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Defunct funeral home phone number sparks dispute; new report on Russian disinformation | Morning Newsletter

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Leychawne Johns, shown here in front of Lewis M Hunt Irving Funeral Home, in Chester, PA, November 30, 2018. Johns is currently in a dispute with his business partner in this particular funeral home.
Leychawne Johns, shown here in front of Lewis M Hunt Irving Funeral Home, in Chester, PA, November 30, 2018. Johns is currently in a dispute with his business partner in this particular funeral home.Read moreJESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer

How powerful can a phone number be? Powerful enough to spark controversy between a defunct North Philadelphia funeral home and the man who claims he purchased its number to start his own business. The latest from reporter Valerie Russ is not to be missed. Something that definitely didn’t miss: the Russian disinformation campaign surrounding the 2016 U.S. elections. A new report has illuminated just how extensive the efforts were, and how they continued past Election Day.

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— Aubrey Nagle (@aubsn,

After Baker Funeral Home on North Broad Street, a Philadelphia institution, closed in 2017, Leychawne Johns said he bought the business’s phone number from Vince Baker for $80,000.

Johns, who grew up learning the funeral business in Chester and whose funeral trainee license was revoked in May, used the number for six months as a broker, pairing families of the deceased with funeral homes.

But Baker said that Johns hijacked the number, hasn’t paid him for it, and is pretending to be Baker’s son.

From Facebook and Twitter to YouTube and Instagram, Russia’s disinformation campaign around the 2016 elections used every major social media platform to help elect President Donald Trump, according to a report released Monday.

The report, prepared by major technology firms for the Senate Intelligence Committee, says the Russian campaign targeted conservatives with content on issues like gun rights and immigration while targeting left-leaning African Americans with content that discouraged voting.

The Flyers fired head coach Dave Hakstol Monday morning. He was in his fourth year with the team, which is currently in last place in the 16-team Eastern Conference.

Phantoms coach Scott Gordon has been named as interim coach.

It’s been a tumultuous few weeks for the Flyers. Chuck Fletcher was named the general manager Dec. 3 after Ron Hextall was fired from the position in November. Assistant GM Chris Pryor and assistant coach Gord Murphy were also dismissed.

What you need to know today

  1. Where you live could give you clues as to how old you’ll get, according to new census data — and life-expectancy varies dramatically across the Philadelphia region.

  2. Law enforcement officials say they busted a house of prostitution operating as a spa in the heart of family-friendly Ocean City last week. 

  3. The Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates this week, a hike that would keep them low by historical standards but put them at the highest level in a decade.

  4. Top Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey pulled a controversial redistricting proposal over the weekend after facing nearly unanimous opposition. The proposed constitutional amendment would have entrenched Democratic power in Trenton.

  5. After a big win Sunday night, Nick Foles will start at quarterback for the Eagles again this Sunday when they face off against the Texans. Carson Wentz is considered week-to-week. Can the Eagles make the playoffs from here? It’s possible, but they’ll need some help.

  6. Cigarette smoking among Americans is declining, but the change in tobacco product trends is fueling distinct health concerns for minority versus predominantly white communities.

Through Your Eyes | #OurPhilly

Holiday spirit is all around, @ultravioletvoodoo.

Tag your Instagram posts or tweets with #OurPhilly and we’ll pick our favorite each day to feature in this newsletter and give you a shout out!

That’s Interesting

  1. Philly rapper Lil Uzi Vert posted a video to YouTube this weekend that shows just how much power former Philly DJ Guns Garcia wields. He literally runs away at the mention of her name. 

  2. Those traveling for the holidays might spot a cheeky new campaign at the Popeyes in the Philadelphia International Airport for “emotional support chicken.” 

  3. It’s been a crazy week for interim Temple football coach Ed Foley, but now that Manny Diaz has received the full-time job, Foley is eyeing his next move. 

  4. Christmas is just days away, and for many that means a week of stress from shopping, cooking, and traveling. Exercising, setting a budget, and other quick tips can help you cope. 

  5. Looking for the best whiskey to give (or keep for yourself) this holiday season? Restaurant critic Craig LaBan has a few recommendations. 

  6. Some end-of-year reminders: If you have a health savings account, there’s no reason to drain it before New Year’s Day. One thing you can do before 2019 is put your IRA to work for last-minute charity contributions. 


“These are issues more suited to Alice in Wonderland than a legitimate lawsuit. The latest case against Obamacare is not just an assault on American health care. It is an assault on logic.” — Robert I. Field on a federal judge ruling the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandate is unconstitutional.

  1. After a dramatic exchange over realistic-looking toy guns at a Philly corner grocer went viral earlier this month, more men should similarly step up to solve problems in their neighborhood, writes columnist Jenice Armstrong. 

  2. Jerry Sweeney, president and CEO of Brandywine Realty Trust, disagrees with La Colombe’s Todd Carmichael over whether CEOs make good presidents and Congress members. CEOs can bring a fresh perspective to public service, Sweeney writes. 

What we’re reading

  1. Last month, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration released a new school evaluation tool and WHYY has talked to parents, critics, and advocates about just how useful it’ll be.

  2. Construction on a gas pipeline project has begun in the Pinelands despite an effort to block it that’s pending before an appellate court. has the scoop on the environmentalists opposing the project.

  3. Ever wondered why some Philadelphia townhouse doors have starbursts etched into their glass windows? Hidden Philly did some digging to find the story behind the design.

  4. As part of a series on women who are reshaping culture, Refinery 29 has published a thoughtful exploration of Mosuo culture, a matrilineal society spread along the mountainous China-Tibet border, debunking myths about them along the way.

  5. Fast Company is publishing a series on the Instagram economy, and it kicks off with a deep dive into the very strange world of kid influencers. Some toddlers are making five figures per post.

Your Daily Dose of | Hidden Gems

Art is all around us. Visitors to the Haddon Heights post office have accidentally been basking in the work of one of the greatest American sculptors of the 20th century for decades.