Man sought for robbing multiple 7-Elevens

– Kevin Twist has been working at the 7-Eleven on Cottman Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia for three months now. The other night he had an experience he won’t soon forget when a man came into the store and pulled a gun on him.

“I figured he was another customer so I buzzed him in,” Twist told FOX 29 Wednesday night. “Came right behind the counter, pulled out a gun, told me open the registers.”

The 19-year-old Twist says the gunman moved quickly, emptying both registers and grabbing a half dozen packs of Newport 100 cigarettes.

“I was like you know what I’m just gonna be real calm, real civil, act like he’s another customer and try to get him out the door happy and as fast as possible,” Twist added. 

Detectives now say this same gun toting bandit has struck four times in the past nine days in Bucks County and Philadelphia. Police say he pulled a gun and robbed this 7-Eleven on Lincoln highway in Bensalem and robbed three more 7-Elevens in Northeast Philly including this one on Rising Run Avenue.

“Same male, same description comes in, usually in the middle of the night. Some of the stores were locked, they let him in,” Lieutenant Dennis Rosenbaum of Northeast Detectives told FOX 29.

Investigators say the suspect stole over $1200 in the four armed robberies. He’s also taken those packs of Newport smokes at every store. The so called Newport bandit hasn’t hurt anybody yet, but police are worried he could.

“Sometimes the store clerk’s become victims on the receiving end of a bullet. So we’re trying to prevent that,” Lieutenant Rosenbaum said.

“Now since surveillance is out he’s gonna start getting desperate and he’s gonna wind up slipping up. He’s gonna do something stupid,” Twist said. 

Now this guy doesn’t miss a trick, he knew the doors to those 7-Elevens are locked at night and customers get buzzed in, in one job he jammed a can of miller lite in the door so it wouldn’t lock behind him and he made his getaway. 

No one has been injured in the robberies.

DOJ’s Rosenstein: If Philly opens injection site, U.S. crackdown will be swift

A confrontation between the Trump administration and the city of Philadelphia is sharpening over plans for opening a facility where opioid users can use drugs under the eye of medical staff.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told WHYY Wednesday that if Philadelphia successfully opens a supervised injection site, the federal response will be swift and aggressive.

“If local governments get in the business of facilitating drug use, of telling people we’re going to help you — not just hand out needles, because they’re not just handing out needles — they’re actually inviting people to bring these illegal drugs into their places of business,” Rosenstein said. “If you start down that road, you’re really going to undermine the deterrent message that I think is so important in order to prevent people from becoming addicted in the future.”

U.S. attorneys in Philadelphia and Vermont have come out strongly against supervised injection sites. But Rosenstein’s vow marks the first time a high-ranking Department of Justice official has weighed in on the controversial sites that Philadelphia and about a dozen other jurisdictions are considering as a desperate response to the worsening opioid crisis.

Nonetheless, top city officials said Rosenstein’s declaration will not deter them from forging ahead toward the opening of a facility where people can administer their own drugs under the supervision of medical professionals.

That plan amounts to a flagrant violation of federal drug laws, Rosenstein countered.

“I’m not aware of any valid basis for the argument that you can engage in criminal activity as long as you do it in the presence of someone with a medical license,” he said.

Drug users struggling with opioid addiction in Kensington and other places hard hit by the crisis need treatment, not government-sanctioned places to use a deadly drug, he said.

“You can’t possibly think you’re going to solve the problem … in Kensington by setting up a place where people can actually come in and legally, at least with the sanction of the local government, inject drugs,” Rosenstein said.

His advice to Mayor Jim Kenney and other top elected officials: Consult your lawyers about all legal repercussions.

That could mean criminal prosecution.

“We also have the ability and the Controlled Substances Act to pursue an injunction that is a civil order that a court would impose to order somebody to stop engaging in unlawful activity to stop distributing drugs illegally,” Rosenstein said. “And so both of those tools are available, and … if the situation arose where we determine that somebody was in violation of the law, we’d have to evaluate the facts and make a determination about what’s the appropriate approach to take.”

Rosenstein said he “wouldn’t speculate” on what exactly the enforcement would looks like or who might be arrested, but he said federal officials have their eyes trained on Philadelphia.

City leaders, he said, should expect legal action as soon as the city opens a facility.

