Explore Philly’s murals with your kids

Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods—and depending on where you and your family live, whether within the city limits or in the Philly suburbs, there may be lots of neighborhoods within the city that you haven’t had the chance to visit or explore.

Mural Arts Philadelphia is one of our city’s treasures—it is actually the largest public art program of its kind across the country. Mural Arts brings together community members and professional artists in a collaborative process that creates beauty, shares history and tells the story of Philadelphia’s diverse neighborhoods. Whenever I’m driving or walking around the city with my kids, looking at the murals creates great conversations!

Water for Life (Photo Courtesy/Eurhi Jones & David McShane)

The murals offer a way to help our kids—and us—get to know about the parts of the city that they don’t live in or know much about. And because this October is Mural Arts Month, there will be many unique opportunities to experience the murals with your kids throughout the city. Check out this full calendar of more than 25 events at locations across Philadelphia.

Great experiences with your kids

The events, performances and dedications that are planned include many events that are free and some you’ll need tickets for. They include:

Dedications: Throughout the month, a number of new murals will be dedicated throughout the city. Of particular interest to families include Legacy (Saturday 10/20, 2 p.m. at the Lucien E. Blackwell Library, 125 South 52nd Street) 
a mural that explores the question: How do we create our own cultural identities?

On Saturday 10/28 at 11 a.m., Philly Rowing, a mural featuring the women and children who’ve been part of the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta will be dedicated at the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta, under the Girard Avenue Bridge, on the Kelly Drive side.

Tours: Another fun way to engage with the murals is through a special tour—you can take a walking tour or a trolley tour. The Love Letters train tour may be very cool for you and your kids; every Saturday, you can catch a trolley that will take you to see a series of 50 murals created in 2010 with street artist Steve ESPO Powers that are described as “open-ended love letter, from an artist to his hometown, from an individual to a neighborhood.” You will get off the trolley at points to see the murals so do dress according to the weather.

Artist Keir Johnston leads a public paint day. (Photo Courtesy/Mural Arts Philadelphia)

 Parkway Soiree: You and your kids can join in the fun of painting with Mural Arts at the Parkway Soiree, a free public celebration of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. There will be lots of fun family-friendly events there and Mural Arts will be there with a public paint day.

Do you have a favorite mural in the city? One that you like to talk about with your kids? We’d love to hear about it—please share in the comments below.


Powered paraglider critically injured in Wildwood crash

A man was critically injured Saturday afternoon in a powered paraglider crash in Wildwood, authorities say.

Firefighters were dispatched shortly after 12:30 p.m. on a report of a single-occupant aircraft crash, according to a press release from the Wildwood Fire Department.

Arriving crews found the unconscious man on the beach at Spencer Avenue, the release said.

The man, who has not been identified, was transported via ambulance to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City since the requested aeromedical helicopter was grounded due to adverse weather conditions, according to the release.

A powered paraglider pilot wears a motor on the back and sails through the air, flying between 15 and 50 miles per hour. No license or training is required in the United States.


After one year of headlines, #MeToo is everywhere

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the reporting, in The New York Times and The New Yorker, that led to the fall of movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

From that point on, the hashtag #MeToo was catapulted into a national movement. The #MeToo conversation now seems to be everywhere.

Oprah Winfrey at the Golden Globe Awards: “Take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘me too’ again.”

Janelle Monae at the Grammy Awards: “We come in peace, but we mean business.”

At Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., psychology teacher Sarah Soileau wants her class to consider some of the questions raised by the #MeToo movement — questions like verbal consent.

“What did we learn?” says student Marcus Bright, 17. “Each base. Each base. First base. Second base. Third base. Each base, I’m asking.”

“That is a good rule to live by,” Soileau says. “Each base you better ask, all right?”

Sarah Soileau says #MeToo has been an opportunity to talk about serious and relevant issues like consent and sexual harassment.

“It’s important to teach our students when they’re younger so they don’t grow up in a culture where they think it’s OK,” she says. “I’m just trying to give these girls and boys the voice to say, ‘This is not OK, and I’m not going to tolerate it.’ ”

More money, more problems reported

Victoria Lipnic (left), acting chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, testifies before the House Administration Committee during a hearing on preventing sexual harassment in Congress in December 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Women in general aren’t tolerating it either, and the results are measurable. This year, sexual harassment reports to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have gone up 12 percent, after years of remaining steady. The EEOC is the government agency that handles workplace discrimination cases including sexual harassment.

The vast majority of those claims do not go to litigation. But the number that did doubled this year.

EEOC Acting Chair Victoria Lipnic says the interest generated by #MeToo — from both individuals and employers — has been enormous.

“We’ve had a fivefold increase of hits to our website of people looking for information about sexual harassment,” Lipnic says. “We’ve done hundreds of training sessions for employers.”

