K2, a synthetic cannabinoid, is thought to be the mysterious liquid that "sickened" Pa. prison workers

Pennsylvania officials say a substance that has sickened more than two dozen corrections employees in the past month and led to an ongoing statewide prison lockdown is believed to be a clear, odorless chemical known as synthetic marijuana.

Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said Thursday the liquefied drug, also known as K2, is thought to be coming into facilities soaked into the paper of letters or books. Inmates then eat or smoke it. Synthetic marijuana refers to a class of chemicals that trigger responses in the brain receptors that also respond to the active ingredient in marijuana.

Wetzel told reporters at an unrelated event in Lawrenceville about the investigative findings hours before at least five more workers at two prisons required hospital treatment after falling ill.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sue McNaughton said three workers at Somerset State Prison reported feeling sick Thursday night after catching inmates smoking something. Two others later became sick at Greene State Prison. Similar incidents have also occurred in recent weeks at the Albion, Fayette and Mercer state prisons, and at the Butler County Jail.

Forging a sense of Hopewell Furnace’s history through its citizens and visitors

It’s Labor Day weekend, the last chance for a summer road trip this year.

Eight decades ago, in August of 1938, families piled into cars to visit America’s newest national site, the historic Hopewell iron furnace near Reading, Pennsylvania.

For some, it may not have been easy.

Imagine an African-American family in 1938, itching to take a summer vacation. Suppose dad had a factory job in Cleveland and got a good deal on a Hudson Terraplane, the kind with a radio built into the dash.

A 1938 Terraplane with Mullins Red Cap Trailer (anonymous, Hudson mullins 1938, CC BY-SA 4.0)

It would be nothing fancy, factory black, an affordable car but one that he really loves. He wants to get the family out of the city for a couple days, so the wife makes some sandwiches, he piles the kids in the back, and points the nose of that Terraplane toward Pennsylvania, about 10 hours away.

They fight over the radio. The kids want to hear a station that will play that new Big Joe Turner recording with the heavy backbeat, “Roll ‘Em Pete.” But dad usually wins these kinds of arguments; he prefers the station that plays the big bands and that new Ella Fitzgerald song, “A-Tisket A-Tasket.”

The 1938 edition of the Negro Motorist Green Book (New York Public Library Digital Collections)

This family has a copy of the new Negro Motorist Green Book, updated every year between 1936 and 1964 as an annual atlas for African-Americans to navigate the sometimes dangerous midcentury American landscape. It listed — by state — all the black-friendly gas stations, restaurants, taverns, and hotels where a person of color could safely stop without (hopefully) being harassed.

It’s a long drive to Pennsylvania, and they need to stop somewhere for the night. The nearest city to the Hopewell Furnace is Reading. The 1938 Green Book listed only one place in Reading: a tourist house at 441 Buttonwood Road, run by Mrs. C Dawson.

A gracious hostess

Mrs. Dawson – Elizabeth – is a woman now nearly lost to history.

“I had not heard of Elizabeth Dawson,” said Bradley Smith, a curator at the Berks County History Center in downtown Reading, about a half mile from 441 Buttonwood Road.

I asked him to hunt for any record of Dawson. Aside from census data and property records – she sold the house in 1977 when she was in her 90s, and died in 1986 – there wasn’t much.

Bradley Smith, curator at the Berks History Museum, takes down a bound collection of Reading Eagle newspaper issues. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

“Unfortunately we’ve never found — so far — anything she’d written that we could know what her thoughts were,” he said. “But we found a lot about the activities in which she was engaged.”

Dawson seems to have been quite prominent in Reading’s African-American community. For 50 years, she volunteered at the hospital. She organized community picnics, inviting everyone — black, white, upper class, lower class. Even people from Scranton and Indiana would show up.

She not only sang soprano in the choir of the Washington Street Presbyterian Church, she also sang in the Reading Community Choir.

“It was not an African-American group. It was just a singing group,” said Smith. “It was a desegregated singing group, to the best of my knowledge. I found that interesting. That was, I believe, the 1930s.”

The rowhome on Buttonwood Street in Reading that Elizabeth Dawson owned in the 1930s was listed in the Negro Motorist Green Book as a safe place to stay. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

For the entire 28-year run of the Green Book, Elizabeth Dawson’s home was listed as a safe, friendly place to stay. The rowhome is still there with a peaked roof, distinctive brickwork, and inviting porch. It appears to have a recent coat of red paint.

The morning after their stay, our imagined family of travelers would have thanked Dawson for her hospitality and set out on the last 15 miles to Hopewell.

Blasts from the past

The Hopewell Furnace was established in 1771 by Mark Bird. It made iron for the Revolutionary War and continued blasting – under a series of different owners – until 1883.

It operated by redirecting water out of French Creek into headraces – hand-dug trenches stretching for miles – which carry water to a wheel. The 21-foot wooden wheel cranks a giant bellows blowing air into a furnace, heating charcoal to about 2,800 degrees.

It’s the main attraction of the site.

A water wheel 22 feet in diameter operates the massive bellows that supply the blast of air needed by the furnace. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

“For a boy — or girl — to see the giant wheel turning, just by the weight of the water, to provide a blast of air to the furnace, to make it hot enough to melt rocks like a man-made volcano, that is exciting,” said park ranger Frank Hebblethwaite.

Our imagined African-American family visiting the Hopewell Furnace in 1938 would have learned a lot about the vast history of iron forging in Southeast Pennsylvania.

“It’s not just Hopewell,” said Hebblethwaite, pointing in all directions. “Joanna Furnace, 10 miles that way; Reading Furnace, four miles in that direction; Warwick Furnace, eight miles over there; and Coventry Iron Works, about 10 miles around the corner there. There were a lot of forges and furnaces in this immediate area.”

Visitors on that 1938 inaugural year of the Hopewell National Historic Site would not have been told that the furnace, in its first few decades, operated in part with slave labor.

A stop on the way to freedom

“We know Mark Bird had 17 or 18 slaves here at the furnace,” said Hebblethwaite, citing records mandated by Pennsylvania’s Gradual Abolition Act of 1780. “That made him the single largest slave owner in Berks County.”

