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Explosion rips through homes in South Philadelphia; a look at 2020 in cartoons | Morning Newsletter

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Firefighters battle a fire after an apparent explosion in the 1400 block of South 8th St. in Philadelphia on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019.
Firefighters battle a fire after an apparent explosion in the 1400 block of South 8th St. in Philadelphia on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

    The Morning Newsletter

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An investigation continues following an explosion that ripped through several homes in South Philadelphia on Thursday. Neighbors on the 1400 block of South Eighth Street heard the thunderous boom and felt their homes shake just before noon. Officials assumed there were a pair of deaths, as rescue efforts ended on Thursday night. Recovery efforts begin this morning, and we will continue to follow this developing story.

We also take a look at the not-too-distant future — in cartoon form. My colleagues on The Inquirer’s opinion team assembled a collection of cartoonists to illustrate the major themes that will dominate the local and national conversation in 2020.

— Ray Boyd (@RayBoydDigital,

An explosion ripped through multiple homes on Eighth Street in South Philadelphia, causing a number of them to collapse while leaving residents trapped in the rubble. As authorities searched into the evening on Thursday, officials announced that two people were presumed dead.

Multiple calls came in just after 11:30 a.m. to report the explosion and the smell of gas. About 60 people were evacuated from their homes.

Area residents said the blast could be heard from blocks away. One woman said it shook her house so forcefully that her son was thrown from his bed. In response, Philadelphia Gas Works shut off service to several nearby homes but did not confirm that the blast was gas-related. An investigation is underway.

As we all prepare to flip the calendar to 2020, The Inquirer’s opinion team wondered what topics will dominate the conversation next year.

So, they enlisted area cartoonists to take a stab at illustrating some of those themes. Their wide array of artistic creations about Philly touch on everything from potholes to gun control, and artisan pizza.

And it doesn’t stop at Philly’s borders. The package also includes pieces from cartoonists across the country who offer an early glimpse into what the nation will be talking about in 2020.

After two years of property assessment increases and resulting tax hikes for hundreds of thousands of Philadelphia homeowners, property values should remain mostly the same for 2021.

The Kenney administration decided this month not to complete a planned reassessment. The city’s director of finance, Rob Dubow, said the method the city planned to use would not have resulted in accurate numbers.

So, instead of reassessing values for properties, the values assigned for 2020 will “carry forward” to 2021. But that will not be the case for all residential properties. Certain ones will still see new assessments.

What you need to know today

  1. Philadelphia’s favorite convenience store, Wawa, is investigating a data breach that exposed customer credit and debit card information at potentially all of its locations.

  2. One day after voting against the impeachment of President Donald Trump, New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew met with the president in the White House to make his decision official. Van Drew is leaving the Democratic Party to join the GOP.

  3. On Thursday, Philadelphia police officers testified for the first time about the August ordeal that became the largest shooting of police in modern city history.

  4. The latest installment of Hunger Games — an Inquirer series that sheds light on local high school athletes’ battles with food insecurity — examines the complicated, tentacled consequences faced by female athletes.

  5. A federal court ruling on the Affordable Care Act could threaten coverage of preexisting conditions. A Chester County man recently spoke with The Inquirer about his experience with an insurance policy that restricts such coverage.

  6. West Philly’s 52nd Street was once the thriving heart of the neighborhood’s black middle class. But it’s been in a decades-long decline. Revitalizing the historic stretch has been slow. But it’s coming.

Through your eyes | #OurPhilly

That right there is a next-level reflection selfie, @denisewalksphilly. 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!

That’s interesting

  1. 📺 Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak will return to the show on __ __ __ __ __ __ __. The answer to that puzzle is a little complicated after his health scare and Vanna White’s hosting stint.

  2. 🐶 Thinking about getting the kids a puppy for Christmas? A new study finds that early exposure to dogs could lessen the risk of developing a certain long-term mental disorder.

  3. 🥃 What about the adults on your list? In case you have any whiskey-drinking loved ones, my colleague Craig LaBan has rounded up the best ones to buy this holiday season.

  4. 🦅 A win over the Cowboys on Sunday would be an early gift for Eagles fans. My colleague Paul Domowitch breaks down the match-up and makes his prediction for the NFC East title tilt.

  5. 🛒 Wondering what’s actually open on Christmas in Philly? Here’s a full list of stores, museums, restaurants, and more.


“At age 60, this history buff has been either lucky or unlucky, depending on how you look at it, to have lived through three of the four meaningful impeachment pushes in America’s 243-year history. I’m also praying that this will be the last." — Columnist Will Bunch on the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

  1. The Inquirer Editorial Board writes that a bill to create a tax credit for low-income Philadelphians, based on city wage taxes, is a no-brainer that would help to curb poverty.

  2. Columnist Christine Flowers’ message to “the liberal left” for criticizing Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch’s decision to promote his book on Fox News: “Chill out.”

What we’re reading

  1. Vox, ProPublica, and the Texas Tribune teamed up to examine Texas’ system for helping the uninsured and the challenges it winds up posing for women.

  2. While I disagree with where my favorite landed on the list (No. 14), I’ll be a good sport and share the Ringer’s definitive ranking of the top 50 holiday songs anyway.

  3. Speaking of lists, Food & Wine compiled their 13 most important restaurants of the decade, and one of my personal Philly favorites appeared for making veggies the star.

Your Daily Dose of | Gold 🥇

Several members of the gold medal-winning U.S. women’s hockey team will play a series of exhibition games at the Flyers Skate Zone in February. With these games, the players are boycotting the National Women’s Hockey League and hoping to send a unified message.