Here’s something else that has changed as a result of #MeToo: There’s real money available for women to get help.

“I have been a civil rights lawyer and a women’s rights lawyer for the last 20 years,” says Sharyn Tejani, director of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund. “And if you had told me at any point in those 20 years that there would be money available to help people come forward, to help people with their cases, I would have told you, ‘That’s just never going to happen.’ ”

The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund covers legal fees for alleged victims of sexual harassment. With big donors like Shonda Rhimes and Meryl Streep, the fund reached $21 million in just two months. Time’s Up also started giving away grants to nonprofits working in poor communities.

At the same time, there’s only so much lawyers can do. Of the thousands of sexual harassment reports that come in, only a fraction get funded for legal help.

“Some people are coming to us, you know, two years after this has happened to them, five years after this has happened to them, 10 years after this has happened to them, because they never felt comfortable coming forward before,” Tejani says. “And the way the law is, you have to report or bring a case within a certain amount of time. So some of those women are out of time.

“Some of those women who are coming forward are independent contractors, and unless you live in certain states, you’re not covered by discrimination law. Some of those women work for very small employers — in some states, those are not covered. And so it’s a matter of people coming forward, and we can we connect them to lawyers and the lawyers help them when they can. But sometimes there isn’t something that can be done.”

The surges

Jo Freeman has written books on women’s liberation and other social movements. To put #MeToo in context, she points to the fight against racism.

“A hundred years ago, the culture condoned white supremacy,” Freeman says. “We’ve been fighting that one for a hundred years, and I think we’ve made a lot of progress, but it ain’t done yet.”

“You gotta plow the ground and plant the seeds before you can reap the harvest,” she adds.

Freeman says social movements need both the high profile “surges” like speeches and marches. But they also need the behind-the-scenes work like the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund.

“That underneath-the-radar, behind-the-scenes organizing is extremely important,” Freeman says. “Well you know, what you see are the surge parts. What’s catching our attention now is the vast turnout of people in the Kavanaugh thing.”

Freeman is referring to Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her decades ago, when they were in high school. Hundreds of people protested Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court this week.

One of the protesters, Laura Miranda-Browne, came down from New Jersey. She says her feelings have been all over the place these past few weeks: “appalled and demoralized,” yet “hopeful and motivated.”

Miranda-Browne believes that without the support of the #MeToo movement, Ford might not have come forward at all.

“I really think that without the cultural conversation that’s taking place at this moment, she wouldn’t have had the courage to come forward — and knowing she would have the support of millions of Americans,” Miranda-Browne says.

The backlash

But #MeToo also terrifies people. Allegations alone can get men fired.

Many critics find that the #MeToo movement has resulted in outsized punishments for small offenses like inappropriate flirting. This week President Trump said that “it’s a very scary time for young men in America.”

“My whole life I’ve heard you’re innocent until proven guilty,” Trump said to reporters outside the White House. “But now you’re guilty until proven innocent. That is a very, very difficult standard.”


The #MeToo backlash isn’t just about the fear of false accusations. Heather Mac Donald, a Manhattan Institute Fellow and author of the book The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture, says the movement assumes women in America have no voice.

“We live in a very tolerant society,” Mac Donald says. “This is not Afghanistan. This is not Iran with the Revolutionary Guard. For American females to complain that they’re in a rape culture or a patriarchy, to me is — is extremely deluded and and ignorant about what those things really look like.”

Facing inward

Whatever your point of view, there’s no denying the #MeToo movement has ignited a feisty cultural conversation. It has disrupted ideas about what women should put up with at work, and divided people along gender and generational lines.

Jenny Lumet is a screenwriter and TV producer. In an open letter in The Hollywood Reporter, she alleged that hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons sexually attacked her. He has denied it.

Lumet has thought a lot about what #MeToo means — how it forces people to face their own beliefs and behavior.

“What is the most uncomfortable for people is … you have to turn your gaze upon yourself,” Lumet says. “Or you’re forced to sometimes, in moments, and even if it’s just for a second.”

Lumet believes this year of the #MeToo movement will forever be a reference point.

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


Once enslaved by ISIS, Nadia Murad is co-recipient of Nobel Peace Prize

In 2014, Nadia Murad, a member of the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq, was taken captive by ISIS members and sexually enslaved for three months before escaping. In 2016, at the age of 23, she was named the U.N.’s first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. Today, she became the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Dr. Denis Mukwege, a gynecologist from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who treats victims of rape.

The pair were named for their work to highlight and eliminate the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, according to the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Murad was honored for her refusal “to remain silent and ashamed of the abuses to which they have been subjected,” the committee said. At age 25, she is the second-youngest peace prize recipient; Malala Yousafzai was the youngest at age 17.

NPR profiled Murad in August. This story has been updated.

