Friday, May 30, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 30

The Daily Numbers: 17 gallons of home heating oil mistakenly pumped into the basement of a Parkside home. The case of mistaken address and a disconnected old fill pipe made for a messy situation.

3 year deal for teachers at Archdiocese of Philadelphia high schools. They’ll get about a 12 percent pay hike over the deal, but also will pay more for health care.

20,000 students in 20 archdiocesan high schools, including 4 in Delaware County.

42,000 dollars a year, average salary for archdiocesan high school teacher with master’s degree and 12 years of experience.

2.6 billion dollars, the increase Gov. Ed Rendell is pushing for state education. He was at Ridley High yesterday to make his point.

230 bucks ripped off from a Harrah’s customer who was stricken while at one of the cashing-out machines. Nice, huh?

2 cent increase in the cost of gasoline in the 5-county area overnight. We’re now officially over the $4-a-gallon mark.

4.01 a gallon, another all-time record.

4.99 a gallon, what it costs truckers for diesel fuel.

10 cent increase in the cost of gasoline in just the past week. Yep, the summer driving season is here.

218 gas stations in the Philly region now selling gas for at least $4 a gallon. Yesterday it was 139.

27 where the Philadelphia ranks in terms of its carbon footprint, according to the Brookings Institution.

800 more economy parking spaces being planned for Philadelphia International Airport.

100,000 dollars believed bilked from a series of wealthy women by a homeless Montgomery County man who met them on the Internet and conned them into believing he was a Grammy Award-winning music mogul.

20 percent hike in rates for natural gas customers of Peco Energy Co., starting today. The average bill likely will go up $5.89 a month.

5 people indicted in Trenton for illegally selling guns that were bought in Pennsylvania.

600,000 dollars in illegal profits the feds are saying was the booty of a Malvern woman and her father in an insider trading deal.

3 games pitting the first-place Marlins and second place Phils, starting tonight at Citizens Bank Park.

.5 games back, where the Phils stand going into this crucial early series.

7 to 5 win for Sun Valley, as they captured the District 1 AAA baseball title by besting Marple Newtown.

3 overtimes, what it took to settle last night’s Hero Bowl game. The West stars finally posted a 35-29 win over their East counterparts.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Anyone else think tonight would be a perfect time for Brett Myers to make a statement that he is going to be the stud the Phils desperately need him to be at the top of their starting rotation?
I Don’t Get It: How exactly can you watch a person ahead of you at a casino cash machine become stricken and pass out, then casually help yourself to their winnings. Unreal.

Today’s Upper: The new boss of the Philadelphia school system got a rude introduction at the office this week. Arlene Ackerman says she heard a worker dealing with a citizen offer the old “that’s not my job” explanation. Ackerman says that attitude is at the top of her list of things to change.

Quote Box: “For the first time in decades, you will have a declining need for an increase in property taxes.”

-- Gov. Ed Rendell, pitching his education funding plan at Ridley High School yesterday.

One heartless thief

We here at the Daily Times have described all manner of heinous crimes – and the wicked, soul-less creatures responsible for them.

Still, I will admit to being taken aback at what happened recently at Harrah’s Chester Casino.

You want to talk about a heartless thief.

Police say a gambler was collecting his winnings at one of the casino’s pay machines when he became ill.

The man passed out. He apparently was having a problem with his blood pressure medication. That’s when things took a decided turn for the worse.

The man standing behind him in the line alerted a cashier, but then, according to police, he went back to the machine and helped himself to the stricken man’s money.

He skated with $230. The ill man was taken to the hospital and is now recovering. But what he would really like to recover is his $230.

We’d like to see that happen, too. That’s why on Thursday we ran a picture from the casino surveillance cameras of a man that police say they would like to talk to in connection with the incident. They are calling him a person of interest.

If he’s done what police believe he has, we probably would call him something else.

But then this is a family blog.

Nothing average about price of gas

Here’s one of the least surprising news flashes of the week.

We have now eclipsed still another plateau when it comes to pain at the pump.

AAA this morning reports the average price of gasoline in the five-county region just blew past the $4-a-gallon mark.

At least it didn’t insult us by jumping just a penny overnight, from yesterday’s high of $3.99. The price actually went up 2 cents. We are now shelling out an average of $4.01. If you’re counting, that’s a 10-cent increase just in the past week.

Diesel fuel also continues its inexorable climb into the stratosphere, selling for an average of $4.99. An even 5 bucks is likely just a day away. No doubt it will fall this weekend.

There’s at least a sliver of good news. Or at least somewhat less painful news. The price of crude oil is actually going down. Yesterday it was selling in the neighborhood of $127 a barrel, that’s down from the high point of $133.

How long do you think it will take to see any kind of trickle-down effect at the pump? Yeah, I thought so.

No 'Sex' for me

Time for another confession. It’s a little early for an “I Don’t Get It,” but I have to admit I don’t get it.

I am talking about the buzz of the weekend. That would be the arrival of the “Sex and the City” movie.

I happen to be in the Roger Ebert camp on this one. If you read his review, he freely admits he’s probably not the person to be doing the review. He’s not a fan.

That makes two of us. Maybe it’s a guy thing. That’s the way it appears here in the office. Many of our female staffers, especially the younger wins, are positively pumped by the arrival of the big-screen version of Carrie Bradshaw (I think that’s the name of Sarah Jessica Parker’s character) and her gal pals.

I suppose it would help if you’ve seen the TV series. I have not. It might help in that regard if you have HBO, which aired the show. I do not.

I would not know a pair of Manolo Blahniks from a pair of Crocs. I don’t own either. I’m told the former became a “must-have” item after it became a running theme on the show. I’m also told they will set you back several hundred bucks.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for me to fork over that kind of dough for shoes. I’m more of a Payless guy myself. Although my family does believe I have something of a sneaker fetish. I stopped counting how many pairs I have.

So I’ll pass on “Sex and the City.” I guess I’ll just have to wait for “Sex and the Suburbs.” It has to do with the resurgence of amorous bedrooms romps among husbands and wives who can’t afford gas to go anywhere else.

Bring on the Marlins

The Phillies will be looking to hold a Fish fry this weekend at Citizens Bank Park.

The first-place Marlins are in town and the Phils are breathing down their necks, just a half-game back.

It has not exactly escaped notice, since the Flyers were ushered out of Stanley Cup playoffs, that we have reached something of a milestone in Philly sports.

We have now gone 25 years -- 100 seasons -- since one of our professional sports teams have won a championship. This weekend actually marks the anniversary of the Sixers winning the 1983 NBA title, punctuated by that glorious dunk by current coach Maurice Cheeks to seal the deal against the Lakers.

This notion of going a quarter century has been much talked about in the media. Our own Anthony SanFilippo and Jack McCaffery offered their thoughts on the situation last weekend in a package we called the 100-Year Drought. You can check it out here.

Don’t look now, but this Phils squad just might have the stuff the break the jinx. Their bats are positively electric right now. Their bullpen has been stellar, and they’re getting just enough starting pitching.

Of course, a big effort from Brett Myers tonight would make everybody feel better.

It says here the Phils are now the favorite to take the NL East. And they can take a big step in that direction by throttling the Marlins this weekend.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 29

The Daily Numbers: 2 Delco firefighters lost in the line of duty who will be honored at the annual Hero Bowl football classic tonight at Widener University.

1 penny more that we’re paying this morning for gasoline. AAA reports prices jumped another cent overnight.

3.99 the average price of regular gasoline in the five-county Philadelphia region. Another day, another all-time high.

4.99 a gallon for diesel fuel. That’s up 2 cents since yesterday.

139 gas stations in the region reporting their price for regular is at least $4 a gallon or higher. There were only a couple before the holiday.

50 cent surcharge being tacked onto every cab ride in Philly to offset rising gas costs.

3.97 the average price for a gallon of heating oil at the Port of Philadelphia. Don’t look now, but next winter’s heating bills also are going to be setting records.

32 percent jump in profits at Costco, the warehouse clubs where people go to find bargains.

20 percent price hike announced yesterday by Dow Chemical, which makes key ingredients for all sorts of household items, such as diapers and detergents.

5 dollar fee that would be slapped on every person entering a strip club, if a Bucks County lawmaker gets his way. Gives new meaning to a “pole tax.”

5 people hurt in a multi-car crash on the Roosevelt Boulevard in North Philadelphia last night.

12 Philadelphia firefighters who authorities say were swindled out of $25,000 in a scam involving flipping foreclosed homes. A Montgomery County man is charged. He is denying any wrongdoing.

1 man killed last night in a shooting incident a block away from Saint Joseph’s University at 56th and Wynnefield Avenue.

23,000 pounds of Amish macaroni salad being recalled after it was found to be contaminated with E. coli bacteria. Some of it was sold in Pa. under the names of Orval Kent Amish Macaroni Salad and Yoder’s Amish Macaroni salad.

19,000 dollars believed ripped off from the Belvedere Fire Co. in Delaware by a former fire chief and his girlfriend.

6 more runs rung up by the Phils last night as they completed a 3-game sweep over the Rockies. That’s 48 runs in their last 4 games.

17 home runs for Chase Utley, who deposited one in the upper level of Citizens Bank to ignite another huge inning to lead the Phils.

6 decent innings from starter Adam Eaton as he collected his first win of the year.

3 goals for the Pittsburgh Penguins, their first goals of their series, as they beat the Detroit Red Wings to close the gap in their series to 2-1.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Bring on the Marlins. The Phils and Fish will collide for three games this weekend with first place on the line in the NL East. Right now the Phils are a half-game back.
I Don’t Get It: Jocelyn Kirsch is in hot water again. Unbelievable. Maybe you don’t recognize the name. You’d certainly recognize the photo. Think coed in a bikini. Yep, she’s our very own “Bonnie” of the would-be modern-day Bonnie & Clyde team of suspected ID thieves. She was in court again yesterday and authorities say she stole another credit card in California. I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: Enjoy that gorgeous sunshine out there today. And think about breaking out the walking shoes or that old bike. With gas zooming over $4 a gallon, it’s time to get serious about alternate means of transportation.

Quote Box: “This is just a very sad case of a clearly troubled young woman.”

-- Ronald Greenblatt, defense attorney for Jocelyn Kirsch, also referred to as the poster child for ID theft.

New meaning for Hero Bowl

They will play a football game tonight at Widener University in Chester. Just as they do every year.

Yes, it’s a little unusual to play a football game in late May. But not in Delaware County. This is not just any game. This is the annual Hero Bowl, when the best high school football players in the county collide, with the proceeds going to the Hero Scholarship Fund, which benefits the children of those killed in the line of duty. That includes the offspring of firefighters, police or EMT.

But even with those lofty parameters, tonight’s contest will have special meaning.

This has been a very difficult year for firefighters in this county.

We have lost two very special members of that rare breed of dedicated public servant this year.

Nick Picozzi II of Lower Chichester, and Michael D. Reagan Jr. both were killed in the line of duty. Picozzi was trapped in a house fire in Aston. Reagan succumbed to injuries suffered after he was trapped while battling a garage fire in Sharon Hill.

Reagan wanted to be a police officer. Picozzi left behind his wife, Stephanie, and two sons, Anthony and Danny.

It reminds us once again of the value of these dedicated volunteers, and how we too often take that service for granted.

Tonight there’s a chance, once again, to show how much we care. And you can do it by attending a football game showcasing the best talent in Delaware County.

Rest well, Nick and Michael. Your service is not forgotten.

Making a little gas history

We stand on the precipice of some painful history.

It was just last week that AAA reported the first stations in the five-county area crashing the $4 mark when it comes to gas prices. That was before the Memorial Day Weekend. Today, three days after the holiday, the car experts tell us there are 139 stations where gas will cost you $4 or more.

Today we come close to another historic mark. AAA reports the average price for gasoline – not the most expensive, but the average price – went up again overnight. Just as it has most every day the past two weeks. The penny increase brought the average cost of gas to $3.99 a gallon.

My guess is tomorrow we will be transported past the $4 mark. That means the average price of gas – with lots of stations charging more and a few charging less – will hit $4 a gallon.

Don’t think people are hurting out there? Consider this. Things are booming at Costco. Its profits in the third quarter climbed 32 percent.

Costco is not exactly Macy’s. It’s not even Kmart or Wal-Mart. Costco is a warehouse club where people go to find bargains, often buying things in bulk in order to save money. Their sales are up 13 percent from a year ago, from $14.34 billion to $16.26 billion.

And the fallout continues, with just about everything you can imagine costing more. Do you have kids in diapers? Do you have occasion to use detergent? Brace yourself. Some of those essentials are about to get more expensive.

Dow Chemical Co., which makes some of key ingredients in a whole host of items, including disposable diapers and a lot of other housewares and processed foods, said it was increasing prices 20 percent to offset the cost of energy.

They aren’t the first. They won’t be the last.

So far no one has indicated breathing is about to get more expensive. It’s probably just a matter of time.

Break up the Phillies

It took seven months, but the Phillies have exacted their revenge.

Led by all-everything Chase Utley, the Phils completed a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies last night. Utley hit a three-run homer into the upper deck as the Phils offensive explosion continued.

You might remember the Rockies showed the Phils the exit from the playoffs last October in an equally abrupt three straight games. No, three regular season games don’t quite carry the same clout, but we’ll take it.

Now things get interesting. The win moved the Phils to within a half-game of the Florida Marlins. Guess who comes to town tomorrow night?

The Phillies and Marlins will meet at Citizens Bank Park for a three-game set with first place in the National League East on the line.

In the meantime, the Phils continue to put up some eye-popping offensive numbers. Six more runs last night, including a five-run outburst in the fifth that put the game away. They were aided by Rockies starter Greg Reynolds. He walked the two batters in front of Utley. Big mistake. Utley used that gorgeous, compact swing to crush a pitch into the first couple rows in the upper level in rightfield.

Reynolds wasn’t done. He then walked Ryan Howard. Up came Geoff Jenkins, who launched a moon shot that threatened to never come down before landing softly in the bleachers in right.

