Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Daily Numbers - December 31

The Daily Numbers: 1 dead and one serious injured in what police in Upper Darby are calling a murder-suicide attempt.
4.6 acre parcel that developers of the Chester soccer stadium project want added to a Keystone Opportunity Zone for tax breaks. They’re locked in a dispute with the Chester Upland School District Empowerment Board.
1.8 million dollars in sales taxes the group would save if they can add that parcel to the KOZ.
115 million dollars, how much the developers will spend on the stadium.
4 percent jump in taxes under the new budget in Newtown Township.
1 million dollars more in spending in this year’s Sharon Hill budget, although council will not hike taxes.
15 percent decline in homicides in Philadelphia this year. The city had 392 homicides last year, compared to 332 so far in 2008.
11 city libraries that have gotten a temporary reprieve with a judge saying Mayor Michael Nutter cannot close them without getting the OK from city council.
10 statues of the baby Jesus that were stolen from various Nativity displays in Bucks County. Police have recovered them and are looking for the owners. It is believed to have been a prank played by kids. Bah, humbug!
60 exotic birds removed by state animal investigators from a home in Monroe County that was described as being “deplorable.”
1 dead in the crash of a small plane in Hunterdon County, New Jersey.
1 dollar, what someone paid for the 80-year-old Beesley’s Point Bridge that links Somers Point and Upper Township down at the Jersey shore.
500 workers getting pink slips at QVC in West Chester, which is eliminating jobs in its distribution center.
10 a.m., time the Mummers Parade will kick off Thursday morning on Broad Street in South Philly.
1.69 a gallon, average price for gas in the Philadelphia region, after prices dipped another 2 cents.
15 to 1, odds on the Eagles winning the Super Bowl after they made the playoffs.
14,000 tickets still available to Sunday’s NFC Wild Card game pitting the Eagles against the Giants at the Metrodome.
40 percent of Vikings season ticket holders that decided to skip the playoff game.
1 win in 3 tries on the road for the Flyers, who beat the Canucks in Vancouver last night, but might have lost Simon Gagne in the process.

*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Something that should concern Eagles fans. The Vikings have the No. 1 defense against the run in the NFL. That could lead Andy Reid to throw the ball on Sunday. A lot.
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I Don’t Get It: Be safe tonight. Don’t drink and drive. And please don’t take part in that other odd New Year’s tradition, firing off weapons to mark the new year. Here’s a tip: What goes up must come down.
*
Today’s Upper: Hey, we survived another year. At this point, we’ll take it.

Quote Box: “All I want is our piece of the action.”
-- Juan Baughn, Chester Upland Empowerment Board member, on a request for tax breaks from the developer of the city’s new soccer stadium.

Two celebrations we can do without

I wrote about this last year and it bears repeating.
Go ahead, don the party hats, make all the noise you want tonight.
After all, we only turn the calendar over once a year.
But there are two specific things no one should do at midnight. No, singing 'Auld Lang Syne is not one of them.
No, we're targeting a couple of other so-called traditions.
First, if you are planning to imbibe, do not get behind the wheel. Make sure someone in the group is tabbed to be the designated driver. Call a cab. Many nightspots actually will pay for the ride home.
We deal with enough sad stories here at the newspaper every day. We really don't need to kick off the new year with more tragedy, lives damaged or needlessly lost because someone decided they were "fine" and drove home when they had no business getting behind the wheel.
Need another reason? There will be lots of DUI checkpoints out there. Want to start the new year behind bars?
There's one other tradition we'll take a solid stand against. That would be the inane practice of firing off guns to ring in the new year.
Have you ever heard the old adage, "What goes up must come down?" Same goes for bullets.
There are more than enough gun problems plaguing our towns. Let's not add any more.
Here's hoping for a great -- and most of all safe -- new year!

Sad way to end the year

Break out the lamp shades, silly hats and those huge glasses in the shape of 2009.
That’s 364 down, one to go. Yes, it’s the final day of 2008.
And unfortunately, the year is going out in the same fashion it rang in so many days this year in Delaware County.
Violently.
Police in Upper Darby say a man showed up at the home of his girlfriend’s parents. He was looking for her. And he was not in a good mood.
He attacked her while her family, including her little sister, looked on in horror.
He eventually chased her upstairs into a bathroom. That’s where the girlfriend was found stabbed to death.
The boyfriend then apparently tried to take his own life, according to Upper Darby police.
Damn sad way to end the year, one that has been all too familiar in 2008.

Andy's future

Most Eagles fans, myself included, believe that miracle that landed in the Birds’ laps Sunday, with them crushing the Cowboys and getting into the playoffs, likely means the return of Andy Reid as head coach next year.

Beat writer Bob Grotz is not among them. Check out what Bob thinks might happen here.

Fascinating stuff.

A caution about those Vikings

Here’s a caveat for Eagles fans still juiced about the almost surreal turn of events that landed the Birds a spot in the NFC playoffs.

It has to do with their opponent on Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings. One of the things the Vikes do very well is stop the run. In fact, they have the No. 1 ranked defense against the run in the NFL.

This should set off alarm bells for Eagles fans. Specifically those who fear that Andy Reid is just itching to go back to his pass-happy offense at the first sign of a stumble in his run game.

The truth is the Birds likely will have to pass the ball to beat the Vikings. But they can’t abandon the run, and they certainly can’t throw on 16 straight plays, as they did in the abominable effort against the Redskins two weeks ago.

My prediction in this game will not come until it’s usual slot in this space on Saturday. In the meantime, yes, I think there is reason to be worried.

Born to run? Not this coach. And not his team. That might lead to a win against the Vikings. But it could mean disaster the following week against the Giants.

If that’s the case, Reid could find himself running for cover.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Dec. 30

The Daily Numbers: 8 people homeless after a raging fire roared through their twin homes in Colwyn. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries.
2 million dollars in tax savings being sought by developers of the new soccer stadium in Chester.
6 incidents of retail theft recorded at stores in Springfield in recent days.
3,600 homes in Chester who will have a new choice when it comes to cable TV service in the New Year. The city has cut a deal with Verizon for its FIOS service.
69,117 dollars that have poured in to the Merry Christmas Fund, soaring way over our goal of $50,000 to help the Salvation Army.
39 dollar tax hike facing residents in Colwyn under the new borough budget.
2 more days before the Mummers strut their stuff up Broad Street on New Year’s Day.
6 hours of strutting on tap this year, with budget cuts meaning a shorter parade route.
14, age of boy in Claymont who a 38-year-old woman is charged with having sex with.
12 Metro PCS stores in Philadelphia that have been the targets of holdup attempts. 5 people have been charged in one of the heists.
10 percent hike in natural gas costs for PECO heating customers, starting on Thursday.
2 cent dip in the price of gasoline in the Philly region over the weekend. Average price at pump is now $1.71. It’s $1.41 in South Jersey. Almost worth the trip across the bridge.
7 persons killed in a fire in a home in Southwest Philly that officials now say was caused by a person mistakenly filling a kerosene heater with gasoline.
20 percent of Philadelphia’s 54 library branches that could be shuttered under a plan by Mayor Michael Nutter. It continues to be hotly debated in the city. Nutter is trying to find ways to save some of the facilities.
66 percent of home buyers who now report it’s a “good time” to buy in the Philadelphia area market, according to a study by Prudential Fox & Roach.
36 million dollars, that’s how much “Marley & Me” took in at the box office over the weekend, winning the holiday weekend movie competition.
2 to 1, odds in Vegas that the Giants will repeat as Super Bowl champions.
20,000 tickets still available to Sunday’s NFC Wild Card game pitting the Eagles against the Giants at the Metrodome.
120 bucks a ticket for two seats in the upper deck on the 30-yard line, snagged online.
1 tie against the Bengals that allowed the Birds to make the playoffs.

*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Andy Reid is not going anywhere. Except to Metrodome for the NFC playoffs. Reid will be back next year. Whether or not that is a good thing is still to be determined.
*
I Don’t Get It: Vandals decided to leave their calling card – spray-painted graffiti - on St. Joseph’s Church in Collingdale. I don’t get it.
*
Today’s Upper: Kudos to all who are coming up big for the Salvation Army through our Merry Christmas Fund. We soared over our goal of $50,000 and now stand at more than $69,000 raised to help the Salvation Army.

Quote Box: “It’s from play to play and you’re criticized for the bad and praised for the good. It’s a great atmosphere for football.”
-- Andy Reid, on coaching and playing with the Eagles in Philadelphia.

Dandy, Andy

Fans of this blog (yes, both of you) may recall an item that appeared here last week.

I wrote it Monday morning, still seething over the Eagles’ performance against the Redskins the day before. The Eagles held their playoff destiny in their hands. All they had to do was win their final two games, against Washington and Dallas, and they were in, regardless of what other playoff contenders did.

Of course, the Eagles responded to this challenge by basically failing to catch the train to D.C. They played one of the most dreadful games of the Andy Reid era, losing 10-3 and at the same time losing control of their destiny.

It shook out like this. The Eagles needed about a thousand things to go their way, then beat the Cowboys, to have a shot at the playoffs. Of course, that’s exactly what happened. Call it the Christmas miracle, three days late.

Now back to last week. In that blog item I posted Monday morning, I indicated it was time for Andy Reid to go. And that he should take Donovan McNabb, L.J. Smith, Reggie Brown and Greg Lewis with him.

Yesterday, most “experts” – fans and media members alike – were busy falling on their swords. Pushed by those still loyal to Reid, it was pointed out how wrong all those “experts” had been.

I’m hardly an expert. I’m just a fan. And I’m still not ready to admit that I was wrong.

Oh, I can admit Reid is now going to be back next year. I think it’s pretty likely McNabb will join him. Making the playoffs will do that for you.