In August 2014, Nadia Murad was one of thousands of Yazidis who were captured by ISIS and forced into sexual slavery. Three months later, she escaped through a door that one of her captors left unlocked.

Murad has shared her painful story with international media outlets over and over to show the world what happened to Yazidis. She has become a voice for captive women and girls in the process.

She urges women who have faced sexual violence to reclaim their lives. “The hope of ISIS was to break the Yazidi community,” she says. “But for survivors especially, going back to their lives and getting married and making a life and working, it’s basically making sure ISIS did not succeed.”

When she was named the U.N.’s first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised her courage.

“Nadia survived horrific crimes. I cried when I heard her story. But I didn’t only cry out of sadness,” he said. “I was also moved to tears because Nadia has so much strength, courage and dignity. She rightly calls for a world where all children live in peace.”

Yazidi women and girls who have escaped ISIS or are rescued face an array of problems, Pari Ibrahim, founder and executive director of the Free Yezidi Foundation, tells NPR. “A lot of the women have difficulty trying to build a new future. They don’t have a boyfriend or get engaged; they are living in the past. It’s not easy for them to switch back to the here and now and to live daily life.”

Murad, who has tried to loosen shackles of the past, announced in August her plans to be married.

Her fiancé, Abid Shamdeen, is a former interpreter for the U.S. Army and a human rights activist. “Despite all the difficulties that we were going through, he was always there. He was supportive,” Murad tells NPR.

Shamdeen says of Murad: “Obviously she’s a very brave woman. She is courageous, she’s smart, she’s strong. And she’s a fighter.”

Murad says their engagement shows Yazidi survivors that “it’s possible to live their lives again and to not believe the propaganda of ISIS — that they will not be accepted back into the community.”

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


WATCH LIVE: Final Senate vote on Kavanaugh nomination expected Saturday

Updated at 11:54 a.m. ET

The Senate is expected to vote Saturday on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh and — barring a major unforeseen development — in all likelihood, he will be confirmed by the narrowest of margins.

In a tweet Saturday morning, President Trump suggested the final vote will happen in the afternoon or early evening, adding that the day is a “Big day for America!”

Asked about the #MeToo movement and her husband’s recent comments about its potential impact on men, first lady Melania Trump weighed in on Kavanaugh’s controversial nomination. “I would say if we’re talking about the Supreme Court and Judge Kavanaugh, I think he’s highly qualified for the Supreme Court,” Trump said while speaking to reporters in Egypt during a solo international trip to Africa. “I’m glad that Dr. Ford was heard, I’m glad that Judge Kavanaugh was heard. FBI investigation was done, is completed and Senate voted.”


Not seeing the video? Click here.

But when asked whether she believed Christine Blasey Ford who alleged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than three decades ago when they were both in high school, the first lady would not answer directly. “I will move on that and I think that all the victims they need — we need to help all the victims no matter what kind of abuse they had, but I am against any kind of abuse or violence,” the first lady explained.

On Friday, after the nomination cleared a key procedural hurdle with a 51-49 vote, two previously undecided senators, Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announced they would support Kavanaugh. That support all but assures Republicans of the votes they need to push the nomination across the finish line.

In a much anticipated speech on the Senate floor Friday afternoon, Collins said that she believed that Ford was a survivor of sexual assault. Still, Collins said, the allegations “fail to meet the ‘more likely than not’ standard,” and “I do not believe that these charges can fairly prevent Judge Kavanaugh from serving on the court.”

And in a statement issued soon after Collins spoke, Manchin explained he was supporting Kavanaugh notwithstanding the “serious accusations” leveled against the judge and lingering questions about Kavanaugh’s temperament.

“I have reservations about this vote given the serious accusations against Judge Kavanaugh and the temperament he displayed in the hearing,” Manchin said. “And my heart goes out to anyone who has experienced any type of sexual assault in their life. However, based on all of the information I have available to me, including the recently completed FBI report, I have found Judge Kavanaugh to be a qualified jurist who will follow the Constitution and determine cases based on the legal findings before him. I do hope that Judge Kavanaugh will not allow the partisan nature this process took to follow him onto the court.”

Speaking to NPR on Friday, a lawyer for Ford said the California professor’s goal was never to derail the nomination. “Dr. Ford’s goal here was never to impact the process to derail a nomination,” attorney Lisa Banks said on All Things Considered. “What she was trying to do was what she thought was the right thing to do as a citizen, which is to provide the information to the U.S. Senate so they could make the most informed decision possible. Her goal wasn’t to derail this nomination, it was to inform the nomination and she’s done that.”

If the vote goes as expected, Kavanaugh will become President Trump’s second appointment to the Supreme Court, creating a conservative 5-4 majority on the nation’s highest court for years to come.

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


U.S. unemployment rate drops to 3.7 percent, lowest in nearly 50 years

Updated at 10:21 a.m. ET

The U.S. jobless rate dropped to 3.7 percent in September — the lowest since 1969, though the economy added a lower-than-expected 134,000 jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. The jobless rate fell from August’s 3.9 percent.

