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Supreme Court hopeful disavows QAnon 'prophet'


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
May 3, 2021
Court pick, pollution controls, life without parole, Taser trials, false 'prophet,' Lamb's plan, and Pittsburgh's horseman. It's Monday, thanks for checking in.

CHALLENGE ALERT: Our Spring membership drive has just begun, and we’ve been challenged to raise $15,000 to prove how much Pennsylvanians want hard-hitting, nonpartisan investigative journalism.

As an added bonus, every contribution will be DOUBLED thanks to a generous matching gift from the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

This membership drive is one of our most important of the year to support our public-service journalism and to keep it free and available for everyone. If you're a fan of PA Post, will you pay it forward and support Spotlight PA's vital journalism today? Contribute now »»


The General Assembly's top leaders have deadlocked on who should cast the likely tie-breaking vote on new legislative maps, Spotlight PA and Votebeat report, setting the stage for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to step in and make the decision for them.

This isn't unusual, nor is it unexpected: Selection of the redistricting panel's chair has fallen to the court in almost every decade since the Legislative Reapportionment Commission was first convened in 1971.

The four caucus leaders who serve on the panel interviewed more than 30 people for the position but said in a letter Friday they were "unable to make a decision."

The state Supreme Court has until May 30 to make its choice, and the person it picks could have major implications for what the state House and Senate maps look like for the next decade.

THE CONTEXT: Gerrymandering — when a map’s district boundaries are manipulated to benefit one political party over another — is often used to describe any number of abuses that occur in redistricting. 

Spotlight PA and Votebeat note it can also be difficult to prove in a legal sense, especially since there’s no one standard to determine whether a map has been gerrymandered, and mapmakers rarely admit to doing it.

But it has been possible to demonstrate in a handful of states, including Pennsylvania, where the state Supreme Court in 2018 found Republicans in charge maximized the number of congressional seats for their party while disadvantaging Democrats.

"We showed that the features of the map could not be explained by anything other than partisan manipulation," said Ben Geffen, an attorney with the Public Interest Law Center who worked on the case.
» Learn something from today's edition? Pay it forward so someone else can tomorrow by making a contribution of any amount to Spotlight PA. As part of our Spring membership drive, all gifts will be DOUBLED.


"It’s not like a nightstick where you can control it. Once you fire it, it’s gone."

—William McKnight, a former police officer, on Tasers that have contributed to at least 500 deaths since 2010, including a number in Pennsylvania
VACCINE UPDATE: Anxiety, and not a problem with the shots, caused fainting, dizziness, and other short-term reactions in dozens of people at coronavirus vaccine clinics in five states, U.S. health officials have found. For vaccine providers, check Spotlight PA's map and county-by-county listing.
» A LIVE GUIDE TO THE MAY PRIMARY: On Tuesday, May 4 at 5 p.m., join Spotlight PA as we break down the judicial candidates and four questions you’ll see on the primary ballot. RSVP FOR FREE
» BE PREPARED: Everyone — regardless of political affiliation — can vote May 18 on four ballot questions. Here's a breakdown of each one. Plus, WHYY has a great primer on the appellate court judge candidates. We'll have more resources in the days and weeks ahead.
Thanks, Rob. N., for this shot of a white barn found in Derry Township. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us at @spotlightpennsylvania.
EMISSION CHECKS: U.S. Steel is backing away from a $1 billion investment in emission controls at Pittsburgh-area plants and will shut down three coke oven batteries instead. According to PublicSource, the move "could substantially reduce pollution in the Mon Valley and upend the region’s economic and environmental status quo."

RACE DATA: Members of Pennsylvania's Legislative Black Caucus could hold the key votes on two measures that would expand police oversight and protections for Black drivers, the Capital-Star reports. This includes a push for universal collection of racial data from traffic stops, something the State Police resumed after investigative reporting by Spotlight PA

CAPITOL CASELOAD: More than 400 people have been charged in connection with January's U.S. Capitol siege, but not everyone will see prison time, the AP explains. With prosecutors under pressure to resolve cases quickly, the AP says a test of racial fairness and judicial discretion awaits. Of the 400 people arrested, WITF reports a tenth are from Pennsylvania

QANON JUDGE: A Philadelphia judge and state Supreme Court candidate is distancing herself from a QAnon-branded event that listed her as a speaker, alongside state Sen. Doug Mastriano. The Inquirer reports Judge Paula Patrick previously appeared as a guest on a podcast with one of the event's organizers she called "prophet."

LAMB TALK: U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb (D., Pa.) told donors he's likely to enter the race for U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey's seat, Politico reports. His campaign manager says "no decision has been made." News of a fundraising launch comes as Pennsylvania prepares to lose a congressional seat and many speculate Lamb's might be the one to go.

KEYSTONE AWARDS: Spotlight PA won 11 statewide journalism awards in competition with the largest newsrooms in the state. Not bad for our first full year! The recognized work included stories on the state's COVID-19 business waiver program, a rural shooting fueled by misinformation, Mariner East pipeline safety, diverse sources, and COVID-19 counts

MEDIA MENTIONS: Harrisburg public radio station WITF isn't letting lawmakers off the hook for unfounded election denials and is drawing high praise from the Washington Post's media columnist as a result.

MOVIE MAGIC: The "vintage sale of the century" is happening in Latrobe, where a trove of movie and TV props — collected from Pittsburgh's film industry over decades — is up for sale, the Post-Gazette explains.

CITY SHUFFLE: See where Pennsylvanians relocated to during the pandemic, and which Pennsylvania metro areas saw more out-migration than in-migration, with interactive maps from CityLab

HORSE WHISPERER: A Pittsburgh boomeranger made close to a billion dollars off an algorithm he created to predict the outcomes of horse races. Bloomberg Businessweek explains how Bill Benter managed the impossible.

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Friday's answer: Silhouette

Congrats to our weekly winner: Dixie S.

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Neal W., Elaine C., David I., Susan D., Mike B., Heidi B., Meg M., Dennis M., Steve D., Don G., Dianne K., Michelle T., George S., Bob R., Irene R., Carol D., David W., Chris R., Paul H., Joel S., James B., Mary Ellen T., and Christine M.


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