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Tax advice for PA's LGBT spouses

Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage law means a complicated tax riddle for newly-hitched LGBT couples. The Business Journal provides some advice.

Now that the federal courts have ruled that Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional, and Governor Corbett has announced that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will not appeal the ruling, it is an appropriate time to consider the gains and losses, pluses and minuses, and financial planning challenges for LGBT and other non-traditional couples.

It has been determined that LGBT couples can file joint federal income tax returns if they are married. In fact, if they were legally married in a state or country that recognized same-sex marriages, they are required to file joint federal income tax returns or, alternately, “married filing separately.” As with traditional heterosexual couples, the decision to file either married or married filing separately can be based on a variety of financial and other considerations.

Perhaps most importantly, with the law in Pennsylvania now settled, Pennsylvania LGBT couples need to look at income tax planning, estate tax planning, gift planning and other aspects of their wills, trusts and joint decisions with essentially the same options for processes and pitfalls, as traditional married couples. Other nontraditional couples -- whether same-sex or opposite sex, living together, owning property together and considering themselves to be “life partners” -- need to continue to recognize where good planning, tax advice and legal advice are required to avoid unforeseen problems for the couple, their families, their children and other loved ones.


Original source: The Philadelphia Business Journal
Read the complete story here.

Taking a deeper look at Pennsylvania Dutch cooking

Pennsylvania Dutch cooking is often misunderstood; a writer for The Tribune-Review examines this delicious culinary tradition.

Pennsylvania Dutch cooking does not seem to capture the food lover's imagination the way barbecue, Southern, Cajun/Creole, Pacific Northwest or other American cooking styles do. Ask most people what they know of it, and they are likely to mention the tourist smorgasbords of Lancaster County or — gasp! — scrapple.

As a native son of the cuisine, I've always wondered why. While you might not hanker for crispy fried slices of scrapple the way I do, there's much appealing comfort food to be found. And, while it is overlooked and often misunderstood, it is more widespread than you think; as food historian William Woys Weaver says, “You can get Pennsylvania Dutch cooking in Ontario.”

Why hasn't it become more famous, then? Weaver says it's because there are two very different cookeries involved: the real thing (home cooking) and the tourist fare that developed in the 1930s.

“The great myth is that Pennsylvania Dutch means Amish, when, in fact, the Amish represent only about 5 percent of the total Pennsylvania Dutch population,” says Weaver, director of the Keystone Center for the Study of Regional Foods and Food Tourism in Devon, Pa. “They are good farmers, but culinary art is not what they are about.”


Original source: The Tribune-Review
Read the complete story here.

Executive director also departs Pennsylvania Ballet, following artistic director

The executive director of the Pennsylvania Ballet has followed the artistic director out the door.

It’s all change at Pennsylvania Ballet. Just two weeks after the announcement that its artistic director, Roy Kaiser, would leave the company once a successor was found, the troupe has announced that its executive director, Michael Scolamiero, will also depart. He will take up the same position at Miami City Ballet...

The Pennsylvania Ballet has appointed an interim executive director, David Gray, who has held executive director positions at a number of cultural institutions (and is the husband of the former New York City Ballet principal Kyra Nichols). Mr. Gray will work alongside Mr. Scolamiero until he leaves at the end of June. “Now that our 50th Anniversary Season is winding down, it seems like an appropriate time for change,” Mr. Scolamiero said in a statement, closely echoing Mr. Kaiser’s comment on his own departure.


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

Pushing BRT in bustling urban centers, including Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh's Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system has been a huge success -- but there is still a battle over its integration into Downtown.

Space is the biggest battle, says Weinstock, but the problem is largely illusory. In technical terms, any street 40-feet wide can handle BRT. Drivers and businesses often fear the loss of traffic lanes or parking and delivery areas, but traffic patterns and customers tend to find a way of rerouting themselves — as they did when New York repurposed hundreds of miles of city streets during the Bloomberg administration (albeit for bikes and pedestrians).