It says here the Phils are about to put the NL East in the rear-view mirror. They throttle the Marlins this weekend, take over first place, then slowly but surely build something this town has not seen in a long time – space between them and the rest of the NL East pack.

Hell, they even got a win from Adam Eaton last night. Everything is going their way. Why stop now?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 28

The Daily Numbers: 103 years of volunteer firefighting that came to a close Tuesday night when Colwyn Borough Council voted to puts its troubled fire company out of business.

17 active volunteer firefighters who resigned their posts earlier this month, citing persistent problems with aspects of the social club that also operates in the firehouse.

14 age of Jahmir Ricks of Lansdowne, who entered an admission to voluntary manslaughter in juvenile court in the stabbing death of his brother. Police say they argued over a video game.

23 to 50 years in jail for a Concord man for gunning down a man standing at the door to his apartment building in what police say was a drug-related incident.

2 children who are now alleging inappropriate touching by a doctor who was a clinical psychologist with the Delaware County Juvenile Court.

1 cent increase in the price of gasoline overnight, according to AAA.

3.98 the average price of regular gasoline in the five-county Philadelphia region. Yes, it’s an all-time high.

4.97 that’s what truckers are shelling out for diesel fuel.

127 dollars a barrel, the price for a barrel of crude oil this morning. That’s down from $133 yesterday.

107 gas stations in the region now reporting selling gasoline for $4 a gallon or more. It was 45 on Friday, just before the Memorial Day holiday.

11 percent boost in ridership being reported by SEPTA on its regional rail lines ferrying commuters in and out of the city. Maybe people are actually getting out of their cars.

1,000 employees of Jevic Transportation, which announced it was closing the doors of its Delanco, N.J., facility last week, who showed up for a workshop on what kind of assistance is available to them.

300 dollar fines being doled out by officials in Bristol, Bucks County, for littering. So far they’ve handed out 30 citations.

2 Philadelphia police officers who were charged with assault in connection with the beating of a person suspected of being a graffiti artist.

28 years after the murder of Philadelphia police Officer Thomas Trench, a man on trial for his murder for the second time was convicted again.

200,000 dollars a year in rent, what Philadelphia wants the Boy Scouts to pay for their office space if they don’t change their ban on accepting gays. Right now the groups pays $1 a year for the city office space.

7 more runs rung up by the Phils last night as they won their 3rd stright game, 7-4 over the Rockies.

42 runs on the board by the Phils in their last three games.

7 and a third good innings from starter Kyle Kendrick. The Phils have now won 6 of his last 7 starts.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Confessions of a frustrated Flyers fan: Do you think the Red Wings, who have already shut out the Penguins in two straight in their Stanley Cup final series, can blank the Pittsburghers two more times? Has that ever happened?
I Don’t Get It: A radio host in Pittsburgh has lost his job for some remarks he made about Sen. Ted Kennedy, who recently was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The comments won’t be repeated here. Why exactly do some media folks insist on pushing the envelope over the line? I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter spent much of yesterday in Harrisburg working on legislators as he tried to drum up support for his call to allow the city to enact some ordinances tightening gun sales. Good for him.

Quote Box: “Right now, we don’t have a fire company for Colwyn. We’re going to figure out what to do.”

-- F. Earl Reed, president of Colwyn Fire Co., after the vote by borough council to put the company out of business.

Controversy is getting hotter in Colwyn

There is a long, proud tradition of volunteer firefighting in Delaware County. There is another, more troubling aspect to this tradition that is not talked about as much.

That is the trend that this invaluable volunteer duty is being manned by fewer and fewer people.

Fighting fires may be a young man and woman’s game, but not as many people are heeding that call.

And the numbers just got a little smaller. The Colwyn Fire Co., at least for now, is no more.

Colwyn Borough Council voted Tuesday night to revoke the fire company’s ability to operate in the borough. You can read Correspondent Dan Russo’s account of the hot council meeting by clicking here.

The borough has been in an uproar since early May, when the 17 active members of the fire company resigned en masse, citing persistent problems with the social club that also operates out of the fire company. The resignations came at the same time as a raid of the social club by state agents, who seized two illegal slot machines and bottles of booze bought out of state.

Colwyn is a dry town that does not allow alcohol sales. It was not news to anyone, however, that alcohol was served at the fire company social club.

Now, 103 years of firefighting tradition has come to an ugly halt. The hope is that cooler heads can prevail, that these sides can sit down and hash this situation out rationally.

I wouldn’t count on it, however. For now, fire calls in the borough are being answered by Darby Borough’s Fire Company No. 1.

And the controversy in Colwyn is burning hotter than ever.

The wheels of justice

They say the wheels of justice move slowly.

Well, they move a little quicker in the juvenile court system.

Jahmir Ricks was 13 when he was arrested last summer and charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of his brother in what police described as an argument over a video game.

A long, tortured series of hearings commenced at which it was argued whether Ricks and the public would be best served by assigning his case to the adult courts, or the juvenile system.

Ricks was arrested last July 15. He sat in Delaware County Prison for the next 10 months, turning 14 in the process. Two weeks ago Delaware County Judge Frank Hazel ruled Ricks’ case should be transferred to the juvenile system.

Yesterday, Ricks entered an admission to a charge of voluntary manslaughter in the case. It amounts to a guilty plea in adult court.

Ricks will be back in court on June 5 for a disposition hearing, what amounts to his sentencing. He likely will remain in custody until he turns 21.

It took awhile, but in this case it appears as if justice was indeed served.

The daily pain at the pump

It was just last Thursday and Friday that AAA first alerted us to the arrival of $4-a-gallon gas in the region.

This morning the agency continues the bad news on the gasoline front. They now report more than 100 gas stations are selling gas for more than $4 a gallon.

In the Philadelphia five-county) area, average gas prices sent up 1 cent overnight to $3.98, another all-time record high. Diesel also set another new high mark at $4.97 a gallon.

Don’t look for it to get better any time soon. AAA is not painting a rosy picture on this one.

“We expect that we’ve not see the worst, yet,” said Cathi Rossi, spokesperson for the auto club. Even with a slight dip in the price of a barrel of crude oil yesterday, below $127 a barrel, the pain at the pump is likely to continue. “It takes about four to six weeks for the price of crude oil to translate to prices at the pump,” Rossi added.

And it appears people may be getting the message. Traffic on the Delaware Memorial Bridge was down 5.6 percent this Memorial Day.

There is more evidence that people are getting out of their cars from SEPTA, where ridership is up, particuarly on the regional rail lines that ferry commuters from the suburbs in and out of the city.

SEPTA says ridership is up 5 percent. That equate to 13 million more trips from last year. On the regional rails, the increase amounts to an 11 percent boost, with 2.8 million more trips than last year.

If you’re still stuck in your car and looking for the best deal on gas prices, AAA has a full listing of what gas is selling for at gas stations across the region. To find the cheapest prices, Click Here.

South Phillies juggernaut

The Phillies offensive production dropped off last night. They only scored seven runs in dispatching the Rockies again, 7-4.

If you’re keeping score, that’s 42 runs put up by the Phils in the last three games.

They jumped all over the Rockies from the opening bell last night, scoring four runs in the first and tacking on three more in the second. They also got a decent outing from Kyle Kendrick, who pitched into the eighth.

The Phils withstood a late Rockies rally, and an hour and a half rain delay, to post the win.

They could sweep the Rockies tonight. That’s one story line. Here’s another. Adam Eaton takes the hill for the Phils tonight. If he was ever going to have a chance to go deep in a game and provide the Phils with the solid fifth starter option they’ve been looking for, tonight would be the night.

Eaton needs to step it up tonight. After all, this kind of offensive run the team is on right now is not going to last forever. Or is it?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 26

The Daily Numbers: 10 gunshots that rang out Monday night near 20th and Madison streets in Chester. Police are investigating. There are no reports of injuries.

43.8 million dollar budget under consideration in the Upper Darby School District.

3 percent rate hike OK’d by the Southwest Delaware County Municipal Authority.

17 active firefighters who resigned en masse from the Colwyn Fire Co. The borough council today will vote on whether to revoke the fire company’s right to operate in the borough.

103 years, how long the Colwyn Fire Co. has been in operation.

6 cent increase in the price of gasoline over the weekend, according to AAA.

3.97 the average price of regular gasoline in the five-county Philadelphia region. Yes, it’s an all-time high.

4.96 that’s what truckers are shelling out for diesel fuel.

133 dollars a barrel, the price for a barrel of crude oil this morning.

6 homicides recorded over a 29-hour period in Philadelphia over the holiday weekend. Memorial Day, indeed.

1 man who held cops at bay for several hours overnight in the Frankford section. The man surrendered around 7:15 this morning without incident.

1 person killed and 2 injured when a disgruntled man opened fire at a church function being held at the Christiana Hilkton Hotel in Delaware. There were 80 people gathered in the room. Another churchgoer jumped on the man and held him until authorities arrived.

$1.1 billion dollar budget approved by SEPTA. They’re planning for cleaner subway stations and buses, as more and more people look for an alternative to getting in their cars.

35 million dollar multipurpose stadium being proposed in Chester County to lure a minor league baseball team to the region.

35 runs scored by the Phils in just their last two games.

6 RBI yesterday for Chase Utley, who also stroked his 16th homer, tying him for the league lead.

4 runs and 6 hits allowed by Jamie Moyer, who picked up his 5th win.

3 runs Moyer gave up in the top of the 1st inning. Utley homered to tie the game in the bottom of the frame.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Anyone wonder just how good this Phillies team could be if it ever got consistent starting pitching?
I Don’t Get It: Even with gas soaring over the $4 a-gallon mark, I still see lots of people driving alone in their cars. And yes, I’m one of them.

Today’s Upper: No complaints about the weekend weather-wise. Usually it’s cold and wet on Memorial Day. Not this year. Just perfect.

Quote Box: “It’s just wonderful we were able to buy back this property and use it for the people of Aldan.”

-- Ruby Hays, at a Memorial Day event in Aldan where they dedicated a newly revitalized Veterans Park. The site was once a gas station run by her father.

A hote vote in Colwyn

The holiday is over. Now back to the infighting, feuds and political power struggles that take up so much of our time.

Today will be a fairly eventful day in the little town of Colwyn.

The tiny borough has been in an uproar for several weeks, ever since the 17 or so members of the volunteer fire company resigned en masse.

The active firefighters took the action because they claim they can no longer tolerate the actions of the “social” members who use some of the other amenities of the firehouse.

Colwyn is a dry town. There are no bars. The sale of alcohol is not allowed. There is, however, the “social” club at the firehouse, where a lot of people gather to have a drink.

Today the Colwyn borough council will vote on a measure to revoke the volunteer fire company’s right to operate in the town. For now, emergency calls are being handled by neighboring fire companies.

For guys who spend a lot of their time battling fires, this issue is even hotter than some of the calls they respond to.

No surprisingly, some people believe a lot of this is not about booze, or fighting fires, but something so close to the hearts of so many in Delaware County. Politics.

One thing’s for certain. This issue isn’t going away anytime soon. And it’s likely being closely watched by several towns that have similar situations, with social functions tied to the firehouse.

We’ll let you know what the borough council decides.

A national movement with its roots in Delco

I hope everyone took the time to remember the true meaning of Memorial Day yesterday.

It is the holiday we set aside each year to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.

There are parades, services and salutes in towns big and small all over the country.

For the past few years there also has been something else. There’s been a push to honor those we have lost with a moment of silence. That is why much of the country paused yesterday at 3 p.m. to mark the moment.

What you may not know is that the idea is the brainchild of a Delaware County woman.

Brookhaven’s Carmella LaSpada heads the White House Commission on Remembrance. It was her vision to mark the true meaning of Memorial Day with a moment of silence.

Well done, Carmella.

A gem of a holiday

One of my favorite whines is about our weather, and not just the way it is now handled by TV news. I didn’t realize it was all that important that it was raining out. Silly me.

But I am known on occasion to lament what seems like our miserable weather patterns. In fact, I have a new ad campaign for the region: World’s worst weather, 365 days a year.

Somehow, I don’t think the tourism folks will be all that jazzed by it.

So I come here this morning to apologize. We don’t have the world’s worst weather. Not after this weekend.

Usually you can count on cold, wet weather on Memorial Day. I figured that was a pretty safe bet, especially this year because the holiday actually came early.

Not so. Mother Nature unfurled three consecutive gems Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Nary a cloud in the sky, and a little warmer each day.

I even dealt with one of my annual challenges on Monday, breaking out a pair of shorts for the first time. It’s not a pretty sight, sort of like two popsicle sticks. That’s way too much skin for me to expose.

Then, as if my magic, as I lay in bed overnight, I heard a gentle rain start to fall. It was as if Mother Nature was reminding us that the holiday was over and it was time to go back go work.

There was not a cloud in the sky yesterday, but we got rain overnight.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

Phils break out the lumber

Break up the Phillies. Or at least maybe get these guys tested.

The Phils broke out the heavy lumber over the weekend and bludgeoned two different opponents. In the process they managed to put a cool 35 runs on the board over the past two days.

First, the clobbered the Astros in the final game of their series on Sunday, 15-6. And as is becoming their m.o., they did it by coming from behind.

Yesterday, they celebrated Memorial Day by exacting a little revenge on the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year. The Colorado Rockies came in and quickly posted three runs to take the lead in the first inning.

That’s the beauty of this Phils’ team. They didn’t bat an eye. Instead, they came up in the bottom of the first and started the methodical beating they put on Colorado.

Chase Utley led the charge, homering in the first to tie the score and knocking in 6 runs on the night as the Phils won, 20-5. Chris Coste also homered.

This team likely will play a lot of games like this during the course of the summer. Aside from the nights when Cole Hamels is on the hill, and he’s not off his game as he was Sunday, this team likely will never be out of a game.

Of course the flip side to that is that no lead for the Phils is really safe, either. Not with this starting pitching.

But, hey, the bullpen has been very good.

Let the summer begin. If you’re heading to Citizens Bank Park, don’t forget your hard hat, especially if you’re sitting in the outfield bleachers or strolling out in Ashburn Alley.

