Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 30

The Daily Numbers: 1 more penny we’re paying for gas today, according to AAA. Prices in the Philly area went up again overnight. Average price of regular unleaded now stands at $3.63; diesel is at $4.52

168,718 children in the 5-county Philadelphia region who are now listed as living in poverty in 2006. That’s up from 142,702 in 2002.

18 teachers honored with the first annual Excellence in Teaching Awards last night by the Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union at a dinner at the Drexelbrook. Bravo!

22 month old girl who remains in the hospital after a hit-run incident in Upper Darby last weekend. Police continue to hunt for the SUV – and its driver – they believe struck her on Marlborough Road and then sped off.

550,000 dollars believed ripped off from the trust fund accounts of two children in Bethel Township. The father and stepmom are charged with theft.

68 year-old handyman who is subject of a competency hearing to determine if he can stand trial for the murders of an elderly Chadds Ford attorney and his wife back in 2002.

3 floors, what a sexual assault victim had to jump to the street to flee her attacker. She recounted her ordeal in a Philadelphia courtroom as the suspect was held for trial.

8 million dollar price tag for a solar power plant that will be built by Exelon and an outfit called Epuron LLC in South Philadelphia.

250,000 retired Pa. government and school employees who would be in line for a pension increase under a plan being reviewed by the Legislature. The cost? About $10 billion over 20 years.

16 businesses that have been hit in Philadelphia and Bucks County by a man who has gone on a robbery spree. The man is packing two guns and is now hitting several stores a week.

2 great names in local horseracing that will be added to the carousel at Philadelphia Liberty Park in Franklin Square. Replicas of Smarty Jones and Afleet Alex will be added to the merry-go-round.

83,000 bucks, what SEPTA is getting from the ad deal that will see the video game “Grand Theft Auto IV” plastered all over their buses.

1 woman’s body found floating in Pennsauken Creek in Cinnaminson, N.J., yesterday.

9 year-old boy mauled by a pit bull in Camden, N.J. He needed hundreds of stitches to close his wounds.

2 year-old child whose remains were found stuffed in a suitcase in a home in South Philadelphia.

22 age of man now in custody in the hit-run death of a 58-year-old mother of three in Reading.

30 percent decline in foreclosures in the Philly region. That bucks a national trend where filings equaled 1 for every 194 households.

9,300 people now incarcerated in Philly jails. A new lawsuit to halt overcrowding has been filed in federal court.

3 to 2 hole the Sixers are now sitting in after they were drubbed again last night by the Pistons, 98-81.

21 points for Andre Iguodala to lead the Sixers in a losing cause.

2 to 1 lead the Flyers will carry into their game against the Canadiens at the Wachova Center tonight.

7 strong innings last night for Cole Hamels, who shut down the Padres as the Phils posted a 7-4 win.

349 wins and holding for Greg Maddux, who took the loss last night as he was gunning for win No. 350.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
The refs have it in for the Flyers? Haven’t we heard that old saw before. Play the game, fellas.

I Don’t Get It: Can someone explain to me what it is the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is trying to accomplish by again going public with his differences with Sen. Barack Obama?


Today’s Upper: Beats us. Gas, food, everything is going up. Hey, the sun’s out, even if it is cool. We’ve got that going for us.

Quote Box: “We can tell you that these flares are saving American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

-- John Fleitz, manger of business development at Alloy Surfaces in Chester Township, talking about the decoys that the military is buying from the Delco firm. Come to think of it, that just might qualify as Today’s Upper as well.

Obama on the rocks

Don’t look now, but Barack Obama is in trouble.

For a long time there, it seemed like the Illinois senator and his message of hope and change were a sure thing to take the Democratic presidential nomination.

There was just one problem. Nobody bothered to tell Sen. Hillary Clinton. She’s not going away. She continues to win the big states, and make a legitimate claim that she – not Obama – is best situated to tangle with Republican Sen. John McCain in November in the general election.

Now a new poll just might agree with her.

The poll shows Hillary with a 9-point lead over McCain in a head-to-head match. Clinton leads 50-41 percent. In the meantime, Obama is in what amounts to a dead heat with the presumed GOP standard-bearer. He holds a thin two-point margin, 46-44 percent.

The next two contests are in North Carolina and Indiana. Obama was expected to win both handily. Then his margin started to shrink. Now it’s believed he’s squeaking by in North Carolina while Indiana is a toss-up. North Carolina’s governor endorsed Clinton yesterday.

Obama clings to his lead in the popular vote and delegates, but his argument seems to ring a bit more hollow each day. He has not seemed his normal, confident self since his disastrous showing in the debate in Philly at the National Constitution Center.

Then there is the wild card in all this. We refer, of course, to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Just when the brush fire from his controversial comments and sermons was dying down, Wright resurfaced this week, poured gasoline on the smoldering embers, and threw a match on a conflagration that Obama can’t escape.

For some reason, in two appearances this week Wright has decided to confront Obama. Why remains a mystery. Maybe he’s feeling scorned because of Obama’s speech on race and his move to distance himself from his former pastor.

The ties are severed now. Yesterday Obama firmly disavowed any ties to Wright.

Getting those thoughts out of the heads of voters won’t be as easy.

Can you say superdelegates?

A little good economic news

The economic gloom is everywhere.

People approach gas stations with terror as prices soar over $3.60 a gallon. And the summer driving season still awaits.

It doesn’t get any better at the grocery store. The ripple effects of high fuel costs are taking a double-dip on family finances, sending the cost of many basic staples into the stratosphere.

Foreclosures are up; home prices are down.

Bad news is everywhere.

Which is why it was nice to see two positive economic stories in the county displayed in the newspaper on Tuesday.

Down at the Folcroft Industrial Park, they are celebrating at LithChem Energy. The tiny firm makes high-power lithium batteries that are used in military vehicles such as the Multiple Kill Vehicle. The batteries power the MKV, which can launch a cluster of pellet missiles to intercept incoming enemy missiles.

Currently the vehicles are using thermal reserve batteries. Those are due to be replaced with LithChem’s lithium batteries.

The firm got a $2.48 million dollar deal from the Department of Defense’s Small Business Innovation Research Phase III program.

Currently the firm has 5 employees. They’re looking to hire 25 new workers over the next two years.

Out at Alloy Surfaces in Chester Township, the news is even better.

We’ve detailed their work before. The company makes infrared decoys that also are used to defend military aircraft from incoming missiles.

They’re getting ready to deliver their first batch of decoys, worth $16 million. And they’re in line for a huge boost in orders from the Department of Defense. They received a five-year deal that could be worth as much as $347.9 million.

They now operate two facilities in the I-95 Industrial Park in Chester Township and a 67,000-square-foot plant in Bethel. They started in 1998 with 79 employees. Not they’re just above 600.

Want to really feel good about what is going on at businesses like Alloy Surfaces?

Listen to John Fleitz. He’s manager of business development fo the firm.

“We can tell you that these flares are saving American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Fleitz told our Tim Logue. “We’ve had many reports from the battlefield that these decoys are saving men, women and aircraft in the theater of operations.”

Good for them. Any chance they can develop a gas-free car?

Sixers suddenly are flat-lining

Break out the paddles.


The Sixers suddenly need to be revived.

Their fairy tale ride into the playoffs and surprising early play against the Detroit Pistons has hit a major pothole.

For the second straight night, the Sixers were manhandled by Detroit, getting blown out last night in Motown, 98-81.

It’s as if the Pistons simply flipped a switch, and are now flicking away the pesky Sixers as if they’re a gnat buzzing around them.

Since halftime of Sunday night’s game, this series, which was surprisingly tied 1-1, has not been a contest. The Pistons came out and exerted their will on the Sixers in the second half Sunday night, and their domination continued last night.

The Sixers now need to win Thursday night back at the Wachovia Center to stave off elimination.

Keep those paddles handy.

In the meantime, tonight at the Wachovia, the Flyers will clash again with the Canadiens.

Whether they will clash with the referees remains to be seen.

There is a theory making the rounds that the refs have it in for the Flyers, trying to prop up the pride of Canada in their national sport.

Our beat writer, Anthony SanFilippo, has some of the players talking about it here.

I’m not buying. This is the old mentality of us vs. them that the Flyers have employed since their Broad Street Bullies glory days.

The game has changed. Today it’s more about speed and finesse than the sheer brute will exerted by those old Flyers such as Dave Schultz and Bob Kelly. This team is better than that.

They don’t need to whine about the refs to get the better of the Canadiens.

And they can prove it tonight on their home ice by beating the Habs to take a commanding 3-1 lead.

The game will be decided on the ice. By the players. Not the refs.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 29

The Daily Numbers: 2.48 million dollar contract going to LithChem Energy in Folcroft. They make high-power lithium batteries for the Defense Department.

347 million dollar deal for Alloy Surfaces in Chester Township. They make infrared decoys that help military aircraft fend off incoming missiles. The company is getting ready to deliver its first batch.

15,000 dollars believed scammed from a Collingdale couple by a Bucks County man who offered to help them refinance their home.

140,000 dollars annual salary for Alexis McGloin, who has been reappointed assistant superintendent in Penn-Delco Schools.

4.2 million dollar jackpot won by a retired man from Temple, Pa., while playing a slots machine at Resorts Atlantic City Sunday. Guess he’s not worried about filling up the car for the ride home.

14,000 dollars in cash found on the road by a man in Schwenksville, Berks County. It had apparently come from an armored car. Tom Nesspor turned it in, every last dollar of it. Who says there are no more honest men in the world?

1 cent hike in the price of gas overnight, according to the latest numbers from AAA.

3.62 the average price for unleaded regular in the Philly region. Diesel is going for a cool $4.53.

