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Trump loyalists take control of Pa. polling places

Plus, misconduct haunts record of Pa.'s 'King of Death Row.'


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
November 15, 2021
Election posts, no deal, parole push, synagogue shooter, 'death row king,' smoke ring, and Philly-flavored chips. It's Monday. Welcome to the week.
Hey, it's Colin, your PA Post editor...

I love PA Post because it's unique. It's not some computer-generated list of headlines, but rather a hand-crafted guide to the top stories from all across Pennsylvania. I work late each night and early each morning to make sure you don't miss a beat — and have a little fun, too.

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"All we want to do is be respected and do our jobs."

—An unnamed woman, one of several accusing Whitehall Mayor Michael Harakal Jr. of misconduct ranging from sexual harassment to stalking
We built Spotlight PA on the premise that Pennsylvanians will pay for unique, high-quality investigative and accountability journalism that holds our elected officials to account, keep tabs on our tax dollars, and calls out wrongdoing.

Now, as 2021 comes to a close, we need your help to continue our work in 2022. Make a gift of any amount right now and as a special bonus, your contribution will be DOUBLED. What are you waiting for? Contribute now »
» NEW PRECEDENT: TribLIVE reports the Wolf administration's appeal of a court order striking down its school mask rule might be as much about settling a long-running conflict over executive authority and public health.

» NO ACCESS: The Wolf administration has denied a legislative committee access to redacted death certificates for a COVID-19 data study, arguing the committee isn't a government agency and isn't entitled, Capital-Star reports.

» HIGH COUNT: The CDC says 95% of Pennsylvania adults have gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, but The Inquirer reports the actual number is lower and "almost impossible to calculate" with publicly available data.

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).
A long-overdue cameo from my yellow lab, Spencer, pictured here looming over a picnic spread in Pittsburgh's Grandview Park. Send us your gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
PAROLE ELIGIBLE: A group of Pennsylvania senators wants people 55 and older and those with serious health conditions to have a pathway to parole while facing life sentences without the option, City Paper reports. The bill cites pandemic health risks, among other reasons.
DEFENSE PLAN: Lawyers for accused Tree of Life gunman Robert Bowers will not pursue an insanity defense or an intellectual disability claim when he goes to trial for killing 11 at the Pittsburgh synagogue, per TribLIVE. It's unclear if another mental condition might be raised.

DEAL DENIED: A Williamsport man wants the U.S. Capitol siege charges against him dropped in exchange for 50 hours of community service. Prosecutors promptly rejected Mark Aungst's offer and he rejected theirs, setting up a harsher penalty, PennLive reports. 

SMOKE SCREEN: Philadelphia has rolled back a ban on smoking at city-run drug and alcohol rehab facilities three years after advocates warned it would discourage some from seeking help. WHYY reports officials are now claiming the ban wasn't actually a ban at all

LEGAL LEGACY: Homicide prosecutor Roger King put more people on Pennsylvania’s death row than anyone else. But The Inquirer reports evidence of prosecutorial misconduct continues to shroud his legacy and prompt legal reviews five years after his death.
FULL STORY: Nike executive Larry Miller, now 72, writes in a new book that he killed a man as a Philadelphia teen before moving on to a prosperous sports and marketing career. The New York Times tracked down the family of the victim, whom Miller's book never names.

ROAD TEST: Three Pittsburgh-area municipalities are suing to block PennDOT's plan to add tolling to fund the replacement of nine bridges statewide, per the Observer-Reporter. The suit says toll-evaders would stress local roads and that the plan failed to "solicit feedback" for every bridge.

CROWD-SOURCED: After two Fulton County commissioners rejected more funding for a local library because an LGBTQ+ group meets there, Twitter user Emily Best launched a fundraiser that eclipsed a $12,000 goal in days.

BUSH BAN: Sales of Japanese barberry will be banned in Pennsylvania by 2023. TribLIVE reports the shrub, an invasive species now on the state's noxious weed list, is popular with landscapers and black-legged ticks.

CHIP SHOT: What does Philly taste like? Herr's is trying to capture the city's essence in a new chip. Billy Penn asked its readers for their ideas and got "snowballs and batteries," "scrapple and syrup," and "roast pork."
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: Partisanship

Congrats to our weekly winner: Luke E.

Congrats to our daily winners: Susan F., Michelle T., Mike B., Neal W., Al M., Christine M., Don H., Irene R., Bonnie R., Eddy Z., Vicki U., Beth T., Craig E., Susan N., Patricia M., Karen W., Barbara F., Craig W., Heidi B., Dave N., Kimberly S., Bridget C., Dom A., Becky C., Lex M., Steve D., Georgann J., Ann E., George S., Susan R., David S., Dianne K., Scott R., Tish M., Elizabeth W., Jessica K., Daniel M., Janet C., Marisa B., Connie K., Kevin M., Elaine C., Elisa S., Richard D., James B., Bill S., Kim C., Marty M., Lynne E., Sandra F., Donna D., Jill A., Judith D., Myles M., Sharon M., Doris T., Mary Kay M., Sue C., Patricia R., David W., and Brian B.
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