But I still have my concerns about both Reid and McNabb. Reid remains stubborn to a fault, a pass-happy coach in a league in which the balance of power has now switched to the run. McNabb continues to be inconsistent, still throwing balls into the ground when receivers are wide open right in front of him, and for some reason now seemingly reluctant to use one of his best weapons – his legs. Again on Sunday there were instances where McNabb easily could have rambled for a first down, but instead tried to complete a pass only to toss another worm-burner.

That argument now will be left for another day. The bottom line is the Eagles are in the playoffs. And it says here they have as good a shot as anyone else in the NFC to be playing for the chance to go to the Super Bowl.

That begins Sunday in Minnesota, where Reid will face his old offensive coordinator Brad Childress.

Will we get the “effective balance” Andy who does not give up on the run, or the “mad scientist” pass-happy guy who decides to throw the ball 70 times? The Vikings are very good against the run. The argument would be that the Eagles will have to throw the ball to beat them. I think that would be a mistake.

And I think Reid knows it. Or at least I hope he does. Maybe, just maybe over the volcanic last couple of weeks, Reid has discovered that elusive “balance.”

That would make the Eagles a very dangerous team in the playoffs. I think they beat the Vikes, then brace for a titanic tilt with the Giants.

Andy Reid isn’t going anywhere. Except to Minnesota and then to the Meadowlands. And he’s taking Donovan McNabb with him.

No place like dome

Apparently playoff fever has not yet arrived in Minnesota.

The Vikings face the Eagles on Sunday in an NFC Wild Card contest. But the Vikes’ fans are as chilly as the weather outdoors.

Somehow Minnesota just does not seem like the same football region since the Vikings moved into the comfy confines of the Metrodome. They should be playing outside, where they had one of the great home-field advantages in sports.

I always wondered what legendary Vikings coach Bud Grant would have thought of moving their games indoors. How are you supposed to see your breath in perfect 72-degree weather?

Apparently fans in the Twin Cities have not exactly warmed up to head coach Brad Childress. If the name sounds familiar, it should.

Yep, that’s the same Brad Childress who once served as Andy Reid’s offensive coordinator. He’s got Andy’s sense of public relations as well. He’s not exactly a quote machine.

Bottom line? If you want to head to Minnesota for Sunday’s game, getting a ticket likely won’t be a problem. Right now there are about 20,000 tickets available for Sunday’s contest. It is expected that the playoff game might wind up being blacked out in the local TV market.

Imagine that kind of heresy here? The Metrodome might wound up being more of a home field for the Birds than the Vikes, should the local faithful decide to invade the joint on Sunday.

Keep saying to yourself: There’s no place like dome….

Mindless graffiti: Is there another kind?

It takes a certain kind of anger to target someone else’s property and deface it with graffiti.

But when the object of that wrath is a local church, that’s taking it to a whole new low.

Officials in Collingdale are trying to determine who is responsible for spray-painting graffiti on St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church.

There doesn’t seem to be any specific anti-Catholic action at work here. Just the work of some lowlife knuckleheads.

Let’s hope they catch these neanderthals quickly.

And for their penance ….

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Christmas miracle ... for Eagles fans

Christmas came late for Eagles fans. Exactly three days late.

In a wild day that will go down as one of the most memorable in Eagles' history, a bizarre chain of events fell like dominos to create the perfect scenario: Eagles vs. Cowboys with the winner going to the playoffs and the loser going home.

The result? A 44-6 demolition of the hated Cowboys and a spot in the playoffs. Ho, ho, ho indeed.

Here's what had to happen: First and foremost, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had to lose their fourth straight game to the suddenly rejuvenated Oakland Raiders. Presto! The Bucs cought it up. Then comes step two. Either the Bears or Vikes also had to lose. While the Vikings didn't help the cause, beating the Giants, the Bears stepped into the breech and flopped against the Texans.

Suddenly, the game everyone believed was going to be meaningless suddenly was for all the marbles.

And you could almost see the "gulp" in the Cowboys' throats.

Dallas promptly came out and got crushed at a raucous Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles won, 44-6, to capture the final NFC Wild Card slot. They will play in Minnesota next Sunday at 4:30.

Forget all those chants for Andy Reid's head. Yesterday's win - and another playoff appearance - pretty much save his job for another year. The future for Donovan McNabb - who simply could not resist taking on the mantel of martyr after the game - is not as clear, but it would seem he also will be back.

For now, Eagles fans simply can revel in a day to remember.

It was a day when everything had to break their way. And did.

Now the Eagles need to cash the ticket that fell into their lap. They need to go to Minnesota and play the way they did yesterday in manhandling the 'Boys.

Merry Christmas, Eagles fans.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

This was supposed to mean something. It was going to be the capper to the holiday week. Eagles-Cowboys at the Linc. Winner take all, or at least a playoff spot.

Only one problem. The Eagles failed to show up on offense at Washington last week. They lost, 10-7, making Sunday's clash with the Cowboys mean a lot less than it might have.

The truth is the Eagles, who held their fare in their hands as they walked onto the field last Sunday in D.C., now are the longest of long shots. And once again, they will know when they take the field if their faint playoff heart beat is still ticking.

It says here they are dead meat. The Bucs' late season El Foldo will not include going belly-up at home against the Raiders. The Tampa win will officially end the Eagles' shot.

It will not, however, end the intrigue surruonding the Birds vs. 'Boys. That's because that while we have spent the week lamenting Andy Reid, Donovan McNabb and the Eagles' inept offense, going unsaid is that all the Cowboys need to do is win to make the playoffs. That's right. Dallas still controls its fate.

And while the Eagles may take the field knowing their playoff hopes are over, they also will take the field knowing they can eliminate the hated Cowboys.

Don't get too excited. The Eagles are not up to the task. Oh, they may be on defense. But when it comes to offense, I'll take a page out of Reid's playbook. I'll pass.

Make it Cowboys 27, Eagles 16.

Turn out the lights, the party's over. Then we can wait for Andy to take to the podium Monday and announce that next year he is going to be need to do a better job of putting player in position to make plays.

Don't wait for Jeff Lurie or Joe Banner to end this misery. They're joined at the hip with Reid. Instead, I think they'll dump this mess of a season in McNabb's lap and look to make a new start with Kevin Kolb next year.

When do pitchers and catchers report?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Dec. 23

The Daily Numbers: 81, age of Marie Ott, who was brutally murdered in her Ridley Township home back in October. Police have charged Jermaine Burgess in her killing. It’s the second murder charge filed against him in a matter of days.
5 inches, how deep one of the stab wounds inflicted on Ott penetrated her body, according to police.
14 straight Christmases in jail for H. Beatty Chadwick, who was again denied a furlough to spend the holiday with his family. He’s been in jail on a civil contempt charge longer than any other American.
1,000 jobs added to the local economy by Harrah’s Casino in Chester.
8 bucks, how much a teen got when he pulled a gun on a person on a Chester street over the weekend.
35,775 dollars raised to date in our annual holiday fund drive, the Merry Christmas Fund. We need a big push to hit our goal of $50,000 to help the Salvation Army. We got a huge boost yesterday when more than $6,000 flowed into the fund.
5 Muslim suspects convicted of conspiracy in a plot to kill soldiers at Fort Dix. They were acquitted of the more serious charges of attempted murder, but they still could face life in prison.
1 person killed in a crash last night on Route 252 in Newtown Square.
6 years old, that would be the murder of Jennifer Whipkey in South Jersey. Police made an arrest in the cold case yesterday.
10,000 dollar reward now being posted for the return for a cache of weapons believed worth $200,000 from a truck in the parking lot of an eatery in King of Prussia.
28, age of suspect charged in Delaware in a fatal hit-and-run that took the life of an emergency technician who was offering assistance at the scene of a motorcycle accident.
7 robberies believed to be the work of 3 armed suspects in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.
3 violent home invasions, including an attack on a Penn student, believed to be the work of the same person.
1 person in critical condition after flames roared through her apartment in South Philly early this morning.
66 percent of home buyers who now report it’s a “good time” to buy in the Philadelphia area market, according to a study by Prudential Fox & Roach.
24 hours, how long the Forman Mills store on Aramingo Avenue in Philly will stay open on Tuesday, with a percentage of sales going to help the Mummers.
2 cent decline in the price we’re paying at the pump. Average cost of gas in the Philly area now stands at $1.74.
39.91, what a barrel of crude oil is now going for, that’s down another 6 percent.
70 years of producing cars for Toyota. They posted their first loss ever yesterday.
1 foot short of the end zone for Reggie Brown, after he gathered in that 17-yard strike from Donovan McNabb as time expired.
4:15 starting time for the Birds vs. Cowboys Sunday at the Linc. The game was changed from 1 for TV. By then it is likely the Eagles will already know if their slim playoff hopes have expired.
18, as in No. 18. That would be Villanova, which struggled a bit before sinking Navy last night, 78-68.
*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Anyone catch any of the Bears game last night? They played just like the Eagles – for three quarters. Then they woke up and played with the kind of urgency the Eagles never showed on Sunday.
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I Don’t Get It: How can people show the kind of cold, callous, brutal actions that took the lives of Hoa Pham and Marie Ott? It’s scary what people are capable of.
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Today’s Upper: Kudos to all who are coming up big for the Salvation Army through our Merry Christmas Fund. Yesterday more than $6,000 poured in, raising the total to more than $35,000. We still have a way to go to hit our goal of $50,000.

Quote Box: “I had to be here. He destroyed two families’ lives. None of us will ever get over it.”
-- Joseph Elia, son of murder victim Marie Ott, on why he was in court yesterday as the man charged in her killing was brought to justice.

For 2 families, a sorrowful sense of closure

Delaware County is a safer place today. Jermaine Burgess is no longer walking among us.

Unfortunately, that come as little comfort to the families of Hoa Pham and Marie Ott.

They will take solace in knowing police now believe they know who is responsible for their loved one’s heinous deaths.

Burgess was picked up on Saturday morning after DNA evidence gathered by Upper Darby police investigating the brutal home invasion that took the life of Pham linked him to the attack.

