Monday, March 31, 2008

Phils season officially under way

It’s on. The Phillies 2008 season officially started at 3:08 today with Brett Myers on the mound.

Myers delivered a ball high on the first pitch to Nationals’ shortstop Christian Guzman. Myers, who also delivered the last pitch of the regular season last year, then delivered two strikes. Guzman then took a ball before popping out weakly to Chase Utley at second.

It’s drizzling and chilly under cloudy skies as the defending National League East champs kick off the 2008 season vs. the Nationals.

Be sure to keep checking back to for updates all afternoon and full coverage in tomorrow’s Daily Times.

You can also get live updates from beat writer Ryan Lawrence at by clicking here.

The Daily Numbers -- March 31

The Daily Numbers: 4 bodies found in an apartment in Chester Saturday.

0 evidence so far of foul play, no weapon was found, no trauma on the bodies, no sign of a struggle. In other words, a mystery.

5, age of child who police believe drowned in a swimming pool in a Tinicum hotel Saturday night.

300 trees in Chadds Ford that could be chopped down as PECO looks to clear brush in the area of its power lines. The locals are not happy.

1 teen and 1 adult killed in separate hit-and-run accidents in Philadelphia. Police believe they may have found the SUV that is believed to have struck and killed the 15-year-old girl Friday night.

20,000 people who showed up in State College for a rally by Sen. Barack Obama. Gee, you’d think the Nittany Lions were holding spring football practice.

4 people hurt when fire ripped through a house in the Frankford section of Philadelphia Sunday.

30 cars destroyed when fire roared through a Camden County dealership Sunday night. The fire at Chevrolet 73 is under investigation.

20, age of Rowan University student struck by a pickup truck Sunday. She’s in critical condition.

2 popular businesses on the boardwalk in Ocean City, Md., destroyed fire fire Sunday.

5 seconds, how long it took to implode the 18-story Mantua Hall public housing project in Philly yesterday morning.

4 gay couples who took part in a commitment ceremony celebrated by Mayor Bill Welch in State College over the weekend. More than 500 people cheered the ceremony.

3 kids killed in a Baltimore hotel. The children’s father then called the front desk to admit he had killed the kids.

4 No 1 seeds that have advanced to the Final Four in the NCAA basketball tournament.

162 games in the marathon baseball season. They play Game One today at Citizens Bank Park.

2 straight MVPs for the Phils in Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. Could Chase Utley be next?

2 straight losses that have cooled off the red-hot Sixers. They fell, 91-88, to the Cavs yesterday.

1 win already for today’s Phillies’ foe. The Nationals opened their new park, including an appearance from President George W. Bush to throw out the first pitch, with a walk-off homer in the 9th.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
OK, here goes the fearless forecast: Phils win 88 games and take the wild card, while the Braves surprise by winning the NL East. Phils also rue the day they did not re-sign pitcher Kyle Lohse.

I Don’t Get It: The knuckleheads are back, bigger than ever. Vandals spray-painted swastikas and slurs on a synagogue in Wilkes-Barre over the weekend.


Today’s Upper: In the wake of last week’s killing on a subway platform in Center City, the Guardian Angels showed up to patrol the underground spots, as well as on the subways, this weekend. I say the more the merrier. It’s pretty clear people do not feel safe on the subway, and like the idea of the Angels’ presence.


Quote Box: “We really don’t know what we’re dealing with.”

-- Chester Police Capt. Joseph Massi, on mystery surrounding four bodies found in a city apartment.

Return of the boys of summer

Today is the best day of the year.

Not because it’s Monday, and the start of another work week. Not because it’s the last day of that cruelest of months, March, which constantly teases us with glimpses of spring, while buffeting us with cold, dreary weather.

No, today marks a rebirth of another kind. Summers starts today. More accurately the boys of summer start today.

The Phils are Back!

Today is opening day of the Phillies season. No some made-for-TV junket to Japan, not baseball played under a gleaming sun and palm trees in Florida, and not even an exhibition in Allentown to celebrate the arrival of something called the Iron Pigs.

Today baseball returns to Citizens Bank Park. And so do the fans. Actually, they’ve already showed up. Some hearty Phillies Phanatics spent most of the night waiting in line for standing room only tickets to go on sale at Citizens Bank Park.

Brett Myers will be on the mound when the first pitch is thrown sometime arouned 3:05.

Of course, Mother Nature is refusing to cooperate. Nobody bothered to tell her that today marks the first day of summer. Instead she will, as usual, provide late-winter weather, with a chance of showers and cold, raw temperatures.


Baseball is back. Summer cannot be far behind.

4 bodies baffle police, neighbors in Chester

Police in Chester have seen just about everything. But they’re not quite sure what to make of what happened inside an apartment in the 900 block of Keystone Road.

What they know is this: Whatever happened, it wasn’t good.

They also know this. Four people are dead as a result of something that happened in the second-floor apartment. But just what did happen remains a mystery.

Police were called to the scene Saturday night by a relative of one of the victims who became concerned after not hearing from the woman who lived at the apartment.

What police found inside was mystifying. The bodies of four people were discovered, three adults and a child. The bodies were found in different rooms. There was no sign of trauma on the bodies. There was no evidence of a forced entry into the apartment, nor of a struggle inside the tidy residence.

In these instances, the first thing looked at is usually a problem with carbon monoxide. But fire officials quickly ruled that out.

What caused the deaths is at this point is undetermined. Results of autopsies on the four bodies is due later today.

In the meantime, police simply are ruling the deaths as “suspicious.”

A mystery? Absolutely.

In the meantime, a chill has gone through the neighborhood as those who live nearby wonder just what happened inside that apartment.

The answer could come later today. And not a minute too soon to ease the minds of relatives, police and neighbors who are left to simply shake their heads and wonder what took the lives of four people.

The road to the Pennsylvania Primary

Here’s your Monday morning update on the road to the Pensylvania Primary:

* 22 days until Pennsylvania goes to the polls on April 22.

* Both candidates will continue to work the Keystone State. Hillary Clinton will host a roundtable in Harrisburg this afternoon. Tonight she has a rally set in Fairless Hills, Bucks County. Tomorrow she will speak at the AFL-CIO convention in Philly.

* Barack Obama continues his “Road to Change” bus tour. He’ll be in Lancaster this morning, on the campus of Muhlenberg College in Allentown this afternoon.

* Over the weekend Gov. Ed Rendell, who makes no secret of his being solidly in the Clinton camp, fired back at some party leaders who hinted that it might be time for Sen. Clinton to get out of the race in the hopes of unifying the part. Don’t hold your breath.

Clinton has given no indication of pulling the plug, instead vowing to go all the way to the convention.

Rendell has her back, saying he believes she will cut into Obama’s lead in the popular vote in the primaries left on the calendar.

“There are 10 states left,” Rendell said. “I think Sen. Clinton’s going to teat into the popular vote. And I think if Michigan and Florida actually voted again, Sen. Clinton would come out on top of the popular vote.”

All of which must be music to the ears of Republicans, as well as their nominee, Sen. John McCain.

The print column: Talking about race

Here's this week's print column, which takes a look at the isee of race in the Democratic race, as well as in our society.

The race to the Pennsylvania primary continues unabated. In a manner of speaking.
I refer not to the race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Oh, it’s not going away. In fact, given the record numbers of people moved to either register to vote or change their registration to take part in the Democratic primary come April 22, I’d say this race isn’t going to cool off anytime soon.

I am referring to the other race. The one nobody likes to talk about, despite the fact that it hangs over this election season like a shroud. It is the elephant in the room that no one notices. It is the festering sore that afflicts out society.
Here’s some breaking news for you: The Democratic Party is poised to make history. Or, in the case of Pennsylvania, some more history.

The Democratic rolls in the state soared over the 4 million mark by last Monday’s deadline. It’s the first time any party has shattered that plateau.

More importantly, when we go to the polls a month from now, we will become a crucial cog that will see, for the first time, a major party nominate either a woman or an African American to be president of the United States.

I doubt it has escaped your notice that Barack Obama is of mixed race — the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas.

It has been the unspoken aspect of Obama’s campaign for the White House. In a perfect world, it would remain that way. Actually, it never would have come up in the first place.

Guess what? We don’t live in a perfect world. Not even close.

It was only a matter of time before the uncomfortable whispers grew into shouts.
The platform wasn’t provided by Obama, but by his minister. Videos of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright surfaced in which Obama’s pastor was captured spouting a variety of anti-American rhetoric, professing that instead of “God bless America,” “God damn America” for its treatment of minorities in the judicial system. He intimated that the United States had brought the 9/11 attacks on itself, and that we had purposely delivered the AIDS epidemic to the continent of Africa.

It was powerful, hateful stuff. And all of it centered on race. None of it was uttered by Obama, but it was his head being sought on the chopping block by an outraged citizenry.

Our national scab once again had been picked open, and was oozing the discomfort and acrimony that has framed race relations in this country for generations.
Obama quickly denounced Wright’s statements, saying they have no place in America today.

It did not satisfy his detractors; they demanded more. They wanted to know what Obama knew and when he knew it, and why he did not move to disassociate himself from the man voicing such venomous thoughts. They wanted to know how Obama could possibly sit in that church for 20 years and not be moved to prove Wright wrong.

Finally, Obama did just that. And much more.

Obama did something that almost no one in this country does. He approached a bank of microphones, fittingly at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, the birthplace of our freedoms, and spoke openly about the single issue that still endangers those ideals.


For the most part, we talk about race only in comfortable settings. When all the faces look just like ours. When we know we are among friends, or at least those who will not raise a voice in protest.

That’s not what Obama had in mind. He wanted to have another conversation. He wanted to talk openly, plainly, passionately about race. It’s a conversation this country direly needs to have. Simply put, it’s a conversation most of us avoid, unless we can have it in a familiar setting.

Race is not a comfortable topic. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I believe the nation owes Obama a debt of gratitude for opening a door too many us would rather keep closed.

This comes from a guy who is not in the Obama camp. The truth is, I don’t know whom I am backing in the presidential race, other than the belief that whoever heads to Pennsylvania Avenue will be an improvement on the current occupant.

Ironically, in the days after Obama’s address, while the nation parsed his words attacked in some camps, praised in others, I found another reason to like the guy.
Obama was interviewed on a Philadelphia radio station. KYW maybe, where we tune in three, four times a day? Uh, no. The Big Talker? Not yet, although he did do an interview with Michael Smerconish last week. But in the days immediately after his speech, these headlines were not yet “redefined.”

Instead, Obama appeared on 610 WIP, the sports-crazed “Animal House” inhabited by Angelo Cataldi and the Morning Team.

I know how he feels. The truth is when my eyes open each morning, the first thing I do is flip on the radio, tuned to KYW. I want an update on what’s happened overnight. But when I get into the car, it’s usually WIP that you’ll find on the radio. What can I say, I’m a sports nut. I spend the rest of the day punching wildly back and forth between 610, 1060 and 1210.

It says something to me that Obama appeared on a sports talk station. What happened during — and more importantly after — tells me something else. It tells me we aren’t nearly done with this race thing; that we’ve only just begun to pick at this scab.
In the interview, Obama referred to comments he made about his grandmother, defending her as not holding racist thoughts, but that she was “a typical white woman.”

Once again the detractors believed they had struck gold. You could almost feel the electricity surge through the region. The phone lines lit up to castigate Obama’s comments, to decipher what he meant and what would happen should a white candidate make a similar reference to “a typical black person.”

In doing so, it managed to be only another “typical” discussion about race in America.

It’s one we direly need to have, and it’s one I’m glad Obama’s candidacy is providing.

It’s the sore that will not heal. Now we can all go back to picking at the scab.

Philip E. Heron is editor of the Daily Times. Call him at (610) 622-8818. E-mail him at To visit his daily blog, the Heron’s Nest, go to

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A mystery in Chester

It's the kind of phone call you don't want to get, but all too often deal with in this business.

Word from the office late Saturday, four bodies were found inside a Chester apartment.

John Roman delivers the details and you can check them out by clicking here.

So far it's something of a mystery. Police ruled out what initialy appeared to be a case of carbon monoxide poisoning.

We'll have more on it as the investigation continues.

That's the thing about this business. I guess that's why they call it news.

We do a lot of planning for our weekend papers, and all of that can be changed in an instant.

One thing we did not change was our annual look at the All-Delco Hi-Q team. This leads to one of my favorite nights of the year. That will be this Thursday when I will address a room full of people with nothing but nice things to say about the newespapre.

That will be at the annual Hi-Q banquet at the Drexelbrook when the All-Delco Hi-Q team, and all the kids who took part in the academic quiz competition this year, will be honored.

You can see the story, and a slide show featuring all 21 members of the team, by clicking here.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Spinning the hits

Heard this one on the campaign trail yesterday and just had to smirk.

Bill Clinton, the would-be first husband, was out on the stump in Pottstown pushing the candidacy of his better half, Hillary.

He was talking about the disputed delegates in Florida and Michigan.

Here’s a surprise. The Clintons think they should count.

I think I heard something like this:

“We Democrats, we think every vote counts,” Bill said.

Yeah, right.

Hillary desperately needs those delegates, and just about everything else to fall in line to have a shot at winning this thing.

Do you think that if the situation was reversed and it was Hillary in the catbird’s seat, that they might be singing a different tune. Something like this:

“Hey, we’re Democrats. We follow the rules. The party leaders in Florida and Michigan knew the deal and they decided to flout them anyhow. Now they’re paying for it.”

Don’t hold your breath. This is politics, and you bend the issues however you need them.

I think they call that spin.

'Madness' in South Philly

So you think we’re in the midst of March Madness. Wait until tonight. Especially if you’re going to be in the stadium area in South Philly.

This one has the makings of a driving nightmare.

Three different events will combine to create “madness” getting in and out of the stadiums.

Consider these things going on, all set to start around 7 p.m.:

* The Phils host an exhibition game against the Blue Jays at Citizens Bank Park.
* The sizzling Sixers host the Suns at the Wachovia.
* The Phantoms have a game at the Spectrum (No, they haven’t gotten around to knocking it down yet).

And here’s the deal. All these people likely will be trying to get out of the area quickly so they can get home in time to catch the Villanova game, which starts at 9:40 p.m.

I have just one word for you: SEPTA.

Take mass transit into the city and jump on the Broad Street Line.

And one other thing: Let’s hope some knucklehead doesn’t decide to have a standoff with police, shutting down the Walt Whitman Bridge tonight.


Murder in Thornbury update

Keep your eyes on the Media Courthouse today. There could be some news on the mysterious circumstances surround the murder of a 23-year-old intern whose naked body was found in the basement of a Thornury home.

The defense team for William Smithson, charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Jason Shephard, an intern from North Dakota who was in this area working for the same company as Smithson, will be in court looking to get a judge to drop a gag order in the case.

The guy they want to talk to is F. Bruce Covington. He’s a former Saint Joseph’s University official who is the so-called “mystery man” in the case.

Covington has admitted being in the house that night, although he says he did not see anything. Obviously Smithson’s defense team believes otherwise. Covington is not charged in the Shephard case.

The case took still another bizarre twist recently when Covington was arrested on drug charges in Montgomery County. That in itself is no big deal, but it’s the circumstances that brought police to his apartment that has raised eyebrows.

Authorities got a search warrant after a man complained that he had been drugged and sexually assaulted in the apartment. Covington is not charged with any sex crimes, however, only drug violations. He waived a hearing on those charges Thursday and was held for trial.

Smithson’s lawyer has stated the circumstances in the incident in Covington’s apartment bear a striking resemblance to what happened in Smithson’s house on that fatal night.

That’s why they want to talk to Covington.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 27

The Daily Numbers: 36 age of man who collapsed and later died after a confrontation with a group of teens on a crowded subway platform near City Hall in Philadelphia Wednesday afternoon.

1 teen charged with murder in connection with the attack. Three others are being sought.

2 members of the Clinton clan who will be in the area today. Former President Bill Clinton will start his day at a rally at Pottstown High School. Chelsea Clinton will be on the campus of West Chester University this afternoon.

0 appearances in the state today for Barack Obama. He hits the trail again tomorrow, with a bus jaunt starting in western part of the state and heading east.

25 age of female inmate who allegedly had consensual sex on several occasions with a former prison guard. The guard now faces a felony charge of institutional sex assault.

3.23 a gallon for unleaded regular in the Philly region, putting a serious strain on just about every business you can imagine. Bottom line? We’ll pay more for just about everything and for every service.

75 cents more, what one survey says we can expect to be pyaing for gas this summer, putting it close to $4 a gallon.

16 percent increase in ridership reported by SEPTA in the first 7 months of the fiscal year. No wonder. Who can afford to drive any more?

6 trains added to the Regional Rail Line to handle the volume during the morning commute.

1.08 billion dollar budget plan rolled out by the transit bosses at SEPTA. For once they’re talking about adding service, not cutting back.

5,000 city blocks in Philadelphia being targeted by Mayor Michael Nutter for a cleanup on April 5.

2.3 billion dollar budget being looked at by the Philadelphia School District. That includes a $181 million deficit.

2 persons charged in a fatal crash in Royersford, Montgomery County, that took the life of a 16-year-old passenger. The 19-year-old driver was charged, as was a 22-year-old woman nailed for providing the group with beer.

1 dollar, the price of bus service from Philadelphia to New York being touted by Not all the seats are that cheap, and there is a 50-cent service charge. No seats will be more than $14 each way.

2 hour delays that snagged service on SEPTA and Amtrak lines yesterday because of electric problems.

22 age of Rutgers student and mother who was found beaten and stabbed in her off-campus apartment in Camden County.

6 weeks, how long it will take SEPTA to make permanent repairs for the damaged support beam that forced I-95 to be shut down several days last week. The repair job is not expected to interfere with traffic.

2 elderly Delaware residents who suffer from Alzheimer’s who were found safe and sound in the parking lot of a hospital in Elkins Park.

400 dollar stimulus for lower-income Pennsylvanians that is being scrapped by Gov. Ed Rendell. He doesn’t have the votes to get it passed.

18,620 fans who packed the Wachovia Center last night to see the red-hot Sixers blow away the Bucks, 121-99.

2 games over .500 for the Sixers, who have now won 19 of their last 24 games, and 12 of their last 13 at home. Just amazing.

2 hits and no runs surrendered over 5 innings for Phils starter Brett Myers. He looks every bit the ace of the staff.

5 as in fifth starter. Look for Adam Eaton to be officially annointed today as the final peg in the rotation for the Phils. And don’t we all feel great about that?

2 members of the state champion Chester Clippers on the All-Delco basketball team. Kudos to Nasir Robinson and Player of the Year Karon Burton.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
4 days -- and counting -- until opening day at Citizens Bank Park. Brett Myers actually said this yesterday. He believes the Phils pitching rotation is the best in the National League. Hey, maybe he knows something we don’t.

I Don’t Get It: New Jersey wants to slap stickers on the cars of young drivers. No word yet on whether they will do the same for senior citizens. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Anyone else have $40 million lying around the house? You have to admire the huge donations made to Williamson School of Free Trade. Kudos to Henry and Lee Rowan, and Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest.


Quote Box: “I believe we’re going to make it through the weekend. I really do.”

-- Villanova junior Christopher Bellotti, at the rally to see the team off for their Sweet 16 games in the NCAA tourney yesterday.

Scary stuff

I guess this is what they mean by being scared to death.

Police in Philadelphia are investigating an attack on 36-year-old man on a subway platform in Philadelphia that resulted in his death.

What exactly caused his death is not precisely clear.

Here’s what police believe happened. The man was confronted by a group of teens in the middle of the afternoon on the crowded platform not far from City Hall.

A scuffle ensued. A SEPTA patrolman who was on the eastbound side of the tracks described the encounter, which was on the westbound side. He said the man appeared to be in a “defensive posture.”

At least one of the youths was seen taking a swing at the man. Eventually they fled.

But the ordeal was not over for 36-year-old Sean Patrick Conroy, of South Philadelphia, who had just gotten off his shift as the manager of the Starbucks at the Marriott at 12th and Market streets. Not even a little bit.