‘Worth a try’

But Philadelphia city officials, confounded by a staggering death toll, have said a facility where people can inject drugs under supervision is one way of saving lives.

More than 1,200 people who died of drug overdoses, most fueled by opioids, last year. That is about 35 percent more than the deadliest days of the AID epidemic, said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley.

“This would be the worst public health crisis in a century,” Farley said.

While he was disappointed with the Department of Justice’s hardline response, Farley mentioned the initial backlash to needle-exchange programs, widely seen as helping to curb the AIDS epidemic, as a hopeful analogy.

“If the message is clear that, if you walk in this facility you’re going to be arrested, people wouldn’t be using that,” Farley said. “But that is not what is happened currently with syringe exchange, and that’s the sort of accommodation we hope we can set up with an overdose prevention site.”

The evidence is clear, Farley said. In countries that have opened supervised injection sites, overdose deaths have dropped.

“Nobody likes the idea of watching someone who is addicted just inject drugs. We want to get all of those people into treatment, but we all have to recognize that, despite all of our efforts, many people are not going to drug treatment.

“In a crisis like this, with as many people dying as we have, it’s worth a try,” he said.

‘All of our problem’

That message was amplified at City Hall Wednesday afternoon, as dozens who support the plan rallied to push leaders to act more quickly.

A mix of harm-reduction advocates and people who use drugs blocked traffic, holding signs stating “We Will Not Rest in Peace. ” They chanted “preventable deaths, political crimes,” over a chorus of honking car horns.

Sterling Johnson, an organizer with ACT UP, said he does not think the threat of a federal crackdown should stop the city from taking quick action.

“Just as we’re a sanctuary city, and we’ve seen the mayor make really bold stances — we’re really happy about that — we know that this is another topic that we need to make the same bold stance regarding,” Johnson said

Protester Sandra Collett, a 58-year-old former heroin user, recently lost her partner to a drug overdose. Collett thinks a safe injection site may have saved her partner’s life. When she was using, she said, it would have provided her with solace knowing medical care and emergency responders were close by.

“They didn’t have safe injection sites when I was using,” Collett said. “We was going in the shooting galleries, and I believe that’s what a lot of people do — go in shooting galleries or old abandoned houses and everything like that where they have a chance of OD’ing all by their self, alone.”

After repeatedly seeing piles of used needles and people openly using opioids near her Kensington bus stop, Collett said she became a supporter of the facility plan.

“That finally woke me up to say maybe, just maybe, a safe injection site would work. You know? Because this is not just one person’s problem, this is all of our problem,” she said.

The exact timing of Philadelphia supervised injection site has not been announced. It could be a mobile site. It could be housed in a building. Or it could be portable site in a vacant lot. Officials say, perhaps as soon as the end of the year, there will be another major announcement.

Meanwhile, DOJ officials have other places to watch. California just passed a bill legalizing supervised injection sites in the state. Rosenstein said he was well aware of that.

“Just because somebody tells you in San Francisco that San Francisco is not going to prosecute you for doing something that does not make it legal,” he said. “It remains illegal under federal law. And people who engage in that activity remain vulnerable to civil and criminal enforcement.”

WHYY reporter Nina Feldman contributed to this story

Mystery woman in doorbell video identified

The mystery woman in a doorbell video circulating online has been identified.

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office says the 32-year-old woman was in a relationship with a man who has died from an apparent self inflicted gunshot wound at a home in the Sunrise Ranch subdivision.

An investigation is currently underway at the home in the 18400 block of Sunrise Pines where the 49-year-old man was found deceased. Authorities say the man was found dead from a single gunshot wound after deputies responded to a welfare call.

Investigators say based off of information from witnesses, the man and the woman seen in the video were in a relationship and living at the home where the investigation is underway.

The sheriff’s office says the woman is safe with family. Authorities say the woman not reported missing at any point and is from the Dallas area.

The circumstances surrounding the video are under investigation. 

The sheriff’s office first put out an alert on Sunday asking for the public’s help identifying the woman captured on home surveillance video in the Sunrise Ranch Subdivision.

The sheriff’s office says numerous people in the state and out of the state sent in missing persons flyers suggesting the woman might be the missing person.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office at (936)760-5800.


If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to civilians and veterans. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text to 741-741

CLICK HERE for the warning signs and risk factors of suicide. Call 1-800-273-TALK for free and confidential emotional support.

