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PA 'Secret Santa' pays for 100 layaway items at Wal-Mart

A good samaritan near Harrisburg shelled out $50,000 to buy 100 people their layaway gifts at Wal-Mart. 

The anonymous donor mysteriously dropped off a check at a Silver Springs Commons store on Monday morning, reports The Patriot-News.

The "layaway angel" — as he's been dubbed — didn't want his name to be revealed and said he should just be called "Santa B."
Tanisha Burton, of Harrisburg, was astonished to find the $200 she had left to pay for toys for her daughter already covered when she went to the store later that day.

"It was definitely a surprise, and a blessing," she told The Patriot-News.

Original source: New York Daily News
Read the complete story here.

Pennsylvania elects a new governor

On Tuesday, Pennsylvanians headed to the poll and elected Tom Wolf (D) as our new governor.

Democrat Tom Wolf, a businessman from central Pennsylvania, was elected governor Tuesday in his first campaign for political office...

"We need to reestablish education as the priority," Wolf told supporters at the York Expo Center shortly after 10 p.m., after thanking Corbett for his service.

He exhorted Pennsylvanians to believe in themselves and their future. "Let's make this the time," Wolf said. "Let's get started."

Original source: The Philadelphia Inquirer
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Midstate synagogues showcased in new photo book on PA Jewish history

Genealogist, researcher and author Julian Preisler's latest book, 'The Synagogues of Central & Western Pennsylvania: A Visual Journey,' boasts over 200 photographs of synagogues, some of which are no longer standing.

"I've traveled all over Pennsylvania and have found the Jewish history of the Keystone State fascinating,' Preisler says. "Many beautiful buildings were built even if the congregations were not very large. Beth El Temple in Harrisburg is unique because of its Byzantine-Revival style of architecture. Also, the former synagogue in Shamokin is unique as it is a very ornate distinctive building built by a rather small congregation."

One major aspect of central Pennsylvania's Jewish communities that stood out to Preisler was the diversity.

"I was amazed at the number of synagogues that once existed in so many locations, and also the level of involvement that these small Jewish communities had in their larger communities," he said. "The synagogues were well-respected institutions. Before beginning the research on my book, I was not aware at all that most of the industrial and mill towns in Pennsylvania had synagogues. I feel that this is a unique aspect of Pennsylvania Jewish history."

Original source: PennLive
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Ride-share legislation introduced in Pennsylvania Senate

State Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Allegheny, has introduced legislation aimed at allowing ride-sharing services like Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. to operate in the state permanently.

“My legislation resolves outstanding issues and would enable the ride-sharing companies to continue operating,” Fontana said in a statement. “The bill includes provisions that promote safety and security for riders while compelling companies to maintain sufficient insurance coverage for contingencies.”
Provisions of Senate Bill 1457 include:
  • requiring ride-sharing companies to maintain detailed records;
  • establishing driver-training programs;
  • enforcing a zero-tolerance policy on alcohol use and the crafting of a complaint reporting system;
  • implementing a background check system and the developing specific driver guidelines that deal with past criminal, moving violations or driving under the influence history.
The legislation also requires drivers to have an updated photo in plain view. The driver would not be permitted to pick up passengers who "hail" the vehicle while in use. It also specifically identifies vehicles that may be used for ride-sharing and a detailed inspection protocol to alleviate safety concerns. The company must also maintain specific levels of insurance for liability, medical payments, comprehensive, collision and uninsured/underinsured coverage.

Original source: Pittsburgh Business Times
Read the complete story here.

Encouraging more women to enter politics

A forum in Harrisburg aims to increase the participation of women in politics.

Siobhan "Sam" Bennett, the former CEO of the Women's Campaign Fund and She Should Run, is no stranger to being the only woman in the room at political gatherings.

"Women must ask other women to run," said Ms. Bennett of Allentown, Pa., a former congressional candidate. "They must write them checks. And when they lose, they must pick up the phone and say, 'When are you going to run again?'"

...The state historically has had low numbers of women officeholders; it ranks 38th nationally in the total number of women in the state Legislature, according to the Pennsylvania Center for Women in Politics at Chatham University. The legislature is a key body for those interested in increasing women's representation, not just for its lawmaking role, but because it often serves as a "farm team" for candidates who go on to seek higher political office, experts say.

Pennsylvania's Legislature -- which is a full-time body, highly paid in comparison to other states, and favors incumbency -- impacts the structures around it and the overall political ecosystem, Ms. Bennett said.

Original source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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PA restaurants make OpenTable's 'Top 100 Hot Spot Restaurants' list

Three PA eateries made OpenTable's list of the country's "Top 100 Hot Spot Restaurants."

The Butcher and the Rye, a Pittsburgh restaurant owned by Richard DeShantz, has made  a list of 100 hippest restaurants in the United States as picked by users of OpenTable reservation and review website.

Butcher and the Rye is the only restaurant in Pittsburgh and one of only three in Pennsylvania to receive the OpenTable 2014 Diners' Choice Award. The others in Pennsylvania are Cafe Fresco in Harrisburg and El Vez in Philadelphia.

The Butcher and the Rye opened in the fall of 2013 at 212 6th St. in downtown Pittsburgh. The restaurant is on the site of another former restaurant, Palate. It is owned by DeShantz, who also owns the downtown restaurant Meat and Potatoes. It features contempory American cuisine and was recently awarded a Yahoo Travel list  as one of the best new bars in the U.S.

Original source: Pittsburgh Business Times
Read the complete list here.

Great American Outdoor Show comes to Harrisburg

Following a year of controversy, sportsmen (and women) descended on the capital this week for the Great American Outdoor Show.