Conroy was clearly in distress, suffering difficulty breathing, chest pains and palpitations. He was taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

One teen is now in custody. Three others are still being sought. The 16-year-old is charged with murder and conspiracy. The motive for the attack is not known.

But the result is pretty clear. We are not safe. Not anywhere.

We shake our heads and try to understand how something like this can happen at any time, let alone in the middle of the afternoon. How it can occur in a deserted station, let alone on a crowded El platform a stone’s throw from City Hall. And how it can happen in full view of passersby and others.

It leaves us shaken, wondering how it can happen, and when it might happen again.

Certain of only one thing: It can happen to anyone, at any time, in pretty much any place.

Scared to death? Yeah, very scary, ugly stuff.

Invasion of the Clintons

Brace yourself for the invasion of the Clintons.

With just four weeks until Pennsylvania goes to the polls in the hotly contested Democratic Primary, members of the Clinton clan will be all over the Delaware Valley today.

But don’t get your hopes up, Delco. They’re skipping us this trip.

Former president Bill Clinton will get the party started this morning with a rally in Pottstown at the Pottstown Senior High gymnasium. From there he’ll shuttle over to Albright College in Reading. Then it’s off to Dickinson College in Carlisle.

Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton also will be doing some serious face time in the area. She’ll start her day at noon in Bensalem. At 3:30 she’ll host a rally at Sykes Student Union on the campus of West Chester University. Finally tonight she’ll look to wow the faithful at Cobre on North Broad Street in Philly.

A tip for those chatting up Chelsea. She doesn’t take kindly to any prying questions about Monica Lewinsky. One college-type recently asked her if she thought the L’Affaire Lewinsky damaged her mother’s credibility.

A clearly startled Chelsea responded it’s the first time in the 70-some campuses she’s visited that she’s ever been asked that question. Then she recovered and fired off the perfect response: It’s none of your business.

Good for her.

And that other guy, Barack Obama? He won’t be back in the state until tomorrow, when he’s planning to kick off a bus tour in the western part of the state before heading east.

We’ll let you know when one of the candidates makes the inevitable pit stop in Delco.

Throwing some gas on the fire

There isn’t much good that can be said about gas prices, which are now hovering around $3.23 a gallon in the region.

This morning I endeavor to offer a silver lining – as well as one more dark cloud – on this issue. In other words, throwing a little gas on the fire.

First the good news, I guess. There is at least one good thing to come out of skyrocketing gas prices. It appears we’re getting out of our cars.

SEPTA General Manager rolled out the transit giant’s budget Wednesday, and at the same time announced a 16 percent increase in the number of riders using the system in the first seven months of the fiscal year. Most of those have been recorded on the regional rail lines. That means suburbanites leaving their cars behind and using the train to get in and out of the city.

You might call this something of a gravy train for SEPTA. They’re forecasting an increase in revenue in the area of $10-15 million because of increased ridership.

And for a change, they’re actually talking about an increase in services, instead of the constant death knell of cuts they’ve lived under seemingly forever.

Among the areas to get more attention would be 24-hour service on the Route 37 bus line, which ferries folks to Philadelphia International Airport and Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack.

They’ve already added six trains during peak hours on the Regional rails, meaning another 1,200 seats during the morning commute.

It sounds like they’re going to need them. Which brings me to back to the bad news. There’s a new report that forecasts gasoline prices could rise by another 75 cents a gallon this summer.

Which would be prices perilously close to $4 a gallon.

Swell. See you on the train.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 26

The Daily Numbers: 573,000 dollars, amount stolen from Ridley School District by former clerk Carol Ackley.

16,000 in interest the district lost on those accounts. Ackley will have to repay that money as well.

4 to 20 years in state prison, the stint Ackley will have to think about her actions.

45 million dollars in donations given to Williamson Free School of Free Trade in Middletown by the Rowan family of New Jersey, as well as cable TV pioneer Gerry Lenfest.

24,500 dollars for Chester Upland to expand its Saturday literacy tutoring program, courtesy of Verizon Corp.

37 age of county prison officer who has resigned his post amid a probe of claims he had sexual relations with a female inmate.

1 cent hike in gasoline in the region overnight. The average price in the Philly area now stands at $3.23; diesel at $4.29.

19 age of driver in Reading who is admitting being under the influence of marijuana when his car crashed, killing 2 teen passengers.

19 also the age of Montco driver who will be charged with homicide by vehicle in a car crash that killed a 16-year-old girl who was in the back seat. Police say alcohol was involved.

27 age of Puzzles the giraffe at the Philadelphia Zoo, who had to be put down due to declining health.

5,000 reward posted for information on suspect who stabbed a convenience store clerk during a robbery of a store in Hunting Park.

1 Philadelphia police officer injured in a car crash at 11th and Nevada in North Philadelphia Tuesday.

12 garages spray-painted by vandals in the Rhawnhurst section of Philadelphia.

340 million price tag on a plant to produce coke and electrical power for AK Steel Holding Corp. by Sunoco Inc.

3 Delaware County businesswoman who have been named to the Best 50 Women in Business across the state. Kudos to Mildred Bell of Skin Health Solutions in Edgmont, Mary Catona of Retriever Waste Management in Media, and Marlene Weinberg of McDonald’s in Villanova.

13 million dollars in LIHEAP heating aid that may not be handed out, instead being carried over to next year. Activists are blasting the move.

205 acres in Bucks County that will be home for a new hospital for veterans. Construction will begin this spring, with first burials in 2009.

1 billion dollars reportedly being put up by Comcast in conjunction with Time Warner for a new wireless Internet proejct.

2,500 seat stadium to be constructed in the parking lot of the King of Prussia mall that will be home to the Freedoms, of World Team Tennis. Won’t have to go far to get a tennis bracelet, either.

10 hits and 5 runs surrendered in 5 innings yesterday by Phils hurler Kyle Kendrick, the latest in a troubling series of bad outings for Phils pitchers.

3 Delco hoops stars, Tyreke Evans of American Christian, along with Nasir Robinson and Karon Burton of Chester, named to AP’s All-Pa. team.

4 wins in a row for the streaky Flyers, who beat the Rangers in OT last night at the Garden, 2-1.

1 ranking of Chester and its head coach Fred Pickett, who yesterday was named the AP coach of the year in Pennsylvania.

8 goals for the Ridley girls lacroose team, as they outlasted Unionville, 8-7.

20 runs for Interboro as they hammerd Ridley, 20-1, in baseball.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
5 days -- and counting -- until opening day at Citizens Bank Park. Do you know where your pitching staff is?

I Don’t Get It: I concur with Delco Assistant District Attorney Greg Hurchalla. At some point we all have to take responsibility for our actions, even those claiming to be in the grips of a gambling addiction.


Today’s Upper: Delaware County is upping the ante in the war on child abuse. Yesterday they announced a series of programs targeting this horrific issue.


Quote Box: “Yes, it was an addiction. I was humiliated and I was ashamed. I didn’t know where to turn.”

-- Ridley resident Carol Ackley, at her sentencing yesterday for stealing more than $570,000 from her employer, Ridley School District.

Attention would-be thieves

You might say Carol Ackley rolled the dice. It was not the first time. It also was not the first time she lost – big time.

Ackley is the former Ridley School District bookkeeper who admitted systematically looting the school coffers of more than $570,000.

Ackley painted herself as a victim of a gambling addition, unable to avoid the lure of casinos, from Atlantic City to Vegas, with Harrah’s Chester thrown in for good measure.

It’s easy to feel sympathetic for such actions. That’s was Ackley was gambling on again yesterday as she appeared in a Delaware County courtroom to be sentenced.

She was betting on having a sympathetic ear in Judge James Nilon. She lost again.

Kudos to both Assistant District Attorney Greg Hurchalla, who handled the prosecution, and Judge Nilon.

Hurchalla correctly belittled Ackley’s defense, asking a simple – but correct – question. What ever happened to personal accountability?

Judge Nilon also was having little of Ackley’s plight. Her threw the book at her, sentencing her to four to 20 years in state prison for her spree, which came courtesy of Ridley School District taxpayers.

Good for them. We hope it serves as a solid warning to what is something of a recent spree, white collar workers sticking their hand into their employer’s till to fund their own personal lavish lifestyles.

Ackley says she lost almost all the money she ripped off from the district in casinos.

She lost again yesterday. Big Time.

Slugging it out in Pa.

There’s a strange dichotomy going on with the hype surrounding the Pennsylvania Primary.

All we hear locally is about a surge in voter registrations as people scramble to take part in the Democratic donnybrook.

Democrats soared over the 4 million mark in the state, pushed by interest in the fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Clearly voters, Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike are looking to have their voice heard.

The situation locally mimics the trend statewide, with a huge influx in new registrations, with the majority of them signing up as Democrats.

The polls tell us Clinton is now expanding her lead on the senator from Illinois, and is appeared headed for a big win. The demographic for the state certainly bodes well for her. Pennsylvania is dominated by older voters, with strong union ties.

A win would cement Clinton’s calling card, her mantra that she wins the big delegate states the party must win to take the White House in November. This despite the fact that she trails Obama in delegates and popular votes.

Obama is expected to do well in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, with Clinton winning big in the more rural areas.

Once again the big battleground will be the Philadelphia suburbs, including Delaware County.

And so we have a one-month duel to the death across the Keystone State.

Contrast that to the message that’s becoming more and more clear every day on the national front, where many experts are insisting the race is “over,” that there’s no way Clinton can win.

More and more, you hear pleas for her to consider throwing in the towel for the good of the party. The last thing most Democratic leaders want is to head to the convention with a battle royal looming, all of this playing out while Republicans simply sit back and await for a bloodied, bruised foe to emerge.

It turns out Pennsylvania might not be the fulcrum it appears to be. It’s now for the most part being conceded to Clinton. Of course it’s now not enough for her to win the state, she needs to win big. If she doesn’t, the volume will be turned up on the calls for her to get out.

The extent to which Clinton finds herself under siege may play a role in a seeming turnaround in her stance on the controversial comments made by Obama’s pastor. After trying to distance herself from such talk, Clinton waded into the fray yesterday, saying she would have handled the situation differently had that been her minister.

After Pennsylvania, all eyes will turn to North Carolina. There it will be Clinton’s challenge to win a state that is expected to go to Obama.

In the meantime, Clinton campaigns furiously in Pennsylvania, while Obama sneaks in a little beach break before heading back to the state later in the week.

If Clinton digs in her heels and vows not to get out, this one might get ugly. Or should we say uglier.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 25

The Daily Numbers: 2 tractor-trailers involved in an accident that has closed Baltimore Pike in both directions in Concord this morning.

5 young people wounded in a wild shootout Sunday night in Chester that has alarmed city officials and sparked a curfew crackdown.

4 million Democratic voters in Pennsylvania, the threshold shattered by the massive voter registration drive in the buildup to the state primary on April 22.

161,000 new Democrats who have registered in the state since last November.

5,000 dollar reward posted for information on the person who phoned in the threat that led to the closing of the Delaware County Community College campuses on March 12.

6 Wegmans supermarkets that received state OK to sell beer, which immediately sparked a lawsuit by beer distributors.

15 story Chester Towers, a familiar landmark on Edgmont Avenue in Chester, knocked down to make way for a new development.

1 penny decline in cost of gasoline in the region. Unleaded regular now stands at $3.26 a gallon.

7 cent hike in the price of gasoline over the past two weeks.

2 adults and 4 children injured in a blaze that roared through a home on North Hutchinson Street in Philadelphia early this morning.

12 hour disruption suffered by Neflix’s computer system, delaying deliveries of rental flicks to their customers, likely by at least a day.

25,000 dollar technology grant to be awarded to Chester High by state and Verizon officials this morning. It will be used for a special Saturday literacy tutoring program.

6 figures, the amount of a donation to Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades to be announced this afternoon.

25 toddlers who escaped injury when fire struck their day care center in Philadelphia yesterday.

17 age of teen who saw charges dropped against him in shooting of a Philadelphia Housing Authority officer. The D.A. is moving to quickly refile the charges.

5.62 million dollars in compensation for the CEO of Sovereign Bank last year, including a hefty bonus.

16 million dollars in compensation for the boss at Chester County-based drug maker Cephalon last year.

14 people killed and 202 injured in Easter holiday weekend crashes across Pennsylvania.

187 Pennsylvania lives lost in Iraq, part of the 4,000 U.S. casualties since the start of the war.

1 game over .500 for the Sixers, who went into Boston and stunned the Celtics last night.

19 to 0 run for the Sixers in the fourth quarter to seal the deal.

33 and 3, record of Kansas, Villanova’s opponent Friday night in the NCAA Tourney.

9:40 p.m., start time Friday night for the Wildcats game.

5 runs for Penncrest as they powered their way to a baseball win over Sun Valley.

15 days on the DL for the guy who is supposed to be the Phils’ closer, Brad Lidge.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
6 days -- and counting -- until opening day at Citizens Bank Park.

I Don’t Get It: A 49-year-old Paoli woman has been charged in a prostitution sting in Philadelphia. That’s raising some eyebrows. But not as many as her marital status. Her hsuband is the director of the Chester County emergency services network.


Today’s Upper: Spring arrives today, with the opening of the Major League Baseball season. Even if they’re doing it in Japan.


Quote Box: “It’s just so upsetting to me. When they told me a 14-year-old was a victim, my heart just dropped.”

-- Chester Mayor Wendell Butler, after learning of Sunday night’s wild shootout in the city in which five young people were wounded.

Beer ye, beer ye

I try to lead a fairly simple life. I don’t ask for much. I am usually content with a steaming, hot cup of coffee and a newspaper, much to the lament of my wife.

There is, however, one thing I would like to put on my “bucket list,” those things I’d like to accomplish before I die.

I would like to be able to walk into a supermarket in Pennsylvania and, while picking up the groceries, also grab my beer, wine and other spirits.

As Pennsylvanians well know, that seemingly simple wish, the norm in many states, is a pipe dream here in the Keystone State.

That is because Pa., land of giants, is also home to one of the biggest bureaucratic boondoggles in the annals of government.

You probably know it as the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. State stores, as it were.

It’s pretty simple. If you want to buy wine or alcohol in Pennsylvania, you have to visit a “state” store. But you can’t buy beer while you’re there. Or soda either.

For beer, you must patronize a beer distributor. But only if you want to buy a case. You can’t buy a six-pack there. For that you must stop by a bar or deli. Once there, you can only purchase two six-packs at a time. Although you can make as many trips to the car, two six-packs at a time, as you want.

You can’t buy any alcohol, beer, wine, spirits, six-pack or case, at your local grocery or convenience store.

That may be about to change. Supermarket giant Wegmans Monday won approval to sell beer at six of their locations. Unfortunately, none of them is in this area.

Full confession here. My daughter once toiled for Wegmans. She may in fact work there again this summer. She will join her brother, who has worked for Wegmans for a couple of years.

That does not my affect my rooting interest on this issue. Though I will admit I could not be happier.

I would like nothing more than to see some enlightened politician push the plunger and blow up the archaic system by which Pennsylvania sells alcohol. Selling beer in supermarkets would be a good start. I say turn the entire process over to private industry. If I want to grab a six-pack in the Wawa, why not?

Of course, not everyone agrees. Seemingly minutes after the decision was announced, a lawsuit to block the move was filed by the beer distributors’ association. They fear the entrée of supermarkets into what has been their exclusive turf will devastate their business. They may be right.

Now this thing likely will produce a lengthy court battle. Hey, this is Pennsylvania, what did you expect?

In the meantime, Pennsylvanians will continue to make three or four trips to acquire alcohol, instead of a single trip down the grocery aisles.

I remain hopeful. Just as I have been for decades. But I’m not holding my breath. A toast to the end of the LCB? Don’t pop those corks just yet.

Dems the breaks, at least when it comes to records

We tried to warn you about this Pennsylvania Primary business.

Turns out we weren’t kidding. The state is possessed. At least the Democrats are.

A surge in interest in the presidential race and a desire to take part in the process has led Democrats statewide to set a record.

The registration push, which ended at 8 last night, swelled Democratic registrations over the 4 million mark. That’s the first time any party in the state has cleared that threshold. The number of people who signed up to vote yesterday alone set a new state record.

All of this is a measure of the interest in the heated battle between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

Since last November’s election, more than 161,000 have joined the Democratic ranks in the state.

The story is the same here in Delco, where Democrats also have seen huge spikes in registrations. In the county, 6,400 new voters joined the rolls in the county, with an overwhelming majority of them joining the Democratic ranks. Some 3,394 voters signed on as Democrats, while Republicans added only 1,962.

What is still to be determined is just how many of these new voters come from the ranks of those who were not registered at all, how many were once Independents who changed so they could take part in the presidential nominating process, and how many were Republicans who wanted to weigh in on the choice between the two leading Democrats in the primary.

What is no longer at issue is that interest in the race continues to soar.

Don’t look for that to change over the next four weeks. If anything, this one will only get more heated, at least on the Democratic side.

Buckle your seat belts, Dems. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

2 more instances of March Madness

March Madness has descended upon the sports world.

But these two instances have nothing to do with college basketball, those amazing Villanova Wildcats not withstanding.

What has gotten into those Sixers? While we snored through the winter sports season, Mo Cheeks’ scrappy young squad has turned into winners, a certifiable playoff team.

Last night they put an exclamation point on their resurgence by topping the league’s best team on their home hardwood. The Sixers went into Boston and stunned the first-place Celtics, 95-90.

And that’s not even the most astounding thing that happened. During a fourth quarter run, the 76ers outscored the Bean Towners 19-0.

Don’t look now, but this team just might make things interesting in the playoffs. The win puts the Sixers a game over .500, the first time they’ve been on the plus side of the won-loss ledger this year.

They have 11 games left, then it’s on the post-season. One thing appears fairly certain. There aren’t many teams that want a first-round date with this red-hot team.

The other thing on my mind today is the start of the baseball season. No, not the opener for the Phils. That doesn’t happen until Monday.

But the season officially opens today (actually the game is being played right now) with a contest between the Red Sox and A’s. So what, you ask?

So they’re playing the game in Japan. That’s right, the opener of the National Pastime is being played in the Orient.

All together now: I don’t get it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 24

The Daily Numbers: 16 as in Sweet 16, for the Villanova Wildcats, who beat Siena and move on to a Friday night match with No. 1 seed Kansas.

1 more day to register to vote to take part in the Pennsylvania Primary. You have until 8 p.m. to align with one of the parties.

6,400 new voters who have registered in Delaware County since the November election.

3,394 of those voters who signed up as Democrats, while 1,962 have joined the Republican ranks.

100,000 new Democrats registered to vote across Pennsylvania since last fall.

1976 the last time the Pennsylvania Primary carried this kind of weight in the national election. That was the year Jimmy Carter took the Democratic nod, and captured the White House.

6 people shot in two different incidents Sunday night in Chester. Police are investigating. So far none of the victims has died.

4 people killed in a violent Easter weekend in Philadelphia. Two others were shot, but survived.

1 cent decline in the price of gasoline in the 5-county area. It’s now selling for an average of $3.22 a gallon.

4.28 a gallon, what diesel fuel is selling for in the area.

41,000 dollars a week, the flour bill for DelBuono’s Bakery in Philadelphia. It used to be $17,000 a week. That’s what rising fuel prices are doing.

1 resident killed and 2 firefighters injured when flames roared through a home in New Castle, Del., early this morning.

40 billion dollar contract to build the next generation of air tankers at risk as Boeing battles to keep a deal that the Air Force is trying to take away from it.

1 billion dollars in no-bid contracts handed out by Gov. Ed Rendell since taking office in 2003.

2 people killed in a 4-vehicle crash in Nazareth, Northampton County, Sunday.

4,000 American lives lost in Iraq since fighting started with Operation Iraqi Freedom. The milestone was hit on a very violent day across the region when 61 people were killed, including a group of soldiers who came under attack by rockets and mortars in continuing fighting between rival factions.