Average earnings rose 8 cents, to $27.24 per hour last month. But wage growth slowed, with average hourly earnings up 2.8 percent from a year earlier, compared with a 2.9 percent increase in August.

The economy has now added jobs for nearly eight straight years.

Private economists had forecast that the economy would pick up 180,000 jobs in September. The net jobs created in July and August were revised sharply upward by a combined 87,000 — offsetting September’s weaker showing.

BLS noted that Hurricane Florence affected parts of the East Coast during the period that the government’s employment surveys were conducted. The leisure and hospitality sector saw a drop of 17,000 jobs last month and BLS said that the storm may have been a factor. In August, that sector saw an increase of 21,000 jobs.

In September, professional and business services grew by 54,000, transportation and warehousing jobs by nearly 24,000, construction by 23,000, manufacturing by 18,000 and health care by nearly 30,000. But retailers cut 20,000 jobs.

The report reinforced the view of Federal Reserve policymakers, who cited a strong job market when they announced they were increasing a benchmark interest rate — the third hike in a year.

The labor market, the Fed said, “has continued to strengthen and … economic activity has been rising at a strong rate. Job gains have been strong, on average, in recent months, and the unemployment rate has stayed low.” The Fed is forecasting the economy will grow 3.1 percent this year — that’s up from the 2.8 percent it projected in June.

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


Analysts: Current N.J. gas prices ‘more like summer than fall’

Gas prices are on the rise in New Jersey amid an oil price rally and the state’s new 4.3-cent gas tax increase taking effect.

AAA Mid-Atlantic says the average price of a gallon of regular gas Friday in New Jersey was $2.90, up five cents from last week.

Motorists were paying $2.55 for gas in New Jersey at this time last year. The national average gas price Friday was $2.91 a gallon, up three cents from last week.

The national average a year ago was $2.52 a gallon.

At the Jersey Shore, gas prices currently range from $2.86 to $3 for a gallon of regular gas, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. The cheapest gas is currently found in Ocean County, while Monmouth County is the most expensive.

According to gasbuddy.com, the best prices late this week are found in the Toms River area, while the most expensive fuel is along the Route 35 corridor between Red Bank and Eatontown.

Analysts say motorists usually see prices drop this time of year as gasoline demand decreases and cheaper-to-produce winter blend gasoline is available – but this year gas prices feel more like summer than fall.

In New Jersey, gas prices have increased steadily since September 2016, when the average price of a gallon was around $2 and $2.20 in the country, according to gasbuddy.com.

The 4.3-cent gas tax hike is the second since the 23-cent increase that went into effect in November 2016. The total tax on fuel is now 41.1 cents and 48.4 cents for diesel.

State officials say they have no choice because people are purchasing less fuel and state law requires an increase to the tax rate annually to cover road and rail expenses.

The gas tax is still less than in Pennsylvania (58.7 cents) and New York (45.8 cents).

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 


Banksy artwork self-destructs moment after $1.4 million sale

Art prankster Banksy has struck again.

A work by the elusive street artist apparently self-destructed in front of startled auction-goers on Friday, moments after being sold for 1.04 million pounds ($1.4 million).

The spray-painted canvas “Girl With Balloon” went under the hammer at Sotheby’s in London, fetching more than three times its pre-sale estimate and equaling a record price for the artist.

Then, as an alarm sounded, it ran through a shredder embedded in the frame, leaving half the canvas hanging from the bottom in strips.

A post on Banksy’s official Instagram account showed the moment — and the shocked reaction of those in the room — with the words “Going, going, gone…”


View this post on Instagram


Going, going, gone…

A post shared by Banksy (@banksy) on

Sotheby’s — which had noted before the sale that the work’s ornate gilded frame was “an integral element of the artwork chosen by Banksy himself” — expressed surprise at the incident.

“It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” said Alex Branczik, head of contemporary European art at the auction house.

The auction house said it was “in discussion about next steps” with the buyer. Some art-market watchers say the work could be worth even more in its shredded state.

“We have not experienced this situation in the past . where a painting spontaneously shredded, upon achieving a record for the artist,” Branczik said. “We are busily figuring out what this means in an auction context.”

Geneva-based artist Pierre Koukjian, who was at the auction, said the buyer was “very lucky” to own a now-historic piece. He called Banksy’s prank “a turning point in the history of contemporary and conceptual art.”

Koukjian, who has met Banksy, said he is sure he caught a glimpse of the artist in the saleroom amid the confusion of the moment.

“What he did is really shocking, in a good way,” Koukjian said. “I think it will be historic and people will talk for a long time about it.”

Banksy is not the first artist to deconstruct his own work. In the years after World War II, German-born artist Gustav Metzger pioneered “auto-destructive art,” creating paintings using acid that ate away the fabric beneath.

