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American Idol to hold auditions for final season in Philadelphia

As the reality TV juggernaut nears retirement, it's coming to Philadelphia to search for singers.

If you’ve been waiting to audition for the hit Fox-TV show “American Idol, “ your last chance may be upon you – and luckily an audition opportunity is coming nearby for the show’s final season.

“American Idol” 15 auditions will be held Aug. 2 at Temple University’s Liacouras Center, 1776 N. Broad St., Philadelphia.

The stop is among  five scheduled stops auditions that started July 10 at Denver Coliseum in Colorado. The next is scheduled for Wednesday at Martin Luther King, Jr. Arena in Savannah, Ga. Other scheduled stops are Aug. 8 at Verizon Arena in Little Rock, Ark., and Sept. 15 at Cow Palace in San Francisco, Calif.

Those who wish to audition will line up the morning of Aug. 2 at The Liacouras Center to register. If you wait until late in the day on audition day to register, the auditions may run out of space and time.

Original source: Allentown Morning Call
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Looking for housing for the Pope's visit? The floor might be your best bet

Housing all the anticipated visitors coming to town for the Pope's visit in September continues to be a favorite topic of discussion.

There aren't enough beds for the more than 1 million visitors expected to flood Philadelphia when Pope Francis visits in September, particularly for those trying to be frugal. So Belinda Lewis Held had to be creative when it came to sheltering the more than 1,000 young people she's guiding that weekend: They'll be bunking down in museums, classrooms and churches.

"They're young and they don't mind the floors. They'll bring sleeping bags or yoga mats and pillows," said Lewis Held, director of group travel for APilgrimsJourney.com, a Pittsburgh company that organizes worldwide Catholic tours. "They're willing to rough it for Pope Francis."

With the papal visit imminent and the city's 11,500 hotel rooms filling up quickly, wannabe visitors are thinking outside the box(spring) when it comes to lodgings, particularly when they want to keep costs down.

Philadelphia officials may permit camping in some public parks, and untraditional offerings have appeared online. On Airbnb, a Delaware River houseboat was booked but a converted dance studio was still available late this week. Craigslist had a listing for an empty warehouse and multiple couch surfing options.

Original source: The Associated Press via The New York Times
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Financial Times spotlights Elixr Coffee Roasters in Philadelphia

Financial Times shows some love for Elixr Coffee Roasters in its Business Travel section.

Stumbling in by accident is practically impossible, as the café is located on a side street with little foot traffic and has just a nondescript sign on the front door.

The lucky few who find the place are rewarded with a lively ambience and decor, premium low-roast coffee sourced from Central and South America and vegan doughnuts baked fresh each morning.

Despite the minimal branding, Elixr has become a popular haunt in the Center City district -- for business people, students, entrepreneurs and start-ups looking to collaborate or share ideas. Private and communal seating is plentiful, with two-seater tables as well as a lounge area and community tables.

Original source: Financial Times
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Philly crosswalks get colorful to celebrate LGBT rights

The crosswalks in Philadelphia's Gayborhood were recently repainted in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.

The crosswalks appeared Thursday morning. Backers say they were planned for some time.

Philly Pride Presents senior adviser Chuck Volz says the crosswalks were completed at a cost far less than the initial $26,000 estimate.

Independence Visitor Center employee Albert Lee says the crosswalks show tourists that Philadelphia is a gay-friendly city.

The rainbow crosswalks [were] dedicated at the Annual Reminders Block Party on July 5 honoring the 50th anniversary of the first wave of U.S. LGBT rights group demonstrations.

Source: Associated Press via Time
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Putting the state's youth to work over the summer

Fewer American teenagers are holding down summer jobs. Some organizations are working hard to combat the problem.

The absence of work means more than having no money for a mobile phone or a night out with friends. A summer job can provide essential experience that is crucial to snagging better jobs later, experts say. Research shows that for every year teenagers work while in high school, income rises an average of 15 percent when they are in their 20s.

If that’s true for Nasir Mack, he may be wealthy by the time he turns 30. The 16-year-old is starting his third summer in the Philadelphia Youth Network’s WorkReady program. In the past, he was employed by an engineering company and a community college. This summer, he will work at the city’s Office of Housing and Community Development.

When Nasir first heard about the program through friends, he jumped at the chance, given the alternative. “I’m not going to be doing anything but sitting in the house,” he said. “Why would I want to do that when there are so many things out there you can be doing?”

Original source: The New York Times
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Is the country's best pizza made in Philadelphia?

Bon Appetit thinks so, shining a light on Pizzeria Beddia in Philly's Fishtown neighborhood.

