Scabby the Rat, the inflatable labor-union protest prop, has staying power. The sneering rats have become frequent sights in Philadelphia and other places, as unions have the deflated rats waiting to be hauled out and pumped up whenever labor leaders are seeking leverage. "We have four rats," said Ryan Boyer, business manager of Laborers District Council, whose members boast one rat per local in Southeastern Pennsylvania. "A picture speaks a thousand words." But neighbors at some sites where the rats have been deployed aren't charmed. "It was kind of mean-looking, to tell you the truth," said Charlotte Veazie, who found Scabby staring in her second-floor bedroom window last week. Unions started turning to the rats -- and the First Amendment -- after picketing rights were eroded in the 1980s. "The rat is a form of protected speech," said William A. Harvey, a lawyer who represents local developers in disputes with labor. "Unless the rat is blocking ingress or egress or is on private property, informational picketing - which is part of what the rat is - is permitted." Read more
Defense witnesses at the trial for Kathryn Knott, accused of taking part in an attack on a gay couple in Center City last year, say they never saw her strike anyone during the incident. "I didn't see her do anything," John McCabe testified. "She was standing off to the side." Knott, 25, of Southampton, is on trial for aggravated assault and other charges in the September 2014 attack on two men at 16th and Chancellor streets. Two others in her group, 27-year-old Kevin Harrigan and 25-year-old Philip Williams, have pleaded guilty. Another member of the group, Pat Conly, testified that he "did not see Kathryn do anything." Read more
The explosive hits Andre Waters was known for had a price: The former Eagle took his life in November 2006, at age 44; his friends and family later learned that his brain was ravaged by chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease linked to repetitive head trauma. His story will be revisited in Will Smith's upcoming movie "Concussion," set to be released on Christmas. Smith stars as Bennet Omalu, the neuropathologist who found the CTE in Waters' brain and has tried to raise awareness about the degenerative disease in the face of opposition from the NFL. "Andre was wrestling with certain things, but I never linked any of it to concussions," said Jerrold Colton, Waters' lawyer and longtime friend. "There wasn't all of the information out there that we have today. I wish I'd been more informed." Read more
In the year since Brandon Tate-Brown was fatally shot by police during a Mayfair traffic stop, his mother has gone over the circumstances of his death in excruciating detail. Tanya Brown-Dickerson has spent the past year fighting for information about her son's death, and got many of the details she sought, thanks in part to a still-pending lawsuit. "They say it'll get better, but it feels like yesterday," she said. "The pain is still the same." Brown-Dickerson was thrust into the world of activism after her son's death, and the case has triggered a number of changes in how Philadelphia responds to police shootings. Read more
The fate of Pennsylvania's budget now rests with the state House, and voting on budget-related legislation could begin as soon as Wednesday. House members spent most of Monday discussing what changes, if any, they might seek to the budget bills passed by the Senate and supported by Gov. Tom Wolf. "We're going through everything," said Stephen Miskin, spokesman for House Republicans. He said lawmakers were hopeful that a final deal to end the budget stalemate could be passed this week. Read more