Hebblethwaite is part of an effort to discover the African-American history of Hopewell, which is more than slavery. Eighty years after it was founded, the furnace did a complete turnaround and became a site of emancipation.

National Park Ranger Frank Hebblethwaite researched the history of African Americans at Hopewell Furnace. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

By 1850 – the year of the Fugitive Slave Act — it had become a prominent stop on the Underground Railroad. Runaway slaves fleeing north could get a job temporarily, cutting wood for charcoal to burn in the many furnaces in the area.

“What better place to hide?” said Hebblethwaite. “If you’re a runaway, heading north, you could very easily find a job, and find a job that’s going to keep you in the woods, until the threat passes, and you can keep heading north.”

Roving gangs of slave catchers made money by returning black people to the South – born free or enslaved didn’t matter to them. Working as a woodcutter made capture less likely.

The owners of Hopewell knew this was happening. The historic accounting ledgers show some workers were hired for very short terms, sometimes just a few weeks. It’s very likely the owners abetted the passage of fugitive slaves by putting some money in their pockets and sending them on their way.

A lot of those runaway slaves came through Six Penny Creek, a tiny community near Hopewell where furnace workers built homes out in the woods.

“Very thick. Always was,” said John Cole, 77, who has lived here all his life. A natural horticulturalist, Cole spends most of his days walking the woods, tending plants both wild and cultivated. “You gotta have heavy pants, something that stickers won’t go through.”

In retirement, John Cole spends much of his time maintaining his 12 acres on Geigertown Road, which includes the Mt. Frisby church and cemetery. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Cole’s family has owned this land for about 150 years, a legacy of his great-grandfather, Isaac Cole. Isaac — who was black, as is John — was a woodcutter for the Hopewell Furnace from 1858 to 1883. He bought land with his wages. In 1856 he built an African Methodist Episcopalian Church, Mount Frisby, which had a small congregation until the 1880s.

Cole served in the Civil War, enlisting with a Union troop in 1864 when he was 40 years old.

Remains to be seen

The church still stands, albeit with only three walls now. John’s father, George Cole, owned a trucking company in the early 20th century and used the then-dilapidated building as a garage.

The church shades what is now the oldest African-American graveyard in Berks County, hosting about 30 souls. Isaac Cole has a tombstone carved with details of his military service. Most of the other grave markers are raw stones with no names or decorations.

Mt. Frisby A.M.E. Church still stands on the property passed down to John Cole by his great-grandfather. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

“This was something our parents instilled in us,” said Cole, who grew up the youngest of six brothers a few yards from the cemetery. “This is where you live, this is where you were born. It was like going to school.”

During his walks in the woods, Cole forages for history. Remnants of the old Six Penny Creek community occasionally reveal themselves on the forest floor, mostly as broken tools. He collects and cleans them – pieces of a wood-burning cookstove, a pitchfork, obscure gears from the days of his father’s trucks, a gas lamp, a cast-iron roasting pan.

The rusty objects pile up.

John Cole saves the artifacts he finds while rambling on his 12-acre property. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

“I find it. What do you do with them?” he said. He cleans them up as decorative antiques, but his wife, Barbara, doesn’t let him bring any more inside.

Barbara, who grew up in nearby Chester County, married John 38 years ago and delved into his family story.

“I’m very proud of my husband’s history,” she said. “When I got here from Chester, it was, like, “Oh, you’re a Cole. You’re OK.’”

John Cole and his wife, Barbara, visit the tiny graveyard where his great-grandfather Isaac Cole, is buried. Isaac Cole was a Civil War veteran and worked as a woodsman for the nearby Hopewell Furnace. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

John and Barbara have spent years helping the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site get its history straight. John even posed as his great-grandfather Isaac for a Hopewell museum cardboard cutout figure.

The tiny community of Six Penny Creek — which doesn’t exist anymore — was more than a place to harbor fugitives. It was a place where workers of all races and nationalities lived together.

“The people who came here, whether to work three days and continue north or if they came and settled, they were looking for the same thing,” she said. “They were looking for freedom, to raise their children and get them educated. That’s all they wanted. Some folks felt they could find that here and stayed, [said] we’re going to make a home here.”

Our imagined African-American family taking their road trip to the Hopewell Furnace in 1938 would not have been told any of this. But they might have felt the legacy of the Cole family.

After a hot, dusty day of touring the historic iron furnace – in late August of a wet summer the bugs are overwhelming — they might have taken the kids to French Creek for a swim.

George Cole, John’s father who owned a trucking company, sold a bulk of the family property — 70 acres — to the government so it could establish the French Creek State Park.

Scotts Run Lake in French Creek State Park.. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Synthetic pot exposure sickened Pa. prison workers

SOMERSET, Pa. (AP) – Pennsylvania officials say a substance that has sickened more than two dozen corrections employees in the past month and led to an ongoing statewide prison lockdown is believed to be a clear, odorless chemical known as synthetic marijuana.

Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said Thursday the liquefied drug, also known as K2, is thought to be coming into facilities soaked into the paper of letters or books. Inmates then eat or smoke it. Synthetic marijuana refers to a class of chemicals that trigger responses in the brain receptors that also respond to the active ingredient in marijuana.

Wetzel told reporters at an unrelated event in Lawrenceville about the investigative findings hours before at least five more workers at two prisons required hospital treatment after falling ill.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sue McNaughton said three workers at Somerset State Prison reported feeling sick Thursday night after catching inmates smoking something. Two others later became sick at Greene State Prison. Similar incidents have also occurred in recent weeks at the Albion, Benner, Rockview, Camp Hill, Houtzdale, Fayette and Mercer state prisons, and at the Butler County Prison.

The agency says at least 33 employees have been sickened, starting Aug. 6. Symptoms include dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea and skin tingling. In at least two cases, hospital toxicology tests were negative for drug exposure, a prison spokeswoman said.

MORE: Pennsylvania prisons on lockdown as mystery illnesses probed

he prison system remains on indefinite lockdown, with inmates confined to their cells. Visitors are not allowed and inmate mail is limited to legal correspondence.

Wetzel said the long-term solution will be to scan all mail, and they are working with a vendor about converting to a scanned-mail system.