Interview with 2 local priests on abuse claims

– Father Adam Cichoski, ordained for only a year, says the Catholic Church provides joy.

“That’s really what got me here. In the church there was hope and happiness nothing else could take its place,” said Fr. Cichoski.

For Father Ed Kennedy, only two years as a priest, it was his family’s involvement in the church.

“I think growing that active in the church really planted that seed there’s where that vocation started,” said Fr. Kennedy.

Both sat in the Our Lady of Hope Parish in Blackwood, NJ to speak of their faith in the wake of the devastating findings of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on priest sexual abuse.

When asked if the scandal has shaken his faith, Fr. Kennedy said, “I wouldn’t say it’s shaken my faith, it’s given me resolve to be a good, holy priest.”

Both priests said the reports of over 1000 victims and more than 300 abusive priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses have brought scrutiny they couldn’t have imagined when they began their training several years ago.

Fr. Cichoski said, “It’s a stigma that’s going to be out us, but something we have to overcome.”

“You get generalized people see the collar they think you’re one of the predator priests, but that’s not who we are,” Fr. Kennedy adds.

The priests say their parishioners are disappointed.  Some are angry, and the men are concerned that financial support for the church’s good-works will suffer.

“Until all of this is taken care of we have to make sure first and foremost the most vulnerable are cared for,” said Fr. Kennedy.

They believe reform will come in a full accounting of the mistakes and a removal of what they call “flawed men.”

“As a single Christian I’m committed to a chaste life focused on doing good for others. Being a priest is a challenge, but so is being a married person in today’s world,” said Fr. Cichoski.

“It’s heartbreaking that people were victimized. It’s even more heartbreaking that people would cover up for themselves rather than face the problem head on,” adds Fr. Kennedy.

Tractor trailer accident on NJ Turnpike

– Police are trying attempting to direct traffic after a tractor trailer overturned on the NJ Turnpike.

A call was dispatched to police around 5:40 p.m. Wednesday night reporting an overturned tractor trailer accident on NJ Turnpike southbound near Exit 7. 

The driver of the tractor trailer was taken to the hospital.

No other injuries have been reported at this time.

Municipal workers explain recycling rules

– Camden County is just one of a growing number of municipalities around the country that has a “single stream” service for their recyclables. All paper, plastic, glass and metals are collected together and sorted out later.

“Every time I turn around, they’re telling me something else doesn’t get recycled,” said local resident Karla Sarlo.

It’s all becoming frustrating to residents who pride themselves on responsibly disposing of recyclable materials.

Cherry Hill director of public works, Steve Musilli, is now circulating a list of newer recycle do’s and don’ts.

Some, surprised many people in the community.

Everyone is trying to do their part, and this list will hopefully make it easier.

With Vatican In Turmoil Over Abuse Allegations, Questions Remain About What Pope Knew

For centuries, the words “Vatican” and “intrigue” have gone hand in hand. But the Holy See’s centuries-old code of secrecy ensured that scandals and conspiracies usually remained hidden behind the tall and sturdy Renaissance walls of the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, unbeknownst to the faithful masses around the world.

Now, in the era of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, mudslinging between rival church factions is being waged out in the open.

“It’s as if the Borgias and the Medicis had Twitter accounts,” Christopher Bellitto, a professor of church history at Kean University in New Jersey, told the National Catholic Reporter.

The power struggle has been simmering ever since the Argentine-born Jorge Maria Bergoglio became Pope Francis in 2013. He signaled a break with his two predecessors by promoting a message of mercy over strict dogma, of inclusion over punishment.

The anger of a traditionalist faction critical of the pope’s more welcoming church broke out into the open for the whole world to see last weekend, with the publication by conservative Catholic media outlets of a bombshell letter by a former Vatican diplomat. The letter was released just as the pope was on a highly charged visit to Ireland — ground zero in the clerical sex abuse crisis.

The vitriolic 11-page letter by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the Vatican’s former ambassador to the United States, is filled with innuendo. Mixing factual and ideological claims, it accuses Francis of knowing and ignoring allegations of sexual misconduct by the recently disgraced Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., who resigned as cardinal last month. In the letter, Viganò calls on the pope to step down for complicity in covering up crimes.