These guys carry big sticks.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A valuable lesson at the end of a long week

It’s been a long, tough week for many of us here at the Daily Times. We continue to come to grips with the loss of our colleague, staff reporter Stephanie Whalen.

Maybe the most heartening thing to come out of this tragedy has been the unbelievable response from readers and the public. They have reached out to support us, and the newspaper, as well as Stephanie’s family.

People who dealt with Steph on stories called and e-mailed the newspaper to praise her work, and offer their condolences.

Yesterday I received a letter that offered another valuable lesson for us all to take from this incredibly sad turn of events.

A woman from Boothwyn wrote to describe her own ordeal – and her daughter’s – who also dealt with the mystery of post-partum depression.

She told of how her daughter “went into the hospital to have her first baby and upon delivery became someone I hadn’t known before.”

Luckily, she got help before any harm came to her daughter, or her baby. They’re both now doing fine.

But the woman was touched by the tragedy we found ourselves in at the Daily Times and urged us to shed light on this “killer of beautiful new mothers.”

“Please educate people about post-partum depression so many young women like Stephanie will be aware of the signs and go on with their life,” she wrote. “Give them the gift of growing old with their children.”

I’d like to thank the woman for her kind letter and heartfelt expression of sympathy.

I plan to do exactly that, pulling back the curtains on this mystery killer.

This is just the start.

Pain at the pump -- and the grill

Now they’ve gone too far.

Yes, we have officially entered the era of $4-a-gallon gas. There are at least two stations in Delco where the pain at the pump now means shelling out more than four bucks a pop for a gallon of petrol.

Yesterday AAA said there are 24 stations in the Philly region that have cleared the $4-a-gallon plateau.

In the meantime, the daily drip, drip, drip of money out of our pockets continued to go up.

Prices were up another 4 cents overnight to $3.91 a gallon. Truckers were being equally pained, paying an average of $4.89 a gallon for diesel. Both are all-time highs.

This time last year we were paying $3.10 a gallon.

But that’s not what really has me frosted.

Nope, there is one final indignity. It’s going to cost a lot more for that Memorial Day ritual, the first cookout of the summer season.

Everything, from hamburgers and hot dogs, to charcoal to rolls is costing more, and almost all at least in part due to rising fuel costs.

The price of an average barbecue is expected to rise 6 percent this year.

It’s enough to make you cry in your beer.

Wildwood Daze

Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, they’ve completed an online survey of the best beaches in New Jersey.

Drumroll please. And the winner is …


I’ve been to Wildwood. Pretty nice town. But I have one major complaint. It’s about an hour walk from the boardwalk to the water. Honestly, the place has more sand than Saudi Arabia.

Now, a confession here. This is a biased view. I’m a Delaware guy. Rehoboth to be specific. I’ve yet to see anything in Jersey that can touch my chunk of sand off St. Lawrence.

But, hey, if you’re a Jersey shore afficianado, it was a pretty good survey for South Jersey. They captured the top five spots.

Here are the results of the survey, done by the New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium.

1. Wildwood
2. Wildwood Crest
3. Ocean City
4. North Wildwood
5. Cape May
6. Asbury Park
7. Avalon
8. Point Pleasant Beach
9. Beach Haven
10. Stone Harbor

Playing by the Manuel

Maybe it’s time to give Charlie Manuel some credit.

The Phils manager gets a lot of heat in this town for some of his moves, his down-home disposition and verbiage, and his understanding – or as some complain his lack of -- of some of the subtleties of baseball such as the double-switch.

But “Uncle Charlie” seems to be pushing all the right buttons now.

Everyone was panicking over another slow start for Ryan Howard. Manuel didn’t. He just let Howard play. The slugger went long again last night, belting home run number 13 in the Phils’ 7-5 win.

But that was not Manuel’s real magic last night. He also decided to sit Pat Burrell, who had just endured an oh-fer in the Phils’ recent stop in the nation’s capital.

Manuel thought maybe a day off might clear Burrell’s head a bit. But he called on the left-fielder to pinch-hit in the eighth. Burrell didn’t disappoint his boss. He belted the game-winning homer to power the Phils to their third straight win.

Charlie Manuel, baseball genius. Who’d a thunk it?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 22

The Daily Numbers: 2 cents more, that’s the news this morning on gasoline.

3.87 a gallon for regular; $4.83 for diesel. Celebrate Memorial Day by taking a walk.

133.17 where the price of crude oil wound up yesterday. At one point in the day it was as high as $135.04. Don’t look for prices to come down anytime soon.

15 bucks, what American Airlines said it would begin charging for the first checked bag on its flights. It’s also cutting flights and slashing jobs. And, of course, they’re saying it’s all being caused by rising fuel prices.

32,000 dollars worth of diesel fuel and gasoline authorities say was ripped off by three men in western Pennsylvania by using a stolen commercial credit card. That’s one way to beat high prices.

31 soldiers from the Pennsylvania National Guard who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. The latest was First Lt. Jeffrey Deprimo, of 35, of Pittston. He was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. Remember him and all those who paid the ultimate price this weekend.

10 years in prison for a defrocked Roman Catholic priest who admitted driving from Pa. to Long Island believing he was going to have sex with a teen boy.

4 billion dollars in borrowing that is included in the Pennsylvania budget, including lots of special projects being pushed by legislators.

15 age of teen computer hacker who has been criminally charged with breaching the computer system in Downingtown, Chester County, schools and accessing personal information of employees and taxpayers.

1 person killed overnight in a construction accident in the Route 202 project. The northbound section of the highway at Route 401 was closed for several hours.

8 days that a section of Broad Street in Center city Philadelphia will be closed for construction to expand the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

10 ATM heists being investigated by Philly police in which the burglars pick a store next to a vacant lot, go through the wall, then use a blowtorch to get into the ATM.

25,800 car thefts reported in Pennsylvania in 2007. That’s down from 52,000 in the early ’90s.

7 new charter schools that have been approved in Philadelphia. Another eight were rejected.

97.5 million votes cast in last night’s ‘American Idol’ finals. David Cook topped David Archuleta.

2 home runs and 4 RBI for Phillies slugger Ryan Howard in last night’s big 12-2 win over the Nationals.

6 strong innings for starter Jamie Moyer, who picked up his 4th win against 3 losses.

4 times on base for Shane Victorino.

2 big wins for Springfield and Strath Haven girls lacrosse squads in playoff action yesterday.

9 runs put up by Upper Darby girls in posting a softball playoff win over Haverford.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Nothing like two homers, a double and 4 RBI to end all that talk of Ryan Howard’s spring doldrums. Time for the big guy to strap this time on his back and carry it for awhile.
I Don’t Get It: A lot of people think we don’t need to talk about race. They should read the fliers that were distributed in a Drexel Hill neighborhood last weekend.

Today’s Upper: Hey, let’s hear it for Sen. Arlen Specter. He’s discovered something other than the NFL’s infamous ‘Spy-Gate.’ Yesterday Specter joined other senators piling on oil company execs for their obscene profits.

Quote Box: “These types of guys who put these signs up are cowards.”

-- Upper Darby Police Superintendent Mike Chitwood, talking about racist fliers that were plastered all over a township neighborhood last weekend.

Race-ing into our ugly past

Much has been made about race in hotly contested Democratic battle between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Obama could become the first African-American to be nominated for president by one of the major parties. He has come under withering criticism from some quarters for statements made by his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. It caused Obama to make an unprecedented address on race.

And it sparked discussion all across the country about race in America, and the need for an open, honest dialog.

Maybe we should start in Upper Darby and Lansdowne.

Two ugly incidents again remind us we still have a ways to go when it comes to race relations.

In Upper Darby, a Drexel Hill neighborhood was plastered with fliers warning of an influx of minorities, and an allegation that crime will arrive with it.

It’s ugly stuff, blatantly racist. It’s believed linked to a Philadelphia group.

It should be noted that the fliers, 268 of them, which wound up all over School Lane and Garrett Road, do not appear to be the work of anyone in those neighborhoods.

Township officials quickly denounced the fliers. Leading the charge is township Police Superintendent Mike Chitwood.

Chitwood is known for his tough stand on crime and those who commit such acts. One of his most famous quips, “Not in my town, scumbag,” found its way onto T-shirts.

He’s no fan of this kind of flier infiltrating his township, either.

Chitwood labeled them “racist and offensive,” the work of “cowards … who don’t have the guts to put their name on the piece of paper.”

Chitwood directed his officers to issue a citation for unlawfully tacking a sign on a pole. It carries a $500 fine.

Upper Darby is not the only place dealing with a racial incident.

In Lansdowne, a couple awoke last weekend to seemingly find themselves transported back to another era.

The black couple found a swastika spray-painted on their garage door.

It’s not the first time they’ve encountered such racial graffiti since moving into the diverse neighborhood on Windsor Avenue. Last March a trash can was labeled with the same equally repugnant sign.

To her credit, she’s not leaving. “I think it’s a great community, which is why I moved here,” she said.

Now if we could all just learn to get along. Maybe we can start by talking about it.

More gas pains

Here’s the daily ‘Pain at the Pump’ index:

Guess what? Gas prices are up again this morning. You’re shocked, I know.

AAA reports prices jumped another 2 cents overnight. The average price of regular gas in the five-county Philly region is now $3.87; diesel stands at $4.83. Both of course are all-time highs.

AAA reported yesterday that for the first time in their memory, surveys indicate the number of drivers planning to stray more than 50 miles from home this Memorial Day weekend is down. The survey says the numbers are off 2.5 percent.

Don’t look for any relief soon. The price of crude rocketed over $135 a barrel for the first time yesterday.

Apparently, the word has finally made its way to Washington, D.C.

Our pal Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., may have discovered the public is a tad more interested in gas prices than the much-ballyhooed “Spy-Gate” involving the New England Patriots’ taping habits in the NFL.

Specter was one of a group of senators who dragged oil company executives over the coals yesterday at a hearing focusing on prices at the pump, and oil company profits.

Specter was seeking some simple answers. He wanted to know “why profits have gone up so high when the consumer is suffering so much.”

He didn’t get much in the way of a reply. Big Oil basically defended their profits.

And if you’re thinking of flying as a way to avoid the high cost of driving, think again.

American Airlines yesterday said it would begin charging its customers an extra $15 for the first checked bag. This among other cost-cutting measures such as slashing domestic flights and laying off workers.

Guess what? They’re blaming high fuel prices for their problems as well.

Happy Memorial Day. Maybe we should just walk or bike wherever we need to go this weekend.

Howard's End, and maybe end of slump

You kind of figured it was only a matter of time.

The great Ryan Howard slump may be over. The Phillies slugger snapped out of his spring doldrums last night with a bang – hitting two homers and also doubling, while driving in four runs.

The Phils used Howard’s power surge along with a strong effort from the ancient one, Jamie Moyer, to coast to a laugher over the Nationals, 12-2.

Howard showed two different styles of power, hitting a tape-measure moon shot, believed to be in the general area code of some 420 feet, in the third inning that landed in the upper deck of the Nats’ new stadium. Then in the fourth Howard came right back with a laser shot line drive into the seats.

Ryan has been taking heat for his strikeout numbers this spring. He’s on a pace to eclipse last year’s record-setting number of whiffs.

At least for one night, Howard’s bat silenced the critics, and beat the Nationals in to submission.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 21

The Daily Numbers: 1 person arrested in case of vandalism at Boeing’s Ridley plant. Another case remains unsolved.

5,000 dollar reward still in place as federal officials seek who is responsible for the second act of sabotage.

19.10 dollars an hour, what the Boeing worker charged yesterday was earning.

25,000 bond he was freed on. He must stay at this parents home in Southampton, Bucks County.

1 cent more, what we’re paying for gasoline in the region. Regular gas now goes for $3.85; diesel is at $4.80.

460,200 people expected to hit the highways and travel 5 miles or more from home anyhow this Memorial Day weekend. That is down by 2.5 percent from last year.

1 as in No. 1, the ranking Philadelphia International Airport in a survey of customer satisfaction by the folks at JD Power.

1 woman killed and a firefighter injured when flames roared through a row home on Ludlow Street in Philadelphia overnight.

9 bucks a day. That’s what Pennsylvanians are paid for jury duty. Some state legislators are looking to hike that stipend to $40 a day.

15 age of student that police charged a swimming coach at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School with propositioning via e-mail. He allegedly offered her $200 for a sex act.

58 million bucks, what Merck & Co. will pay to settle lawsuits stemming from ads for its painkiller Vioxx, which has been linked to health problems.

1,956 delegates for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, after winning the Oregon primary. He’s now just 60 delegates away from wrapping up the nomination.

1,776 delegates for Hillary Clinton, who won big in Kentucky. She’s vowing to stay in the race.

2,026 the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

75 million people who are expected to vote today in the ‘American Idol’ competition that wraps up tonight.

7 strong innings out of Cole Hamels, who put the Phils on his back, yet did not get the win over the Nationals.

2.61 ERA for the ace of the Phillies staff.

19 straight innings in which Hamels has not surrendered a run.

11 strikeouts for the lefty phenom.

10 hits in 22 at bats for pinch-hitter extraordinaire Greg Dobbs, whose single in the ninth provided the winning margin as the Phils eked out a 1-0 win.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
The Phillies better hire a Brinks truck now to haul the money they are going to have to pay Cole Hamels. This guy has “ace” written all over him.
I Don’t Get It: I’m told they announced a winner on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ last night. Some 75 million people are expected to vote in the finals of ‘American Idol’ tonight. Wake me when it’s over. I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: Philadelphia officials are not backing down in their standoff with the National Rifle Association over whether the city can enact its own gun control ordinances. Good for them.

Quote Box: “The cooperation from the union members and the workers has been terrific.”

-- U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan, talking about the investigation into acts of deliberate vandalism at the Boeing plant.

Soothing voices in a very tough time

Suffice it to say that the past few days have been among the most difficult I have spent in my 26 years at the Daily Times.

There are very few times when I wish I never got into this newspaper racket. This weekend was one of them.

We continue to come to grips with the tragic loss of our co-worker, staff reporter Stephanie Whalen. Our hearts go out to her family, and we stand by them in this dark hour.

