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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Pennsylvania’s First Case Of West Nile Virus For 2015 Confirmed

Pennsylvania’s First Case Of West Nile Virus For 2015 Confirmed
 
VENANGO COUNTY, P.A., (CBS) — The first case of West Nile Virus in Pennsylvania for 2015 has been detected. The virus was found in a Venango County woman who was hospitalized and is now recovering at home.

“Detecting the first human case serves as a great reminder for Pennsylvanians to take the proper precautions when they are outside or near areas where mosquitoes are prevalent,” Secretary of Health Karen Murphy said on Thursday.

“There are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones from mosquito-related diseases.”

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Confederate flags left near Rev. Martin Luther King's church

Confederate flags left near Rev. Martin Luther King's church 
 
AP Photo
Confederate flags sit in the back of a police car outside Ebenezer Baptist Church Thursday, July 30, 2015, in Atlanta. U.S. authorities are investigating after several Confederate battle flags were discovered near the church and a civil rights center named after Martin Luther King, an iconic leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement, Thursday morning.
  
ATLANTA (AP) -- Police worked Thursday to identify two white males who were caught on surveillance camera laying Confederate battle flags neatly on the ground near the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s church.

It was the latest provocative act involving the Civil War-era symbol since nine black church members were gunned down during Bible study in South Carolina, and it happened in the heart of an area devoted to the slain civil rights leader, near his birthplace, his crypt and a center devoted to preserving his legacy.

Atlanta police Chief George Turner said his agency was working with federal authorities and they have not determined what charges might be levied. Turner said they have not ruled out a hate crime, though Georgia has no state hate crimes law.

An officer from the Atlanta FBI's joint terrorism task force was on the scene "to better determine if any specific threats were received" and to provide support to Atlanta police, FBI Special Agent Steve Emmett said in an email.

The Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, called placing the flags on church grounds a "terroristic threat."

"This act by a cowardly and misguided individual or individuals is provocative to say the least. It ought to get the attention not only of black people but of freedom-loving people," he said. "To place Confederate flags on the campus of Ebenezer Baptist Church after this horrific act in Charleston, in the wake of all this happening in our country, whatever the message was, it was clearly not about heritage, it was about hate."

King preached at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Auburn Avenue, once a bustling center of commerce for Atlanta's African-American businesses and residents. The area is home to the historic church and a new church building where the congregation now meets and where the flags were placed. Nearby is the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, and all of those buildings are just a short walk from the home of King's grandparents, where he lived for the first 12 years of his life.

Atlanta police Officer Gary Wade said a maintenance worker discovered the flags at 6 a.m. Thursday and notified the National Park Service, which operates the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, which is adjacent to the church.

The flags weren't stuck in the ground but instead laid flat. One was placed near a bell tower under a poster that said: "Black Lives Matter." The slogan, which has been spray-painted on Confederate monuments across the South this summer, has become part of a movement of civil rights supporters who say police treat blacks unfairly.

Two former Georgia prosecutors said it might be tough to prosecute the people responsible.

"It was certainly divisive and not acceptable behavior the way it was done, but I cannot find a criminal act to it," said Bob Keller, the Clayton County district attorney for nearly three decades until 2004.

Ken Hodges, who served as Dougherty County district attorney from 1997 to 2008, said a charge of vandalism to a place of worship might be possible.

Warnock, the church pastor, said black clergy from around the country were gathered at Ebenezer on Thursday to discuss the role of black churches in social justice issues, including mass incarceration. The placing of the flags only strengthens their resolve, he said.

Superintendent Judy Forte of the National Park Service said her office at the King historic site received a threatening phone message the day before the shooting at the South Carolina church. The message was rambling and "very alarming and they did mention coming here to the historic site," she said. There was no indication that was connected to the flags.

At some point within the last two years, a Confederate battle flag was placed at the tomb of King and his wife Coretta across the street from the church, said Forte, who couldn't recall exactly when that happened.

"It was disturbing and sickening, but unfortunately not terribly surprising," Warnock said of the latest incident. "We've seen this kind of ugliness before."

AP Investigation: Olympic teams to swim, boat in Rio's filth

AP Investigation: Olympic teams to swim, boat in Rio's filth 

AP Photo
In this July 14, 2015 photo, beachgoers wade into the waters of Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. An Associated Press analysis of water quality found not one water venue safe for swimming or boating in Rio's waters. Over 10,000 athletes from 205 countries are expected to compete in next year's Summer Olympics. Hundreds of them will be sailing in the waters near Marina da Gloria in Guanabara Bay; swimming off Copacabana Beach; and canoeing and rowing on the brackish waters of the Rodrigo de Freitas Lake.
  
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- Athletes in next year's Summer Olympics here will be swimming and boating in waters so contaminated with human feces that they risk becoming violently ill and unable to compete in the games, an Associated Press investigation has found.

An AP analysis of water quality revealed dangerously high levels of viruses and bacteria from human sewage in Olympic and Paralympic venues - results that alarmed international experts and dismayed competitors training in Rio, some of whom have already fallen ill with fevers, vomiting and diarrhea.

It is the first independent comprehensive testing for both viruses and bacteria at the Olympic sites.

Brazilian officials have assured that the water will be safe for the Olympic athletes and the medical director of the International Olympic Committee said all was on track for providing safe competing venues. But neither the government nor the IOC tests for viruses, relying on bacteria testing only.

Extreme water pollution is common in Brazil, where the majority of sewage is not treated. Raw waste runs through open-air ditches to streams and rivers that feed the Olympic water sites.

As a result, Olympic athletes are almost certain to come into contact with disease-causing viruses that in some tests measured up to 1.7 million times the level of what would be considered hazardous on a Southern California beach.

Despite decades of official pledges to clean up the mess, the stench of raw sewage still greets travelers touching down at Rio's international airport. Prime beaches are deserted because the surf is thick with putrid sludge, and periodic die-offs leave the Olympic lake, Rodrigo de Freitas, littered with rotting fish.

"What you have there is basically raw sewage," said John Griffith, a marine biologist at the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project. Griffith examined the protocols, methodology and results of the AP tests.

"It's all the water from the toilets and the showers and whatever people put down their sinks, all mixed up, and it's going out into the beach waters. Those kinds of things would be shut down immediately if found here," he said, referring to the U.S.

Vera Oliveira, head of water monitoring for Rio's municipal environmental secretariat, said officials are not testing viral levels at the Olympic lake, the water quality of which is the city's responsibility.

The other Olympic water venues are under the control of Rio state's environmental agency.

Leonardo Daemon, coordinator of water quality monitoring for the state's environmental agency, said officials are strictly following Brazilian regulations on water quality, which are all based on bacteria levels, as are those of almost all nations.

