Hello, dedicated readers of The Inquirer Morning Newsletter.

First: How a near billion-dollar drug trade is dominating part of Kensington.

Then: Tens of thousands of Johnson & Johnson vaccines could go to waste in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

And: Voters didn’t buy that soaring gun violence is Philly District Attorney Larry Krasner’s fault. Neither do the experts.

— Lauren Aguirre (@laurencaguirre, morningnewsletter@inquirer.com)

A near billion-dollar enterprise and endless bloodshed

At the corner of Kensington and Allegheny Avenues is the largest open-air drug market on the East Coast — if not the nation. In this area, some blocks reap as much as $60,000 a day in heroin sales, and “it’s approaching a billion-dollar enterprise,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said.

The pandemic didn’t slow down this illegal drug trade, and even as lockdowns ease, Kensington’s heroin economy thrives — along with the endless gun violence it fuels. Some corners pull in as much as $21 million a year. Crowds of addicted people jam McPherson Square, where children discover drug dealer’s stashes during playtime. Bullets rattle houses and send those inside diving to the floor. And the neighborhood’s pain is plainer than ever.

Reporter Mike Newall takes you inside Kensington’s booming heroin trade, its devastating effects on residents, and what’s being done to stop it.

Pa. and N.J. have thousands of extra J&J shots — and many will expire soon

Pennsylvania and New Jersey have stockpiles of Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses that will expire soon — including more than 50,000 doses in Montgomery, Chester, and Bucks Counties that will go bad in five weeks. And a lack of trust in the shot is lingering after last month’s pause on its use.

Across Pennsylvania, some vaccine providers have stopped ordering J&J doses. This shot was once looked to as a key tool to help vaccinate people at a time when demand greatly exceeded supply, but now it’s taken a backseat. And that matters because the Johnson & Johnson shot is the only single-shot COVID-19 vaccine that’s been approved for emergency use by the CDC. The others require two doses to reach full effectiveness against the virus.

Learn more about the J&J vaccine and the many thousands of doses that will expire soon from reporters Justine McDaniel and Erin McCarthy.

What you need to know today

  • Israel announced a cease-fire Thursday in the bruising 11-day war against Hamas that caused widespread destruction in the Gaza Strip and brought life in much of Israel to a standstill.

  • As the arson investigation for St. Leo’s church continues, Tacony residents have come together to memorialize the site and help families affected. But others are eager to find someone to blame.

  • Despite the campaign rhetoric in Philly’s district attorney race, criminal justice experts say it’s unlikely one DA, like Larry Krasner, could do anything in less than four years to significantly raise or lower crime rates.

  • The Pennsylvania Charter Appeals Board is sitting vacant. So, charter schools have no one to settle disagreements with public school districts — leaving students in limbo in some cases.

  • When the pandemic hit, SEPTA said its executives would take a pay cut. Not everyone did.

  • During the first full year that New Jersey’s medical-aid-in-dying law was in effect, only 33 people used it.

Through your eyes | #OurPhilly

Congrats to this grad and the Class of 2021!

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

🌧️ Another active Atlantic hurricane season is coming, according to NOAA — and the first tropical storm could pop over Bermuda today.

🏀 After the team sat out last year’s entire season, the University of Pennsylvania will compete in this year’s men’s basketball tournaments.

⚽ Rob McElhenney, from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, bought a Welsh soccer team. Now, FX is making a series about it.

🌳 254 acres in Delaware County have been added to the First State National Historical Park near the Delaware-Pennsylvania border.

🥏 Here are the best places to play disc golf near Philly, and most are free.


“Delivering any measure of justice starts with getting answers around the custody chain for the remains of Black Philadelphians that has been broken since 1985,” writes The Inquirer Editorial Board on why Mayor Jim Kenney is responsible for making the new MOVE bombing investigation the last one Philly needs.

What we’re reading

Your Daily Dose of | Dolphins

When Swarthmore canceled sports for this academic year, many of the men’s basketball players took a gap year of sorts. Julian Levin spent his training dolphins at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.