<![CDATA[NBC 10 Philadelphia - Philadelphia Political News and Philadelphia Politics]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC10_40x125.png NBC 10 Philadelphia http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com en-us Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:50:56 -0500 Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:50:56 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Mayfair to Rally in Support of Police]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:28:33 -0500 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/160*120/PHI+Philly+police+badge+tnail.jpg

More than 2,000 people are planning to rally in support of Philadelphia's law enforcement Friday night in the city's Mayfair section, according to the event's Facebook page.

The rally, which is scheduled to begin Friday at 7 p.m., is intended to be a peaceful one, with its sole purpose to show Philadelphia Police that Philadelphians are behind them, according to the page.

"The Philadelphia PD is in no way associated with organizing this support rally," said the post.

Any negative signs of people causing any kind of disturbance will be asked to leave, said organizers.

The rally follows much unrest in Philadelphia as well as the rest of the country following protests against police after decisions in favor of law enforcement in the Eric Garner chokehold death and the death of Michael Brown.

It also follows a police-involved shooting Monday in Mayfair. Brandon Tate-Brown was shot and killed along the 6600 block of Frankford Ave., after he allegedly reached for a loaded handgun -- stolen last year -- during a traffic stop.

Family maintains that Tate-Brown, who had served five years in prison for aggravated assault, was trying to get his life back on track by being a "good guy."

Rally organizers are asking that supporters being a new, unwrapped to to Frankford and Cottman aves. for kids being treated at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Big Changes for Locals With Cuban Ties]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:51:05 -0500 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_000000009002877_1200x675_374676547911.jpg The new United States policy with Cuba announced by President Obama Wednesday means big changes for locals with ties to Cuba. NBC10's Tim Furlong has more.]]> <![CDATA[Obama Announces New Approach to Cuba]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 18:47:40 -0500 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/121714+president+obama+cuba+announcement.jpg President Obama announced Wednesday that the United States is reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba after 50 years of isolation from the country.]]> <![CDATA[NJ's Red Light Camera Pilot Program Stops]]> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 18:24:55 -0500 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/209*120/b83583ccfcab4c1dbaf2e7c32ccb9fce.jpg

The end of New Jersey's red light camera program couldn't come soon enough for Alex Valdez. In fact, it didn't.

"This is B.S.," Valdez muttered Tuesday as he sat in his truck at a gas station on Routes 1 & 9, staring at a printout of a $140 ticket for running a red light on the heavily congested artery south of Newark Liberty Airport.

By midnight, cameras that have recorded hundreds of thousands of red light violations in two dozen towns were scheduled to go dark as the much-scrutinized pilot program comes to an end after five years filled with controversy.

"It's over? Thank god," said Valdez, 27, of Perth Amboy, no doubt echoing the sentiments of untold numbers of motorists who have run afoul of the eye in the sky. "Some of the lights have warnings, some don't. It seems like most don't. It's unfair."

The Legislature would need to restart the program, but the prospects aren't considered good after Gov. Chris Christie said over the summer that he wouldn't be inclined to support its renewal. Christie's office declined to comment last month and referred to his earlier statement.

The program's difficulties have been well documented. A federal lawsuit resulted in refunds to hundreds of thousands of violators, and a computer glitch this year voided more than 15,000 tickets. In 2012, the state had to temporarily suspend dozens of the cameras over concerns that yellow lights weren't properly timed to give drivers time to brake safely.

What isn't in dispute is that the cameras have enriched the coffers of the 25 towns that signed up for the pilot program through the state Department of Transportation (50 more towns applied but weren't included). For example, one intersection on Routes 1 & 9 in Linden produced more than 17,000 citations in a 12-month period, ranging from $85 to $140 each. An intersection on Route 70 in Cherry Hill produced more than 20,000.

Not every town embraced the cash windfall. Brick Township pulled the plug on its cameras earlier this year, claiming a negligible effect on safety, and Pohatcong Township said it would drop out of the program if it extended past this month.

"From my perspective, for your budget it's great to have the cameras, but sometimes you have to look at what's right and what's wrong," Pohatcong Mayor James Kern III said.

Lawmakers who have opposed the cameras, in particular Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon and state Sen. Michael Doherty, both Republicans, posted statements online applauding the end of the program. O'Scanlon planned to celebrate between 10 p.m. and midnight at a restaurant in South Plainfield that sits near an intersection monitored by the cameras.

