TIME Education

Venomous Spiders Shut Down a Pennsylvania School

Recluse spider or Brown recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa), Sicariidae.
Rebecca Hardy—De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images Recluse spider or Brown recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa), Sicariidae.

Brown recluse spiders were found in the school for the third time

(MERCERSBURG, Pa.)—A Pennsylvania school district has closed one of its elementary schools due to an infestation of venomous spiders.

WHTM-TV reports this is the third time brown recluse spiders were found at Montgomery Elementary School in Mercersburg.

The Tuscarora School District made the decision to close the school Tuesday after officials met with the district’s pest control management company. The company found five to six spiders in the school’s library in mid-July. They were also found last year at different times in the lunchroom kitchen and the boiler room.

Superintendent Dr. Charles Prijatelj says crews are spraying pesticides outside the school and the district plans to fog the entire building. Staff have already sealed cracks in the school’s walls

Steve Miller, of Home Paramount Pest Control, says the spider bites are usually painless but it produces an ulcer. The spider is not native to the region.

TIME People

Penn. Congressman Chaka Fattah Indicted in Racketeering Case

Chaka Fattah
Matt Rourke—AP In this May 7, 2015 photo, Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., speaks at the School of the Future in Philadelphia.

Fattah has been the subject of a long-running federal investigation

(PHILADELPHIA) — Pennsylvania Congressman Chaka Fattah has been indicted on charges he misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal, charitable and campaign funds.

The 11-term Philadelphia Democrat was charged Wednesday with racketeering conspiracy, bribery, conspiracy to commit wire, honest services and mail fraud, and other charges.

Fattah has been the subject of a long-running federal investigation. Four others also have been charged, including people who worked for his campaign and congressional staffs.

Fattah’s office had no immediate comment on the charges. It said it would issue a statement shortly.

TIME Crime

Philadelphia Mailman Hoarded Over 22,000 Letters

He could face up to six months in prison

22,500 pieces of mail have been retrieved from a Philadelphia postman who began hoarding them over a year ago.

Patrick D’Ambrosio, 48, is accused of stealing mail and hiding it in his car and in his garage between May 2014 and January 2015, according to a Department of Justice press release. He has been charged with one count of obstruction of mail and, if convicted, could face up to six months in prison.

Reuters reports that the stolen mail, which includes letters, periodicals and packages, is being sent to its original recipients, and that D’Ambrosio has been placed on non-duty status by the Postal Service.

MONEY buying a home

These States Offer the Most Help for Buying a Home

"For Sale" sign outside town home in Society Hill neighborhood, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Frances Roberts—Alamy Society Hill neighborhood, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Grants and no-interest loans are available if you know where to look.

Trying to scrounge together a down payment for a house? Your first instinct may be to hit up mom and dad. One more option you shouldn’t overlook: The state where you live.

Each of the 50 states has some sort of program to help homebuyers, especially those making their first purchase, according to mortgage Web site HSH.com, which recently compiled data and ranked the states.

The most generous state of all is Pennsylvania, where homebuyers have access to no fewer than 11 programs, including ones for first-time and repeat buyers, and even assistance for homeowners looking to make improvements. The Keystone state was followed by Wyoming and New York.

While not necessarily new, state homebuyer assistance programs may be more critical than ever. That’s because seven years after the 2008-2009 financial crises, lingering after-effects like depleted savings and an expensive rental market have made it particularly hard for 20- and 30-somethings to buy homes.

Traditionally, getting a mortgage in the strictly private market requires a down payment of 20%. Yet the Federal Housing Administration makes it possible to buy homes with as little as 3.5% down, with the caveat being that you will be required to pay mortgage insurance. The assistance offered by states — often in the form of grants or no-interest loans — can help get you to the finish line.

Not all programs are available to all would-be homeowners. As well as targeting groups like veterans and the disabled, many state programs have income caps that reduce or eliminate benefits for those making more than a certain amount. One thing you shouldn’t assume, however, is that programs only target the needy. Many are open to middle-income earners.

For instance, Pennsylvania offers closing-cost assistance up to $6,000 in the form of a no-interest 10-year loan to borrowers at participating lenders. The program is open to all borrowers regardless of income or whether it’s your first home. In addition, first-time homebuyers (and some repeat buyers) can turn the first $2,000 of their federal mortgage income tax deduction into a much more valuable tax credit. While incomes are capped, you can earn up to $97,300, or $113,500 if you have kids, and live in relatively high-cost counties like Philadelphia.

Want to find out what your state offers? The HSH directory includes links to state pages with detailed descriptions of individual programs. But you don’t have to be an expert to claim the benefits. Most assistance is arranged through private lenders. So if you think you might qualify, look for participating banks that should be able to help you enroll.

One final thing: If there isn’t much on offer in your state, you should also check Web pages of county and local governments. Even states that offer relatively little help, like Hawaii and Kansas, may fill in the gap with county level programs, according to HSH.

 

TIME Basketball

Watch High School Dunk Sensation Derrick Jones in Action

Like dunks? Here you go

Pennsylvania High School senior Derrick Jones is making the case that the NBA dunk contest should not be restricted to, well, NBA players.

In a video making the rounds on social media, the 6-ft. 6-in. UNLV commit not only pulls off Michael Jordan’s iconic free-throw-line jam but he one-ups the legend by adding a smooth windmill move to the mix.

Jones is considered by many to be the best dunker in high school basketball and his victory in an absolutely mind-boggling high school dunk contest in April may have cemented that status. But if out-jamming His Airness isn’t convincing enough, here some other examples the kid’s capabilities.

He’s looking down into the rim on this one.

Normal players can’t dunk over four other people, can they?

