Good morning, Philadelphia. Here is what you need to know today.
Last July, President Obama visited Philly and called for transformation of the criminal justice system. Now he’s following through — by releasing 6,000 federal prisoners.
“Mass incarceration makes our country worse off, and we’ve got to do something about it,” Obama said in Philly. Now, the Washington Post reports, his Justice Department is going to release 6,000 prisoners “to reduce overcrowding and provide relief to drug offenders who received harsh sentences over the past three decades.” A change in sentencing guidelines could result in early releases for 46,000 of the nation’s drug offenders.
Prison will be increasingly reserved for violent offenders, instead. “I think you can send the correct message which is – illegal drug use won’t be tolerated,” Sen. Bob Casey told the Sinclair Broadcast Group. “But at the same time we’ve got to make sure we have the resources to track down and to incarcerate the most violent members in our society.” Read more »
In late August, just a few days before classes began at Swarthmore College, a member of the class of 2016 — to spare her future Google angst, let’s call her “the Victim” — took a walk in the Crum Woods, a quiet bit of forest near campus. There, scrawled on a log, she glimpsed what the Phoenix, an independent newspaper at the college, described in an article published on September 3rd as “an offensive slur.” The Victim notified Public Safety at the school, which obliterated the graffiti. Alas, the damage was already done.
The Victim was disturbed by what she’d seen. “It was just a really weird feeling,” she told the Phoenix, “and I just left, and I went home because I was just like, ‘I don’t want to be here anymore.’” She spoke to several deans at the college about her experience and also informed members of the Swarthmore African American Student Society (SASS) (of whom, the Phoenix informs us, she is not one), “to prevent others from having to endure this painful experience” — which of course they wouldn’t, presumably, since the offending scrawl had been removed, except that the Victim posted photos of the log on the SASS Facebook page. Read more »
In yet another LGBT-supportive move by the Obama administration, Mr. Fanning has been nominated by the President to become the first openly gay service secretary for the United States Army. Fanning has “been a specialist on defense and national security issues for more than 25 years in Congress and the Pentagon” according to a report in The Washington Post.Read more »
At a White House press conference this afternoon, President Obama was asked by a reporter if he would revoke Bill Cosby’s Medal of Freedom over the comedian’s ongoing rape allegations. The President shared that there’s no precedent for revoking the honor, and he declined to address the Cosby situation specifically. But he did have this to say:
“If you give a woman — or a man for that matter — without his or her knowledge a drug, and then have sex with that person without consent, that’s rape. And I think this country, any civilized country, should have no tolerance for rape.”
In other D.C.-related Cosby news, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art says it will “post a sign telling visitors that an exhibition featuring Bill Cosby’s art collection is about the artists, not a tribute to the comedian,” according to a report. The Smithsonian houses the Cosby collection which features dozens of artists “under appreciated” by other museums.
Gov. Tom Wolfannounced last month that he was going to post his full work calendar online starting in February. It sounded all good and transparent, but, we pointed out, the devil’s in the details:
Whether Wolf is truly taking a bold step won’t be known until he releases the first data set. He could redact a lot of useful information — or he could provide enough details to make every open-record advocate in the state happy. We’ll know soon enough.
President Obama barely made mention of cities or urban affairs in last night’s State of the Union. But his agenda did include four big initiatives that, if enacted (a big if), would have huge impacts on Philadelphia and other big cities. Read more »
If you’re one of the ones who stayed up watching President Obama’s State of the Union (SOTU) address, you witnessed history in the making. The speech included the word “transgender” for the first time in our nation’s history. If you missed it, here’s how it went:
Last Wednesday, members of The University of Pennsylvania Shabbatones, a Jewish a cappella group, sang for the president and first lady at the White House’s annual Chanukah Party.
The Penn Shabbatones were chosen after the White House conducted a talent search looking for groups to sing at the affair. The group’s president Sarah Beckoff tells me that they even had a chance to do a private performance for President and First Lady Obama. She breaks down how the evening went in an email she sent me this afternoon:
You’re staying at a hotel. You get online. When you log in, you’re given a choice: You can use the free Internet service that the hotel provides or you can pay extra for “faster downloads.” Like me, you’re a cheapskate, so you choose free. And it works fine … most of the time. But how about first thing in the morning when you’re checking your email? Or maybe right after dinner? Notice something? Yeah, you did — it’s slower. Much slower. And I’m sure you can guess why. Every user of the free service who’s waking up or getting back to their rooms from the conference you’re attending are all complaining about the boring keynote speaker … .and checking their email. And because you’re all sharing the same, free service you’re all suffering from slower performance.
President Obama was at Temple University yesterday stumping for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf. While backstage in the green room, the President was treated to a ditty from Philly soul group Brotherly Love, who sang a five-song set at the rally. According to NBC 10, group members asked Obama if they could sing him a song and he not only said yes but he bopped and clapped right along with them, telling the group that they’ve “got a really great single there.”
“He was stoked,” 21-year-old group member King Kasheef told NBC 10. “He’s a genuine guy. Exactly the same as you hear him speak. He’s definitely a stand-up guy.”
Check out the video above, and read more about the group’s experience here.