In the unprecedented attack, Viganò makes numerous unsubstantiated claims. He says that in 2013, he personally informed the new pope that McCarrick had been widely accused of inviting seminarians into his bed and that Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, had punished McCarrick by forbidding him to celebrate Mass in public, give lectures and travel. Benedict, he says, ordered McCarrick to dedicate himself to a life of prayer and penance. Viganò claims that Francis overruled those sanctions and virtually rehabilitated McCarrick.

The wrinkles in Viganò’s claim are that there is no public knowledge that Benedict ever issued any kind of sanctions against McCarrick and that it contradicts the historical record. McCarrick was often seen celebrating Mass, visiting Rome and attending events with Benedict. It is possible that the former pope did impart those orders secretly and for some reason was unable or unwilling to enforce them.

The known fact is that when credible allegations recently surfaced that McCarrick had abused a minor, it was Francis who elicited his resignation as cardinal — an extremely rare occurrence in the Catholic Church.

Viganò’s letter, titled “Testimony,” also contains accusations of cover-ups by about a dozen cardinals who served under Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II when he was pope — many of whom Viganò has clashed with in the past. It makes no mention of the fact that Viganò himself once tried to quash a probe into a Minneapolis archbishop being investigated for misconduct with seminarians.

That Vatican officials have covered up clerical sex abuse is an open secret.

It is public knowledge that during John Paul II’s papacy, one of the cardinals named in Viganò’s letter — former Vatican Secretary of State (equivalent to Prime Minister) Angelo Sodano — long protected the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, a Mexican priest who founded the Legion of Christ. Maciel, who died in 2008, turned out to be a serial predator of minors and was removed from active ministry by Benedict.

On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro — who headed the biggest-ever U.S. investigation into clerical sex abuse, uncovering seven decades of abuse of more than 1,000 victims by some 300 priests — said his office had evidence the Vatican knew about cover-ups. But he could not verify whether Francis had direct knowledge of the crimes.

The Viganò letter rarely mentions children — the prime victims of clerical sex abuse. Rather, it reads like an ideological screed, a homophobic manifesto. The retired archbishop belongs to a traditionalist church faction, critical of what it decries as Francis’ gay-friendly agenda. Those traditionalists blame clerical sex abuse on the presence of homosexuals in the church and believe Francis is too lenient with gays.

Viganò calls for the eradication inside the church of what he calls “homosexual networks which … act under the concealment of secrecy and lies with the power of octopus tentacles and strangle innocent victims and priestly vocations and are strangling the entire church.”

Most secular experts reject the identification of homosexuality with pedophilia as retrograde and encouraging anti-gay bigotry.

Francis and his supporters in the church mostly blame clericalism — a sense of superiority, exclusion and entitlement among the clergy that distances them from the laity — for creating a culture where the crimes of pedophilia are committed.

On the flight back to Rome from Ireland Sunday evening, reporters asked Francis two key questions — whether it was true that Viganò had told him about McCarrick and whether Benedict had issued sanctions on McCarrick.

Francis answered neither question, dismissed the letter and told reporters to read it and judge for themselves.

One of the pope’s closest aides, the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, editor of the Vatican-approved Civiltà Cattolica, tweeted that Francis has never publicly “defended himself against the accusations … because he *knows* that sooner or later the truth will surface.”

Nevertheless, those crucial questions are still hanging, unanswered, which has emboldened the pope’s critics. Many of those critics are in the United States, where conservative Catholics are among Francis’ strongest opponents for his stands on climate change, against laissez-faire capitalism and in favor of protection of migrants and refugees — as well as his opening to Cuba and to divorced Catholics.

Referring to Viganò’s allegations, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, told his diocese in a letter, “I will lend my voice in whatever way necessary to call for this investigation and urge that its findings demand accountability of all found to be culpable at the highest level of the church.”

And, commenting on the Viganò letter, the ultraconservative Rome-based Cardinal Raymond Burke, an American, told the conservative Catholic website LifeSiteNews, “After the truth of each declaration has been established, then the appropriate sanctions must be applied both for the healing of the horrible wounds inflicted upon the Church and her members, and for the reparation of the grave scandal caused.”

In 2016, Burke and three other cardinals wrote a public letter known as the dubia (“doubts” in Latin), in which they accused Francis of sowing confusion on moral issues.

Viganò himself has a reputation as a disgruntled prelate with an ax to grind. In 2012, detailed letters he wrote to Benedict accusing other prelates of financial corruption were leaked to the Italian media and led to the Vatileaks scandal that is said to have persuaded Benedict to step down as pope.