"What would be the standard that should be followed for the quantity of virus? Because the presence or absence of virus in the water ... needs to have a standard, a limit," he said. "You don't have a standard for the quantity of virus in relation to human health when it comes to contact with water."

Olympic hopefuls will be diving into Copacabana's surf this Sunday during a triathlon Olympic qualifier event, while rowers take to the lake's water beginning Wednesday for the 2015 World Rowing Junior Championships. Test events for sailing and marathon swimming take place later in August.

More than 10,000 athletes from 205 nations are expected to compete in next year's Olympics. Nearly 1,400 of them will be sailing in the waters near Marina da Gloria in Guanabara Bay, swimming off Copacabana beach, and canoeing and rowing on the brackish waters of the Rodrigo de Freitas Lake.

The AP commissioned four rounds of testing in each of those three Olympic water venues, and also in the surf off Ipanema Beach, which is popular with tourists but where no events will be held. Thirty-seven samples were checked for three types of human adenovirus, as well as rotavirus, enterovirus and fecal coliforms.

The AP viral testing, which will continue in the coming year, found not one water venue safe for swimming or boating, according to global water experts.

Instead, the test results found high counts of active and infectious human adenoviruses, which multiply in the intestinal and respiratory tracts of people. These are viruses that are known to cause respiratory and digestive illnesses, including explosive diarrhea and vomiting, but can also lead to more serious heart, brain and other diseases.

The concentrations of the viruses in all tests were roughly equivalent to that seen in raw sewage - even at one of the least-polluted areas tested, the Copacabana Beach, where marathon and triathlon swimming will take place and where many of the expected 350,000 foreign tourists may take a dip.

"Everybody runs the risk of infection in these polluted waters," said Dr. Carlos Terra, a hepatologist and head of a Rio-based association of doctors specializing in the research and treatment of liver diseases.

Kristina Mena, a U.S. expert in risk assessment for waterborne viruses, examined the AP data and estimated that international athletes at all water venues would have a 99 percent chance of infection if they ingested just three teaspoons of water - though whether a person will fall ill depends on immunity and other factors.

Besides swimmers, athletes in sailing, canoeing and to a lesser degree rowing often get drenched when competing, and breathe in mist as well. Viruses can enter the body through the mouth, eyes, any orifice, or even a small cut.

The Rodrigo de Freitas Lake, which was largely cleaned up in recent years, was thought be safe for rowers and canoers. Yet AP tests found its waters to be among the most polluted for Olympic sites, with results ranging from 14 million adenoviruses per liter on the low end to 1.7 billion per liter at the high end.

By comparison, water quality experts who monitor beaches in Southern California become alarmed if they see viral counts reaching 1,000 per liter.

"If I were going to be in the Olympics," said Griffith, the California water expert, "I would probably go early and get exposed and build up my immunity system to these viruses before I had to compete, because I don't see how they're going to solve this sewage problem."

However, Dr. Richard Budgett, the medical director for the International Olympic Committee, said after seeing the AP findings that the IOC and Brazilian authorities should stick to their program of testing only for bacteria to determine whether the water is safe for athletes.

"We've had reassurances from the World Health Organization and others that there is no significant risk to athlete health," he told the AP on the sidelines of an IOC meeting in Malaysia.

He went on to say that "there will be people pushing for all sorts of other tests, but we follow the expert advice and official advice on how to monitor water effectively."

Many water and health experts in the U.S. and Europe are pushing regulatory agencies to include viral testing in determining water quality because the majority of illnesses from recreational water activities are related to viruses, not bacteria.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Backpack Challenge Kicks Off In Effort To Provide School Supplies For Foster Children

Backpack Challenge Kicks Off In Effort To Provide School Supplies For Foster Children

Jennifer Hill speaking at event in Dilworth Park. (credit: Mike Dougherty/KYW)
Jennifer Hill speaking at event in Dilworth Park.

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia Department of Human Services is teaming with a few businesses to help get foster children the supplies they need to start the school year. This year, the Backpack Challenge has also expanded to other cities.

The goal is to fill more than 5,000 backpacks with supplies. DHS Commissioner Vanessa Garrett Harley also wants to raise $25,000 which would help buy laptops for college bound teens. She says it’s easy for anyone to help out.

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Rep. Chaka Fattah Indicted On Multiple Charges

Rep. Chaka Fattah Indicted On Multiple Charges
 
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Congressman Chaka Fattah was named in an indictment filed today, along with four other people: two businessmen and two members of his staff.

They are charged with multiple counts of conspiracy, racketeering, bribery, and other charges.

“Congressman Fattah and his associates conspired to use his office to further personal and political aspirations and personally enrich themselves at the expense of the very people they serve,” said Ed Hanko, special agent in charge of the Philadelphia office, at a news conference to announced the charges.

Fattah maintains his innocence, in a statement released by email:

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Ohio cop indicted on murder charge in traffic-stop shooting

Ohio cop indicted on murder charge in traffic-stop shooting 
 
AP Photo
This booking photograph released Wednesday, July 29, 2015, by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office shows University of Cincinnati police Officer Ray Tensing, who turned himself in Wednesday afternoon to face murder and manslaughter charges in the traffic stop shooting death of motorist Samuel DuBose in Cincinnati earlier this month.

CINCINNATI (AP) -- A University of Cincinnati officer who shot a motorist during a traffic stop over a missing front license plate was indicted Wednesday on a murder charge, with a prosecutor saying the officer "purposely killed him" and "should never have been a police officer."

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced the grand jury indictment at a news conference to discuss developments in the investigation into the July 19 shooting of 43-year-old motorist Samuel DuBose by Officer Ray Tensing.

Authorities have said Tensing spotted a car driven by DuBose and missing the front license plate, which is required by Ohio law. They say Tensing stopped the car and a struggle ensued after DuBose refused to provide a driver's license and get out of the car.

Tensing, 25, has said he was dragged by the car and forced to shoot at DuBose. He fired once, striking DuBose in the head.

But Deters dismissed Tensing's claim that he was dragged by the car and suggested that he shouldn't have pulled DuBose over to begin with.

"He fell backward after he shot (DuBose) in the head," Deters said, adding that it was a "chicken crap" traffic stop.

On footage released from the body-camera video Wednesday, the officer could be heard asking for DuBose's driver's license several times with DuBose at one point saying he had one. Later, DuBose said, "But I don't think I have it on me."

Tensing asks DuBose to unbuckle his seat belt. About that time Tensing pulls on the door handle, and DuBose puts his hand on the door to keep it closed. Then the video becomes shaky, but a gunshot can be heard and DuBose appears to be slumped in the seat before the car rolls away, coming to stop at a nearby corner.