200 people injured when a streak of nasty spring storms blew through Virginia yesterday afternoon. Three tornadoes destroyed homes and tossed cars like matchsticks.

63 percent jump in profits in the first quarter for BP.

4 students from Benjamin Franklin High School being honored for their actions in saving a drowning man from the Schuylkill River back in February. The students are all members of the Junior ROTC.

24 age of woman who faces homicide and DUI charges after a fatal crash in which she plowed into 5 cars stopped at a red light on North Broad Street in Philly. A 58-year-old mother as killed.

130 incidents of graffiti believed solved in Wilmington with the arrest of a 19-year-old graffiti artist. He faces 32 felony charges.

500 feet, how far a man fell into a strip mine near Allentown. Now they say it was no accident. They’ve charged his buddy with pushing him into the hole. The man survived the terrifying plunge into the Springdale Pit.

19 age of man whose body was discovered under the boardwalk in Atlantic City. The case is being ruled “suspicious.”

135 more cops who have been dispatched to street duty in Philadelphia. After what went on in the city last weekend, it can’t come fast enough.

9,300 people now incarcerated in Philly jails. A new lawsuit to halt overcrowding has been filed in federal court.

150 room hotel that will be built along the waterfront in Wilmington by a Concordville company.

9 points, the lead for Hillary Clinton over John McCain, in a new poll. She holds a decisive 50-41 edge. Her rival, Barack Obama, leads McCain by just 2 points, 46-44 percent.

30 million “Forever” stamps being sold every day. Don’t look now, but the price of a stamp is about to go up again. That will include the price of the Forever stamps. All stamps will go to 42 cents on May 1. But if you have Forever stamps they will remaind good whatever the price is.

32 of 34 shots turned away by Flyers netminder Martin Biron last night in the huge 3-2 win over the Canadiens. He’s been the difference.

3 goal lead the Flyers almost frittered away after Derian Hatcher was whistled for a five-minute major for boarding in the third period. The Habs scored twice.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
How would you like to be counting the money down at the Wachovia Center these days? Last spring the joint was dark. Neither the Sixers nor the Flyers made the playoffs. This year it seems like there is a playoff game at the Center every night.

I Don’t Get It: Ashley Dupree, the 22-year-old call girl who took down former New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer, is now suing the founder of the “Girls Gone Wild” series for using her image without her consent. She says she was only 17 and drunk on spring break in 2003 when she agreed to be filmed. Oh, that explains it.


Today’s Upper: Check those bank statements, folks. Yes, the federal rebate checks are in the mail, and may already be in your account.

Quote Box: “This is a great example of the community and first responders working together, and in particular a neighbor being aware of her neighbor.”

-- Upper Darby police superintendent Mike Chitwood, on the efforts of Eastlyn Macintosh to alert authorities to her belief that her neighbor was in trouble after she could not reach her.

Good news vs. bad news

One of the things I am constantly struggling with in this job is the notion of “good news” vs. “bad news.”

People often call to complain that there is nothing but “bad news” in the newspaper. Sometimes they have a legitimate point. A lot of what we report as news involves some most unpleasant topics.

But not all of it.

This past Sunday this newspaper, in conjunction with the Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union and the county Intermediate Unit, presented the first winners of the 2008 Excellence in Teaching Awards.

Eighteen educators were honored for their work in the classroom. Among them was Patricia Georges. She teaches sixth, seventh and eighth-graders at Northley Middle School. That would be in the Penn-Delco School District.

You might have noticed that Penn-Delco has found itself in the pages of this newspaper quite often in the last year. Much of what has gone on there has not exactly painted a particularly nice picture of what goes on in the district.

But that’s the point. It’s easy to focus on what is going wrong. We report it because it’s news. But what about the work Georges and countless others do every day? That too often does not get noticed in the newspaper.

We took the opportunity on Sunday to honor Georges and the other unsung educators, whose day-in and day-out activities usually fly under the radar. They don’t make the newspaper. That does not make them any less important.

Twyla Simpkins teaches 11th and 12th-graders. At Chester High School. Yes, the city – and its high school – often find itself splashed across the pages of this newspaper. Very often those stories tend to show the high school in a negative manner.

This is not the first time Simpkins has been featured in the newspaper, however. A month ago we zeroed in on her efforts to create a mobile Black History Museum.

My struggle with “good news” and “bad news” is not going to go away. I know that. It’s something I deal with every day.

Yes, I will admit that many days the “bad news” dominates the headlines. But there are days, Sunday being one of them, when that’s not the case.

I guess you could legitimately ask if I think the story on the teaching awards was the most important story we could feature on our front page on Sunday. The answer is very likely no. But we did it anyhow.

Because every once in awhile, we need to take time to notice those doing good things every day. And put their stories in the newspaper.

Butt out, folks

The state Legislature today is expected to once again start debating the idea of a statewide smoking ban.

That would include places like the floors of the insanely popular new slots casinos in the state.

Doing so would put us on par with our neighbors in Delaware and New Jersey, which have banned smoking in most public places. New Jersey last week expanded their ban to include casino floors.

It is expected that Pennsylvania’s casinos are expected to fight any such move here. I guess they like the idea of being something of a final holdout in the smoking wars. Maybe they are marketing themselves as “smokder-friendly.”

As someone who recently had the opportunity to stroll through the casino floor at Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack, I can tell you the ban can’t come soon enough. You can cut the smoke with a knife in the place.

Of course, I’m not a smoker. Nor am I much of a gambler. The casino holds no real allure for me. Just the sound of it turns me off. The smoke simply seals the deal.

But Pennsylvania should move forward with debating and voting on such a ban anyway. Some people don’t have a choice when it comes to these conditions. They actually work in the casino, and they suck in that smoke all day and night, regardless of whether they smoke or not.

That’s what you would call a losing bet.

It's all about the goaltending

The Flyers have won two Stanley Cups in their storied franchise.

They have done so because of one man. His name is Bernie Parent. So glorious was Parent’s work in the net, it became local lore that “only the Lord saves more than Bernie Parent.”

The Flyers last night beat the Montreal Canadiens to take a 2-1 lead in their series.

Playoff hockey is a little bit like playoff baseball. In the post-season, baseball is usually decided by pitching. In hockey, it’s goaltending.

The Flyers have had some very good teams since they won back-to-back Cups in ‘73-’74 and ‘74-’75. But they have not had another Bernie Parent. It’s no surprise they have not sipped from Lord Stanley’s hardware since then.

Instead they have too often been stymied by the likes of guys named Pete Peeters, Chico Resch, John Vanbiesbrouck and even the legendary Ron Hextall.

The Flyers now lead the Canadiens because Martin Biron is basically playing out of his mind. You can almost see it in the Habs’ eyes. Biron has gotten in their heads. They are now wondering just what they have to do to beat this guy.

That bodes well for the Flyers. They just may go as far as Biron’s incredible hot streak carries them.

One more step on the road to the end of the LCB

Slowly but surely, Pennsylvania is crawling out of the Dark Ages in terms of how it handles the sale of alcohol.

State stores are no longer the cold, uninviting retail establishments they once were, when you literally had to walk up to the counter and tell the clerk what it is you wanted.

Looking for advice? You were in the wrong place. “What do I look like, the phone book,” is a reply you might have gotten.

Times have changed. State stores are much more inviting places. You can now browse the aisles. Clerks are much more knowledgeable, the state is developing specialty wine stores, hours have been expanded, including Sunday hours. The state has even dabbled with putting stores in some supermarkets.

Now there’s a new wrinkle. The state is mulling the idea of free-standing kiosks that would sell wine. Think of it as an ATM machine that would dispense bottles of your favorite wine. The state is considering as many as 100, mostly in supermarkets.

Again, not a bad idea.

I have a better one. Push the plunger. Yep, blow up the LCB and this archaic system of selling alcohol. I have said it before, and I haven’t changed my mind.

I’m tired of going one place for beer, somewhere else if I only want a six-pack, and still another for wine or liquor.

I want to be able to grab a six-pack while I run into the Wawa. I want to be able to buy a case of beer, along with a bottle of wine, in the supermarket.

I know the LCB means revenue for the state. It also means jobs, which I no doubt will be reminded of by the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

It’s time. Go ahead. Push the plunger. Blow up this anachronism and turn the whole process over to private industry.

Now there’s an idea worthy of a toast. I’ll drink to that.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 28

The Daily Numbers: 22 months, age of little girl in Upper Darby who was the victim of a hit-run driver Friday night. Police are still looking for the driver of the SUV that struck her. The girl is in serious conditions at Children’s Hospital.

65 students from the 7th Congressional District who were honored yesterday for combining prowess on the athletic field as well as in the classroom.

5 dead and another 8 wounded in another weekend of violence on the streets of Philadelphia. And the weather is just starting to warm up. Looks like another “Wild, Wild West” summer looms.

6 cent hike in the price of gasoline over the weekend in the region. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.

3.61 average price for a gallon of unleaded regular in the Philly region. That is a new all-time high, which we seem to set every morning these days. The price of diesel did likewise, now going for 4.53 a gallon.

120 dollars a barrel for oil prices over the weekend, spurred by a refinery strike that closed a pipeline that delivers crude from Britain’s North Sea refineries.

100 wine kiosks that the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board wants to operate in the state. They’d be like a temperature-controlled vending machine for wine. They’ll be placed in grocery stores and other places. With the cost of gas, we’re going to need all the wine we can get. Better yet, why not develop a car that runs on wine. Might be cheaper.

7 to 10 shots fired after a car chase in Bristol, Bucks County.

200 underage drinkers busted when police raided a social club in Overbrook Park Friday night. Many of those imbibing are believed to be Saint Joseph’s University students.

400 acres singed by a raging wildfire outside Los Angeles over the weekend.

