How VA Clinics Falsified Appointment Records

WASHINGTON — Fake appointments, unofficial logs kept on the sly and appointments made without telling the patient are among tricks used to disguise delays in seeing and treating veterans at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics.

They’re not a new phenomenon. VA officials, veteran service organizations and members of Congress have known about them for years.

The “gaming strategies” were used to make it appear veterans were getting appointments within target times set by the department, according to a 2010 department memo to VA facility managers aimed at fighting the practices.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1424666/How-VA-clinics-falsified-appointment-records

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Pittsburgh’s Commuters Are Walking The Walk

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Suzy Waldo can never call off work with the excuse that her car won’t start. And she can’t really justify showing up late for her shifts, either.

Ms. Waldo lives five blocks from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh South Side where she is the branch manager, and is among the relatively small but growing number of Pittsburghers who make their daily commutes by foot.

A new Census report looking at data from the past five years ranks Pittsburgh third among large cities with commuters who walk to work.

Five years of data from the American Community Survey show 11.3 percent of Pittsburghers commute by walking — ahead of New York City’s 10.3 percent, and just behind Boston, at 15.1 percent, and Washington, D.C., at 12.1 percent.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2014/05/15/Pittsburgh-s-commuters-are-walking-the-walk/stories/201405150327#ixzz31nn7F8Bt

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Authorities: Casey Kasem Found In Washington State

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Casey Kasem was located in Washington state on Thursday, three days after a Los Angeles judge expressed concerns about the ailing radio host’s whereabouts and safety.

Kasem’s condition was not immediately known, although his children rejoiced after days of uncertainty and said in a statement that locating their father was the first step in bringing him back to the Los Angeles area.

Santa Monica police Sgt. Mario Toti said Kasem was located by the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department on Wednesday, hours after Kasem’s children filed a missing person’s report. Kasem’s daughter Kerri, who was appointed his temporary conservator at a court hearing on Monday, had to wait for court filings before she was able to file the report.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Daniel S. Murphy ordered adult protective services and court investigators to try to locate Kasem after an attorney for his wife told the court that the former “Top 40″ host was no longer in the United States but he did not know where he was.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/20140515_ap_04f13aeab49d4aecafc4d90b91f45074.html#ZCjiXra0HIwTFmsD.99

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US Gains 288k Jobs, Most In 2 Years; Rate 6.3 Percent

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. employers added a robust 288,000 jobs in April, the most in two years, the strongest evidence to date that the economy is picking up after a brutal winter slowed growth.

The Labor Department also said Friday that the unemployment rate sank to 6.3 percent, its lowest level since September 2008, from 6.7 percent in March. But the drop occurred because the number of people working or seeking work fell sharply. People aren’t counted as unemployed if they’re not looking for a job.

In addition to the burst of hiring in April, employers added more jobs in February and March than previously estimated. The job totals for those two months were revised up by a combined 36,000.

Employers have now added an average of 238,000 jobs the past three months, up from 167,000 in the previous three.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20140502_ap_8f84a138e20f4ac28ac7183f68972fba.html#8ZcZ0H6uK0amdHP5.99

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Diana Nelson Jones’ Walkabout: Pittsburgh Is Tops Again As A Great Home For Big Crop Of Trees

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With the flurry of national press Pittsburgh has been getting, we’d better step up the pace of hotel construction, get our spare bedrooms advertised on AirB&B and send a buzz through the network of couch surfers. We’re sure to get more company in the coming years.

Our little gem of a city has been at or near the top of lists of places to invest in and raise a family and that have the most public art, best housing prices, best cost of living, best view, most breathtaking entry point and best (and maybe most) neighborhoods.

But of all the lists I’ve seen, Pittsburgh’s status in a recent report by National Geographic makes me the proudest.

Of the cities featured in an article headlined “Nine Cities That Love Their Trees,” Pittsburgh was cited as having the greatest canopy among New York, Philadelphia, Austin, Detroit, Washington, Baltimore, Portland and Tampa.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/diana-nelson-jones/2014/04/29/City-is-tops-again-as-a-great-home-for-big-crop-of-trees/stories/201404290060#ixzz30KFQnaue

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Pennsylvania Tax Burden Ranks 10th Nationally

Map of Pennsylvania

Map of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pennsylvanians’ state and local tax burden reached its lowest point in more than a decade in 2011, but it still climbed to rank as the nation’s 10th most onerous, up two spots from the year before, an analysis released this week shows.