3 trips to the Sweet 16 in four years for Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats.

25 points for Scottie Reynolds in leading the Wildcats over a game Siena squad.

2 wins for the Villanova women, as they advance in the NIT by beating Wisconsin.

9 hits and five runs surrendered by Cole Hamels yesterday in Florida.

1 goal and 2 assists for Danny Briere as the Flyers beat the Isles, 4-1, and continue to move away from that ledge where their season was teetering.

1 week from today, the Phils open the regular season at Citizens Bank Park.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Start the countdown. It’s now 7 days until opening day at Citizens Bank Park.

I Don’t Get It: Hey, I’m as big a fan as anyone, but this is pushing the limit. A Michigan company is now offering a casket with a Phillies theme. Talk about undying support.


Today’s Upper: We’re from Pennsylvania. You know, the center of the political universe.


Quote Box: “I’ve been doing this a long time, and I am just absolutely amazed at the number of people switching (registration).”

-- Obama campaign volunteer Jean Davidson.

D-Day for Pennsylvania

It’s D-Day in Pennsylvania. That’s for Democrats. And anyone who wants to be one.

Today is the last day to register to vote in the April 22 primary. For Democrats, that means that ability to cast a vote for either Sen. Hillary Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama.

But it also means something else for every other voter – or potential voter – in the state.

Pennsylvania runs a closed primary. That means in order to vote in the presidential race, you have to be registered with one of the parties. Those registered as Independent or non-partisan can vote only on ballot questions, not the presidential race. That explains why across the state, Independents have switching their registrations in record numbers. Most of those numbers have been moving into the Democrat column. That’s where the race is.

For Republicans, there’s not much sizzle. They have their candidate, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Not so for the Democrats. Clinton and Obama have been going mano a mano for months, and will slug it out in a battle of the titans over the next month in Pennsylvania.

Of course, for those Republicans who’d like a little more drama on their Primary Day, there’s the notion of switching party registrations and taking part in the Democratic donnybrook.

Across both the county and state, it’s clear this race has energized voters as record numbers have been moved to register.

Between the last time we went to the polls in November and March 17, 6,400 people have registered to vote in the county. Of those 3,394 have registered Democrat, and 1,962 Republican. The same thing has been happening across the state.

Those numbers will swell as they tally the results from the past week, as well as an expected flood of those looking to sign up today.

It’s likely going to be a long day at the Voter Registation Office at the Media Courthouse. It will be open until 8 p.m. If you’re in line at that point, they won’t turn you away. But no one will be allowed in line after 8.

Join the fun. It’s going to be a wild month. But you can’t play if you’re not registered.

Sweet & Sour at the NCAA tourney

How sweet it is, if you’re a Villanova fan. Not so much so for those of us who were pulling for local guy Fran McCaffery.

McCaffery, brother of our own sports columnist Jack McCaffery, is the head coach of the Siena Saints. Sunday he led his No. 13 seed team onto the court in a rare second-round matchup with a No. 12 seed. That would be those Villanova Wildcats.

This one had Philly written all over it. Maybe the best thing is that regardless of who won, there would still be a strong Philly angle alive in the tourney.

It was the Wildcats’ day, as they rode the hot hand of Scottie Reynolds to an 84-72 win.

It’s worth noting just how far McCaffery has brought the program at Siena. In just three years, he’s took his third different team to the tournament (he previously made appearances with Lehigh and North Carolina Greensboro). McCaffery was back at the dance with a young team that lost 24 games just three years ago.

It was not the best of Easter Sundays for a team called the Saints. But it is the latest issue of Philly hoops excellence.

McCaffery, who went to high school at La Salle and played for Penn, no doubt saw a lot of familiar faces when he looked at the opposing bench. There sat old pal Jay Wright. That would be the same Wright who phoned McCaffery with a tip on a potential assistant, from the Wildcats’ own staff. McCaffery hired him.

Yesterday ‘Nova got off to a quick start and never looked back. The Saints closed to 10 at one point in the second half, but could get no closer.

For their reward, Wright and Villanova get a date Friday night with No. 1 seed Kansas in the Sweet 16 in Detroit.

McCaffery and his charges will be watching, and no doubt pulling for their Philly pals.

That’s the way hoops are in this area. It’s a long, proud tradition of excellence. One that Fran McCaffery will be writing new chapters on for years to come.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A rooting interest

We all know journalists are supposed to be non-biased.

That includes sports as well as news. No cheering in the press box, thank you very much.

I'll leave that to the guys in the sports department. Me? I'm going to break that rule right here.

We here at the Daily Times now have an official rooting interest in this 'March Madness' stuff.

Yes, it has something to do with Villanova. We would like nothing more than to have one of the local teams make a long run in the tournament. Our hopes now rest with the Wildcats, since both Temple and Saint Joe's fell in the opening round.

But we're conflicted. That's because we have a new dog in this fight.

On Sunday Villanova, fresh off their upset of Clemson, will face Siena, which stunned Vanderbilt.

Siena is coached by one Fran McCaffery. If the name sounds familiar it should. Fran's a local guy who played college ball at Penn.

Oh, and one other thing. That last name? Sound familiar? Try looking on the Inside Back page of the newspaper. Yep, Fran McCaffery is the brother of our lead sports columnist, Jack McCaffery.

Jack is much too professional to cross that line, so I'll do it for him. I couldn't be happier for Franny.

I also have a personal interest in this. What seems like another lifetime ago, during a cross-country jaunt with my wife and kids, we decided to pay a visit to the Notre Dame campus. We hit the sites, the Grotto, Touchdown Jesus, the Golden Dome.

At the time Fran McCaffery was an asistant coach on John MacLeod's Notre Dame hoops staff. When he heard of my travel plans, Jack told me to be sure to look up his brother. In fact, he said he would let him know we would be in town.

I wasn't expecting much. I was wrong.

Fran McCaffery met us on campus and gave us a tour of the facilities.

I'll never forget the look on my son's face as he was standing in the Notre Dame basketball team's locker room. It's one of those moments that stays with you.

This week that wide-eyed little kid, who now stands taller than his dad, got a piece of mail from Villanova University. He's on the wait list for admittance.

It's on his list of places he might go to school next year.

He didn't apply to Siena. Too bad.

Go Saints.

Best of luck, Fran.

Sorry, Wildcats.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 21

The Daily Numbers: 85, age of woman brutally beaten to death in her Yeadon home. Her great-nephew and his girlfriend have been charged with murder.

8 million dollar project to replace a series of deck joints that will close 2 of 5 lanes on the Commodore Barry Bridge.

7 months, how long the project will last, starting in May, just in time to tie up people trying to escape to the shore.

1 as in first place for the Upper Darby High School Robotics and Engineering team at a recent state competition.

111,227 new voters that have registered Democratic since the November election in Pennsylvania, part of a surge along with interest in voting in the April 22 primary.

13,391 people in the state who have left the Republican Party.

57,651 people statewide who were already registered who have gone over to the Democratic ledger.

10,574 of those already registered who have changed their affiliation to Republican.

2 as in a second alleged victim who has now come forward with claims that he was sexually abused by a Delaware school teacher already in jail on charges she had sex with one of her charges. The second teen boy alleges she had sex with him and forced him to watch her conquests of the other youth.

4 million dollars worth of marijuana seized by police in a raid on a ship in Philadelphia. The pot was stacked 6 feet high.

250,000 dollars, the price tag on the emergency repairs to fix the cracked support column that closed I-95 in Philadelphia for 2 days.

50 percent of the spans on I-95 in the region that some experts say are also in need of repairs.

15, age of Philly teen honored by the D.A. and police officials yesterday for doing the right thing when he turned in a gun he found on a SEPTA bus.

320,000 dollars, the annual salary for the new boss of the state’s student aid loan agency PHEAA.

2 teens killed when a car driven by another teen went out of control and slammed into a van in Lancaster County.

1.5 million dollars a day, the amount being spent by Sen. Barack Obama in his hunt for the Democratic nomination and the White House.

75 pounds, weight of stingray that jumped into a boat in Florida, striking and killing a woman sitting on board.

24 million dollar deal for Lockheed Martin in King of Prussia to build components for a new Minuteman missile.

1 and done for the Temple Owls, who were no match for Michigan State in the opening round of the NCAA hoops tourney.

2 games on tap today for Villanova and Saint Joe’s.

5 innings, 0 runs and just 2 hits for Kyle Kendrick yesterday in his best outing of the spring for the Phillies.

4 of 5 hitters retired by closer Brad Lidge, who made his spring debut yesterday while recovering from knee surgery.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Temple of Doom? That certainly proved the case for the Owls yesterday. Michigan State expertly took the Owls’ two stars out of the game and never looked back. Now it’s up to Villanova and Saint Joe’s to keep the Philly hoops hopes alive.

I Don’t Get It: Police in Lansdale say two 10-year-olds have been charged with a theft. And what did they take? A church’s Easter baskets that were supposed to go to the needy. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: They held a “taste of spring” yesterday at Citizens Bank Park, even if the weather didn’t feel like it. Ten days until opening day.


Quote Box: “I never liked him from the first day.”

-- A relative of murder victim Rita Hreha of Yeadon, about the great-nephew charged in her beating death.

The issue that will not go away

Race is the festering sore that afflicts our society. It’s a scab, and we’re picking at it again.

It’s been the unspoken aspect of the presidential campaign of Democratic hopeful Sen. Barack Obama. Even more so than Hillary Clinton’s status as a woman, as the Democratic Party, one way or another, stands poised to make history with their nominee.

It’s the color of Obama’s skin that drew the whispers. And his middle name, the same as the deposed Iraqi strongman whom this country went to war against to remove from power.

And his religion. Don’t you know he’s a Muslim?

And his mixed-race background. He’s not black enough, nor white enough.

And then there’s his minister. Bingo! It was with great glee that many pounced on the admittedly hateful comments of his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

So Obama met the issue head-on. He denounced the comments in no uncertain terms.

Then he decided to do something else. He decided to talk openly about an issue most of us only whisper about, only talk about in comfortable settings.

No doubt many were uncomfortable listening to Obama’s words about race relations in this country. Many of them the same people who simply are uncomfortable with the color of Obama’s skin.

They continue to parse his every word. His repudiation of Wright’s comments are not enough. They seek more. They demand to know what Obama knew and when, and why Obama did not remove himself from the church altogether.

They are missing the point, the conversation Obama wants us to have about race. They don’t want to have that conversation. They simply are looking for ways to take Obama down. They want to continue to move back instead of moving forward.

This comes from someone who is not nearly sold on Obama. I have my concerns about him. The color of his skin and what his pastor may have said are not among them.

On Thursday I found another reason to like the guy, however. He was interviewed on a local radio show. KYW maybe, where we tune in three, four times a day? Uh, no. The Big Talker? Nope. These headlines were not yet redefined.

Obama appeared on WIP, and the sports-crazed show of Angelo Cataldi and the Morning Team.

How cool is that? The truth is when my eyes open a little after 4 a.m. each morning, the first thing I do is flip on the radio to KYW. I want an update on what’s happened overnight. But when I get into the car to head for the office, it’s usually WIP that you’ll find on the radio. What can I say, I’m a sports nut. I spend the rest of the day flipping wildly back and forth between 610, 1060 and more talk on 1210.

It says something to me that Obama appeared on a sports talk station. What happened during – and more importantly after – the show also tells me something else. It tells me we aren’t nearly done with this race thing, that we’ve only just begun to pick at this scab.

During a response to a question from Cataldi, Obama again referenced his grandmother, who he had talked about in his speech on Tuesday. He described her as “a typical white woman.”

It was like flipping a switch. You could almost feel the electricity surge through the region. Much of the rest of the day on the station was spent zeroing in on those words, what Obama may have meant, and what the reaction would have been if a white candidate had uttered something akin to someone being a “typical black person.”

I don’t think Obama meant anything by the comments. Which is not to say that I think he should have said it, he probably should have used another reference.

But again it proves how much we are hung up on what people say, instead of what they do. Do people really believe Obama fosters some kind of racial animus simply because of the description of his grandmother? Remember, he has already been more than candid in dealing with some of her racial feelings. He has bared sentiments, and inter-family relationships that most of us would never deal with in public, let alone on a national stage.

So let’s keep talking about race, even when it makes us uncomfortable.

If nothing else this week has proven to us we all have a lot to learn, and a lot to talk about.

Obama isn’t going away. Neither is the issue of race. It will continue to be used by many in an attempt to cloud the issue, to muddy the water, to inject lingering doubts about the possibility of this country electing a black man president of the United States.

It's the sore that will not heal. Now we can all go back to picking at that scab.

The Barry Blues

Do those folks at the Delaware River Port Authority have a sense of timing or what?

The agency that runs the bridges that span the Delaware River yesterday announced a massive repair project for the Commodore Barry Bridge, which connects Chester with South Jersey.

Just in time for the summer season. And thousands of people trying to get to and from the shore.

Here’s the deal from our traffic reporter John Roman. Come May two of the bridge’s five lanes will be closed. They will be replacing 74 sompression seal joints on the span. The work has to be done before several crucial new exit ramps to the Chester waterfront can be built.

None of which is likely to make drivers’ summer nightmare any easier. The work is going to last seven months.

Headed for the beach? Better leave Thursday night.

Springing into a flood of bad weather

You have to admit, Mother Nature certainly has a sense of humor.

Very funny.

Yesterday was the first of spring. To prove it we took a picture of some kids, teeth no doubt chattering, sucking down free water ice at the annual freebie offered by Rita’s Water Ice outlets.

The cold temperatures were accompanied by howling winds, some reported as high as 50 mph.

Think that’s bad? Try to avoid the TV today.

Maybe just for old times sake, maybe for one final longing for a winter storm, we’ll be hearing about some more bad weather headed our way. And a certain four-letter words.

That’s right, tomorrow morning they are calling for a mixture of rain and wet snow. You read it right.

Easter Sunday doesn’t look a lot better, although at least it is supposed to be sunny. Those sunrise services are going to be no bargain. Daybreak temperatures will be near freezing. Later in the day it will struggle to hit the mid-40s.

And that’s not all. There’s another issue now hanging over our heads as we await the arrival of more spring-like temperatures. Remember all the talk in recent years of drought-like conditions? Forget about it.

Now the big fear is flooding. The ground is sopping wet. The water has nowhere else to go. Besides into our basements.

Government forecasters say the problems now plaguing the Midwest could soon be hitting the Northeast. Pennsylvania is on the list of places where flooding is feared.

Reservoirs upstate and in New York are bulging. Snow melt is going to add to the problems. All that water has to go somewhere. It’s likely to wind up in rivers, streams and creeks, at least until it goes over the banks.

That’s not good news for folks on the Delaware and other trouble spots in the region who know all too well the problems of too much water.

Brace yourself. It’s going to be a wet and wild spring.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 20

The Daily Numbers: 2.5 days, amount of time section of I-95 in Philly was closed. Initial reports indicated the span could be shut down five days. Nice work.

180,000 vehicles a day that used that stretch of I-95, all of which were detoured. In other words, a commuter’s nightmare.

8 million dollars OK’d by the Delaware River Port Authority for repairs to the Commodore Barry Bridge.

900,000 dollars, amount believed ripped off from a Marcus Hook business by a “trusted” employee. She’s been held for trial.

51 to 35 percent edge for Hillary Clinton in the latest Franklin & Marshall poll of Pennsylvania voters. Clinton is now expanding her lead, which had shrunk to 12 points in February.

7 billion viewers now checking out Comcast’s on-demand video services.

350 million dollars to be spent on the new casino to be built at Philadelphia Park. Ought to take them at least a couple of hours to recover that money from unlucky gamblers.

25,000 dollar chip unveiled for high rollers by Atlantic City casinos. Gee, a couple of those and you could fill up the family car with gas for the trip home.

5 women, including one from Delaware County, facing prostitution charges after a sting in Philadelphia. Police say they charged undercover officers between $200 and $400 for an hour of sex. Not exactly the Emperors Club VIP.

325,000 dollars a year for the new CEO of the Philadelphia School District. Talk about your new math.

41,000 dollars worth of cell phones ripped off from am AT&T phone store in West Whiteland.

470 Commerce Bank branches that will be renamed TD Commerce Bank under the latest banking industry merger.

42.5 million dollars, what could be the asking price as Borders Books considers putting itself up for sale.

7.26 million dollars in compensation for the boss of chemical giant Rohm and Haas.

293 point decline for Wall Street yesterday, one day after it surged 420 points.

32 points for Allen Iverson in his return to the Big House to face the Sixers – and the fans last night.

28 points for Andre Miller, the guy he was traded for, as the Sixers won, 115-113.

1 point win for the Villanova women in the opening game of the NCAA women’s tourney yesterday.

40,000 dollars a piece, how much Major League baseball stars are being paid to play two games in Japan to open the season.

20,000 dollars a man for the coaches, which caused Red Sox players to threaten a boycott of the final exhibition game yesterday. The owners will fork over the money.

5 and two-thirds innings yesterday for Phils’ starter Jamie Moyer, giving up 6 hits and 3 runs, only 1 earned.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Anything familiar about the scene at the Wachovia Center last night? Another very entertaining evening surrounding Allen Iverson, who was the focus on his return to Philly. Allen put up 32 points, but his team lost.

I Don’t Get It: For all those still trying to deal with the idea of a Major League Soccer team in Chester, you’ll love this. The Philadelphia Freedoms, of the World Team Tennis Pro League, plans to play its games this summer in the parking lot of the King of Prussia Mall. Honest. A temporary stadium will be built in the Court at King of Prussia Mall in front of Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s along Route 202.


Today’s Upper: A huge thumb’s up for the crews who tackled the repair project on I-95 in Philly, getting the job done in a little more than two days. Well done.


Quote Box: “We wanted to have a physical presence in Chester. Obama will do very well in the primary in Chester.”

-- Delco Democratic leader Cliff Wilson, on the opening of Obama headquarters in the city.

A new day

The words continue to hang in the air. They are being talked about in cars, buses, trolleys, trains, offices, family rooms and dinner tables all across the country.

That in fact might be the best thing to come from Sen. Barack Obama’s speech on race.

People are talking about it. With each other. With family members. With co-workers. And not just among people that look just like them. Whites are talking to blacks, and vice versa. One of the first calls I got Wednesday morning was from a black man in Chester, a man I consider a friend, who wanted to talk about the speech. And the race issue. I could not have been happier.

It is a conversation this country direly needs to have. It is long past time we addressed the issues that swirl around race in America. Not the race for the White House, although that certainly frames the current discussion.

As we said on our front page yesterday, it’s simply a question of black and white. And for too long, it has been something that simmered under the surface; feelings were repressed, resentment was allowed to build.

Sen. Obama changed all that. He threw open the curtains, and laid his cards plainly on the table.

Now it’s up to all of us to pick up those cards and play the hand Obama dealt us. It’s a rare opportunity to frankly, honestly, fervently discuss one of the most pressing issues the nation faces.

And one we too often brush off out of fears of being branded racist or at least politically correct.

Obama has talked much about his message of hope and change. It hearkened the words of new Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who promised “a new day, and a new way” shortly after taking office.

An honest, passionate, frank discussion about race in America. Now that qualifies as a new day.

Thanks, senator.

A small miracle on I-95

It’s amazing what we are capable of doing when we absolutely have to, when our backs are against the wall, when it comes time to cut through all the bureaucratic gobbledygook and endless red tape.

Sometimes we actually get something done.

Take the emergency repairs on I-95 in Philly for example. Officials closed the interstate Monday night after a 2-inch crack was noticed in a support beam on a bridge near Aramingo Avenue.

A 3-mile span of the interstate was immediately shut down, and commuter chaos ensued.

Initial estimates indicated the span might be closed for as long as five days.

Not hardly.

They obviously underestimated the power of the American worker.

Crews arrived on the scene overnight Monday and into Tuesday morning. They set up shop and basically did not leave until the job was done, replacing the support beam with a series of new ones to shore up the span.

