Cohen to step down from executive Comcast position

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — There’s a change of leadership coming to Comcast, as longtime executive David Cohen has annnouced he is stepping down.

For the last 18 years, Cohen has helped steer the Philadelphia-based company, but at the end of the year, he’ll begin transitioning away from his operational roles, according to a memo released Thursday morning.

He will remain senior executive vice president next year, as his responsibilities shift to others at the company. After 2020 he says he plans to become senior counselor to the CEO.

He adds he’s excited about this next chapter of his career and is looking forward to dedicating more of his time to the civic and charitable activities he’s been involved with.

Cohen has long been a staunch and outspoken Democrat, even hosting fundraisers for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

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More bear sightings, this time in Delaware

CLAYMONT, Del. (KYW Newsradio) — Several more bear sightings, but this time they’ve been coming from Delaware. 

Delaware State Police say there were three bear sightings between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. Wednesday near the Pennsylvania/Delaware border in the North Wilmington Area. 

The first was near the I-95/I-495 split, and then again at Manor Avenue and Philadelphia Pike, and the third was along I-95 at Concord Pike.

Could this be the same bear — or bears — reported recently in Delaware County, in Springfield, Marple Township, Villanova, and elsewhere? 

Related: Authorities searching for roaming Delco bear now think there may be 2

One official trying to figure that out, Jerry Czech with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, told CBS 3 that the animal is looking to eat.

“When it gets into a populated area, there are a lot of dumpsters, so it’s like a buffet for a bear,” he said.

So, it’s time to seal up those trash cans, or keep them inside until its time for them them to be picked up.

Officials urge people to call 911 if they see the animal.

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High school football star shot, twin brother charged

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A star football player at Mastery Charter School will be laid to rest Thursday after the 18-year-old was tragically shot and killed on Sunday. 

Suhail Gillard was popular among the seniors at Mastery Charter School’s Lenfest Campus in Old City. He was three-time all public player, he was headed to the all-star game this winter and lead the team to a championship win last year. 

He had a bright future on a college team ahead of him.

“Just a hard worker man. It’s a shame, just a really good kid, special kid,” said John Lay, a teacher at the school who taught Gillard in seventh grade. He’s also one of Gillard’s football coaches. 

“Agent 4,” as Gillard is called because of his effectiveness on the field, was a leader who inspired other players to work hard.

“He’s the type of kid that you want on your college campus, that you want on your football team,” Lay said. “It just hurts. So today (Wednesday), we came together as a family to support the family and just get through this.”

Lay joined members of the team — who wore their blue and white jerseys — plus scores of juniors and seniors from the school as well as teachers, who solemnly marched from the school near Fourth and Market streets to Penn’s Landing on Wednesday afternoon.  

They held a vigil just a few hundred feet from where Suhail would have graduated at the Seaport Museum in May. 

“We did a balloon release in memory of Suhail. It was a simple, just a gesture,” said Chris Ziemba, the school’s principal. “We need to continue the process of mourning and healing as a community.”

Police say Gillard was shot in the chest Sunday evening and was transported to Lankenau Medical Center, where he died a few hours later. Officers arrested 18-year-old Fayaadh Gillard, Suhail’s twin brother, on Monday.  

He is now charged with murder, gun possession and other crimes. No other details about the circumstances of the shooting have been released.

“When I heard, I was shocked. It was disbelief,” said John Davidson, the head coach of the Lenfest Campus football team. 

He went to the hospital Sunday night. 

“It was a dark moment. It’s definitely a tragedy,” Davidson added. 

Condolences on the loss of Gillard were all over social media.

Davidson said Suhail had at least one offer to attend college and others were recruiting him. He played receiver and running back, could play offense and defense, and was the “motor” of the team’s offense. 

His coaches say he worked in the gym and grew over the years he played. Davidson said this year, he rushed for 1,700 yards and returned an interception for a touchdown during the championship game.  

“He was a magnet,” said Davidson. “He was mentor and would make kids laugh.”

Davidson said the team is praying from Gillard’s mother and the entire family. Many from the school are planning to attend Gillard’s funeral in West Philadelphia Thursday at 11 a.m. to support the Gillard family.