In the many things that I have been dealing with since I got the horrible news Saturday afternoon, there is one thing I did not account for, and I’m not sure why. I’ve seen it many times, just not from this side of the story.

To put it simply, I have been overwhelmed at the response from our readers and the public to our plight. I spent much of the day on Tuesday fielding phone calls and e-mails from those looking to ease our grief.

Some knew Stephanie well; some didn’t know her at all. All were touched by her passing and the incredible void left behind.

Many of the calls were from people Stephanie interacted with on the job, people she interviewed or covered in her day-to-day duties as a reporter. To a person they indicated she was simply a delight to work with.

Many people who never met her still knew her name from the newspaper and simply wanted to pass along their condolences to her colleagues at the Daily Times.

They are our readers, and as they have proved so many times, they were ready to open their hearts to someone in a time of need.

These are not good times for the newspaper industry. We find ourselves under siege on all sides. Yet I cannot tell you how gratifying it is to know that the newspaper has made that kind of connection with our readers and the community.

That’s due in large part to people like Stephanie Whalen.

On behalf of the staff, I’d like to thank all those who have reached out to us. We’re not used to being in this position. We usually the ones covering these kinds of tragic events. Not the other way around.

Your thoughts and prayers have made a very dark time for all of us a bit more tolerable.

Steph was especially good at dealing with people in these kinds of circumstances. That’s one of the things I’ll remember most about her.

And one of the things I will try to emulate.

Case closed at Boeing, at least half of it

I had a feeling it was not going to take long for the feds to solve the riddle of the damaged Chinook helicopter at Boeing.

I wasn’t wrong. Yesterday the feds filed charges against a Boeing production line worker in connection with severed lines discovered on a Chinoook under production at the Ridley plant.

Case closed. Or at least half of it. Still unsolved is the second act of what the feds are calling “deliberate vandalism,” a misplaced washer found in another copter.

Federal investigators say the worker, Matthew Montgomery, 33, of Trevose, admitted to the one act of sabotage. Why is a little more tricky. Montgomery may have been upset with a recent transfer from the Chinook line to working on the V-22 Osprey project.

The $5,000 reward for information remains on the table, and U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan stressed yesterday that this is still very much an open investigation.

Still unsolved is who is responsible for putting the wrong washer inside the transmission of a Chinook that was almost ready to roll off the production line.

Just as I did on the first case, I don’t think it’s going to take long to solve the second part of this riddle, either. You’d be surprised how quickly people start talking when you put $5,000 on the table.

There is also the matter of the other 5,200 workers at the plant. Union officials say their rank-and-file have been extremely upset at the acts of vandalism, which put their livelihoods in jeopardy. They’re proud of the copters they produce, and realize the last thing they want to deal with now is an image issue that could make the Defense Department look elsewhere when it comes to new work.

Stay tuned. My guess is that the other vandal in this case will be flushed out soon.

For Dems, the Clinton conundrum

Another day, another split decision for Democrats.

But it’s becoming increasingly clear that in the heavyweight title tilt between Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, it’s the senator from Illinois who is going to be the last man standing.

That despite the fact that Clinton scored another big win yesterday. The New York senator rolled over Obama in Kentucky, capturing 65 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary. Obama countered on the West Coast with a win in Oregon, where he received 58 percent of the vote.

Obama now has 1,956 delegates, to 1,776 for Clinton. He stands within shouting distance of the 2,026 needed to capture the nomination.

Clinton remains unfazed. She’s vowing to stay in the race, and is banking on what most now believe is not going to happen, a huge shift in the superdelegates responding to her call that she is the candidate who is winning the big states the Democrats will need to defeat Sen. John McCain in November.

It was not that long ago that Hillary Clinton was considered the answer to the Democrats’ problems. Now she just might be their biggest problem, one that refuses to go away.

King Cole

Thank god for Cole Hamels.

The Phillies are not hitting right now. They aren’t scoring runs. They got shut out Monday night. Last night they failed to score a run until the 9th.

No problem. They had Hamels on the hill. For the second straight outing, King Cole was untouchable. He shut out the Nationals for seven innings, giving up just four hits and striking out 11. His ERA now stands at 2.61.

The shame of the night is that Hamels did not get the win. He was lifted after reeling off 19 straight innings without surrendering a run. Tom Gordon and Brad Lidge sealed the deal.

The Phils were rescued by pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs, who singled home the game’s only run in the ninth. Dobbs is putting up some gaudy numbers of his own. He’s now 10-for-22 as a pinch-hitter.

Look out when this team starts hitting. The Phils now trail the Marlins by a game and a half. Memorial Day arrives this weekend. It’s going to be a fun summer.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 20

The Daily Numbers: 4 bucks a gallon. That’s what gas is going for at some stations in the region. And Memorial Day is still a few days away. Some experts are saying we could be seeing $5 a gallon by the end of the summer.

3.84 a gallon for regular. That’s the average price in the 5-county Philly region today, up a penny from yesterday.

4.78 the average price for diesel fuel.

8 million bucks, what they are going to spend on a major deck joint repair project on the Commodore Barry Bridge this summer.

2 of 5 lanes will be closed at different times through the summer.

2 eastbound lanes due to be open during the afternoon rush hour. Ought to make the Friday night dash to the shore interesting.

10 federal agents working with local officials as they continue to investigate vandalism of two Chinook helicopters in production at Boeing’s Ridley Township plant.

5,000 dollars being offered for information on a bizarre attack that occurred in the driveway of a Marple home.

1 police officer injured in Stowe, Montgomery County, after his cruiser was struck by another car Monday night.

1 body found in the trunk of a car in Bucks County. Another man now faces homicide charges in connection with the case.

2 million bucks, what Milton Street, brother of former Philly Mayor John Street, was paid as a consultant, and which he was convicted of failing to file federal income taxes on. His sentenced has been delayed.

2 planned appeareances in Philadelphia by controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright, pastor of Sen. Barack Obama’s church, that have been canceled.

47 age of suspect linked to a series of attacks on women in Philadelphia in which he sucks the toes of his victims. Police say Richard Allen Casey will be charged in the attacks. He’s already in jail.

2 people killed and 5 injured in a crash involving a family returning from their daughter’s college graduation in Berks County. The husband and wife were killed. Their daughter, whose graduation from Muhlenberg College in Allentown they had just attended, is in critical condition.

327,500 dollars a year, what the new chancellor of the Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities will be paid.

4 Philly police officers who will be terminated for their roles in the videotaped beating of several suspects being taken into custody on May 5; 3 officers will be suspended 5 to 15 days; 1 sergeant will be demoted; 8 officers will be retrained in appropriate use of force.

12 billion dollar offer in the bidding to lease operation of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The top bidder is Citi Infrastructure Investors and two Spanish firms, Albertis Infraestructures and Criteria Caiza Corp.

66 percent dip in first-quarter profits being reported by Home Depot.

3 straight losses for the Phils, who went meekly last night in being shut out by Tim Redding and the Nationals.

7 hits is all the Phils managed, zero runs.

5.75 ERA and a 2-5 record for Brett Myers. Not going to get it done.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Now that hockey season is over, the Phils seem unwilling to seize the moment. They have now lost 3 in a row. They could own the city if they respond. At least until the Eagles report to camp.
I Don’t Get It: A lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters against the chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court claims the high court upheld the state’s slot-machine gambling law in exchange for approval of a judicial pay hike. I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: The weather folks tell us it’s going to be a beautiful Memorial Day weekend coming up. In the meantime, however, we’ll have several more days of winter.

Quote Box: “We’re all just waiting patiently to see what they turn up.”

-- Boeing union leader John DeFrancisco, on the probe into vandalism of Chinook helicopters at the Ridley plant.

Keep on truckin'? Not at Jevic

We have a tendency to snicker, shrug or curse our fate every time we write about rising gas prices.

It just got a little more serious for the folks who made their living at Jevic Transportation.

The trucking firm in Delanco, N.J., closed its doors Monday.


The company cited skyrocketing diesel fuel prices, as well as increased insurance costs and the general economic downturn as their reasons for going out of business.

Thus ends 27 years of business. And 1,500 people out of work. That includes 1,000 in Burlington County.

That gives a whole new meaning to gas pains.

Gas pains

Well, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Memorial Day, and the unofficial start of the summer driving season is exactly six days away.

And we are about to enter the era of $4 gasoline.

AAA reports there are now seven gas stations in the region selling regular for $4 a pop and up. Thankfully, none of them are located in Delco. How long do you think that will last?

What’s the deal in Conshohocken? They sport three of the seven pricey gas joints. The others are in Philly, Doylestown, and Morrisville.

The average price of gas in the 5-county region ticked up another penny overnight, continuing the slow, agonizing march toward the $4 plateau.

The average price is now $4.84 a gallon. It pretty much goes without saying that it’s an all-time high. Every time the price goes up, it sets a new record.

It’s still cheaper to fill up in New Jersey (of course you might have to deal with the Commodore Barry Bridge construction project to do so). Gas there goes for an average of $3.67 a gallon.

The price statewide in Pennsylvania is $3.81 a gallon.

Actually, $4 a gallon may not be the worst of it. There are some outlets reporting today that we could be facing $5-a-gallon gas before the end of the summer.

Time to break out the bike.

3 in a row for Phils

Don’t look now, but hockey season is over.

And in case you haven’t noticed, the Phillies are in the midst of a losing streak.

They fell again last night, going meekly against the Nats in D.C. They managed all of seven hits and no runs against Nationals starter Tim Redding. That’s three losses in a row, and six of their last nine.

And guess who was on the hill for the Phils? Yep, that would be that Brett Myers. The guy tabbed as the “ace” of the staff who was the opening day starter is now 2-5 on the year with an ERA of 5.76.

Myers wasn’t horrible last night. He just wasn’t good enough, although it’s a little tough to win games when you don’t score any runs.

The Phillies and Myers need to be better. Summer beckons. We have now endured 100 straight seasons of professional sports in this city without a championship.

Shooting for 101 sounds like the summer of our discontent.

Mourning one of our own

Most nights when I drag my bones in the front door, and plop down at the kitchen table, the first thing I do is pull out that day’s newspapers and start going over them one more time.

Then I flip on the TV to the local news, if by any chance it’s still on, just in case there’s anything going on that wasn’t covered on KYW, my accompaniment in the car for the ride home.

It’s about this time I usually catch a glance at my wife. She has managed to get a peek at the newspaper, or heard a headline on the news.
She has only one question for me. “How can you deal with this every day?”

It’s a good question. One I’ve been thinking a lot about since Saturday.

When you get into this business, you get used to dealing with unpleasant topics fairly quickly. The truth is that a lot of what we do every day is heart-achingly sad.

The stereotype of the newspaper man or woman is the crusty, hard-edged cynic who puts aside emotions in search of the story. There’s more than a little truth to that image.

You tend to build up a pretty tough façade, some might call it cynicism; others simply label it cold-hearted. We use it as something of a defense mechanism to hide the emotions that bubble underneath the surface.

You build up that rough exterior pretty quickly, or you find another line of work.
Most of the time we’re pretty successful in dealing with the worst life has to dole out.

In the 30 years I’ve been in this racket, I’ve had countless number of phone calls with people suffering in the worst kind of circumstances. Many times they’re looking for information. Sometimes they need the newspaper’s help. Often they are questioning how the newspaper can be so unfeeling as to report on the tragedy involving their loved ones.

It’s part of the job. For the most part, you get used to it.

Until it involves one of your own.

Monday morning I had a phone call unlike any I’ve had in the 25 years I’ve been at the Daily Times. It was from Ginger Whalen, the mother of one of my staff reporters.
Stephanie Whalen died Saturday morning. She was 27. Stephanie took her own life.

No one knows exactly why. Her mother says medical investigators believe believe Stephanie was suffering from postpartum depression. She had a 11/2-year-old son, Logan, who she adored. And she recently informed her co-workers she had another child on the way. She was a doting mother, and a crackerjack reporter.

Stephanie joined the Daily Times in 2004 as a general assignment reporter. It doesn’t take me very long to size up new hires. And it didn’t take very long for me to realize this woman could flat-out write. That’s something we take pretty seriously around here. Words are our life-blood.

Her last assignment was on Thursday, when she covered the opening of the new terrain at Styer’s opening, the hip new home store and gardening center at the former Styer’s site out on Baltimore Pike in Concord.

This was how Stephanie led into her story:
“At one ‘garden room’ entrance, a hand-carved 300-year-old wooden door from India invited visitors to revel in the colors and scents of the season — orchid pink, marigold yellow and moss green.

“Bubbling Zen fountains temporarily drowned out the road noise from bustling Baltimore Pike, leaving room for onlookers to marvel at a sculptured bathtub hand-carved from a piece of stone from Indonesia.”

If you get the feeling in reading those words that you’re actually in the store, that’s the whole point.

Like I said, Stephanie could write. Any assignment, no matter how difficult, nor mundane, got the same sparkling treatment from “Steph.”

She was joking with co-workers Friday night. No one sensed anything was wrong. Less than 24 hours later she was gone.

Now I find myself struggling to come up with words to describe just what happened, why none of us had any indication something was amiss, and what — if anything — we could have done to prevent it.

I have been struggling to find the right words since I first heard the news Saturday afternoon. I can really only think of one. It’s just unbelievably sad.
There is something else that must be said here, something I’ve already related to the staff.

There is almost nothing I can think of that will ease what we’ve been dealing with since Saturday and for the days ahead. We will be there for Stephanie, for Logan, for Ginger and the rest of the Whalen family.

But it does remind us that these are precisely the gamut of emotions so many of the people we write about every day are dealing with.

The policy of the newspaper in these situations is pretty clear. If it happens in private, we do not consider it news. But if it is done in public, or affects the public, it is considered news. It would be hypocritical for the newspaper to change its policy simply because it involves one of our own. I also wonder what I would say to the next family member who questions why such information has to be included in the newspaper.

But that’s for another day. Right now, I am dealing with a family coping with the worst kind of tragedy imaginable. And an extended family, those of us here at the newspaper, trying to put the pieces back together.