The University of Cincinnati said it fired Tensing after his indictment. Tensing turned himself in Wednesday afternoon at the Hamilton County Justice Center and was processed on charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter.

Tensing's attorney, Stewart Mathews, didn't return phone messages seeking comment after the indictment announcement.

Mathews said earlier Wednesday that he thought an indictment was likely "given the political climate" and comments made by city officials. But Mathews said given the evidence he's seen, he doesn't believe there should be an indictment.

DuBose's death comes amid months of national scrutiny of police dealings with African-Americans, especially those killed by officers. DuBose was black. Tensing is white. Authorities haven't indicated whether race was a part of the investigation.

Body-camera video of the shooting was also released Wednesday. DuBose's family had been pressing for its release, and news organizations including The Associated Press had sued Deters to get it released under Ohio open records law, but Deters released it before any ruling had been made.

Deters called the shooting "senseless" and "asinine."

"He purposely killed him," Deters said. "He should never have been a police officer."

The prosecutor also said he thought it was time to reconsider the UC police department's role.

"I don't think a university should be in the policing business," Deters said.

A message for comment was left Wednesday with the police department. The university said earlier this week it plans an independent review of its police department's policies.

The UC officer made the traffic stop near the university's main campus, and UC police have said the intersection was within the campus police's jurisdiction.

The University of Cincinnati on Wednesday closed its main campus in anticipation of grand jury action in the case.

Mark O'Mara, attorney for DuBose's family, called for a "peaceful and nonaggressive" response from the community after the officer's indictment. O'Mara said the family wanted a peaceful reaction because "Sam was a peaceful person."

Tensing has more than five years of experience in law enforcement and has worked as a University of Cincinnati police officer since April 2014, said Jason Goodrich, UC police chief. His annual performance review this April noted that he was extremely strong in the traffic area and maintains control of his weapons and of "situations he is involved in."

Tensing formerly worked as an officer in the small Cincinnati suburban village of Greenhills.

Deters said when he saw the video of the shooting, he was shocked.

"I feel so sorry for this family and what they lost," Deters said. "And I feel sorry for the community, too."

If convicted, Tensing could face up to life in prison.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Joel Perlish: Miles Riding From Havertown, PA To...

 Joel Perlish: Day 1 and Day 2 Miles Riding From Havertown, PA To...

JUNE 30, 2015 - TUESDAY - Day 1
   Miles Today- 260miles   25830->26090   Total Miles- 260miles
   Began in  HAVERTOWN,PA (12pm)
   Ended in  DONEGAL,PA   (5pm) - 5hrs
      STAYED: Holiday Inn Express Donegal

  - - CLOUDY GALORE --
The housing developments soon melted into into farmland and grain silos rising…. And then, further down the turnpike the landscape transitioned into mountains of forests piercing into the blue sky and clouds.

At 83 miles gassed up and ate the first part of a cheese hoagie I had brought along…  I put my earplug in here at one- and-a-half miles into the ride, and wish i had done so sooner. It makes a difference not hearing those huge semi’s blasting by….   
Most all day the wind buffeting was amazingly strong. Had to concentrate pretty heavy especially when passing - or being passed - by the gargantuan trucks.

Rode through heavy rain for about 15 minutes and had to keep cleaning visor and glasses from the drops of the pelting water…  When I could see there were dark clouds all around me… but ahead was clear and soon rode out onto dry pavement and sunshine.

Stopped at 1:15pm at the PA Turnpike’s Midway rest stop.  Went in this time and sat a bit - got a fruit/veggie drink and a little bag of chips. Thought the chips had no sugar but noted that in tiny tiny print it did. Darn, but okay…  Called back home and caught up on emails on my iPhone.

At 5pm, after exactly 5 hours of riding, I checked into a Holiday Inn Express.  The clouds were menacing, and shortly after arriving the storm hit with a vengeance!!!

JULY 1,2015 - WEDNESDAY -Day 2
   Miles Today-  249  26090-> 26339  Total Miles- 509
   Began in  Donegal, PA 
   Ended in  London, OH
      STAYED: Holiday Inn Express
------>> A BRUSH WITH THE LAW <<---- div="">
Good that I left a day early, the sky was darkly overcast this morning and there was a slight bit of drizzle. But since I can do less miles a day, I have the great luxury of taking my time in leaving.
On my 8:30am walk along the highway the wind was strong against me, and one blast blew my red Cardinal hat right off - unfortunately right into a badly placed puddle beside the road….  I shook off the excess muddy water and continued down the hill.
The riding day was rugged… Huge blasting buffeting wind from all directions but especially into my face.  No sitting back in the seat left arm on my hip and watching the passing scenery. Nope, not today. It was all business gripping the handlebars firmly scanning the highway ever more so carefully for holes to avoid and monster trucks to be wary of, and ready for.  My head bobbled all day from the jarring wind, and once my face shield almost blew right off the helmet. I had to pull over and try to attach it best I could on the shoulder of the highway.
Morning was overcast, but gradually that gave way to high clouds and sunshine. It was cool riding in the morning and I wished I had put my thin yellow jacket on… And then in the afternoon it got somewhat warmish, and I was SORRY I had put it on at lunchtime.
But this day will be remembered by the backup through Columbus… and my brush with the law. 
Approached I-70 through Columbus, Ohio, and there was a sign mentioning that the Interstate was closed ahead, and it gave an appropriate detour. My experience with such signs is that they are invariably wrong… 
That they are out of date. That they are not to believed - especially on big highways, and especially when all the town folks - those who should be in the know - are ignoring the detour sign by the hundreds… 
This time, however, everyone was wrong!!!  And we, by the 1000’s, found ourselves bottlenecked in a traffic jam that was miles and miles long through out all of the Columbus area.  Now that may be fine if you’re sitting in an air-conditioned car with pretty music from your car radio. But when it’s 90ish degrees out on the slab and you're in your motorcycle armor duck-waddling along and trying to guide your 1000-lb.+ motorcycle machine some 5 inches every ten minutes, it’s just not a picnic. My left hand squeezing the clutch lever took an especially big beating. (I was glad they had put in a new clutch during the bike’s recent service call because I “rode” that clutch practically through all of Columbus, Ohio!)   And that was in whatever lane of the 4-5 lane highway I happened to be sitting in....
I endured this for about an hour or so, and never did see the end of the line. Finally someone shouted over to me to take I-470 north just ahead and that there was an exit that would bring me to the other side of whatever the I-70 disaster was ahead on that road.  As I was tiptoeing in that direction I rolled over to a construction worker and verified what I should do…. Now I had oh-so-resisted skirted down the emergency lane or splitting the lanes (as motorcyclists call it when one darts down between lanes - legal only in California I think)…   Well there was a side lane as I left the construction worker, and I asked him with a wink if he’d arrest me if I took it, and he said with a smile, “Well, I’m a construction worker and not a policeman!”  So I skirted ahead of about 50 cars - big deal! a little motorcycle! And felt pretty darn proud of myself… and THEN, I heard the police siren, and saw the burly officer pointing over to me.  GULP!
I dutifully pulled over and immediately asked him if i was going the right way, but he said that I shouldn’t be on the berm, and could he please see my license?  I sputtered that I was hot, my bike was burning up, that I had to go to the bathroom, and that I’d been around the continent twice on that bike and this was the first time I had been pulled over.  Then I moved my hand in the way that Obi-Wan Kanobi does when HE’S stopped for a ticket, and the officer then said, “Well make sure you don’t do it again, and I’ll just let you off with a warning.”  I asked him what this jam was all about and seems that some chemical truck exploded on the bridges ahead earlier in the morning. The fireball took down both bridges!!!  I commiserated with the officer, then took off being VERY careful to stay away from that berm.
(Reminded me of the time in 1980 when I was on my bicycle on the Interstate through Missouri (on my Coast-to-Coast trip) when the officer pulled behind and motioned me over. We had a little chat in his front seat about bicycles not being allowed on the Interstate, and I mention how much flatter it was on the big road, and how I was writing a book about my pursuits.  At the mention of writing a book, the officer put down his pad, gave me a warning, and escorted me to the next exit!!!!)
So I followed the directions given and that led to another jam up - and when I finally made the turn I was told to make, it seemed to lead right back where I had been before.  But it didn’t.  It joined I-70 beyond the no-bridge point, and from there is was smooth sailing…. I took a rest break shortly after getting on the highway, and then raced the 50 more miles I wanted to get in this day.  The day took two extra hours than it should have. But I got to a Holiday Inn Express, raced to the counter with my helmet and front bag, asked the front counter toothless women if they had a room for me, she said they did and began to tell me the pricing. I blurted out that it didn’t matter, and that I was caught in that traffic tie-up, and where’s the bathroom?  I need it…..  And got there barely in time….
After cleansing shower, I typed as long as my tired eyes and body could keep going.