“We’re really just trying to make sure everybody’s safe and calm everybody down until we come out of this,” Wetzel said. “We don’t want to take a chance. We don’t want to put our staff at risk and, frankly, we don’t want to put our inmates at risk.”

He said guards and all other employees will be trained to protect themselves against hazardous materials, and each prison is getting its own team to handle dangerous substances.

“We just can’t have a situation where we think there’s an issue and we’re just sending staff in there and putting them at risk,” Wetzel said.

In Ohio, nearly 30 people at Ross Correctional Institution in Chillicothe were treated this week for exposure to a heroin and fentanyl mixture. One inmate was found unconscious, while most others experienced nausea, sweating, numbness, and drowsiness. Staff members fell ill after attending to the unconscious inmate.

JoEllen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said the cell where the incident occurred was decontaminated Thursday. Health officials also delivered protective equipment and other safety materials to prison employees, and will offer related trainings.

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has rescinded its decision to temporarily suspend prison visits. Maryland conducted extensive searches, prompted by concerns about the Pennsylvania and Ohio incidents. The Delaware prison system has also taken security steps.

Philadelphia Eagles 2019 draft picks

We’re really far away from the 2019 NFL Draft, but the Eagles have made three trades that affect their picks that year, and will likely be awarded four compensatory picks. 

First, they traded Allen Barbre to the Denver Broncos for a conditional seventh round pick, and later they traded Jon Dorenbos to the New Orleans Saints for additional seventh round pick. That pick then reverted back to the Saints after it was discovered that Dorenbos needed heart surgery.

Then they traded down from the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, landing a second round pick in 2019 in the process.

And finally, they traded up in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft for Jordan Mailata. The cost was a 2019 seventh round pick.

Here is a look at the Eagles’ 2019 draft picks, which we’ll update anytime it changes:

 Round How acquired 
 1 Eagles’ own pick 
 2 Eagles’ own pick 
 2 Acquired from Ravens during 2018 NFL Draft 
 3 Eagles’ own pick
 4 Eagles’ own pick 
 5 (projected) Compensatory pick 
 5 Eagles’ own pick 
 6 Eagles’ own pick 
 6 (projected) Compensatory pick 
6 (projected) Compensatory pick 
 7 Either the Eagles’ own pick, or the pick acquired from Broncos for Allen Barbre, depending on which one they traded during the 2018 NFL Draft (for Mailata), which has yet to be determined.
 7 (projected) Compensatory pick 

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski

4th man charged in stray bullet death of 9-yr-old

BRIDGETON, N.J. (AP) – The man suspected of firing a stray shot that killed a 9-year-old New Jersey girl as she slept in her bed has been charged with murder.

Cumberland County prosecutors say Zahmere McKoy also faces counts of conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder and weapons offenses. He’s the fourth person charged in the July 17 shooting in Bridgeton that killed Jennifer Trejo.

Prosecutors say the 19-year-old Bridgeton man fired a handgun at a group of people but missed them. The shots were fired about a block away from Trejo’s home, and a stray bullet went through the home’s rear wall and struck her.

MORE: 3 men charged after stray bullet kills 9-year-old girl sleeping in NJ home

Michael L. Elliott, 25, Leroy Frazier 3rd, 20, and Charles Gamble, 18, are also facing charges that include murder, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder and weapons offenses in the case, according to the Cumberland County Prosecutor. All three suspects were processed at Bridgeton police headquarters Friday afternoon and remanded to the Cumberland County Jail without bail.

Authorities have not disclosed a possible motive for the shooting.

It wasn’t known Friday if McKoy has retained an attorney.

Teen charged in store fire that caused $3M damage

SEAFORD, Del. (AP) – A Delaware teen is accused of starting a fire at a Family Dollar store that caused an estimated $3 million in damages.

Harry Miller with the State Fire Marshal’s Office said that the 16-year-old boy was charged Wednesday in connection with Monday’s arson. Miller says the evening fire at the Seaford store destroyed the entire building and everything inside.

One employee was treated for smoke inhalation, but no other injuries have been reported.

The teen is charged with one count of felony arson and four counts of felony reckless endangering. Investigators haven’t said how he was identified.

He was released to his parents. The fire is still under investigation, and more charges may be added.

As Philly ends ICE deal, immigrant advocacy group works to monitor law enforcement

It’s been more than a month since Mayor Jim Kenney announced that the city would not renew its contract with U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement.

The preliminary arraignment reporting system, or PARS, agreement granted ICE access to a real-time database that local activists and community members said was being used to target  unauthorized immigrants.

After pressure from Abolish ICE protesters and meetings with activists, Kenney decided to end the arrangement.

Erika Almiron, the executive director of immigrant advocacy group Juntos, credited the change in policy to people who shared their negative experiences with city officials.

“I think that it was a lot of the leadership from this community actually being brave about telling what’s happening and what they want that led to that moment,” she said.

Juntos has been one of the leading organizations pushing for immigration changes, and ending the PARS agreement has been a fixture on its agenda.

With that resolution in the rear-view, the nonprofit plans to continue developing its initiative for monitoring law enforcement.

Starting in South Philadelphia, Juntos’ Community Resistance Zones program is a door-to-door effort to get city residents involved in alerting others when authorities target the unauthorized and, at times, interacting with law enforcement.

Well over 500 people have signed up, and 1,300 have had “know-your-rights” training since the program’s launch in November. The effort also will feature a hotline and app to send out real-time alerts.

The initiative is part of Juntos work in overarching criminal justice reform, Almiron said.

“We have an unaccountable police force,” she said. “We have an unaccountable ICE machine. We have a system that cages people that doesn’t work, both for deportation purposes and mass incarceration,” she said. “What’s the world that we want to see that is different?”

Related interview:

Pa. bishop punishes predecessor over clergy abuse

A Roman Catholic bishop in Pennsylvania on Friday barred one of his predecessors from representing the diocese in public, citing his failure to protect children from abusive priests.

Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera announced the decision more than two weeks after the release of a grand jury report that faulted former Bishop James Timlin for his handling of clergy sexual abuse.

Timlin is permanently banned from representing the diocese “at all public events, liturgical or otherwise,” Bambera said in a statement. Bambera also referred Timlin’s case to the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops for possible further action.

