Friday, February 27, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Feb. 27

The Daily Numbers: 12, as in midnight Saturday night, when the contract between the United Steelworkers Local 10-901 and the Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook expires.
3 percent raise in each of 3 years of the deal the two sides have agreed on. That’s not the issue. Sunoco wants to reduce staffing at its plants. The union is vowing to fight it.
200 union members who held a rally in downtown Philly yesterday afternoon, winding up outside Sunoco headquarters.
128,000 dollars in unauthorized bonuses handed out by Radnor Township Manager David Bashore, according to commissioners. They suspended him while they investigate the matter.
2,000 dollar reward being offered for information on the whereabouts of Joseph Roman, aka Jason Mendez. He’s wanted for murder in New York and is believed to be in the Chester area.
41, age of Ridley Township man, a registered sex offender, charged as a “Peeping Tom.” David Gromek is charged in an incident in which it is alleged he was looking into the bedroom window of a home as a young woman was getting dressed.
40, age of Lower Chichester woman who has been charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old male over the course of a year.
201 million dollars in upgrades that have been given the green light by SEPTA, all part of the federal stimulus package.
15, as in March 15, the Ides of March, when the contract expires between SEPTA and the union that operates its vehicles in the city. The suburban contract expires April 1.
30 day extension given by SEPTA to Community Transit of Eddystone for disabled transport services in Delaware County.
1 bullet wound to the leg suffered by a Philadelphia detective who was trying to arrest a drug suspect yesterday.
25 dollar boost in unemployment compensation that goes into effect this week in Pennsylvania.
2 employees of Boeing in Seattle among the victims killed in a plane crash in the Netherlands.
12 job offers rescinded by the Philly D.A.’s office as they deal with budget cuts.
49,986 dollars, what it will cost to attend the University of Pennsylvania next year. That includes a 3.75 percent tuition hike.
7 straight losses for Saint Joseph’s, which fell to No. 19 Xavier last night.
22 points for Rodney Green to lead La Salle to a huge upset win over Temple last night.
2 scoreless innings for top Phillies pitching prospect Carlos Carrasco yesterday in Grapefuit League action.
2 straight losses to kick off the exhibition season for the Phils, who lost to the Blue Jays, 6-2.
3 very familiar names from the Eagles who are entering the free agent market. Those would be Brian Dawkins, Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Raise your hand if you can see Brian Dawkins wearing a uniform other than the Eagles. Thought so. Bet on him being back with the Birds.
I Don’t Get It: We just buried another Philly police officer, when we got word yesterday that still another cop had been shot in the line of duty. Thankfully, this one was not fatal.
Today’s Upper: This weekend marks the arrival of still one more sure harbinger of spring, the Philadelphia Flower Show.
Quote Box: “We’re miles apart still. Nobody wants a strike, but we’re prepared to give them one at noon on Sunday.”
-- Tim Kolodi, president of United Steelworkers Local 10-901, on talks with Sunoco.

Sharing the information superhighway

It is one of my favorite things about the Internet and our Web site,

Call it feedback. Interaction. Sound Off. Whatever. That’s the whole idea behind what we’re doing online. It gives readers the opportunity to talk with us, literally holding something of a cyber-conversation about the stories we present each day.

We realize that a lot of the stories we publish – both in print and online - spark a pretty fair amount of conversation among readers. Often people take the time to call or e-mail me with their opinions.

But online is a different animal. We deliver stories. Then the floodgates open, as the public reads what we wrote, then offers their own ideas.

I love reading the comments attached to the stories we publish online. For one thing it provides immediate feedback. It also tells me what stories are drawing the most interest.

But it also does something else. It provides me with a window into the hearts and minds of our readers.

Which brings me back to the story of Mark Duncan. He’s the assistant principal at Academy Park High School who has been charged with making a threat against a student.

Our Web site has been buzzing since we first posted the initial word of his arrest. It’s pretty clear that the incident has been the talk of the school district.

It’s also pretty clear that there is no shortage of opinion as to exactly what happened between Duncan and that student, as well as his role at the school, just how tough that job must be, where the line should be drawn in terms of what a person in his position can say, and also a pretty lively debate about the conduct of young people today, both at Academy Park as well as elsewhere.

We made the paper’s position clear today on our editorial page. We believe there are two sides to every story and we’d like to hear Duncan’s version of what happened.

We’ll continue to follow this story as it makes its way through the courts. And we continue to invite readers to offer their opinions along the way.

That’s why they call it the information superhighway. You now have an opportunity to get behind the wheel and drive the conversation.

We’re more than happy to share the road.

Heat is on at Sunoco

A glance at the calendar says we’re still weeks away from the official start of spring, let alone summer.

Not at the Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook. The heat arrives there this weekend. And at another Sunoco facility in South Philly.

The company and one of its big unions, United Steelworkers Local 10-901, are in a standoff at the negotiating table. The contract expires midnight Saturday night.

This one’s not about money; it’s about jobs, and how secure those union positions are.

The company and union seem to be on the same page when it comes to money, agreeing on a 3 percent raise across the board in each of the three years of the deal. There’s also a $2,500 lump sum bonus when a new deal is ratified.

But the company has made it clear that it intends to reduce jobs at its refineries in South Philadelphia and Marcus Hook.

That’s where the two sides sit, staring down the barrel of a possible work stoppage that could start as soon as noon Sunday.

Tim Kolodi is the president of United Steelworkers Local 10-901, which represents 500 workers at the Marcus Hook plant.

He doesn’t exactly sound optimistic.

“We’re miles apart still,” Kolodi said. “Nobody wants a strike, but we’re prepared to give them one at noon on Sunday.”

That’s what you call turning up the heat. Stay tuned.

A tiger by the tail

Now you know why I don’t make my living in Vegas.

In this space Wednesday, I predicted Tiger Woods, back on the PGA Tour after missing the entire second half of last year, would win as he made his debut at the Accenture Match Play Championship.

That looked good on Wednesday, when he looked like he hadn’t missed a beat in winning his first match. Yesterday was another story. Woods fell to Tim Clarke, four and two. For you non-golfers, that means the match ended on the 16th hole, with Woods being down four holes with just two more to play. Game, set and match.

The biggest loser in in all this? Not Woods, he’ll be fine. It’s a pretty big hit for fans, like me, who were looking forward to seeing the rare kind of drama that seems to surround the best golfer on the planet.

But the real loser in all this is the TV broadcast, which was banking on Woods being available all weekend.

In the meantime, all those bland characters that seem to make up the tour will soldier on.

And it says here viewers will stay away in droves.

It also says here Tiger is still the favorite to win the Masters.

Familiar face missing for Eagles

The man many fans feel is the face of the Philadelphia Eagles - as well as their heart and soul - is a free agent this morning.

Free safety Brian Dawkins, the emotional leader of the team for a decade, entered the free agent market at the stroke of midnight. That doesn't mean he won't resign with the Eagles. The team has apparently made him a contract offer, but there is no deal in place just yet.

It’s kind of hard to imagine the Eagles without Dawkins. And it’s equally hard to envision Dawkins in something other than that familiar green, black and silver.

That means, technically, Dawkins is not on the team's roster as of right now. He has company on that list with two other familiar names, both veteran members of the team.

Longtime starting left tackle Tra Thomas, yes, the guy who protects quarterback Donovan McNabb's blind side, also is now officially a free agent. So is his bookend on the offensive line, right tackle Jon Runyan. Interestingly enough, Runyan was one of the first big free agent signings of the Andy Reid era.

Between them, that's more than 30 year of service to the Eagles hanging in the balance.

It's possible the Eagles might simply be waiting to see what kind of interest is shown in this trio of aging stars.

But it's a bit of a roll of the dice. Thomas is considered one of the top left tackles on the market. Dawkins also is expected to draw interest. He struggled early in the year, then rallied and again was one of the keys to the Birds' stellar defense that propelled them into the playoffs. Runyan may not get as much interest. He is rehabbing from microfracture surgery on his knee.

Dawkins, a second round draft pick out of Clemson, has been with the Eagles for 13 years. Thomas was the 11th pick taken in the 1998 draft.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Feb. 26

The Daily Numbers: 12, age of youth gunned down as he sat in a car with his mother on a Philadelphia street. Police say he was targeted and that the shooter is not much older.
2,209 dollars police say was embezzled by a former bookkeeper from a Home Depot store in Concord.
19, age of suspect charged with stealing a PlayStation from an Upper Darby youth who had begged him not to take it because it was one of the last things his mother gave him before she died of cancer.
2 longtime members of the GOP in Newtown Township, a sitting supervisor and a former supervisor, who are switching party affiliation and going over to the Democrats.
173 million dollars up for grabs in Saturday night’s Powerball drawing after no one hit the big prize last night.
17 members of Philadelphia City Council. A local watchdog group is now questioning if the city needs that many leaders in times of massive budget deficits.
23, age of mother in Norristown who delivered her 3rd child last week. She’s now charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of her 20-month-old son.
2 men, one from Bucks County and one from Camden, charged as Internet predators who tried to sexually exploit children.
2 women in Delaware who are charged with using their kids as part of their scheme in a shoplifting spree. They were hiding the loot in the baby carriage.
34, age of pro wrestler from Levittown who has been arrested for filing a false injury claim. He claimed he threw out his back when he slipped on a puddle of coffee at a local 7-Eleven.
1 man charged in Delaware in connection with a hit-run crash that took the life of 2 young girls. The suspect is 33, and his parents have now been filed for hindering prosecution in the case. They apparently claimed the car in the crash had been stolen.
3,458 bears bagged by hunters in Pennsylvania in 2008.
26, age of suspect shot and killed during a confrontation with police yesterday in Levittown.
10 percent rate cut coming for those who use natural gas from Peco Energy to heat their homes in Delaware County.
45 percent of those who responded to a poll about Philadelphia who believe crime is the city’s top problem. 37 percent said they don’t feel safe outside in their neighborhoods at night.
29,600 Pennsylvania jobs that were eliminated in “mass layoffs” in January. That ranks 3rd in the nation. A mass layoff is a single action that involves at least 50 jobs.
547 million dollars in profits recorded by TD Bank Financial Group. That’s down 29 percent.
4 percent cuts slated by Pa. Gov. Ed Rendell. Some in the GOP are now saying the cuts are too steep.
31 percent decline in home sales in the region in January, as opposed to the same month last year, according to figures compiled by Fox & Roach HomExpert Report.
1 cent dip in price of gas at the pumps in the region. We’re now paying an average of $1.98.
8 runs given up by the Phils as they dropped their Grapefruit League opener yesterday to the Pirates.
2 scoreless innings given up by Jamie Moyer. He gave up one hit.
21 consecutive wins at home for Temple Owls, who upset No. 13 Xavier, 74-65.
36 goals for Flyer Jeff Carter, and 0 goals surrendered by Marty Biron as the Flyers shut out the Kings, 2-0.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Don’t panic, Phillies fans. That’s why the call them exhibition games. Besides, Jamie Moyer pitched two scoreless innings.
I Don’t Get It: The incident involving kids keep coming. Yesterday a 12-year-old was gunned down as he sat in his car with his mother on a Philly street. He’s now in critical condition. Police believe the gunman is not a lot older.
Today’s Upper: With all the talk about people losing their homes, it’s nice to see someone actually getting into a home. That’s what happened yesterday in Chester as Ruby Benson became the 200th person helped into a home by the Chester Homebuyer Assistance Program.
Quote Box: “People that know me know that this was not an easy decision for me to make.”
-- Newtown Supervisor Jack DiPompeo, on his switch from the GOP to the Democratic Party.

The other side of the story

There are two sides to every story. It’s one of the basic tenets of journalism.

That’s why yesterday I was desperately hoping we would hear back from Mark Duncan.

He’s the assistant principal at Academy Park High School in Sharon Hill. And today he finds himself in the news. That’s because Duncan, 50, has been criminally charged from an incident that happened in the school last Friday.

At most schools, the title of assistant principal means you’re the disciplinarian. The tough guy, as it were. It’s your job to keep students in line. It’s a tough job, one that very often does not win you a lot of friends.

That disciplinarian role appears to be what Duncan was doing when he became involved in a verbal argument with a student.

According to the affidavit for his arrest, Duncan said this to the student: “Go ahead, turn around, do something, I’ll kill you.” The statement was overheard by students, aides and school police officers.

Duncan now finds himself charged with terroristic threats, harassment by annoyance and disorderly conduct. He was arraigned in front of Magisterial District Judge Edward J. Gannon. He’s free on $10,000 unsecured bail.

Unfortunately, Duncan, who lives in Collegeville, did not return phone calls yesterday. No one at the school is saying much, citing employee confidentiality and referring to it as a “personnel matter.”

That’s too bad. Because something tells me there is another side to this story that we have not heard. That happens a lot in criminal cases. We get the paperwork that lays out the case used to file charges. We often don’t get any other version. A lot of people don’t believe that is especially fair. It is a legitimate argument.

We reported the charges as they were filed. But I’m wondering what else happened here? Was this just a slip of the tongue during a heated argument? It’s pretty strong language, but something tells me Duncan did not mean it literally. What precipitated the altercation between Duncan and the student? Did the student do anything to provoke Duncan? Is there any kind of history between the two of them.

One thing that stands out to me in the affidavit is that the comment was heard not just by students, but also by aides and school police officers. Did any of them provide any context for what was said?

The students we talked to at Academy Park yesterday for the most part seemed surprised by the charges filed against Duncan. Some admitted he was a bit of a disciplinarian, but that he also was known for treating students “as if we were his own kids.”

This morning Duncan stands charged with treating at least one of them criminally.

Eventually, that elusive “other side” of the story. I, for one, can’t wait to hear it.

Kid stuff

What do these stories have in common?

* An 11-year-old is charged with setting fire to a shed behind row homes in Chester Township. The blaze quickly spreads to two houses, consuming one and severely damaging another. Police say the youth is no stranger to them. He’s been linked to several burglaries.

* In western Pennsylvania, an 11-year-old is charged with walking into his father’s bedroom, where the man’s pregnant fiancee is sleeping on the bed. The youth allegedly calmly walks up behind her, places a shotgun inches from her head, and pulls the trigger, killing her.

He then calmly puts the rifle back in his room, does away with the spent casing, and walks down the street to the school bus. He’s now under arrest, and authorities are trying to determine exactly where to house him. They don’t have a prison uniform that fits him.

* In Philadelphia yesterday afternoon, a 12-year-old is sitting in his car with his mother when another teen walks up and begins shooting. The boy is hit in the chest and hand. Police say he was the target of the shooting. The suspected shooter is not believed to be much older.

Three cases, three children who for one reason or another are involved in some seriously adult behavior. Criminal behavior.

I just don’t get it.

Return of the pinstripes

Relax, Phillies fans. You don’t win a World Series championship in February.

Apparently you don’t defend one then either.

This probably wasn’t quite what the Phils had in mind when they took the field yesterday for the first time since they piled on top of one another on the chilly turf at Citizens Bank Park last October.

In the words of Chase Utley, the defending world champions played like “bleep.”

But that’s the thing about these Grapefruit League encounters. The final score is often not the key to what happened. The scoreboard says the Phils got waxed by the Pirates, 8-2.

But there are several things Phillies die-hards should like about yesterday’s game. Starting pitcher Jamie Moyer pitched well, giving up just one hit in two innings. Moyer struck out two and walked two. He was followed to the hill by Joe Blanton. He gave up a run on two hits.

So far, so good. Both Moyer and Blanton figure to be in the Phils starting lineup.

Unfortunately, after they left the game is when things took a turn for the worse. Joe Bisenius got shelled. Steve Nestor didn’t fare much better.

Look at it this way. Anyone else just happy to turn on the radio yesterday afternoon and hear the sounds of baseball?

Spring can’t be far away.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Curse of the Lenten pledge

Today is Ash Wednesday, the traditional start of the Lenten season.

There is a longtime tradition of giving something up for Lent. The move today is in a different direction, making an effort to “do” something rather than doing without.

What can I tell you, I’m old-fashioned. For that reason for the next 40 days beer will not pass my lips. I have been doing this for years now.

It brings up the classic Lloyd Bridges character in the hilarious movie, “Airplane.”

“I guess I picked the wrong week to give up sniffing glue.”

Yes, I picked a tough week to give up beer. It’s been a rough week for those of us in the newspaper racket. There are likely more tough days to come. We will shoulder on, doing what we do, creating newspapers, Web sites, and yes, even blogs, to deliver to our readers every day.

But for some odd reason I felt the need to expand my Lenten sacrifice this year. Therefore, something else will not pass my lips for the next six weeks. At least that is my hope.

No, not coffee. I’m a little off kilter; I’m not insane. Beer I can do without, coffee I’m not so sure. I honestly don’t think I could do it.

I’m talking – literally – about something else.


You’re shocked, I know.

Look, I don’t routinely pepper my public offerings with profanity. But I do have a troublesome habit of unleasing a blue streak in private. It’s a nasty little habit. And it’s one I am looking to change, starting today. By the way, feel free to join me in this endeavor. One of my pet peeves is how coarse we have become as a society. Removing cursing from the equation can only help lessen our too-often all-too-base nature.

I do not minimize the task in front of me. I work at a newspaper, remember. The newsroom can be a fairly salty place. I have not, in the past, been completely immune from expelling a few X-rated tirades.

Like when the technology I loathe so much swallows a nearly completed story. Or when I notice the glaring typo that too often shows up in our pages.

In those instances, my reaction can best be summed up thusly:


There, I feel much better. The next 40 days should be a piece of cake.