Chester County Shopping Center Getting Major Makeover

Chester County Shopping Center Getting Major Makeover
  
(credit: Justin Udo/ KYW Newsradio)

WAYNE, Pa. (CBS) — A Chester County shopping center is getting an $85 million makeover.

Developer Robert Whalen Jr. says when Genuardi’s grocery store closed its doors at the Chesterbrook Shopping Center four years ago, the area started to rapidly decay. But he says he was not going to idly stand by and let that happen.

“We’re recreating a dilapidated shopping center into something new and beautiful.”

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Boy who lost hands to infection gets double-hand transplant

Boy who lost hands to infection gets double-hand transplant 
 
AP Photo
Double-hand transplant recipient eight-year-old Zion Harvey smiles during a news conference Tuesday, July 28, 2015, at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in Philadelphia. Surgeons said Harvey of Baltimore who lost his limbs to a serious infection, has become the youngest patient to receive a double-hand transplant.
  
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- An 8-year-old boy who lost his hands and feet to a serious infection has become the youngest patient to receive a double-hand transplant, surgeons said Tuesday.

Zion Harvey's forearms were heavily bandaged but his hands were visible as he flashed some big smiles Tuesday at a hospital news conference. He demonstrated his still-delicate grip and described waking up with new hands as "weird at first, but then good."

The boy, from the Baltimore suburb of Owings Mills, Maryland, received the transplant earlier this month at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, though doctors did not publicly disclose the nearly 11-hour operation until this week.

A 40-person medical team used steel plates and screws to attach the old and new bones. Surgeons then painstakingly reconnected Zion's arteries, veins, muscles, tendons and nerves.

"He woke up smiling," said Dr. L. Scott Levin, who heads the hand transplant program. "There hasn't been one whimper, one tear, one complaint."

Zion, a bright and precocious child Levin described as having "a maturity that is way beyond his 8 years," contracted sepsis as a toddler. The resulting multiple organ failure forced the amputation of his hands and feet; by age 4, he needed a kidney transplant, receiving the organ from his mother.

Leg prosthetics have allowed Zion to be very active, including walking, running and jumping. He learned to use his forearms to write, eat and play video games and has been attending school. Physicians hope he'll now be able to achieve more milestones, including his goals of throwing a football and playing on the monkey bars.

"It was no more of a risk than a kidney transplant," his mother, Pattie Ray, said. "So I felt like I was willing to take that risk for him, if he wanted it - to be able to play monkey bars and football."

Several adults in the U.S. have received double-hand or double-arm transplants in the past few years. Hospital officials in Philadelphia believe Zion is the youngest person to have the surgery, which requires a lifetime of immune-suppressing drugs to ensure the body doesn't reject the new hands.

Zion already had been taking anti-rejection drugs because of his donated kidney, which made him a good 
candidate for the hand transplant, doctors said.

Doctors say Zion will spend several weeks in physical rehab at the hospital before returning home. Two rows of relatives attended the news conference, and they stood to be recognized at Zion's request.
"I want to say to you guys, thank you for helping me through this bumpy road," he said.

The donor's family chose to remain anonymous.
Children's Hospital said it would not hold Zion's family liable for any costs beyond that which may be covered by medical insurance.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

This Year’s Fringe Arts Festival Schedule Released

This Year’s Fringe Arts Festival Schedule Released

Fringe festival producing artistic director Nick Stuccio at the Fringe Arts building giving a preview of this year's curated works. (Credit: Hadas Kuznits)
Fringe festival producing artistic director Nick Stuccio at the Fringe
Arts building giving a preview of this year’s curated works.
 
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A lineup of this year’s Fringe Arts Festival in Philadelphia has been released.

The Philadelphia Fringe Arts Festival takes place throughout the city September 3rd through the 19th.

Producing artistic director Nick Stuccio says they’ve curated an eclectic range of performances that address a variety of social issues.

Stuccio singles out a dance piece called “Still Standing You.”

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Monday, July 20, 2015

Philadelphia Police Arrest 68 People In Kensington Drug Sting

Philadelphia Police Arrest 68 People In Kensington Drug Sting

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia police say a two-day Kensington drug sting has netted 68 arrests.
Undercover officers from the Narcotics Strike Force worked the streets near Front and Somerset in Kensington last Thursday and Friday night. The drug sting was organized after complaints from residents and City Council members were filed about open-air drug dealing.

