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Applications up 14 percent at the University of Pennsylvania

An increasing number of students aspire to a Penn education -- the Philadelphia university saw its applications rise 14 percent.

It’s not really a popularity contest, but among the Ivies, is anything not competitive? Applications to the University of Pennsylvaniarose by more than 14 percent this year and fell by as much at Dartmouth...As for the upsurge at Penn, the dean of admissions, Eric J. Furda, credits outreach to community-based organizations, like a new partnership with KIPP Public Charter Schools. More low-income students applied: Penn received 7,000 requests for application fee waivers, up from 4,000 last year. Several popular Penn MOOCs are also raising its profile: "An admissions office simply cannot budget that reach," Mr. Furda says.

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

Philadelphia hosts world's largest game of Tetris

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

Original source: The New York Times


UPenn veterinary oncologists learn about human breast cancer from dogs

An innovative program at the University of Pennsylvania looks at mammary cancer in dogs to better understand breast cancer in humans.

Because dogs typically have 10 mammary glands and often develop tumors in several glands at the same time, they present a unique research opportunity, enabling scientists to study lesions that are at different stages of development — from benign to cancerous, and at transitional stages — all in the same animal.

“The dog gives us the potential to answer the question: When did something go wrong at the molecular level?” said Dr. Karin Sorenmo, chief of medical oncology at Penn Vet’s Ryan Hospital, who founded the Penn Vet canine mammary tumor program in 2009. “We can also study the benign tumors and ask: What’s different in that one tumor that doesn’t change and become malignant versus another one that does change?”

This field of research, called comparative oncology, is used to improve the understanding of the biology of cancer and to fine-tune treatment for humans. In the process, shelter dogs get access to treatment.


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

Layover Lift: The Free Library opens outpost at the airport

Bored travelers now have an exciting new distraction -- the Free Library has come to Philadelphia International airport.

The Free Library of Philadelphia recently opened an outpost in the Philadelphia International Airport in the form of a book-themed lounge with free Wi-Fi access to the library’s digital catalog.

Passengers are encouraged to relax in the reading room, in the concourse between the D and E terminals, and download books or author podcasts from the library’s collection of nearly 30,000 titles.

"We brought our high-speed line out to the airport in that little area. That Internet connectivity is extraordinarily robust, it matches what we have in the library," said Siobhan Reardon, president and director of the Free Library.

The idea was inspired in part by an especially snowy winter, she said.

"We were having extensive blizzards here in Philadelphia, and we knew that there were thousands of people camping in the airport," Ms. Reardon said. "We thought, 'What if we put a library in?'"


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

Redefining 'elevator music' as a community booster

Inspired by the development of Muzak, Artist Yowei Shaw, a freelance public radio reporter and producer, has been working on "elevator music" that actually improves the community.

Shaw has been grappling with questions of engaging listeners in public spaces as part of her residency with the Philadelphia-based Asian Arts Initiative's Social Practice Lab. Muzak's social engineering history, she says, gave her an idea: "What if we could make our own kind of elevator music, but do it with pro-social intentions, to promote community?"

And so her project, Really Good Elevator Music, was born. Shaw asked six local musicians from Philly's Chinatown North/Callowhill neighborhood to produce tracks that would help "foster community" in the area. The result is the 13 track album of "really good elevator music," which is playing in the elevators of the nearby, mixed-use Wolf Building for the month of March.


Original source: The Atlantic Cities
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Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter twinkles his toes onstage with the Pennsylvania Ballet

Mayor Nutter hit the stage with the Pennsylvania Ballet playing -- you guessed it -- a mayor. Check out the video here.

Original source: Philly.com

PA restaurants make OpenTable's 'Top 100 Hot Spot Restaurants' list

Three PA eateries made OpenTable's list of the country's "Top 100 Hot Spot Restaurants."

The Butcher and the Rye, a Pittsburgh restaurant owned by Richard DeShantz, has made  a list of 100 hippest restaurants in the United States as picked by users of OpenTable reservation and review website.

Butcher and the Rye is the only restaurant in Pittsburgh and one of only three in Pennsylvania to receive the OpenTable 2014 Diners' Choice Award. The others in Pennsylvania are Cafe Fresco in Harrisburg and El Vez in Philadelphia.

