Chester Township police accused of targeting black people

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A second family has come forward, alleging that the Chester Township Police Department is targeting black people after what they’re calling an unwarranted arrest. 

Brandon Alvin was arrested for loitering in front of his Chester Township home in late September.

A grainy cell phone video from the arrest shows his family screaming in terror as they try to figure out what’s going on. Alvin’s wife can be heard yelling, “That is my husband. He lives here.” 

Kevin Mincey, Alvin’s attorney, says the family was outside on the front lawn after they had just returned home from celebrating Alvin’s mother’s birthday. 

“He was pepper-sprayed two times. I think it was four or five police officers that arrested him,” Mincey explained. “He was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.”

Mincey says he believes his client’s arrest by Officer Pasquale Storace was targeted.

“Three times in 10 days with the same officer, and we know that there have been other incidents involving this officer and other Chester Township officers,” he said. “We think it’s a policy of Chester Township.” 

Related: Chester Township family fights back after getting arrested for loitering outside their home

Mincey says Alvin is one of multiple black people in the township who have been arrested for loitering on their property by Storace, who is white.

Mincey and his firm are also representing another family with a similar case.

He says he plans to clear his client’s names in court before taking their own legal action.

“I have meetings with more individuals. I imagine that the number will continue to grow, especially as this continues to gain notoriety,” Mincey added. 

Multiple calls to Chester Township Police Chief Kenneth Coalson were not returned. However, manager Dana smith says they are currently investigating the incidents.

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White not guilty of voluntary manslaughter in 2018 stabbing

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Michael White has been found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the fatal stabbing of Sean Schellenger.

The jury found him guilty of tampering with evidence. White has been acquitted of all other charges.

White was accused of fatally stabbing real estate developer Sean Schellenger in July of 2018.

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The jury, which comprised mostly minorities, was tasked with deciding whether White intended to do serious bodily harm when he killed Schellenger, or if he acted in self-defense. 

White fatally stabbed Schellenger in July of 2018 at 17th and Chancellor streets near Rittenhouse Square. 

Prosecutors said he intentionally plunged the blade into the victim’s back, breaking bones and tearing muscles, but the defense says he did it in self-defense after Schellenger “bull rushed” White. 

But prosecutors said White brought a knife to a traffic dispute that wasn’t his, and he had the responsibility to retreat or leave the scene, not stab Schellenger. 

Jurors had questions about the specific wording of the charges of tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice. White was also charged with possessing an instrument in a crime. 

White could spend up to 20 years in prison.

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Residents worried about impact of refinery explosion

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The revelation that a dangerous chemical was released into the air during the South Philly refinery explosion in June has caught the attention of those living near the now-closed facility.

A report from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board revealed that 3,300 pounds of hydrofluoric acid — a highly toxic chemical — dissipated into the atmosphere during the refinery disaster.

The city says no HF was detected by its monitors outside the refinery. That’s worrisome to this South Philly resident.

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“You’re walking around breathing in this stuff. You have children and everything else. You don’t know what’s going on,” said one South Philadelphia resident, bothered by the news. “I would have to believe the feds. If they say it was released and the city’s not detecting it, what can you do?”

The city’s readings only go so far to comfort Angel Torres, who lives at 18th and Wolf streets.

“It’s worrisome,” he said. “Because you’ve got city officials saying one thing and federal officials saying another. You do worry about your health, do you know what I mean? And then you worry about what they’re going to do. Like, who’s actually telling the truth? And who’s going to be responsible for the cleanup?”

Torres said he wonders whether any health effects won’t turn up for a while.

“There are a lot of, like, older residents in this area. A lot of people who are not as healthy as some others. And you may not know the effects of that stuff right away,” he said. “We may not see anything now or maybe not for a year. But eventually somebody’s going to come up with something like, ‘Hey, I’m not feeling well. What’s going on with this?’ Then you have to figure out what’s going to happen then.”

In the meantime, resident Michelle Leone wonders what will happen with the refinery property.
  
“A lot of people lost their jobs. I mean, it’s sad,” she said. “And again, what are you going to do with all of that land? There’s 150 years of whatever has been seeping into that ground. It can pretty much only be used for that.”

The refinery closed after the explosion. Philadelphia Energy Solutions has filed for bankruptcy, and a woman answering the phone there said no one would be available to comment.

A federal bankruptcy judge has announced that PES would be allowed to give more bonuses to top executives. Judge Kevin Gross on Wednesday approved the company’s request to award the bonuses, and to keep the amounts secret.

