Crews are working to rescue a woman who fell under a SEPTA train at Erie Avenue station on Tuesday afternoon

A woman died after being run over by a SEPTA train.

The incident occurred at the Erie Avenue station Tuesday afternoon. The elderly woman intentionally went on the tracks and was run over by a southbound express train, according to a SEPTA spokesperson.

Crews responded to the scene to try and rescue the woman but she died from her injuries.

All trains are bypassing the Erie station and delays are expected to last through rush hour.

SUICIDE PREVENTION HELP: Here is information on suicide prevention from the National Institute of Mental Health. If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting ‘Home’ to 741741.

Del. police investigate trooper-involved shooting

HARBESON, Del. (AP) — Police in Delaware say they are investigating a state trooper-involved shooting that left one man injured.

Delaware State Police said a male suspect was shot early Tuesday while troopers were executing a search warrant in Harbeson.

The man was transported to a local hospital. The extent of his injuries is not immediately clear.

Police said the investigation in its early stages and did not provide any additional information about the shooting.

Eater says NYC pretzels are garbage and Philly pretzels are the only true soft pretzels and they're right

For people from Philadelphia, life holds a few inalienable truths: the Eagles are the greatest football team in the history of professional sports; a parade of drunk old men in satin costumes and dainty umbrellas is a family affair; that thing is a jawn; that water is wooder; and there is no such thing as a pretzel if it isn’t shaped like a figure eight.

Philly soft pretzels are one of those foods that are either completely misunderstood or shamefully unknown by the rest of the country. A true soft pretzel should be nothing but a Philly soft pretzel, the doughy-yet-crusty, somehow both salt-encrusted and wet, pull-apart figure-eight. No one should ever be forced to eat the burnt, dry excuses for pretzels available at ballparks, movie theaters, and street vendors in New York. If your pretzel is knot-shaped, has been microwaved, and is barely salted (or worse, bald), you have never eaten a pretzel. You have eaten brown dough.

But soon, there may be a renaissance of better pretzel eating in New York: Two locations of Philly Pretzel Factory are opening in Manhattan this year, in Harlem and Tribeca, and the company, which serves pretzels far superior to any to have graced New Yorkers’ lips, plans to franchise close to two dozen more outposts in New York after that. Oh, you thought New York was the food capital of America? You were wrong — until now.

As a Philadelphia native and dedicated carb-head, Philly soft pretzels have always been a part of my snack regimen (because despite how filling they are, a pretzel is always a small snack). Friends and I would pick them up during free period in high school; they’d be pre- or post- ball game inexpensive delicacies; they’re as omnipresent at my family’s holiday parties as sports commentary and fresh babies. Invariably, on the bus back to New York on visits home, I smuggle a few pretzels with me, only to find I can’t make it the two-and-a-half hour ride without finishing my limited rations. As one friend put it, “I’ve only eaten a vendor pretzel in New York City once, and it was a terrible mistake I will never make again.”

“Once you taste it, you know right away why it’s different,” Philly Pretzel Factory franchisee Jason Glickman told me by phone. Glickman and his partners at Gotham Foods, LLC are the ones responsible for bringing the two Philly Pretzel Factories to New York City. This year, Philly Pretzel Factory is celebrating its 20th year of business — it’s now franchised in 172 locations nationwide, with one franchise in Staten Island and another on Long Island. While bakeries in Philly have been slinging pretzels for more than a hundred years, Philly Soft Pretzel Factory will be the first to take a stab at convincing persnickety and particular New Yorkers to ditch their doughy, heat-lamp disappointments for our hot-out-the-oven classics.

For the uninitiated, one can recognize a Philly pretzel immediately by its shape. The figure-eight is alleged to have come from the Federal Baking Company in South Philadelphia, which was opened by Italian immigrants in the 1920s. Since renamed Federal Pretzel Baking Company, the business was the first to develop the figure-eight shape, as a means to streamline the baking process. Though pretzels as a delicacy have been around since 610 AD, the best soft pretzel wasn’t made until Federal Baking Company in South Philadelphia opened. Thank you to everyone else for trying. C+ for effort.

