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Examining Pa.'s role in the U.S. Capitol siege

Plus, treasure hunters sue DOJ over fabled gold.


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January 6, 2022
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Attack anniversary, deadly fire, treasure hunt, drug deal, money man, court date, and hot-dog debates. It's Thursday. Welcome to PA Post.
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Today marks one year since busloads of people, encouraged by lawmakers in their home states and then-President Donald Trump, traveled to Washington, D.C., for a rally that ultimately fed the largest U.S. Capitol attack since 1814.

Dozens of Pennsylvanians would soon be criminally charged in connection with the riot, among the highest statewide totals in the nation. Officials say the goal of some defendants was simple: stop duly elected lawmakers from confirming a duly elected president, Joe Biden, by any means.

In a comprehensive look at Pennsylvania's unique role in both laying the groundwork for and carrying out the Capitol siege, Spotlight PA examined the political undercurrents in the run-up to the attack and the year since

In summary: Criminal cases continue against many of the Pennsylvanians charged, the state lawmakers who fueled their anger remain both unrepentant and influential, and the 2020 election remains a GOP fixation in Harrisburg.

THE CONTEXT: A total of 63 Pennsylvanians were charged, the largest share coming from Philadelphia-adjacent Bucks County, which claimed six siege suspects —among the highest total of any county in the nation. 

WHYY details the "simmering political conflicts and resentments that boiled over in the wake of Jan. 6 ... resulting in lasting schisms" there.

Reporting from Lancaster County, CNN interviewed elected officials, party leaders, and activists about similar ripple effects, calling the county "a microcosm of the forces that have reshaped the GOP" ever since.

East Lampeter Township Supervisor Ethan Demme, a former Republican who left the party after the Capitol riot, said of his subsequent third-party embrace: "I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't legitimately think that our democracy is actually under attack. And that's what January 6 showed." 

Correction: Wednesday's edition incorrectly identified the area represented by U.S. Rep. Susan Wild (D., Pa.). Wild's district is based in the Lehigh Valley.


"... this was not a justified shooting and, as a matter of fact and law, the shooting constituted excessive, unnecessary force, in violation of Ms. Thome's constitutional rights."

—A civil suit against two state police troopers over the fatal 2020 shooting of Charity Thome; one of the troopers has four fatal shootings on his record
» CHILD CASES: Pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations are at an all-time high. The New York Times reports low rates of child vaccinations are a factor. In Pennsylvania, 23.5% of eligible 5- to 9-year-olds have had at least one shot.

» LOTTERY SYSTEM: UPMC is entering eligible patients in a lottery for access to Evusheld, an FDA-approved drug intended to prevent COVID-19 in immunocompromised adults and children ages 12 and older, per Fox43.

» TEST SITE: A FEMA-run testing site — this one actually connected to the federal agency — is expected to open today at the Cibotti Recreation Center in Southwest Philadelphia with capacity for at least 500 tests daily.

» DATA SHOW: Visualizations by WESA show just how sharply cases have climbed in Allegheny County during the omicron wave. Of particular note: the seven-day new case average chart less than halfway down the page.

To find a COVID-19 vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your zip code to 438829 (GETVAX).
» MAPPING POWER: Join us today at noon EST for a free panel on the proposed state House and Senate maps, how they could shift political power, and their potential impact on Pennsylvanians. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org.
The crimson sky in West Fairview overlooking the capital. "The most vivid sky I have ever seen..." said PA Poster Bob H. Send us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
'MOST TRAGIC': Twelve people, eight children among them, were killed when fire swept through a rowhouse owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority on Wednesday. Initial reports said as many as 26 people may have been residing in the building. And while there were six smoke detectors, none were operational, NBC10 reports. Mayor Jim Kenney called it one of the "most tragic days" in the city's history. 

GOLD RUSH: The Pennsylvania treasure hunters who suspect the feds made off with a cache of lost Civil War gold worth millions are suing the U.S. Department of Justice for access to documents related to a 2018 FBI search. The bureau spent days digging for the fabled gold in rural Elk County but says it came up empty. Now, a lawsuit aims — once again — to get a look at the official paper trail. 

BUDGET PLANS: Gov. Tom Wolf is approaching his final budget season in office with "a fat budget reserve, a growing surplus, and billions in unspent federal coronavirus relief cash," the AP reports. Facing his final budget address on Feb. 8, Wolf says education funding remains a top priority, with plans to boost underserved schools via a "fair funding" formula that has struggled to deliver in the past.

COURT DAY: A landmark trial with the potential to change how Pennsylvania funds its schools resumes at 9 a.m. today after a holiday hiatus. Watch it live here. The first month of testimony, broken down by The Inquirer, covered unequal resources and stark achievement gaps that plaintiffs say must be remedied, while the state lawmakers named as defendants questioned how many kids really need to know biology.

AT ODDS: The state Attorney General's Office says almost 90% of Pennsylvania counties have joined a $1 billion opioid settlement, including Allegheny County, where a top official is praising the deal while the district attorney sues to stop it. DA Stephen A. Zappala Jr.'s office tells PA Post it has "the jurisdiction, authority, and responsibility" to continue the challenge. TribLIVE reports it's unclear who will prevail.
MERGER MOVE: A push to have Wilkinsburg Borough annexed by neighboring Pittsburgh cleared a key court hurdle on Wednesday, with the ball now in Pittsburgh City Council's court, PublicSource reports.

COLA WAR: A month-long strike by 77 employees at a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Bethlehem could end this week with the union set to vote on a potential deal this Friday, per Lehigh Valley Live.

BROKEN STREAK: Conneaut Lake Park's Blue Streak roller coaster caught fire on Tuesday after a controlled burn nearby got out of hand. The coaster was already in the process of being torn down, via Erie News Now.

MEAL WHEELS: The entirety of North Apollo's Yak Diner was loaded onto a truck and driven to a new landing spot one-third of a mile down River Road, per TribLIVE. New owners are planning a relaunch with a new name.

HOT DOGS: The debate about Allentown hot dogs got feisty on Wednesday when state Rep. Peter Schweyer declared Willy Joe's the city's best. But the state's real political hot-dog scandal started at the top three years ago.
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.
Yesterday's answer: Phantasmagoria 

Congrats to our daily winners: Doris T., Stephen G., Bonnie R., Kimberly S., Craig E., Craig W., Susan D., Don H., George S., Susan N.-Z., David W., Bill S., James B., Alan V., and Suzanne S.
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