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What Is Early Word?
The Philadelphia Inquirer's experimental online "morning show", which began in Sept. 2005, went on hiatus in the summer of 2006, after a gradual shift to putting more of its content directly on

About the Host
Peter Mucha, husband and father of two, grew up in Cherry Hill and is a lifelong Philly sports fan. He's been writing and editing for The Inquirer for 18 years. His motto (at least for today): "If I'm not brief, give me grief."

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The Inquirer's ever-evolving way to start your day. Email. Phone: 215-854-2388.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Developing News
Lead in Disappearance of South Jersey Woman
A man photographed by security cameras may have key information about a missing Marlton woman. Marianne DeMartin, 52, a regional manager for a clothing retailer, was reported missing by relatives on Sept. 25. Her car was gone, but her purse, credit cards, identification and cell phone were still in her apartment. Four days later, her black Mustang convertible was found parked behind the Avian Plaza shopping center in Voorhees, about a mile from her apartment.

Security cameras captured the image of a man in the car, as well as a man walking nearby. Police hope the walker, who is not a suspect, may be a helpful witness. Anyone with information is asked to call Evesham police at 856-983-1118 or the Citizens Confidential Tip Line at 856-983-4699.

Talk About It, Talk About It ...
How I Almost Died As a Teenage Driver
Yeah, it's a stereotype and a cliche: Young folks take reckless risks on the road. While I can't speak for everybody, I do know this: Man, was I stupid one day heading to the Shore in my Corvair. Night after the senior prom, I believe. I was following a friend in his car, both of us speeding. He decided to pass and I followed right behind him. We were doing about 90. (Not a totally unfamiliar speed, I must admit.) I figured he knew I was back there, and he'll pull in with time for me to slide in, too, since I couldn't see the traffic in front of him.

Let's review: Doing 90. Stupid. Passing behind someone. Stupid. Assuming smart thinking while doing 90 and flying blind. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Oh, did I mention Route 70 was a two-lane road, there? So we were passing in the lane for oncoming traffic. Key detail. Oncoming traffic. Sounds like some kind of clue about what not to do.

He finally pulled in ... and, you guessed it, right in front of me was an oncoming car.

As the collision-course oncomer took the shoulder to the left, somebody to my right with actual brains drove off onto the shoulder, too, not only evading his chances of being hit but creating room for me to get back in the proper lane.

Which I did. Without a scratch. In my rearview mirror, through clouds of dust, I could see those two cars had managed to stay on the shoulder and not encounter the Pine Barrens.

In columns about fatal crashes involving teens, columnist John Grogan made two points:

(1) "Kids are dumb." So said the first officer at the scene of the late September crash in which three teens were killed. See "Young lives lost, lessons unlearned."

(2) Parents need to be smarter, too. In "Time for parents to take the wheel" he tells how his mother wouldn't let him drive without an adult in the car till he was 17. Now he's grateful. "I knew I wasn't ready. ... I'm here to tell the tale. Some of my classmates were not so lucky."

Pennsylvania needs to rethink this driving at 16, perhaps requiring adult supervision after dark till 17. And restrict how many teen passengers a teen driver can have.

Yet I was 17. Sober, too. And still driving like an idiot. In broad daylight.

Have a similar story to tell? Post it as a comment, or record it for others to hear by calling 215-854-2388.

And drive safely out there. The roads are wet.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Talk About It, Talk About It ...
Animal Cruelty Case Makes One Wonder
How many cats do you have? How many could you stand? What's the most you've ever known someone to have? And how many could anyone properly care for?

Such questions come to mind after reading an account from the Associated Press:

Blanche Jones, 88, and Carol Dewey, 51, were heckled by protesters yesterday as they showed up at court in Bensalem. Accused of keeping 22 cats and a dog in waste-laden carriers in an apartment, the mother and daughter were ordered to stand trial in county court on animal cruelty charges.

Bucks County SPCA officials said another 20 dead cats were found in a house owned by Jones. Dewey countered she has evidence of unfair treatment by the SPCA.