2 wins and 2 losses for the Sixers and Pistons, who stand all even after the Pistons won Game 4 last night at the Wachovia Center.

10 point Sixers lead at the half that disappeared in a big run by the Pistons to start the third quarter.

4 for 16 shooting from the floor and just 12 points for Andre Iguodala, who continues to struggle against the Pistons’ defense.

0 picks used in the first round of the NFL Draft for the second straight year by the Eagles. Andy Reid again traded down, sending the Birds’ No. 19 pick in the first round to Carolina for a slew of picks this year and next.

0 trades for Lito Sheppard, who is still an Eagle after several attempts to move him during the draft apparently fizzled.

74 as in the 74th pick in the draft, which those same Carolina Panthers used to snatch Strath Haven and Penn State linebacker Dan Connor.

5 wins and 2 losses on their road trip for the Phils, who completed their travel on a down note, losing to the Bucs Sunday, 5-1.

5 innings pitched for Brett Myers, who gave up 4 runs on 8 hits.

3 as in Game 3 of their Stanley Cup series between the Flyers and Canadiens, at the Wachovia Center.

2.73 goals against average for Flyers’ netminder Martin Biron, who has been stellar between the pipes for the Flyers.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
It’s bad enough they try to make out the NFL Draft into some kind of Academy Awards production. Then the Eagles insist on taking the little sizzle out of the affair each year by trading out of the first round. What, are they still sore about the greeting received by Donovan McNabb when they took him in the first round?

I Don’t Get It: Miley Cyrus is apologizing for a racy picture shoot that will appear in Vanity Fair magazine. She appears without a top on, while still covering up. Cyrus is 15. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: The Pennsylvania Legislature once again this week will take up the idea of a public smoking ban in the state. The sooner the better, folks.

Quote Box: “There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing a child smile and sense of accomplishment they feel. It’s rewarding to know I’ve been a part of that.”

-- Marion Bailey, second-grade teacher at Leedom Elementary in Ridley, and one of the 18 winners of the 2008 Excellence in Teaching Awards.

Where's the brotherly love?

Not a good weekend for the new Michael Nutter Administration in Philadelphia.

There’s no questioning the fact that there’s a new face and new attitude leading the city.

Unfortunately, the same old problems continue to plauge those trying to make a difference, as well as those simply trying to live in the city.

In less than 24 hours over the weekend, five people were killed and eight others wounded in a series of violent confrontations. The homicide rate for the year also went over the 100 mark.

Two teens were shot in the city’s Frankford section. One died. Sunday afternoon a 50-year-old man was shot in the back in his apartment. He was declared dead at the hospital. Late Saturday night a man was shot in the head in a bar in Logan. And a man in his 60s was beaten to death outside a gas station.

The good news? I’m not sure there is any at this point, but at this time last year the murder rate stood at 130.

Nutter and his new police commissioner, Charles Ramsey, have made it clear they want to make a difference.

Nutter went so far as to sign into law several gun control measures that were passed by City Council. Of course, they were immediately challenged by the National Rifle Association, which reminded Nutter and council that the authority to regulate guns in this state lies solely with the Legislature.

But something needs to be done. The weather is changing. It’s getting warmer. Things on the street no doubt will be heating up as well.

Reid it and weep

The weather pretty much matches the mood of Philly sports fans today.

Where should we start? How about the Eagles and Andy Reid. Any time they want to start their draft would be nice.

OK, I exaggerate. I think.

Once again Andy Reid traded down out of the first round. Am I mistaken or was this team 8-8 last year, and that only because they won several meaningless games at the end of the season? You’d think the way Reid approaches the draft this squad was coming off another Super Bowl appearance.

Are you trying to tell me this team doesn’t have any pressing needs for this year? To be honest with you, I’m not real interested in next season as yet. Sure, it looks like the Eagles did pretty well in getting a boatload of picks from the Panthers for that No. 19 pick in the first round, but that doesn’t do a thing for me for this year.

Finally, in the second round, the Eagles picked up another defensive tackle from Notre Dame, and a wide receiver who looks like he might be able to answer some of their punt and kickoff return questions. Oh, and that blockbuster trade involving Lito Sheppard? Never happened. He’s still on the team and now the brass is talking about a rotation in the defensive backfield.

There’s really very little fans can do. Reid isn’t going anywhere. Except for this. This team better be good, and come out of the gates smoking. Reid’s philosophy is that with a healthy McNabb the Eagles will return to supremacy in the NFC East.

He better be right. His moves to always go down in the draft, and not select a player in the first round, tell fans this is a playoff team. I have my doubts.

Speaking of playoff teams, the Sixers played another game in their playoff matchup with the Pistons at the Wachovia Center last night.

I’d like to know what Flip Saunders told his team at halftime. After the Sixers dominated them in the first half, the Pistons “flipped” a switch in the locker room, came out and blew away the Sixers in the third quarter, coasting to an easy win. A 10-point Sixers lead turned into a 15-point deficit faster than you can say Andre Iquodala. The series is now tied 2-2.

One other thing I’d like to know. Now that the teams have played four games, any time Sixers star Iguodala wants to show up would be just dandy. Iguodala’s struggles continued last night, shooting 4 of 16 and scoring just 12 points.

Bottom line is this: The Sixers won’t win this series unless Iguodala starts playing to his potential.

Speaking of not showing up, Brett Myers continues to be a no-show so far this season for the Phillies. Myers put a few clouds on a sterling road trip for the Phils. He struggled again yesterday against the lowly Pirates.

He went 5 innings, gave up 4 runs on 8 hits. He’s now 2-2 on the season. Not good enough.

Myers is supposed to be one of two studs at the top of the Phils’ rotation. That’s why he was given the honor of opening day starter as he moved from his closer role last year back into the rotation.

The Phils need him to start pitching like one.

Anything else? Oh, the Flyers and Canadiens tee it up again tonight at the Wachovia Center.

Is this a great time of year or what?

The print column: Teach your children well

Here's a copy of today's print column, about the value of teachers and the effect they have on our lives.

There are a couple of questions I know I can count on every time I am out speaking to groups about what I do for a living.
That’s especially true when I talk to students. I love getting out of the office and engaging readers, especially young readers. That’s in part because of the fact that this newspaper – and in fact the entire industry – could use a lot more of them.
So before my young inquisitors get a chance to ask me a question, I usually have one for them. For the most part, the groups I speak to are high school and college kids with an interest in journalism and writing. I know, you’re wondering if the two are somehow related. Very funny.
My questions for them are simple: Have they read a newspaper yet today, and since they have shown an interest in writing for a living, exactly what have they written yet today?
I’m usually dismayed by the answers. Precious few have read the newspaper, even fewer write every day.
I’m not surprised. The fact that young people are not reading newspapers is not exactly “news” anymore. Which doesn’t make it any less worrisome for a person in my line of work. Nor any less true. Young people are not reading newspapers, at least not in the numbers my generation and my parents’ generation did.
My parents would not even think of starting a day without first consuming a newspaper. I didn’t get the sports section until my dad had read it from one end to the other. The page in the sports section with the day’s entries and results from the horse tracks was usually smeared with jelly, a sure sign my father had been there.
I inherited the newspaper habit from my parents. It’s one of those questions I know I am always going to get from young people. They want to know why I do what I do for a living.
It’s a good question. Thankfully, I think I have a good answer. My parents are certainly a part of it. But there’s another one as well.
For the first eight years of my education, I toiled at the firm right hand of the sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. That’s right, I went to a parochial elementary school. In short, I can diagram a sentence like nobody’s business. I know my subjects, objects and predicates. I gained a love for language and words. And I gained an appreciation for their power.
Now I might add that, in addition to my command of the Baltimore Catechism (Who made me? God made me. Simple, right?), those tend to be the highlights of my education. The truth is, I’m not much when it comes to math and science. Take away my calculator and I’m nothing. My guess is that this is as much my fault as the nuns. I never had a ton of interest in math and science.
There is no doubt I am who I am, and do what I do, in large part because of those eight years I spent under the sisters’ tutelage.
All of this is my way of saying how important teachers are in the development of kids into adults. They aren’t the highest-paying jobs in the world (that’s something else we have in common), but they just might be the most important.
That’s why this newspaper took the opportunity on Sunday to honor 18 of the best teachers in Delaware County.
In conjunction with the Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union and the Delaware County Intermediate Unit, we unveiled the first Excellence in Teaching Awards to recognize outstanding educators.
These awards follow on the heels of our annual All-Delco Hi-Q team, honoring one team member from each of the 21 schools taking part in the annual scholastic quiz competition.
It has been one of my goals in my term as editor of the Daily Times to increase the focus on the academic achievements of students and our local schools. My guess is we’ll never match what we offer young people involved in high school sports (they don’t call us “Delaware County’s Sports Authority” for nothing), but I do believe it is important for kids and teachers to know that we value the often untold stories of excellence from the education side of the equation.
The winning teachers come from a wide spectrum of middle and high schools, and dot the entire county. There are high school teachers from Chester and Haverford high schools, as well as middle school educators from Penn-Delco and Upper Darby, and elementary school teachers from a couple of archdiocesan elementary schools.
They will be honored at a banquet Tuesday night. It will be my pleasure to attend. I hope someone asks me why I do what I do for a living. It’s a good question; I think I have a pretty good answer.
Thanks, mom and dad. Thanks, sisters.

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

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 25

The Daily Numbers: 34 suspects charged in a major drug bust in Chester dubbed ‘Operation Bankshot.’

2 million dollars worth of cocaine seized in the operation.

3 murders authorities say were being planned by the gang’s kingpins to protect their drug empire.

1 million dollars bail for the suspect charged with shooting a constable and apartment manager who were trying to evict him from his apartment in Yeadon for failure to pay the rent.