The Daily Numbers - Feb. 25

The Daily Numbers: 11, age of suspect charged with setting shed fire that spread to two row homes in Chester Township.
3 previous arrests for burglary filed against the juvenile.
10 residents chased from their home by an early morning fire in Darby Borough.
44 million dollars from a total of $193 million in federal stimulus funds that SEPTA plans to spend on projects here in Delaware County.
1 of 5 teens in the subway beating of Sean Conroy that led to his death on a Center City subway platform who has pleaded guilty.
720 million dollar wish list drawn up by County Council for their share of the federal stimulus package.
140 dollars more in taxes facing property owners in the Chichester School District under the school board’s proposed budget.
22 ATM thefts charged to a North Philadelphia man, who police say expertly took the machines apart and stole the money inside.
44, age of Philly man charged in the beating death of a 71-year-old neighbor.
30 jobs that will be cut at the Philadelphia Museum of Art as they struggle with a $5 million budget shortfall.
2.5 million dollars, the dollar value federal prosecutors put on the goods and services fraud they claim was perpetrated on Pennsylvania taxpayers by former powerful state Sen. Vince Fumo.
30 students at the Cumberland Christian School in South Jersey sickened with flu-like symptoms. The school is shut down while the kids recover.
21, age of one-time Miss North Wildwood who is charged with passing bogus $50 bills. Her mom and another man also face charges.
37, age of wrestling ref charged in connection with thefts from people attending a wrestling meet at North Penn High School. The ref’s cousin is believed to have ripped off the items, while the ref is charged with conspiracy.
11, age of boy in western Pennsylvania charged with fatally shooting the pregnant fiancee of his father. For now he is being housed at a juvenile detention center while officials try to figure out how best to handle where he should be detained.
7 people shot along a Mardi Gras parade route in New Orleans.
19 months, how long President Barack Obama believes it will take for U.S. troops to be out of Iraq. He wants all troops withdrawn by August 2010.
2:02, time this afternoon when Tiger Woods returns to the PGA Tour.
2 innings each for Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton as the Phils kick off their Grapefruit League schedule today on the road against the Pirates.
11 point win for Penn Wood over Conestoga last night in the PIAA District 1 AAAA boys semifinal. They now play Norristown Friday night for the title.
59 points for the Chester Clippers last night as they downed Central Bucks South.
5 game goal-less streak snapped by Jeff Carter last night as the Flyers posted a 4-2 win over the Caps.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.The Phils start defense of their World Series title today as they kick off their Grapefruit League schedule. Jamie Moyer will be on the mound.
I Don’t Get It: They charged an 11-year old in that arson fire in Chester Township. In western Pa., they arrested another 11-year-old in the fatal shooting of his father’s pregnant fiancee. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: A Philadelphia police officer wounded in the line of duty had a seat of honor next to First Lady Michelle Obama last night for the president’s speech. Well done, Officer Richard Decoatsworth.
Quote Box: “Tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.
-- President Barack Obama addressing Congress and the nation last night.


This week the state of Pennsylvania took a giant leap – to steal a phrase from Neil Armstong – out of the dark ages.

The Wegmans supermarket chain won court approval to sell beer in the cafes inside some of their stores. You’d also be able to buy two six-packs to go in the supermarket.

It’s a crack in the dinosaur methods this state uses to dispense alcohol. I won’t go into the details here, about how you have to go one place to buy a case of beer, another if you only want to buy a six-pack, and still another if your desire is for a bottle of wine of alcohol.

I’m still in favor of blowing up the entire system and converting the whole thing to private enterprise.

Imagine being able, as people in so many states can, of grabbing a bottle of your favorite wine or spirit while doing your weekly grocery shopping.

Or picking up a quick six-pack when you stop at the convenience store.

Not in this state. But maybe that’s beginning to change. It’s about time.

It can’t happen fast enough for me. Of course, I won’t be buying beer for the next 40 days anyhow.

Here’s a Lenten pledge for state officials. Why not give up the silly way we deal with alcohol and come out of the dark ages?

Roar of the Tiger

Forget what the calendar says, spring starts today.

For two reasons.

First, the Phillies open their Grapefruit League schedule this afternoon with a road game in Bradenton with the Pirates. First pitch by Jamie Moyer is set for 1 p.m. Joe Blanton also will take the hill. Both will pitch two innings.

Don’t look for Chase Utley. He’s still on rehabbing his hip. Jason Donald will start in his place at second.

But spring actually will start today at 2:02 p.m. That is when the most mesmerizing person in the sports universe returns.

Tiger will once again be on the prowl.

I refer, of course, to Tiger Woods. He is Babe Ruth, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Jim Brown and Joe Montana all wrapped into one.

Very simply, Woods is the No. 1 athlete on the planet. I know, he’s a golfer, you might snidely retort.

Woods is not a golfer; he is the golfer. He is the most compelling athlete of his generation, maybe of all time. He is fast threatening Muhammad Ali in claims to the title of “The Greatest.”

Woods has not hit a golf ball in competition since last June, when he won the U.S. Open in a playoff against Rocco Mediate on one leg. Woods then underwent surgery on his knee.

This is a question for those who are not die-hard golf nuts, like me. Can you tell me one thing that has happened on the PGA Tour since Woods’ exit? I thought so.

The pro golf tour, already battered by a reeling economy, has been double cursed because of Woods’ absence. That will change today.

Woods will make his return in the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona. In this format, he is pitted against one player in match play, competing for one hole at a time, as opposed to most weekends when tour golfers go at it in stroke play, with the winner decided on the total number of strokes.

I will make this prediction right now: Woods will win this event. It is what he does. No other athlete rises to the spotlight – and the pressure – the way Woods does.

And here’s another prediction: The TV numbers on Sunday will be the highest since Woods won the Open last summer.

Last week another tour superstar, Phil Mickelson, won what used to be called the L.A. Open. It was a nice boost for the tour. Mickelson had been playing lousy so far this year. It was good; it was not Tiger.

No one – in any sport – commands attention the way Woods does. Even if you’re a channel flipper, you can admit it. If you’re channel surfing on a Sunday afternoon and see Woods’ steely visage, you stop. And you likely stick around for awhile. So do kids. So do women. Woods has that kind of charisma.

Last Sunday I watched Mickelson riding the lead in L.A., first trying to give the tournament away, then rallying with a couple of late birdies for the win. It was pretty dramatic. But it was not Tiger.

That changes today.

Tiger’s back. Watch him roar.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Feb. 24

The Daily Numbers: 11, age of suspect police believe set fire to a shed behind row homes in Chester Township. Flames roared through two homes.
13 people who had to flee flames after the deliberately set blaze in Chester Township.
6 months, age of infant police say was left alone in a Springfield motel. The mother is now facing charges.
1.7 million dollars, value of winning lottery ticket sold at Drexel House Deli recently. Now that’s what we call an economic stimulus.
15 billion dollar contract to build a new helicopter for the military. Boeing is among three firms bidding for the work, which they thought they had already won before the feds ordered the project rebid.
400 new jobs that could be created at Boeing’s Ridley plant if they land the deal.
200 million dollar capital campaign unveiled yesterday by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
32, age of National Guard member from Quakertown, a member of the 56th Stryker Brigade, who was killed in Iraq.
7 million bucks raised by students at Penn State University in their annual dance marathon, which they refer to simply as “Thon.”
2,000 complaints received by the state attorney general’s office in New Jersey stemming from the way Ticketmaster sold ducats for upcoming Bruce Springsteen concerts. Ticketmaster now has decided to change those methods.
71, age of man beaten to death by his neighbor in the Frankford section of Philadelphia last night.
28 SEPTA projects targeted for repairs with $190 million in federal stimulus funds for the transit agency.
91 frozen lobsters police say a man tried to steal from an Atlantic City casino. They’re worth $190,000.
1.99 a gallon and holding steady, average price for gasoline in the Philly region.
2 bucks per drink fee for non-alcoholic beverages that is being dropped by US Airways.
15 percent dip in earnings reported by Campbell Soup Co. Talk about your soup lines.
47 feet, the length of the desperation heave by Devin Harris of the Nets to beat the Sixers last night.
2.5 minutes, how long it took officials to review the tape before they ruled that the shot was good.
4 straight losses for the Sixers, despite 21 points for Andre Iguodala. They’re now 1 game under .500.
5 days in jail for former Sixers Charles Barkley after his DUI arreston Phoenix.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Write this one down. Forget all the talk about getting him more offensive weapons. Donovan McNabb wants a new deal and more money from the Eagles. Didn’t a guy named T.O. once want the same thing?
I Don’t Get It: Go ahead, admit it. The first thing you think of now when you hear of a fire is the problems in Coatesville.
Today’s Upper: Kudos to the Sixers and Flyers, who announced they will not raise ticket prices next year.
Quote Box: “We tried to evacuate all the buildings because we just didn’t know how far it was going to go.”
-- Chester Township Fire co., Assistant Fire Chief Harry Dillman, on yesterday’s arson fire.

Salute to a citizen soldier

Last fall we spent a lot of time detailing the preparation of the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team as they prepared for a deployment in Iraq.

It is dangerous duty.

Yesterday, we learned all too well just how dangerous.

The Pentagon confirmed that a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard unit had been killed in action in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. Mark Baum, from Quakertown, Bucks County, was killed by small arms fire as he responded to word of an improvised explosive device explosion in Mushada, Iraq.

Baum was 32 years old. He was married and had three small kids. He was a Bucks County corrections officer. But he still felt the need to serve his country. That’s why he signed up for National Guard duty. It was that sense of service that led him to Iraq.

Baum’s death was the first fatality for the 56th Stryker Brigade, which arrived in Iraq last month for a nine-month deployment.

We talked to several Delaware County men who are members of the Stryker Brigade, which is based in Phoenixville.

Lt. Mark O’Hanlon, the leader of the 700-man unit, is from Nether Providence. Like Baum, he also left another life behind, one that includes a wife and kids.

Last summer, when we interviewed O’Hanlon about the dangers he and his men would face in Iraq, he made some prescient comments.

“There is a lot of concern about IEDs,” he said. “That is the No. 1 mechanism for the enemy to injure or kill my soldiers.”

Today those words haunt.

Do not forget the men of the 56th Stryker Brigade and the dangerous mission in which they are involved.

Today we offer a salute to Staff Sgt. Mark Baum, a true citizen soldier who gave his life protecting the rights and lifestyle so many of us take for granted.

The McNabb soap opera

The Donovan McNabb saga continues unabated.

Remember the much anticipated meeting that had everyone in Eagle-ville holding their breath, wondering when exactly McNabb and the Eagles’ brass were going to sit down?

It may have already happened.

This despite comments from Andy Reid, who sat down at the NFL Combine with two reporters and certainly gave every indication that no such meeting had yet taken place.

Last night ESPN chimed in with a report that McNabb and his agent Fletcher Smith in fact went face-to-face with Reid and Eagles Presdient Joe Banner last week.

Which if true says a lot about Reid, what he thinks of the media, and the fans who read what is reported in newspapers. The same goes for Smith, who also flatly denied any such talks with the Eagles had yet occurred, maintaining, however, that he was looking forward to the meeting.

Now no one is talking. They don’t have to. All is not well in Eagle-ville. Especially the part about No. 5 and his future as the team’s starting quarterback.

There is a new wrinkle in all this. McNabb apparently now is pushing for “more weapons” in his offensive arsenal.

I’m not buying. McNabb is 32. He is under contract for two more years.

The QB wants a new deal, and he wants more money. The last time he signed on the dotted line with the Eagles, he hit the jackpot, collecting $120 million.

The Eagles now have to mull over the future of the franchise, how much longer they want to stick with McNabb, and when – or maybe if – the Kevin Kolb era will begin. They may not be all that thrilled about the prospect of a lengthy extension with McNabb.

Now McNabb is saying he might not be all that enthused about reporting to camp if the Eagles don’t significantly improve the offense that surrounds him.

Would McNabb really hold out?

This team needs McNabb – or an equivalent – as its starting quarterback next year. Kevin Kolb has shown nothing to indicate he is ready to step in as the starter. At least not yet.

So here the Eagles and McNabb sit. Maybe this will all blow over. Then again it just might blow up.

And one other odd element about this entire scenario. Wasn’t there a wide receiver in this town just a couple of years ago that wanted to rework his deal? The team got its back up and watched as an entire season imploded. Caught in the crossfire back then was a quarterback named Donovan McNabb, who declined to get involved and support his top weapon, a guy named Terrell Owens.

Wonder if Donovan is expecting his teammates to stand behind him as he and the Eagles stare down the barrel of a sequel?

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Feb. 23

The Daily Numbers: 100 years old for the NAACP. The Media branch of the civil rights organization is planning a special series of events this Saturday to celebrate their centennial.
7 school buses damaged in the latest arson fire to hit the Coatesville region, where there have now been 25 deliberately set fires since Jan. 1.
2 suspects under arrest in 10 fires in the region. Obviously someone else is setting fires in Coatesville.
1 female president in the 145-year history of Swarthmore College. That would be new chief Rebecca Chopp, who was named to head the liberal arts school over the weekend. She was formerly president of Colgate University.
2 dead in Philly after a domestic dispute. Police say an 11-year-old girl tried to save her mom, who was being attacked by her boyfriend. The man and woman are dead, the girl is in critical condition.
10 shots fired at a woman as she sat in a car in the parking lot of a fast-food outlet in the Nicetown-Tioga section of Philly Saturday night. The woman, who was 5 months pregnant, died.
10 vehicles that had their tires slashed overnight Saturday in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia.
3.6 percent hike in electric usage reported by Peco Energy Co. in January.
1 percent less, what people are driving these days, according to AAA. Those numbers were for 2007. The nation drove 835 million miles fewer last year.
2 cent dip in gas prices at the pump in the Philly region. Average price is $1.99. Last year we were paying $3.17.
11, age of young suspect charged with killing his father’s pregnant fiancee in western Pa.
3.3 million dollars in salary for the head of the Penn Medical School, putting him fourth in the nation’s among private colleges.
8 Oscars for “Slumdog Millionaire” last night, making it the big winner for the night.
4 straight losses for the Saint Joe’s Hawks, who fell to UMass Sunday.
7,000 fans who jammed the Wachovia Center yesterday for the annual Flyers Wive Fight for Lives Carnival to raise funds in the fight against cancer. The charity drive has raised more than $21 million.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Is it just me, or does it seem as if Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb have differing views on whether they need some kind of sit-down to clear the air? McNabb wants one, and a new deal. Reid doesn’t sound like it’s exactly a priority.
I Don’t Get It: They arrested two people in the wave of arson fires plaguing the Coatesville area. But there was another fire set Sunday morning that damaged 7 school buses. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: We’d like to add our salute to Marine Cpl. Stephen McGinnnis, who was welcomed home to Springfield Sunday by family and friends after a tour in Iraq.
Quote Box: “We’re very happy to have him home.”
-- Jim McGinnis, talking about his son Stephen McGinnnis’ homecoming after a stint in Iraq.

Tales of the Great Depression

When I was a kid, my mother used to regale us with tales from the Great Depression.

From our comfortable middle-class setting, it was hard to believe she was talking about the same country.

Her father was out of work as the country pitched into an economic morass in the early 1930s. She would tell us – calmly but resolutely – that they did not always know where their next meal was coming from.

For Christmas one year she got an orange – and was happy to get it.

Things were that tough.

But she always made a point that has stayed with me all these years. She said that while living through the Great Depression was no treat, the reality of it was that it was not that big a drop-off from what their lives had been before the economy nosedived. As a family they had often struggled.

She always worried about what might happen if things took a similar turn today. She wasn’t convinced that today, with our advance lifestyle, we could accept a simpler, tougher existence.

We’re finding that out now. Back then, people did not have all that much to begin with, so when hard times hit, they simply shrugged and went about living through the tough times.

Today, we are pampered, used to the comforts of our lives. The fall is much farther than it was in 1929.

We live comfortable lives. We’re not all that used to scraping by. We’re beginning to see that is not always guaranteed.

My mom’s words echo in my head these days, and I recalled them on Sunday as I read the similar remembrances of Great Depression survivors in the Sunday Times.

Marge Hoon sounded just like my mother. She talked about how her father found work with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration.

“That’s the only way we had any income,” she said.

She also said something that could have come right out of my mother’s mouth.

It was a differerent era, a different time, indeed different people. No one bought things they could not afford. Today’s housing crisis, spurred in large part by mortgages given to people who clearly could not afford them, simply would never have been considered then.

“People were not buying the houses like they are now and getting themselves in debt,” Hoon commented.


Mildred Johnson talked of how they grew a lot of their own food and take in some money by selling what they did not use.

They were a different breed. I wonder now if we could hold up today under similar conditions.

And I fear we just might get the chance to find out.

And the winner is ...

My Oscar streak remains intact.

No, I didn’t pick all the winners.

Instead, for the umpteenth year in a row, I had not seen a single movie that was nominated for Best Picture at last night’s Academy Awards.

A confession, here. I don’t go out to the movies all that much.

Even still, I actually thought I had a shot at breaking my record this year. About a month ago, I saw “Gran Torino,” the Clint Eastwood flick about racial prejudice. I’m a big Clint fan.

“Gran Torino” was good, not great. It didn’t get nominated. I haven’t seen any of the others. My desire to see “Doubt,” fueled in large part by several people telling me that if you went to parochial grade school you really have to see it, remains unfulfilled.

The big winner last night was “Slumdog Millionaire.” I can’t tell you I’m going to run out to the movies this weekend to see it.

Sean Penn beat out my favorite, Mickey Rourke, for best actor. Kate Winslet took best actress.

I guess the emotional highlight of the evening was the award for best supporting actor going to the late Heath Ledger for his role as the Joker in “The Dark Knight.” That one I’d seen, as a rental.

Ledger was very good, but I’ll admit that I did something that happens all too often to me as I watch a movie at home.

I fell asleep.

I’ll add last night’s winners to my Netflix list. Maybe I’ll even be able to stay away through them.

The Andy & Donovan Show

Andy Reid, meet Donovan McNabb.

Do these guys know each other? Reid gave an interview over the weekend in which he said he talks to his longtime starting QB all the time and that they are on the same page.

“He knows where he stands,” the coach said of his signal-caller. Reid was in Indianapolis for the NFL’s annual combine. McNabb was not there.

Our Eagles beat reporter, Bob Grotz, reported last week that the much ballyhooed – and hotly anticipated – meeting between McNabb and team leaders might take place there. McNabb even said he was willing to go to Indy.

Didn’t happen. And Reid says it’s no big deal.

I’m not sure McNabb feels the same way. Clearly, McNabb has had issues with the team ever since he was unceremoniously pulled from the game at halftime during a particularly galling loss in Baltimore during the regular season.

He has been telling anyone who would listen that he wanted to sit down with management after the season to get a few things off his chest and see where he stands. Oh, and one other little thing. He wouldn’t mind a new deal and some more money.

Reid didn’t sound like someone who was rushing to pick up the phone.

“I talk to this guy every day, and in the offseason, quite a bit,” Reid told the Philadelphia Daily News. “I spend more time with him than I spend with my wife.”

Just so long as they’re not headed to divorce court.