68 people were arrested: 19 dealers and 49 buyers, 15 of whom are from the suburbs.
Strike Force Captain Lee Strollo hopes this will be a lesson for others.

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Lawyers may try to use Bill Cosby's own words against him

Lawyers may try to use Bill Cosby's own words against him 

AP Photo
FILE- In this Nov. 6, 2014, file photo, entertainer Bill Cosby pauses during a news conference about the upcoming exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art in Washington. Cosby detailed his efforts to keep his exploits from his wife in a transcript of a 2005-06 deposition taken in Philadelphia. It is the only publicly available testimony he has given in response to accusations he drugged and sexually assaulted dozens of women over four decades. Cosby has denied the allegations, calling the sexual contact consensual.
  
Bill Cosby's lurid, decade-old testimony about his philandering could do more than damage what's left of his fatherly image - it could very well be used against him in court by some of the women who accuse him of sexual assault.

Rocco Cipparone, a defense lawyer in New Jersey who is not connected to any of the legal action surrounding Cosby, said Monday that what the comedian said under oath could wind up hurting him in civil or criminal cases if judges can be persuaded to rule the testimony admissible.

For Cosby to avoid being damaged by his own words, Cipparone said, "you'd have to navigate a virtual minefield."

Dozens of women have accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them over four decades, though few of the accusations have begun to play out in court, largely because the statute of limitations for criminal charges has run out in most instances.

Authorities have said one accusation is under criminal investigation in California, and three others are part of a defamation lawsuit against Cosby in Massachusetts by women who say they were slandered by his representatives.

Cosby has denied committing any crimes.

Earlier this month, a judge sided with The Associated Press and released small excerpts from a deposition Cosby gave in Philadelphia in 2005-06 as part of a sexual-assault lawsuit against him that was later settled on confidential terms.

Over the weekend, The New York Times published a more detailed account of Cosby's testimony after obtaining all 1,000 or so pages of his deposition via a court reporting service. The AP then secured the same material.

Cosby recounted some of his womanizing in sexually explicit detail and said he gave women quaaludes in order to have sex with them. He denied giving the powerful sedatives to women without their knowledge.

He specifically said that was the case back in the 1970s with Therese Serignese, one of the women now suing him in Massachusetts. A judge is weighing a request from Cosby to dismiss the case.

"I think it's a treasure trove of admissions by Mr. Cosby that self-destructs his public moralist soapbox," said Joseph Cammarata, the lawyer for Serignese and the two other plaintiffs.

Cammarata said that he expects to use Cosby's deposition in his clients' case if it goes to trial - and that it's strong evidence. "It's the equivalent of testifying in court," he said.

Celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, who represents several woman who say Cosby assaulted them, said the testimony "demonstrates how deceptive, manipulative and disgusting that he was."

"It is no wonder that he fought to keep this deposition, which reveals his revolting predatory conduct, hidden from public view," she said, "but the truth is out now, and it will never be hidden again."

Cipparone said the women who are mentioned specifically in Cosby's testimony could use his words if they sue.

And even those not mentioned might be able to find ways to use his testimony to demonstrate that he has shown a pattern of behavior, especially if he opens the door by saying something now that contradicts his previous statements under oath.

Cosby's lawyer, Patrick O'Connor, told The Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday that the publication of information from the transcripts is not fair to his client.

"How that deposition became public without being court-sanctioned is something we are going to pursue and deal with very vigorously," he said. "It's an outrage that the court processes weren't followed here."


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Thousands Pedal From Philly To Atlantic City For Annual Tour de Shore

Thousands Pedal From Philly To Atlantic City For Annual Tour de Shore

(credit: Tim Jimenez)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The excessive heat and humidity did not stop thousands of cyclists from biking their way from Philadelphia to Atlantic City for an annual ride benefiting children in need and families of fallen first responders.

The 28th annual Tour de Shore raised $820-thousand for the nonprofit Irish Pub Children’s Foundation.

“This money goes back to the community,” says organization president, Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Joe Sullivan, “and it does incredible work.”

Sullivan says participants of the 65-mile bike ride are fueled by the comradery.

 For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Federal Agency Rules LGBT Workplace Discrimination Is Illegal

Federal Agency Rules LGBT Workplace Discrimination Is Illegal

(credit: MICHAL CIZEK/Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Neither federal law nor what’s on the books in more than half the states — including Pennsylvania — includes specific protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers. But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has decided the “sex” part of the employment discrimination ban based on “race, color, religion, sex, and national origin” in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers it.

But the issue isn’t settled. The move, announced without fanfare this past week by the EEOC, is persuasive but not binding on federal courts.

“The Third Circuit Court of Appeals back in 2001 ruled that sexual orientation is not covered under this federal anti-discrimination statute,” explains Eric Meyer, law partner with Dilworth Paxon’s labor and employment practice in Philadelphia. “So this EEOC decision does nothing to change that. But it may be persuasive to encourage the Third Circuit going forward to change their mind.”

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Friday, July 17, 2015

An Inner City Camp With Its Sights Set On Outer Space

An Inner City Camp With Its Sights Set On Outer Space


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Today’s middle schoolers may become the generation of engineers that puts a man on Mars, and so a science camp at Temple University, today, challenged its students to try to build a Mars lander.

Remember that scene in ‘Apollo 13′ where scientists have to save the astronauts with duct tape and cardboard?

Camper Ishani says the Mars Lander challenge was sort of like that.
“We used bubble wrap for the parachute, pipe-cleaners to hold the bubble-wrap up, card stock as a base,” said Ishani.

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Diversity Career Fair Held Alongside NAACP Convention

Diversity Career Fair Held Alongside NAACP Convention

Diversity Career Fair held in conjunction with the NAACP Convention. (Credit: Pat Loeb)
Diversity Career Fair held in conjunction with the NAACP Convention.
 
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — One of the biggest fundraisers for the NAACP is the Diversity Career Fair held in conjunction with the national convention.

This year’s edition, at Philadelphia’s Convention Center, featured more than 70 employers, including some that attendees might not have expected.

Hundreds of job-seekers were waiting when the doors opened at noon, some veterans of the process.

For full story go to:   http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Obama calls for shorter sentences for nonviolent convicts

Obama calls for shorter sentences for nonviolent convicts 
 
AP Photo
President Barack Obama speaks at the NAACP's 106th national convention at the Philadelphia Convention Center, on Tuesday, July 14, 2015, in Philadelphia.
   
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Calling it an issue America can't afford to ignore, President Barack Obama laid out an expansive vision Thursday for fixing the criminal justice system by focusing on communities, courtrooms and cellblocks. He announced a federal review of the use of solitary confinement and urged 
Congress to pass a sentencing reform bill by year's end.