“People really do not get how much better they are,” one Philadelphia native wrote on Facebook when I asked Philly friends to explain what makes our soft pretzels so good. “It’s like trying to explain why Wawa is great” — another inalienable truth; your 7-Eleven has nothing on our convenience stores — “You don’t realize how good they are until you leave Pennsylvania. When people ask what the difference is you give them a New York vendor pretzel that tastes like a piece of cardboard!” Another friend wrote, “They’re the perfect balance of salty on the outside and a tiny bit sweet inside with the just tough enough crusty exterior that has an inexplicable sheen.” For Glickman, the superiority of a Philly soft pretzel is so simple as to be self-evident: “[They] taste really, really good.”

My favorite place to buy pretzels is outside the sports complexes on game day. Sellers push around shopping carts filled with brown paper bags of the tough-outside, soft-inside pretzels (kind of like Philadelphians themselves, actually), and you can get three of them for $5, less than it would cost you to buy even the cheapest beer at a bar in New York.

Philly Soft Pretzel
Philly Soft Pretzel
Photo via Yelp

The middle is heaven. It’s a chunk of just barely under-baked dough, and if you share the middle of your pretzel with someone, they are legally obligated to marry you. For others, it’s the tacky, slightly crispy outside that’s best — several of my aunts claimed they used to eat the outside first when they were kids. One thing that may be hard to explain to a New Yorker is the deliciousness of the wet salt phenomenon. After only a few hours of a Philly soft pretzel’s life, the crunchy salt absorbs the air’s moisture and slightly melts into the dough. The pretzel becomes slightly…wet. It sounds disgusting but I can assure you it is divine. Please believe me.

Think of it like this: a Philly soft pretzel to us is what bagels are to New Yorkers. They’re cheap, filling, and slightly cumbersome to eat. Some are better than others, and you can get them basically anywhere in Philadelphia. And just like New Yorkers are with their bagels, Philadelphians are snobbish about their pretzels — which is why one commenter on my Facebook post railed against the idea that a Philly staple food could ever be successfully duplicated in other cities. When I asked Glickman what he thought about this feedback, he said that PPF’s testing had proven otherwise. “We’ve done taste testing, and we haven’t noticed any difference between the taste of the ones down on Sansom Street, and the locations we’re opening elsewhere,” he says.

But what about the water? Since New Yorkers are so obsessed with the myth that NYC water is what makes NYC bagels bagels, wouldn’t the reverse be true for Philly soft pretzels? Is a Philly soft pretzel a Philly soft pretzel if it isn’t made with Philly water? Dan DiZio, the co-founder and CEO of PPF, told me by phone, “If people say the water for bagels is great, then technically the water should be great for pretzels, too.”

A box of Philly soft pretzels
A box of Philly soft pretzels
Photo by Joe Taylor via Flickr

He explained that the biggest hurdle in coming to New York isn’t replicating the quality, but convincing New Yorkers that their understanding of “real pretzels” is garbage (word choice mine). “At least New Yorkers have a familiarity with [pretzels],” he says. “We just think we have a better product than what is out there on street corners. Most of that stuff has just been sitting there for hours, it’s dried out, it’s not baked. All they’re doing is warming those pretzels up.”

Will New Yorkers ever truly get it? DiZio has high hopes — perhaps too high. He told that he’s looking to do something unprecedented (unpretzeldented?) with his Manhattan store openings: “We are trying to replace the bagel,” he says. “They eat bagels all the time there. They have pretzels on every street corner, but we have a better widget – a better product. We have to conquer the New York market.”

Philly Soft Pretzel isn’t a perfect option for the world’s perfect pretzel. I fundamentally disagree with the company’s “dips,” which include buttercream, chocolate dip, and cream cheese. Solid yellow or brown spicy mustard is more than enough to adorn your pretzel, and fancy shit will not be tolerated. But really, who am I to complain? As a Philly native living in a soft pretzel desert, any Philly pretzel will satisfy my salty carb fix in between trips home, and PPF is a more than reasonable option, especially for those whose only exposure to soft pretzels are pre-frozen and cost $10. PPF prides itself on selling fresh pretzels — and there is no comparison to eating a Philly pretzel that has just come out of the oven. As one friend explained, “biting into them while they’re steaming is like a religious experience.” New Yorkers, it’s time to get saved.

Dayna Evans is a writer in New York.

After the Jacksonville gamer shooting, Philly's N3rd Street is rethinking security and procedure for its esports tournament this weekend

Had Sunday’s Madden 19 championship qualifier in Jacksonville, Fla., ended like any other esports tournament, it would have been Philly’s N3rd Street Gamers turn to host the next Northeast Qualifier in Washington, D.C.

