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Philadelphia hosts world's largest game of Tetris

A Drexel professor and his students hacked the lighting system of the 29-story Cira Center, allowing them to play Tetris on the building's facade.

 Check out the video here.

Original source: The New York Times

New tools for detecting cancer come out of Thomas Jefferson

New blood tests -- or "liquid biopsies" -- are making the cancer detection process more painless.

Telltale traces of a tumor are often present in the blood. These traces -- either intact cancer cells or fragments of tumor DNA -- are present in minuscule amounts, but numerous companies are now coming to market with sophisticated tests that can detect and analyze them.

While the usefulness of the tests still needs to be proved, proponents say that because liquid biopsies are not invasive, they can be easier to repeat periodically, potentially tracking the disease as it evolves and allowing treatments to be adjusted accordingly...

"You will have a chance to identify a treatment sometimes and sometimes not," said Dr. Massimo Cristofanilli, director of the breast care center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, who is treating Ms. Lewis and is a leading expert on liquid biopsies. Still, he said, "you are certainly much more advanced than going blindly." 


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

Redefining 'elevator music' as a community booster

Inspired by the development of Muzak, Artist Yowei Shaw, a freelance public radio reporter and producer, has been working on "elevator music" that actually improves the community.

Shaw has been grappling with questions of engaging listeners in public spaces as part of her residency with the Philadelphia-based Asian Arts Initiative's Social Practice Lab. Muzak's social engineering history, she says, gave her an idea: "What if we could make our own kind of elevator music, but do it with pro-social intentions, to promote community?"

And so her project, Really Good Elevator Music, was born. Shaw asked six local musicians from Philly's Chinatown North/Callowhill neighborhood to produce tracks that would help "foster community" in the area. The result is the 13 track album of "really good elevator music," which is playing in the elevators of the nearby, mixed-use Wolf Building for the month of March.


Original source: The Atlantic Cities
Read the complete story here.

Philadelphia's population continues to rise

According to recently-released census data, Philadelphia's population continues to rise -- though the rate has slowed slightly.

The city's population as of July 1, 2013, stood at an estimated 1,553,165 people, an increase of 4,518 residents, or 0.29 percent from the previous year. It marks the seventh consecutive year of growth for the city, according to the Census Bureau’s population estimates. So the turnaround continues, but not as dramatically.

Philadelphia saw steep declines in the latter part of the 20th century as it continued to struggle with the loss of its industrial base. That trend continued into the new millennium. Indeed, the city’s population declined every year between 2000 and 2006, losing nearly 26,000 residents during the span. But since 2006, the city has added more than 64,000 people.


Original source: The Philadelphia Inquirer
Read the complete story here.

The city simplifies rules for farmers' markets

PlanPhilly reports on changes to how the city regulates farmers' markets.

Last week City Council approved changes that eliminate the farmers’ market licensing fee, simplify the rules for operating a market and require a simplified registration with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health...

“There’s been a real growth in farmers’ markets in recent years, and so these rules were kind of updated to reflect their popularity, and folks in public health have come to view farmers’ markets as good sources of fruits and vegetables for people, so the code kind of reflects the changing times,” said Nicky Uy, senior associate of the farmers’ market program at The Food Trust, which operates 25 farmers markets in Philadelphia and has plans to open four more this year.

 
Original source: PlanPhilly
Read the complete story here.

Citizens Bank named one of the best ballparks for craft beer

The Phillies' home stadium came in No. 6 in a list of the country's best ballparks for craft beer. (In fact, a local microbrew will run you the same cost as a Miller Lite.)

It comes as no surprise that two Pennsylvania cities (the only two with major league teams) made it into the top five. The state is well represented by a number of great breweries and both stadiums felt it only right to serve that amazing beer. At Citizens Bank, Phillies fans drink beer from Tröegs Brewing, Victory Brewing, Flying Fish (in nearby New Jersey), Sly Fox, Yards Brewery, Prism Brewing, and Philadelphia Brewing. The list continues with several out-of-state breweries, like Goose Island, Long Trail, Otter Creek, Allagash, Anchor, Dogfish Head, Lagunitas, Ommegang, Samuel Adams, 21st Amendment, Oskar Blues, and Sierra Nevada.