PES gave its executives $4.6 million shortly after the refinery closed and hundreds of workers were laid off.  The company last month asked the judge to approve a second round of bonuses and to keep them under seal, so they wouldn’t affect employee morale.

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First-hand testimony from people shot at Cheltenham Walmart

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — The latest in the trial of 31-year-old Philadelphia man Keenan Jones, accused of shooting up a Cheltenham Walmart in August 2018, included first-hand accounts on Thursday from people who were shot, including a store manager who nearly died from a severed artery in her ankle. 

The first person shot at the store on Easton Road was Kevin Richards, who testified that he was waiting to check out when he noticed Jones and Jones’ sister near a checkout counter. He said when he made eye contact with Jones, Jones asked him, “What are you looking at?” And before he could respond, he says, Jones pulled a gun from his sister’s waistband and shot him once in the leg.

Akiya Dash was the customer service manager that day.

She said that around 6 p.m., she thought she heard breaking glass near a register. But as she walked toward the sound, she says she saw Jones as he ran for the exit.

Dash was wearing Muslim garb, she says, when they made eye contact. She said, when she saw the mark of prostration on Jones’ forehead, she thought, “He won’t shoot me. We’re the same.”

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She paused in her testimony. Then, through sobs, she said, “He shot me.”

Dash was shot four times. One bullet severed an artery in her ankle. Three other shots hit her in the leg.

She was one of five people shot that day, all of whom survived.

Jones’ attorney says her client suffers from PTSD, from when he watched his dad die when he was 16, and when he saw his friend killed a couple of months before the shooting. 

She says leading up to the shooting, Jones’ girlfriend had been in labor for 36 hours, and he hadn’t slept in days. During opening statements, she asked jurors to keep an open mind, telling them at the end of the trial she’ll ask them to find Jones not guilty by reason of insanity.

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Report shows lack of women at high levels of Philly business

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A new report released Thursday morning at the annual Forum of Executive Women leadership breakfast indicates that gender equality is lacking at the executive level of Philadelphia’s top 100 companies. 

Lisa Detwiler, president of the forum, says this year’s Women on Boards report shows that, while there has been some progress toward executive gender equality, that progress has been slow.

“What the statistics show is that it’s great to have one woman,” she said. “It’s even better to have two, three or four women.”

Susan Fitzgerald, who writes the annual report, said, “The numbers are also dismal when it comes to women executives and also women who are top earners at companies.”

“There are only a couple CEOs in the Philadelphia region at public companies. It’s pretty shocking how few there are. I think it’s either two or three.”

Fitzgerald says board diversity is critically important.

“They make all the key decisions that affect employees, stockholders, communities, investors; so not having women on boards means that companies are missing out on very critical voices,” she said.

However, says Detwiler, simply putting women on boards is not enough. 

“You know, the work is not done when a woman gets on the board,” she said. “It’s really just starting, because the key, strategically, is really to get on the nominating committee so that you can work to make the board more diverse.”

Detwiler points out women control most of the spending in the United States.

“If you think of women as the largest group of consumers, and you’re in a consumer-driven business, that’s important,” she said.

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Advocate pushing to keep kids safe from abusive parents

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — When parents get divorced, the fight over who gets custody of the kids can turn ugly. The ugliest cases are those in which a parent is accused of abuse. In a majority of those cases, the kids are awarded to the accused abuser. 

A child advocate from Philadelphia is on a mission to change that. 

Five mothers from different parts of Pennsylvania, who all thought they could rely on the family court system to protect their children — only to find themselves in another kind of hell — have all agreed to share their stories in a documentary being produced by Danielle Pollack, a child safety advocate with non-profit Child USA in Philadelphia.

Their stories are horrifying. 

“My 7-year-old daughter was brutally murdered by her father in August of 2018 after a very long court battle,” said one of the mothers in the documentary, identified as Kathy. “Not one person ever listened to anything that I ever had to say. His parental rights superseded her right to live.”

“It doesn’t matter that there are wounds on the inside of her thighs that are ridiculously concerning, and she states openly that they’re from playing the game with daddy,” said Jodi, another mother featured in the documentary.

“Jake disclosed that he was sexually abused by his dad from the ages of 5 to about 10, and now the courts don’t believe him,” said Kara, another such mother.

“He had no care or concern or compassionate when he pointed a high-powered hunting rifle at my head and then threatened to blow my daughter’s off in front of his parents,” said Danielle, another mother in the film. “But let’s — let’s give him custody of two small children because that is in their best interest

“Nobody did anything to help us. They took away our ability to be safe. They took away our ability to get the help we needed. And then they, then they took my children,” said Joanne.

