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Philly's transit system blasts into the future

Septa's long-anticipated high-tech update is on the way -- and Philly is jumping straight to the top of the queue. 

A public transit system that still uses metal tokens and paper transfers - yes, in the 21st century - appears finally to be moving into the era of debit cards and pay-by-cellphone technology.

Philadelphia riders can now see evidence of SEPTA Key, the long-awaited smart card system for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. Dozens of computerized kiosks, turnstiles and fare boxes have popped up in stations and on vehicles, and testing begins this month.

"We see this project as taking us in the fare payment industry from last place to first place," said Kevin O'Brien, SEPTA senior program manager.

Original source: The Associated Press via The Philadelphia Inquirer
Read the complete story here.

VIDEO: MSNBC showcases Wash Cycle Laundry, one of Philly's top startups

MSNBC's Your Business highlights the story of Wash Cycle Laundry, one of Philadelphia's most innovative -- and greenest -- startups. 

Check out the video here.

The Sixers' extreme woes continue to attract national attention

Stats hub FiveThirtyEight is the latest national publication to take notice of the 76ers' clinic in the art of losing.

The Philadelphia 76ers are in a bit of a tailspin right now. Monday night’s loss, against a San Antonio Spurs team that was sitting both Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, was Philadelphia’s 17th straight to start the season, a franchise record and one shy of the all-time NBA record set by the New Jersey Nets in 2009. It’s been 230 days since the Sixers won a basketball game.

Back in mid-November, our friends at the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective anticipated the Sixers’ woes and computed the odds of the team’s season-opening losing streak reaching various lengths. The chances of a 17-game streak back then were just 20 percent; Philadelphia still had to lose a few theoretically winnable games (of course, it obliged). Now we need to update the probabilities and ask just how long this Sixers skid might last.

The New York Times also entered the fray last week: "At 0-15, 76ers Are Perfecting the Art of Tanking"

Original source: FiveThirtyEight
Read the complete story here.

The New York Times reviews Philly's Radisson Blu Warwick Hotel

Philly's latest upscale hotel gets some attention.

Walking into the Radisson Blu Warwick Hotel is like walking into a modern European techno club — which is either good or bad depending on your taste. The Blu brand is literally reflected in light strips surrounding mirrored entryways, while electronic music plays at medium volume in the background of the white and silver lobby. With all new guest rooms, fitness center and lobby, the hotel reopened as a Radisson Blu last November. The exterior of the hotel, a landmark that opened in 1926 as the Warwick Hotel, was mostly left intact during the $20 million renovation.

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

Philadelphia's casino soap opera takes another twist

Philadelphia's latest gambling license was awarded to a South Philadelphia project. It's the latest in a wave of casino projects coming to the East Coast.

A $425 million project with a casino and a boutique hotel rising in the stadium district of Philadelphia is the latest entrant into the tumultuous world of East Coast gambling.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board awarded a license on Tuesday to a joint venture of Cordish Companies and Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment to build the Philadelphia area’s fourth gambling hall and the 13th casino in the state.

The decision came as New York is edging closer to approving up to four Las Vegas-style casinos at locations outside of New York City. Massachusetts recently approved two billion-dollar casinos, one at either end of the state. And in Connecticut, some lawmakers are talking about expanding the state’s casino industry to protect its market share.

The frenzy of casino building is taking place in what is widely regarded as the most competitive market in the country despite flat or falling gambling revenues in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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

Did the term 'Black Friday' originate in Philadelphia?

A Temple professor Frank Farley posits that the term "Black Friday" originated in the City of Brotherly Love.

In an interview with NBC10, he said that the term was coined by the Philadelphia Police Department after the city was overrun with fans coming to town for the Army-Navy game. With the game typically held on a Saturday, the city was full of rowdy fans on Friday — creating chaos and overrunning retail stores.

"The day before, people are rushing into Philly for the game," Farley told NBC10. "The police are overwhelmed. The idea of this day — that was a very bad day for the cops — became labeled Black Friday."

Original source: Philadelphia Business Journal
Read the complete story here.

