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She was an angel of mercy


Middletown lost a truly devoted friend when Nancy Schenck, the retired executive director of the Middletown chapter of the American Red Cross, died on Thursday, July 23 in Cranberry Twp., Butler County, where she had moved to be with her daughter, Kim Ross. She was 84.

In her 19 years as executive director, Schenck helped countless people, not only during disasters but also during difficult times in everyday life. Through her office in borough hall, Schenck did come to the rescue of local residents during two major floods and several house fires, but she also provided help – food vouchers, heating oil, gasoline, and assistance in paying electric bills and rent – to those struggling to make ends meet.

The Middletown chapter was lucky: It had a benefactor who set up a unique fund that other Red Cross chapters did not have. The benefactor, who Schenck would not name, left the chapter money in his will from the interest earned annually on investments in the Hershey Trust, and that money paid for staples for the needy. Schenck would receive an annual check made out to the Middletown chapter “for the poor of Middletown.’’

And Schenck, a very spiritual person, simply hated to turn anyone down when they came to her for help. She did not judge others harshly. “Some would come in with their nails done, or gold around their neck, or smoking cigarettes, and I’d say, ‘Nancy, they don’t need it,’ ‘’ recalled Judy Oxenford, mayor of Royalton and a close friend. “She’d say, ‘Well, they might need the money.’ “When they put her in that position, they did right,’’ Oxenford said. “They couldn’t make a better lady.’’

When Schenck retired in 2014, and the Middletown office closed, she unselfishly credited those who helped her help others, many of them volunteers. “Throughout all the things I’ve seen, there’s always been someone to step in and help me,’’ she said. “I wouldn’t have been able to dot it without people like them.’’

It took a special person to be the angel of mercy for so many strangers. Nancy Schenck was the perfect person for the job. She touched many lives in Middletown, and made it a better place.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 July 2015 16:09

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Obama's Iran nuclear deal: For or against?


President Barack Obama announced a proposed historic nuclear weapon deal with Iran on Tuesday, July 14. Five other nations agreed to the accord.


Congress has 60 days to review it. The deal lifts U.S. sanctions against Iran that will be phased in as Iran completes "key nuclear steps,'' Obama said.


Congressional Republicans and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have promised to kill the deal, reports. Netanyahu called the deal a "historic mistake'' full of "sweeping concessions,'' Bloomberg reported.


Obama defended the deal, saying, "Put simply, no deal means a greater chance of more war in the Middle East.''


Reaction from around the U.S.: 

• U.S. House of Representatives minority whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md.: “It is now up to members of Congress to work carefully through every detail, particularly given Iran’s likelihood to exploit any ambiguity or loophole to its benefit and to the detriment of the security of America, Israel and our allies in Europe and the Gulf.’’

• Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa.: “We are told that the deal is better than nothing at all, since it will essentially freeze Iran’s nuclear program for 10 to 15 years. However, in global historical terms, that is the merest blink of an eye. In a 10-year span, Iran’s economy will have continued to grow, free of sanctions, allowing them to carry on funding terrorist groups in the region. At the end of that time frame, they will be free to pursue whatever programs they wish.

“I’m afraid we will soon have to begin teaching school children to pointlessly hide under their desks again, as we did when faced with the threat of Russian nuclear attack in the 1950s and ‘60s.

“With an issue as monumental as national security at stake, this is not the time to be burnishing legacies or campaigning for the next Nobel Peace Prize.  Congress must carefully examine the agreement and its impact on this country and our allies, particularly Israel.  I am mindful of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s declaration that if Iran wants to be treated as a normal nation, it should act like one.  As a consistent and belligerent state sponsor of terrorism, Iran has certainly not kept its part of the bargain.''

“I am eager to scrutinize the details of the agreement over the 60-day period, and will make my final determination on how I will vote after a full consideration of all the facts.”

• Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.: “Preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is critical to our national security and that of our partners in the region, especially Israel.  That’s why I have consistently sponsored and supported sanctions against Iran, which brought the regime to the table in the first place, and legislation like the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act and the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015.

 “I appreciate the hard work that Secretary [John] Kerry and his team put into these negotiations. Over the coming days, I will be conducting a thorough review of the agreement to evaluate whether it protects our national security interests.” 

• Teri  Adams, spokeswoman for the Independence Hall Foundation, Philadelphia: “Clearly, the president seeks to establish a new order in the Middle East – and it is also clear he doesn’t care a wink about America’s allies in the region, especially Israel.

“We shudder to think how this deal might impact Israel. In the short run, Hamas and Hezbollah violence against Israel will surely escalate. In the long run, one can predict disaster, not only for Israel and our other Middle Eastern allies, but for the United States as well. Will it be a nuclear disaster? God forbid it.’’

• Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee: “There’s no question that Secretary Kerry has worked tirelessly to bring about this agreement, and his efforts are to be commended. However, I continue to have long-standing concerns about the enforcement and verifiability of any agreement with Iran, given their long history of deception and well-documented illicit activity in the region.

“While this is only an agreement about Iran’s nuclear program, the administration must concurrently work to bolster our allies in the region and counter Iran’s support of terrorist groups. For a new era of engagement to ever truly take hold, Iran must stop threatening to annihilate Israel and safely return the four Americans missing or held captive inside Iran.

“Congress has an indispensable role in bringing about and reviewing any deal. There is no greater national security challenge than the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, and we should approach this challenge in close coordination with our allies who also have so much at stake.”


