Inquirer: Plans for rebuilding I-80

This ran today for the Philadelphia Inquirer. The coverage is part of a post-graduate internship with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association (PLCA).

HARRISBURG – Months before the federal government could approve even a plan to make I-80 a toll road, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission says it knows how it would spend part of the money.

Within a decade, the commission says, it would resurface more than 200 miles of I-80 across northern Pennsylvania – most of which has not been fixed in 30 years.

Additionally, it would replace 62 bridges along I-80 that officials believe are in poor condition or are too low, according to a list of projects unveiled by the commission yesterday.

Read the rest on Philly.com.

Number of Views:1891

A recent addition to Couch Surfing

I HAVE GIVEN IN ON ANOTHER HOLDOUT OF MINE, THIS one on CouchSurfing.com, after catching a lot of flak for recently joining the Facebook, having avoided it throughout university.

One signs up, offers up a couch or a place to sleep in exchange for the same treatment elsewhere. Avoid hotels and even hostels and get a local view of wherever you’re visiting. The most frequent concern is one with safety, and, like I’ve seen with hitchhiking, there is some truth to it, but, more often, there is the opportunity for cheap travel and profound interaction.

In preparation for future travels on a limited income, I thought now was the time to finally get on board with another social networking device online.

Continue reading

Number of Views:3209

Time magazine: Could newspapers be nonprofits?

In a file photo a Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper vending machine is seen in Philadelphia, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2006. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Could newspapers be nonprofits?

Check this recent Time magazine article:

Enter Pro Publica, a non-profit news organization devoted solely to investigative journalism and funded to the tune of $10 million a year by California-based philanthropists Herb and Marion Sandler. With a staff of 18 journalists (10 additional reporters have yet to begin), the group hopes to release their stories for free through exclusive deals with major media outlets such as the New York Times, The Atlantic and 60 Minutes, among other potential partners. On June 22, its first major story — about Al Hurra, a U.S.-funded Middle Eastern TV network that has broadcast anti-American propaganda — aired in conjunction with the famed CBS news program. Such an approach has already been criticized by the Miami Herald‘s Edward Wasserman, who inquired July 7, “why was Pro Publica using its philanthropic funding to, essentially, subsidize the cost of a segment for 60 Minutes, the most financially successful news show in the history of U.S. Television?”

Hat tip to Sean Blanda.

Photo courtesy of Day in the Life.

Number of Views:3684

Post-Gazette: Bonus scandal [with my audio]

HARRISBURG — Rachel Manzo was released on her own recognizance yesterday, then returned an hour later to pay $10,000 — all in $20s — to bail her husband out of police custody.

They are among 12 current and former lawmakers and legislative aides charged in a scheme to use tax dollars to fund political campaigns.

The bail for Michael Manzo, who is thought to have orchestrated the plan, was the highest at $100,000 secured, which means he had to put up 10 percent of the money before he could be released.

“I’ve [represented] organized crime figures who didn’t have to pay this much bail,” his attorney, James J. Eisenhower, said while court personnel counted the bills, which Mrs. Manzo brought in 10 envelopes.

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Above, hear Philip A. Ignelzi, the attorney for state Rep. Sean Ramaley, discuss the charges against his client and criticize state Attorney General Tom Corbett. Below hear Ignelzi discuss Ramaley’s state Senate campaign.

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Read the rest on Post-Gazette.com.

Photo of former Democratic House Leader Mike Veon, courtesy of PennLive.

Number of Views:2190

Post-Gazette: Bonus scandal defendants arraigned

It what may be the most significant story of my young journalism career, here a double byline for a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. This breaking story appeared on the Web and an extensive follow up will appear in tomorrow’s edition.

HARRISBURG – Preliminary arraignments were held today for 11 people charged in the state bonus scandal, in which state Rep. Michael Veon, current Rep. Sean Ramaley and 10 current and former Democratic staffers allegedly conspired to divert millions of dollars in state resources, including more than $1 million in illegal pay bonuses.

The charges stem from two grand jury presentments unveiled yesterday in which jurors said Mr. Veon and the staff members conspired to arrange hefty year-end bonuses to House employees who worked on political campaigns over a three-year period. Mr. Ramaley is accused of working full time on his 2004 House campaign in Beaver County while drawing a taxpayer salary as a member of Mr. Veon’s staff.

During the preliminary arraignments, the defendants hear, and are asked if they understand, the charges against them. They do not enter pleas.

