Death, Sex & Money

A Funeral Director’s Dead Reckoning

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Caleb Wilde, a sixth-generation funeral director, will bury many of his friends and family in his small town. In a culture so unable to talk about death, he tweets to feel less alone.

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The Cicadas Are Coming!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Lurking in the ground beneath our feet, waiting in their burrows for the first signs of spring are tens of millions of cicadas.

After 17 years, cicadas are expected to emerge and overwhelm a large swath of land from Virginia to Connecticut — climbing up trees, flying in swarms and blanketing grassy areas so they crunch underfoot.

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The Takeaway

Pennsylvania Takes a Back Seat in the Swing State Frenzy

Friday, October 19, 2012

Battleground states can make or break a candidate's election, but this season, some typically contentious regions are being left off the map. Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Rob Gleason and political reporter James O'Toole discuss where the Keystone State stands when its out of the political spotlight.

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Slate Culture Gabfest

The Culture Gabfest: Ya Big MOOC Edition

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Slate critics Stephen Metcalf, Dana Stevens and Julia Turner discuss the new film "Pitch Perfect," Family Guy creator Seth Macfarlane and his selection as Oscars host, and the growth of online university courses.


The Takeaway

Forget the Economy — What Could Really Swing the Election

Thursday, August 16, 2012

After 236 years of democracy, the 15th Amendment, the 19th Amendment, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, you'd think Americans would have voting down to a science. But small battles are raging on in parts of the country over voters' rights and the cost of letting everybody cast a ballot.

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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: The Frivolous 'Bratz' Lawsuit Tort Reformers Don't Want to Talk About

Friday, July 27, 2012

Tort reform advocates talk a lot about injury cases taking up courts’ valuable time, but say little about how it took seven years to determine exactly where Carter Bryant was sitting when he came up with the idea for "Bratz."

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The Takeaway

Reduced to Minimum Wage: A Firefighter's Struggle

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What would you do if your salary was reduced to that of a teenager working at McDonalds? To hundreds of public officials, this scenario has become a harsh reality.

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The Takeaway

Proposed Voting Law Could Keep Nine Percent of Pennsylvanians Out of the Voting Booth

Monday, July 09, 2012

Although voting requirements are well defined in the Constitution, a new Pennsylvania voting law could prevent up to nine percent of the state’s population from voting this November. 

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The Takeaway

A Look at the 2012 Swing States

Friday, July 06, 2012

This week President Obama is visiting Ohio and Pennsylvania, two states that are already pegged as crucial swing states in the 2012 presidential election. But although these two states are getting the majority of the attention, there are many states that could go to either candidate.

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The Takeaway

Advocates Against Sexual Abuse Take on Statute of Limitations

Friday, June 15, 2012

Changing the statute of limitation has become a key battle for sex abuse victims. These statutes create deadlines for when a victim of abuse can press charges or bring a civil suit. The deadlines differ by state, but victims and their advocates in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York are pushing to lengthen the deadlines — or, in some cases, get rid of them entirely.

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It's A Free Country ®

Photo ID Law Comes to Swing State of Pennsylvania

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Monday was the deadline to register to vote in the presidential primary in Pennsylvania on April 24. These primary voters will be greeted by a coming change in Pennsylvania election law. They’ll be asked to show photo ID before they cast their vote. 


The Takeaway

Santorum Focuses on Pennsylvania After Romney Takes Illinois Delegates

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The day after Mitt Romney took 54 delegates in Illinois, Rick Santorum has set his sights on Pennsylvania, where he served two terms as Senator. His speech last night from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, sought to define himself as the anti-businessman and the anti-Romney. But even if Santorum wins Pennsylvania on April 24th, would it be enough to win the delegate war?


Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Transpo Bill, Tappan Zee, and Cracked Metro Rails

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Top stories on TN:
US Chamber of Commerce: House transit cuts could pass (link)
Crossing Delancey Street will soon get safer (link)
LaHood says high-speed rail in California is all about jobs (link)
FTA head Peter Rogoff joins list of officials who hate the transportation bill (link)
Photo: the ugliest rat (link)

DC Metro Station (photo by Jill Robidoux)

TN's Andrea Bernstein talks about the House's transit cuts on this morning's Brian Lehrer Show. (WNYC)

A New York Times editorial provides a "brief and by no means exhaustive list of the (transportation) bill's many defects"; calls it "uniquely terrible." (New York Times)

And: NYT critic: move Madison Square Garden to far west side to fix Penn Station. (New York Times)

A TSA program that pre-clears passengers --and lets them keep their shoes on while being screened by airport security -- is being expanded to more airports. (Star-Ledger, The Hill)

California labor groups are running ads that hammer home U.S. DOT head Ray LaHood's message that high-speed rail=jobs. (Sacramento Bee)

Pennsylvania's governor didn't budget for transportation because its problems are too overwhelming. "This is not a budget item. It is too large for that. Transportation must be confronted as its own distinct and separate topic." (Philadelphia Inquirer)

A German carpooling website plans to enter the U.S. market. “We think all trips by car could be shared,” says the founder. “Whenever you want to go with your car, you could take people with you, and therefore reduce carbon emissions and your costs.” Everybody say Mitfahrgelegenheit! (The World)

The four consortiums picked to bid on New York's Tappan Zee Bridge rebuild include some of the world's most successful construction companies -- and some with histories of delays and millions of dollars in cost overruns. (Journal News)

Why is there an uptick of cracked rails on the DC Metro? (Washington Post)

A pair of lawmakers from New York and New Jersey are pushing legislation to roll back last summer's Port Authority toll and fare hikes. (Star-Ledger)

Manhattan's Hudson Square neighborhood sees bike boom, installs more racks. (DNA Info)

Megabus is moving its Manhattan pickup site -- and doesn't have to pay rent. (DNA Info)

A map that replaces London Underground station names with anagrams is getting second life. You can get from Arcadian Noodle to Satan Dew, and you don't even have to transfer at Mind Eel!

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Transportation Nation

Rick Santorum, as Senator, Preached the Gospel of Transit

Monday, January 09, 2012

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

In March of 2005, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and its Pennsylvania counterpart (PPTA) honored Senator Rick Santorum for his dedication to public transportation. APTA president William W. Millar noted Santorum’s “tireless advocacy” and contributions on “both the national and local level.”

This recognition came shortly after Santorum appeared on Meet the Press with Joe Biden and vowed to oppose President Bush in his efforts to cut Amtrak funding. “Without substantial government funds or other intervening action, Amtrak would quickly enter bankruptcy and shut down all of its services, leaving millions of riders and thousands of communities without access to the essential and convenient transportation that Amtrak provides,” Santorum wrote in a Philadelphia Enquirer piece later that March. Regions outside the Northeast, he admitted, needed to “take steps to become more efficient and profitable.” But in the meantime “it is critical to Pennsylvania's workers, businesses, visitors, and most specifically to the more than 3,000 Amtrak employees that we do not decrease funding for Amtrak.”

The APTA release noted that Santorum’s position on the Senate Banking Committee and the Senate Finance Committee had allowed him to play “an important role in securing funding for various transportation projects throughout Pennsylvania.” And indeed it had.

Santorum’s primary challengers are now characterizing the Senator’s fondness for federal largess as a sign that he’s not a real fiscal conservative. In late December, as Santorum was surging in the Iowa polls, Rick Perry began criticizing him as “a prolific earmarker.” One Perry ad called Santorum “a porker’s best friend.” “I love Iowa pork,” Perry said in a speech. “But I hate Washington pork. Senator Santorum loaded up his bills with Pennsylvania pork and even voted for the Alaska bridge to nowhere.”

All true. But a little context, if you’d like: In 2005, earmarking was de rigueur. Congressmen and Senators brought pork back from the Washington hunt and hung it triumphantly at press conferences and shovel ceremonies. In July of 2005, when the final Senate vote was taken on the transportation funding bill that contained the “Bridge to Nowhere” earmark, only four Senators opposed it. And the Republican president signed it.

