<![CDATA[NBC 10 Philadelphia - Philadelphia Political News and Philadelphia Politics]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC10_40x125.png NBC 10 Philadelphia http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com en-us Sat, 23 May 2015 11:02:15 -0400 Sat, 23 May 2015 11:02:15 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[10 Questions for Philly's Mayoral Candidates]]> Tue, 07 Apr 2015 09:02:56 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/DebateForMayor_1200x675.jpg

NBC10 and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce have partnered to bring you the first official debate among all six 2015 Philadelphia Mayoral Candidates right here on NBC10 on April 7 at 7 p.m. moderated by Jim Rosenfield.

In an effort to help keep you informed about each candidate and their political stance on various issues, we've asked all six the same 10 questions.

Click on a candidate's picture below to see the questions and their answers.

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Hillary Clinton Visits NH Brewery]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 18:21:40 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/228*120/Hillary+Clinton+smuttynose+2.jpg

Hillary Clinton received information on her private email server about the deadly attack on US Diplomatic facilities in Benghazi that has now been classified.

It's new information that came to light about the former Secretary of State as she campaigned at the Smuttynose Brewery in Hampton, New Hampshire, her second visit to the state as a presidential candidate.

Clinton says she wants people to be able to see all of the nearly 300 emails that have been released

"I'm aware that the FBI has asked that portion of one email be held back - that happens in the process of FOI responses," she said. "But that doesn't change the fact that all of the information i the emails was handled appropriately."

No laws were violated. But Friday's redaction shows that Clinton received information considered sensitive on her unsecured personal server, which came to light just as she was beginning her presidential campaign.

Clinton also seemed to give a more definitive answer when asked about her views on the future of US Policy in Iraq.

"This has to be fought by and won by Iraqis," said Clinton. "There is no role whatsoever for American soldiers on the ground to go back other than as trainers and advisers."

The candidate got an earful from small business as she spoke in defense of the Export Import Bank which guarantees loans to help U.S. exporters - opposed by some Republicans.

On the subject of the controversial Trans Pacific Trade Partnership, Clinton says she is still deciding her position.

"I do have concerns," she said. "I have concerns that the standards will not be tough enough. They will not be enforceable."

The Clinton Campaign has announced that her official announcement rally will be June 13. The location has not yet been announced.

Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Government of Spain Awards Del. School with Prestigious Honor]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 21:37:15 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_000000010476437_1200x675_449028675700.jpg On Thursday the Spanish ambassador awarded the "National School of the Year Award" to the principal of Lewis Elementary, Delaware's only public, fully dual language school.]]> <![CDATA[Nutter Endorses Kenney for Mayor of Philadelphia]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 21:35:49 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_000000010476435_1200x675_449025091880.jpg Jim Kenney wants to be the next mayor of Philadelphia and Thursday he got the endorsement of Mayor Michael Nutter, the man he hopes to replace.]]> <![CDATA[Philly Fire Dept Honors 4 Members, Civilian With Heroism Award]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 20:58:20 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/201*120/Philadelphia+Firefighter+Awards.JPG A number of heroes were honored at the Philadelphia Fire Department Awards Ceremony in Northeast Philadelphia Thursday.

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[Gates Urges Scouts to Drop Gay Ban]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 17:26:34 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Boy-Scouts-America-Kerchief.jpg

The president of the Boy Scouts of America, Robert Gates, said Thursday that the organization's longstanding ban on participation by openly gay adults is no longer sustainable and called for change in order to prevent "the end of us as a national movement."

In a speech in Atlanta to the Scouts' national annual meeting, Gates referred to recent moves by Scout councils in New York City and elsewhere to defy the ban.

"The status quo in our movement's membership standards cannot be sustained," he said.

Gates said no change in the policy would be made at the national meeting. But he raised the possibility of revising the policy at some point soon so that local Scout organizations could decide on their own whether to allow gays as adult volunteers and paid staff.

In 2013, after bitter internal debate, the BSA decided to allow openly gay youth as scouts, but not gay adults as leaders. The change took effect in January 2014.

Gates, who became the BSA's president in May 2014, said at the time that he personally would have favored ending the ban on gay adults, but he opposed any further debate after the Scouts' policymaking body upheld the ban.

On Thursday, however, he said recent events "have confronted us with urgent challenges I did not foresee and which we cannot ignore."

He cited the recent defiant announcement by the BSA's New York City chapter in early April that it had hired the nation's first openly gay Eagle Scout as a summer camp leader. He also cited broader developments related to gay rights.

"I remind you of the recent debates we have seen in places like Indiana and Arkansas over discrimination based on sexual orientation, not to mention the impending U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer on gay marriage," he said. "We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be."

Gates said the BSA technically had the power to revoke the charters of councils that defied the ban on gay adults, but said this would be harmful to boys in those regions

He also noted that many states have passed laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, raising the possibility of extensive legal battles.

"Thus, between internal challenges and potential legal conflicts, the BSA finds itself in an unsustainable position, a position that makes us vulnerable to the possibility the courts simply will order us at some point to change our membership policy," Gates said.

He expressed concern that an eventual court order might also strike down the BSA's policy of banning atheists.