PennDOT’s contractor, J.D. Eckman, of Atglen, Chester County, went to work at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning to replace the 15-foot-high column.

They finished the job in less than 48 hours. Early this morning PennDOT tested the structure by running some fully loaded salt trucks over the span.

They waved the checkered flag at 6:20 a.m.

In a series of openings, all the on-ramps were slowly reopened.

Well done by all. But there remains a haunting question in all this. How many other crumbling spans are out there, with cracks that get a little bigger with every big rig that rolls over them?

Workers performed a minor miracle in getting I-95 reopened. It will take a much greater miracle to address the crumbling structures that dot our landscape.

You call this spring

Welcome to spring. Just don’t expect it to feel like it.

For some reason I don’t think there will be be long lines for Rita’s Water Ice annual first-day-of-spring giveaway of free water ice.

It’s just one more raw, chilly day. In other words, spring in Delaware County.

Don’t expect it to get better as we head for a holiday weekend, either. They are talking about rain and snow showers Saturday morning.

And better bundle up if you’re planning to attend an Easter sunrise service Sunday. Lows will be in the 30s and the high for the day will struggle to get into the 40s.

Easter egg hunt? Better plan that one for the family room.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 19

The Daily Numbers: 2 more rush hours commuters will have to deal with I-95 being closed in Philadelphia. Officials are hoping to reopen the interstate late tonight.

2 hours, what some people were reporting it took them to drive the 7 miles they usually traverse on the closed section of I-95.

90 days to six months in jail for an Upper Darby woman who pleaded guilty to a DUI charge after she struck and killed a man entering a Drexel Hill intersection.

57, age of the “mystery man” who was in the house the night an intern was killed inside a Thornbury home. F. Bruce Covington is a former Saint Joseph’s University official who now faces drug charges in Montgomery County. He could be a key witness in the murder trial of William Smithson, charged in the killing of intern Jason Shephard. Covington is not charged in that case.

50 million dollars for a new, 60-room Gateway Hotel that will be constructed in Chester as part of the University Crossings project at Widener.

270,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians who will gain access to health care under a proposal working its way through the state Legislature. It passed the House, but its prospects are uncertain in the Senate.

53 percent of Pennsylvania Democrats backing Hillary Clinton, to 41 percent for Barack Obama, according to a new Quinnipiac Poll. Just a few weeks ago her margin had closed to 49-43 percent.

141 pairs of counterfeit Nike sneakers seized during a raid on a Montgomery County store.

24 license suspensions for a man charged in a fatal crash in South Jersey that took the life of a mother of three. He has three DUI convictions.

10 to 15 V-22 Ospreys, Boeing’s dynamic tilt-rotor copter, that will make up squadrons to be permanently based at Marine Corps Station Miramar near San Diego. The military now has plans for 458 of the once-troubled aircrafts.

2.2 percent jump in full-time employees for US Airways.

30,000 buyouts being offered to employees by another airline, Delta.

109 dollars per barrel, the level crude prices actually dipped under during trading yesterday.

.75 cut in interest rates announced by the Fed yesterday, sparking a huge rally on Wall Street.

420 point surge by the markets, Wall Street’s biggest one-day gain in more than five years.

5, ranking of Pennsylvania in terms of the emissions of heat-trapping carbons. Probably all those cars idling on I-95.

3 age of little boy killed in an accident involving a school bus and a minivan in Pemberton Township in South Jersey yesterday.

1 of two twins believed to be responsible for a series of rooftop burglaries, including several in Delaware County, held for trial yesteday. The brothers also star in gay porn videos.

5.3 million dollars in grants from the regional Federal Home Loan Bank to finance projects for low-income Philadelphia residents.

3.23 a gallon, average price for gasoline in the Philadlephia area. That’s a new high for the year and 5 cents higher than just a week ago. It’s still higher statewide, holding at 3.27

64 percent of Americans who say the war in Iraq has not been worth the loss of American lives, according to a new CBS poll.

4 game losing streak snapped by the Flyers in their win over the Thrashers.

2 goal lead the Flyers almost coughed up in the final 30 seconds, escaping only because of a season-saving save from Antero Niittymaki.

6 superb innings for the projected ace of the Phils staff, Cole Hamels, yesterday. He threw a perfect game for 4 innings.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
That’s two solid starts in recent days for the Phillies. Myers and Hamels are starting to look like the studs everyone envisions at the top of the Phils’ rotation.

I Don’t Get It: The guy behind the “Girls Gone Wild” series was preparing to offer a boatload of money for Eliot Spitzer’s favorite squeeze, high-dollar call girl Ashley Alexandra Dupre, to appear in one of his videos. Then they decided to check their archives. Sure enough, there she was, in all her glory. Why am I not surprised?


Today’s Upper: A solid thumb’s up for Sen. Barack Obama and his speech yesterday on race in America. As we proclaimed on our front page today, it’s a basic question of black and white. And it’s a discussion we need to have.


Quote Box: “I have asserted a firm conviction, a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people, that, working together, we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds.”

-- Sen. Barack Obama, speaking yesterday on race at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

Race-ing to the polls

I don’t profess to know who is going to win the Pennsylvania Primary. That’s still a mirage some five weeks off in the distance.

I do know that we are all winners because of something the happened in the campaign yesterday.

Sen. Barack Obama, who is fighting tooth and nail for the Democratic nomination with Sen. Hillary Clinton, came to Philadelphia and delivered a speech at the National Constitution Center.

Obama talked about race. Openly. Passionately. In stark, black and white terms.

It’s a discussion this state, this nation, direly needs. It is the elephant in the room. Even in the party whose mascot is the donkey. It’s the GOP, sitting by and smiling with their candidate, Sen. John McCain, primed and ready to go, that claims the elephant.

Race transcends all that. It goes beyond party affiliation, beyond geography and cultural borders.

It forms the too-often unspoken backdrop to our society.

That’s why we bannered it all over the front page of our print edition today, under the headline, “A Question of Black and White.”

The Democrats are poised to make history, regardless who emerges as their nominee. Obama is an African-American. Clinton is a white woman. No black person, just as no woman, has ever led the ticket for one of the major parties.

There are those who believe that race or gender should play no part in this campaign. That it should be decided solely on the issues.

They live in a different world than I do. And probably a different one than Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. A few weeks ago, he stated there likely were some Pennsylvanians who were not ready to vote for a black man for president. It pulled back the covers just a sliver on our ugly secret: Talking about race.

Former Democratic congresswoman and vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro then threw a little gas on the fire with her unfortunate comments about Obama’s race and its role in putting him in the position as the Democratic front-runner.

Then this week, comments made by Obama’s pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., surfaced and turned the smoldering embers of race into a conflagration.

Obama repudiated Wright’s comments last week. He did so again yesterday in his speech in Philadelphia, condemning them as divisive. But he declined to disown the minister.

I’m pretty sure Obama would rather not be in the position he was in yesterday. I’m glad he was.

I’m glad he moved beyond the Wright controversy, to talk plainly and clearly about race and the role it plays in our society.

I think it’s a discussion we desperately need to have. I’m sure there are those who disagree with me, who simply will not look past the comments made by Wright and continue to hang them around Obama’s neck.

Yes, it’s a heated race. And it will be for the next five weeks. And beyond. In more ways than one.

The road to nowhere

Welcome to Day 2 of the commute from hell.

If you have to use I-95 through Philadelphia to get where you’re going, take this advice: Turn off your computer, go back to bed, pull the covers up over your eyes. You’ll be moving at about the same speed as traffic on I-95 in the city.

Unfortunately, for most people, that’s not an option. They still have to get where they’re going, I-95 or no I-95.

A three-mile section of the interstate between the Betsy Ross Bridge and Girard remains closed in both directions this morning.

PennDOT officials are hopeful they may be able to reopen the interstate late tonight. Maybe.

In the meantime, here are the detours being suggested by PennDOT:

TRUCKS: Large trucks traveling on I-95 will be detoured over Interstate 676 (Exit 22), Interstate 76, Route 1/Roosevelt Boulevard and Route 63/Woodhaven Road (35).

NORTHBOUND CARS: Northbound motorists driving conventional vehicles will exit I-95 at Girard Avenue (Exit 23) and then bear left onto Aramingo Avenue. They will follow Aramingo Avenue to Castor Avenue, turn right at Castor Avenue and then turn right at the ramp to I-95 North.

SOUTHBOUND CARS: Southbound motorists driving conventional vehicles will exit I-95 at Betsy Ross Bridge/Aramingo Avenue (Exit 26), then turn right at Aramingo Avenue and follow Aramingo Avenue to the I-95 South on-ramp at the Girard Avenue Interchange.

The following ramps to I-95 also will be closed during the emergency interstate closure. They are the:
 * I-676 East ramp to I-95 North
 * Lombard Street ramp to I-95 North
 * Girard Avenue ramp to I-95 North
 * Race Street ramp to I-95 North
 * Allegheny Avenue ramp to I-95 South
 * Betsy Ross Bridge ramp to I-95 South
 * Bridge Street ramp to I-95 South.

SEPTA also is beefing up its service in the region. Here’s what they are offering.

Think of it this way. Imagine if the Blue Route were suddenly to be closed in both directions between I-95 and the Blue Route.

Here’s one thing I do not get. You couldn’t pick up a newspaper, turn on your computer, flip on the radio, or check the TV without being bombarded about news on the I-95 closure.

So what exactly were all those people thinking who were sitting there on I-95, seemingly surprised that they would not be able to drive right on through.

Five long years

March 19, 2003.

The following morning, March 20, readers of this newspaper were greeted by a front page with a huge headline with a simple message: It’s War.

That was five years ago. The Iraq War has now dragged on longer than World War II. That’s a little hard to fathom. Certainly no one then considered that a possibility.

Not when they toppled that statute of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad just a few weeks later. Not when President George W. Bush jetted on to the deck of an aircraft carrier and delivered a rousing speech in front of a huge banner declaring “Mission Accomplished.”

Five years later, the mission is still not fully accomplished. Hussein has been removed. Creating a stable Iraq is another question.

Progress has been slow. Agonizingly slow. The price has been steep. Nearly 4,000 Americans have lost their lives in Iraq. A recent troop surge is showing promise in creating the stability that so far has eluded the mission. The war on terror continues. Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, remains on the loose. The conflict in Afghanistan remains muddied.

Five years. Five long, difficult years. And with a promise that our involvement there likely will continue much longer.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 18

The Daily Numbers: 2 days, at a minimum, what authorities are saying I-95 in Philly will be shut down to fix a crack in a support column. This will be the mother of all traffic jams.

2 inches wide, the size of the crack in the support structure that caused PennDOT officials to shut down the interstate.

6 months probation and a $10,000 fine for longtime Haverford pol Fred Moran, who was convicted on a bribery charge connected to the sale of the old Haverford State Hospital tract. Moran continues to appeal the conviction.

17 full-time and 3 part-time positions being eliminated by Boeing at their Ridley plant in security services. They will now out-source the work at the Delco plant and others across the nation.

35 million dollar expansion plan for the Granite Run Mall that got a unanimous approval from the Middletown Planning Commission.

1 vote against a move approved by the Upper Darby School Board to waive the residency rule for the final year of his contract for outgoing Superintendent Joseph Galli, who is retiring at the end of the 2009 school year.

3, the number of people involved in sexual trysts involving former N.J. Gov. Jim McGreevey and his wife. A former aide has now said he took part in threesomes with the couple.

4 gunshot wounds suffered by a female police officer in Camden, N.J. The naked suspect was killed in a hail of return fire. Police say 18 shots were fired.

120 animal cruelty offenses filed against a Perkiomenville woman charged with running a kennel without a license. She was found guilty.

1,500 feet, height of proposed new skyscraper that would dominate the Philly skyline. The structure, proposed for 18th and Arch, would be 50 percent higher than the Comcast Center, which is about to be finished and claim the title of the highest structure in the city.

12 roosters seized when police raided a suspected cockfighting ring in Kensington.

5 year anniversary celebrated for the Irish Memorial in Philadelphia, which also got a boost with announcement of a three-year, $20,000 grant.

10,000 DUI convictions in New Jersey that are in danger of being tossed out because of concerns about the accuracy of Breathalyzer testing machines. The state has approved replacing it with the ‘Alcotest.’

1 person killed in a freak accident in Lancaster County when a piece of fence flew off a truck and impaled an oncoming motorist.

3,000 dollar fine, along with a year in jail for Radnor exec Andrew Yao for swindling people in his Student Finance Corp. business in Delaware.

3.22 a gallon for gas in the Philly region. That’s a new high for 2008.

3.27 a gallon, the statewide average. That is an all-time high.

4.24 average price for diesel fuel in Pennsylvania.

4 losses in a row for the Flyers, who seem to be coming apart at the seams in the final days of the season. They face the Thrashers tonight.

3 local teams all dancing in the NCAA hoops version of March Madness. Temple, Villanova and Saint Joe’s are all in, just a week after it looked like the city might get shut out altogether this year.

2 hits each for Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Shane Victorino yesterday as the Phils bats finally came alive in a 6-4 Grapefruit League win over the Indians.

5 solid innings for starter Chad Durbin, who is making a push for the fifth starter’s job.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
The Eagles signed a 275-pound defensive lineman yesterday. Of course, local guy Dan Klecko, son of St. James legend Joe, will play fullback. Why didn’t we guess?

I Don’t Get It: Jim McGreevey. Very simply, I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: If there ever was going to be an impetus for using public transportation, it might be shutting down I-95 in Philadelphia. Maybe that will finally get commuters out of their cars.


Quote Box: “I pray the luck of our Irish ancestry will shine upon us today.”

-- Beverly Moran, wife of Haverford pol Fred Moran, who was spared jail yesterday as he was sentenced on a bribery conviction.

Obama in the spotlight

Ground Zero in the Democratic presidential war is shifting again. This time the battlefield will be the city of Philadelphia.

Both Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton will make appearances in the city today as they continue to go mano a mano in the lead-up to the hotly contested state primary race that will be decided on April 22.

Clinton will be in Philadelphia this afternoon and will continue the theme she stressed yesterday in a major policy speech in Washington, D.C., that being her stance on the war in Iraq.

She’s trying to do an end-run on the debate surrounding her original 2002 vote backing the move to go to war in Iraq, and now stressing her role as one of the leaders in the “bring the troops home” as soon as possible brigade. The speech comes the day before the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion tomorrow.

But perhaps the spotlight will be brightest on Obama, who finds himself once again trying to put out a brush fire, this one caused by comments made by the minister of his church that have been widely interpreted as being anti-American.

Among the things the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., a Philadelphia native, has proclaimed from the pulpit is that the United States in some ways brought the 9/11 terrorist attacks on itself; that the nation is somehow responsible for the AIDS problem; and that instead of “God Bless America,” he would suggest “God damn America” for some of its actions.

Obama has repudiated the statements, saying he rejects them completely. That hasn’t made them go away.

Today’s speech is being touted as a major foray into the idea of race and politics.

So here we are again. For those of you who have not noticed, Obama is black; Clinton is a woman.

As much as we try to get away from it, just like Al Pacino in the finale of “The Godfather,” “it draws us back in.”

I don’t especially care for what Wright said. But I don’t hold Obama responsible for that. I am a Roman Catholic. That does not mean I agree with everything I hear in the homily every Sunday.

Obama is smart enough to know that this could be a defining moment for his campaign. It’s basic stuff. People who are already uncomfortable talking about race seize on this kind of red-hot rhetoric like a caged tiger going after red meat.

Now he has to put out the flames. Polls indicate his ratings took a 5-point dip in recent days.

The heat is on. One of the more widely circulated complaints about Obama’s candidacy is that his resume is a tad thin, he doesn’t have the experience, and that he’s never been in the kind of positions the presidency presents as the most powerful person on the face of the earth.

Today could tell us a lot about Obama. The fact that he’s making this speech already tells us a lot about the rest of us.

The governor follies

It might be hard to believe, but the sleaze factor surrounding our celerity governors in the region just got ratcheted up a bit.

Maybe the disgraced former boss of New Jersey, Jim McGreevey, was tired of seeing equally disgraced New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer – he of the $4,300-an-hour call girl -- displace him in the political Hall of Shame.

How else do you explain the latest bombshell surrounding McGreevey. You might remember the former New Jersey chief executive, his wife at his side, bowing out in the now infamous “I am a gay American speech.”

Ever since he and his wife have been at each others’ throats in a very bitter divorce battle.

The latest shot was fired Monday, when a former McGreevey aide and limo driver came forward with the outrageous claim that he took part in “threesomes” with the former governor and his intended before they were married and after they tied the knot.

Dina Matos McGreevey immediately labeled the former male aide’s story as a “lie.”

And the former governor, the guy who hired a former boyfriend for a key state homeland security role despite his lack of experience for the post? McGreevey fired off an e-mail in which he confirmed the sordid saga detailed by Teddy Pederson.

Dina Matos McGreevey believes Pederson is being put to the story by her former mate, simply the latest salvo in their ongoing divorce war.

McGreevey said he and his former wife “need to move with our lives” for the sake of their 6-year-old daughter. Now he’s concerned about her? Unreal.

Oh, and just in case New Yorkers are now feeling slighted, their brand spanking new top executive, Gov. David Paterson, and his wife, both admitted affairs during a rocky stretch in their union.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Nightmare on I-95

If you use I-95 in Philadelphia for your morning commute, brace yourself for your worst nightmare.

The interstate is shut down in both direction smack dab in the middle of the city. Officials took the drastic action last night after a crack was found in a support column on the center portion of the expressway between the Girard Avenue and Allegheny Avenue interchanges.

Here’s what you need to know. The interstate is closed in both directions between Girard and Aramingo avenues.

It could remain closed for several days while repairs are made to the steel-reinforced support columns. Work is expected to start this morning.

As you might expect, traffic in the city, no bargain most weekday mornings, is an absolute mess in the area of the shutdown. Traffic already is backing up for miles on I-95.

Here are the detours being suggested by PennDOT:

TRUCKS: Large trucks traveling on I-95 will be detoured over Interstate 676 (Exit 22), Interstate 76, Route 1/Roosevelt Boulevard and Route 63/Woodhaven Road (35).

NORTHBOUND CARS: Northbound motorists driving conventional vehicles will exit I-95 at Girard Avenue (Exit 23) and then bear left onto Aramingo Avenue. They will follow Aramingo Avenue to Castor Avenue, turn right at Castor Avenue and then turn right at the ramp to I-95 North.

SOUTHBOUND CARS: Southbound motorists driving conventional vehicles will exit I-95 at Betsy Ross Bridge/Aramingo Avenue (Exit 26), then turn right at Aramingo Avenue and follow Aramingo Avenue to the I-95 South on-ramp at the Girard Avenue Interchange.

The following ramps to I-95 also will be closed during the emergency interstate closure. They are the:
 * I-676 East ramp to I-95 North
 * Lombard Street ramp to I-95 North
 * Girard Avenue ramp to I-95 North
 * Race Street ramp to I-95 North
 * Allegheny Avenue ramp to I-95 South
 * Betsy Ross Bridge ramp to I-95 South
 * Bridge Street ramp to I-95 South.

Maybe more than ever, drivers are going to need patience, something that’s usually in short supply on the roadways.

Hey, let’s all take a deep breath and relax. If you have to use I-95, brace yourself. It’s not going to be easy. You’ll get there eventually. The key is to get there. Don’t anything foolish.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 17

The Daily Numbers: 331 wins for Fred Pickett at the helm of Chester High basketball. Pickett announced after the Clippers won another state title Saturday night that he would be stepping down.

3 PIAA state titles for the Clippers during Pickett’s run.

1 loss for the Clippers this year.

25 straight wins for Chester High as they ran the board on the season after an early loss.

9 members of the Central Delaware County Authority who have now signed off on a deal that will allow 3 new towns to tap into the sewer lines.

5 car crash being investigated in Bucks County. One of the cars was operated by the Levittown fire chief, who was responding to a call Sunday night.

5 floors, the fall from a West Chester parking garage that left a woman hospitalized Saturday night.