Does that mean that the earmark-baiting of the other candidates is nothing more than “pious baloney?” Well, Perry and his Texas Department of Transportation certainly had their hand out back then too. (The Governor often cited the disappointing funding stream from Washington as one reason he wanted to see his privatized Trans-Texas Corridor plan enacted.)

But who has credibility in this regard? If 96 Senators jumped off a cliff, who wouldn’t? John McCain, who was one of those four Senators who voten nay on the 2005 transportation reauthorization, who took a brave lead in criticizing the earmark-laden bill, and who is now on the stump for Romney, criticizing Santorum (and Gingrich) for earmarking.

And to the horror of The Club for Growth, Santorum says he has no regrets on earmarking. "I don't regret going out at the time and making sure that the people of Pennsylvania, who I was elected to represent, got resources back into the state after spending money,” he said recently. The Huffington Post also quoted Santorum explaining to a crowd of voters in Iowa: “In the Constitution it says who has the power to appropriate funds. Congress does. So we appropriate funds.”

Former Pennsylvania Governor and Infrastructure cheerleader Ed Rendell chimed in last week to praise Santorum’s effectiveness in funneling money home. "He understood that those type of earmarks translated into jobs and investment," Rendell said.

Indeed his support of infrastructure, particularly transit, seems to run deep. From 1984 to 1986, Santorum served as the director for the state senate transportation committee as an administrative assistant for Pennsylvania state senator J. Doyle Corman. He understood what rail meant to Pennsylvania and its cities. "The 'T' light rail line in Pittsburgh was my daily means of transportation for many years while I worked downtown,” Santorum said in 2005 when he was honored by the APTA. “I understand the importance of maintaining the various forms of public transportation for those who rely on it every day."

Midway through his first term as senator, during the drafting of the TEA-21 authorization bill, Santorum helped create the new Job Access and Reverse Commute program, which was meant to address “the unique transportation challenges faced by welfare recipients and low-income persons seeking to obtain and maintain employment.” When the authorization bill came up for renewal in 2005, Santorum appeared before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and offered a full-throated endorsement of the program—and federal transit funding in general—from a socially conservative angle.

“Robust [transit] systems are also an important component of economic development,” he said. “Throughout my tenure in Congress, one of my highest priorities has been assisting those who are transitioning from welfare to the workplace.... In my home state of Pennsylvania, the cities of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in particular have provided access to employment for thousands of individuals through the JARC program. The creation of the program has allowed Pennsylvania to provide welfare recipients and other low-income individuals an opportunity to secure and retain employment and achieve self-sufficiency.”

Interestingly, that May of 2005, at a time when privatization was spreading and the Bush Administration was promoting state-level responsibility for transportation, Santorum offered a strenuous defense for a strong federal participation in transportation funding.

“Every State in the country has a transportation department. Why do we need a Federal transportation department?” He asked. “We need it because we have to make sure the goods that are produced in New Jersey can get to Ohio to Texas, or the goods produced in California can get to Georgia.

"The fact is it is important for us to be connected... We have a situation where we have States that shoulder a large burden when it comes to that interstate commerce, and we have other States that are the great beneficiaries.” The Federal government, he argued, should continueto redistribute national gas tax revenues disproportionately to “pass-through” states such as Pennsylvania. “Given the topography, the climate, and the congestion and traffic we bear, it would be a State that should do well under a Federal formula.”

So there you have it. Rick Santorum is a man quite comfortable with Washington’s role in redistributing tax revenue, at least when it comes to transportation. He’s a man who quite likes trains and buses, a man who sees federal spending on public transportation not as welfare, but rather as a way to help people of lesser means get to work, as economic development.

More candidate analysis:  Mitt Romney: Metro-Friendly Moderate?; Newt Gingrich: Rail Visionary, Lover of Oil; Rick Perry’s Trans-Texas Corridor Problem.

Matt Dellinger is the author of the book Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway. You can follow him on Twitter.


