First half observations: Jets 3, Eagles 0

For all of you out there reading about the fourth preseason game between the Jets and Eagles, I respect your passion quite a bit while wondering whether all of us here are crazy. But since you’re here, you might as well go through the highlights and the lowlights of an… interesting first half of football.

To the list we go!

The Good

• Cameron Johnston got a lot of practice punting the football. Good in-game reps for the young man.

On a serious note, he seems to have established himself quite nicely in the preseason, and shouldn’t be at any risk to be cut for another punter that hits the free agent market following preseason. It’s a position that can often be in flux until late in the game, but the Eagles appear to have their guy.

• Josh Adams didn’t have a whole lot of help from the offensive line in the first half, but he did a reasonably nice job of making it work anyway. For a runner his size Adams has a surprising amount of shiftiness, and he used it to turn several plays that should have gone for losses into gains.

A lot of the various experts have opined that Adams is “too good” for the Eagles to hope he could survive a cut and join the practice squad, and while he didn’t exactly flash big-play potential, he does look like a solid option behind the established trio ahead of him on the depth chart.

• I’ll leave it to the more qualified experts like Mr. Kempski to determine whether it’s a wise move to keep him on the roster, but major props to DeAndre Carter for continuing to make things happen when given the opportunity. Facing an uphill battle to make the roster, Carter has offered the Eagles a little bit of everything over the last two weeks of preseason.

The versatility Carter has flashed is important for a back of the roster player. Doug Pederson’s squad has used him as a return man, a slot receiver, an outside guy, and even a gunner on special teams. To that end, Carter downed a Johnston punt inside the 10 early in the second quarter, doing his best to make sure the little things got done. And I don’t know if the Jets were actually “scared” of Carter as a return man, but they actively punted the ball away from him all half.

If he doesn’t make the team, it won’t be because he lacked the drive to make it happen. (The drop he had in the second quarter might have something tto do with it, though.)

• Chandon Sullivan hasn’t had the most time to shine during the preseason, but he came up with a nice interception by the Eagles’ goal line late in the first half. It looked at first like he may have mistimed his jump, but he hung in the air just long enough to come down with a turnover.

Would not be surprised if Sullivan earns a spot on the practice squad.

• NBC showed a clip of Jordan Maliata playing his guitar and singing on the broadcast, and he’s reasonably good at both. That’s the sort of versatility you need from a backup lineman.

• Goal line stand! Alright!

The Bad

• File this under, “Maybe meaningless, but worth noting” but Nate Sudfeld not getting the start in the third preseason game will raise a few eyebrows. If the Eagles don’t want their third-string quarterback out there and risk him getting hurt, what does that say about the health status of Carson Wentz?

The logical conclusion is this indicates Nick Foles will be the starter in Week One against Atlanta with Sudfeld backing him up, which would be an unsurprising and mildly disappointing outcome. Yes, Foles has shown he is capable of leading the team to the highest of highs, but he’s still the clear No. 2 and the fanbase is itching to see Wentz get back out there.

On the flipside, there’s nothing wrong with being conservative with your franchise QB coming off a major injury if that’s what the Eagles are indeed doing. The Eagles watched a talented young quarterback in their own division, Robert Griffin III, see his career spiral down the tubes in part because he returned to play before he was ready to return from a major knee injury. With a long and hopefully prosperous career in front of Wentz, selling out to get him out there for Week One is not necessary.

• If you were at all excited to see what Christian Hackenberg had to offer across almost three quarters of football — I’m not really sure what you were thinking in the first place — it did not exactly get off to a flying start.

After taking a sack on his first play from scrimmage and eventually throwing a nice pass to set up a reasonable third down, Hackenberg interrupted Mike Mayock’s praise with an interception. You have to at least string together two consecutive plays to keep fooling people into thinking you’re an NFL player, my guy.

And just when I was going to give the guy some sympathy for the pair of drops his receivers made, Hackenberg sailed a throw for another interception, so I am officially done trying to find silver linings in his performance.  

