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At Haverford College, drama surrounds (ex) commencement speaker

Protests at Haverford College forced the planned commencement speaker, Robert J. Birgeneau, to withdraw. Protests from the left have had similar impact at schools across the country.

Some students and faculty members at Haverford, a liberal arts college near Philadelphia, objected to the invitation to Mr. Birgeneau to speak and receive an honorary degree because, under him, the University of California police used batons to break up an Occupy protest in 2011. He first stated his support for the police, and then a few days later, saying that he was disturbed by videos of the confrontation, ordered an investigation.

Those at Haverford who objected to his being honored asked Mr. Birgeneau to apologize and to meet a list of demands, including leading an effort to train campus security forces in handling protests better; he refused.

Mr. Birgeneau bowed out a day after Smith College said that Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, had withdrawn from its commencement because of protests. Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, said this month she would not deliver the address at Rutgers University after the invitation drew objections. Last month, Brandeis University rescinded an invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born activist, over her criticism of Islam.

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

The Atlantic's CityLab also highlights Mural Arts' Amtrak installation

With support from Mural Arts, Berlin-based artist Katharina Grosse has tackled seven sites between 30th Street Station and North Philadelphia Station.

Using the train as a central vehicle, psychylustro is meant to be seen in motion.

This stretch of track into downtown sees 34,000 riders every day, including travelers heading to and from New York on Amtrak plus commuters on two lines of SEPTA Regional Rail and one New Jersey Transit line with service to Atlantic City.*

The installation, curator Liz Thomas says, is intended "an experience that asks people to think about this space that they hurdle through every day." The moving trains allowed Grosse to play with a wider number of variables: the viewer's perspective will change based on which direction they're traveling, how fast the train is going, and which track the train is using. The goal, Thomas says, is to create "a beautiful disruption into a daily routine."

The installation also asks travelers to think more critically about the history of this stretch of Philadelphia, which includes sections of downtown and huge swathes of formerly industrial neighborhoods. The sites include the sides of an occupied office building, an old railroad trestle, and an abandoned warehouse, which once housed a textile factory but now has trees growing up through its collapsed roof. The brilliant colors -- vibrant whites and oranges on that warehouse side -- draw attention to these contrasting pieces of Philadelphia's past.

Original source: The Atlantic's CityLab
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The Los Angeles Times looks at Philly's innovative blight management strategies

The Los Angeles Times covers our city's latest creative strategies for combatting neighborhood decay.

After decades of ignoring the blight that has spread through its neighborhoods, Philadelphia is trying to reclaim its vacant homes through aggressive initiatives designed to compel negligent owners to fix their properties or see them seized and torn down.

In just a few short years, the city has made impressive progress; experts say some of the tools used in Philadelphia may help other post-industrial cities coping with decades-long population decline and the neglected space left behind.?..

The door and window ordinance allows community groups to take over dilapidated properties and repair them. Another will establish a land bank for the city so it can begin to redistribute abandoned properties to people and groups who want to build something new.

Neighborhoods where the new strategies have been applied have seen home prices rise 31% over four years, compared with a 1% rise in comparable areas, according to a study by Ira Goldstein of the Reinvestment Fund. The initiatives increased home values by $74 million throughout Philadelphia, Goldstein said, and brought in $2.2 million more in transfer tax receipts.

Original source: The Los Angeles Times
Read the complete story here.

'America's first queer jazz festival' coming to the City of Brotherly Love

Philadelphia will host Outbeat, the country's first "queer jazz festival."

OutBeat, a four-day event that organizers are describing as the first jazz festival with a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender focus (its subtitle is America’s First Queer Jazz Festival), will be staged in Philadelphia from Sept. 18 to 21. The festival, which was announced by its sponsor, the William Way LGBT Community Center, at a news conference in Philadelphia on Wednesday, will include panel discussions and receptions as well as performances at several clubs and halls around the city.

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Slate dubs PA 'the most linguistically rich state in the country'

A writer for Slate investigates our state's status as a "regional dialect hotbed nonpareil."
A typical state maintains two or three distinct, comprehensive dialects within its borders. Pennsylvania boasts five, each consisting of unique pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar elements. Of course, three of the five kind of get the shaft—sorry Erie, and no offense, Pennsylvania Dutch Country—because by far the most widely recognized Pennsylvania regional dialects are those associated with Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

The Philadelphia dialect features a focused avoidance of the “th” sound, the swallowing of the L in lots of words, and wooder instead of water, among a zillion other things. In Pittsburgh, it’s dahntahn for downtown, and words like nebby and jagoff and yinz. But, really, attempting to describe zany regional dialects using written words is a fool’s errand. To get some sense of how Philadelphians talk, check out this crash course clip created by Sean Monahan, who was raised in Bucks County speaking with a heavy Philly accent. Then hit the “click below” buttons on the website for these Yappin’ Yinzers dolls to get the Pittsburgh side of things, and watch this Kroll Show clip to experience a Pennsylvania dialect duel.