Original source: The Daily Meal
Read the complete list here.

Drop in traffic on local highways speaks to broader societal changes

A drop in traffic on local highways indicates a change of habits in the metro area -- and could lead to a changes for infrastructure planners.

Before beginning a $2.5 billion project to widen the New Jersey Turnpike, turnpike officials said the construction was necessary to reduce existing congestion and to cope with future traffic.

"Turnpike traffic is on the rise," the state Turnpike Authority said in its justification for the project. "By 2032 northbound traffic volume is expected to increase by nearly 68 percent [above 2005 levels]; southbound traffic is forecasted to increase by 92 percent."

Now, one-third of the way through that 27-year forecast, turnpike traffic is actually about 10 percent lower than it was in 2005...

"The millennials are really changing the world dramatically," Hughes said. "We have a younger generation that is driving less and doesn't want to live in Valley Forge. They want to live in Center City Philadelphia."

"We had a 50-year period of unrestricted suburbanization, and now there's a dramatic shift."

Cars and driving are less important to young adults, who find that trains and buses allow them to work and socialize on mobile electronic devices, he said. That may mean fewer cars on future roads.

"Nobody was really anticipating this," Hughes said. "The models have to be recalibrated."

Original source: The Philadelphia Inquirer
Read the complete story here.


A Vancouver Sun writer falls for the City of Brotherly Love

A travel writer for the Vancouver Sun is surprised to find himself "smitten" with Philadelphia. 

It is a city that has taken me by surprise and made me happier than I imagined with its innate spirit of creativity, inventiveness, progressive thinking and generosity. I love, love, love its unswerving focus on freedom and tolerance. I think it is a city that deserves more attention...

When I came to Philly for the first time to see the flower show, which is an amazing work in itself, I was not expecting to be dazzled also by the quirkier side of the city’s personality, such as walking into the shoe department at Macy’s and finding the world’s biggest pipe organ or the Magic Garden of Isaiah Zagar, a whimsical mosaic garden built on a back street, composed out of tens of thousands of pieces of found art and ceramics.


Original source: The Vancouver Sun
Read the complete story here.




Public transit use at highest level since 1956

According to the New York Times, ridership on public transit is higher than its been in a generation.

More Americans used buses, trains and subways in 2013 than in any year since 1956 as service improved, local economies grew and travelers increasingly sought alternatives to the automobile for trips within metropolitan areas, the American Public Transportation Association said in a report released on Monday.

The trade group said in its annual report that 10.65 billion passenger trips were taken on transit systems during the year, surpassing the post-1950s peak of 10.59 million in 2008, when gas prices rose to $4 to $5 a gallon.

The ridership in 2013, when gas prices were lower than in 2008, undermines the conventional wisdom that transit use rises when those prices exceed a certain threshold, and suggests that other forces are bolstering enthusiasm for public transportation, said Michael Melaniphy, the president of the association.


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

2014's greatest battle: Fox 29 weatherman versus the snowplow

An epic moment between one Philadelphia man and one plow goes viral. Click here for all the GIF-goodness.

Original source: Fox 29 (via The Atlantic Cities)


Al Jazeera looks at transportation funding via SEPTA

Flying Kite contributor Jake Blumgart writes about transportation funding struggles in Al Jazeera, using SEPTA as a prime example.

In late November, after two no votes, a transportation bill scraped through the state legislature. It allows for baseline repairs and vehicle replacement, including, finally, trolleys that are accessible for handicapped riders. SEPTA pleaded for $454 million in 2014, with increases to follow. Instead, the bill will ramp up to giving the agency $345 million annually, an amount that will not be reached until 2018. The message from Harrisburg was clear: Preservation, not expansion, is the name of the game.

