Cheese Crackers, 7.44oz - 2430004115
1/15/09 Austin Cheese Peanut Butter Crackers, 7.44 oz - 7978340921
1/15/09 Keebler Cheese and Peanut Butter Crackers, 11.04 oz - 3010047324
1/15/09 Keebler Toast and Peanut Butter Crackers, 11.04 oz – 301004735

First the Steelers, Then Phil & Tony

A big event that's happening Monday in Pennsylvania has just about been overshadowed by Sunday's Super Bowl.

On Sunday, members of the Steeler Nation will be focusing on Tampa to see if the team brings back its sixth Super Bowl title, as predicted.

But on Monday, attention turns back to western Pennsylvania as the most prolific predictor of them all tells us how much longer we can expect winter to last.

Tradition has it that if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, we'll see six more weeks of winter. If there's no shadow in sight, all signs point to early spring weather.

And, Tarport Tony will be making his annual appearance on Monday, too. He's expected to arrive at the East Main Street gazebo at 9:30 a.m.

Case Lays Off 31 Factory Workers

W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery Co. has laid of 31 employees, all factory associates.

Case communications manager Fred Feightner says because of the economy, they have had to adjust their business plan.

He says the biggest problem is attitude – people and dealers are afraid to spend money right now.

Feightner says they don't foresee any more layoffs, but it all depends on the economy.

Dairies Recalling Ice Cream, Yogurt

Two Pennsylvania dairies are voluntarily recalling some ice cream and frozen yogurt flavors because of a possible link to salmonella-tainted peanuts.

The recalls announced today by Galliker Dairy in Johnstown and Turkey Hill in Lancaster County are because the Peanut Corporation of America expanded its recall.

Turkey Hill is recalling six flavors: Tin Roof Sundae Premium, Chocolate Nutty Moose Tracks Stuff’d, Chocolate Nutty Moose Tracks Light Recipe, Nutty Caramel Caribou Frozen Yogurt, Peanut Brittle No Sugar Added Recipe and Peanut Butter Mania Light Recipe.

Galliker is recalling Rocky Road Ice Cream and Sundae Nut Cones.

Only certain date codes are affected. Consumers with questions can call Turkey Hill at 800-693-2479 and Galliker at 800-477-6455 Ext. 239.

Cops: Sister Attacks Bride

Valparaiso, Indiana -- A woman who was not invited to her sister's wedding reception showed up anyway and attacked the bride, pulling clumps of hair from her head, striking her head and taking her to the ground, the Porter County Sheriff's Department said.

For the full story, go to NWI.com.

Dan Barry Coming to St. Bona's

Dan Barry, a New York Times columnist and distinguished alumnus of St. Bonaventure University, will be on campus from Feb. 9-20 as the Lenna Endowed Visiting Professor.

Barry will be speaking at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 11, in Dresser Auditorium located in the John J. Murphy Professional Building. During his visit, Barry will give various classroom and campus lectures and an open address at Jamestown Community College, in that city, the morning of Wednesday, Feb 18.

Barry graduated in 1980 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and mass communication and was named the 1994 Alumnus of the Year. He is the author of “This Land,” a well-read weekly feature column that appears every Monday on the first page of the Times national section and takes him to every corner of the United States.

He has won two Pulitzer Prizes, the first in 1994 as an investigative reporter with the Providence Journal-Bulletin, in Rhode Island, for a series of articles about corruption in that state’s court system. His articles led to widespread judicial reform and to the criminal indictment of the state Supreme Court chief justice. He received his second Pulitzer in 2002 as a member of The New York Times team that covered the World Trade Center disaster and its aftermath.

Barry has written two books, the first titled “Pull Me Up: A Memoir,” which has been favorably compared to Frank McCourt’s best-selling “Angela’s Ashes,” and the second, which was published a year ago, titled “City Lights: Stories About New York.”

He has been described by Lee Coppola, dean of the Russell J. Jandoli School of Journalism and Mass Communication, as “the best pure writer” to come out of the school’s 60-year program, which has produced four other Pulitzer Prize winners.

Barry has received numerous awards in his career; most recently, he was given Columbia University’s coveted Mike Berger Award for in-depth human interest reporting in 2005.

Of his own writing style, Barry has said, “I try to find the small stories, stories of small and large bonds. What I’m trying to do is slow things down, to give you the chance to wrap your brain around something, to put yourself in someone else’s shoes … I just try to put a face on stories, to capture moments like they’re fireflies.”

The Lenna Endowed Visiting Professorship, established in 1990, is funded through gifts from Betty S. Lenna Fairbank and the late Reginald A. Lenna of Jamestown. It is designed to bring scholars of stature in their field to St. Bonaventure and Jamestown Community College for public lectures.

Blessid Union of Souls at UPB

Pop rock band Blessid Union of Souls, known for Billboard chart hits “I Believe” and “Hey, Leonardo (She Likes Me for Me),” will perform Feb. 7 at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.

The unplugged acoustic concert, sponsored by the Student Activities Council, will be held at 8 p.m. in the Bromeley Family Theater in Blaisdell Hall. Tickets are free for students, $5 for faculty and staff, and $10 for the general public.

The band, composed of lead singer/songwriter Eliot Sloan, bassist Tony Clark, guitarist Bryan Billhimer and drummer Shaun Schaefer, will perform pop, R&B and folk music.

“It is exciting to have a band with so many hits close out the Winter Week festivities,” said Christina Graham, director of student activities. “When contracting the band, the SAC students decided to go with their ‘unplugged’ concert. They felt that it would showcase the band as well as the acoustics in the intimate setting of the Bromeley Family Theater better than a full show.”

Taking its name from a line on the television show “M*A*S*H,” the Blessid Union of Souls formed in 1990. The band released “Close to the Edge” in September and the single “Could’ve Been With You” in July, which was ranked as No. 39 on the Hot AC Indicator Radio Chart.

Blessid Union of Souls’ 1995 hit, “I Believe,” landed on the No. 1 spot on Radio and Records’ Hot 100 Singles Chart for two weeks; No. 1 on Billboard’s Heatseeker Chart for two weeks; No. 5 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary Chart; No. 6 on VH1; and eight consecutive weeks as Top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles Chart. It was named the fourth most played song of the year, and more than half a million copies of Home, the album on which the song appeared, were sold.

Meanwhile, “Hey, Leonardo (She Likes Me for Me),” released in 1999 on the album “Walking Off the Buzz,” earned a No. 7 spot in the Billboard National Radio Monitor and a No. 15 spot on the Top 40 monitor.

Other recordings by the band include “Perception” and “Blessid Union of Souls.” The band also released “Blessid Union Almost Acoustic” on iTunes in 2007.

The Ohio-based group has also appeared on national television shows, including “Donny and Marie,” “Regis and Kathie Lee,” “CNN Entertainment News,” “Entertainment Tonight,” “CBS This Morning” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.”

Songs have been played on “Cold Case,” “All My Children,” “Dancing With The Stars” and “American Idol.”

The band also produced a song for the sound track, “Ace Ventura II: When Nature Calls,” starring actor Jim Carrey in 1996; recorded a song on the “Pokemon Soundtrack” in 1999; and had a song featured in the film “Contact” starring actress Jodie Foster.

Blessid Union of Souls has also toured with The Goo Goo Dolls, Bon Jovi, Third Eye Blind and Shania Twain. Members also performed for U.S. military personnel stationed in Germany in 2005.

For disability-related needs, contact the Office of Disability Resources and Services at 814-362-7609 or arj4@pitt.edu.

Additional information is available by calling (814) 362-7593.

Hickey Dining Hall Goes Trayless

By Tom Missel
Director of Media Relations/Marketing


Hickey Dining Hall at St. Bonaventure University has begun serving up a helping of energy savings and waste reduction with each meal.

St. Bonaventure has joined the growing list of campuses nationwide that have eliminated trays in their dining facilities in a move embraced by conservation-conscious students.

Dining hall trays contribute significantly to the waste stream by encouraging diners to take more food than they can eat and adding to the stack of dirty dishes to be washed after each meal.