When I visited Pizzeria Beddia a few months after its March 2013 opening, I didn’t know what to expect. Solid neighborhood pizza made by an owner who cared? I figured I’d order a pie, congratulate Beddia on realizing his dream, and head to my next meal—the real reason I was in town. Beddia’s food would likely be a solid addition to the Philly scene, perhaps even the East Coast. As it turned out, Pizzeria Beddia was one of those beautiful eating experiences that still haunts me. I wasn’t on vacation, and there wasn’t some well-designed setting distorting my senses. It was just me and that pizza in a forgettable space. But it changed everything.?

Original source: Bon Appetit
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PA Little Leaguers head south for a trip through history

The New York Times' Frank Bruni writes about the confluence of baseball and black history through the lens of the Anderson Monarchs and their star Mo'ne Davis. 

Last summer, a 13-year-old named Mo’ne Davis landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated, a national sensation after she pitched a shutout in the Little League World Series, where almost all of the other players are boys. She’s believed to be the only black girl ever to participate in the competition.

This summer, she plans to do something else surprising: Visit the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., where four black girls were killed in a 1963 bombing. Three of them were 14. Mo’ne will turn that age on the day she shows up at the landmark...

But over three weeks in late June and early July, she and 13 other kids on her team here — the rest of them boys, most of them black, all roughly her age — have a schedule of exhibition games across the country that mixes exhilarating notes with somber ones.

They’re not just hitting the road. They’re taking it south, into history: the church in Birmingham, the bridge in Selma. They’ll play ball, then visit Little Rock Central High School, a battleground in the fight to integrate schools. They’ll swing for the fences, then bow their heads at the house in Jackson, Miss., where Medgar Evers lived...

Throughout the year, the team has been meeting weekly to watch movies and discuss reading assignments about the African-American experience and civil rights. In advance of a summer tour in 2012 of cities and stadiums that were important in the Negro Leagues, Bandura required that they study up on the history of baseball and its integration.

Original source: The New York Times
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Philly's Khyber Pass named one of the country's top bars

The Old City watering hole has earned a spot on Esquire's annual list of the country's best bars:

Back in the 1980s, the Khyber was where all the punk bands played. Nowadays the bands are gone and it's a lot cleaner. But there's still a great rock 'n' roll jukebox, decent New Orleans food (and cocktails), and a whole lot of craft beer on tap.

Original source: Esquire
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Philadelphia International Airport eyes expansion

The Philadelphia International Airport has its eyes on International Plaza, a 27-acre parcel.

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson introduced the legislation, calling for the city to buy the office buildings and the 27 acres and lease them to the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development.

Officials said the buildings could be demolished to make room for some combination of new facilities for the airport and possibly for United Parcel Service.

"If you had asked me 20 years ago, does it make sense for the airport to acquire International Plaza, my answer would be the same as it is today: absolutely," said James Tyrrell, deputy Philadelphia aviation director of property and business development.

Original source: Associated Press via Lancaster Online
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A growing industry, float spas relieve stress for Pennsylvanians

Float spas are experiencing a mini boom -- the Philadelphia area has seen at least three float centers open in the past 15 months.

Allen Hughes said the concept of floatation therapy took a long time to sink in.

The management consultant, a self-described "high strung" type who's always looking for new ways to relieve stress, said he didn't think floating in water could bring him that much relaxation.

"This is something crazy people do," he recalled thinking.

But after trying it for the first time in March, Hughes has become a regular at East Coast Float Spa in the Philadelphia suburb of West Chester, Pennsylvania. There, immersed in darkness and silence, he floats effortlessly in a private, shallow saltwater pool and just ... lets ... go.

Floating is enjoying a renaissance after virtually disappearing for decades. Its current popularity stems in part from high-profile enthusiasts like comedian/UFC commentator Joe Rogan and some professional athletes, who tout the practice as a way to clear their minds, relieve muscle aches and temporarily unplug from the world...

"I was kind of a little bit wary about it, but intrigued in the same breath," said Edu, a midfielder for the Philadelphia Union. "For me, I felt the benefit straight away. I think it helped me to recover between games a lot quicker."

East Coast Float Spa co-owner Matt Kay became a devotee of floatation therapy three years ago after trying it in California to ease chronic hip pain from a car accident. He opened his center in September and had 1,000 float clients within the first six months.

Customer Hughes, of Yeadon, Pennsylvania, describes the experience as "completely refreshing."

Original source: Associated Press via The New York Times
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Amtrak crash raises huge questions about transportation and infrastructure spending

The train disaster, which happened only a few miles from Philadelphia's 30th Street Station, raises a lot of questions about the state of our country's infrastructure. 

Investigators into the Amtrak crash in Philadelphia are focusing on excess speed, but there is a related issue: the overall condition of Amtrak and the nation’s infrastructure. One of the reasons that American trains should not travel 100 miles an hour in many places is that the state of our rail system — like the state of our bridges, highways and airports — is not good...

