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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.

New York Times takes note of new Comcast tower

The big Comcast tower news got Philadelphia some national press, including in the New York Times.

The influx of young technology employees to a building designed by a prestigious international architect is likely to encourage boosters of a city that has long harbored an inferiority complex because it lacks either the financial power of New York or the political clout of Washington.

“This new development really speaks to a more favorable outlook for the city,” said [Michael Silverman, managing director in the Philadelphia office of Integra Realty Resources].

The $1.2 billion building will create 20,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction, adding $2.75 billion to the local economy, according to Gov. Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, who announced the project, along with Comcast officials, on Jan. 15.


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

'Why is Pennsylvania so haunted' asks Google autocomplete

Type "Why is Pennsylvania so" into Google, and you might be surprised by the results: haunted, conservative, good at wrestling, weird.

We are a nation, in other words, of curious people. And our curiosity can lead us to weird places (those places including, apparently, states that are haunted). We know all this in part because of the good folks at@Amazing_maps, who ran Autocomplete searches for each of the 50 states in our Union, tracking the top search returns (as they stand as of January 2014). They then mapped those results. Those results are ... revealing.

Original source: @Amazing_maps via The Atlantic
Check out the whole post here.



PA wind and snow create rare 'snow roller' phenomenon

All the recent horrid weather has had one exciting side effect: the creation of beautiful "snow rollers" in Western PA.

According to the National Weather Service, a snow roller is a rare meteorological phenomenon in which large snowballs are formed naturally when chunks of snow are blown along the ground by wind.

The shapes are often hollow, and the conditions need to be precisely right for them to form, according to the weather service. For example, wind must be strong enough to move the snow rollers, but not so strong they're blown too fast.
Weather service records from various states note that snow rollers can be as small as a golf ball or as large as a 30 gallon drum, but typically average 10 to 12 inches in diameter.

The area where the phenomenon was spotted Monday is about 90 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. Some residents said the shapes resembled bowling balls, while Charles Keith of Franklin described "500 Tootsie Roll-like" forms in an empty field nearby.


Original source: Christian Science Monitor
Read the complete story (and check out the pictures) here.

PA voter ID law struck down

A judge has issued a ruling striking down our state's controversial voter ID law. The decision could have impact nationwide.

The judge, Bernard L. McGinley of Commonwealth Court, ruled that the law hampered the ability of hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians to cast their ballots, with the burden falling most heavily on elderly, disabled and low-income residents, and that the state’s reason for the law — that it was needed to combat voter fraud — was not supported by the facts.

"Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election," the judge wrote in his 103-page decision. "The voter ID law does not further this goal."


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

'Slightly haunted' home listed in PA, nation takes notice

A couple in Dunmore, PA, listed their "slightly haunted" Victorian and the listing went viral. Now they just need a buyer...

"Slightly haunted. Nothing serious, though," says the listing on Zillow's real-estate site. It goes on to describe 3:13 a.m. screams and "the occasional ghastly visage" in the bathroom mirror.

The listing attracted local and national media attention. Now the Leesons just need an actual buyer for the four-bedroom home, on the market for $144,000.

"I tried to word it with a little bit of a sense of humor," says Greg Leeson, a 35-year-old who works in information technology, but "I don't think it has helped with marketing. We're not really getting very many interested buyers. We're getting a lot of nonsense people."


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


Ohio-PA cross-border beer collaboration coming soon

Cleveland's Buckeye Brewing and Pittsburgh's Rivertowne Brewing Co.  have teamed up to create OH-PA, an India Pale Ale.

Ed Thompkins, beer and wine buyer for Heinen's, came up with the idea and – as is his nature – acted as an intermediary of sorts between the brewers.

While the cities' football fans often are at odds, the brewers had no problem showing a congenial spirit of détente.