28 percent decline in the murder rate for the city of Philadelphia from the same time last year.

350 million dollar facility now under construction for the permanent casino at Philadelphia Park in Bucks County.

8 people left homeless by a fire in an Upper Darby house Saturday. Police believe the fire was started several people smoking crack.

29 age of man facing charges for attacking a couple in their 40s in a dispute over a seat on a SEPTA bus at 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby.

2,000 people mourning four siblings killed in a fire in Alentown on Saturday.

40,000 dollars in damages believed done to a hotel and a business by a man who went on a naked rampage in Lancaster County over the weekend.

10 percent decline in the number of Pennsylvania children in foster care.

600 cats discovered in deplorable conditions at a 29-acre property known as Tiger Ranch outside Pittsburgh. Many of the cats were sick and dying.

1 winning ticket sold in Saturday night’s $276 million Powerball jackpot. Unfortunately, it was sold in West Virginia.

8.5 billion dollar deal in which TD Bank Financial Group will acquire Commerce Bank. The deal got the OK from regulators.

2 dollars a share, what JPMorgan Chase & Co. will pay for finance giant Bear Stearns in a $236 million deal. That’s about 1 percent of what Bear Stearns was worth as recently as 16 days ago.

112 dollar a barrel, what crude oil is trading for on world markets at start of business today.

1 million bucks, what Hustler magazine is offering the call girl who brought down New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer to appear nude in the skin mag.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Let’s do some dancing. After initially wondering whether any Philly schools would make it into the NCAA Tourney, now we have three to cheer on. That’s the first time since 1991 that we’ve hit a three spot.

I Don’t Get It: Anybody who thinks the Democrats are going to get past the issues of gender and race obviously is not paying attention to the headlines. Some things just don’t change.


Today’s Upper: All hail the state champion Chester Clippers. Well done, gentlemen.


Quote Box: “I’m proud of the team. The boys showed perservance. And I couldn’t ask for a better son.”

-- Mark Burrell Sr., father of Chester star Mark Burrell Jr., at Sunday’s celebration in the city.

Eye of the Tiger

One final item today. Besides my wife and this newspaper, there is one other great passion in my life.

That would be golf. For someone who’s so firmly in the grip of golf’s enchanting elixir, I don’t play all that much. And when I do, I struggle. Such is the game. It will drive you crazy. The truth is I just don’t have the time to devote to the game that I would like.

So now I probably watch more golf on TV than I actually play.

Which brings me to Tiger Woods. And what he is doing.

I will go out on a limb here and tell you that Woods is the single most mesmerizing athlete of our times. At least he is for me. On a Sunday afternoon when he is playing, I don’t leave the TV.

All Woods has done is win the last five PGA tournaments he’s entered, dating back to last summer.

And Sunday he did so in thrilling fashion, draining a 25-foot putt on the 18th hole to cut the heart out of Brad Bryant, who had matched him shot for shot for much of the afternoon. Bryant no doubt was looking for a sudden death playoff. Woods had other ideas. He was just looking for suddent death. Bryant’s.

It was Woods’ 64th PGA Tour victory, tying him for No. 3 on the all-time list with the legendary Ben Hogan.

I play golf, and not very well. I’m not sure what game Woods is playing.

But I am in awe.

I have forever been of the opinion that Muhammad Ali is the greatest athlete ever. I may soon be making room on that perch for one Eldrick “Tiger” Woods.

He’s got the right nickname. He certainly is not human. At least he doesn’t play like one.

Pickett's charges: A tradition of excellence

There is a part of me that will tell you that the best basketball team in the Philadelphia region does not play at the college level.

That distinction just might be reserved for the Chester Clippers, who sealed the deal on an incredible season with an 81-77 win over Norristown Saturday night in State College to capture the state AAAA title.

Just how good are the Clippers? This good. Norristown was undefeated this season - against anybody other than Chester. The Eagles played 34 games this season. They won 32 of them. They played Chester High twice, and lost both games, once in the District 1 final and once in the AAAA state championship game.

Sunday, Chester threw a little party for the victorious Clippers in the city. They deserved every bit of it.

So did their coach, who stunned his players, fans and the city by announcing after the game Saturday night that he would be stepping down.

Fred Pickett led the Clippers to 331 wins in his 13 years at the helm. His teams won three state titles, eight District 1 crowns and compiled eight trips to the state final four. His record stands at 331-80.

But that’s not his greatest accomplishment. Pickett was a mentor, a molder of men.

He didn’t just coach basketball. He coached life. Chester High – and Delaware County – was a better place because of him.

Next year there will be a new man at the helm of Chester High basketball. He will face an almost insurmountable legacy.

Countless young lives have been shaped by Fred Pickett. His teams played with the passion and skill inspired by their coach. But it was always the way his teams conducted themselves off the court that is the other hallmark of this legendary coach.

Those numbers don’t show up on the scoreboard. They show up in life.

Pickett’s legacy, the incredible numbers of his Chester coaching career, speak for themselves.

But it’s the numbers you don’t see, and the results off the court, for which a school, a city, and a county will be forever in his debt.

Well done, coach.

A three-ball for Philly

It was just a week ago when we were lamenting the fact that it appeared quite possible that Philadelphia could get shut out of the NCAA men’s hoops tourney altogether.

What a difference a week makes. Now we have three teams going to the “dance.”

Temple took care of business by topping Saint Joe’s and winning the Atlantic 10 Tournament. That gave them an automatic entrée into the NCAAs.

Villanova and Saint Joe’s were left sitting on the bubble, spending 24 hours waiting and wondering if they might get in, or if they would have to settle for the NIT.

You could make the argument for Saint Joe’s, since they beat No. 9 Xavier twice, once in the regular season and once in the A-10 tourney.

Villanova beat Syracuse and had the pedigree of playing the rugged Big East schedule.

The bubble did not burst for either team.

Villanova captured a 12th seed in the Midwest bracket. They will play No. 5 seed Clemson Friday night.

Temple gets the 12th seed in the South Regional and will tackle the No. 5 seed Michigan State. They’ll play Thursday.

And Saint Joe’s gets an 11 seed in the East Region and will play the No. 6 seed Oklahoma in Birmingham.

Let the madness begin!

Not green with envy

Happy St. Patty’s Day!

You won’t find someone more Irish than I am, nor more proud of his heritage. But I’ve never seen the feast day of the patron saint of Ireland as a reason to quaff green beer or don some silly green outfit.

Maybe it’s because St. Pat’s always falls during Lent, and for the past few years I have given up beer. Yeah, I know. It’s kind of an extreme position.

There are those who believe that you actually get a dispensation on Sunday from your Lenten vows. I’ve always considered that cheating. Same goes for St. Pat’s.

I defer to the folks who know something about this holiday, the people of Ireland, where the holiday is still more of a religious holiday.

So yes, I’ll try to make a stop in church at some point during the day. And later I’ll maybe break out my copy of the John Wayne classic, “The Quiet Man.”

Beats the loads of blarney floating around today by those faux Irish. Besides, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, visit Ireland, where I am told I still have some distant relatives.

I always tell everyone that it’s on my list of things to do. I guess you could call it my “bucket list,” things I’d like to accomplish before I die.

The list gets longer every day. Drinking green beer is not on it.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 14

The Daily Numbers: 16 of April. Circle that date on the calendar. That’s when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are set to debate at the National Constitution Center in Philly, a week before the Pennsylvania Primary.

2 women pulled from their burning home in Collingdale early Thursday. Four local volunteer firemen are being hailed as heroes. We agree.

4 firefighters in Darby Borough injured when they responded to a house fire Thursday night. The injuries are not believed to be serious. It’s not like we need a reminder of the dangers these volunteers face on every call. Not this week.

1 person killed and the Pennsylvania Turnpike shut down after a tractor-trailer and pickup truck collided in King of Prussia this morning.

800,000 dollars the Chester Upland Board of Control hoped to raise with an earned income tax. But the county Board of Elections has nixed a move to get a question on the April primary ballot.

200,000 thousand dollars, what a group of folks from Orleans Homebuilders in Bensalem won when they got five numbers, but not the Powerball, in Wednesday’s drawing.

275 million bucks, what the Powerball jackpot will be worth Saturday night. Better start getting in line now. You’ll need it to fill up the gas tank for the weekend.

13 car break-ins charged to a 19-year-old Port Richmond youth in Philly. Police believe he may be responsible for a lot more and are warning people not to leave valuables in their cars. Good advice.

2 teens killed in what police are describing as a lover’s spat turned into a murder-suicide in Lancaster County.

44, age of Michelle Obama, wife of Barack, who spent time stumping for her hubby in Haverford and Villanova yesterday.

50,000 dollars, the income cut-off point set by officials at Lehigh University. Those families making less than that will now receive grants instead of loans to attend school there.

65 age of former Penn prof already in jail on child porn charges who now faces new charges of lying to the State Department in his efforts to bring a Brazilian teen into the country.

22 to 45 years in jail for a Philadelphia man convicted of killing his 17-month old daughter. He flew into a rage over a broken Xbox. Unreal.

1,000 dollars an ounce, what gold is going for these days. Better check those fillings.

1 win away from another state title. That’s where the Chester Clippers sit today as they head to State College and a match with Norristown Saturday night for the crown.

60 percent from three-point land, what a red-hot Georgetown squad shot as they kicked Villanova out of the Big East Tourney.

20 wins against 12 losses for the Wildcats. They now sit tenuously on the bubble awaiting Sunday’s NCAA brackets selection.

84 points for the Temple Owls, as they beat La Salle to advance in the A-10 Tourney.

16 points for Rob Ferguson as the Saint Joe Hawks beat Richmond, 71-47. They now advance to play Xavier in the A-10 Tournament. A win could cement a NCAA spot.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Stick a fork in Villanova. Doesn’t look they’re going to be doing any “dancing.” Instead of the NCAA, they’ll likely be doing the NIT two-step after falling to Georgetown.

I Don’t Get It: The skin magazines are now cozying up to Ashley Alexandra Dupre, the high-priced hooker who took down New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Why am I not surprised.


Today’s Upper: Just a great story today on the way the community has responded to the family of Lower Chi firefighter Lt. Nick Picozzi II. Pizzo’s Deli in Ridley Park was mobbed yesterday after they announced they would donate the day’s proceeds to the Picozzi family. A grand gesture.


Quote Box: “I have daughters in their 20s who have been just really depressed about what their hopes for the future are, and they listen to Barack speak and they just get so hopeful and so happy.”

-- Judy Roberson of Media, at the rally held by Michelle Obama at Villanova Thursday.

A rare phone call

This newspaper has not always seen eye to eye with Darby Borough Police Chief Bob Smythe. Let’s just say we’ve had our run-ins.

That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to get a call from the chief Thursday. Honestly.

Smythe was not calling to complain. He was offering a compliment.

He was handling some of the logistics involving the massive police and fire presence at the funeral of Lower Chichester Lt. Nick Picozzi on Tuesday.

It was no secret that the family was concerned about the event turning into a media circus. They made it quite clear they did not want media members invading their privacy at Monday’s viewing. Nor did they want us inside the church at Tuesday’s funeral service.

This is a tough call for us. My initial reaction is simply to cover the story. At the same time, I didn’t want to add to what already clearly was a horrifically sad time for the family.

We honored their wish. We still covered both events, but we did so from a respectful distance and allowed the family to grieve in peace. We did not go inside the church for either the viewing or the funeral.

Apparently the chief noticed. He called me Thursday to compliment the three people we had on the scene, staff writer Cindy Scharr, columnist Gil Spencer, and photographer Pete Zinner.

The chief wanted me to know that he, the family and the entire firefighter community appreciated the way we went about our jobs.

He also said something else that meant a great deal to me. He admitted he’s the first to call when we do something he doesn’t like; he wanted to be sure to do the same when we do something right.

I’ll admit it was a tough call. The last thing I wanted to do was aggravate the Picozzi family. One thing I have learned in this business. Dealing with death is a very dicey topic. People’s emotions are raw. And they remember how you act in covering these stories for a long time.

I wanted us to cover the story, but I wanted us to do it in a way that would not unnecessarily add to a family’s grief, in the process cementing an image that is too often slapped on us in the media: That we don’t give a damn who we trample on in our pursuit of the story.

It is my hope that we accomplished that goal. Chief Smythe seems to think we did. And he took the time to call and tell me.

Thanks, chief.

Time to 'raise McCain'

Clinton vs. Obama.

It’s all you hear. The Battle of Pennsylvania.

The problem is it’s only half the equation. The other half will be here this morning.

While Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama trade haymakers, John McCain quietly goes about his business.

The Arizona senator will turn up the volume a bit this morning when he holds a town hall meeting at Springfield Country Club.

It means that while the spotlight likely will shine on the Democratic donnybrook for the next six weeks, McCain actually becomes the first candidate to hit the ground here in Delaware County.

Former President Bill Clinton stumped at Penn State Brandywine last Friday. Michelle Obama held a rally at Villanova Thursday afternoon.

McCain is the presumptive GOP nominee, and about the only mystery left for Republicans will be who McCain selects as a running mate. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, the nation’s first director of Homeland Security, is being mentioned.

The Delco GOP originally was lining up behind former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, but now are solidly in the McCain camp.

McCain will be on friendly turf, in the GOP bastion of Springfield. Looking down the line, McCain will be trying to reverse a troubling recent trend for the Delco GOP, which has seen the county go for the Democrat in recent presidential elections.

No doubt nearby will be Craig Williams, the Republican who is challenging first-term Congressman Joe Sestak, D-7. Sestak was on hand last week when Clinton came to town.

For a few hours this morning, the Republicans steal the spotlight from Democrats and their heavyweight battle.

It’s their chance to “raise McCain,” you might say.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 13

The Daily Numbers: 33 games since Chester lost in the state AAAA title game to Schenley. They return Saturday night for another shot at the crown when they face Norristown.

1 loss suffered by the Clippers since they fell in that title game last year.

300 miles their legions of faithful will have to travel to see them play for the title, on the Penn State campus in State College.

10,000 students sent home yesterday when a phone threat caused officials at Delaware County Community College to shut down all five campuses, including the main campus in Marple.

275 million bucks, what the Powerball jackpot will be worth Saturday night. Nobody correctly picked all six numbers in last night’s drawing.

548 bucks a year, what our lousy roads cost the average Philadelphia area motorist in car repairs. A study ranks us as the 15th worst major urban area.

44 Southwest Airlines jets grounded after officials admitted they missed inspections on some planes.

850 million dollars OK’d by the state House for energy conservation initiatives.

16, age of victim of a hit-run in Philadelphia. A $1,000 reward has been posted for information in the case.

64, age of state Sen. Vince Fumo, D-Philly. The legendary Harrisburg power is not seeking re-election, citing the “cloud” of federal corruption charges that hangs over his head. He faces trial in the fall.

1974, that’s when the state law granted Pennsylvania sole power to regulate gun sales in the state was enacted. It’s being challenge in court by Philly politicians who want to attack the city’s gun problem.

1.1 billion dollars, the annual cost of a health plan to cover uninsured Pennsylvanians that was approved by the House yesterday.

1 million dollar gift to the National Constitution Center from Bank of America. The firm’s name will now reside on the center’s theater to Bank of America Family Theater.

3 people killed by a woman going the wrong way on Route 30 in Lancaster County. She now faces three counts of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence.

5 p.m. this afternoon, when Michelle Obama, the candidate’s wife, is due in the county for a rally at Villanova.

3.19 a gallon, average price of gasoline in the Philadelphia region.

3>15 a gallon, what it’s selling for at the Wawa on Baltimore Pike.

3.23 a gallon, the average price in Pennsylvania. That’s an all-time high.

43 percent dip in stock price for Linwood-based Foamex yesterday. Shares closed at $1.47, down $2.50.

42 to 35 percent lead for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama in the Philadelphia suburbs. Statewide she leads 45-31.

24 straight wins for the Chester Clippers, who advanced to the state final Saturday night.

15 wins and 9 losses in state semifinal games for Chester High.

11 for 20 from three-point range as Villanova posted a huge win over Syracuse in the opener of the Big East Tourney. They face Georgetown today.

2 wins for Saint Joe’s and La Salle in opening games in the A-10 Tourney.

5 dollars per seat, average price ticket price hike for Flyers games at the Wachovia Center next year.

2 straight losses to the Maple Leafs for the Flyers. Not good.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Maybe we wrote off the chances of the local teams too soon in the NCAA Tourney. If Villanova can upend No. 1 seed Georgetown today in the Big East Tourney, they almost certainly will get into the “dance.” And amid Temple, La Salle and Saint Joe’s, there might be a sliver of a shot to get in. Of course, one of them could end the mystery by simply winning the A-10 Tournament.

I Don’t Get It: People who think it’s cute, or fun, or an easy way to get out of taking a test by phoning in a threat to a school. Not funny, folks. Criminal, actually.


Today’s Upper: Charles Ramsay looks like a quick learner. The new chief of police in Philadelphia is attacking crime. He’s also learned it’s not the city’s only problem. Yesterday he announced a plan to try to ease traffic congestion in the city. Gotta like that.


Quote Box: “I got off the bus, it pulled away, and I had to turn around and wait for another bus.”

-- DCCC student, commenting on the campus shutdown after officials received a phone threat yesterday morning.

This isn't a prank anymore

There was a time when the idea of phoning in a bomb threat to school was considered a harmless prank.

Not anymore.

School safety is serious business. In the wake of incidents like Columbine and Virginia Tech, threats are no longer dismissed as kid stuff.

The danger is real, even if the threat is not. Schools can no longer afford to ignore such hijinks.

So when officials at Delaware County Community College received a phone threat yesterday, they canceled classes and evacuated the campus.

Yes, it was an aggravation for 10,000 students and staff at the school’s five campuses.

It was not an overreaction. Not anymore.

The school was searched. Nothing suspicious turned up. The threat was found to be unfounded. The campus re-opened around 4:30 and classes resumed last night.

This is not DCCC’s first go-round with this kind of issue. Last spring the campus was closed for almost a week after a series of e-mailed threats targeting the main campus in Marple. No arrest was ever made in those incidents.

This time around it seems more like an old-fashioned phone threat, except that it came from a cell phone, which makes it harder to trace.

One good thing comes out of this latest incident. It allowed school officials to test the new college campus security programs announced just last week by District Attorney G. Michael Green at the Villanova campus. The alert system worked just as it was designed to do.

Let’s hope they don’t have to use it again. And that they catch the knuckleheads responsible for yesterday’s campus shutdown at DCCC.

Chester drives to hoops title -- literally

The Chester Clippers’ incredible run to a state basketball title continues.

The Clippers (31-1) dispatched Pennsbury, 75-64, last night on the hallowed hardwood of the Palestra.

They now advance to the state title game, where they will have a rematch with Norristown. The Eagles advanced to the final by beating up on Moon Township, from District 7 in the western part of the state.

Chester is the only blemish on Norristown’s card this year. The Clippers knocked them off in the AAAA District 1 Final back in February, 61-47.

That makes the state final an all-District 1 showcase. Both teams are from the Philly suburbs.

You could call it the Battle of the Blue Route, Chester at one end and Norristown at the other.

So where will they play this clash of the titans? Maybe at the Palestra, where so many classic local hoops showdowns have occurred? Maybe at the midway point between the two schools on the Villanova campus?

Uh, not exactly. The state AAAA title game will be played Saturday night at the Bryce Jordan Center. That’s on the Penn State campus. The main campus. In State College.

That’s about 200 miles away. A three-hour drive.

When I went past the Wawa on Baltimore Pike this morning, gas was going for $3.15 a gallon. How much money is going to be spent getting fans from Chester and Norristown to State College for the game?

Don’t blame the PIAA. These schedules are set up years in advance. They have been playing the state hoops finals at Penn State for the last couple of years.

But it seems kind of ridiculous to make two schools that are about a 20-minute ride apart on the Blue Route hike 200 miles to play a basketball game.

Of course, if the Clippers win, it will be worth the drive.