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Former doctor charged with illegal drug distribution

MOUNT HOLLY, NJ (KYW Newsradio) — Burlington County authorities have charged a 60-year-old former physician with doling out opioid painkillers almost at will and committing insurance fraud. 

For three years, it’s alleged that Morris Starkman handed out some 1.4 million doses of everything from Oxycodone to Fentanyl from his Bordentown office. Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina says it was enough to provide three doses to every man, woman and child in the county.

“He just basically threw his medical judgment out the window and prescribed as the patients came back and most of their appointments for follow up were simply to get their prescriptions renewed,” Coffina told KYW Newsradio.

One of Starkman’s patients suffered a fatal overdose four years ago, but there was insufficient evidence to connect the drugs to his death.  

The doctor surrendered his medical license in April of last year. Investigators seized office records after raiding his Cinnaminson home last month. 

Starkman faces 14 criminal counts of fraud and drug distribution.

“He’s facing as much as 10 years for the second-degree charges,” Coffina added. “It could be consecutive, which could add up to 140 years of jail. He won’t be facing, realistically, that amount of time.”

Starkman is free while a grand jury looks into a possible indictment against him. Information on defense counsel was not immediately available.

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Hundreds weather the rain for a City Hall winter wonderland

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia came together Wednesday evening for the lighting of the 65-foot Christmas tree at City Hall. 

“I love seeing Christmas trees light up!” said 8-year-old Oliver, who was one of the hundreds of people who were in attendance. 

The rain came but the show went on, and sponsors provided holiday treats like hot chocolate to those who were there. 

There were special performances featuring Philadelphia native Jazmine Sullivan, but the real highlight of the night was the lights. 

“I can’t wait to see it because it’s so fun and you can see the Christmas tree light and that’s my favorite to see,” said 6-year-old Penny. 

“I like to see the ornaments because the ornaments look really good and sometimes the ornaments light up,” 7-year-old Armado told KYW Newsradio.

For many, the lighting of the tree signifies something on the horizon.

“Well, I really like when it lighted up,” Vivianne said, because “we get to have presents.” 

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Woman charged after infant dies in her unlicensed day care

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — A Bucks County woman has been charged in the death of an 11-month-old at an unlicensed day care, which she was running out of her home. 

Investigators say the 11-month-old wasn’t properly strapped into a car seat, which was placed on the dining room table. The leg strap intended to keep her from sliding down was unbuckled, and she was ultimately asphyxiated by the chest strap.

Lauren Landgrebe, 48, is charged with involuntary manslaughter, endangering the welfare of children, and operating a day care facility without a license.

According to the criminal complaint, the 11-month-old was one of eight children in her care that day, based out of her house on Rosebud Road in Upper Southampton.

She said she strapped the infant into a car seat for a nap around 1 p.m., back in August. An hour later, she gave the child a bottle by propping it up on a rolled hand towel.

She said she spent the next two hours outside near her swimming pool, leaving the baby unattended.

The child was found unresponsive in the car seat around 4 p.m. by Landgrebe’s husband. He started CPR, but the child was pronounced dead later that afternoon.

The complaint also says Landgrebe was collecting Social Security disability benefits for 10 years, saying she was unable to work. She was not reporting any income from her day care.

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City Council’s tax abatement reform faces major hurdle

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia City Council members gave preliminary approval to slashing the 10-year tax abatement Tuesday, but the bill they approved faces a major hurdle.

With 15 co-sponsors and a unanimous vote to advance it to final passage, a bill that would phase down the tax abatement seems like a sure bet to pass at Council’s final session next week. 

But then the mayor got the bill and administration officials said he has a major problem with it.

The bill, as passed, would take effect in July, which means developers with projects in the works would rush to get the full 10-year abatement before that. 

But the Department of Licenses and Inspection is not equipped to deal with such a rush. The mayor’s chief of staff testified the administration was supportive of the bill but asked for a start date of July 2021, as did affordable housing advocates concerned about planned projects. 