Police did not expect what happened next.

The horrific murder of Ott, whose body had been found in her home in the Derwood Park section of Ridley Township back in October, had been unsolved. Family members believed the trail was growing cold.

Enter Jermaine Burgess. Police in Upper Darby indicate that after he was taken into custody in the Pham killing, Burgess volunteered that he also was responsible for killing Ott. They contacted police in Ridley Township.

Yesterday Burgess was hauled into district court in Ridley and charged in Ott’s murder.

It is hard to fathom the brutality that went into these two home invasions and killings. In both instances, the victims were tied up and brutally attacked.

Upper Darby police Superintendent Mike Chitwood is not one to mince words when it comes to describing criminals. He’s famous for slapping the term “scumbag” on those who perpetrate crimes on his turf.

But even Chitwood was taken aback a bit by what happened inside the Pham house.

On Saturday, with Burgess in custody, Chitwood referred to him as an “animal.”

When you see what happened inside the Pham house, and just a few weeks before that to Marie Ott, it’s hard to argue with him.

A sense of urgency - and execution

After telling us for weeks that “I have to do a better job of putting players in position to make plays,” Andy Reid on Monday repeated the obvious, only with different words.

The Eagles’ boss took the time to point out to the assembled media that wide receiver Reggie Brown was in fact not in the right place when he caught that last-second pass from Donovan McNabb. Reid said Brown needed to be in the end zone. Instead, he gathered the ball in mid-air just short of the goal line, and was immediately thrown backward by two swarming Redskin defenders.

Game, set and match, as the clock expired on the game – and likely the Eagles season.

It’s ironic that Reid, who rarely gives specifics when it comes to critiquing his team, singled out Brown. The wide receiver has been perceived to be in Reid’s dog house. The only reason he was in the lineup Sunday was because of injuries to Kevin Curtis and Hank Baskett. Brown had not even dressed for games the previous couple of weeks.

One other word struck me from Reid’s press conference. He lamented the team’s execution, especially on offense.

Which brings to mind the famous quote from then Tampa Bay coach John McKay, the USC legend, during the team’s horrible first year in the NFL. A scribe asked what McKay what thought of his team’s execution.

His pithy response: “I’m in favor of it.”

Such a response is clearly beyond Reid’s grasp.

Things didn’t get any easier for the Birds after the Monday night game, though there was a lesson to be learned from it.

The Bears won, thus keeping their playoff hopes alive and making the Eagles’ odds just that much longer.

But there was something very similar – and at the same time very different - about the way the Bears went about their business last night.

For the first three quarters they mimicked the Eagles, seemingly content to throw their season away as they trailed the Green Bay Packers.

Then suddenly, they seemed to realize what was at stake. They played with heart in the fourth quarter, blocked a last-second field goal by the Packers, and eventually won the game in overtime.

They displayed a sense of urgency.

Which is something most of the Eagles, especially those on offense, never did on Sunday.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Dec. 22

The Daily Numbers: 2 unsolved murders now being laid at the feet of Jermaine Burgess.
5 weeks from the time Hoa Pham’s body was discovered in his home until police were able to track down his suspected killer.
3 months, how long the family of Marie Ott of Ridley Township waited for an arrest in her brutal murder.
67,355,655 dollars, how much was wagered at Harrah’s Casino in Chester during the week of Dec. 8-14.
61,246,640 dollars paid out by Harrah’s during the same time.
2.8 percent tax hike looming in Glenolden, under the borough’s proposed budget.
29,635, how much has been raised to date in our annual holiday fund drive, the Merry Christmas Fund. We need a big boost to hit our goal of $50,000 to help the Salvation Army.
18 degrees, temperature outside as you head out the door this morning. The real-feel temperature is actually minus-3 degrees.
5 days, how long a jury has been deliberating the fate of 5 men charged in a plot to shoot soldiers at Fort Dix. They will continue trying to reach a verdict today.
24 machine guns and sniper rifles stolen from a pickup truck outside a pub in Montgomery County.
96 dogs seized during a raid by state dog wardens on a kennel in Ephrata.
1 officer wounded in a confrontation during a domestic dispute overnight in Abington. The officer is in stable condition.
22, age of woman sexually assaulted in the latest invasion of an apartment near the Penn campus.
12, age of boy missing in Delaware. Jayvon Moore of Oakmont was last seen around 3 p.m. Friday.
24 hours, how long some Macy’s stores are staying open as they count down toward Christmas.
20 years in jail for 2 brothers in the beating death of a Kutztown University student.
6.1 percent unemployment rate in Pa. after the state lost 26,000 jobs in November.
3 percent dip in travel being predicted in holiday travel by AAA as the nation lurches into the peak holiday travel season.
3 points posted by the Eagles as they fell to the Redskins, 10-3, all but killing off their slim playoff chances.
46 passes dialed up by Andy Reid during yesterday’s loss.
16 times the Eagles decided to run the ball.
*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Go ahead, admit it. You were furiously watching the crawl at the bottom of the 1 o’clock game yesterday and were jubilant when the Chargers pulled away from the Bucs. A lot of good it did us when the Eagles’ offense apparently failed to catch the train to D.C.
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I Don’t Get It: Donovan McNabb threw a pass to a receiver who was not in the end zone, but was in the middle of the field, with no time left on the clock. I don’t get it.
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Today’s Upper: Kudos to police who tracked down the man suspected of killing both Hoa Pham of Upper Darby and Marie Ott of Ridley Township.

Quote Box: “We can’t afford to put our heads down right now. We have to learn from this and get ready to for next week.”
-- Donovan McNabb, after yesterday’s brutal loss to the Redskins.

Reid it and weep

Andy Reid needs to go.

So does Donovan McNabb.

They can take Greg Lewis with him. And make room for L.J. Smith on the bus out of town. Reggie Brown can sit on L.J.’s lap.

The Eagles are not going to the playoffs. I know, mathematically they are still alive. But the truth is they died Sunday in Washington.

They had been given a Christmas gift earlier in the day when the Chargers went into Tampa Bay and knocked off the Buccaneers. The Eagles held their destiny in their hands. And, as they would continue to do much of the afternoon, they dropped it.

The Eagles managed to put a total of three points – a single David Akers field goal – on the board and lost 10-3. Their defense played outstanding. But their offense was just that, simply offensive.

You can start with the head coach. This was classic Andy Reid. All that talk of balance and an effective running game went out the window as Reid went back to his pass-happy ways. In the process he threw away a golden opportunity to reach the post-season.

Reid dialed up 46 passes to just 16 running plays. This on a day of howling winds in Fed Ex Field, when the Eagles took the field without two key wide receivers, Kevin Curtis and Hank Baskett. It would seem to be a day again to bank on their best weapon, Brian Westbrook. No chance. Instead at one point the Eagles actually threw the ball 15 straight times.

Lewis set the tone on the Birds’ first offensive series. After they appeared to be moving the ball, the wideout who was in the lineup because of injuries managed a false start. First and 15, end of drive.

Later there’s the vision of L.J. Smith dropping a key pass from McNabb.

There’s Brian Westbrook for whatever reason seeming not to want to run straight ahead for potential first down at a key point in the second half. A first down appeared to be in his sight. Instead he comes up short, and McNabb fumbles on the next play. That leads to game’s only touchdown, as the Redskins take a 10-0 lead.

In the final 39 seconds, there is the vision of Smith catching balls and not having the presence of mind to get out of bounds to stop the clock, costing the Eagles precious time. Of course, what game would be without a wasted timeout coming back to bite the Birds. They used their first timeout just 20 seconds into the second half.

Finally, with the Eagles driving toward what might be a tying score, did anyone have any confidence that they were going to get it into the end zone?

I’ll be honest. I was betting McNabb was going to throw a killer interception. He did not. He did something else we have seen before. The Eagles managed to waste time on just about every play, then found themselves with time for just one final play.

McNabb threw a pass to Reggie Brown at the 1-yard line. Brown never had a chance to get into the end zone. Amazingly, after the game he admitted he probably should have run the route a little deeper, like in the end zone. Have we seen that before? Oh, yeah. That’s the thing about the Andy Reid era, the same problems happening year after year.

I’ve seen it before. I’ve seen all of it. It didn’t keep me from screaming at the TV. And mulling another year without the playoffs.

That great week leading up to a showdown with the Dallas Cowboys? Forget it.

The season’s over.

To err may be human, but to air it out time after time is Andy Reid.

That era needs to end. The sooner the better.

Justice for Hoa Pham

It took more than a month, but Sunday morning justice was delivered for Hoa Pham.

It was back on Nov. 10 that the normally quiet Drexel Hill community was rocked by the news of the vicious home invasion that took the life of the respected member of the Vietnamese community.

The heinous nature of the crime, which involved both Pham and his wife being tied up and beaten over the course of several hours, struck a chord in the community.

People began to wonder if they were safe in their homes. The attack appeared to be random. Police theorized the home was targeted because it was dark inside. Actually, Pham and his wife were preparing for bed.

They confronted the intruder, and so started a horrific ordeal that snuffed out the life of a man who had survived the horror of the Vietnam war and being held a prisoner of war.

It was said that Hoa Pham survived the brutality of the Vietnam War, but could not survive the mean streets of Upper Darby.

It took more than a month, but police believe they now have the man responsible for the brutal attack that took Pham’s life.

And there’s a bonus.

Superintendent Michael Chitwood indicated Saturday that DNA evidence led them to a career criminal, Jermaine Burgess, 37. He was charged with murder and a slew of other offenses in the Upper Darby home invasion.

It turns out police were not done with Burgess. It is believed he has now been implicated in a second unsolved murder in Delaware County. Police and the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office are expected to file new charges against Burgess in the murder of Marie Ott of Ridley Township. Ott was found in her Crum Creek Drive home back on Oct. 27 by a family member. She had been tied up and stabbed. She was found with a plastic bag over her head.