“It is important that I make this very clear: Bishop Timlin did not abuse children, nor has he ever been accused of having done so. Instead, he mishandled some cases of abuse,” Bambera said. “He presided over the Diocese of Scranton for nearly 20 years – a time in which the diocese fell short of its duty to protect children. And, in many of the cases detailed in the grand jury report, Bishop Timlin fell short, too.”

The grand jury concluded that some 300 Roman Catholic priests in Pennsylvania molested more than 1,000 children in six Pennsylvania dioceses since the 1940s. The report accused senior church officials of orchestrating a systematic cover-up to protect the church from scandal.

MORE: Pennsylvania priests molested over 1,000 children, per report | Key dates in the Pennsylvania church abuse scandal

Timlin, 91, who led the Scranton diocese from 1984 to 2003, permitted abusive priests to continue in ministry – including one who later tested positive for the HIV virus – transferred them to other parishes, and ignored his own policy to report them to civil authorities, according to the grand jury.

In a formal response to the grand jury, Timlin said he established procedures to handle clergy abuse cases but “recognizes that some of his past decisions regarding offenses were imperfect, and in hindsight regrets that his past judgments at the time caused a single day of pain to any victims.”

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, meanwhile, came out Friday against a legislative proposal to compensate victims of child sexual molestation by priests through a church-established fund, saying that lawmakers instead should amend state law to let victims sue over abuse that happened decades ago.

Wolf said changes to the state’s statute of limitations and other proposals in the grand jury report “would deliver what victims deserve,” but a fund outside the court system would not.

MORE: Wolf: Courts, not church fund, better for abuse victims

Wolf called on the Legislature to pass reforms recommended by the grand jury. The panel said the state should eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, give otherwise time-barred victims a two-year window to file lawsuits, clarify penalties for failing to properly report abuse and ban agreements that prohibit victims from cooperating with police.

Earlier this week, the top-ranking Republican in the state Senate, President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, floated the idea of a church-established victim fund, and some church officials have reacted positively.

On Friday, Scarnati’s top aide, Drew Crompton, said compensation funds have worked effectively in several states and argued a fund in Pennsylvania, administered by a third party, would compensate victims quickly. Crompton called the proposed two-year “window” for lawsuits “constitutionally questionable.”

GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner said he agreed with Wolf’s position on the fund proposal.

For the full grand jury report, see here.

RELATED:

A glitch means you might be able to use your SEPTA Key for a free train ride in Chicago or London

Some Philadelphians traveling outside the region by bus or train have noticed an unexpected perk of having a SEPTA Key Card in their wallets: free rides elsewhere.

SEPTA has confirmed reports on social media of visitors to Chicago and London getting on those cities’ transit networks using their SEPTA Key Cards.

“A customer with a Key Card who taps it on the systems in Chicago and London (possibly others, but these are the two that we’ve also heard about) will have the fare paid/validated for just their first ride from the MasterCard/GPR [prepaid debit] side, even if they don’t have a GPR balance,” SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch said in an email.

SEPTA Key Cards have a prepaid debit function — separate from the “travel wallet” that holds passes and money just for fares — through a partnership with MasterCard. Key holders must actively set up the prepaid debit accounts by specifically adding funds to them before they can be used. SEPTA recently activated that function, but few riders have used it.

One Philadelphia resident, who asked not to be named for this article, noted that his Key Card scanned on London’s Underground on a recent visit. Even though he managed to get on the Tube with his Key, he didn’t get charged.

“I’m looking at the balance after each trip, and it looks like it didn’t record the trip at all,” he said. “I never set up a [prepaid debit] account. So maybe Transport for London got stiffed?”

If anyone got stiffed on the ride, it’s MasterCard, Busch said in the email.

“This is a MasterCard function, and from what we understand, the transit agencies do receive the fare, but how exactly that happens on the back end, I’m not sure. The funds definitely do not come out of the travel wwallet,” Busch wrote. “After that first ride, the Key Card/MasterCard would be declined unless the cardholder adds GPR funds to their account.”

Riders have reported similar success unlocking access to Chicago’s CTA by tapping their SEPTA Keys against that system’s fare-card readers.

Transport for London was one of the first transit agencies to adopt contactless fare cards with its Oyster cards in 2003. The Chicago Transit Authority followed suit in 2013 with its Ventra card — a glitch-filled, seemingly rushed rollout that inspired SEPTA’s slow, piecemeal implementation of the Key. Both those systems were built by Cubic; SEPTA contracted with Conduent (formerly ACS Transport Solutions).

Neither Transport for London nor CTA responded to PlanPhilly’s requests for comment.

The 'waterfall' on the Schuylkill Expressway between Walnut & Chestnut is because PennDOT's curing concrete

What to Know

  • Runoff from concrete being set on the viaduct above the Schuylkill Expressway is sending a waterfall onto drivers below.

  • PennDOT says the water from drip hoses is necessary to properly cure the concrete.

  • The curing process will be repeated as workers pour more concrete on the span between Market and Walnut streets in Philadelphia.

Where can you get rained on during a sunny day?

Interstate 76.

Anyone who has driven along the Schuylkill Expressway between Market and Walnut streets in Philadelphia over the past few weeks may have noticed something: a waterfall.

The water is runoff from the ongoing construction project above I-76. The dripping water on both the westbound and eastbound lanes has, at times, slowed traffic and dripped on people with the sunroof open since July 28.

The water is needed to cure concrete pavement being poured as part of the Schuylkill Avenue viaduct replacement process, PennDOT said when asked by NBC10. Water is needed to help the concrete properly set.

“When concrete pavement is poured, there is a 14-day curing period where the fresh concrete is covered in burlap and perforated drip hoses are positioned atop the burlap to provide a steady supply of water to keep the burlap wet during the cure,” PennDOT spokesman Brad Rudolph said in a statement.

The water is necessary to prevent the new concrete from overheating – the curing process generates heat – and curing too quickly.

If the concrete cures too quickly, it will have a shorter lifespan, Rudolph said.

The runoff, described by PennDOT as “not a torrent, more of a steady drip” has forced drivers to temporarily flip on the windshield wipers or quickly close the sunroof as they go under the waterfall that looks like something out of a water park ride.