It’s still expected that at some point McNabb will get his sit-down with team brass. Whether or not he gets that new deal he wants is another matter.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Feb. 20

The Daily Numbers: 2 suspects charged in the wave of fires that have had residents in Coatesville living in fear.
9 fires believed to have been the work of Roger Leon Barlow Jr., of Downingtown.
24 fires that have been set in the city and surrounding towns since Jan. 1.
9 million dollar bail for Barlow in the fires that caused at least $3.5 million in damages.
3 fire marshals who could be laid off at Sunoco’s Marcus Hook refinery if a new contract cannot be reached by March 1. It would mean there would no longer be 24-hour, 7-day-a-week coverage on-site.
2 bucks a gallon, where average gas prices in the region are sitting at once again. Prices have been rising for the past month.
20,000 dollars raised at 610-WIP Sportsradio’s annual Wing Bowl presented to the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police.
78,000 dollars in charges made on bogus credit cards made after a teen worker at a Montco restaurant “skimmed” the info off customers’ cards after they paid their bill. The 19-year-old is believed to have victimized 50 card holders.
35 criminal charges filed against a man in connection with three sexual assaults at Lock Haven University. Philly cops are investigating to see if he’s linked to attacks in Center City and University City.
6 people now in custody in the home invasion murder of an Asian businessman in Montco. The alleged ringleader in the attack that took the life of Robert Chae turned himself in yesterday.
5.8 million dollars, how much taxpayer money has been spent so far by the state Legislature stemming from the investigation into staff bonuses.
3,300 jobs eliminted by Comcast Corp. last year, this as the company reported earnings were off by 31 percent in the 4th quarter.
250 dollar payments, part of the economic stimulus package, due to about 3 million elderly and disabled Pennsylvania residents.
14, age of student connected to a sex scandal in which a 7th-grade teacher has been charged in Hawley, Pa.
50,000 single-game tickets sold by the Phillies yesterday, the first day they were on sale. That puts sales for the season at 2.4 million before they play a single exhibition game in Florida.
.292 batting average and 33 home runs last year for Chase Utley, even as he battled through hip problems. Utley says he is on target to be in the starting lineup despite off-season surgery on the cranky hip.
5 points for Mike Richards last night as the Flyers rolled over the Sabres, 6-3.
3 straight wins for the Flyers.
6 short-handed goals this year for the orange and black, tops in the NHL this year.
501 consecutive games played for Sixers star Andre Miller. That could be in jeopardy Saturday. He hurt his right calf, but is still hoping to play.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.It’s 24 degrees out this morning. And for Phillies fans, spring fever is in full bloom. The team reports they sold 50,000 single-game tickets yesterday, the first day of sales.
I Don’t Get It: There must be a powerful allure – or maybe the better word is sickness – to setting fires. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: A thumb’s up to the folks at WIP and the guys who dreamed up Wing Bowl. Yesterday they delivered a check for $20,000 for the FOP Survivors Fund, the proceeds of this year’s wing-eating extravaganza.
Quote Box: “I think he just got with the wrong crowd. The wrong crowd led him up the wrong path.”
-- Roger Barlow, of Downingtown, father of Coatesville arson spree suspect Roger Barlow Jr.

Putting out the fire in Coatesville

They got two things they have been waiting for a very long time in Coatesville last night.

An arrest in the wave of arsons that had many residents living in fear.

And a good night’s sleep. Or at least a better night’s sleep.

Officials yesterday afternoon announced the arrest of a 19-year-old Downingtown man in the wave of domestic terror – in the form of a series of arson fires – that had residents afraid to go to sleep at night.

Roger Leon Barlow, 19, is believed to be responsible for nine of the fires, including the conflagration that roared through a block of row homes, destroying 15 homes, displacing scores of residents, and pushing the already-tense city over the edge into a siege mentality.

Last night a second man was charged in an attempted fire at a local restaurant.

Barlow is from Downingtown, just a stone’s throw down Lincoln Highway from Coatesville. Mark Gilliam, 20, is from West Bradford, just outside Downingtown. Here’s another troubling thought: He’s a volunteer firefighter.

The city’s problems are not over. There are a couple of questions that come to mind. One of them would be why? Why does someone do such a thing. Chester County District Attorney Joe Carroll yesterday referred to Barlow as a pyromaniac who liked to watch things burn.

But there is a more important issue that hangs over this case like the smoke that swirled around these fires.

Barlow is charged in nine of the fires. There have been 24 arsons in the city and surrounding towns since the start of the year.

Maybe Barlow or Gilliam eventually will be charged in even more fires. If not, who set them? A couple of suspects were charged in the arsons that plagued the region last year, but the fires did not stop.

Maybe they will now.

And maybe, just maybe, residents can sleep at night.

Requiem for a cop

It is now a familiar, hauntingly sad sight.

Almost beyond belief, they are gathering again this morning at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter & Paul in Philadelphia to offer a final salute to a fallen police officer.

Officer John Pawlowski will be laid to rest, sent to his final resting place by a sea of blue. Law enforcement representatives from across the region will join with their brethren in Philadelphia in a final farwell.

It’s not something you ever get used to, even if the scene has now been repeated again and again in the city. Pawlowski is the seventh officer killed in the line of duty since 2006.

There is a powerful sense of grief and sadness involved in these occasions. But there is something else as well.


The man who thought nothing of gunning down the young cop everyone knew as “Johnny Boy” never thought twice about it. He had been asked to show his hands, which he had stuffed in the pocket of his coat, after officers arrived to a call for a street disturbance. Instead he fired right through the coat, striking Pawlowski just above his bulletproof vest.

The suspect was no stranger to police. He had a long record. That gives him something in common with suspects in other recent fatal encounters with police.

Someone needs to provide an answer to why these thugs continue to be put back on the street.

Maybe solving that judicial question would be the most appropriate legacy for Officer John Pawlowski.

More turbulence

The furor over that controversial airport redesign plan at Philly International that has resulted in more flights being sent over the heart of Delaware County will be ratcheted up a bit today.

U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, this afternoon will be joined by his cohort from across the river, Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., to announce the findings of a study done by Rowan University. They asked the school to look at some alternatives to help cut the delays at Philadelphia International Airport.

It’s those delays that are at the center of this issue. Everyone agrees that the airport is crucial to the region’s economic fitness. Nobody wants delays. It’s just that people and officials in Delaware County don’t much care for seeing more and more planes diverted over heavily populated sections of the county as a way of fixing the problem.

More than that, Sestak and others claim the FAA’s “fix” doesn’t really help all that much.

A phalanx of citizens and officials have lined up to complain bitterly both about the FAA’s decision and the way they implemented the program. Delaware County Council has gone to court against the FAA’s plan.

Sestak offered a sneak peek at the Rowan findings, which he and Andrews will unveil this afternoon. They believe the findings point to several more practical – and less expensive – options, such as diverting 10 percent of flights to Atlantic City.

Stay tuned. Sounds like more turbulence is in the air surrounding Philly International.

A wing and 20,000 prayers

It is easy to poke fun of our own annual pre-Super Bowl gala of gluttony called Wing Bowl.

New Orleans can have Mardi Gras. The Friday before Super Bowl Sunday belongs to us. The scene at the Wachovia Center rivals anything on Bourbon Street for skin and revelry.

Fat men wolfing down chicken wings while being egged on by buxom Wingettes and cheered by a raucous crowd? Now that’s pure Philly.

But aside from the party, there is a serious side to all this. Yesterday the morning crew from 610-WIP Sportsradio presented a check for $20,000 from this year’s Wing Bowl to the Fraternal Order of Police for the FOP Survivors Fund.

The timing could not have been more profound. The city and region is again mourning the loss of still another Philadelphia police officer, the sixth cop killed in the line of duty in the last 16 months.

Officer John Pawlowski will be buried today.

We need diversions like Wing Bowl and sports talk radio to take our minds off the madness that seems to envelop us. That they can do that while also making a positive contribution to a much-needed effort just makes it that much better.

Nice job, guys. See you again next year. Save us a couple of wings.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Feb. 19

The Daily Numbers: 1,200 people who showed up at Springfield Country Club yesterday for a job fair.
221,000 dollars in state liquid fuel funding that was misappropriated in Ridley Park. The borough now has to reimburse the state and will not get any more funding until it’s paid.
100,000 dollars being forfeited by Nicholas “Nicky the Hat” Cimino in the gambling operation dubbed by investigators “Delco Nostra.” He pleaded guilty yesterday and was sentenced to 11.5 to 23 months in jail.
17 to 34 years in prison for an Upper Darby man who entered a plea in two murders.
11 million dollars in grants given the green light yesterday by the Delaware River Port Authority. All this despite the protest of business leaders and pols who say they should not be doling out the money in that fashion.
2 Philly schools that will be closed as part of recommendations from the School Reform Commission.
624,000 dollars in police overtime, the latest challenge facing the city of Coatesville, in the wake of a wave of arson fires. They’re also looking at $41,000 in firefighter overtime.
4 years to the day that Richard Petrone and Danielle Imbo walked out of a Philly nightspot and disappeared. They have not been seen since.
50,000 dollar reward posted for new information in the couple’s disappearance.
1 of 2 Chester County men guilty in a brutal assault on an employee of Geno’s Steaks in South Philly. The 2nd defendant was acquitted of all charges.
40 percent increase in annual slot machine revenue being predicted by state officials as 4 more casinos are due to open their doors.
2 stabbings reported in 2 different Philly nightclubs overnight. One happened in the parking lot of Club Fusion, the other was at a lounge in the 100 block of Chestnut Street.
12 people injured when a SEPTA bus and SUV collided early this morning in the West Oak Lane section of Philly.
7 million spent on lawyers by SEPTA.
125 million dollar jackpot up for grabs Saturday night in the Powerball lottery drawing.
3 finalists picked last night in “American Idol.”
2 straight losses for the Sixers, who fell to the Nuggets last night.
10 point halftime lead for the Sixers, which they blew in the second half and lost by 12, a 22-point swing.
3 straight losses for the reeling Saint Joe’s Hawks, who fell to Saint Louis last night.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Single-game tickets for the Phillies season go on sale this morning. Spring can’t be far behind.
I Don’t Get It: For some reason people think chimpanzees can be house pets. As we’ve seen in Connecticut this week, that can sometimes have tragic results.
Today’s Upper: A huge thumb’s up for those who put together yesterday’s job fair at Springfield Country Club. More than 1,200 people showed up.
Quote Box: “It’s hard. There’s nothing out there.”
-- Kathy Kyle, of Secane, at yesterday’s job fair.

Sign of the times

Want to get a feel for just how bad our economic morass really is? Just glance at the front page of today’s newspaper.

Better yet, you could have been at Springfield Country Club yesterday.

Delaware County Council held a job fair there. That’s not that unusual. Different organizations hold these affairs all the time. It’s a time to network, maybe look for other opportunities.

Yesterday it provided something else. A lifeline.

More than 1,200 people showed up. They were all looking for one thing: a job.

People started arriving at 8:15 a.m. The doors were not supposed to open until 9. You’d think they were selling Phillies tickets.

Maybe Jeff Vermeulen, president at the Delaware County Chamber of Comerce, one of the organizations that teamed with County Council to put the event together, summed it up best.

“It’s like Wal-Mart on Black Friday,” the business boss said.

Only these people were buying; they were selling. Themselves. To any prospective employer who would listen.

It’s something a lot of people take for granted. A job. A place to go when you get up. Purpose to your daily life and a paycheck to show for it.

No one is taking it for granted anymore.

Especially the 1,200 people who showed up at Springfield Country Club yesterday.

The bizarre case of Richard Petrone and Danielle Imbo

How, exactly, do two people disappear off the face of the Earth. And their truck along with them?

That’s what investigators continue to try to figure out in the bizarre disappearance of Richard Petrone and his girlfriend, Daniele Imbo.

It was four years ago tonight when the couple left a nightspot on South Street in Philadelphia after a night out. They told the couple they were with they were heading to Imbo’s home in Mount Laurel, N.J.

They have not been seen since. Nor has Petrone’s pickup truck. Not a trace. No use of their cell phones. No activity on their credit cards or bank accounts. Just gone. Vanished.

With the anniversary here again, their family and investigators are again asking for the public’s help. The FBI said last year they were investigating the possibility that the couple might have been the victims of a murder-for-hire plot.

How exactly do two people and a pickup truck simply disappear? That’s the question that has hounded police and family members, those who knew and loved Petrone and Imbo, for four years.

So far there are no answers, only more questions.

Vince Fumo laid low

It has not been a good couple of months for the man who once was wielded as much power as anyone in Pennsylvania.

Former Sen. Vince Fumo, the so-called “Vince of Darkness,” has been laid low.

But likely nothing hurt quite like yesterday.

Fumo, on trial in federal court on corruption charges, engaged in a bitter back and forth with a federal prosecutor. Fumo at one point alleged FBI agents were harassing the elderly mother of one of his key aides. It brought a heated objection.

Likewise, Fumo also was angered and objected to characterizations of his actions by the feds.

But his nadir was yet to come. After Fumo finished his grueling testimony, his one-time mentor and lawyer, the legendary Richard Sprague, took the stand.

Fumo has often referred to Sprague as a father figure.

The former senator had banked much of his defense on corruption charges, including obstruction of justice charges tied to wiping e-mails off his computers, by saying he had gotten the go-ahead for such actions from his lawyers, including Sprague.

That gamble went south yesterday, when Sprague testified he offered no such advice. More than that, he also denied ever advising Fumo that he did not have to save e-mails if he had not specifically been subpoenaed, as Fumo had claimed. A second Fumo attorney, Robert Scandone, testified much the same thing.

It’s a huge loss for Fumo. But it’s more than that. Sprague testified he and Fumo had a “father-son relationship.” But he also said something else. He said he and the senator were no longer friends.

Dark days for the “Vince of Darkness.”

Get your Phillies tickets

It is the winter of our discontent, Philly sports fans. But there is still hope.

The Sixers last night blew a 10-point halftime lead, lost by 12 and may have lost the one player they simply cannot do without – Andre Miller – in the process. The point guard who runs the Sixers’ ship tweaked a hamstring, left the game and did not return. He is to undergo an MRI this morning.

The Flyers have what, about another 1,000 meaningless games before they start the playoffs?

Donovan McNabb and the Eagles are still trying to figure out when they are going to sit down and hammer out their, ahem, differences.

What’s a Philly sports fan to do? Head for Citizens Bank Park. True, the Phillies season does not start for another month and a half. But single-game tickets for the defending world champs go on sale this morning at 9 a.m. That’s why people are already standing in line at the ballpark.

Tickets will be available online at, or by phone at 215-463-1000. But there’s nothing like a visit to the ballpark to get the juices flowing, and put all this winter misery behind us.

Crank up those credit cards, folks. Visit later today and pick up tomorrow’s print edition for coverage of all the hearty Delco fans who made the trip to the ballpark to score those coveted ducats.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Feb. 18

The Daily Numbers: 1 Democrat who will seek a seat on County Council in November. There are 2 seats up for grabs.
0 candidates put up by Dems for the county row offices of controller, recorder of deeds and sheriff.
40 businesses who will be present at a job fair at Springfield Country Club today. They are expecting a huge turnout as the economy continues to shed jobs amid the financial meltdown.
750 dollars in back taxes owed by Chester Magisterial District Judge Dawn Vann, according to county records.
7.2 million dollar loan guarantee being eyed by County Council for the Delaware County Solid Waste Authority.
5 dollar fee per week per household being considered by Philadelphia, to avoid cutting back on collections.
60,000 dollars in tools and other consumer goods given to former Sen. Vince Fumo by a non-profit he founded. He calls them gifts.
2 day furlough of state workers being considered by New Jersey as they continue to battle budget woes. It’s part of $473 million in cuts being proposed by Gov. Jon Corzine.
30 billion dollar more in federal aid being sought by GM, while they cut another 47,000 jobs.
3 women charged with ripping off credit cards and then using them to go on a $6,000 shopping spree in Delaware.
19, age of man in Allentown charged with engaging in sex acts with a 1-year-old girl.
28 billion dollar loss for Pennsylvania’s two public sector pension plans, adding to the state’s financial woes.
1.4 million cut in the bonus for PNC Bank execs. They’re only sharing $7 million this year.
9.7 percent revenue hike for Pilot Freight in Middletown.
4 game winning streak for the Sixers snapped as they opened the second half of the season with a bad loss in Indiana last night.
20 points and 9 assists for Andre Iguodala to lead the Sixers.
18 points for Tyler Bernardini, including 9 of 11 from the free throw line, as Penn topped Princeton, 62-55, in OT last night.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Just when you were getting excited about the Sixers, they go out to Indiana last night and fail to show up against a bad Pacers team. Not good.
I Don’t Get It: President Barack Obama yesterday put his signature on a $787 economic stimulus plan. What are most of us getting? For married couples, an $800 tax credit, about $13 a week.
Today’s Upper: Huge thumb’s up to the minor league baseball teams in Trenton and Lakewood, N.J. They announced that this year kids will eat for free, getting a voucher for a hot dog, soda and chips. Love it.
Quote Box: “Change is coming to Delaware County. It may come through 49 small places, through borough and town halls first, but it will get to that courthouse.
-- County Dem boss Cliff Wilson, at Tuesday night’s party nominating meeting.

The battle for the county courthouse

Much has been made in recent years of the gains made by county Democrats.

A glance at the county registration rolls reveals a good reason why. The demographics of the county are changing. The Democrats’ numbers are swelling; Republicans are adding to their rolls, but not nearly at the same rate.

The bottom line on the shift is that the local GOP’s once overwhelming 3-1 registration dominance is almost gone.

It means more and more towns are swinging Democratic. It means Joe Sestak can show powerful 20-year incumbent Curt Weldon the door, aided in no small part by a federal investigation.

But through all this turmoil, one GOP fortress has remained impenetrable. That would be the Media Courthouse, where the Delaware County Council remains all-Republican, as it has ever since the Home Rule Charter was adopted back in the early ’70s.

Republicans routinely sweep council races, as well as elections for the county row offices, such as controller, recorder of deeds and sheriff.

Don’t look for that to change any time soon. There are two council seats that will be up for grabs in November. The Republicans have incumbent Councilman Jack Whelan on the ballot. He will be joined by a very familiar name. That would be longtime Upper Darby state Rep. Mario Civera.

The switch of addresses by Civera – from Harrisburg to Media - is an interesting one. Democrats might argue it’s a sign the Republicans are worried, that they believed they needed a big gun to hold on to their dominance in the county courthouse. Or you can simply say that maybe Civera, who has served in the state House two decades, saw the shift taking part in his district, where the demographic is tilting Democratic, and decided he could be more effective on the local level.

