Pa. Senate Democrats sue Republicans to block election review subpoena

PHILADELPHIA — Democrats in the Pennsylvania Senate sued their Republican colleagues Friday evening to block them from subpoenaing voter records as part of a review of the 2020 election. The lawsuit argues that the Republican effort unconstitutionally tramples on the separation of powers by stepping on the courts’ power to investigate and rule on election disputes and on the executive branch’s power, given specifically to the state auditor general, to audit how elections are run. The lawsuit also contends that the subpoena violates state election law because it requests voters’ private informa...

Philly Zoo begins vaccinating animals for COVID-19

PHILADELPHIA — A female ring-tailed lemur named Charlie this week became the first animal to receive a special COVID-19 vaccination at the Philadelphia Zoo. Charlie was part of a group of 10 animals, including four other ring-tailed lemurs, four western lowland gorillas, and a Sumatran orangutan, to get their shots. In the coming weeks, 113 animals at the zoo will each receive the two-dose vaccine from a shipment of 240 doses provided by Zoetis, a former subsidiary of Pfizer headquartered in New Jersey that develops drugs for animals. Nationally, there have been documented cases of zoo animals...

10 years ago, a ragtag army called Occupy Wall Street changed America, for good

First, they ignored Occupy Wall Street. On the late-summer morning of Sept. 17, 2011, there were no major news organizations present — not even the hometown New York Times — when a ragtag army of a couple hundred protesters fed up with America’s gross inequality tried to set up camp in the heart of Manhattan’s Financial District and were pushed back by a massive police response to an unknown spot called Zuccotti Park. Then, they ridiculed it. As the crowds of campers in the park re-dubbed “Freedom Plaza” swelled and protests spread to scores of other U.S. cities and then around the world, the ...

Poverty went down in 2020 thanks to government help

As the pandemic raged throughout 2020, poverty declined in the United States thanks to infusions of federal money, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. According to the so-called Supplemental Poverty rate, which takes family expenses and government aid into account, around 9.1% of Americans were poor in 2020, down from 11.8% in 2019. The Census Bureau indicated that millions of Americans were lifted out of poverty by government stimulus checks, increased unemployment insurance, and other federal interventions. The report did not include local data. The report also ...

'We're uprooted': Hundreds who lost their homes still waiting for Ida relief aid

PHILADELPHIA — Robert Majors walked out of Montgomery County's aid center for storm victims on Thursday afternoon with a bag of donated snacks, a Red Cross disaster relief kit, and raw emotion in his voice. It had been a week since the floodwaters forced Majors, his fiancée and their five kids to flee their rental home in Bridgeport. "We were just told that we might not be able to go back for months," said Majors, 36. "We don't know what we're going to do." Ten days after the remnants of Hurricane Ida tore through the Northeast — and left behind more than $100 million in damage in Pennsylvania...

COVID-19 testing at home is both possible and reliable. Here’s what you need to know.

Remember when a COVID-19 diagnostic test meant waiting in your car for a nurse wearing head-to-toe PPE to shove a long swab down your throat and send the sample to a lab that would take a week or more to return results? That was so 2020. Now you can get molecular test kits delivered to your door — no prescription needed ― then mail a shallow nose swab or a saliva sample to a lab that returns results in a day or two. Or, if you’re willing to sacrifice some accuracy for convenience, you can order antigen tests online that give rapid results right at home. You may have to pay for the test, depend...

These doctors and nurses share COVID-19 falsehoods. They can become misinformation superspreaders

The number of COVID-19 cases in the county was rising sharply, Scott Levy, chief medical officer in one of Bucks County’s hospitals, tried to tell the crowd at the Aug. 31 meeting of the Central Bucks School Board amid a debate over school mask mandates. “We’ve gone from 10 cases a week diagnosed at Doylestown Hospital first week of July,” he began. The crowd howled. ... “to 100, 100 cases a week,“ he continued. “Children could transmit to adults, and the adults ....” Levy never was able to finish his statement over the crowd’s hearty disapproval. The person who spoke before him, Kayla Ottey, ...

Penn scientists win $3 million Breakthrough Prize for RNA research that enabled COVID-19 vaccines

PHILADELPHIA — Sixteen years after their research at the University of Pennsylvania paved the way for billions to be vaccinated against COVID-19, two scientists have been honored with a $3 million Breakthrough Prize. The award for Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman, one of five such honors announced Thursday morning for achievements in science and math, recognizes their success in modifying the genetic molecule called messenger RNA (mRNA) so it can instruct human cells to make customized proteins. That concept could prove useful in treating all sorts of maladies — years ago, Karikó explored the ...