While Viganò presented himself as a whistleblower, many inside the Vatican began to question his credibility. As Vatican ambassador to the United States from 2011 to 2016, Viganò took active part in the “culture wars.” That proved his undoing.

During Francis’ visit to the U.S. in 2015, the ambassador orchestrated a meeting between the pope and Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who had been jailed for five days for refusing to issue same-sex-marriage licenses because of her religious beliefs. News of the meeting — which contrasted with Francis’ message of inclusion — broke days later and reportedly infuriated the pope, who summoned Viganò back to Rome.

In the days since Viganò’s latest bombshell, more details have emerged as to how his letter came about. Marco Tosatti, a conservative Italian journalist who has covered the Vatican for many years, told the Associated Press he helped Viganò write the letter and that he persuaded the former archbishop to make it public after the Aug. 15 release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report.

Tosatti says Viganò has gone into hiding to avoid the media onslaught and told the New York Times Viganò was “worried for his own security.”

Another person who appears to have encouraged Viganò to speak out is Timothy Busch, a conservative American Catholic on the board of governors of the media network that owns the National Catholic Register, one of the outlets that first published Viganò’s letter.

Busch told the New York Times, “Archbishop Viganò has done us a great service” and said the National Catholic Register‘s leaders “had personally assured him” that Benedict had confirmed Viganò’s account, the paper reported.

But the retired pope’s secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, told a German newspaper that reports that Benedict had confirmed Viganò’s letter “lack any foundation.”

On Tuesday evening, quoting close aides of Francis, the Italian news agency ANSA reported that the pope is “embittered” by the Viganò letter but “is not contemplating a resignation.”

Even before the Viganò letter was released, clerical pedophilia in many countries around the world had become the biggest crisis of Francis’ papacy, with survivors of abuse demanding the pope undertake much more concrete steps to hold accountable those bishops who ignored or willfully covered up predator priests. Conservatives, meanwhile, based their attacks on the pope on doctrinal issues.

Now, after the letter’s release, Francis’ opponents have raised the stakes, trying to de-legitimize him by accusing the pope directly of covering up sexual abuse. The battle lines have been drawn — the weapon is the issue of clerical sex abuse; the target is the papacy of Francis. The next battleground is likely to be the Youth Synod, a major meeting of Catholic bishops from all over the world, to be held in Rome in October.

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

Police in pursuit of suspect in South LA

– Police are in pursuit of an assault with a deadly weapon suspect in the South Los Angeles area.

The chase was first reported Wednesday afternoon involving a white Dodge pickup truck.

Authorities said the suspect is wanted for carjacking, as well as assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer.

LIVE VIDEO

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Oil companies, staff remain liable for spill damage during N.J. home deliveries

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has vetoed legislation that would have relieved oil companies and their staff from liability for damages from spills during home heating oil deliveries.

It was a bad bill that would have put the environment and homeowners at risk, said Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club director.

“When you make sure that polluters are held accountable, there’s less likely to be a spill. We also felt there was an undue burden to homeowners because, if they don’t clean up the spill, then the homeowner or the homeowner’s insurance would have to pay,” he said. “And that would either cost the homeowners more money or their insurance companies, which would mean higher premiums.”

What’s more, Tittel said, those spills represent a threat to safety and health.

“One quart of oil pollutes a million gallons of water. And many of the homes in New Jersey that are on oil are in rural areas with wells,” he said. “So any spill or accident could have real devastating impacts on people’s water supply.”

The legislation would have been a serious departure from the way the state’s Spill Compensation and Control Act has assigned liability for hazardous spills and cleanup for more than 40 years, Murphy said.

Philly's overdose crisis isn't getting better, so activists shut down traffic at City Hall

Their demand of City Council: release funding for an OD prevention facility.

Several drivers exited their vehicles to approach protesters blocking the street next to City Hall on Wednesday.
Max Marin/Billy Penn

A big traffic snarl overtook Center City Wednesday afternoon, backing up cars along Broad Street and causing gridlock as activists staged a sit-in protest around City Hall’s roundabout for more than 20 minutes.

The disruption was deliberate. Its purpose: To call attention to an overdose crisis that claimed more than 1,200 lives last year in Philadelphia.