The runoff onto the highway is only water and doesn’t contain any concrete residue that could damage cars, PennDOT said.

The process will be repeated each time workers pour more concrete on the span until the end of the 2018 construction season. The contractor has, however, agreed to reduce the drip of water due to “recent concerns,” Rudolph said.

PennDOT plans to entirely close part of the span of I-76 or limit lanes on certain overnight hours next week. Here is the roadwork schedule, though PennDOT says it could change based on weather:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 4, and Wednesday, September 5, from 9 to 11 p.m., eastbound I-76 will be reduced to a single lane between the Vine Street Expressway (Interstate 676) and South Street interchanges.
  • Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. the following day, eastbound I-76 will be closed between the I-676 and South Street interchanges. Eastbound I-76 motorists will be directed to exit at 30th Street and follow the detour around 30th Street Station to Schuylkill Avenue and the ramp to eastbound I-76 at Walnut Street.
  • Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, Sept. 7, from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. the next day, westbound I-76 will be reduced to a single lane between the South Street and I-676 interchanges.
  • Friday midnight to 5 a.m., westbound I-76 will be reduced to a single lane between the South Street and I-676 interchanges.

Also, a reminder that the westbound 30th Street ramp from I-76 remains closed until mid-September for repair and resurfacing.

Murphy frustrated at gas tax but says it's needed

VINELAND, N.J. (AP) – New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday that though he doesn’t like raising “any tax,” the recently announced hike of more than 10 percent in the gas tax is necessary to keep the state’s transportation trust fund viable.

Murphy, a first-term Democratic governor, spoke after a ribbon-cutting at a new school in Vineland on Friday, a day after his administration announced the gas tax would climb by 4.3 cents per gallon to 41.4 cents.

He cast blame for the higher rate on the 2016 bipartisan law enacted under his predecessor, Republican Chris Christie, though he didn’t name the former governor specifically.

“I’m frustrated like a lot of things we’ve inherited, in this case projections on fuel consumption, that were not realistic,” he said. “You never like raising any tax but this is the formula, and if we’re going to keep the funding at the level that we need to keep it at to fund the projects in the transportation trust fund, then we have no choice.”

Murphy’s administration announced the increase on Thursday.

MORE: New Jersey hiking gas tax by 4.3 cents a gallon

The 2016 law calls for a steady revenue stream to support a $2 billion a year trust fund for road, bridge and other transportation work. The law, which was widely lobbied for, including from labor and business groups, bumped up the fund from $1.6 billion.

To do that the measure calls for the treasurer and legislative officials to review revenue and set the tax rate to reach the target figure. This year officials say they concluded the rate would have to climb by 4.3 cents.

The Treasury added that Christie overestimated fuel consumption last year and failed to raise the rate 1.7 cents. Had that happened, then the rate would climb 2.6 cents this year, according to the Treasury.

This will be the second time since 2016 the gas tax has gone up. It reflects nearly a tripling of the rate that stood at 14.5 cents per gallon for nearly three decades.

Treasury officials say legislative action is required to change the formula, and they add that the change must secure reliable annual revenues for the trust fund, which supports capital projects across the state.

Republican state Sen. Kip Bateman said he will introduce legislation to do away with the potential for automated increases under the 2016 law. Murphy said he hadn’t reviewed the proposal and stressed keeping transportation capital projects funded.

“We have to keep the transportation trust fund funded,” Murphy said It was allowed to go virtually bankrupt. It was as you know it was the ultimate can -getting-kicked-down-the-road and I was as a candidate – even when it wasn’t popular -I said we’re going to have to take some medicine here and raise the gas tax to fund this.”

The conservative Tax Foundation recently published 2018 data that showed New Jersey’s new gas tax would make it the ninth highest in the nation, from No. 11 before the hike.

Wolf: Courts, not church fund, better for victims

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Pennsylvania’s governor said Friday he was against a proposal to compensate victims of child sexual abuse by priests through a church-established fund, saying that lawmakers instead should amend state law to let victims sue over decades-old events.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said changes to the state’s statute of limitations and other proposals in a recent grand jury report “would deliver what victims deserve,” but a fund outside the court system would not.

Wolf said the Legislature should pass reforms proposed in the jury’s 900-page report issued earlier this month. The jurors said the state should eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, give otherwise time-barred victims a two-year window to file lawsuits, clarify penalties for failing to properly report abuse and ban agreements that prohibit victims from cooperating with police.

The jury’s investigation found that hundreds of “predator priests” in six dioceses sexually abused at least 1,000 children going back seven decades, and senior figures in the church hierarchy systematically covered up complaints.

MORE: Pennsylvania priests molested over 1,000 children, per report | Key dates in the Pennsylvania church abuse scandal

Earlier this week, the top-ranking Republican in the state Senate, President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, floated the idea of a church-established victim fund, and some church officials have reacted positively.

On Friday, Scarnati’s top aide, Drew Crompton, said compensation funds have worked effectively in several states and argued a fund in Pennsylvania, administered by a third party, will compensate victims quickly. Crompton called the proposed two-year “window” for lawsuits “constitutionally questionable.”

He said Wolf’s opposition came even though the details of the fund have not been determined.

Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa said this week church officials have privately discussed setting up a $250 million fund.

Current Pennsylvania law gives victims of child sexual abuse until they turn 30 to file a lawsuit.

For the full grand jury report, see here.

RELATED:

Bishops back victim fund over abuse lawsuits in Pa

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Roman Catholic officials in Pennsylvania began lining up quickly and publicly with a key state legislative ally Thursday in backing the creation of a victims’ compensation fund as an alternative to allowing victims in decades-old child sexual abuse cases to sue the church in court.

Erie Bishop Lawrence Persico said he would collaborate in the creation of a compensation fund that is administered by a neutral third party, while the Philadelphia Archdiocese and the Harrisburg and Allentown dioceses suggested they are open to the idea.

Allowing lawsuits to be heard in courts, however, would force bigger payouts by the church and force the church to disclose more about clergymen who preyed on children and a church hierarchy that helped cover it up, say victim advocates.

A fight over the competing ideas could arrive in the state Legislature next month, on the heels of a state grand jury report released this month that said about 300 clergymen had sexually abused at least 1,000 children over seven decades in six dioceses.

