Monday, March 31, 2008

Phils season officially under way

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

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

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

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

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

The Daily Numbers -- March 31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Return of the boys of summer

Today is the best day of the year.

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

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

The Phils are Back!

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

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

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

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


Baseball is back. Summer cannot be far behind.

4 bodies baffle police, neighbors in Chester

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A mystery? Absolutely.

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

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

The road to the Pennsylvania Primary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The print column: Talking about race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, Obama did just that. And much more.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A mystery in Chester

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 28, 2008

Spinning the hits

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

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

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

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

I think I heard something like this:

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

Yeah, right.

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

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

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

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

I think they call that spin.

'Madness' in South Philly

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

This one has the makings of a driving nightmare.

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

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

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

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

I have just one word for you: SEPTA.

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

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


Murder in Thornbury update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s why they want to talk to Covington.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 27

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Scary stuff

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

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

What exactly caused his death is not precisely clear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Invasion of the Clintons

Brace yourself for the invasion of the Clintons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good for her.

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

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

Throwing some gas on the fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swell. See you on the train.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Attention would-be thieves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She lost again yesterday. Big Time.

Slugging it out in Pa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Beer ye, beer ye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dems the breaks, at least when it comes to records

We tried to warn you about this Pennsylvania Primary business.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 more instances of March Madness

March Madness has descended upon the sports world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All together now: I don’t get it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

-- Obama campaign volunteer Jean Davidson.

D-Day for Pennsylvania

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sweet & Sour at the NCAA tourney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A rooting interest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wasn't expecting much. I was wrong.

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

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

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

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

He didn't apply to Siena. Too bad.

Go Saints.

Best of luck, Fran.

Sorry, Wildcats.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

The issue that will not go away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Barry Blues

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

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

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

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

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

Headed for the beach? Better leave Thursday night.

Springing into a flood of bad weather

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

Very funny.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

A new day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, senator.

A small miracle on I-95

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

Sometimes we actually get something done.

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

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

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

Not hardly.

They obviously underestimated the power of the American worker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You call this spring

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Race-ing to the polls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The road to nowhere

Welcome to Day 2 of the commute from hell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five long years

March 19, 2003.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- March 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.24 average price for diesel fuel in Pennsylvania.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Obama in the spotlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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