Stats Suggest Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Media Market Is Among Nation’s Most Racist

In the anonymous world of the Internet, people in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area and surrounding counties use the n-word in Google searches more often than most areas of the United States, according to statistics compiled by a top data scientist.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton media market — which includes Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania along with some counties in New York and New Jersey bordering the region — ranked 16th out of 196 nationwide for frequency of computer users searching the word, the data reveals.

Read the original study

Residents of the media market used the racial slur in online searches more than anywhere else in Pennsylvania except the Johnstown-Altoona media market, according to a study by a data scientist who gathered the information for a 2013 report about how racial animus affected the presidential elections of Barack Obama.

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Wilkes-Barre, Scranton Advance In The America’s Best Communities Competition

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Scranton and Wilkes-Barre have been announced as quarter-finalists in the America’s Best Communities competition.

Frontier Communications, DISH Network, CoBank and The Weather Channel — the competition’s sponsors — today announced that the two cities are among the 50 quarter-finalist communities that now have six months to complete their revitalization plans and compete for up to an additional $3 million to bring their ideas to life.

America’s Best Communities (ABC) competition is a $10 million initiative to stimulate economic revitalization in small towns and cities. Each community will receive $50,000 to develop comprehensive strategies to accelerate the revival of their local economies and improve the quality of life in their communities.

“I’m proud to congratulate our neighbors in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre for advancing in the America’s Best Communities competition,” said Elena Kilpatrick, vice president and general manager of Frontier. “This is also a great opportunity for Northeast Pennsylvania as a region to benefit from everyone coming together to implement plans that will enhance the total Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area.”

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Northeastern Pennsylvania Population Drops Slightly As South Population Rises

A lot of people in this part of the nation swore they’d move south during this year’s harsh winter. It appears many of them already have.

According to estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau, warm regions regained population growth momentum last year that was lost during the recession. But population fell in the area comprised of Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming counties.

Fourteen of the 20 fastest-growing metropolitan areas were in Florida, Texas or the Carolinas, led by The Villages near Orlando, which grew by 5.4 percent between July 1, 2013 and July 1, 2014. In contrast, the fastest-growing metro areas in Pennsylvania grew by 0.6 percent.

The bureau estimated that the population in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area fell by 2,159, or 0.4 percent over the year. Within the three-county region, Lackawanna County lost the most, 1,115, or 0.5 percent. Luzerne County’s population declined 1,033, or 0.3 percent, and Wyoming County’s was relatively unchanged.

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Turkey Hill Robberies In Wilkes-Barre Area Raise Security Questions

Sheetz, a popular convenience chain in Northeastern Pennsylvania, is open all night year round. Yet it seems rare that the chain’s stores get robbed.

The same can’t be said, however, for Turkey Hill stores in the Wyoming Valley.

There have been 10 robberies at Turkey Hill stores in Wilkes-Barre and Kingston since Jan. 26, of which three of those robberies happened last week.

What’s the difference?

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NEPA’s St. Patrick’s Day Weekend Means Fun For Residents, More Work For Police

WILKES-BARRE, PA — St. Patrick’s Day is upon Northeastern Pennsylvania, which will include a weekend of parades and other festivities.

For law enforcement, it will mean more work than usual.

Scranton Police Chief Carl Graziano was among the officials at a news conference held at the Lackawanna County Courthouse this week. Officials encouraged residents to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day safely and responsibly.

“As everybody knows, it’s no secret that that’s the biggest alcohol consumption day — at least in the city — is St. Patrick’s Day Parade day,” Graziano said.

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PennDOT To Resurface Another 110-Plus Miles Of NEPA Roads

The McDade Expressway in Scranton, Route 924 in Hazleton and a long stretch of Route 29 in Susquehanna and Wyoming counties are among area roads the state Department of Transportation has targeted for repaving this year.

The three heavily traveled routes are among 28 stretches of road in six Northeast Pennsylvania counties that PennDOT officials plan for routine resurfacing work this year. They’ll pay for it with new transportation funding from higher fees and gradually increasing gas taxes.

“PennDOT will be resurfacing about 110 miles of road this year,” agency spokesman James May said. “If we didn’t have Act 89, the number would be zero.”

Act 89 is the $2.3 billion transportation funding package the state Legislature approved in late 2013. PennDOT did have work on several larger capital pro­jects planned regardless, like the ongoing Keyser Avenue project in Scranton.

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February Was Third Coldest On Record

Last month was the third coldest February on record and it tied for fourth place as one of the coldest months ever in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The average temperature last month was 17.5 degrees as recorded by the National Weather Service at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.