Then there is the announcement last week by County Council that they would do something their critics have been demanding for a long time. They will hold a meeting at night next week in Collingdale. A lot of Democrats seeking a seat at the council table have asked them to do just that on the way to being vanquished at the polls.

A glance at the Dems’ nominating meeting Tuesday night isn’t likely to put chills into the GOP. The Democrats have only one candidate seeking the two council seats. That would be Keith Collins of Ridley Park. Nancy Rhoads Koons of Wayne will face off against Linda Cartisano for the newly created seat on the Court of Common Please bench. But the Dems at this point will not field candidates for the row offices.

Forget storming the courthouse, this sounds more like raising the white flag.

It’s clear the Democrats’ strategy is to work at the municipal level before taking on the GOP in the courthouse. Dem Chairman Cliff Wilson said as much.

He said Democrats would “build from the bottom up,” and bring down the Republican Party “like Joshua bringing down the walls of Jericho.

“Change is coming to Delaware County,” Wilson continued. “It may come through 49 small places, through borough and town halls first, but it will get to that courthouse.”

To that end, Democrats should be heartened by something else that happened yesterday.

Two Republicans in Newtown Township are bailing on the party and will seek re-election as Democrats.

Township Supervisor Jack DiPompeo will seek re-election. He will be joined on the ballot by former Supervisor John Custer. In the process DiPompeo is making history; he’s the only Democrat to hold elective office in the history of the township, according to the party.

Democrats have had little luck in banging their head against the walls of the county courthouse. But they continue to make inroads at the municipal level.

Wilson points out his belief that if the trends continue, registered Democrats in the county soon will outnumber Republicans.

Suddenly, in Delaware County, wary is the head that wears the crown. At least in the county courthouse.

Funny money

Everyone feeling properly stimulated today?

Neither am I.

President Barack Obama affixed his signature yesterday to the $787 billion economic stimulus package.

But if you’re looking for a check to arrive in the mail, don’t hold your breath.

This package is big on creating jobs and pumping up a lot of flagging institutions and municipalities. It will push money into education, infrastructure and energy research. There is some very important health care aid that will directly affect those who recently lost their jobs.

But if you’re looking for it to put cash in your pocket, you’re going to be disappointed.

Individuals are in line for a $400 tax break; $800 for married couples.

This isn’t trickle-down; it’s build-up. The hope is that pumping money into all these projects will spur job growth, something the country direly needs. For instance, Obama envisions 400,000 people working to repair the nation’s roads and bridges. Only about a third of the stimulus can be found in tax cuts. The overwhelming majority of it is spending.

What President Obama is betting is that we can spend our way out of this recession.

Wall Street did not seem terribly impressed. Neither were auto makers. They announced yesterday they were headed back to the trough, with GM and Chrysler seeking an additional $14 billion in federal bailout funds. Oh, and along the way they are going to jettison 47,000 more jobs. That’s a lot of people who will be working on infrastructure.

I continue to be astounded by the numbers that are so casually bandied about in these talks.

And one other thing, which comes from an odd source. I’m not totally unconvinced that Jon Stewart, the funny guy from “Comedy Central,” isn’t on to something.

He recently quipped that instead of all these intricate stimulus packages, the government would be better off simply giving the money directly to every adult American taxpayer. It would be an $835 billion plan, roughly what Obama is doing, when you break it down it comes to about $10,00 per person. With their newfound loot, taxpayers would pay off their credit debt. Studies indicate one in 20 Americans now carries $8,000 in debt. For those without such heavy debt load, they could pay off a mortgage, make a down payment on a house, or on shopping sprees. Sounds stimulating to me.

Suddenly it doesn’t seem so funny.

Baseball gets a kick in the asterisk

It’s spring, and a young man’s fancy turns toward … steroids.

After all, it would not officially be spring training without a member of the Yankees standing in front of the media and ’fessing up about his use of illegal substances.

First there was slugger Jason Giambi. He was followed to the microphones by Andy Pettite.

But yesterday the scene was taken to a new level. That’s because the man many believe to be the best player in the game was the one falling on his shield.

Alex Rodriguez, whose familiar A-Rod moniker has added a vowel from Pat and Vanna, turning it into a derisive A-Roid, admitted his past indiscretions when it comes to illegal substances.

Rodriguez said he was a naïve kid who made a “stupid mistake” when he allowed his cousin to inject him with performance-enhancing drugs.

But Rodriguez was not alone. Not in front of the cameras, but off to the side, a gallery of Bronx Bombers sat stone-faced in a show of support for one of their own. Chief among them was Yankees captain Derek Jeter. He was joined by Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettite and Jorge Posada.

Give A-Rod credit for this: While some refer to him as A-Fraud, he wasn’t looking to dodge any bullets yesterday. He was the only one in front of the microphones.

The problem for baseball is that he was not the only one on the list of players that are believed to have tested positive back before baseball actually instituted a testing program and banned steroids and a list of other performance-enhancing drugs.

The question now is how much damage has been done, and what do you do with the pumped-up statistics from what now can realistically be called the Steroid Era?

And can anyone justify why Rodriguez undoubtedly will be in the Yankees starting lineup on opening day, while Phils reliever J.C. Romero, who tested positive for a banned substance that he picked up at a GNC and claims he was told would not cause him any problems, will sit out the first 50 games of the Phils season.

The real answer to this question is this: There is a shadow over the game, and the numbers that play such a pivotal role in its legacy.

But will fans stay away? Unlikely. The world champion Phillies will put single-game tickets on sale tomorrow morning. They’ll likely be snapped up in minutes. What, you were thinking fans will stay away to protest Romero’s use of a banned substance?

Likewise, don’t hold your breath waiting for Yankees to suddenly boycott the pinstripes and ignore the brand, spanking new stadium they just built.

We will complain about the game. Then continue to tune in, buy tickets, wear our gear, check the list of giveaway days.

We’ll also continue to debate the value of pumped-up statistics and whether the guilty or those believed to be guilty deserve a spot in the Hall of Fame. That’s what fans do.

The game will continue. People will arrive in Clearwater in droves next week for spring training. Citizens Bank Park will be jammed on opening day. The Phils almost assuredly will set a new attendance mark this year.

A-Rod will pick up his asterisk, along with his glove, and trot back out to his spot at third base.

And we’ll wait for the next player to join him in the Hall of Shame.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Feb. 17

The Daily Numbers: 1,000 people who packed a Mass last night to honor slain Philadelphia Officer John Pawlowski.
7 Philadelphia officers who have now died in the line of duty since 2006.
5 years after the body of Joy Hayward was found in a Chester hotel, there has yet to be an arrest in her murder.
50 years in business being celebrated by Venuti’s Hardware in Aston. Well done.
3,000 dollar donation to the Darby Fire Co. No. 1 made by Colwyn Borough Council, as controversy surrounding the borough’s own fire company continues to smolder.
1 body found inside a pizza shop in Telford, Montgomery County. Police believe the shop owner was murdered.
29, age of soldier from Collegeville killed in action in Afghanistan.
363 slot machines that will be added to the state’s expanded gambling operations come Memorial Day when the Sands Casino Resort opens in Bethlehem.
3 University of Pennsylvania students who are improving after being treated for meningitis. More than 3,000 students received antibiotics as a precaution after the outbreak.
400,000 dollars believed ripped off by a woman who was the property manager for an apartment complex outside West Chester.
35, age of woman whose body was found floating in the bay at Sea Isle City, N.J. Police are not yet sure how she died.
11, age of boy brutally abused in New Castle, Del. A man and woman are charged with “disciplining” the boy by holding him in the tub under cold water for 40 minutes.
4 Beneficial Bank branches that will be closed. No jobs will be lost in the process. None of the branches is in Delaware County.
0 raises for Comcast execs, the giant cable company announced.
3 million dollar bonus for the CEO at PNC Bank. They are in the form of stock. Other execs also are getting bonuses. The bank got $7.7 billion in bailout money from the feds.
1 cent hike in price of gas over the weekend. Average in Philly region is now $1.99. A year ago it was $3.01 a gallon.
.293, what the Phils new starting left-fielder, Raul Ibanez, hit last year. He replaces Pat Burrell.
4, as in No. 4 Pitt toppling No. 1 UConn last night.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.It’s going to look awfully odd seeing Pat Burrell in something other than red pinstripes. The longtime Phillie reported to camp with the Tampa Bay Rays yesterday.
I Don’t Get It: Another Philadelphia police officer is gunned down. And once again, the suspect is no stranger to the law. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Thumb’s up to NBA great Richard “Rip” Hamilton. The Coatesville native is once again showing he remembers where he came from, offering the help of his Rip City Foundation to those displaced by the wave of arsons in the city.
Quote Box: “He was a good kid. They had a tight-kjnif familiy. This hurts all of us.”
-- Rob Raby, longtime friend of slain Philadelphia police officer John Pawlowski.

War on police

It is hard to fathom what is happening on the streets of Philadelphia.

But it’s not hard enough to envision what will happen Friday inside the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. Unfortunately we have seen the sad scenario all too often.

The long blue line will gather once again on Friday to bury one of their own.

Officer John Pawlowski was gunned down Friday night after arriving at a call for a street disturbance.

He was met with gunfire from a suspect who had concealed the gun in the pocket of his coat. He didn’t even bother to draw his weapon; he just opened fire.

Officers had asked him several times to show them his hands. Instead he showed them exactly what he thought of the uniform and the badge.

It’s a recurring theme.

Pawlowski is the sixth Philadelphia officer killed in the line of duty in the last 16 months.

It is dangerous work. Cops know that when they put on the uniform.

But today they battle something else. They battle the knowledge that there are those in society who do not blink when confronted with the men and women charged with enforcing law and order on our streets.

The suspect charged in Pawlowski’s killing had been involved in an argument with a hack cabbie during what police describe as a holdup. When his victim indicated he was calling police, the suspect replied he would shoot both him and the responding officer.

He soon made good on his threat, and did just that.

While Philadelphia prepares to say goodbye to another officer and gentleman, a newylwed with a pregnant wife at home, police in other areas must be wondering what happened to the respect once offered to the badge.

Early Sunday morning police in Chester chased down a suspect after they witnessed him blowing through a stop sign. The suspect crashed his car. Instead of surrendering, he pointed a gun at responding officers. When he refused to drop his weapon, officers fired several shots at him, wounding him in the process.

They were not alone in putting their lives in danger on these increasingly mean streets.

Friday night, just a few hours before Pawlowski was fatally shot, another Philly officer was in the line of fire, and again the undercurrent here seems to be complete disregard for the badge.

Allan Thomas, of Yeadon, was stopped on 48th Street near Walnut in West Philly. Officers smelled marijuana when they approached the car. Thomas was asked to get out of his vehicle. Instead, according to police, he attacked the officer, punching and kicking them. He got back in his car and gunned it. He dragged two officers about 15 feet.

Thomas, who has 17 arrests on his record, remains on the loose.

Something has to change. Before we lose one more officer.

More gas pains

Maybe it’s just me, but has anyone else noticed that gas prices are creeping back up again?

More importantly, can anyone tell me why? We are told that refiners are actually cutting production, whatever that means.

A few months ago, prices had dipped below $1.50 a gallon. Now suddenly we’re pushing back toward $2 a gallon again.

Here’s my theory. Yesterday was the Presidents Day holiday. It also marks the traditional weekend when people start heading to the shore to search out those essential summer rentals. Yes, we’re still shivering with temperatures in the 30s and they’re calling for snow showers Wednesday, but a lot of people have spring on their minds.

That’s probably reason enough for gas prices to start creeping up again. Why wait until Memorial Day?

People have given up a lot of things in our economic downturn. But so far it looks like maybe the shore is proving recession-proof. And the crowds down there over the weekend look like the same might just hold true this year as well.

Actually some experts believe the tough economic times actually are beneficial to beach business. The thought is that people are giving up longer trips and staying closer to home, meaning continued good times for the Jersey shore.

Look at it this way, yes, gas prices are creeping back up again. But this time a year ago we were paying $3 a gallon.

Then again, Memorial Day is still three months away. Plenty of time for prices at the pump to spike a bit more.

Anyone who thinks that gas prices will go down between now and summer raise their hands?

Thought so.

Oh, and one other thing: Don’t spend that economic stimulus money in one place. Can someone tell me exactly what the average citizen is going to get out of this thing?

More gas pains

Maybe it’s just me, but has anyone else noticed that gas prices are creeping back up again?

More importantly, can anyone tell me why? We are told that refiners are actually cutting production, whatever that means.

A few months ago, prices had dipped below $1.50 a gallon. Now suddenly we’re pushing back toward $2 a gallon again.

Here’s my theory. Yesterday was the Presidents Day holiday. It also marks the traditional weekend when people start heading to the shore to search out those essential summer rentals. Yes, we’re still shivering with temperatures in the 30s and they’re calling for snow showers Wednesday, but a lot of people have spring on their minds.

That’s probably reason enough for gas prices to start creeping up again. Why wait until Memorial Day?

People have given up a lot of things in our economic downturn. But so far it looks like maybe the shore is proving recession-proof. And the crowds down there over the weekend look like the same might just hold true this year as well.

Actually some experts believe the tough economic times actually are beneficial to beach business. The thought is that people are giving up longer trips and staying closer to home, meaning continued good times for the Jersey shore.

Look at it this way, yes, gas prices are creeping back up again. But this time a year ago we were paying $3 a gallon.

Then again, Memorial Day is still three months away. Plenty of time for prices at the pump to spike a bit more.

Anyone who thinks that gas prices will go down between now and summer raise their hands?

Thought so.

Oh, and one other thing: Don’t spend that economic stimulus money in one place. Can someone tell me exactly what the average citizen is going to get out of this thing?

A tale of two athletes

Call this one a tale of two players.

Alex Rodriguez will arrive at Yankees’ spring training today. He will be accorded the same greeting usually reserved for media day at the Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, J.C. Romero will go about his business in Clearwater with the Phils pretty much in anonymity.

There’s another big difference. Rodriguez, who admitted that he used steroids during three years with the Texas Rangers, will almost assuredly be in the Yankees’ starting lineup on opening day.

Romero will not be available in his crucial set-up role out of the bullpen for the Phils when they open their defense of their World Series crown – and the Major League Baseball season - with a Sunday night prime-time game on April 5. In fact, he is out for the first 50 games of the season after he tested positive for a banned substance.

Romero bought the stuff at a local store, and says he made several inquiries as to whether it would put him in any jeopardy and was assured that it would not. He probably won’t make that mistake again. In the meantime, he can practice with the team in Florida this spring, he just can’t play once the regular season starts.

So who did something wrong, here? Rodriguez admits he used steroids. Romero admits he made a mistake. The difference is that Rodriguez’s transgression happened back before baseball was testing for steroids and other banned substances.

There doesn’t seem to be any penalty for Rodriguez, outside of being the focus of the media world for today.

In the meantime, Romero and the Phils have to be scratching their heads wondering exactly how this is supposed to be fair.

The truth is that it isn’t fair. Life usually isn’t. But anyone who can now look at the 50-game automatic suspension slapped on Romero and wonder about the justice of it would seem to have a good argument.

Baseball should take another look at these two cases. They can’t really do anything to Rodriguez. But they can still deliver something akin to justice in the case of Romero.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Feb. 12

The Daily Numbers: 1743, when the Darby Free Library was first established, making it likely the oldest public library in the nation. It’s now hurting financially, and the public is coming forward with donations to keep it open.
11 public libraries in Philadelphia that also appear as if they will remain open after first being targeted for closure in budget cuts by Mayor Michael Nutter.
68 degrees yesterday afternoon, a record high. We might be hit with wind gusts of the same number today. Grab your hat, it’s going to be a windy one.
1 freshman member of the Chester High basketball team injured when he was shot in the back in the city yesterday.
3 people being busted in a series of cell-phone thefts from stores in the region. They’re believed to have ripped off $4,000 in phones.
19,000 dollars police say was ripped off from a children’s playground fund by the treasurer of a school PTA group in Claymont.
0 tips the Upper Darby police have received so far in the brazen daylight attack on a nun in the parking lot of St. Alice’s Church. If you have information, call them at 610-734-7677.
100 workers, what the union says Sunoco is looking to eliminate in new contract talks. The union is talking strike as the March 1 deadline approaches.
15 arson fires reported in Coatesville last year. City officials now say they may have underreported that number.
500,000 dollars in state aid going to the city in its fight against a wave of arson fires that has put the city under siege.
7 of 10 Pa. voters who disapprove of Gov. Ed Rendell’s proposal to allow counties to raise the sales tax by 1 percent. But 67 percent are OK with hiking the tax on a pack of cigarettes by a dime, and 62 percent approve of his call to legalize video poker.
3, age of boy who fell down a well in Williamstown, N.J. He was rescued and rushed to the hospital.
1 person killed when flames roared through a house in Cinnaminson, N.J., overnight.
15 people charged in a house-stealing scheme in Philadelphia in which they raked in $400,000.
200 birthdays being celebrated at the University of Pennsylvania to honor Charles Darwin.
1 lawyer shot and killed execution-style as he walked into his office in a shopping center in Bucks County yesterday morning.
750 dollar bonus offered to some GE workers to quit smoking. Fifteen percent were still tobacco-free a year later.
47,000 people without power in the Pittsburgh are because of high winds. Those winds are now headed here, with gusts expected around 50-60 mph.
78.6 million dollar contract for Lockheed Martin Corp. for upgrades to the Aegis naval defense system.
51 percent decline in revenue reported by local home builder Toll Brothers Inc.
20 miles, how far a man was dragged in New York City after he was run over by an SUV, then stuck underneath a van. He was dragged 20 miles over 50 minutes. He did not survive.
1 cent increase in price of gas, now going for an average of $1.97 in the Philly region.
18 points for Andre Iguodala as the Sixers rolled to another win last night, beating the Memphis Grizzlies, 91-87.
4 straight wins heading into the All-Star break for the Sixers.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.A sight to warm the hearts of Phillies fans: Chase Utley taking ground balls yesterday in the Florida sunshine. He says he’s on track to be in the lineup on opening day as he continues to rehab from off-season hip surgery.
I Don’t Get It: A group of bankers yesterday appeared before a House panel in D.C. to testify about what they did with all that taxpayer bailout money. “We understand the taxpayers are angry,” said Kenneth Lewis of Bank of America. Somehow I doubt he has any clue just how angry people are.
Today’s Upper: Thumb’s up to all those coming forward to make donations to save the Darby Public Library, the oldest library in the United States.
Quote Box: “Hopefully, there’s not a lot of other crazy people who would want to do this, although there is someone in Coatesville.”
-- April Hemsher, whose house was set on fire during spree of seven arsons in Drexel Hill.