Banksy, who has never disclosed his full identity, began his career spray-painting buildings in Bristol, England, and has become one of the world’s best-known artists. His mischievous and often satirical images include two policemen kissing, armed riot police with yellow smiley faces and a chimpanzee with a sign bearing the words “Laugh now, but one day I’ll be in charge.”

He also has a penchant for elaborate pranks.

In 2005, he hung an image of a spear-toting ancient human pushing a shopping cart in the British Museum, where it remained for several days before being discovered. The next year he smuggled a life-sized figure of a Guantanamo Bay detainee into Disneyland, and in 2015 he erected a full-scale dystopian theme park — “Dismaland” — by the British seaside.

“Girl With Balloon,” which depicts a small child reaching up toward a heart-shaped red balloon, was originally stenciled on a wall in east London and has been endlessly reproduced, becoming one of Banksy’s best-known images.


‘Mystery’ sand piles reappear in Shore town

Symmetrically formed sand piles have once again appeared on an Ocean County beach.

Jerry Meaney, publisher of the Facebook page Barnegat Bay Island, NJ, says the piles are scattered throughout Point Pleasant Beach.

“Strangers who are not aware of how the mounds are made come up with all sorts of mystery theories like space visited the beach,” he said. “Yup, really.”

But in reality the sand art is the handy work of a retired cop who just wants to give people something to talk about and enjoy, according to Meaney.

When the mounds first appeared during the winter of 2014 and Meaney posted pictures online, the social media speculation mill began churning.

Ideas ranged from the sand hoisted from holes dug by metal detector enthusiasts to aliens creating something akin to crop circles.

“The only reasonable explanation is that aliens formed them overnight. They got tired of crop circles,” commented Michael Stalker.

Some internet sleuthing led to a scientific explanation that gained traction on Meaney’s page: “frost heaving.”

Citing wikipedia, Lori Mastrianni Austin explained: “Frost heaving results from ice forming beneath the surface of soil during freezing conditions in the atmosphere. The ice grows in the direction of heat loss, starting at the freezing front or boundary in the soil.”

But the speculation — even the scientific theory — is unfounded.

Now more than four years later, the creator’s objective continues to be a success: people are talking.


Toyota recalls more than 800,000 Prius vehicles in U.S.

Toyota has announced a safety recall of some 807,000 Prius and Prius V cars in the U.S., saying that the company needs to fix a problem that could cause the vehicles to lose power and stall “in rare situations.” The recall covers Prius vehicles from the 2010-2014 model years and Prius V cars from the 2012-2014 model years.

“While power steering and braking would remain operational,” Toyota says, “a vehicle stall while driving at higher speeds could increase the risk of a crash.”

The recall addresses the way the vehicles respond if their hybrid systems hit problems. The cars are designed to enter a fail-safe or “limp home” driving mode if the hybrid system overheats or develops other issues.

“We’ve found that in rare situations, the vehicle may not enter a fail-safe driving mode as intended,” Tania Saldana, a Toyota spokeswoman, said in an email to NPR. “If this occurs, the vehicle could lose power and stall.”

When asked whether any crashes had been reported because of the issue, Toyota offered no comment.

Toyota’s new recall covers about 2.43 million Prius cars worldwide, including more than 1 million that were sold in Japan and nearly 300,000 in Europe, according to Automotive News.

To fix the problem, Toyota will update software in the vehicles. The company says its dealers will contact affected Prius owners when the software is available.

The company says the issue differs from problems with the Prius fail-safe mode that were addressed in the 2014 and 2015 recalls. Those problems were also fixed by software updates to vehicles’ motor electronic control units and hybrid drive ECUs.

To see whether your vehicle is mentioned in a safety recall, you can check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s site.

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


GOP poised to elevate Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court

Brett Kavanaugh seems assured of surviving a Supreme Court nomination fight for the ages after two wavering senators said they’d back him despite weeks of shocking accusations, hardball politics and rowdy Capitol protests.

Announcements by Republican Susan Collins of Maine and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia that they’ll support the conservative jurist made Saturday’s confirmation vote a formality, an anticlimactic finale to a battle that riveted the nation for nearly a month.

While Democrats’ defeat was all but certain, the Senate remained in session overnight, though the chamber was mostly empty. The roll call seemed destined to be nearly party-line, with just a single defector from each side capping a contest fought against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement and President Donald Trump’s unyielding support of his nominee.

Kavanaugh’s opponents raised concerns that he’d push the court further right, including possible sympathetic rulings for Trump. But for the past few weeks, the battle was dominated by allegations that he sexually abused women decades ago — accusations he emphatically denied.