January 1918 was just as cold.

Only two other Februaries locally have been colder since 1901, when record-keeping started: February 1934 with an average temperature of 15.4 degrees and February 1979 with an average temp of 15.9 degrees.

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Harsh Winter Delaying Opening Of Camelback’s $163 Million Waterpark Complex

TANNERSVILLE, PA — Shedding winter layers for swimsuits at Camelback Lodge and Aquatopia will take a month longer than expected.

The newest addition to Camelback Resort, a 453-suite hotel and a 125,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, was tentatively scheduled to open in March. The 16-month, $163 million construction project has been delayed due to winter’s tight grasp on the region.

“Obviously, we’ve had tremendous weather difficulties, and that is a fact, but we are probably 95 percent on schedule,” Arthur Berry, president of Camelback Resort told the Pocono Record.

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Turning Off The Gas: Region’s Last Exploratory Natural Gas Well To Be Plugged

Since the Marcellus Shale drilling boom started in 2008, seven natural gas wells have been drilled in and around Luzerne and Lackawanna counties.

Six of them were plugged when they failed to produce enough gas to market.

This week, the seventh — WPX Energy’s Martin well on state Route 487 in Sugarloaf Township, Columbia County, between Ricketts Glen and Benton — will also be shut down for good.

“From what I understand, we’re the last well to be plugged,” WPX Energy spokeswoman Susan Oliver said.

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PennDOT To Study Creating Northeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority

Northeastern Pennsylvania public transit riders may eventually take buses directly between Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, rather than having to transfer to a different bus in Pittston to make the trip.

Lackawanna and Luzerne County officials envision new travel options — like a direct bus link between the cities — among many benefits of merging several mass transit agencies in both counties into a single Lackawanna-Luzerne Regional Transportation Authority.

The state Department of Transportation hired consultant HNTB Corp. to study the move, which would create the state’s third largest transportation authority. The cost of the study was not available Monday.

If it happens, Lackawanna and Luzerne county officials foresee having more clout to attract state and federal grant money to improve Northeastern Pennsylvania’s transportation network for buses, the region’s growing rail industry and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.

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Maryland Trooper To Head PSP, Former Hazleton Police Chief Is Adjutant General

Governor-Elect Tom Wolf has chosen Col. Marcus L. Brown, superintendent of the Maryland State Police, to lead Pennsylvania State Police.

Brown will succeed Col. Frank R. Noonan, of Clarks Summit, in that role. According to the Associated Press, the post pays $145,025 per year.

As well, Major Gen. James R. Joseph, a former Hazleton police chief, will serve as adjutant general at the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Once nominated, both men will require state Senate confirmation.

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Police Charge Man Shot By Wilkes-Barre Officer

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

HANOVER TOWNSHIP, PA — The man shot and wounded by police in a Hanover Township parking lot was hit Thursday with felony assault and drug trafficking charges alleging he tried to run down two officers while speeding away from a crack deal he made with a police informant, according to court documents.

Bong Bob Kim, 30, of 9 Harkins Lane, Wilkes-Barre, remained hospitalized at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township on Thursday night as state police filed charges of aggravated assault, simple assault, criminal use of a communication facility, drug trafficking, fleeing police and reckless endangerment.

Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis on Thursday night identified Wilkes-Barre police Officer Joseph Sinavage as the officer who shot Kim.

According to a police affidavit filed in court, a state police vice unit and Wilkes-Barre police were conducting a joint drug operation at about 2 p.m. Wednesday in the area of the Family Dollar on Carey Avenue when things went awry.

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Blue Cross Affordable Care Act Rates To Rise

Members enrolled in Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Affordable Care Act plans will see their premium rates rise by an average of 6.9 percent in 2015.

Officials for the Wilkes-Barre-based insurer declined to specify how many members are covered by its Affordable Care Act plans. Its website shows 12 available 2014 “Blue (Affordable Care Act) Metal” plans.

“The increases are necessary to meet the coverage requirements, including essential health benefits, of the (Affordable Care Act) and to keep up with the cost of care for members in our ACA products,” said Anthony Matrisciano, spokesman for Blue Cross of NEPA, which has about 550,000 members across 13 counties.

The increase, effective Jan. 1, comes amid a state Insurance Department review of Highmark Inc.’s proposal to acquire Blue Cross of NEPA. It’s one of two rate hikes submitted by the insurer that received approval from the state Insurance Department.