In 1992, the women pleaded guilty to animal cruelty for keeping 105 cats and were forced to give them up. A few years later, the SPCA again discovered them with an excessive population of felines, and worked out a deal for the women to keep some, director Anne Irwin said.

Post a comment below. Or speak your mind by calling 215-854-2388, if you're willing to be heard online.

Talk About It, Talk About It ...
A Grim Discovery & the Need for DNA Databases
A worker at a paper recycling plant in the city's Northeast section saw a leg sticking out of a bag yesterday. Inside the bag was the body of a badly beaten woman, her hands bound behind her back with duct tape. She's believed to be in her 20s or 30s and Asian. Authorities are now trying to figure out the woman's identity. They know the bag was carried to the plant by one of two trucks. One came from Pa., the other from N.J. The partly-decomposed condition of the corpse suggests the woman was killed in the last week. Story.

Identifying bodies is too often a problem that frustrates best efforts. A recent Inquirer article, "New ID tools could turn corpses into somebodies," reported that 5,900 unidentified bodies around the country can be connected to the more than 100,000 people the federal government has cataloged as missing. (Pictured is

The FBI's hope is to build a DNA database, using samples from relatives of the missing. That could greatly improve the odds of determining a match. " This is probably the most important thing that families don't know about," said Donna Fontana (pictured), a forensic anthropologist with the state police. An FBI-sponsored regional lab for handling this work is expected to open in New Jersey by year's end.

Of course, other kinds of evidence, such as pictures and dental records, are enough in many cases.

Expanding the FBI's DNA database for criminals is another area that needs work, according to a recent editorial. British police collect DNA from everyone arrested for an imprisonable offense, greatly increasing the chances of pinpointing suspects. A new Pennsylvania law requiring DNA collection from felons has already cracked some cases, according to another Inquirer story.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Breaking News
Killer Punch Will Go Unpunished
Jason "Jay" Allen, the 17-year-old Lindenwold High football player was scheduled to go to court today for fatally punching a man during a road rage incident last month. But the judge dismissed the case this morning, after the Camden County prosecutor moved to drop the charges.

"I believe the juvenile acted in self-defense as that term is defined by New Jersey law," says a statement from prosecutor Vincent P. Sarubbi.

On Sept. 12, the 6-foot-6, 300 pound junior pulled out of a gas station and "inadvertently" cut off James Munter, 53, said Allen's lawyer, Jeffrey Zucker.

Munter (pictured) allegedly followed Allen. The teen drove home, jumped from his SUV, and, as his father watched, ran across the street, only to be struck by Munter's car, according to the prosecutor's office. Allen bounded off the hood, went around and punched Munter twice through the open window, knocking the driver out, the official account goes. Munter never regained consciousness, his daughter said.

For more background, see earlier Inquirer article.

Talk About It, Talk About It ...
Do You Care What A.I. & T.O. Wear?
Would McDonald's let Ronald dress up like the Burger King? Nooooo. Are you allowed to wear garb with a rival company's logo? Or dress like a slob on the job? Noooo. So wouldn't you expect a guy getting millions to have to show loyalty and professionalism at all times? Ya'd think.

But not Eagles receiver Terrell Owens, who wore a Michael Irvin jersey on the plane home from Sunday's wipeout in Dallas. (Irvin played for those hated Cowboys.) More details. So no surprise fans took offense. Just as they did when Iverson wore a Boston Celtics jersey a few years ago.

And speaking of A.I., last week his feathers were ruffled by word the NBA is considering a casual business-dress code for traveling players. See "An NBA dress code? It's a necessary evil," by columnist Stephen A. Smith.

Frankly, I hate dress codes. Always have. Ever since I had to wear a too-tight clip-on bowtie to church as a runt. If business suits are great, why are presidential candidates so keen to sport the Marlboro man/rancher look for campaign photo ops?

All I'm worried about A.I. and T.O. wearing: championship rings.

OK, no underwear on the head. That's going too far.