Most of them have lost part or all of their custody to a parent they or their kids have accused of being abusive. In some of the cases, the abuse is documented.

“They played a 35-minute forensic investigative tape of my then-5-year-old … as he talked for 35 minutes about daddy hurting everyone,” says Jodi in the documentary.

And some of them have been threatened with arrest or thrown in jail for refusing to comply with their custody orders.

Related: Family, friends say final goodbyes to girl killed in apparent murder-suicide

She says she can’t always know if the women who talk to her are telling the truth. 

“You don’t always, of course,” she said, “but their stories are so similar, and there’s also a real urgency none of them have come to me they come to me desperate. “They are absolutely terrified for their child’s safety.”

The George Washington Law School has just released the results of the first ever national study of child custody outcomes in cases involving child abuse allegations. The researchers looked at more than 4,000 cases. They found that when mothers and children accuse the father of child abuse or sexual abuse, the court sides with the father about 80% of the time.

“Why do you think courts are so disinclined to believe a preferred parent or protective parent who is making an abuse allegation?” said Pollack. “I think it goes back to this concept of contentious cutody. And that it’s the children are essentially property from a legal point of view.

“The end result is so often that the child does have to go to an abusing parent, a parent who’s hurting them, a parent they’re scared of, because the courts tend to supplant child safety with the parental rights,” Danielle, a mother in the documentary, said.

Pollack is behind legislation to expand the statute of limitations for adult victims of child sex abuse. And she is pushing to reform the family court system with Kayden’s Law, named for 7-year-old Kayden Mancuso, who was murdered by her father during an unsupervised visit after an intense 18-month child custody fight. The reform bill calls for manditory abuse training for family court judges and staff.  

She plans to play a clip of the documentary during a legislative hearing on the bill Thursday afternoon.

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New Center City facility specializes in eating disorders

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A new Center City facility focused on treating eating disorders opens Thursday at 15th and Walnut streets. 

Kristin Szostak, director of the third Philadelphia-area Renfrew Center and the only Center City site, explains they opened the new facility to address the needs of local college students. 

“Students just weren’t consistently getting on the R5 to go out to Radnor or crossing the bridge over to New Jersey while trying to go to school at the same time,” she said. 

But she stresses college students aren’t the only ones who grapple with disordered eating.

“It can affect anyone, to be very honest, at any age. We see a higher prevalence of women entering treatment. Over the years it’s become more accepted to admit ‘I’m struggling and I need help dealing with this’ for women in particular,” Szostak said. 

Related: Penn Medicine researchers develop genital herpes vaccine that works in animals

She says a majority of their patients do come in with co-occurring disorders or mental health challenges.

“Some may be depression, anxiety, trauma, and we’re an emotion-based program that we work to treat that underlying cause,” she added. 

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Researchers develop herpes vaccine that works in animals

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania are one step closer to protecting humans against genital herpes. A vaccine has been developed that works in animals, and researchers hope it will one day be tested in humans.

DNA makes RNA and RNA makes protein — remember that from biology class? 

The Penn researchers found a way to administer RNA, or messenger RNA, and make it stable, something that hasn’t been done before. 

“So it can stay in our body a long time and it makes a ton of protein, and then a ton of protein makes a ton of antibody responses, a ton of immune responses.  And that was the big discovery,” explained Dr. Harvey Friedman, a professor of infectious diseases and the study’s principal investigator.  

He says the vaccine was given to mice and guinea pigs. They were then exposed to genital herpes and after 28 days, most had no trace of the infection after exposure.

“I’m excited. I am a realist,” he said. “If we get it to work in humans it would be awesome.” 

Friedman says there are many more steps before clinical trials in humans can be done. 

“Once it’s in humans, the first studies are small. It’s to see how safe it is, and then is it making immune response that we expect,” he explained. “And if that looks good, you go into a major trial.” 

The study is published in Science Immunology.

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Prosecutors: Walmart shooting ‘cold-blooded attempt to kill’

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — The trial of a 31-year-old Philadelphia man accused of shooting up a Walmart is underway in Montgomery County. Prosecutors call it a “cold-blooded attempt to kill,” but the defense says it was “an acute psychotic episode.” 

Prosecutor Roderick Fancher says around 6 p.m on Aug. 14, Keenan Jones was in a checkout line at the busy Walmart on Easton Road in Cheltenham. 