Upper Darby police say Burgess confessed to his role in the Ott slaying after being taken into custody in the Pham murder. Upper Darby then contacted Ridley police.

It’s expected Burgess will be arraigned on murder charges this morning.

Those mean streets of Delaware County just got a lot safer.

Real-feel? It's just cold

Forget the wind-chill index.

The forecasters have a new toy. It’s called real-feel temperature. You’re going to be hearing a lot about it this morning. Why? It’s incredibly cold out.

I have no idea what the real-feel temperature is, or how you arrive at it. Whatever it is, it was registering at minus-3 degrees this morning. The actual temperature is 18 degrees.

Let me simplify this for you. It’s real cold out. Dress warmly, Don’t forget the long underwear, hat, scarves and gloves.

The good news is that if we survive today, things are going to moderate for the rest of the holiday week. It’s supposed to warm up tomorrow, we’ll be in the 40s, and stay there.

Of course, if you’re dreaming of a White Christmas, you might be out of luck. There’s a chance of rain each day through Friday.

I know, the TV forecasters will be disappointed. No big storm to detail. They were almost apoplectic on Friday at the dusting we got, as well as on Sunday morning, with that nasty combination of rain, show and ice. But by late-morning it was already melting and the sun was out by noon.

Hey, at least they have the real-feel to fall back on. Whatever it is.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

It's the banged-up Birds vs. the banged-up Redskins.

Add into the mix what is supposed to be lousy weather up and down the East Coast, including D.C., where the game is set for 4:15.

For some reason, I'm not thinking about the Redskins; I'm thinking about the Giants. Specifically, the way the Eagles beat the New Yorkers in howling winds in the Meadowlands a few weeks back.

That day the Eagles did two things they must do again on Sunday. First, they stopped the Giants' vaulted running game. You might remember the last time the Eagles faced the 'Skins at the Linc back in October, they wound up with Clinton Portis' tire tracks all over them. That can't happen again. And I don't think it wll. The Birds' defense, led by marauding middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, has been playing very well. And Portis seems more interested in sniping at first-year coach Jim Zorn than lugging the football. Plus he's banged up, too.

This game calls for another big dose of Brian Westbrook, so the Eagles can control the clock and keep Portis off the field.

The Eagles must win this game to keep their playoff hopes alive. And even then they still need help. Of course, they might get that in the 1 o'clock game if the Bucs should fold up at home against the Chargers. The Falcons are in Minnesota at the same time the Eagles are playing.

I think this one is a David Akers special. He kicks three field goals to keep the Birds alive.

Make it 24-13, Eagles.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Dec. 19

The Daily Numbers: 1 year and 1 week ago that Altimese Roberts, a 67-year-old grandmother, was found brutally slain in her home. On Thursday a “person of interest” was charged in the killing.
4.6 acre parcel that would be the site of a new stadium that would house the region’s new Major League Soccer team in Chester that developers would like to have added to a Keystone Opportunity Zone.
2 million dollars, how much the developers of the site would stand to save they get the tax break. Right now the Chester Upland School District wants to see developers offer more to city schools.
701 dollars, how much the average homeowner will pay in Springfield taxes next year. It’s the same as last year because the budget contains no tax hike.
22 dollar tax hike facing residents of Nether Providence after passage of the township budget.
0 tax hike for Chester residents as the city manages to keep the lid on spending with its new budget.
2 more persons on Chester’s Most Wanted List apprehended by police.
2 brazen daylight knife-point holdups along Bishop Avenue in Upper Darby believed to have been the work of the same person, who was busted by the combined work of Aldan and Upper Darby police.
81, age of man injured when his own car rolled over him in Ridley Park.
68, age of longtime Bethel Township Police Chief Dave Houser, who passed away this week.
11 slots licenses awarded by the state Gaming Control Board. One of them was not awarded to Donald Trump for a facility in Philly. He’s now suing the board.
19, age of suspect who was shot and killed when he refused to drop a suspected weapon when ordered to do so by a Philadelphia officer. It turned out to be a pellet gun.
24, age of school bus driver in Bear, Del., charged with having sex with a female middle school student on his bus.
26,000 jobs lost in Pennsylvania in November, according to state statistics.
50 years and 8.2 million vehicles built, all of which will come to an end today for the Chrysler plant in Newark, Del., which will shut down for good.
1,100 workers out of jobs when the plant shuts its doors for the last time. At its peak, it employed 5,600.
13 people arrested in a child porn probe in South Jersey. One of them is a high school music teacher. He’s chairman of the Fine Arts Department at West Deptford High School.
1 cent dip in average price of gas in the Philly region. We’re now paying $1.76 a gallon at the pumps.
2.1 percent decline in holiday travel predicted by AAA as the nation lurches into the peak holiday travel season.
5 game win streak snapped when the Flyers fell to the Canadiens last night.
4:15 time for Eagles-Redskins game Sunday. By then we’ll know if the Bucs fell to the Chargers. The Falcons also are in Minnesota in another late game Sunday.
*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Reggie Brown can’t figure out why he has been dropped from the starting rotation of Eagles wide receivers. Try looking at your hands, Reggie.
*
I Don’t Get It: Humane officials have busted up an operation in Wilkes-Barre in which kittens were branded with ear, neck and tail piercings. The kitties were being marketed on the Internet as “gothic kittens.”
*
Today’s Upper: Kudos to Chester cops, who continue to bag more and more members of their Most Wanted List. They got two more yesterday.

Quote Box: “They’re looking for something that’s going to benefit them by $2 million. And they’ve offered us a soccer coach.”
-- Marc Wooley, chairman of the Chester Upland Empowerment Board, on request by developers of the new soccer stadium to include the parcel in a Keystone Opportunity Zone to get some big tax breaks.

Not exactly taken by storm

So much for Round 1 of the great winter storm watch. I had a feeling this was going to happen.

I somehow managed to make it into work this morning, despite the dire predictions that we would be buffeted with a winter storm. Here’s an update at 7 a.m. It hasn’t arrived yet.

Maybe it’s going to the north of us, slamming into the Lehigh Valley and Poconos. You know they have now somehow morphed into part of the infamous northern and western suburbs.

For some reason, 12 schools have decided to either close or open late. I hope none of them are in Delaware County. The big news, as I just heard from our friends on TV, is that the roads are dry. How’s that for a headline.

Hey, maybe I’ll be proven wrong. Maybe it’s still en route. I’ll believe it when it gets here, and even then it sounds like for our area it’s going to be a rain event.

Doesn’t matter. It’s likely snowing somewhere. And that means big news for TV.

Besides, even if this storm misses us, another storm is forecast for Sunday.

Stay tuned.

Our night at the mall

Many thanks to those hearty souls who greeted us during our promotional event at Granite Run Mall last night.

I was on hand, along with columnist Gil Spencer, sports columnist Jack McCaffery, publisher Frank Gothie and staff writer John Roman. It was honor to be joined by Capt. Jose Santiago of the Chester Salvation Army, as well as his delightful daughter.

Several people made donations to our annual holiday drive, the Merry Christmas Fund. All proceeds benefit the operations of the Salvation Army and their crucial work in the city.

If you’d like to contribute, there’s still plenty of time. However, do not mail contributions to the Daily Times. Mail checks or money orders only to: Salvation Army, Box 1032, Brookhaven, PA 19015.

Also, contributors can make a donation online by logging on to the Salvation Army Web site, www.salvationarmychester.org.

Special thanks to the gentleman wearing the West End Boat Club, who regaled us on his memories of Reyburn’s Tavern in Chadds Ford and its 100-year-old proprietor, who recently passed away.

When he learned I was a native of Oxford, out in Chester County, the man took me on a walk down memory lane, spouting off a bunch of familiar names and old, longtime family friends.

It’s those kind things that make the holiday special.

The weekend football watch

Let’s move directly to the important news of the weekend – the NFL TV lineup.

The Eagles don’t play until 4:15 with their annual visit to the nation’s capital to play the Redskins.

But things actually start on Saturday night, when the Cowboys entertain the Ravens. Baltimore’s defense is brutal, but you would think Dallas should prevail at home. You almost have to root for the ‘Boys. I’ll tell you why in a minute.

At 1 you’ll want to check out the Chargers in Tampa Bay game. Let’s go, ‘Bolts. Just don’t bet the house on it. Tampa has not lost at home yet this year.

The Eagles need a loss by either the Bucs or the Falcons. Maybe the Chargers can muster one more decent effort before packing it in for the year. I wouldn’t count on it, though.

That takes us to 4. At the same time the Eagles and Redskins are tangling on Fox-29, the Falcons will be playing in Minnesota. This is the one we should pin our hopes on.

The Vikings need the game to clinch the NFC North title. The Falcons do not play well on the road. We’ll be on the edge of our seats every time they break away from the Eagles game for one of those updates by Curt Menefee, along with Howie and Terry.

Of course, none of this means a thing if the Eagles don’t win their game against the Redskins. After a decent start under first-year coach Jim Zorn, the ‘Skins have fallen apart. Now the finger-pointing is starting.

The Eagles would be wise to take control of this game early, put their cleats on the Redskins’ throat and not let up. If they get an early lead, the Redskins might just pack it in.

