Sen. Casey Pushes for Families to Fly Cheaper

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey

The major U.S. airlines, more than ever, are dinging travelers — including whole families — for amenities like checked bags, seat changes and even on-board snacks.

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is pushing the Federal Aviation Administration to tell airlines to drop the fee for one of those a la carte conveniences: seat changes for families with small kids. TheHill, a legislative news website, reported Monday that Casey is pressing the FAA to require that airlines not charge parents unnecessary fees to select or change seats that allow them to sit with their children on board airplanes.

“I write today to express concern about the apparent lack of policies in place to ensure airlines are taking appropriate steps to guarantee that young children can sit with their parents during a flight without paying extra fees,” Casey wrote to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, according to Casey’s official government website. The official letter can be read in its entirety on the webpage.

“In recent years, consumers have grown increasingly frustrated by the growing use of varying fees associated with air travel,” Casey continued. “For a family that has already paid full fare to have to pay an additional fee so that parents and children can sit together is financially burdensome and stressful to families,” Casey added.

Consumerist reported that some airlines already make an effort to accommodate families on board their aircraft. Southwest, known for its free-for-all seating procedures, announced in early June that it is taking steps to make its boarding process more efficient and to hopefully allow families to find seats together, even on crowded flights.

Southwest, a major carrier at Philadelphia International Airport, already allows families with children four and under to board together after its priority group, but it is now increasing that age limit to six-, eight-, and even 11-year-olds on some flights. Families can already pay extra to board together if they so choose.

“Families should be able to travel on commercial flights without having to pay unnecessary fees,” Senator Casey said. “Flying can be very challenging for families with young children. It’s important that industry and the FAA take steps to end these fees. For a family that has already paid full fare to have to pay an additional fee so that parents and children can sit together is financially burdensome and stressful to families.”


Sixers Hire Scientist to Head Performance R&D Department

The Sixers have hired a scientist.

Today, the 76ers announced the team had hired Dr. David T. Martin, a doctor who has worked in Australian cycling for 20 years, for a new position overseeing sports science. Martin will hold the title of Director of Performance Research and Development with the Sixers.

“We have made many investments – adding staff and integrating outside experts, partnering with pioneers in sports science and technology, and adjusting our day-to-day training, practice and recovery plans,” Sixers GM Sam Hinkie said in a release. “But none like David Martin. He is a scientist. He is also a coach to some of the world’s highest performing, most resilient athletes and coaches. We are delighted to add someone of his immense talents to lead and grow our efforts.” Read more »

Your Phone Bill Is About to Go Up

If you think your phone bill is too high right now, wait until August.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed into law on Monday a bill that will increase the cost of calling 911 for emergencies, in an effort to raise additional funds to operate the call centers, PennLive reported yesterday.

The new law, PennLive says, will put into effect a uniform $1.65 911 fee irrespective of the type of phone service a customer uses. Cell phone and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) users currently pay one dollar a month per line for 911 service, while landlines are charged between $1 – $1.50 depending on location.  Read more »

Chris Christie Announces Presidential Run

Christie 2016 campaign video


Speaking at his high school alma mater in Livingston, New Jersey, Chris Christie officially announced his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination today.

“This country needs to work together, not against each other,” he said. “We must tell each other the truth about the problems we have and the difficulty of the solution.… Truth and hard decisions today will lead to growth and opportunity tomorrow for every American in this country.… We are going to tell it like it is today so we can create a better opportunity for every American tomorrow. The truth will set us free, everybody.”

Christie didn’t really expand on what those truths are, but added that “our government isn’t working any more for us… and it’s the fault of our bickering leaders.” Christie leaned heavily on his six years as governor of New Jersey in his announcement, singling out the overhaul of teacher tenure. “Not only can you govern this state, you can lead it to a better day,” he said.

So what kind of campaign is Christie going to run? He said the usual: He’d be an honest, blunt campaigner. He said he wouldn’t be focus-grouping his answers, and would not rely on political consultants to give him his answers to questions. He said the country was anxious, adding “that anxiety can be swept away by strong leadership.” He tried to strike a bipartisan, anti-Washington tone, talking (in vague terms) about the failures of both Republicans and Democrats.

Christie joins a crowded field. There are currently 14 Republican candidates for the presidency, another declaring next month and a few others expected to join the field. His popularity has slid since 2012, and he appears to have no real path to the presidency. Read more »

New Jersey Man Charged in Bank-Robbing Spree

A new Jersey man was charged in bank robberies in a yearlong spree throughout central and southeastern Pennsylvania. reported on Monday that the FBI caught and charged 41-year-old Francis Simmons of Warren, New Jersey, with 16 counts of robbery, stretching from incidents in Hellertown, Fogelsville and Allentown in the northeastern part of the region all the way to Wyomissing, Lancaster and even further to Lewisburg, near I-80 north of Harrisburg. He also allegedly raided banks and businesses in New York, New Jersey, Maryland and North Carolina. Read more »

Whitewashing History

affleck confederate slaves

Recently it was revealed Boston-bred actor Ben Affleck asked the producers of the PBS genealogy show Finding Your Roots to omit the fact that his ancestors owned slaves from their broadcast about … his roots. For two seasons, the show has traced the family histories of public figures, something one might assume that Affleck knew when he signed on.

