<![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 Wed, 27 Aug 2014 23:16:09 -0400 Wed, 27 Aug 2014 23:16:09 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Sofer's Siblings: Just Bring Back Our Brother]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 20:33:59 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/214*120/Tuvia+Sofer+Yaakov+Sofer.jpg Two of Aaron Sofer's younger brothers, Yaakov and Tuvia, and brother-in-law Yehuda Wicentowsky issued pleas for his safe return. The 23-year-old student is missing in Jerusalem, where he has been studying. Sofer disappeared in the Jerusalem forest on Friday, August 22, while hiking with a friend.
READ more about the search for Aaron Sofer.

Photo Credit: NBC10.com]]>
<![CDATA[NJ Student Missing in Jerusalem]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 10:47:19 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Aaron+Sofer+Facebook+picture.jpg

UPDATE: New Jersey lawmakers spoke about Aaron Sofer's disappearance at a Tuesday morning press conference.

Three days into the search for a New Jersey student missing in Israel, his family is asking for intervention from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), according to the Jerusalem Post.

Aaron Sofer, 23, disappeared Friday while hiking in the Jerusalem Forest with a friend. The two became separated while making their way along a steep incline. Sofer has not been seen since and now his family and members of his community back home in Lakewood, New Jersey, fear he may have become a victim of the Gaza-Israeli conflict.

"Obviously, the concern that he may have been abducted is there because of the volatile events," said Meir Lichtenstein, a Lakewood committeeman and former mayor.

Several hours after Sofer disappeared, the Ocean County man's friend contacted police and filed a missing person report, according to the Jerusalem Post. Since then, hundreds of volunteers have aided police and rescue organizations in searching for Sofer, but so far there has been no sign of him and no indication of what happened to him.

"A physically, mentally and emotionally healthy young man does not go missing for 72 hours," family spokesman Dov Hirth told the Jerusalem Post on Monday.

"They've sent a whole set of K-9s into the area tonight and tomorrow they will start new search patterns," said Lichtenstein who spoke late Monday with officials in Israel.

Another teen with ties to Lakewood — 16-year-old Naftaly Frenkel — was kidnapped in the West Bank and killed this summer, along with two other Israeli teens. Frenkel's aunt lives in Lakewood, a community of about 100,000. The growing population of Orthodox Jews came together to support Frenkel's family.

The kidnapping and murders of the three teens was one of the key factors leading to the summer conflict.

Last month, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy, was kidnapped and killed in an alleged revenge attack. Abu Khdeir was beaten and burned to death in the same forest where Sofer is missing. Spokesman Dov Hirth said the family wants Israeli forces involved in the search for Sofer because of the Abu Khdeir killing and because of increased tension between Israelis and Palestinians.

"I don't know if they have any physical evidence that he [Sofer] was kidnapped," Lichtenstein said, explaining that the Jerusalem forest is bordered by both Jewish and Arab communities. "Three days is a pretty long time to be searching a relatively small area."

Sofer's family is in Israel now. Lakewood's mayor, Menashe P. Miller will be joined by other lawmakers on Tuesday at 10 a.m. for a news conference at Lakewood's Town Hall. They'll brief the community on the latest efforts by the U.S. and Israel to find Sofer.

Photo Credit: Facebook]]>
<![CDATA[Perry in NH: Charges All Politics]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 23:03:05 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/edtAP259994489655.jpg

New Hampshire wasn't kind to Texas Governor Rick Perry back in 2012. He's hoping voters in the granite state will give him a fresh start as he considers another presidential bid in 2016.

On Friday, Governor Perry returned to New Hampshire for a series of GOP sponsored events.

He met with business leaders in Portsmouth and focused many of his remarks on border concerns and the growing threat of ISIS, even connecting the two by speculating members of ISIS could enter the U.S. through unsecured borders.

"ISIS has said we are coming to America and they are going to attack us, I take them at their word," said Gov. Rick Perry.