“Millions of Americans, millions of women are watching us today,” said New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of the Democrats who take to the Senate floor early Saturday to rail against Kavanaugh. “They’re waiting to see whether or not, when a woman comes forward and says that she is a survivor of sexual assault, does this chamber, do the individuals here take her seriously?”

A day earlier, Collins had told fellow senators that Christine Blasey Ford’s dramatic testimony last month describing Kavanaugh’s alleged 1982 assault was “sincere, painful and compelling.” But Collins said the FBI had found no corroborating evidence from witnesses whose names Ford had provided.

“We will be ill-served in the long run if we abandon the presumption of innocence and fairness, tempting though it may be,” she said. “We must always remember that it is when passions are most inflamed that fairness is most in jeopardy.”

Those passions were on full display in a fight that could energize both parties’ voters in elections for control of Congress just five weeks away.

The showdown drew raucous demonstrators, largely anti-Kavanaugh, to the Capitol, where they raised tensions by confronting lawmakers despite an intensified police presence. Another 101 protesters were arrested Friday, the U.S. Capitol Police said.

Collins, perhaps the chamber’s most moderate Republican, proclaimed her support for Kavanaugh at the end of a floor speech that lasted nearly 45 minutes. While she was among a handful of Republicans who helped sink Trump’s quest to obliterate President Barack Obama’s health care law last year, this time she proved instrumental in delivering a triumph to Trump.

Manchin, the only remaining undeclared lawmaker, used an emailed statement to announce his support for Kavanaugh moments after Collins finished talking. Manchin, the only Democrat supporting the nominee, faces a competitive re-election race next month in a state Trump carried in 2016 by 42 percentage points.

“My heart goes out to anyone who has experienced any type of sexual assault in their life,” Manchin said. But he added that based on the FBI report, “I have found Judge Kavanaugh to be a qualified jurist who will follow the Constitution and determine cases based on the legal findings before him.”

Protesters chanted “Shame” at Manchin later when he talked to reporters outside his office.

Republicans control the Senate by a meager 51-49 margin. Support from Collins and Manchin would give Kavanaugh at least 51 votes, assuming no one else changes their stance.

Three female GOP senators — Iowa’s Jodi Ernst, West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito and Mississippi’s Cindy Hyde-Smith — sat directly behind Collins as she spoke. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., sat directly in front of Collins and pivoted his seat around to face her. A few Democrats sat stone-faced nearby.

When she finished, Collins received applause from the roughly two dozen GOP senators present.

Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a fellow moderate and a friend of Collins, became the only Republican to say she opposed Kavanaugh. She said on the Senate floor Friday evening that Kavanaugh is “a good man” but his “appearance of impropriety has become unavoidable.”

She added that with Supreme Court appointments lasting a lifetime, “Those who seek these seats must meet the highest standards in all respects, at all times. And that is hard.”

In a twist, Murkowski said she will state her opposition but vote “present” as a courtesy to Kavanaugh supporter Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., who is attending his daughter’s wedding in Montana. Murkowski said she’d use an obscure procedure that lets one senator offset the absence of another without affecting the outcome. That would let Kavanaugh win by the same two-vote margin he’d have received had both senators voted.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who has repeatedly battled Trump and will retire in January, said he’d vote for Kavanaugh’s confirmation “unless something big changes.”

Vice President Mike Pence planned to be available Saturday in case his tie-breaking vote was needed, which now seems unlikely.

In a procedural vote Friday that handed Republicans an initial victory, senators voted 51-49 to limit debate, defeating Democratic efforts to scuttle the nomination with endless delays.

That vote occurred amid smoldering resentment by partisans on both sides, on and off the Senate floor.

“What left wing groups and their Democratic allies have done to Judge Kavanaugh is nothing short of monstrous,” the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, said before the vote.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York called the fight “a sorry epilogue to the brazen theft of Justice Scalia’s seat.” That reflected Democrats’ lasting umbrage over Republicans’ 2016 refusal to even consider Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia.

When Trump nominated Kavanaugh in July, Democrats leapt to oppose him, saying that past statements and opinions showed he’d be a threat to the Roe v. Wade case that assured the right to abortion. They said he also seemed ready to rule for Trump if federal authorities probing his 2016 campaign’s connections to Russia try to pursue him in court.

Yet Kavanaugh’s pathway to confirmation seemed unfettered until Ford accused him of drunkenly sexually assaulting her in a locked bedroom at a 1982 high school gathering. Two other women later emerged with sexual misconduct allegations from the 1980s.

Democrats also challenged Kavanaugh’s honesty, temperament and ability to be nonpartisan after he fumed at last week’s Judiciary hearing that Democrats had launched a “search and destroy mission” against him fueled by their hatred of Trump.

Kavanaugh would replace the retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was a swing vote on issues including abortion, campaign finance and same-sex marriage.

Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Matthew Daly, Padmananda Rama, Ken Thomas and Catherine Lucey contributed to this report.