"Everything was great," Buckeye Brewing's Garin Wright said. "They have a kick-ass (brewing) system. It's much more automated. It was fun being there and being a part of collaborating on the recipe design. ... And they're great people. The city is cool and everyone in that brewery is kind of down to earth."

The joint-effort beer, Thompkins said, is a 4.8 percent alcohol sessionable IPA. Wright describes it as "unfiltered – we're going to try to keep all that hop character in the can. It's pretty much coming out of the tank fresh and into the can, and it will be dry-hopped twice." Dry hopping is a process where certain hops are added at varying times during fermentation to enhance a beer's aroma.

Wright said he hopes to start selling the beer at Buckeye Brewing on Tuesday, Feb. 18.


Original source: The Plain Dealer
Read the complete story here.

Shining a light on PA textile manufacturing

A photo essay in the New York Times Magazine highlights the remnants of our country's textile industry, including Langhorne Carpet Company in Penndel, PA.

Langhorne Carpet Company, in Penndel, Pa., used to share its building with a hosier, but that business closed long ago. The building, from 1907, is a technological innovation: among the first mills to have a free-standing roof, leaving floor space without the obstruction of supporting beams. The building now houses 10 broad looms and eight narrow ones. On the day I visited, a young man in a hooded sweatshirt and jeans was making a five-color runner on one of the narrow looms, while an older man in a denim smock was restringing a broad one; 5,040 spools of yarn needed to be knotted on.

“We’ve stayed in business because we’ll take a 20-yard order, that’s our niche,” said Langhorne’s president, Bill Morrow, whose grandfather and great-grandfather founded the company in 1930. “Henry Ford had some looms he wanted to get rid of, and my great-grandfather went and bought them, and that’s how we got started. Ford had wanted to make all the parts of a car, even the textiles for the interior, but I guess he gave up on making the textiles.” Langhorne has made reproductions of historic carpets for the Frederick Douglass house in Washington; the Congress Hall of Philadelphia; and the Rutherford B. Hayes home in Fremont, Ohio. It also makes carpets for individual homes: “We recently did a family crest. That’s an example of the kind of thing we like about being a small-batch mill.”


Original source: New York Times Magazine
Check out the slideshow here.


Owner of two Lehigh Valley restaurants preps a third

The man behind Blue and Melt will open a third restaurant in the Lehigh Valley.

Pacifico closed Thursday and George Paxos, the man behind Blue and Melt, intends to renovate the site and bring in a restaurant with "a completely new concept, according to his son and business associate, Dimitrios Paxos. George Paxos owns Blue, a grillhouse and event center in Bethlehem Township, Pa., and Melt, a grill and lounge that neighbors Pacifico at the Promenade Shops in Upper Saucon Township.

"He's actively working on it now that Pacifico has moved out. He will be spending a lot of time on it. It's something that will be happening not to far down the line," Dimitrios Paxos said. "He's definitely got a game plan, it's just a little too early to announce anything."


Original source: The Express-Times
Read the complete story here.

Photographer paints portrait of PA Rust Belt town in 'Homesteading'

Noted local photographer Zoe Strauss -- of "Under I-95" fame -- has a new project, 'Homesteading,' that examines life in a post-steel mill town.

“Homesteading” combines landscapes, street photography and formal studio portraits to explore over generations the history of those who built Andrew Carnegie’s wealth, the ways their fates were intertwined and the current lives of Homestead’s residents. After a year of research, she found it daunting to blend themes of globalization, a mythic past and the trauma of that past in a mundane 21st-century community. She actually felt she had reached the limits of what she could do with photography. So, she did what she always does when overwhelmed: Let strangers show her the way...

Ms. Strauss is not your typical Magnum photographer — she describes herself as a lesbian anarchist from Philadelphia and is unfailingly humble. She is interested as much by theory as by photographic practice, and she loves and is influenced by science fiction, art theory and epic poetry.


Original source: New York Times' Lens blog
Read the complete story here.