More often, says Weinstock, the challenge is political will masquerading as street space. "People like to say there's no space," she says. "It's more that there's not the political will to take the space that exists."

Take the case of the East Busway — a dedicated BRT highway in metro Pittsburgh. The busway has done loads of good for the city: it's stimulated hundreds of millions of dollars in development and contributed to the 38 percent of city commuters who reach downtown by bus. ITDP recently gave it a bronze BRT rating.

But the East Busway loses a lot of its impact when it enters mixed traffic downtown. Bus traffic is so bad within the city center, with riders crowding sidewalks, that businesses have urged local officials to eliminate buses from entering the downtown area at all. Weinstock say the problem could be avoided by running true BRT downtown, because the buses would be organized in an attractive and efficient way.


Original source: The Atlantic's CityLab
Read the complete story here.

The Los Angeles Times examines Philly's innovative blight management strategies

The Los Angeles Times covers our city's latest creative strategies for combatting neighborhood decay.

After decades of ignoring the blight that has spread through its neighborhoods, Philadelphia is trying to reclaim its vacant homes through aggressive initiatives designed to compel negligent owners to fix their properties or see them seized and torn down.

In just a few short years, the city has made impressive progress; experts say some of the tools used in Philadelphia may help other post-industrial cities coping with decades-long population decline and the neglected space left behind.?..

The door and window ordinance allows community groups to take over dilapidated properties and repair them. Another will establish a land bank for the city so it can begin to redistribute abandoned properties to people and groups who want to build something new.

Neighborhoods where the new strategies have been applied have seen home prices rise 31% over four years, compared with a 1% rise in comparable areas, according to a study by Ira Goldstein of the Reinvestment Fund. The initiatives increased home values by $74 million throughout Philadelphia, Goldstein said, and brought in $2.2 million more in transfer tax receipts.


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

Looking back at the work of a Wilkes-Barre street photographer

Works by Mark Cohen, a longtime Wilkes-Barre resident and street photographer, are on display at the Danziger Gallery in Manhattan. The New York Times looks back at Cohen's love affair with his hometown.

After 40 wonderful years, Mark Cohen has abruptly ended his relationship with his muse. It might seem like cold betrayal, but it’s really more complicated than that.

His muse isn’t a woman. It’s Wilkes-Barre, his Pennsylvania hometown, where he has been making stark street photographs since the 1970s. Last year Mr. Cohen, 71, moved to Philadelphia and into an apartment more manageable than the house where he raised his children and had his commercial studio.

His old romance was a black-and-white affair, literally, and he is showing some of those gritty images from the 1970s and 1980s at the Danziger Gallery in Manhattan. But this time he has included many lesser-known color photographs from the same era.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story (and check out some images) here.

Raves for the Pennsylvania Ballet's triple bill

A Director’s Choice triple bill marks a time of transition for the Pennsylvania Ballet.

In its resident choreographer, Matthew Neenan, it has one of the freshest and most remarkable American ballet choreographers based outside New York. Another American, Trey McIntyre, made a world premiere that was the most remarkable feature of this triple bill. How will the company change under its next director?

...In this final solo, which is in waltz tempo, [Alexander] Peters never loses his energy or openness; but the directions and dynamics he takes contradict themselves, compellingly. This way? That way. Left? Right. Jump? Walk. At the end, center stage, facing us, he raises one arm. Then, keeping it aloft, he takes his other hand, and slowly brings it down that raised arm, then down and across his torso until it hangs by his side; both arms now make a single vertical line, and his head and torso tip sideways. It’s a weirdly eloquent image (not without sensuousness), suggesting that he is helplessly caught by an impulse larger than he is. This is his fate; he presents it to us, frankly, even sensuously. Marvelous dancer; compelling solo.


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

Philadelphia schools face new round of cuts

Budget issues continue to inflict pain on Philadelphia's public schools.