"Waiting for the courts is a gamble with huge stakes," he said. "Alternatively, we can move at some future date -- but sooner rather than later -- to seize control of our own future, set our own course and change our policy in order to allow charter partners -- unit sponsoring organizations -- to determine the standards for their Scout leaders."

Such an approach, he said, would allow churches, which sponsor about 70 percent of Scout units, to establish leadership standards consistent with their faith.

"I truly fear that any other alternative will be the end of us as a national movement," he said.

But some churches may be alienated nonetheless. Some Southern Baptist churches stopped sponsoring troops after gay scouts were allowed, and letting in gay adults will likely prompt even more departures, said Southern Evangelical Seminary President Richard Land, who formerly led the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

To him, Scouts shouldn't have leaders who are sexually attracted to their gender, whether a heterosexual man leading Girl Scouts or a gay man supervising boys, no matter objections that leaders of any sexuality shouldn't be assumed to be potential pedophiles.

"This seems to me to be sound judgment 101," he said, calling Gates' message a display of "political correctness."

The Utah-based Mormon church is the nation's largest sponsor of Boy Scout units, and in the past has supported the ban on participation by openly gay adults.

In a brief statement Thursday, the church said it would examine any policy changes "very carefully to assess how they might impact our own century-long association with the BSA."

The Human Rights Campaign, the largest U.S. gay-rights group, called Gates' speech "a step in the right direction."

"But, as we have said many times previously, half measures are unacceptable, especially at one of America's most storied institutions," said the campaign's president, Chad Griffin. "It's time for BSA leaders to show true leadership and embrace a full national policy of inclusion."

Until Thursday, there had been no indication how the BSA would respond to the New York Councils, which on April 2 announced the hiring of Pascal Tessier, an 18-year-old Eagle Scout. Tessier, currently finishing his freshman year of college, has been a vocal advocate of opening the 105-year-old organization to gay scouts and leaders.

Tessier had been getting legal advice from prominent lawyer David Boies, whose recent causes include arguing for recognition of same-sex marriage. Boies said it was possible that Tessier's hiring could lead to litigation between the New York chapter and the BSA's national headquarters, but he expressed hope this could be avoided.

After Tessier's hire, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office opened an inquiry into the BSA's membership policies and influence over local councils' hiring decisions. The office, which cited state laws against hiring discrimination based on sexual orientation, was reviewing Gates' remarks Thursday.

One of Tessier's lawyers, Josh Schiller, expressed hope that the BSA's ban would be lifted.

"People will join the Boy Scouts and look at them as an organization that has the principles of equality," he said.

Debate over the BSA policy has coincided with a steady drop in the organization's youth membership, which fell 7.4 percent last year to about 2.4 million.

After the 2013 decision to admit gay youth, some conservatives split from the BSA to form a new group, Trail Life USA, which has created its own ranks, badges and uniforms. The group claims a membership of 23,000 youths and adults.

Trail Life's chairman, John Stemberger, said his organization was "saddened" by Gates' speech.

"It is tragic that the BSA is willing to risk the safety and security of its boys because of peer pressure from activists groups," he said. "Trail Life USA remains committed to timeless Christian values."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Hackers Take Down Philly Council Site, Post Pro-Islam Message]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 00:18:24 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/248*120/tlmd_hackers_compu_620.jpg

The morning after primary elections potentially reshaped Philadelphia’s City Council, hackers with a pro-Islam, anti-American message took down council’s website.

"According to our service provider, PHLCouncil.com was hacked and replaced with new content at 7:03 am today," said council spokeswoman Jane Roh. "Our service provider was temporarily locked out of the website, but was able to get back in and delete the hacked page at 9:09 a.m."

Roh said they had no information about who was behind the hacking. However, hacking group Cyb3r Command0s posted on its Facebook page around 7 a.m. Wednesday that hacker H1d3n Root claimed responsibility for the post on PHLCouncil.com.

The group’s message, which was later taken down read "Hacked By H1d3n Root. I am Muslim & Islam is my way of Life. Cyb3r CommandOS. We are a International Underground Hacking Team. We are Team Cyb3r Commandos. Your Security Is Very Low,Patch Your Security. ..:: Your server Boxed ::.. op USA & Israel. We Are."

The message then contained a group of scrolling online aliases and a contact email.

The group has posted similar messages on other hacked sites including sites for parks, communications firms and even schools, according to the hacking group.

Council’s website, which, according to Nutter Administration spokesman Mark McDonald is hosted by another group than Phila.gov sites that remained secure, remained down later Wednesday morning.

The council site got back online at 10:11 a.m.

"No City information that would be deemed sensitive was ever compromised or accessed," said Roh.

The council site is hosted by BlueHost.com that claims to be one of the "world's largest providers of cloud-based online solutions."

Roh said the council is working with the city Office of Innovation and Technology to prevent future attacks and that Philadelphia Police are aware of the incident.