Attendees waded through 650,000 square feet of space in search of the latest and greatest in outdoor merchandise, from guns and bows, to boats and quads, to stands and decoys, to jerky and stoves. There were outfitters for Canadian fishing excursions and big game African hunts, plus plenty of demonstrations and seminars...Up to 230,000 people are expected to visit the show between now and its Feb. 9 conclusion.

Original source: Scranton Times-Tribune
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PA Farm Show descends on Harrisburg

Half a million people -- and 6,000 animals -- are coming together to celebrate local food at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. (The event runs through January 11.)

There are 13,000 competitive exhibits, from nuts to Christmas trees, from chickens to cows, along with 300 commercial exhibitors, including many selling food products and crafts, and tradesmen touting their wares.
With the theme "Pennsylvania Farms: Growing for You," the 2014 show highlights agriculture's $67 billion impact on the state's economy.

There may not be as many farmers as once plowed the fields and milked the cows of Pennsylvania, but the number of farms actually grew by 5,000 from 2002 to 2007, according to the state Department of Agriculture. There are now 62,200 farms, and agriculture remains Pennsylvania's number-one industry.

Original source: The Philadelphia Inquirer
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Upwardly mobile Scranton? Yep, and Harrisburg, too

The New York Times cites a foursome of economists' recent study on upward mobility in comparing Scranton and Harrisburg to cities like Seattle, Boston and New York, where poor people have better odds of moving to middle class territory.
“Our neighborhood was very strong and supportive — everybody knew what everybody else was doing, but in a nice way,” said Ann L. Pipinski, a Scranton native who is now the president at Johnson College of Technology in Scranton. Dr. Pipinski and her sister were the first in their family to go to college, after having been raised by their mother and grandfather and mainly supported by welfare and their late father’s veteran’s benefits.
Original source: The New York Times
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See Amtrak's new 110mph trains running between Philadelphia and Harrisburg

The New York Times reports on Amtrak's new, modernized fleet of trains that will operate on the Northeast Corridor and Keystone routes.
The new locomotives will be on regular trains, not the railroad’s high-speed Acela line, which reaches top speeds of 150 m.p.h.
“The new Amtrak locomotives will help power the economic future of the Northeast region, provide more reliable and efficient service for passengers, and support the rebirth of rail manufacturing in America,” said Joseph H. Boardman, Amtrak’s president and chief executive.
Original source: The New York Times
Read the full story here.

Harrisburg University cracks U.S. News & World Report's Best Colleges list

For the first time, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology lands on US News & World Report's Best Colleges list.

Harrisburg University of Science and Technology is a private institution that was founded in 2001. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 223, its setting is urban, and the campus size is 1 acres. It utilizes a semester-based academic calendar. Harrisburg University of Science and Technology's ranking in the 2013 edition of Best Colleges is National Liberal Arts Colleges, Tier 2. Its tuition and fees are $23,900 (2012-13).

Original source: U.S. News & World Report
Read the full story here.

Hershey's new plant: 700M Kisses a Day and $1B impact on PA

Reuters reports on Hershey's global and local moves, including its new $300 million plant that is expected to have a $1 billion impact on Pennsylvania.

Hershey, whose shares rose more than 1 percent, just spent $300 million to modernize and double the size of a plant less than two miles from where its founder Milton Hershey opened his first chocolate factory in 1905.

The updated factory, which officially opened on Tuesday, can make 70 million Hershey's Kisses a day, up from roughly 40 million before.

Original source: Reuters
Read the full story here.

Startup advice courtesy of Pennsylvania business profs

Business experts from Susquehanna University and Lebanon Valley College weigh in on small business startup advice for Huffington Post.

There's no time like the present for conducting thorough market research, according to Leann Mischel, assistant professor of management at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa. "Don't assume that if you build it, they will come," says Mischel. "It is much more difficult to get a product or service out there than you think, and now matter how great the product is, market research and the right marketing are both extremely important."

Original source: Huffington Post
Read the full story here.

Would you sit in something made of recycled plastic, glass and sawdust?

Fast Company Co.Design writes about Hanover-based Emeco, the heralded innovative chair-maker that recently rolled out its Broom chair made from recycled plastic, glass and sawdust.
The Broom got its start back in 2001, when Starck conceived of a bucket chair with a curved aluminum seat and backrest embedded in a plastic frame, intended to add a more affordable version to Emeco’s existing catalog. But the costs of tooling and creating two molds--one for the plastic component, the other for the aluminum--led the company to mothball the idea. After partnering with Coke on the 111 chair, a revamp of the classic Navy made from recycled plastic bottles, the company set about finding another way to push the bounds of sustainability through the use of innovative materials. So Emeco’s director of product management, Magnus Breitling, began a quest for an eco-friendly substance made purely from waste, rather than from a food product such as corn. According to Metropolis, “It occurred to Breitling that using sawdust as a stiffening agent in combination with discarded offcuts of a suitable all-synthetic polymer would result in an almost entirely recycled product.”
Original source: Fast Company Co.Design
Read the full story here.

Poynter peeks at Pennsylvania's Pulitzers

Poynter reports on the coveted Pulitzers won by the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Patriot-News.
There’s no question that the investigative soul of The Patriot-News now resides largely with its first Pulitzer Prize-winner: 24-year-old Sara Ganim, whose reporting of alleged sexual abuse by an ex-Penn State football coach shook the paper’s 67,000 central Pennsylvania readers, and resonated with journalists far beyond.
Original source: Poynter
Read the full stories here (Inquirer) and here (Patriot-News)
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