Original source: Slate
Read the complete story here.

Details on Philly's upcoming bike share released

B-Cycle will run Philly's upcoming bike share. Curbed Philly has some details:

According to B-Cycle's website, all of their bikes are equipped with lights in the front and back, a bell, a built-in lock, and a basket. They are also equipped with technology that tracks how many emissions each cyclist saves, and how many calories they burn.

The docking stations used by B-Cycle are solar-powered, and come equipped with a kiosk for unlocking bikes. Though the website says that a B-Cycle membership card cannot be purchased without a credit card, there will be cash payment options in Philly so that the bikes will be accessible to low income riders. Annual B-Cycle memberships in other cities cost from $30 to $80 (the least expensive memberships appear to be for students), and entitle the holder to unlimited free trips that last 30 minutes or less. Every additional half hour costs the user $4.

Original source: Curbed Philly
Read the complete story here.

Philly chef Michael Solomonov earns mention in trend piece on Middle Eastern flavors

Middle Eastern flavors are invading high-end kitchens, including those in Philadelphia.

Today Ms. Oliveira is one of many chefs, with and without roots in the Middle East and North Africa, who are pulling those regions’ rich and ancient culinary traditions into the limelight...

Elsewhere in the nation, chefs like Michael Solomonov in Philadelphia, Mourad Lahlou in San Francisco and Alon Shaya in New Orleans are delving into the Middle Eastern pantry. And some chefs who have no connection to the region but who embrace a global, nowhere-but-everywhere cooking style are rifling through the cupboards of Middle Eastern kitchens, then riffing on what they find there: new grains and syrups, cheeses and pickles, fresh herbs and dried beans.

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

City schools face new round of cuts

Budget issues continue to inflict pain on Philadelphia's public schools.

A $216-million budget shortfall could force Philadelphia’s public schools to make further staffing cuts next year, school officials said on Friday.

The superintendent of schools, William R. Hite Jr., said the 131,000-student district would not have the money it needed to maintain existing levels of education that he said were already "wholly insufficient" after a $304-million budget cut at the start of the 2013-14 school year.

The district, which has had chronic budget problems, laid off some 3,800 employees as a result of that cut. Although about a quarter of those employees were rehired as some funding was restored, about 2,350 jobs could be eliminated next year unless the district finds funding to bridge its new shortfall, Dr. Hite said...

The district is also looking to the private sector for financial help, but corporate or individual gifts tend to be for specific projects, not recurring revenue, he said. The district’s sale of some two dozen vacant school buildings is expected to raise $25 million by June 30, said the district’s chief financial officer, Matthew E. Stanski.

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Check out the jaw-dropping Penn's Landing feasibility study

Last week, we wrote about the ambitious new plans fomenting for Penn's Landing and the rest of the Delaware Waterfront. Now, check out the awesome, inspiring feasibility study complete with renderings.

Original source: Delaware River Waterfront; HT PlanPhilly
Check out the whole document here.

Curbed Philly seeks new editor

The real estate-centric site Curbed Philly is hiring a new editor.

We're looking for a real estate obsessive to keep Philly apprised of all the good neighborhood news and development gossip on a daily basis. While you don't need to be a real estate expert, it helps to be completely fixated on architecture, city planning, and all the only-in-Philly weirdness that makes this place so great. Think you're up to the task?

Click through for more details.

Original source: Curbed Philly


The New York Times shines a light on Comcast's David Cohen

David Cohen, former chief of staff to Mayor Ed Rendell (and star of Buzz Bissinger's A Prayer for the City), takes a leading role at Comcast. The New York Times profiled this behind-the-scenes institution.

Mr. Cohen is well known in Philadelphia from his time as chief of staff to former Mayor Edward G. Rendell in the 1990s, a six-year tenure that established his reputation as a master of big-picture strategy, fine detail and just about everything in between.