The report prompted new calls for changing state law to allow adults abused as children to sue in court, even if they had been barred by a prior time limit in law.

It is a change in state law that bishops have successfully fought in recent years, even as a handful of other states have opened such windows to let victims sue the church.

MORE: Pennsylvania priests molested over 1,000 children, per report | Key dates in the Pennsylvania church abuse scandal

Catholic Church officials maintain that such a so-called “reviver” law is unconstitutional in Pennsylvania, although legal scholars disagree over the question. Current law gives victims of child sexual abuse until they turn 30 to file a lawsuit.

The Philadelphia Archdiocese said Wednesday it has paid more than $10 million in recent years to help hundreds of victims, “regardless of whether their claims are barred” by time limits in state law.

“Thus, we are receptive to any fair and reasonable program to help victims whose cases are barred,” it said in a statement.

The state Senate’s top Republican floated the idea Wednesday of a compensation fund, although the chamber’s top Democrat said church officials privately had been discussing setting up a $250 million fund well before Wednesday.

However, the grand jury and state Attorney General Josh Shapiro urged the Legislature to change state law to provide a two-year window for victims to sue, and many lawmakers expect the state House of Representatives will approve such a provision after voting sessions resume in September.

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, which speaks for all the state’s dioceses, declined comment on whether it had discussed a $250 million compensation fund or whether it opposes a two-year window.

University of Pennsylvania professor Marci Hamilton, a veteran plaintiffs’ attorney in child sex abuse cases who heads the Philadelphia-based CHILD USA research organization, said it is fine to create a compensation fund similar to one in New York, but it is also necessary to allow victims to sue.

“These compensation funds are no substitute for real justice, which is what you get with a retroactive window,” Hamilton said.

In New York, the public has learned little about abuse cases, given the number of victims who have been paid, Hamilton said.

The Archdiocese of New York said last year that its Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program drew more than 200 applications through its Nov. 1 deadline, with compensation totaling $40 million on 189 claims.

Jeffrey R. Anderson, a veteran Minnesota-based plaintiffs’ attorney in child sex abuse cases, said courts promise more transparency, more protection for children and more money for victims.

“They would get a fraction of what they could recover in a court of law,” Anderson said.

One Catholic lawmaker, Sen. John Yudichak, D-Luzerne, said he would worry that legislation that attempts to help victims by allowing them to sue is challenged and struck down by the courts. A safer bet might be a compensation fund, Yudichak said.

“Perhaps this is the best way we can respect the rule of law and respect the rights of victims who want to seek justice for the crimes that have been committed against them,” Yudichak said.

For the full grand jury report, see here.

RELATED:

NJ lawmaker seeks grand jury to investigate church

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – A New Jersey lawmaker is calling on the state’s attorney general to form a grand jury to investigate potential sex abuse in the Catholic Church.

Democratic state Sen. Joseph Vitale said Thursday he wants Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to confirm whether “generations of hidden sexual abuse” that came out in a Pennsylvania grand jury report occurred in New Jersey.

Grewal spokeswoman Sharon says the report is being reviewed to determine if action is needed.

MORE: Pennsylvania priests molested over 1,000 children, per report | Key dates in the Pennsylvania church abuse scandal

New Jersey Catholic Conference executive director Patrick Brannigan says the church looks forward to talking to Vitale. He added that since 2002 the church sends abuse complaints to law enforcement.

A nearly 900-page grand jury report released this month said more than 300 Catholic priests abused at least a thousand children over 70 years.

For the full grand jury report, see here.

RELATED:

Green Eggs Cafe opening in Brewerytown as Girard Avenue boom continues

West Girard Avenue in Brewerytown is on its way to becoming another hot Philly restaurant strip.

Latest proof? Brunch specialist Green Eggs Cafe is opening a location there.

Set in the long-vacant corner space at 2800 W. Girard, this will be the fifth Philadelphia location for the breakfast and lunch BYOB, joining outposts in South Philly, the Gayborhood, Northern Liberties and Fishtown, as well as one in Miami.

Green Eggs co-owner Stephen Slaughter declined to offer details on the project, saying it would be announced soon, but it’s been an open secret in the neighborhood for ages.

“They were supposed to open last year,” said Josh Kim, chef-owner of Spot Burgers, which opened on the avenue just under three years ago. He’s heard the new Green Eggs’ opening is planned for mid to late September.

“We’re stoked,” Kim added. “Every time there’s a new business here, we just get a boost in our business.” To his friends in the restaurant industry, “I’m telling them all to get in now — they’re missing a huge opportunity here.”

The area is one of the most-rapidly developing in Philadelphia. Brewerytown’s gentrification has led to some clashes as newcomers swoop into the traditionally African-American enclave to build homes and retail, causing rising property values that’ve forced some longtime renters out of their homes.

The Green Eggs project is being developed by MM Partners, which has been working in the area since the turn of the millennium and has been hailed as one of the companies that takes pains to engage longtime residents.

Some operators of the newer restaurants, which include Rybrew, Crime & Punishment Brewing, 2637Brew, Novak’s, The Monkey & Elephant and Pizza Dads, believe tension in Brewerytown is on the decline overall, as business owners and neighbors adapt.

“It’s night and day” compared to four years ago, said Harry Saritsoglou, when he opened Uncle Nick’s Pizza at 2825 Girard Ave. “Every day you see the positive growth and transition.”

NIck's Pizza opened four years ago on Girard Avenue
Harry Saritsoglou

Saritsoglou — who happens to be a cousin of chef Bobby Saritsoglou, formerly of Opa and now launching Stina on Snyder Avenue — told the story of when he discovered the location. He’d pulled off the highway so his young son could go to the bathroom, then stopped at Rybrew for a sandwich.

“As I was sitting there, across the street I was watching this guy get evicted,” Saritsoglou said. He had just closed a pizzeria in Upper Darby, and was thinking about another, so he walked over to talk with the landlord. “All the people cursed me out!” he said, remembering how residents expressed their feelings about another white guy coming in.

Now, many of those same people are his regular clients. Uncle Nick’s does brisk business selling slices for $2 or $3.