Swimming in sensationalism

There is not a day that goes by that an angry reader does not accuse me of sensationalizing a story.

“You only put that on your front page to sell newspapers,” is the usual rant.

I won’t lie; there is some truth to it.

One aspect of my job. I repeat one – not the only one, not the most important one - but a very real one is that I want to sell as many newspapers as I can.

I think it’s something the editors at Sports Illustrated can relate to. Fifty-one weeks of the year, the magazine focuses on the world of sports.

But one week every year, usually after the Super Bowl, in the doldrums of February, traditionally a slow spot for sports before the March Madness of college hoops, before baseball teams report to spring training, as pro hoops and hockey are continuing their never-ending march toward the important games in the playoffs, the magazine takes a different tack.

The call it the Swimsuit Issue.

While much of the country is dealing with bitter cold and snow, Sports Illustrated delivers an issue jammed with the world’s most beautiful women wearing the skimpiest bikinis they can find. And sometimes not even bikinis. On the cover this year is Israeli stunner Bar Refaeli, who can often be found on the arm of Leonardo DiCaprio.

On the cover shot, it certainly appears as if Refaeli is trying to pull down her bikini bottom. And yes, that certainly looks like a tan line she is exposing, along with very nearly everything else she has to offer. You’re shocked, I know.

Routinely the issue sparks outrage from those offended by the images, along with a wave of letters from readers vowing to cancel their subscriptions.

It also sparks something else, aside from the male libido, of course.

Sales. Really big sales. The Swimsuit Issue is traditionally SI’s biggest seller of the year.

I bring that up because this year there is a local tie-in to the famous Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

They did a promotion with the NBA this year and did a spread including members of some teams’ cheerleaders in some specially designed suits.

So there on Page 158 you can find Melanie Fitzpatrick. She’s from the Folsom section of Ridley Township. She’s a nursing student at Saint Joe’s and a four-year member of the Sixers Dance Team.

After getting a tip from her mom, I had a reporter track down Fitzpatrick for an interview. Her story appeared in Wednesday’s newspaper, along with a photo of her from the magazine.

We also placed that story on our Web site, along with the photo. And we linked from the story to the rest of the spread on the Sports Illustrated Web site.

One of the things I love about the online world is that we are able to tell pretty quickly which stories on our site are drawing the most interest.

Which story do you think was the most visited on Wednesday? In the 24-hour period after we posted the story, the Fitzpatrick interview recorded more than 4,800 “hits.”

We also teased the story off our front page. It was not our lead story.

Maybe it should have been. But then I no doubt would have been inundated with calls from irate readers saying we were simply trying to cash in on the racy nature of the photos.

It’s kind of like the National Inquirer. Nobody reads it, right? But it is routinely among the best-selling newspapers or magazines in the world, and a lot of people who claim they would never look at “that rag” seem pretty well-versed as to what’s in it.

I will continue my daily balance of what to put on the front page, balancing the stories I think are important and those that I think will sell.

It goes with the job. So do the swimsuits.

New legal lows in Pa.

There are two cases going on right now that just make you shake your head and mutter to yourself, “Hey, what do you expect, it’s Pennsylvania.”

One is the high legal drama playing out in the federal courthouse in Philadelphia.

That’s where former Sen. Vince Fumo, once one of the most powerful men in the state, is jousting with federal prosecutors. The stakes in this case are high.

If convicted of the corruption charges filed against him, Fumo could be looking at spending some serious time behind bars.

So far the picture of Fumo that has emerged through his own testimony is something of “a tale of two men.”

There is the public Fumo, the man who admitted that there really is only one way to get things done in Harrisburg, and that is by acquiring as much power as possible and then wielding it. Few have ever wielded it as well as Fumo. And that’s not en entirely bad thing.

Then there is the private Fumo, a man who by his own admission is painfully shy, who is often tortured in his private relationships, including those with his own family. He is someone who shuns the spotlight.

But there are three words that overshadow everything else in this case.

Other People’s Money. OPM.

That’s the moniker the feds allege Fumo routinely used to indicate that he didn’t have to pay for a wide variety of goods, that instead he would use the public’s wallet to pick up the tab.

Whatever you think of Fumo, this trial does not paint a very good picture of governing in Pennsylvania.

And if that damaged the state’s reputation, what exactly are we to make of what will happen today in a courtroom in Scranton.

This afternoon former Luzerne County Judges Mark A. Ciavarella and Michael T. Conahan are scheduled to plead guilty to fraud charges.

Basically, what these two jurists did is sell their robes. They are believed to have accepted millions in kickbacks from a private firm to send juvenile offenders to treatment facilities owned by the company. Pretty nice racket, huh? Just a couple of problems.

First, there’s the small matter of selling your office. These guys stuffed $2.6 million in their pockets. They are pleading guilty to fraud charges.

Maybe more important are the cases and the kids involved. Many of them had no prior records and prosecutors in some cases were not recommending incarceration. No matter, off they went to the favored facilities, all while these two judges lined their own pockets.

Now there are lawsuits being readied challenging scores of convictions in the case by juvenile law advocates in Philly.

Just another day in Pennsylvania.

Back in the Chase

Is there a better sight for Phillies fans than one Chase Utley taking ground balls in Clearwater.

As Chase himself might say, “Bleeping A!”

Utley is recovering from hip surgery which slowed him much of the second-half of last season. But it never kept him out of the lineup as Utley played through the pain in leading the Phils to a World Series title.

Now he’s reported early to the Phils’ spring home in Florida, and he says he’s serious about being ready for opening day.

Click here to read Ryan Lawrence's update from Clearwater.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Feb. 11

The Daily Numbers: 7 cases of arson in Upper Darby early Tuesday morning. A 19-year-old woman has been charged with setting the fire.
10 Chester High School students, all members of the Junior Marine Corps ROTC, awarded scholarships during a ceremony at the Pennsylvania Veterans Museum in Media.
7 firefighters who needed treatment after being exposed to Zylene at a condo in Morton. The resident also needed treatment.
25, age of Melanie Fitzpatrick of Ridley Township. She’s a member of the Sixers Dance Team and also is featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition out this week.
17 million dollar gift given to a charity linked to former Sen. Vince Fumo by Peco Energy Co. Fumo is defending the money at his corruption trial.
17, age of teen convicted of first-degree murder yesterday in Philly for the shooting death of an immigrant Chinese grocer.
19,000 dollars police say was ripped off from a children’s playground fund by the treasurer of a school PTA group in Claymont.
15,000 dollars in fraudulent checks believed cashed by the deputy director of public safety in Montgomery County. The money was from a police association training fund.
30 bags of cocaine found hidden in a car during a traffic stop in New Castle County, Del.
1 billion reduction in funds coming to Pennsylvania under the Senate’s version of the federal stimulus plan. Gov. Ed Rendell is warning of more cuts because we likely are not getting as much as we thought from the feds.
500,000 dollar grant that will go to restoration of historic Eastern State Penitentiary.
10, age of Stump, the Sussex Spaniel that took best in show honors at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
2 cent hike in the price of a stamp, effective May 11. That means if will then cost 44 cents to mail a letter.
8 people killed last night in Oklahoma when a tornado touched down. At least 14 others were injured. Authorities fear the toll will rise when they start going through the wreckage this morning.
10,000 salaried employees getting the ax as hard times continue to batter General Motors.
700 to 800 jobs being cut by Wal-Mart. Yep, times are tough all over.
1,200 layoffs announced yesterday by GE Transportation, in Erie, Pa.
30 seconds of porn that was broadcast by the Comcast affiliate in Arizona during the Super Bowl. The company now wants the FBI to help them track down who was responsible for the X-rated footage.
9.4 percent decline in revenue for Atlantic City casinos in January. That’s actually better than they did in December.
11 states where the average price of gas has crept back up over the $2 a gallon mark. In this region we’re paying an average of $1.96
27 points for Scottie Reynolds in leading Villanova to a 102-84 romp over No. 10 Marquette.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Jeff Lurie and Joe Banner must be killing themselves with all this attention being showered on the Phillies. That’s what happens when you win a world title, guys. Here’s a tip: Anquan Boldin.
I Don’t Get It: SEPTA put out a special day pass promotion tied to Philly Beer Week. Unfortunately, they put an image of the New York skyline on the pass. They’re being redesigned.
Today’s Upper: Three cheers for Melanie Fitzpatrick. The Ridley woman who is a member of the Sixers Dance Team also is being featured in this week’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.
Quote Box: “The fire company’s going to be mad at me.”
-- What police say arson suspect Amanda Gessner, 19, was singing when she was arrested for a series of 7 intentionally set fires in Drexel Hill.

Playing with fire

It seems the sick fascination with fire that is terrorizing Coatesville is not limited to Chester County.

Police in Upper Darby Tuesday arrested a 19-year-old woman for a series of early-morning arson fires in Drexel Hill. Township top cop Mike Chitwood said Amanda Gessner was “a profile of what a pryomaniac would be.”

They believe she intentionally set seven fires between the hours of 3:05 a.m. to 5:45 a.m. Tuesday. She used a lighter to torch material on porches or nearby shrubs and bushes.

That sounds very similar to the problem that has been going on in Coatesville. Unfortunately that’s about all they have in common, a sick interest in setting things on fire. Police in Upper Darby do not believe the two situations are connected. Coatesville has suffered 18 intentionally set fires since the first of the year.

In Drexel Hill, several homes were targeted, along with dumpsters and trash cans aside several homes. In one of the targeted homes, a family with four children were all asleep inside. Thankfully, no one was injured.

Police say Gessner had been spotted hanging around a local fire house giving firefighters a hard time and also was spotted in the crowd at several recent fires.

In a bizarre development, police say she was actually singing a tune when they picked her up early Tuesday at a local Wawa with the lyrics indicating “the fire company’s going to be mad at me.”

It didn’t take long for police to track her down. Now if only the same thing could be said for the devastation being heaped upon Coatesville.

Another kind of stimulus package

That much-ballyhooed stimulus package has arrived.

Not the one they’re talking about in Washington.

I’m talking about the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

When I was a kid, I used to have a subscription to SI. There is nothing that warms a 12-year-old boy’s heart in February like the Swimsuit Issue.

Of course that was back when the models actually wore swimsuits. These days the issue continues to make headlines, sometimes as much for what the models are not wearing as for what they are.

This year’s cover features Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli. She has been known to pal around with Leonardo DiCaprio. It is my journalistic duty to ogle the cover when it is released each year. Associated Press always runs a picture of the cover. As best as I can tell, Refaeli seems to be pulling off her bikini bottom. That sure looks like a tan line to me.

I no doubt will get several irate phone calls today, complaining about using the photo of Refaeli on the cover in today’s print edition. It’s also posted on our Web site.

I am guessing Judy Fitzpatrick will not be among them. The Folsom mom called me yesterday to alert us of a local angle to this year's Swimsuit Issue.

Her daughter Melanie is featured in the mag. She’s a Saint Joe’s nursing student and member of the Sixers dance team. The magazine did a shoot involving members of several NBA team’s cheerleading squads.

Just doing our job, always looking for the local angle to important stories.

No doubt today we will chase down lots of local angles to the economic stimulus package.

The temperature today is expected to approach 70 degrees. It will be a fleeting taste of spring.

Think swimsuits. We’re doing our part.

Lurie and Banner have a problem

That “gold standard” that they keep referring to around the Eagles headquarters at the NovaCare Center has an image problem.

Actually the image is tarnished. That’s what happens when you proclaim yourself to be “gold” but keep delivering copper instead.

But the Eagles have an even bigger problem, one that I think eats away at Jeff Lurie and Joe Banner.

They are being eclipsed in their home town. This was always a football town first. The Eagles ruled. Not so any more.

In case you missed it, the Phillies are now World Champions. They are the team featured on the Back Page of the newspaper. People stood in line for an hour Friday night at Granite Run Mall just to get a peek at the Phils’ World Series trophy.

Then look at what the Phils did in the off-season. New GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is batting 1.000. He signed every one of his free agents to new deals, with the coup de grace coming Monday when the Phils managed to bring home run king Ryan Howard into the fold – and away from the arbitration table – with a new, $54 million, three-year deal.

All of which means the buzz surrounding the Phillies is bigger than ever. Once again this summer Citizens Bank Park will be the place to be, one of the region’s hot spots.

Meanwhile, across the street, Lincoln Financial Field will remain dark, with nary a championship banner hanging from its rafters.

For this reason, here’s a name to keep in mind this off-season. Anquan Boldin.

Don’t be surprised if the Eagles make a big play for the Cardinals’ star wideout.

If there’s one thing Lurie and Banner can’t stand, it’s being in second place. Not in the standings, they pretty much do that all the time. I’m talking about the hearts and minds of the fans.

Boldin could put them back in the headlines. And maybe on the path to the Super Bowl.

A sneak peek at spring

What does Punxsutawney know, anyhow?

Last week our favorite rodent told us to expect six more weeks of winter.

Today some forecasters are telling us we could hit 70 degrees. The record high for the day is 65, and we set it way back in 1925. There’s a good chance we could shatter that mark today.

It’s a day to get outside. Go for a walk. Take the kids to the park. Play hooky from work, or school.

Enjoy it, because winter is expected back just in time for the weekend.

There is actually a chance of snow Saturday night into Sunday. Just in time for Valentine’s Day.

That Punxsutawney is such a romantic!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Feb. 10

The Daily Numbers: 82, age of nun mugged by a suspect in the parking lot of St. Alice’s Church in Upper Darby.
100,000 dollars, the amount some people alleged to be missing from Briarcliffe Fire Co. The D.A.’s office is investigating. No charges have been filed.
10,000 bucks won by a Springfield teen who entered his work in a contest sponsored by “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Billy Booth now has a chance of winning the $100,000 grand prize.
30 suspects rounded up in a police sting targeting drug sales on the 900 block of Crosby Street in Chester.
100 years of tradition and community work being celebrated by the Darby branch of the NAACP.
6,000 dollars raised Sunday night during the fundraiser for a scholarship in the name of hit-run victim Faith Sinclair.
900,000 dollars being sought from an emergency fund by the city manager in Coatesville, where they are a siege of arson fires. So far city council is not releasing the money.
1 person dead and 2 in custody when gunfire broke out during a surveillance operation against a suspected bank robber in a quiet Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood Monday.
10 percent rollback that could be in the works for the Philadelphia police department, as the city continues to battle a budget deficit. That would mean 900 uniformed officers lost through attrition and layoffs. The other scenarios are even worse.
30 scofflaws rounded up yesterday in a crackdown in Philadelphia against residents with unpaid traffic tickets. Some of the violators owed more than $20,000.
17, age of student who brought a loaded gun to Salem High School in South Jersey yesterday and pointed it at another student.
9, age of child in Delaware who was target shooting with a .22-caliber rifle when he accidentally shot and wounded a man.
6, age of girl in Gloucester County, N.J., in critical condition after being struck by a hit-run driver while riding her bike.
15,000 dollars ripped off by thieves who broke into soda machines at the Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City.
13 drunken students at Princeton taken to a local hospital after ingesting too much alcohol during a weekend initiation for campus eating clubs.
1, as in No. 1, among the Big 6 airlines for US Airways for on-time performance in 2008. They had 80.1 percent of flights arrive within 15 minutes of the published arrival time.
2 cent hike in the price of gasoline over the weekend. Philly average at the pump is now $1.96.
3 AL MVP awards for Alex Rodriguez, who yesterday admitted he used steroids from 2001-03. He says he hasn’t used them since.
24 points in an eye-popping performance for Sixers rookie Marreese Speights in the Sixers win over Phoenix last night.
3 straight wins for the Sixers since they learned they will play the rest of the season without star Elton Brand.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Here’s a troubling thought for Sixers fans. Did the team spend $80 million in the off-season on a player, Elton Brand, who makes them worse. The team certainly seems to play better without Brand in the lineup.
I Don’t Get It: About that tuition aid plan announced by Gov. Ed Rendell last week, based on legalizing video poker in taverns. It’s only for students attending the 14 state-owned universities and community colleges. That means if you’re son or daughter is attending Penn State, you’re out of luck.
Today’s Upper: Kudos to Jeff Kindler, the CEP of Fort Washington-based Korman Communities. He’s taking out full-page ads worth $16,000 in several local and national newspapers urging his corporate brethren to avoid layoffs during the current financial crisis.
Quote Box: “Gee, if they think they have to pull out Civera to win, maybe I can win.”
-- Delaware County Democratic boss Cliff Wilson, on the reaction to news that longtime GOP state Mario Civera will seek one of two seats on County Council up for grabs in the upcoming election.

How low can you go?

I came to work yesterday thinking I had a pretty good candidate for Page One.

Jermaine Burgess was due in Upper Darby court. Burgess faces murder charges in the brutal home invasion that took the life of Hoa Pham. It struck a nerve in the community.

The brutality of the attack against Pham, and his wife, shocked a lot of people.

As it turns out, police believe it was not the first time Burgess had killed. He since has been charged with an equally horrific murder, that of Marie Ott. She was killed in a similar home invasion back in October.

Police say Burgess has confessed to both murders. He has been held for trial in both cases.

You start to wonder if there is anything that can shock you anymore.

Then you pick up the paper.

Today Upper Darby police are seeking a man who attacked an 82-year-old nun in the parking lot of St. Alice’s Church.

The nun suffered a cut over her right eye that required five stitches, an injury to her hand and a fractured pelvis. The suspect was trying to get her pocketbook in the brazen daylight robbery. She was knocked to the ground, where she was pummeled and stomped.

Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood called it a cowardly assault.

I would call it a few other things as well, but this is a family newspaper, and I suppose a family blog.

I just hope they get the person or persons responsible for this, before they strike again. That’s the real danger. It’s pretty clear this person has no qualms about whom he attacks if mugging an 82-year-old nun is not below him.

If you have any information on the case, call Upper Darby detectives at 610-734-7677.

Some days you wonder just how low society can sink.

Then some thug lowers the bar.

Questions for the Sixers

The Sixers now are facing this unsettling dilemma.

They may have paid $80 million for a player who makes their team worse.

The Sixers blew away a pretty good Phoenix team last night, 109-81. It was their third straight win since it was announced Elton Brand, the teams’ big off-season acquisition, would undergo shoulder surgery and be lost for the remainder of the season.