If all the dominos fall into place, we could be looking at the perfect Christmas week extravaganza. A full week of buildup before the Eagles and Cowboys meet on the last day of the season to decide the final playoff spot.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Dec. 18

The Daily Numbers: 6.5 hours, length of the new, shorter Mummers Parade on New Year’s Day under a deal OK’d by the groups and the city.
300,000 dollars, cap the city has placed on what it will pay toward the tab for the annual strut up Broad Street.
47,000 dollars, minimum that Mummers organizations likely will be left on the hook for, and that does not count the prize money that has already been eliminated by the city.
50,000 dollars, how much U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, D-1, is vowing to raise to help the Mummers pay their bills.
1 person nabbed and 1 still being sought by police in Norristown in what is being described as a “thrill killing,” basically an execution that took place during a robbery.
1,000 jobs being slashed by health insurer Aetna, 165 of them in the Philadelphia region.
10 percent fewer employees in the airline industry, as compared to this time 4 years ago, and 6 percent fewer that last year.
30 Chrysler production plans in the U.S. being idled for an additional 2 weeks over the holidays. The shutdown takes place Friday and will last a month.
2 years in jail for an electrical contractor in Philly who pleaded guilty to 99 criminal counts, including doing work on a labor leader’s home free of charge.
4.2 billion dollar dip in winnings for Atlantic City casinos in the first 11 months of the year, that’s down 6.7 percent.
18 researchers at the University of Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology being laid off.
2 straight wins for the Sixers, who rallied for to beat the Bucks last night, 93-88.
25 points for Lou Williams, who led the team with a huge effort off the bench.
16 straight wins for the Celtics, who escaped with a win in Atlanta last night, 88-85.
*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
I give up trying to figure out Donovan McNabb. The guy seems to have some kind “victim” complex. Whatever, it now appears as if both he and Andy Reid will be back for one more year. Let’s all adopt Al Davis philosophy: Just win, baby.
*
I Don’t Get It: A man who was the victim of a street robbery in Norristown complied with his attackers. They shot and killed him anyway. Police are referring to it as a “thrill killing.” Nice.
*
Today’s Upper: Big boost for our Merry Christmas Fund to help out the Salvation Army with their work yesterday. More than $4,400 poured in, pushing the total over $29,000. We still have a ways to go to hit our $50,000 goal.

Quote Box: “It’s just such an unfair thing to give them such short notice.”
-- James may of Ridley Township, who designs outfits for the Mummers, on the budget cuts imposed by the city on the annual march.

Mum's the word on all that no parade talk

New Year’s Day has been saved. At least for those who believe you cannot start a new year without a strut up Broad Street.

“Dem golden slippers,” along with all those feathers and sequins, will do their annual march. The Mummers and the city have signed off on a deal that will insure there will be a parade up Broad Street come Jan. 1, but it will be a different show. For starters, it will be a lot shorter. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

All of this is the result of the financial squeeze the city finds itself in. The Nutter Administration informed the Mummers that they would cap the city’s contribution toward paying for the parade at $300,000. They also have axed the city’s contribution to the prize fund for the parade. Anything over $300,000 ceiling would then fall in the laps of the Mummers’ organizations.

To say there are some ruffled feathers out there would be an understatement. But that was the city’s final offer. That much was made clear during a final meeting between the two sides Wednesday afternoon.

Mummers organizations met last night and signed off on the deal. The best guess is that the tab for the shortened parade will come to at least $347,000 for police and cleanup. That means the Mummers are on the hook for $47,000, as well as the prize money.

But the truth is that they’re likely looking at a much larger deficit. Just the elaborate costumes of some of the groups – money the Mummers already have shelled out, can at times soar into the thousands of dollars.

The parade will still make its way from South Philly to City Hall, but the at times marathon event will now be confined to 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In the meantime, the Mummers also are asking for the public’s help in solving the financial dilemma. They’ve set up a Web site, www.savethemummers.com, where you can donate money.

Congressman Bob Brady, D-1, is vowing to raise the money to cover the difference. He’s saying he’ll come up with the bucks, or chip it in himself.

I realize opinions are split on the Mummers. But there is no arguing they are an icon of the region, right up there with the cheesesteak and Rocky ascending the steps of the Art Museum.

So the parade will be a bit shorter this year. The bottom line is that on New Year’s Day, Mummers will be strutting on Broad Street for the 108th time.

This might be a good time to seek ways to help out our fine, feathered friends. And here’s a suggestion. Eagles owner Jeff Lurie seems to get a bad rap among fans. Most look at him as something less than “one of us.” He’s too often depicted as an effete snob playing a game of fantasy football with his pal, Joe Banner.

So imagine if Lurie were to step forward and say the team would cover the difference to bail out the Mummers Parade. The guy would be a hero in this town.

Then again, cynics would point out that Lurie already owes the city a big chunk of money, a point the team disputes by the way.

And then again, maybe the sports teams would be wiser to step into the breech and fund the city libraries, many of which are being closed due to funding cuts.

In the meantime, dust off those feathers, folks. New Year’s Day is two weeks from today.

Brand new ballgame? Hardly

There is good news and bad news for Sixers fans today. First the good news: The Sixers won their second straight game under interim head coach Tony DiLeo, banishing the Bucks last night, 93-88.

That makes DiLeo 2-0 since taking over from the banished Maurice Cheeks. Hard to argue with that. So what’s the bad news? The Sixers likely lost Elton Brand in the process. The team’s big off-season free agent acquisition went down in a heap in a collision with Luc Mbah a Moute in the third quarter. Brand wound up with an ugly lump on his arm. The initial prognosis is a dislocated shoulder. Brand will have an MRI later today.

But here’s where it gets interesting.

After Brand’s exit, the Sixers seemd to take on the life they showed in their late-season spurt that pushed them into the playoffs last year. They ran the floor and looked nothing like the plodding, half-court bunch they have shown with Brand in the lineup.

Which brings us back to this question. Can the Sixers be the team they were last year with Brand as their focal point? We might be about to find out.

A cynic also might want to review the moves of Delco native and new Sixers boss Ed Stefanski. Let’s see, first he extended Maurice Cheeks; then he signed Andre Iguodala to a huge new deal, while trying to force him into the two guard slot for which he is ill-prepared. Then Stefanski went out and picked up Brand. At the time everyone liked it, saying he could be the low-post presence the team desperately needed. The problem is that Brand has not been much of a force inside, instead appearing instead to look for open jumpers. Stefanski then canned Cheeks when the team struggled to start the season in this new format.

If the Sixers suddenly reel off a series of wins while sporting the look of last year’s playoff squad, more than a few eyebrows likely will be raised.

Meet you at the mall

Remember we have a date tonight.
OK, it’s not exactly a date. But it is your chance to tell the editor of your local newspaper exactly what you think of him, and his newspaper.
Remember, it’s the holiday season. Be nice.
Here’s the details: I will be at Granite Run Mall Thursday night as part of a promotion we’re doing with the mall. I’ll be joined by two of my compatriots here at the Daily Times, featured columnists Gil Spencer from news and Jack McCaffery from sports.
More importantly, a representative from the Salvation Army in Chester will be on hand accepting donations to our Merry Christmas Fund. You can bring a check, made out to the Salvation Army, and drop it off at our stand.
We’ll be there from 7-8 p.m. on the upper level of the mall outside Boscov’s. See you then.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Dec. 17

The Daily Numbers: 2 suspects collared after leading police on a wild chase on I-95.
1 pound of pot police believe the suspects threw out of their vehicle during the chase.
1.89 million dollar budget adopted by Lower Chichester officials that will hold the line on taxes.
5.4 percent tax hike looming for residents in Marple. For the typical home owner, it will mean kicking in another $28 to the township coffers.
300,000 dollars, the cap the city of Philadelphia wants to put on costs associated with the annual New Year’s Day Mummers Parade. The two sides remain at an impasse, and the parade is in jeopardy.
108 years, how long the Comics, Fancies, and String Bands have been strutting up Broad Street, since 1901.
5 suspects whose fate is now being mulled by a jury on charges tied to an alleged plot to kill soldiers at Fort Dox.
40 burglaries in Montgomery County that are believed to be the work of one man, from Harleysville.
2 nurses’ aides in Philadelphia facing charges they ripped off residents at the Veterans Nursing Home where they worked.
12 pounds of marijuana seized by agents at Philadelphia International Airport.
17,700 people who have had their heat shut off heading into the winter season, according to the state Public Utilities Commission.
5.5 percent dip in Apple stock after the electronics giant’s boss, Steve Jobs, indicated he would not deliver a key speech at the annual Macworld Expo.
5 straight wins for the Flyers, who buried the Avalanche last night, 5-2.
3 year extension for Penn State football legend Joe Paterno. He’ll be 85 when the deal expires.
31 million dollar, 3 year contract for new Phils left-fielder Raul Ibanez, who will take Pat Burrell’s spot in the lineup.
*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
It’s this simple, Eagles fans. The Birds need to win both of their remaining games, against the Redskins and Cowboys, and either the Bucs or Falcons must lose a game. Other than that, they aren’t going to the playoffs.
*
I Don’t Get It: A 3-year-old in Easton is at the center of a dispute between his parents and a local supermarket. They’re ticked that they will not display their child’s name on a birthday cake. And the moniker? Adolf Hitler Campbell. Nice.
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Today’s Upper: We have one more weekend to slog through before we hit the holidays. If you’re finished your shopping, raise your hand. Thought so. See you at the mall this weekend. Consider it our part in stimulating the economy.

Quote Box: “You pick up a brochure for the city of Philadelphia and you’re going to find a picture of a Mummer on it.”
-- George Badey, the attorney representing the Mummers in their budget discussions with the city in hopes of salvaging this year’s strut.

The 4 worst words of winter

They are the four most dreaded words of winter.

Northern and western suburbs.

Where exactly these nefarious ‘burbs are exactly I have never been able to figure out. All I know is that they are magic when it comes to the way the local media treats their favorite winter topic – the weather.

If you had not noticed, we got a sloppy mix of rain, sleet and a little snow yesterday afternoon through last night.

It was not a crippling storm. But it was winter precipitation, which means it’s enough to lead the TV and radio news.

I cleared off my car last night. There was a small accumulation of snow. This morning I brushed off a little bit of ice on the windshield. Then I got in and drove to work, pretty much like any other rainy morning.

Yes, I went a little slower. If it was icy in spots, I didn’t notice it. The only rough spot I encountered was some debris from a downed tree that was sitting on Providence Road out in Edgmont. Apparently a downed tree and power lines also closed Bryn Mawr Avenue near Brookside Road in Newtown.