Council, though, declined to consider amending the bill, so administration officials say if the bill gets to the mayor with the current start date of this July, he may veto it, and Council would have to start from scratch next term with four new members. 

Amending it now would mean either a suspension of Council rules or adding an extra session to the end of the term.  

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Bill ensuring CBA mandatory for some developments advanced

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia developers have long offered Community Benefit Agreements as a way to overcome neighborhood opposition to controversial projects. But a bill that advanced in City Council Wednesday would make them mandatory for certain developments. 

Fishtown neighbors were not thrilled when HSP Gaming wanted to open a casino on the Delaware riverfront in 2008, but they came around to the idea when the developer offered to refurbish nearby athletic fields and buy computers for neighborhood schools. 

The bill approved by a City Council committee would give developers no choice but to negotiate such local supports if their development gets any city financial assistance or would impact neighborhood health, aesthetics, economy or social fabric.

No developers spoke at the hearing, but several community activists, such as Jihad Ali, testified in support.

“As a participant in CBAs, everything that is outlined in this bill are things we requested,” Ali said. 

Related: Philly City Council gives preliminary approval to bill slashing 10-year tax abatement

Ebony Griffin of the Public Interest Law Center warned that developers should not be able to get off the hook with what she called “bats and jerseys” agreements.

“For a CBA to be meaningful, it must include meaningful benefits and accountability safeguards,” Griffin said.

The bill now goes to the full Council for a vote next week.

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Once-convicted cop returns to prison for sexual misconduct

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — A former Pennsylvania State Police officer who served time for sexually assaulting women while on duty is headed back to prison on a parole violation, after he pleaded guilty to molesting a 15-year-old in Berks County. 

Michael Evans served about 8 ½ years of a five-to 10-year state prison sentence after he pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct in 2000. Prosecutors labelled it as a quid pro quo — police assistance in exchange for sex.

Charges against him included two teenage runaways he was supposed to transport while on duty as a state trooper in Skippack: a 16-year-old girl who was waiting for her parents after her home had been burglarized, and a woman who was seeking protection from an abusive boyfriend.

Then in the summer of 2018, during which Evans was nearing the end of his 10-year probation sentence, he fondled a 15-year-old while engaged in a sex act with a 40-year-old woman in the garage of his Berks County home. 

Evans, now 52, pleaded guilty to corruption of minors, indecent exposure and indecent assault. 

“He was a predator,” added prosecutor Roderick Fancher. “He was using a badge as a disguise to prey on women. Twenty years ago, he got a significant state sentence and is out there doing it again now that he’s out of prison. He’s engaging in the exact same behavior, the exact same thing.”

He was sentenced to 2 ½ to five years in state prison for the parole violation. 

During his appearance in Montgomery County court, Evans said his plea deal in Berks County is for five to 10 years in prison. Fancher hopes the judge tacks that onto the parole violation sentence instead of running them concurrent “so he serve as much time as possible.”

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Requirements on who can keep food stamp benefits tightened

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Trump administration announced a final rule that will tighten up qualifications for who can qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program food stamp benefits, saving the government $5.5 billion over five years and cutting benefits for roughly 688,000 SNAP recipients.

Under current law, able-bodied adults between  the ages of 18 and 49 who don’t have dependents can only receive SNAP benefits for three months in a three-year period. But United States Department of Agriculture officials said counties can seek waivers to keep folks on SNAP and have done so, even where unemployment is as low as 2.5%.  

“Millions of people who could work are continuing to receive SNAP benefits,” USDA Secretary Sonny Purdue told reporters on a press call Wednesday.

Officials said with a national unemployment rate of 3.6%, there are now more jobs than workers to fill them. So President Donald Trump wants to encourage those who are able-bodied, without jobs and are on SNAP to get back in the workforce.  

The new rule will raise the level for SNAP waivers to a 7% unemployment rate.

“We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand, but not allowing it to become an infinitely giving hand,” said Purdue.

The USDA said the rule change will not impact those with dependents, those who are disabled or those over the age of 50.  

Under guidelines for SNAP, those who are able-bodied can keep their SNAP benefits as long they are in work training at least 80 hours a month or work in jobs with income low enough to qualify.  