Aramark Dining Services, a dining provider at 500 campuses including St. Bonaventure, measured food wasted from more than 186,000 meals served at 25 institutions and found that removing dining hall trays reduced the waste generated per person by 25 to 30 percent.

Aramark had the numbers to support going trayless and campus communities had the resolve. In a survey of more than 92,000 students, faculty and staff at 300 institutions across the country, Aramark found that nearly 80 percent were ready to give up their trays.

St. Bonaventure’s Student Food Services Committee endorsed the move as did the university’s Sustainability Commission, a campuswide group formed to explore ways in which the university can create and maintain a more sustainable environment.

“I think this initiative is great,” said Philip Winger, associate vice president for facilities at St. Bonaventure and chairman of the Sustainability Commission. “This is one of the many ways in which a small change in lifestyle can have an effect on the world that we leave to future generations, not only because of the direct effect on energy and water consumption, but because of the small daily reminder that each of us can make a difference.”

St. Bonaventure entered the trayless era Jan. 19 with the return of students from winter break.

Jackie Martin of Rochester and Jennifer Goris of New York City, both St. Bonaventure freshmen, sat together in the dining hall this week, no trays under their lunch plates. They welcome the switch to trayless dining.

“I didn’t use a tray that much anyway so it really doesn’t affect me, but I haven’t heard many complaints,” said Goris.

“I think it’s effective because people don’t carry as much without a tray and they don’t waste as much,” said Martin. “I also agree that it cuts down on the amount of water and energy wasted.”

Amy Vleminckx, food service director at St. Bonaventure, said the dining hall still offers a small stack of trays as a convenience, but fewer than a dozen trays are now being used in a typical day. “I think students like the idea of participating in a ‘green’ initiative that has personal and community impact,” she said.

Aramark estimates that 50 to 60 percent of its 500 campus dining operations will go trayless this academic year.

Pictured, Jackie Martin (left) of Rochester and Jennifer Goris of New York City, both St. Bonaventure freshmen, eat a trayless meal at St. Bonaventure’s Hickey Dining Hall.
(Photo courtesy of St. Bonaventure University)

Judge Says Casino Can Stay Open

The Seneca Nation has won another legal battle.

US District Judge William Skretny has denied a motion to close the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, citing a new National Indian Gaming Commission ordinance that now authorizes gaming on the site.

Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie County had argued a previous gaming ordinance approved in July, 2007, was illegal.

The Senecas have operated a temporary casino off Michigan Avenue since July 2007. Last year, they started building a larger facility that they planned to open next year. But in August, they stopped construction because of economic difficulties. They haven't said when construction will resume.

Read the judge's ruling HERE. (PDF)

Man Ordered to Stand Trial for
Senator Rhoades' Death

A man has been ordered to stand trial on vehicular homicide and drunken driving charges in a head-on crash that killed Senator James Rhoades.

Thomas Senavitis appeared at a preliminary hearing today on charges stemming from the October 17 collision. Rhoades, the seven-term Republican from Schuylkill County died the following day.

Prosecutors say Senavitis had a blood-alcohol level more than four times the legal limit when his pickup truck crossed the center line and smashed into Rhoades' Cadillac on Route 209 in the Poconos.

Senavitis denies he was drunk. He says Rhoades veered into his lane to avoid hitting a minivan that was parked on the shoulder.

Specter Supports SCHIP

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) voted in favor of the State Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act. The U.S. Senate voted late last night, by a vote of 66-32, to renew the joint state-federal program.

The bill is aimed at providing health insurance to children from working families who earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid.

“It is imperative that we take steps to ensure health care coverage for our most important resource, our children,” Senator Specter said in a floor statement. “Congress can, and should, act to make sure children's health care does not suffer as a result of the economic downturn.”

Senator Specter also noted that the bill enjoyed less bipartisan support than its predecessor in the 110th Congress: “The legislation was revised without working across the aisle, which has resulted in a bill that is not as widely supported as its predecessor. Children's health is the wrong issue on which to push partisan politics.”

The House approved similar legislation last week, and the bill will now go to President Obama for his signature.

Senator Specter’s full floor statement follows:

Mr. President, I seek recognition to voice my support for the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act. In voicing my support, I must note that the bipartisan support that accompanied the drafting of this bill's predecessor in the 110th Congress was absent in this bill's introduction in the 111th Congress. The legislation was revised without working across the aisle, which has resulted in a bill that is not as widely supported as its predecessor. Children's health is the wrong issue on which to push partisan politics.

When we last debated the Children's Health Insurance Program in the 110th Congress, I was proud to lend my support to what I believe was a good, bipartisan bill. I voted in favor of the legislation twice, on August 2, 2007 and again on September 25, 2007. I was very disappointed in President Bush's veto of the legislation resulting in the delay of critical access to health care for millions of children.

This important legislation will revise and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, SCHIP, enabling it to provide access to medical coverage to an additional 5.5 million children whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private health insurance. Nationwide, 7 million children are currently enrolled in SCHIP, including 183,981 in Pennsylvania.

The reauthorized bill will provide an estimated 4.1 million children with access to health care coverage. To achieve that increase, the bill extends coverage to children in families with an annual income at or below 300 percent of the poverty level, or $66,150 for a family of four. The triple-the-poverty-level rate would bring the Nation in line with Pennsylvania's current plan.

It is imperative that we take steps to ensure health care coverage for our most important resource, our children. In a January 12, 2009, column in The Washington Post, E.J. Dionne wrote, ``[S]tates have enacted budget cuts that will leave some 275,000 people without health coverage ..... By the end of this year, if further proposed [State budget] cuts go through, the number losing health coverage nationwide could rise to more than 1 million, almost half of them children.'' Congress can, and should, act to make sure children's health care does not suffer as a result of the economic downturn.

Throughout my time in the Senate, I have consistently supported providing quality health care to children, including prenatal care. To improve pregnancy outcomes for women at risk of delivering babies of low birth weight and reduce infant mortality and the incidence of low-birth-weight births, I initiated action that led to the creation of the Healthy Start program in 1991. Working with the first Bush administration and Senator Harkin, as chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee, we allocated $25 million in 1991 for the development of 15 demonstration projects. For fiscal year 2008, we secured $99.7 million for 96 projects in this vital program. Health care initiatives like the Healthy Start program and the Children's Health Insurance Program are key to improving the health and well-being of children in this country.

The health care work of the 111th Congress will not be complete with just the reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. This legislation will address the needs of some of the most vulnerable children, but Congress must act in a bipartisan fashion to address health reform so that all of America's 47 million uninsured have access to adequate health care.

Man Hit By Buffalo Snowplow Dies

A 42-year-old man hit by a snowplow in Buffalo last Friday died early this morning in Erie County Medical Center.

Allen Andrew had been in critical condition since the incident.

44-year-old Rowan Gaines, the snowplow driver, has been charged with driving while intoxicated.

Andrew was walking on Kensington Avenue near Parkridge Avenue when he was hit by the snowplow at about 4:40 a.m. Jan. 23.

Gaines has worked for the City of Buffalo since 1987.

Rendell Wants New Cigarette Tax

Smokers could be paying 10 cents more a pack if Governor Ed Rendell gets his way.

His proposal is part of his plan to balance the state budget, and he says the additional cigarette tax would raise $50 million a year. He also wants to tax smokeless tobacco and cigars.

Rendell is proposing $150 million a year in new taxes on the extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation.

The governor says he expects to cut 100 of the state budget's 750 line items, including funding for anti-drug education, health literacy and a summer program for high school students.

'Super Squibb' Wins Wing Bowl

Jonathon Squibb of Berlin, N.J., a.k.a. Super Squibb, won the battle of the amateurs and the Mini Clubman car at Wing Bowl 17 this morning by eating 203 wings.

For more, including video, go to philly.com.

Cops: Drunk Man Riding Horse

CODY, Wyoming - A Cody man has been cited for public intoxication while riding his horse on a busy street during a weekend snowstorm.