The Ugly

• That half of football. Admittedly, it may have been better than Philadelphia’s first half against Cleveland, but that’s only because we had actual expectations for the group that lined up to face the Browns. This is about what you’d expect in a preseason finale.


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Two men critical after shooting in Overbrook

– Police in Philadelphia are investigating a double shooting in Overbrook.

Police were called to the 900 block of Flanders Road Thursday about 5:20 in the afternoon.

Police discovered one 20-year-old man had been shot in the chest and had taken refuge at 67th Street and Lebanon Avenue. That man was transported to Lankenau Medical Center where he was listed in critical condition.

Authorities say a second man, 21-years-old, was shot in the leg and buttocks. He took refuge at 6600 Haddington Street. He was transported to Lankenau Medical Center and was listed in critical condition.

Police this is an active investigation. No weapon was recovered and no arrests have been made.
 

Added to the list of Eagles murals: A few members of the championship team will be painted on a swanky South Broad restaurant

The Palm on Broad Street, known for the steaks and lobsters on the tables and the caricatures of Philly VIPs adorning the walls, recently underwent a major renovation, reopening last summer with a new layout and look. But there was just one more finishing touch left to add. On September 5, the restaurant will unveil a 24-foot mural featuring members of the Philadelphia Eagles championship team, including Nick Foles, Carson Wentz, Jason Kelce, and Malcolm Jenkins.

The swank restaurant, set inside the Bellevue Hotel at 200 S. Broad Street, is part of a 90-year-old family-run steakhouse chain. The Philly location opened 30 years ago, then closed in 2016 for extensive renovations — the ceiling was raised, the floor was rebuilt, and the bar was moved. Local patrons whose caricatures were on the walls were invited to come pick up their faces. The caricatures were rehung when the Palm reopened in July 2017 and the restaurant picked up where it left off as a mover-and-shaker hangout for surf and turf.

The Palm’s resident artist, Zack Bird, is painting the Eagles mural in the same brightly colored caricature style as the rest of the restaurant’s artwork. He’s including Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman, Doug Pederson, Foles, Wentz, Kelce, and Jenkins, plus 2018 Hall of Fame inductee Brian Dawkins.

The mural will be dedicated at a ceremony at 5 p.m. on September 5 with co-owner Wally Ganzi and Mayor Jim Kenney in attendance. Anyone can stop by during the ceremony to check out it out.

The restaurant is also kicking off a charity drive to benefit the Broad Street Ministry.

New Jersey lawmaker seeks investigation into Catholic clergy sex abuse

A New Jersey lawmaker is asking the state attorney general to impanel a grand jury to investigate sexual misconduct in New Jersey’s Catholic dioceses.

Sen. Joe Vitale’s request follows a recent Pennsylvania grand jury report that said 300 priests sexually abused more than a thousand children in six dioceses over more than 60 years.

“Some of the priests that were mentioned in the Pennsylvania grand jury report were transferred to New Jersey where they continue to be part of the institution and have access to children,” said he said.

Vitale said he plans to introduce legislation that would permit the names of those credibly accused of sexual abuse to be released.

“In New Jersey, the way the current law is written, all those names would have to be redacted. The abuse would still be public — what happened, when it happened, how many times it happened, to whom it happened,” he said. “But not who did it, and that has to change.”

And the two-year statute of limitations for child sex abuse should be expanded so victims have more time to bring their claims, said Vitale, D-Middlesex.

“Their lives have been changed since the day they were raped, and they’ve never improved,” he said. “It’s a crime against humanity. It is awful. I don’t know why there’s any reluctance from anyone to move on this legislation and to find justice for these victims.”

A spokesman for the attorney general’s office said it’s reviewing Pennsylvania’s grand jury report to determine what additional actions may be appropriate in New Jersey.

Live updates/open thread: Eagles vs. Jets (preseason)

The Philadelphia Eagles’ preseason will end tonight (thank the Lord), as the Birds will take on the their usual preseason Week 4 opponent, the New York Jets.

The most compelling part of the night, Carson Wentz’s pregame workout, is already over. 