Linden Councilman Peter Brown and other officials say the cameras have made roads safer and changed driver behavior for the better. Foes claim the cameras don't target the red-light runners who cause the most serious accidents but instead punish people mostly for turning right on red without coming to a complete stop. They also point to increases in rear-end collisions at some intersections where cameras are present.

A spokesman for American Traffic Solutions, which operates the cameras in 17 New Jersey towns, said the statistics show the program has worked.

"While the number of vehicles on the road has increased, the number of crashes had decreased, as has the number of violations," spokesman Charles Territo said. "That's exactly what the program was designed to accomplish."

<![CDATA[Chesco School Officials Stole From District: DA]]> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 17:34:03 -0500 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Richard+Como+Jim+Donato+Coatesville.jpg

Two former officials at a suburban Philadelphia school district who resigned after a text message scandal are now charged with stealing money from the district, prosecutors announced Monday.

Former Coatesville Area School District superintendent Richard Como and athletic director James Donato are charged with theft of school district funds and violations of the state's ethics act for public employees.

Both resigned in September 2013 amid allegations they had exchanged racist and sexist texts on their district cellphones. Chester County prosecutors said material in the messages also prompted an investigation into possible financial improprieties.

Prosecutors allege Como took money meant to pay for school football rings and received reimbursement for fraudulent expenses. He also transferred money into a secret district account to hide his illegal activity, they say. Donato stole thousands of dollars from the district by using his position to schedule "off the books" events and then pocketed the money instead of putting it into the school district's account, prosecutors said.

Donato's attorney, Daniel Bush, said the defense intends to make prosecutors "prove in depth the things that they have alleged."

"The allegation that James Donato was living some kind of lavish lifestyle and that he committed these crimes to support that couldn't be further from the truth," he said.

Como's attorney didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.

Last year, District Attorney Thomas Hogan said the text messages exchanged by the pair "were of a shockingly racist nature" and "looked like something from 1813, not 2013."

Photo Credit: Coatesville Area School District]]>
<![CDATA[Bridgegate: Christie Under Fire]]> Sun, 26 Jan 2014 12:06:14 -0500 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/christie+gwb+scandal+inset.jpg

Photo Credit: Getty Images/AP Images]]>
<![CDATA[Fate of Moldy Montgomery County School to Be Decided]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 08:06:55 -0500 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_000000008915739_1200x675_372710467972.jpg The Cheltanham School District will hold a meeting Monday evening to update parents of Cedarbook Middle Schoolers of a mold outbreak that shut the school down last December.]]> <![CDATA[Towns Fed Up With Stink, Sue]]> Sun, 14 Dec 2014 10:58:22 -0500 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/216*120/landfill+tullytown+stench+stink+odor.jpg

Residents who live across the river from Tullytown Landfill in Bucks County joined forces to try and stop what they say is a terrible smell.

But don’t call Waste Management, the owner of the landfill. The Citizens Against the Smell of Tullytown or CATSOT filed a class-action lawsuit on Thursday against them.

Represented by the Law Firm of Kamensky, Cohen and Richelson, they argue that the stench has become too much for anyone to take and forces people to stay inside.

It’s not just a discomfort though. The residents claim the fumes coming from the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River have had a negative effect on their health, causing irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, with prolonged exposure leading to migraines, bronchitis, and pneumonia.

In addition to health effects, CATSOT claim the funk has caused their property values to go down.

On Oct. 6 Pennsylvania DEP issued Senior District Manager of Waste Management, Robert Iuliucci a notice based on a series of complaints collected between Sept. 22 and Oct. 2 that found them in violation of the Municipal Waste Management Rules and Regulations.

An official for Tullytown says they have completed the list of improvements outlined by the DEP since receiving the notice.

CATSOT is still urging anyone to call the DEP at 484-250-5991 with any odor complaints.

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
PUBLICSOURCE]]> <![CDATA[Holly: One Face of the National Heroin Crisis]]> Fri, 12 Dec 2014 16:42:54 -0500 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/174*120/20141119cmheroin005.jpg

For Holly Wright, heroin was bliss.

