Want to Live Longer? Move to Lancaster.

They say this city can kill you. Well now we have proof.

Graphic from Measure of American of the Social Science Research Council's report "<a href=

The Social Science Research Council’s Measure of America project has released a report called “Geographies of Opportunity: Ranking Well-Being by Congressional District” in which they measure health, access to knowledge and living standards within the country’s 435 congressional districts as well as Washington, D.C. Only a few states get called out for special notice, and wouldn’t you know it, Pennsylvania is one of them.

pa-district-2There’s a special section called “A Tale of Two Districts: Life Expectancy in Pennsylvania.” The reason the state gets special attention is because it’s an outlier in terms of the health metric, and not in a good way. “Only four districts outside the South have life expectancies of less than 76 years,” the report reads, and one of those is Pennsylvania Congressional District 2, shown at left, which covers much of West Philly, and  other surrounding neighborhoods. The average life expectancy in this district is 75.6 years, to be precise, which is several years below the national average. Read more »

Was Drew Becher Too Ambitious for Philly?

Drew Becher and Rachael Ray at the 2014 Philadelphia Flower Show.

Drew Becher and Rachael Ray at the 2014 Philadelphia Flower Show. | Photo: Bradley Maule

Let me be frank: I have no facility with plants or flowers; anytime a green thing comes into contact with my fingers, it wilts and dies, as though my antidepressants are leeching through my pores. Still, I’m deeply attuned to the flora of our city. For one thing, we’re fortunate to live in a verdant metropolis with an enormous park system. For another, we have a robust horticultural society that presents the largest flower show in the hemisphere. And lately, well, we’ve got these pop-up gardens that celebrate plants and flowers — and also offer beer. We mustn’t forget the beer.

And I’m not alone. Residents of Philadelphia care deeply about our ample green space. That’s why it hasn’t surprised me to be on the receiving end, for several months now, of rather urgently phrased whispers about potential problems at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS). The problems, people told me, all related to its president, Drew Becher, and the changes he’s implemented since he arrived in 2010 to replace Jane Pepper, who was president for 29 years before she retired. Modernization is never easy, and change agents have it especially hard in this town. But the level of vitriol directed at Becher surprised me — and this was coming from people outside of PHS, without an ax to grind.

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Philly Woman Arrested on Suspicion of Trying to Join ISIS


Thirty-year-old Philadelphia woman Keonna Thomas, who also goes by Fatayat Al Khilafah or YoungLioness, has been charged today with “knowingly attempting to provide material support and resources” to ISIS and is now in federal custody.

According to a criminal complaint filed today (see below), Thomas started to publicly affirm her sympathies with ISIS on Twitter in August of 2013, when she posted a photo of a young man with ammunition pouches in camouflage and wrote: “Ask yourselves, while this young man is holding magazines for Islamic State, what are you doing for it? #ISIS.”  Read more »

Campus Rape Doc The Hunting Ground Screens Tonight

still from The Hunting Ground

An image from the movie “The Hunting Ground”

Tonight a new widely acclaimed documentary about sexual assault on campus, The Hunting Ground, will screen at the Ritz Five at Second and Walnut in partnership with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) to mark the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. After the film, there will be a panel discussion moderated by Tara Murtha, a journalist who’s written extensively about sexual violence and who now works for the Women’s Law Project.

The documentary was directed by produced by Amy Ziering and directed by Kirby Dick, the team that also made The Invisible War, the Academy Award-nominated documentary about sexual assault in the American military. When The Hunting Ground premiered at Sundance, Ramin Satoodeh wrote for Variety:

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The Great Passover-Easter Smackdown

Today, friends, is both Good Friday and the beginning of Passover, which means that Christians and Jews celebrate important holidays at the exact same time rather than almost-at-the-same-time, as generally happens with Christmas and Hanukkah. Much to the chagrin of inter-religious couples everywhere, this weekend is an amazing confluence that could require attendance at both a Passover ritual meal, called a seder, and Easter Sunday brunch. Personally, I’ll be out of town at a wedding, but talking to friends of both faiths about their weekend plans got me thinking about the differences between the traditions. Below, a comparative analysis from a purely secular point of view. In other words, if you’re religious, you won’t want to read any further, as the irreverence and disinterest in matters of the spirit may offend you.