The Eagles’ starters won’t play, but there are some back of the roster battles that could maybe sway the coaching staff one way or the other. Obviously, this is by far the least meaningful of the already meaningless preseason contests. Still, we forged ahead and gave you five reasons to watch earlier today.

Feel free to comment on the game below.


MORE: Five over/unders for Eagles’ preseason finale vs. Jets | Eagles vs. Jets: Five things to watch | Eagles 2018 roster: Locks, near-locks, bubble players, and long shots

Feel like fishing in the Schuylkill? Make sure you check that your catch is safe to consume

Kevin Rodenbaugh fished until 3 a.m. one day this week, went home, caught a few hours of sleep, and was back scrambling down rocks along the Schuylkill in Bridgeport at 9 a.m.

The wiry 20-year-old whipped his medium-heavy rod with practiced ease. A plastic worm slashed through the air at the end of his braided line in search of live prey: smallmouth bass living near where water rushed over falls at the Norristown Dam. Rodenbaugh fishes up to six days a week for muskie, catfish and bass. “It’s like a little vacation,” he said.

Are fish thriving in the Schuylkill?  And what’s the overall health of the river? Those questions were raised through Curious Philly, our new question-and-response forum that allows readers to submit questions about their community in need of further examination.

We set out to find answers.

Rodenbaugh made a splash a few weeks ago when he caught a 45-inch muskie near the same spot on the Schuylkill that serves as the border between Bridgeport and Norristown, his hometown.

Camera icon Courtesy Kevin Rodenbaugh

Kevin Rodenbaugh, 20, of King of Prussia, with a 45-inch-long muskie he says he caught in the Schuylkill on July 17 in Norristown.

“After I posted the picture of the muskie, people said, ‘I never knew there were fish in there, or I thought they were all three-eyed.’ ”

In fact, the 135-mile-long Schuylkill is an increasingly healthy river system, according to scientists, officials, and environmental groups.  Up to 54 species of fish have been identified over time as having been present, in varying amounts, in the portion of the lower Schuylkill that runs through Philadelphia.

“Within the last 20 years, and especially within the last 10 years, the Schuylkill has gotten much cleaner,” said Lance Butler, a scientist and watershed manager for the Philadelphia Water Department.

Butler explained that the Schuylkill was once so polluted in Philadelphia that it had a dead zone, meaning the oxygen in the water was so low it made it hard for aquatic life to thrive. Man-made chemicals, like PCBs, and other toxics contaminated the river from industrial waste.

The federal Clean Water Act of the 1970s created new water-quality standards.  Governments were forced to upgrade their wastewater treatment plants.  Industry began to clean up discharges.  As a result, bacteria levels dropped and oxygen levels increased. Those improvements were important not only for fish but for people. The Delaware River and the Schuylkill provide 230 million gallons of drinking water daily for the city through three plants that process untreated river water.  Two of the plants are on the Schuylkill, one at Queen Lane and one on Kelly Drive, and produce water that is cleaner than recommended federal standards.

Another way to help keep the river clean: mussels, which filter pollutants, functioning as mini wastewater treatment plants. One mussel can filter 10 to 20 gallons of water a day. 

Camera icon MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer

Under a microscope: Eastern pondmussels are being grown at the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center.

Butler is part of a team at the freshwater mussel hatchery at Fairmount Water Works.  Its goal is to repopulate the Schuylkill with native species of mussels, which would keep the river cleaner for fish while also providing food for them. The hatchery is on track to release 15,000 to 20,000 mussels from five different species this year.  Eventually, a hatchery at Bartram’s Garden is expected to raise up to 500,000 mussels a year for the river.

Rich Horwitz, a scientist and fisheries section leader at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, also credits the installation of fish ladders along the river with increasing the number of fish, such as shad. A fish ladder provides a sort of detour migrating fish can take around a dam or obstruction. The ladder contains a series of ascending pools that allow the fish to move through.

For example, the fish ladder installed in 2008 at the Fairmount Dam allows fish to move upstream.  And a few dams have been removed or breached along the Schuylkill in Philadelphia and above, also making it easier for fish to move.