It was cheap, and it was everywhere. She craved the rush of energy that came with the high, but soon she needed the drug just to get out of bed and feed her children without feeling dopesick.

But last year, she was confronted with a choice. She could keep her addiction and lose Dani, then 2, and her older brother Brayden, then 6. Or she could get treatment and start clean with her family.

By then, heroin had already taken her job and her money. And she didn’t realize the damage it had done to her children.

"When you’re getting high, it don’t matter,” said Holly, 34, now living in Pittsburgh in housing provided by Sojourner House MOMS. “I thought as long as they had a clean diaper on and food in their belly, they were fine.”

Holly is one face in a state and national crisis.

Heroin is cheap, plentiful and extremely addictive, and it does not discriminate based on race, place or social standing. It’s in urban Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. It’s in the suburbs. And it’s in places like Kittanning, a small river town in Western Pennsylvania where drugs used to be sold behind closed doors, and now they’re on the street corner.

Kittanning, a town struggling with few jobs, little to do and easy drugs, is where Holly became an addict.

In Armstrong County, where Kittanning is the county seat, paramedics seem to respond to calls of overdoses nearly every day, the county coroner said, though only 13 heroin users have died this year.

In nearby Allegheny County, heroin has been detected in 239 overdose deaths since 2013, according to the latest available figures.

Meanwhile, treatment facilities struggle for funding, and insurance companies routinely refuse to pay for long-term care until an addict has numerous relapses. Those costs are instead transferred to hospitals and prisons, common refuges for addicts who can’t get clean.
Produced and edited by Molly Duerig and Natasha Khan / PublicSource
‘Took every dime’

If she didn't come out and tell you, Holly might not seem like a recovering heroin addict.

She’s like any other young mom, tired and a little frantic from trying to juggle life with a son with disabilities and an active 3-year-old daughter.

With little makeup, her usual attire is jeans and a sweatshirt. You can tell she loves her kids. She smiles and the corners of her blue eyes — like Dani's — crinkle as she talks about how they made cupcakes together the other weekend.

She would never have paid much attention to such an experience last year, when her top priority was getting her next fix.

Now she’s serious and listens carefully, and she talks freely about her addiction, as if recounting how much she’s changed helps her get through each day. She’s going to meetings, seeing her son in therapy, playing with her daughter, cooking supper for the family.

Holly’s journey with drugs started at age 12 with marijuana. She’d steal it from her mother, she said, and she smoked and drank through high school.

At that age, she was shy and had difficulty fitting in, and drinking was an easy way to loosen up and make friends. Holly said her mom used drugs and was an alcoholic, but her home life was happy. Even if they had arguments, Holly still had everything she asked for.

In her early 20s, Holly turned to harder drugs like cocaine, both powder and crack.

These were party drugs — for the weekends — and she was still paying her bills and getting up for her job in the kitchen of a nursing home.

“It wasn’t a big thing there,” she said. “I could still function.”

Holly prided herself on being reliable. She’d worked since she was 16, and she always saw herself as self-sufficient. Drugs were just for her free time in Kittanning, she said, where there’s little but bars, laundromats and a Wal-Mart.

When she moved to opiates, it was pills at first: Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin.

Those names are familiar to the more than two million Americans who have found themselves hooked on opioid painkillers, often prescribed for pain. But many found them too expensive and turned to heroin, which is cheaper.

Holly snorted crushed pills socially with friends, she said. She still felt in control, and she still showed up for work, doing laundry at another nursing home.

In her 30s, she moved to the world of syringes, burnt spoons and glassine bags. At first, heroin was recreational. Something to do on payday.

But then she fell hard. And it was every day, and it was crippling.

She’d wake up sick, anxious about the vomiting and diarrhea that would come if she didn’t inject. And she’d lie on the couch, scheming about how she’d get money for a fix.

A stamp bag cost just $10 to $15, a pittance compared to what she might spend on painkillers, yet, over time, the heroin “took every dime.”

“After a while it was like, OK, don’t pay the bills,” she said. “A little bit after that, you’re selling your food stamps. Everything.”
Kittanning Kittanning, a river town in Western Pennsylvania, is one of many communities where drug markets have moved into the open as more residents use heroin. It’s where Holly began using. (Photo by Connor Mulvaney/PublicSource)
Small town, hard drugs

Kittanning, roughly 40 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, has a scenic view of the Allegheny River. But the former manufacturing town has fallen on hard times, with unemployment higher than both the national and state rates, according to the most recent census estimates. The median household income is $35,735.