<![CDATA[Bridgegate: Christie Under Fire]]> Sun, 26 Jan 2014 13:06:14 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/christie+gwb+scandal+inset.jpg

Photo Credit: Getty Images/AP Images]]>
<![CDATA[Big Changes Coming to Philadelphia City Council]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 00:04:15 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_000000010444907_1200x675_447968835609.jpg A number of at-large incumbents for council were ousted in Tuesday's primary election.]]> <![CDATA[Voters Overwhelmingly Approve Ballot Questions on Universal Pre-K, SRC]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 00:04:15 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_000000010444918_1200x675_447967812002.jpg It was yes to all four questions on the ballot in Tuesday's primary in Philadelphia.]]> <![CDATA[Anthony Williams Concedes In Mayoral Race]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 00:04:15 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_000000010444876_1200x675_447965763962.jpg After a tough campaign, state senator Anthony Hardy Williams threw up the white flag after failing to win the Democratic nomination for mayor in Tuesday's primary. He will still hold his senate seat. NBC10's Denise Nakano was at his campaign headquarters.]]> <![CDATA[Abraham Thanks Supporters Following Loss]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 00:04:15 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_000000010444881_1200x675_447967299862.jpg Former Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham was surrounded by her fierce supporters Tuesday night as the primary election results rolled in, but she did not win the race.]]> <![CDATA[Sabatina Wins Special State Senate Election]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 00:04:15 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_000000010444883_1200x675_447967299975.jpg John Sabatina, Jr., a Democrat, is heading to the state senate after winning a Northeast Philadelphia seat left vacant by Lt. Gov. Mike Stack.]]> <![CDATA[Uncontested Baily Wins GOP Mayoral Nomination]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 00:04:15 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_000000010444882_1200x675_447967299974.jpg Without an opponent, Republican mayoral hopeful Melissa Murray Baily earned her party's nomination for mayor in Tuesday's primary.]]> <![CDATA[Jim Kenney Wins Democratic Mayoral Nomination]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 00:04:15 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_000000010444874_1200x675_447965763854.jpg In a landslide victory, former city councilman Jim Kenney won his party's nomination for mayor. His campaign headquarters erupted when the results came in.]]> <![CDATA[ Jim Kenney Wins Philly Mayoral Bid In Landslide]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 00:15:24 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/214*120/AP142050022358.jpg

Jim Kenney is poised to become Mayor of Philadelphia after winning the Democratic Party's nomination in Tuesday's primary.

"I am honored and forever humbled by the coalition of support that made me the Democratic nominee for mayor of the City of Philadelphia," the 57-year-old former at large city councilman proclaimed during his victory speech surrounded by family, former council members and key supporters.

Kenney was declared the winner at 9:03 p.m. with 62 percent of the vote. Only 24 percent of precincts had reported when the race was decided. The numbers narrowed as more votes were recorded, but he still carried the vote 2-1 or 56 percent.

Kenney bested five other opponents — Anthony Hardy Williams; Lynne Abraham; Nelson Diaz; Doug Oliver; and Milton Street — but his victory is far from a surprise. Heading into May, a poll of 600 likely voters showed Kenney had a huge 42 percent lead over his opponents. The survey was the only independent poll of the primary race and was conducted for NBC10/Telemundo 62, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com.

Williams and Abraham each had 15 percent of pie while the others had 5 percent or less.

Kenney had the most endorsements including vital support from former colleagues on city council and several unions including the electricians, FOP and teachers. Some of the most important backing came from prominent African-American politicians from Northwest Philadelphia including Councilwomen Cindy Bass and Marian Tasco and state representative Dwight Evans.

"Our campaign was a broad and unprecedented coalition of diverse groups many of whom came together for the first time to support me," Kenney said.

Known for his big personality and sometimes brash comments in person and on Twitter, the South Philadelphia-native said he'd like to provide universal prekindergarten education, raise minimum wage to $15 an hour and banish stop-and-frisk. They're all topics that were of top importance to voters, our polling showed.

Kenney spent 23 years in council and was seen for being progressive on issues like the environment, ethics and marijuana decriminalization. He's long supported the LGBT community, police and firefighters as well.

But he has walked back on comments about police's use of force, which some likened to brutality, and, years ago, distanced himself from former state senator Vince Fumo, who was convicted of corruption.

Kenney will now face lone Republican challenger Melissa Murray Baily in the November general election, but he's expected to win as Democrats outnumber Republicans 7-1 in the city. He said he'll be spending the next six months earning every vote.

"We need this coalition to grow even larger," he said "Together I know we can achieve even greater things, so let’s get to work."

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Should College Be Free? Bernie Sanders Says So]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 19:35:57 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/471658670.jpg

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, announced a proposal Tuesday that would make undergraduate tuition at four-year public colleges and universities free to students. The idea would be largely funded through new fees on Wall Street.

“It'll strengthen our economy and give us a better-educated workforce,” said Sen. Sanders, who is also running to the left of Hillary Clinton in seeking the Democratic nomination for the White House.

The Wall Street speculation fee would be levied on investment houses, hedge funds, and other speculators, according to a summary of the legislation posted on the website of Sen. Sanders. The fees would amount to $.50 on every $100 of stock. A .1 percent fee would be tacked onto bonds and a .005 percent charge would be levied on derivatives.

It is estimated that the fees could raise hundreds of billions of dollars a year, Sanders said. Through that, the federal government would cover two-thirds of the free college tuition, with states responsible for the remaining third, according to the legislation summary.

Nationally, total tuition at public colleges and universities amounts to about $70-billion a year, according to the office of Sen. Sanders.

The Independent, who is a self-described Democratic Socialist and admirer of how several European nations provide free higher education, also wants lower interest rates on student loans. The legislation Sanders introduced would give borrowers the ability to refinance student loans at lower interest rates, as homeowners can currently do with their mortgages.

