Friday, August 30, 2013

Changes in SEPTA Schedules

from the inbox:

SEPTA’s new transit schedules for fall 2013 go into effect on Sunday, Sept. 1. Most of these changes include minor timetable adjustments on bus and trolley routes designed to improve customer service, and also account for seasonal changes in ridership.
Timetables for some routes will go unchanged, with service remaining on existing schedules. As part of SEPTA’s effort to “Go Green” and control costs, new schedules have been printed only for routes on which there will be timetable adjustments. For routes that are unchanged, customers can continue to refer to their current schedules.
All new and existing schedules are available at customer locations. SEPTA also has all new schedules available for viewing and printing online at In addition to minor timetable adjustments, SEPTA would like to alert customers to the following:
 Route 56 Bus: Service will be added to-and-from the new stores at the Bakers Centre development in Northwest Philadelphia.
 Route 120 Bus: Service to West Chester Pike and Clyde Lane, towards Cheyney University, will be now available on weekdays and Saturday and Sunday.
 Route 123 Bus: Service to Gulph Mills Station on the Norristown High Speed Line (towards 69th Street Transportation Center) will no longer be available on weekdays .
 Route 124 Bus: Service to Gateway Shopping Center (towards King of Prussia/Chesterbrook) will now available on weekdays and Saturday and Sunday.
 Route 105 and 106 buses: The Lancaster and Station Avenues stop (towards 69th Street Transportation Center) becomes Lancaster and Cricket Avenues.
 Route 115 Bus: The West Chester Pike and Eagle Road stop (towards Philadelphia International Airport) becomes Eagle Road and Lincoln Avenue on weekdays.
 Route 117 Bus: The Edgmont Avenue and Brookhaven stop becomes Bridgewater Road and Trimble Boulevard. The Route 117 bus will now stop at 22nd Street and Edgmont Avenue and Bridgewater Road and Trimble Boulevard in both directions on Sunday.
 Trolley service returns to the entire Route 10 line, following the completion of a track renewal project on Lancaster Avenue between 40th and 44th Streets. Shuttle buses have been used in place of trolleys from 33rd and Market Streets to 63rd Street and Malvern Avenue since June 9.
 Due to the Bridgeport Viaduct repair project, shuttle buses will be used on a portion of the Norristown High Speed Line through November. The Viaduct connects Bridgeport Station and Norristown Transportation Center (NTC). On weekdays, shuttle buses transport passengers between NTC and Bridgeport . On weekends, NHSL trains travel to Hughes Park. Shuttle buses are used on weekends between Gulph Mills and NTC, stopping at Dekalb Street Station (DeKalb and Ford Streets) and Bridgeport Station (DeKalb and 8th Streets).

New Efforts on Gun Safety

from the inbox:

Today, the Obama administration announced two new common-sense executive actions to keep the most dangerous firearms out of the wrong hands and ban almost all re-imports of military surplus firearms to private entities. These executive actions build on the 23 executive actions that the Vice President recommended as part of the comprehensive gun violence reduction plan and the President unveiled on January 16, 2013.

Even as Congress fails to act on common-sense proposals, like expanding criminal background checks and making gun trafficking a federal crime, the President and Vice President remain committed to using all the tools in their power to make progress toward reducing gun violence.

Building on the 23 Executive Actions the President and Vice President Unveiled Last January
·         Last December, the President asked the Vice President to develop a series of recommendations to reduce gun violence. On January 16, 2013, they released these proposals, including 23 executive actions. With the first Senate confirmation of an ATF Director on July 31, 2013, the Administration has completed or made significant progress on 22 of the 23 executive actions. The new executive actions unveiled today build on this successful effort. 

Closing a Loophole to Keep Some of the Most Dangerous Guns Out of the Wrong Hands
·         Current law places special restrictions on many of the most dangerous weapons, such as machine guns and short-barreled shotguns.  These weapons must be registered, and in order to lawfully possess them, a prospective buyer must undergo a fingerprint-based background check.
·         However, felons, domestic abusers, and others prohibited from having guns can easily evade the required background check and gain access to machine guns or other particularly dangerous weapons by registering the weapon to a trust or corporation.  At present, when the weapon is registered to a trust or corporation, no background check is run.  ATF reports that last year alone, it received more than 39,000 requests for transfers of these restricted firearms to trusts or corporations.
·         Today, ATF is issuing a new proposed regulation to close this loophole.  The proposed rule requires individuals associated with trusts or corporations that acquire these types of weapons to undergo background checks, just as these individuals would if the weapons were registered to them individually.  By closing this loophole, the regulation will ensure that machine guns and other particularly dangerous weapons do not end up in the wrong hands.

Keeping Surplus Military Weapons Off Our Streets
·         When the United States provides military firearms to its allies, either as direct commercial sales or through the foreign military sales or military assistance programs, those firearms may not be imported back into the United States without U.S. government approval.  Since 2005, the U.S. Government has authorized requests to reimport more than 250,000 of these firearms.
·         Today, the Administration is announcing a new policy of denying requests to bring military-grade firearms back into the United States to private entities, with only a few exceptions such as for museums.  This new policy will help keep military-grade firearms off our streets.