For the full story, go to the Billings Gazette.

Buzz Week in Review

National Fuel Lowering Rates

Erie, Pennsylvania: National Fuel Gas Distribution Corporation (National Fuel) has submitted to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) a quarterly adjustment to gas supply charges, which will become effective February 1, 2009, for its Pennsylvania customers. This 8.2 percent decrease will lower the monthly bill of a typical residential customer using one hundred thousand cubic feet of gas annually from $138.48 to $127.13.

According to Nancy Taylor, Senior Manager of Corporate Communications, “Continued decreases in the market price of natural gas make this quarterly adjustment possible. This change reflects the cost of gas that has been, and will be, purchased by the company for its customers.” Pennsylvania utility companies are permitted to update gas supply charges on a quarterly basis to reflect changes in the market price of natural gas. National Fuel’s next opportunity to adjust gas supply charges will be May 1, 2009. Gas supply charges are passed along to customers dollar for dollar, with no mark-up or profit to National Fuel.

In a state-required annual filing, National Fuel forecasted a 17.2 percent decrease for gas supply charges to be effective August 1, 2009, through July 31, 2010. That forecast, which was based on information developed in December, remains on file with the PUC and will be adjusted before that date, in accordance with market conditions.

Customers who are having trouble paying their bills are encouraged to call National Fuel at 1-800-365-3234 to find out about payment programs and available services. Additionally, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is currently accepting applications for help with this year’s heating bills. Now, with new income guidelines, more families than ever before may qualify for a grant of at least $300. For example, a family of four with an annual income of $44,443 can qualify for funding.

National Fuel serves approximately 214,000 customers in 14 counties in northwestern Pennsylvania.

Penalty Phase of Trial Starts

The penalty phase of a triple-murder trial in Towanda has started.

The jury will decide if 32-year-old Steven Colegrove should be sentenced to death for killing his parents and brother in August of 2007. He was convicted of first-degree murder on Wednesday.

Colegrove automatically gets life without parole if the jury decides against the death penalty.

Prosecutors say Colegrove killed his family to collect an inheritance.

Duquesne Not Happy with Grisham

A fictitious episode involving Duquesne University students is the central plot device of the new John Grisham legal thriller, but it's not exactly the kind of publicity an image-conscious school welcomes.

"The Associate" features a sexual assault by drunk fraternity boys in an off-campus apartment.

Duquesne is not thrilled.

For the full story, go to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Governor Super Bowl Bets Are On

Super Bowl bets between governors of the opposing teams' states usually involve food and team paraphernalia, so you might think Governor Ed Rendell's bet with Arizona Governor Jan Brewer would have something to do with a Primanti Bros. sandwich and a Terrible Towel.

Not this time.

Rendell told me today that the losing team must host a couple from the winning team's state for a long weekend that will include free hotel stays, free restaurants, free cultural events, free sporting events and more.

The winning couple will be chosen by using the Pennsylvania tourism web site.

Rendell also has a bet with former governor and current Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. If things go the Steelers' way on Sunday, Napolitano will be buying dinner for Rendell at a Washington, DC, restaurant of his choosing.

By the way, Rendell's prediction for the game is Steelers 27, Cardinals 10.

Super Bowl Will Delay Schools

No matter what the weather's like on Monday – Pittsburgh schools will be on a two-hour delay.

School district officials say by delaying the start of school, they hope they'll reduce absenteeism the day after the Super Bowl.

School officials did the same thing the day after the Steelers won Super Bowl XL three years ago.

Cops: Man Sold Stolen Newspapers

PHILLIPSBURG | A man who delivered The Express-Times to at least a dozen customers for three years was arrested Wednesday.

The problem? He doesn't work for the newspaper and was delivering stolen goods, police said.

Michael Farrell, 53, was arrested for allegedly stealing newspapers from Express-Times boxes in the Phillipsburg area then selling them to people who thought they were paying for a subscription, Phillipsburg police said.

For the full story, go to Lehigh Valley Live.com.

Obama Going With Steelers

WASHINGTON (AFP) — President Barack Obama on Thursday backed the Pittsburgh Steelers to triumph in Sunday's Super Bowl, snubbing the "Cinderella story" Arizona Cardinals.

"Other than the Bears, the Steelers are probably the team that's closest to my heart," Obama told reporters in the Oval Office, after a meeting with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

for the rest of the story, go to AFP

Blagojevich Ousted

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois Senate voted unanimously Thursday to convict former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in his impeachment trial, making him the first Illinois governor to ever be removed from office by way of impeachment.

For more, go to the Morning Sun.

Pictures of Monday's Fires

If you'd like to see pictures of two of the three fires in Bradford/Bradford Township on Monday, go to the Bradford Township Volunteer Fire Department web site.

Backpack to Briefcase at UPB

The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford will hold a career development seminar from 10:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31, in the Frame-Westerberg Commons.

Organizers chose the theme “Lead with Your Strengths” to help students understand the importance of identifying and taking advantage of their best qualities as they contend with the challenges of the current economy.

The keynote speaker for the event is alumnus Mark P. Benton ’74-’75, a speaker, writer and founder, owner and president of Tri-County Events Inc., a company that delivers a wide range of sporting events, including camps, clinics, leagues and banquets. He has worked in both radio and television as a color commentator for high school and college football and basketball games. He serves on the education faculty at Medaille College in Buffalo.

In addition to Benton’s talk, alumni will present a variety of workshops and offer mock interviews.

Lindsay Hilton Retchless ’98, director of alumni relations, said that the workshop “Who’s Hiring Who?” will specifically address fields that are currently hiring and provide specific tips and strategies on finding employment during tough economic times.

“What helps make From Backpack to Briefcase so special is the large number of talented alumni who come to campus to lead workshops, serve on panels or conduct mock interviews,” Retchless said. “Our students are energized and motivated when they have a chance to talk one-on-one with someone who was in their shoes not so long ago.”

Workshops on planning for graduate school and making the most of the first year on the job were also added this year based on student interest and timeliness of the topics.

“If you aren’t having success in the job market, it can be a good way to go,” Retchless said. “If you’re even thinking about going to grad school, you need to know what the process is.”

From Backpack to Briefcase is presented by the Pitt-Bradford Alumni Association, Career Services Office and Entrepreneurship Program and sponsored by Northwest Savings Bank.

The day of workshops includes a luncheon with entertainment by the Pitt-Bradford Improvers comedy improvisation group, which will take a humorous look at the unexpected situations job seekers face.

State Money for Treatment Plant

A project in Tioga County is one of 49 projects sharing millions of dollars in state grant money to expand the clean energy and biofuels industries.

Babb Creek Watershed Association, Inc. will receive $428,710 for a 53 kilowatt microhydro turbine on the Antrim acid mine drainage treatment plant.

The Antrim treatment plant will save $9,400 a year, with excess to be sold, generating $17,300 annually. The plant treats 1,800 gallons per minute of acidic mine drainage, one of the state’s most difficult environmental challenges.

The grants announced today, which include $7.2 million through the Energy Harvest program and $6.5 million through the Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant program, will support projects in at least 25 counties and will leverage more than $53.1 million in private investments. The projects are also expected to create at least 77 jobs.
Scarnati said the Babb Creek Water Association will install a 53 kilowatt microhydro turbine on the discharge side of the Antrim acid mine drainage treatment plant. The turbine is expected to generate 460,000 kilowatt hours per year.

Sen. Joe Scarnati said the Antrim treatment plant will receive a large portion of the power, saving it $9,400 annually, with the excess to be sold, generating $17,300 annually. The plant treats 1,800 gallons per minute of acidic mine drainage, one of the state’s most difficult environmental challenges.

“This is a great way to create new energy at a time when we are trying to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Scarnati said. “By harnessing the energy sources we have, we can save consumers money, produce clean energy and make energy costs more affordable for all Pennsylvanians.”

Steelers R Good -- Part II

In case you couldn't get to Smokin' Section's web site, here's the song:

Steelers R Good.

Thanks Mick!