“It is totally absurd that in America today, we have hundreds of thousands of bright young people who can no longer afford to go to college,” Sanders told necn.

Other reforms the College for All Act would implement include expanding the federal work study program, which offers part-time employment to students, and simplifying the student aid application process, Sanders added.

As for Sanders' proposal to tax Wall Street to make college free, many observers believe the GOP-controlled Congress will pay little or no attention. Still, Sanders said Washington has to do a better job of listening to families struggling to pay for education.

Separately, education leaders in Vermont announced Tuesday that high schoolers can continue taking up to two college courses free.

“This is really quite a big deal,” said Jeb Spaulding, the chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges. “It’s really a major economic advancement tool for many students who wouldn’t otherwise get to post-secondary education.”

A state law was about to make towns kick in half the costs, possibly stifling participation in the so-called “dual enrollment” program which more than 1,000 Vermont students took part in in the past year, according to Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.

A new fix means the state education fund will now cover the costs of that coursework, Shumlin announced, noting he would like to see more students apply to dual enrollment programs before upcoming deadlines.

Kenyan-born Lule Aden, 18, a senior at Burlington High School, said she enjoyed taking University of Vermont classes well before she even graduated high school. She said she will be the first in her family to go to college when she heads to UVM in the fall, planning to study communication sciences and disorders.

“Taking these courses, getting a feel of how college feels, and how the courses are, and how long classes are, I feel more prepared for it,” Aden said, describing how her dual enrollment experience left her more ready for college. “And I'm going to be able to do it and hopefully be successful.” 

<![CDATA[Decision Day for Philly Mayoral Hopefuls]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 18:12:09 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Philadelphia+Race+for+Mayor+crop.jpg

After months of glad-handing, countless debates and forums, backlash and a literal spill, six Democratic candidates hoping to be Philadelphia's next mayor will learn whether citizens believe they are the right person to lead the city.

Three are seen as viable contenders with one — former city councilman Jim Kenney — viewed as the likely winner.

Voter turnout was reported to be low throughout the city Tuesday — a contrast to independent polling that showed the majority of likely voters have been keeping close tabs on the race.

The polls close at 8 p.m. and results can be expected shortly afterward. Philadelphia City Council seats and scores of judgeships are also up for grabs in the primary.

Kenney, 57, who served on council for 23 years and has a large backing from the unions, held a strong 42 percent lead in a survey of 600 likely voters conducted earlier this month for NBC10/Telemundo62, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com. It was the only independent poll of the race.

Trailing behind, at 15 percent each, were state senator Anthony Hardy Williams, 58, and Lynne Abraham, the 74-year-old who served as Philadelphia District Attorney for nearly two decades.

Former judge Nelson Diaz, former state senator Milton Street and former PGW executive Doug Oliver are seen as long shots.

The race was full of dozens of opportunities for the candidates to share their vision for the city in dozens of discussions, forums and three televised debates — including one on NBC10. It was at that debate, the first of the set, where Abraham collapsed 10 minutes into the contest. The fall was seen by many as a major blow to her campaign after questions arose about her age and whether she was out-of-touch with the evolving citizenry.

Williams became mired in questions about campaign finances and had to pay an $8,000 fine after accepting six donations that violated city-imposed limits and making more than $62,000 in off-limit funds available to his campaign.

But it was his announcement that, if elected, he would fire Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey over the department's stop-and-frisk policy that raised the most eyebrows. Although Street also made the same statement, Williams seemed to face a bigger backlash from political supporters.

Polling showed Ramsey is more popular than all of the candidates and many other well-known city leaders including current Mayor Michael Nutter and former mayor and Governor Ed Rendell.

The victor in Tuesday's primary will face lone Republican challenger Melissa Murray Baily in the November general election. A heavily Democratic city, a Republican has not been elected Mayor of Philadelphia since Harry Truman was president.

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Obama Shatters Guinness' Twitter Record]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 14:00:50 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/obama-blackberry-459365998.jpg

President Obama shattered a Twitterverse record when his new account @POTUS got one million followers in less than five hours, according to Guinness World Records.

The Monday Twitter record beat one previously held by actor Robert Downey Jr. It took him 23 hours and 22 minutes to reach the same milestone in April 2014.

Guinness World Records notes that for his third tweet Obama bantered with former President Bill Clinton about the presidential hopes of Hillary Clinton.

Obama sent the inaugural tweet from @POTUS with his second term halfway through.

The verified account, which attracted more than 146,000 followers within 30 minutes of posting the first tweet, carries the bio "Dad, husband, and 44th President of the United States."

Obama's account followed all major Chicago sports teams except one — the Cubs. 

The official @WhiteHouse account retweeted the message and posted confirmation of its own.

The tweet wasn't the first 140-character missive sent from the 44th president. The White House's existing practice was to sign tweets from the president on the @BarackObama handle with his initials, "-bo." That @BarackObama account, launched in March 2007 and with nearly 60 million followers, is run by the staff of Obama's non-profit Organizing for Action group. 