As the county seat, people used to drive in from the surrounding area to shop downtown. Now they drive past it to shopping malls.

“The only thing really left to do is drink and do drugs,” Holly said, “because they took everything out.”

But heroin is plentiful.

Addicts used to drive to Pittsburgh and bring drugs back to sell at inflated prices so they could pay for their own fix.

Then city dealers saw the profits they were missing and started cutting out the middle men, said Kittanning Police Chief Bruce Matthews. Parking lots and street corners became drug markets.

Today’s heroin users, Matthews said, grew up with campaigns like “Just Say No” and more anti-drug education than any generation. Yet they still inject.

Using drugs means ignoring clear warnings, Matthews said. But he concedes that towns like Kittanning lack so much as a movie theater to pass the time.

In Pennsylvania – and across the country – heroin has penetrated all walks of life. Once it takes hold, fighting addiction can be next to impossible.

“I’ve been here for 21 years, and I don’t have a success story yet,” Matthews said of those who try to get off heroin.

For addicts, shooting heroin brings a blissed-out relaxation they can’t get from anything else.

The drug provides an intense initial rush, followed by a long, sluggish nodding-off period. Pulse and breathing slow. Pupils tighten. Limbs feel heavy, while the drug blocks pain signals sent up the spinal cord.

“It covers up pain. And pain is the worst thing,” said Douglas Stubbs, 28, Holly’s boyfriend, Dani’s father, and an addict. “If you’re depressed and that stuff, us addicts go to our drug of choice.”
‘Already addicted’

A year ago, Dani, a curly-haired blonde with blue eyes who was just learning to speak, found a baggie of her dad’s anti-depression and anti-seizure medications in an unlocked desk drawer and swallowed enough to overdose.

By Holly’s telling, she came out of the bathroom and saw Dani drooling pill fragments after she had gummed them together. Holly rushed over to dig them out with her fingers.

Dani went limp on the way to Armstrong County Memorial Hospital, Holly said, and her face was purple.

A helicopter took her to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

“In the beginning, we didn’t believe the child was going to make it,” Matthews said.

After nine days, Dani woke up from an induced coma. Even then, she wasn’t herself.

“She kind of just didn’t look like she was there,” Holly said. “I was so afraid there was actual brain damage.”

Dr. Jennifer Preiss, a pediatrician and internist with Allegheny Health Network, said the drugs probably haven’t harmed Dani long-term. The unanswerable question, she said, is whether the incident might have an immeasurable impact on her intelligence later in life.

“There’d be no way to know,” said Preiss, who was speaking hypothetically and not involved in treating Dani.

The pills Dani swallowed caused her limbs to stiffen, and while in intensive care, the doctors treated her with morphine — an opiate just like heroin — and detoxed her with methadone.

“Her body was already addicted, even though it wasn’t her fault,” Holly said, which her counselor told her could make Dani more susceptible to addiction later.

When Dani woke up, she had no muscle strength. Holly said she worked with her daughter to get her moving again.

“I got her sitting up,” Holly said, “and I got her holding her head up and got her walking with one of the toy walkers.”

After a few days, Dani was moving on her own, Holly said, and starting to become her old self.

But while Dani was recovering, Holly was still feeding her addiction.

“I had to do it just so I could sit there and take care of her,” Holly said. “Cause if not, I was lying on the floor puking.”

When she didn’t have drugs, Holly said, the withdrawal made her so sick she wanted to die.

Dani was then transferred to The Children’s Institute. While she was there, her father Doug was arrested for drug possession after Pittsburgh police said they saw him in the parking lot hiding a cigarette pack full of heroin stamp bags behind a car tire.

He pleaded guilty to the charge.

While Holly considers Dani’s overdose the catalyst for getting clean, she said she wasn’t high the day Dani overdosed. She and Doug didn’t have money for drugs.

Police couldn’t tell whether Holly was using heroin, Matthews said, because they were not able to interview her for the investigation until the next day.

Holly and Doug gave conflicting accounts of the event, Matthews said, but he said that a police investigation found that Dani took the pills from an unsecured desk drawer and that they were properly prescribed.