The team, just as it was during Brand’s month-long winter absence after initially hurting the shoulder, does not look any worse the wear. They continue to run and gun, something that Brand’s presence in the lineup seemed to bog down.

And they just might have an unpolished gem in rookie Marrese Speights. He had a career-high 25 points last night, and seems to get better, and more confident, with each game.

This team looks like last year’s version, which ran a lot of teams out of the gym last spring in a late-season push that took Mo Cheeks’ squad to a playoff spot.

The big question likely will be whether the Sixers can somehow construct a halfcourt offense that will hold up in the more rugged playoffs.

But an even bigger question will hang over this team all summer. Are they better without Brand in the lineup? Did they spend $80 million on a guy who cannot fit into the system that best suits the rest of the team.

It will be interesting to see what happens next fall when Brand returns. If the Sixers get off to another slow start, it likely won’t be the coach who pays with his job.

That Brand new ballgame we were told about? It just might be the same old, same old.


Alex Rodriguez cheated.

You’re shocked, I know.

These days I think we’re more surprised when we learn a famous athlete did not bend the rules to get ahead.

That is the legacy of “A-Roid” and all the other pumped-up stars of the early ’90s.

Rodriguez yesterday came clean about his steroid use, confirming a story that first appeared on the Sports Illustrated Web site. The star slugger, widely considered the best player in baseball and hot on the trail of another steroid-besmirched superstar, home run king Barry Bonds, confessed to Peter Gammons of ESPN.

He admitted using the junk while toiling for the Texas Rangers from 2001 to 2003. At the time Rodriguez had just signed the richest contract in baseball history, which earned him a plush $252 million.

At that time there was no testing in place and thus no ban on steroids. A-Rod says he quit the juice during spring training in 2003 and has not used them since.

“Back then it was a different culture,” Rodriguez said. “I was young. I was stupid. I was naïve.”

He left one out. He was – and is – a liar.

Back in December 2007, the three-time AL MVP sat down for an interview with Katie Couric.

She asked him the following question: “Have you ever used steroids, human growth hormone, or any other performance-enhancing substance?”

Seems like a pretty straight-forward question. He replied with a single word: “No.”

Yesterday Rodriguez said, “I wasn’t even being truthful with myself.”

And not with any of the rest of us, either.

I’ll give Rodriguez this. At least yesterday he did not dance around the subject, he didn’t trot out some legalese argument, he didn’t try to spin it.

It may have taken him awhile, but at least he was man enough to admit what he did.

The story that implicated Rodriguez included the names of 104 players who tested positive for steroids. That means there are still 103 names with clouds hanging over them.

It’s a cloud that hangs over baseball, as well as most big-time sports.

Rodriguez says he felt pressure when he signed that big-bucks contract with the Rangers to justify the eye-popping numbers.

So he decided to seek an edge. At the time it was not illegal for baseball players to do so. I don’t think Rodriguez was alone.

I also don’t think he’s alone in lying about what he did.

I doubt you’re surprised by that either. Perhaps that is the real danger of baseball’s steroids scandal.

We’re now surprised when the stars don’t cheat.

Bella Luna

Anyone else notice the moon last night?

I had to run some errands so I jumped in the car and headed out of the development. That’s when I saw this huge brightness in the eastern sky. I was wondering if there was a police or fire situation in the neighborhood. The entire sky looked like it was being illuminated. Then when we came over the crest I realized what it was – a perfectly gorgeous full moon.

With a few clouds surrounding it, the moon gave off an eerie glow.

Which reminds me that one of my favorite movies was on Sunday night.


The grandfather in this story of an Italian family talked of the “bella luna,” and how the full moon brought the man to the woman in matters of love.

Saturday is Valentine’s Day. Guess our “bella luna” was just a few days early.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Feb. 9

The Daily Numbers: 400,000 dollars worth of prescription drugs seized by investigators in Upper Darby after the residents reported a suspicious car with the keys still in the trunk.
40 to 80 dollars a pop, what the oxycodone pills seized by police bring on the street.
61 degrees for a glorious high temperature on Sunday. It won’t get that warm today, but it will still be pretty nice, and we might hit the mid 60s later this week.
300 people who gathered for a fundraiser last night to raise money for a scholarship in the name of hit-run victim Faith Sinclair.
5 years in jail for a Main Line businessman for obtaining frudulent loans. He also must make $12.5 million in restitution.
1 billion dollars in unpaid bail for suspects released but who never showed up for court in Philadelphia.
10 hour days that can stretch to 20 hours. That’s Ed Rendell describing the work habits of ex-Sen. Vince Fumo’s staff. The governor will take the stand at Fumo’s federal trial today.
100,000 dollars believed stolen from First Corinthian Church in Philadelphia. A man and woman face charges.
13 million dollars in funding for economic development projects announced Sunday by Philly Mayor Michael Nutter.
100 to 200 teens who fled a party at City Line Avenue motor lodge over the weekend. The group then apparently beat up several Saint Joseph’s University students they encountered.
3.4 million dollars in budget cuts being made by the Kimmel Center in downtown Philly. There will be no cuts in programming, staff or operating hours.
5 Grammys for the collaboration of veteran rocker Robert Plant and singer Alison Krauss, including Album of the Year for “Raising Sand.”
20,000 jobs being slashed by Nissan as they prepare to report their first annual loss in nine years.
1.92 a gallon, the national average for gasoline, according to AAA.
1.95 a gallon, what we’re paying in the Philly area. The price hikes are being blamed on refiners cutting production. Hey, last year we were paying $3.01 a gallon.
65,000 gallons of oil sludge that spilled near Chicago.
131 lives lost as wildfires raged across a blazing hot Australia, where temperatures hit 117 degrees over the weekend.
750 homes destroyed by the fires swept by winds that hit 60 mph.
54 million dollar, 3-year contract for Phillies slugger Ryan Howard.
15 million dollars, what Howard will make this year, followed by 19 million next year and 20 million in the final year.
48 homers and 146 RBI last year for Howard. Oh, and he also struck out 199 times and made 19 errors at first base.
14 straight wins for the Flyers over the Atlanta Thrashers after Sunday’s 3-2 win.
34 goals so far this season for Flyers star Jeff Carter.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.A huge thumb’s up for new Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr., who has managed to bring all the Phillies under contract as they head to Clearwater this week.
I Don’t Get It: You have to wonder what the guy in Upper Darby was thinking when he left the keys in the trunk slot of his car. Neighbors reported it as suspicious to police. They came, opened it, and found $400,000 in illegal drugs. Along with a bag with the suspect’s name on it. Oops!
Today’s Upper: Kudos to the Eagles, who are asking fans to donate to the American Red Cross to aid the victims of arson fires in Coatesville. The team will match the donations up to $10,000.
Quote Box: “If it wasn’t for his stupidity these drugs would have been on the streets of our community.”
-- Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood, on suspect charged with large cache of illegal prescription drugs.

Gotta have Faith

A couple of friends gathered last night in Norwood to remember Faith Sinclair.

Several hundred of them.

They held a fundraiser for a scholarship to be awarded to a Ridley High student in the name of the teen who was struck and killed by a hit-run driver back in August.

They labeled the night the “Gotta Have Faith” benefit.

Her boyfriend, 16-year-old Alex Penman of Folcroft, may have best summed up the night and the special young woman they gathered to honor and remember.

“She obviously knew and touched a lot of people’s lives,” Penman said.

Gotta Have Faith? Her friends still do. And the scholarship in her memory will make sure the area continues to do so for a long time.

Tops in Pops

Another sign that you are getting old:

I ddidn’t know very many of the acts that showed up last night to collect Grammys. OK, I consider myself a Coldplay fan. And I’m pretty sure that was Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant, who snagged several awards for his collaboration with Alison Krauss.

But a lot of the people there were strangers to me.

And I missed my favorite part of the night. They gave a lifetime achievement award to one of my favorite all-time bands, The Four Tops. Lead singer Levi Stubbs passed away earlier this year. Only one member of the legendary Motown group is still alive.

I used to argue with my kids all the time about music. I would tell them that a lot of bands come and go, but the Motown sound is forever.

They’re in college now. Back when they were in high school, they used to roll their eyes when I would tell them of the magic of Motown. I think they’re catching on now. Maybe that’s because some of the bands they once listened to are already long gone – and for the most part forgotten.

But “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch,” “Same Old Song,” and “Reach Out” will continue to make me turn the volume up on the car radio every time one of them comes on.

Those songs will be with us forever. How many of the acts that were at the Grammys last night can make the same claim?

About that gold standard

Much has been made of Jeff Lurie and Joe Banner and their self-proclaimed “gold standard” in terms of running the Philadelphia Eagles.

Of course, that has resulted in a grand total of zero Super Bowl titles, although Andy Reid does seem to be making a habit of making the trip to Hawaii to coach the NFC team in the Pro Bowl. You get that title by losing in the NFC Championship Game.

If Banner and Lurie would like to see a true gold standard, all they have to do is look across the street.

From their suite at Lincoln Financial Field, or their fortress at the NovaCare Center, they should be able to see Citizens Bank Park. That would be the home of the Philadelphia Phillies. Make that the defending World Champion Philadelphia Phillies.

We could add another description offered by star second-baseman Chase Utley, but you get the idea.

When it comes to world titles around here, the score stands Phillies 1, Eagles 0.

Later this week the Phillies will head south to gather once again in Clearwater to defend their title.

And you have to marvel at what new general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has done in this off-season.

On Sunday the Phils announced they had signed slugger Ryan Howard to a new three-year, $54 million deal. That means the team will avoid another testy arbitration session with their star first baseman.

It also means something else. The Phils now have every member of their squad under contract. Winning world titles can be an expensive proposition. Give the Phillies credit. They stepped up to the plate and paid the tab.

The Phillies squad that reports this week will be a lot more expensive than the one that showed up last year. Cole Hamels has a new deal. Several other players also got significant salary increases. Not a single player will go to arbitration.

Meanwhile, the Eagles are now trying to figure out what to do with their free agent pool. They have questions about both offensive tackles. They also must come to grips with whether or not they have enough firepower to put around Quarterback Donovan McNabb, who has made it pretty clear he would like a few more weapons in his arsenal.

Don’t hold your breath, Donovan. The gold standard is located across the street.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Feb. 6

The Daily Numbers: 1 of two legal measures that Delaware County had been seeking to halt new flight paths at Philadelphia International Airport that got shot down yesterday.
34 percent dip in gonorrhea cases reported in Delco.
250 bucks paid in restitution to the city by a volunteer firefighter from Upper Darby in connection with damage to a fire truck that took place in the celebration of the Phils winning the World Series. Criminal charges in the case were dropped.
40,000 bucks, what Irish backers are trying to raise to save the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Philly.
7.5 percent unemployment rate. That’s the number expected to be revealed this morning, after another 524,000 Americans lost their jobs in January.
14,000 managerial and non-union state workers who will go without a pay raise after Gov. Rendell nixed them as part of his budget-cutting proposals.
7 in 10 Philadelphians who say they approve of the job being done by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.
508 million dollars in sales in the fourth quarter for hip retailer Urban Outfitters. That’s up from $465 million during the same period last year.
3 bank heists under investigation after thieves struck yesterday in Philadelphia.
200 cases of shigella, an intestinal infection that causes diarrhea in children, that have popped up in Philly since September.
600,000 dollars the city of Philadelphia is hoping to raise so it can keep more of its 73 pools open this summer. Right now 63 of the pools are slated to remain shuttered in budget cuts.
15 year deal between Philly and Verizon to bring its FIOS fiber-optic cable TV and phone plan into the city, providing a direct challenge to Comcast.
1 penny hike in cost of gas overnight. Average price in Philly now is $1.94.
3 month suspension slapped on Olympic superstar Michael Phelps by USA Swimming because of the photo that showed Phelps getting up close and personal with a bong.
0 more games Elton Brand will play for the Sixers this year. He’s going to have surgery on that bum shoulder.
18 points and 20 rebounds for Sam Dalembert last night as the Sixers won without Brand, beating the Pacers, 99-94.
24 wins and 24 losses for the Sixers.
11 wins and 8 losses for the Phils without Brand in the lineup.
15 wins and 10 losses for the Sixers under Coach Tony DiLeo.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
The Phillies will pack up their gear at Citizens Bank Park yesterday and head south for Clearwater. Spring can’t be far behind.
I Don’t Get It: Wonder if Gov. Rendell shared his plan to legalize video poker with any of the state’s slots operators before he announced it?
Today’s Upper: Kudos to the attorney general in New Jersey. He’s blasting Ticketmaster for a glitch this week when ducats for Bruce Springsteen concerts went on sale. Computer users were sent to another service, a more expensive one.
Quote Box: “We’re still fighting. The main thrust of the case is to be orally argued in May and we’re going to continue in a bipartisan manner to try to convince legislators.”
-- Delaware County Councilman Jack Whelan, on the setback in court in the fight against new flight patterns at Philadelphia International Airport.

Rolling the dice

Try rolling these numbers around in your head for awhile.


That’s how much money Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack raked in from slot-machine gambling in the week of Jan. 26-Feb. 1, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Of course, at the same time they paid out more than $70 million.

That puts them behind only Philadelphia Park in terms of the money wagered for the week as Pennsylvania continues down the path of expanded legalized gambling.

That road got a little wider this week. And if I were Harrah’s, I’m not sure I’d be all that thrilled about it.

Gov. Ed Rendell this week proposed a huge new tuition aid plan to help students who hope attend one of the state-owned universities or community colleges. He’s looking to raise millions to offset tuition, room and board, books and fees for families struggling with skyrocketing college costs. That’s no small feat when the state is wallowing in $2.3 billion of red ink.

No problem, according to Rendell. He has a way to raise the money. The man who gave us slots parlors is ready to roll the dice again. Rendell is proposing legalizing video poker machines in taverns and private clubs, and taxing the proceeds. Right now it is estimated that there are something along the lines of 17,000 illegal poker machines operating in the state. They are a common sight in tap rooms all across Delaware County.

Most of the time, everyone sort of winks and giggles when it comes to the illegal payouts. But the state has from time to time raided taverns, hauling out machines and boatloads of cash.

This is Rendell’s logic: The machines are already there. People are gambling anyhow, why don’t we legalize it and get a cut of the action. Everybody wins, right? Not exactly. First, some people lose. Some guys will dump their check into the machines at their local watering hole before they ever get home.

But I think there’s another loser here that no one is talking about.

If I’m Harrah’s, or for that matter any of the seven swanky new slots parlors operating here in the land of expanded gambling, I’m not thrilled.

In fact, I’m livid. And yet we haven’t heard a peep out of them. Odd.

Maybe I’m missing something. But doesn’t this proposal mean that a lot of those people now sitting in front of those slot machines at Harrah’s can simply walk down to the corner bar and play video poker machines instead?

So maybe the atmosphere is not exactly the same. We’re not talking ambience or a night out there. We’re talking about winning and losing.

Here’s something you may or may not know. All that money that is rolling into the state coffers to lower property taxes and projects like the new stadium in Chester? It’s coming from those slot machines at Harrah’s.

In order to get their licenses, the slots operators agreed to a huge tax bite from Pennsylvania. They fork over a much bigger chunk of their winnings than they do in either New Jersey or Las Vegas.

I guess there’s more than enough money to go around. In January, the slots at Harrah’s took in more than $330 million. It was a good month. They needed it. Their numbers actually had been trailing off at the end of last year. Maybe gambling isn’t recession-proof after all. It certainly isn’t in Atlantic City.

Harrah’s slots revenues had been consistently dropping during the last six months of 2008. Back in July they hauled in $334 million. By December that number was down to $305 million. Then they got that huge spurt in January. I don’t think they’re crying poor-mouth, but if I was them I wouldn’t necessarily like that trend.

Which is why I wouldn’t think they’d be big fans of Rendell’s video poker plan.

The governor has proved more than once he’s willing to roll the dice.

I’m still waiting for Harrah’s and the rest of the slots operators to tell him they think this idea should crap out.

A few rays of sunshine

No, the Eagles did not make it to the Super Bowl. The Sixers have lost Elton Brand for the rest of the season. The Flyers have measured themselves against the NHL’s best, the Boston Bruins, and come up woefully short.

It is the winter of our discontent, sports fans.

So here’s a couple of rays of sunshine on a very cold February Friday morning.

First, the forecasters are saying we could hit 60 degrees Sunday afternoon. Maybe Punxsutawney was wrong.

Second, a 53-foot equipment truck will pull up outside Citizens Bank Park this morning. Here’s what I hope is written in huge letters on the side of the rig: Property of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies.

I repeat, the World “Bleeping” Champion Philadelphia Phillies.

The Fightin’s will pack up their equipment this morning as they prepare to head south for spring training in Clearwater, Fla. Kind of makes you feel warm just thinking about it, doesn’t it?

If you have a hankering for someplace warm, and also are a Phillies fan, make sure you pick up a copy of the Sunday Times. We’ll have a special package on Clearwater from Phillies beat writer Ryan Lawrence. He will tell you everything you need to know about a trip to the Phils’ winter home, from how to get tickets for Grapefruit League games, to where to eat.

And one more thing. If you want to recapture that winning feeling we reveled in with the Phillies one more time before spring training, head to Granite Run Mall tonight.

The Phillies will be displaying their World Series Trophy there from 6:30 to 8 p.m. You can even get your picture taken with it.

Forget the Eagles. It’s almost baseball season. And we’re the world champs.

A Brand new ballgame?

So much for a Brand new ballgame.

For the Sixers, it’s more like the same old, same old.

Our NBA team went out in the off-season and made a bold move, signing free agent power forward Elton Brand to an $80 million deal. This despite the fact that he had missed almost all of last season with a bum Achilles tendon.

New Sixers boss Ed Stefanski decided to roll the dice anyhow. He had seen his team rally last year with a strong finish after he took the helm. They made the playoffs. With the addition of Brand, even bigger things were expected this year.

Didn’t work out that way. The team struggled early, trying to adjust the run-and-gun game that carried them to the playoffs last year to a slower, more methodical halfcourt game with Brand in the low post.

Then before Christmas Brand took a nasty spill and dislocated his shoulder. He did not return until last week. Oddly, some people noticed that with him out of the lineup, the Sixers appeared more like the team they were at the end of last season.

Brand struggled when he returned. Now we know why.

The Sixers announced yesterday Brand would undergo surgery on his ailing shoulder and miss the rest of the season.


To their credit, the Sixers promptly went out last night and beat the Pacers, 99-94. They will be led by the Andres - Miller and Iguodala. Both had strong games last night. Samuel Dalembert also had a good game, with 18 points and 20 rebounds.