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Will Young Voters Show Up to Polls?]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 09:37:57 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_000000010435378_1200x675_447525955797.jpg History shows voters under 35 years old have a low turnout on election day, but one group is hoping to change that.]]> <![CDATA[Philly Voters to Decide More Than Just Mayor on Primary Day]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 15:50:07 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/ginny228+Instagram+PHiladelphia+city+hall.jpg 17 seats in Philadelphia's City Council are up for grabs in this Tuesday's primary election day.

Photo Credit: ginny228/Instagram]]>
<![CDATA[Election Eve: Looking at the Issues]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 18:05:51 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_000000010425878_1200x675_447279683944.jpg NBC10's Rosemary Connors is in Center City with more on the issues voters will be looking at on Election Day, including education and Universal Pre-K.]]> <![CDATA['Commish Chat' Podcast Hopes to Brighten Police Relations]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 17:10:21 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/tlmd_tlmd_charles_ramsey1.jpg

The Philadelphia Police Department's new podcast gives the community the department protects “an inside look at the issues, challenges, and successes of policing.”

Hosted by Denise James, strategic communications director for the Philly PD, the podcast sets out to increase police-community relations, build trust and invite public questions and comments.

“It’s just one additional way to get info out into the community from police, and to glean info from the community,” said James.

On Monday, the Police Department posted the second episode in the series to its Facebook page. The episode, which is also available on Soundcloud, touched base with Commissioner Charles Ramsey in regards to the riots in Baltimore and some of the underlying issues with police-community relations.

In the podcast, Ramsey explained that the level of unrest in Baltimore was due to “a tremendous lack of trust, not only for police, but government in general.”

“No one in police custody should be injured,” added Ramsey. “They should be safe. Period.”
The commissioner continued by discussing the idea that protesters can be both beneficial and harmful for a society.

“[We have to] Allow people to peacefully protest because they have the right to do it constitutionally, and quite frankly, the way in our country that change occurs is through protest,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey stressed the importance of dealing with both types of protesters, and mentioned that people will fill in the blanks when accurate information isn’t provided.

James told NBC10 that they were hoping to put together about one episode per month, pertaining from a mixture of scheduled topics and current events.

In an effort to change the culture of trust between police and the communities they protect, the Philly PD is setting out to perform more hands-on training, using real cases, minus associated names. This allows for better preparation, and hopefully a higher probability of sound judgment in the field.

“There are changes that needed to happen long ago in policing,” Ramsey admitted. “It took something like this unfortunately to make it happen.”

According to James, they have already received more than 10 email responses to the podcasts from viewers, and would love to set up a live chat in the future.

Want your question answered on the podcast? Send your thoughts to commishchat@gmail.com, and your question could be answered on a future podcast.

<![CDATA[New Paving Plan to Make Philly Safer for Pedestrians, Bikers]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 16:45:05 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/bicycle+generic.jpg

Thanks to new paving plans expected to be completed this year, walkers and cyclists will soon be able to traverse Philadelphia in a safer manner.

Streets Commissioner David J. Perri announced Monday that as part of the City’s 2015 planned roadway paving program, the Streets Department plans to improve safety for people walking and cycling with refreshed and new line markings.

Nearly 100 miles of Philadelphia streets will be repaved, providing smooth pavement for people walking, driving and cycling. The repaving plan includes PennDOT supervised work on state routes, local repaving of neighborhood streets and grant-eligible city streets.

This includes the implementation of the "Complete Streets" initiative, which emphasizes pedestrian safety and bicycle network expansion. Streets Department staff designed the traffic controls and line striping for the roadways.

Hundreds of intersections will receive new or refreshed high visibility crosswalks, new ADA curb ramps and stop bar markings. Bicycle facilities will be installed or renovated on more than 68 miles of Philadelphia streets. In all, more than 10 miles of bike lanes will be established.

<![CDATA[Should Philly Do Away With 'Stop & Frisk?']]> Mon, 18 May 2015 21:48:15 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/220*120/Philadelphia+Police+Commissioner+Charles+Ramsey+05052015.JPG

Philadelphia Police have stopped thousands and frisked hundreds without probable cause, according to multiple reports produced by PPD and obtained by the NBC 10 Investigators.

According to the latest statistics, from January to June 2014, 941 or 37 percent of Philadelphia police stops were made without reasonable suspicion. Police recovered contraband 58 times, including five guns according to the data based on those 941 stops.

The internal police data shows police frisked 168 of those stopped without reasonable suspicion.

The police tactic known simply as "stop and frisk" has been used as a campaign issue in current the race for Philadelphia mayor. All six democratic candidates said they would end ‘stop and frisk’ in Philadelphia -- a stark contrast to the Nutter administration’s support of the tactic.

“There’s a difference between campaigning and governing and whoever is successful will soon find that out,” Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said in response to the candidates’ positions.

Critics say "stop and frisk" leads to disproportionate policing while supporters say it targets areas in need of police protection and oversight. Census data and police statistics show while roughly half of Philadelphia’s population is black or Hispanic, 80 percent of those stopped and 89 percent of those frisked by police were minorities.

“These are communities that need police. What they need however is police service not police oppression,” Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union attorney Mary Catherine Roper said.

The Pennsylvania ACLU sued Philadelphia over police use of "stop and frisk."

Commissioner Ramsey said "stop and frisk" keeps officers, and the communities they police, safe when performed constitutionally. A Nutter administration spokesman said it reduces crime.