2 cents more, what we’re paying for gasoline today. Average price in the region is now $3.55. Diesel is through the roof at $4.52. Forget water torture that everyone is so concerned with. This is gas torture, a few pennies more squeezed out of us every day.

22 cent hike in the price of gas along the Garden State Parkway overnight. They only change their price once a week. Last night it was going for $3.17. This morning it’s $3.39.

76 cents a gallon, what gas will sell for at the Lukoil station at Delaware Avenue and Spring Garden for 76 minutes starting at noon. Yeah, it’s a gimmick tied into the Sixers’ playoff run.

8 separate cancer clusters identified by a new report in the state of Delaware. The report says 4 in 10 residents in the state live in these clusters.

76 age of woman in Manayunk charged with attacking a dog with a hatchet.

3 guilty pleas now set with the infamous NBA betting ring that was centered around ex-referee Tim Donaghy. James Battista, of Phoenixville, a high school pal of Donaghy and Thomas Martino of Marcus Hook, pleaded guilty this week to making bets based on info Donaghy was giving them.

3,000 new jobs and a 40 percent increase in revenues that the state Gaming Control Board is predicting for the casino biz in Pa.

35 million dollar fire that destroyed 15 businesses in the Continental Business Center in Montgomery County in 2001. A $1 million settlement has been reached in a suit sparked by the fire.

8 people held hostage inside a bank in McKeesport yesterday when a man with a device strapped to his chest held up the joint. He was taken into custody. There were no injuries. The ordeal lasted about 2 hours.

5 people killed when a tractor-trailer slammed into a van carrying a group of mentally disabled residents in Eighty-Four, Pa.

750 dollar cuts in grants to Pa. students announced by the state’s student-loan agency yesterday. PHEAA also is seeking buyouts from employees, all fallout from strained credit markets.

29 seconds away from a win in Game 1 for the Flyers in their series with the Canadiens. Instead the Habs scored to tie the game and then won it in OT.

48 seconds into the extra stanza before the Canadiens sent their fans home early, and the Flyers fuming about a couple of calls that did not go their way.

25 RBI for Pat Burrell, including 2 more yesterday, setting a new team mark for April for the Phillies. That’s a pretty impressive month, and we have still have 5 games left in the month.

2 as in Day 2 today for the legendary Penn Relays at Franklin Field, where the Chester girls 4x400-meter relay team took a first.

3 fouls for state champ Karen Shump, who came in second in the shot put at the Relays for the 2nd straight year.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Yeah, those two questionable calls certainly did not help the Flyers chances last night. Neither did the fact that they once again coughed up a two-goal lead.

I Don’t Get It: A former teacher of the year in Lumberton, N.J., has been charged with possession of child pornography. The man taught sixth-graders. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: SEPTA is going to try a novel concept – better customer service. Yesterday they named longtime employee Kim Heinle as their new assistant general manager for customer service. With the price of gas, she could have her hands full as more and more people turn to mass transit.


Quote Box: “I didn’t know he was reaching for a gun. But when I saw it, I knew I lost and that was it.”

-- Constable Carmen ‘Skip’ Damiani, describing his confrontation with a man who shot him in the head as he served an eviction notice at a Yeadon apartment complex.

Some final thoughts on the Pa. race

Some final thoughts on the tumultuous Pennsylvania Primary.

Anyone else notice anything odd about the results, especially in Philadelphia and the suburban counties?

On the way to posting a 10-point win in the state, Sen. Hillary Clinton took 60 of 67 counties.

But she lost the city of Philadelphia, where Sen. Barack Obama ran strong. But according to the experts, he didn’t run strong enough. His margin of victory was not enough to stem the tide of the rest of the state going against him.

Ironically, two of Clinton’s biggest supporters were Gov. Ed Rendell, a former Philadelphia mayor, and current Mayor Michael Nutter. Both were early – and strident – Clinton backers.

Out in the ’burbs, first-term Democratic congressman Patrick Murphy was leading the charge for Obama in Bucks County. So of course that county went 2-1 for Clinton.

Here in Delaware County, retired admiral and former Clinton Administration adviser U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, the political neophyte who took down Curt Weldon in a memorable 7th District battle, led the parade in Delco for the spouse of his former boss. Didn’t matter. Obama won the county by 10 points.

So much for endorsements.

There is likely one other interested observer in those Obama numbers in the county. That would be Craig Williams. He’s the Republican who will run against Sestak in the fall 7th District race.

It took the GOP a while before they could find someone who wanted to enter the ring with Sestak, and his formidable campaign war chest.

Don’t look now, but that race just might be more interesting than we first thought.

No doubt we’ll be hearing a lot from both Williams and Sestak. I am guessing that, just like the last time around, this one will go all summer, not bothering to wait for the traditional post-Labor Day starting point.

Catch your breath. We’re about to dive right into the fall race.

It's a dangerous job every day

Wednesday afternoon Skip Damiani was doing something he’s done more times that he can remember. No doubt he’ll remember this one for a long time.

Damiani is a constable. One of the things he does is serve eviction notices. It’s not a fun job, as you can imagine. Nobody likes to be told they’re being booted out of their home.

That’s what Damiani was doing Wednesday, along with the manager of the Parkview Court apartments in Yeadon. He was there to tell a tennant in a third-floor unit to gather his things and vacate the premises.

Tamarr Minor, 21, apparently had other ideas. Police say he went to a sofa in the apartment, reached between the cushions, pulled out a handgun and started blasting.

He shot Damiani in the head and apartment manager Ted Hicks in the chest, according to the affidavit issued for his arrest. Police believe he likely would have shot a third person at the scene except the gun jammed.

Our Upper Darby correspondent, Linda Reilly, caught up with Damiani in his hospital room. You can read her interview with Damiani here.

You have to like Damiani. He snapped off a great line when asked how he was doing.

“I’m talking to you, aren’t I,” he quipped. “I’m good.”

Damiani goes on to offer a fairly harrowing account of what happened inside that apartment.

He also gave us something else. He once again offered proof of something that law enforcement personnel know all too well.

They never know what’s going to happen when they leave the house every day. They hope they return home safe and sound. The bottom line is they just don’t know.

It’s part of the job. One that too often goes unsaid. One most of us probably don’t appreciate nearly enough.

Get well soon, Skip.

All together now: We wuz robbed

The Flyers were 28 seconds away from stealing Game 1 of their Stanley Cup playoff series with the Canadiens.

Less than a full minute of action later, they were skating off the ice with the weight of a crushing loss on their shoulders.

In the process they managed to once again cough up a two-goal lead. And no doubt two key calls that went against them are likely to be debated until the puck drops for Game 2 Saturday night.

You can read Anthony SanFilippo’s game story here.

I’ll give you the short version.

The Flyers, coming off their dramatic OT win in Game 7 against the Caps, get out to a two-goal early lead, stunning the Canadiens and the faithful in the Bell Centre.

But the Habs scratched their way back to a 2-2 tie at the end of the second period.

This is where the controversy starts. The Canadiens’ tying goal looked for all the world as if it had been batted behind Marty Biron with a high stick by Alex Kovalev. The refs reviewed the video and ruled it a goal. Many curse words muttered by Flyers fans across the Delaware Valley.

The Flyers then come out in the third and take a 3-2 lead. Time for more controversy. With less than two minutes to play, Mike Richards appears to put a shoulder into Kovalev, upending him. Up goes the right hand of referee Mike Hasenfratz. Apparently he saw it as more of a knee, and called it as a tripping penalty.

Montreal pulled their goalie for a two-man advantage, and it paid off. This time there was no debate about it. Kovalev took the puck off a faceoff and fired a laser over Biron’s shoulder. Tie game. Just 28 seconds away from the thrill of victory, the Flyers and their fans instead were left to deal with the agony of a tie, a blown lead, and an OT stanza.

Just 48 seconds into the extra period, the Canadiens sealed the deal for a 4-3 win.

Flyers’ faithful no doubt will say they got jobbed. They might even have a point. But it’s not going to change what happened. The Flyers are down 1-0 in the series.

Next time maybe they shouldn’t take their foot off the neck of a team whey they’re up 2-0.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 24

The Daily Numbers: 60 percent turnout in Delaware County for the Democratic Primary on Tuesday. That compares with 17 percent in 2004 and 14 percent in 2000.

51.6 of the 434,000 votes in the Philly suburbs that were cast for Hillary Clinton.

9 of 10 black voters in the ’burbs who backed Obama.

2 people, including a Delco constable, shot while attempting to serve an eviction notice to a tenant at a Yeadon apartment complex Wednesday.

20 days, how long a Delco judge now has to decide whether or not a 14-year-old defendant in a murder case for stabbing his brother over a video game should be tried as an adult or juvenile.

5 million dollars being pledged by a business group to help Drexel Neumann Academy, the last Catholic elementary school in the city of Chester.

100,000 dollars believed missing from a student activities fund at Germantown High School. Police are investigating.

14 years in jail for a former cop in Pennsauken, N.J., for e-mailing more than thousand images of kids involved in sexual acts.

15 age of girl police say an illegal immigrant from Costa Rica was having sex with in Horsham. He’s now in jail.

100 years of the U.S. Army Reserve, which was celebrated on Wednesday. With what is going on in the world, we are acutely aware of the value of these troops.

3 cent increase in price of gasoline overnight. This tune is getting old. Average price in the Philly area is now $3.53. Diesel stands at $4.51.

100 foot fall down a cliff suffered by a rock climber yesterday in Ralph Stover State Park in Bucks County. The climber was hospitalized, but the injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.

2,400 dollar reward posted for information in the case of a cat that was fatally hanged in Fayette County.