The Washington-based Tax Foundation said Pennsylvanians shelled out $4,374 per capita in state and local taxes in 2011, or 10.3 percent of their per-capita income of $42,268. About 10.5 percent of income went toward state and local taxes in 2010, the foundation said.

“This trend was largely driven by the growth of income,” said Tax Foundation economist Liz Malm, explaining the slight decline.

About 27 percent of Pennsylvanians’ tax money went to other states. Aside from sales, excise, income, corporate and other taxes paid in other states, the Tax Foundation factors what it calls tax exporting.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/5882443-74/tax-state-taxes#ixzz2y3z5waOg
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Amtrak Boss Stresses Higher Speeds On Northeast Corridor

Map of the Northeast Corridor, traced on USGS ...

Map of the Northeast Corridor, traced on USGS topos. Legend: Red – Amtrak ownership Blue – NEC commuter services and NEC commuter rail agency ownership Black – off-NEC Amtrak lines not owned by Amtrak Green – stations on the NEC (Amtrak only) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON – Amtrak’s planned new Acela Express trains will carry more passengers and be more reliable than the current ones, even if they won’t travel much faster, Amtrak president Joseph Boardman said Thursday.

Amtrak is seeking proposals, with the California High-Speed Rail Authority, for new high-speed trains that can run at 220 miles an hour on the West Coast and 160 miles an hour on the Northeast Corridor.

Proposals from train-builders are due by May 17. A builder will be selected by the end of the year, Boardman said.

The first of the new Acela trains are supposed to be in service between Washington and Boston by 2018.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/transportation/20140328_Amtrak_boss_stresses_higher_speeds_on_Northeast_Corridor.html#v1btxHH7FQXZeq6R.99

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Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport Gets Funds To Aid In Attracting Carriers

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PITTSTON TWP. — For the second time in 11 years, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport is the recipient of a federal grant to entice airlines to offer new destinations or to increase the number of flights to current destinations.

The $575,000 federal Small Community Air Service Development grant will be used to encourage airlines to add flights to business and leisure destinations that are among the most requested by passengers.

Airport Director Barry J. Centini said that on the leisure side, he will look to add Myrtle Beach, S.C., Tampa Bay and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., as destinations. For business travelers, Pittsburgh and Washington are the targets.

Those destinations seem to be the ones many customers request or wind up taking connecting flights to get to when they embark from the local airport. He said the funds also could be used to entice airlines already operating out of Avoca to add additional flights to current destinations such as Atlanta.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news/1208151/Airport-gets-funds-to-aid-in-attracting-carriers

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Wealth Gap Is Widest In Some Affluent US Cities

WASHINGTON (AP) – The gap between the wealthy and the poor is most extreme in several of the United States’ most prosperous and largest cities.

The economic divides in Atlanta, San Francisco, Washington, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are significantly greater than the national average, according to a study released Thursday by the Brookings Institution, the Washington-based think tank. It suggests that many sources of both economic growth and income inequality have co-existed near each other for the past 35 years.

These cities may struggle in the future to provide adequate public schooling, basic municipal services because of a narrow tax base and “may fail to produce housing and neighborhoods accessible to middle-class workers and families,” the study said.

“There’s something of a relationship between economic success and inequality,” said Alan Berube, a senior fellow at Brookings. “These cities are home to some of the highest paying industries and jobs in the country.”

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/homepage/20140220_ap_9abeed9da7e24c51a0a078a9ca8c73b9.html#fRdwGmPM2m6ZEQji.99

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Comcast Could Buy Time Warner N.Y. Cable Franchises

Logo of Comcast Latina: Insigne Comcast

Logo of Comcast Latina: Insigne Comcast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Comcast Corp. could acquire Time Warner Cable Co.’s New York cable-TV properties, along with other franchises on the East Coast, in a deal with Charter Communications Inc., according to sources in the industry.

A deal would expand Comcast’s market power along the I-95 corridor between Boston and Washington.

Comcast, the nation’s largest cable-TV company, already offers cable and Internet in Boston, Philadelphia and Washington.