Associate Praises Fumo Dealings

Former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo's top lawyer in Harrisburg yesterday praised the tough bargaining by his boss that led Peco Energy Co. to freeze its rates and contribute millions to a nonprofit now at the center of a sweeping indictment against the powerful Democrat.

For the full story, go to philly.com.

New Exam for Corrections Officers

State Senator Catharine Young (R,I,C - Olean), in conjunction with the New York State Department of Corrections, has announced a new exam for correction officers. It will be held April 4, 2009 with a filing deadline of February 17,2009 under the auspices of the New York State Department of Civil Service.

Correction officer positions are located throughout the state in various correctional facilities. Under the direct supervision of a higher-ranking officer, correction officers are responsible for the custody and security, as well as the safety and well-being of criminal offenders. Officers supervise the movement and activities of inmates, make periodic rounds of assigned areas, conduct searches for contraband, maintain order within the facility, and prepare reports as necessary. Officers advise inmates on the rules and regulations governing the operation of the facility and assist them in resolving problems. They have a high degree of responsibility for their actions and decisions and may also be required to carry firearms in the performance of certain duties and to perform other related work as required.

After successful completion of the one-year correction officer traineeship, the salary increases to $41,348 per year from $34,329 during the first year training.

For a correction officer fact sheet that briefly describes the salary and benefits available to employees serving in correction officer positions, along with an exam announcement and map of correctional facilities, call Senator Young’s Albany Office at 518-455-3563, email the request to Senator Young at cyoung@senate.state.ny.us, or visit the Department of Corrections website at www.docs.state.ny.us.

Murder Charges Bound to Court

Murder charges against three people in connection with the death of a Tionesta man last month have been bound to Warren County Court.

Cory Altman, Susan Yeager and Robert Pessia are all charged with murdering Shawn Yeager on December 5.

Police say Altman is the one who shot Shawn Yeager with a hunting rifle, but Susan Yeager, the victim's estranged wife, actually hatched the plot.

Susan Yeager and Robert Pessia were originally charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, but District Attorney Ross McKiernan added the murder charge earlier this month.

Authorities believe Susan Yeager came up with the plan because she wasn't getting as much time with her sons as she thought she should. Her sons, ages 12 and 15, found their father's body on the deck of his house.

PSU Releases '09 Football Schedule

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., - Penn State football fans will be treated to a 2009 home schedule that includes visits by three Big Ten bowl teams, a pair of old rivals and Beaver Stadium's 300th game.

The 300th game to be played in Beaver Stadium will take place on Nov. 7, when rival Ohio State visits for the 25th meeting between the squads (series tied, 12-12). The Nittany Lions have an impressive 236-57 (80.5) record in the nation's largest stadium (107,282), earning a 26-2 home record since the Michigan State game in 2004.

For the full story, and schedule, go to the Penn State Football web site.

Causer Reminds Emergency
Responders of State Tax Credit

Active volunteer emergency responders in Cameron, Potter and McKean counties may be eligible for a tax credit worth up to $100 on their 2008 state income tax return, Rep. Martin Causer (R-Turtlepoint) said today.

"Emergency responders provide a great service to our communities each and every day," Causer said. "The tax credit is a small token of appreciation for a job well done."

Under Act 66 of 2008, active members of a volunteer ambulance service or fire ore rescue company can receive a credit of up to $100 against their state personal income tax liability.

Eligibility is based upon how active an individual is within his or her company. Points are awarded to volunteers based on activities such as obtaining certifications, attending training courses and organizational meetings, and through response rates, sleep-in and standby times, holding elected and/or appointed positions, lifetime membership, military leave, and other related administrative and support activities. A volunteer responder must have earned a total of 50 points between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 of last year to be eligible for the 2008 tax year credit.

For additional information and detailed eligibility requirements, visit Causer's Web site at www.RepCauser.com and click on "Emergency Responder Tax Credit."

Roe Delivers Annual PCG Report

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe today presented the agency’s annual report to the General Assembly, and delivered testimony before the House Game and Fisheries Committee. To view a copy of the agency’s annual report, go HERE.

More Pennsylvanians are Uninsured

HARRISBURG – The commonwealth’s latest statewide survey on uninsured rates shows that more than one million Pennsylvanians lack health insurance coverage – an increase from a similar study in 2004, Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario said today.

“Overall, the study showed that increases in uninsured numbers were seen in almost every category; including adults, children, certain ethnic groups and most geographic areas,” Ario said. “Adults are more likely than children to be uninsured, and this shows up in the fast-growing waiting list for our adultBasic program, which provides subsidized health coverage to adults who have been uninsured for at least six months.

“The waiting list stands at more than 183,000 individuals this week and is projected to grow to 282,000 by the end of June,” said Ario. “This compares to a projected enrollment of more than 41,000; meaning that the waiting list may soon be seven times the number of enrollments unless the General Assembly addresses the problem. Some people have been on the waiting list since November of 2006.

“Coverage through private health insurance dropped from 66 percent covered in 2004 to 62 percent in 2008. Some of this decline was made up by an increase from 14 to 18 percent in Pennsylvania residents who have health insurance through a state-sponsored program.

“While this survey was conducted before the recession became evident, even at that time, more than 75 percent of the uninsured ranked cost as the main reason for not having health insurance. Also, those without insurance are not accessing the routine care necessary to prevent or address health conditions before they become bigger problems.

“Additionally, the uninsured are a diverse population. Most uninsured adults are working, but either are not offered insurance or cannot afford the insurance that is offered to them. Others are temporarily uninsured because they're between jobs. These numbers would be worse if not for public programs, but some also fall through the cracks of public programs.

“Survey results demonstrate the effectiveness of our Children’s Health Insurance Program, CHIP, with only 5 percent of children, up to age18, uninsured compared to 12 percent of adults 19-64 years old. One reason our track record with children is better than with adults is that CHIP has substantial support from the federal government, while adultBasic does not.

“Our state’s uninsured percentage rate – at just over eight percent – continues to be better than the 15.8 percent national average, but the trends are heading in the wrong direction. The CHIP program illustrates how public-private collaborations can work, especially with state and federal dollars, and the Governor’s health reform proposals would apply those lessons to expanding the adultBasic program. We will continue to work with the General Assembly and the federal government to cover the uninsured.”

Ario noted that the federal government is currently considering an expansion of the SCHIP program, as well as targeted assistance to uninsured adults through increased support to state Medicaid programs and subsidies for individuals on COBRA (health insurance) coverage.

Specific findings of the survey:

The survey found that more than 1 million (1,021,790) Pennsylvanians lack health insurance coverage. This is an increase from a 2004 study indicating that nearly 900,000 Pennsylvania residents were uninsured.


Overall, the percentage of Pennsylvania residents that are uninsured rose from 7.5 percent in 2004 to 8.2 percent in 2008. Individuals in the 19-44 age bracket are the most likely to be uninsured.


Adults lacking health insurance rose from 755,000 in 2004 to nearly 883,000 in 2008.


The percentage of Pennsylvanians covered by private health insurance dropped from 66 percent in 2004 to 62 percent in 2008. However, when looking at individuals under age 65, more than 70 percent are covered by private health insurance. This is slightly above the national average of 68.9 percent.


About 18 percent of Pennsylvania residents have health insurance through a state- sponsored program, an increase from 14 percent in 2004.


The number of uninsured children increased from about 133,500 to approximately 138,500. However, more than 60 percent of eligible children are enrolled in the CHIP program and nearly all (83 percent) of the CHIP parents would recommend the program.


Characteristics of those who are uninsured show that: nearly 18 percent have lacked coverage for more than 5 years; 62 percent, ages 19-64, are working; of those people who are working and uninsured, nearly 48 percent work for small employers of fewer than 50 people; 61 percent have not seen a doctor or health care provider for routine care during the last 12 months (this compares to 24 percent of those with coverage); only 6 percent have stayed in a hospital overnight during the last 12 months (this compares to 11 percent of insured Pennsylvanians).




