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Only in Philadelphia: Old City's peculiar quality

The New York Times' Four Square Blocks feature takes a deep dive into Philadelphia's Old City neighborhood.
Today, Old City’s narrow brick buildings house an assortment of design and fashion boutiques, along with some remaining wholesalers of textiles and heavy-duty kitchen equipment. Factories are now condominium complexes with names like the Castings to acknowledge their manufacturing heritage.
And the floors? They, too, are a legacy of an industrial past. Mr. Aibel believes that his hundred-year-old building, where he installs exhibitions of American craft furniture, was once a tobacco warehouse in which water flowed down the incline and out the door. Similarly, at the 1875 petticoat factory that is now the home of Roche Bobois, slanted floors are said to have helped workers move goods and equipment around.
Original source: The New York Times
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Lofty research goals connect India's Genome Valley to Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania's connections with a chemical research company in India's famed Genome Valley are yielding more medical treatments to help more people, reports Nature Medicine.
Antiretrovirals have figured prominently in Laurus Labs' work since Kalidindi co-founded the company in 2006 along with Satyanarayana Chava, the former chief executive of Matrix Laboratories, a bulk drug producer in Hyderabad that is now owned by the Pennsylvania-based generics company Mylan. It was the same year that the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI)—part of the New York–based Clinton Foundation—was looking for a partner in India to help in its research efforts to reduce the cost of antiretrovirals to make them affordable to patients in poor countries. The Genome Valley company was an obvious choice. “Laurus was a pleasure to work with,” says Rodger Stringham, scientific director of CHAI's Pharmaceutical Sciences Team in West Chester, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. “We look forward to future collaborations [with them].”
Original source: Nature Medicine
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Bucman: Michael Keaton's unabashed love for the Pittsburgh Pirates

Actor Michael Keaton is blogging about his beloved Pirates in their first playoff run in two decades.
But possibly more significant is the fact that in a city known for its working-class toughness and in a business thick with machismo, McClatchy had the guts to come out as gay and finally be who he was. I know -- others, including athletes themselves, have done it. But to the best of my knowledge, not in Pittsburgh. McClatchy's lifestyle was pretty much an open secret in town. I have asked many of my friends and family more than once if they ever recalled criticism, teasing, ridicule or anyone making fun of him. To the person, they said no. I'm sure it happened somewhere, at some time, but I NEVER heard it and neither had they.
On Sunday night, 40,000 stood as Kevin McClatchy threw out the first pitch. That's class. That's a city on the move.
Original source: ESPN
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World's first digital-mapping open online course draws to close at Penn State

Maclean's writes about the latest in cartography, including the Professor Anthony Robinson and the world's first digital-mapping open online course.
There is a democratization of cartography, what Robinson has dubbed a “geospacial revolution.” Last month, Robinson, a professor at Pennsylvania State University, wrapped up what’s being called the world’s first digital-mapping open online course—with 48,000 registered students (36,000 of whom participated in some way). He taught students around the world to harness new software and combine it with data to make their own thematic maps, the kind that used to appear only in history or geography textbooks. “Now, if you read Wired or Gizmodo, you’re probably going to encounter, every few days, a map of slang, or where the football fans are for a certain team—you name it,” Robinson notes. Everything happens somewhere, he says: disease outbreaks, poverty, Bigfoot sightings. Thus, everything can be mapped.
Original source: Maclean's
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That new baby smell: Philadelphia's Monell Chemical Senses Center gets infantile

The New York Times reports on a study of how new mothers process the smell of their newborns.
Johan Lundström, a biologist with the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia and a study author, believes that women’s brains are hardwired this way to provide an evolutionary incentive. “We think that this is part of a mechanism to focus the mother’s attention toward the baby,” he said.  “When you interact with the baby, you feel rewarded.” A similar process may apply to men as well, Dr. Lundström said, though he lacks the data to prove it.
Original source: The New York Times
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Incumbent, gay PA legislator faces biggest campaign yet

The New York Times visits with Pennsylvania legislator Mike Fleck, whose chances of re-election hinge on constituents' reaction to his announcement at the end of last year that he is gay.
Plenty of people figured that he’d exit state politics after that. But on Monday he’ll announce his campaign for a fifth term. This time, it will almost certainly be a campaign, with rivals and an uncertain outcome, hinging on whether he can persuade his constituents that he’s the same politician they embraced before, the same man, apart from a reality owned up to, a truth embraced.
Original source: The New York Times
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Lights, music, avatar: Why you can't miss Pittsburgh's VIA Festival

Huffington Post compiles nine reasons why you should experience the VIA Festival, the annual music and new media festival born from a creative collective of Pittsburgh's most cutting-edge musicians and visual artists.
The entirely volunteer-run fest is six days of A/V showcases, film screenings and live collaborative performances, all uniquely integrated into the city of Pittsburgh. The self-proclaimed "Festival as Laboratory" is constantly experimenting and reinventing the idea of what a festival can be in today's world.
"Basically," Goshinski said, "VIA's not something we can best express in words. You just need to experience it."
Original source: Huffington Post
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How CRM tools have helped Pennsylvania agencies and can help other states