Governor Perry also addressed his recent indictment on coercion charges by a Texas grand jury. He called the charges politically motivated and said he will fight them with every fiber of his being.

He also acknowledged making mistakes in New Hampshire back in 2012, saying he didn't spend enough time in the state and wasn't as prepared as he would have liked.

Governor Perry will make several more stops in New Hampshire through Saturday.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Hundreds of Students Not Enrolled]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 21:22:48 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/newark+parents+enrollment.jpg

Hundreds of children in Newark still have no idea what school they'll be attending in less than two weeks because of an apparent backlog in an open-enrollment system that was put into place earlier this year.

The One Newark system instituted by the Board of Education lets parents research schools and rank their preferences for public or charter schools across the city, rather than select the school closest to their home. The new system seeks to improve education in the beleaguered district.

But a final step in the process appeared to flunk for hundreds of families. More than 600 parents sat in line for hours at a Newark Vocational High School Thursday hoping to find out where their children are enrolled, but some never even made it through the door.

Parent Sharrone King said she pulled her two children out of the 13th Avenue School but now says her alternatives aren't much better. Her 10-year-old daughter, an honor student and a cheerleader who wanted to try out for the squad this year, doesn't even know what team she'll be rooting for.

"School's going to start on the 4th. Where are we going to place our kids?" said King.

"This is the first year that this ever happened. But it has to stop," she said.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, the former principal of Newark's Central High School who took office in July, said Friday he's deeply concerned about the new enrollment procedures. 

"You cannot tell parents a week or so before school starts that they do not have a school location for their child, when if this plan did not exist, parents could have walked to any school in their neighborhood and registered their child on their own," he said. 

The district said in a statement it is working "feverishly" to support families and get students enrolled quickly.

"Our goal was to work through challenges now, before the first day of school, so students and families are ready Day One," enrollment director Nancy Deering said in the statement Thursday. "We will increase the number of staff, work through any missteps from today and improve tomorrow in pursuit of that goal."

Newark Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson apologized for the inconvenience in a statement issued Friday.

"Despite operational challenges, we were able to successfully serve approximately 50 percent of the families who arrived yesterday and made arrangements to open early today and Saturday to serve the rest as quickly as possible," Anderson said.

"The number of families requesting new school placements is indicative of what we already know to be true -- that family demand for quality school options far exceeds the number of quality seats we have available today," she added.  

By Friday afternoon, there appeared to be some progress. Lines outside the school were disappearing and parents were emerging with positive reports. Binto Kourama said she was able to enroll her daughter in the public school of her choice -- a relief after getting discouraged by Thursday's chaotic crowd.

"At least you know what school your child is going to before school opens," she said. 

Newark's schools were brought under state control in 1995 following years of mismanagement, chronically low test scores and crumbling infrastructure in the city of 280,000, where the median household income is less than half the state's average.

The district says the One Newark plan aims to guarantee that all students in the district attend high-performing schools, using the same standards for public and charter schools. The plan is one part of the education reforms financed through a $100 million donation from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

<![CDATA[Pennsylvania Releases Education App]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 07:36:11 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/215*120/Pennsylvania+Learns.JPG Gov. Tom Corbett released a free educational resource available on iTunes called Pennsylvania Learns.

Photo Credit: NBC10.com]]>
<![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[Corbett Signs Execution Warrant for Convicted Murderer]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 14:24:25 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Pennsylvania-Governor-Tom-Corbett-Teacher-Pensions.jpg

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett signed an execution warrant Monday for a 28-year-old man convicted of fatally shooting his 21-year-old girlfriend and their 19-month-old child.

Michael Parrish, 28, is set to die by lethal injection on Oct. 14, according to the Governor's Office.

The Monroe County man was found guilty in March 2012 of killing Victoria Adams and their son, Sidney Michael Parrish, on July 6, 2009.

