ABDUCTED FROM SCHOOL
Talking bird helped break school abduction case
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A Philadelphia detective has testified about a foul-mouthed bird that helped lead police to the woman charged with abducting a 5-year-old from school.
The girl said she heard a talking bird during the 19 hours she spent blindfolded in a house where she was sexually assaulted.
She also glimpsed the back of the west Philadelphia house before she was abandoned at a park.
Detective Daniel O'Malley testified Friday that he focused on the bird as he worked the case in January 2013.
He said a tip led him to the house where 19-year-old Christina Regusters lived with a loud macaw who cussed out investigators.
Regusters knew the girl from an after-school program where she worked.
Her lawyer has argued that police have the wrong suspect. Regusters' trial resumes next week.
Corbett tries new TV ad attack strategy on Wolf
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A new TV ad by Gov. Tom Corbett's campaign is opening a new front in the Republican's mass communication strategy.
The 30-second ad unveiled Thursday labels Democrat Tom Wolf as a "maxed-out donor" to President Barack Obama. It also says Wolf supports Obama's "disastrous Obamacare," ''radical gun control agenda" and "war on PA coal jobs."
It's the first time the Corbett campaign has mentioned Obama in a TV ad. Campaign officials say it's running in just the Harrisburg and Johnstown markets.
Up until now, Corbett's TV ads had tried to frame Wolf as a tax-avoiding millionaire and a tax-and-spend liberal.
Muhlenberg College political science professor Christopher Borick says the Corbett campaign appears to be trying to figure out how to erode Wolf's considerable polling lead. The election is Nov. 4.
Philadelphia School District lays off 17 employees
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The cash-strapped Philadelphia School District will lay off 17 central office employees as part of an elimination of 81 positions.
District spokesman Fernando Gallard says 64 of the 81 positions being eliminated are currently vacant. He says the cuts are estimated to save the district $5.4 million.
The district faces an $81 million deficit and has warned of massive layoffs unless state lawmakers approve a $2-per-pack cigarette tax.
Officials earlier this month announced plans to cut another $32 million in services to free up enough money to start classes on time Sept. 8 but said it would mean no school buses for many high school students, buildings cleaned less frequently and school police officer vacancies going unfilled. The governor earlier said the state would advance $265 million to the district.
GAS DRILLING-FORCED LEASES
Firm drops bid to force drilling on holdouts
NEW BEDFORD, Pa. (AP) - Hilcorp has dropped its bid to force holdout property owners in Pennsylania to accept drilling under their land, saying Friday the energy company wants to move beyond a protracted fight and begin producing oil and gas.
The Houston-based company had sought to use a 1961 Pennsylvania law to drill under the property of a few holdout landowners in New Bedford, near the Ohio border north of Pittsburgh. The concept, known as "forced pooling," means people who don't sign leases get bundled in with those who do, to make drilling more efficient and compensate all the landowners.
Hilcorp said it will instead drill around landowners who refused to sign leases with the company.
The company said in a statement that while it believes it would have prevailed, "this protracted process has created uncertainty for the landowners that have leased to Hilcorp and are eager to exercise their right to develop their oil and gas."
Property owners holding 99 percent of the acreage in the 3,267-acre tract have signed leases, the company said.
Forced pooling laws exist in some form in about 40 states.
Pa. court rules against road to landlocked parcel
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A state appeals court is ruling against a landowner who wanted to access his landlocked property by putting a road through a neighbor's land, the latest decision in a long-running dispute about how Pennsylvania's Private Road Act should be applied.
The unanimous Commonwealth Court ruling Wednesday said a man wasn't entitled to the road because it would primarily benefit him and not the wider public.
The Private Road Act stretches back to colonial times and its current version dates to 1836.
The state Supreme Court four years ago determined that such private road actions aren't exercises of police power bur rather are subject to the same constitutional restrictions as takings under eminent domain.
The landowner says his parcels were landlocked by the state when it built Interstate 79 in 1963.
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