Philly's Madame Fromage tells NY Times about her fantasy Thanksgiving

The New York Times asked leading food personalities about their fantasy Thanksgiving meals, including Philly's own Madame Fromage.

What do some Americans want for Thanksgiving dinner? They want lobster. They want Alaskan king crab and West African peanut stew, Peking duck and pad thai, Neapolitan pizza and Brazilian feijoada. In some cases, they want any form of meat that doesn’t gobble: osso buco, rack of lamb, suckling pig. For Tenaya Darlington, who lives in Philadelphia and blogs about cheese as Madame Fromage, nothing would beat “a Raclette party: quick prep, followed by satisfying stink and a long supper around a warm oven,” she said.

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

The iconic PNB sign finally comes down -- and in only 34 minutes

A staple of Philadelphia's skyline, the PNB sign, finally finished coming down last week. It was a surprisingly quick process.

In just 34 minutes Sunday, the Philadelphia skyline was changed forever as crews removed the remaining parts of the PNB sign from its perch high above Center City.

The removal went far quicker than the last attempt in August when it took workers 7 hours to shuttle only three letters of the iconic sign to ground level. They were forced to reschedule the complete removal to Sunday.

Crews used a helicopter to lift the nine letters from the crown of the One South Broad building, over Dilworth Park and to a staging area along JFK Boulevard.

By 8:10 a.m., the final 16-foot-tall letter — an "N" from the tower's eastern face — touched the asphalt outside City Hall. The letters, each weighing 3,000 lbs., were loaded by crane onto a flatbed trailer and taken away.

The "PNB" letters have graced the Philadelphia skyline for the past 60 years. The sign was installed to signify the One South Broad as the headquarters for the now-defunct Philadelphia National Bank.

Original source: NBC 10
Check out the complete story here.

Philadelphia's Chinese immigrant community finds a use for the city's ginkgo fruits

That stinky menace, the ginkgo tree, has traditionally been used in Chinese dishes -- and foraged by locals.

On her way to get coffee the other day, Margaret Chin passed a female ginkgo tree outside Holy Redeemer Chinese Catholic Church at 9th and Vine streets and picked up two fallen ginkgo fruits from the parking lot.

She went home to Chinatown, cleaned off the fleshy pulps and let the nuts dry. Then she cracked the shells and added the meaty kernels to a collection in her freezer to be cooked in soup...

Helen Wen, a Northeast Philadelphia resident who came here from China in 1997, says her mother and mother-in-law have often picked the fallen ginkgo fruits from the ground. She believes in the health benefits of the nuts inside and eats them in congee, or rice porridge. Ginkgo nuts are good for one’s memory, kidneys and urinary tract, she said.

Wen said her mother, now in her 70s, used to pick up the fallen fruits in and around Chinatown. Last year and again this year, her mother went with a friend to scour for the fruit in Northeast Philadelphia.

Original source: The Associated Press
Read the complete story here.

The Pope is coming to Philadelphia; could draw a million to Mass on the Parkway

Pope Francis has announced a 2015 U.S. trip with Philadelphia as the flagship stop.

Pope Francis confirmed on Monday that he will make his first papal visit to the United States in September to attend an international meeting in Philadelphia on the theme of family, as part of an American journey that is also expected to include a stop in New York...

Francis’ visit to Philadelphia is expected to draw as many as a million people to a Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the heart of the city.

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

Pennsylvania elects a new governor

On Tuesday, Pennsylvanians headed to the poll and elected Tom Wolf (D) as our new governor.

Democrat Tom Wolf, a businessman from central Pennsylvania, was elected governor Tuesday in his first campaign for political office...

"We need to reestablish education as the priority," Wolf told supporters at the York Expo Center shortly after 10 p.m., after thanking Corbett for his service.

He exhorted Pennsylvanians to believe in themselves and their future. "Let's make this the time," Wolf said. "Let's get started."

Original source: The Philadelphia Inquirer
Read the complete story here.

10,000 Santas expected at annual 'Running of the Santas'

The annual pub crawl continues to grow at an exponential rate.

