Friday, May 30, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 30

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


4.01 a gallon, another all-time record.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

One heartless thief

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

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

You want to talk about a heartless thief.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But then this is a family blog.

Nothing average about price of gas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No 'Sex' for me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bring on the Marlins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 29

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

New meaning for Hero Bowl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making a little gas history

We stand on the precipice of some painful history.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Break up the Phillies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 28

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

Controversy is getting hotter in Colwyn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the controversy in Colwyn is burning hotter than ever.

The wheels of justice

They say the wheels of justice move slowly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The daily pain at the pump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Phillies juggernaut

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 26

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

A hote vote in Colwyn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A national movement with its roots in Delco

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well done, Carmella.

A gem of a holiday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It doesn’t get much better than that.

Phils break out the lumber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, hey, the bullpen has been very good.

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

These guys carry big sticks.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A valuable lesson at the end of a long week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is just the start.

Pain at the pump -- and the grill

Now they’ve gone too far.

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s not what really has me frosted.

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

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

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

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

Wildwood Daze

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

Drumroll please. And the winner is …

Wildwood.

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

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

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

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

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

Playing by the Manuel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 22

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


4 times on base for Shane Victorino.


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


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


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


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

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

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

Race-ing into our ugly past

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

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

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

Maybe we should start in Upper Darby and Lansdowne.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More gas pains

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Howard's End, and maybe end of slump

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 21

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


2.61 ERA for the ace of the Phillies staff.


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


11 strikeouts for the lefty phenom.


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


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


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

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

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

Soothing voices in a very tough time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And one of the things I will try to emulate.

Case closed at Boeing, at least half of it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Dems, the Clinton conundrum

Another day, another split decision for Democrats.

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

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

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

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

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

King Cole

Thank god for Cole Hamels.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 20

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

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


4.78 the average price for diesel fuel.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


7 hits is all the Phils managed, zero runs.


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


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


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

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

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

Keep on truckin'? Not at Jevic

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

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

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

Forever.

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

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

That gives a whole new meaning to gas pains.

Gas pains

Well, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The price statewide in Pennsylvania is $3.81 a gallon.

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

Time to break out the bike.

3 in a row for Phils

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shooting for 101 sounds like the summer of our discontent.

Mourning one of our own

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until it involves one of your own.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philip E. Heron is editor of the Daily Times. Call him at (610) 622-8818. E-mail him at editor@delcotimes.com. To visit his daily blog, the Heron’s Nest, go to www3.allaroundphilly.com/blogs/delcotimes/philh/blog.html.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 19

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


*


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

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

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

Hunt for vandal heats up at Boeing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s because they know what is at stake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philly vs. the NRA

There will be another gun battle in Philadelphia today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nutter says he will not back down.

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

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

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

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

Finale is the Pitts for Flyers

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

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

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

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

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

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

General Manager Paul Holmgren pretty much summed up the challenge.

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 16

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


*


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

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

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

Confession time for Pastor Klever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forgiveness might take a little longer.

Some serious turbulence at Boeing

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

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

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

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

That leaves you with only one conclusion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flyers not dead yet

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

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

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

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

Now it’s back to Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon.

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

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

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

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

Hey, it beats making tee times.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- May 15

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

A good story out of Iraq

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A hot situation in Colwyn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll be waiting to hear the results.