Archive: February, 2011
The bar scene may never be the same if Penn studentsâ MEEPME app takes off. Think Quizo-style interactive entertainment mixed with hints of sexting and a lot of fun.
MEEPME is a mobile app that employs anonymous flirting via SMS â or texting. The app uses cloud communication powered by Twilio to allow participants free, anonymous interaction with other participants in the same venue. The idea is to let people Â interact with and meet one another without the initial pressure of a clever pickup line.
Hereâs how it works:
1. Upon entry to a venue set up for MEEPME, a participant number is placed on your back.
2. The venue will have a phrase that you will text to a pre-set number.
3. This will register you and allow for unlimited âmeeping.â
4. All Meeps are automatically posted on one, or more, TV screens throughout the venue.
5. Your anonymity is secured until you reveal yourself with a specific command.
6. Love connections are made â maybe.
Maybe not love connections, but at least itâs meant to the next evolution of bar games, said Matt Newberg, one of the apps creators.
Newberg, along with three other Penn students, created MEEPME during the semi-annual PennApps Hackathon last month. The app won grand prize in the 48-hour competition and was immediately a hit with Penn students.
Yesterday, the Blarney Stone saw nearly 100 participants (mainly Penn students) whip out their phones to âmeep,â said The Daily Pennsylvanian. Last week, the app went live at Smokey Joeâs where over 5,000 meeps were sent from 150 participants.
The team plans to spread this app to various venues and bars throughout the city. "What we're doing right now is working with venue owners," said Newberg. He told CP that MEEPME's goal right now is to create the interactive experience in your neighborhood bar.
For now, we'll have to check out Newberg's "shiny new toy" in University City or next week at Yunker's in Manayunk.
'Cash for kids' case back in court; key witness says Luzerne judge agreed to be paid for wrongfully sending kids into lockup
Not exactly Philly-centric, but definitely a big deal: A Luzerne County judge who allegedly agreed to take kickbacks from the builder of a juvenile detention center in exchange for sending kids into lockup is on trial today.
The case initially involved two judges -- Mark. A. Ciavarella Jr. and Michael Conahan -- whoÂ pleaded guilty to illegally accepting millions in cash in exchange wrongfully sentencing potentially thousands of kids to serve time in lockup between 2003 and 2008. The Pa. Supreme Court -- working from a petition brought forward by Philadelphia's Juvenile Law Center -- expunged some 6,000 sentences handed down by the judges. The Luzerne County juvenile justice system, in other words, collapsed.
Both judges initially pled guilty to the kickback scheme. Conahan has stuck with that plea and could face 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine but Ciavarella instead decided to stand trial. Those proceedings began Tuesday in Scranton's Federal courthouse.
Citizen's Voice in Wilkes-Barre is providing coverage by the hour and the Associated Press reports today (via the Atlanta Journal Constitution) that the juvenile detention center's builder testified to the judge's involvement:
Robert Mericle testified Wednesday at the trial of former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella (shiv-uh-REL'-uh). Prosecutors say Ciavarella was part of a $2.8 million "kids for cash" scheme in which he locked up juvenile offenders at detention facilities Mericle built.
Mericle told the court that he visited Ciavarella in his courthouse office and said he wouldn't have had the opportunity to build the facilities without Ciavarella. Mericle testified that Ciavarella agreed he should be paid as a result.
Meanwhile, the Standard Speaker in Hazelton, Pa. reports that court employees who worked for Ciavarella Jr. and Conahan are now being implicated as well.
The New York Times addsÂ interesting coverage as well as audio interviews with some of the wrongfully sentenced kids. The Wall Street Journal's "Law Blog" has a summary of the case with a few useful links.
Not included in those links, however, is the link to the report by the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice -- which in based on Market Street in Center City Philadelphia and was formed by the Pa. General Assembly with the sole purpose of finding out what happened in this case and how it can be avoided in the future. That report is here in PDF form. Among its conclusions:
The collapse of the juvenile justice system in Luzerne County carries with it sad lessons. Most important, the experienceÂ demonstrates what happens when judicial power is divorced from the constraints of law, when slogans such as âzero toleranceâÂ masquerade as thoughtful philosophy, and when judicial courage and compassion are replaced with aÂ self-serving cunning.
|I mean, does he look worried?|
For all the "what a disappointment" talk, it's looking more and more every day like Michael Nutter going to be strong â if not unbeatable â in his bid for another four years as mayor of Philadelphia.
Today's headlines back that up: officially out of the race is perennial candidate for everything, State Senator Anthony Williams, who released a statement today confirming that he will not enter the 2011 race for mayor of Philadelphia.
"At the end of my 2010 bid for governor, I publicly stated that my aspirations did not include being a candidate for mayor in 2011. But since this year began, I have beenÂ approached by people who haveÂ asked thatÂ I reconsider that decision. [...]