He was arguing with his sister when he made eye contact with a man in the line. Fancher says Jones asked that man what he was looking at, but before the man could answer, Jones reached into his sister’s waistband and grabbed her gun, pointed at the man’s leg and fired one shot.

Fancher says Jones realized what he’d done and that he needed to escape. As he ran for the door, Fancher says Jones pointed the gun at a store manager and fired five times.

Matthew Hungerford with the Cheltenham Township Police Department was in the parking lot when people began flooding out of the Walmart.

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He testified as he entered the store, he saw one woman with a gunshot wound hiding behind a register, another with her leg propped up on a tipped over shoping cart with a gunshot wound to her ankle.

In all, five people were shot, and all survived.

Defense attorney Vanessa Bellino says Jones is not the monster prosecutors are trying to paint him to be. She says he watched his father die on the street when he was 16. Then, just months before the shooting, he saw his friend get killed. 

And just before the shooting, Bellino told jurors, Jones’ girlfriend of three years had been in labor for more than 36 hours and had just been told she needed an emergency C-section.

Bellino asked jurors to keep an open mind listen to the evidence, saying at the end of the trial, she’ll ask them to find Jones not guilty by reason of insanity.

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2 Philly-area lawmakers push legalizing marijuana across Pa.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — There’s a push to legalize recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania, and two Philadelphia-area state senators are working together in an effort to do just that.

Pennsylvania State Sen. Daylin Leach recently introduced a bill to legalize recreational marijuana across the Commonwealth.

“The goal is to end prohibition which is a heartless, cruel, irrational policy, and replace it with a responsible, sustainable protocol,” Leach said. 

The Democrat who represents Montgomery County says the criminalization of marijuana does more harm than help.

“Every day that prohibition is in effect is a day of injustice for a lot of people in Pennsylvania,” he added. 

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The bill is cosponsored by Philadelphia Rep. Sharif Street, who says legalized marijuana is good business for the state.

“We anticipate that this would generate, based on the auditor general report, $600 million revenue and propose a tax level that be sufficient to generate revenue, but lowest enough to not encourage a persistent black market,” Street said.

Street adds they also want to use this as a chance to right what he calls wrongs in the criminal justice system.

“If you’re poor and black or brown or in neighborhoods where those people tend to live, you’re more likely to be subject to a criminal sanction for using a product that others use with relative impunity,” Street said. 

Street likes the bill’s chances of getting signed into law.

“I’m confident it’s not a question on whether we will pass this legislation, but when,” he added.

If passed, the bill would legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over.

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New mural adorns wall of what used to be drug encampment

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia city officials Wednesday dedicated a new mural in what used to be an encampment of those with an opioid addiction in Kensington. The event also marked the one year anniversary of the Resilience Project, the city’s intensive effort to reclaim the neighborhood.

Jolene Piliero considered the brightly colored birds and puffy clouds that now adorn the wall beneath the railroad bridge at Kensington and Lehigh avenues and felt her spirits lift.

“It’s absolutely just such a 180 degree turnaround from where I was and where this place was just one year ago today,” she said.

Piliero used to live beneath the bridge. Now she is a year sober. 

Not that it was easy.

“I actually was hit by a car, no, it was the best thing. One of the worst things that could happen to anybody, it was the best thing that happened in my life,” she said.

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Piliero took advantage of the expanded services offered as part of the Resilience Project to get housed and return to school. 

The effort has had spotty results. 

Around the corner from the new mural, half a dozen people camped out, openly using drugs.

Neighbor Lisa Rollins says she still finds needles on her front porch.

“My children are afraid to come out of the house at some points because they’re out here,” Rollins said. 

But officials believe they are making progress, however incremental, and Piliero is a believer.

“That mural, the birds being tethered down, and spreading their wings and flying, it really can be done,” she added.

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Deaths, injuries reported after van rolled off highway

UPDATED: 3:18 p.m. 

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — At least three people are dead after a passenger van rolled off the highway in lower Chester County Wednesday afternoon.

Pennsylvania State Police say the van was traveling south on Route 1 when the vehicle left the road and flipped over. 

Police say several people were thrown from the van and are unaccounted for.

Police say 8 other passengers have been transported to Christiana Hospital and Crozer-Chester Medical Center. The extent of the injuries is still uncertain. 

It happened just before 2:30 p.m. in New Garden Township.  

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This is a developing story. Stay with KYW Newsradio for the latest. 