Blake Griffin and Zach LaVine better watch out; there is a new cat in town.

TIME animals

Rare Cancer Discovered in Pennsylvania Smallmouth Bass

A smallmouth bass fish
Joel Sartore—National Geographic/Getty Images A smallmouth bass fish, Genoa, Wisconsin .

It's the first confirmed case of its kind in the Susquehanna River

A rare cancerous tumor was discovered on a smallmouth bass pulled out of the Susquehanna River.

The fish was caught last year, and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission confirmed the case this week. Fish are not particularly susceptible to cancer, and it’s the first such case in the species in that location, though fish were previously found with sores and lesions, the Washington Post reports.

The disease may be the result of pollution, and officials want the river to be included on the EPA’s list of “impaired waterways.” The EPA, however, says it bases that list on water quality, not the health of species living there.

A Pennsylvania Department of Health official said that consuming fish with cancer should not pose a risk to humans, but urged fishers not to eat those with sores and lesions.

[Washington Post]

TIME Crime

Mother Tosses Baby Off Bridge, Then Jumps

The mother is charged with attempted homicide

A teen mother was seen throwing her baby over a Pennsylvania bridge and into the water below, before jumping off the bridge herself.

The apparent attempted murder-suicide happened Sunday around 1:45 p.m in the city of Allentown, KTLA 5 reports. Witnesses said the 19-year-old mother was seen pushing the baby in a stroller before throwing the child, and then herself, over the Hamilton Street Bridge.

The mother was found unconscious under the bridge and the baby was found 700 yards downstream. Police officers were able to perform CPR on the child. Both the mother and the baby are expected to survive, according to Allentown Police Capt. William Reinik.

The mother has been charged with attempted homicide, NBC10.com reports.

TIME Crime

Nebraska Considers Eliminating the Death Penalty

Miriam Thimm Kelle, left, whose brother James Thimm was tortured and killed on a southeast Nebraska farm in 1985, is hugged by Byron Peterson of Scottsbluff, after she testified in favor of a law proposal to change the death penalty to life imprisonment without parole, during a hearing before the Judiciary Committee in Lincoln, Neb., March 4, 2015.
Nati Harnik—AP Miriam Thimm Kelle, left, whose brother James Thimm was tortured and killed on a southeast Nebraska farm in 1985, is hugged by Byron Peterson of Scottsbluff, after she testified in favor of a law proposal to change the death penalty to life imprisonment without parole, during a hearing before the Judiciary Committee in Lincoln, Neb., March 4, 2015.

With support from Republican lawmakers

Nebraska legislators are considering a bill that would eliminate the state’s death penalty, receiving significant support from Republican lawmakers and family members of murder victims.

MORE: Georgia Postpones 2 Executions Over ‘Cloudy’ Drugs

Dozens of people rallied at the Capitol in Lincoln, Neb., Wednesday night in support of a bill that would do away with death sentences,the Associated Press reports, and replace them with life without the possibility of parole.

More than two dozen relatives of murder victims signed a letter supporting the bill, saying that the time between a conviction and an actual execution can be painful for families who see their loved one’s name appear in the news during appeals and often decades-long delays.

MORE: Ohio Looks to Shield Lethal Injection Drugmakers

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, an Independent, has worked to eliminate the state’s death penalty for years but appears to have more support this time around, especially from Republicans who make up the majority of the state’s nonpartisan legislature. The Journal Star reports that seven GOP senators have signed onto the bill.

While the legislation will likely make it out of committee, the bill may still face a veto if passed from Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, who has supported the death penalty in the past.

Since 2007, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Connecticut and Maryland have eliminated the death penalty, and currently 32 states still enforce capital punishment. Last month, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf put an effective moratorium on executions in the state in part over fears of putting innocent people to death.

Nebraska currently has 11 people on death row.

[AP]

TIME justice

Pennsylvania Stops Using the Death Penalty

Gov. Tom Wolf Caln speaks during a news conference at Elementary School on Feb. 11, 2015, in Thorndale, Pa.
Matt Rourke—AP Gov. Tom Wolf Caln speaks during a news conference at Elementary School on Feb. 11, 2015, in Thorndale, Pa.

The governor will grant temporary reprieves until the state reaches a final decision

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Friday that the state has effectively put a moratorium on the death penalty.

While Wolf awaits a report from a task force on the state’s use of capital punishment, he will grant temporary reprieves for all death row inmates whose executions are scheduled. That begins with Terrance Williams, who was slated to be executed on March 4.

Wolf noted said the moratorium “is in no way an expression of sympathy for the guilty on death row, all of whom have been convicted of committing heinous crimes.” But he also said capital punishment is expensive, possibly ineffective and sometimes inaccurate—six Pennsylvania men have been exonerated from death row.

TIME technology

Uber and Carnegie Mellon Partner Up to Design Driverless Taxis

And Google is also eyeing similar technology

Uber is partnering with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to open a research center in Pittsburgh called the Uber Advanced Technologies Center, with a view to eventually building driverless cars.

The robotics research facility will allow CMU researchers and Uber designers to develop new technology, including for improved mapping, safety and self-driving vehicles.

“We are excited to join the community of Pittsburgh and partner with the experts at CMU, whose breadth and depth of technical expertise, particularly in robotics, are unmatched,” said Uber chief product officer Jeff Holden in a press release.

This development comes on the heels of news that one of Uber’s financial backers, Google, may be invading the ride-sharing app’s turf. Although Google invested $258 million in Uber back in 2013, it is rumored to be developing a similar service using the company’s famed driverless cars, according to Bloomberg News. If this happens, it may directly compete for customer fares.

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