“The reality is we have a lot of gun violence and gun crime in our city and anyone who doesn’t recognize that is not paying attention,” Ramsey said.

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA["Hello, Twitter!" President Obama Gets His Own Account]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 12:43:35 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/obama-blackberry-459365998.jpg

President Barack Obama has joined the Twitterverse. 

With his second term more than halfway through, the president sent his inaugural tweet from a new @POTUS Twitter account on Monday. 

The verified account, which attracted more than 146,000 followers within 30 minutes of posting the first tweet, carries the bio "Dad, husband, and 44th President of the United States."

The official @WhiteHouse account retweeted the message and posted confirmation of its own.

The tweet wasn't the first 140-character missive sent from the 44th president. The White House's existing practice was to sign tweets from the president on the @BarackObama handle with his initials, "-bo." That @BarackObama account, launched in March 2007, is run by the staff of Obama's non-profit Organizing for Action group. 

The new account followed all major Chicago sports teams except one — the Cubs. 

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Priest Fired Over Pro-LGBT Post]]> Sat, 16 May 2015 20:03:57 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/51615seton.jpg

A priest says he was fired as director of Seton Hall University's campus ministry because of a pro-LGBT Facebook post.

Rev. Warren Hall took to Twitter Friday saying: "I've been fired from SHU for posting a pic on FB supporting LGBT 'NO H8.' I'm sorry it was met with this response. I'll miss my work here."

A petition started by students demanding Hall's reinstatement has since received over 600 signatures.

"Father Hall is a well-loved member of the Seton Hall community, and much of the student body is shocked and saddened by this decision," said student Ethan Kraft.

Personnel decisions about priests on campus are controlled by the Archdiocese of Newark.

The university doesn't comment on personnel matters, said Laurie Pine, director of media relations.

"The Archbishop of Newark appoints the director of campus ministry, who serves at his discretion," she said.

<![CDATA[NJ Senate Unanimously Approves Bestiality Ban]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 18:24:31 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/gavel-shutterstock_355230671.jpg

The state Senate unanimously approved a measure that would bar people from having sexual contact with animals. 

The vote on Monday was 35-0.

State law now prohibits torturing or neglecting animals. The new measure would add any sexual contact to the list of prohibitions.

The bill designates bestiality as a fourth-degree criminal offense, punishable by 18 months in prison, a fine of $10,000 or both.

The Assembly unanimously passed an identical measure last June.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[NBC10 @ Issue: Jim Kenney, Part 2]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 05:56:32 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_000000010418888_1200x675_446980163540.jpg Part 2 of a one-on-one interview with Democratic Philadelphia Mayoral candidate Jim Kenney. To watch Part 1, click here.]]> <![CDATA[NBC10 @ Issue: Jim Kenney, Part 1]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 05:47:15 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_000000010418833_1200x675_446980675715.jpg One-on-one with Democratic Philadelphia Mayoral Candidate Jim Kenney.]]> <![CDATA[NBC10 @ Issue: Lynne Abraham, Part 2]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 05:43:23 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_000000010418737_1200x675_446977091938.jpg Part 2 of a one-on-one interview with Democratic Philadelphia Mayoral candidate Lynne Abraham. To watch Part 1, click here.]]> <![CDATA[NBC10 @ Issue: Lynne Abraham, Part 1]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 05:41:59 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/206*120/Lynne_Abraham1.JPG One-on-one with Democratic Philadelphia Mayoral candidate Lynne Abraham. ]]> <![CDATA["SNL" Heralds the Summer of Hillary Clinton]]> Sun, 17 May 2015 06:37:59 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Hillary-Clinton-SNL-Louis-CK-16-May-2015-2.jpg

Summer is only a calendar page away. But nevermind the sunny skies and balmy breezes: the season of straw polls and caucuses has arrived, and Hillary Clinton was in campaign mode on "Saturday Night Live."

In the musical opening sketch, the former senator and secretary of state (portrayed in her latest "SNL" incarnation by a manic, delighftully unhinged Kate McKinnon) took to beaches and sand castles to introduce herself to a younger generation.

"May I have just a moment of your summer? I'm Hillary Clinton and I'm running for president of these United States," said Clinton, clawing at the air, her hands like pincers.

"But that's not for a long time," one (Kenan Thompson) said. "Now it's summer vacation."

"My last vacation was in 1953," she replied. "I played one round of hopscotch with a friend. I found it tedious. Why hop when you can march — straight to the White House."

She then issued her percussive laugh — something like "ah HA HA haaaaaa" — as her mouth curled into a snarling rictus.

She spoke with some kids (Aidy Bryant and Pete Davidson), whose parents remained resolutely against her political aspirations.

"I like your sand castle," she said.

"Thanks," Bryant's character replied. "It's our dream house."

"That's nice. This is my dream house," Clinton said, embracing a massive, sandy model of the White House.

Also on the campaign trail were a few surfers (Kyle Mooney, Jay Pharoah and Beck Bennett).

“Hey there, 18-to-25-year-olds," she said, stiffly hula-twisting up to a surfboard. "How does it hang?”

Blank stares.

"You know what's cool? In two years I'll be 69," Clinton said. (More blank stares). "You like that? Bill told me to tell that to young males."