On the day she died, Adams told family and friends that Parrish was controlling and abusive and she planned to end the relationship when she returned to the apartment they shared later that day, according to a news release. 

Afraid of how her boyfriend might react, Adams had several relatives and a friend accompany her to the apartment, where Parrish was home with their son.

The woman went inside alone and, minutes later, Parrish exited the building and brandished a gun at the group, who were waiting outside for Adams to return.

He went back to the apartment and fired multiple shots, hitting Adams eight times and Sidney six times, according to the Governor's Office.

Hearing the gunfire, Adams' relatives began to rush inside, but Parrish began firing in their direction.

The group fled in their car and Parrish went on the run, the Governor's Office said.

A multi-state manhunt ensued and Parrish was taken into custody on July 8, 2009 in New Hampshire.

Parrish's execution warrant is the 36th signed by Corbett since taking office.

The last person to be executed in Pennsylvania was 56-year-old Gary Heidnik, who died July 6, 1999.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[GOP Staffer in Chicken Suit Faces Charges After Clucking at NH Governor, Senator]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 11:25:01 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/zona+chicken+suit.jpg

A GOP state committee staff member has been charged with disorderly conduct after heckling New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Governor Maggie Hassan at this past Saturday's Old Home Day parade.

Michael Zona, of Manchester, was dressed in a chicken suit when he began to interfere with the parade, reports The Eagle-Tribune.

The 23-year-old allegedly ran out into the parade route toward Shaheen and Hassan, clucking at them.
"I believe Senator Jeanne Shaheen should be holding town halls and I have a First Amendment right to express that point of view. I wasn't bothering anyone. I wasn't disturbing anyone. In fact, I got a good deal of encouragement from people along the parade route," said Zona in response to the incident.
Zona was escorted from the parade after failing to comply with numerous requests to stop. 
“At one point, the governor had to take a few steps back toward her security staff,” Detective Christopher Olson told The Eagle-Tribune.
Julia McClain of the New Hampshire Democratic Party used the incident to blast the state Republicans, saying the party "wastes taxpayer resources and local law enforcement time with these juvenile antics when we should be discussing critical issues that matter--like raising the minimum wage, creating good paying jobs, and protecting social security and Medicare for our state's seniors."

Photo Credit: Twitter: John DiStaso]]>
<![CDATA[Attacks Aside, Common Core Survives Across U.S.]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 11:08:29 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/indiana+common+core.JPG

Is the Common Core on its way in — or out?

Proponents and opponents are so sharply divided that an assessment of the standards’ prospects depends on whom you ask.

The national academic standards have sparked such vehement disputes that it might seem many states have already pulled out. Republican politicians even if they once supported the standards now often insist that they are an unwelcome intrusion in local matters.

In fact, only a handful of states have actually moved away from the Common Core. Indiana withdrew and replaced it with its own standards, North and South Carolina and Missouri are reviewing it but using it in the meantime and only Oklahoma has returned to its previous standards while developing alternatives.

As the new school year begins, most teachers across the country are implementing the Common Core, says Michael Brickman, the national policy director at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

A think tank focusing on education policy, the institute supports the standards, meant to ensure that students meet minimum benchmarks regardless of where they go to school. By its score, 42 states still have the Common Core in effect (It counts Indiana as still on a board). So despite efforts by tea party groups and other conservatives, it argues, the pro-Common Core side is still leading.

Not for long, predicts Emmett McGroarty at the American Principles Project, a group that created the initiative, "Fight Common Core." The standards are on their way out, he said.

They increasingly are being exposed as a way to push an inferior curriculum and parents are rebelling, he said. Opponents are at the end of the first stage of their battle, to make politicians aware of just how bad they believe the standards are. Next up is a new discussion about what children should be learning and who should be responsible, he said.

“Unfortunately, now the Common Core has become a political football, and the focus really has shifted, I think, from the substance of what’s contained in the Common Core and the rationale for the strategy of having common, high standards across the country to a question of who can garner the most political points from victory in this battle,” said Paul Reville, a professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.