But that was until a Baltimore man named David Katz shot and killed three people, injured 11, and fatally turned the gun on himself at the Jacksonville Landing outdoor mall, where the tournament was taking place.

Now, N3rd Street Gamers CEO John Fazio said, there’s no immediate answer on what will happen to his group’s Aug. 31–Sept. 2 event.

“We are currently in discussions with EA regarding the next qualifier,” Fazio said. “We’re committed to immediate security upgrades of our permanent esports facilities as well as at our upcoming events at third party facilities.”

Following the mass shooting, the esports community is grappling with both the aftermath of the violence and concerns over security at esports tournaments. Fazio said NSG, like other event organizers, is currently at work to up security protocols after the shooting.

“Yesterday’s tragedy has bolstered a unified and industry-wide effort to improve event security,” Fazio said via email. “Our team has been in contact with numerous organizers who are working hard to immediately improve protocols and implement best practices. The esports community is tight-knit and we stand together in our commitment to ensure violence like this never happens again. Our hearts are with the victims and their families.”

The NoLibs-based company, which focuses on developing the next wave of esports athletes, organizes esports events around the country. In June, it received an undisclosed amount from Comcast Spectacor aimed at expanding the company’s gaming center, LocalHost, to two more markets over the next 18 months. SeventySix Capital also invested in the company in 2017.


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Get employed: 12 free or affordable job-training programs in Philly

Billy Penn is one of 19 news organizations producing BROKE in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on economic justice. Read more at or follow at @BrokeInPhilly.

It’s not surprising that in the poorest big city in the country, there are nearly 40,000 people without a job.

Philadelphia’s unemployment rate in June 2018 was 5.7 percent, according to Philadelphia Works, a rate 1.7 percent higher than the national average. One month later, unemployment in Philly was even worse, up by 0.7 percent.

Those figures don’t take into account all the people looking for work, however, because unemployment rates don’t factor in underemployment, a phenomenon that includes people who are involuntarily working part-time. A recent study by the Strada Institute and Burning Glass found that underemployed recent graduates, on average, can earn $10,000 less annually than their peers who work in traditional college-level jobs. Forty-three percent of workers are underemployed in their first job.

This year, the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington region has a collective underemployment rate of 33.8 percent, per Chmura Economics & Analytics. One in three people in the region is on the hunt for good work.

Finding solid employment is no easy task, but there are numerous organizations and trade schools in Philadelphia that are dedicated to providing adults and older youth with the tools, guidance and confidence that they need to master a new career — and you don’t have to go into debt to attend them.

Here are a dozen job-training and readiness programs, workshops and courses that are free, affordable or have financial aid and scholarship options available.

Note: This is Part I of this resource list; Part II is coming soon. Have suggestions? Contact

2221 Chestnut St. 

Nurse assistant training and testing, lifeguard and water safety training, phlebotomist paid training (mix of classroom instruction and field practice). The phlebotomy program is a paid-training career opportunity. The CNA program is free in most need-based instances.

Fill out this contact form for more information.

3010 Market St. 

Education and skills training through accredited diploma programs for dental assistant, medical assistant, medical billing and coding and electrical technician career paths.

Chat with a live representative on Brightwood Career Institute’s site for more information.

1509 Cecil B. Moore Ave. 

Temple University offers a myriad of workforce development programs, including New Choices Career Development, Community Health Workers and WELL.

Contact for more information.

1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd. 

A civil or non-civil service job with the City of Philadelphia has numerous benefits. Opportunities range in skillset needed or education requirements, but some may offer on-site job training. Current listings can be accessed here.

Email for more information.

1700 Spring Garden St. 

Workforce training programs are offered in four different career pathways: healthcare (nurse aide, dental assistant, pharmacy technician), automotive (emissions and safety inspection, braking, steering), advanced manufacturing (CNC precision machining, electromechanical/mechatronic technology, blueprint reading, gas distribution pipeline mechanic, welding), business and technology (bookkeeping, customer service and call center representative).

All programs begin with “21st-century skills” training, defined by the college as computer literacy, workplace essentials, core communication and orientation to careers.

Email for more information.

216 W. Somerset St. 

Offers a child development associate training program and a licensed tractor-trailer driver certificate program.

Contact and for more information.

2243 W. Allegheny Ave. 

Specializes in re-entry vocational training for ex-offenders, but also provides training for young adults ages 16 to 24, veterans and the homeless.

Fill out the CTS contact form for more information.