Auditor General on Dog Law

from the inbox:

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today issued the following statement supporting new legislation to require pet stores to provide potential dog buyers with health and breeder information:“I commend Rep. Schreiber for proposing legislation that will bring transparency and accountability to the puppy buying process. If this legislation passes, consumers will be much better informed about the health and background of their dog before making the purchase.
“I was disappointed by the findings in our recent audit of the state’s enforcement of the revised dog law. Hopefully, increased oversight of kennels by the Department of Agriculture and this new transparency legislation will help ensure better conditions for puppies waiting for good homes.”
A copy of the department’s July audit report on the enforcement of Pennsylvania’s dog law is available

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Youth United for Change Stands With Teachers

from the inbox, a modified press release (last paragraph omitted):

This morning the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers' president, Jerry Jordan, announced that Philadelphia teachers are willing to forgo a salary increase and accept changes to their healthcare to provide more money to the School District's budget.  Youth United for Change stands with our teachers.  Our teachers are making major sacrifices and they should not be forced to make any more. 
 Our teachers are on the frontline in our schools, working long hours for our students and using their paychecks to buy school materials.  Philadelphia's teachers are already paid significantly less than neighboring School Districts.  This already sets up our students for a disadvantage.  Further lowering teachers' pay and benefits will lower the quality of our students' education.  Turnover will be higher, quality teachers will leave the District and it will be harder for the District to attract the committed, skilled teachers that our students deserve.    
City Council needs to step up now.  How much do Philadelphia citizens need to do before City Council listens and takes action?  Students, parents and community members have marched, canvassed and spoken out powerfully.  It is time for City Council to listen to their constituents now.  We expected our city officials to fight for us, not throw up their hands, when Governor Corbett's state budget cuts put our schools in this horrible position. 
This summer, Youth United for Change students spent the summer talking to community members about public education.  They knocked on almost 7,000 doors, talked to at least 3,700 people and collected 2,259 surveys.  The message we heard from the community was clear.  Philadelphians want our public education system to be fully funded now.  This funding should not come from our teachers who are already making major sacrifices for our students.  Ultimately cuts to our teachers hurt our students.

Two New Philadelphia Literary References

If you have been watching the Longmire series on A&E, you might be interested in knowing that it is based on a series of books by Craig Johnson.  In the series deputy sheriff Vic Moretti is a former Philadelphia cop.  This is also true in the books; in addition Sheriff Longmire's lawyer daughter practices in Philadelphia (in the tv series she, like her father, lives in Wyoming).  I haven't tackled the books yet but have enjoyed this show this season.  It's a modern day western mystery.  Longmire t-shirts and other gear sport logos designed by a Philadelphia firm, Joel Katz Design Associates.

Want to help cats in Philadelphia?  Have I got a poster for you!!  CityKitties is a local charity to help foster cats and kittens in Philadelphia.  In 2010 sci fi writer John Scalzi said if he reached 30,000 twitter followers he would be covered in buttercream frosting.  Fellow sci fi writer Neil Gaiman somehow got involved and the actual frosting event (done by Derby Girls) took place on Gaiman's front lawn.  A photographer took pictures for proof (there's also a video) and one of the pictures was turned into a poster.  The poster was offered for sale with proceeds going to two groups, one of them being CityKitties.  That's a long story but that's just how Scalzi rolls. I'm not sure the poster is still available but it would be worth a try.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

PA Funds for AP Exams

The U.S. Department of Education today announced the award of more than $28.8 million in grants to 42 states to cover a portion of the fees charged to low-income students for taking advanced placement (AP) tests.  Pennsylvania is slated to receive $610,970

PA Receives $1.6 Million for Recovery Projects

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today announced $15 million in U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) grants to support 11 Trade Adjustment Assistance Centers (TAACs) in California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Massachussetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington that help manufacturers affected by imports adjust to increasing global competition and create jobs.

“The Obama administration is committed to providing communities with the resources they need to succeed in a global marketplace,” Secretary Pritzker said. “The grants announced today will strengthen the competitiveness of the U.S. economy by providing funding for programs that help companies make improvements in such critical areas as advanced manufacturing, engineering, marketing, quality control, information technology, and market development.”
Pennsylvania received one of the 11 grants:

• $1.6 million to the Mid-Atlantic Employers’ Association, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, for the Mid-Atlantic Trade Adjustment Assistance Center

EDA’s Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms program funds 11 Trade Adjustment Assistance Centers across the nation. The centers support a wide range of technical, planning, and business recovery projects that help companies and the communities that depend on them adapt to international competition and diversify their economies. The grants announced today are for the third year of a funding cycle running from 2011 to 2014. Additional information on the program is available at

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Latin: Not As Dead As You Might Think

"Latin's a dead language,
as dead as it can be.
First it killed the Romans,
now it's killing me."

I hear that rhyme more often than I care to.  The Latin language was one of my college joys and it delights me to this day, though my skill with it has never been particularly good.  Lately I've found two new ways to enjoy it.  There is a Latin words app, similar to the "7 words" app for English, French, and Spanish.  It's a great train past time.

Were that not enough, Eddie Izzard, one of my favorite comedians, has a sketch on Hannibal crossing the Alps; Latin plays a large role in it, though Izzard says it is a silly language.  You can watch it online (note, not safe for work).

Gun Safety Event in Chester

from the inbox:

A broad coalition of gun violence prevention advocates – including Mayors John Linder of Chester and Richard Lowe of Swarthmore, Police Commissioner Joseph Bail Jr., Representative Thaddeus Kirkland, and a local gun owner – gathered in Chester today as part of the “No More Names: National Drive to Reduce Gun Violence,” a 25-state national bus tour over a period of 100 days aimed at urging America’s leaders to support common-sense gun policies. The tour is sponsored by the bipartisan coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which has more than 200 member mayors and 106,000 grassroots supporters in Pennsylvania.

            Participants came together Monday to voice their continued support for comprehensive and enforceable background checks, and they urged Philadelphia-area U.S. House members Charles Dent and Jim Gerlach to back this tough-on-crime measure by co-sponsoring bipartisan background checks legislation in Congress. They also thanked Congressmen Bob Brady and Pat Meehan for signing onto this bill.
This past April, Senator Pat Toomey stood with nearly 90 percent of Pennsylvanians when he co-sponsored bipartisan background checks legislation with fellow NRA A-rated Senator Joe Manchin that would have helped keep firearms out of the wrong hands by extending background checks to cover private gun sales in commercial settings. Senator Casey, too, demonstrated leadership on this issue when he joined a majority of senators in voting in favor of the bill. It failed, however, after it was blocked by a minority of senators. Corresponding legislation in the U.S. House, sponsored by Congressmen Peter King (R-NY) and Mike Thompson (D-CA), currently has more than 180 co-sponsors, including Congressmen Brady and Meehan. But Southeast Pennsylvania Congressmen Gerlach and Dent have not yet signed onto the bill.