Related: Wolf administration speaks out against proposed Trump policy that would impact SNAP food benefits

Congressional Democrats and advocates for the poor were quick to condemn the administration’s actions.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said the plan will only serve to punish workers whose jobs are seasonal or unreliable.

“This administration is out of touch with families who are struggling to make ends meet by working seasonal jobs or part time jobs with unreliable hours,” said Stabenow, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry.

House Republicans unsuccessfully pushed to include SNAP work requirement provisions in last year’s farm bill. Stabenow said “there’s a reason” they didn’t make it into the final version.

Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said the rule would disproportionately affect minorities. He urged better job training and a higher minimum wage instead.

“Denying them basic food and nutrition is not the route that a fair and compassionate administration of either party should take,” he said in a statement.

Over the past year the Agriculture Department has proposed three significant changes to the food stamp program. In addition to restricting time limit waivers, the USDA has proposed eliminating broad-based categorical eligibility, a measure that allows recipients of certain non-cash public benefits to automatically qualify for food stamps, and changing how utility costs are factored into benefit calculations.

Brandon Lipps, deputy under secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Nutrition and Consumer Services, did not say when the department will finalize the other two proposed rules.

According to an Urban Institute Report, this change, along with two other proposed SNAP reforms, could result in 3.7 million fewer people on food stamps.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., blasted the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce public benefits.

“Instead of combating food insecurity for millions, connecting workers to good-paying jobs or addressing income inequality, the administration is inflicting their draconian rule on millions of Americans across the nation who face the highest barriers to employment and economic stability,” Pelosi said in a statement.

James D. Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center, said the plan is “deeply flawed and ill-conceived” and would lead to higher rates of hunger and poverty.

“The final rule would cause serious harm to individuals, communities, and the nation while doing nothing to improve the health and employment of those impacted by the rule,” he said.

SNAP isn’t the only public benefits program the Trump administration is trying to shrink.

Last year the administration announced it would allow states to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson also considered a proposal that would have tripled rents for the poorest Americans and allowed local governments to implement work requirements on those receiving housing assistance, but ultimately backed off the plan.

____

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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15th Street bridge closes for 1 year

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A yearlong detour started Wednesday morning in Spring Garden, as crews began renovations to the 15th Street bridge. And as expected, it’s already wreaking havoc for drivers.

A crane is currently perched in the middle of 15th Street above Callowhill Street, inducing steering-wheel-pounding moments for morning commuters who were caught unaware.

Drivers going south on 15th toward Callowhill will be forced onto Hamilton Street, then onto 16th Street back toward Spring Garden Street, all while the aging 15th Street bridge over the old Reading Viaduct is being rebuilt. Drivers will have to go to Broad Street or 17th Street to continue south toward Vine Street.

Callowhill is now a two-way street between 15th and 17th streets during the construction. 

For School District of Philadelphia employee Jessie Cunningham, the closure of 15th Street is a big inconvenience.

“It’s pretty difficult to get to the school district building,” located at 440 N. Broad St. “That’s been an ongoing issue, and it’s just going to get worse now that they’re working on that,” she said. 

“I’ll probably go around to the Broad Street entrance, but it’s a little inconvenient because it’s on the other side of the building from my office.”

Drivers and pedestrians will have to get used to it. The $9 million project is expected to finish in December 2020.

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2 kids hurt, 2 arrested after police chase car to Germantown

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A car chase involving Pennsylvania State Police led to a crash, and a 12-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl getting hurt Tuesday in Germantown.

State police say they tried to stop a silver Hyundai Entourage on I-76 4 p.m., but it kept going, and someone tossed a gun out of the van. 

The van got off the highway and drove to Morris Street near Queen Lane. Police say it swiped a few of the cars that were parked there and then slammed into another parked car. 

Related: 2 in custody, 2 injured after Pennsylvania State Police chase driver to Germantown

That parked car hit the two kids: a 13-year-old girl, who may have suffered a broken ankle, and a 12-year-old boy, who suffered injuries to his lower left leg. Both are being treated at the hospital.

