Happy Fourth of July, readers of the Inquirer Morning Newsletter.

Our country was born in Philadelphia, along with its freedoms — and its inequalities. That’s why we’re taking a year to explore the impacts some of Philly’s institutions, including The Inquirer, have had on our country.

This is A More Perfect Union, a project led by Contributing Editor Errin Haines.

”Together as Philadelphians, we must reconcile the inequity of our origins as inconsistent with who we say we are and want to be,” Haines writes. “A more perfect union is not out of reach.”

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

The week ahead

  • Bill Cosby’s release from prison hinged on Bruce Castor’s word. But the ex-DA hasn’t always been consistent.

  • In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the racial gap in access to in-person learning last year was among the worst in the nation, a new report says.

  • Fireworks injuries hit a 20-year high last year.

  • Philly’s plaques honoring the Declaration of Independence signers have been walked over daily and, in some cases, literally defaced.

  • Nursing homes in the Philly region are facing real worker shortages.

  • After a contact tracing data breach, the Pennsylvania Department of Health is working to hire a new company to take over the program. And this new contract is pricier than the first.

  • The York County Prison will no longer hold immigrants who are being detained to face federal immigration proceedings. This change was sought by advocates who say people can safely and reliably wait for their hearings while free.

  • A rare copy of the Declaration of Independence sold for $4.4 million.

  • Two different families descended from Betsy Ross had never met before. They broke historical bread over their donations to Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution.

Opinions

This week’s most popular stories

Behind the story with Aubrey Whelan

Each week we go behind the scenes with one of our reporters or editors to discuss their work and the challenges they face along the way. This week we chat with reporter Aubrey Whelan about her work covering addiction and overdose in the Philly region.

What are some goals you have in approaching your coverage area?

I always try to start from a place of respect — for people in addiction, for their families, for people living in places like Kensington where the overdose crisis is very visible and in places like South Philly where it’s not. I try not to sensationalize or hold someone’s story up simply to “spread awareness” about the existence of addiction — three to four Philadelphians a day are dying of overdoses. People know that the overdose crisis exists. So instead, one of my goals on the beat is to raise awareness about solutions that might get us out of this crisis — and also the systemic problems that are keeping people from getting the help they need.

What’s something people may not know or be aware of in relation to addiction and drug use?

I still get a lot of emails from people who think addiction is a choice and that people in addiction should just stop using drugs, so: It’s not a choice. You might choose to try a certain drug, but you don’t choose to become addicted, and entering lasting recovery can be really hard — in part because of how inaccessible and expensive the addiction treatment system can be. There is so much stigma that still exists around addiction, in the world at large and in the healthcare system, and it makes it that much harder to get into recovery.

Is there anything you learned yourself through your work?

It’s been neat to learn about how other cities and even countries have addressed addiction and the overdose crisis, especially as Philadelphia found itself at the forefront of the movement to open a supervised injection site. Before the pandemic I traveled to Portugal, which decriminalized all drugs 20 years ago — and saw overdoses plummet. I’ve also talked to harm reductionists in Canada about the successful efforts there to open a supervised injection site in the late 1990s. It’s always interesting — and instructive — to look outside the American perspective on drugs and drug use.

What are a few stories you’ve worked on recently that you’re proud of?

I have been kind of a jack-of-all-trades on the health desk during the pandemic, so not all of my recent stories have been about addiction. But I am very proud of last year’s dispatch from Portugal.

What are you watching out for or looking into in the near future?

I plan to keep writing about Philadelphia’s staggering overdose death toll, which is now largely affecting Black Philadelphians, and about the health disparities that keep many people of color in the city from getting adequate care.

What do you do for fun in your free time? What are you looking forward to this year?

I love to garden and cook and read. I play a lot of video games to wind down. I have a perfect cat named Charles. And next year I’m getting married to my sainted fiancé, who has endured so many canceled dates in the name of newspaper deadlines that it’s a wonder he hangs out with me at all.

Email Aubrey Whelan at awhelan@inquirer.com and follow her on Twitter at @aubreyjwhelan.

Through Your Eyes | #OurPhilly

Right here in Philly, history happened. Thanks for sharing!

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!

Fireworks rules in Philadelphia, explained

You might already have heard some fireworks this weekend — or are planning to set off your own. Not all types of fireworks are allowed for consumer use in the city. And Philadelphia strictly limits how consumer fireworks can be used, which makes them tough to set off while following city rules. Here’s what you should know.

What we’re…

Question of the week

What are your plans for the Fourth of July weekend? It’s Independence Day, so we asked our Instagram followers how they’re spending the three-day weekend. Here’s what a couple of them said:

🏡 “Packing to move!”

🏥 “Working and spending my 4th with babies in the Neonatal ICU.”

Follow us on Instagram @PhillyInquirer so you can share your answer next time.

Your Daily Dose of | History

For the first time since the pandemic hit the region, historical reenactors were out and about in Philly this weekend. The History Makers’ usual season starts Memorial Day weekend, but it was pushed back due to uncertainty around restrictions.