Harm reduction coalition ACT UP Philadelphia, which organized the demonstration, called on members of City Council to release funding for “the immediate construction” of a safe injection facility. Alternatively known as Overdose Prevention Sites or Comprehensive User Engagement Sites, these controversial and widely misperceived facilities offer life-saving medical assistance to drug users, in addition to a wide range of social services.

While Philly became an early proponent one of the nation’s first safe injection facilities last year, movement has been sluggish since.

Officials say the city is still waiting on private funding. Activists said City Council could step up to the plate.

Philadelphia and other cities that have voiced support for safe injection sites face considerable pressure from the Trump administration. Operating a facility that facilitates illicit drug use is a federal felony.

In a widely shared New York Times op-ed on Tuesday, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein warned numerous cities that the federal government will “meet the opening of any injection site with swift and aggressive action.” Notably, Rosenstein did not cite Philadelphia among the list of likely suspects.

Legal experts say that while state governments have authority to make such facilities legal under state law, that would not protect them from a federal crackdown. The ambiguous legality of the sites could also jeopardize the careers of medical personnel working at the site, harm reduction advocates say.

But in Philly, local government has not committed to funding or maintaining the facility directly. Rather, Mayor Jim Kenney pitched private organizations to fund the medically supervised liability with the blessing of his administration.

After months of no movement, activists are calling for more commitment.

“We will all be dead if we wait for Council to move,” said ACT UP member Sam Sitrin in a statement. “This protest is about one thing: stopping overdoses. No one has ever died at an overdose prevention site.”

Activists repeatedly singled out Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, whose 7th District encompasses parts of Kensington hardest hit by the overdose crisis.

“Maria said no, she’s got to go!” they chanted more than half a dozen times at Wednesday’s action.

The reference was to Quiñones-Sánchez’s early opposition to opening a medical drug-use facility in her district — a key hurdle for activists.

In response to protesters, the two-term councilwoman cited her efforts to lower access barriers for addiction treatment services and emergency housing. While she shares activists’ frustration with the city’s laggard response to the crisis, she stood by her earlier statements about opening a facility in her district.

“My first duty is to my constituents and the community I was elected to serve,” she told Billy Penn, “and today’s advocates who don’t live in the impacted area didn’t change that.”

Amid the conflict, fatal overdoses dropped 17 percent citywide in the first quarter of 2018, which officials attribute to the increasingly widespread distribution of naloxone in hotspots for opioid use. Health experts project a supervised injection facility in Philly would save somewhere between 25 and 75 lives annually, but for Sterling Johnson, an ACT UP Philadelphia organizer, that’s worth the fight.

“Zero people have ever died in an overdose prevention site,” Johnson said, “that’s all I need to hear.”

Come Sept. 1, seniors will need new Key Cards (or old driver’s licenses) to ride SEPTA for free.

This story originally appeared on PlanPhilly.

SEPTA’s effort to replace all its tickets, tokens and other fare instruments with the Key Card continues to creep along.

The latest step in the long, slow path to full implementation of SEPTA Key affects senior citizens. The good news: Now they can ride Regional Rail for free (trips had been $1 for seniors). The bad news: They may need to get new ID cards before they can do so.

Starting Sept. 1, SEPTA will no longer accept the blue-and-yellow, paper senior citizen transit ID cards for free trips. Seniors will need to have either SEPTA Key photo ID cards – which have pictures of the riders on them to prove ownership – or valid PennDOT-issued IDs equipped with magnetic strips.

PennDOT’s newest IDs – driver’s licenses and non-driver ID cards – no longer have magnetic strips, however. So, if you’re over the age of 65 and you got a new one in the last few months  and you want to ride SEPTA for free, you’ll need to get a SEPTA Key Photo ID card. They’re available at SEPTA’s headquarters at 1234 Market St., at Suburban Station, and through the offices of local elected officials. (Going through the politicians will take a few weeks; SEPTA offices provide same-day service).

Though seniors will be able to take most Regional Rail rides for free, the previous half-fare discount on trips to and from Delaware and New Jersey will stay the same.

SEPTA Deputy Managing Director Rich Burnfield said SEPTA has already issued 157,000 of the senior-specific SEPTA Key Cards, estimating that nearly 90 percent of senior riders already use the Key Card or a Pennsylvania driver’s license to board trains and buses.