Kavanaugh allegations prompt some prep schools to examine their culture

Editor’s note: This story contains language some may find offensive.

The allegations of drinking and sexual misconduct swirling around Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have prompted a new round of soul-searching at elite prep schools like the one he attended three decades ago. Schools are taking a hard look at how they may have permitted a culture of drinking and sexual misconduct.

Over recent weeks, as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has detailed her accusations against Kavanaugh, many alumni of those esteemed institutions say the picture of drunken debauchery that has emerged is painfully familiar.

“I was deeply shaken,” says Alexandra Lescaze, who graduated from the National Cathedral School in 1988. She says the news prompted a slew of “really bad memories.” Bad things happened to her, she says, and even worse things to others. For example, she says at one party, she witnessed what kids used to call a “lineup.”

“There was a drunk girl in a room, and there was a boy in there with her, and there were other boys lined up outside the door, and my friend recalls hearing ‘I’m next!’ ‘I’m next!’ ”

It was such a toxic culture of power and privilege, she says, many guys didn’t even try to hide it. For example, as she remembers, one guy actually included the term “date rape” in his reminiscences beside his senior picture in his yearbook.

“Imagine having the balls to put that in your yearbook,” she sighs. “They just felt like [they had] complete impunity. It was really bad.”

And schools knew it, too.

In 1990, the Washington Post reported that seven schools sent a joint letter to parents, warning them about the excessive drinking and sex at unsupervised parties. The schools, including Georgetown Preparatory School, which Kavanaugh attended, called it a “recipe for disaster.”

Georgetown Prep’s current president declined to comment for this report. But in a recent letter to parents, the Rev. James Van Dyke vowed to re-evaluate school culture and to “continue our ongoing work with the guys on developing … a healthy understanding of masculinity … and to talk with them honestly and even bluntly about what respect for others, especially respect for women and other marginalized people means in very practical terms — in actions and in words.”

“This has been a call to every educator to think through what kind of a community they want to be creating on campus,” says John Palfrey, head of school at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. “I think any school that isn’t engaged in soul-searching about the kind of culture that is on a campus is making a mistake.”

Most schools have already changed dramatically since the ’80s, Palfrey says. That has been driven by evolving attitudes in society at large, and by a student body that is no longer so exclusively drawn from the privileged and powerful.

Palfrey says new initiatives at school have also had an impact. He says from the moment students arrive on campus to the day they graduate, they are all educated in what he calls a “culture of consent and respect.”

It’s definitely progress, he says, but “I certainly can’t say that we are out of the woods yet.”

Indeed, just three years ago, St. Albans School, an elite all-boys school in D.C., was embroiled in scandal involving student misconduct. Girls at its sister school, National Cathedral School, collected a Google document full of allegations of of unwanted sexual advances at parties and inappropriate comments by St. Albans boys as part of an effort to design new prevention programs. That prompted a flurry of online posts from the boys that school officials called “inappropriate.” Later the same year, St. Albans had to recall its yearbooks after discovering seniors had included crude and sexist slurs.

“That’s way too recent. This is very disturbing,” says attorney Eric MacLeish, who represents victims of sexual assault and is an alumnus of St. Albans.

“That tells me there’s an issue at that school. It’s really indefensible,” he says.

St. Albans declined to comment, but in a letter to parents and alumni this week, the school apologized for the incidents and vowed to learn from past mistakes.

“We embrace moments like this … as opportunities to reflect deeply on who we are and what we value,” wrote Headmaster Jason Robinson.

Not that it hasn’t been painful. In his letter, Van Dyke from Georgetown Prep noted how “tough” it has been to see the school’s image so tarnished. But writing this week in America magazine, Van Dyke insisted that the school’s challenge is “not a public relations challenge but one of school culture.”

Alumnus Jerry Parshall says he doesn’t think the school is quite living up to that standard. He says the letter he received from the president “focused too much on the good work that prep students are doing in the world and their public service” and on denying any sense of entitlement.

“I wish they had owned up a little bit more,” he says, “to say, ‘Look, there clearly was a problem here back then, and there’s more we can do about it, and we’re going to work to fix it.’ ”

Palfrey of Phillips Academy says some schools have been quicker than others to really walk the walk.

“In difficult situations, I certainly think there are cases in which schools make a decision based on [protecting their] reputation [instead of what’s best for kids] and they shouldn’t.”

Ultimately, schools say the most powerful force for change is the kids themselves. As three seniors wrote in the St. Albans school newspaper this week, “The acceptance that our community has problems is not a mark on our character or our school; rather, an honest effort to address these problems shows our true strength as young men.” They went on to write that only by “standing tall as the men of St. Albans School will we give to our sisters … what we have owed them for ages.”

It’s heartening to many administrators to see how expectations and attitudes of this generation of high schoolers have evolved. But Palfrey says he worries some of the progress may be undermined by what happens in Washington.