The standards were developed with little controversy beginning in 2009 by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association’s Center of Best Practices, as goals for what students should learn in mathematics and English language literacy in the kindergarten through 12th grade. The aim was to ensure that students already lagging behind international counterparts graduate from high school ready for college and careers.

At first the standards had bipartisan support -- and still have the backing of such disparate politicians as former Florida governor and possible Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush and President Barack Obama. Only four states rejected them — Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia — while Minnesota accepted only the English language portion of the standards, not the math.

Since then, the standards have become a flashpoint both on the right and the left. Conservatives argue that they represent federal overreach into education, liberals object to more high-stake testing, integral to the Common Core, and both question the corporate profits from the tests.

Jane Maisel, a former New York City teacher who is part of a movement against such testing, said standards alone are not a problem.

But, said Maisel, a member of a group called Change the Stakes, “The Common Core is a creature, it is an invention of people who are interested in this quantification of everything in the school system. There is no such thing as a Common Core separate from the high stakes tests that are geared to it. It has no independent existence.”

A mother who belongs to the group, Janine Sopp of Brooklyn, said she was worried about the over-use of tests and their inappropriate application to punish teachers and schools.

"We've spent a huge amount of money that has actually come out of schools in order to pay for this," she said. "What we see in our schools is incredible budget cuts and a tremendous amount of inequality among schools."

Parents and teachers are in favor of high standards, she said, but do not want to see another failure like No Child Left Behind, the initiative under President George W. Bush.

"So who's to say this is not setting us up for another decade of failure," she said.

Groups opposing the Common Core have sprung up across the country from Arkansas to Utah, and both of the country’s national teachers unions have qualified their initial support. The unions object to how the standards are being put into practice and how teachers are being evaluated against a change in the classroom before they have had time to prepare. Seventy bills have been introduced that would slow or halt the standards’ implementation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

But will the very vocal opposition make much difference in the end?

“If you think about the flurry of activity out there and what folks who have been opposing the standards would argue, that they’ve been making a lot of inroads, I would actually argue not much has changed,” said Jennifer Vranek, a founding partner of the Education First consulting firm and a supporter of the standards. “Forty some states still want their students to graduate from high school ready for college and careers."


In March, Indiana became the first state to formally withdraw from the Common Core and to substitute local standards in its place.

“I believe our students are best served when decisions about education are made at the state and local level,” Republican Gov. Mike Pence said at the time.

Critics say that many of the new standards were taken directly from the Common Core and contend that the state did little more than tweak the results as other states have done.

North and South Carolina and Missouri are reviewing their standards with the aim of writing new local ones, but will continue to follow the Common Core in the meantime.

Only Oklahoma will revert to its earlier standards while it replaces the Common Core, which Republican Gov. Mary Fallon said had been tainted by federal overreach.

"What should have been a bipartisan policy is now widely regarded as the president's plan to establish federal control of curricula, testing and teaching strategies," she said in June.

Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, said that as a result Oklahoma had lowered its standards.

“But they are in the process of rewriting their standards, so that’s a positive, and we’re hopeful that Oklahoma will get to a higher set of standards," he said.


In other states, the battle continues.

Louisiana's Gov. Bobby Jindal is in the middle of a very public dispute with the state’s education officials over whether to keep the standards. Jindal, another Republican who might run for president in 2016, had supported the Common Core when his state adopted it in 2010 but now says he is alarmed by the loss of local control.

In Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker has urged the state legislature to overturn the standards when it returns in January.

Elsewhere a front has opened on the tests being designed to measure students progress in the Common Core. Two testing consortiums, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, formed, but some states have since pulled out or put their participation on hold. Florida for example has selected its own test.