38,000 dollars, amount stolen during a bank heist in Doylestown. Now the bank is suing the suspected robber.

1 win each between the Sixers and Pistons after Detroit thumped the locals in Game 2 of the series, which now moves to the Wachovia Center on Friday night.

1 for 9 shooting for Andre Iguadola last night. That’s not going to get it done.

1 as in Game 1 tonight for the Flyers against the Canadiens in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

110 pitches, what Phils starter Cole Hamels had thrown before he headed out to the mound for the eighth inning last night.

11 strikeouts for the Phils’ ace, who at one point retired 10 straight and 18 of 21.

2 hits he surrendered in the eighth, including a two-run homer to Prine Fielder. That was the difference in the 5-4 Brewers’ win.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Did anyone not expect the Pistons not to rally last night and throttle the Sixers. With the series now tied 1-1 and moving to Philly, it’s time for the Sixers to make a stand.

I Don’t Get It: While Atlantic City is now banning smoking on the floors of its casinos, matching the rest of the state, as well as Delaware, Pennsylvania remains a haven for smokers. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Kudos to the person who phoned Darby police with information on the whereabouts of the suspect in a shooting of a Delco constable and an apartment manager in Yeadon.


Quote Box: “He is so lucky. He’s got nine lives. He’s in good shape. Don’t ask me how.”

-- George Whartnaby, partner of wounded constable Carmen ‘Skip’ Damiani, who was shot while serving an eviction notice at a Yeadon apartment yesterday.

The clear winner? Pennsylvania

There is a clear winner in the Pennsylvania Primary.

And it was not Hillary Clinton. Yes, the senator from New York had a pretty good night. She posted a 10-point victory over Sen. Barack Obama, and in the process kept her uphill battle for the Democratic nomination alive.

But the real winner was, in fact, Pennsylvania.

The state spent six weeks in the national spotlight, the zenith of presidential politics. And we rose to the challenge.

We played “hardball” with Chris Matthews; we hosted the hordes of national media; and we got used to the site of satellite trucks in our neighborhoods.

But we did much more than that. We got involved. We got engaged. We put a surge of electricity into the process.

People who were not registered to vote got back into the process. Young people, often pegged as too aloof and disconnected, became engaged. Record numbers of first-time voters were enrolled.

We got involved in the process, discussed the issues, and pushed the candidates to one of the truly memorable presidential primary experiences.

Then we turned out in record numbers.

Now it’s time to see what was accomplished.

Here are a couple of thoughts. There is now another ‘D’ involved in this epic battle. It does not stand for Day of Decision, nor Democrats.

It stands for doubt, and it is now hung around the neck of Obama. The whispers are getting louder, many of them being voiced by Clinton and her supporters. Obama can’t seal the deal. He can’t – and hasn’t – won in any of the big industrial states that the party will need to topple Republican Sen. John McCain in the November general election.

And if Obama is looking for whose fingerprints are on the dagger, he need look no further than Philadelphia and the four suburban counties.

Yes, he took Philadelphia. But he didn’t win it by enough to offset the tidal wave of support for Clinton elsewhere in the state. Same goes for Delaware County, which also went for Obama, but by a slim margin.

More surprising are the results from Bucks and Montgomery County, which ended up in the Hillary camp. She put a 2-1 whipping on Obama in Bucks County and eked out a win in Montco.

Obama took Delco and Chester County. Someone will have to explain the latter one to me. This is a county that continues to be solidly Republican, backing President Bush and sending Jim Gerlach back to Congress when other Republicans in the region were being shown the door.

Then there’s this oddity. Two of Clinton’s biggest backers were Gov. Ed Rendell and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. Both obviously have big voices in the city, which went solidly for Clinton.

In Delaware County, Clinton had the backing of rookie Congressman Rep. Joe Sestak. So of course the county went for Obama.

Obama’s challenge was to win big in the suburbs to offset the near domination of Clinton everywhere else in the state. If you look at a map of Pa. it’s stunning to see a solid sea of “Clinton Country” counties, with a small island of Centre County in the middle of the state. Can you say State College and tons of young collegiate voters?

Bottom line? Obama didn’t get it done.

And that ‘D’ hanging around his neck will continue to loom large until he wins somewhere he’s not supposed to.

That D isn’t for Democrat. It’s for doubt. And it’s getting bigger every day.

Butt out? Not in Pa.

Do you like to light up while you’re trying your luck in casinos? If so, your luck is about to run out in Atlantic City.

The city council in the shore gambling mecca has moved to ban smoking in its casinos. The floors of the gambling halls were the last place in the state where you could still light up. They now join Delaware in banning the butts.

Never fear, smokers, Pennsylvania is here. If you just can’t fathom the idea of gambling without gambling on your health, you can smoke all you want in Pennsylvania’s new slots casinos, including Harrah’s Chester.

The ban in Atlantic City goes into effect on Oct. 15. After that, smoking gamblers will have to roll the dice in Pa.

Come on in, folks, the water’s fine. The air might be a tad smoky, but the water is excellent.

Sorry, Charlie

Here’s the morning sports report: A hint, it’s not good.

Charlie Manuel is constantly being second-guessed for pulling his pitchers too soon.

This morning he no doubt is going to get heat for going the other way.

Manuel, with currently the best bullpen in the league at his disposal, instead sent his ace, Cole Hamels, back out to the hill in the eighth inning last night in Milwaukee. At the time Hamels was sitting on 110 pitches. He’s also clearly the horse of this staff.

This time the horse drove the fans buggy.

Hamels, who had been sparkling after getting touched for three runs in the first inning, was mowing down the Brewers. He had retired 10 straight and 18 of 21, striking out 11 along the way.

The Phils were clinging to a 4-3 lead at the time.

Enter Prince Fielder. The Milwaukee slugger singed a wicked line drive over the fence in right-center, after Hamels surrendered a leadoff double. Make it 5-4 Brewers. That’s the way it ended.

Charlie no doubt will be second-guessed. But raise your hand if you would have done the same had Hamels been pulled and the bullpen imploded?

Yep, thought so. That’s the plight of a major league manager.

So let’s move on to the Sixers. Uh, on second thought, let’s not. You could sort of see this one coming. The Sixers got hammered in Game 2 of their series with the Pistons.

Andre Iguodala didn’t exactly sparkle, shooting just 1 for 9. That makes him 5 for 24 in the series. That won’t get it done.

Enough about that. Time to get Flyered up. The Flyers are in Montreal tonight to open their series with the Canadiens.

It says here they win Game 1, but lose the series.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 23

The Daily Numbers: 10 point win in Pennsylvania for Hillary Clinton, who topped Barack Obama by a 55-45 margin

50 percent turnout in many areas of the state, and even as high as 60 percent in Allegheny County. Those are unheard of numbers.

58 percent turnout among Democrats here in Delaware County.

25.6 percent turnout among Republicans in the county, who have basically already selected their nominee, Sen. John McCain.

10,000 vote win for Obama over Clinton here in Delaware County.

100 to 1, the margin of victory for Obama in Chester.

33 percent of Philadelphia Democrats who supported Obama.

2 of the four suburban counties for each candidate. Bucks and Montco went with Clinton; Delco and Chesco with Obama.

53 to 46 lead for Clinton among women in the state, according to CNN exit polls.

53 to 46 for Clinton among men.

62 to 38, margin of victory for Obama among those voters under the age of 30.

56 to 44 edge for Clinton among those voters who say they go to church on a weekly basis.

55 percent of those in a Survey USA poll who responded that Clinton should not get out of the race even if she did not win Pennsylvania.

1 in 5 voters who said that race was a deciding factor in their decision.

42 percent of Pennsylvania in exit polls who said the nation is in a serious recession.

43 to 38 percent win for upstart Larry Farnese in a stunning win over labor boss John Dougherty in the Democratic race to replace Sen. Vince Fumo in Philly’s 1st District.

7 games was not enough for the Flyers and Caps to decide their series. The Flyers won a classic in overtime, 3-2.

39 saves for Martin Biron as he repeatedly bailed out the Flyers in the third period last night.

1 day off before the Flyers get right back on the ice Thursday night in Montreal against the Canadiens.

3 straight wins for the Phils, who took a typical wild one last night in Denver, 8-6.

7 rocky innings for starter Brett Myers, who gave up 11 hits and six runs, all earned.

2 as in Game 2, as the upstart Sixers look to take two straight from the Pistons on their home court in Detroit.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
All the credit to the Flyers. No one expected them to win last night in D.C. Except them. And that’s all that really mattered.

I Don’t Get It: Chalk up another 2-cent hike in the price of gasoline overnight. Average price in Philly is now $3.50, an all-time high, as is the price of diesel, now an average of $4.51.


Today’s Upper: Kudos to Pennsylvania Democrats for turning out en masse for yesterday’s primary. Good show.


Quote Box: “I think the big story in Delaware County is the positive benefits of this contested primary.”

-- State Rep. Bryan Lentz, D-161, as he watched returns Tuesday night. Lentz backed Sen. Barack Obama, who won Delaware County, but lost the state.

What did Pa. actually decide?

Now what?

For seven weeks Pennsylvania has been in the national spotlight, Ground Zero in a heavyweight title bout between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The dynamic duo are staging an old-fashioned, bare-knuckles brawl for the Democratic nomination for president.

The conventional wisdom was that lowly Pennsylvania, usually an afterthought in the nominating process, would, via some fortuitous timing, be the deciding factor in the race.

Many were looking for a knockout blow, for Obama’s to win and have his hand raised in victory over a vanquished foe, claiming both the state and the Democratic nomination.

Uh, not exactly.

The race electrified the state, sparking huge surges in registration. Those voters showed up at the polls in record numbers all across the state.

So what have they decided?

Very little, actually.