"Whatever the issue is, David learns more about it than anyone, and he can keep it all in his head," Mr. Rendell says. "With me, he knew all about municipal pensions, and he knew about picking up trash — I mean the actual routes of the garbage trucks." 

...Mr. Cohen oversees Comcast’s robust lobbying operation and sets the strategies to shepherd its acquisitions past antitrust questions and other regulatory concerns. It’s a big job — and one that would fully occupy almost anyone else — because Comcast’s appetite for expansion is large, and it needs to be fed with a frequency that some find alarming...

Mr. Cohen has, as well, gotten into the weeds of Comcast’s cable and broadband customer service — a fraught subject since surveys have consistently shown that the industry in general, and Comcast in particular, are held in low regard by consumers. He has even gone on talk radio shows in Philadelphia to take calls from customers, a duty that few executives at his pay grade — Mr. Cohen pulled in just short of $30 million in compensation over the last two years — would seek.

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Grantland writer Chris Ryan takes a delightful look back at a woeful Sixers' season

It was a rough season for Sixers fans, but Philly native Chris Ryan sees signs of hope. (Plus, that GIF of Iverson stepping over Tyronn Lue will make any local's day.)

With all due respect to the obvious and well-documentedcharms of Malik Rose and Marc Zumoff, the Sixers, especially post–trade deadline, have been a tough watch on TV. Life is too short and Kevin Durant is too good to spend all your time watching Henry Sims learn to crawl. This is specific to the NBA, I think. You can drift away from your team now. Baseball is a months-long, religious experience (or so I’m told), and football is a one-day-a-week committment, where only the truly putrid teams are out of contention early on. The NBA is different. With League Pass, national games, and players that you want to be able to tell your kids about, it’s tough to stick with a bad team. And the Sixers are bad.

But live? Live, the Sixers are punk-rock bad. The Sixers are gloriously, three-chords-and-a-beat bad.

Live, you feel it. You feel how fast they are trying to play, you can see that Brett Brown has removed the restrictor plate on this team, you can see a bunch of guys desperately playing for their lives, or at least their livelihoods. If you just watch the game, and don’t look at the scoreboard, and don’t think about how Rajon Rondo must wonder what he did to deserve this … well, it’s kind of awesome.

Original source: Grantland
Read the complete story here.

Philly aims for 'World's Largest Bar Crawl'

On Saturday, May 3, organizers in Philadelphia are aiming to launch the 'World's Largest Bar Crawl.'

"What makes this event unique is being able to be compliant with the Guinness Book of World Records," explains Ray Sheehan, president of Philly2nite and one of the event’s organizers. "Anyone can throw a bar crawl, but here there are some rules and regulations and certain things that we need to do in order for Guinness to be able to validate it as it being a true bar crawl."

To officially rewrite history, each consumer has to go to ten venues within an eight-hour window. To keep track of everything, "we built a sophisticated app specifically for this event," says Sheehan.

In order to be counted as part of the crawl, the consumer has to drink at least five ounces of alcohol, or a non-alcoholic beverage, at each of the ten venues they enter, between the hours of noon and 8 p.m., all throughout the city.

"Basically you’re going to have people as far south as South Philadelphia, as far west as University City, as far north as Fairmount/Northern Liberties and as far east as the Old City section and a bunch of bars participating right downtown," Sheehan says. "People are circulating from neighborhood to neighborhood, and essentially what you have is just a full day of festive activities, going from bar to bar to bar."

Original source: CBS News
Read the complete story here.

Philadelphia hosts world's largest game of Tetris

A Drexel professor and his students hacked the lighting system of the 29-story Cira Center, allowing them to play Tetris on the building's facade.

 Check out the video here.

Original source: The New York Times

New tools for detecting cancer come out of Thomas Jefferson

New blood tests -- or "liquid biopsies" -- are making the cancer detection process more painless.

Telltale traces of a tumor are often present in the blood. These traces -- either intact cancer cells or fragments of tumor DNA -- are present in minuscule amounts, but numerous companies are now coming to market with sophisticated tests that can detect and analyze them.

While the usefulness of the tests still needs to be proved, proponents say that because liquid biopsies are not invasive, they can be easier to repeat periodically, potentially tracking the disease as it evolves and allowing treatments to be adjusted accordingly...

"You will have a chance to identify a treatment sometimes and sometimes not," said Dr. Massimo Cristofanilli, director of the breast care center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, who is treating Ms. Lewis and is a leading expert on liquid biopsies. Still, he said, "you are certainly much more advanced than going blindly." 

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.
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