The Butcher and the Rye opened in the fall of 2013 at 212 6th St. in downtown Pittsburgh. The restaurant is on the site of another former restaurant, Palate. It is owned by DeShantz, who also owns the downtown restaurant Meat and Potatoes. It features contempory American cuisine and was recently awarded a Yahoo Travel list  as one of the best new bars in the U.S.


Original source: Pittsburgh Business Times
Read the complete list here.

Private money boosts scientific research in PA and across the country

According to a long feature in The New York Times, billionaire philanthropists are having an increasing impact on scientific research, in Pennsylvania and beyond.

American science, long a source of national power and pride, is increasingly becoming a private enterprise...They have mounted a private war on disease, with new protocols that break down walls between academia and industry to turn basic discoveries into effective treatments. They have rekindled traditions of scientific exploration by financing hunts for dinosaur bones and giant sea creatures. They are even beginning to challenge Washington in the costly game of big science, with innovative ships, undersea craft and giant telescopes — as well as the first private mission to deep space....

Many of their efforts are rooted deep in personal or family trauma. Sometimes, by sheer force of genetics and demographics, that impulse may risk widening historical racial inequalities in health care and disease research, disparities that decades of studies have shown to contribute to higher rates of disease and death among blacks, Hispanics and other minority groups....

Ovarian cancer strikes and kills white women more often than minority women. In 2012, after his sister-in-law died of the disease at age 44, Jonathan D. Gray, the head of global real estate at the Blackstone Group, the private equity firm, gave the University of Pennsylvania $25 million to set up a center to study female cancers.


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

Hotels move into historic buildings: it's happening here, too

Hotels are moving away from cookie-cutter locations and towards unique historic buildings that showcase character and creativity to guests.

Reuse and recycle are taking on new meaning for hotels.

The Lamb’s Theater, a longtime fixture on West 44th Street inside the Manhattan Church of the Nazarene, is now the luxury Chatwal Hotel. In Philadelphia, the previously empty Lafayette Building near Independence Hall opened in 2012 as the Hotel Monaco. In New Orleans, new life is being breathed into the Cotton Exchange Hotel off Bourbon Street.

As the hotel industry shakes off recession doldrums and new hotels are being built, the once-standard chain hotel has a sibling, hotels repurposed from existing buildings like offices, warehouses and hospitals.


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

A loving ode to the Philadelphia regional accent

A wonderful piece in The New York Times' Sunday Review looked at the Philadelphia region's unique accent.

"The Philadelphia regional accent remains arguably the most distinctive, and least imitable, accent in North America. Let’s not argue about this. Ask anyone to do a Lawn Guyland accent or a charming Southern drawl and that person will approximate it. Same goes for a Texas twang or New Orleans yat, a Valley Girl totally omigod. Philly-South Jersey patois is a bit harder: No vowel escapes diphthongery, no hard consonant is safe from a mid-palate dent. Extra syllables pile up so as to avoid inconvenient tongue contact or mouth closure. If you forget to listen closely, the Philadelphia, or Filelfia, accent may sound like mumbled Mandarin without the tonal shifts....

Da prom here, we might say as we order our cheesteaks, is we don’ ave enuff akkers hew are willen to masser da Filelfia acksin. Nonsense. Offhand, I can name two native sons, Bruce Willis (Salem County, N.J.) and Kevin Bacon (Center City Philadelphia), who, at least in interviews early in their career, before accent reduction training kicked in, let their diphthong freak flags fly. And Upper Darby, Pa., native Tina Fey’s shout-outs and occasional youzes are encouraging, as are stories of her singing “You Light Up My Life” in full Brotherly Love voice ('Yew loight up moy loif')."

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

Two PA eateries make Alan Richman's best of 2014 list

Esteemed GQ food critic Alan Richman has released his list of the 25 best restaurants for 2014 -- two Philly spots made the list, Avance and Pizzeria Vetri.

Not everyone is going to appreciate Pizzeria Vetri for the reasons I do, but then I’m a fussy guy when it comes to pizza crust. To summarize: I’m no fan of the famous pies of Naples, the city considered the bastion of pizza, where every Italian will tell you to go for pizza even if his family runs a pizzeria in his own home town. The problem is that true Neapolitan pies come out of the oven with soft, puffy crusts that turn soggy in seconds.

