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University of Pennsylvania wins contract to treat memory deficits

The University of Pennsylvania was one of two institutions to win a Department of Defense contract to develop brain implants for memory deficits.

Their aim is to develop new treatments for traumatic brain injury, the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Its most devastating symptom is the blunting of memory and reasoning. Scientists have found in preliminary studies that they can sharpen some kinds of memory by directly recording, and stimulating, circuits deep in the brain...

“A decade ago, only a handful of centers had the expertise to perform such real-time experiments in the context of first-rate surgery,” said Michael Kahana, a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania and the recipient of one of the new contracts granted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa. “Today, there are dozens of them, and more on the way; this area is suddenly hot.”


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Ride-share legislation introduced in Pennsylvania Senate

State Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Allegheny, has introduced legislation aimed at allowing ride-sharing services like Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. to operate in the state permanently.

“My legislation resolves outstanding issues and would enable the ride-sharing companies to continue operating,” Fontana said in a statement. “The bill includes provisions that promote safety and security for riders while compelling companies to maintain sufficient insurance coverage for contingencies.”
Provisions of Senate Bill 1457 include:
  • requiring ride-sharing companies to maintain detailed records;
  • establishing driver-training programs;
  • enforcing a zero-tolerance policy on alcohol use and the crafting of a complaint reporting system;
  • implementing a background check system and the developing specific driver guidelines that deal with past criminal, moving violations or driving under the influence history.
The legislation also requires drivers to have an updated photo in plain view. The driver would not be permitted to pick up passengers who "hail" the vehicle while in use. It also specifically identifies vehicles that may be used for ride-sharing and a detailed inspection protocol to alleviate safety concerns. The company must also maintain specific levels of insurance for liability, medical payments, comprehensive, collision and uninsured/underinsured coverage.

Original source: Pittsburgh Business Times
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Funeral for a Home earns national press

Funeral for a Home, a project Flying Kite has covered extensively in the past, earned some national praise for its mission to memorialize a demolished home in Mantua. The Atlantic's CityLab attended and snapped some pictures.

The voices of the Mt. Olive Baptist Church choir echoed off the buildings on Saturday along the 3700 block of West Philadelphia’s Melon Street.

Their usual pulpit sits around the corner at 37th and Wallace. But this past weekend, they sang at the funeral of an unusual neighbor: a small, dilapidated rowhouse at 3711 Melon, torn down that night.


As the choir sang the gospel hymn, the words seemed fitting – “Precious memories, how they linger.” Soon, memories would be all that’s left of the two-story home, a narrow rowhouse that long ago lost its partners.

Original source: The Atlantic's CityLab
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Monell scientists examine the perfumes of the animal world

Scientists at Philadelphia's Monell Chemical Senses Center take a look at how scents dictate behavior.

This effect of inducing others to drop everything and pay attention to me-me-me is apparently what we hope for with our own perfumes and colognes, at least to judge by the advertising. But scientists and perfumers seem to know remarkably little about which scent compounds — noxious or otherwise — produce particular effects, or why. We don’t seem to respond like those species in which a specific scent automatically elicits a fixed behavioral response, said Pamela Dalton, a scent researcher at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.

Or at least we’re not aware if something like that is happening. A 2003 study at Monell found that scent samples from human males caused a neuroendocrine response in women, changing the length and timing of the menstrual cycle. Male scent also made the women less tense and more relaxed, at least when they didn’t know that what they were smelling was a man. (More predictably, a study this year reported that the scent of male, but not female, experimenters left lab rats feeling a stress level roughly equivalent to being restrained in a tube for 15 minutes.)

Ms. Dalton theorized that early perfumers might have adapted the sometimes unpleasant odors of other species as a way of taking on their power. Something like that certainly happens in the animal world.


Orginal source: The New York Times
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The New York Times highlights beloved regional ice cream parlors, including Bassets

The New York Times pens a love letter to local ice cream parlors.

In some circles, the nostalgic beauty of a quart of Yarnell’s Ozark Black Walnut in Arkansas or a scoop of Bassetts from Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia beats out any fancy high-fat, chef-spun ice cream.