Much of the problem of crumbling infrastructure has existed for years. There is, however, a new development that has made things worse. The combined money that federal, state and local governments spend on construction has dropped significantly, relative to the size of the economy, in the last five years. And only part of the decline stems from the end of the stimulus program, which temporarily lifted infrastructure spending.

Such spending now represents about 1.5 percent of total economic activity, down from about 1.8 percent on average from 1993 through 2008. It’s at its lowest level in at least 22 years. (A hat-tip to Joe Weisenthal, of Business Insider, who calculated this statistic in 2013, after the collapse of a bridge near Seattle.)

Lawrence Summers, the former Treasury secretary and Harvard president, sent an email to us today making an argument similar to Mr. Weisenthal’s: More infrastructure spending would both make accidents less likely and bring economic benefits.

Original source: The New York Times
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Universities and drug companies partner to tackle big diseases

New partnerships between universities and drug companies show promises for complex diseases. 

British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline is teaming up with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to start a research institute and a company aimed at curing H.I.V. infection and AIDS... The company and the university will each own half of the new company, Qura Therapeutics, which will have the rights to commercialize any discoveries... 

The arrangement is part of a trend in which pharmaceutical companies are working directly with university researchers. Novartis and the University of Pennsylvania, for instance, are building a research center on the Philadelphia campus to work on ways to genetically alter a patient’s immune cells to battle cancer.

But while the University of Pennsylvania partnership is already producing striking remissions in some cancer patients, the attempt to cure H.I.V. is expected to take far longer and may fall short. The $20 million being contributed is a small sum for a company like Glaxo, which spent close to $5 billion on research and development last year.

Original source: The New York Times
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Three Philadelphia women get a deal in the 'Shark Tank'

Zoom Interiors, a startup run by three Philly transplants, earned a deal on the ABC show that funds promising entrepreneurs. In the end, Barbara Corcoran offered $100,000 for 33 percent of the company.

Beatrice Fischel-Bock, Madeline Fraser and Elizabeth Grover all met as students during their first interior design course at George Washington University. “We became friends instantly and worked together for the next three years of design school learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Fischel-Bock said.

The company was born after friends started asking them to design their first apartments upon graduation. However, at the time they were all studying abroad, but quickly realized they were still able to assist their friends, who were all on budgets.
“It dawned on us that this is clearly an undeserved part of the market,” Fischel-Bock explained. “The design industry had just been shaken by the recession and people were very conscious about affordability. We decided to try our new formula with paying customers.”

...After starting their business in Washington DC, where they were in school, they moved to Philly after graduation. Fischel-Bock refers to the city as “the best kept secret on the East coast.” “It has the highest rate of millennials moving in to the city and just has such an authentic feel. The startup community is very close knit and supportive and continues to grow,” she said.

Original source: The Heavy
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Philly exports its culinary legacy: Cheesesteaks, water ice, soft pretzels and Wawa

A couple Philly mainstays -- Rita's, Tony Luke's, Philly Pretzel Factory, Wawa -- look to take over the world.

The man intent on taking the Philly cheesesteak global saw a familiar sight from home on a recent trip to Florida: a Wawa.
The hoagie-making, coffee-brewing convenience and gas chain from the Philadelphia area is pushing hard into the Sunshine State, opening more than 60 stores since 2012 with another 25 planned by the end of the year.

Albie Misci, sales director at cheesesteak chain Tony Luke's, knows the idea.

He's helping take Philly's most famous culinary treat to Florida, California and even the Middle Eastern nation of Bahrain.

Other staples from the City of Brotherly Love, including its beloved soft pretzels and water ice, are also going global, as their Philadelphia-based purveyors aggressively expand into national - and international - chains.

Original source: Associated Press
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Family takes epic journey from Argentina to PA for Pope's visit

A family embarks on an epic journey from South America, aiming to arrive in time for the Pope's visit to Philadelphia. 

As many as two million people are expected to be in Philadelphia for the visit by Pope Francis and the World Meeting of Families in September. But it’s unlikely any of them will have a journey as long — or as remarkable — as one family from Argentina.

Packed in a 1980 VW minibus are Noël Zemborain; her husband, Alfredo Walker (nicknamed ‘Catire’); and their four kids: Carmin, 2; Mia, 5; Dimas, 8; and Cala, 12.

“It’s a very big family,” says Noël. “A very intense family experience.”

That’s putting it mildly.

In March, mom and dad ditched their jobs, drained their savings, and told their three girls and one boy that they were about to embark on the trip of a lifetime.

“We are traveling all through the continents toward Philadelphia,” says Noël. “We are meeting people, we are learning things about them, and getting to know other ways of living.”

Original source: CBS
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