The former president made a brief appearance himself (in the person of longtime "SNL" impersonator Darrell Hammond), if only to help a young woman (Sasheer Zamata) apply sunscreen.

"Billary Rodham Clinton, what are you doing?" the former first lady hissed at her husband.

"Sorry," Mr. Clinton told Zamata's character. "It's my mom."

The Clintons weren't the only political dynasty to take some flak on Saturday night. On "Weekend Update," co-host Colin Jost skewered Jeb Bush for his fumbled responses to questions related to his brother's record in Iraq.

"Jeb Bush said in an interview this week that, like his brother, he would have authorized the invasion of Iraq," Jost said. "But he wouldn't have done it for the same George did: to capture the genie from Aladdin."

Jost also noted that Jeb Bush faced criticism during a Nevada town hall meeting, where a college student said George W. Bush "created ISIS."

"But that's really not fair," Jost said. "It's more like he co-created it," as a photo of Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared.

Photo Credit: Broadway Video
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<![CDATA[Last Minute Campaigning From Mayoral Candidates]]> Sat, 16 May 2015 23:59:58 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_000000010408822_1200x675_446678083541.jpg The Philadelphia Democratic mayoral candidates are hitting the campaign trail hard for the final weekend before Tuesday's primary election.]]> PUBLICSOURCE]]> <![CDATA[Pa. Law Prohibits Needle Exchange That Can Save Lives]]> Fri, 15 May 2015 15:44:09 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/212*120/public+source+illustration+needle+share.JPG

Tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians crave daily injections of heroin. Beyond the threat of overdose is the threat of being exposed to HIV and hepatitis C, both deadly and expensive illnesses that are easily spread through contaminated needles.

But in Pennsylvania, distributing sterile syringes is a criminal act.

For years, Dianna Pagan feared that giving out clean syringes in Reading would land her in jail. Officials there recently agreed to let her needle exchange operate, though she’s faced numerous setbacks for more than a decade, including being shut down following the threat of prosecution.

“There’s no protection,” said Pagan, who contracted HIV while using drugs at age 19. In an effort to help others, she started distributing clean needles more than 15 years ago through Reading Risk Reduction.

Only in Allegheny County and Philadelphia have local leaders publicly supported needle exchanges, essentially ignoring state law out of concern for public health.

Elsewhere, identical efforts expose volunteers to legal hassles and, in the worst case, jail, if police and prosecutors decide they’re violating the state’s drug paraphernalia law.

“We have laws on the books that are causing needless illness and death,” said Caroline Acker, who helped start Prevention Point Pittsburgh in 1995, back before local officials gave it protection.

Most of Pennsylvania’s neighboring states have explicitly authorized at least some needle exchanges, as have other states hit with an injection drug crisis.

Most notably, Indiana lawmakers passed a needle exchange bill after Gov. Mike Pence — previously an opponent to needle exchanges  — authorized a short-term exchange following a sudden and troubling spike in HIV cases.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania has seen an increase in heroin use and in acute hepatitis C, though the state’s health and drug treatment agencies say they lack the authority to fund or implement exchanges.

Reducing harm

Needle exchanges in Pennsylvania are nothing new.

In the midst of an HIV crisis in the early 1990s, volunteers in Philadelphia began passing out clean syringes, targeting a high-risk population at a time when injection drug use was tied to nearly half of all local HIV cases.

Exchanges operate under the assumption that drug use won’t stop just because clean needles aren’t available.

In 1992, then-Mayor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, declared a public health emergency, putting the weight of his office behind Prevention Point Philadelphia, the state’s longest-running syringe exchange.

The state threatened a crackdown, but none came.

Now only about 5 percent of new HIV cases in Philadelphia are spread through syringes, according to the city’s AIDS Activities Coordinating Office.

“People are telling each other, ‘You need to keep yourself safe,’” Jose Benitez, Prevention Point Philadelphia’s executive director, told PublicSource, explaining how drug users embraced the program.

Allegheny County soon followed.

In 1995, volunteers from the unaffiliated Prevention Point Pittsburgh set up card tables to distribute clean syringes and safely dispose of used ones.

Early on, workers faced the threat of arrest and pressure from unhappy neighbors to move elsewhere.

But the county health department eventually embraced the program, giving it regular space to distribute and collect needles. It was authorized by the Allegheny County Council in 2008.

Richard Smith, HIV/AIDS project director for the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, said few new HIV cases in the Pittsburgh area are tied to injection drug use. The foundation was one of Prevention Point Pittsburgh’s first supporters. JHF also provides funding support to PublicSource.

So, the state’s two largest cities accept needle exchanges as effective interventions. But Pennsylvania’s heroin crisis affects small cities and rural areas as well. And when needles are shared, outbreaks of HIV and hepatitis C can follow.

Underground exchanges are operating in Lancaster and Harrisburg, both with implied support from local officials, as well as in Reading.

Scott Burris, professor of law at Temple University, says the flare-up of HIV in the state of Indiana should serve as a cautionary tale.

More than 140 people tested positive for HIV in the state’s Scott County, which has about 24,000 residents and an injection drug problem. Indiana’s governor opposed needle exchanges in the past but signed a bill to authorize exchanges during health emergencies.

“That should be a warning for every small Pennsylvania city and town,” said Burris, who has studied needle exchange and drug paraphernalia laws nationwide.