No charges were filed because there was no evidence of a criminal act, he said.

After investigating Dani’s overdose, Children, Youth and Family Services in Armstrong County gave Holly a choice between heroin and her children. Any custody decision would be made by a judge in juvenile court.

An agency official declined to comment because the agency’s investigations are confidential.

The result was that Holly lived with Dani for six months at a Familylinks inpatient drug rehab facility in Pittsburgh’s Allentown neighborhood. Her son Brayden, who has autism and cystic fibrosis, stayed with her ex-husband.
Rehab struggles

For Holly, the length of the rehab program was crucial.

“It took me almost four months to really open up my head and figure out I need this,” Holly said.

If it hadn’t been for the possibility that she would lose her children, Holly said she might have walked out early on.

Doug has had a harder time keeping clean.

While Holly was in rehab, he spent two months in the Allegheny County Jail for missing a court date after being caught with the drugs at The Children’s Institute.

Since then, he’s been through two 28-day treatment programs, most recently at Cove Forge.

Insurance wouldn’t pay for longer care, he said.

“How are you gonna learn about recovery in 28 days?” he said, saying he would have stayed longer if he could.

Now Doug and Holly have a relationship of recovery. Because she has more clean time and learned more in her program, she helps him when he struggles.

But even if their family is a reason to get clean, recovery is intensely personal.

“You have to do it for yourself,” Holly said. “You have to want it yourself.”
Dani Wright Dani, 3, being taken home from school by her parents in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Natasha Khan / PublicSource)
Living clean

Holly currently lives with Dani, 3, and Brayden, 7, in a low-cost apartment.

Dani is talkative and rambunctious. She loves Hello Kitty and has a daily ritual of watching Bubble Guppies on Nick Jr. after school.

The overdose caused no lasting damage, Holly said. Dani’s speech has been slow to develop, but Holly said that might be because Dani was copying Brayden, who is non-verbal.

Holly — who is also talkative now instead of quiet and withdrawn — feels like she’s making up for lost time.

“Over the weekend, me and Dani made cupcakes,” she said with a laugh, “and Brayden tried to smash them all.”

Doug now lives in a $410-a-week three quarter house for recovering addicts. He isn’t allowed to stay overnight in Holly’s building, but he takes a bus over every day and considers it his daytime home.

For them, Pittsburgh is a fresh start. Away from the dead ends of Kittanning and the old haunts where they used to use drugs.

The new life means trips to Kennywood and Idlewild. They went to see the Wiggles, a favorite of Brayden’s, in September.

On weekdays, Doug and Holly walk Dani to and from school, pulling her in a wagon. And Dani regularly goes along to Narcotics Anonymous meetings, so she is a part of their recovery.

Life can be overwhelming now that she’s putting her attention toward her kids instead of her addiction.

Holly said she’s busier than ever, helping Dani and Brayden with school assignments, getting them to doctor appointments and trying to make fun memories for them in Pittsburgh.

She wants to be a better mother now than she might have been even if she never fell for heroin.

Watching Dani’s overdose was painful, but Holly considers it a positive thing. It forced her toward treatment and away from drugs that had taken over.

“I had to be slammed pretty hard in the face I guess to fully understand what was wrong with me,” she said.

As for the future, Doug and Holly said they want it to be like now, except with a place of their own to share.

But that’s for later. Now, they have to keep living clean and learning to manage life’s stresses without turning to drugs.

Holly said she doesn’t look back.

"I don’t want to lose this,” Holly said. “I never want to go back to that because this is so much better.”

Photo Credit: Connor Mulvaney | PublicSource]]>
<![CDATA[How Fear of Occupy Wall Street Undermined Sandy Relief]]> Fri, 12 Dec 2014 17:07:02 -0500 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/181*120/propublica+art+sandy+relief+red+cross+occupy+wall+street.JPG

In the days after Superstorm Sandy, relief organizations were overwhelmed by the chaos and enormous need. One group quickly emerged as a bright spot. While victims in New York's hardest hit neighborhoods were stuck in the cold and dark, volunteers from the spontaneously formed Occupy Sandy became a widely praised lifeline.  

Occupy Sandy was "one of the leading humanitarian groups providing relief to survivors across New York City and New Jersey," as a government-commissioned study put it. 