I fall back on my training, and search for the proper words. It’s just so damn sad.

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

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 19

The Daily Numbers: 3 cent increase over the weekend for gas prices in the region. Yep, it must be just about time for the Memorial Day weekend.

3.83 a gallon for regular. That’s the average price. Actually, there’s nothing average about it. Painful, yes, Average, no.

4.76 the average price for diesel fuel. Keep on truckin’? Not at these prices.

1 person hurt when fire swept through the Wallingford Estates Apartments Sunday afternoon.

200,000 square foot Target store that will replace the old Strawbridge’s at the Springfield Mall. It’s part of a huge expansion plan at the shopping icon.

70,000 square foot building being proposed in Haverford for the site of the old Philadelphia Chewing Gum Factory.

165 years of grads from Villanova University, which held its commencement exercises on Sunday.

500 graduates who picked up diplomas at Cabrini College, and also bid farewell to Dr. Antoinette Iadarola, who is retiring as president of the college.

18 percent dip in enrollment at Rosemont College. The all-female school is mulling admitting men in a move to reverse that trend.

1 man charged in the murder of his wife, who was found dead in her Talleyville, Del., home.

2 people, a husband and wife, killed in a multi-vehicle crash in Berks County over the weekend.

2 people killed and 2 seriously injured in the crash of a small plane in South Jersey Saturday afternoon.

5 gun control ordinances passed by city council in Philadelphia that will be challenged in court today by the National Rifle Association.

6 zip loss as the Flyers’ season came to a crashing end in Pittsburgh yesterday.

2 to nothing in the first period, which pretty much sealed the Flyers’ fate.

2:54 how long it took the Phillies and Blue Jays to actually play their game Sunday, won by the Toronto guys.

2 rain delays that added 3 hours to the misery of those who braved the downpours to watch the Phils fall.

100 seasons of pro sports now without a championship in Philadelphia. It’s been 25 years since the Sixers won in 1983.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Hockey season is over. It’s now officially baseball season. So of course the weather will feel more like hockey and nothing resembling summer.

I Don’t Get It: The National Rifle Association will be in court this morning to challenge the ordinances passed by the city of Philadelphia to run in guns on city streets. They’re against them. But what measure exactly are they for?


Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for the kids honored for their writing and theatrical skills last night at the Cappies awards at the Drexelbrook.

Quote Box: “It was an act of violence against our family.”

-- Regina Jewell, talking about the shooting of the family dog in their back yard.

Hunt for vandal heats up at Boeing

The tip lines have been ringing off the hook since the feds posted a $5,000 reward for information on the person or persons responsible for vandalizing a couple of helicopters in production at Boeing’s Ridley Township plant.

That’s not surprising. Five grand has a tendency to get people’s attention. And to loosen lips. It’s the same philosophy adopted by a lot of anti-crime groups when it comes to getting someone to “drop a dime.”

“We have received plenty of calls on the tip line,” said Kenneth Maupin. He’s the man in charge of the investigation that is being run by the Defense Criminal Investigation Service. They’re the police arm of the Defense Department, and they were called in when damage, including severed wires, was discovered in a couple of Chinook helicopters at the local Boeing facility.

Investigators quickly labeled it a deliberate act of vandalism and posted the reward fliers, littering the plant, and the 5,200 workers who enter it each day, with handouts announcing the bounty.

Which makes the reaction of union bosses and workers all that much more interesting.

They don’t want the reward money. They just want the person responsible caught.

John DeFrancisco is the outgoing head of the United Aerospace Workers Local 1069. He makes no bones about the mood of Boeing’s union work force. They’re angry.

That’s because they know what is at stake.

Workers at the sprawling facility that hugs the Delaware River along Route 291 have gotten used to the vagaries of defense work. They’ve seen their numbers gradually decline over the years, before a recent uptick put them back over 5,000.

They know their reputation is on the line. They know that stories like this one damage that reputation, and give ammo to those who believe the work should be done somewhere else.

They’re proud of what they produce. They realize these helicopters will soon be ferrying troops in and out of battle.

And they’re not about to stand for their work ethic, and what they produce, being damaged by a mindless act of sabotage.

They want the person responsible caught and, as DeFransicco put it, “out of here.”

Something tells me they aren’t going to have wait that long.

Philly vs. the NRA

There will be another gun battle in Philadelphia today.

Not the kind we are all too used to reading about, another instance of gunfire on the city streets, and perhaps another innocent life snuffed out.

This one will take place in a courtroom. It won’t involve bullets. This one is a legal battle.

Lawyers for the National Rifle Association will be in a courtroom today asking a judge to overturn gun control ordinances passed by city council, and signed by Mayor Michael Nutter, last month.

The NRA immediately went into court and got an injunction to block the measures, which would limit firearms purchases to one a month, require owners to report a lost or stolen gun, and ban the sale of assault weapons.

Among those lawyers arguing against the new laws will be our own Delaware County barrister C. Scott Shields. He’s also the mayor of Rutledge.

Shields and the NRA are clear in their opposition to these measures. They argue simply that it’s not the job of municipalities to regulate guns. That is the purview of the state Legislature.

Philadelphia District Attorney Lynn Abraham, about as hard line as it gets when it comes to gun crimes, even has indicated the NRA is right on this issue.

Nutter says he will not back down.

And for good reason. The city continues to treat the scars of losing a Philadelphia police officer to a suspect wielding a Chinese-made assault rifle.

Maybe it’s not the job of city council. That doesn’t change the city’s challenge.

Criminals are using illegal guns to run amok on city streets.

It’s time for the city – or somebody – to start firing back. Some common sense gun control would be a good start.

Finale is the Pitts for Flyers

The baseball season officially started about 5:45 Sunday afternoon.

Actually, it started a couple of hours earlier. The Flyers simply had nothing left when they took the ice against the Penguins in Pittsburgh. It showed.

The Flyers were never in it, falling behind 2-0 in the first period, then watching the roof cave in as their season came to an ignominious end. The final was 6-0. It wasn’t that close.

The Flyers have developed a penchant for making their playoff exit in spectacular fashion. That is, if you’re a sado-masochist. I suppose that includes most Philly sports fans.

The last time they took part in the post-season derby, the Flyers were dispatched in similar fashion by the Sabres, 7-1, in 2006.

The quandary now is how to judge their season, whether to rejoice in how far the team came after their dismal showing last year when they sported the worst record in the NHL, or simply to look at the way it ended and conclude there is still a long way to go.

General Manager Paul Holmgren pretty much summed up the challenge.

“You go through 82 games and you look at the closeness in the standings, it shows you how close you are to winning,” Holmgren said Sunday after the debacle in the Mellon Center. “But it also shows you how close you are not to not being in the playoffs. So next year is going to be just as difficult to get into the playoffs, and that’s why I believe we really have to spend time over the next few weeks deciding how we’re going to achieve that.”

Take a day to lick the wounds. Then start planning for next year.

It has now been 25 years, 100 seasons of professional sports, since a team representing this city has won a title. Can you even remember the Sixers of 1983? Many readers of this blog probably weren’t even alive then. Hell, the Internet wasn’t even dominating our lives yet.

Maybe the Phils can break the jinx. Let’s hope so.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 16

The Daily Numbers: 5,000 dollar reward posted for information on deliberate vandalism of helicopters at Boeing’s Ridley plant.

5,200 workers at the sprawling Ridley Township plant. However, only about 250 work on the Chinook production line.

23 years after he skipped town, Gerald Klever, the former pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Springfield, will be in court today to be sentenced for sexually assaulting several young members of a church youth group.

2 cents more for gas this morning. Big surprise, huh? With just a week to go before the Memorial Day holiday kicks off the summer driving season, we are now paying an average of $3.80 a gallon. Diesel prices stand at $4.71.

26,000 dollars, what a Montgomery County man is believed to have pocketed in a scam in which he was selling gas from his company’s tanks and banking half of what he charged folks. Nice racket.

2.5 cents per gallon, what the Pennsylvania Gasoline Retailers Association says its members make on sales of gasoline. They say they are being hurt even more because high costs are forcing more and more people to pay with credit cards, cutting even further into their margins.

8 to 10 gallons of gas per shift, what police in Holllidaysburg, Pa., say they will save by increasing bike police patrols.

10,000,000 million dollars awarded to three fired Philadelphia officers who sued claiming they were fired for bringing racial slurs to the attention of supervisors.

3 suspects involved in a controversial videotaped police beating incident in Philadelphia are due in court for a hearing this morning. More questions are being asked about the cops’ actions that night.

2,300 jobs added in Pennsylvania in April, according to state figures.

45 percent hike in earnings in the quarter reported by Urban Outfitters. They’re the hip store that is also behind the new Terrain store at the former Styer’s location on Baltimore Pike.

200 fewer police pursuits recorded by Pennsylvania state police in 2007. The total number of pursuits listed for the year was 1,931, that’s down from 2,115 the year before.

652 of those pursuits resulted in crashes, along with 218 injuries.

350,000 households who will be notified by the IRS that they mistakenly did not get the $300 per child tax stimulus refund. The feds are blaming it on human error.

37 percent spike in foreclosure filings in Pennsylvania in April as compared to the same period last year.

1 win for the Flyers, who now must win 3 more in a row to beat the Penguins. They get their next chance Sunday in Pittsburgh.

3 goal lead they jumped out to in the first period of last night’s game, hanging on to win, 4-2.

2 goals scored by the Pens in the third period to lead to some anxious moments before the Flyers notched an empty-net goal in the final seconds to seal the deal.

4 hits and no runs surrendered by Phils ace Cole Hamels last night in a complete game shutout gem against the Braves.

9 home runs now for Ryan Howard, who continued to climb out of his early slump by going long against the Braves last night.

2 straight games with homers for Howard and hits in 7 straight contests. That’s more like it.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Cole Hamels is the real deal. Are you paying attention, Brett Myers?

I Don’t Get It: There’s another controversy in New Jersey in which a schoolgirl sent a nude picture on her cell phone to her boyfriend. Of course the pic is now spreading like wildfire. The girl is in middle school. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Prosecutors didn’t put much credence yesterday in apologies offered by suspects in the fatal shooting of Philly police Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski. Hard to argue with them.

Quote Box: “There are soldiers in a very short period of time who will be taking these kind of aircraft into harm’s way … We are here to get a firsthand view of the facts.”

-- U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan at the Boeing plant yesterday, where federal authorities labeled problems with two Chinook helicopters a deliberate act of vandalism.

Confession time for Pastor Klever

You might say Gerald Klever will step into the confessional this morning. And attempt to atone for his “sins.”

It will be the end of a sad, painful story that is more than 30 years old.

Klever is the former pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Springfield. Back in the late ’70s, it is believed that Klever sexually assaulted several members of a youth group at the church.

Klever left the church – and the area – back in 1983. His painful legacy remained, however.

Police finally caught up with him 2,000 miles away in Arizona in April 2007.

Ironically, it was his decision to leave the state that allowed authorities to bring the charges against him. If he had stuck around, the statute of limitations likely would have expired on his offenses. That clock stopped, however, when he left the state.

Klever was hauled back to Pennsylvania and charged with three counts each of rape and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. Police say he told one 12-year-old girl that “to get close to God she needed to get close to him.”

This morning Klever may once again be close to some of his victims. He just might find himself staring at them in a Media courtroom, where is expected to enter a plea and will be sentenced by Common Please Judge James Nilon Jr.

It has taken three decades, but this morning justice likely will be served in the case of Gerald Klever and his victims.

Forgiveness might take a little longer.

Some serious turbulence at Boeing

A couple of things are now apparent in the case of the damaged Chinook helicopters being produced at Boeing’s Ridley plant.

You can read Tim Logue’s report on the situation here.

Investigators have concluded this was no accident. In fact, they are labeling it a deliberate act of vandalism. There’s another word for that. It’s called sabotage. It’s an ugly word. But it fits the description of what appears to have happened here.

There’s something else that becomes readily apparent. Security at the Boeing facility is very tight. It’s highly unlikely that any outside agent was involved in this.

That leaves you with only one conclusion.

This was an inside job. Someone working at the plant, working on that Chinook production line, likely is responsible for these incidents.

That is not sitting well with Boeing’s workers and its unions, nor with the company brass and federal investigators.

They know that the reputation of Delco’s workers, as well as the vaunted Boeing brand, is on the line here.

Just in case anyone knows anything and may be reluctant to come forward, the feds yesterday added a little incentive yesterday.

You might call it a bounty. They handed out fliers to workers offering $5,000 for information on the vandalism.

Let’s hope the person or persons responsible for this reprehensible act is rooted out quickly. Too much is at stake.

The Chinook is the workhorse of the U.S. Army. These copters will ferret U.S. troops in and out of danger in battle zones.

They don’t need another battle zone on the home front.

Flyers not dead yet

Don’t start throwing dirt on the Flyers just yet.

Oh, the orange and black still have one foot in the grave, but they’re also still kicking and screaming.

They proved that rather convincingly last night when they came out and jumped all over the Penguins in the first period of their crucial Game 4 of their series. The Flyers ran out to an early 3-0 lead – the first time they’ve actually been able to get a lead on the Pens.

Of course, they couldn’t just coast to an easy win. They had to put their fans through a rather cardiac third period in which the Pens drew to 3-2. An empty-netter gave the Flyers their final 4-2 margin.

Now it’s back to Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon.

And things are getting very interesting for the Flyers on the injury front.

They could take the ice Sunday with both of their top defensemen back in the lineup. Braydon Coburn took a puck in the face in Game 2. He was scratched again last night because of concerns for the eye over which he is sporting a nasty looking 52 stitches. But he likely will be back in the lineup Sunday.

Even more surprising is that the Flyers’ best defenseman, Kimmo Timonen, the leader of the vaunted power play unit, also might be ready to return from a blood clot in his ankle. He’ll likely be a game-time decision.

Should the Flyers again jump out to an early lead on the Pens, it will be very interesting to see how the Pens react to the pressure.

Hey, it beats making tee times.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 15

The Daily Numbers: 120 workers expected back on the production line at Boeing today to work on the Chinook helicopter as investigators continue to probe irregularities found in 2 copters being built there.