Say hello to Ashley

Be prepared to learn more than you ever wanted to know about one Ashley Alexandra Dupre.

She’s 22. Lives in New York City, where she is an aspiring musician. She’s a Jersey girl, originally from Jackson Township.

Oh, and her company is apparently worth $4,300.

Yes, Ashley Alexandra Dupre is “Kristen,” the high-priced call girl who toppled the political career of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. He resigned his post two days after his name was linked to an escort service known as Emperors Club VIP.

“Kristen” is the woman whose services he paid $4,300 for, which got him an evening of sex at a Washington, D.C., hotel.

“I just don’t want to be thought of as a monster,” Dupre told the New York Times. “This has been a very difficult time. It’s complicated.”

I don’t think she’s a monster. But then, I’ve never charged anyone $4,300 for my, ahem, “services.”

I will reserve judgment on Dupre. I don’t know her, don’t know anything about the circumstances she found herself in.

I will have a lot more respect for her if I don’t see her show up on every celebrity TV show, while fielding offers from every publication from People to Playboy for her story.

Then again, it obviously would not be the first time she was paid for her talents.
I do know this. She’s a couple years older than Spitzer’s eldest daughter.

Which makes me dislike him even more.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 12

The Daily Numbers: 4,000 people at a rally for Sen. Hillary Clinton at Temple University Tuesday night.

4,000 dollar tuition credit being proposed by Sen. Barack Obama, in exchange for community service.

3 schools, what Chester Upland schools CEO Dr. Gregory Thornton envisions in busting up Chester High, part of a plan that would completely remake the look of the district.

1 person fatally shot in Chester last night in the 700 block of East Seventh Street.

6.9 million dollar budget approved by the Delaware County Intermediate Unit.

30 years in the state Senate that could come to an end this morning with the expected announcement that Sen. Vince Fumo, D-Philly, is withdrawing from the April primary and will vacate his seat.

200 people who have filed complaints after pre-paying for heating oil from a Chester County firm, Gappa Oil. They never got their deliveries. Now the attorney general’s office has filed a lawsuit against the firm.

4 teens inside a car that hit a pothole and then slammed into a parked tractor-trailer in Royersford, Montgomery County. One teen was killed.

1 robbery suspect wounded in a confrontation with police early this morning at 44th and Lancaster Avenue in West Philly.

1 newborn found abandoned in the front yard of a home in West Philly, on 58th Street near Chestnut.

21 employees being sacked off by NFL Films in Mount Laurel, N.J. The company says the job cuts are in part due to the loss of its popular “Inside the NFL” show.

21 million bucks, the annual compensation for the top dog at Wachovia Corp. last year. And you can take that to the bank. It was actually $2 million less than he pocketed in 2006.

80,000 dollars, the tab investigators now believe New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer may have run up with various prostitution rings.

22 people who were busted last year in DUI checkpoints in Delaware over the St. Patrick’s Day holiday. Police are planning to be out in force again this weekend. Go easy on the green beer.

4 full academic scholarships to be offered to Philadelphia School District seniors by Temple University. The program will be announced today.

1 in 4 teenage girls believed to be suffering from a sexual disease, according to a new study.

416 point boost for Wall Street yesterday as stocks surged after word the Fed was planning to pump billions into the markets to fight the credit crisis.

3.2272 a gallon, the national average price of gas. That’s a record high.

110 dollars a barrel, where crude oil was trading for a time yesterday.

3.20 a gallon, average price of gas in the Philly area. That’s just two cents away from the all-time high.

3 goal lead in the third period blown by the Flyers last night as they fell to the Leafs, 4-3, in OT.

33 million bucks, what wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald got from the Phoenix Cardinals. Cross him off your list, Eagles fans.

3 straight appearances in the state hoops semi-final for Chester High. They play Pennsbury tonight for the right to advance to the state title game.

19 wins for Villanova men, who begin the Big East Tourney this afternoon at Madison Square Garden against Syracuse.

0 games for the Phillies in Florida yesterday. It’s the one day of the spring the Phils do not play. Not coincidentally, none of their pitchers got lit up.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
No Randy Moss. No Larry Fitzgerald. Someone want to explain to me how good the Eagles wide receivers are again?

I Don’t Get It: At some point the choice might come down to paying the mortgage, or filling up the family car.


Today’s Upper: A salute to all those who took part in the moving funeral yesterday for Lower Chichester firefighter Nicholas Picozzi II. Rest well, lieutenant.


Quote Box: “For me, I’m burying a brother. I’m burying a part of my family.”

-- Fireman Tony Gnas, of Slatington, Pa., who came to Delco yesterday for the funeral of Lower Chi firefighter Nick Picozzi.

March Madness, the political kind

March Madness is about to begin.

No, not that silly college basketball tournament. Besides, unless one of them miraculously wins their league tournament, this year’s NCAA men’s tournament might have to do without a representative from Philadelphia.

I’m not sure the Chester Clippers are not the best team in the region.

No, this is about another kind of madness. We’re talking Pennsylvania politics.

The candidates hit the ground running yesterday.

Hillary Clinton could have gone anywhere. She chose Temple.

The former first lady was cheered by 4,000 wildly cheering supporters inside a packed McGonigle Hall on the North Philadelphia campus.

In the meantime, Barack Obama was at a windmill plant in Fairless Hills, Bucks County. He was pushing “green” businesses.

Seems appropriate. Between the two of them, Clinton and Obama over the next six weeks are going to provide enough hot air to power a small country.

It’s a six-week sprint for the heart and soul of Pennsylvania – and its 158 delegates. While no one was paying attention, Obama quietly put Mississippi into the win column yesterday. Now all eyes will be focused on Pa.

Team Clinton is planning a full-court press. Today former President Bill Clinton will be in Erie and Johnstown. Daughter Chelsea will continue to woo young voters at Wilkes College in Wilkes-Barre, followed by another session at Lebanon Valley College in Annville.

Tonight here in Delaware County, the Obama troops will throw a little party to open up their county headquarters in Springfield. The candidate is not expected to be there, but tomorrow his bride, Michelle Obama, is expected in Villanova.

It’s only a matter of time before both candidates put in some face time here in Delaware County.

Republican nominee Sen. John McCain will beat them to the punch. He’s holding a town hall meeting at Springfield Country Club on Friday.

It’s becoming more and more apparent that the Philadelphia suburbs, including Delaware County, could be the “key” to winning the Keystone State.

Brace yourself. We’re about to become ground zero for Democratic politics.

By the way, this is not the time to tune out. You might want to pay attention. All that’s at stake is the likely Democratic nominee.

Gas pains

I know the ‘I Don’t Get It’ portion of the blog usually comes as part of the Daily Numbers package.

This one can’t wait. I have a question about gas prices, in particular Wawa.

I usually buy gas at Wawa because I find they usually have the cheapest price. What can I say, I’m cheap. Price rules a lot of my purchases. I also like the idea that I’m buying from a company that, after all, is based right here in Delaware County.

What I don’t understand is the wild variance in gas prices from one Wawa to another.

I knew I should have stopped at my normal Wawa close to work last night on the way home. What can I say, I’m lazy. I didn’t feel like stopping.

I thought maybe I could make it home and back and then gas up at my friendly local Wawa on the way in this morning. Wrong.

It became clear to me shortly after leaving the house that I would be pushing it trying to reach the local Wawa. Instead I stopped at one in West Chester.

I grumbled to myself as I pulled into the gleaming new “super” Wawa featuring the gas pumps that the company is now so focused on. That’s because I was about to fork over $3.21 a gallon for gasoline.

I didn’t even fill my tank. I have a psychological barrier that will not allow me to spend more than $30 at a time on gas. It got me about three-quarters of a tank.

So I went on my way doing my slow burn, which quickly reached a full boil as I passed the Wawa at Baltimore Pike and Bishop Avenue. The price there? $3.13 a gallon.

All together now: I Don’t Get It.

By the sounds of it, $3.13 a gallon could soon be considered the “good old days.” Nationwide, the average price of gas hit an all-time high of $3.27. And prices of crude oil soared near $110 a barrel.

Oh, it’s crude all right. I have always thought of Wawa as the friendly neighborhood convenience store. It is an icon here in Delaware County, and in fact one of those things that defines the region.

GottahavaWawa? Sure. How about gottahava explanation of gas prices as well.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 11

The Daily Numbers: 500,000 dollar bribe, what Haverford Commissioner Fred Moran was convicted of extorting from the developer of the Haverford State property. He’s now seeking to have the conviction tossed or be granted a new trial.

3 hours today that Ridge Road in Lower Chichester will be closed for the funeral service for firefighter Nicholas Picozzi II.

5 Delco school districts that have received the state OK to raise taxes higher than the inflationary index. They are Haverford, Radnor, Rose Tree Media, Wallingford-Swarthmore and Springfield.

4,300 dollars, what New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer is believed to have arranged to pay for sex with a “petite, pretty brunette.”

3 daughters, all in their teens, along with a wife, who are now splattered in Spitzer’s mud. How do you think those kids feel today?

54 years that Hillary Clinton’s father spent working in the lace mills of Scranton. She kicked off her Pennsylvania campaign in her dad’s home town last night.

25,000 dollar grant for Drexel Neumann Academy school in Chester, granted by the Ethel Sergeant Clark Smith Memorial Fund. It will be used to upgrade the school’s technology offerings.

56 drugs or byproducts found in the Philadelphia drinking water supply. It was part of the findings in a probe by the Associated Press. Officials stress they don’t believe there is any danger in the minute amounts.

30, age of victim who was tied up for over 12 hours after being attacked in his apartment in the 4300 block of Spruce Street in Philadelphia. A suspect is now under arrest.

1 suspect shot in a confrontation with police outside a Dunkin Donuts store in Woodbury, N.J.

55, age of supermarket executive Gary Redner, who was found slain in his Berks County home Monday. Police are calling the killing a “mystery.”

30 million bucks, what it would cost to re-do the contested Democratic primaries in Michigan and Florida. Party officials ruled their delegates would not count as punishment to state officials for moving up the date of the voting. Now those delegates could be key in the razor-thin Obama-Clinton battle

1 person struck and killed by a train last night in Bristol, Bucks County.

4.03 per gallon, price for diesel fuel in the Philadelphia region yesterday. That’s an all-time high.

1 penny increase in price of regular gasoline. Price in the Philly region now stands at $3.18. Statewide it will cost you a penny more, at $3.19.

15 straight points scored by the Celtics last night to start the game against the Sixers. Boston won, 100-86.

44 all, the Sixers actually fought back to tie the score before running out of gas.

4 game win streak for the Sixers that was snapped by the Celtics, who have the best record in the NBA.

4 goals for Monsignor Bonner last night, but not enough as they fell in ice hockey to St. Joe Prep, 7-4.

8 hits and five runs surrendered by Phils starter J.D. Durbin yesterday. Anyone noticing a pattern here?

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Repeat after me: It’s only spring training …. It’s only spring training … It’s only spring training. OK, we still have two weeks for the Phils to get their pitching in shape. Why do I think it’s not going to happen?

I Don’t Get It: What exactly allows a man in Eliot Spitzer’s position to put himself in the kind of position he found himself in yesterday? I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Welcome to Dr. Marie George, who will become the next president of Cabrini College, succeeding Dr. Antoinette Iadarola.


Quote Box: “If this be bribery, every negotiated sale of real property by a public official is tantamount to bribery.”

-- Tom Bergstrom, lawyer for Haverford Commissioner Fred Moran, on his bribery conviction.

The shame of Eliot Spitzer

Here’s the thing I don’t get about Eliot Spitzer. (If you have not heard of him, here’s a quick recap: He’s the squeaky clean, corruption-fighting governor of New York who yesterday admitted some personal infidelities involving a high-priced prostitution ring.)

Spitzer has not been charged with a crime. At least not yet. He apparently was captured on a wiretap arranging to meet a call girl in a Washington hotel room.

It was Spitzer who as New York’s attorney general conducted a ruthless hunt for corruption on Wall Street. He vowed to act in a similar manner after capturing the governor’s mansion. No doubt the financial movers and shakers are delighting in this turn of events.

Now the talk is whether Spitzer can survive. The odds are against it, even if he’s not charged.

Still, none of that is what really bothers me. Men have been seeking out hookers forever, although I’m not sure how many of them were governors at the time. The dollar figure also raises a few eyebrows. What exactly do you get for $4,300? And how is a guy who spent most of his life as a public employee tossing around that kind of cash for sexual favors?

No, it was something else Spitzer did yesterday that I find almost as distasteful as the actions that landed him in this predicament in the first place.

Late yesterday afternoon, Spitzer stood in front of a microphone to offer a terse statement describing how he had “disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself ... I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.”

You think? Spitzer is married and the father of three teenage girls.

Of course, Spitzer did not face the music alone yesterday. That’s right, there at his side was his wife. I’m surprised Spitzer did not trot out his daughters as well, to maybe further their public humiliation.

I don’t know whose idea it was to have his wife at his side, but it turned my stomach. There’s a part of me, I guess, who can empathize with Spitzer’s fate, even if I don’t understand it.

But for the life of me I cannot fathom why he couldn’t simply face the music alone. Why did he have to drag his wife out there as well?

Maybe it was her idea. Maybe that’s part of the deal in politics. For better or for worse, and all that. If so she’s a better woman than I’ll ever be a man.

Somehow I just don’t see myself asking my wife to do that. And if she volunteered, I think I would try to shield her from my oafish actions.

It reminded me of then New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey, in his famous “I am a gay American” speech, trotting out his beleaguered wife, as well as his mom and dad.

Be a man, guys. That’s what got you into this spot in the first place isn’t it?

It was Eliot Spitzer who put Eliot Spitzer in the national spotlight yesterday. You’d think he’d be able to face the music alone.

His wife deserved better. Then again, apparently she’s deserved better for some time now.

Dems the breaks, folks

The troops hit the ground last week.

Now the commanders-in-chief (or maybe better stated would-be commanders-in-chief) are landing.

Get used to it. For the next six weeks, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are going to be our new neighbors.

That’s because, at least for Democrats, Pennsylvania is now the center of the political world. The Keystone State goes to the polls April 22, with a crucial chunk of delegates up for grabs.

Hillary Clinton kicked off her Pennsylvania campaign in her father’s home town of Scranton last night. Tonight she will hold a rally on the Temple University campus in Philadelphia.

Barack Obama is due in Bucks County for an event today. We’re hearing rumblings of an event Wednesday night in Springfield to open a campaign office.

It’s only a matter of time before both candidates put in some serious face time in Delaware County.

Lest we forget, that is only one side of the story. How could we forget Republicans here in Delaware County?

Luckily, Arizona Sen. John McCain will be here this week to remind us that, as much fun as it is to see two Democrats slugging it out against each other, that’s only half the equation.

The presumptive GOP nominee will hold a town hall rally Friday at Springfield Country Club. He’s due to speak for about an hour.

But the spotlight, at least for the next six weeks, is going to focus on the Democrats.

Obama vs. Clinton has the makings of one of those steel-cage matches. Clinton yesterday floated the idea that she likely would welcome Obama as her running mate.

It was not exactly well-received by the senator from Illinois. He pointed out that since when does the candidate in second place offer the VP position to the leader in the clubhouse?

He’s right about that. He has more delegates, more popular votes, and has won more primaries and caucuses.

But it’s where he’s won – and where Clinton has won – that creates problems for his argument.

Clinton has been the winner in big states, like California, Michigan, Texas and Ohio. Those are the states Democrats will need to carry in November to win back the White House.

Her campaign points out that many of the states won by Obama will be captured by the Republicans in November.

Neither side appears ready to blink in this face-off.

The only face with a smile on it belongs to the guy who will be here on Friday.

Forgive John McCain if he wears a grin like a cheshire cat. He can stay out of the fray, sort out who he wants as a running mate, put together his team for the fall, and most importantly raise money, while Democrats spend millions scratching each others’ eyes out.

It’s hard not to believe that the “winner” of this Democratic donnybrook could be anything but.

Still, I wouldn’t look for Democrats to unite anytime soon. At least not in the next six weeks. We’re going to have a ringside seat for this one.

Brace yourself. This is only Round One.

Requiem for a firefighter

It is going to be a very long day in Lower Chichester.

And it is our job to chronicle it.

We will join those gathering to honor the memory of Lower Chichester firefighter Nicholas Picozzi II. He died in the line of duty battling a house fire last Tuesday.

It is not something we especially enjoy. There is not one person on our staff who wants such an assignment, who would rather cover almost anything else.

We deal with police and firefighters every day. We don’t always find ourselves on the same page. This is not one of those days.

Our mission today is not to be an intrusion, not to trample on a family’s agony, not to smear the incredible loss suffered by a dedicated band of community servants.

Our hope is to simply convey to the community, in some small measure, what Nicholas Picozzi meant to the town he called home. And to the men and women he served with as a volunteer firefighter.

We will try to do so with dignity, with honesty, with words and pictures.

We started this process in the moments we first received word of the fire on Moser Avenue in Upper Chichester, and the initial reports that there could be several firefighters injured. It continued yesterday, as mourners gathered for Nick Picozzi’s viewing.

One of the things we have attempted to convey in our coverage is how much Picozzi meant to those who knew and loved him, and the huge vacuum his absence now leaves.

That process concludes today, with a requiem for a firefighter. It’s going to be a gut-punch kind of a day.

For all those involved.

Rest well, lieutenant.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 10

The Daily Numbers: 125,000 people who lose power in the region during Saturday’s wild wind storm.

450 people in Delaware County who were still without power on Sunday.

20 auto crashes reported on I-95 in Delaware during Saturday’s nasty wind and rain storm.

50,000 signatures needed on petitions for independent candidate Ralph Nader to get on the ballot this fall. Nader is running for president as a third party candidate again.

49.6 percent, the amount of equity average Americans now have in their home. It’s the first time since WWII that the mark has fallen below 50 percent.

4 children killed when flames roared through a Bethlehem row house Sunday.

240 million dollars now up for grabs in the Powerball lottery drawing Wednesday night. No one hit the right combo of numbers Saturday night.

12, age of boy shot dead after apparently finding a gun in their grandmother’s house in Northeast Philadelphia Sunday night. He and another youth were playing with the gun when it went off.

3 rallies on tap for Hillary Clinton in the state this week. She’ll be in Scranton tonight, and move on to both Harrisburg and Philadelphia Tuesday. She’s planning a rally Tuesday night at Temple University.

14 more days, how much longer you have to register to vote in the Pennsylvania Primary or change your registration if you are registered as an Independent.

5 month-old infant believed raped in Greensburg. An 18-year-old man is under arrest.

16, age of Bucks County teen killed in a skiing mishap when he hit a tree at Camelback Resort over the weekend.

70 years of wedded bliss being celebrated by Helen and Bill McCloskey of Chesterbrook. Bravo!

220 thousand dollars in consultant fees already spent by the city of Philadelphia on the troubled Wireless Philadelphia project that is still not up and running.

664,000 dollars believed ripped off from an array of businesses by a Philadelphia woman who headed a non-profit agency.

12 billion dollars a month, what the war in Iraq is expected to cost us in 2008.

7 days spent in the hospital by state Sen. Vince Fumo, D-Philly, after suffering a heart attack. He faces a two-way challenge in the April primary and also is facing trial on federal corruption charges in the fall.

4 straight wins for the Sixers, who blew out the Bucks yesterday in Milwaukee, 119-87.

22 points, a career high, for rookie Thaddeus Young, in leading the suddenly red-hot Sixers.

18 points and 10 rebounds for Samuel Dalembert. That’s his third straight double-double.

7 hits and six runs in two innings for Kyle Kendrick in another shaky exhibition outing yesterday.

2 straight wins for the Soul to open their season in the Arena Football League.

2 PGA Tour victories for West Chester resident and Concord Country Club member Sean O’Hair, who took the title at the PODS Championship in Florida yesterday.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Everyone who is now officially worried about the Phillies pitching, raise your hand. Thought so. This team right now just does not have enough arms. Let’s hope this is addressed before the team gets off to another one of those dreadfully slow starts.

