Caitlan Coleman, Family Freed After Being Held by the Taliban for Five Years

Caitlan Coleman and her husband, Joshua Boyle, in a video released by their captors.

“I read this and started bawling. I’m so happy!”

“I’m crying. I’m in complete shock.”

“I cannot believe this.”

When news broke this morning that Pennsylvania native Caitlan Coleman and her family had been freed from a Taliban affiliate after being held captive for five long years, her friends could barely comprehend it. They called and texted each other in disbelief, in some cases barely bothering to say “Hi” before blurting out the incredible headlines. Some of them didn’t think this day would ever come. At moments, particularly when long periods of time had passed since Coleman’s captors released any video of her, they worried that she might be dead. Read more »

In Philly, Independents and Third-Party Voters Now Outnumber Republicans

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP; Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein photo by Matt A.J.; Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson photo by Gage Skidmore

For apparently the first time in Philadelphia’s history, there are more registered independents and third-party voters in the city than Republicans.

That’s according to the City Commissioner’s Office, which oversees elections and informed Philly Mag of the milestone.

“To the best of our knowledge … this is the first time this has occurred,” said chief deputy commissioner Seth Bluestein. Read more »

Back-to-School Nightmare: Student Transcripts Vanish After Charter Closes

Kyle Lacy (R) says Delaware Valley Charter never sent transcripts to his son, Rashan (L), after it closed.

When a high school suddenly shuts down, it can send a kid’s life into chaos.

Families have to pick a new school for their child. If it isn’t a neighborhood school, they have figure out how to apply to it. If their kid gets in, they have to worry about whether they’ll fit in. And then there’s the question of whether the switch could hurt the high schooler’s ability to get into college or land a job.

Now imagine fretting about all that while not being able to get ahold of your kid’s transcripts, either.

That’s exactly what happened to some of the students who attended North Philadelphia’s Delaware Valley Charter High School. Read more »

Kenney Calls Out Philly Police Union Head Over “Divisive Words”

L: Jim Kenney (photo by Matt Rourke/AP) R: John McNesby (photo by AP/Joseph Kaczmarek)

This weekend, the nation learned that Philadelphia police union chief John McNesby had referred to Black Lives Matter protesters demonstrating outside the home of a cop who fatally shot a black man as “a pack of rabid animals.”

At least, that’s how it seemed on Twitter and Facebook. Everyone from actor Kumail Nanjiani to Black Lives Matter supporter Shaun King to anti-feminist, anti-Islam pedophilia apologist Milo Yiannopoulos commented on the incident on social media. Rapper Killer Mike of Run the Jewels also called the union boss a “punk-ass” during a set at Made in America on Sunday. Read more »

Toronto Travel Guide: An Urbanist’s Paradise

Art Gallery of Ontario | Photo: iStockphoto

Remember Rob Ford? Picture the opposite of the city you think he’d run. That’s Toronto. The trains always seem to be on time. The streets practically radiate, they’re so clean. The city is the safest in North America. And perhaps most importantly: Toronto is becoming the next foodie capital of the world (and no, not because of the poutine — though that’s guaranteed to make you drool).  Read more »

Philly to Trump’s Big New State Dept. Hire: Your Company Owes Us $100K

Michael Karloutsos’s Water Works Restaurant and Lounge closed in 2015, when the Cescaphe Event Group took over. | Photo by Melissa Kelly

Michael Karloutsos, a political heavy-hitter who owned Philadelphia’s upscale Water Works Restaurant and Lounge for nearly a decade, landed a high-level job at the U.S. Department of State in July.

Perhaps that means his company can finally pay off the giant bill that City Hall says it owes.

In January 2016, an arbitrator issued a $403,903 award against Karloutsos’s now-shuttered restaurant, arguing that it had failed to pay years’ worth of utilities and gross sales fees to the city. The Kenney administration told Philadelphia magazine that Water Works hasn’t forked over $109,345 of that award.

Karloutsos declined to comment, but his wife and co-owner, Anastasia Karloutsos, said Water Works owes only $38,019 and will satisfy that debt by early 2018. Read more »

Martina White: The It Girl of Red Philadelphia

Martina White at Aldo’s Pizzarama in Somerton. Photograph by Neal Santos

Martina White knew this was coming.

Less than two weeks before the most shocking presidential election in modern history, the Republican lawmaker was sitting at a gym in Northeast Philadelphia, debating Matt Darragh, a Democrat trying to unseat her from the General Assembly.

Then, just as expected, Darragh said the words that have followed White since day one: Donald Trump. He accused her of exploiting the “same sentiments” as Trump and embracing his “direction for the United States.” An activist in the audience saw a connection, too: Standing between two basketball hoops, she waved a sign that read STOP TRUMPMARTINA. Read more »

The Democrats’ Battle Plan for the Philly ’Burbs

Photograph by Clint Blowers

Ryan Costello is being a good sport. He really is.

The Republican Congressman is holding his second town hall this year in his suburban district. And it’s only April. (Compare that to Pat Toomey: He’s done nada, nowhere, since 2015.) Two hundred constituents slide into uncomfortable wooden benches at the historic Chester County Courthouse to participate in the airing of grievances; some have donned The Resistance uniforms. “How about that t-shirt!” Costello says to a light-haired woman in a “Nevertheless She Persisted” tee. “And my sweatshirt says the ‘Women’s March’!” she shoots back. Read more »

WHYY CEO Bill Marrazzo’s Pay Last Year: $842,832

Back in 2007, WHYY CEO Bill Marrazzo’s pay was called “excessive and inappropriate” by his employees. An Inquirer columnist demanded a boycott of the public radio station over it. An anonymous group of WHYY workers urged him to resign in large part because of it.

At the time, he was making about $430,000 a year. What’s the reaction going to be after his latest pay jump? Read more »

How Rebecca Rhynhart Defeated Philadelphia’s Democratic Machine

City Controller candidate Rebecca Rhynhart | Photo courtesy of Rhynhart’s campaign

In the wake of Philadelphia’s paradigm-shifting primary, the district attorney election has gotten far more attention than any other race. But the results of the city controller face-off were far more surprising — and arguably more emblematic of the weaknesses of Philly’s Democratic machine — than the DA’s election.

Rebecca Rhynhart, a top financial aide for two mayors and a former Wall Streeter, won the controller’s Democratic primary in a landslide, defeating three-term incumbent and party favorite Alan Butkovitz by 17 percentage points. Unlike the winner of the Democrats’ district attorney election, progressive Larry Krasner, Rhynhart did not have the benefit of an independent political action committee with $1.45 million in the bank. Nor did she enjoy Krasner’s diehard fans or his ability to capture the imagination of the national media. Rhynhart was also competing on the Democratic Party’s home turf: She challenged a longtime politician in an off-year election. These races are typically won by party-endorsed candidates, in part, because so few voters cast ballots in them.

So how did Rhynhart pull off her upset victory? The election was a perfect storm, say campaign staffers, party insiders and other political observers — and it holds key lessons for future outsider candidates. Read more »

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