Horwitz said bluegill sunfish, redbreast sunfish, minnows, shiners, and white suckers are all present in the river. He said a recent sampling found American eels, carp, pumpkin seed sunfish, largemouth bass, flathead catfish, and channel catfish.

Fish Species Found in the Schuylkill in Philadelphia

Some species listed below are monitored by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission as regularly fished and susceptible to PCB and mercury contamination. Some are recommended not for human consumption, or are restricted by amount that is safe to eat. Some species have also only been found in small numbers, such as bluefish, which is a saltwater fish for example.
SOURCES: Philadelphia Water Dept.and Pa. Fish and Boat Commission
Staff graphic

But PCBs, left over from the city’s more industrial past, remain a concern since they are still present at the river’s bottom, Horwitz said.

In general, data show contaminants in fish are declining and some fish are edible. But that doesn’t mean experts advise eating a lot of fish caught in the river. The state Fish and Boat Commission issues consumption advisories on fish commonly caught along the river such as eel, carp, and catfish. Most suggest just one meal of a species a month, or caution against eating the fish altogether.

For example, you can eat catfish, white perch, and striped bass caught in the river near Philadelphia once a month.  But American eel and carp are too contaminated by PCBs because they are bottom feeders. Farther up the river, away from the city, in Berks, Chester, and Montgomery Counties, where contamination is less, it’s safe to eat up to six meals per year of carp and catfish.

Mike Kaufmann, the Southeastern Pennsylvania fisheries manager for the commission, said that the disappearance of smokestack industries along the river has helped.  He also attributes a lot of the improvement to Philadelphia’s push to get stormwater and wastewater, which carry pollutants, under control.   During a storm, water can overwhelm treatment plants and rush into the river.  The city Water Department also has a program to track down “cross-connections” — mixed-up pipes from homes that can reroute sewage into the river.

Danielle Kreeger, science director for the nonprofit Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, called improvement to the river’s water quality “tremendous.”  Her organization puts out a detailed technical report every five years that includes data on all the waterways, including the Schuylkill, that flow into the Delaware and, ultimately, the estuary.

The report identifies several continued threats, such as development.  The population along the watershed above Philadelphia has grown by 6 percent since 2000.  Much of that growth has been in Chester and Montgomery Counties, where waterways such as the Pickering, Perkiomen, and Wissahickon all flow into the Schuylkill. More people mean more parking lots, roadways, lawn fertilizer use, and wastewater.

As part of her job, Kreeger snorkels and dives in the Schuylkill.

“In the tidal part of the river [below Fairmount Dam] we see everything,” Kreeger said. “It can get pretty disgusting.  And you have to wade through rafts of plastic water bottles. It’s so disheartening. There’s so much trash.”

She said scientists also now watch for contaminants such as dissolved nutrients that fuel algae. They are looking at personal care products, antibiotics, and pharmaceuticals — “the things we flush down the toilets.”  Pharmaceuticals, for example, have been shown to impact the endocrine systems of fish, creating intersex fish with male and female characteristics.

But, overall, she notes, the Schuylkill, especially above the dam, has made real progress. Her organization’s report shows that the level of dissolved oxygen in the Schuylkill — a key indicator — is above 5 milligrams per liter, a healthy level.

“There’s the perception of the Lower Schuylkill that it’s a working polluted river, but that’s not the case,”  Kreeger said.







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N.J. hiking gas tax by 4.3 cents a gallon to 41.4 cents

New Jersey’s gas tax will climb by 4.3 cents a gallon, or more than 10 percent, under a bipartisan law enacted in 2016, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration said Thursday.

The 41.4 cent-per-gallon rate will go into effect on Oct. 1 and means New Jersey would have the fifth-highest gas tax in the country, up from No. 8, according to 2017 data from the conservative Tax Foundation. Though it will still be lower than neighboring New York and Pennsylvania.

Murphy’s administration sought to shift blame for the higher rate, which stems from a bipartisan law enacted under Republican Chris Christie in 2016.