38 years at the helm of the Delco GOP for Tom Judge Jr. He was re-elected to another 4-year term Wednesday night.

1 woman killed in a fatal accident overnight on North Ridley Creek Road in Upper Providence. It’s the 2nd fatal crash in the township in the last week.

1 more penny we’re shelling out for gas this morning, at an all-time high of $3.78 in the Philly region. Diesel also is at a record high of $4.68.

1.5 percent hike in the cost of food in April, and yes, you can thank rising gas prices for much of the increase.

24 percent hike in the sales of scooters such as Vespas, as reported by the Motorcyle Industry Council. They just happen to get 75 to 120 miles per gallon.

2 suspects busted as Upper Darby cops turned the tables on a gang that was specializing in home invasions. This time when they went into a home they were met by a SWAT team.

140 million dollars that DuPont is getting ready to shell out to ramp up production of ethanol.

15, where the Philadelphia area ranks in a study of the least courteous drivers. They obviously did not talk to anyone leaving a gas station.

7 people injured, including 4 children, when a school bus and another car collided Wednesday afternoon in Northeast Philadelphia.

100 bucks, the price tag on a cheesesteak at the Barclay Prime restaurant in Rittenhouse Square. Is that wit?

37 percent spike in foreclosure filings in Pennsylvania in April as compared to the same period last year.

2 million dollar ad campaign about to be rolled out by Philly tourism folks looking to get people to stay close to home and spend their vacations in the city.

1,719 alcohol-related crashes involving drivers age 16-20 in 2007. Sobering news as we head into graduation and prom season.

26 giant beetles intercepted by customs agents at a postal facility near Reading. Some of these critters are the size of a child’s hand. Icky stuff.

8 runs on 6 hits in just a tad more than 4 innings for Phils starter Brett Myers last night. Not good.

2 men on and the go-ahead run at the plate in the 9th inning, but the Phils fell to the Braves, 8-6.

1 win tonight or the Flyers can start making their tee times. They’re down 3-0 to the Pens and must win to send the series back to Pittsburgh Sunday.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Brett Myers is in a serious funk. Hey, if Ryan Howard can look like he’s breaking out of his doldrums at the plate, why can’t Myers do the same on the mound? With Brad Lidge throwing well in the closer’s role, there’s no need for Myers to go back to the ’pen this year.

I Don’t Get It: A kid in New Jersey had a bright idea during a fire drill last week. He decided to light another student’s turban on fire. The victim happens to be a Sikh and the turban is part of his religious beliefs. Some days you just sort of shake your head.


Today’s Upper: Let’s hear a huge bravo for all those who came to the aid of Mohammed Alshebabi. The 5-year-old received desperately needed medical care due to some local doctors and the Concordville Rotary.

Quote Box: “He’s had an experience that most of the kids in that area or that region will never get to experience. He’s touched a ton of lives, which is the important thing.”

-- Eric Balcavage, talking about the experience of Mohammed Alshebabi, the Iraqi boy who received medical care thanks to some local doctors and Rotary members.

A good story out of Iraq

This newspaper gets accused – on just about a daily basis – of taking every opportunity to show the county in a poor light.

We always focus on the negative, our critics constantly carp.

We easily could have done that today. Some people are actually talking about “sabotage” being involved in the problems found in a couple of Chinook helicopters being produced at Boeing’s Ridley plant.

Someone tried to mail 26 giant beetles into the country. It’s like something out of a science fiction saga. They were intercepted by postal inspectors out near Reading.

Hell, Brett Myers even rolled out another clunker last night. And the Flyers are on the brink of being swept out of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

None of them adorn the lead position on our front page today. Instead staffer John Roman offers the inspiring tale of Mohammed Kareem Moh Alshehabi.

I won’t ruin the story for you, save to say it involved a very sick little Iraqi boy, and some great people who banded together to help him out.

It’s an uplifting saga, and one I’m proud we featured on our front page today.

This country has more than our share of problems with Iraq. This story is not one of them. Instead, it just might be part of the solution.

A hot situation in Colwyn

What’s going on in Colwyn is not all that unusual.

Lots of local volunteer fire companies have two different organizations, one comprised of active volunteers who actually fight fires, and one of “social” members who take part in the, ahem, other advantages of the fire house.

But in Colwyn, the friction between the two groups has boiled over. All 17 active volunteer firefighters have resigned en masse, citing problems with social members and drinking at the fire house.

Now the fire company has a new leader who is trying to put the organization back on an even keel. F. Earl Reed has his work cut out for him. You can read Correspondent Dan Russo’s account here.

There are allegations of alcohol use and misuse of funds. Now the state police and district attorney’s office are involved.

Lost in all this is that a valuable volunteer service, one that forms the backbone of many of our communities, is in jeopardy.

We wish Reed well in his work to get Colwyn Fire Co. back up and running again. And we hope investigators can get to the bottom of what happened in the fire company and offer the public a full accounting.

We’ll be waiting to hear the results.

The Specter of another sports investigation

Arlen Specter wants to hold still another special investigation into what is now being called “Spy-Gate.”


The Pennsylvania Republican remains unsatisfied with the answers he’s gotten from the NFL concerning their investigation into the taping of opposing teams that was done by the New England Patriots and their coach Bill Belichick.

Specter envisions a new congressional probe into the matter, one on a par with the Mitchell Report on steroid use in major league baseball.


Uh, Sen. Specter? We are paying almost $4 a gallon on gas. The economy is in shambles. Foreclosures are going through the roof We’re still trying to cobble together an exit plan for Iraq.

And you’re still looking to find out what happened with the Patriots and their taping practices?

Look, we agree with you that the whole thing still stinks. But it’s time to let it go.

The Eagles lost to the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Yeah, it hurt. But I don’t think it was because the Patriots were taping their signals in the first half. I think it was because Andy Reid apparently didn’t realize you might want to go to a hurry-up offense when you’re two scores down in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.

Let’s move on to more pressing topics. Like maybe what’s wrong with Brett Myers.

True Brett

Forget the Flyers. What’s up with Brett Myers?

The supposed ace of the staff, the man who was brought back out of the bullpen to become the stud of the starting rotation, rolled out another dud last night.

Myers got shelled by the Braves. He put the Phils in a 2-0 hole before most fans had made their way to their seats.

Myers surrendered homers on two of his first six pitches, including one to red-hot Chipper Jones, who is now hitting a cool .418. Has anyone considered just walking this guy, who is seemingly a line drive looking for a place to happen?

Things didn’t get much bettter for Myers, who lasted only four and a third innings. He got touched for eight runs on nine hits.

The Phils valiantly tried another of their signature comebacks, but fell just short, losing 8-6. They actually had the winning run at the plate with runners at second and third in the ninth, but Shane Victorino flied out.

The big question hanging over the team right now is what exactly is wrong with Myers? This is the guy Charlie Manuel chose to use on opening day over Cole Hamels, remember?

For his part, Myers seems as puzzled as everyone else.

That’s not a good thing. There’s no need for Myers back in the closer role now, what with new addition Brad Lidge proving true to his nickname, “Lights Out.” Myers needs to be the second big gun in the rotation, along with Hamels.

The Phils need to get Myers back on track. And soon.

Across the street, there’s more trouble. The Flyers will be trying to stave off elimination tonight vs. the Penguins.

Break out the old Dandy Don song, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.” Maybe the Flyers win tonight. Maybe not. Doesn’t much change things.

The Penguins are just the better team. Hey, it’s still been a pretty heady year for a team that was dead last in the NHL last year.

Now the focus will be shift squarely to the Phillies. And that will not be good news for Brett Myers until he gets his act back on track.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 14

The Daily Numbers: 20 million bucks. That’s the price tag on Boeing’s Chinook helicopter. Production was shut down for a time yesterday at the Ridley plant after some defects were found on a couple of copters being worked on there.

250 Boeing workers sent home yesterday after the problem was discovered and work stopped on the copters.

2 Chinooks that were found to have problems. Officials are trying to determine how wires on the helicopters became severerd.

25 Delco residents who have reached the grand age of 100 who were feted yesterday during a luncheon at the Drexelbrook.

4 arrests on DUI charges for a Ridley woman who was picked up again last weekend.

479,026 dollars in contracts for the Delco Prison OK’d by county council, mostly to expand the videoconferencing capabilities.

3.77 a gallon, price of a gallon of gas in the Philly area this morning. Another day, another 2 cents higher.

17 million bucks being debated in Haverford Township. That’s their windfall from the sale of the Haverford State Hospital property. Maybe they should buy gasoline.

3.6 million dollars a year, what Philadelphia said it would cost to operate the wireless network in the city being proposed by EarthLink. Yesterday the company said it was pulling the plug on the project.

12 foot cliffs formed on the beach in some Jersey shore towns, part of the damage left behind after Monday’s Nor’easter wiped out tons of dunes and sand.

32, age of man killed in a brutal carjacking in Bensalem. A 41-year-old woman also was abducted and raped in the incident.

30 percent decline in housing sales being reported by regional luxury home builder Toll Brothers.

2.4 percent decline in median sales price of existing homes in Delaware County, according to Prudential Fox and Roach’s HomExpert.

58 age of man on bicycle who was struck and killed in Elsmere, Del., last night..

46 age of woman who apparently went overboard on a cruise ship off the coast of Atlantic City. The FBI plans to question her boyfriend and others when it arrives in Bermuda. Cruise line officials and the boyfriend indicate it was an accident, when the woman attempted to jump from one deck to another.

5.5 to 11 years in jail for a man convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl at a Tinicum hotel.

4 straight wins, what the Flyers need if they want to extend their season. They lost to the Pens last night and are now down 3-0 in the series.

2 assists for Sidney Crosby in setting up the key first two goals for the Pens that took the crowd out of the game in the first period.

3 runs surrendered in a shaky first inning by Phils starter Kyle Kendrick. But he settled down from that point and got the win as the Phils rallied to beat the Braves.

4 runs batted in for Jayson Werth to lead the Phils.

2 hits for Ryan Howard, who may be breaking out of his slump.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Everyone who thinks that the refs are robbing the Flyers and that the Pens really are not the better team in this series, raise your hands. Thought so. It’s almost time to get serious about the Phillies.

I Don’t Get It: You had to figure this one was coming. With gas prices heading toward $4 a gallon, AAA officials are now warning of an uptick in gas thefts. Imagine pumping upwards of $50 in liquid gold into your tanks, only to have someone siphon it off.


Today’s Upper: Very nice move from the Flyers last night in honoring the memory of slain Philadelphia Police Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski before last night’s game. Liczbinski was a huge Flyers fan.

Quote Box: “We do this because we feel very strongly if you’ve reached the age of 100 you deserve a party.”

-- Louis Colbert, director of Delco’s County Services for the Aging, at yesterday’s gala luncheon for centenarians at the Drexelbrook.

Some turbulence at Boeing

Here’s a traffic alert for you: There likely will be a little extra traffic on Route 291 outside the Boeing plant in Ridley Township today.

That will be all the TV news vans making their way to the sprawling helicopter facility.

Yesterday Boeing officials announced they had temporarily halted production on their key Chinook line of helicopters because of what they termed “possible manufacturing irregularities.” You can read Kathleen Carey’s story on the shutdown here.

Defects turned up in two choppers at the plant. Now the Department of Defense is bringing in their Defense Criminal Investigating Service to look into the matter to determine just what happened, if it was a problem in production or perhaps something a bit more sinister.

One union official at the plant told us it appeared wires had broken or been severed.

The company shut down production at the plant and sent several hundred workers whose livelihoods depend on the Chinook home. They likely will be back at work today.

They won’t be alone. A lot of people will be asking a lot of questions.

The Jahmir Ricks ruling

It’s hard to argue with the logic used by Delco Judge Frank Hazel this week.

After a marathon series of hearings, the judge ruled that a Lansdowne teen will not face trial as an adult in the stabbing death of his brother.

Thus Jahmir Ricks will leave the George W. Hill Correctional Facility, the county jail at Broadmeadows. He will be moved to the county’s Juvenile Detention Center in Lima. Soon after that he likely will make his way fairly quickly through the juvenile court system. If convicted, he will remain in custody until he reaches the age of 21.

Ricks is 14. He’s been a “guest” of the county since his arrest last July. He was 13 at the time. He spent almost a year in adult prison, charged with first-degree prison.

Police say the killing, in which they say Jahmir plunged a knife into his older brother’s chest, stemmed from an argument over a video game. Jahmir had won a game, and thus was supposed to take over the game controller. His older brother Antwan apparently had other ideas. Things heated up considerably from there.

During one of the more than half-dozen hearings to determine whether Jahmir’s case should be handled in the adult or juvenile court systems, something else became apparent. Disputes between the two brothers were not unusual. In fact, a pattern became pretty clear that Antwan routinely beat up on his kid brother.

So much so that his mother told the court she actually thought it would be Antwan who would be responsible for taking Jahmir’s life, not the other way around.

Hazel wisely assigned Jahmir’s case back to juvenile court, saying the 14-year-old had neither the “maturity level or sophistication of either an adult or even other juveniles with which he is currently housed.”

The district attorney’s office has 10 days to decide whether to appeal the ruling in Superior Court.

We hope they don’t. Jahmir Ricks has spent more than enough time being treated as an adult, despite the serious nature of his crime. He’s a kid.

That’s what Delco Judge Frank Hazel ruled. It’s hard to argue with his reasoning.

The Hill is still alive -- barely

Rack up another big swing state for Hillary Clinton.

She swamped her Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, in the West Virginia primary yesterday, by a better than 2-1 margin.

It would seem to support her argument that she is the candidate who wins the big swing states the party will need to capture the White House in November. That she is the candidate who is best positioned to defeat John McCain.

But it won’t silence the calls for her to get out of the race.

Today she will huddle her financial advisers from across the country. What they tell her likely will be the key in whether she continues to tilt at this windmill, a race most believe she cannot win.

Maybe she will use her wins in the big industrial states to muscle her way onto the ticket as Obama’s vice presidential choice.