The survey, conducted by the research group, Market Decisions, LLC, is a follow-up to the department’s original Health Insurance Status Survey from 2004. The survey provides information about health insurance coverage, demographic and employment characteristics and the financial barriers to health care for Pennsylvania residents. A random, digit-dial telephone survey interviewed over 20,000 households representing every county in the commonwealth and gathered information on nearly 50,000 Pennsylvanians, a sampling more than three times the population surveyed in 2004. The percentages reported for the entire survey sample have a margin of error of 0.7 percent statewide. Interviews were conducted between September 27, 2007 and May 15, 2008.

Results of the survey can be found at www.insurance.state.pa.us.

Drug Discount Card Settlement

HARRISBURG - Attorney General Tom Corbett today announced that the Attorney General's Health Care Section has reached a $230,000 consumer settlement with a Chester County company accused of misleading older consumers by falsely implying that its discount drug cards and other products were government-endorsed insurance plans that offered "members" significant savings on prescription drugs or medical treatment.

The consent judgment, filed in Commonwealth Court, requires Frazer-based Peoples Benefit Services Inc. to pay restitution to consumers who file valid refund claims with the Attorney General's Health Care Section by March 24th. The judgment also includes civil penalties and investigative costs, which will be used to support future public protection programs and investigations by the Attorney General's Office.

Corbett said the agreement resolves complaints that were raised in a 2005 lawsuit against Peoples Benefit Services, which was accused of using misleading advertising to convince consumers that its products were affiliated with government-approved Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans. The company advertised its prescription drug discount card through statewide telemarketing activities, TV ads and direct mail pieces and telemarketing calls to Pennsylvania residents, charging $5.95 to $12.95 per month for the service.

Corbett said the consumer settlement requires Peoples Benefit Services to take a series of steps to avoid any confusion in future promotions, including:

Substantiate any claims about savings for consumers.
Clearly disclose all costs and fees.
Provide a list of pharmacies and medical providers who participate in the program.
Halt the use of any symbols, logos, wording or other references that give the impression of a government affiliated program.
Halt the use of insurance industry terms to advertise products that are not insurance.
Register as a telemarketing in Pennsylvania and comply with the Do Not Call law.
Register any fictitious business names with the PA Department of State.
Corbett said consumers who purchased drug discount cards from Peoples Benefit Services and wish to apply for a refund should contact the Attorney General's Health Care Section at 1-877-888-4877 to obtain a complaint form. Electronic complaint forms are also available on the Attorney General's website, at www.attorneygeneral.gov (Highlight the "Complaints" button on the front page of the website and select "Health Care Complaints" from the menu that appears).

All consumer claims must be filed with the Attorney General's Health Care Section by March 24, 2009.

Corbett said the consent judgment was filed in Commonwealth Court by Chief Deputy Attorney General Thomas M. Devlin and Deputy Attorney General Timothy E. Gates of the Attorney General's Health Care Section.

LiveLine with Gov. Ed Rendell

Topics we discussed are:
~~ possible furloughs of state workers
~~ local grant money
~~ Dan Surra/Pennsylvania Wilds
~~ Lt. Gov. Joe Scarnati
~~ Super Bowl score prediction

Listen HERE.

Costa Reports on PA Job Ranking

HARRISBURG, January 29, 2009 – While suffering a net loss of jobs during the national economic crisis, Pennsylvania’s rate of employment change was better than 30 other states in 2008, state Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said today, citing data released this week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

From the end of December 2007 until the final day of 2008, total non-farm jobs in Pennsylvania declined by 76,200, from about 5.808 million to 5.732 million. The change of minus-1.31 percent was the 20th best among the 50 states. Only eight states gained jobs in 2008, led by Wyoming’s 2.22 growth rate. Of the 42 that lost jobs, Rhode Island showed the largest rate of decline at minus-4.48 percent.

A closer look at monthly job numbers illustrates just how much Pennsylvania has been impacted by the sudden downturn of the economy that began in late summer and fall. Of the 76,000-plus jobs lost during the year, 75,000 of them disappeared since July.

“We have softened the blow to the state’s economy. Ranking 20th in this severe recession is partly a credit to the strategic investments in job creation that we have made,” said Costa, while noting that he was also mindful of the personal toll on the unemployed.

“When you lose as many jobs as we did last year, you have to remember the human story behind the numbers. It is sad for families who are now without a breadwinner, single people who can’t make ends meet, or young people who must delay pursuing their career goals,” added state Sen. Christine Tartaglione, Democratic chair of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee, and also Caucus Administrator.

Costa, the Senate Democratic Appropriations Committee Chairman, cited several key factors that helped Pennsylvania outperform the national average. Investments through the Commonwealth Financing Authority of more than $1 billion have leveraged an additional $3 billion of privately invested capital. The new slot machine gambling industry has provided $800 million in tax relief to date. Pennsylvania has cumulatively cut business taxes by $4 billion since 2003, with the capital Stock & Franchise Tax rate now down to 1.89 mills as of January 1, 2009. Targeted state money has stimulated shared university/business research, tourism, and international trade and investment.

He pointed out that the state has cut taxes to free up capital, yet has continued investing state resources in a way that leads to job creation. Both are important if we want to create a business climate that will produce economic growth and help out of these difficult times.

Pennsylvania’s ranking was up from 2007, when it had the 36th best employment growth rate. During the 1990s, Pennsylvania consistently ranked in the 40s among states in job growth.

All six states on Pennsylvania’s border also lost jobs last year. Two ranked better than Pennsylvania – West Virginia (10th) and Maryland (12th.) The four neighboring states who were worse ranked as follows: New York (22nd,) New Jersey (23rd,) Ohio (25th,) and Delaware (29th.)

To see a complete list of states, click HERE

CDC Recognizes Kane Hospital

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently recognized Kane Community Hospital for its 2008 participation in the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN). NHSN is an internet-based surveillance system that tracts all healthcare-acquired Infections (HAI).

NHSN is the primary framework for hospitals nationwide to report health-care acquired infections.

Infections reported to the NHSN are automatically forwarded to the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH), Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4), and the Patient Safety Authority. Reporting to NHSN began February 14, 2008.

The purpose of NHSN is to collect data from a sample of US healthcare facilities to permit valid estimation of the magnitude of adverse events among patients and healthcare personnel. NHSN then analyzes and reports collected data to permit recognition of trends, and to provide facilities with risk-adjusted data that can be used for inter-facility comparisons and local quality improvement activities.

Pictured, from left, are Key principals of Infection Control policy and management: Amy Peterson, LPN, KCH Infection Control Professional; Pam Bray, RN, Director of Nursing, and Emmanuel Hipolito, M.D., Internal Medicine and medical director of Infection Control.

(Photo courtesy of Kane Community Hospital)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Colegrove Found Guilty

The man accused of killing his parents and brother in Bradford County has been convicted of first-degree murder.

A jury in Towanda reached its verdict Wednesday evening after more than six hours of deliberation in the case of 32-year-old Steven Colegrove.

In August of 2007, he shot his parents and brother. Prosecutors say he was having money problems and wanted an inheritance.

Auditor General Says PA Overpaid
Medicaid by More Than $3 Million

HARRISBURG, Jan. 28, 2009 – Auditor General Jack Wagner said today that the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, through its county assistance offices, failed to make proper Medicaid eligibility determinations on more than 1,600 Medicaid applicants between January 2005 and March 2008, resulting in $3.3 million in improper payments made on behalf of ineligible recipients.

“A dollar wasted is a dollar that could have gone to help a truly needy person receive the medical assistance he or she deserves,” Wagner said. “With the commonwealth facing widening budget deficits, the Department of Public Welfare must do all that it can to monitor the state’s Medicaid program, to make sure all funds are being spent efficiently, effectively, and for their intended purpose. I strongly urge DPW to take immediate steps to tighten its administration and oversight of this vitally important program to ensure that people who are eligible for Medicaid benefits will be able to receive every dollar they’re entitled to for their care.”

The audits are the first Medicaid eligibility audits completed by Wagner’s department.

For the full story, go to the auditor general's web site.