Hillary Clinton won the state, taking a solid 10-point win over Obama, even while getting shellacked in Philadelphia and also losing a tight battle in Delaware County. It means she’s not going anywhere.

She will undoubtedly will remain in the race, at least until May 6, when primaries are held in Indiana and North Carolina. It’s more likely now that this fight will go to the convention and involve some serious wooing of the so-called superdelegates.

For Obama, who clearly saw the writing on the wall and had already started campaigning in Indiana before the polls closed in Pa., the spin is that he cut into what had once been a huge Clinton advantage in the state.

It’s not playing. The whispers continue to hound Obama, that despite his lead in both the popular vote, he can’t finish the deal by winning in the big key states that Democrats will need to take to secure the White House in November.

It’s been a wild 7-week ride. The state certainly was energized. The process has been validated, and even resuscitated with a huge influx of new, engaged, young voters.

But the question remains: Clinton or Obama?

This one is no closer to being decided, despite the Battle for Pennsylvania.

Now it’s someone else’s turn in the spotlight. The national media will move on, following the candidates to Indiana and North Carolina.

Pennsylvania will soon be forgotten. But not what happened in the past six weeks.

It’s been one to remember. And will pay dividends in a reinvigorated state for years to come.

More questions in Penn-Delco

I’m still trying to understand exactly what happened in the Penn-Delco School District in terms of that $100,000 grant from the state that was misspent by the Penn-Delco Education and Cultural Foundation.

I suppose one way to look at is that the district has dodged a bullet. A fairly expensive one at that.

You may recall that the district recently received a letter from the state Department of Community and Economic Development stating in fairly stark terms that the district had misspent a $100,000 grant.

The money was supposed to be used for technology services in district classrooms. Instead it wound up being spent for a sculpture of the Griffin, the Sun Valley High mascot, landscaping, and ceremonial bricks on a walkway outside the school.

The state agency was not amused. They wanted their money back – with interest.

The money was acquired for the district by the Penn-Delco Educational and Cultural Foundation. The boss of the foundation at the time was former school board President Keith Crego. Enough has been written about him and the events that landed him in jail.

The fear was that the district – and beleaguered taxpayers -- were going to be on the hook for the $100,000.

Apparently not.

At a packed school board meeting Monday night, board President Anthony Ruggieri indicated that not only was the district not going to have to fork over the money, they likely were going to be able to use the money the way it was originally intended, technology.

They are being reimbursed by their insurance carrier.

Everything’s hunky-dory, right? Maybe. Left unsaid is whether this arrangement will fly with the state. They still seem to be out the original $100,000 that was misspent. Maybe they’ll be satisfied that the district is going to eventually use the money as intended.

The board also shed little light on just what went wrong with the Foundation, how the money was received, and how it was misspent. Instead they seem to be taking the angle that the Foundation was a separate entity from the district. And leaving it at that, washing their hands of the actions that led them down to this point.

The state also indicated in their letter that they intended to cut off the district from any further grants, but district Solicitor Michael Levin seems to have his doubts as to whether they can do that.

Hey, don’t get me wrong. I’m glad the district is not on the hook for the $100,000. Taxpayers in Aston, Brookhaven and Parkside have seen more than their share of shenanigans with the district stemming from Crego’s bizarre reign.

But there still seems to be some unanswered questions about all this, how this first came about in the actions of those connected to the Foundation, and how it is now being resolved.

Then again, this is Penn-Delco. Nothing should surprise us at this point.

The Flyers and Hillary -- still alive!

Everybody who expected the Flyers to win Game 7 in Washington, D.C., raise your hands? Thought so.

And the confidence level when the game rumbled into overtime? Pretty much the same.

Give the Flyers credit. They easily could have folded their tent when the Caps took an early 1-0 led in the first period. They didn’t. Instead they made like Hillary Clinton, performing a little “Comeback Kid” routine of their own.

OK, they probably got a break on their second goal to tie the game, when Flyer Patrick Thoresen shoved a Capital into goalie Cristobal Huet. Sammy Kapanen was left staring at a vacant net and promptly deposited the puck to tie the score at 2.

The third period belonged to the goaltenders. Martin Biron answered all the critics who doubted he was a big-time netminder. Biron put the Flyers on his back in the third stanza, making one bell-ringing save after another.

You also have to feel a bit for Huet, who was equal to Biron the entire game, then simply looked the wrong way for an instant in overtime, only to see the puck deposited behind him by Joffrey Lupul.

The Flyers share something else with Hillary Clinton this morning. They’re both still alive.

For their reward the orange and black get a date with the No. 1 seed Montreal Canadiens. And they don’t get much in the way of rest. The series opens Thursday night north of the border.

Regardless, the Flyers showed what they were made of last night.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 22

The Daily Numbers: 13 hours for Democrats to cast their votes in Pennsylvania. Polls are open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m..
51 to 44 percent margin for Hillary Clinton, according to the last Quinnipiac poll before today’s vote.

52 to 41 percent for Clinton in a poll done by Suffolk University.

300,000 newly registered Democrats in Pennsylvania who will head to the polls today, many for the first time.

14 percent of Pa. Democrats who are undecided, according to a Franklin and Marshall poll.

11 million dollars in TV ads spent by the two campaigns in Pennsylvania.

187 delegates up for grabs in Pennsylvania. Of those 158 will be selected today. The rest are superdelegates who are not bound by the popular vote.

30 people homeless after a massive fire rocked an old industrial plant in the Juniata Park section of Philadelephia yesterday.

14 age of Lansdowne teen charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of his brother in a fight over a video game. Lawyers are still arguing over whether he should be tried as an adult or in the juvenile system.

18 age of Norristown teen charged in the fatal hit-run death of a 3-year-old boy. Police say the driver had only a learner’s permit and was not properly insured.

41 hours trapped in an elevator for a man in an office building in New York City back in 1999. A surveillance video of the man’s ordeal has not become an Internet sensation.

3.50 a gallon, where the price of gasoline likely is going to wind up before the week is over. The question now is exactly how high will it go this summer?

43 age of substitute teacher in Ocean County, New Jersey, who is now charged with torching several homes in her neighborhood.

10 percent drop in earnings in the first quarter for regional chemicals maker Rohm and Haas.

4.9 percent unemployment rate in Pa. in March. That’s down from 5 percent in February.

7 as in Game 7, exactly what the Flyers did not want as they face a deciding game in D.C. tonight against the Caps.

2 goal lead blown by the Flyers in their meltdown at the Wachovia Center last night.

0 wins and 5 losses this year for Flyers’ goalie Martin Biron in back-to-back games he played this year.

5 straight games in which Chase Utley has homered, including last night vs. the Rockies. He now has 9 for the season.

2 straight wins for the Phils, as they rallied to beat the Rockies, 9-5.

8 wins and no losses for the Soul, who remained unbeaten by beating the Columbus Destroyers last night in a Arena Football League affair. Does anyone care?

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Channeling Terry Murray. Yes, the Flyers once again find themselves in “a choking situation.” They must win tonight or forever be remembered as one more team that blew a 3-1 lead.

I Don’t Get It: Sen. Barack Obama said yesterday he expects Sen. Hillary Clinton to win Pennsylvania, although he is expecting to keep it close.


Today’s Upper: Just think, tomorrow you will awake to TV and radio that is not cluttered with ads for Clinton and Obama.


Quote Box: “We made this task much more difficult. Now it’s up for grabs.”

-- Flyers coach John Stevens, after his team lost to the Caps last night to set up a deciding Game 7 tonight in D.C.

Day of Decision for Democrats

Time to decide. Or, as we simply stated on the front page of the print edition, it’s D-Day.

That D stands for Democrats, specifically Pennsylvania Democrats.

They will go to the polls today in record numbers to vote for either Sen. Hillary Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama as the party’s nominee for president.

Pennsylvania has spent the last six weeks in the national spotlight, an unlikely position for the Keystone State, which has become accustomed to not having much of a say in this presidential nominating process.

Not this year. Things broke perfectly for Pennsylvania to become Ground Zero for politics after Clinton rallied for wins in Ohio and Texas.

Nothing else has been normal about this election, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear Obama say something yesterday I’m not sure I’ve heard come from a major candidate.

He said he expects Clinton to win. But he also thinks he will manage to keep it close.

I don’t know whether he’s running for president or playing horseshoes.

But he has a point. He doesn’t have to win. In fact, no one expects him to win. All he has to do is keep it close, not get blown out.

Most polls have Clinton’s once huge lead down to single digits. That’s what the kind of money Obama has poured into this race will do for you.

So here’s the call: I think Clinton will win, but not by as much as she needs to silence her critics. I say the margin of victory will be about five points. Obama will win big in Philly. I think he’ll also win Delaware County. Clinton will pull her numbers from the ‘T’ in the middle of the state as well as her family’s home turf in Scranton.

But her slim win will only ratchet up the heat on her within the party to get out and allow Democrats to unite behind Obama. Those people don’t know the Clintons very well. They aren’t going anywhere. Neither is the party.

I say it goes to the convention and the superdelegates. And in the process opens the door to a win by the presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, in November.

Gunning for a fight in Lower Chi

They apparently are having some second thoughts in Lower Chichester.

As first reported by our columnist Gil Spencer last week, the township was considering a proposal to require a registry of weapons in homes.

Basically what the proposed ordinance would do is require a buyer, tenant or seller to disclose if there would be any firearms in a residence prior to the sale or lease of the property.

Lower Chi officials simply indicated they were looking out for the safety of township residents.

The gun rights folks saw it another way, saying the move would be illegal, a violation of the state law that cedes all gun legislation to the state government.

The NRA took the city of Philadelphia to court on the same grounds after city council passed a series of gun control measures that were promptly signed into law by Mayor Michael Nutter. A judge issued a preliminary injunction to block the new laws until a full hearing can be held.