Or maybe she wants the party to cover some of her growing financial debt.

But for now she’s simply indicating she’s not going anywhere.

Next up is Kentucky and, yep, she likely will wax Obama there, too.

Maybe that’s the whole point. Maybe she won’t do anything until after June 1. After all, what good would it do for Obama to wind up losing a primary to someone who is not even still in the race.

Poison Pens

Maybe the Pen really is mightier than the sword.

The Flyers find themselves in dire straits this morning after falling to the Penguins, 4-1, last night at the Wachovia Center.

The Flyers did little to cheer their fans, who provided a raucous atmosphere to start the game, only to see the orange and black quickly fall behind 2-0 in the first period.

Call it orange crushed.

The Flyers now will have to do something that is rarer than a Philly fan who does not believe the locals are getting jobbed by the refs. That would be to win four straight games to overcome a 3-0 deficit.

The Flyers did do one thing right last night, however. Before the game they offered a moving memorial to slain Philadelphia Police Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski.

Liczbinski was a huge Flyers fan, so much so that his brother led those gathered for his funeral Mass in a “Let’s go, Flyers” cheer in the stately Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.

They held a moment of silence before the game as the ice surface was lit up with a huge image of the slain officer.

Well done.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 13

The Daily Numbers: 14 age of Lansdowne teen who will not face trial in the stabbing death of his brother. Police say they were arguing over a video game.

49 age of man charged with indecent exposure in the latest incident at Ridley Creek State Park. This guy did his act in full view of a uniformed park ranger.

49 also the age of a former provost at Lehigh University who entered a guilty plea in connection with an Internet sex sting run by county detectives. He thought he was setting up a meeting for sex with a woman and her two young daughters.

17 volunteer firefighters in Colwyn who have resigned because of problems with the social club that operates in the fire hall. Colwyn Borough Council is backing the volunteers’ move.

17 years, how long Al Bloom has been the president of Swarthmore College. Bloom announced he will step down in August 2009.

1 cent hike in average price for a gallon of regular in the Philly region overnight.

3.75 a gallon, price of a gallon of petrol in the Philly area, still one more all-time high. Anyone think we can hit $4 by Memorial Day?

4.63 a gallon for diesel fuel, which means that everything that is moved by truck costs more as well. That’s why your grocery bill also is going through the roof.

11 days until the start of the unofficial start of summer with the Memorial Day weekend, and shore areas are cleaning up from a nasty Nor’easter that pounded the East Coast yesterday.

78 mph wind gusts that were clocked yesterday in Ocean City, N.J. That’s tornado territory.

5 years in jail, what U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan will seek for the so-called ‘Bonnie & Clyde,’ the Philly college students who fleeced their friends in an ID theft scam.

19 people arrested in a crackdown on illegal gun sales in Philadelphia. Among them was a Wayne man.

3 prior DUI convictions for a woman now charged with operating a car while under the influence of PCP. The ignition interlock device in the Ridley woman’s car only detects use of alcohol.

5,000 jobs that a developer says he will be able to create in a “new age of industry” he wants to bring to the Lehigh Valley, specifically a development on the site of what was the region’s industrial icon, Bethlehem Steel.

4 to 8 years in prison for a Bucks County man who was once a regular on the “Antiques Roadshow” TV program, but who was charged with ripping off some of his clients to the tune of $15,000.

2 14-year-old girls who were allegedly sexually assaulted in Chester County. If that’s not bad enough, the suspect is a stunner. He’s a member of the Owen J. Roberts school board.

0 wins for Flyers so far against the Penguins. They will be looking to change that tonight at the Wachovia Center.

3 key games between the Phillies and Braves, starting tonight across the street at Citizens Bank Park.

55,000 fans who will jam into the stadium complex tonight. Think mass transit.

5.46 the ERA of the Phils starters in the last 3 turns of the rotation. That won’t get it done.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
The Flyers need to draw a line in the sand – or maybe the ice – tonight. They simply can’t fall behind the Pens 3-0 and expect to do anything other than start making their tee times.

I Don’t Get It: I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again. Just how many “stings” will it take before people realize that you really don’t know who is on the other end of that computer chat. Today we detail the guilty plea of a former provost at Lehigh University. The man believed he was coming to Delco for a sexual romp with a woman and her two young daughters. Instead he walked right into the arms of Delco detectives.


Today’s Upper: Shore areas have 11 days to clean up after they got rammed by a nasty Nor’easter yesterday before kicking off the Memorial Day weekend. Never fear, summer is on the way.

Quote Box: “Defendant is an adolescent who does not have the maturity or level of sophistication of either an adult or of juveniles with whom is currently housed.”

-- Delco Judge Frank Hazel, in his ruling sending the murder charges against 14-year-old Jahmir Ricks back to the juvenile court system.

The poster children for ID theft

Their cute faces are plastered all over newspapers again today.

That’s right, our modern-day ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ are back in the news.

Jocelyn Kirsch and Edward Anderton entered pleas to federal charges yesterday.

U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan, the former Delco D.A., has another moniker for the duo of college students who fueled a lavish lifestyle by ripping off their friends and acquaintances.

He calls them “the poster children for identity theft.”

Sounds about right to us. So does the five years in jail the feds will seek for terrible twosome.

Almost heaven? Not for Hillary

Hillary Clinton is poised for another big win today, this time in West Virginia.

Another big state, another key area Democrats will have to win in November to capture the White House, and it’s Clinton, not front-runner Barack Obama, who is likely to be in the winner’s circle tonight.

Not that it matters much.

Clinton’s once seemingly inevitable march to the Democratic nomination seems to be derailed.

She trails in the popular vote. She trails in delegates. And now she is losing her grasp on the one advantage she held, with the superdelegates, where support is slowly but surely moving toward Obama.

So tonight she will step to a microphone and exclaim, “Thank you, West Virginia.”

It will stand as more evidence for her supporters’ key argument, that she, not Obama, is winning the big states and poses a much stronger alternative to Republican likely nominee Sen. John McCain.

Even as the calls continue for her to get out of the race.

Go figure.

It shore-ly could have been worse

What a difference a day makes. Or a week for that matter.

There is a gorgeous, sunny morning awaiting you out there this morning. That’s quite the difference from yesterday, when it seemed like we rolled the calendar back a couple of months in battling a wicked Nor’easter that pounded the east coast.

As bad as it was here, it was much worse in beach areas. Big sections of the Jersey and Delaware shore areas are still under water, reeling from yesterday’s high winds and pounding rain.

And yet, even that could have been worse. Just 11 days from now, the shore areas will be bracing for the unofficial start of summer, the Memorial Day weekend. Hopefully by then cleanup crews will have made today’s aftermath from Monday’s hammering by Mother Nature just a bad memory.

Having said that, let’s here it for Memorial Day and getting on with the summer.

Desperation mode for Flyers

We’ll make this one pretty simple.

The Flyers need to win tonight. Or you can prepare yourself for another season without a championship in Philadelphia.

Sure, they could still win Thursday night to prolong the agony. But the reality is that, down 2-0 in their series against the Penguins, they need to reverse their losing trend, starting tonight.

To make their uphill climb just that much steeper, they likely will take the ice at the Wachovia Center tonight without their two best defensemen.

First they lost Kimmo Timonen to a blood clot in his ankle. Then, just a few minutes into Sunday night’s tilt in Pittsburgh, Braydon Coburn had the misfortune to be the latest ghoulish incident that haunts anyone who has ever laced up a pair of skates.

He took a puck in the face. Coburn never saw it coming. Now he can barely see at all. A slap shot from the point was redirected and caught Coburn square in the forehead, just over his eye. Fifty stitches later, the Flyers are trying to stitch together their tattered chances against the Pens.

Maybe the fans, and a little ‘God Bless America’ karma can lift the Flyers tonight. Or maybe Coburn will make like Willis Reed and make a dramatic appearance on the ice.

Whatever, the Flyers need to win. Or else. It says here that if they go down 3-0, you can stick a form in them, let alone a puck.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 12

The Daily Numbers: 80,000 bucks, that’s the minimum the Penn-Delco School District is likely to spend on an audit of the district’s books. If it puts to rest questions about some of the things that have gone on in the district, it’s money well spent.

35 mph winds that are howling across the county this morning. It’s causing havoc on the roads and mass transit because of downed trees and power lines.

30 minute delays being experienced on the regional rail lines this morning, again that’s because of overhead line problems being affected by high winds.

5 cent spike in gas prices over weekend. That’s up a dime a gallon just since last Monday.

3.72 the average price for a gallon of regular in the Philly region. And yes, that’s an all-time high. Same goes for diesel, which stands at $4.59.

3.01 a gallon, what we were paying one year ago in the Philly area.

1 penny hike in the price of a first-class stamp. It now will cost 42 cents to mail a letter. Or the check for your gas credit card bill.

45,000 people who took part in the 18th annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure run and walk to battle breast cancer in Philly yesteday.

2.4 million bucks, the price tag on the legendary Joe Frazier Gym in Philly, which is now on the market.

15 million dollars spent a year on the 3,650 vehicles used by state employees in Pennsylvania.

20 million dollar dorm being constructed on the campus of Holy Family in northeast Philly. It’s the school’s second housing facility.

1 man killed and a woman kidnapped and raped in a brutal ordeal that took place in Bensalem early Sunday.

10 age of girl killed in a Trenton house fire on Sunday.

5 members of an Amish family injured when a truck struck the horse-drawn buggy they were riding in out in Mercer County.

183 bucks stolen from a cab driver in Philly. But he also lost something else. The suspect bit off his ear during a struggle.

2 games down, where the Flyers now sit after losing in Pittsburgh again Sunday night.

5 defensemen they had to play with after Braydon Coburn took a puck in the face.

50 stitches over his eye for Coburn. His availability for Tuesday night’s game at the Wachovia Center is still to be determined.

2 losses in a row for the Phils, who haven’t done that since April 19.

0.63 the ERA of Phils’ reliever J.C. Romero going into yesterday’s finale against the Giants. Romero gave up the game-winning 2-run homer in the 7th.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Anyone else still wondering about those penalty calls against Derian Hatcher last night? Then again, maybe things even out. Anyone else think the Flyers got a break on that video replay that upheld the no-goal call on Sidney Crosby?

I Don’t Get It: Well, you could pretty much count on it. The Rev. Al Sharpton showed up yesterday to talk about the police beating of a suspect in Philadelphia that was captured on video. Yes, it should be looked into, but we don’t remember seeing Sharpton in town after a city cop was gunned down a few days earlier.


Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for the Penn-Delco School District. They’re bringing in a big-time accounting firm to thoroughly go over the district’s books.

Quote Box: “This is a perfect time because the current school board is essentially new and wants to ensure that any of the improprieties connected with past board members will not happen again.”

-- Penn-Delco Superintendent Michael Levin on move to hire a firm to perform audit on the district’s books.

A good move in Penn-Delco

Let’s hear it for the Penn-Delco School Board.

A lot of people still have a lot of questions about some of the problems the embattled district has incurred.

A lot of people still want to know who knew what and when in terms of problems the district has encountered with former board members as well as their former superintendent.

There’s also the not small matter of the split-dollar life insurance policy that has cost the district a ton of money.

Many people in the district still do not believe we know all we should about the district’s financial doings.

That’s why it’s good to see the current board take action to get to the bottom of things. As reported by Loretta Rodgers the Penn-Delco School Board has voted overwhelmingly to hire a big-time accounting firm, KPMG, to go over the district’s books.

Maybe they’ll be able to put to rest some of the questions that remain and allow the district to continue the job of putting their troubled past behind them.

Glum Monday for sports fans

The weather probably matches the mood of sports fans this morning.

The Flyers now find themselves staring at a 2-0 hole after losing to the Penguins again Sunday night. They’re also fast running out of defensemen. Already without standout blue-liner Kimmo Timonen for the series with a blood clot, the Flyers were forced to play the bulk of last night’s game with just five defensemen after Braydon Coburn took a puck in the face just a few minutes into the contest.

Coburn crumpled to the ice and was bleeding from a cut over his eye. His status for Tuesday night’s game at the Wachovia Center is to be determined.

Just to top things off, the Phils managed to lose two of three to the lowly San Francisco Giants. The usually reliable J.C. Romero offered up a home run to rookie Steve Holm in the seventh as the Phils fell, 4-3.

Next thing you’re going to tell us is that Andy Reid is going to go on the radio and not offer any substantive answers to questions concerning the team’s off-season moves.

Oh, he’s going to do that this morning?

Yep, it’s just a lovely Monday morning.

A thoroughly miserable Monday morning

No, you didn’t sleep through summer. It’s not November. It just feels like it out there.

Maybe it’s appropriate for a Monday morning. If you like howling winds, and cold, raw conditions, you’re going to love today’s weather.

If you had trash cans out last night, they might be down the street in a neighbor’s yard about now. Also better check for your lawn furniture and hanging baskets.

Wind gusts overnight reached as high as 35 mph. Down in Pomona, N.J., and also in Delaware, they had gusts as high as 52 mph.

There are reports of scattered power outages. The lights are out on Providence Road near the Media Bypass. There’s at least one road closure in the county, with Bryn Mawr Avenue near Sproul Road in Radnor closed because of a downed tree. There’s also a 30-minute delay on regional rail lines because of power line problems.

Around the region it’s actually a lot worse. Down in Delaware, they are evacuating people in the Bowers Beach area because of severe flooding.

And it’s only going to get worse as the day goes on. Winds will pick up throughout the day, hitting their peak around 1 or 2 this afternoon.

Batten down the hatches, it’s going to be a thoroughly miserable start to the work week.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Heron's Nest flies coop

No, the Heron's Nest has not flown south.

It is simply taking a few days off to attend to a long list of chores around the house that he has been avoiding for months.

Be back next week.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 2

The Daily Numbers: 254 bucks, the average property tax reduction for homeowners in the suburbs coming from slots revenues in the state.

623 bucks headed to property owners in the Chester Upland School District. That’s tops in the county.

132 bucks in Marple Newtown, the low end of the tax savings. The other 13 districts in the county fall somewhere in between

6 years since we lost Upper Darby Officer Dennis McNamara.