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Bucks County Realtor Charged With $643K Fraud


“Anything In Life Worth Doing is Worth Overdoing & Moderation Is For Cowards…..” That’s what 49-year-old Dean Rossi wrote on his Facebook page less than a week before he was arrested, and if the federal indictment is true, no one would accuse him or his compatriots of acting with restraint.

The longtime realtor has allegedly been part of a conspiracy since 2006, colluding with several other real estate and insurance agents to bilk financial institutions out of thousands of dollars in loan money. Using various company names, prosecutors say Rossi would get bank loans to buy or refinance HUD homes based on the expectation that the money would be paid back at the time of the closings after prior mortgages and liens were satisfied.

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Here’s How Camden Reduced Gunfire by Nearly 50 Percent

shotspotter sensor diagram

Basic ShotSpotter sensor diagram | ShotSpotter.com

Yesterday Camden County released data from ShotSpotter, a gunshot detection tool that allows cities to track gunfire and develop proactive policing strategies as a result.  The latest numbers show that between 2013 and 2014, the city of Camden experienced a 48 percent drop in gunfire — the third largest of 28 cities for which ShotSpotter has year-over-year data.

This puts Camden ahead of several larger cities in terms of gunfire reduction, most notably Chicago, Milwaukee and Oakland, California. It also coincides with a broader drop in crime in Camden: violent crime is down by 21 percent; homicide is down by 42 percent; and homicide by shootings is down by 46 percent.

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Pennsylvania Women Won’t Get Equal Pay Until 2072

pennsylvania coins


Yes, it’s true, Pennsylvania’s Equal Pay Act passed in 1963. So why is it that, in its recent “Status of Women in the States” report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, our state earned a C+ in the category of Employment and Earnings? Why is it that the median annual earnings of men in 2013 were $12,000 higher than those of women? Why do women in Pennsylvania earn only 76 cents for every dollar a man earns? Why is it that I have to wait till I’m 103 before I live in a state where men and women get equal pay?

The problem, of course, is that most women don’t know they’re being paid less, and no one can sue for an affront they don’t know exists. If they do find out, their colleagues can get into trouble for violating corporate policies around wage secrecy, and they can be threatened with retaliation. And wage discrepancies can be justified by any number of criteria because the current Equal Pay Act’s standards are vague.
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Standing Room Only at Craig Drake’s Memorial Service

drake-400x400“He’s a character out of a Tom Wolfe story.” That’s how a friend of mine describes Craig Drake, who died on March 15th at age 79. The metaphor is apparently apt: One of Drake’s oldest friends, speaking of him at a packed memorial service yesterday at The Church of the Holy Trinity on Rittenhouse Square, also compared Drake’s life to a novel, with one important caveat: “It would all be true.”

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Is Jim Kenney the Face of New Philadelphia?

Photograph by Christopher Leaman

Photograph by Christopher Leaman

I thought there would be glad-handing. I thought there would be exuberant, sweaty-palmed high fives. I thought there would be clusters of well-wishers leaning in for brush-with-fame selfies. I had visions of Jim Kenney, 56, the mayoral candidate and former city councilman, in a slightly too tight Neumann-Goretti sweatshirt, smiling as he greeted supporters tromping up the metal rafters in Philadelphia University’s gymnasium.

This is what I imagined when Kenney invited me to join him for the girls’ Catholic League semifinals in mid-February. In fact, when we’d met a few weeks earlier at a campaign appearance in Fishtown, he’d said, “Liz! I hear we’re going to be dating!” Read more »

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