"The best ice cream is what comes with experience," said Troy Moon, 47, a resident of Portland, Me., who holds a special fondness for pistachio ice cream from the regional brand Gifford’s, preferably eaten during a road trip though Maine.

It would be difficult to argue that any other food holds a stronger connection to memory than ice cream does. Ask most Americans about their favorite childhood ice cream and the descriptions will be vivid and specific.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Philadelphia Zoo welcomes four lion cubs

The Philadelphia Zoo is now home to a family of lions -- four cubs were born to a four-year-old mother. 

According to zoo staff, mother and cubs are doing well. Like newborn humans, lion cubs are essentially helpless, relying on their mother for care. Tajiri has been in almost constant physical contact with her cubs since their birth, and appears confident and relaxed as a first-time mother. Zoo staff continues to monitor them by video camera during this crucial time, giving Tajiri almost complete privacy in her off-exhibit den.

“We’re very excited to welcome Tajiri’s new cubs, the first lions born at Philadelphia Zoo in 18 years,” said Kevin Murphy, Philadelphia Zoo’s general curator. “We work with the Species Survival Plan® (SSP) breeding program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), whose goal is to manage populations of threatened, endangered and other species across AZA zoos, to maintain long-term genetic and demographic viability. This birth, Tajiri’s first, is a significant contribution to the lion population in the U.S., and we are cautiously optimistic as Tajiri continues to be a fantastic mother.”


Orginal source: Newark Star-Ledger
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Temple wins the battle for William Penn High School

The School Reform Commission has sold William Penn High School to Temple University for $15 million. The decision was not without controversy.

Part of the property will be razed and turned into athletic fields and recreation space for Temple students. The school building fronting Broad Street will remain, and will house a job-training academy run by the Laborers' District Council Education and Training/Apprenticeship Fund. It will offer training in construction crafts and general education topics.

The sale happened over the strong objections of some community members - who had been promised a new life for the high school when it "temporarily" closed in 2009. Then-Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman said at the time that the school would reopen within five years as a career and technical academy for district students.

Commissioner Sylvia Simms was the lone vote against the closure and transaction, saying after the meeting that she thought the community had been "bamboozled."


For more background on the sale, check out this feature from Flying Kite.

Original source: Philadlephia Inquirer
Read the complete story here.

President Obama steps in to halt transit strike

President Obama ordered an emergency mediation process, halting the SEPTA transit strike in southeastern PA.

The Presidential Emergency Board will now beginning hearing arguments from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and two unions representing about 400 electrical workers and engineers. The unions want a compensation plan similar to what bus drivers agreed to a few years ago, but the agency hasn't met their demand, they say.

The workers went on strike after midnight Saturday, and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, soon requested that Obama intervene.

Under the Railway Labor Act, the governor of any affected state may ask the president to appoint an emergency mediation panel to settle a union's dispute with publicly funded commuter rail services. Obama recently created such a board to help with a labor battle at the Long Island Rail Road, and employees have about a month left in the process before they may strike. 


Original source: The Los Angeles Time
Read the complete story here.

Local artists team up on new opera

Local visual artist Christopher Cairns and composer Michael Hersch collaborate on a new opera.

The visual artist Christopher Cairns’s sprawling studio near Philadelphia is filled with installations that include piles of skulls and forlorn figures slumped despairingly in chairs. Sculptures that evoke the victims of Pompeii are strewn across the floor near the white wall, which is made of crumbling bricks and shards of glass and will be replicated in the sets for “On the Threshold of Winter,” Michael Hersch’s new opera. Mr. Cairns’s eerie art seems an aptly somber pairing for the dark-hued monodrama, which will receive its premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Wednesday, Mr. Hersch’s birthday, with Tito Muñoz conducting the ensemble Nunc.

“I hope the audience feels some kind of connection,” Mr. Hersch said, “and that a potentially unfamiliar musical framework doesn’t obscure the human drama the music attempts to serve.”