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said that the standards looked good on paper but were not working well in early childhood and special education. The debate should be focused not on whether the federal government was overstepping its bounds but on the Common Core's imperfect implementation. Testing should be not be linked to its implementation

Vranek said she thought the Common Core standards would remain a blueprint for many states even as they get caught up in the 2016 presidential elections.

“Most of the opposition both from the left and the right is highly politically motivated,” she said.

Legislatures in many states will not be in session again until January, and that is when the next round of opposition will bubble up, McGroarty said.

"It really gets back to that dynamic of a governor or a speaker being confronted by a mom, who just takes them to school on the Common Core and why it's bad," he said. "When that happens, I think legislators and governors who are Common Core proponents, when they realize how bad this is, they tend to flip to the other side."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[NYC Council Speaker Tweets About HPV Diagnosis, Urges Annual Check-Ups]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 13:34:22 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/MarkViverito.jpg

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced via Twitter Sunday that she had "high-risk HPV" in an effort to boost awareness about the most commonly sexually transmitted infection in the country and encourage women to have regular gynecological exams.

In a series of tweets, Mark-Viverito divulged that she learned Friday she had the infection, and that she hadn't been to a gynecologist in two years prior to her most recent visit.

"At recent #GYN visit alarmed to find out last one, 2yrs ago. Friday got call re: results. Told have "high risk HPV". #Biopsy needed #ASAP," she tweeted.

"Tuesday I'm there. To say I'm not wee bit worried = lie. "High risk HPV" can POTENTIALLY but NOT definitively lead to cervical #cancer."

Mark-Viverito, 45, tweeted that she is "an extremely private person," but that her position has given her a platform -- and a responsibility to use it.

"Our health should never be compromised," she tweeted. "Annual physicals have to be sacred. Yet our health care system doesn't lend itself to this for many."

Mayor de Blasio called Mark-Viverito's decision to share her experience "brave" and "exemplary."

About 79 million people in the United States have HPV, and another 14 million contract it each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Anyone can get it once they become sexually active, and nearly half of the new infections each year occur among people ages 15 to 24, according to the New York City Health Department.

Most people who get HPV have no symptoms of infection. Each year, about 12,000 women diagnosed with HPV nationwide develop cervical cancer, the most common cancer associated with the infection, and about 4,000 of them die from it.

To learn more about HPV treatment and prevention, including a vaccine, click here.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: McMullan/Sipa USA]]>
<![CDATA[Former Vt. U.S. Sen. Jeffords Dead at 80]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 17:57:40 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/James+Jeffords.jpg

Former Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., died Monday at Knollwood, a military retirement home in Washington, D.C., a former aide said. He was 80.

A navy veteran, Jeffords made a name in politics as a state senator and attorney general before he was elected to seven terms in the U.S. House, once splitting with his fellow Republicans in opposing a President Reagan tax cut plan. Vermonters voted him into the Senate in 1988, where he was a champion for environmental causes.

The moderate, even liberal, Republican shocked Washington in 2001 when he said the GOP had drifted too far to the right for him. He quit the party, became an independent, and caucused with democrats.

“I am confident it is the right decision,” Jeffords said upon making his famous “jump.” “I hope that the people of Vermont will understand it.”

Jeffords announced in 2005 he would not seek re-election the next year, citing declining health.

"I think we have to bring back people like Jim Jeffords, who say running for office is really a form of public service," former Vermont Governor Madeleine Kunin said Monday.

Kunin remembered Jeffords as a good-hearted guy who just wanted to do what he thought was right; not tow some party line. "The comparison is rather painful, where we now have a Congress that prides itself on doing nothing, where in those days, people really went there to get things done and to improve the lives of the public," Kunin said.

"He's going to be very sorely missed," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who was in the U.S. House when Jeffords was in the Senate. "He was a guy who, I think, much preferred to be around Vermonters here in Vermont than among the big shots in Washington. It wasn't who he was."