Burnfield, who spoke with PlanPhilly right after a family vacation to Florida, said he doesn’t think the queues for the remaining riders that need new cards will be that bad. “Hopefully, the lines at SEPTA will be significantly shorter than the lines at Disney World,” he said with a laugh.

To accommodate those who may still need new cards, SEPTA will extend some office hours this week. On weekdays, SEPTA’s headquarters will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Suburban Station’s Accessible Travel Center will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Seniors will need to prove their age by bringing valid forms of ID, such as a PennDOT ID, a birth certificate, a resident-alien card, a passport, or naturalization papers.

In addition, the transit agency will keep the SEPTA Key photo ID counter open Saturday, Sept. 1, and the following Saturday, Sept. 8, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to help seniors who need to make the switch.

On Wednesday, SEPTA also expanded its Regional Rail pilot program, allowing Zone 4 customers to purchase Key Cards loaded with weekly TrailPasses. The “Early Adopter” program started in August by allowing passengers to buy Key Cards equipped with monthly TrailPasses. Eventually, any Key Card will work on Regional Rail – provided, of course, there is either money or a pass loaded on its account.

SEPTA made the Key switch on other transit in the spring, when it stopped selling tokens.

BYOB to the Philadelphia Music Festival, an all-ages fest that benefits a child slavery rescue org

MLB Power Rankings Roundup: Where the Phillies stand heading into final month of season

The Phillies might be in a bit of trouble heading into the final month of the MLB season. Losers of eight of their last 10, the Phils are now 4.5 games behind the Braves for the division lead and 2.5 games out of the second National League wild card spot.

It’s gotten so bad for Gabe Kapler’s team that not even Cy Young candidate Aaron Nola could stop the bleeding on Tuesday night, as the Phils found a new way to lose to the Nationals and are now at risk of being swept out by their division rivals before playing host to the Cubs over the holiday weekend.

And if the Phillies can’t win that series against Chicago, it’ll mark one month since they won at series — tithe Phillies swept Miami in a four-game series from Aug. 2-5. Luckily, it’ll be the last-place Marlins up next for Philly after the Cubs. 

Recently acquired slugger Jose Bautista will make his first start for the Phillies on Wednesday night as Jake Arrieta tries to do what Nola couldn’t: put an end to this losing streak.

Needless to say, the recent losses have been reflected in MLB power rankings nationally, as the Phillies find themselves outside the top 10 across the board.

Here’s a look at the latest rankings… 

OUTLET
WRITER
PREVIOUS 
(CHANGE)
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

11

MLB.com
Alyson Footer
10 (-1)  ——

13

ESPN
Staff
10 (-3) Wilson Ramos has been a great addition, although injuries have continued to be an issue. Overall, he is headed toward the second-best season of his career after the 2016 season, when he got injured right before the end of the season. He’s hitting .311; he hit .307 that season. He has an .874 OPS; he had an .850 mark that season. That year, Ramos’ end-of-September ACL injury prevented him from contributing to the Nationals’ postseason run — and they were bounced in the NLDS (again). Will he get his chance to affect a postseason run this year?  —Sarah Langs

14

Yahoo! Sports
Mike Oz
12 (-2) Have we told you the NL playoff picture is madness lately? You’re right. We droned on about it last week too. These four continue to jostle for position — even the Braves and D-backs are in that group. The Dodgers, after a dive deeper into the standings, have won four in a row and are trying to get past the equally up-and-down Rockies. Both the Phillies and Brewers are trying to rebound from similarly up-and-down Augusts.

14

USA TODAY
Gabe Lacques
11 (-3) Braves beware: Phillies, 41-22 at Citizens Bank Park, play 15 of next 21 at home. 

14

CBS Sports
Matt Snyder
11 (-3) A 2-4 week against the Nationals and Blue Jays after losing three of five to the Mets. That’s not hitting their stride at the right time. 

15

Bleacher Report
Joel Reuter
14 (-1) An 11-12 month that includes a 2-6 stretch heading into play Monday has sent the Philadelphia Phillies from a half-game up in the NL East standings to three games behind the rival Braves.

The bullpen has shown significant cracks in recent weeks, and the offense has gone cold to the tune of a .712 OPS in August that ranks 22nd in the majors. They still have seven games remaining against the Braves, including a three-game series in Philadelphia to close the season, but they need to turn things around quickly.


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