• Rick Manning, president, Americans for Limited Government, Fairfax, Va.:  “The Obama Iranian deal makes proliferation in the region inevitable and, as a result, war more likely, not less. Nuclear non-proliferation, U.S. interests, and our allies interests have all suffered a severe setback today. It makes it much more likely that we will have a nuclear terrorist attack on U.S. soil, and that we will face a new reality as Iranian allies like Venezuela become nuclear threats.

“The world is less safe, and if Congress fails to defeat this deal, they will have nobody but themselves to blame.’’

• Rick Santorum, Republican candidate for president: "President Obama's so-called 'nuclear deal' with Iran – one of the world's chief sponsors of  radical islamic terrorism – is folly and only empowers the Iranian mullahs. Iran must not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon. Period.''

 • Obama: “As the American people and Congress review the deal, it will be important to consider the alternative.  Consider what happens in a world without this deal.Without this deal, there is no scenario where the world joins us in sanctioning Iran until it completely dismantles its nuclear program. Nothing we know about the Iranian government suggests that it would simply capitulate under that kind of pressure. And the world would not support an effort to permanently sanction Iran into submission. We put sanctions in place to get a diplomatic resolution, and that is what we have done.

"Without this deal, there would be no agreed-upon limitations for the Iranian nuclear program. Iran could produce, operate and test more and more centrifuges. Iran could fuel a reactor capable of producing plutonium for a bomb. And we would not have any of the inspections that allow us to detect a covert nuclear weapons program.

"In other words, no deal means no lasting constraints on Iran’s nuclear program.’’


Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 July 2015 15:50

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An important meeting for island retreat owners


If you own one of the island retreats on the Susquehanna River islands in Londonderry Twp., you should be sure to attend a meeting by township officials regarding property improvements that will be required by state and federal authorities.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 16 at the Londonderry Fire Company, 2655 Foxianna Road.

Londonderry must get retreat owners – and property owners on the mainland – whose parcels are in the floodplain to comply with federal regulations or risk losing its government-backed flood insurance.

There are 487 properties on five islands – Shelleys, Beshore, Beech, Hill and Poplar.

The problem is, summer retreats have been built on the island over the years without strict compliance to government building and sewage standards.

Owners, many of whom had acquired their properties through relatives over time, saw no reason for adhering to strict building and sewage regulations for properties that provided only temporary summertime shelter. In fact, it will cost $100,000 to $150,000 to make an assessment of what has been built on the islands, township officials estimated. “They have no inventory of what’s out there,’’ said Jeff Burkhart, the township’s codes and zoning officer.

Londonderry’s supervisors have approved an assessment, which will be used to “develop the next steps,’’ said Steve Letavic, the township’s manager. What it means for retreat owners: The cabins, manufactured homes and other structures on the islands might have to be placed on stilts; and sewage systems may have to be improved.

Retreat owners no doubt will be angry that they could be faced with investing a lot of money to bring their properties into compliance. While they will have an opportunity to ask questions at the township meeting, township officials may not be able to answer them until the assessment is made.

The meeting appears to be a preliminary step toward a process that could become more complicated as information is obtained.

It is hoped that everyone approaches the issue with patience.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 July 2015 15:37

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Hey gamers, it's not just about shooting zombies



We love games. They’ve been part of human existence for, well, centuries. Monopoly, the board game we’ve all played in our youth, was patented by Charles Darrow in 1935. Parcheesi can claim a much longer history; it is the American adaptation of a game from India that dates back to perhaps 500 A.D.


But board games are soooo 20th century. Today, computer game consoles are must-have toys, Xboxes and PlayStations and Wiis and all those contraptions that bring competition to life.


Technology has turned games into amazing, albeit expensive, pastimes, with their dizzying graphics and imagination. It’s no wonder you have to coax your child away from the game console.


But the next time your kids bemoans your effort to get him or her to move away from the computer games to finish their math homework, remind them of David DeKorte, a 40-year-old Lower Swatara Twp. man who appears to have broken a Guinness World Record for scoring points on his Xbox 360. Over the weekend, DeKorte surpassed the record for scoring the highest number of points on Microsoft Xbox Live in 24 hours, apparently topping the achievement – 14,419 “game scorer’’ points by a guy in Terre Haute, Ind., in 2013.


Seated before his Xbox in his home, games arranged in the order he intended to play them and a row of monster drinks lined up nearby, he appeared to claim glory while two fellow gamers recorded his scores, while a camera captured his victories. His play was even streamed live through Twitch, a game Web site.


Yes, it must have taken an amount of time unimaginable by many of us to play games over and over to become so good that he could challenge the record. For those of us who don’t know Grand Theft Auto from Mortal Kombat, the amount of time spent before a computer screen to become proficient is too staggering to imagine.


But DeKorte’s apparent achievement wasn’t accomplished merely by playing games. A former school teacher with a master’s degree in health administration from Penn State Harrisburg, DeKorte applied a little math to reach his goal. He mapped out a strategy on a spreadsheet over several months to determine how many games he needed to play, and how much time he could spend on each game, to reach the record.


As one of his witnesses, fellow gamer Matthew Hoffman of North Carolina, observed in our story on DeKorte’s record-breaking attempt, which you can find on A1 of this edition, “It’s very much an exercise in planning.”


So when your kid scoffs about giving up games for math homework, remind them that it took a command of math for a local gamer to break a gaming record. Consider it another weapon in your arsenal.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 July 2015 10:57

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