That’s in contrast to Pizza Dads, the Pizza Brain offshoot that recently opened on the corner of 29th and Girard. Slices at Pizza Dads start around $5 and go up from there, said Kim of Spot Burgers, who noted that the owners are quickly learning how to fit in. He recalled a scuffle outside the pizzeria earlier this year.

“A group of girls wanted slices after school, and it turned into a fight, one of the owners got suckerpunched,” Kim said. “I don’t know how it escalated — maybe they came off as too haughty or bougie. When you come off that way in North Philly, that’s what you’re met with.”

So instead the schoolkids patronize Uncle Nick’s, across the street. Having the same type of fare available at multiple price points is healthy, Kim suggested.

“The corner diner across from where Green Eggs will be is nervous,” he said. Green Eggs is known for its uncanny ability to suck all the brunch-goers into its thrall, leading to long lines while nearby dining rooms sit empty. But for Sunnyside Diner, Kim doesn’t foresee it as a problem.

“They’ll have the $20 breakfast,” he has told the diner operators, “and you’ll have the $5 breakfast. You’ll be fine. They’ll bring more attention to the neighborhood.”

Saritsoglou is also thrilled about Green Eggs’ pending opening — even as he’s selling his business. Yep, Uncle Nick’s 2000-sq.-ft. space is up for grabs, along with its 16 years left on a 20-year lease at a low, locked-in rate. Why sell? Saritsoglou went back to school and got certified in HVAC, and he thinks that line of work will let him spend more time with his kids.

“It doesn’t matter what someone sells here, it could be pizza, could be anything,” he said. “As long as it’s affordable they’ll make money.”

Grocery shopping: Five college players to watch who could interest the Eagles in the 2019 NFL Draft

The college football season began last Saturday, with some smaller school games on TV, and a handful of games scattered throughout the week. This Saturday will begin the full college football slate of games. 

As long as you’re taking in some of the action today as the Philadelphia Eagles make their final cuts, here are some players who could make sense for the Birds in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Nick Bosa, DE, OSU (6’4, 263): Oregon State at (5) Ohio State, 12:00 p.m.

We’ll profile Bosa because, what the hell why not, but some are projecting him as a potential No. 1 overall pick. I’m not sure he’s that special, but he is obviously an outstanding player at a premium position who is going to be long gone by the time the Eagles are picking in the first round. A highlight reel:

As we noted back in May, the Eagles’ likely biggest draft need in 2019 will be the defensive line, and the 2019 NFL Draft may wind up being one of the most loaded defensive line drafts ever.

We’re going to cover all the major defensive line names, and while Bosa is likely not a realistic option, the potential overabundance of great defensive line prospects is almost certainly going to cause players to be pushed further down the draft order than they would otherwise. We may as may know them all.

Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic (5’9, 200): Florida Atlantic at (7) Oklahoma, 12:00 p.m.

In two seasons at FAU, Singletary has run for 44 TDs (32 in 2017!) and almost 3000 yards. He closed the 2017 season by rattling off 12 straight 100+ yard games.

 Devin Singletary Rush  Yards  YPC  TD 
 2016 152  1021  6.7  12 
 2017 301  1920  6.4  32 

Obviously, those numbers are nuts. Of course, the Eagles got burned by a highly productive, undersized running back recently when they drafted Donnel Pumphrey in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. However, Singletary at least has workable size, if his listed weight at 200 pounds is accurate.

Here’s a highlight reel:

As you can see in the video, while not the biggest guy, Singletary is effective using little jump cuts and start-and-stop moves to pick his way through holes between the tackles. 

The Eagles only have one running back who is a lock to be on the 2019 roster in Corey Clement. They can use more weapons in the backfield.

David Sills V, WR, West Virginia (6’4, 210): Tennessee at (17) West Virginia, 3:30 p.m.

Like Singletary above, Sills is a touchdown machine, as he had 18 of them in 2017. As you can see in the below video, he’s good in the red zone. #Analysis.


Sills is thought of as a quiet guy off the field, and the “baddest dude” on it. It will be interesting to see if he can show that he wasn’t just a one-year wonder in 2017.

Damien Harris, RB, Alabama (5’11, 215): Louisville at (1) Alabama, 8:00 p.m.

Harris was perhaps the lesser known of Bama’s backs the last two seasons, but he outproduced Bo Scarbrough in 2016, needing only 145 carries to gain 1040 yards (7.2 YPC), though Scarbrough got the goal line chances, as Harris scored just 2 TDs.

In 2017, Harris again tore it up on a modest number of carries. He had 135 carries (less than 10 per game) for 1000 yards and 11 TDs. That would be 7.4 yards-per-carry. A highlight reel:


As you can see in the video above, Harris is a no-nonsense, one-cut, north-south runner who doesn’t possess great long speed but has very good acceleration and gets up to top speed quickly. He is also a coordinated runner with good balance. In that sense, he reminds me a little of Kareem Hunt, but perhaps without the same level of receiving ability.

Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama (6’7, 316): Louisville at (1) Alabama, 8:00 p.m.

Just watch how this guy moves for a 6’7 defensive tackle.

Monster.

In 2017, Davis had 69 tackles (10 for loss), 8.5 sacks, and a pick. He is a size-athleticism freak of nature who can be special if he continues to develop. Barring some kind of currently unknown character or injury concerns, he is a slam dunk first round pick.

Even in a stacked defensive line draft, I can’t imagine Davis being available anywhere near where the Eagles will be picking, but in the event he somehow slides, Davis is the type of brute powerhouse with agility who can be a penetrating force along the Eagles’ defensive line.


Previously profiled players

August 25

  1. Carl Granderson, DE, Wyoming
  2. Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma State
  3. Nate Herbig, OG, Stanford
  4. T.J. Edwards, LB, Wisconsin
  5. David Edwards, OT, Wisconsin

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Calls for respect for black America at Franklin funeral

As Aretha Franklin was remembered at her funeral Friday as a proud black woman who also used her magnificent voice to stand up for the black community she loved, several speakers used the moment to continue to demand respect for black America.

Amid the gospel, personal reflections and grief were calls to register and turnout to vote in November and condemnation of President Donald Trump, who, upon her death, referred to Franklin as “someone who worked for me” — a comment that rankled many African-Americans.