Charter declined to comment Monday. Comcast also had no comment.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20140128_Industry_sources__Comcast_could_acquire_Time_Warner_Cable_N_Y__franchises.html#HAyimeAaYY2LBdix.99

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Pennsylvania Ranks 4th In Black Homicide Victims, Latest Stats Show

Map of Pennsylvania

Map of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PENNSYLVANIA ranked fourth nationwide in black homicide victimization in 2011, according to an organization that ranked the state second in the previous year.

The Washington, D.C.-based Violence Policy Center, which released the new study Thursday, said the latest figures show that Pennsylvania had 29.02 homicides per 100,000 black civilians in 2011.

A study released by the same nonprofit group last year ranked Pennsylvania second in 2010. The state was ranked third in 2009.

In 2011 — the latest year for which FBI statistics are available — blacks accounted for half of all homicide victims nationwide, yet represented 13 percent of the U.S. population.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Pa_ranks_4th_in_black_homicide_victims_latest_stats_show.html#SIwjH48fKP1kXpBA.99

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With Gerlach Leaving, The Scramble For Candidates Has Already Begun

English: , member of the United States House o...

English: , member of the United States House of Representatives. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The scramble to become a candidate for U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach‘s seat has already begun and the battle for the post will be a national spectacle, political watchers said Monday.

The Chester County Republican announced Monday that he will not seek re-election to a seventh term.

And while Gerlach said he mainly made the decision to spend more time with his family, he acknowledged that frustration with Washington had to play a role.

“I just get the sense that he was very unhappy with the situation, the gridlock, the partisanship, the inability to get much done,” said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster. “Many (politicians) have reached a point where many don’t want to go through this anymore.”

Read more:   http://readingeagle.com/article/20140107/NEWS/301079935/1052#.UsxmIfRDsxI

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Post Office Reports Loss Of $5 Billion For Year

USPS service delivery truck in a residential a...

USPS service delivery truck in a residential area of San Francisco, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. Postal Service said Friday it lost $5 billion over the past year, and postal officials again urged Congress to pass legislation to help the beleaguered agency solve its financial woes.

In a positive sign, the loss was a fraction of the record $15.9 billion the Postal Service reported losing last year. But it was still the agency’s seventh straight annual loss and came despite its first growth in revenue since 2008.

Operating revenue rose 1.2 percent to $66 billion, thanks to growth in the post office’s package delivery business and higher volume in standard mail. That was not enough to offset long-term losses in first class mail – the post office’s most profitable service – where revenues declined by 2.4 percent.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20131115_ap_bec035dfa75648f5a1f03a745ca1eb46.html#OcVHlq2UB7XQFb1U.99

Crisis Averted, Obama Says Americans ‘Completely Fed Up’ With Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama scolded congressional Republicans on Thursday, hours after a fiscal crisis was narrowly averted and called on his opponents to help repair the economic damage caused by a 16-day U.S. government shutdown and a close brush with a debt default.

Obama stressed that he is willing to work with lawmakers wherever they can agree, but the tone he struck amounted to a rebuke of Republicans, whom Americans largely blame for pushing the United States to the brink of an economic calamity.

“The American people are completely fed up with Washington,” said Obama in a White House speech attended by many of the aides who worked day and night through the various stages of the latest fiscal stalemate.

“The American people are completely fed up with Washington,” said Obama in a White House speech attended by many of the aides who worked day and night through the various stages of the latest fiscal stalemate.

Read more: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/sns-rt-us-usa-fiscal-obama-20130915,0,5894864.story#ixzz2i0gCYjlb
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Christie: ‘If I Was In The Senate Right Now, I’d Kill Myself’

English: , U.S. Attorney, Governor-elect of Ne...

English: , U.S. Attorney, Governor-elect of New Jersey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gov. Christie today blamed Republicans and Democrats for the government shutdown, saying “it’s irresponsible of both sides to have allowed this to get where it’s gotten.”

Asked during an editorial board meeting with The Philadelphia Inquirer what he would do if he were in the Senate right now, his immediate response was this: “If I was in the Senate right now, I’d kill myself.”

“This is why I’ve never had any interest in being in a legislative body,” he said. (It should be noted: In the 1990s Christie was a county freeholder, which is a legislator.)