[section of press release deleted]

Participants in Monday’s even included: Mayors John Linder of Chester and Richard Lowe of Swarthmore; Police Commissioner Joseph Bail Jr.; Representative Thaddeus Kirkland; local gun owner Antoinette Levitt; and Beverly Wright, President of Women of Strength.
During the rally, participants and attendees also read the names of victims of gun violence in Chester and those who have been killed with guns since the Newtown mass shooting in December 2012.
Along with 15 other states and the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania goes beyond federal law by requiring background checks before private handgun sales.[1] In turn, the state has seen the public safety benefits of enacting this common-sense measure. In states that already require background checks for all handgun sales:

·      Thirty-eight percent fewer women are shot to death by an intimate partner than in other states, while the rate murdered by other means was nearly identical.[2]
·      The firearm suicide rate was 49 percent lower than in other states, even though people committed suicide in other ways at almost precisely the same rate.[3]
·      Thirty-nine percent fewer law enforcement officers were shot to death with handguns.[4] 
In 2011, nearly one-in-five guns that were recovered at Pennsylvania crime scenes were originally purchased out-of-state despite the Commonwealth's better-than-average background check laws. [5] Although a national solution is the ideal way to stop the flow of illegal guns into Pennsylvania, a bipartisan bill currently before the state House Judiciary Committee (H.B. 1010) would fully close the private-sale loophole by requiring background checks for private sales of military style assault weapons and other long guns. 
The No More Names tour provides an opportunity for the more than 90 percent of Americans who support background checks to drive home a message to our elected officials that our country needs common-sense gun laws. At each stop, participants are holding rallies with a broad coalition of supporters – including police, survivors, domestic violence prevention advocates, mayors, and other elected officials – to commemorate those we’ve lost and call on our leaders to stand with the American people on sensible gun policies. They both applaud senators who voted to support comprehensive and enforceable background checks, and urge those who opposed this measure to take a second look.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Local Organization Honored by HHS

from the inbox last week:

 Family Planning Council is honored to be recognized as a Champion for Coverage by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). As a Champion, Family Planning Council has volunteered to help uninsured Americans learn more about the Health Insurance Marketplace.
 Along with other Champions for Coverage, Family Planning Council will distribute publicly available Marketplace materials – both digital and in print – to help residents in southeastern Pennsylvania understand their new choices through the Marketplace. 
“As an organization currently serving a large number of uninsured people, we look forward to helping these consumers learn about their coverage options through the Marketplace,” said Melissa Weiler Gerber, Executive Director at Family Planning Council. “Our goal is to see that every individual and family gets the health coverage they need, and being informed is the first step.”
“Champion organizations, like Family Planning Council, are already serving people and are a trusted source of information in communities across the country” said Julie Bataille, Director of Communications at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.  “These organizations are natural places for people to learn about the Marketplace, and we want to make sure that they have access to the tools and information to respond to people who want to sign up and enroll for coverage on October 1.”
Open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace begins October 1 for coverage starting as early as January 1, 2014. Visit to learn more and to sign up for an account. 

To become a Champion for Coverage and to learn more about what being a Champion for Coverage means, visit:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Notes from Bykofsky Candidates' Comedy Night

This evening I attended the 23rd annual Sty Bykofsky Candidates’ Comedy Night, at Finnegan’s Wake in Philadelphia.  This event is a fundraiser for Variety, thechildren’s charity.  

I’ve been to this event before.  The jokes are often off-color.  It is not an uplifting experience.  This year, for the first time, a non-Pennsylvania candidate spoke.  New Jersey Democratic senatorial candidate, Newark Mayor Cory Booker attended at the invitation / request of George Norcross, one of the owners of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News. He was clearly the main attraction of the night.  Reporters from the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal were there.  I hate to think of what they will say about the evening.  It was not necessarily presenting the city at its best.

Here are my notes, taken hastily as people spoke.  It is not intended as a full transcript.  There were a number of comments I couldn’t follow.

Stu Bykofsky a Daily News columnists, started the evening off with opening remarks, mostly raunchy jokes.

Jenice Armstrong , also a Daily News columnist, mentioned that the event had raised $475,000 for Variety over the years.

Incumbent Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz, a Democrat, was up first.  He had a skit that involved a woman working a crossword puzzle on a computer.  I had no idea what the joke was supposed to be; it was hard to hear.  [Note for potential future speakers – this type of schtick never works well.  Don’t try it.]  The length of this confusing performance took up most of Butkovitz’s time.  He told one joke which pertained to getting audited.  It was a long involved joke and the punchline involved someone who was being audited peeing on the auditor’s desk. 

Doogie Horner was one of two professional comedians to break up the politicians.  Horner appeared on America’s Got Talent in an earlier season.    He was funny.  Some of his jokes dealt with Irish stereotypes, others with life in New York City.

Danny Alvarez, Republican candidate for Philadelphia District Attorney was up next.  He asks if the previous candidate was Doogie bin Laden [Horner had a scruffy beard].  He held up his watch and said it had a calculator on it.  He uses it to keep track of the HUGE amount of money he is raising.  It also has a calendar and he is hoping to arrange a debate with incumbent DA Seth Williams.  He said Seth’s suit looks like it was made by a tailor who married a tentmaker.  He said Stu called him and said if he didn’t appear at the event Stu would write bad things about him in the paper.  There was a joke about seeing a Seth Williams for Mayor sticker on a tombstone at the cemetery.  [This related to a joke about dead people voting in Philadelphia.]  The campaign sent Seth Williams an invitation to debate but Seth probably thought it was a gas bill and threw it away.  The last group of jokes focused on his upbringing.  He said his father was so cheap that the family used a spare tire in the back of a pickup as a baby’s car seat.