Philadelphia’s brush with disaster is typical of the perpetual crisis of public transit in the United States. Ridership levels spiked during and after the recession, but local and state budgets were forcibly contracted, forcing almost 80 percent of the nation’s transit systems to raise fares or cut back operations. In 2012, Boston suffered fare increases and service cuts, and ridership fell, and Pittsburgh faced a transit crisis similar to Philadelphia’s. In 2013, Detroit lost $7 million in funding for its buses.


Original source: Al Jazeera
Read the complete story here.



Huffington Post lists reasons Philly is 'most underrated city in America'

The Huffington Post has put together a list of the reasons Philadelphia is "the most underrated city in America." Sure, it's click-bait, but it's also kinda great -- soft pretzels, Eastern State, beer! And even a couple of things to snark about -- the Citywide Special is actually $5.

Original source: The Huffington Post
Read the complete list here.

A loving ode to the Philadelphia regional accent

A wonderful piece in The New York Times' Sunday Review looked at our city's unique accent:

"The Philadelphia regional accent remains arguably the most distinctive, and least imitable, accent in North America. Let’s not argue about this. Ask anyone to do a Lawn Guyland accent or a charming Southern drawl and that person will approximate it. Same goes for a Texas twang or New Orleans yat, a Valley Girl totally omigod. Philly-South Jersey patois is a bit harder: No vowel escapes diphthongery, no hard consonant is safe from a mid-palate dent. Extra syllables pile up so as to avoid inconvenient tongue contact or mouth closure. If you forget to listen closely, the Philadelphia, or Filelfia, accent may sound like mumbled Mandarin without the tonal shifts....

Da prom here, we might say as we order our cheesteaks, is we don’ ave enuff akkers hew are willen to masser da Filelfia acksin. Nonsense. Offhand, I can name two native sons, Bruce Willis (Salem County, N.J.) and Kevin Bacon (Center City Philadelphia), who, at least in interviews early in their career, before accent reduction training kicked in, let their diphthong freak flags fly. And Upper Darby, Pa., native Tina Fey’s shout-outs and occasional youzes are encouraging, as are stories of her singing “You Light Up My Life” in full Brotherly Love voice ('Yew loight up moy loif')."

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

The New York Times visits Midtown Village's Little Nonna's

The New York Times' travel section visited Philadelphia's thriving Midtown Village neighborhood, checking in on Little Nonna's, Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran's latest.

The menu is packed with classic dishes as they might be prepared by a modern-day nonna — Italian for grandmother — using ingredients from local farmers: an antipasto board of roasted veggies, parmigiana with Japanese eggplant and Thai-basil pesto, Concord grape water ice.

But on a chilly evening in November, I couldn’t resist the Sunday gravy. A heaping portion of “gravy” (marinara made with San Marzano tomatoes) and paccheri (the macaroni of the day) arrived on one platter, and on another were assorted meats — pork braciole, spicy fennel sausage, meatballs stuffed with fontina. Other memorable dishes deviated from the traditional tried and true, like bruschetta with roasted figs, Gorgonzola dolce, celery hearts and crunchy hazelnuts. And a standout pasta dish featured braised duck, pecorino and turnips atop chestnut ravioli stuffed with roasted heirloom squash.


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

Comcast makes a move to buy Time-Warner Cable

Comcast makes another big move, making a play for Time Warner Cable.

Already the dominant player in providing pay television services to American consumers, Comcast announced on Thursday a deal to buy Time Warner Cable, which will create a behemoth that will dominate the media industry.

It is the second transformative deal for Comcast in recent years, coming just months after it completed an acquisition of NBC Universal, the TV and movie studio. And the deal, if completed, could have impacts on consumers across the country, though it is unlikely to reduce competition in many markets.

Describing the deal as “a friendly, stock-for-stock transaction,” Comcast will acquire 100 percent of Time Warner Cable’s 284.9 million shares outstanding, in a deal worth about $45.2 billion in stock value.


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