Yet the Red Cross, which was bungling its own aid efforts after the storm, made a decision that further hampered relief: Senior officials told staffers not to work with Occupy Sandy.

Red Cross officials had no concerns about Occupy Sandy's effectiveness. Rather, they were worried about the group's connections to the Occupy Wall Street protest movement.

Three Red Cross responders told ProPublica there was a ban. "We were told not to interact with Occupy," says one. While the Red Cross often didn't know where to send food, Occupy Sandy "had what we didn't: minute-by-minute information," another volunteer says.

The three spoke to ProPublica on the condition of anonymity because they continue to work with the Red Cross. One says the direction came from an official based in Red Cross headquarters in Washington. Another understood the direction came from Washington. A third was not sure who gave the instructions.

The government-sponsored study that praised Occupy Sandy — written in 2013 for the Department of Homeland Security — also cites a prohibition: A Red Cross chief of volunteer coordination recalled that "he was told not to work with Occupy Sandy because of the affiliation with [Occupy Wall Street]," the study says.  

Fred Leahy, a veteran Red Cross responder who was a Community Partnerships Manager in Sandy's aftermath, recalled a meeting a week after the storm in which he and two other officials, one from Washington, discussed "the political and donor ramifications of associating with Occupy Sandy due to its outgrowth from Occupy Wall Street." He says the meeting was called after an inquiry from Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern.  

"Occupy Wall Street was not very favorably received by the political people in the city," Leahy says. Major Red Cross donors were from the same elite political circles "and they didn't understand Occupy Wall Street."

Red Cross responders says that many staffers and volunteers objected to the charity's stance on Occupy Sandy because among the Red Cross' fundamental principles is that aid must be delivered without regard to politics or ideology. "We are a neutral, humanitarian organization," one staffer says. "We don't take sides."

Leahy says Red Cross officials decided at the meeting to wait for Occupy Sandy representatives to come to them, rather than to approach the group. When a subordinate inquired about working with Occupy, Leahy says he told the person: "We really don't need to worry about them at this time. Because we've got more important concerns at the moment."

Nevertheless, Leahy denied there was an explicit injunction not to work with Occupy Sandy.

The Red Cross said in a statement that "there was never at any time a policy prohibiting Red Cross staff or volunteers from working with Occupy Sandy."

"We linked them with partners," the charity wrote. "We provided them with meals and other supplies — to the point of providing them with an entire warehouse full of material in March 2013."

But Occupy Sandy organizers interviewed by ProPublica say the Red Cross did not take their calls in the early days and weeks after the storm hit in October 2012. Nathan Kleinman, an Occupy Sandy organizer, recalls a Red Cross employee telling him that "they couldn't be seen working with us." He says some Red Cross responders attempted to help Occupy behind the scenes with advice and occasionally supplies.

"I have no doubt we could have had a much more productive relationship with the Red Cross if they'd been willing to associate themselves with us out in the open," Kleinman says. "I have no doubt their failure to look past politics hurt the overall recovery."

Workers inside the Red Cross' Manhattan headquarters say they were furious with the delay, which hampered the ability to provide aid.

Indeed, some Red Cross responders were so troubled, they tried to work with people from Occupy covertly. They say they maintained a spreadsheet of Occupy contacts separate from the other contact lists to hide from senior Red Cross officials that they were working with the group.

Contemporaneous Occupy Sandy meeting minutes show some examples of fruitful cooperation. An Occupy Sandy volunteer described the Red Cross as being "our lifeline in terms of hot meals."

The minutes also record an incident in which two Red Cross employees showed up at an Occupy site in Brooklyn "asking if we could send them volunteers — and their stipulations for that: they couldn't wear any Occupy stuff." Those conditions were rejected.

The Red Cross responders who say there was a clear ban on working with Occupy differ on how long it was in place. One person says the policy was rescinded in a matter of days, but that it took weeks to communicate to all the corners of the Red Cross relief effort.

A third Red Cross worker says that the policy was still in place in December, more than a month into the relief effort.

Read about how the Red Cross botched key elements of its mission after Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac in PR Over People: The Red Cross' Secret Disaster. And about how the Red Cross' CEO has been serially misleading about where donors' dollars are going.

Can you help us with our Red Cross reporting? Learn how to share a tip or email justin@propublica.org.