They likely will look very much like the team that rolled into the playoffs last year. And that’s the problem. Because they also will quickly exit the same way.

During the regular season, that kind of free-wheeling, running game can be very effective. But the playoffs are a halfcourt game. And that’s where the Sixers struggle. That won’t change.

Look for them to be one and done.

And then they can start talking about a Brand new ballgame again. For next year.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Feb. 5

The Daily Numbers: 8.4 inches of snow, the official total tallied at Philadelphia International Airport.
7.1 inches recorded in Drexel Hill.
10 inches that fell on Glassboro, N.J.
501 school districts in Pennsylvania. Gov. Ed Rendell would like to see those consolidated into about 100.
2.8 percent boost in spending for education announced in the Rendell budget.
37 percent of the $26.6 billion dollar budget earmarked for education, the biggest chunk.
2,600 state jobs that would be eliminated under the Rendell fiscal blueprint.
0 increase in either the state personal income or sales taxes.
10 cent a pack increase on every pack of cigarettes. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
500,000 dollars headed to the arson-plagued city of Coatesville to pay for police overtime and other costs associated with the rash of fires that has terrorized the city.
18 deliberately set blazes that have confounded investigators in the Chester County city since the first of the year.
11 pounds of marijuana found in the trunk of a car during a traffic stop in West Philadelphia.
35, age of man facing drug charges a day after five second graders in Philly were found with packets of heroin in school.
1,000 people who paid their respects last night to a Bucks County policeman killed in an accident while he wrote out a traffic ticket last week. The funeral will be held today.
3 times in the last week that cars have slammed into houses in Claymont, Del. A 20-year-old man faces charges in the latest incident.
204 million profit posted by Sunoco Inc. in the fourth quarter.
25 cent increase in the price we’re paying at the pump for gas since New Year’s.
600 casino workers who lost their jobs last month in Atlantic City as the gaming industry suffers more setbacks.
6.2 percent dip in passenger traffic reported by US Airways.
2 firefighters injured battling a blaze in Hamburg, Berks County, Wednesday night.
1,100 products now part of recall tied to salmonella strain linked to tainted peanut products.
2 third period goals for the Bruins as they posted a 3-1 win over the Flyers last night.
13 seasons in Philly for the AHL Phantoms. There will not be a 14th. Comcast has sold the franchise to the Brooks Group of Pittsburgh.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.So much for our showdown with Bean Town. The Flyers fell last night to the Bruins, the day after the Celtics beat the Sixers. Next you’ll probably tell me the Patriots once beat the Eagles in the Super Bowl. Oh, never mind.
I Don’t Get It: Yesterday we noticed a second-grader at an elementary school in Philadelphia brought several packets of heroin to school. A 35-year-old man has now been charged in connection with the case. I still don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Hungry? Kudos to Kenny Hoffpauer of Haverford. He has made it to Hollywood and continues to compete on the latest version of “American Idol.”
Quote Box: “Almost everyone agrees that Pennsylvania has far too many school districts.”
-- Gov. Ed Rendell, during yesterday’s budget address, calling for a radical consolidation of the state’s 501 school districts.

A fickle forecast

If you’re still wondering where all that snow came from, you’re not alone.

So are many of our local forecasters.

Oops! So much for that belief that the brunt of the storm was over Tuesday afternoon, when our streets were for the most part just wet. It looked like most of our local prognosticators had gone one up on Punxsutawney, correctly saying it looked like we’d get 1-3 inches of snow.

Uh, not exactly.

Instead something called a “snow band” moved into the area around 6 p.m. and decided to stick around. It snowed hard for hours. The result? We woke to as much as 8 inches of snow in some areas of Delaware County. The narrow band seemed confined to a strip of the region from the airport into southeastern Delaware County.

A confession here. I’m not a big fan of the way local television handles the weather, in particular snow. So a part of me had to chuckle that despite all the doppler gizmos they throw at it, they still for the most part managed to punt the forecast. Then again, I also hate winter, so I was not thrilled as I drove to the office and found things getting increasingly worse the farther east I drove, eventually pulling into a parking lot covered with 8 inches of fluffy white stuff.

It reinforces one of my beliefs about the weather. Here’s my idea of a forecast: Stick your head out the window and tell me what it’s doing. Tell me what the high will be today, and the overnight low. Then give me your best guess what it will be like tomorrow. Really, outside that, the rest of it is pretty much the same as we got Tuesday night – fluff.

Having said that, I also know what it feels like to get something wrong. We do that from time to time in this racket. When we do we correct it.

Which is why this morning I take my hat off to one local TV forecaster. That would be Glenn Schwartz of Channel 10. Yeah, the guy they call “Hurricane.”

While it appeared to me that everyone else was desperately trying to explain how and why they failed to realize what was going to happen Tuesday night, Schwartz took another tack. He said he was wrong. Pretty simple, really. He didn’t sugar-coat it. He didn’t dance around the issue. He pretty much said he blew it. Good for him.

While I’m on the topic, it’s been brought to my attention that one forecaster who is no longer evevn on the air here managed to do something none of his colleagues did.

Rob Guarino used to be the weather guy on Fox-29. His contract was not renewed. He’s now working in Arizona, but he still keeps tabs on the local weather via his blog.

Guarino warned of the possibility of just such a snow band and some heavy snow totals.

Everyone should be happy this morning. It’s brutally cold out, just as everyone said it would be.

Me? I could have given you this forecast in November. It’s miserable out, and it will be until April. Then again, I hate winter.

Yes, I realize the temperature is supposed to push 60 degrees on Sunday. It will lure us in, have us thinking spring, just in time for the next snow storm.

Damn that Punxsutawney!

The Rendell school plan

There is good news and bad news for local school administrators in the Pennsylvania budget plan announced by Gov. Ed Rendell Wednesday.

The good news is that he wants more money for education. Rendell is calling for a boost of $265.3 million. The 2.8 percent hike would bring education expenditures in the state to $9.9 billion.

This comes on the heels of his last budget, in which the governor won a big boost in education funding and a new method of allocating the funds, with poorer districts getting more money than their well-to-do neighbors.

So what’s the bad news?

Rendell thinks the state could do with a whole lot fewer administrators. He’s not talking a few here and there. Rendell is looking at radical surgery.

He’d like to take the 501 school districts in the state and whittle them down to about 100. There are 15 districts in Delaware County.

Rendell believes the current system, with 501 superintendents, business managers and a slew of other high-paid staff, wastes too much money that would be better spent in classrooms.

But at least for now, he’s looking to add 12 more bureaucrats to the system. Rendell wants a 12-member commission to develop a plan to consolidate the state’s school districts.

Rendell means business. He said that if the Legislature does not go along with the plan, he’d like to see the Department of Education be given the power to institute the plan.

“Almost everyone agrees that Pennsylvania has far too many school districts,” Rendell said in his budget address to the Legislature.

Then he got to his point – taxpayers’ wallets. “This means there is an ever-increasing pressure to raise local property taxes.”

Ah, the magic words. It was skyrocketing property taxes – and his push to institute slots gambling in Pennsylvania as a way of lowering them – that led the former Philadelphia mayor to Harrisburg.

He’s already on board with a new expansion of gambling, pushing for legalization of video poker in taverns and clubs and taxing the proceeds. He’d use that booty to provide a huge boost in college aid to students attending a state university of community college.

Do I see the maze of school districts thinning out anytime soon? Not really. Of course, not a lot of people gave all those slot machines much of a chance either.

Rendell also has something else going for him. The public. You’d be hard-pressed to find a home owner in this state who does not complain about rising property taxes, and more than willing to point a finger at bloated school staffs as a primary reason why.

It’s a tall order. Then again Rendell is nothing if not a salesman. And he’s not running for re-election.

This one could get real interesting.

For the Birds

I am always amazed at the magical hold the Eagles hold over the Philly sports world.

We are now four days removed from the Super Bowl, a game the Eagles did not participate in.

The Flyers and Sixers are heading for the playoffs, albeit with a limp. They both lost to front-running Boston teams this week. The Phillies are headed to Clearwater, to start the defense of their World Series title.

But the talk remains about the Eagles. And Donovan McNabb.

It did not go unnoticed that the final drive by the Steelers that sealed their sixth Super Bowl championship bore a remarkable similarity to the situation the Eagles found themselves in at the end of the NFC championship game against Arizona.

Of course, Ben Roethlisberger rallied the Steelers and led them to a come-from-behind win. Donovan McNabb did not.

It’s really that simple. And we will be talking about it until the Birds report to Lehigh in late July.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Feb. 4

The Daily Numbers: 8 inches of snow that fell on Primos and some other areas of southeastern Delaware County in last night’s surprise attack from Mother Nature.
60, what some forecasters say the temperature could hit Sunday afternoon. Of course, these are the same people responsible for last night’s forecast.
18, age of senior at Upper Darby High who faces charges of making threats against Aronimink Elementary School.
100,000 dollar bond for Joseph Forte, the Broomall man federal authorities say ran a $50 million Ponzi scheme, fleecing as many as 80 local investors.
795 calories in those Grand Slam breakfasts being given away yesterday by Denny’s. They normally sell for $5.99.
20,000 dollar rewaThe Daily Numbers: 8 inches of snow that fell on Primos and some other areas of southeastern Delaware County in last night’s surprise attack from Mother Nature.
60, what some forecasters say the temperature could hit Sunday afternoon. Of course, these are the same people responsible for last night’s forecast.
18, age of senior at Upper Darby High who faces charges of making threats against Aronimink Elementary School.
100,000 dollar bond for Joseph Forte, the Broomall man federal authorities say ran a $50 million Ponzi scheme, fleecing as many as 80 local investors.
795 calories in those Grand Slam breakfasts being given away yesterday by Denny’s. They normally sell for $5.99.
20,000 dollar reward now being offered for information on who is setting fires in the Coatesville area.
21 fires in that troubled city and surrounding communities since the first of the year. Another arson was reported last night.
17,000 illegal poker machines in Pennsylvania. Gov. Ed Rendell wants to legalize them, tax the proceeds and use the money to increase college aid to kids attending state universities and community colleges.
7,600 dollars, how much a student whose family’s income is less than $100,000 could be eligible for under the program.
2 Philly police officers sent to the hospital after their cruiser was involved in a crash, hitting a support overpass, in the Germantown section of the city.
4 2nd graders at a South Philadelphia elementary school who came in contact with several packets of heroin brought to school by a student.
1 case of salmonella poisoning linked to tainted peanut butter that has now popped up in the region. A 36-year-old man in Montgomery County is being treated for the same strain.
50 burglaries in Montgomery County believed to be the work of one man, who is now under arrest.
90,000 sex offenders who have been identified and removed from the online social networking Web site MySpace.
21, age of man charged in the death of a toddler found dead in a Delaware motel Sunday. Police say the 16-month-old girl had been servely beaten.
1 person killed by a SEPTA R2 train near Claymont last night.
152,000 jobs that could be created in Pennsylvania under the new economic stimulus plan being debated in Washington, D.C., according to the Obama Administration.
12 straight wins for the Boston Celtics, who trailed the Sixers most of the game last night, but pulled out the win with a 3-pointer by Ray Allen.
0.5 seconds left on the clock when Allen’s shot tickled the twine.
18-1 shot, what the oddsmakers have already installed the Eagles at to win the Super Bowl next year.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.We’re 0-for-1 in our showdown with Bean Town. The Celtics, even without Kevin Garnett who was out with the flu, beat the Sixers. Tonight the Flyers play the first of back-to-back contests with the best team in the NHL, the big, bad Bruins.
I Don’t Get It: This was probably not exactly what the teacher had in mind for show and tell. A second-grader at an elementary school in Philadelphia brought several packets of heroin to school. Several students came in contact with them. One apparently actually put some of it in his mouth. They thought it was candy. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Hungry? Kudos to mailman Chad Roby from Lansdowne. He was on his rounds recently when he noticed a fire at a house next door to where he knew one of his customers had a dog. Roby rescued the pooch. Well done.
Quote Box: “If the governor were to come out with that, God bless him, I’d go along with him.”
-- Jim Kilgallen, owner of Kilgallen’s Tavern in Haverford, on proposal to legalize video poker in taverns.

Rendell rolls the dice

Gov. Ed Rendell is ready to roll the dice. Again.

At a time when Pennsylvania is staring at more than $2 billion of red ink in the state budget, Rendell is actually hoping to increase some spending.

Specifically, the governor wants to allocate a boatload of money to college students attending one of the 14 state-owned universities or a community college.

Students whose family income is less than $100,000 would be eligible for as much as $7,600 in financial aid for tuition, books, room, board and fees.

We’re talking about a program that could eventually help 170,000 students get into or stay in college.

That’s the good news. Here’s the bad part. It comes with a price tag of $550 million annually.

Where exactly is that money going to come from when the state is facing the starkest economic crisis it’s seen in decades?

Glad you asked. Can you say ‘gambling?’

Rendell opened this Pandora’s Box a couple of years, ushering in an entire new era of legalized gambling in the state with the addition of slots parlors, including Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack.

I’ve always thought it was only a matter of time that once the state started down that road, there was no going back. Every time a need for new funding arose, eyes would immediately turn to gambling. I was wondering when table games would be introduced alongside all those slot machines.

Apparently Rendell doesn’t want people to have to travel that far. The governor has his eyes on what has been a long tradition in this state, albeit one that was not always exactly legal.

The governor wants to legalize video poker machines in taverns and private clubs. This likely will come as news to bar owners who have been raided in the past couple of years for paying off on those very same machines.

It is believed that there are 17,000 illegal poker machines currently operating in Pennsylvania. Rendell’s idea is to legalize them, then slap a tax on 50 percent of the net proceeds.

The state’s 14,000 bars and other establishments with liquor licenses could have as many as five machines.

It is a gamble. Literally.

There will be cries of protest from those who in general do not believe the state should be pushing more and more legalized gambling on citizens who are all too often more than willing to dump their weekly paycheck into them before heading home to the family – and a stack of unpaid bills.

Then I suppose there will be some complaints from senior citizens and others who depend on funding from the state lottery. You would think video poker would supplant the sales of some lottery tickets.

And there might be one area of protest the governor has not counted on. If I’m Harrah’s, and I’m paying a huge tax bite to the state on my gambling take, I’m not sure I’d be too thrilled with suddenly having competition at every tavern in the state. I’d want those people sitting at my slot machines, not at their local tap room.

Rendell is set to unveil his budget proposal today. It will include a lot of red ink. There is talk of job cuts, and reduction in services.

But there will be additional spending in at least one area, that $2.5 billion in red ink not withstanding.

Increasing aid to college students is hard to argue against. But this proposal is going to raise a lot of hackles.

It’s Rendell in his element. Rolling the dice. Again.

Some taxing issues for new president

Here’s a tip for new President Barack Obama.

You might want to rethink the vetting process on these Cabinet nominees. It’s not going too well.

Or maybe you should just list the ones who actually have paid their taxes.

That might take less time.

Former Sen. Tom Daschle is out as the boss of the Department of Health and Human Services. He had tax problems.

A few hours before Daschle hit the bailout button, Nancy Killefer beat him to the punch. She was going to head the new position of chief performance officer. Unfortunately her own performance in terms of her taxes needed a little work.

But the last time we looked Timothy Geithner was still working as the Treasury boss. This despite the fact that he failed to pay some of his taxes. If it strikes you as odd that the man in charge of the nation’s coffers had not paid all of his taxes, well, you’re not alone.

Obama yesterday admitted he had made some mistakes when it comes to some of his Cabinet picks.

“Did I screw up in this situation? Absolutely,” Obama told Brian Williams of NBC News. “I’m willing to take my lumps.”

Obama had indicated he wanted a seamless start to his administration, so they could hit the ground running in attacking the nation’s economic morass.

Instead, the new president is spending time talking about the economic problems of his own Cabinet choices.

Seamless? Not exactly.

They blew it – again

Of course this morning we are now being bombarded with the outright glee of the TV folks reporting on the snow.

Residents are being urged to stick rulers in the snow to measure the snowfall and report in. And people are being urged to send in photographs. Some stations even give them cute names such as “snowtographs.” We’re doing the same thing. We are posting updates on the snow as well as readers’ pictures on our Web site.

Here’s what I’m not hearing.

Oops, sorry about that. Sorry we didn’t see this one coming. Sorry we are preoccupied with the weather, constantly crying wolf about the possibility of snow, but punting the forecast when we actually get hit.

I know. We didn’t see it coming either. But we don’t devote most of the newspaper each day to the weather. It’s not the “big story” for us.

Not so for TV stations. They know that bad weather, particularly snow, means ratings gold.

The least they could do is admit it when they don’t get it right. Which recently seems to be just about every storm.

We make corrections in the newspaper every day. When we get something wrong, we say so.

Not so in the weather forecasting business. Why don’t they just admit that even with all their Doppler radar and other fancy devices, forecasting remains an inexact science at best. At worst, some of the things TV stations do with the weather borders on public disservice.

There, I’ve vented. I feel better now. So how many days until spring, anyhow?

Our own personal snow storm

Maybe Mother Nature just doesn’t like the Daily Times.

I had an inkling something was not quite right when I left the office last night a little after 6:30. As I usually do when snow is in the forecast, I had been peeking out the window all afternoon. I was a happy camper. For the most part, the parking lots were just wet and it had all but stopped snowing.

So I was a bit surprised when I left the building last night and walked into a full-fledged snowstorm. The parking lot was covered and I had to clean off the car again.

Once I got out of the lot and onto the main roads, it was pretty much smooth sailing on the ride home.

But Mother Nature wasn’t done with beautiful downtown Primos. Apparently a pocket of snow decided to settle on a region from the airport and into Delaware County.

In other words, we got nailed.

Funny, with all the time and effort TV stations devote to weather, I didn’t hear anyone call for this in their forecast. I’m not surprised. I’m done complaining about the weather. Here’s a tip. Stick your head out the window and tell me what it’s doing. Other than that, keep your forecasts to yourself.

This morning I awoke to news that some areas got more snow than others. I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about as I brushed a few flurries off my car and headed into the office.

No problems. Right up until the point where I take the right off Oak Avenue, onto the little road that runs between the Wawa and the railroad tracks. There was a good bit of snow on the road.

Then I hit the Daily Times parking lot. The plow guy had just arrived. Good thing. There must have been 8 inches of snow on the lot.

Most schools in the county are running on a two-hour delay. Ridley schools apparently have closed for the day.