All signs of damage have been towed away, but neighbors remember a dramatic scene.

“It was really loud and just a continuous banging and crashing of all the cars colliding,” said Emil Duffy, talking to CBS 3. 

He says his parked car was one of the ones hit in the collision — at it was actually flipped upside-down.

“I understand that the police have a job to do and they want to catch a suspect, but this kind of chase happening in a residential neighborhood at 4 o’clock on a school day … two kids got hurt,” Duffy said.

State police say they arrested the two people who were in the van: the driver, identified as Renaldo McPercy Robichaw, and the passenger, identified as James Adams.

It’s not clear yet what charges will be filed.

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Preliminary approval given to bill cutting tax abatement

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia’s 10-year property tax abatement will be drastically lowered under a bill that gained preliminary City Council approval Tuesday evening. Councilmembers rejected multiple requests for changes to the bill that came during a 3.5 hour hearing before the vote.

The requests for changes came from many constituencies. Developers, as might be predicted, but also affordable housing advocates, who said the July start date for the changes could create problems for low-income projects in the planning stages. 

There also was a contingent of school advocates like Antione Little, who wanted the abatement not just phased down, but eliminated completely.

“When those developers are walking away with their pockets full of money, my three children that attend T.M. Peirce and every other child in the district are suffering,” Little said. 

But Council stood immovable, though they huddled for an hour after the testimony before unanimously voting to pass the bill with no amendments. 

Related:

Council President Darrell Clarke said the bill was already the result of a lot of compromise.

“There has been a significant level of thoughtful conversation among individuals who are stakeholders,” Clarke said. 

Mayor Kenney’s chief of staff testified that the administration supported the bill though it, too, would have preferred a later start date. 

But he said the mayor opposed a companion bill to expand the homestead exemption on property taxes for long-time homeowners. That bill also passed unanimously.

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Pa. officials speak out against proposal impacting SNAP

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Wolf administration is sounding the alarm on yet another proposed change to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits by the Trump administration. The Department of Human Services says it’s bad for Pennsylvania.

Under current USDA rules, the SNAP programs allow recipients certain standard allowances for utilities, like heat and cooling, and allows the amount to be calculated by the states.

The proposed rule change would standardize the methodology for calculating the allowance, resulting in $4.5 billion in cuts to SNAP food benefits over five years.

“This rule as proposed could negatively affect 775,000 households in Pennsylvania,” Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller said. 

Miller submitted public comments to the Trump administration on the proposed changes. She says states in the Northeast will be hard hit because many SNAP residents rely on fossil fuels for heating and the new methodology does not take such fuels into account.

Related:

“I think it’s incumbent for states to speak up and say this is wrong,” she added. 

Miller says every $10 decrease in utility allowance will result in a $2 to $3 loss in food stamp benefits. And this is the third recent proposed change to SNAP, so its actual impact is unclear.

“The problem is we don’t exactly know what this one means, but we are very concerned about what the impact could look like,” Miller added.

Currently, Pennsylvania receives about 2.5 billion a year for SNAP, which plays a role in the lives of over 1.5 million people across the Commonwealth.

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At Please Touch Museum, kids practice reading with dogs

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — It’s Giving Tuesday, and the Please Touch Museum hopes generosity is contagious.

“And I love this one for her!” Archer, who was at the museum, said as she grabbed a book to read to a little white dog.

It’s no secret reading can unlock a child’s potential, which is why the museum offers kids a chance to read to a furry friend at least once a month. 

Chief Development Officer Samantha Gibb Roff says reading to a dog is a stress-free experience for beginners.

“Just read aloud, whether it be to an imaginary friend or a stuffed animal or a real animal in this case,” she said. “Something that’s responsive and fun to be around but isn’t going to correct them, isn’t going to stop their flow.” 

She says each kid goes home with a book, but the program costs $25 per child. With museum admission being low-cost or free for many families, money is needed to keep the program going.

“It was really sweet and the dogs were really nice. The kids loved it!” said Bernadette, who’s daughter Cecilia had a blast reading to Piper.

“It’s nice to have more places to read books. There’s never enough places to stop and read books,” she added.

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