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A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA


Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
August 12, 2022
Journalism review, added protection, food aid, climate blocks, future energy, electricity bills, and let them eat cake. It's Friday. Happy weekend.
BEST SO FAR

In the first half of 2022, Spotlight PA reporters probed dangerous cannabis claims, exposed late-night emails between a lawmaker and lobbyists, and highlighted serious issues with a police hiring database.

Their work has been cited in editorials, discussed by powerful lawmakers, and praised by readers for revealing issues that otherwise would have remained hidden and untold.

Here, we highlight the best stories and investigations of 2022 (so far). 

THE HIGHLIGHTS: Some Pa. companies promote cannabis as an addiction treatment using misleading or dangerous tactics

In a February investigation, reporter Ed Mahon found that some Pennsylvania cannabis companies were using incomplete or misleading claims to promote marijuana as a treatment for opioid addiction, potentially putting patients’ lives at greater risk.

Statewide Pennsylvania police hiring database hindered by loopholes, lack of enforcement

In her new role as Spotlight PA’s justice reporter, Danielle Ohl examined a database of police personnel records lauded as a national model. She found it was riddled with loopholes that raise serious questions about its ability to flag police officers with histories of misconduct.

Draft bills and late-night emails reveal cozy ties between Pa. state lawmaker, casino lobbyists

In April, Angela Couloumbis offered readers a rare glimpse at the cozy relationship between lawmakers and lobbyists when she reported on emails between state Sen. Tommy Tomlinson’s office and people representing Parx Casino, a top donor in his district.

NOTABLE / QUOTABLE

"A lot of people that struggle with addiction are usually disconnected from people."

—Sharina Johnson, a combat veteran who is working with Harrisburg University of Science and Technology to develop a recovery support app
📅 UPCOMING EVENTS

» TALK OF THE TOWN: Today at 6 p.m. ET, meet our new State College regional bureau team, get an inside look at what we're investigating, and tell us how we can better connect with you. RSVP here. Tell us what you want to know about the bureau at events@spotlightpa.org

📷 POST IT
Knee-high by the Fourth of July, sky-high by mid-August. Thanks to Robert S. for sharing this photo of a canyon of corn on the Appalachian Trail in Cumberland County. Have a cool image to share? Send us your photos or art, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
DAILY RUNDOWN
LUNCH DEBT: Free lunches are no longer universal as Pennsylvania students get ready for the return to classes, Chalkbeat reports. That federal pandemic-era policy has ended. The North Penn School District in Montgomery County is among the districts working to help some newly excluded families cover costs. Meal debt there hit $26,000 in the spring of 2020, up from a total of $5,500 two years prior. Pennsylvania also has new guidelines for free and reduced meals. Here they are.

NOW ELIGIBLE: Philadelphia sex workers have successfully lobbied to become eligible to get the monkeypox vaccine there, an important development because they are at heightened risk for catching the virus, which is spread through bodily fluids and close contact. But The Inquirer (paywalled) reports the city's vaccine doses are still in short supply as federal officials look to stretch the stockpile.

ACTION PLAN: The New York Times (paywalled) lists Pennsylvania's Stacy Garrity among the GOP state treasurers involved in a conservative effort to "weaponize public office against climate action" by federal regulators and more. One example from 2021, via Capital-Star: Garrity threatened to pull billions of dollars in public funds out of banks that refuse to lend to fossil fuel-based industries.

(H)IGH ENERGY: Pittsburgh-area leaders are embracing a future that puts the region at the center of a hydrogen-focused energy strategy — one reliant on natural gas and carbon capture. Gov. Tom Wolf is pursuing federal money for such projects, but some scientists and financial analysts are skeptical. PublicSource examines the status and viability of the plan, the questions, and emerging answers.

PRICE HIKE: Gas prices are down, but your electricity prices are likely going up. Some of Pennsylvania's biggest utilities — PECO, Met-Ed, Penelec, Penn Power, and West Penn Power — are raising rates again on Sept. 1. The hikes vary in size. Here's what to expect, via the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. And here's a price comparison tool. Unfortunately, cheaper options don't always exist.
IN OTHER NEWS

WEDDING GIFT: A lesbian couple says a Berwick bakery refused to make them a wedding cake. A New York state bakery saw a Facebook post about the rejection and stepped up to offer its services, Syracuse.com reports.

NO. 1 NAME: If you're reading this newsletter with a female canine companion at your side, there's a decent chance her name is Luna, according to a very scientific study by a dog prescription service. 

YOUR OWN LUNA: If you're thinking about adding a pooch to your family, consider adopting a beagle rescued from a pharmaceutical research site in Virginia. WESA has a list of participating shelters

MAKING HISTORY: Pennsylvania's best history teacher (according to the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History) is Amy Palo of Allegheny County. She told the Beaver County Times the honor is a little overwhelming.

HER STORY: Ilse Korona, a 102-year-old Holocaust survivor living in Philadelphia, is ready to tell her story: "I could not walk in the street because if you didn’t wear the swastika pin they knew you were Jewish."

THE SCRAMBLER
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.
 
R E O S I D P C L I A

*This week's theme: Newspapers
 
Yesterday's answer: Pagination

Congrats to our daily winners: Irene R., Michelle T., Sherri A., Ted M., Hugh M., Susan N.-Z., Janet C., Charlotte B., Marty M., Mark O., Don H., Susan D., Karen W., Craig W., Elaine C., Joel S., George S., Patricia M., Ana G., Ann E., Brandie K., Sandy B., Stanley J., Nancy S., Margaret Mary H., Daniel M., Bill S., Cameron T., Lynne E., Doris T., Jude M., John P., Kimberly D., Kim C., Kevin M., Jim A., Becca S., David W., Helen D., Wendy A., John H., James B., Ted B., and Jim M.
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Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.

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