Seth Williams followed Alvarez, which was interesting.  He starts by thanking Stu and Mike Driscoll, owner of Finnegan’s Wake.  “The truth is, I’m not that funny.  My job is serious.”  He says his Blackberry goes off all day long with murders and rapes.  When Stu called about a fundraiser Williams thought it was a fundraiser to help the gas bill.  The Daily News had a front page story saying that on one month in 2012 he was a month late with a gas bill of over $500.  So was Mayor Nutter.  Nutter makes Pee Wee Herman look like a Hell’s Angel.  Nutter and Williams call each other on the 5th of every month to remind each other to pay the gas bill.  Stu was rushed to the emergency room with an erection lasting over 4 hours.  Williams asked what the doctors did about that and says Bykofsky said the doctor showed him a picture of Lynne Abraham.  The Daily News had a story about Williams following sexy ladies on twitter [he held out his arms and shimmied as he said this – it was funny].  He doesn’t know how that happened but he’s never letting Ed Rendell hold his phone again.  The paper didn’t report that he also follows the Bible on twitter but it’s not the King James Version but the 50 Shades of Gray version.  [not sure what this refers to; the Bible is racey enough as is].  Alvarez says he is committed to excellence.  Williams says he wishes Alvarez had been committed to excellence when he worked in the DA’s office.  Booker shows the rise of the strong Black bald man.  People confuse Williams with Booker, State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, State Sen. Vincent Hughes, and William Hite, superintendent of Philadelphia schools.    People like to think all Black men look alike.  “Michelle and I will be signing autographs outside.”

There was a break to auction off a gift card to the Blitz restaurant.  Emerald Capital bought it for more than twice it’s face value.

Bykofsky always has a surprise guest.  This year it is Dan Gross, former gossip columnist Dan Gross.  He tells jokes.  Then he auctions off a helmet signed by someone at the Philadelphia Soul arena football team.  George Norcross bid $2,000 if Gross would put it on.  Emerald Capital bid $3,000 but also wanted Gross to try on the helmut.

Cory Booker was up next.  He said he’s made many mistakes in life but none as big as accepting George Norcross’s invitation to appear here.  He praises Bykofsky.  Then he says he is a Yankees fan but has to pander to South Jersey residents who are fans of Philly sports teams, and lists the ones he is now favoring.  Tells the story of George Washington crossing the Delaware.  He  had to go by boat because even back then the tolls were too high.  People tease him about his close relationship with NJ Gov. Chris Christie.  He made a joke about brushing his teeth with Chris and his wife Mary Pat, and of tucking Chris into bed a night.  There was a long intertwining joke about famous New Jerseyans.   He is glad Bruce Springsteen lets him use the john when he is the neighborhood.  Speaking of johns he Is glad that Jon Bon Jovi’s wife Dorothea ….. etc, it went on like that at some length.  He said Obama has endorsed him.  There were several jokes I couldn’t follow.

Professional comedian Grover Silcox takes the stage and tells jokes about marriage and sports.

The last speak was Terry Tracy, Republican candidate for Philadelphia city controller.   He is jealous that Cory Booker gets to brush his teeth at night with the next president.  His cousin is the Prime Minister of Ireland.  Lists things he has in common with Elliott Spitzer, Democratic candidate for New York City Comptroller.  Philadelphia has been a one party town for a long time.  We should have had city council serve dinner tonight.  Nothing would have gotten passed.  They refer to Booker as a celebrity politician.  Tracy would be happy if they referred to him at all.  [There were jokes about the hair on his head  and his chest hair.]

Bykofsky thanks everyone.  The evening ends.

Personal Notes:  There were a number of people at the bar who continued to have loud conversation that made it hard to hear.  George Norcross was there, and sat at the Daily News table.  Booker sat at the Variety table and talked with the Variety staff there.  He was clearly a star attraction as people came over throughout the night to have pictures taken with him.   Mayor Nutter wasn’t there.  I didn’t see any of the other usual political heavy hitters like Bob Brady or John Dougherty either.  It doesn’t mean they weren’t there, just that I didn’t see them.

Favorite Line:  Seth Williams doing the shimmy while saying "sexy ladies" and that he didn't know how he started following those sites on twitter "but I'm never letting Ed Rendell hold my phone again."

The sound track for this evening’s excursion into the city was the new Steve Martin / Edie Brickell cd, Love Has Come for You.  Favorite track:  Iron Mountain Baby.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Pennsylvania Conference for Women

This year's Pennsylvania Conference for Women will be held on Friday, November 1 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.  The keynote speaker will be former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Another former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright will also be speaking.  Other schedules speakers include Judge Glenda Hatchett and business leader Sallie Krawcheck.  That's a stellar lineup!

Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Visit the National Constitution Center

from the inbox:

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court, will speak at the National Constitution Center on Friday, September 6, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. She is the third Supreme Court justice to visit the museum this year—Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Sonia Sotomayor both appeared as part of the museum’s Town Hall program series in the spring. Justice Ginsburg will sit down with President and CEO Jeffrey Rosen for a wide-ranging conversation about the Supreme Court, past and present.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Montco Reminder: Check on Immunizations for the School Year

from the inbox:

With the beginning of the school year just around the corner, the Montgomery County Health Department (MCDH) reminds residents that children may need up-to-date vaccinations. There are several vaccines recommended for 11 and 12 year olds as they enter seventh grade, including Tdap and Meningitis vaccines. The second varicella (chickenpox) vaccine is required for all children attending school. Children 4-6 years old will need booster shots for DTaP, chicken pox, MMR, and polio. Most schools require children to be up-to-date on vaccinations before enrolling or starting school in order to protect the health of all students.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended schedule sets ages for specific vaccines throughout a person’s life span. Starting at six months of age, individuals can be vaccinated against influenza annually.
“It is important for people to educate themselves about vaccines and their safety and effectiveness,” said Carolyn Zimmerman a Public Health Nurse with the Montgomery County Health Department. “Make an appointment to receive the vaccines on time and get all the shots needed for the vaccine to be effective.” It is important to keep a copy of personal immunization records in a safe place. Individuals should consult their doctor or nurse about the immunizations they need.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Montco App Introduced

The Montgomery County website won an award recently.  The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) named as the winner of their Excellence in Website Design Award.