1 cent more for a gallon of gasoline in the Philly region today. While the nation and state held steady, we kicked up another penny.

3.64 a gallon in the Philly area for regular unleaded; diesel is $4.52.

17 percent jump in earnings for Exxon Mobil. Let that number sink in for awhile.

14 percent jump in revenue for cable giant Comcast.

10 as in 10th-grader, who a Montco teacher’s aide was charged with having an inappropriate relationship with yesterday.

250 more officers out on the streets in a shakeup of the Philadelphia police force announced by Mayor Michael Nutter and Commissioner Charles Ramsey.

24 percent decline in murders citywide from this time last year.

6 cents, increase in price of cup of coffee at Wawa. First gas, then groceries. Now they’ve gone too far.

4 suitcases full of cocaine seized during a traffic stop on I-95 in Philly. That’s more than 100 pounds of coke.

3 sex attacks and 4 other crimes being investigated on or near the campus of West Chester University.

6 cases of salmonella being investigated at Princeton University.

3 marijuana-growing operations discovered in Berks County in the last week. They were in suburban homes rigged with elaborate electrical systems and growing lights.

4 day work week being looked at by the government operations in Centre County to save on fuel costs.

10 straight points for the Detroit Pistons last night as they got off to a quick start and rolled over the Sixers. They win the series, 4-2.

1 as in first place, where the Phils reside today in the NL East after topping San Diego last night, 3-2.

6 home runs for Ryan Howard, who hit a monster shot to provide the difference last night.

9 strikeouts in 6 innings for former Phillies Randy Wolf, who did not take the loss.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Can you say first place? That’s where the Phils sit today. So much for those bothersome thoughts of another slow start.

I Don’t Get It: Now they’ve gone too far. The cost of the newspaper went up. Along with gas. And groceries. Now the price of a cup of coffee is going up 6 cents at Wawa.


Today’s Upper: Celebrate. Take all that money you’re getting back on your property taxes in the windfall from slots gambling in the state and splurge. Fill up the family car with gas.

Quote Box: “This will be a living memorial never to be disturbed. You will be able to come here and see where a hero died.”

-- Philadelphia lawyer James Binns, unveiling plaque yesterday to honor slain Upper Darby Officer Dennis McNamara.

Rest well, Officer McNamara

It’s amazing how quickly time goes by. Unfortunately, pain does not.

It really can’t be six years ago that we said goodbye to Upper Darby Officer Dennis McNamara.

It was Jan. 30, 2002. A cold, rainy night. It was about to get a lot worse.

McNamara was making a routine check on a suspicious car on Perry Avenue. He was shot once in the head by a man who came out of a nearby house. I won’t even mention his name here. This isn’t about him. It’s about McNamara. And those left behind.

They gathered yesterday at Cardington-Stonehurst Fire Co. to unveil a plaque to the first Upper Darby police officer killed in the line of duty.

McNamara left behind a wife and two children.

I have exchanged occasional e-mails with Diane McNamara in the days and years since. I have always been amazed at how resilient and upbeat she has remained, despite the horrific circumstances she found herself in.

She was there again yesterday, joking that she expected showers, just as it rained the night her husband was so violently taken from her.

Many of us will think of McNamara for a while today, or on the anniversary of his death, or when another incident involving a policeman takes place.

Diane McNamara doesn’t have that luxury. She lives with what happened every day.

Rest well, Officer McNamara. Your sacrifice is being remembered. By those who loved you. By those who served with you. And by some you never met.

The winners in the great gambling debate

The numbers are in for the great slots payback. If you live in Chester Upland School District, you hit the jackpot. If you live in Marple Newtown, not so much.

The state Department of Education listed the expected tax savings for every district in the state yesterday as a result of the introduction of slot-machine gambling in the state. In Delaware County, they run from a high of $623 in Chester Upland to $132 in Marple Newtown.

Check out the story and all the numbers for the county by by clicking here.

The idea is that the needier the district, the more benefit residents get in terms of their tax cut.

So even if you’ve never stepped inside Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack, or any of the other slots parlors in the state, you’re still a winner.

Gamblers have pumped $613 million into the state coffers, now $139.2 million will make its way back to residents in the Philly suburbs.

But this is not an economic stimulus rebate plan. Don’t look for a check in your mailbox. Instead the money will be deducted from your 2008-09 school tax bill.

Good idea. After all, with the average check in the suburbs coming to $254, we might do something outrageous with it, like buy a tank of gas.

Of slavery and Harrisburg

Got a very interesting e-mail from loyal reader Charlotte Hummel yesterday.

She’s a member of the William Penn School Board. She always keeps a keen eye on school issues, and I know I can count on her to offer an insightful analysis when we start talking about schools and money.

But yesterday she had a great take on the minor flap surrounding the comments made in Harrisburg by outgoing Sen. Vince Fumo, D-Phila. Maybe you heard about them. In debating a piece of legislation that would recognize marriage as being between a man and a woman, Fumo dissented. Passionately. In making his point, he told a Philadelphia pastor who was backing the legislation that it was wrong. Along the way, he basically said that just because something becomes law, doesn’t make it right.

Then he lit the match to the fuse. He indicated he believed some of his colleagues, if given the opportunity, especially by a secret ballot, would approve slavery. That would be no less right, Fumo argued.

That raised a lot of eyebrows. Later he said he was simply exaggerating to make a point.

Hummel thinks he might have made one, but not the one he intended.

Here’s her comments about Harrisburg and “slavery.”

“I'll let others fuss and fume over Sen. Fumo's hyperbole about the Pa. Legislature hypothetically having the votes to enact a slavery law. I would argue that they pretty much already have.

“Over the last 30 years, members of the Pa. Legislature have knowingly perpetuated a government-sanctioned system of educational apartheid in this state that will enslave many of our children to lives of intellectual and economic poverty and social disenfranchisement. Back that up with full funding for prison systems and there you have it. I have to wonder if anyone else is as frustrated and appalled as I am by how very little "fuss" there is about that reality on the part of most citizens and the media?

“Finally, I wholeheartedly agree with Congressman Chaka Fattah who has often said that the level of inequity in public education in this country is THE civil rights issue of our time.

“Can I get an Amen?”

Amen, Charlotte!

No surprise, Sixers are toast

Stick a fork in the Sixers. They’re done.

It’s not a big surprise that the 76ers were ousted by the Pistons. What I suppose is a tad unsettling is the way they went. The Sixers looked like deer in the headlights last night. Deer that were being led to their execution.

They came out timid, quickly watched as the Pistons scored the first 10 points of the game, and basically were never in it. They were down 18 by the end of the first quarter. It doesn’t help when you don’t make a field goal until a huge chunk of the first quarter is gone.

In the meantime, the Pistons looked every bit the veteran team that meant business. They came out, grabbed the Sixers by the throat, and never let go. Coatesville’s Rip Hamilton was a big reason why. He opened the game by scoring the first 7 points.

So nobody should be stunned that the Sixers are history. Honestly, the surprise was that they made the playoffs to begin with, and then stunned everyone by winning two games.

But it’s maybe not the most surprising number to come out of last night’s contest. And that would be? 14,130. That’s all the people who went through the turnstiles last night for a crucial Game 6.


Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 1

The Daily Numbers: 5 years since President Bush stood on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln under a banner that stated “Mission Accomplished” and indicated major combat operations in Iraq were over. We’re still there.

49 U.S. troops killed in action in Iraq in April.

1 as in May 1. Maybe we could put out a ‘May Day’ on gas prices. It’s also the National Day of Prayer. Pray for some help at the pump.

1 penny more, another increase in the cost of gas overnight. Regular unleaded in the region now stands at $3.64; diesel is $4.53. Both are all-time highs, which we seem to break every day.

18 cents, what we would knock off the price of gas by eliminating the federal gas tax. Both Hillary Clinton and John McCain are urging the government do just that, at least for summer travel.

59 million dollar loss posted by oil giant Sunoco Inc. in the first quarter. Geez, you know we’re in trouble when the oil companies are losing money.

7 straight cuts in interest rates OK’d by the Federal Reserve yesterday. They shaved another quarter-point off the rate.

7 people charged in Pottstown in what appears to be the crime du jour, that is ripping off copper and steel and reselling it.

25 years ago that Philly Officer Daniel Trench was gunned down. A man is now on trial for the second time for the crime.

6 years ago that we lost Upper Darby Officer Dennis McNamara, also gunned down while on duty. He’ll be remembered with the unveiling of a plaque in his memory today at Cardington-Stonehurst Fire Co.

4 hour standoff in Reading between police and a former officer who was wanted in connection with charges that he had raped a girl over 10 years. The ex-cop was found dead in his basement.

2014 when some education experts in Pennsylvania would like to implement a test for proficiency before students could be awarded a high school diploma.

2 goal lead coughed up again by the Flyers last night, who found themselves tied 2-2 before they rallied for a 4-2 win.

37 seconds, how long it took the Canadiens to erase that 2-0 deficit.

36 saves for Martin Biron, who is carrying this team in the tradition of Bernie Parent and Ron Hextall. Can you say MVP?

3 to 1 lead for the Flyers, who can finish off the Habs in Montreal Saturday night.

11 home runs in April for Chase Utley, who connected last night in the first inning. Unfortunately, that’s all the runs the Phils scored as they fell, 4-2.

1 loss away from elimination for the Sixers, who must win tonight at home against the Pistons or head for the golf course. A win would force a deciding Game 7 Saturday night in Detroit.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
The Phillies are going green, unveiling some environmentally friendly efforts yesterday. To mark the move, they also donned green caps last night. I guess it’s better than green hot dogs.

I Don’t Get It: Some experts are still debating whether or not we are technically in a recession. Where do they buy their gas? Or their groceries?


Today’s Upper: Kudos for Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-9, of Chester. He’s continuing the fight in Harrisburg against those robocalls that manage to interrupt us at dinner.

Quote Box: “What is happening now, the best that can be said for it is stupidity.”

-- Delco Judge Edward Zetusky Jr. on the move by the Chester Upland Empowerment Board to bring the Village Charter School back into the district, calling it a power-grab.

Let us pray ... for lower gas prices

Today is the National Day of Prayer.

It will be marked with a service in Rose Tree Park.
Maybe we should pray for lower gas prices. Guess what? Prices went up again overnight. According to the latest from AAA, the price ticked up another penny in the region.

Water torture? Who cares? We’re being subjected to gas torture, every day another penny drop of gas on our foreheads.

The average price for a gallon of unleaded regular in the Philadelphia area is now $3.64. I don’t have to tell you that every time the price at the pump ticks up, we set a new all-time record.

If you think we have it bad, consider truckers. They’re now forking over $4.53 a gallon for diesel fuel.

I had an interesting phone call from a reader this week. It was his observation from last weekend. He said he noticed there weren’t that many cars on the road.

My guess is that’s just the beginning. It’s going to be a long, hot summer. Especially when you’re walking, biking or hiking to a lot of your destinations.

Not exactly 'mission accomplished'

It was five years ago today that President George W. Bush flew onto the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, stood in front of a “Mission Accomplished” Banner and proclaimed “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.”

Didn’t work out that way.

Bush has admitted the banner backfired. The president indicated it actually referred to the carrier’s crew completing its 10-month mission. Not many were buying it.
And it will be remembered today.

Protests are planned across the state. One will be held in Media, outside the office of U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, who defeated longtime incumbent Curt Weldon in part because of the Democrat’s opposition to the Iraq war. The event will be held at noon at 600 N. Jackson St.

It has not been a good month in Iraq. At least 49 U.S. troops lost their lives.
The six years we have been engaged there is topped only by the Vietnam War, the war in Afghanistan and the Revolutionary War in the length of time U.S. troops have been in action.

Earlier this month, the president gave another speech in which he indicated that “while this war is difficult, it is not endless.”

It’s apparently not “accomplished” yet, either.

Phan-tastic: Sports of all sorts

If you can’t find something to root for these days in Philly sports, you’re just not trying. There’s a playoff game every night as the Flyers and Sixers take turns in the spotlight, the Phils have managed to avoid their normal April coma, and then there’s the Eagles, who are a 365-day-a-year topic of discussion.

So let’s work our way through them:

* The Flyers were in the worst possible position last night. Yes, they once again got out to the dreaded 2-0 lead.

You just knew what was coming next. The Canadiens promptly scored two goals in less time than it takes to grab a beer.

Never fear, Daniel Briere is here. Briere lit the lamp on a power play and the Flyers added an empty netter to post a deceiving 4-2 win. This one was heartburn city.

It sounds weird, but maybe the Flyers should simply avoid two-goal leads.

* The Sixers need a win tonight on the home hardwood at the Wachovia Center to stave off elimination by the Pistons.

At this point, anything the Sixers do is gravy. No one expected them to make the playoffs, let alone give the powerful Pistons a run for their money.

Hey, maybe we should just blame Samuel Dalembert. That mohawk seems to have broken up the team’s karma. Ya gotta love Philly guy Rasheed Wallace. He joked that Sixers’ coach Mo Cheeks should slap some kind of sanction on Dalembert for his new ‘do.

If somehow the Sixers manage to pull a Lazarus tonight, it would force a deciding Game 7 in Detroit on Saturday.

* The Phillies are going green. Yesterday they announced a program in which they will buy 20 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy in the form of certificates that will offset 100 percent of 2008 electric usage at Citizens Bank Park.

There wasn’t that much electricity in the park last night. After Chase Utley blasted his league-leading 11th homer in the first inning to tie the score, the Phils went meekly in losing to the Padres, 4-2.

The Phillies wore green hats as part of their new “going green” effort. They only managed to turn their fans green instead.

* Let’s not forget the Eagles. They have a mini-camp tomorrow. And the makings of another controversy in the works. All-Pro safety Brian Dawkins is coming to the defense of defensive back Lito Sheppard, who the team has shopped around after acquiring Asante Samuel in the free agent market and anointing him a starting corner.

And of course we likely will hear from QB Donovan McNabb tomorrow with his thoughts on the team and their recent draft.

Can you say wide receivers?