Chicago Tribune travel writer gives Pittsburgh a rave

A writer from the Chicago Tribune feel in love with the spirit of Pittsburgh -- calling it one of America's most underrated cities.

New York, San Francisco and Portland, Ore., are wonderful cities that can't resist preening when passing mirrors to remind themselves just how wonderful they are. Pittsburgh is a wonderful city that doesn't even see the mirror. It just turns to its buddies and says, "Hey, yinz guys, let's go have a beer..."

Steeped in spirit and flavor, Pittsburgh can lay claim to being one of our nation's most underrated cities, with a beauty as breathtaking as it is obvious. The drive from Pittsburgh International Airport follows an unspectacular 20 miles of rolling-hills suburbia along Interstate Highway 376 and then, after a brief trip through the Fort Pitt Tunnel — bam! — there is Pittsburgh...

The city has embraced food, drink and art while long-quiet neighborhoods have been infused with fresh bustle. The fascinating downtown — a strange but appealing mix of architecture built up through the decades — sports fresh touches of its own, like the dim, marble-barred gastropub Meat and Potatoes, which I checked out on a Thursday evening with a couple of natives.


Original source: The Chicago Tribune
Read the complete story here.
 

PA Farm Show descends on Harrisburg

Half a million people -- and 6,000 animals -- are coming together to celebrate local food at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. (The event runs through January 11.)

There are 13,000 competitive exhibits, from nuts to Christmas trees, from chickens to cows, along with 300 commercial exhibitors, including many selling food products and crafts, and tradesmen touting their wares.
 
With the theme "Pennsylvania Farms: Growing for You," the 2014 show highlights agriculture's $67 billion impact on the state's economy.

There may not be as many farmers as once plowed the fields and milked the cows of Pennsylvania, but the number of farms actually grew by 5,000 from 2002 to 2007, according to the state Department of Agriculture. There are now 62,200 farms, and agriculture remains Pennsylvania's number-one industry.


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


Steelers fan files injunction against San Diego Chargers' inclusion in the playoffs

A (very angry) Mercer, PA, man has fired an injunction alleging that a missed call cost his Steelers a spot in the NFL playoffs -- and gave one to the Chargers. He named the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell, and demanded a jury trial.

Officials in that game failed to call an illegal alignment formation on the Chargers that would have allowed Kansas City kicker Ryan Succop a re-kick of a 41-yard field goal he missed with eight seconds remaining. Had he made the kick, San Diego's loss would have sent the Pittsburgh Steelers to the postseason as the final wild-card team.

Instead, San Diego won in overtime and then beat the favored Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. The Chargers face the AFC's top-seeded Denver Broncos this Sunday.

In the filing, Spuck suggested some possible remedies for the missed call. The NFL could suspend the playoffs for a week to 10 days, allow Succop to re-kick the field goal, or let the Steelers play the Chargers at a neutral site to determine who plays on.


The Sun has the whole complaint.

Original source: The Baltimore Sun
Read the complete story here.

High society: Pennsylvania's power brokers party on in Manhattan

The Pennsylvania Society's annual meeting, which draws politicians, lobbyists and business leaders to Manhattan for fancy food and elbow-rubbing prior to the start of campaign season, reports The New York Times.
 
“I wouldn’t know what to do this weekend if I stayed home,” said Edward G. Rendell, a Democratic former governor making his 36th annual visit. “For politicians, it’s like salmon swimming upstream to give birth. We do it by instinct.”
 
Original source: The New York Times
Read the full story here.
 

Carnegie Mellon-bred Duolingo is Apple's app of year

USA Today reports that Apple has chosen Pittsburgh-based language learning app Duolingo as its app of the year.
 
Duolingo is still free, and offers six languages — Spanish, French, German, Italian, English and Portuguese.
 
Open the app, and it's like a game. It uses pictures, your smartphone's microphone and video clips to help you learn words, recite them and write them out as well.
 
Original source: USA Today
Read the full story here.
 
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