After you squeeze ketchup onto your burger bun, but before you set off some fireworks, remember to raise a bottle of suds to the men and women whose sacrifice afforded us this extended weekend. This newsletter will go quiet over the next few days and return on Wednesday. In the meantime, we hope you have an enjoyable and safe Memorial Day.

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Public officials, including U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes (left), Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin (center) and State Sen. Daylin Leach, have resorted to suing their critics. Photo illustration by Cynthia Greer/Staff
Illustration by Cynthia Greer / Staff
Public officials, including U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes (left), Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin (center) and State Sen. Daylin Leach, have resorted to suing their critics. Photo illustration by Cynthia Greer/Staff

“Court-assisted terrorism” is described by my colleague David Gambacorta as meritless lawsuits that powerful entities file to stifle their critics or cripple them financially.

The tactic has been around long enough to attract its own acronym — SLAPP, for strategic lawsuits against public participation — and earn the undying enmity of First Amendment advocates across the country.

For the cost of a small filing fee, public figures can use the courts to silence their critics. But a pair of bills, Gambacorta notes, can make a difference in Pennsylvania.

Veteran City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell says she lost her seat this week because developers covet West Philly, and because of gentrification. “It was about them taking control of my district.”

Blackwell, 74, who has represented West Philadelphia’s 3rd District since 1992, and worked for her husband, Lucien, who held the seat before her, called the loss “kind of unbelievable."

Memorial Day weekend calendar for Shoobies, and homebodies

To stay, or not to stay, that is the question for this Memorial Day weekend. Luckily, your friends at The Inquirer have you got you covered either way.

Are you heading #downashore? Besides storming the umbrella-dotted beaches, you can pass through a Bacon Lovers’ festival, go see Comedian Kevin James perform in Atlantic City, or choose from a number of events at the Shore this weekend.

Or are you staying in Philly? We’ve got Eastern State Penitentiary’s ghost hunt, a Billy Joel concert, and a whole list of what to do when the city empties out.

What you need to know today

  • Under Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, these inmates have received or may get the nod to be removed from death row. In most of these cases, the inmates are awaiting court decisions or still have pending appeals. Three others already have been moved from death row, one of whom was released after agreeing to a new plea deal.
  • The Philadelphia court system has experienced a virus intrusion on a limited number of computers since Tuesday afternoon. To safeguard other systems, the court system shut down certain court IT functions (e-filing, document-management systems) to contain the virus. No data was breached and it wasn’t a ransomware attack, but attorneys haven’t been able to file electronically.
  • About 240,000 Philadelphians — or less than a quarter of those registered — voted in Tuesday’s municipal primary election, but that was more than in the 2017 municipal elections or last year’s congressional and gubernatorial primary election. Here’s a full look at voter turnout.
  • Brian Kennedy, 34, of Devon, pleaded not guilty Thursday to gunning down his 37-year-old ex-wife, Stephanie Miller, in a Maine Line Wawa on March 28.
  • Young voters and increasing exposure to extreme weather have helped move climate change from a second-tier issue to the forefront of the Democratic debate in 2020.
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That’s Interesting

  • The old West Shipyard, which existed before the arrival of William Penn and still exists beneath the asphalt of a parking lot on Columbus Blvd., lies in the path of development. The site, protected by the Philadelphia Historical Commission because of its abundance of archaeological remains, has been sold by the Delaware River Waterfront Corp. But what’s in store for it?
  • The Social Security Administration released the state-by-state breakdown of top baby names Thursday, and a certain quarterback’s first name topped the local charts. As did the name of a certain Game of Thrones character.
  • Philly Beer Week XII is upon us, and it’s coming in heavy with about 2,000 events at 200 venues across the region from May 31 to June 9. Here’s a guide to help you prep your itinerary (and your liver).
  • The self-storage industry is now expanding rapidly in construction-booming cities. But these giant closets take precious downtown land that should be used for housing and industry, writes architecture critic Inga Saffron, and other cities are starting to restrict the use. But what about Philly?

Opinions

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Signe Wilkinson
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“OK, I know what everyone is asking at this point. Who the hell is this Inslee you’re writing about?” Columnist Will Bunch totally gets that people may not know much about Jay Inslee. So let him explain, as only he can, why the Washington governor is the terrific presidential candidate that nobody knows.

What we’re reading

  • This year marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Wildwood amusement park’s first pier, a boardwalk staple that has continuously evolved and attracted millions of guests each year. The pier, along with the Shore town, have survived by embracing “the beauty in tackiness,” writes The Press of Atlantic City.
  • Lil Nas X made the biggest hit of 2019 for $30. Now he just wants to keep on riding, he tells Rolling Stone in this rollicking profile of the “Hip-Hop Cowboy” that includes the quote: “I’m like Twitter-famous, but in real life."
  • “Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood Is a Shakespearean Masterpiece” is the headline on Esquire’s review of the upcoming film. It’s a lot. But it’s also entertaining as all get out. I presume the movie will be the same way. Anyway, here’s the link.

A DAILY DOSE OF | CRUMB TRACKERS

Craig LaBan

Where did Inquirer Food Critic Craig LaBan eat this week? Take a guess in his weekly Crumb Tracker.