A $216-million budget shortfall could force Philadelphia’s public schools to make further staffing cuts next year, school officials said on Friday.

The superintendent of schools, William R. Hite Jr., said the 131,000-student district would not have the money it needed to maintain existing levels of education that he said were already "wholly insufficient" after a $304-million budget cut at the start of the 2013-14 school year.

The district, which has had chronic budget problems, laid off some 3,800 employees as a result of that cut. Although about a quarter of those employees were rehired as some funding was restored, about 2,350 jobs could be eliminated next year unless the district finds funding to bridge its new shortfall, Dr. Hite said...

The district is also looking to the private sector for financial help, but corporate or individual gifts tend to be for specific projects, not recurring revenue, he said. The district’s sale of some two dozen vacant school buildings is expected to raise $25 million by June 30, said the district’s chief financial officer, Matthew E. Stanski.


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

The artistic director of the Pennsylvania Ballet is stepping down

After 35 years, Roy Kaiser is stepping down as the artistic director of the Pennsylvania Ballet.

In a news release Mr. Kaiser, 56, said that he felt that the end of the company’s 50th season was the right time to “transition the Company over to a new artistic leadership.” A search committee has begun to look for a new director, and Mr. Kaiser will continue in his post until a candidate is chosen. A company spokeswoman said that the board hoped to name the new director in the fall. Mr. Kaiser will remain associated with the troupe as artistic director emeritus.?

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

Slate dubs PA 'the most linguistically rich state in the country'

A writer for Slate investigates our state's status as a "regional dialect hotbed nonpareil."
 
A typical state maintains two or three distinct, comprehensive dialects within its borders. Pennsylvania boasts five, each consisting of unique pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar elements. Of course, three of the five kind of get the shaft—sorry Erie, and no offense, Pennsylvania Dutch Country—because by far the most widely recognized Pennsylvania regional dialects are those associated with Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

The Philadelphia dialect features a focused avoidance of the “th” sound, the swallowing of the L in lots of words, and wooder instead of water, among a zillion other things. In Pittsburgh, it’s dahntahn for downtown, and words like nebby and jagoff and yinz. But, really, attempting to describe zany regional dialects using written words is a fool’s errand. To get some sense of how Philadelphians talk, check out this crash course clip created by Sean Monahan, who was raised in Bucks County speaking with a heavy Philly accent. Then hit the “click below” buttons on the website for these Yappin’ Yinzers dolls to get the Pittsburgh side of things, and watch this Kroll Show clip to experience a Pennsylvania dialect duel.

Original source: Slate
Read the complete story here.

The New York Times shines a light on Comcast's David Cohen

David Cohen, former chief of staff to Mayor Ed Rendell (and star of Buzz Bissinger's A Prayer for the City), is taking a leading role at Comcast. The New York Times profiled this behind-the-scenes institution.

Mr. Cohen is well known in Philadelphia from his time as chief of staff to former Mayor Edward G. Rendell in the 1990s, a six-year tenure that established his reputation as a master of big-picture strategy, fine detail and just about everything in between.

"Whatever the issue is, David learns more about it than anyone, and he can keep it all in his head," Mr. Rendell says. "With me, he knew all about municipal pensions, and he knew about picking up trash — I mean the actual routes of the garbage trucks." 

...Mr. Cohen oversees Comcast’s robust lobbying operation and sets the strategies to shepherd its acquisitions past antitrust questions and other regulatory concerns. It’s a big job — and one that would fully occupy almost anyone else — because Comcast’s appetite for expansion is large, and it needs to be fed with a frequency that some find alarming...


Mr. Cohen has, as well, gotten into the weeds of Comcast’s cable and broadband customer service — a fraught subject since surveys have consistently shown that the industry in general, and Comcast in particular, are held in low regard by consumers. He has even gone on talk radio shows in Philadelphia to take calls from customers, a duty that few executives at his pay grade — Mr. Cohen pulled in just short of $30 million in compensation over the last two years — would seek.