I Don’t Get It: A man in Berks County has been charged with driving under the influence. Know what he does for a living? He’s the president of a substance abuse facility.


Today’s Upper: How about all that sunshine last night going on 7 o’clock. Yeah, I know it was cold out, but it’s still a nice sight. Let’s hear it for Daylight Savings Time.


Quote Box: “I love being Irish, I love Philadelphia, I love my job, I love being here.”

-- Ryan McKeown, a waitress at Kildare’s who was marching in Philly’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade Sunday.

One final salute for Nick Picozzi

It’s one of those decisions that I know is not going to make everyone happy.

It puts the newspaper in the difficult position of trying to deliver the news while at the same time trying to respect the dignity and privacy of a family dealing with the worst circumstances imaginable.

We have a policy when it comes to covering funerals. In general, we simply do not. This is usually done out of respect for the families involved.

That is most of the time, not all of the time.

As anyone who has dealt with the loss of a loved one, it is a raw, emotional experience. The last thing I want to do is add to the grief of someone who has already suffered a terrible loss.

I also know that there are instances when news dictates that these events need to be covered.

The county is still dealing with the loss of Lower Chichester volunteer firefighter Nicholas Picozzi Jr. He was killed battling a house fire in Upper Chichester last week.

On Friday night, we rushed out to Lower Chichester when his family held a press conference to thank the public for their outpouring of support and also ask for privacy in this time of their horrific loss.

It’s a request we will try to accommodate. They asked us to use their entire statement. We did that in the Saturday paper. We also have publicized the two funds that have been set up to benefit the family, especially Picozzi’s two children.

Today there will be a viewing in Lower Chichester, followed by a funeral tomorrow with full honors.

We likely will simply take a photo this afternoon to note the long line of mourners waiting for the opportunity to pay their respects to Picozzi. We will not have a reporter there. We will try to offer the family the privacy they need during this moment of loss. We will try to be as unobtrusive as possible as we cover the event. We likely will take the photo from a distance.

Tomorrow will be another matter. The funeral for Picozzi will be a big news event. We will cover it accordingly.

I’d like to think that our coverage is actually part of the honor due this man who put his life on the line for others. Again we will try to maintain our distance and respect the family’s privacy.

It is my hope that our coverage adds to the honors for Picozzi, not detracts from it. It will be our way of offering a final salute.

I know that not everyone will agree with that decision.

I respect those who believe otherwise. I still think it is important for us to be there, to record what will be a very sad, very emotional day for all involved.

And do so in a manner we can all be proud of.

One week down ...

One week down, six to go.

Welcome to the center of the political universe.

Pennsylvania will go to the polls on April 22. It could hold the key to who wins the Democratic nomination and gets to tangle with Republican nominee Sen. John McCain in the fall.

Click here for an overview of how all this will play out here in Delaware County.

Candidates and their political machines are wasting no time getting into the state.

Former President Bill Clinton held a rally at Penn State Brandywine on Friday along with U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, of Edgmont.

Hillary Clinton will roar into the state tonight, paying a visit to her father’s hometown of Scranton. She’ll also be in Harrisburg and Philadelphia. She’s holding a rally at Temple University Tuesday night.

By the way, Sestak also will find himself in the spotlight during all this primary madness. That’s because he is one of the so-called superdelegates.

Many experts now believe that neither Clinton nor Obama will be able to win enough delegates to sew up the nomination. The fear is a brokered convention decided on the floor by the superdelegates. Sestak, who served in Bill Clinton’s administration, is committed to the former first lady.

One other thing to keep a close eye on. The battle for votes is one thing, but equally as important is the battle for registrations.

Both camps are conducting massive voter registration drives, both to enlist first-time voters, as well as Independents who must re-register with a specific party choice in order to be able to take part in the primary.

One source at the Election Bureau in the Media Courthouse indicated the Obama camp asked for 5,000 voter registration forms.

Also in play will be Republicans who switch their registration to Democratic so they can take part in the Democratic primary, then switch back to the GOP in the fall. Exactly which side they are likely to back in the Dem donnybrook, the idea being they would vote for the person their guy, McCain, would be most likely to defeat, is not clear.

Not to be left out of the all the fun, McCain is due in the county on Friday for a rally at Springfield Country Club. You might remember that early in the race, it appeared that Rudy Giuliani was the local GOP’s guy. They’ve now closed ranks behind the Arizona senator.

We made it through week one. Buckle your seat belt. It’s going to be a bumpy, six-week political thrill ride.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 7

The Daily Numbers: 93 foot tree that fell on power lines on Moser Avenue in Upper Chichester. It is being looked at as a possible cause of the fire that resulted in the death of Lower Chi fireman Nicholas Picozzi Jr..

1 former president in town today. Bill Clinton will hold a rally for his wife, Hillary, at Penn State Delco.

60 bottles of booze believed ripped off from the state Wine and Spirits Store on 69th Street in Upper Darby. A man is under arrest. Hope it was a helluva party.

1 million dollars being considered for security improvements at Marple Newtown High School. The board tabled the move.

85 chickens that were released inside Northeast High School in Philadelphia that now have a new home at Fox Chase Farm.

1 to 4 percent, the increase in energy use after we move to Daylight Savings Time, according to a new study. I thought this was supposed to save energy?

1 cent hike in price of gasoline. The average price in Philly is now $3.17. That’s the high for the year.

3.93 a gallon for diesel fuel. That’s an all-time record high.

106 dollars a barrel, where crude oil prices were trading for awhile yesterday. That’s also a record high. They settled a bit, coming to rest at $105.47. Be prepared to pay more.

1 911 supervisor canned in Montgomery County in the wake of a racy Christmas party. The real kicker is some pictures of employees, holding bottles of booze and sex toys, made their way onto the Internet. Doesn’t everything?

60 cars in New Castle, Del., that had their windows shot out by vandals wielding BB-guns.

15 story hotel and condo being planned for the Society Hill section of Philadelphia. Residents are up in arms about the height of the new building, which they claim will wreck the “historic” look of their neighborhood.

2 people stabbed inside an Overbrook home in the city yesterday. A male teen and 25-year-old woman were attacked. No arrests.

11 colleges and institutions of higher learning in Delaware County that now have the ability to communicate in times of a crisis through the county 911 system.

10,000 bucks stolen from a bank in Berks County by a woman in a pink hockey mask. Guess we can’t call her “Jason.”

100,000 dollars, what authorities allege a couple in Allentown ripped off from people in a scam involving foreign exchange students.

960 rooms in the new hotel opened by Harrah’s yesterday in Atlantic City. It’s 44 stories high.

2,000 season tickets for the new pro soccer team sold in just the first 7 days they were on sale. The team will play its games in Chester.

2 game losing streak snapped by the Flyers last night when they dumped the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-2.

2 goals for the Flyers’ Jeff Carter, who is carrying the team on his back these days.

5 million dollars in salary cap room cleared by the Eagles yesterday when they released starting linebacker Takeo Spikes.

8 ranking of Xavier, which fell to Saint Joseph’s last night in an emotional night at the Field House, which will now be closed for renovations. A cavalcade of Hawk history, including Chester’s own Jameer Nelson, was on hand to see the upset.

5 hits, 4 runs surrendered by Adam Eaton in another rocky Grapefruit League outing. Not good.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Adam Eaton says his back his bothering him. His arm doesn’t look so great either. He got torched again yesterday. He’s no doubt giving Manager Charlie Manuel a headache. He’s supposed to be the team’s fifth starter.

I Don’t Get It: A 50-year-old man in Pemberton Township, New Jersey, who for years has collected money for the local DARE anti-drug program has now been charged with pocketing most of the money. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: You can tell a lot about a town by the way it responds to tragedy. Lower Chichester can hold its head high today.


Quote Box: “I have no words to describe how I feel. It’s really hard.”

-- Lower Chichester Chief Ray Fuller, in the wake of the devastating fire that took the life of Lt. Nicholas Picozzi.

Here they come

The troops hit the ground in Delaware County today.

And they’re being led by the former commander-in-chief. With a retired admiral at his side.

Former President Bill Clinton will be at a rally at the Middletown campus of Penn State-Delco this afternoon. U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, of Edgmont, who served in the Clinton administration, will join him. They’ll hold a rally for Bill’s wife, Hillary.

You can get the details by clicking here.

It’s the first of what undoubtedly will be a long line of appearances by both the Clinton and Barack Obama camps to Delco turf.

It became obvious as soon as Hillary rolled to wins in Ohio and Texas that Pennsylvania would soon be ground zero for the Democratic Party.

They were barely done counting votes in those two states when Chelsea Clinton showed up at the Penn campus and admitted she’ll be a familiar figure over the next month or so.

Here’s why I think Delaware County and the other suburban counties could be the fulcrum in the race. It has to do with the way the state is formed, and the demographic pattern it follows.

Think of the state as a huge T. Obama likely will do well in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh; Clinton should dominate in the central part of the state.

And just as it has in the past several presidential races, and in the gubernatorial war that send Ed Rendell, a former Philadelphia mayor, the Harrisburg, the suburban Philadelphia counties could be the key to the race.

So welcome, Clintons. See you soon, Obama fans.

Brace yourself. It’s going to be a long seven weeks.

A town in mourning

This is a story about the kind of people who live in Delaware County.

It is a story about people dealing with the absolute worst circumstances imaginable – and the good that sometimes can come from it.

Lower Chichester is a town in mourning. They have lost one of their own.

Volunteer firefighter Lt. Nicholas Picozzi Jr. was killed Wednesday while battling a house fire in nearby Upper Chichester.

It sounds like Picozzi was one of those people who make up the fiber of small towns like Linwood. He grew up there, married there and was raising his two kids there.

His family has long roots in town. His dad was a member of the fire police. His mom was active in the fire company auxiliary.

Now the family, their extended firefighting family, and the entire town are preparing to bury one of their own.

But something else touched me in the aftermath of the fire. It tells you a little bit about what kind of town Lower Chi is.

The Orfetel family lost their home when fire broke out on Moser Avenue. But they aren’t thinking about themselves. They, along with their church, wanted to know what they could do for the Picozzi family.

But someone was thinking of them. That would be Dan Dever. He used to live across the street on Moser. The house was vacant, on the market for sale.

According to a TV report, when Dever heard what happened and that the Orfetels needed a place to live, he actually took the house off the market and told the Orfetels they can live there. Yesterday church members could be seen carrying things into the new home.

The Orfetels suffered a loss on Wednesday, but their thoughts were with the Picozzi family. As was the thoughts of most everybody in town.

Pulling together in the worst possible circumstances.

Sounds like the kind of town you’d be proud to call home. I’m sure Nick Picozzi was. And for good reason.

A spring in his step

This is one of my favorite weekends of the year.

Not because we apparently are going to be under water. Yep, it’s going to rain. The TV folks who always sound the weather alarm bells at the possibility of snow are now veering into their spring form, telling us to build arks.

They’re all standing near the Delaware River in Yardley, Bucks County, watching the water rise, mouths watering over another storm story.

But I digress. I love this weekend because of something that is going to happen Saturday night. I am going to lose an hour sleep. And I could not be happier.

That’s right. This is the weekend we “spring forward.” You’ve been warned. Remember to set your clock forward one hour before you go to bed Saturday night. Wouldn’t want you to be late for church Sunday.

Yes, we’ll all be a bit groggy Sunday morning. But the real payoff is Sunday night, when it will remain light until after 7 o’clock.

It’s a harbinger of spring. Winter is almost over. Of course the flip side is that it will be dark an hour longer on Monday morning, but hey, I drive to the office in the dark anyhow.

Hopefully when I leave the office Monday night, I will be greeted by an odd sigh. Sunlight.

Summer can’t be far off.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 6

The Daily Numbers: 35, age of volunteer firefighter Nick Picozzi Jr., who was killed in a fire yesterday. He leaves behind a wife and two kids. We salute his service, and mourn his loss.

2 Delco volunteer firemen killed in the line of action in the last 7 months. Sharon Hill volunteer Michael Reagan died battling a garage fire in September.

6 injuries from a fire in a townhouse in Parkside in August, including two firefighters who were critically injured. Both are recovering.

5 injuries from the fire in Sharon Hill.

2 other firefighters who suffered injuries in yesterday’s blaze on Moser Avenue in Upper Chi.

1 firefighter who died yesterday in a town about 50 miles north of Pittsburgh from injuries he suffered battling a house fire five days earlier.

1 person killed when fire roared through a home in Gloucester County, N.J., last night.

1 visit to the region yesterday by the Clinton clan. Chelsea Clinton was on the Penn campus. It will be the first of many by both the Clinton and Obama camps to Pennsylvania.

158 delegates at stake in the Pennsylvania Primary on April 22. Why we are about to become the center of the political universe. At least for Democrats.

24 of March, two weeks away, last day to register to vote in the primary.

104 dollars a barrel, the record high hit in price of crude oil yesterday.

3.16 a gallon, what we’re paying for unleaded regular in the Philadelphia region. That’s unchanged from the day before.

3.19 the average gas price statewide, that’s a new high for 2008.

3.92 the price of diesel fuel in the Philly area, a new record. Statewide it’s $3.89, also a new high.

200 million dollar Powerball jackpot up for grabs Saturday night. No one hit all six numbers drawn last night. About enough for a tank of gas.

924 dollars a person, what AAA says car crashes cost each one of us every year.

2 sons of legendary aviation pioneer Frank Piasecki who will take over the position left vacant by his death. Piasecki Aircraft Corp is located in Essington.

11, age of youth being hailed for turning in a gun he found in the street outside his Philadelphia home.

17, age of student in New Jersey who police believe was plotting a “military style assault” on his high school. Police say they have foiled the attack, which was being planned for the end of the school year.

84,000 dollars, amount police say an 82-year-old World War II vet scammed from his war buddies. Yesterday he waived a preliminary hearing in Chester County. He now will face trial.

40 horses rescued from unsanitary conditions when officials shut down stables in the Strawberry Mansion section of Philadelphia.

7 to 15 years in jail for a Chester County Prison inmate charged with attacking guards and other inmates in the jail.

39 years in the coaching career of Cardinal O’Hara’s boys basketball guru Buddy Gardler. He announced yesterday he’s retiring.

560 wins over that span for the legendary hoops maven.

10 point win posted by the Chester Clippers last night as they stopped Harrisburg, 61-51.

12 point win for Penn Wood over Pocono Mountain West. Their reward? Their fourth matchup with Chester. So far the Clippers have won all three contests.

71 points put up by Ridley as they crushed Central Dauphin West, 71-42, to advance in the PIAA tourney.

3 Delco teams in the PIAA playoffs, three winners last night.

.421 batting average for Ryan Howard so far this spring. That’s a good sign.

0 runs given up by starter Brett Myers in four innings yesterday in Grapefruit League action.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Is it just me, or did Peter Forsberg undergo some kind of miracle recovery from his foot ailments as he hit the ice and logged a ton of time this week for the Colorado Avalanche.

I Don’t Get It: Don’t wait for the next tragedy to jar you into action. Next time you pass the firehouse, offer a wave or a kind word. They deserve it.


Today’s Upper: There’s a new critter at the Philadelphia Zoo. A new baby sifaka has been named Loka, which means “prize.” A sifaka looks kind of like a lemur.


Quote Box: “When that whistle blows, keeping Nick off the truck is impossible. He lived and breathed for the fire service.”

-- Lower Chichester Chief Ray Fuller, on the loss of volunteer Lt. Nick Picozzi in a house fire yesterday.

A salute to our heroes

Nick Picozzi Jr. never flinched when he heard the alarm.

He simply did what he and his band of dedicated brothers always do. He answered the call.

It wasn’t the first time. No one thought it would be the last. That is the daunting danger volunteer firefighters face every time they answer the bell.

We spent much of yesterday talking about Picozzi, who was killed in a fire in an Upper Chichester home. That’s part of the problem.

Too often we take Picozzi and the other dedicated volunteers that man all those fire houses that dot the Delaware County landscape for granted.

We are comfortable tucked away in our little suburban cocoons knowing that someone like Picozzi will answer the call when that bell sounds.

As we roll over in our beds, they simply roll.

That’s what they did again yesterday, responding to an urgent plea, a house on fire in their town.

Most of these dedicated men and women perform their invaluable service in anonymity.

Until something goes wrong. As it did yesterday.

And as it did back in August, when six firefighters were injured battling a blaze inside a Parkside townhouse. Or a month later in Sharon Hill, when volunteer Michael Reagan lost his life battling a garage fire. Five other firefighters suffered injuries that day.

In a span of seven months, that’s three serious incidents involving volunteer firefighters.

The loss is tragic. Towns, families and the volunteers now will use their unique bond to once again come together and mourn one of their own.

We will join them in mourning.

But we should all to something else as well. Let’s not wait for the next incident to appreciate what these men and women do every day, providing an invaluable service.

Make sure you let them know that. Every day. Not just on a sad day like yesterday.

They are our heroes. We can’t tell them that enough.

The Clintons are coming! And so are the Obamas!

Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

The Clintons are coming. So are the Obamas. And all their supporters. Actually, they’re already here.

Chelsea Clinton started the stampede into Pennsylvania yesterday with a visit to the Penn campus.

The 28-year-old did not try to hide the fact that she will become a familiar face in the region. She likely will be the point person for the Clintons among the younger demographic that seems to be energized by Sen. Barack Obama’s message of change.

This is all fallout from the two big wins posted by Sen. Hillary Clinton in Ohio and Texas on Tuesday.

Now all eyes are fixed squarely on Pennsylvania. In the next seven weeks, the Clinton and Obama camps will go mano a mano battling for the coveted 158 delegates here in the Keystone State.

The lawn signs already are starting to sprout across Delaware County.

Get used to your new neighbors. Hillary, Bill, Chelsea, Barack and Michelle are going to become very familiar to all of us.

My guess would be that both will make appearances here in Delaware County.

Clinton still faces a daunting challenge, needing to win just about everything from this point on and even then she still might not have enough delegates to overcome Obama’s edge.

The matter could end up in the hands of the so-called superdelegates at the convention.

But first there’s the Battle of Pennsylvania.

The first shots already have been fired.

The infantry can’t be far behind.

Now that's a lot of dough

Now they’ve gone too far. We’ve been trying to warn you about the fallout from skyrocketing gas prices.

Paying $3 a gallon at the pump is pretty much standard fare. But now it’s getting serious.

The price of pizza is going up. Check it out.

Better get used to it. Yesterday the price of crude oil continued its inexorable upward path, at one point setting a new record of more than $104 a barrel.

This is pretty simple. When gas costs more, almost everything soon will as well. Gasoline is the lubricant of our economy, moving everything and powering the machines that create all the goods we wolf down every day.

And that includes food. Get used to forking over more dough for that pizza delight. This summer all those fresh fruits and veggies we crave are going to cost more as well. Corn on the cob will be a boil on our wallets.

And we haven’t even approached the start of the annual summer driving season. Some experts say gas prices could be hovering around $4 a gallon.

Gas pains? We’re only getting started.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 5

The Daily Numbers: 3 crucial victories for Democrat Hillary Clinton yesterday, posting victories in Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island.

1 win for Barack Obama, who had to be satisfied with a win in Vermont.

1,477 delegates now in the Obama category.

1,391 lined up behind Clinton.

158 delegates up for grabs in Pennsylvania as all eyes turn to the Keystone State, which will go to polls on April 22.

2,025 delegates needed to wrap up Democratic nomination.

1 more girl who has come forward to file sexual molestation charges against a Darby Township man. That’s six girls who now allege that he abused them.

500 dollar reward being posted in Springfield for information on the person who slashed 31 tires on cars at a gas station over the weekend.

13 more cars damaged by vandals in West Chester and West Goshen. Many had windows and windshields shot out. That brings the total to over 100.

1,500 students who showed off their abilities at the Southeastern Pennsylvania Science Olympiad at Cabrini College yesterday.

15, where Philadelphia ranks in a survey of the nation’s most walkable cities by the American Podiatric Association.