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The Takeaway

Political Roundtable: Pennsylvania

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Takeaway kicks off a new series today where we talk with voters from each of the key electoral states to see what the political and economic situation feels like on the ground. We begin in Pennsylvania, where President Obama will be spending the day Wednesday discussing his jobs bill, and garnering the support of his base at the same time. Joining the roundtable discussion are Walt Rowen, owner of Susquehanna Glass Company in Columbia, PA, Randy Robertson, owner and president Triple R. Guitar in Lemoyne, PA and Jackie Magaro, owner and operator of Mr. Sandman, a residential restoration service company.

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Park Service Prepares Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania

Friday, September 09, 2011

On Saturday, September 10, a new national memorial will be dedicated in Shanksville, PA, at the site where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed on September 11, 2001, killing all 40 passengers and crew aboard, as well as four hijackers.

A new visitor center will also open, replacing the makeshift museum that currently houses information about the memorial, as well as biographies and tributes to the victims.

In July, workers were busy at the site, preparing it for the dedication. View a slideshow of the site below.


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The Takeaway

Floods Devastate Pennsylvania and Maryland

Friday, September 09, 2011

Tropical Storm Lee continues to cause devastation in the eastern United States. Driving rain has pelted parts of Pennsylvania and Maryland, flooding homes and businesses there. At least three people have died as a result, and 130,000 people have had to leave their homes and flee to safety.


Selected Shorts

Selected Shorts: Surprising Discoveries

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Unexpected revelations, emotions, and plot twists in three tales ranging from contemporary to crime classic.

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It's A Free Country ®

Why Obama Is Visiting Puerto Rico

Monday, June 13, 2011

He's walking into a lot of issues which will resonate with how his presidential campaign develops. People don't vote for President in Puerto Rico, but they do raise money and they send a sizable delegation to the Democratic convention.

Angelo Falcon, President and Founder of the National Institute for Latino Policy, on The Brian Lehrer Show.

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Transportation Nation

When It Comes to Transpo Spending: Those Who Can’t Do... Study

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Boy studying, from the album: Miscellaneous. Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine, ca. 1924. From the National Child Labor Committee Collection at the Library of Congress

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation) I thought there had been some Internet hiccup when I saw a news item saying that the Governor of Pennsylvania had ordered the formation of a Transportation Funding Advisory Commission. Surely this was an article from five years ago, I thought, before then-Governor Ed Rendell turned over every possible rock looking for transportation money. From 2007 through 2010, of course, Rendell tried to privatize the Pennsylania Turnpike, tried (twice) to toll Interstate 80, proposed raising the state gas tax, and suggested a transportation tax on oil profits—all unsuccessful.

But no. Pennsylvania's new governor, Tom Corbett, is creating a new commission, which he has ordered to give a final report by August 1. The commission’s recommendations, I’ll bet you a shiny quarter, will be to do many or all of the things Rendell already tried. A brand new report from the longstanding Pennsylvania State Transportation Advisory Committee, not to be confused with the new Transportation Funding Advisory Commission, already hints at all of these same funding sources: tolls, public-private partnerships, increased taxes and fees, and eventually a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) charge.

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Reports suggesting some combination of those solutions were already easy to find. There was, for instance, the January 2008 report of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission. Then, a year later, there were the findings of the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission. Most recently, the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform joined the chorus arguing for an increase in the federal gas tax (that choir consisting largely of think tanks and other parties who won’t actually have to vote on such a measure).

But the announcement of yet another study group in Pennsylvania, where an aggressive Governor spent an entire term beating his head against the walls of his state legislature and the toll-wary USDOT, feels like a particularly telling case of hemming and hawing. And it’s by no means an anomaly.

In Indiana, Governor (and potential Republican presidential candidate) Mitch Daniels seems to be punting on funding the last stretch of Interstate 69, the controversial “NAFTA Highway” that he has pushed as a cornerstone of his legacy. The state legislature passed a bill last week giving the governor and INDOT the power to enter into public-private partnerships for toll roads, but rather than wield that power now and risk a backlash, Daniels is allowing—you guessed it—a study committee to explore the various funding options. That committee will take its time: two years, just long enough for Daniels to clear out of the statehouse.

Matt Dellinger is the author of the book Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway. You can follow him on Twitter.

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