BC-PA--Pennsylvania News Digest, PA

News,Science and Technology

The following stories are planned for Sunday AMs, subject to change as developments warrant. For questions about the state report, contact the Philadelphia bureau at 215-561-1133.


For weeks, jurors in Philadelphia heard grim testimony about deaths and squalor at Dr. Kermit Gosnell's inner-city abortion clinic. While they listened, the murder case reverberated far beyond the courtroom, changing — at least for the moment — the tone of the national debate on abortion. Groups supporting legal access to abortion, after major successes in the 2012 national elections, find themselves on the defensive as they distance themselves from Gosnell. Anti-abortion activists, in contrast, are energized by the case, citing it in fundraising appeals and renewed efforts to expand state restrictions on abortion. By David Crary and Michael Rubinkam. About 1540 words.


SCRANTON — The actors who play Pam, Jim, Dwight and other beloved characters from the popular NBC show "The Office" are bidding farewell to the northeastern Pennsylvania city of Scranton that served as the TV setting for their fictional paper company for nine seasons. By Michael Rubinkam. Developing.

AP Photos


HARRISBURG — Republicans who control the state Senate will test their newly narrowed majority as they face an alignment of Gov. Tom Corbett and the House Republican majority as a raft of major legislation converges in the next two months. By Marc Levy. About 740 words.


NEW YORK (AP) — Technology created an energy revolution over the past decade — just not the one we expected. By now, cars were supposed to be running on fuel made from plant waste or algae — or powered by hydrogen or cheap batteries that burned nothing at all. Electricity would be generated with solar panels and wind turbines. But in the race to conquer energy technology, Old Energy is winning. Oil companies big and small have used technology to find a bounty of oil and natural gas so large that worries about running out have melted away. The result is an abundance that has put the United States on track to become the world's largest producer of oil and gas in a few years. By Jonathan Fahey, AP energy writer. About 2700 words. With abridged version.


MEDIA — Two suburban Philadelphia men face life in prison without possibility of parole in a shooting death that authorities said followed a rap battle. About 270 words.


CHAMBERSBURG — A prosecutor says a man accused of a triple murder in central Pennsylvania last summer is expected to enter guilty pleas Friday and be sentenced to consecutive life terms. About 240 words.


PITTSBURGH — About three dozen participants in this weekend's Pittsburgh Marathon will be runners who weren't able to finish last month's Boston Marathon due to the bombings. About 210 words.


CHICAGO — You've probably never heard of Holly Peterson or Jonathan Jean-Pierre. One came out as a lesbian at age 15, when she was playing high school basketball. The other, a college rower, told his teammates last year that he's gay. There was little fanfare for either. There were no headlines as there were this past week when NBA player Jason Collins declared that he is gay, making him the first in a major U.S. men's professional sport to come out. Some are calling Collins a role model for this up-and-coming generation of gay and lesbian athletes. But in some ways, those young athletes and their supporters also have helped pave the way for pros like Collins. "Change is coming from the top down, but it's also coming from the bottom up," says Ellen Staurowsky, a professor of sport management at Drexel University in Philadelphia.


PITTSBURGH — During an Advanced Placement biology course in Easton Area High School, Jennifer Estevez's teacher sped through the large chapter on evolution, focusing on one formula for the AP exam and the basics: survival of the fittest and natural selection. In those high school years in Northampton County, she also would attend a Baptist leadership retreat where a speaker denounced evolution as false, unproven science. Seemingly unimportant and even discredited, evolution fell off her radar. So the Easton student arrived at Duquesne University last fall considering herself a creationist, but a college biology course convinced her that evolution was valid science with overwhelming evidence. Her experience represents the ill-kept secret about public school biology classrooms nationwide — that evolution often isn't taught robustly, if at all. Faith-based belief in creationism and intelligent design continues to be discussed and even openly taught in public school classrooms, despite state curriculum standards. A Post-Gazette questionnaire this spring that drew 106 responses from science teachers asked them to choose one or more answers to a question of what they believe in: evolution, creationism, intelligent design or not sure/other. Ninety percent chose evolution; 19 percent said they believe in creationism, and 13 percent said they believe in intelligent design. By David Templeton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