If the Senate votes to confirm Kavanaugh, despite the allegations against him, he says it will send students a mixed message about underage drinking and sexual misconduct.

“It will make it seem that these things are not as consequential or important as we’ve been saying they are,” says Palfrey. “And it will make it more complicated for us as educators to hold the line on sexual misconduct in some ways.”

And even if the Senate votes no, Palfrey says, public officials have already made comments in recent weeks that also undermine what schools have been trying to teach.

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


At Philly health and re-entry conference, activists tout benefits of legalizing sex work

Lori Tyndall has spent the last 30 years of her life earning her living as a sex worker.

She was forced into it by a drug dealer at the age of 15.

After contracting HIV, she was prescribed antiretroviral medication and continued to do sex work, practicing safe sex. But Tyndall said that word on the street was that having sex while HIV positive can carry felony charges.

While Pennsylvania does not have a specific law criminalizing sex while HIV positive as many states do, sex workers living with HIV face more serious charges than an HIV-negative person would for the same offense.

Tyndall was worried.

“Because of the risk of being arrested and being charged with a felony, I did not carry around my medication, so therefore I did not take my medication, so therefore I contracted lots of opportunistic infections,” she said. She also was sexually assaulted more than once.

Because the men did not wear condoms, they were exposed to the virus.

Tyndall spoke Friday to a gathering at the 16th annual Beyond the Walls: Reentry Summit and Prison Healthcare conference, hosted by the Institute of Community Justice, under the umbrella of Philadelphia FIGHT. Most of the roughly 1,300 attendees are from the Philadelphia region.

Nina Marsoopian, a former sex worker and drug user, joined Tyndall on the panel,

Poor health care and criminalization of sex workers feed into each other to create a cycle, said Marsoopian, now an organizer with Project SAFE Philadelphia, which offers services to sex workers throughout the city.

First, there’s stigma against sex work, which leads to laws that criminalize it. From there, good health care becomes hard to access, she said.

“When you are frequently having — especially with sex work and low-level drug offenses — short stays in incarceration, it disrupts any kind of engagement in preventive healthcare,” said Marsoopian. That, in turn, leads to  poor health outcomes.

“When you’re one group that has all these poor health outcomes, people associate that with you being gross and dirty and bad. And that just perpetuates the stigma. So back again, in a circle,” she said.  

To this end, and in light of the HIV laws that Tyndall spoke of, Marsoopian and her fellow presenters made the case for decriminalizing sex work as a public health strategy.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner announced this year that his office would not charge sex workers for the first and second offense. Project SAFE lauds that move, but is critical of what its staff views as a highly restrictive and nearly impossible to complete diversion program for repeat offenders, called DAWN Court.

“Just about every girl I know has had their time with DAWN Court, and I don’t know of one person who has ever successfully completed that program,” said Tyndall.

DAWN Court has been operating in Philadelphia since 2010.

Project SAFE organizers also stressed the need for increased access to health care in light of the new SESTA/FOSTA law, passed by Congress this spring. Shifting the liability for illegal activity online away from individuals and onto websites, it was designed to reduce online sex trafficking. But communities of sex workers and others maintain it will push sex work into the shadows and onto the streets — and away from online forums where workers could vouch for and validate clients.


Mariner East 2: What are natural gas liquids, and what happens if they leak?

This story originally appeared on StateImpact Pennsylvania.

As part of the “Mariner East 2: At what risk?” series, this StateImpact Pennsylvania video examines the natural gas liquids that flow through the pipeline and what happens if they leak — something that could be caused by:

  • Welding failures
  • Material defects
  • Corrosion
  • Shifting land exposing the pipe

In 2017, about 1,000 gallons of natural gas liquids leaked from the Mariner East 1 in Morgantown, Berks County. It was discovered by a resident who noticed discolored grass. The leak did not result in an explosion.

In September 2018, a leak from a gathering line carrying a mixture of hydrocarbons including methane, ethane and butane resulted in an explosion, with one house burning to the ground. No one was injured.

The Mariner East 1 pipeline has experienced three leaks since 2014. Those leaks did not result in any explosions.


Supreme Court justices Sotomayor and Kagan say partisanship hurts court integrity

Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor are raising concerns about partisanship on the high court.

Kagan and Sotomayor spoke Friday at an event at Princeton University.

Without mentioning President Donald Trump or Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the justices responded to a question about the politics of the moment.

Kagan says there had traditionally been a “middle” of the court and it’s not clear there will be going forward. She says it’s important for the court to guard its legitimacy, or the public could lose respect for it.

Sotomayor says it’s important for the justices to rise above partisanship and treat one another with respect and dignity.

Kagan and Sotomayor are both Princeton graduates. Both were appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama. Sotomayor was appointed and confirmed in 2009. Kagan joined the court in 2010.