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Case against Michael White now in jury’s hands

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — After just a few days of trial, the case of Michael White is now in the hands of the jury. White is charged with voluntary manslaughter in the fatal stabbing of a real estate developer in Rittenhouse Square, and the case comes down to whether White intended to kill the victim.

Through closing, White’s defense attorney Keir Bradford-Grey said the 22-year-old was trying to calm the traffic situation and only pulled out the knife to scare Sean Schellenger, who he says was seething at the mouth.

She says White was never the aggressor, but was defending himself and didn’t mean to put the knife in Schellenger’s back. White, she said, would have otherwise hit the concrete and would have been hurt.

Bradford-Grey ended by saying there was plenty of reasonable doubt in this case.

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But Assistant District Attorney Sherrell Dandy said White brought a 6-inch knife to a traffic dispute and plunged it into Schellenger‘s back, breaking a rib, cutting through vital organs with a clean blow. Dandy then showed an autopsy picture.

Dandy also went through each legal prong of voluntary manslaughter: the victim is dead, White killed the victim and White intended to kill the victim when he was up in the air and pushed the knife through Schellenger.

She also said the defense was creating distractions for the jurors, including victim-blaming, bringing up a fight Schellenger was in 11 years ago in Florida, and painting him as the aggressor, saying he was the unarmed man.

She ended by saying Schellenger never had a voice and that White was the one who intentionally took his life.

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Some Philly stores try to ban troublesome teens

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Philadelphia Police Department has placed extra officers on some streets to keep an eye on students who have been running roughshod over merchants since the school year began.

“We be a little loud, but we’re kids. That’s what kids do,” says one boy.

But adults on the receiving end say the behavior is far worse than that.

The assistant manager of a South Philadelphia dollar store has posted a note on the door saying kids need to be accompanied by a parent or someone over 18. 

“We just banned all kids,” she said.

She says she had to put a stop to the bad behavior.

“We had four groups of boys that came in and tried to steal. And our store manager wanted to put them out, and they got really disrespectful and threw a cart at the door. They threw juice at the window,” she said.

It’s even worse in Center City. A security guard at a store at 16th and Chestnut street says they’ve had their hands full almost every day since classes began. 

“We saw smash-and-grabs. We also have a lot of harrasment, fights outside stores, to where customers walk in the street trying to get away,” he said. 

The manager of a shoe store there says sometimes the kids enter in swarms and overrun the place.

“If they’re coming in a big group, and you see them getting all rowdy, we just lock them in and wait until the cops come, and they help us move them out. They are out of control,” she said.

Liberty Place and some fast-food restaurants have also put entrance restrictions in place. Some managers have taken drastic steps to stop swarms of kids from storming their shops and restaurants. 

“Liberty Place, they kick us out all the time. Wendy’s, they’ll kick us out anytime,” said one boy. “They say you gotta wait til later. Let everybody come in front first. They get real disrespectful.”

And that’s not sitting well with a lot of teens who say they’re not trying to cause trouble.

“It makes me feel sad, ’cause when we get out of school, we be very hungry, ’cause we don’t eat the school lunch very much. We try to get some. We’re starved goin’ back home. It’s crazy.”

The situation has become so charged that a police detail has been assigned to City Hall and areas of Market, Chestnut and Walnut streets after school.

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Two Philly success stories come together at B.PHL

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) —  Two superstars of Philadelphia’s science scene got together to talk about space Tuesday. The conversation between astronaut Guy Bluford and astronomer Derrick Pitts was one of the events at the new B.PHL Innovation Fest, and it included the unexpected fulfillment of a childhood dream. 

Before Bluford was the first African American astronaut in space, he was a West Philadelphia kid with a passion for airplanes.

“I didn’t lose it in junior high school, I didn’t lose it in high school, I maintained it and here I am, 76-years-old, and I can look back and say that has been the foundation of my career,” he said.

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Decades later, another West Philly kid attended the same elementary school when it was renamed to honor Bluford. His passion was music but he was inspired by Bluford’s story and achieved his own success. 

In a happy coincidence, rapper Chill Moody was also featured at the innovation festival and got the chance to reveal the connection in a surprise visit to Bluford’s talk.

“In third grade we had an essay contest, and the winner would get a chance to get their letter sent to space with you,” the rapper said.

Moody won and said he always hoped he’d get a chance to meet Bluford and tell him. 

“You continue to be an inspiration for me and I’m sure millions of other people,” he added. 

Moody also wrote the signature music for the festival, which continues through Thursday.

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Editor’s Note: Entercom, the parent company of KYW Newsradio, is partnering with the festival organizers to host several events throughout the week. 

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