I often joke that Primos is one of those places that doesn’t really exist, other than in the eyes of the United States Postal Service. It’s actually in Upper Darby Township, but our post office is Primos.

A lot of people get lost trying to find our office because Primos doesn’t show up on many mapping and GPS services.

Mother Nature didn’t have any trouble finding us last night.

One final word on the forecast: Think Sunday. They are now calling for the possibility of temperatures breaking into the 60s. A little taste of spring.

Guess that means that here in Primos we should be pushing 75, since extreme weather seems to be our calling card these days.

Our own personal snow storm. God, I hate winter.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Daily Numbers - February 3

The Daily Numbers: 2 elderly women killed in what police are saying is a carbon monixide accident from a car left running in the garage of their Ridley Township home.
3 more days you have to vote on the name of the new Major League Soccer team that will play in Chester. You can do so by going to
3-5 inches of snow expected to fall on the area through the day and into tonight.
37, age of Jermaine Burgess, who was held for trial yesterday in the brutal beating death of 81-year-old Marie Ott in her Ridley home.
3 Philadelphia men who were in court yesterday on charges connected to several home invasion cases in Marple.
3,896 people who visited the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford Saturday for a special showing of the work of famed late artist Andrew Wyeth. It was a one-day attendance mark for the museum.
0, what you will pay today for a Grand Slam breakfast at Denny’s outlets. The deal is in effect until 2 p.m.
2 children struck and then dragged by a car in the Oxford Circle section of Northeast Philly last night. The children were dragged for a block. They are both hospitalized.
1 hour, how long it took for all the tickets for those 2 Bruce Springsteen shows at the Spectrum on April 28-29 to sell out yesterday.
4 dead and 2 injured in several shooting incidents in Philadelphia.
200 Coatesville residents who showed up to get free motion detector lights for their homes as they continue to battle a string of arson fires.
10,000 dollar reward being offered for information on the person who struck journalist Brian Hickey on a Philly street back in November. The driver fled the scene.
60 days in jail for a grandmother in Bloomsburg, Pa., after the 2 grandkids she was supposed to be watching were found outside on a chilly March morning.
2 Pa. senators who voted yes on the nomination of Eric Holder as the next attorney general.
260 million shortfall in Pa. revenue collections in January. That only adds to the state’s $2.3 billion budget shortfall.
180,000 Pennsylvanians who remain on the waiting list for Pa.’s adult Basic health plan.
49, age of Super Bowl party host shot and killed in what is being described as a tragic accident involving a gun in Philadelphia.
4 cent increase in price of gasoline in the Philly region over the weekend. Average price at pump now stands at $1.92.
7,000 jobs being slashed by the Macy’s department store chain. It had already set plans to close 11 stores, but none in the Philly area.
95.4 million people who tuned in to watch the Super Bowl Sunday night. That makes it the 2nd highest Super Bowl telecast, trailing only last year’s game.
30 seconds of porn that somehow made its way onto the telecast through a Comcast outlet in Tucson, Az.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.It’ll be us vs. Boston the next two nights. It might not be pretty. Tonight the Celtics are in town to face the Sixers. Tomorrow night the Bruins arrive to battle the Flyers. Both Bean Town teams sport the best records in their leagues.
I Don’t Get It: Michael Phelps is now being castigated because of that picture of him smoking a pot pipe. Imagine that, young people doing dumb things. Ain’t technology great?
Today’s Upper: Hungry? Head for Denny’s. They’re giving away a free grand slam breakfast until 2 p.m.
Quote Box: “This is a terrible, tragic accident.”
-- Ridley Sgt. Charles Palo, after two elderly women were discovered dead in their home of carbon monoxide poisoning. A car was found running in the garage.

Reality bytes for Michael Phelps

To the best of my knowledge, there are no naked pictures of me on the Internet.

I have never sent anyone a picture of myself on my cell phone. In fact, I don’t know how to take a picture with my cell phone.

I don’t have a MySpace page. I am not a member of Facebook.

I am old. Sometimes that’s not a bad thing.

Which is my way of saying that I feel bad for Michael Phelps.

The golden boy who captured a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics has been tarnished – in some people’s eyes - , after a picture of him smoking marijuana from a “bong” surfaced in a British tabloid.

The 23-year-old promptly apologized for what he called “regrettable behavior” and “bad judgment.” It’s not the first time his actions outside the pool have caused a few ripples. He picked up an underage DUI charge back in 2004.

In both incidents, these actions occurred in “down time” after Phelps competed in the Olympics.

I am glad I grew up when I did. There were no cell phones. There was no Internet.

I did a lot of stupid things when I was a kid. It’s what young people do.

But none of them have been plastered all over the Internet. Kids today don’t have that luxury.

It is something I am always telling my own kids. Be very careful what is posted on your MySpace and Facebook entries.

Once something makes it to the Internet – and doesn’t everything these days? – it is out of your hands. Maybe more importantly, it is forever.

If it seems like more and more of our lives is being recorded, that’s because it is. We snap pictures with cell phones and think nothing of sharing them with friends. With one click of a button, those very same images can be shared with the rest of the world.

Schools and law enforcement agencies across the country are now dealing with a whole new set of problems tied into this technology. Kids today think nothing of snapping a few naked pictures of themselves and sharing them with a boyfriend and girlfriend. It’s the high-tech version of “Whisper Down the Lane.” What do you think the chances are that someone is going to share that image with someone for whom it was never intended? No, kids would never do that, would they? At that point the cat is out of the bag.

I’m not condoning what Michael Phelps. Clearly it was wrong. Certainly that’s not the image his handlers and corporate sponsors are looking to promote. I’m just as certain he never thought that shot of him would be shared with the media and his fans around the globe.

That’s the world we live in today. Technology is a good thing. But it has made our lives infinitely more complicated.

Just ask Michael Phelps. He did something dumb. That gives him something in common with kids all over the world.

He just didn’t think it was going to be viewed all over the world as well.

Reality bytes for Michael Phelps

To the best of my knowledge, there are no naked pictures of me on the Internet.

I have never sent anyone a picture of myself on my cell phone. In fact, I don’t know how to take a picture with my cell phone.

I don’t have a MySpace page. I am not a member of Facebook.

I am old. Sometimes that’s not a bad thing.

Which is my way of saying that I feel bad for Michael Phelps.

The golden boy who captured a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics has been tarnished – in some people’s eyes - , after a picture of him smoking marijuana from a “bong” surfaced in a British tabloid.

The 23-year-old promptly apologized for what he called “regrettable behavior” and “bad judgment.” It’s not the first time his actions outside the pool have caused a few ripples. He picked up an underage DUI charge back in 2004.

In both incidents, these actions occurred in “down time” after Phelps competed in the Olympics.

I am glad I grew up when I did. There were no cell phones. There was no Internet.

I did a lot of stupid things when I was a kid. It’s what young people do.

But none of them have been plastered all over the Internet. Kids today don’t have that luxury.

It is something I am always telling my own kids. Be very careful what is posted on your MySpace and Facebook entries.

Once something makes it to the Internet – and doesn’t everything these days? – it is out of your hands. Maybe more importantly, it is forever.

If it seems like more and more of our lives is being recorded, that’s because it is. We snap pictures with cell phones and think nothing of sharing them with friends. With one click of a button, those very same images can be shared with the rest of the world.

Schools and law enforcement agencies across the country are now dealing with a whole new set of problems tied into this technology. Kids today think nothing of snapping a few naked pictures of themselves and sharing them with a boyfriend and girlfriend. It’s the high-tech version of “Whisper Down the Lane.” What do you think the chances are that someone is going to share that image with someone for whom it was never intended? No, kids would never do that, would they? At that point the cat is out of the bag.

I’m not condoning what Michael Phelps. Clearly it was wrong. Certainly that’s not the image his handlers and corporate sponsors are looking to promote. I’m just as certain he never thought that shot of him would be shared with the media and his fans around the globe.

That’s the world we live in today. Technology is a good thing. But it has made our lives infinitely more complicated.

Just ask Michael Phelps. He did something dumb. That gives him something in common with kids all over the world.

He just didn’t think it was going to be viewed all over the world as well.

The magic word

I refer to is as the magic word.

Want a lot of people to show up at your event? Include the magic word.


My wife and I are taking her dad to an early-morning medical procedure on Saturdays.

We pick him up around 5:30, then head to the lab. Last Saturday along the way we happened to pass the local Chick-fil-A restaurant. And we saw an odd thing. There in the brutal pre-dawn cold was a line of people waiting for the joint to open. That would not be for an hour.

After we dropped him off, we headed back home. We couldn’t resist. We drove into the parking lot. The line had grown since we went past. People were bundled in blankets. Some had tents. Others were shivering in chairs. Obviously they had been there for some time.

The restaurant was running a promotion. The first 50 people in line would get 26 free meals. Basically that amounts to one every two weeks for a year.

Free is a powerful word. Any chance I get to slap it on the front page of the newspaper, you can be I will take advantage of it.

Also on Saturday, the Brandywine River Museum was honoring the legacy of iconic Chadds Ford artist Andrew Wyeth. They were exhibiting a special showing of his work, including the first time his most famous work, “Christina’s World,” would ever hang at the museum.

Oh, and one other thing. Admission on Saturday would be free.

I had a feeling what was going to happen. I made plans to send a reporter and photographer. That was the easy part. The toughest part of his assignment for the reporter was getting anywhere near the museum. Route 1 was jammed in the area. Getting into the parking lot was almost an impossibility. She eventually parked on a side road and hoofed it the rest of the way.

The museum indicated they set an all-time attendance mark on Saturday. A total of 3,896 visitors went through the turnstiles. No doubt many of them simply loved Wyeth and wanted to pay their respects to the man most closely linked to the museum and the Chadds Ford art community.

I’m also not so naive to believe that the price did not have something to do with it.

Today, the Denny’s restaurant chain is getting into the act. They are offering a free Grand Slam breakfast until 2 p.m.

I would suggest you get ready to stand in line.

Free does that to people.

Complaining up a storm

It is the winter of my discontent.

It’s February, so what else would it be?

The football season is over. We watched another Super Bowl without the Eagles Sunday. Yes, it was a great game, at least the fourth quarter was. I checked out shortly after the halftime show with Bruce Sprinsteen and missed most of the late action.

Punxsutawney has checked in, telling us to expect six more weeks of winter. Just what I need.

We now enter the longest part of the calendar, at least for me. That would be the wait for spring to arrive.

Not making things any easier are the jabbering folks on TV and radio who insist on making every winter weather event sound like Armageddon.

We have this just in: It is February and it is cold out. And there’s a chance of snow.

Today we are dealing with another potential snow storm. Well, it’s not really going to be a storm, but we are getting snow. It’s supposed to pick up later in the day.

The forecasters are calling for 1-3 inches in the Delaware County area. Of course they just can’t help themselves from telling us how much they’re going to get down near the shore, where the snow is supposed to be heavier.

Here’s a hint, I don’t care how much snow they get at the shore. Nor do I give a hoot about the Poconos. I don’t ski anymore. I am not going there anytime soon. I am driving from my house to the office and back again. I think I will survive.

Whether I actually make it to spring is another matter.

I have two words to soothe our winter desolation. Repeat after me: Pitchers and catchers.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Daily Numbers - February 2

The Daily Numbers: 13, age of teen who lost his Sony PlayStation to a thief in Upper Darby, despite his plea that it was one of the last things his late mom gave him. Luckily, cops arrested a suspect and got it back for him.
6 more weeks of winter in the forecast, according to Punxsutawney Phil, who emerged from his burrow this morning and saw his shadow.
1-3 inches of snow that might fall on the region overnight and into tomorrow. The brunt of the storm is expected to head out into the ocean.
200 years young, as the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia celebrates its bicentennial.
10,000 people expected to apply for 1,000 jobs at the new Sands casino set to open in Bethlehem.
4 more arsons in towns outside Coatesville reported on Saturday. The city has been under an arson siege since the first of the year.
0 arson fires reported in the region last night.
1,000 people who showed up for the funeral of the student who was struck and killed by a school bus outside a school near Allentown.
23 salmonella cases now reported in New Jersey, all believed connected to tainted peanut butter products.
70 percent dip in revenue for Fort Washington semiconductor form Kulicke & Soffa.
1.90 a gallon, the average price of gas in the Philly region, as prices at the pump continue to creep back up again. It was $1.86 a week ago. Of course, a year ago we were paying $3.06 a gallon.
128 million dollar plan being pushed by Gov. Ed Rendell in aid to students attending one of the state universities.
17 people sent to the hospital after a child’s birthday party in Philadelphia in a carbon monoxide scare. It looks like a generator used to blow up an inflatable bounce playhouse was the culprit. None of the injuries was believed to be serious.
30 Roman Catholic parishes to be closed in the Diocese of Scranton over the next 3 years in a realignment.
6 yard TD pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Santonio Holmes to seal the Super Bowl win last night for the Steelers.
6 Super Bowl titles now for the black and gold price of Steel Town.
2:37 left in the game when the Steelers got the ball back after the Cardinals had rallied to take the lead.
5 bucks more you’ll pay for most seats in Lincoln Financial Field next year. In the lower level tickets in the end zone are going up $10. Top ticket prices now go for $95 a game.
21 point win for Villanova over Cincinnati yesterday on the Main Line.
1 loss for the Saint Joe Hawks in A-10 play after they fell to Dayton yesterday.
2 huge wins for the nationally ranked Cardinal O’Hara women, including their first-ever win over Christ the King of New York..
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Yep, the Steelers got the ball back with 2:37 left in the Super Bowl, suddenly trailing the Cardinals for the first time all night. Ben Roethlisberger took his team the length of the field for the win. Why doesn’t Donovan McNabb ever do that?
I Don’t Get It: A man in New Jersey is facing charges after his 2-year-old son nearly overdosed after ingesting some cocaine he found in their home.
Today’s Upper: What does Punxsutawney Phil know anyhow? It was in the mid-50s Sunday, and the big storm that was supposed to hit tonight now appears to be headed out to sea. I say spring is right around the corner. At least I hope so.
Quote Box: “It’s basically an exercise in futility because we’re basing a budget on no data.”
-- Ridley Schools Superintendent Nicholas Ignatuk, on the budget constraints under the state’s Act 1.

Stormy weather

I heard something this morning I can’t remember ever hearing before.

The woman on the all-news radio station that forms the soundtrack to my life was talking about the weather. My heart immediately started skipping a beat, The last forecast I heard on TV last night indicated it appeared likely we were going to be spared a big hit, with the storm going east out into the ocean.

So I was taken aback when the woman on radio started talking about how “we were staring down the barrel of another winter storm.”

Had the forecast changed again overnight? Not exactly.

She then introduced a meteorologist from Accu-Weather, who immediately threw some serious cold water on the weather hype.

“I’m not sure we’re staring down the barrel of anything,” he said, again stressing it appeared we would not be getting nailed by Mother Nature.

So far the forecast is holding up, with most people saying we are due to get some rain tonight, which may change over to snow showers. But the heavy snow now appears to be out of the picture.

Then there’s my man Punxsutawney. The forecasting groundhog emerged from his burrow this morning and predicted six more weeks of winter.

Maybe he should get a radio gig.

Some not so super commercials

Not sure how much they paid for all those commercials on last night’s Super Bowl telecast.

Whatever it was, they paid too much.

I didn’t see one that I thought was especially clever, with the exception of the sophomoric Doritos spot in which the guy clocks his boss in a particularly delicate area with his magic ball, actually a snow globe. Hey, what can I tell you, it’s a guy thing.

The Budweiser spots, which leaned heavily on their famous Clydesdales, were OK, but I wouldn’t call them classic.

Maybe it’s the economy. There wasn’t a single spot I can really remember this morning.

Not exactly Glory Days

Speaking of not super, I thought Bruce Springsteen’s halftime show was OK. Not great, just OK.

I just don’t think the Boss translates into a compressed, 12-minute show. He certainly tried his best, but I’m just now sure it worked.

Was I the only one who, after thinking the choice of “10th Avenue Freeze Out” was a good one to open the show, then was disappointed as the song just seemed to drag, lacking the uptempo pace?

Bruce then did a good rendition of one of his famous anthems, “Born to Run.” Maybe I was a little taken aback by the fact that clearly this was not just the The E Street Band. They were backed by a big horn section, and also were joined on stage by a huge backup choir for the one new song Bruce performed, the title track from his new CD, “Working on a Dream.”

He ended the show with what I’m sure was a crowd-pleaser, but one of the worst songs he’s ever recorded, “Glory Days.”

Bruce performed many of his trademark moves, sliding across the stage on his knees into the camera, and mugging with Little Steven Van Zandt. And I guess the “delay of game” piece with them talking about having to get off the stage was kind of funny.

For real Bruce-files, the serious business starts this morning.

Tickets for the two shows at the Wachovia Spectrum on April 28-29 go on sale this morning.

Now that’s something that had those waiting in line early this morning “Dancing in the Dark.”

Look familiar, Jeff and Donovan?

Memo to Jeff Lurie:

The Steelers last night won the Super Bowl. It is the sixth time they have done so.

I believe that is what you might refer to as a “gold standard.”
It is not the brass ring (or maybe copper plated) the Eagles fail to grasp each year.

Memo to Donovan McNabb:

Did anything about last night’s game look familiar to you? Let me refresh your memory.

Kurt Warner led the Cardinals on a furious second half rally to erase a 20-7 Steelers lead and put Arizona ahead, 23-20, with 2:37 left to go in the game.

Yes, that’s very similar to what you and the Eagles did two weeks ago on the NFC Championship Game in Phoenix.

What happened next was not.

Ben Roethlisberger responded by driving the Steelers the length of the field and connecting with Santonio Holmes in the corner of the end zone with just 35 seconds left.

That is how greatness is defined. Roethlisberger willed his team to a come-from-behind win. That is the bar by which quarterbacks are measured.

And it remains the bar by which you continue to come up short. No, we have not forgotten those four straight incomplete passes that ended the game in Phoenix.

Donovan McNabb has been a very good quarterback for the Eagles for a very long time. I agree with those who say he very likely is the best QB in Eagles history.

But his legacy will always be that he did not win the big game, and that he consistently failed to drive his team for a winning score at the end of games.

Of course, Donovan may be able to change that image next year. Right now we have six months to think about it.

A tale of two games, and two quarterbacks. Donovan in Phoenix, Big Ben in Tampa.

Donovan is a good quarterback. Ben is a two-time Super Bowl champion.

Enough said.