WYNNEWOOD — Bernie Mason spent World War II moving Army tanks, sometimes picking them up and setting them down with his bare hands. He's not superhuman. And the tanks weren't some ultralight secret weapon. It was combat trickery. As a 21-year-old lieutenant, Mason helped lead a handpicked unit of artists and creative thinkers who deployed and arranged highly detailed, inflatable rubber tanks - and trucks, jeeps, and artillery - to fool the Germans into thinking the Americans had more firepower than they actually did or that the equipment was somewhere other than where it really was. Officially, the unit was the 23d Headquarters Special Troops. Unofficially, it was the Ghost Army. "It was like putting on a show," said Mason, of Wynnewood, who turns 93 in May. A show, at least, until the Germans bought the deception. Mason had barely set foot in Europe in June 1944 when he found himself hugging the bottom of a foxhole as shells exploded all around, the enemy determined to destroy what it thought was a U.S. artillery emplacement. Next month, Mason will be featured in a new PBS documentary that extols the unit's unique mission. By Jeff Gammage, The Philadelphia Inquirer.


KINTNERSVILLE — Forty-four-year-old Cyndi Lane wiped the inside of her cheek with a cotton swab in her Kintnersville home last month, hurriedly packed it into a UPS box and shipped it to a DNA laboratory in Fort Worth, Texas. More than 300 miles away, 82-year-old Audrey Gilligan of Bradford was doing the same. The women then went about doing what they've been doing for years: They waited. In the interim, Lane, a married mother of one, and Gilligan, a widowed mother of five, continued doing by phone what they'd been doing for only a few days since finding each other last month with the help of social media: connecting their lives that were literally separated at birth 44 years ago in a maternity delivery room in upstate New York when Gilligan gave up Lane for adoption. "When I told her the results, she said, 'Honey, I didn't need a DNA test to prove you were my daughter. I could hear it in your voice,'" Lane said. By Phil Gianficaro, Bucks County Courier Times.


LANCASTER — If you order a turkey wrap at the Lemon Street Market this summer, or drink a mojito at Lancaster Brewing Co., the tomato on your sandwich and the mint in your drink might have been grown right outside the restaurants. Six city restaurants are planting tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach, herbs and other fresh produce in containers, hanging baskets and small beds. They plan to harvest the fresh items and serve them to their customers, to promote healthy eating and local products, in a project sponsored by Lancaster city and a local health organization. By Cindy Stauffer, (Lancaster) Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era.


ALLENTOWN — Mansour Farhat's accounting students at Northampton Community College won't find him standing up and lecturing for the entire class. In fact, in some sections of Farhat's classes students will rarely sit through a 50-minute lecture on campus. Farhat is one of many Lehigh Valley higher educators testing the concept of a flipped classroom that inverts the traditional college teaching model of in-class lectures and homework outside of class. Farhat's students watch lectures online before class and read the textbook. They fill out practice quizzes and post discussion questions on the online class forum. In class, students tackle discussion questions and work on problems. "My goal is to be available to my students, like an ATM machine, 24/7," Farhat said. Teachers using the concept say it allows them to spend class time digging deeper into concepts with students, who then retain information better. By Sara K. Satullo, The (Easton) Express-Times.

Also moving:

KILLED RIDING SKATEBOARD — Police in western Pennsylvania are investigating a traffic accident that claimed the life of a Pittsburgh-area boy.

PHILADELPHIA VIOLENCE — Shootings left one man dead and another in critical condition in Philadelphia and a police officer also came under fire after arriving at another shooting scene.



PHILADELPHIA — Cole Hamels (1-3) tries to win his second straight start after a poor April and the Phillies face Miami's Jose Fernandez (0-2). First pitch 7:05 p.m. ET. By Rob Maaddi. With hometown lead on losing team.

AP Photos.


PITTSBURGH — Stephen Strasburg hopes to shake off a sluggish start on Saturday when the Washington Nationals face the Pittsburgh Pirates. Strasburg (1-4, 3.13 ERA) left his last start with forearm tightness. Jeff Locke (3-1, 2.83) starts for the Pirates. Game begins at 4:05 p.m. ET. With hometown lead on losing team.

AP Photos.


UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The New York Islanders withstood another early Pittsburgh barrage and a pair of goals from Sidney Crosby in his long-awaited return to the Penguins lineup to forge an unlikely tie two games into the first-round Eastern Conference playoff series. Now the Islanders are back at home after a long road trip with newfound hope that they can give the top-seeded Penguins quite a scare. By Ira Podell. Developing from mid-afternoon practices.

Also moving:

— Seattle FC at Philadelphia, 4 p.m. ET.

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