But it didn’t keep the TV folks from blathering all night about how “treacherous” it was out on the roads. It must have cleared up by this morning.

Eventually, I suppose we will get a substantial winter storm. We usually get a couple each year. I do not look forward to them. I dislike winter. In fact I hate it a little more each year.

I do not work for TV. I don’t get any great thrill out of trying first to get a staff into the office, then telling the story that does not really translate all that well to newspapers.

Maybe I’m just too old school.

In other words, don’t hold your breath waiting for me to be out there sticking a ruler in the snow. Or the glop that accumulated last night.

Pa.'s very own Lion King

When you arrive at your cubicle this morning, post this question for yourself.

Do you see yourself doing the same thing when you are 85?

No? Obviously you are not Joe Paterno.

The Lion King of Happy Valley inked a three-year contract extension that will keep him on the Nittany Lions sidelines until he’s 85.

Paterno turns 82 this week. He’s been hobbled this year by a broken hip, but shows no real signs of slowing down.

JoePa will lead the Lions into the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day for a date with USC after winning the Big 10 title.

Along the way he will continue to joust with Bobby Bowden of Florida State as the title-holder for most wins all-time by an NCAA football coach. Right now it’s Paterno on top of the heap.

Terms of the extension were not announced. It is believed Paterno earned $512,000 last year. He is one of the school’s biggest benefactors.

After some lean years, Paterno had the Lions back in the hunt for a national title this year. Their hopes were scuttled by a late-season loss at Iowa. But they sit at No. 6, and have a date with No. 5 USC.

JoePa is our very own version of the Energizer Bunny. He just keeps going.

I can only hope that I will still be blogging when I’m 85.

On second thought, maybe that’s not such a great idea.

Turning the other Cheeks

This is a tale of two coaches.

Both head professional sports organizations that have been scuffling of late.

One’s team started the season slowly, which chafed both management and the fans, who had been expecting big things after a late-season push got them into the playoffs last year.

The other’s team also has been scuffling. Years of playoff berths have given way to struggles, and an absence from the post-season.

One coach offers the public little more than a smug arrogance that has become the face of the organization.

The other is the epitome of the “class act,” always ingratiating with both the fans and those pesky members of the media.

So which one lost his job?

That’s right. Mo Cheeks is on the unemployment line, while Andy Reid soldiers on as the Eagles head coach.

Cheeks met the media Tuesday for the first time since he was relieved of his duties by Delco native and GM Ed Stefanski.

You would think Cheeks might be bitter, might start pointing fingers after getting the ax just 23 games into the season.

If that’s the case, you don’t really know Mo Cheeks. He is simply one of the true class acts that have come through professional sports in this town.

This is not the first time Cheeks has been kicked to the curb in this town. Back when he was a player, the star point guard actually learned he had been traded from a member of the media.

Cheeks knows how these things work. The Sixers made the playoffs, then they added big-bucks free agent Elton Brand in the off-season. He got an extension from Stefanski, but Cheeks obviously knew the score.

No excuses. Now is the time to win.

When the Sixers failed to do that, it was time for Cheeks to go.

“This business is such that if you’re not winning, things happen,” Cheeks told the assembled media.

The public does not need to glance at the NBA standings to know that Mo Cheeks will always be a winner. Andy Reid can win all the playoff games he wants, but unless he changes his attitude he’ll never be revered in this town the way Cheeks is.

Maybe it’s time for the Eagles boss to turn the other Cheeks.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ready for prime time, just not the final minute of the first half

The Eagles held up their end of the bargain. They easily dispatched the Browns on Monday Night Football, 30-10.

Here's where their playoff hopes stand. As you might expect, shey still have to win their final two games, against NFC East rivals the Redskins and Cowboys.

But they still need help. If either the Falcons or Bucs lose a game and the Eagles win out, the Birds are in.But one of them has to lose. Best bet is the Falcons falling in Minnesota Sunday.

Last night didn't hold much in the way of excitement, except for one thing.

OK, I'm getting greedy. Yes, the Eagles blew out the Browns, basicaly playing no cruise control.

But can someone explain to me this team's problem with the final minute of the first half. They did it again last night. Let's just say that the hurry-up two-minute offense is not this team's forte.

Donovan McNabb, who otherwise played another dynamite game, again was up to his old tricks in the final minute of the half. Hurry up? This team takes an eternity between plays. Bottom line. They wond up on the 1-yard line with no timeouts left. That probably brought a smile to Andy Reid's face. That meant he couldn't risk a run that got stuffed and not having enough time to get the field goal team onto the field.

So Andy passed - and Donovan threw it right into the hands of a Brown DB. And again, the Eagles came within a herculean Brian Westbrook effort of having a scoring opportunity blow up in their face at the end of the half, leading to points to the othe rteam.

Westbrook took the angle and ran the guy down.

But why is it this team still cannot run a two-minute drill 10 years into the Reid-McNabb era?

Last night it didn't matter. The next two weeks they likely aren't going to be that lucky.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Prime time for Birds

The Eagles did not play yesterday, and they still lost.
Twice.
While the ebirds were awaiting their prime-time matchup with the Browns tonight at the Linc, they likely were glued to their TV sets much of the day. They should have finished their Christmas shopping.
The Birds' Wish List went bust; they got exactly no help from two teams they needed to come through.
First, the Bucs did just about everything in their power to give a game to the Falcons, andc they still had to go to overtime to get the job done. Offered a gift interception from the Falcons in the final minute that put them inside the 10-yard line, the Bucs, who were playing without injured ex-Eagle Jeff Garcia, promptly threw it into reverse and had to settle for a tying field goal instead of the game-winning TD. Of course they went belly-up in overtime to lose.
Then last night the Giants forgot to show up for their game against the Cowboys in Big D.
So much for all that bickering the 'Boys supposedly were doing. Maybe they decided to take it out on the Giants instead.
T.O., Tony Romo and Jason Witten looked like one, big happy family.
Here's the bottom line: Even if the Eagles win their last three games, and that would start tonight against the Btrowns, they still are going to need help to get into the playoffs.
This is their best bet, and once again we likely will call upon an old friend.
The Falcons have to visit Minnesota next Sunday to play the Vikings and the Birds' former coach, Brad Childress.
Right now both the Falcons and Bucs are 9-5 and if they both win their final two games, they will take the two NCF wild-card slots.
Don't despair just yet. The Vikings wil need that game just as much as the Bucs. Minnesota continues to battle the Bears for the NFC North title. Neither won of them look likely to collect a wild-card bid.
Of course none of this means a thing if the Eagles don't win their final three.
And that start with winning tonight against the Browns. You wold think this one would be a cakewalk. Don't bet on it. Ever know this team to do anything the easy way?
Thought so.
By the way, this might be an especially good year to make the playoffs. Does anyone see a dominant team out there? How have the Giants looked the past two weeks? They suddenly have problems. Carolina just might be the best team in the NFC.
This just be a repeat of last year, when the Giants got hot at the right time and rolled into the playoffs.
Listening, Eagles?

Ruffled feathers

Finally today, something that screams "Philadelphia" is in jeopardy.
I wold guess that at some time during tonight's Monday Night Football game, you will see two things: a shot of them making cheesesteaks at either Pat's or Geno's in South Philly, and a shot of the Mummers.
They are emblems of the city, our signature food, and our signature party.
Here's the problem. That strut up Broad Street by all those guys in sequins and feathers is in jeopardy.
Swimming in a sea of red ink, the city has gone into slash-and-burn mode in terms of the budget. It's closing libraries, jobs, and services.
The Nutter administration also is cutting funds for the Mummers. It already has axed the prize money the city usually puts up. Now they want to cap the city's cost for the "golden slippers" at $300,000.
Talk about your ruffled feathers.
The mummers and city city continue talks to reach some kind of a deal.
Love it or hate it, the Mummers are emblematic of Philadelphia. They are part of our signature in the world.
Some people might think it would not be an entirely bad thing should they disappear. Don't count me among them.
No, they're not on a par with libraries. But if the city can foot the bill for that massive Phillies parade, they can do more for one of their institution.
And if you don't believe me, here's three things to look for in tonight's telecast of the Eagles-Browns game, which the entire nation wil be watching on ESPN.
You'll either see or hear "rocky" in the pre-game build-up. You'll see a bunch of people hanging out at Pat's or Geno's, with a typical South Philly guy working the grill, and you'll see a man dressed in more sequins and feathers than any burlesque show you've ever seen.
ItT is part of what we are as a city and a region. It would be a shame to lose it.

A really big 'shoe' for Bush

When President Bush snuck away for a secret pre-Christmas visit, it figured to be a really big show.
It turned into a really big "shoe."
An Iraqi journalist decided to hurl his shoe at the commander-in-chief. Bush adeptly ducked away from the first "incoming."
Here's what I don't understand. Somehow this guy managed to reload and fire his other show at the president.
Again Bush took the necessary evasive actions, but where was the security or Secret Service?
It's kind of hard to believe a person can throw a show directly at the head of the U.S. president, then calmly have time to reload with the other shoe.
Does anyone else think this does not compute?