Things didn’t get that far in Lower Chi. Commissioners pulled the measure before a packed house last night for more study.

Commissioners President Rocco Gaspari Jr. wasn’t thrilled with some of the depictions of his family and the township in Gil’s column harpooning the measure.

I talked to his father, longtime Lower Chi figure Rocco Gaspari Sr. He believes some of the newspaper’s coverage of things down there in Lower Chi border on being anti-Italian, or at least anti-Gaspari.

I assured him that our coverage of the family was because of their unique stature in the township, not because of their ethnic heritage. I couldn’t be more Irish, nor more proud of it. I’m sure they feel the same way about their ethnicity.

I’ll be honest. I’m not a gun guy. I wouldn’t have a problem with what the township is proposing. If feel the same way about an earlier measure passed by the township to battle the problem of people talking on hand-held cell phones while driving. Whether or not the township has the authority to enact such laws, and whether they’re constitutional, is another matter. I guess that’s why lawyers exist.

On the plus side, the township last night did pass an ordinance to crack down on pedestrians walking in the street when there is a sidewalk available nearby.

Don’t think anybody can find anything unconstitutional about that one.

Capital punishment?

It’s the Day of Decision. And for the Flyers and their fans, it might be a Day of Infamy as well.

The orange and black did the unthinkable Monday night. Not only did they not seal the deal by eliminating the Washington Capitals in a crucial Game 6, they first teased their fans with a taste of victory by taking a 2-0 lead.

Unfortunately, they then proceeded to have what could best be described as a “Terry Murray moment.”

You might remember the famous words of the former Flyers coach, who intimated that his team’s play in another crucial playoff series they were about to gag up amounted to “a choking situation.”

The Flyers turned last night’s early 2-0 lead over the Caps into a devastating 4-2 loss. They then boarded a train and headed back to Washington for Game 7. There’s no rest for the Flyers’ weary legs. They’ll be back on the ice tonight in back-to-back games, which does not exactly work in favor of many of their older players, who appeared out of gas in the third period last night.

There is little in sports that can match the excitement of a Game 7 in a playoff series. You’ll excuse us if we’ll tell you we could have done without this latest bit of sports drama.

Here are some other sobering numbers for Flyers fans to mull over as they stand in line waiting to vote in the Pennsylvania Primary.

Goalie Martin Biron has not exactly stood on his head this year in back-to-back games. He’s 0-5 when playing on consecutive nights.

The team has won exactly one Game 7 in their history.

Much as they did several years ago against the Devils, this Flyers team might rue the day they failed to give their best effort Saturday in D.C. No problem, they said after the game. We still have two more chances to win.

Not anymore. It’s either win tonight, or head home for the summer stewing in what could have – and likely should have – been.

For the Flyers and their fans, tonight could be a form of Capital punishment.

And they're off!

On your mark, get set, vote!

It's 7 a.m., and the Pennsylvania polls are now open.

The talk is over. Now it's time for action. Democrats are expected to turn out in record numbers for the choice between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

More to come throughout the day on this historic primary. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 21

The Daily Numbers: 1 more day before Pennsylvania Democrats go to the polls.
2 more members of the Clinton family stumping in Delco on Sunday. Both former President Bill and daughter Chelsea were on our turf.

4 Democrats toiling in anonymity as they seek the nomination for the state treasurer post.

7 alarm spectacular fire that consumed a building in the Juniata Park section of Philadelphia early this morning.

1,500 people without power in the area of the fire.

8 cent hike in price of gasoline over the weekend in the Philly area. That’s a 16-cent hike in the past week alone.

3.46 a gallon, the average price for regular unleaded. And of course we are now in all-time record high territory every time the price goes up.

4.49 a gallon, what truckers are paying for diesel fuel.

26.9 million hotel rooms booked in Pennsylvania in 2007, a record high. Tourism officials are keeping a wary eye on gas prices as they fear people will stop traveling.

117 dollars a barrel, what the price of a barrel of crude shot over this morning in early trading.

2 people dead in an bizarre incident yesterday in Bethel Township in which a man is believed to have attacked his estranged wife in the driveway of her home. He was then shot by a neighbor before turning a knife on himself.

6 dead in 11 shootings over the weekend on the streets of Philadelphia.

800 people due out on the street in Philly as volunteers tomorrow working with the watchdog group Committee of Seventy to ward off any problems at the polls.

7 members of the radical group MOVE convicted of killing Philadelphia Police Officer James Ramp who are now up for parole.

2 Good Samaritans who dove into a murky Schuylkill River after a car with a child inside rolled into the water. The boy was rescued and is in critical condition in the hospital.

60,000 people who gathered in Yankee Stadium yesterday for a Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI.

11 points for Reggie Evans as the Sixers stunned the Pistons in Game 1 of their NBA opening playoff series.

2 home runs and 4 RBI for Chase Utley to lead the Phils in salvaging one game from the weekend set with the Mets. The Phils won, 5-4.

15 day disabled list for Jimmy Rollins, who continues to struggle with a sprained ankle.

3 games to 2 lead for Flyers over the Caps with a crucial Game 6 on tap tonight at the Wachovia Center.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
What exactly the Phils were thinking about by using Jimmy Rollins as a pinch hitter and not telling him to get off that ankle I’m not sure. Now they’ve lost him for 2 weeks on the DL, which can’t be back-dated because they used him as a pinch-hitter.

I Don’t Get It: The good always die too young. John Marzano was a South Philly guy, who always touted his roots no matter where he went. He starred at Temple and then played 10 years in the majors as a catcher. He was dynamite as a color analyst and was working for online. But he died over the weekend at his South Philly home. He was 45. Just a shame.


Today’s Upper: If you can’t get into something in sports this week, you’re just not trying. You’ve got Phillies, Sixers and Flyers action. Plus the NFL draft is this coming weekend.


Quote Box: “It was an unbelievable and humbling experience. It was beautiful.”

-- The Rev. Joseph McLoone, pastor of St. Katharine Drexel parish in Chester, who attended the papal Mass in Yankee Stadium on Sunday.

Don't forget your ID

One more key thing for all those who will be voting for the first time tomorrow.

If that’s the case, you MUST have a valid ID when you show up at the polls. If not you will have to cast a provisional ballot.

A lot of new voters will be going to the polls for the first time tomorrrow, spurred by the tidal wave of interest in this Democratic race.

Make sure you take your driver’s license or other ID with you!

24 hours and counting

We are at T-minus-1. One more day before Democrats in Delaware County and Pennsylvania decide between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Actually the polls will be open in less than 24 hours.

It’s been a wild six weeks. My guess is that it will get wilder still tomorrow.

The Clinton clan again had a big showing in Delaware County Sunday, with Chelsea doing an event in Lansdowne, and “Barnstorming” Bill, the former president, seemingly criss-crossing the state, ending his day with a rally at the Tinicum fire house. Hillary Clinton was in West Chester on Saturday.

For his part Barack Obama was all over the region on Saturday with several stops on the R5 Paoli line as he did an old-fashioned whistlestop tour in Wynnewood, Paoli, Downingtown, Lancaster and Harrisburg.

Both camps will be out in force today. Hillary Clinton will be in Scranton, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg before ending the day at 10 o’clock with one final rally with her husband and daughter at the Palestra on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.

Obama will do events in Blue Bell and McKeesport. He will end his day on the other side of the state, in Pittsburgh.

One more day. It’s been a great ride.

Now it’s time to decide.

About that Page One

Confession time. The front page of the print edition, as well as the lead item on the Webs site, is not what I had originally planned.

That’s the thing about news. It is constantly changing.

Our original plan was to lead the paper this morning with the pope’s Mass in Yankee Stadium, including out interviews with several people from Delaware County who made the pilgrimmage to see and hear the pontiff in person.

That was before something almost surreal took place right here in Delaware County.

As reported by our police reporter Rose Quinn, it’s hard to fathom exactly the kind of violence that took place on a quiet street out in Bethel Township.

You can read Rose’s account here.

It boils down to this: Police believe a man showed up at a house on Warner Place armed with a knife and a machete. The man fatally stabbed his estranged wife. The couple’s 11-year-old son saw what was going on and called police.

Authorities say a Good Samaritan neighbor then arrived on the scene and shot the man in the shoulder. The suspected stabber then turned his knife on himself as lay on the ground. He died later at Crozer-Chester Medical Center.

I know there will be those who believe that in the grand scheme of things, the story on the papal Mass is more important. I won’t argue with them. It is.

That was our plan. And we did not abandon it. We covered the pope’s trip all week, emphasizing the local connections and those who were taking in the various events.

But the truth is the pope’s Mass was taking place in New York City. The bizarre fatal attack occurred right here on a quiet street in a neighborhood in Delaware County.

I think we made the right call. I know others will disagree. Feel free to offer a comment if you think we made the right call.

A wild sports weekend

Somebody break up the Sixers. Almost no one gave them a chance in their return to the playoffs, on the road against a powerful Detroit team that won 59 regular season games.

I’ll admit I was one of them. So of course, the Sixers fell behind by 15 early in the third quarter Sunday and it appeared everybody was right.

Not so fast. It looked like the Pistons packed it in at that point, too. So the scrappy Sixers scratched back and stunned Motown by posting a 90-86 win. The look on Coach Maurice Cheeks’ face at the end of the game was priceless. If he’s not coach of the year, I’m not real sure who is.

One caution here: I distinctly remember a few years ago when Allen Iverson led the Sixers to a first-game win over the Lakers in the NBA Finals. The Lakers were heavily favored. They then won four straight to take the title.

But enjoy the Sixers’ run. No one expected them to make the playoffs. And certainly no one expected them to take Game 1 in Detroit.