He sees the situation in Washington as a failure in leadership, and a failure to achieve compromise.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/christie_chronicles/Christie-If-I-was-in-the-Senate-right-now-Id-kill-myself.html#SCuoK6yZzyy8AhU4.99

Obama Open To Name Change For Washington Redskins

Former alternate logo for the Washington Redskins

Former alternate logo for the Washington Redskins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama says that if he owned the Washington Redskins, he would “think about changing” the team name, wading into the controversy over a football nickname that many people deem offensive to Native Americans.

Obama, in an interview with The Associated Press, said team names like the Redskins offend “a sizable group of people.” He said that while fans get attached to the nicknames, nostalgia may not be a good enough reason to keep them in place.

“I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things,” he said in the interview, which was conducted Friday.

An avid sports fan, Obama said he doesn’t think Washington football fans are purposely trying to offend American Indians. “I don’t want to detract from the wonderful Redskins fans that are here. They love their team and rightly so,” he said.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/20131005_ap_4e545769cf7a41c68fafb55ada61635a.html#3fxVXG08vkDzcLA3.99

Half Of U.S. Seniors One ‘Shock’ Away From Poverty, Report Warns

NEW YORK  (TheStreet) — Are U.S. seniors “truly vulnerable” to spending their retirement in poverty?

That thought, almost unthinkable almost 15 years ago, is inching closer to reality, says a study from the Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute.

Older African-Americans (63%) and Hispanics (70%) are especially vulnerable to spending their golden years in economic peril, the study says, with 48% of all U.S. seniors, or about 19.9 million Americans, “one bad economic shock away” from falling off a financial cliff after age 65 — a fall from which they may not recover.

Read more: http://business-news.thestreet.com/philly/story/half-of-us-seniors-one-shock-away-from-poverty-report-warns/11947636

IRS Chief Tells Lawmakers: ‘We Will Uncover Everything’

Seal of the United States Internal Revenue Ser...

Seal of the United States Internal Revenue Service. The design is the same as the Treasury seal with an IRS inscription. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON — The new head of the Internal Revenue Service acknowledged that the embattled agency “undermined the public’s trust” when employees singled out conservative political groups seeking tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny, and he pledged full cooperation with lawmakers in pursuing reforms.

In his first public testimony since taking over at the IRS in mid-May, acting Commissioner Daniel Werfel called actions by employees “completely inexcusable and inherently damaging” to the agency, blaming what he called “a fundamental failure by IRS management” to prevent it.  He said he would hold accountable any employees responsible for misdeeds, promising at one point, “We will uncover everything.”

“This important agency is founded on a principle of operating impartially.  And we failed in that most basic core principle here, and it’s devastating to us as an agency and to the people in that agency,” he said.

Previous IRS officials who have testified gave much less definitive answers to such questions.  Werfel has the advantage of having not been at the agency when the problems occurred.  As a result, the tenor of Monday’s hearing contrasted with other sessions in which members often sparred with invited witnesses.

Read more:  http://www.mcall.com/news/nationworld/la-na-irs-hearings-20130604,0,3733316.story

Public Wants More Transit Funding, Officials Say

SEPTA logo with text

SEPTA logo with text (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Amid state and federal wrangling over transportation funding, transit leaders meeting in Center City said growing public support should mean more money for trains, buses, and subways.

“The people of the nation are way ahead of some of their elected leaders,” Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff said Monday, citing a new survey for the American Public Transportation Association that showed 74 percent of respondents supported using tax dollars to “create, expand and improve public transportation.”  That was up from 69 percent last year.

In Washington and Harrisburg, lawmakers are debating how to pay for mass transit as well as highways and bridges.  Transit agencies, which typically get at least half of their budgets from taxpayers, are lobbying for increases to replace outdated equipment and vehicles and to bring derelict systems into a state of good repair.

A vote is expected this week in the Pennsylvania state Senate on a transportation-funding bill that would increase the gas tax on wholesalers (who likely would pass it on to motorists at the pump), and raise most vehicle fees and fines for traffic violations.  The measure would produce about $2.5 billion in additional transportation funding after three years, according to its sponsor, Senate transportation chairman John Rafferty (R., Montgomery).

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/transportation/20130604_Public_wants_more_transit_funding__officials_contend.html#Ygr2fvsOhvgMWo0W.99