The process has given me much to consider, particularly given my own feelings for this city of promise. Two things have been made clear. One, my desire to lead us toward a brighter future is both real and strong. And two, I recognize that not only are deeds important, but so is oneâs word. I cannot in good conscience go back on mine. Accordingly, I will not be a candidate for mayor in 2011.
Maybe it's his good conscience, yes, but maybe â just maybe â it's also the fact that Nutter's looking too good to risk taking him on.
And then there was the announcement today that Milton Street, the former state senator and older brother of former mayor John Street, intends to run against Nutter.
We're not knocking the guy or his campaign, but if Street â who just finished a two-year prison sentence for tax evasion â is Nutter's most formidable opponent so far ... well, let's just say we doubt the mayor choked on his bran flakes this morning when he got the news.
closing three post offices in Philadelphia this spring, according to the Inquirer, in an effort to consolidate and streamline operations to allow USPS to become more efficient and effective. USPS said that the three stations were chosen based on a study they conducted last year. Adams Avenue, Girard Avenue and Wissinoming will be closing their doors on April 22. Residents using these post offices are being referred to the next-cloests facility. CP wondered: if lines at post offices are (sometimes, anyway) notoriously long already, what would these closures do to lines at other nearby post offices? And so CP set out to find answers. This photo was taken at the Girard Avenue station (scheduled to be closed in April) today after waiting over a half hour for them to re-open from being out of the office. CP counted 10 people waiting in line (three aren't visible).
|photo by Tanya Hull|
|photo by Tanya Hull|
You may remember Philadelphia Police Inspector (and former district captain) Daniel Castro for the indictment filed against him by a federal grand jury, which found that Castro, after losing a hundred thousand dollars in a failed real estate investment, entered into a conspiracy with (he would later find out) a confidential informant to extort that money â and $50,000 extra for his trouble â by force.
Today, the U.S. Attorney's Office filed additional charges against Castro â including outsourcing the intended beatdown and collection to one William "Billy" Wong.
What's more, the new indictment says Castro began referring additional extortion cases to the confidential informant, collecting a $500 referral fee and helping one Alan Kats retain the services of a debt "collector" via Wong.
It's pretty wild stuff. You can read the indictment here.
Old Cityâs Grey Social, former âexclusive retreat aimed for a sophisticated audience,â wasÂ raided early Saturday and was ordered to cease operations. Why? Certainly not for the club full of sophisticated lounge-goers, but for the abundance of underage drinking.
According to a philly.com article, Sgt. William LaTorre of the State Policeâs Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement confirmed 18 underage drinking citations and possible criminal charges.
There were also 13 minors cited for being on the premises and five fake IDâs confiscated.
Interestingly, the club was mentioned prominently in a recent PhillyMag article, "What the Hell Happened to Old City?," in which author Richard Rys describes the Grey Social's bouncers checking IDs:
âMake it look like youâre showing me ID. Show me anything.â These words, allegedly from the mouth of a Grey Social bouncer, were directed toward several underage women attempting entrance into the club, says PhillyMag.
The article also called the clubÂ Old Cityâs ânew epicenter of debauchery.â
Thereâs that, and the fact more than one drunken (probably underage) club-goer said the place smelled like bad fish.
A judge this morning sentenced Catherine and Herbert Schaible to 10 years probation in the accidental death of their two year old son.
The couple, who are lifelong members of the First Century Gospel Church in northeast Philadelphia, have seven other children. The Schaibles were convicted of involuntary manslaughter andÂ endangering the welfare of a child in December after prosecutors say they failed to take their infant son to a doctor when he showed signs of the flu. Instead they prayed and their son, Kent, soon died of pneumonia.
Several undated sermons on the First Century Gospel Church's website speak directly about the church's opposition to doctors and medicine.
"Our life must be committed to God without compromise, and our will is to be His will in everything," according to one sermon. "That commitment to God means we are to trust God alone for physical healing without the use of medicine, drugs, prescriptions, human remedies, or a doctor."
Senior Common Pleas JudgeÂ Carolyn EngelÂ Temin said "it's obvious a prison sentence is not called for" and that "everything I've heard about you is complimentary with the exception of this incident." She stressed, however, that "religious freedom is trumped by the safety and well-being of the child."
The terms of their probation require the couple to schedule regular in-person meetings with probation officers for two years, followed by three years of regular phone meetings and then five years of non-reporting probation. Part of this sentence requires that the Schaibles schedule regular medical appointments for all their children and release their children's medical records to probation officers.
"I need to give a sentence that's long enough to ensure the kids have adequate healthcare until they turn 18," judge EngelÂ Temin said.
Our intrepid Matt Stroud brings us this report from what was apparently a fire on the Broad Street Subway.
According to Stroud, police say someone "threw a bag onto the tracks," that somehow led to a fire, that somehow spread. Police are not calling it a "terror" incident, says Lt. Robert Wright.
The subway is closed indefinitely between Walnut and Erie stations. While SEPTA is running a shuttle service along Broad street, Stroud reports from Spring Garden Street that most are already full: "I watched four go by without picking anybody up."
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