Last weekend's frightening string of overdose deaths in Philadelphia was just part of a devastating five days that left 35 people dead from suspected drug overdoses. The deaths occurred between Dec. 1 and Monday, and that total could rise, as deaths that initially appeared natural are investigated for drug links. "We have never seen that before," said Sam P. Gulino, the city's chief medical examiner. The overdoses mostly happened in and around Kensington. Read more
Philadelphia will soon be the first city in the country to ban employers from asking job applicants for their salary history. Advocates say the question perpetuates pay discrimination against women and minorities. "This is about fairness. Just be fair," said Councilman Bill Greenlee, who sponsored the legislation. "Base the salary offer on the job, what the job is worth and what the applicant brings in experience and ability." Mayor Jim Kenney intends to sign the bill, which was passed by Council on Thursday. Read more
Philadelphia's Board of Health has voted to approve new limits on tobacco sales in the city. The board approved a so-called density cap limiting the number of tobacco-retail permits, a prohibition on new permits to sellers within 500 feet of a school and an increase to permit fees. The restrictions are intended to "prevent the next generation of children from being the next generation of smokers," Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley said. Read more
The lawyer for the owner of the Market Street building that collapsed and killed six people at a Salvation Army thrift store called for a mistrial and for the judge overseeing the civil trial to step down, accusing her of favoring the victims. "The overall conduct of this trial has shown that your honor has made an unbelievable number of inconsistent rulings favoring the plaintiffs over the defense," Richard A. Sprague, attorney for New York real estate speculator Richard Basciano, told Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina. Sarmina denied the mistrial motion and demand that she recuse herself. Read more
Lawyers for former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah say the 17-to-22 year sentence recommended by prosecutors would be "extreme" and "unnecessarily harsh." Such a punishment would be the longest prison term ever received by a member of Congress for corruption, the defense said in a court filing, urging the judge to consider a far shorter term when Fattah is sentenced Monday. "While it is true that Chaka Fattah now stands before this court convicted of serious crimes, he is also a man that has dedicated his entire life to the service of others," defense lawyer Mark Lee wrote. "As a legislator, he made the education of disadvantaged youth his life's work. And as a mentor and role model, Chaka Fattah inspired countless young men and women to service and self-improvement." Read more