Chef Marc Vetri, famous for a fine-dining restaurant named after him, has created a neo-Neapolitan crust. It looks Neapolitan. It tastes Neapolitan. But it’s fundamentally different, as though he did DNA research on pizza and eliminated the gene that turns the crust wet. It’s the newest step forward in the evolution of the great American pizza crust, this one light and supple but retaining a smidgeon of crispness.


Original source: GQ
Read the complete list here.

Mormon Church tackles Philly development projects

The Mormon Church has announced big development plans in Philadelphia's Logan Square neighborhood.

The development on the 1600 block of Vine Street, which is the northern border of Philadelphia’s downtown area, would consist of a 32-story tower containing 258 apartments, as well as 13 rental townhomes and the 24,000-square-foot meeting house where members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would worship and hold community events.

Designed by Robert A. M. Stern Architects, the project is planned for the block next to a Mormon temple that is already under construction and due to be completed in 2016.

While the temple will be reserved for major religious ceremonies, in keeping with Mormon tradition, the new meeting house will include a chapel for regular services, meeting rooms and classrooms for community and recreational events, officials said in announcing the project on Feb. 12.

Alan Greenberger, the city’s deputy mayor for economic development, said the temple and the planned Mormon housing and retail complex — which would be built on a parking lot — occupy two “unspoken for” blocks between the business district and the northern section of the city.


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

Comcast makes a move to buy Time-Warner Cable

Comcast makes another big move, making a play for Time Warner Cable.

Already the dominant player in providing pay television services to American consumers, Comcast announced on Thursday a deal to buy Time Warner Cable, which will create a behemoth that will dominate the media industry.

It is the second transformative deal for Comcast in recent years, coming just months after it completed an acquisition of NBC Universal, the TV and movie studio. And the deal, if completed, could have impacts on consumers across the country, though it is unlikely to reduce competition in many markets.

Describing the deal as “a friendly, stock-for-stock transaction,” Comcast will acquire 100 percent of Time Warner Cable’s 284.9 million shares outstanding, in a deal worth about $45.2 billion in stock value.


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

Figure skater Johnny Weir talks Sochi with Philadelphia Magazine

Fashion icon and figure skater Johnny Weir -- who is helping call the events in Sochi -- took the time to talk with Philadelphia Magazine.

Before this year, I thought Sochi was a kind of Japanese ice cream. Where is it, exactly?
Sochi is a beautiful resort town that was made famous by Stalin and the elite from the Soviet Party. It’s on the Black Sea. When I tell people I’m going to Russia, they say, “Oh my God, you’re going to freeze to death.” First of all, I have furs. But second of all, Sochi enjoys a really temperate climate.

Now that you’ve retired and reigning Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek has dropped out, I have no idea who is competing. The people most likely to be on that medal stand?
You’re looking at Canadian Patrick Chan. He’s the reigning world champion going into this Olympics, and he’s skating very well. He set world records last year and then had them beaten by Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, who I believe is 18 [ed: 19, but close enough] and is just a phenom. I actually designed his costume for the free program.


Original source: Philadelphia Magazine
Read the complete interview here.

PA filmmaker tackles 'Kids for Cash' scandal

Luzerne County's Robert May has made documentary about the area's notorious "Kids for Cash" controversy. 

Robert May's powerful and chilling documentary, Kids for Cash, traces the epic misdeeds of a pair of judges in Luzerne County that resulted in almost 3,000 convictions - juveniles sent to detention centers in handcuffs and shackles, often for years, for committing what one disbelieving observer would later term "typical adolescent misbehavior."

What was in it for Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T. Conahan, the Wilkes-Barre judges at the heart of the scandal? Well, it was that "extra judicial compensation" - $2.6 million in what the judges termed a "finder's fee," for getting a privately owned juvenile detention center up and running in the county. The fact that a sizable percentage of the youths who came before Ciavarella between 2000 and 2007 were sent to the center he and Conahan helped build seemed like a quid pro quo. When the revelations exploded in January 2009, the media pegged it the "Kids for Cash" affair.


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