Saving the life of an Atlantic City 'diving horse' changed her own life forever

PHILADELPHIA — Cynthia Branigan was a Beatles-crazy girl from Lawrenceville, N.J., when she watched a horse dive 40 feet into a pool on the ocean end of Atlantic City's Steel Pier. It was the first and only time she witnessed the famous spectacle, but its impact would endure. "Without warning, he kicked off from the platform and soared through the humid night air with precision and dignity," Branigan writes in a memoir, "The Last Diving Horse in America," which will be published this month by Pantheon. "The dive took but a few seconds ... the searing image of the horse's body, pointing like a ...

Disease that blinded, killed songbirds vanishes as mysteriously as it arrived

PHILADELPHIA — Pennsylvanians can feed birds again. A disease that appeared from spring into summer blinding and killing a variety of songbirds in at least 10 states left wildlife experts and officials stumped as to its cause, and recommending people stop filling feeders in the belief it could mitigate the spread of the illness where birds congregated. Now, the disease has apparently run its course, leaving experts without knowing if it will reappear. Martin Hackett, a spokesperson for Penn's School of Veterinary Medicine, said the school's Wildlife Futures Program, which hosted an online repo...

Henri saturates Eastern states, but with rain totals far lower than tragic deluges in Tennessee

After saturating portions of New Jersey, upstate Pennsylvania, and the New York area, Henri finally was downgraded to a tropical depression Monday afternoon. But for all its celebrity and associated mayhem, by the time Henri’s downpours reached the Northeast during the weekend, the tropical system already had been upstaged by a rainstorm without a name in Tennessee. Tennessee’s death toll Monday stood at 22 and might go higher, and the 17.02 inches of rain measured in the small, west-central town of McEwen on Saturday would be a Tennessee record, said Krissy Hurley, the warning-coordination me...

How a stop sign named Stoppy that gets 'knocked over constantly' became a beacon of resiliency

PHILADELPHIA — On a busy road in the far reaches of a Cheltenham shopping center, positioned precariously close to the loading dock of a Target store, stands a lone stop sign named Stoppy. Well, on good days it's standing. But most days are not good days for Stoppy, who routinely gets struck, bent, and toppled by passing big rigs and cars. Estimates for how many blows Stoppy has suffered over the last decade range from 50 to 70. "If you recall wondering just how many hits to the face Rocky's gonna take before the music starts ... we're in that neighborhood," Cheltenham resident James Montgomer...

Former Afghan interpreters in US watch and worry amid a scary, deadline effort to evacuate their colleagues

PHILADELPHIA — Mohammad Azimi knew it was risky to take a job at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, helping to translate contracts, payrolls and vouchers for the Americans. Even the local shopkeepers and taxi drivers knew who he was and where he worked, and could easily pass that information to the Taliban. One interpreter recently was dragged from his car and beheaded. This spring, after six years, Azimi knew something else: It was time to leave Afghanistan. He arrived in Philadelphia just ahead of what has become a rattling, deadline effort to evacuate thousands of Afghan interpreters w...

For big Pennsylvania pension fund, a great investment — except for the founder's arrest

Investment experts at Pennsylvania's biggest pension plan told the fund's board last week that it had only a month to decide whether to put money into a promising financial fund run by Florida-based DigitalBridge Inc. In a report to the board, the PSERS fund's investment chief, James H. Grossman Jr., also described DigitalBridge's fund as especially socially responsible. Grossman suggested a possible investment of $100 million. The trouble is, two weeks before Grossman's Aug. 6 report, DigitalBridge's founder was arrested on federal charges of acting as a secret lobbyist for a Middle Eastern c...

3 former Philly homicide detectives accused of perjury in the retrial of an innocent man

PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia grand jury has recommended criminal charges against three former longtime city homicide detectives for perjury in a landmark murder case, accusing them of lying on the witness stand. The allegations, unveiled in a presentment filed by the district attorney’s office on Friday and obtained by The Philadelphia Inquirer, represent an extraordinary development in a city that has seen dozens of old homicide convictions overturned in recent years — but no significant legal repercussions for the police or prosecutors involved in building those cases. Many of them have sin...

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