100 S. Broad St. 

Early childhood education, healthcare delivery, behavioral health specialist and nursing aide programs for entry and mid-level positions available, as well as transition bridge programs and GED classes.

Call (215) 568-2220 for more information.

1500 Walnut St. 

If you are successfully admitted to the Home Care Associates home health aide or attendant program, you receive paid, on-the-job training for twelve weeks.

Email for more information.

Multiple locations

JEVS has a variety of services and programs for job seekers, including CareerLink, The Choice is Yours, the Vocational Research Institute, Work Ready and Orleans Technical College.

Fill out the JEVS contact form for more information.

9191 Torresdale Ave.  

An accredited automotive technician training program with two career-specific paths to choose from: automotive technology and automotive service management.

Chat with a live representative on Lincoln Technical Institute’s site for more information.

2810 S. 20th St. 

Work-based learning and training programs to become a facilities maintenance worker, certified nurse assistant, clinical medical assistant, emergency medical technician, pharmacy technician or a culinary artist are offered, as well as GED classes, driver education and English language learning.

Call (215) 861-5500 for more information.

Philly's new youth poet laureate is Wes Matthews, a Detroit native who writes incisive, searing commentary on history and society

The Free Library of Philadelphia has named the city’s new youth poet laureate.

Wes Matthews, a 17 year-old senior at Science Leadership Academy, was born and raised in Detroit where he was active in poetry slams and competed nationally at the annual Brave New Voices festival.

He is new to Philadelphia, having relocated here a year ago with his family as his mother, the poet Airea D. Matthews, was hired to the faculty of Bryn Mawr College. The move was relatively smooth.

“Outside of Philadelphia, everyone thinks the Philly scene is very robust and together,” he said. “I’m very blessed to come to such a poetry-strong city like Philadelphia.”

Matthews immediately dove into the local poetry scene, wasting no time before getting involved with the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement (which competes strongly at Brave New Voices) and popping up at readings and slams.

“We were impressed by how quickly he has enmeshed himself in Philadelphia and become part of the Philadelphia youth poetry community,” said Andrew Nurkin, the library’s director of civic engagement who sits on the selection committee. “It’s a pretty tight-knit group, and he’s been part of that since he moved here.”

Matthews often writes about African-American history, and the way that history marks bodies. For a performance at TedX Detroit, he read his poem “Emmet Till Infinity,” which opens:

I saw a body disfigured.
Out of place. Barbed wire around the neck.
Eyes gouged out. One shot, or two,
inhaled by soft tissue, stomped
straight on another down-south Saturday,
the bones and black flesh peeled back flush
into the veins of simmer Money, Mississippi summer

“I think history is a trapped thing. It’s something in a box that we’re always adding to, and not taking anything out,” he said. “I use my poetry to contemplate who we are, and how we are, and why this order came to be.”

While his poems can be brutal in a corporeal sense, they also have a deft sense of wordplay. Matthews likes the sounds of words — how a single word can roll around inside both a mouth and a brain. Before he started writing seriously, Matthews said he used to read the dictionary for pleasure.

“I think of poetry the same way an architect thinks of their craft,” said Matthews. “You can look at something and be, like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty.’ But also, you know, there’s math behind it, there’s law behind it.”

I much rather rejoice
that God has let me
drain these two bronze-earth slats from
the bassening cello & frenzy
– from “Touching Fire”

The youth poet laureate – just as the adult laureate, currently Raquel Salas Rivera – is selected not just for that writer’s quality of work but the promise to coordinate civic events around poetry. Matthews does not yet know what his civic project will be, but it may involve youth poetry programs in prisons and detention centers.

“On the page and in person, he has a real humility,” said Nurkin. “He’s confident in his writing, but has a real humility that we thought would serve him well in this position as he listens and learns.”

The youth poet laureate is a one-year position.

'Super Bowl hangover': Fact or myth?

In case you hadn’t heard yet this offseason, repeating as champions in the NFL isn’t easy. As you probably know by now, there hasn’t been a repeat Super Bowl champion since the 2003 and 2004 New England Patriots.

Getting to the top of the NFL is hard, and staying there can be even harder. However, one of the odd notions this offseason has been that the reigning Super Bowl winning Philadelphia Eagles are going to experience an unexplained “Super Bowl hangover.” That phrase may mean different things to different people, but to me it means that the team is going to crap the bed in some mysterious way.