Then there’s the Flyers, who got outhit and outplayed in Washington Saturday as the Caps staved off elimination.

Here’s a tip for the orange and black. Don’t even think about losing tonight’s Game 6 at the Wachovia Center. The last thing this team wants to do is travel back to D.C. for a deciding Game 7.

Again a glance at the past. A few years ago the Flyers took a 3-1 lead over the Devils. They basically mailed it in for Game 5, thinking they still had two chances to finish them off. Didn’t work out that way. The Devils took Game 6, then stuck a dagger in the Flyers – and star Eric Lindros who returned from a concussion only to be leveled by Scott Stevens – in Game 7.

If the Flyers lose tonight, anyone give them a chance to win Game 7 in Washington? And they will face the Caps without Mike Knuble, who blew out a hamstring Saturday.

Finally, there are the Phillies. Hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. Yesterday the team placed Jimmy Rollins on the 15-day disabled list.

It can’t be retroactive because Rollins was used as a pinch-hitter. Someone wasn’t totally on the up and up on this injury. Either Rollins was not truthful with the team about the extent of his injury, or the team was hoping it was not as bad as it now appears to be and rolled the dice on getting him back early.

They lost big time. Ankle sprains aren’t something to mess around with. And they aren’t something to play on, either. Now Rollins is gone for another two weeks. He should have been placed on the DL immediately.

The only hope now is that this is not something that lingers through the summer.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 18

The Daily Numbers: 3.38 a gallon for unleaded regular in the Philly area. That is an all-time high, topping the mark we set in September 2005 shortly after Hurricane Katrina.
3 cent spike in prices overnight. Gas has shot up 9 cents in just the last week.

4.46 a gallon for diesel fuel. That’s also an all-time high.

5.4 magnitude earthquake that rocked southern Illinois early this morning. It could be felt throughout the Chicago area, and as far away as Indiana.

113 guns seized by Philadelphia police in two different raids. No, there aren’t too many guns on city streets.

1 dead, 1 in very critical condition after a shooting on an Upper Darby street. Also 1 innocent bystander who just missed being injured when a bullet whistled through her front window.

2 teen juveniles charged with putting makeshift bombs into mailboxes in Horsham.

4 more teens charged with stealing 40 laptop computers from North Penn High School.

78 robberies reported on the SEPTA system last year. That’s up 81 percent from 2004. City Council heard from witnesses, including several groups of schoolkids, who indicated they now fear for their safety when using the system.

678 million dollars in unpaid hospital bills in Pennsylvania in the last fiscal year, according to a new report released yesterday.

23 months in jail for a woman in Westmoreland County for hosting a teen birthday party where a 16-year-old drank herself to death.

10.7 million people who tuned into ABC for the debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama Wednesday night.

15,600 complaints about the questions of moderators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos lodged on the ABC Web site.

2 OT periods last night before Mike Knuble scored the game winner for the Flyers.

3 games to 1 lead for the Flyers over the Caps. They can seal the deal Saturday in D.C.

2 goals and an assist on the game-winner for Jeff Carter.

4 hits yesterday for Chris Coste, who was on base all 5 times, to lead the Phils’ offensive explosion over the Astros, 10-2. Bring on the Mets.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Yes, Philly fans have a certain reputation. We call it passion. Other places it’s called something else. Washington Post reporter Mike Wise took issue with Flyers’ fans, and said so rather stridently in print. The Flyers took exception and decided to hand out copies of his column to all 20,000 folks entering the building last night. The move was blocked by the Post’s lawyers. Maybe everybody should just lighten up a tad. This is a sport after all. Oh, I almost forgot the Flyers’ playoff mantra: Vengeance now. Never mind.

I Don’t Get It: C. Scott Shields is mayor of Rutledge. He’s also a lawyer. He’s representing the NRA in their efforts to have new gun control laws signed by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter blocked. Yesterday a judge agreed with him and issued a temporary injunction until a full hearing can be held. But Shields is not done. He wants criminal charges filed against Nutter for “official oppression.” I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for Bethel Township Police Officer Brian Rowe, who helped grant the wish of 3-year-old Evan Nickle. The youth is battling cancer. He wants to be a cop and has always wanted to visit a jail. Rowe, with an assist from some colleagues in Upper Chichester, made it happen. It appeared on a local TV station. Right after it appeared in our Cop Shop column, which appears every Thursday. Nice job, officer.


Quote Box: “I’d advise every resident of Philadelphia to go out and buy their guns now.”

-- C. Scott Shields, a Delaware County lawyer who is representing the NRA, on the fight over new gun control laws in the city.

The final weekend

Here’s your Friday morning update on the road to the Pennsylvania Primary:

* 4 days until Pennsylvania goes to the polls on April 22. We are careening into the final weekend.

Apparently Hillary Clinton has developed quite an appetite for Delco. After waiting until the last week of the campaign to show up on our turf, she’s been hanging out in these environs regularly this week.

She hoofed it around Drexel Hill on Sunday. Yesterday she was at Haverford College with daughter Chelsea and her mother.

Today she is planning a town hall meeting at Radnor High School with Congressman Joe Sestak. The event is scheduled for 11 a.m.

Husband Bill will be criss-crossing the state today and tomorrow, starting this morning in Moon Township, and then on to Connelsville, Somerset, Upper Dublin High School in Fort Washington, Lansdale and finally in Philly. He’s right back out on the road tomorrow, with events in Wilkes-Barre, Meadville, Hermitage, Beaver Falls and Waynesburg.

Barack Obama will be in Erie and Williamsport today, followed by a rally at 6 p.m. on Independence Mall in Philly.

Then tomorrow he’s planning a train tour on the R5 Paoli line, with stops in Wynnewood, Paoli, Downingtown, Lancaster and finally Harrisburg.

Missing the message

For the third straight day today we are featuring a story about the pope’s visit to the United States on the front page of our print edition.

It’s an important story. A visit by the pope always is. But I hope that you notice the way we are approaching this story.

We are trying to tell much of the story through the eyes of Delaware County residents who are attending the events. Yesterday we talked to several local folks lucky enough to be attending the Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in Washington, D.C. We will do the same on Sunday with the Mass at Yankee Stadium.

That did not stop one reader from calling to complain yesterday that we were giving the pope’s message short shrift. He believed we were missing the pope’s message while telling the story of the local flavor to his visit. He might have had a point. We have focused on the local angle.

But then he went over the line. He believes we did so on purpose, that we were willfully downplaying the pope’s message of hope and especially his thoughts on healing the pain caused by the church’s sex abuse scandal.

“If it’s a priest being arrested for abuse, it’s all over the front page,” he pointed out. “You’re missing his message.”

We are delivering a message. We are striving to deliver how the visit has affected people from Delaware County who are in attendance.

Obviously that’s not the message this gentleman wanted to hear.

The OT dilemma

There is almost nothing in sports that is better than overtime playoff NHL hockey.

Unless you happen to be a newspaper editor.

OT is great for fans. And for TV stations. But when you’re staring down the barrel of a firm deadline for a print edition, it creates no small amount of angst.

Yes, I’m as happy as anyone that the Flyers won last night. The fan in me admits that the longer they play, the more interesting it gets. Last night they rolled through one overtime and were rolling through OT period No. 2 when Mike Knuble finally lit the lamp to give the Flyers a commanding 3-1 lead over the Caps.

Me? I was long gone at that point. The truth is I’m lucky most nights now to make it to the 10 o’clock news. But it doesn’t change the challenge facing our writers and desk personnel. They are sitting here on pins and needles, with production people glaring at them wanting to know where the rest of those pages are?

Luckily, the game ended about 11 p.m. That left us 40 minutes to deadline for our first edition. We obviously got the game in for the full run.

I still remember a few years back when the Flyers and Penguins played almost to the next morning. This is the playoffs, remember. There’s no shootout. They play until someone scores.

Or until the editor passes out.

The best thing about the Internet

I admit to being something of a dinosaur. By that I mean I’m not the most technologically advanced homo sapiens. What can I say, I’m a print guy.

And yet I am fascinated by the burgeoning technology we are using more and more every day in the newspaper business.

If you’re ogling this, you know that I write a daily online blog. I also love the fact that, while our print edition edition comes with some built-in handicaps, those are obliterated when we move into the cyber world.

We can only get so much information into the print edition each day. It’s a finite product. Some of the toughest decisions I make really and truly are not what is going to make it into print each day, but all the stuff that is not. That becomes a non-issue online. The only thing limiting us is how fast we can shovel the information out there.

There is also the matter of time. We print our newspaper once each day and deliver in the early a.m. hours. But news does not stop. Now, neither do we. We can publish information 24 hours a day on our Web site. We can break news immediately, then update it constantly throughout the day.

But the truth is there is one simple thing that is my favorite aspect of the Internet. I was reminded of it again yesterday.

We had posted an early item yesterday morning with some of the initial details concerning a deadly shooting in Upper Darby. But in doing so we listed the incident as occurring on Hampton Road. Which would be fine except for the fact that (as we all know) it is actually spelled Hampden Road.

An online reader called to bring this to my attention. And with a combination of keystrokes, Voila!, it never happened. Hampton magically became Hampden.

That’s as opposed to print, which as I stress to my staff every day, is FOREVER! Once it leaves our plant, there is nothing I can do to retrieve it. I can assure you there have been mornings when I would like nothing more than to visit every house in Delaware County and politely ask them, “Uh, would you mind if I take that paper back.”

As I told another group of students I was speaking with this week, your teachers have not been entirely truthful with you. They teach that the dinosaurs are extinct. I am proof standing in front of you that that is not the case.

Bring in some more technology. Who says you can’t teach an old dinosaur new tricks?