PA Marine Dies in Afghanistan

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two Marines who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

The following Marines died Jan. 27 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan:

Sgt. David W. Wallace III, 25, of Sharpsville, Pa.

Sgt. Trevor J. Johnson, 23, of Forsyth, Mont.

The Marines were assigned to the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Thompson Votes 'No' on Stimulus

Washington, DC – U.S. Representative Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Howard, today voted in opposition to a massive $1.1 trillion spending package crafted by Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats that will do little to stimulate the economy and create jobs.

“There is no question our economy is in dire straits”, said Thompson, a Member of the House Small Business Committee. “But as I have stated throughout this process, throwing money at the problem will not offer the ‘stimulus’ that I agree must occur. Look no further than the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), known as the Wall Street bailout, where the federal government squandered over $350 billion as evidence of a big government solution, and its ill-effect on the economy.”

Thompson, who supported an alternative measure that focused on small business and middle class tax relief, housing and unemployment assistance, remains committed to working with his colleagues across the aisle in advocating for smart government solutions to the many economic challenges facing the nation.

“As the economic engine that powers our economy, extensive small business tax relief coupled with homebuyer and extended unemployment insurance benefits will undoubtedly stimulate economic growth. The Republican alternative takes each of these measures into account and is the primary reason it gained my support.

“There are many worthwhile programs included in the Democratic package, but this bill, originally pitched as an Economic Recovery and Rescue Package, contains hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending that will do absolutely nothing to create jobs and stimulate the economy.”

Some of the spending Thompson is referring to is $600 million to purchase new vehicles for the federal government, $600 million to ‘prepare the country for universal healthcare’, $726 million for an after-school snack program, $400 million for ‘habitat restoration’, $82 billion in ‘tax rebates’ for Americans who do not pay taxes, among many others.

Under the Democratic plan, that passed the House today on a near party line vote – 244 yea, 188 nay – only $30 billion of the estimated $1.1 trillion package will go towards much needed highway and bridge investment.

“Almost every economist is in agreement that the best bang for the buck – aside from tax relief – is infrastructure investment. But when you look at this package, transportation infrastructure spending represents a mere 5 percent of the total package. This is not acceptable and the American people deserve better.”

Thompson also expressed serious concern over the closed process with which the bill was crafted. “The citizens of the Fifth District sent me to Washington to advocate on their behalf – to look out for their interests and to fight for fiscally responsible polices. This bill does not fit that mold and unfortunately, the Speaker of the House is not interested in applying the fiscal responsibility and accountability, which so many Fifth District families incorporate into their everyday lives, to the Federal government.”

Listen to Thompson's comments HERE.

Jury Has Triple Murder Case

A jury now has the case of a man accused of killing his parents and brother near Towanda.

32-year-old Steven Colegrove is accused of killing his family members to get an inheritance, but his lawyer told the jury that Colegrove's surviving brother and sister-in-law might have killed the victims.

But District Attorney Daniel Barrett says he has a "rock solid" case, and that the blood of one of the victims was found on a shotgun in Deposit, New York, where Steven Colegrove lived.

Barrett is seeking the death penalty.

The victims of the August 8, 2007, murders are Colegrove's father, Joseph; his mother, Marlene, and his brother Michael.

Rapp: Abolish 'Capital Punishment'
to Spur Job Creation in the State

Eight days before the governor’s annual budget address, State Representative Kathy Rapp (R-Warren/Forest/McKean) joined with State Representative Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) and more than a dozen other fiscally conservative House Republicans in the state Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday to offer several government-limiting solutions that are designed to put Pennsylvania Taxpayers First.

Citing Pennsylvania’s near-bottom-of-the –barrel national rankings in job growth, personal income growth, and population growth, Rapp called for the immediate “abolishment” for some of the Keystone State’s highest business tax rates or “capital punishments” to spur job creation.

“In short, increasing business taxes or regulatory fees to pay for fiscally-irresponsible General Fund spending and borrowing is a formula for government-assisted, economic suicide,” said Rapp. “The simple fact remains that whenever businesses are paying more money on taxes, mandatory employee training and unnecessary legal or regulatory compliance costs, the unfortunate result is a loss of jobs, and even more impoverished families as employers of all shapes and sizes are forced to reduce to the bare bones to survive.”

Specific business tax reductions suggested by Rapp included:
Completing the phase-out of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax.
Reducing Pennsylvania’s 9.99 percent Corporate Net Income Tax (CNI) to 6.9 percent.
Amending the CNI to implement a Singles Sales Factor on business profits only, rather than the current system that also taxes property and employee payrolls.
Removing the $2 million cap on Net Operating Loss (NOL) deductions that businesses are allowed to carry forward into the next fiscal year.

“The business-friendly policy suggestions outlined here represent only a fraction of the options available to state lawmakers to improve Pennsylvania’s overall economic climate,” said Rapp. “Competitive tax rates and tax credits, flexible regulations, permitting processes and land approvals, and infrastructure support are some of the many other influences or ingredients that attract or deter expansion or the relocation of businesses. As the reign for one of the most notorious tax-and-spend, anti-business governors in the history of the Commonwealth draws to a close, these same integral growth-producing elements are rapidly becoming endangered economic species teetering on the brink of extinction.”

Other Taxpayers First protections outlined at Tuesday’s press conference and supported by Rapp include:
Implementing constitutional or statutory spending limits.
Reducing the state Personal Income Tax to the pre-Rendell level of 2.8 percent.
Eliminating all state discretionary funding or “Walking Around Money” (WAMs).
Repealing Pennsylvania’s prevailing wage mandate and tolling of Interstate 80 (Act 44 of 2007).
Reducing total state welfare spending by 10 percent and transferring the roughly $1 billion in savings to fund core bridge and highway construction projects.
Requiring any future local school and municipal tax increases to be approved through a voter referendum.
Finally, enacting a 2009-2010 state budget that contains no new taxes, no new spending and no new borrowing.

“As companies continue to take their business and jobs elsewhere at an alarming rate, the information provided during today’s press conference should serve as a long-overdue wakeup call for all anti-business lawmakers who continue to hit the snooze button on statewide economic development,” said Rapp. “Much more can and must be done immediately. Our state’s job creators are not operating in a vacuum and more competitive states will simply not wait for Pennsylvania to catch up.”

Gov. Rendell on Thursday's LiveLine

State legislators have started working on the budget earlier than usual because of the looming deficit for this year and the implications that has for next year.

But they're also working in a spirit of bipartisanship. Senator Mike Stack talked about that today on the Senate floor.

Tomorrow on the LiveLine, I'll be talking with Governor Ed Rendell about what the budget crisis means for McKean County.

Sen. Stack's remarks

'Steelers R Good'

If you've heard the song on WESB -- or you've heard of the song ... Now you can listen to it anytime you want by going to the Smokin' Section web site and clicking on "Play List." By the way, Chuck Sirko is the Chuck of Mick 'n' Chuck and he'll be talking with Frank Williams later this week about some big Super Bowl plans.

Big thanks to Kristina for letting us know about the song!

Casey Statement on Climate Change

WASHINGTON, D.C. -U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) released the following statement at today’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing addressing Global Climate Change: The Road to Copenhagen where former Vice-President Al Gore testified.

“Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling today’s hearing on a very important issue facing our nation and the world today. The threat of catastrophic global warming may seem to be a second priority after fixing our current economic crisis, but I believe that we if we do not address both simultaneously we are setting ourselves up for another crisis in the future that will have untold consequences on the world’s economy and population. We must work aggressively to fix our immediate problems while ensuring our long-term security and prosperity.

“The solution to global warming is a puzzle with two interlocking pieces. One is our role as part of a global solution. The other is our domestic policy that will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions so that we meet our global commitment. We made a good start last year with the first major debate on global warming legislation. But while we continue to work on legislation that will make mandatory reductions in our greenhouse gas emissions, we must keep our eye on the international aspect of this debate.

