Bird-watchers at a ridgetop preserve in eastern Pennsylvania counted a record number of migrating bald eagles this fall, another sign of the species’ remarkable comeback following a century of decline.

The huge flight of 407 eagles smashed the old record of 245 set two years ago at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, which has kept an annual tally of migrating hawks, eagles and falcons since its founding 76 years ago.

As the autumn raptor count at Hawk Mountain drew to a close Wednesday, sanctuary biologists and birding enthusiasts cheered what Keith Bildstein, the sanctuary’s director of conservation science, recently called “possibly the greatest wildlife success story of our time.”

The U.S. population of bald eagles suffered a steep decline between the 1870s and 1970s, first due to habitat destruction and hunting and later because of the widespread use of the pesticide DDT. By 1963, there were only 417 breeding pairs left in the lower 48 states.

President’s House site opens in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA – A new outdoor exhibit is open in the city’s historic district after years of protests, research and debate about how to balance the stories of the nation’s battle for independence with its history of slavery.

“President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in Making a New Nation” is a permanent installation unveiled Wednesday on the footprint of the home and executive mansion of Presidents George Washington and John Adams when Philadelphia was the nation’s capital from 1790 to 1800. At least nine of Washington’s slaves also lived at the President’s House, which was demolished in the 1830s.

Prosecutor puts high price on alleged crime

PITTSBURGH – Sen. Jane Orie benefited from six-figures’ worth of political campaign work done by her taxpayer-funded legislative staff for herself and her sister, Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, a county prosecutor said Wednesday.

At the close of a hearing on pretrial motions Wednesday, Allegheny County Assistant District Attorney Law Claus  said investigators believe the allegedly illegal work – from stuffing envelopes to chauffeuring Melvin to campaign stops on state time – was worth $70,000 to $130,000. Tthat doesn’t count another $200,000 to $400,000 Orie would have paid a professional to raise about $2 million in campaign cash over the past decade, Claus said.

Orie and her sister Janine, an aide to Melvin, are scheduled for trial Feb. 7.

Defense attorneys William Costopoulos, who represents the senator, and James DePas-quale, who represents Janine Orie, have argued the work was done on comp time or was too small to be of legal consequence.

Voters favor selling liquor stores, poll finds

HARRISBURG – Nine out of 10 Pennsylvania voters regard the state’s budget problems as serious, and a majority favor selling the state liquor stores to help avert a multibillion-dollar shortfall next year, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The survey by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut found

60 percent of voters viewed the fiscal situation as very serious and 33 percent as somewhat serious. Only 5 percent said they felt it is not serious.

Among several budget-balancing options floated in the poll, getting the state out of the liquor and wine business was the most popular. It was supported by two-thirds of the respondents.


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