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BC-PA--Pennsylvania News Digest, PA

February 23, 2019

Good afternoon! Here’s a look at AP’s general news coverage today in Pennsylvania. For questions about the state report, contact the Philadelphia bureau at 215-561-1133. Editor Larry Rosenthal can be reached at 215-446-6631 or lrosenthal@ap.org.

A reminder this information is not for publication or broadcast, and these coverage plans are subject to change. Expected stories may not develop, or late-breaking and more newsworthy events may take precedence. Advisories, digests and digest advisories will keep you up to date.

Some TV and radio stations will receive shorter APNewsNow versions of the stories below, along with updates.

For up-to-the minute information on AP’s coverage, visit Coverage Plan at newsroom.ap.org.

TOP STORIES:

RIVER DEATH-HOMICIDE CHARGE

SCRANTON _ A man accused of hurling a woman to her death in a northeastern Pennsylvania river two years ago has taken the stand to deny that he had any role in the death and to accuse police of lying about an alleged confession.

EXCHANGE:

EXCHANGE-CHEMICAL PLANT EXPLOSION

ALLENTOWN _ Two decades later, it’s the thunderous boom — the unmistakable sound of something disastrous — that many in the Lehigh Valley remember about that night. But for Amy Heller, who was inside Concept Sciences Inc. on Feb. 19, 1999 — a milestone night crucial to the chemical company’s fortunes — the quiet stands out. Crossing the production floor of the big plant that Friday, Heller walked past a colleague, Anthony Mondello, who was reading a book of poetry. She chatted with Paul Mondello, Anthony’s son, about his upcoming wedding, and he drew a picture of a guitar he wanted to make. She thanked Ruben Soto for the frozen lasagna he had given her because she had brought him dinner earlier in the week. The plant’s machinery was humming. Everything seemed fine. Until it wasn’t. Daniel Patrick Sheehan and Anthony Salamone, The (Allentown) Morning Call.

EXCHANGE-DIVERTING CRIMINAL CASES

LANCASTER _ Bob Shonsky’s first arrest for drunken driving was followed by a second and a third. Then Lancaster County Judge Jeffery Wright stepped in. Instead of locking him up for 90 or more days, the judge accepted Shonsky into the demanding, yearlong Veterans Court program and put him on an alcohol-detecting ankle bracelet. Shonsky of Ephrata, a shaggy-bearded Army vet with Yosemite Sam tattooed to a beefy arm, had a few drinks with friends anyway, which the device detected. Fortunately for Shonsky, Wright understands that new participants may chafe at Veterans Court’s restrictions. Shonsky’s 2017 graduation was a victory for problem-solving alternatives that divert over 1,100 county offenders every year from the criminal justice system’s traditional path of guilty plea or trial and, in some cases, jail. Jeff Hawkes, LNP newspaper.

EXCHANGE-WOMEN IN PRISON

GREENSBURG _ It’s dimly lit on the K and L units inside the Westmoreland County Prison. The white concrete block walls, painted in blue trim, house its female inmates. K unit has 89 beds on two floors. Cells measure about 10 feet by 8 feet and contain bunk beds, a slit of a window and doors that slide shut. L unit — sectioned off by a blue door — has space where 26 more women can sleep. There are no cells, only partitions that divide the space into separate living quarters. Two gyms that are about the size of half of a basketball court each are on the unit. Women gathered to chat one January morning around some of the nine tables in a common area, which also contains some pay phones and two televisions. When the female population rises above 115, prison officials set up plastic cots and convert the exercise space into extra housing. On this particular day, there were 82 women in the jail, compared to 510 men. Renatta Signorini, Tribune-Review.

EXCHANGE-BOXING GYM

CHESTER _ It’s all about keeping the hands busy, James Starkey said, ringside, in the small, squat cinder block building that serves as his second home. Before a boxer training under him slips a glove on, he greets every adult in the room with a firm handshake. Everyone, from 8 to 18, knows this by rote. And then the real lessons begin. “When a guy boxes, all that violence tapers off, because he knows what he’s capable of,” Starkey said on a recent Thursday night session at the Winners Reach and Teach boxing gym, deep in the heart of Chester. Starkey’s program has produced 20 professional boxers during its tenure, he estimates. His boys are a consistent presence at amateur Golden Gloves tournaments, clinching three state championship titles in 2017. Vinny Vella, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

EXCHANGE-STATE POLICE-MUNICIPALITIES-FEES

HARRISBURG _ Municipalities that currently rely on state police for full-time coverage would need to pay the state a per-resident fee for those services — as much as $166 for the largest communities — under Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2019 budget proposal. The idea of charging towns for state police protection has been kicking around the statehouse for years. In 2017, the Wolf administration put forward a one-size-fits-all fee that drew the ire of many small, cash-strapped communities. This time out, the governor replaced that idea with a sliding scale in which municipalities with fewer than 2,000 residents pay $8 per person and those with more than 20,000 must pay $166. More than half of Pennsylvania’s 2,500 municipalities would be subject to the fee, according to the state police, and that list continues to grow. Nine joined the roster in the last two years as local officials, like everyone else, search for ways to cut costs. Wallace McKelvey, PennLive.com.

IN BRIEF:

LANDSLIDE-HOME COLLAPSE _ Officials say a home that collapsed in Pittsburgh had been condemned after it was ordered evacuated a year ago amid landslides affecting the region.

SPORTS:

BKN--BLAZERS-76ERS

PHILADELPHIA _ The Portland Trail Blazers visit the Philadelphia 76ers.

HKN--ICE EVOLUTION

PHILADELPHIA — Dan Craig sleeps maybe four hours a night leading up to outdoor games. He only goes out to dinner because he can check the status of the ice on his phone. “Your mind’s always going,” said Craig, the NHL’s vice president of facilities operations. After staging outdoor games in a deep freeze (Edmonton) and summerlike warmth (Los Angeles), the NHL seems capable of taking hockey outside just about anywhere in the U.S. and Canada knowing the ice will be almost as good as the sheets found inside. By Stephen Whyno. SENT: About 1050 words.

HKN--PENGUINS-FLYERS

PHILADELPHIA _ The Pittsburgh Penguins visit the Philadelphia Flyers.

BKC--PENN ST-ILLINOIS

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. _ Illinois goes for its fifth win in six games when it meets Penn State, which is tied for last in the Big Ten. UPCOMING: 600 words, photos. Game starts at 12 p.m. EST.

LUG-WORLD CUP

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger has left no doubt, once again. Geisenberger clinched her seventh consecutive World Cup women’s luge overall championship Saturday, winning the final full-length race of the season to secure the points crown. The only other luger to win seven straight titles was Austria’s Markus Prock, who took the men’s championships each year from 1990-91 through 1996-97. SENT: About 560 words.

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