“No — she used to perform for you,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said to cheers and applause from the crowd. “She worked for us. Aretha never took orders from nobody but God.”

Louis Farrakhan, (from left), Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson and former President Bill Clinton attend the funeral service for Aretha Franklin at Greater Grace Temple, Friday, Aug. 31, 2018, in Detroit. Franklin died Aug. 16, 2018 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 76. (Paul Sancya/AP Photo)

Franklin’s civil rights legacy was mentioned often during the eight-hour service, and was tied to her faith and roots in the black church. Many also mentioned her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, and his civil rights leadership, which influenced his daughter from a young age.

Late Friday, Franklin was laid to rest in a mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery, the final resting place of her father.

None of the politicians present — including former President Bill Clinton and former Attorney General Eric Holder — took the opportunity to turn the event partisan. Michigan Democratic House Rep. Brenda Lawrence took a moment to recognize Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, whose funeral is Saturday.

But others seized on Trump’s comments and Franklin’s message of dignity to speak to the present social and political climate. In pointing out the long lines to pay tribute to Franklin this week, the Rev. Jesse Jackson lamented that the lines to vote often aren’t nearly as long.

“Aretha was on the battleground for 60 years,” Jackson told the audience. “We have long lines to celebrate death, and short lines for voting. Something is missing. If you leave here today and don’t register to vote, you’re dishonoring Aretha.”

Judge Greg Mathis, one of Franklin’s many friends who often talked politics with her, said that his last conversation with Franklin earlier this summer was about the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan, where government negligence has left residents living with lead-tainted water since 2014.

“Her last words to me … were ‘Go back up there and sock it to ’em!,’” Mathis told the crowd before vowing that he would in her memory.

Some made a statement without saying a word. When she was shouted out from the stage, California Democrat Rep. Maxine Waters — who has called frequently for Trump’s impeachment and is a campaign rally punching bag for the president — acknowledged the crowd with the “Wakanda salute,” from the movie “Black Panther,” closing her fists and crossing her arms over her chest to applause.

Many in the audience, including President Clinton, stood and cheered.

“Everybody just point over there and tell her, ‘We got your back!’” said Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, pastor of Greater Grace Temple, which the audience shouted in Waters’ direction.

Georgetown University sociologist Michael Eric Dyson took several shots at Trump in his remarks, assigning the president several nicknames: “orange apparition,” ”lugubrious leech,” ”doppleganger of deceit and deceit,” ”lethal liar,” ”dimwitted dictator,” ”foolish facist.”

“She ain’t work for you,” Dyson shouted over applause. “She worked above you. She worked beyond you. Get your preposition right.”


Whack is The Associated Press’ national writer on race and ethnicity. Follow her work on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/emarvelous.

Ketamine, a promising depression treatment, seems to act like an opioid

A new study suggests that ketamine, an increasingly popular treatment for depression, has something in common with drugs like fentanyl and oxycodone.

The small study found evidence that ketamine’s effectiveness with depression, demonstrated in many small studies over the past decade, comes from its interaction with the brain’s opioid system. A Stanford University team reported their findings Wednesday in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

“We think ketamine is acting as an opioid,” says Alan Schatzberg, one of the study’s authors and a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University. “That’s why you’re getting these rapid effects.”

Until now, most researchers have attributed ketamine’s success to its effect on the brain’s glutamate system, which is involved in learning and memory. The opioid system, in contrast, controls pain, reward and addictive behaviors.

Ketamine is an anesthetic that is frequently given to children in the emergency room. It is also a popular but illicit party drug that can cause an out-of-body experience at high doses.

And in the past few years, ketamine has seen increasing use as an off-label treatment that doctors prescribe for patients with severe depression that doesn’t respond to other drugs. Unlike conventional antidepressants like Prozac, which can take weeks to work, an infusion or nasal administration of ketamine typically produces results in hours.

The new study’s findings suggests that taking ketamine for depression could lead to abuse or addiction, says Schatzberg, who has financial ties to several drug companies. Ketamine has a less potent effect on opioid receptors than drugs like fentanyl or oxycodone, he says, “but that doesn’t mean it’s safer.”

Other researchers say the study’s implications aren’t so clear.

“The results are quite intriguing,” says Carlos Zarate Jr., an investigator at the National Institute of Mental Health who has been studying ketamine’s effects on depression for more than a decade. “However, this study is preliminary and its results need to be replicated.”

The new study is “interesting and exciting,” says Ronald Duman, a professor of psychiatry and neurobiology at Yale University who has published research showing how ketamine causes brain cells to form new connections.

But Duman isn’t convinced that ketamine’s effect on the opioid system is the key to its effectiveness in treating depression. He notes that ketamine’s effect on the brain’s glutamate system is quite powerful, while the drug has “a relatively low affinity for opiate receptors.”

The Stanford team decided to conduct its study after seeing research that suggested drugs that work on the glutamate system alone aren’t very effective antidepressants, Schatzberg says. The researchers also knew that opioid drugs had once been used to treat depression but were largely abandoned because of concern about abuse.

So the team designed an experiment that would treat patients with depression in two ways. The first was by giving them an infusion of ketamine alone. The second involved giving each patient the drug naltrexone, which blocks the effects of opioid drugs, before the patient got an infusion of ketamine.

An analysis of a dozen patients who got both treatments showed a dramatic difference. Seven of the 12 saw their depression symptoms decrease by at least 50 percent a day after they got ketamine alone. But when they got naltrexone first, there was “virtually no effect,” says Carolyn Rodriguez, one of the study’s authors and an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford.

Rodriguez, who has pioneered the use of ketamine to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, says the study doesn’t prove that the drug works primarily through the brain’s opioid system. Instead, she calls the result “the beginning of a conversation” and says it “highlights that ketamine’s mechanism of action is complicated.”

Rodriguez has served as a consultant for several drug companies including Allergan, which is developing a depression drug that acts like ketamine in the brain.

One possibility is that ketamine’s effect on opioid receptors may provide immediate but short-term relief of depression symptoms, Rodriguez says, while the drug’s effect on the glutamate system may be what makes that relief last for a week or more.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.