Recognizing that people use mobile devices to search the web, the county has launched a mobile app, GoMontco.  It is free and available for both iOS and Android devices.  The app is designed to reflect the website.

Both provide information on news, calendar, parks & trails, staff director, FAQs, RFP & bids, jobs, and others.

Affordable Care Act Site for Small Business

The Obama Administration has launched The web-based tool delivers information based on a business’ size, location, and plans for offering health benefits to workers next year.  It also addresses misconceptions about the law and to provide information for small business owners across the country.

Student Loan Legislation

from the inbox, a link to Cecilia Munoz's post, "A Better Bargain for Students," on the White House blog.  Here is an excerpt:

This afternoon, President Obama made an important step toward that promise by signing into law the bipartisan student loan interest rate compromise, which advances our nation's commitment to students by cutting rates on nearly all new loans this year – saving a typical undergraduate student $1,500 over the life of his or her loans. This legislation allows borrowers to benefit from the low interest rates currently available in the marketplace, guarantees that borrowers are able to lock in these rates over the life of their loans, and protects future borrowers by capping how high rates can rise.
The signing of this legislation is a key victory for students, one in which Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle came together around the important mission of keeping college affordable for American students and their families.
Under the new law, nearly 11 million borrowers will see their interest rates decrease on new loans made after July 1, 2013. About 8.8 million undergraduate borrowers will see their rates on new loans drop from 6.8 to 3.86 percent, and about 1.5 million Graduate Unsubsidized Stafford borrowers will see their rates drop on new loans from 6.8 percent to 5.41 percent. Finally, over 1 million Grad PLUS and Parent PLUS borrowers will see their rates on new loans drop from 7.9 percent to 6.41 percent—the first reduction in years.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Another Gun Loophole Attempt

At present residents of Pennsylvania who wish to have a gun permit apply to their county sheriff's office (except for Philadelphia, where it is allowable to also apply to the chief of the city police force).  A new bill introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate, SB 1071, would change that.  the proposed legislation would allow people to also apply to the sheriff's department in contiguous counties.  Residents of Philadelphia could apply in Philadelphia, or the Bucks, Delaware, or Montgomery Counties.


State Rep. Roebuck on Philly Schools

from the inbox:

State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, issued this statement on the Philadelphia public schools' financial problems: 
"I was offended by the response from the Corbett administration. The $45 million for which they apparently want to take credit is NOT state money, but rather federal money the state owed that the Obama administration has forgiven. Essentially, all the Corbett administration is doing is the $15 million increase in the basic education subsidy for Philadelphia that doesn’t make up for two years of much deeper cuts in state funding. I would also like to point out that the city council and the teachers have been doing their part – it is the Corbett administration that has been letting our children down. 
"I would remind everyone that the new state budget only restores $122 million of the nearly $1 billion cut statewide from K-12 education two years ago, a cut that was locked in by flat funding last year. I supported a Democratic budget amendment this year that would have restored about $300 million of those cuts as part of a plan to restore the entire amount over three years."

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Rain Delays

There was a lot of water where I live this morning.  Along some of the streets water was up to the middle of the tires on cars parked along the curb.  The streets themselves were like fast moving streams.  As I walked to the train station the water was to my ankles on the sidewalk (it was higher on the edge of the street and maybe lower in the middle, but, given the rain and limited visibility, I wasn't going to walk in the street).  I was splashed by passing cars and drenched when I got to work.   Fortunately I keep a gym bag in my office.  Sweat pants and sneakers may not be acceptable office attire but at least they were dry.

SEPTA service was disrupted in places.  They've posted details and pictures of some of the damaged tracks.  I'd rather be late than on a derailed train and looking at these pictures I think delays were definitely called for.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Mark Kelly on Ross Township Shootings

from the inbox last week:

CAPT. MARK KELLY STATEMENT ON SHOOTING AT PENNSYLVANIA TOWN HALL MEETING "Gabby and I were saddened to hear about the terrible tragedy in Ross Township. The shooting bears a heartbreaking similarity to the Congress on Your Corner event in Tucson where a disturbed person fired dozens of rounds, wounding and killing Americans as they participated in one of the cornerstones of our democracy: a public meeting with elected officials. These horrific shootings have become all too frequent, and we've learned that they don't discriminate. They can happen anytime, anywhere, from Tucson in the Southwest desert, to Aurora in the Rocky Mountains, to Oak Creek in suburban Wisconsin, now to Ross Township in rural Pennsylvania. We have to do more -- all of us -- to make sure future tragedies like last night's aren't visited upon other communities." 

Brendan Boyle's Higher Ed Plan

This note, from the inbox, is intriguing.  I'm not sure it would work but it's an interesting idea:

State Representative Brendan F. Boyle (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) announced a bill to commission a legislative committee to conduct an analysis of a plan to eliminate tuition at Pennsylvania’s public colleges and universities. The plan, popularly known as “Pay It Forward,” would forgo tuition at public colleges by collecting a portion of students’ postgraduate earnings over a set period of time.  
 “With Pennsylvania’s college graduates shouldering the second highest level of student loan debt in the country, the need to take a hard look at our existing system of funding higher education is urgent,” said Boyle. “This legislation would initiate the process of conducting a comprehensive, in-depth analysis of the Pay It Forward model.” 
The plan was first detailed in a 2012 report by the Seattle based Economic Opportunity Institute (EOI). If implemented, Pay It Forward would operate as a trust fund for public higher education. The program would initially be financed by seed money that would sustain it while the pool of graduates paying into the trust fund expanded to a level that would make it self sufficient. The period of time estimated for the program to become self-sustaining is estimated to be over 20 years in the initial EOI study, though that figure could vary based on the size and projected post-graduate earnings of Pennsylvania’s eligible student population. “At this point, we don’t have a clear idea on what the needs of Pay It Forward in Pennsylvania would be,” said Boyle. “That is why we need this study, so that we can gain a better understanding of this plan before discussing whether it is the most effective way of addressing the problems of student debt and college attainment in the Commonwealth.” 
If passed, the bill would commission a committee overseen by a bipartisan group of state Representatives and Senators to examine Pay It Forward’s cost, potential funding sources and the feasibility of implementing a pilot program at selected Pennsylvania public colleges and universities. A full report of the committee’s finding would be published at the conclusion of the study. There are currently a handful of states that are considering or have passed similar legislation, including Oregon, which last month passed legislation that Boyle credits as the impetus behind his proposal. 
“I think the number of states that have expressed interest in this model demonstrates that the traditional way of financing public higher education is fundamentally broken and that there is a strong demand for new ideas. The Oregon bill offers an excellent template for how such a game changing proposal should be approached,” Boyle said. “Given that this plan would likely require an investment of tens of billions of dollars before becoming solvent, carefully examining the merits and cost of Pay It Forward on an objective and nonpartisan basis will provide insight into whether such a program is feasible in Pennsylvania. 
This plan would represent a revolutionary step in how public higher education is funded and accessed in Pennsylvania, and such a significant step demands an equally rigorous analysis to make sure we have the best available information to work with moving forward. The limited experience in the United States with this type of higher education funding model means we need to look at the long term ramifications of such a plan.” 
The legislation, which Boyle intends to introduce when the House reconvenes in September, is not the first attempt by the lawmaker to promote an unconventional way of promoting college accessibility. In 2009, Boyle introduced the REACH Scholarship, which has been reintroduced in subsequent legislative sessions and would provide fully paid tuition and fees to qualifying high school students at public colleges. “As with the REACH Scholarship, I hope this legislation can promote new ways of looking at how we champion college accessibility in our state, and I welcome the discussion. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Harrisburg to get this bill passed, and advancing the dialogue about how we’re going to keep a quality college education in Pennsylvania attainable for generations to come.”

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Two Education Notes

Two interesting articles / editorials on education crossed my screen recently.

First, John Micek, editorial page editor of the Harrisburg Patriot News, pens an op-ed, "Harrisburg's summer teacher exodus is a wake-up call," August 7th.

Here's an excerpt:

But talented teachers are the engine that makes a school district go. It's beyond cliche at this point that the right teacher can change a student's life for the better. And attracting and retaining qualified teachers is one of the keys to the district's future success. 

Secondly, Ronnie Polaneczky, in the August 10th Inquirer, writes a column, "Philly schools go on your report card, too."  She provides a list of reasons people who don't have children in public schools should be concerned about the school system.  She has some points directed at those of us in the 'burbs.  It's a well-thought-out piece.

Good weekend reading.

Suburbanites, too, ought to worry about the state of Philly education. Because the city's traumas have a way of becoming the suburbs' traumas. Just look how crime is rising in towns just beyond Philly's poorer borders. Think that's gonna improve if our schools tank? Think the towns just beyond inner-ring won't eventually feel the pain, too, as the ills spread outward?

Suburbanites, too, ought to worry about the state of Philly education. Because the city's traumas have a way of becoming the suburbs' traumas. Just look how crime is rising in towns just beyond Philly's poorer borders. Think that's gonna improve if our schools tank? Think the towns just beyond inner-ring won't eventually feel the pain, too, as the ills spread outward?
Suburbanites, too, ought to worry about the state of Philly education. Because the city's traumas have a way of becoming the suburbs' traumas. Just look how crime is rising in towns just beyond Philly's poorer borders. Think that's gonna improve if our schools tank? Think the towns just beyond inner-ring won't eventually feel the pain, too, as the ills spread outward?

Suburbanites, too, ought to worry about the state of Philly education. Because the city's traumas have a way of becoming the suburbs' traumas. Just look how crime is rising in towns just beyond Philly's poorer borders. Think that's gonna improve if our schools tank? Think the towns just beyond inner-ring won't eventually feel the pain, too, as the ills spread outward?
Suburbanites, too, ought to worry about the state of Philly education. Because the city's traumas have a way of becoming the suburbs' traumas. Just look how crime is rising in towns just beyond Philly's poorer borders. Think that's gonna improve if our schools tank? Think the towns just beyond inner-ring won't eventually feel the pain, too, as the ills spread outward?

Thursday, August 08, 2013

New Wolf Video

Tom Wolf, one of the Democrats running for governor in 2014, has released a new video, discussing his management philosophy (or actually, it's mostly his employees discussing the corporate management style).  Take a look.

SEPTA Regional Rail Schedule Changes

from the inbox:

New schedules are available now for all SEPTA Regional Rail Lines.  Highlights of the August 11th schedule change include: 
 Paoli/Thorndale: Additional express trains have been added to both AM and PM rush hours.  
Media/Elwyn: Primos Station has been added as a station stop on all express trains operating to and from Center City. 
Lansdale/Doylestown: Midday train service has been restored between Colmar and Doylestown eliminating the current shuttle bus operation.   
Manayunk/Norristown: To support ongoing track work, all weekday inbound and outbound trains will have three to five minute adjustments to the current scheduled times. 
For detailed information, passengers can visit to view changes to their train lines and download new schedules. 

Braddock Mayor Marries Gay Couple

Montgomery County is in the news for issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.  State Senator Daylin Leach has performed one marriage ceremony.  Braddock Mayor John Fetterman has now joined him by marrying a gay couple of Allegheny County.  (See "Braddock Mayor Performs First Gay Marriage in Allegheny Co.," CBS Pittsburgh, 8/05/2103).

