Latest Pennsylvania news, business, and entertainment


HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Companies that want to convert larger vehicles to natural gas may soon be getting some help from the state of Pennsylvania in the form of a tax credit. The state House voted 110 to 77 yesterday in favor of the Republican-sponsored bill. Supporters say it will produce jobs, help the environment, and decrease dependence on foreign oil. However, Democratic critics in the Legislature are calling it a giveaway to big business and expressing doubts that it will generate any new jobs. It’s part of a package of proposals under consideration. The bill now goes before the state Senate.


HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – One of the former Penn State administrators accused of covering up abuse complaints against Jerry Sandusky wants a judge to unseal court records. Former university vice president Gary Schultz filed a motion yesterday with Judge Barry Feudale, who recently ruled the case against him and two others can move forward. Schultz argues he needs copies of a previous motion to throw out the grand jury report and other related documents, in part so he can prepare appeals. He’s also seeking transcripts and court orders. The next step in his criminal case isn’t clear. Schultz, former president Graham Spanier and former athletic director Tim Curley are awaiting a preliminary hearing. Sandusky, who was an assistant coach under Joe Paterno for decades, is serving a lengthy prison sentence for child sexual abuse.


HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – A bill to allow Pennsylvanians to register online to vote is on its way to the House of Representatives. Wednesday’s vote in the Senate was unanimous on a bill that would bring Pennsylvania into the growing ranks of states that allow the practice. The National Conference of State Legislatures says 16 states have approved online voter registration and it’s a hot topic in more than a dozen other states. The Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees elections, had begun setting up an online voter registration system last year. However, it was dropped amid complaints from county officials that they were swamped with the demands of Pennsylvania’s new voter identification law. The Senate also passed bills to require campaign finance reports and lobbyist disclosure reports to be filed electronically.


HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Conservative state lawmakers who are wary about plans to raise taxes or fees to boost Pennsylvania’s transportation spending are signaling that they’ll insist first on cost savings. Several House Republicans said Wednesday they agree more money’s needed for transportation. However, they also say more things can be done first to ensure that public funds are used more efficiently. Rep. Jim Christiana of Beaver County says changes should include shifting the operations of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to the state Department of Transportation and lifting prevailing wage requirements for municipal road projects. Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John Rafferty has a $2.5 billion plan that’s more ambitious and expensive than Gov. Tom Corbett’s $1.8 billion proposal. PennDOT is spending $5.3 billion this year on highways, bridges, and transit.


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) – The hits return to Penn State on Saturday. Coach Bill O’Brien has limited full contact during spring practice this year except for once a week. This week, that day comes Saturday, for the Blue-White intrasquad scrimmage to wrap up spring drills. O’Brien has said he’s focusing on giving the team mental reps without tackling to help keep players fresh for the fall. NCAA sanctions have forced Penn State to reduce its scholarship roster size from 85 in 2012 to 65 by 2014. O’Brien said health is the top priority. Physical tailback Zach Zwinak said Wednesday that he misses dishing out hits on would-be tacklers, though the 1,000-yard rusher is mostly sticking with his downhill running style. He’s also picking up a few tips on shaking off defenders while avoiding contact.


(Copyright 2012, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved)


The Latest Business News


NEW YORK (AP) – Investors are showing some caution just one week after U.S. stocks hit an all-time high. Stocks fell yesterday after lackluster earnings from Bank of America and an apparent drop in demand for Apple’s iPod and iPhone dragged financial and technology stocks lower. New signs of weakness in Europe, where car sales are plunging and unemployment is rising, also weighed on the market yesterday. The Dow Jones Industrial average fell 138 points, or 0.9 percent, to 14,618. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 22 points, or 1.4 percent, to 1,553. The Nasdaq composite index fell nearly 60 points.


BANGKOK (AP) – Asian stock markets fell today as accumulating evidence that global growth is sagging dampened investment enthusiasm. Markets were also weighed down by some disappointing U.S. corporate earnings and worries about a possible drop in demand for Apple’s iPod and iPhone. Benchmark crude oil fell but remained above $86 per barrel. The dollar fell against the euro but rose against the yen.


UNDATED (AP) – Three big economic reports are due out today. The Labor Department releases the all-important weekly jobless claims numbers. In addition, set for release today is the Conference Board’s report on the leading indicators for March. Freddie Mac, the mortgage company, also reports weekly mortgage rates. Investors will be watching the quarterly financial results of a number of major companies today. On the banking side, they include reports from Capital One and Morgan Stanley. Tech giants Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Verizon will release their quarterly results. Also due out today are reports from PepsiCo, Philip Morris International, Union Pacific, and UnitedHealth Group.


(Copyright 2012, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved)


Features & Entertainment


SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) – Organizers say more than 3,000 tickets have already been purchased by people around the globe who plan to attend the wrap party next month in Scranton to commemorate the final episode of the NBC comedy “The Office.” The long-running show is set in the northeastern Pennsylvania city. Organizers of the May 4 celebration say John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer, who play lovebirds Jim and Pam Halpert, are among the cast and crewmembers who’ll attend. The Times-Tribune of Scranton reports one of the event’s sponsor, Times-Shamrock Communications, says more than 3,000 tickets have been sold since Monday. The company’s regional director of marketing and events, Timothy L. Holmes, says purchases are coming from as far away as Canada and Great Britain. The series finale is May 16.


WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – Hundreds of jubilant gay-rights advocates celebrated at New Zealand’s Parliament as the country become the thirteenth in the world and the first in the Asia-Pacific region to legalize same-sex marriage. Lawmakers voted 77 to 44 Wednesday night in favor of the gay-marriage bill. People watching from the public gallery immediately broke into song after the result was announced, singing a New Zealand anthem in the indigenous Maori language. Leaders of most political parties encouraged lawmakers to vote as their consciences dictated rather than along party lines. Same-sex marriage is currently recognized in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, and Denmark. Lawmakers in Uruguay approved a law last week that President Jose Mujica is expected to sign.


LAS VEGAS (AP) – Disney is turning “Star Wars” films into an annual summer ritual. Walt Disney Co. chairman Alan Horn announced Wednesday that the studio would release films set in a galaxy far, far away every year starting in 2015. The parade of films will start with “Star Wars: Episode VII,” directed by J.J. Abrams. Horn said the studio will then alternate films in the new “Star Wars” trilogies with spin off films drawn from the same universe. He made the announcement during a presentation at the movie theater convention CinemaCon in Las Vegas. Disney announced plans to reboot the space franchise after buying Lucasfilm Ltd. last year.


(Copyright 2012, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved)

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