“The precise change in the gas tax rate is dictated by several factors, all of which are beyond the control of the current administration,” Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio said in a statement.

The law calls for a steady revenue stream to support a $2 billion a year trust fund for road, bridge and other transportation work, up from $1.6 billion before the 2016 law went into effect

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

But Murphy’s administration 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.

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

This is the latest chapter in what was a hot-button drama in Christie’s final years in office. The state’s depleted transportation trust fund had not been replenished under Democratic and Republican administrations for years with the potential for it to run out of money.

To address the problem, Christie and lawmakers agreed to hike the gas tax by 23 cents in 2016, while also cutting other rates, such as the sales tax and retirement income taxes, on Christie’s insistence.

Officials at the time did not emphasize the provision of the law that allows for the rate to adjust given how much revenue the gas tax brings in.

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.

NJ hiking gas tax by 4.3 cents a gallon to 41.4 cents

New Jersey’s gas tax will climb by 4.3 cents a gallon, or more than 10 percent, under a bipartisan law enacted in 2016, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration said Thursday.

The 41.4 cent-per-gallon rate will go into effect on Oct. 1 and means New Jersey would have the fifth-highest gas tax in the country, up from No. 8, according to 2017 data from the conservative Tax Foundation. Though it will still be lower than neighboring New York and Pennsylvania.

Murphy’s administration sought to shift blame for the higher rate, which stems from a bipartisan law enacted under Republican Chris Christie in 2016.

“The precise change in the gas tax rate is dictated by several factors, all of which are beyond the control of the current administration,” Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio said in a statement.

The law calls for a steady revenue stream to support a $2 billion a year trust fund for road, bridge and other transportation work, up from $1.6 billion before the 2016 law went into effect

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

But Murphy’s administration 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.

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

This is the latest chapter in what was a hot-button drama in Christie’s final years in office. The state’s depleted transportation trust fund had not been replenished under Democratic and Republican administrations for years with the potential for it to run out of money.

To address the problem, Christie and lawmakers agreed to hike the gas tax by 23 cents in 2016, while also cutting other rates, such as the sales tax and retirement income taxes, on Christie’s insistence.

Officials at the time did not emphasize the provision of the law that allows for the rate to adjust given how much revenue the gas tax brings in.

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.

Several federal agencies raid Tacony pawn shop

– Only on FOX 29, a major raid took place at a pawn shop in Philadelphia. Several federal agencies spent the day emptying the place out. 

It happened at the Cash for Gold shop on the 6900 block if Torresdale in Tacony.

There was a steady stream of merchandise hauled out of the Cash for Gold shop and an adjoining store on Torresdale Avenue Thursday morning as federal agents emptied the place, filling two big trucks.

“I was surprised this morning when I drove by and saw so many law enforcement officials,” said Peter Smith, of the Tacony Civic Association.      

Only FOX 29 cameras were there as agents from the IRS, Treasury, the Postal Service and Philadelphia police swooped down on the side-by-side stores in the 6900 block of Torresdale. Agents were tight-lipped about their work as they carted out dozens of boxes containing generators, power tools, televisions, car seats and electronic equipment. Most of it was new merchandise.

“A lot of these people go in there with electronics, stuff like that, brand new boxes and come out with a handful of cash,” said neighbor Louis.

“All federal, so it’s gotta be more than just stolen wristwatches and stuff, but, again, I don’t want to speculate,” explained Smith.

Smith is the head of the Tacony Civic Association. He said Philadelphia police and the community have been trying to clean up the avenue, chasing out drugs and other illegal activity. He welcomed the raid. 

“If it’s illegal, you have to be a good business owner to be in our neighborhood,” Smith stated.

Sources said the search warrant executed on the business is sealed and agents on the scene refused comment, leaving neighbors looking for answers.

“Five or six people go in there an hour. That’s a lot of people,” Louis said.

“I don’t want to speculate on what’s going on. All I can tell you is that there’s been an awful lot of criminal activity, more blatant, out here on the avenue,” Smith added.