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle/AP Images, Catherine Barde/American Red Cross via Flickr]]>
<![CDATA[Stink Causes Residents to Sue Landfill Company]]> Fri, 12 Dec 2014 10:34:41 -0500 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_000000008901004_1200x675_371153475564.jpg A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the owner of Tullytown landfill by Bucks County residents who say are affected by odors coming from the facility..]]> <![CDATA[Councilwoman Advocating Colleges Change Rape Standard to 'Yes Means Yes']]> Fri, 12 Dec 2014 10:32:59 -0500 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/south+africa+protest1.jpg Philadelphia councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown is calling for a change in how local universities define sexual consent with a new "yes means yes" policy instead of the former "no means no" standard.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rep's Son Tries to Represent Self Against Tax Evasion Charges]]> Fri, 12 Dec 2014 08:00:21 -0500 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Chaka-Fattah.jpg Chaka Fattah Jr. will be in federal court Friday to argue that he does not need a lawyer and instead wants to represent himself on charges of tax evasion and fraud. Fattah Jr. is the son of U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) the husband of NBC10 news anchor Renee Chenault-Fattah.

Photo Credit: NBC10.com]]>
<![CDATA[Paper Regrets Cartoon That Upset Officers]]> Fri, 12 Dec 2014 14:10:52 -0500 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Santa+Police+Black+Children+Political+Cartoon.jpg

A Philadelphia-area newspaper regrets publishing a Santa cartoon that has drawn the ire of local law enforcement.

The cartoon published in Sunday’s Bucks County Courier Times features a line of black children lined up asking Santa Claus to "Keep us safe from the police."

Drawn by nationally-syndicated political cartoonist Chris Britt, the cartoon references a relationship of distrust between the black community and police recently spotlighted in the Ferguson, Cleveland and Staten Island cases of black men dying at the hand of police officers.

"There is a special place in hell for you miserable parasites in the media who seek to exploit violence and hatred in order to sell advertisements," Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5 president John McNesby wrote in a letter to the editors of the Levittown-based paper.

"You owe a public apology to every law enforcement officer and their families. What’s more, you owe a particular apology to the families of those officers who gave their lives to ensure that people like you could remain safe while you defame their memories,” McNesby wrote Wednesday.

Britt told NBC10 that he didn't intend for the cartoon to be a "slam against all police officers."

"This is a cartoon, It think, that helps the debate," said Britt.

On Thursday, the paper’s editors posted a letter to their website expressing regret for publishing the illustration.

"If we had recognized before publication that the cartoon would have caused unintended offense, our editors would have selected a different one for Sunday’s newspaper,” the statement attributed to community affairs director Amy Gianfranco read. "Editing a newspaper is not easy and we don’t always get it right."

The paper went on to mention its reporters’ ongoing relationship reporting on the work of law enforcement in the community.

The paper also explained the reasoning for publication of the controversial content.

"The editorial cartoon ... was a commentary about the broad and complex relationship between black youth and police in America. It’s a relationship that has room for improvement, as has been acknowledged by members of both communities."

Creative.com, which syndicates cartoons to local papers, said that the papers select certain cartoons and have no obligation to run any cartoon.

"Though we don’t know what was in the heart and mind of the award-winning syndicated cartoonist who penned the cartoon, it was selected for publication for thoughtful reflection on that relationship. It in no way was intended to indict the law enforcement community," read the paper's statement.

Bensalem Police also asked for a full page public apology to police across the nation from the paper.

"I was outraged that local newspaper would put such a message in the paper," said Bensalem Police director of public safety Fred Harran.

The paper said they invited police to come speak with them.

Photo Credit: Bucks County Courier Times]]>
<![CDATA[Ardmore Residents Speak Out Against Development Plan]]> Thu, 11 Dec 2014 14:40:49 -0500 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_000000008891865_1200x675_370476099651.jpg Citizens in Lower Merion Township are concerned that an eight-story retail and apartment complex would hurt small businesses.]]> <![CDATA[NJ Voters Oppose Gas Tax Hike: Poll]]> Wed, 10 Dec 2014 18:42:55 -0500 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/gas-prices3.jpg New Jersey voters want to see transit improvement, but drivers fighting a proposed gas tax, according to a new poll.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>