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NEPA Gets Extra $500M For Projects

Counties constituting Northeastern Pennsylvania

Counties constituting Northeastern Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Northeastern Pennsylvania will get nearly $500 million more than expected for transportation projects over the next 12 years.

In 2012, area planners expected to spend $1.56 billion on transportation infrastructure in Lackawanna, Luzerne, Wyoming, Wayne, Pike and Susquehanna counties from 2013 through 2025, state Department of Transportation spokesman Michael Taluto said.

Gov. Tom Corbett signed the new transportation funding package in November, and transportation planners in the six counties recently allocated $2.03 billion to largely fix up the area’s roads and bridges from 2015 through 2027.

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Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Area Suffers High Childhood Poverty, Shrinking Middle Class, Reports Say

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)

It was grim news Tuesday as a flurry of reports showed that Luzerne County’s middle class is shrinking while the wealthiest get richer with nearly one third of children under 18 live in poverty.

Data show while the unemployment rate has dropped substantially both nationally and locally, the poverty rate has not seen a corresponding drop.

If there was a silver lining in the data put out by three different sources, it may be that Luzerne and Lackawanna counties have lower rates of uninsured children than the state.

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children — which bills itself as a nonprofit and non-partisan child advocacy group — issued its annual “State of Children’s Health Care” report, which showed that the percentage of children lacking health insurance statewide dipped slightly since last year’s report, from 5.3 percent to 5.2 percent.

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Sky Zone Scranton Brings Jobs And Healthy Activity Into The Wyoming Valley

English: Map of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania h...

English: Map of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania highlighting Pittston Township (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PITTSTON TOWNSHIP, PA — Trading in his cubicle for a trampoline, Jeff Bowne is combining business with his love of healthy living by buying into a franchise called Sky Zone Scranton.

Unique to Northeastern Pennsylvania, Sky Zone is an indoor trampoline park franchise established in 2004. In 10 years, the company has expanded to include 65 locations in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Australia.

Bowne and his sister, Jennifer Crounse, and her husband, Michael, of Allentown, will be opening a new Sky Zone in late September at CenterPoint Commerce and Trade Park East, 525 Keystone Ave., Pittston Township.

The next closest Sky Zone parks are located in Harrisburg and Lancaster.

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Massive Scranton Bust Highlights Flow Of The Heroin Pipeline

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

Given a little more time, Dakeem Booker might have turned 2.6 ounces of heroin into $50,000.

The Lackawanna County Drug Task Force had other plans.

Mr. Booker, 28, of Scranton, was arrested last month at his Palm Street home and charged as a drug dealer. County detectives and members of the state parole office raided his home after a tip, detectives said. They found a digital scale, a revolver and countless wax sleeves stamped “Magoo,” a brand of heroin.

Scranton police have charged 713 people for dealing either heroin or cocaine since 2009, according to uniform crime reporting statistics.

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Geisinger Health System Freezes Open Positions

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montour County

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

Geisinger Health System this spring temporarily froze about 400 open positions, bracing for an estimated $50 million reduction in profitability in fiscal year 2015.

The decision reflects cuts in federal reimbursement payments and the health system’s effort to extensively evaluate each opening, officials said.

About 225 positions remain unfilled, with about 30 percent of those jobs located in Northeastern Pennsylvania, said chief human resource officer Amy Brayford in an emailed statement.

She said the openings span the entire health system, which serves more than 2.6 million residents across 44 counties in central and Northeastern Pennsylvania. Most of the positions do not provide direct patient care.

Geisinger Health System employs about 21,000 people.

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Report: Foreign Dollars Bring Many Jobs To Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Area

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)

Foreign direct investment has increased jobs in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

It accounted for 14,050 jobs in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in 2011, an increase of about 4,300 in the past two decades, according to a new report that looked at data for the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas.

That’s 6.2 percent of total private sector employment, above the national rate of 5 percent.

The data comes from a new report that tries to gauge the local impact of “Foreign Direct Investment,” defined as a company in a foreign country investing enough to gain a controlling share of an American company.

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Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Region’s Health Checkup Results Less Than Stellar

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)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Northeastern Pennsylvania should be concerned about its health.

Luzerne and Lackawanna counties possess a “hard-living” population that is predominantly overweight, smokes and drinks too much, has easy access to illegal drugs, has a rising increase in mental-health issues and is living in poverty, according to data released Tuesday at the Community Health Needs Assessment forum sponsored by Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.

Teri Ooms, executive director at the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development in Wilkes-Barre, gave a presentation to about 6o people representing various agencies and health care facilities that showed the area’s needs and offered recommendations to improve health care, increase services and retain patients who seek care outside the area.

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