Tom Vogelmann, the University of Vermont's agriculture and life sciences dean, told New England Cable News he thinks of Jeffords as "one of the giants." The University of Vermont College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is housed in the building that bears Jeffords' name.

"He was a very strong supporter of education, a very strong supporter of environmental legislation, and that's the curriculum that's basically taught in this building," Vogelmann told NECN. "So we have thousands of young people who are training here and that's all adding to his legacy."

Reflections on the life and legacy of Jim Jeffords poured in Monday. Here are several of those:

President Barack Obama:

Michelle and I send our deepest sympathies to the family of Senator James M. Jeffords on his passing. Jim devoted his life to service - as a Naval officer, a local leader in his hometown of Shrewsbury, and eventually as a U.S. Senator representing his beloved Vermont. During his more than 30 years in Washington, Jim never lost the fiercely independent spirit that made Vermonters, and people across America, trust and respect him. Whatever the issue - whether it was protecting the environment, supporting Americans with disabilities, or whether to authorize the war in Iraq - Jim voted his principles, even if it sometimes meant taking a lonely or unpopular stance. Vermonters sent him to Washington to follow his conscience, and he did them proud.

Our prayers are with the Jeffords family, including his son Leonard and daughter Laura. And we're grateful to Jim for his legacy of service to Vermont and the United States of America.

Vice President Joe Biden:

Jim Jeffords was a personal friend, a great senator, and a good man. He was not only beloved by the people of Vermont, but by anyone who ever worked with him. For the nearly four decades I served in the United States Senate, nearly half were spent with Jim as a colleague. Jim knew that with a country as diverse as ours, there is a need for consensus to move the country forward. He was a man who dealt with his colleagues without pretext and with complete honesty. And he always knew what he was talking about—and his colleagues and constituents always knew where he stood on an issue. Jim was a reflection of Vermont—independent and non-ideological and always about solving problems. Jill and I are saddened by his passing and join his family, friends, and his former staff in remembering all that he stood for: basic fairness and principled independence.

Former President Bill Clinton:

Hillary and I are saddened by the passing of our friend Senator Jim Jeffords, who served the people of Vermont and the United States for more than 30 years. Jim was one of our strongest advocates for better health and education, a cleaner environment, and increased opportunities for people with disabilities. I will always be especially grateful for his support of the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Brady Bill, and our 1993 health care reform effort. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and his many friends across the country.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.:

He was a partner in our work for Vermont, and he was a friend. He was a Vermonter through and through, drawn to political life to make a difference for our state and nation. Part of his legacy will also stand as an enduring chapter of the Senate's history.

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt.:

I know I share the view of all Vermonters today in expressing condolences to the family of Senator Jim Jeffords on his passing, and our gratitude to him for his life of service.

While Jim would certainly wave away the notion, he was indeed a legend in Vermont and the nation. With characteristic decency, humility and civility, and a dogged persistence, he made his mark in Congress. Millions of children with disabilities are better off today because he lead the charge for their equal access to education. Americans are breathing cleaner air and drinking cleaner water because of his fierce advocacy for the environment and clean energy. And budding artists across the nation receive the boost of his encouragement every year thanks to his legacy as the founder of the annual Congressional Arts Competition.

And, in 2001, the world saw what his fellow Vermonters already knew: Jim Jeffords, above all, had the courage of his convictions.

Jim and his wife, Liz Daley Jeffords, were mentors to me in my early days in the House of Representatives. I am deeply grateful to them both for their friendship, their support and their contributions to Vermont and our country.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vt.:

I join Vermonters and citizens nationwide today in celebrating the life of Jim Jeffords, a true gentleman and an independent-minded maverick in the best tradition of our state. Jim followed in the footsteps of Senators Bob Stafford and George Aiken, always putting the interests of Vermonters and the nation ahead of partisan politics. He followed his sense of right in all that he did, and was never afraid to seek compromise by reaching across the aisle for the good of our country. Jim’s contribution to Vermont spanned his service in the Vermont House, as Attorney General, and as Vermont’s Representative in the U.S. House, where he developed his passion for high quality public education that forged his policy work on behalf of our kids and continued throughout his career. The passing of Senator Jim Jeffords will be felt throughout Vermont and our country. We need more like Senator Jeffords. My heart goes out to his children and extended family.