In a speech to the NAACP's annual convention, Obama also called for voting rights to be restored to felons who have served their sentences, and said employers should "ban the box" asking job candidates about their past convictions. He said long mandatory minimum sentences now in place should be reduced - or discarded entirely.

"In far too many cases, the punishment simply doesn't fit the crime," Obama told a crowd of 3,300 in Philadelphia. Low-level drug dealers, for example, owe a debt to society, but not a life sentence or 20-year prison term, he said.

With his speech to the prominent African-American advocacy group, Obama sought to put a spotlight on the need for new legislation as he mounted a weeklong push on criminal justice reform. A day earlier, Obama commuted the sentences of 46 nonviolent drug offenders - the most commutations a president has issued on a single day in at least four decades.

Upon arriving Tuesday in Philadelphia, Obama met with a number of former prisoners to discuss their experience re-entering society, the White House said. And on Thursday, Obama planned to put a personal face on the nation's mushrooming prison population with a visit El Reno Federal Correctional Institution outside of Oklahoma City - the first visit to a federal prison by a sitting U.S. president.

The assertive moves reflected a president eager to wield his executive power during his waning years in office to reduce harsh sentences, cut costs and correct disparities he said have disproportionally burdened minorities. Earlier in his presidency, as he spent his political capital carefully on major domestic priorities, Obama spoke cautiously and only intermittently about the need for smarter sentencing and other justice changes.

But as of late, public attention has been piqued by a serious of upsetting incidents across the country. In places like Baltimore, New York and Ferguson, Missouri, tensions between law enforcement and their communities have spilled out into the open, underscoring longstanding concerns among minority communities that they're treated differently in the criminal justice system.

Obama pointedly acknowledged that many people in the U.S. need to be in prison - "murderers, predators, rapists, gang leaders" - yet he said that in too many instances, law enforcement is treating young black and Latino men differently than their white peers.

"This is not just anecdotal. This is not just barbershop talk," he said.

The White House said Obama wouldn't hesitate to commute more sentences in the coming months if the circumstances were right. Yet Obama's ability to address the problem unilaterally is limited, as the White House readily concedes. So Obama has set his sights on the kind of comprehensive fix that only Congress can provide.

"The statistics cannot be ignored. We cannot close our eyes anymore," Obama said.

Working in Obama's favor: tentative but optimistic signs of common ground between Republicans and Democrats.

Republicans in particular have spoken with growing enthusiasm about the need for structural change. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has been working on legislation that could reduce some mandatory minimums. Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island are backing a bill that would steer lower-risk inmates into programs where they could earn earlier release by participating in recidivism-reduction programs.

In another positive sign for the prospects of justice reform, a number of 2016 presidential candidates have taken an active interest in the issue. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has mounted a vocal push to restore voting rights to nonviolent felons who have served their terms and to make it easier for people with criminal records to get jobs. Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., planned to give a speech Thursday in the troubled city of Camden focusing on nonviolent drug offenders.

But not all Republicans were receptive to Obama's pitch. A group of 19 Republicans, led by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, wrote a letter Tuesday to Attorney General Loretta Lynch accusing Obama of blatantly usurping congressional authority and using his pardon power for political purposes.

Since Congress enacted mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes, the federal prison population has multiplied, from just 24,000 in the 1980s to more than 214,000, according to Families Against Mandatory Minimums. In 2010, Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, cutting penalties for crack cocaine offenses. And last year, the independent Sentencing Commission reduced guideline ranges for drug crimes and applied those retroactively.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Archbishop Chaput: School That Fired Teacher In Same Sex Marriage Showed ‘Character’

Archbishop Chaput:  School That Fired Teacher In Same Sex Marriage Showed 'Character'


(credit: CBS3)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia’s archbishop says that Catholic school leaders who fired a married gay teacher showed uncommon “character and common sense.”

Archbishop Charles Chaput says the Sisters of Mercy and board members who run Waldron Mercy Academy are simply being “honest” about the church’s teaching.

The church opposes gay marriage, although Pope Francis has said of homosexuals: “Who am I to judge?”

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/




NAACP Leaders Focus On The Future On Day Three Of Convention

NAACP Leaders Focus On The Future On Day Three Of Convention
  
NAACP President Cornell Brooks addresses attendees on day three of the NAACP Convention. (credit: Cherri Gregg/KYW)
NAACP President Cornell Brooks addresses attendees on day three
of the NAACP Convention.
 
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The NAACP convention is well underway at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The organization’s leaders have laid out the road map for the future throughout the gathering.

“There are many who are wondering whether we are up to the task,” said NAACP President Cornell Brooks.

Brooks offered the keynote speech for day three’s opening plenary session. He spoke about the murder of nine people in Charleston, the killing of Black men like Walter Scott, Michael Brown and others by police, and the gutting of the voting rights act.

Brooks characterized them all as reasons to hit the streets to prove Black Lives Matter.

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Obama commutes sentences for 46; presses for justice changes

Obama commutes sentences for 46; presses for justice changes 
 
AP Photo
President Barack Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 13, 2015. President Barack Obama is cutting the prison sentences of 46 convicts as part of a broader effort to make the criminal justice fairer and ease the punishment of those serving more time than their crimes warranted.
  
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Calling America "a nation of second chances," President Barack Obama cut the prison sentences of 46 non-violent drug offenders on Monday in what the White House hopes will be just one prong of a broader push to make the criminal justice system fairer while saving the government money.

Fourteen of those whose sentences were commuted had been sentenced to life in prison and the vast majority to at least 20 years, the president said in a video released by the White House, adding that "their punishments didn't fit the crime."

"These men and women were not hardened criminals," he said, promising to lay out more ideas on criminal justice changes during a speech to the NAACP on Tuesday in Philadelphia.

Since Congress enacted mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes in the 1980s, the federal prison population has grown from 24,000 to more than 214,000, according to Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a group seeking sentencing changes.

And the costs, said Obama, are over $80 billion a year to incarcerate people who often "have only been engaged in nonviolent drug offenses."

While Obama has spoken off and on during his presidency about the need for smarter sentencing and other justice reforms, prospects for significant structural change have improved recently with growing interest among Republicans in Congress.

"Congress simply can't act fast enough," said Julie Stewart, president and founder of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. She said that while Obama's executive actions have picked off some of the most egregious sentencing inequities, significant legislative action is needed to stop the flow of people "going to prison year in and year out, serving too much time."

Republican support in any such effort is critical, Stewart said, likening it to a Nixon-goes-to-China moment.

"Nobody's going to question a Republican's credibility on being tough on crime," she said.