In April, when the story first came to light with the fallout of the Sony email hack, Affleck said that he was “embarrassed” and “didn’t want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves.”

The irony here, of course, is that Affleck’s white privilege allowed him to decide that because the slavery narrative was an inconvenience or an embarrassment to him, he could re-write his own history and do without it harm to his own image. I can’t figure out why anyone would care that his great-great-somebody owned a slave, or why, given his Boston affiliation, this wouldn’t already be readily assumed.

News flash, white people: Some white people owned slaves. Some of those white people may have been members of your family. This is not a reflection on you, nor is it a specific indictment against all white people. These are just facts. Read more »

Pope’s Philadelphia Schedule Unveiled


When the pope visits Independence Mall, maybe he can drop in on the nearby beer garden?

If you want to meet Pope Francis when he visits Philadelphia, your best bet may be to get arrested.

Pope Francis will make a visit to Northeast Philadelphia’s Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility during his visit to the city for the World Meeting of Families this September, officials revealed this morning. The Vatican has released the pope’s itinerary for his two days in Philadelphia on September 26th and 27th.

The pope’s itinerary is in Italian, so we took the liberty of doing a rough translation of it (into English, even!) for you here. Read more »

Drexel Criticized for Noam Chomsky Honor

Noam Chomsky (AP Photo/Nader Daoud)

Noam Chomsky (AP Photo/Nader Daoud)

Drexel University is under continuing criticism from Jewish groups for awarding an honorary degree to left-wing scholar and activist Noam Chomsky during its mid-June graduation ceremonies.

Chomsky, critics say, has been a virulent and unfair critic of Israel.

“Chomsky has seldom missed an opportunity to author a screed against Israel,” Abraham Miller, a senior fellow with the Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought, wrote last week in an essay that has been carried in The Jewish Exponent and the Algemeiner.

Chomsky, 86, a linguist at MIT, is Jewish. His own website features him among “famous Jews who have opposed Israel,” along with this quote: “In the Occupied Territories, what Israel is doing is much worse than apartheid. To call it apartheid is a gift to Israel, at least if by ‘apartheid’ you mean South African-style apartheid. What’s happening in the Occupied Territories is much worse.”

Read more »

Gay Activists: We’ll Protest Pope’s Visit If We Want

One day before the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling on same-sex marriage, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said that gay people can attend Pope Francis’ visit to the city this fall — but only if they don’t use it to protest the Catholic church.

The response from gay activists in Philadelphia? Try to stop us.

Take it from “someone who’s been protesting since 1969,” said Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News. “If someone wants to protest, they will find a way.”

Read more »

Phillies Name Andy MacPhail New Team President

Andy MacPhail, new leader of the Phillies' front office, is seen during spring training baseball practice, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2008, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Rob Carr)

Andy MacPhail, new leader of the Phillies’ front office, is seen during spring training baseball practice, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2008, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Rob Carr)

The Phillies have a message for their fans: We care about sabermetrics. They used the word a bunch. John Middleton, the most prominent member of the Phillies’ silent partnership, said it. Interim president Pat Gillick, who put together the Phillies’ 2008 championship team, said it. Andy MacPhail, who will be the new Phillies president at the end of the season, said it many, many times.

Sabermetrics, a term coined from the acronym for the Society for American Baseball Research, is at its core the empirical analysis of baseball (as Wikipedia puts it). But it’s also code for a way of thinking that values statistics over scouting when putting together a baseball club. The Phillies have been chastised for doing the opposite, such as relying on 7-year-old scouting reports when signing outfielder Delmon Young in 2012.

“I don’t care about walks,” General Manager Ruben Amaro said in January 2013. “I care about production. To be frank with you, I’ve said this all along. All of the sabermatricians and all of the people who think they know exactly what makes a good club… to me, it’s more about run production and being able to score runs and drive in runs.”

The Phillies clearly attempted to make introduction of MacPhail as president a new start for the franchise. The Phillies say they plan to be more forward-thinking. Middleton said the Phillies were creating a “custom-made system” for evaluating players, and said the team would hire new analysts sometime this season if they needed to. MacPhail didn’t say what that meant for general manager Ruben Amaro, but said he was looking to use statistics.

“In Chicago, I was the president and CEO,” MacPhail said. “I had a GM who I loved that was not very saber-friendly, but I made him hire two kids to help him with that. We used to use it in Minnesota, for God’s sake. We don’t really advertise it, why would we? … Nobody’s got all the tools. You have to hire people around you.” All three brought this up before being asked about it. Read more »

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