Prime time for Birds

The Eagles did not play yesterday, and they still lost.
Twice.
While the ebirds were awaiting their prime-time matchup with the Browns tonight at the Linc, they likely were glued to their TV sets much of the day. They should have finished their Christmas shopping.
The Birds' Wish List went bust; they got exactly no help from two teams they needed to come through.
First, the Bucs did just about everything in their power to give a game to the Falcons, andc they still had to go to overtime to get the job done. Offered a gift interception from the Falcons in the final minute that put them inside the 10-yard line, the Bucs, who were playing without injured ex-Eagle Jeff Garcia, promptly threw it into reverse and had to settle for a tying field goal instead of the game-winning TD. Of course they went belly-up in overtime to lose.
Then last night the Giants forgot to show up for their game against the Cowboys in Big D.
So much for all that bickering the 'Boys supposedly were doing. Maybe they decided to take it out on the Giants instead.
T.O., Tony Romo and Jason Witten looked like one, big happy family.
Here's the bottom line: Even if the Eagles win their last three games, and that would start tonight against the Btrowns, they still are going to need help to get into the playoffs.
This is their best bet, and once again we likely will call upon an old friend.
The Falcons have to visit Minnesota next Sunday to play the Vikings and the Birds' former coach, Brad Childress.
Right now both the Falcons and Bucs are 9-5 and if they both win their final two games, they will take the two NCF wild-card slots.
Don't despair just yet. The Vikings wil need that game just as much as the Bucs. Minnesota continues to battle the Bears for the NFC North title. Neither won of them look likely to collect a wild-card bid.
Of course none of this means a thing if the Eagles don't win their final three.
And that start with winning tonight against the Browns. You wold think this one would be a cakewalk. Don't bet on it. Ever know this team to do anything the easy way?
Thought so.
By the way, this might be an especially good year to make the playoffs. Does anyone see a dominant team out there? How have the Giants looked the past two weeks? They suddenly have problems. Carolina just might be the best team in the NFC.
This just be a repeat of last year, when the Giants got hot at the right time and rolled into the playoffs.
Listening, Eagles?
*

When President Bush snuck away for a secret pre-Christmas visit, it figured to be a really big show.
It turned into a really big "shoe."
An Iraqi journalist decided to hurl his shoe at the commander-in-chief. Bush adeptly ducked away from the first "incoming."
Here's what I don't understand. Somehow this guy managed to reload and fire his other show at the president.
Again Bush took the necessary evasive actions, but where was the security or Secret Service?
It's kind of hard to believe a person can throw a show directly at the head of the U.S. president, then calmly have time to reload with the other shoe.
Does anyone else think this does not compute?
*
Fnally today, something that screams "Philadelphia" is in jeopardy.
I wold guess that at some time during tonight's Monday Night Football game, you will see two things: a shot of them making cheesesteaks at either Pat's or Geno's in South Philly, and a shot of the Mummers.
They are emblems of the city, our signature food, and our signature party.
Here's the problem. That strut up Broad Street by all those guys in sequins and feathers is in jeopardy.
Swimming in a sea of red ink, the city has gone into slash-and-burn mode in terms of the budget. It's closing libraries, jobs, and services.
The Nutter administration also is cutting funds for the Mummers. It already has axed the prize money the city usually puts up. Now they want to cap the city's cost for the "golden slippers" at $300,000.
Talk about your ruffled feathers.
The mummers and city city continue talks to reach some kind of a deal.
Love it or hate it, the Mummers are emblematic of Philadelphia. They are part of our signature in the world.
Some people might think it would not be an entirely bad thing should they disappear. Don't count me among them.
No, they're not on a par with libraries. But if the city can foot the bill for that massive Phillies parade, they can do more for one of their institution.
And if you don't believe me, here's three things to look for in tonight's telecast of the Eagles-Browns game, which the entire nation wil be watching on ESPN.
You'll either see or hear "rocky" in the pre-game build-up. You'll see a bunch of people hanging out at Pat's or Geno's, with a typical South Philly guy working the grill, and you'll see a man dressed in more sequins and feathers than any burlesque show you've ever seen.
ItT is part of what we are as a city and a region. It wold be a shame to lose it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

We have an unusual late-season Sunday to savor this weekend: No Eagles game.

That's because the Birds are playing Monday night against the Browns.

But there are two games that should command lots of attention from Eagles fans Sunday. First at 1 there is the Bucs in Atlanta to play the Falcons. Break out your Bucs gear, folks. Yes, I know all about Joe Jurevicius. He's still running in my mind, too. But the Eagles need the Falcons to lose a game in these last three weeks to clear a path to the playoffs by winning their last three.

It's pretty simple. If the Falcons lose and the Eagles win their last three, the Eagles are in.

Then there's the Sunday night game. This one is delicious. The banged-up Giants are in Dallas to play the Cowboys, who simply are banging their heads together. Our old pal Terrell Owens is up to his old stuff, making noises that QB Tony Romo and tight end Jason Witten are making up plays to exclude him. The Giants will be without star running back Brandon Jacobs, who will rest a cranky knee.

I like the Falcons to win at home, and the squabbling Cowboys to edge the Giants.

That, of course, brings us to Monday night. I wish I could say this was going to be a cake walk. I can't. This is the Eagles, remember? They're coached by Andy Reid.

It's expected to be unusually mild on Monday, game time weather will be more like a Phillies World Series game than a December football tilt.

I expect Andy Reid to fill the air with footballs just so he can prove everyone wrong about why the Eagles have won their last two games in impressive fashion.

It will be closer than it should, but expect the Eagles to survive.

Make it 27-17, Eagles.

Then it's on to D.C. and a date with the Redskins, and of course another week of controversy surrounding the Eagles offense.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Dec. 12

The Daily Numbers: 2 tours of Iraq for Rep.-elect Nick Miccarelli, the winner of the battle for the 162nd District seat. His Pa. Guard unit is headed back to Iraq in February. Be safe, soldier.
800 workers at Wells Fargo Auto Finance’s operations at the Wharf at Rivertown in Chester. The firm announced it would scale back operations, including layoffs, just before Christmas.
19, age of University of Pennsylvania student from Rose Valley who died after a fall from a dorm.
25 homicides for the city of Wilmington in 2008. That’s a record high. The latest fatal shooting took the life of a 20-year-old Chester resident, who was found shot to death on the front porch of a home on Concord Avenue.
13 to 20 years in jail, the sentence for millionaire killer John E. du Pont. He was rejected in a plea for parole.
400 million dollar dip in their endowment at Swarthmore College. They are putting in place a halt in hiring and other cuts in the wake of the economic downturn.
1,400 laptop computers, one for every student at Chester Community Charter School, through the non-profit group One-Laptop-Per-Child, and the school’s owner Vahan Gureghian.
446 to 615 million dollars, how much state hospitals say Pennsylvania owes them in a flap over a fund that helps doctors pay for medical malpractice insurance.
2 alarm blaze in a Bucks County firehouse after a car slammed into the facility in Hilltown Township. The driver of the car died in the crash.
50 patients being moved out of a Montgomery County personal care home after the state shut down Willow Crest Manor yesterday.
3 people nabbed by the feds during a drug raid targeting the high-grade heroin trade in Northeast Philadelphia yesterday.
83 warrants and 88 arrests served yesterday during another drug raid in the city, this one in the area of West Indiana Street.
220 million dollar expansion unveiled yesterday at Cooper University Hospital in Camden.
300,000 dollars in prize money the city usually gives the Mummers for prizes in their annual strut down Broad Street that won’t be coming this year. It’s another victim of budget cuts. Oh dem not-so-golden slippers.
35,000 jobs being axed by Bank of America as part of its merger with Merrill Lynch. Some of those will come in operations in both Philadelphia and Wilmington.
2 cent dip overnight in the average price of gas at the pump in the region. We’re now paying $1.80 a gallon, but it can be found in lots of places for as little as $1.69.
14 billion bailout that went up in smoke late last night as a deal to help the ailing auto industry ran off the road in the Senate.
4 goals down, where the Flyers were last night before roaring back and posting an unlikely 6-5 win over the Hurricanes in a shootout.
3 goals for Scottie Hartnell to lead the orange and black back from a 5-1 deficit.
18 points for Scottie Reynolds as Villanova edged Saint Joe’s in the latest classic edition of the Holy War at the Pavilion last night.
*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.There’s a new Public Enemy No. 1 in the Big Apple. And he wears Phillies pinstripes. Move over, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels just took the target off you and put it squarely on his broad shoulders. The Phillies ace went on a New York sports radio program yesterday and was led right down the path into doing something you usually avoid: Providing bulletin board material for your foes. Hamels was asked if he thought the Mets had choked the last two years. He kind of indicated that he did. So the announcer sought to make it clear, and Hamels walked right into it. He pronounced that yes, the Mets were chokers. Throw another log on that Mets-Phils rivalry.
*
I Don’t Get It: What exactly does Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich not get? He needs to step down. The sooner the better.
*
Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for Nick Miccarelli. The newly elected state rep in the 162nd District is being deployed to Iraq with his Pa. National Guard Unit. It’s a more important mission than anything he would be doing in Harrisburg.

Quote Box: “For the past two years they’ve been choke artists.”
-- Phillies ace Cole Hamels, on a New York radio station yesterday, describing the Mets.

A true citizen-soldier

Nick Miccarelli emerged a winner in November after one of the toughest state Legislature races in memory.

The Republican went mano a mano with Democratic labor leader John DeFrancisco to fill the Pa. House of Representatives seat being vacated by longtime Rep. Ron Raymond. It was a bitter, nasty street fight.

Miccarelli was the guy still standing at the end of this bare-knuckles bout, and staked claim to the 162nd District seat, keeping it in Republican hands.

He might of thought his fighting days were over.

Not exactly.

Miccarelli will be taking a slight detour on the way to Harrisburg. By way of Iraq.

Miccarelli is a member of the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade of the Pennsylvania National Guard. His unit is being deployed to Iraq in February. It’s not Miccarelli’s first trip to the war zone. He’s already done one tour in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and he also did a stint in Kosovo back in 2003-04.

Miccarelli will be on hand with the rest of the state Legislature when he takes the oath on Jan. 6. But he will be wearing a different uniform come February.

Miccarelli made his military status clear during the campaign, and did not blink an eye when the call for the new deployment came in.

The state representative-elect embodies the idea of the citizen soldier.

He’s making sure that in his absence his office will be up and running, serving residents as normal.

Miccarelli, who is also a member of Ridley Park Borough Council, will take a leave of absence. He expects to return to Delaware County – and Harrisburg – some time in 2010.

He’s not the first member of the Legislature to be called to duty. Miccarelli was joined on a conference call yesterday by state Sen. John Pippy, R-Allegheny, who was called to active duty in the middle of his election campaign in 2003.