“Just eleven months from now, we are scheduled to sign off on an agreement to address global warming under the U.N. Framework Convention of Climate Change. We have a lot of work to do between now and then to re-establish ourselves as a world leader and back that commitment up with the domestic policy that will achieve the greenhouse gas reductions we need to make to fulfill our global commitment.

“As it stands today, I would characterize the U.S. as being behind the power curve when it comes to addressing global warming. We spent much of the last eight years thinking up reasons that we couldn’t act and excuses for ignoring our role in a global crisis. While we have made progress, we are still at the beginning of the process of piecing together a domestic program that will work for all of the different regions of this country. Embracing the goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 is easier than the actual mechanics that will achieve the reductions. We have a lot of work to do to answer some very tough questions. For example, I believe that we must have a plan for coal. That is, the status quo will obviously not get us the reductions we need when a full one-third of all of our greenhouse gases come from generating electricity. But coal is an important domestic resource that we cannot simply ignore for the sake of expediency. Furthermore, the impact of the coal industry on Pennsylvania and other states in our region is such that we cannot simply go on faith alone. We must have a common-sense future for coal based on science and investments in technology that will bridge the gap between today and a carbon-controlled future.

“Much of the progress we have made on global warming has been done by the states, including the most recent petition of states like California and Pennsylvania to be allowed to regulate automobile emissions. The states are certainly working hard to keep up their end of the bargain, and now it’s time for us to do our work both internationally and with a national program to slow, stop, and reverse global warming.”

Two Crash Victims Discharged

Two of four Drexel University students who survived Sunday's early-morning double-fatal crash on Route 15 near here were discharged Tuesday from Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, a nursing supervisor said.

Andrew F. Cardamone, 19, of Philadelphia and a passenger in his 2002 Chevy Trailblazer, Kevin MacDonald, 18, also of Philadelphia were discharged from the hospital while another passenger, Eric S. Rayburn, 18, of Quakertown, remained in fair condition at Geisinger. A third passenger, Adam D. Marsh, 20, of Collegeville now is reported in fair condition at Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre

For the full story, go to the Williamsport SunGazette.

'This Chicken Needs to Go'

We all know that mayors get phone calls about snow removal, blighted properties, crime, etc. But Mayor Tom Riel is dealing with a problem Mayor Michael Nutter in Philadelphia and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in Pittsburgh probably don't have to deal with.

Listen to a complaint HERE.

Riel says there is an ordinance regulating pet chickens, but this is a stray chicken.

UPB Honored for Work with CARE

The National Association of Division III Athletics Administrators has honored the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford for its work with McKean County CARE for Children.

The Pitt-Bradford department of athletics was selected as an honorable mention award winner of the NADIIIAA/Jostens Community Service Awards for its ongoing projects during the 2007-08 academic year.

The award was presented to Lori Mazza, director of athletics and recreational sports, at the NCAA convention in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

Pitt-Bradford’s athletic department has made available to CARE the time and expertise of its coaches and athletes as well as its facilities, making possible mini-camps and programs for children with physical and developmental disabilities.

CARE for Children provides pediatric health and therapy services, early childhood education programs, and community outreach programs for children of all abilities in McKean County and the surrounding region.

“This program started with women’s basketball, and we now have other sports joining the fun,” Mazza said. “Once our athletes play with the CARE kids, they ask to do it again. I know CARE enjoys coming out and playing with our students, but the reality is that we get so much more out of it than the children do.”

Programs put on by Pitt-Bradford have included the Lady Panthers basketball clinic, one of CARE’s most popular programs, where youngsters learn to dribble, pass and shoot, and the new CARE Kids Fitness gym and swim program. In June, community volunteers, led by Pitt-Bradford head baseball coach Bret Butler and head softball coach Tina Phillips, helped CARE children learn the fundamentals of baseball.

Athletes from men’s soccer and women’s volleyball have also participated. And in August 2007, athletic and recreational sports secretary Suzanne Dittman held an aerobics class in the dance studio followed by field hockey and swimming.

Last year the CARE for Children Board of Directors honored Pitt-Bradford with its Community CARE Award recognizing outstanding volunteer contributions to the agency.

“CARE for Children is so pleased that Pitt-Bradford is being recognized for its partnership with our organization,” said Tina Martin, CARE executive director. “We are grateful to the coaches and student-athletes who share their talents and open their hearts to our kids who have disabilities and for a university administration that supports an inclusive, compassionate culture.”

Mazza added, “This partnership has given student-athletes and staff the chance to experience a life experience that may be very different and separate from their own.”

Also at the NCAA convention, Mazza was elected to serve as an at-large member of the executive board of the National Association of Division III Athletic Administrators.

The photo, courtesy of Pitt-Bradford, shows a member of the Lady Panthers basketball team working with children from McKean County CARE for Children at a basketball clinic.

Hall of Fame '09 Class Announced

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. - Jim Baron `77, Anna Belliveau `99, Jean Pascal Gingras `98, and Father Gerald T. McCaffrey O.F.M. `54 will represent the St. Bonaventure's Athletics Hall Of Fame Class of 2009, released by the athletic department on Tuesday morning.

Baron served as both a player and a coach for the men's basketball team, Belliveau was one of the most dominate female swimmers in school history, Gingras was a standout tennis player and McCaffrey was a team chaplain and moderator for the athletic department.

For the full story, go to go bonnies.com.

Teenager Loses Hand, Leg
After Lighting Firecracker

A 17-year-old youth has admitted to Latrobe police he was playing with a powerful firecracker inside his grandmother's home when it exploded in his lap, causing him to lose his right hand and leg on Jan. 10.

For the full story, go to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Settlement With Countrywide

HARRISBURG - Attorney General Tom Corbett today announced that the Attorney General's Office has reached a more than $150 million settlement with Countrywide Financial Corporation to obtain mortgage relief and cash assistance for thousands of Pennsylvania residents with loans through Countrywide.

Corbett said his office has been investigating Countrywide for several months and the investigation has centered on the subprime mortgages that were sold through Countrywide.

"Thanks to this agreement, Pennsylvania homeowners will now receive direct relief that will make a real difference, helping consumers caught in the subprime lending crisis," Corbett said. "We allege that Countrywide's practices misled many Pennsylvanians and encouraged them to take out loans they did not understand and ultimately could not afford."

More than 10,000 Pennsylvania homeowners may be eligible for loan modification, relocation assistance and mortgage foreclosure relief as part of the negotiated settlement.

The investigation found that Countrywide allegedly violated Pennsylvania's Consumer Protection Law by:

Misrepresenting the quality and benefits of its products and services to consumers;
Misrepresenting in its advertising that mortgage and loan packages were created by "personal loan consultants," tailored to the needs of individual consumers;
Failing to exercise due diligence when recommending mortgage loan products to consumers and failing to meet heightened expectations caused by their advertising;
Increasing its sales and profits by relaxing its underwriting standards, which allowed consumers to obtain loans that were risky and ill-suited for their income levels;
Making deceptive and misleading representations or omissions regarding the terms and charges of the loans, including, the interest rate, the adjustable nature of the interest rate and the credit status of the consumer;
Engaging in "bait and switch" tactics by offering one interest rate, but actually giving a higher one;
Failing to clearly disclose the financing terms to consumers.
Corbett said that this settlement will enable eligible subprime and pay-option mortgage borrowers to avoid foreclosure by obtaining a modified and affordable loan. The loans covered by the settlement are among some of the riskiest and highest defaulting loans at the center of America's foreclosure crisis. Assuming every eligible borrower participates, this loan modification program will provide more than $150 million in savings to Pennsylvania borrowers.

Countrywide has agreed to provide various forms of relief to consumers, including:

Affordable, streamlined loan modification offers to more than 10,200 subprime and pay option adjustable rate mortgage borrowers;
More than $2.7 million in foreclosure relief benefits for Pennsylvania consumers;
Waivers of default/delinquency fees, loan modification fees and prepayment penalties.
According to the agreement, Countrywide has made a commitment to put a freeze on their foreclosure processes until each eligible consumer has had their financial status verified.

Corbett noted that consumers can call Countrywide's hotline at 1-800-669-6607 for more information about their eligibility.

