Prayers were answered this Christmas for City of Hope Worship Outreach Center in Atlantic City: A retired Jewish businessman from Cherry Hill is donating a parcel of land, valued at up to $125,000, so the congregation can build a new church. "It was a feel-good type of thing. I wanted to do it, and I did it," said James Horowitz, 82. "I think people ought to do that more often." Pastor Kenneth Applewhite says the gifted land is a small miracle for the African American church, which he wanted to move from a gritty block to a safer home. But the church couldn't afford the move. "He was a blessing to us. He saw the need," Applewhite said. "Everybody believes God has given us grace and mercy." Read more
The Capitol emptied Wednesday night, likely for the holiday weekend, with no clear resolution to the months-long budget impasse in sight. The Senate unexpectedly broke from its agreement with Gov. Tom Wolf to back a $30.8 billion spending plan that included an infusion of cash for schools. Senators instead approved a scaled-down House spending proposal, similar to a plan Wolf vetoed in June. The governor has 10 days to act, and offered no clues about whether he would again veto the budget plan. "We must continue our fight for historic education funding," he said in a statement. Read more
A male prostitute has been charged with murder in the killing of a 75-year-old psychiatrist found strangled in a Center City hotel. Philadelphia police said 27-year-old Manuel Baez killed Dr. Howard Baker in a fifth-floor room at the Rodeway Inn on Walnut Street. Surveillance footage showed the male prostitute leaving with Baker's backpack and wallet. "He gave a full confession," said Homicide Capt. James Clark. "During whatever was going on inside of the room, he made the decision that he was going to kill and rob him. And that's what he did." Read more
The east end of the Gallery will close Jan. 1, now that the final paperwork for the mall's massive renovation is in place. Commuters will lose the indoor shortcut at the close of business next Friday. An early-October closing had been expected, but Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust officials say the January date is firm. "There's no great explanation for the delay except that it takes time," spokesman Kevin Feeley said. Read more
The big-screen rendering of tragedy depicted in the new film "Concussion," which opens Friday, is a horror story for the NFL. "If 10 percent of mothers in this country begin to see football as a dangerous sport," one character in the Sony docudrama points out, "that's the end of football." The film stars Will Smith as the pathologist who used the deaths of tortured former players to uncover the neurological disease known was chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, that he knew was harming and killing them, despite denials from the NFL. "This movie throws down a gauntlet," writer-director Peter Landesman said. "A lot of people were on the wrong side of history on this issue." Read more