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vt.:

The story of Vermont politics cannot be told without Jim Jeffords. He served in the most honorable way a person can serve: Selflessly, and always with the best interests of others at heart. He did what he felt was right, not what he felt would make him popular. Whether it was during his time in the Vermont Senate, or as Attorney General, or in the United States House of Representatives, or in the United States Senate, Jim valued the voices of Vermonters and leaves a legacy we can all learn from: Respect over rhetoric, pragmatism over pandering, and love for Vermonters overall.

In our large, and largely faceless, system of government, he demonstrated the power that one person speaking for their constituents can have. His example of moderation and independence is what I’ve tried to model my own career off of. My sincere condolences go out to Laura, Leonard, and the entire Jeffords family.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[State Treasurer Ends Re-Election Campaign]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 14:53:59 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_000000007861929_1200x675_318465603854.jpg Delaware State Treasurer Chip Flowers announced Friday he is ending his re-election campaign after tirelessly having to defend himself against harassment allegations.]]> <![CDATA[Will Schools Open? Officials Have Answer]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 10:31:22 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/tlmd_school_generic1.jpg

Will Philadelphia public schools open on time and will any teachers be laid off?

Those are the tough questions facing the cash-strapped school district as a major funding deadline approaches. Friday is a vital day for parents and students as school officials are expected to announce if the district will open on time on Sept. 8.

Superintendent William Hite will address the big questions during a press conference Friday morning at the Philadelphia School District headquarters at 10 a.m.

NBC10.com will carry the press conference LIVE on this page

In recent weeks, Hite has said that without millions of dollars more in the bank that he would be forced to begin laying off teachers while pushing back the start of school.

Last week, Gov. Tom Corbett advanced the district $265 million in hopes it would allow for schools to open on time without further cuts. But, as Hite pointed out at the time, a $2-per-pack cigarette tax is needed to close the $81-million gap that remains.

Pennsylvania lawmakers went on summer vacation without approving the city’s tax proposal.

The money mess leaves parents and kids in limbo.

“It’s always frustrating as a parent and as a teacher watching where it just seems to become about numbers all the time and you don’t put our childrens’ faces to the numbers as you cut, cut, cut,” said Philadelphia special-education teacher and school parent Nefertiti White.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

<![CDATA[Pope Francis Talks Philly Visit]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 19:49:24 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/pope+francis+march+20.jpg

The Pope himself said he is likely coming to the City of Brotherly Love.

NBC News correspondent Anne Thompson told the "Today" show Thursday that she spoke to Pope Francis during his recent flight to South Korea.

Thompson said she asked His Holiness in Italian if he would be attending the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next year.

“He said 'yes,' and he mentioned World Family Day,” said Thompson.

The Vatican has yet to officially confirm a papal visit to the United State but all signs point to it being likely that he will visit Philly. In the past months, a group of Philadelphia representatives went to Rome and a contingency from the Vatican visited Philly as the Catholic Church prepares for the event.

Normal policy keeps the Vatican from making anything official at this time, according to the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

"We still expect that any official confirmation will come approximately six months prior to the event and we remain confident that the Holy Father will be present with us," said archdiocesan spokesman Kenneth Gavin. "This confidence is based on Archbishop Chaput’s personal conversations with Pope Francis and previous comments by the Vatican Press Office regarding Pope Francis’ 'willingness to participate in the World Meeting of Families.'"

