Now, More Than Ever, Pennsylvania Should Welcome Syrian Refugees

25-year-old Zachariah Kwirah (right), a factory worker from Syria, said he was almost separated from his family of three babies, two sisters and mother-in-law at a Serbian processing camp. Issue date: Monday November 16, 2015. Photo credit should read: Michael McHugh/PA Wire

25-year-old Zachariah Kwirah (right), a factory worker from Syria, said he was almost separated from his family of three babies, two sisters and mother-in-law at a Serbian processing camp. (Michael McHugh/PA Wire)

One by one, United States governors promised to close their states’ borders to Syrian refugees yesterday.

Recycling the usual lines about immigrants and fueled by the tragedy in Paris, a total of 25 Republican governors and one Democrat – oh hi there, Maggie Hassan – were presumably reacting to news that one of the attackers used a Syrian passport to enter Europe. (They also, presumably, stopped reading by the time it was reported that the passport was fake.) Senators piled on, and GOP presidential candidates were only too happy to chime in.

I’m sure Donald Trump had something to say, but as I’m writing this, the sun is just barely up. There’s a bird chirping in my backyard and a bagel on the horizon. Any minute the heat is going to kick on and my feet will feel like toasty little s’mores. At this point, for all I know Tuesday will be full of hope and promise and corgi stampedes. I will Google Trump’s comments for you, but I will not read them. Not yet.

Instead, let’s kick it over to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. Tom, what say you, keeping in mind that the day has not gone to shit just yet? Read more »

Penn, Are You Serious About Not Revoking Bill Cosby’s Honorary Degree?

Actor Bill Cosby visits with athletes during the games of the 2011 Penn Relays on April 30, 2011, at Franklin Field.

Actor Bill Cosby visits with athletes during the games of the 2011 Penn Relays on April 30, 2011, at Franklin Field.

When the Association of American Universities released its survey on sexual assault in September, Penn President Amy Gutmann called the findings “deeply troubling.”

Deeply troubling, indeed. Although the numbers weren’t unique to Penn — results were “deeply troubling” across the board — that didn’t make them any easier to take in.

A staggering 27 percent of undergraduate women who responded to the survey reported that they had been sexually assaulted at Penn. A full two-thirds reported that they were subject to sexual harassment. Less than half said they thought it was “very or extremely likely” that Penn would take a report of sexual assault seriously, and only about a third were confident that the university would conduct a fair investigation.

To summarize: Women at Penn are being sexually assaulted in alarming numbers, and they don’t trust Penn to do anything about it.

Is now a good time to mention that Bill Cosby still holds an honorary degree from the University of Pennsylvania? Because he does. Although a number of institutions have revoked Cosby’s honors after more than 50 women have accused him of sexual assault, Penn declined to do so on Friday. Read more »

Philly’s 5 Creepiest Mascots


We did it, guys. We resurrected Gus.

According to the Pennsylvania Lottery, it was popular demand that brought the state’s “second most famous groundhog” back just in time for the holidays.

“Gus went into semi-retirement in early 2012 after a nearly eight-year run as our instant game ad mascot,” said Lottery Executive Director Drew Svitko of the beloved critter in the only press release worth reading. “In the years since, we have continued to hear from players who told us how much they missed Gus and wanted him to return. Simply stated, Gus is a Pennsylvania Lottery institution.”

Damn straight he is, Drew. Damn straight.

Granted, not everyone is happy to see Gus return, which is understandable. (Wrong and heartless and unfeeling, but understandable.) Read more »

Dear Philadelphia: Where Are My Freaking Pumpkins!?

I’m only going to ask this once: Where are my pumpkins, Philadelphia?

I know where they used to be. At one point, they were lined up neatly on my steps, smallest to plumpest, as if ready to march off to their first day of pumpkin school. Others were nestled safe and sound in my window box, which as of October became a shrine to Decorative Gourd Season.

When the first one went missing, I brushed it off. It’s my first fall in South Philly proper — where the Halloween decorations went up in September and the Christmas lights are already twinkling — and I admittedly went a little overboard while trying to fit in with my neighbors. I could have easily miscounted my many pumpkins.

When the second one disappeared, I stayed positive. Maybe someone walking by recognized my pumpkin’s potential and brought it home to help it live out its wildest pumpkin dreams. Perhaps my pumpkin was in a better place, living a life I couldn’t provide. If he was transformed into an award-winning pie or a first-prize jack-o’-lantern, I could have moved on in the name of “If you love something, let it go.”

But when I woke up one morning to a mere three surviving pumpkins, rage set in.

Maybe I’ll ask again: Where in unholy hell are my pumpkins, Philadelphia? Read more »

We Have a Halloween Pet Costume Problem

Right on cue, I woke up yesterday wondering if I might have a problem. Yes, the signs have been there day in and day out, week after week, month to month. But every year, it’s Halloween that really makes me look around my living room — at the cardboard and spray paint and hot glue guns and industrial-size tub of glitter — and think, “Hm.”

I devoted Sunday to drawing up plans for Murphy’s Halloween costume, and I’ll spend every night this week putting the finishing touches on his top-secret get-up. I’ve set aside one evening for tailoring, one for mobility troubleshooting, and another for rebuilding the portions that Murphy will inevitably maul during his many fit sessions.