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

National Constitution Center Celebrates Constitution Day

note from the inbox:

The U.S. Constitution—signed on September 17, 1787—remains ever-present in our national dialogue, with constitutional issues from privacy to presidential power confronting the country daily. As the Museum of We the People, America’s Town Hall, and a leading center for civic education, the National Constitution Center serves as the national headquarters for Constitution Day on September 17, 2013, honoring the Constitution’s 226th anniversary and its enduring significance. The celebration features a wide range of FREE educational festivities and timely constitutional conversations with leading scholars and experts. Last year, over 5,000 students, teachers, and other guests visited the museum on Constitution Day.
A number of special activities and events are planned.  This year, special Constitution Day guests include Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, civic activist Mary Beth Tinker, and humanitarian Gerda Weissmann Klein, who will each participate in several events throughout the day.  There is a special web page for teachers with educational resources listed:

Education Law Center Files Complaint Over PA Program

from the inbox (received yesterday, embargoed for today)

The Education Law Center today filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice seeking an investigation into discriminatory placement of students in Pennsylvania’s Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth programs.
The complaint cites four years worth of data showing a disproportionately high number of students with disabilities and African American students are removed from traditional public schools and sent to educationally inferior AEDY or similar alternative education programs, often in violation of federal laws.
"As a result of the Pennsylvania Department of Education's policies and practices, including its approval of alternative education programs, numerous school districts in Pennsylvania are discriminating against students with disabilities and African American students through the misuse of alternative education placements. The disproportionate and frequent placement of students with disabilities and African American students in such disciplinary settings violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act," said David Lapp, Education Law Center attorney. 
"By turning a blind eye toward overwhelming evidence of the disparate impact on students with disabilities and African American students, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has violated its duties under these laws," Lapp added.
ELC filed the complaint in response to numerous allegations from parents and students regarding improper placements and poor academic programming in various alternative education programs. 
Following the repeated allegations, the Law Center requested and analyzed data from the previous four school years, examining the number of students with disabilities sent to alternative education programs, as well as the number of minority students sent to those programs.
The research shows:
In public schools in Pennsylvania as a whole, 16 percent of students are identified as students with disabilities. However, in recent years, even as the total number of alternative placements has dropped, the percentage of students with disabilities sent to alternative education programs has increased to 44 percent.
_ 82 school districts in 2010-11 where more than 50 percent of the students sent to alternative education programs were students with disabilities.
_ African American students are similarly overrepresented in alternative education placements. While African American students comprise only 15 percent of Pennsylvania public school students, in 2010-11 they comprised 35 percent of the students placed into alternative education programs.
_ 45 school districts in 2010-11 that had a disparity of 20 percentage points or more between the percent of African Americans in the district and the percent of African Americans placed in the districts’ alternative education programs.
_ 24 districts had disparities of 20 percentage points or higher for both African American students and students with disabilities.

"This data and the experiences of our clients suggest that PDE is failing its responsibility to ensure that students with disabilities and African American students are not being placed in separate and stigmatizing settings at a disproportionate rate," said Lapp. "At the same time, PDE must ensure that these schools are not being used as dumping grounds and that students who are appropriately placed in these schools are receiving the proper educational services to which they’re entitled."
In addition to a full investigation, ELC is urging the Department of Justice to direct PDE to develop a protocol to determine and document the placement of students into alternative education programs; perform compliance reviews of districts’ alternative school policies; develop procedures to prevent future discrimination against students with disabilities and African American students; and establish a clear, non-discriminatory process for successfully transitioning students back into regular education classrooms.
Review the complaint: ELC_DOJ_AEDYComplaint_8_7_13.pdf

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Bank of America and Habitat for Humanity

Tomorrow, August 7th, Bank of America is going to announce a $50,000 gift to Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia.

Habitat for Humanity is a wonderful organization and it is wonderful to see them receiving such a gift.

It is grand that Bank of America is giving them the money.

One other infobit:  "Pay rises 70% to $12 million for Bank of America CEO Moynihan," by Andrew Dunn and Deon Roberts, Charlotte Observer, March 28, 2013 tells us:

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan was awarded $12 million in base salary, stock awards and other compensation for his 2012 performance, the Charlotte bank disclosed Thursday. It was a 70 percent jump from what Moynihan was awarded the year before.
In 2011, Moynihan was awarded $7 million in total compensation, down from $10 million in 2010.
To be fair, Bank of America Corporate Social Responsibility outlined their many philanthropic endeavors across the US and around the world.  They are doing some interesting things.  Their work in renewable energy is especially intriguing.  You can read more in their 2012 report.

Read more here:

Read more here:"

Philly Education: What's An Outsider to Do?

Many parents groups and educational organizations and elected officials are trying to sort out the public schools in Philadelphia.  I would imagine that the last thing they would find useful is a well-intentioned middle-class middle-aged suburban woman swooping in with opinions.  So I've generally stayed out of the Philadelphia school situation.  What could I do?

Rachel Held Evans, a wonderful writer who has a blog on women and religion, has an interview with author Nicole Baker Fulgam.  I haven't read Fulgam's book (though Evan's A Year of Biblical Womanhood is both delightful and thought-provoking), but the brief interview with Held gives some excellent suggestions for suburban churches whose congregations are concerned about the local public schools in their area.

Fulgam's Expectations Project  is also intriguing.  Definitely something to investigate further.

Monday, August 05, 2013

A Tale of Two Marriages

Last month marked the 30th anniversary of my marriage to Mr. J.  The wedding was in a park, under a gazebo.  We invited 50 people and 25 were able to attend, which is about what we were expecting.  I found the dress on a department store sale rack right after prom season.  It wasn’t designed as a wedding dress but did well at a small outdoor wedding.  Family catered the reception; friends took pictures and provided live music.    It was an inauspicious start to what has been (and remains) a partnership and love affair.  Like all marriages there have been ups and downs, many good days and a few bad, but never once have I regretted marrying my beloved.