Obama has issued 89 commutations during his presidency, most of them to non-violent offenders sentenced for drug crimes under now-outdated sentencing guidelines. A commutation leaves the conviction in place, but reduces the punishment. The sentences of those who received commutations on Monday will expire on Nov. 10, 2015.

Obama wrote a personal letter to each of those whose sentence was commuted.

In a letter to Jerry Bailey, sentenced to 30 years for conspiracy to violate laws against crack-cocaine, Obama praised Bailey for showing the potential to turn his life around.

"Now it is up to you to make the most of this opportunity," Obama wrote. "It will not be easy, and you will confront many who doubt people with criminal records can change."

Obama announced the commutations in a video produced and posted online by the White House, preventing journalists from being able to question him about the move. The White House and political candidates frequently use the same technique, with some presidential hopefuls even announcing their candidacy via scripted videos.

The 46 sentence reductions are the most presidential commutations in a single day since at least the administration of President Lyndon Johnson, according to the White House. Overall, Obama has commuted sentences of 89 people, surpassing the combined number of commutations granted by Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

White House counsel Neil Eggleston predicted the president would issue even more commutations before leaving office, but added that "clemency alone will not fix decades of overly punitive sentencing policies."

The president this week is devoting considerable attention to criminal justice. In addition to his speech Tuesday in Philadelphia, he is to become the first sitting president to visit a federal prison when he goes to the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution outside of Oklahoma City on Thursday. He'll meet with both law enforcement officials and inmates.

In recent years, long drug sentences have come under increasing scrutiny and downward trends already are taking shape.

The Supreme Court has made sentencing guideline ranges advisory rather than mandatory. Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010 to cut penalties for crack cocaine offenses. And last year, the independent Sentencing Commission, which sets sentencing policy, reduced guideline ranges for drug crimes and applied those retroactively.

Advocates for fair sentences expressed hope the president's actions would have a ripple effect in the states.

"I hope this sends a message to governors of states that have the power to grant clemencies to those who deserve a chance to be reunited with their families," said Anthony Papa of the Drug Policy Alliance. Papa was granted clemency in New York in 1997 after serving 12 years under state drug laws.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Local Student Leaders Travel To Nation’s Capital For Leadership Conference

Local Student Leaders Travel To Nation’s Capital For Leadership Conference

(Photo Credit: KYW's Molly Daly) 
  
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — 5 Philadelphia-area teenagers set-off Sunday morning for a week long Student Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., part of an 8-week program that aims to connect young people with the education and training they need to succeed.

Market Manager Deborah O’Brien says the local Bank of America Student Leaders will join 245 others from around the country at the summit, which promises to be action-packed.

“Everything from leadership training programs, great speakers, tours of Capitol Hill, of course, the tourist attractions,” O’Brien says. “It’s chock full of a lot of hard work, and we’re excited to see them off today.”

For full story go to:   http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

‘The Dog Days Of Summer’ Hits Chestnut Hill

‘The Dog Days Of Summer’ Hits Chestnut Hill

(Photo Credit: Kristen Johanson)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s mid-July, which means we are officially in Dog Days of Summer, which is something a local Philadelphia neighborhood is taking advantage of.

Dogs brought their people to the 2nd annual ‘Dog Days of Summer Event’ on Germantown Avenue. Kate O’Neill is with the Business District.

“This is a great event for Chestnut Hill because Chestnut Hill is a dog friendly neighborhood,” O’Neill says.
Among the vendors, ‘The Finding Shelter Animal Rescue’, where Kelly works was proudly represented in Germantown.

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Mayor Nutter Upbeat on ‘World Heritage City’ Designation For Philadelphia

Mayor Nutter Upbeat on ‘World Heritage City’ Designation For Philadelphia

(Independence Hall is already a World Heritage site.  There are no World Heritage Cities yet in the US.  File photo by Syma Chowdhry)
Independence Hall is already a World Heritage site. There are no
World Heritage Cities yet in the US.

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia is on track to become the first place in the United States to achieve “World Heritage City” status.

There are more than 230 World Heritage cities around the globe, but none so far in the US.
Philadelphia, though, has the special status of “observer member,” and applied, more than a year ago, to become a full member of the group.

And, on a recent trip to Mexico, Mayor Nutter did some lobbying to get the city designated as such.

For full story go to:   http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Philadelphia Mural That Includes Bill Cosby Faces Removal

Philadelphia Mural That Includes Bill Cosby Faces Removal
 
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In light of the recently revealed court documents regarding Bill Cosby, the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program has decided to remove a mural the includes the once-cherished star.

The mural has been part of North Philadelphia for the past 15 years and includes other African American leaders including Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. But the mural has been deteriorating and spokesperson with the Mural Arts Program, Cari Feiler Bender says it was already on the list to be removed.

For full story go to:   http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Country music acts quietly abandon Confederate flag

Country music acts quietly abandon Confederate flag 

AP Photo
FILE - In this Nov. 2, 2009 file photo, John Rich of the musical group, Big & Rich, performs at a rally for 23rd Congressional District candidate, Doug Hoffman, in Watertown, N.Y. Mainstream country music has been quietly distancing itself from the Confederate flag for years, but as the debate reignites following a massacre at a black church in South Carolina on June 17, country artists still struggle to articulate their feelings about the flag’s history and symbolism. Rich told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he agreed with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s call to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The Confederate flag was once a familiar symbol in country music, representing the rural South and the renegade spirit of artists such as David Allan Coe and Hank Williams Jr.

But the rebel banner that will be removed Friday from the grounds of the South Carolina Capitol has faded from stage and song, with many country artists quietly distancing themselves from the emblem that used to feature prominently in merchandise, lyrics and concerts.

"You won't find it being used by young country acts today, partly because it doesn't mean the same thing to them," said Robert K. Oermann, author and columnist for MusicRow magazine. "Partly because some of them aren't Southern and partly because if you want to appeal to a national audience, why would you do that?"

Many artists have adopted the American flag instead.

Only a small number of country artists have been willing to speak on the issue in the weeks since nine black churchgoers were fatally shot at a Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina.

Charlie Daniels wrote a long column on his website addressing the most recent controversy over the flag, which he called "a sign of defiance, a sign of pride, a declaration of a geographical area that you were proud to be from."

"That's all it is to me and all it ever has been to me," Daniels wrote, explaining that he opposes racism and believes that every person deserves the same rights and advantages regardless of skin color.

"Unfortunately," Daniels said on the site, "the Confederate battle flag has been adopted by hate groups - and individuals like Dylann Roof," who is charged with murder in the church attack.