In a piece for ESPN, Mike Sando asked executives from across the league to pick out flaws for all 32 teams, with direct quotes from insiders. It’s well done by Sando. Here’s what the unnamed executive said about the Eagles.

“I’m worried about a Super Bowl hangover. The defense got older, the quarterback has to prove he can be what he was, the dynamics in the locker room changed and then you always have guys who want to get paid after winning it all, and I’m talking about everybody in your building. They ran off some longtime Eagle guys like Brent [Celek], [Vinny] Curry and [Mychal] Kendricks, and added some guys from other teams with storied pasts.”

To begin, I’ll just answer the question posed in the headline of this article right off the bat. “Super Bowl hangovers” are a myth. 

Below is a list of the Super Bowl winners since 1988 (the year after the last strike-shortened season), showing the Super Bowl winner, their record the following year, and whether or not they made the playoffs the following year:

Season Team Next season Playoffs?
2017 Eagles ? ?
2016 Patriots 13-3 Yes
2015 Broncos 9-7 No
2014 Patriots 12-4 Yes
2013 Seahawks 12-4 Yes
2012 Ravens 8-8 No
2011 Giants 9-7 No
2010 Packers 15-1 Yes
2009 Saints 11-5 Yes
2008 Steelers 9-7 No
2007 Giants 12-4 Yes
2006 Colts 13-3 Yes
2005 Steelers 8-8 No
2004 Patriots 10-6 Yes
2003 Patriots 14-2 Yes
2002 Buccaneers 7-9 No
2001 Patriots 9-7 No
2000 Ravens 10-6 Yes
1999 Rams 10-6 Yes
1998 Broncos 6-10 No
1997 Broncos 14-2 Yes
1996 Packers 13-3 Yes
1995 Cowboys 10-6 Yes
1994 49ers 11-5 Yes
1993 Cowboys 12-4 Yes
1992 Cowboys 12-4 Yes
1991 Redskins 9-7 Yes
1990 Giants 8-8 No
1989 49ers 14-2 Yes
1988 49ers 14-2 Yes

As you can see above, only nine of the 29 teams above (31 percent) failed to make the playoffs the following season. Most of them were for pretty good reasons:

1990 Giants: Bill Parcells retired after the Giants’ 1990 Super Bowl win, and rather than promote defensive coordinator Bill Belichick to the head coaching position, they instead gave the job to running backs coach Ray Handley, who was inept and overmatched.

1998 Broncos: John Elway retired.

2001 Patriots: The 2002 Pats only lost two fewer regular season games than they did the year before, at a time when Tom Brady wasn’t yet the dominant player we know today. 

2002 Buccaneers: They were led by Brad Johnson, which was always going to make a sustained run more difficult than a team with a good quarterback.

2005 Steelers: The Super Bowl winning Steelers in 2005 were a 6 seed, so a small dropoff out of the playoffs wasn’t crazy. In addition, in 2006 Ben Roethlisberger had all sorts of issues. He nearly died after an offseason motorcycle crash, he had an emergency appendectomy, which caused him to miss the first game of the season, and he suffered a concussion at a time when protocols barely existed, that preceded a losing streak in which Roethlisberger did not play well.

2008 Steelers: The 2009 Steelers suffered significant injuries, including another Roethlisberger concussion, and they still won 9 games.

2011 Giants: The 2012 Giants matched the 2011 Giants’ regular season record of 9-7.

2012 Ravens: The 2013 Ravens lost a whopping eight starters from their Super Bowl run, including Ray Lewis.

2015 Broncos: Peyton Manning retired.

Overall, the average number of wins the following season after a Super Bowl win in the time frame above is 10.8. The notion of a mysterious “Super Bowl hangover” simply doesn’t exist, for the winner of the Super Bowl, anyway. For the Super Bowl loser? That’s a different story that we won’t get into here.

Since we’re on the topic, the unnamed executive did give several reasons for a potential Eagles “Super Bowl hangover.” Most of them are dumb.

“The defense got older”

So? That can be looked at a number of different ways. The entire secondary will be back for another season together, and the continuity/communication between the corners and safeties is a very underrated advantage. Certainly, a couple of their backup veteran defensive ends — namely Chris Long and Michael Bennett — are getting up there in age, but that can’t actually be the argument for a dropoff, can it?

“The quarterback has to prove he can be what he was.”

That’s certainly a legitimate concern. Carson Wentz has to show that he has come back from his ACL/LCL tears, and stay healthy. On the field this training camp, however, he threw with more accuracy and velocity than he ever has.