Mr. Hersch, 42, weathered several traumas before composing the opera. In 2009, his friend Mary O’Reilly — a historian he met in 2001 in Berlin — died at the age of 45 from ovarian cancer. And in 2007, he received his own cancer diagnosis. “It seemed so implausible in light of our relationship,” he said. “I found the whole thing like a bad joke, and I told her."

He is now healthy, “but there is always that fear that hangs around and over you and never goes away,” he said.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Philly public pools open for business (well, for free)

The city's plethora of (underappreciated) public pools is opening this week. Click here for a complete run-down of which swim-spot is opening when. See you at Ridgway!

Original source: NBC 10

Yoga, with a beer chaser

A growing trend has a session of bending and stretching followed by a session ale.

Detox Retox is part of a growing trend of yoga paired with post-practice beer. These classes, often placed in breweries, are popping up across the country, and some have cheeky names like Happy Hour Yoga with Joe Sixpack in Philadelphia, BrewAsanas in Colorado (Boulder and Denver) and Three Sheets to the Warrior Pose in Wilmington, Del.

The trend was started two and a half years ago in Charleston, S.C., by Beth Cosi, a restaurant worker turned yoga instructor. Ms. Cosi regularly invited her friends to take her class, but few actually made it to the studio. After connecting with a local brewery, she extended another invitation to her non-yoga-practicing friends to attend a beginner’s class that was followed by a beer tasting.

Ms. Cosi, whose friends showed up, learned that beer is an effective carrot on a stick.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

NYC's beloved Big Gay Ice Cream coming to Philadelphia

This New York institution is opening up a location on Broad Street. Oh, happy day!

Last night Douglas Quint and Bryan Petroff announced that they were bringing their beloved NYC ice cream shop Big Gay Ice Cream to Philadelphia....

As reported by Philly.com, Quint and Petroff will be opening at the SouthStar Lofts. They liked this location for the fact that it made them part of a "culinary neighborhood." "Something that we always try to do when we choose locations is make sure that we're amongst good company ... [In Philadelphia], we'll be in walking distance to Marc Vetri's restaurants, Kevin Sbraga's, and Jose Garces' restaurants." They've been working on securing the lease for the Philadelphia shop since the beginning of the year.

With an August or September opening, the Philadelphia location will be opening around the same time as the upcoming Los Angeles location. Petroff says that project got delayed due to some trouble with the city, but that construction will soon be underway. Petroff, who moved to Los Angeles recently, will be overseeing the LA build out while Quint works on getting the Philadelphia shop open.


Original source: Eater
Read the complete story here.

'So You Think You Can Dance' comes to Philadelphia, Mummers crash the party

The yearly FOX network dance competition aired its Philadelphia auditions last week. Art Museum steps? Check. Murals? Check. Mummers? Check. You can watch the whole thing here. 

Original source: FOX
 

Philadelphia hotels are best rated in the U.S.

When it comes to major U.S. destinations, Philadelphia's hotels come out on top.

Hotels in Philadelphia are the best rated among all major destination in the United States. This finding is the takeaway of a recent survey conducted by TravelMag.com. The survey compared 30 destinations in the United States based on the customer reviews their hotels have received over the past 12 months.
 
Specifically, the survey compiled all 3- and 4-star hotel ratings awarded by guests after their stay on the hotel booking site Expedia. These ratings, which run from 1 to 5, were then categorized into positive (4 or 5), neutral (3) or negative (1 or 2).

Original source: Travel
Read the complete story here.

Auction settles ownership battles at the Philadelphia Inquirer

An auction has finally settled the matter of the Philadelphia Inquirer's ownership.

The legal battle over the ownership of The Philadelphia Inquirer ended on Tuesday when its minority owners, Lewis Katz and Gerry Lenfest, prevailed in an auction for the newspaper.

Mr. Katz and Mr. Lenfest agreed to pay $88 million for The Inquirer and its affiliated properties, which include The Philadelphia Daily News, the website Philly.com and a printing plant.

The purchase signals the end of a battle between the wealthy, politically connected men who teamed up to buy the publications in 2012 and then fell out over accusations of inappropriate influence exerted on the newsroom, which threw the papers into turmoil.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.
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