StateTech Magazine writes about the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania's use of Microsoft Dynamics CRM (Customer Relationship Management) to curb delays and inaccurate records.
"Recently, an adult probation chief came up to a staff clerk and said, 'I have a meeting in 15 minutes with a judge, and I need to know how many active drug offenders we've been able to put into the specialty treatment court.' In about five minutes, the clerk was able to query the case management system and print out a list of the relevant cases. In the past, all we could have done was give her an estimate. Now she can walk into the meeting with the judge and have real facts in front of her."
Original source: StateTech Magazine
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More on the great Graphene Frontiers of UPenn

Last week we posted news about University of Pennsylvania startup Graphene Frontiers, which is pioneering the use of a "super material" that could revolutionize the digital world. This week it's GigaOm's turn to spread the news.
In 2010, it cost tens of thousands of dollars to manufacture a piece of graphene smaller than a postage stamp. Since then, laborious methods like splintering off slices of graphene from graphite — the stuff that makes up pencil lead — or synthesizing it in a furnace at ultra-high temperatures have given way to room-temperature, large-scale methods that promise to be much cheaper.
Graphene Frontiers’ big contribution is that its method works at normal pressure, negating the need to make graphene in a vacuum.
“Where we’re headed is making meter-wide sheets,” Patterson said. ”We’re (already) making bigger pieces big enough to cover an iPad. What roll-to-roll means is we’ll be able to produce large rolls of graphene … and that will drive the cost down to pennies per square inch. That’s where it becomes really interesting for all of these applications.”
Original source: GigaOm
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DreamIt Health expands to Baltimore with Johns Hopkins University partnership

Philadelphia startup accelerator DreamIt Ventures' healthcare-focused arm, DreamIt Health, is expanding into Baltimore with a new partnership with Johns Hopkins University and BioHealth Innovation, reports MobiHealthNews.
Christy Wyskiel, advisor to the president at Johns Hopkins, said the school was enthusiastic, especially because DreamIt Health’s Philadelphia class worked with Penn Medicine, which is connected to the University of Pennsylvania. In Baltimore, Hopkins will provide resources not just from the medical school and medical center, but also from the business school, engineering school, and school of public health. Wyskiel said President Ronald Daniels has been pushing involvement in entrepreneurship and innovation as a priority for the school in general.
Original source: MobiHealthNews
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Can Philadelphia land bank reverse blight by transforming 40,000 abandoned properties?

The New York Times checks in on the progress of Philadelphia establishing a land bank for its 40,000 abandoned properties as City Council readies to vote on the issue.
“There are new tools to allow government to acquire tax-delinquent properties without putting them out on the market to the highest bidder,” said Rick Sauer, executive director of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations, which is helping to lead the land-bank initiative.
To keep property from speculators who might sit on it for years without improving it, he said, the land bank would insist that buyers were current on taxes, had no history of code violations and had the resources to make promised changes.
Original source: The New York Times
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Pittsburgh among those leading the maker revolution

The Kids Creativity Network, Children's Museum of Pittsburgh and Maker Corps. are among the reasons Pittsburgh is leading the maker revolution, reports CNN.
The Elizabeth Forward School District, south of Pittsburgh, is integrating the maker movement into the core of its education mission. The district is "remaking education," transforming traditional classrooms and the library into interactive digital learning labs.

"It helped me learn more, actually," says Alyssa, a junior.
Original source: CNN
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Another heaping helping of Philadelphia's food renaissance

The Guardian is the latest to take a tour of Philadelphia's food and restaurant renaissance. Businesses like Fork jump-started the area's renaissance. 
Many of us who grew up in Philadelphia remember the Old City of the not-too-distant past, when derelict buildings formed a coal necklace around the city's historical gems. 
But Fork – a light-filled, amber enclave with high ceilings and an open kitchen – changed how Philadelphians dined when it opened in 1997. It is doing so again, with a new chef, Eli Kulp, who is currently cooking some of the city's most fascinating food.
Original source: The Guardian
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Station to Station public art train stops in Pittsburgh

Wired reports on Station to Station, the barnstorming public art project that made its way to Pittsburgh recently.

The rotunda was roaring. As Station to Station’s latest event got underway last night at Pittsburgh’s Union Station, the crowd members outside were greeted by the deafening approach of the Kansas City Marching Cobras, whose thunderous, sky-high drums (and equally aerial pom-poms) signaled the start of the show. After leading a swell of audience members into the station, they were paired with the swarming guitars and drums of No Age, whose buzzsaw set felt a bit more menacing than it did on Friday in Brooklyn.
Original source: Wired
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Class act: Levittown high school's drama program heralded by NYT

The New York Times profiles the dynamic drama program at Harry S. Truman High School in Levittown.

[Drama director Lou] Volpe is one of those people who create astonishing success in the most unlikely of settings. Generations of his students heard him say, “If all we had was a bare stage with one light bulb, we could still do theater.” And the thing is, they believed him.
As the community was going to pieces, Volpe built Truman’s drama program into one of the best in America, and the school itself into something like a de facto high school for the performing arts. He and his assistant director, a student of his in the early ’90s, taught nothing but theater — three levels of it, plus musical theater. A third teacher, also a former student, taught theater to ninth graders....
Even though he didn’t speak in the idiom of the movement, much of what I observed in Volpe’s theater program could fit comfortably within the muscular language of education reform — with its emphasis on problem solving, standards, "racing to the top" and accountability. Theater is part of the "arts," an airy term, but the time his students spent with him was actually the least theoretical part of their day. With each production, they set an incredibly high goal and went about building something.
Original source: The New York Times
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