“The dynamics in the locker room changed.”

Oh have they? Do tell how, exactly.

“You always have guys who want to get paid after winning it all.”

The Eagles only have five starters who aren’t signed through at least the next two seasons. They are Brandon Graham, Mike Wallace, Ronald Darby, Jordan Hicks, and Jay Ajayi. While it’s certainly possible that one or more of those guys are miffed behind the scenes, not a single one of those players has exhibited any behavior at all that might be construed as a distraction.

“They ran off some longtime Eagle guys like Brent [Celek], [Vinny] Curry and [Mychal] Kendricks.”

They were all extremely obvious salary cap casualties. Every team in the NFL has cap casualties every year. While Celek was thought of as a leader, it’s not as if the Eagles aren’t loaded with veteran “positive influence players” like Wentz, Nick Foles, Darren Sproles, Jason Peters, Chris Long, Jordan Hicks, Malcolm Jenkins, and Chris Maragos, to name a few.

To note, I assume this executive is ref
erring to those players as locker room losses, not significant on-field losses. If it’s the latter… Really?!?

“…and added some guys from other teams with storied pasts.”

Who? Michael Bennett? By all accounts, Bennett has assimilated into the Eagles’ locker room seamlessly. But, OK, fine, we’ll count Bennett. That’s one. Who else? I guess Daryl Worley was added to the team in March via trade, and was quickly released after an arrest, but I hardly think his presence on the roster on paper for a month infected a locker room that he was never actually in.

Anyway, the notion of a “Super Bowl hangover” is just kind of something to say, but isn’t actually rooted in historical precedent.


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Philly schools to dismiss early Tuesday, Wednesday

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia School District plans to dismiss students at 1 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday due to expected high temperatures.

The district says all after-school activities including athletic programs and professional development sessions are canceled for those days.

WEATHER ALERTS: Watches, warnings, advisories by county

School employees are expected to work normal schedules and administrative offices will operate on regular business hours.

The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory through Wednesday night for the region, warning of temperatures in the low to mid 90s.

Man fatally shot waiting for bus in Hunting Park

– Police are investigating after a man was fatally shot while waiting for a bus in Hunting Park overnight.

Authorities say the victim, a 55-year-old man, was on his way to work when he was shot and killed at 6th Street and Erie Avenue around 2:40 a.m.

Police say the victim’s coworkers were on the bus and witnessed the incident.

The shooter allegedly ran in front of the SEPTA bus, which has surveillance cameras inside and out.

Police plan to review security footage in an attempt to track down the suspect, who they describe as a 5’6″ tall black man with a dark complexion and dreadlocks. He was last seen wearing a dark colored hat with a circular design around the perimeter.

No arrests have been made at this time. This is an ongoing investigation.

1 man dead, another injured in Roxborough shooting

– Police are investigating after a double shooting in Roxborough that left one man dead and another injured late Monday night.

Around 10:35 p.m., officers responded to the 7700 block of Matthias Street. Officials say a 32-year-old man was shot in the head inside his pickup truck. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

A 28-year-old man was found across the street with wounds to his arm and leg. He was transported to Albert Einstein Medical Center and is listed in stable condition.

The shooter fled the scene in a vehicle and remains at large.

A motive for the shooting remains under investigation.

School safety report points to mental health needs

After visiting each region of the state and collaborating with students, teachers, parents and law enforcement, Pennsylvania’s School Safety Task Force—created in the wake of February’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida—has released a new report with its recommendations to make schools safer.

The report highlights the need for better access to mental health services for both parents and students. It also identifies commons barriers to school security and training for school employees.

Broadly, the report points to the key areas below as ways to address school security concerns:

  • Improved communication and information sharing
  • Enhanced social and emotional learning
  • Increased access to mental health services, including more health professionals in schools
  • Building community connections
  • Effectively integrating law enforcement and school resource officers
  • Providing guidance on establishing priorities for schools
  • Providing schools with more resources

In addition to the task force report, Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2018-2019 budget includes $60 million that will be distributed by a new School Safety and Security Committee with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to help school districts across the state address their unique school safety needs.

The committee will award grants to school districts for physical building upgrades, security equipment, teacher training, alternative education programs, community violence prevention programs and individualized mentoring programs to keep teachers and students safe.