10,000 Santas.

That's what event organizers for Philadelphia's "Running of the Santas" are expecting to fill the streets of Philadelphia on Dec. 13.

"Running of the Santas" started in 1998 as a bar crawl between 40 friends all decked out in Santa gear. It has since grown, with last year attracting more than 8,000 attendees. It also has gone international, with events happening as far away as New Zealand.

The Philadelphia event begins a 11 a.m. on Dec. 13 at McFaddens (461 N. Third St., Philadelphia), which is dubbed "The South Pole." There  At 4 p.m., participants engage in a short run to "The North Pole," aka the Electric Factory (421 N. Seventh St., Philadelphia). The party ends when "the beer is gone" according to the event's website.

Original source: PennLive
Read the complete story here.

Big drama over UberX in Philadelphia

The launch of UberX, the company's more casual cousin, in Philadelphia has been full of drama -- and there's no end in site.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

In its PUC filing, Uber said it "has no intention to launch service in the Counties of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania without authority from the Commission."

That night, Uber announced the launch of UberX service in Philadelphia, citing the insurance issue and saying it wanted to "ensure you have the convenient and affordable transportation options you deserve."

Asked about the apparent conflict, Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett said in an e-mail:

"What we have in Philadelphia is a real transportation emergency. When a number of taxis still don't have adequate insurance, going from one unrated company to another, Philadelphians deserve the safe and reliable options they're demanding."

From the Daily Pennsylvanian:

During the two days after UberX’s Oct. 24 launch, PPA Officials stopped six UberX drivers and impounded their cars.

“Our policy is to do everything we can to shut them down,” Fenerty said. He explained that when UberX drivers are caught, they will be fined $1,000 and have their cars impounded. Uber will also be fined $1,000 for “aiding and abetting an illegal taxi service,” as well as an additional $750 for operating an illegal dispatch system.

But Uber is fighting back. As of Oct. 15, more than 43,000 individuals signed a petition that asked for the state to legalize UberX, but legislators say that it is not going to be approved until 2015. Uber has spent almost $100,000 on lobbying efforts to get this bill, known as HB 2468 , passed in the house.

“Philadelphians have made it abundantly clear that they demand more transportation options in the city. UberX gives residents and visitors the safe, reliable and affordable ride they deserve,” an Uber representative said via email.


South Philly's Gennaro's Tomato Pie named best pizzeria in the state

Thrillist's list of the top pizzeria in every state singled out South Philly's Gennaro's Tomato Pie -- aka heaven on earth.

Philadelphia’s got some legit classic Italian cred (as well as some innovative spots like Pizzeria Beddia and Pizza Brain), so this was a tough call, but we’ve gotta hand it to South Philly's relative newcomer Gennaro’s. It’s got a pedigree that can be traced from America’s first pizza joint (Lombardi’s, also one of Little Italy’s best), and serves up simple, awesome pies with whole-milk mozzarella and crushed tomatoes.

In other Gennaro's news, the primo pizzeria is moving to a larger location in Passyunk Square

Original source: Thrillist
Read the complete list here.

Paul Strand retrospective at Philadelphia Museum of Art earns praise

A retrospective of the work of modernist photographer Paul Strand wows at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

Drawing on the Philadelphia museum’s sizable Paul Strand Collection (most of it acquired since 2010), the show of some 250 prints takes in the full sweep of his career and some three-quarters of the 20th century. It includes film excerpts and a generous sampling of his photo books, projects that feed back into the early photographs and reveal longstanding interests in duration and narrative.

Bringing modernism down to earth, Strand branched out from Manhattan’s parks and skyscrapers to Maine forests, Mexican churches and small villages in Italy and New England. The immense but well-paced show makes room for mentors and influences beyond Stieglitz, among them the fin de siècle Parisian photographer Eugène Atget, the Italian neo-realist screenwriter Cesare Zavattini and the American social documentarian Lewis Hine (one of Strand’s teachers at the Ethical Culture School on the Upper West Side of Manhattan).

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