The first preliminary arraignment took place yesterday for Jeff Foreman, an aide to House Majority Whip Keith McCall, D-Carbon. Mr. Foreman surrended to authorities even as Attorney General Tom Corbett held a press conference outlining the case. Mr. Foreman, who was charged with conspiracy, theft, and conflict of interest, was released on $50,000 unsecured bail.

Read the rest on Post-Gazette.com.

Image of former House Democratic Leader Mike Veon, D-Beaver Falls, by Bradley C. Bower via Post-Gazette.

Number of Views:2324

Post-Gazette: Legislators, staffers charged in bonus probe [with my audio]

Details of the long-rumored “Bonusgate” scandal dropped this afternoon. I helped a bit with the reporting for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story written by Dennis Roddy and was charged with cutting some audio for the paper’s Web site.

Hear Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett at his 2 P.M. news conference…

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HARRISBURG — Attorney General Tom Corbett today filed charges against a dozen figures in the payroll bonus scandal, including former House Democratic Whip Michael Veon and current state Rep. Sean Ramaley.

Reports by two grand juries — one in Pittsburgh and another sitting here — laid out an array of accusations, including a conspiracy to deliver more than $1 million in state-paid bonuses to House employees who worked on political campaigns. Mr. Ramaley, 33, D-Economy, was accused of working full-time on his 2004 House campaign in Beaver County while drawing a taxpayer salary as a member of Mr. Veon’s staff.

Continue reading on Post-Gazete.com. More audio to follow.

Photo by Dennis Roddy, courtesy of the Post-Gazette.

Number of Views:1971

Post-Gazette: Legislator rejects award from White Christian Nation

Here’s a very interesting story by Tracie Mauriello of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, on which I contributed some reporting yesterday.

HARRISBURG — An anti-Muslim remark made on the House floor last month inspired some to call state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe a bigot and others to call him intolerant.

One group, though, says it wants to give him an award.

The White Christian Nation compares Mr. Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, to prominent white supremacist leader Thomas Robb and says it wants to give him a Christian National Soldier Award during a rally the group is sponsoring Aug. 10 at Adams Township Community Park.

Mr. Metcalfe denounced the group and said he had never heard of White Christian Nation until it notified him of the award two weeks ago in separate letters signed by John Nayst and Jerry Western.

“I categorically reject any association with you, your organization and Mr. Robb,” Mr. Metcalfe wrote back in a letter dated July 3. “As an Army veteran who had the privilege and honor of serving the United States alongside extremely dedicated men and women of all races, religions and national ancestries, I will not allow my office or my name to be compromised.”

Continue reading here

Photo from Outraged Patriots.

Number of Views:2993

Slow day in the newsroom: Cherry pit spitting contest

Today, fellow reporters and I had a cherry pit spitting contest and I won.

So, the Pennsylvania state budget for the 2008-2009 fiscal year passed on Friday, so this week has been slow in the state Capitol newsroom. Sometimes you can find coverage, like the Pennsylvnaians who are fighting California wildfires, as I reported yesterday, but other times you can’t.

The Capitol newsroom is shared by a host of reporters from various outlets, all members of the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association. When everyone is bored, I hear, sometimes someone finds a fun distraction – though surely more wholesome than the gambling and drinking of the past.

The Patriot-News ran a wire story about a Michigan man who topped some record by spitting a cherry pit more than 56 feet.

So, why wouldn’t we have our own cherry pit spitting contest right in the newsroom?

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Number of Views:4304

Post-Gazette: Pennsylvania firefighters in California

This ran today for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The coverage is part of a post-graduate internship with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association (PLCA).

HARRISBURG — Forty Pennsylvania firefighters ran into triple-digit temperatures yesterday as they began their first full day combating wildfires that are scorching northern California.

Two 20-person crews, including four firefighters from Western Pennsylvania, left Sunday from Harrisburg International Airport on a U.S. Forest Service-chartered jet. They arrived Monday and joined hundreds of other firefighters in trying to control the blaze that has burned since June 20, said John Miller, chief of Pennsylvania’s forest fire protection division.

“With the amount of fire activity in California right now, it’s very important” to get help from other states, said James Stone, a California Forest Service spokesman. “Those boys from Pennsylvania are a significant portion of that.”

Read the rest on Post-Gazette.com.

Photo courtesy of ABC Australia.

Number of Views:2573