Love and affection aside, a marriage is a legal arrangement.  It is the difference between an “emergency contact” and “next of kin.”  It is the legal relationship with shared children.  It is a joint mortgage and checking account and presumed rights of inheritance.  I wake every day with the knowledge that should disaster strike Mr. J will make any needed medical and financial decisions.  The birth of our first child was difficult.  When it was all over and done with the doctor patted my leg (that’s what it looked like, anyway, I couldn’t feel a thing) and said “just think, 100 years ago you and the baby both would have died.”  When it became clear that the delivery would be a little different than we had planned, and I became completely preoccupied with the physicality of things, Mr. J’s was the only voice I could hear.  It was as if the doctors and nurses were speaking another language.  The doctors would talk to Mr. J and he would talk with me.  I would whisper to him and he would talk with the doctors and nurses.   I knew everything would be okay because he was with me.   He could make decisions for me because we are legally married.  There were no questions about it.  No one else needed to be consulted.

The terrible night when he was hours late getting home because his train was stuck in a tunnel and he couldn’t call, as I put the kids to bed and hoped my answer to their questions about where Daddy was (“he had to work late”) was correct, I contemplated the worst.   He is never late and there had been some violent incidents near where he worked.  Of all the thoughts that went through my mind, none involved inheritance issues.  If anything should happen to either of us there is no doubt that the other would inherit retirement benefits, joint holdings, and all out other worldly goods.  There would be no questions about it.

People will say that a marriage license is just a piece of paper.  Yes, and so is a mortgage, a car loan, a deed, a diploma, a medical insurance card, and any number of other pieces of paper that guide and construct our lives.  My train pass is a piece of paper.  SEPTA won’t let ride without one.  I can get insurance for my car because I have a piece of paper saying I (we) own it.  Someone who attends four years of college classes but doesn’t get a diploma may know as much or more than a student who does not graduate but it is hard to prove it.   A newspaper columnist once asked “who are you more likely to loan money to, your daughter’s boyfriend or your son-in-law?”  The extended and strong family ties that a marriage certificate cements are an enormous benefit to a couple.

I thought of these things as I read Lori Schreiber’s column in the Philadelphia Gay News.  Schreiber, an Abington Township commissioner, is writing about the marriage licenses being issued by Montgomery County and the conversations she has had with her partner about applying for one.  She writes:

Since Tuesday, we again had the conversation that none of my straight friends have had. Do we go through a marriage that most likely will need a “re-do” to afford us all of the rights and privileges our government has bestowed on married couples? Do we have the “skim-milk” marriage?

Pennsylvania does not currently recognize same-sex marriage so the licenses, while no doubt a symbolic victory, would not guarantee Ms. Schreiber and her partner the same rights and privileges that Mr. J and I enjoy (and take for granted).  The two of them surely love each other as much as Mr. J and I do.  They probably have the same arguments about the best way to load the dishwasher, the same negotiations about where to go on vacation, the same discussions on the household budget, and the same enjoyment of quiet companionable evenings at home.  But they cannot have the same confidence that one can speak for the other in a medical emergency, or that if the worst happens one can inherit from the other.  They do not have the same legal relationship that my husband I do.    

All Pennsylvanians deserve the same piece of mind that my household enjoys; their pieces of paper should mean the same thing my piece of paper does.  Ms. Schreiber and her partner deserve a marriage in the fullest sense of the word.  

Friday, August 02, 2013

CNN Report on Benghazi

On Tuesday, August 6th, at 10 p.m.,  CNN will air an Erin Burnett Outfront Special Investigation, "The Truth About Benghazi."  From the press release:

Nearly a year after the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, CNN’s Erin Burnett looks back at the night that took the lives of four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens. With special reports from CNN senior international correspondent Arwa Damon and chief national correspondent John King, Burnett revisits the night of the attack, the U.S. military response, the latest on the investigation, and the political firestorm in Washington D.C.. 

Philadelphian on Project Runway

Philadelphian Dom Streater is one of the designers on this season of Project Runway.  The 24 year old lists Philly as her dream place to open a business, and Sassafrass as her favorite restaurant.  Asked why she will win she says "Philly girls always hustle harder."

She's survived the first three episodes and is doing well.  My fingers are crossed.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

One Year Anniversary of No Co-Pay for Women's Health

from the inbox:

Today, marks the one-year anniversary of the women’s health provision in the Affordable Care Act that includes birth control with no co-pay.   This anniversary comes just days after the Guttmacher Institute released new data showing the cost-savings associated with publicly-supported birth control. According to Guttmacher, taxpayers save $5.68 for every dollar spent on birth control - almost $2 more in savings than previous studies have shown.
“We know that having a broad range of effective birth control available to women helps them determine if and when they are ready to have a family,” said Melissa Weiler Gerber, executive director of Family Planning Council.  “The freedom to decide when to have children and to safely space pregnancies improves the quality of life for women and families and thus reduces overall health care costs.”
The report points to the success of programs like the federally-funded Title X Family Planning Program which supports reproductive health services for low-income women, men, and teens.  Nationwide, in 2010, Title X clinics provided birth control services that helped prevent roughly 1.2 million unintended pregnancies. According to the study, without Title X services, the nationwide unintended pregnancy rate would be 35% higher. 
Family Planning Council oversees a network of Title X Family Planning provider agencies serving over 125,000 low-income women, men, and teens annually throughout the five-county southeastern Pennsylvania region.  Providers include the area's major teaching hospitals, Planned Parenthood affiliates, federally funded community health centers, and the Philadelphia Department of Health.  
In late June, Family Planning Council was awarded a three-year $15.7 million Title X Family Planning grant to continue providing reproductive health services throughout Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. In 2010, Pennsylvania's Title X program investment of $45 million led to an estimated cost savings of $232 million - $5.15 for each Title X dollar spent.  Using these figures, net public savings from Family Planning Council's new $15.7 million grant is likely to be an estimated $81 million.
“There is no denying how beneficial these programs are,” said Weiler Gerber.  “With the preventive health provision in the Affordable Care Act and public funding for birth control, women can focus on providing for their families or planning their future instead of deciding between paying for birth control or putting food on the table.” 
Family Planning Council advances sexual and reproductive health outcomes to promote health equity for individuals, families and communities. For more information about Family Planning Council programs, visit,  @famplancouncil on Twitter , and on Facebook.