In rural areas, Burris said, drug users are part of a close-knit community. They tend to know each other, and they tend to inject together.

That means if one person has a bloodborne disease, it can spread quickly to anyone sharing the same needle. HIV and hepatitis C can spread to non-drug users through other means, including sexual contact.

Both HIV and hepatitis C can be deadly and are extremely expensive to treat. Hepatitis C can be even easier to contract than HIV, meaning a new syringe isn’t always enough to stop transmission because other paraphernalia may be contaminated, said Acker, a public health historian and head of the Department of History at Carnegie Mellon University.

Nationwide, acute cases of hepatitis C spiked 75 percent from 2010 to 2012, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributes mostly to drug use by young, white people in non-urban areas.

In Pennsylvania — which has a drug problem that includes that exact demographic — acute cases of hepatitis C more than doubled over the same period. The state has not pinpointed a cause for the increase.

Both the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs say they want to prevent the spread of bloodborne diseases. But they also lack the authority to implement or invest resources in needle exchanges.

“We are looking at actions that other states are taking to address mitigating the spread of HIV and hepatitis,” Amy Worden, communications director for the Department of Health, said in an emailed statement on behalf of both agencies.

The federal paradox

Renee Cox, executive director of Prevention Point Pittsburgh, said funding is a major hurdle.

Pennsylvania gives no money to exchanges, and Congress in December 2011 reinstituted a decades-old federal ban on funding exchanges. This means programs are dependent on limited private grant money and local support.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), who currently sits on the congressional subcommittee that oversees HIV-related spending, explains why he’d like the ban to continue.

To him, harm reduction means interdicting drugs and getting users to treatment. It doesn’t mean supporting exchanges.

“It does not make sense for the federal government to hold the use of heroin to be illegal while at the same time funding the distribution of the paraphernalia required to use the drug,” Dent said in an emailed statement.

Exchange opponents argue that the programs encourage drug use, saying in essence that fewer people would inject heroin if fewer sterile syringes were available.

The federal funding ban was lifted briefly in 2009, with support from the Obama administration and AIDS activists.

After two years, however, the ban was reinstated, despite the CDC’s embrace of needle exchanges as an effective intervention to control bloodborne diseases.

The research on bloodborne diseases has existed for many years and is backed by public health experts across the country, including those in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

In 2009, the state’s Board of Pharmacy made syringes available without a prescription, a move that signals support for increased access despite state law.

Barriers remain because pharmacists are empowered to decide if they want to sell syringes to customers they suspect of using drugs. Carrying a syringe for illicit drug use is still illegal.

The state has previously said its funding ban keeps it in line with the federal government.

Burris refutes this notion, saying the state should be free to spend its own money as it sees fit, just as Philadelphia spends its own local money on its exchange.

“There’s really no good reason we couldn’t have needle exchanges across the state wherever people are injecting,” Burris said.

Outlaws no more?

With states like Indiana supporting needle exchanges — at least minimally — and Gov. Tom Wolf’s recent embrace of the anti-overdose drug naloxone, supporters are hopeful that needle exchanges can come up from the underground.

Change could come in several ways.

One could be executive action from Wolf, similar to what Pence did in Indiana or what former Gov. Rendell did on a smaller scale as mayor of Philadelphia.

“The governor could say, ‘Look, this is a health emergency,’”  said Benitez, of Prevention Point Philadelphia.

A representative from the governor’s press office did not respond to inquiries about Wolf’s stance on syringe exchanges.

The governor, however, wants to limit the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, deputy press secretary Ajeenah Amir said in an email statement.

That includes working with state agencies and communities to “promote awareness about the dangers of contracting disease through shared needles,” the statement said.

Lawmakers in Harrisburg could also remove the word “syringe” from the state’s paraphernalia law, something several other states have done already.

If syringes aren’t explicitly named, supporters said, programs would have more protection to hand out clean needles without worrying about law enforcement.

Or local governments could follow the lead of Philadelphia and Allegheny County and either declare a health emergency or pass a local ordinance to authorize exchanges.

For volunteers like Pagan, that would mean harm reduction gets an official blessing and public health efforts would no longer be at odds with state law.

“They’ve been doing it here for more than 20 years in Philadelphia,” Burris said. “And the sky has not fallen.”

Reach Jeffrey Benzing at 412-315-0265 or at jbenzing@publicsource.org. Follow him on Twitter @jabenzing.

Take action

Despite public health research that supports needle exchanges, state law continues to say that distributing syringes for drug use is illegal.

If you support or oppose a change in law, let your state senator and state representative know.

If you want to know more about the Commonwealth’s response to the heroin crisis and increased risk for HIV and hepatitis C, contact the Department of Health and the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.

If you support or oppose executive action, contact Gov. Tom Wolf.

If you support local changes, contact your city and county government.

If you support or oppose federal funding for needle exchanges, contact your senator and representative.

For more information on local harm reduction, contact Prevention Point Pittsburgh, Prevention Point Philadelphia, Lancaster Harm Reduction Project or the Harrisburg Harm Reduction Project.

Visit the CDC online for federal research on HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and needle exchanges.

--Compiled by Jeffrey Benzing

Photo Credit: Illustration by Anita Dufalla]]>