Democratic Delco Rep. Bryan Lentz, R-161, served in Iraq before being elected to the Legislature.

We really only ask one thing of Miccarelli at this point.

Return safely.

Godspeed, soldier.

A setback for Chester

The economic recovery taking place on the Chester waterfront has been impressive.

It started with the Wharf at Rivertown and its majestic restored PECO Power Station, spread to the other end of Route 291 and the opening of Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack, and got another jolt last week with the groundbreaking for the new soccer stadium in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge that will be home to the region’s new Major League Soccer franchise.

This week we even saw the renaissance spread into other areas of the city. The city saw its first major hotel take root in the city in more than three decades. The Best Western will be part of what is being referred to as “The Hub,” part of the University Crossing development on land owned by Widener University.

But Chester certainly is not averse to bad economic news as well. Heaven knows the city has faced its share of tough times.

With the nation’s economy in full meltdown, with the auto industry in peril, with banks shedding jobs like so many bad pennies, it was unrealistic to believe that the city would avoid a setback as well.

This week Chester’s economy, which has taken so many steps forward, took a step back.

Wells Fargo Auto Finance, one of the key tenants at the Wharf at Rivertown, said it would scale back its operations. And the timing could not be worse.

The move will come just two days before Christmas. Exactly how many people will lose their jobs, or whether some of them will be moved to different Wells Fargo operations, is still unclear. The bottom line is this. A substantial number of workers are going to lose their jobs days before Christmas.

Wells Fargo Auto Finance has been very good for Chester – and Delaware County. They are one of the county’s biggest employers, with more than 800 people at their operations on the city’s waterfront. They are a unit of Wells Fargo & Co.

Employees routinely took part in projects such as wrapping toys for needy kids at CityTeam Ministries in the city, and co-sponsoring charity galas that benefited Habitat for Humanity.

Chester certainly is no immune to downturns in the economy. The city has made huge steps in the past few years to set in motion a significant economic turnaround.

Our thoughts go out to the workers who will be losing their jobs.

But we remain confident that the city is on the right track.

T.O. up to his old tricks

You just have to love Terrell Owens. He’s the gift that keeps on giving.

T.O. has not been a factor around these parts since the now-infamous meltdown he suffered that led to his separation from the Eagles after their incredible 2004 run to the Super Bowl.

You remember the images, Owens doing crunches in the front yard of his Jersey mansion. The “next question” press conference with his agent Drew Rosenhaus. Priceless stuff.

T.O. has since moved on to greener pastures. But he hasn’t changed his act.

The extremely talented wide receiver (no one will convince me he was not the most valuable person on that Eagles team and the biggest reason they went from perennial contender to actual player in a Super Bowl) is up to his old tricks again.

He’s unhappy with his quarterback. This time it’s Dallas starter Tony Romo. Owens apparently believes that Romo and tight end Jason Witten are somehow conspiring to design plays that exclude him.

In the meantime, the Cowboys are sniping at each other. Owner Jerry Jones even took a few shots at running back Marion Jones, who sat out their last game with what some consider a minor injury.

All of this comes as the Eagles take dead aim at a playoff position, one they likely will have to climb over the Cowboys to attain.

The Cowboys face the Giants Sunday night. It’s hard to stomach, but you have to pull for the Giants.

In the meantime, the Eagles also have to go about their business, likely needing to run the table, winning their last three games.

And that last game, the Sunday after Christmas? That would be against those very Dallas Cowboys at the Linc.

How does this sound: Winner goes to the playoffs; loser goes home.

I’m sure we could muster a few more “season’s greetings” for our old pal T.O. and the Cowboys.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Dec. 11

The Daily Numbers: 74 bagged by hunters who took to Ridley Creek State Park yesterday in a controlled hunt.
204 hunters who took part. They’ll get another shot next Wednesday, when the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources holds a second hunt intended to thin the herd in the park.
35 years, how long it’s been since a major hotel opened in Chester. That ended yesterday, when the Best Western Hotel arrived at “The Hub,” part of the University Crossing development at 15th Street and Providence Avenue on the Widener campus.
1.8 million dollars in real estate taxes expected to be generated by the complex.
40 years since a minor earthquake rattled the region, including Darby Borough.
0 tax hike in the Eddystone budget. Not so lucky are residents of Rutledge, where the millage is going up to the tune of 31 cents for every $1,000 of assessed value.
18,140, where our annual Merry Christmas Fund stands after another solid day of donations. All proceeds go to the Salvation Army.
14 billion dollars in aid for the auto industry that passed the House last night. Locally, Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, voted in favor of the bailout.
3 suspects arrested in the armed robberies that targeted students at Rowan University in South Jersey.
12, age of girl arrested after she released pepper spray at her Philadelphia elementary school, sickening several students and a teacher.
10, age of boy, a fourth-grader at Knapp Elementary School in Lansdale, now in critical condition in the hospital suffering from meningitis.
207 million jackpot now up for grabs in Friday night’s Mega Millions lottery. Tickets are only sold in New Jersey in this area.
260 workers at NFL Films in South Jersey who are fearing more job cuts in the wake of cutbacks announced by the NFL.
25 homicides this year in the city of Wilmington, setting a new record with every murder.
28 years, how long a veteran school principal worked in Bethlehem before his arrest and guilty plea for selling crystal meth from his office.
John Acerra will leave prison Feb. 28 after being granted parole.
54 percent jump in foreclosures in Pennsylvania in November as compared with the same month last year.
150,000 dollar prize being offered in a new fine arts competition announced by Temple University.
50,000 dollars cash bail posted by a Bucks County businessman charged with a Russian sex ring that targeted orphans. He’s free on electronic home monitoring.
60 bucks, amount collected by a South Jersey National Guard member in uniform outside a shopping center, supposedly for troops overseas. He was charged with theft by deception.
1, as in No. 1. That would be Sarah Palin. She might have lost along with John McCain in the presidential sweepstakes, but she’s Google’s No.
1 search entry for 2008.
7.8 percent dip in revenues reported by Atlantic City casinos in November compared to the year before.
10 straight wins for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who rolled over the Sixers last night.
27 points in the loss for Andre Iguodala, who was shifted back to the small forward spot in the starting lineup.
36 points put up by the Cavs in the third quarter to pull away.
29 points for Lebron James, the all-everything superstar for the Cavs.
6 points for the Sixers big off-season acquisition, Elton Brand, who was coming back from injury.
*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
It’s a good thing the Eagles have revived their season, giving us at least three more weeks of excitement. Anyone notice what the Sixers are doing? Not good. And the Flyers? Has hockey season started yet? Call me in April.
*
I Don’t Get It: The Yankees are showering $161 million on CC Sabathia.
The Mets are dropping $31 million in the lap of Francisco Rodriguez. And both are building new stadiums that are being heavily funded by taxpayers. I don’t get it.
*
Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for the Phillies. Not only did they give us a world championship, yesterday they offered a helping hand to more than 30 local non-profits with their “Unsung Heroes” dinner. They raised $275,000, and that’s in addition to a previous $750,000 they give to their main charity, the ALS Foundation. Well done.

Quote Box: “In my point of view, it’s needless slaughter. People just want to go in and shoot deer that are habituated to people.”
-- Priscilla Cohn of Villanova, on deer hunt held yesterday in Ridley Creek State Park.

Another huge day for Chester

I have stated many times that one of the challenges the city of Chester faces is making sure that the economic rebirth that is so evident along the waterfront make its way across Route 291 and into other parts of town.

That’s why yesterday was so important.

There was Wendell Mayor Butler and a phalanx of other dignataries snipping the ribbon on another big development.

This time the city was welcoming its first new major hotel in more than three decades.

It’s part of “The Hub,” a $50 million development known as University Crossing at 15th Street and Providence Avenue. It’s on property owned by Widener University.

It continues an impressive series of economic ventures in the city. Of course there was the Wharf at Rivertown, Harrah’s Casino & Racetrack, and now the soccer stadium under the Commodore Barry Bridge. But all those hugged the waterfront.

This one is smack dab in the middle of the city. The 60-room Best Western will soon be joined by a bank, a restaurant, and a 7-Eleven convenience store.

What’s more, it will provide still another infusion of cash into the city coffers. The site owned by Widener used to be tax-exempt. It will now generate $1.8 million in real estate taxes, $800,000 in earned income taxes and $600,000 in business privilege taxes.

The city certainly still has its challenges. Too many of its neighborhoods remain unsafe. Its troubled school system remains very much a work in progress.

But the city’s turnaround is unmistakable. And undeniable.

Mayor Butler may have said it best at the stadium groundbreaking.

“Chester is coming back,” he proclaimed. And it’s not just on the waterfront anymore.

Bailing out the Big 3

It looks like the auto industry will be saved – from themselves.

The House of Representatives stepped up to the plate last night and decided to throw $14 billion out there to save the wallowing industry from a sea of red ink.

Locally, Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, backed the measure, saying the move was needed to prevent the imminent collapse of the domestic auto industry, while also demanding strict accountability measures be put into place.

But it’s not a done deal yet. While the House voted 237-170 in favor, the measure now goes to the Senate, where it likely faces a much rockier road. Critics in the Senate say the bailout fails to fix the problem, giving the money without demanding the kind of restructuring the industry needs to survive.

For his part, Sestak said the move was necessary to prevent an even more protracted recession, one that would be felt locally with still more job losses.

Look for the Senate to blast the program up and down – then pass it or a similar version.

There really isn’t any alternative, unless you happen to subscribe to the belief that we should simply let the automakers declare bankruptcy.

Here’s one way to look at the problem: The auto industry is asking Congress (read taxpayers) to do something that the banks have already deemed to be too risky.

First it was housing, then it was banks and other financial firms. Now it’s the auto industry. All of them limping into Washington, D.C., with their hand out.

Where do you draw the line?