Pope Francis also has kept his word about travel desires. During a visit to South America he stated that he wanted to go to Asia. He is currently in Korea and has upcoming travel plans to Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

The World Meeting of Families will take place Sept. 22 to 27, 2015.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Florida Ad Tries to Connect Pot With Date Rape]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 08:56:27 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/potdaterapead.jpg

The campaign against medical marijuana in Florida is in high gear as it tries to link easier access to pot to date rape in a new online ad campaign.

The website, "Vote no on 2," claims that if the medical marijuana bill is passed, teenagers will have easier access to pot. A Twitter picture then asks if the new face of date rape will look like a marijuana cookie.

“These are products that are very dangerous,” said Javi Correoso of Vote No on 2. “They are a lot more powerful than smoking a joint and they can lead to various serious situations and circumstances.”

Correoso said that “potentially” includes date rape. But Dr. Jorge Bordenave of Larkin Community Hospital insisted that Correoso is wrong.

"Right now, as we know, you can get pot anywhere, on the corners, kids get pot,” said Dr. Bordenave, who supports legalizing medical marijuana. "There has been no incidents of date rape with the pot they are smoking currently. So what they are saying is trying to scare the people; trying to lie to the people."

Other organizations like United for Care said there are plenty of benefits for patients with cancers, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and other ailments. Dr. Bordenave also pointed out that other legal vices are doing major damage.

“We have more people dying of alcohol, tobacco smoke than marijuana,” Bordenave said. “I did research recently; out of the 25 FDA approved drugs most commonly sold in the United States, in one year there were 10,000 deaths. There were no deaths from marijuana.”

Still, opponents say that the medical marijuana oil recently approved by the legislature is enough and there should be no smoking of marijuana allowed, despite any medical benefits.

“What Amendment 2 is is an amendment that has so many loopholes that it allows for marijuana to be used for non-medical reasons such as pot cookies and pot smoking,” Correoso said.

Voters will have the final say in November when the state constitutional amendment is on the ballot.

Photo Credit: Vote No on 2]]>
<![CDATA[10 Years Later, McGreevey Has No Regrets]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 20:36:37 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/McGreevey1.jpg Cydney Long interviews former New Jersey Governor, Jim McGreevey, ten years after he announced he had an affair and admitted he was a homosexual.

Photo Credit: NBC10.com]]>
<![CDATA[Petition Slams LA Water Slide Event]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 16:19:06 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/slide-the-city-water-slide.jpg

Online petitioners are calling on organizers to halt plans for an upcoming event that would bring a 1,000-foot-long water slide to downtown Los Angeles during one of the worst droughts in state history.

The event, called Slide the City, would set up the vinyl slide on Olive Street from 3rd to 6th streets, using 12,000 to 16,000 gallons of water, according to the company.

An online petition seeking 5,000 signatures was started last week in opposition of the event, calling the water attraction "extremely irresponsible." As of 8 p.m. Monday, more than 2,700 signatures had been collected.

"I love California, and I refuse to see our precious resources be wasted on such a careless thing," said petition creator Karina Soto on her Facebook page.

Slide the City tours the nations setting up the slide in various cities. Company cofounder John Malfatto said that the first event in Salt Lake City was well-received, and he is surprised by the backlash in Los Angeles.

"I wasn't expecting it all," Malfatto said. "I'm a little surprised by it."

Malfatto said that his company intends to respect the local laws and has the option of trucking in the water needed to run the slide.

But some Southern Californians, well aware of the restrictions from the state to conserve water or face steep fines, find the event to be a waste of water and unnecessary.

"This sounds like fun, but not when we are in a drought," a petition signer said. "Perhaps when our state isn't in dire need of water, this would be a grand idea."

The event has yet to be approved by the city and the company is holding off on selling tickets until they are given the green light to go.

"We definitely don't want to cause any problems," Malfatto said. "We just want to put on a fun event."

On its Facebook page, Slide the City posted, "In our effort to preserve water, we recycle water used on the slide throughout the day, treat it with pool chemicals, and dispose of it properly #waterconservation."