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

Robotic milking machines impact the dairy industry in PA

New robotic technology for milking cows has come to the United States, including Pennsylvania.

Desperate for reliable labor and buoyed by soaring prices, dairy operations...are charging into a brave new world of udder care: robotic milkers, which feed and milk cow after cow without the help of a single farmhand.

Scores of the machines have popped up across New York’s dairy belt and in other states in recent years, changing age-old patterns of daily farm life and reinvigorating the allure of agriculture for a younger, tech-savvy — and manure-averse — generation...


The machines are not inexpensive, costing up to $250,000 (not including barn improvements) for a unit that includes a mechanical arm, teat-cleaning equipment, computerized displays, a milking apparatus and sensors to detect the position of the teats. Pioneered in Europe in the 1990s, they have only recently taken hold in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and New York.

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

Penn State researchers ask children to work for food

Penn State researchers looked at how different children seek out food rewards -- especially those that are "off-limits."

In an experiment, researchers at Pennsylvania State University gave preschool children the opportunity to “work” for a food reward. All the child had to do was click a computer mouse four times to earn a cinnamon-flavored graham cracker.
But earning additional treats required progressively more effort. A second treat required eight clicks. Then 16. Then 32.

Some children were satisfied after one cracker, while others kept clicking for a few additional crackers. Most of the preschoolers were done after about 15 minutes, but some children stayed with it, accumulating as many as 2,000 clicks before the researchers ended the task after 30 minutes.

Children who are highly motivated by food — researchers have called them “reactive eaters” — are of particular interest to childhood health experts. Were they born this way? Or do parents create reactive eaters by imposing too many food rules and imposing restrictive eating practices at home?

...“The message is that restriction is counterproductive — it just doesn’t work very well,” said Brandi Rollins, a Penn State postdoctoral researcher and lead author of the study, which was published in February in the journal Appetite. “Restriction just increases a child’s focus and intake of the food that the parent is trying to restrict.”


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

Applications up 14 percent at the University of Pennsylvania

An increasing number of students aspire to a Penn education -- the Philadelphia university saw its applications rise 14 percent.

It’s not really a popularity contest, but among the Ivies, is anything not competitive? Applications to the University of Pennsylvaniarose by more than 14 percent this year and fell by as much at Dartmouth...As for the upsurge at Penn, the dean of admissions, Eric J. Furda, credits outreach to community-based organizations, like a new partnership with KIPP Public Charter Schools. More low-income students applied: Penn received 7,000 requests for application fee waivers, up from 4,000 last year. Several popular Penn MOOCs are also raising its profile: "An admissions office simply cannot budget that reach," Mr. Furda says.

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

Endangered Atlantic Sturgeon shows up north of Easton

A huge, rare fish showed up on the banks of the Delaware River north of Easton.

A commission biologist confirmed Monday afternoon that the landowner found an Atlantic sturgeon, an endangered species that can grow up to 15 feet long and weigh more than 100 pounds. It’s by far the largest fish navigating the Delaware River and perhaps the most elusive.

This particular sturgeon was a male measuring about 6 feet 3 inches, according to Forks Township resident Marty Crozier, who discovered the carcass while doing maintenance on his dock Saturday. Crozier said he called the commission and led a field biologist to it Monday.

“I’ve been on this river for 50 years and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen something of that nature,” said the semi-retired Crozier, 60. “It was an experience. Let me put it that way.”

Greg Murphy, a fisheries biologist with the commission, said the commission should have more information on the sturgeon later this week. In addition to taking various measurements, the field biologist was expected to check to see if the fish was tagged as part of a research program aimed at tracking Atlantic sturgeon. If that’s the case, a wealth of information could be gleaned, he said.


Original source: Lehigh Valley Live
Read the complete story here.
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