Military Chiefs Cite Personal Encounters In Lifting Women’s Combat Ban

English: General Martin E. Dempsey, USA, 18thC...

English: General Martin E. Dempsey, USA, 18thChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON — The historic decision to lift the military’s ban on women in combat had its roots in the personal experiences in war zones of Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both men said on Thursday.  For General Dempsey, it all began in Baghdad.

He had just arrived there in 2003 as a division commander, he said at a Pentagon news conference, when he clambered aboard a Humvee and asked the driver where he was from.  “And I slapped the turret gunner on the leg and I said, ‘Who are you?’ “ General Dempsey recalled.  “And she leaned down and said, ‘I’m Amanda.’ ”

As people chortled, General Dempsey continued: “And I said, ‘Oh, O.K.’ So a female turret gunner is protecting a division commander.  And it’s from that point on that I realized something had changed, and it was time to do something about it.”

Almost a decade later, General Dempsey and Mr. Panetta signed a document formally rescinding a 1994 ban that restricted women from infantry, artillery, armor and other such combat roles.  “Not everyone is going to be able to be a combat soldier,” Mr. Panetta said, “but everyone is entitled to a chance.”

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Funds Sought To Restore Wilkes-Barre Irem Temple

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE – The 107-year-old Irem Temple building, a historic landmark on North Franklin Street, once was Wilkes-Barre‘s primary public performance venue.

Today, the once-grand building has fallen into disrepair and has no heat, lights or electricity.  But city and chamber officials are trying to save it.

During a tour by flashlight Wednesday, Ross Macarty, vice president of community development, real estate and special projects for the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry, showed that water damage has taken a toll on the deteriorating building and thieves have stolen copper and brass inside over the past two months.

The Greater Wilkes-Barre Development Corp., an arm of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry, bought the building in 2005 for $992,000, using a combination of federal, state and chamber funds.  The chamber and city are seeking $2.4 million in state gaming funds to bring the building up to code and return it to use.

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Pittsburgh School Board OKs 30 Percent Drop In Tax Rate

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)

As required by state law because of an overall increase in property values, both Pittsburgh Public Schools and the city of Pittsburgh are on course to reduce property tax rates by about 30 percent for calendar 2013.

The school board Wednesday night unanimously approved reducing the rate from 13.92 mills to 9.65 mills.

Pittsburgh City Council Wednesday gave preliminary approval on a unanimous voice vote to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl‘s tax proposal that will drop the millage rate from 10.8 mills to 7.56 mills.  A final vote is set for Tuesday.

Whether the taxes of an individual property owner will go up depends on how the property fared in the countywide reassessment.  Overall, property values in the city went up 48 percent.  If the value of a particular property went up more than that, taxes will increase.  Taxes will decrease if the value went up less than that.

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Suburban Areas Becoming More Convenient, City-Like

English: Text that accompanies the ULI logo.

English: Text that accompanies the ULI logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the past two decades, suburban areas have been making a slow transition from car-dependent to people-oriented design, with more options for walking, cycling or public transportation, according to Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit research and education organization.

ULI recently published a report, “Shifting Suburbs: Reinventing Infrastructure for Compact Development,” detailing how this change is mostly driven by generation Y, who favor the convenience of urban-style living in more densely populated areas.

The U.S. population is expected to increase by 95 million in the next 30 years, and most of the growth will occur in suburban towns, which makes smart suburban land use essential to growth. But redeveloping these areas is harder in practice than in theory, according to the report.

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CHOP Doctor Murder Suspect Described As Helpful Family Man ‘Just Snapped’

If there is something in the makeup of Jason Smith that might have presaged the slaying to which police say he has confessed, nothing was immediately apparent Thursday.

Neighbors in the Crescent Lane section of Levittown, Bucks County – where the 36-year-old exterminator lived with his girlfriend, their young daughter, his girlfriend’s mother, and other relatives – described him as helpful, a family man who took his boxer, Tyson, out for frequent walks.

They said he showed no signs of a violent temper.

Yet Philadelphia police officials, at a news conference Thursday, said an explosive argument between Smith and Melissa Ketunuti apparently triggered a murderous rage.

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City Of Reading Shootings Fall, Other Violent Crimes Up In 2012

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsyl...

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsylvania area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Violent crime – especially murders – edged up in Reading last year, Police Chief William M. Heim told City Council on Wednesday.

In 2012, he said, murders rose 25 percent from 2011.

Still, Heim said, the city has nowhere near the crime levels it did in 2004 when it reported 1,116 incidents of violent crime.  The 2012 statistics showed 828 incidents.

And the number of people shot also dropped, to 57 last year from 65 in 2011. The high was 109 people shot in 2002.

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