3 Arrested in Stolen Ticket Scheme

Attorney General Tom Corbett today announced that agents from the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation have arrested three Allegheny County residents accused of conspiring to steal and resell tickets to popular concerts at the Benedum Center, in Pittsburgh, as well as using stolen credit card information to purchase tickets for later sale.

Corbett identified the defendants as Anthony Vaughn Davis, 50, and Madge L. Hayes, 47, both of 4422 Sweetbay St., Pittsburgh, and Robert Patrick Conderato, 38, 3326 Cambria St., Munhall.

Corbett said that Davis allegedly used his position as a call center employee at the Benedum Center to intercept tickets that had been purchased for popular shows such as the Lion King, Australian Pink Floyd and Dolly Patron. The tickets were sold for cash using Internet classified ads on the Craigslist website, with the assistance of Davis’ fiancĂ©, Hayes, who allegedly used home and work computers to communicate with potential buyers.

According to the criminal complaint, Davis is also accused of stealing credit card information from consumers who had called the Benedum Center to place ticket orders. Davis and Hayes allegedly used the stolen credit card information to order additional tickets for use in their sales scheme.

“Using stolen tickets and online classified ads, these scam artists tried to cash-in on popular or sold-out concerts and shows,” Corbett said. “In many cases, consumers had no idea they were victims of a scam until they were refused entry to an event, or until they discovered unauthorized ticket purchases on their credit card statements.”

Corbett said Conderato, who was an acquaintance of Davis, allegedly assisted the operation by delivering tickets to Craigslist buyers, meeting them at various locations throughout the Pittsburgh area. Conderato and Davis allegedly split the proceeds from these sales.

The scheme was initially reported to the Franklin Park Police Department by a consumer who had purchased concert tickets through a Craigslist ad but was denied entry to the event because the tickets had been reported missing by the original buyer and had been reissued. The case was referred to the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which began a formal probe in February 2008.

Corbett said a May 2008 search of the home shared by Davis and Hayes resulted in the seizure of 25 unused tickets for various concerts and shows, valued at more than $1,700, along with numerous ticket envelopes and duplicate ticket request forms. Additionally, agents also discovered an organizer that included hand-written notes listing the credit card numbers, names and addresses of at least eight consumers.

According to the criminal complaint, agents from the Attorney General’s Office reviewed recorded incoming calls placed to the Benedum Center operators and identified Hayes and Davis as placing at least five telephone orders for tickets, using the stolen credit card information that was located during the search of their home.

Corbett said that agents have identified and interviewed at least eight consumers whose names and credit card information may have been misused in this scheme. Additional consumers who purchased tickets to events at the Benedum Center and have information about the unauthorized use of their credit card numbers should contact the Pittsburgh regional office of the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, at 412-565-5339.

Corbett said that Davis, Hayes and Conderato were all arrested on Tuesday, January 27th, by agents from the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, assisted by officers from the Pittsburgh and Munhall police departments.

Davis and Hayes are both charged with felony offenses, including identity theft, unlawful use of a computer and criminal conspiracy, along with misdemeanor counts of theft by deception, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and access device fraud.

Conderato is charged with felony counts of unlawful use of a computer and criminal conspiracy, along with misdemeanor counts of theft by deception and theft by unlawful taking.

The defendants were taken to Allegheny County Central Court for preliminary arraignments. Preliminary hearings will be scheduled at a later date.

Corbett thanked the Franklin Park, McCandless, Pittsburgh and Munhall police departments, along with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, for their cooperation and assistance with this investigation.

Corbett encouraged all consumers to carefully review their monthly credit card and bank card statement for any signs of unauthorized activity and to immediately report fraudulent activity. Information about protecting yourself against these types of crimes is available in the Identity Theft Toolkit section of the Attorney General’s website, at www.attorneygeneral.gov (Highlight the “Consumers” button in the main website menu and select “Identity Theft Toolkit).

Ex-Soul Manager Suing Bon Jovi

The former sales manager for the Philadelphia Soul arena football team is suing club owner Jon Bon Jovi and his partners over nearly $125,000 he says he's owed.

For the full story, go to philly.com.

Tough Times in PA
But Most States Have it Worse

Op-Ed by state Sen. John N. Wozniak, D-Cambria, Clearfield, Centre, Somerset, Clinton

A survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures found that by last December, 41 states faced budget deficits totaling a cumulative $137 billion over the next year and a half. Compared with the enormous shortfalls in other states, even some with smaller budgets than ours, Pennsylvania’s $2-to-$4 billion financial hole leaves us better off than most.

That is not much consolation to Pennsylvanians – either taxpayers or public officials -- as we wrestle here at home with the pain of the worst nationwide financial crisis since the Great Depression. It doesn’t make the laid off worker or the owner of a shuttered small business feel much better. But it does help us understand our current situation, and puts it in some perspective.

Governors and lawmakers in 41 states, who had previously been balancing their budgets regularly for years, did not suddenly become irresponsible spendthrifts, nor lose their ability to do math overnight.

When we enacted our budget for the current fiscal year in July, we knew the economy was slowing down, and we acted accordingly. Economic forecasting services on whom we rely estimated then that the real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would have one quarter of negative growth, from October through December of 2008. That decline was expected to be only four-tenths of one percent.

Still, that one dark cloud was enough of a warning to make the legislature careful when we finalized the current fiscal-year blueprint. We reduced the overall spending increase by $72 million from Governor Ed Rendell’s original proposal. Proactively, we actually cut the appropriation to scores of line items from what they had received the previous year. Our spending increase was 3.9 percent, which was lower than the inflation rate at the time. The budget that we enacted for this year allowed for 2,221 fewer state employees than when Rendell took office in 2003.

Instead of a mild downturn followed by a rebounding economy in early 2009, however, the nation experienced a near economic meltdown. We all remember the emergency atmosphere that swept over the country within mere days last September, with the bankruptcy of some of our largest and best-known financial institutions, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s dire predictions of financial collapse without a swift and huge bailout bill, and Senator John McCain suspending his presidential campaign to rush back to Washington.

The magnitude of the problem, and its sudden emergence, took almost everyone by surprise.

While we enacted a prudent Pennsylvania budget premised on one quarter of a declining GDP, few economists saw the reality ahead – now they tell us we are in a recession and that we can expect four quarters of severe GDP shrinkage, not one mild negative quarter.

Pennsylvania’s total employment as of the end of December was 5.732 million. That was 76,000 fewer jobs than we had a year earlier; significantly, 75,000 of those jobs have been vanished since July when we approved the budget.

The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania was 5.4 percent back in July. Today it has climbed to 6.7 percent. Although painful for families with lost income and damaging to the state’s balance sheet, it is still lower than the national rate of 7.2 percent. Thirty states have employment-loss numbers worse than ours.

Even so, state finances are now being hit hard, just the same as most sectors of the private economy. Pennsylvania’s budget feels the effect of everyone’s financial distress.

Not a day passes that the news doesn’t tell us of another plant closing or mass worker layoffs. Auto sales are down. Home sales are weak and new housing construction is even worse. People are cutting back their spending today in ways they never dreamed they would have to six or nine months ago.

Those factors reduce the amount that the state collects in sales tax, personal income tax, corporate taxes, realty transfer taxes, and other categories. All those revenue sources are below estimate. Meanwhile, some of our costs rise in a bad economy. More jobless workers, for instance, means more people depending on the government for medical assistance. So we have to cut spending in ways that we did not expect a half year ago. We are required by law to have a balanced budget.

Over the past few years when the economy was good, we accumulated budget surpluses, and we wisely placed a sizeable portion of those funds into the state savings account, the Rainy Day Fund. It now holds more than $750 million, and will help us balance the budget.

Governor Rendell and the legislature have also made strategic investments to develop our economy, which are helping to create jobs and are lessening the impact of this recession.

No one should think balancing the state budget this year or next year will be easy. No one should believe that more tough times are not ahead. Pennsylvania, however, is in better position than most other states to ride out the storm.