79 percent of US Airways flights completed within 15 minutes of their schedule in January.

15, ranking of Philadelphia International Airport for January in on-time departures. That accounts for 78 percent of flights. It was 13th in on-time arrivals, at 76 percent.

97,000 square feet of shopping nirvana with the opening of the massive new Giant supermarket in Willow Grove.

16, age of girl who alleges she was sexually assaulted by an administrator at St. Hubert’s High School for Girls.

2 persons stabbed by a man believed to have mental problems at a bus stop in the 2900 block of Cecil B. Moore Avenue in Philadelphia.

150 offenders slapped with citations by state police since new law went into effect Saturday in New Jersey banning use of hand-held cell phones while driving. The violations come with a $100 fine.

10,000 dollar heist at a card game at Wild Quail Country Club in Delaware. A state trooper now faces charges in the robbery.

2 of three suspects charged in the brutal beating death of a Kutztown University student who are asking for a jury from outside Berks County to hear their case.

25 million dollars of cocaine moved through Philadelphia by a group the feds say was headed by rap mogul Alton “Ace” Capone. He was convicted of drug charges in federal court yesterday.

1.25 inches of rain that soaked the region overnight.

911 as in emergency call centers. The head of the Bucks County system has retired in the wake of a controversy over a delayed call in a fire in which a disabled woman died.

3 third period goals that spelled doom for the Flyers, who fell to the Sabres last night, 5-2.

17 seasons in the NFL for legendary quarterback Brett Favre, who announced his retirement yesterday.

7 runs on 9 hits for Phils starter Kyle Kendrick yesterday in his first start of the spring. He threw 57 pitches, but didn’t make it out of the third inning.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
You heard it hear first. Look for Brett Favre to suddenly “un-retire” and be back at QB for the Packers next year.

I Don’t Get It: We’re suddenly seeing a spike in vandalism. More than 30 tires were slashed at a gas station in Springfield over the weekend. A brand new sidewalk in Parkside was “signed” by graffiti artists even before the concrete could set. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for the unconditional love being showered on their miracle baby by Chester residents Shayla Montgomery and Steve Tucker. That’s something the world could use a lot more of.


Quote Box: “It could be like Iowa on steroids. It will be wild, is what it will be.”

-- State Democratic Party Chairman T.J. Rooney, on the looming Pennsylvania primary race.

All eyes turn to Pennsylvania -- and Delco

Brace yourself.

Pennsylvania is about to become the center of the political universe. At least for Democrats.

And that includes Delaware County.

This all comes courtesy of the latest chapter in the “Comeback Clinton” saga.

Battered by upstart Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in 11 straight primaries, Sen. Hillary Clinton had her back to the wall in yesterday’s crucial primaries in Texas and Ohio.

She’s still standing.

Clinton took big wins in both states, and tossed in a victory in Rhode Island just for good measure. Obama posted a solo win in Vermont.

There is a contest next week in Mississippi, but the truth is Pennsylvania is about to be invaded – by both the Clinton and Obama camps.

The Pennsylvania Primary, not that long ago ridiculed as being too late and not offering voters here a meaningful voice in the election, now could very well crown the Democratic nominee.

That means for the next seven weeks all eyes will be on Pennsylvania.

And to think that at one time there was actually a push to move the state primary up. Maybe joining the crowd on Super Tuesday.

Now we will have the stage to ourselves.

Here in Delaware County, the party has splintered, with distinct factions lining up with Obama, while others have thrown their support for Clinton.

U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, of Edgmont, one of the prized super-delegates, has been solidly behind Hillary. After all, he did serve in her husband’s administration. He’s joined by the party vice chairman Mary Ellen Balchunis.

But it’s not a united stance. County party boss Cliff Wilson is leading the cheers for Obama. Joining him is first vice chair Tony Campisi, leader of Marple Democrats, as well as state Reps. Bryan Lentz, D-161, of Swarthmore, and Thaddeus Kirkland, D-159, of Chester.

It will be interesting to see how widespread the dueling Democratic lawn signs become here in still solidly Republican Delco.

The GOP? They’ll be on the sidelines, content now that John McCain has wrapped up the nomination and Mike Huckabee indicated he will get out.

They will watch as the Democrats go toe to toe in a battle royal.

May the best man – or woman – win.

Complaining up a storm

Remember when we used to have “rain?”

I mean just rain, which is what happened overnight. Yes, there were a couple of hard downpours, but for the most part it seemed like just a steady rain. Almost like spring.

Not to our friends on TV. It was reason to go on another “storm watch.”

Hey, I guess this is what happens when you don’t have snow to foam at the mouth about.

The truth is we got about an inch to maybe an inch and a half of rain overnight. Coupled with some gusty winds, the streets were littered with tree branches this morning. Oh, and lest I forget, they were also wet.

Yeah, that’s what happens when it rains, the streets get wet.

Still, it will have an effect on traffic this morning. The Walt Whitman Bridge is already shut down because of an overturned tractor-trailer.

Here’s an early I don’t get it. Spare me the weather stories. To the best of my knowledge, we didn’t have any serious flooding problems, which was the warning we got much of the day yesterday, including the ever-popular “flood watch.”

That does not include the little bit of ponding on roads. That also happens when it rains.

It’s supposed to clear this morning and get chillier this afternoon. Alert the media.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 4

The Daily Numbers: 2 crucial primaries today as all eyes focus on the Democratic races in Texas and Ohio. Most believe it’s make-or-break for Hillary Clinton.

11 straight wins racked up by Barack Obama as he’s charged into the role of Democratic front-runner. It might be too late for Clinton to derail this express.

3,700 dollars worth of goods police say two brazen bra bandits made off with in a heist at the Victoria’s Secret store in Springfield Mall. Guest that would fall under the category of panty raid.

68, age of legendary Haverford politician and powerbroker Joe Kelly, who died this week. Rest well, Joe.

4 police shootings recorded in recent weeks in Philadelphia. A man who fired a gun at police during a chase was shot in North Philadelphia last night .

34, age of man who surrendered to face charges of sexual assault in a case in which his victim jumped out a third-floor window to flee his attack in Philadelphia.

83, age of man from Sharon, Pa., who is fighting deportment. His past includes work as a Nazi concentration camp guard.

6 percent boost in funding for education under Gov. Ed Rendell’s budget, which is now starting to be debated in Harrisburg..

20 of 29 days in February in which they recorded precipitation in Allentown. They got more than 7.6 inches, making it the wettest month in 112 years. Maybe that’s why it’s now included in the infamous “northern and western suburbs.”.

1 bullet that pierced the window of a day care center in Olney during a wild shootout. Another bullet entered a nearby home and wounded a woman in the hand.

5 long, no doubt cold days spent in a drain pipe by a dog at a Moorestown, N.J., apartment complex. It finally was coaxed out by a hamburger.

2 teenagers in New Jersey who face charges that they fired a pellet gun at animals at the Cohanzick Zoo in Bridgeton.

1 school in West Chester that will be closed today due to an outbreak of the flu. School officials say the illness has hit numerous students at the West Chester Christian School.

6 dead, including 2 children, in a shooting under investigation in Memphis, Tenn.

1 person killed when a man opened fire inside a Wendy’s fast-food join in Florida. He then turned the gun on himself.

4 years old, age of child inside a Bucks County home that police say was set on fire by the 35-year-old mother. She now faces charges. The child was not harmed.

3 of the 4 vehicles built at auto plants in Delaware that suffered sales declines in February.

104 dollars a barrel, an all-time high for crude oil, reached overnight before prices declined back under the record mark.

3.86 a gallon, price for diesel fuel in the Philly region. That’s a new all-time high.

1,000 fans who waited in miserable cold snow and freezing rain to buy tickets to the new Allentown minor league team’s exhibition debut against the Phillies on March 30. Their nickname? The Iron Pigs. Gotta love that.

36 million bucks the Eagles offered bad boy wideout Randy Moss. Yeah, now try to sell us that idea that they don’t need another wide receiver.

6 goals for the Sun Valley ice hockey team, but it was not enough as they fell, 7-6, to Garnet Valley.

0 hits, 1 strikeout and 2 walks in two innings for Phils’ rookie first-round pick Joe Savery in Grapefruit League action yesterday.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
When we weren’t looking they moved Clearwater north. We’re going to have spring training weather today. Unfortunately the winter of our discontent returns this weekend.

I Don’t Get It: What kind of joy do kids get who resort to shooting a pellet gun at defenseless animals in a zoo, as authorites are now alleging two teens in New Jersey did.


Today’s Upper: A state court has upheld a ruling that will allow children to testify in some sex abuse cases, saying making them face their accused molesters would be too traumatic. It’s the right call.


Quote Box: “My gut feeling is that nobody knows.”

-- Delco Democratic Party boss Cliff Wilson, on today’s crucial primaries in Texas and Ohio.

Showdown at the Clinton corral

The Democratic Convention is months away.

The general election has not been moved. It still will take place the first Tuesday in November.

But for Hillary Clinton, the day of reckoning has arrived. It’s a showdown at the Clinton corral.

Very simply, the embattled former Democratic front-runner must win – and some say win big – in today’s two crucial primaries in Texas and Ohio to keep her fight for the Democratic nomination.

In the meantime, her supporters here in Delco, including U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, will sit with their hands in their pockets today and be relegated to simply watching the returns.

If Hillary manages to derail the Barack Obama Express, which has steamrolled her in the last 11 straight primaries, then all eyes will focus on Pennsylvania and its primary on April 22.

Some experts say she has to take both ends of today’s doubleheader. If she can only win one, or even if she eeks out wins in both, she will be under increasing pressure to pack it in.

Party leaders already are openly wondering if they can survive a convention battle and still emerge with a viable candidate.

She and hubby, former President Bill Clinton, often paint themselves as the “Comeback Kids.”

That’s never been more true than today.

The Eagles 'receive' the truth

Democrats are not the only ones involved in a showdown of sorts these days.

There’s an interesting one being played out in the pages of our sports section as well.

Here’s one man’s theory as to why the Eagles have been so active in the free agency market.

They’re worried. The Birds used to own this market. They dominated the Back Page of the tabs. It’s all anyone gabbed about on talk radio. Yes, even when they were complaining. There was football season, and everything else.

Times have changed.

The Eagles perch on top of Philly sports is being seriously threatened by the Phillies. People are talking about baseball. Hell, they’re talking about spring training pitching matchup.

Jeff Lurie’s gold standard, which has failed to deliver a Super Bowl championship, is now in jeopardy of falling behind the Phils in the hearts of Philly sports fans.

Not only here, but in the NFL itself. The Eagles, once considered one of the league’s elite teams, have fallen precipitously. Once a lock to win the NFC East and go deep into the playoffs, the Eagles now are an afterthought, a “maybe” for the playoffs, even in years when 8-8 might do the trick. They’ve seen the hated Cowboys pass them by in the division, and watched helplessly as the Giants delivered another Vince Lombardi trophy to the Big Apple.

But to convey just how much things have changed, the Eagles delivered the final straw yesterday in their offer to free agent wide receiver Randy Moss. You can read Bob Grotz’s account here.

For years Andy Reid and the Eagles have told us that wide receiver isn’t all that important, that they were right all along about dumping Terrell Owens, and how their current crop of wide receivers was more than enough to run this West Coast offense.

Never mind.

The Eagles yesterday offered the Patriots’ bad boy wideout $36 million over four years. And he turned them down to stick with Bill Belichick’s cheaters.

But the cat’s out of the bag for the Birds. They have as much as admitted that the fans were right all along, that they need a game-breaking wide receiver.

In other words, they’re worried.

Hey, at least they’re taking action to reverse the trend.

Maybe both teams – the Eagles and Phillies – will be having parades next year.

Sorry, spring fever got the best of me.

Springing Forward

No, you haven’t slept through March. Yes, it feels more like April out there today.

It’s one of those mornings where you walk out the front door and immediately issue a long, profound “ahhhhhhhhh.” It’s the first time in months I’ve left the house without gritting my teeth against the cold.

It was 57 degrees out when I stepped out the door this morning. Unreal.

We’re headed to a high of 67.

Maybe Punxsatawney was wrong.

Then again maybe not.

Enjoy the next couple of days. The forecast calls for the weekend highs to be in the 30s.

No doubt the next “storm alert” for the northern and western suburbs is right around the corner.

Oh, and something else happens this weekend. Don’t forget that they changed the law and we now “spring forward” early Sunday morning.

The payoff for losing an hour’s sleep Saturday night is an extra hour of daylight at the end of the day.

Spring can’t be far behind.

Another trip into the Fast Lane

Last Saturday, in our weekly “Darts & Laurels” package on the editorial page, we gave a dart to the seemingly endless fascination with the Alycia Lane story.

Maybe we should have given a dart to the editor as well.

One of the jobs that falls under my job description is trying to give people what they want. Of course what readers want and what I want don’t always coincide.
Two days after that little stab at the Lane coverage, our resident TV columnist, Neal Zoren, took a look at where Lane stands now, with the charges against her being all but dismissed, where her career might go from here, and the prospects of the lawsuit she is contemplating against her former employer, Channel 3. You can read it here.

Lane, for those of you like me who look down their nose at such coverage, was the former KYW_TV-3 anchorwoman who got in the dustup with New York City police. It made her – again – the darling of the tabloids.

We have a mechanism that allows us to detect what the top stories are on our Web site every day.

Guest what the top read was on Monday? Yep, you got it. I guess that’s life in the fast “Lane.” I’ll remember that the next time I’m downplaying some item that we are about to bury back on the People Page.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 3

The Daily Numbers: 64 age of state Sen. Vince Fumo, who is hospitalized this morning after suffering a heart attack.

15 years have passed since Collingdale shop owner Fred Winner was gunned down. The case remains unsolved. His daughter is still hoping justice can be served in the case.

130 people who showed up for a Hillary Clinton training event for volunteers in Media Saturday.

150 backers of Barack Obama who did likewise in Marple.

1,000 people, what both camps were hoping to enlist across Pennsylvania this weekend as the buildup toward the April 22 primary begins in earnest.

1 percent earned income tax being looked at by officials in Upland. That means a new hit on the paychecks of the 3,000 employees of Crozer Chester Medical Center.

72, age of the Dalai Lama, who will pay a visit to the Lehigh Valley when he will lead a symposium at Lehigh University in July.

13.8 percent interest earned on the $76 billion in the Pennsylvania Public School Employees Retirement System last year. And the State Employees Retirement System did even better, earning 17.2 percent interest on their $35 billion.

110 workers who will be laid off due to the closing of GAF Materials, a roofing company in Bucks County.

29 percent of respondents to a recent poll who say they either fell asleep or became very sleepy at work in the past month.

19, age of teenager slain when gunfire erupted at a bowling alley in Wilmington Sunday morning.

2,000 dollars in cash, and a couple nice bottles of champagne, taken by a gunman who held up a state liquor store in Penndel, Bucks County, Saturday night.

3 people hurt when flames roared through a row home in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. Two of them were firefighters.

7.8 percent increase in the cost of natural gas, according to Peco. That will cost their average heating customer $10.50 a month.

2 big free agents signed by the Eagles this weekend. The Birds inked all-pro cornerback Asante Samuel from the Patriots, and defensive end Chris Clemons from the Raiders. Two very good signings. But it leaves the status of Lito Sheppard up in the air.

22.3 seconds left in the game when Temple took its first lead over Saint Joe’s Sunday. The Owls held on for a thrilling win.

54 points for Villanova, which fell to Louisville in a Big East matchup. The ‘Cats likely will have to win the Big East Tourney to get into the NCAA tourney.

1 point for the Flyers, who still got tagged with a loss after dropping a shootout to the Rangers yesterday.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
It’s doesn’t look terribly promising for any of the Philly colleges to be taking part in March Madness. More likely they’ll be singing the NIT blues.

I Don’t Get It: PennDOT is placing a ton of new color-coded detour signs along local highways. If anyone can figure them out, give us a call.


Today’s Upper: 60 degrees tomorrow. Sounds like spring to me.


Quote Box: “People are showing tremendous interest because they are seeing the Pennsylvania primary will play a great role.”

-- Delco Democratic Party boss Cliff Wilson, on surge in interest before the Pennsylvania Primary.

The bucks stop here

When’s the last time this happened to you?

Your boss calls you into his office and tells you he was going to pay you $500,000 next year.

Then you whine about it.

I know, this is not real life; this is baseball. In fact, it’s pretty much all of sports these days. On a weekend when the Eagles emptied their piggy bank on a spending spree to land two top free agents, the Phillies also did a little business.

They did not reach a long-term deal with their so-called “ace,” pitcher Cole Hamels. Read about his new deal here.

Sorry if I’m having trouble working up a lot of sympathy for Hamels.

He’s in his second full season with the Phils. He was great last year, but still broke down late in the season and was shelved for awhile.

When they couldn’t get a deal with Hamels, the Phils renewed his contract.

Oh, and by the way. Hamels made his spring debut yesterday. He gave up 4 runs in two innings.

Hamels isn’t happy. I think he’ll get over it.

Spring Fever

It’s not just the fact that the annual Philadelphia Flower Show is in full bloom. But that doesn’t hurt.

Brace yourself for a serious dose of spring fever. Yep, you might not need that coat for the ride home.

Sure, it’s chilly out right now, a fairly seasonal 32 degrees.

But that belies what’s in store for us the next couple of days. Break out the suntan lotion. Who needs Clearwater?

The TV folks – yes the same people who once again took a swing and a miss at the storm that was supposed to arrive here Friday night – now are telling us the 60s are in our future.

My best guess? It’ll maybe be mid-50s today, and we’ll have a brush with 60 tomorrow. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s also supposed to rain tomorrow.

Hey, I’ll take it. Anything is better than snow. And being force-fed the doomsday predictions that accompany even the remotest chance of snow.

We got nary a flake Friday night. I was amused to watch the 11 p.m. newscasts and listen to the “spin” put on the forecast after the non-stop droning all day of being “on the storm watch.”

One of these time they might get it right. I’m hoping it’s next winter.

Challenging times for Vince Fumo

These aren’t the best of times for political powerbroker Sen. Vince Fumo.

The longtime Philly Democrat already had his hands full with a primary challenge and trial looming in his futur. Then last night he was rushed to the hospital with what doctors are calling a heart attack.

Fumo is awaiting trial on federal charges tied to alleged misuse of his Senate staff and a non-profit agency that the feds say he used for his personal gain.

It’s not Fumo’s first trip to the hospital in recent weeks. He was recuperating from back surgery.

He’s facing a four-way primary race to keep his 1st District Senate seat, one he has held for three decades.

Fumo suffered chest pains while eating dinner at his home Sunday night and was rushed to the hospital. It’s believed his right coronary artery was 100 percent blocked.

He is expected to recover. Whether he can recover from the political and legal challenges he faces remains to be seen.

Sleepless in Delco

We have this just in.

Experts say we don’t get enough sleep. And it’s affecting the way we work. You can read about it here. Tell me about it.

Sleep is the one thing that seems to be eluding me these days. I usually go out like a light when I first get home. I’m in a coma for about an hour or so. Then I’m up and simply toss and turn all night.

I can’t remember the last time I needed the alarm. Instead, I usually glance at the clock every five minutes or so, and then drag my weary bones out of bed long before the appointed time.

The study says all this lack of sleep is having an effect on us at work. In fact, they say 29 percent of us have fallen asleep or become very sleepy at work in the last month.

I haven’t fallen asleep here yet (although some people might argue I’ve been asleep at the switch for some time now). The challenge for me often is driving home. Some nights it’s about all I can do to traverse the journey back to the home front.

I have a theory as to why so many of us are battling sleep problems. We are all spending an inordinate amount of time staring at computer screens.

I know that after about a quarter century of staring for hours a day at these technological demons, my eyesight is a wreck. Now I think it’s also affecting my sleep.

I’ll be thinking about all this as I drive home tonight, with my eyelids getting heavier and heavier. Then I’ll collapse into bed and start watching the clock again.