WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1, 2015

McDonald's Will Raise Minimum Wage
NEW YORK (AP) - McDonald's says it's raising pay for workers at its company-owned U.S. restaurants. It's the latest employer to sweeten worker incentives in an improving economy. The company owns about 10 percent of its more than 14,300 U.S. restaurants. The rest are run by franchisees. The change comes as McDonald's faces protests over pay and labor practices at its restaurants. Starting in July, the company says wages will be a dollar more than the local minimum wage.

Talks Extended With Iran
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) - Secretary of State John Kerry will be staying in Switzerland at least until tomorrow. U.S. officials say there's been enough progress in the talks with Iran on its nuclear program to extend the talks for another day. A spokeswoman says, "We continue to make progress but have not reached a political understanding." For nearly a week, Iran and six world powers have been haggling over what an initial understanding should look like. (photo: AP)

Search Warrant Yields Heroin & Drug Paraphernalia
A Washington man has been arrested, thanks to tips received through the Washington County Drug Task Force Telphone Line. Washington County District Attorney Gene Vittone says those tips led them to 130 May Avenue, in the city of Washington, where they found 41-year-old Michael Wallace in possession of heroin and drug paraphernalia. Wallace was charged with a parole violation and authorities say additional charges will be filed at a later date.

Sex Offender Pleads
According to the Allegheny County District Attorney's office, a Washington County man has pleaded guilty to sex-related charges involving six boys. The "Tribune-Review" reports 41-year-old Joseph Rodney Thomas of Washington is a convicted sex offender and, in exchange for his guilty pleas, Thomas will be sentenced to 25-50 years along with lifetime Megan's Law registration. Some of the victims were from Elizabeth, Port Vue and Baldwin.

Mine Idled
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - A portion of Murray Energy Corp.'s Monongalia County Mine has been temporarily idled. The company attributes the move to shipment shortfalls by railroads serving the mine. Media outlets report that Murray Energy announced the partial shutdown on Tuesday. The company didn't say how many workers were affected or when the mine would resume full operations. Federal figures show the mine produced more than 3 million tons of coal in 2013 and 4.6 million tons in 2014. It employed an average of 588 workers during the fourth quarter of 2014.

Jury Rules In Favor Of H.J. Heinz
PITTSBURGH (AP) - A federal jury in Pittsburgh has rejected a Michigan man's claims that a condiment package he patented in 1997 led H.J. Heinz Co. to develop its Dip & Squeeze ketchup packets in 2010. The verdict in favor of Pittsburgh-based Heinz came Wednesday. David Wawrzynski (wah-ruh-ZIN'-skee), a Detroit-area businessman, had sued, claiming the "Little Dipper" package he invented led Heinz to develop its dual-function package. A lid can be peeled from the Dip & Squeeze so food can be dipped into the ketchup, or the end can be torn off so the ketchup can be squeezed onto the food. A Heinz spokesman says the company is pleased and "believed all along that Mr. Wawrzynski's claims were groundless."

Creator Of Pet Rock Dies
JACKSONVILLE, Ore. (AP) - The man who created the Pet Rock has died. Gary Ross Dahl created the wildly popular 1970s fad, which was a smooth stone that came packed in a cardboard box containing a tongue-in-cheek instruction pamphlet for "care and feeding." Dahl estimated he had sold 1.5 million of them at roughly $4 each by the time the fad fizzled. Dahl's wife says he died March 23 in southern Oregon of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 78.

Hearing Postponed
Washington County Judge John DiSalle has postponed a hearing for a Carroll Township man who is charged with murdering his wife two years ago. The hearing was to determine if 72-year-old Ronald George Powell is competent to stand trial. DiSalle, however, postponed the proceeding for sixty days, to give the defense and the prosecution time to develop a plan on how to treat Powell, should he rule in favor of a motion to dismiss the case. Powell is accused of shooting his wife in the head, with a shotgun, then taking a shower and having a cup of coffee before calling to report what had happened.

Marijuana In Car
A traffic stop--and a drug arrest--in the city. State police stopped a vehicle for a registration violation at East Wylie and Allison Avenues. A passenger, 18-year-old Duwayne Patterson of Washington, was in possession of a half-pound of marijuana, according to police. Patterson was jailed awaiting arraignment.

Marriage Annulment Fee Eliminated
PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh is eliminating fees for marriage annulments in keeping with comments by Pope Francis in recent months that the church should make it easier for some divorced Catholics to remarry and receive other church sacraments. Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik says in a statement Wednesday that, "My staff and I have long dreamed of this move. Our dear Pope Francis inspired us to act now." It's not immediately clear whether other large dioceses in the state, or the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, are considering similar moves. The Vatican teaches marriage is a sacrament and forbids divorce. Annulments are a church ruling that a couple's marriage was invalid and thus, essentially, never existed - at least spiritually. The Pittsburgh diocese says a recent fundraising campaign has made it able to cover the costs.

More Layoffs At U.S. Steel Plant
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - U.S. Steel Corp. says it plans to shut down part of its Minntac plant at Minnesota's biggest iron mine, resulting in about 680 layoffs.
It's the latest symptom of a downturn in the American steel industry that has taken a heavy toll on the Iron Range of northeastern Minnesota. U.S. Steel cited high steel imports, dumping of foreign steel and low steel prices in its announcement Tuesday. U.S. Steel spokeswoman Courtney Boone says the layoffs are temporary at the Mountain Iron facility, which employs about 1,500 workers. But she also says the company can't speculate how long they'll last. She says that will depend on market conditions and customer demand. Boone said that three of the plant's five iron ore processing lines will be shut down.
About three weeks ago, Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel said it would idle its Keetac plant in nearby Keewatin effective May 13, resulting in 412 workers laid off. And Magnetation LLC announced in February that it was shutting down its Keewatin plant, resulting in about 20 job losses. The mining region is about 200 miles north of Minneapolis.

Mandatory Water Restrictions In California
ECHO LAKE, Calif. (AP) - California Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered state officials to impose mandatory water restrictions for the first time in history. This, as California deals with a serious drought. In an executive order, Brown told the state water board to put reductions into effect in cities and towns to cut usage by 25 percent. The move will affect residents, businesses, farmers and other users. The order also will require campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscapes to significantly cut water use.

Cynthia Lennon Dies
LONDON (AP) - The first wife of former Beatle John Lennon has died. Cynthia Lennon was 75 - and had cancer. Her son, Julian, has posted a video tribute to his mom - along with a song he had written for her. In the tribute he sings, "the love you left behind will carry on." Cynthia and John Lennon met at art school in Liverpool in 1957 and married shortly before the Beatles became world famous. The couple divorced in 1968. Julian was their only child together.

Auto Sales Down
DETROIT (AP) - March sales figures show winter cooled the blistering pace of U.S. auto sales. General Motors' sales fell 2 percent. Ford and Nissan both saw 3 percent declines, while Honda's sales were down 5 percent compared with last March. However, not everyone saw declines. Toyota sales were up 5 percent, while FCA - the parent of Chrysler and Fiat - says its U.S. sales rose 2 percent. Analysts say sales gains are likely to slow as they reach a natural peak, near 17 million for the year.

Actor Will Donate Commencement Fee
HOUSTON (AP) - The University of Houston says it's paying actor Matthew McConaughey $135,000 plus expenses to speak at its commencement. It must also pay a $20,000 commission to a booking agency. School officials had been reluctant to disclose the fee. A statement says McConaughey, a Texas native, is donating his fees to a high school student foundation he started.

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