MORE: Pa. schools seek better security, student services Wolf taps former police chief to lead school safety board

The 17-member committee also plants to establish best practices when assessing school safety and security, trainings and student behavioral health support, as well as issue a survey to school entities to measure school safety and security preparedness.

“Keeping our schools safe will require a holistic approach,” said Wolf. “I will continue to push for gun safety reforms, but this work will fortify our efforts to keep students and teachers safe.”

For the full report, see here.

Cold hard plastic: Your SEPTA Key is now a debit card

You don’t need a bank account to set it up, and you can use it anywhere that accepts MasterCard.

If you load money onto it, the SEPTA Key can function as a MasterCard.
Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

It’s been just over a year since SEPTA rolled out the Key as its main form of fare payment. Since then, the transit authority has continuously grown the list of features that the swipe card can perform. The Key has already replaced paper transfers and Regional Rail fare. In the future, officials are considering adapting it to pay for PPA fares, too.

Now added to that list of features: your SEPTA Key can actually work as a debit card.

That’s been promised as a future perk for years, but it’s finally active. Backed by MasterCard, the functionality went live in spring of this year, though SEPTA only really started promoting it last month. You can set it up (choose a PIN, etc.) using the Key website.

The card isn’t linked to any specific bank account, which means you don’t even need a bank account to turn your Key card into a debit card.

In the Philly area, roughly 4 percent of people are “unbanked,” meaning they don’t have a checking or savings account. For them, this could make a difference — people without a bank account often incur extra fees when cashing checks and paying bills and miss out on opportunities for loans because they don’t have a documented financial history.

How does money get on the card, then? You can load funds a few different ways:

  • Automatically with Direct Deposit — your full paycheck can be deposited via ACH
  • Transferred from your bank account — if you set up a connection, you can transfer money from your regular checking or savings via the Key website
  •  In person — you can load cold hard cash at SEPTA fare kiosks and sales offices, plus participating retail locations

Voila, your Key-turned-debit-card can be used anywhere that accepts MasterCard.

One important rule: You’ve got to load a minimum of $5 onto the Key card.

Will your money disappear into the SEPTA abyss? The transit authority insists it won’t. In fact, electronically, your MasterCard is totally separate from your SEPTA Travel Wallet (that’s where your fare money is stored).

But beware: there are a handful of fees associated with the Key that might sneak up on you.

  • $4.95 per month if you don’t keep at least $650 on the Key OR post 20 transactions per month
  • $4.95 if you need to replace the card
  • $3 per paper transaction summary, which will be mailed to you
  • $1 per bank transfer
  • $2 per reload at SEPTA fare kiosk or sales office
  • Between $2.95 and $4.95 per reload at a third party retail location
  • $1.95 per ATM withdrawal
  • $0.95 per declined ATM withdrawal/balance inquiry

Exactly how much money can you store on the Key card? And how much can you spend?

The contract is a little murky on those points — it states in one section that you can’t keep more than $1,000 on the Key at one time. But at another point, the contract states you’re good to keep $10,000 on the Key and spend up to $2,500 per day.

Pressed for clarification, SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch said he doesn’t know. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So far, SEPTA counts 212 Key cards on which passengers have loaded independent funds for retail use. Out of those, 71 people liked the feature enough to do a reload, so far.

There have been a total of 282 retail transactions using the SEPTA Key — and, believe it or not, zero formal complaints.

Busch told Billy Penn that SEPTA hasn’t received any feedback at all (positive or negative) on the Key’s MasterCard functionality. He attributes that to the newness of the feature.

“We would expect it to take some more time before we hear from customers about their experiences,” Busch said. “We will closely monitor all feedback received and assist customers with questions they have moving forward.”

Dad who left son to die in crash gets prison term

TULLYTOWN, Pa. (AP/WTXF) — A New Jersey man convicted of leaving his 2-year-old son to die after a crash in Pennsylvania is now headed to prison.

Authorities say Christopher Kuhn was fleeing after he shoplifted from a Philadelphia-area Walmart last October. He was found guilty in March of murder and other charges following a nonjury trial.

The Hamilton man must serve between eight and 30 years under the sentence imposed Monday.

MORE: Father accused of leaving son to die after theft, crash found guilty of murder

Police say Kuhn fled the Levittown Town Center store after taking $228 worth of television speakers. He ran a red light and collided with two other vehicles, the impact throwing his son onto the road and fracturing his skull.

Kuhn stepped over the injured toddler before running away.

The boy later died at a hospital. Police say he wasn’t in a safety seat.