John Rich, of the duo Big and Rich, told Fox News' Sean Hannity that he agreed with calls to remove the flag from its pole outside the Statehouse in Columbia. A protest song called "Take Down Your Flag," written by singer songwriter Peter Mulvey, has been recorded and posted online by hundreds of artists, including Ani DiFranco, bluesman Keb' Mo and actor Jeff Daniels.

The banner was not commonly used until the late 1960s, when it began to be adopted by some country and rock artists who identified as outlaw musicians appealing to blue-collar fans, Oermann said.

Coe and Williams, the country group Alabama and rockers like Lynyrd Skynyrd all used the flag on stage or in merchandise or referenced the flag or the Confederacy in their lyrics.

The flag continued to appear in some country acts through the 1970s and early 1980s, but it fell out of favor as the genre became more commercial and the industry sought to reach wider audiences in the suburbs and 
urban areas beyond the South.

Country artists take a big risk in addressing social and political issues. Just two years ago, Brad Paisley was criticized for recording a song called "Accidental Racist," with rapper LL Cool J, that sought to explore racial tensions but came across as naive and ill-advised.

Diane Pecknold, an associate professor of women and gender studies at the University of Louisville who has written extensively about the history of country music, said country has a strong association with patriotism and with promoting inclusion of all races and cultures. She noted that Paisley, Tim McGraw and Garth Brooks all have songs that are explicitly anti-racist.

"You can criticize them for being naive or being post-racial in a way that ignores contemporary and institutionalized racism," Pecknold said. "You can criticize them for failing to conceptualize it in a meaningful way, but you still have to say that they are talking about race and an ideal of America that is anti-racist."

Darius Rucker, a black musician who hails from Charleston, chose to communicate directly to his fans on Twitter: "Incredibly proud of my city for handling this tragedy with love. Thankful to be a part of a community that can come together in a time of need."

South Carolina governor: Confederate flag comes down Friday

South Carolina governor: Confederate flag comes down Friday 
 
AP Photo
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signs a bill into law as former South Carolina governors and officials look on Thursday, July 9, 2015, at the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C. The law enables the removal of the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds more than 50 years after the rebel banner was raised to protest the civil rights movement.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Saying South Carolina's history has forever changed, Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill Thursday to relegate the Confederate flag to the state's "relic room," more than 50 years after the rebel banner began flying at the Statehouse to protest the civil rights movement.
Compelled to act by the slaughter of nine African-Americans at a church Bible study, Gov. Nikki Haley praised lawmakers for acknowledging that the long-celebrated symbol is too painful and divisive to keep promoting.

"The Confederate flag is coming off the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse," Haley said before signing the bill. "We will bring it down with dignity and we will make sure it is stored in its rightful place."

Police then surrounded the rebel flag with barricades and rope, a siege of sorts that will end Friday after the banner is furled for the last time at a 10 a.m. ceremony.

South Carolina's leaders first flew the battle flag over the Statehouse dome in 1961 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Civil War. It remained there to represent official opposition to the civil rights movement.

Mass protests against the flag decades later led to a compromise in 2000 with lawmakers who insisted that it symbolized Southern heritage and states' rights. They agreed then to move it to a 30-foot pole next to a Confederate monument out front.

But even from that lower perch, the flag was clearly visible in the center of town, and flag supporters remained a powerful bloc in the state.

The massacre 22 days ago of state Sen. Clementa Pinckney and eight others inside Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church suddenly changed this dynamic, not only in South Carolina but around the nation.

Police said the killings were racially motivated. By posing with the Confederate flag before the shootings, suspect Dylann Storm Roof, who has not yet entered a plea to nine counts of murder, showed that the flag also has symbolized white supremacy and racial oppression.

Haley moved first, calling lawmakers to vote the flag down. Very quickly thereafter, Republican leaders in other states who have long cultivated the votes of Confederate flag supporters announced that Civil War symbols no longer deserve places of honor.

"These nine pens are going to the families of the Emanuel Nine," Haley said after signing the bill into law. 

"Nine amazing individuals who have forever changed South Carolina history."

The governor said the way the victims welcomed the gunman into their Bible study, and the forgiveness survivors expressed when the suspect later appeared in court, have inspired change nationwide.

"Nine people took in someone who did not look like them or act like them. And with true love and true faith and acceptance, they sat and prayed with him for an hour. That love and faith was so strong that it brought grace to them and the families," Haley said.

"We saw the families show the world what true grace and forgiveness look like," she added. "That set off an action of compassion by people in South Carolina and all over this country. They stopped looking at their differences and started looking at their similarities."

The flag removal bill passed easily in the Senate, where the Rev. Pinckney served, but then stalled as House members proposed dozens of amendments. Any changes could have delayed the flag's removal and blunted momentum for change.

The debate stretched on for more than 13 hours as representatives shared anger, tears and memories of their ancestors. Flag supporters talked about grandparents passing down family treasures. Some lamented that the flag had been "hijacked" or "abducted" by racists.

Rep. Mike Pitts recalled playing with a Confederate ancestor's cavalry sword while growing up, and said the flag reminds him of dirt-poor Southern farmers who fought Yankees, not because they hated blacks, but because their land was being invaded.

Black Democrats, frustrated at being asked to honor those who fought for slavery, offered their own family histories.

Rep. Joe Neal traces his ancestry to four brothers, brought to America in chains and bought by a slave owner named Neal who pulled them apart from their families.

"The whole world is asking, is South Carolina really going to change, or will it hold to an ugly tradition of prejudice and discrimination and hide behind heritage as an excuse for it?" Neal said.

Rep. Jenny Horne, a white Republican who said she is a descendent of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, scolded her party members for stalling.

"I cannot believe that we do not have the heart in this body to do something meaningful such as take a symbol of hate off these grounds on Friday," she shouted. "For the widow of Sen. Pinckney and his two young daughters, that would be adding insult to injury and I will not be a part of it!"

The bill ultimately passed by a 93-27 vote - well above the two-thirds supermajority needed to make changes to the state's "heritage" symbols.

Republican Rep. Rick Quinn said he was satisfied after lawmakers promised to find money - perhaps millions of dollars -for a special display in the state's Confederate Relic Room for the flag being removed, as well as the one taken down from the dome in 2000.

"It's just like the conclusion of the war itself," Pitts said Thursday afternoon after the vote. "The issue was settled, and the nation came back together to move on."

But Republican Rep. Jonathon Hill, who voted against removing the flag, said he fears a larger movement has begun to eliminate Civil War-era history.

"Hopefully it ends here, and we move forward, and we can put all of this behind us," Hill said.

Some groups are already seeking to do just that. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will consider ending its 15-year boycott of South Carolina's economy at its national convention this weekend. The NCAA, which honored that ban, said it will resume holding championship events in the state.

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