Murphy, you see, is a dog. Murphy, unlike myself, has very little interest in what he’s being for Halloween this year or who wins the office costume contest. Read more »

We Left a Homeless Toddler in the Middle of LOVE Park

Photo courtesy @BillFish215 on Twitter

Photo courtesy @BillFish215 on Twitter

“Young Boy Found Wandering in LOVE Park.” It was easy to judge the story’s first headline, and judge I easily did. Why was a 2-year-old outside alone, barefoot, on a cold autumn night? What’s wrong with his parents?

But the second headline, well, that one was a little more difficult: “Homeless Toddler Inspires Fundraising Campaign.”

“Homeless toddler.”

It’s confusing to read and it’s confusing to type. It was ugly yesterday and it’s uglier today. I’ve lived in this city my whole life, and I like to think I’ve done so with my eyes open. I worked two blocks from LOVE Park for five years, and when I got on the El to return to my warm home every night, I didn’t take it for granted. Read more »

Dating in Philly After 30: Ugh.


Illustration by Tim Parker

I was a little nervous. Maybe more than a little nervous. It had, after all, been a solid 10 years since I’d been on a first date, and if my memory served me correctly, I wasn’t all that good at them.

But I relaxed a little when he finally walked through the door of Johnny Brenda’s. Tall, well-dressed, seriously great smile — this was going to be just fine. We had met a few days before while waiting for our tables at brunch, and he was so charming that I agreed to follow-up drinks before remembering that I wasn’t ready to date. Read more »

Farewell to City Paper, the Absolute Best Place to Work


I can’t remember what brought me to City Paper’s doorstep.

I’d like to think that I was a fan of the publication and wanted to contribute to the legacy of journalism in Philadelphia. It should also be noted that I was about to graduate college with a degree in the unemployable arts and could articulate my five-year plan in high-school Spanish. So sure, that might have had something to do with it, too.

Either way, I was on the fast track to becoming the city’s worst bartender when I showed up at Second and Chestnut with zero experience and the sneaky feeling that I wouldn’t last one semester in law school. I can still remember then-editor Ashlea Halpern asking me, in so many words, what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told her the truth, because I was 21 and that still seemed like the right approach: I had no idea. The last time I had set a career goal I was in kindergarten, and the whole Sugar Plum Fairy thing wasn’t panning out.

I’m not sure why she hired me – likely because I had a working laptop and the internship was unpaid – but nine years later I’m still unbelievably grateful that she took a chance. And a week after City Paper announced its unceremonious end, I’m still unbelievably sad that Broad Street Media was afraid to do the same.  Read more »

This is America, Speak … Whatever You Want

One of these things is not like theod

One of these things is not like the other.

Saturday was a good day to be a Philadelphian. A great day. Collectively, maybe one of the best days.

After a not-too-shabby introduction by Mayor Nutter calling for LGBT rights, Pope Francis took the podium at Independence Hall with a speech that the place was built to host. At times speaking in Spanish – and drawing cheers from the crowd – the man of the hour seemed to hip-check Donald Trump. “I ask you not to forget that, like those who came here before you, you bring many gifts to your new nation,” he said. “You should never be ashamed of your traditions. Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders, which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land.”

That’s right. A politician and a leader of the Catholic church got together and said a real thing. And this real thing felt good, maybe even holy. It was weird, it was wonderful, it was the essence of Saturday in Philadelphia.

And yet, it was within the same state that Rep. Daryl Metcalfe is promoting a bill to make English the “official” language of Pennsylvania. And within the same week that he cut the mic of Leslie Acosta – a bilingual immigrant as well as the General Assembly’s first/only Latina lawmaker – who was arguing that the bill is unconstitutional. Read more »

Here’s the Problem With That Popular Planned Parenthood Defense

Patricia Ireland, president of National Organization for Women (NOW), third from right, demonstrates with other NOW participants in favor of the Roe vs. Wade decision during the candlelight vigil on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. in 2000.

Patricia Ireland, president of National Organization for Women (NOW), third from right, demonstrates with other NOW participants in favor of the Roe vs. Wade decision during the candlelight vigil on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. in 2000.

When attacked, it’s a natural instinct to defend oneself as quickly and succinctly as possible, to shoot down bold lies with hard facts before they hang around and poison the air any longer.

And so when Republican lawmakers attempt to defund Planned Parenthood and presidential candidates paint the women’s health nonprofit as a sadistic baby-killing machine, I can understand why we whip out the numbers. They’re good numbers to have on hand when Jeb Bush says things like “they’re not actually doing women’s health issues” and that Planned Parenthood is “involved in something way different than that.” Or when Rep. Diane Black, sponsor of the House defunding bill, claims: “If there is reason to investigate, then there is reason to withhold taxpayer dollars during that period of time. The American taxpayer has been clear for a very long time that they do not want federal funds spent on abortion.”

Plenty of people have broken it down, but it’s worth repeating: Only 3 percent of the services provided by Planned Parenthood last year were abortion-related. Out of the 10.6 million services provided, 42 percent treated or prevented STDs. Another 34 percent provided contraception. Cancer screening and prevention accounted for 9 percent. (The annual report is available here.) Read more »

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