Post your comment below. Or call the Early Word Hotline at 215-854-2388, if you'd like to have your voice heard here.

Local Briefing: Six Quick Stories
The teens in Sunday night's crash were probably not wearing seatbelts, police say. Mickey Teranto, 16, of Bristol Township was thrown from the car and killed. The driver was still in critical condition yesterday, and three other passengers, all 16, are still hospitalized in serious condition. More. ...
Philly's Laura Breckenridge stars in WB's "Related." The 22-year-old (left) grew up in Flourtown, summered at the Shore, and danced in The Nutcracker for the Pennsylvania Ballet. Read profile and review of the show, which airs tonight at 9. ... Farmers in the region have to be more resourceful these days to make a living. Some grow birdseed, one hauls trash for a prison, others, like Jon Yerkes (right) lure consumers directly with markets and pick-your-own fields and orchards. More. ... Edison Schools Inc. has a better educational formula, says a study. While not a "ringing endorsement," the Rand report "does show that some of these innovative strategies can work if implemented well," says a researcher. More. ... "A Cyber World of Trouble" presentation warned parents at Haverford High about such Web sites as, and Anyone, including a sexual predator, could pretend to be someone else on one of these sites, and try to meet a child to commit a crime. More. ... A sitcom about Philly friends is coming from a Friends cocreator. David Crane, who went to Penn Valley Elementary, is the son of weatherman Gene Crane. The show's slated for fall on CBS. More.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Talk About It, Talk About It ...
Wade Is Out! Ya Happy?
Phillies president David "No Fool Monty" Montgomery sacked beleaguered general manager Ed Wade. Stephen A. Smith's column says the move was overdue: "The players don't get it, and neither did Wade. And since Wade is the guy responsible for infesting this city with a bunch of satisfied underachievers, it was time for him to go long ago." Most fans applaud, like the guy on the right, says another Inquirer article. Let's hope Montgomery has the guts to hire a smart, independent thinker and not another get-along guy. What do you think?

TO SPEAK YOUR MIND, and have it recorded, call the Early Word Hotline at 215-854-2388.

Listen to these messages from fans: (1) "I'm a good, strong GM candidate." (2) "Time for a change."

A Lesson Finally Learned?
Because of two fatal Bucks County crashes, state Rep. Kathy Watson has asked to hold hearings on limiting how many passengers a teen driver can have. More. Four high school students are still hospitalized after the car they were in went out of control and rolled off the Bristol Pike late Sunday night. Mickey Teranto, 16, an 11th-grader on the football team, died after being ejected from a rear seat. Read story. Today in Bristol Township, counselors would be available to help students and school staff members deal with their grief.

Local Briefing: Six Quick Stories
N.J. rich guy is back on Earth after his $20 million sojourn aboard the space station. Gregory Olsen landed in Kazakhstan. More. ... Arrest in burning-corpse case: A N. Phila. man has been charged in the shooting of Sam Derry, stepfather of rapper Beanie Sigel. The motive involved drugs, not Sigel, police say. More. ... Winners of Barrymore Awards for local theater include Take Me Out (best play) and Sweeney Todd (best musical). More. ... Moorestown raised $132,650 by auctioning off 30 Nipper dogs at a $100-a-ticket gala. Philadelphia Nipper alone fetched $15,000. (That's Brooke Melton, 3, with the dog, bought by her dad, Richard.) Five local groups will benefit. More.... From "You're fired!" to you're a candidate? Bow-tied Raj Bakhtia, who got tossed off The Apprentice last season in part for being overly flirtatious, might run against Rep. Allyson Schwartz next year. More.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Overnight News ...
Crash Kill Teen, Hospitalizes 4 Others
Late last night, just 11 days after one Bucks County crash killed three teens, another involving a car full of teenagers proved fatal, according to TV and radio reports. Mickey Teranto, 16, was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver, John Farber, 17, was driving on Bristol Pike, when the car lost control, struck a guardrail and rolled off the road. Farber was reported in critical condition at St. Mary Medical Center, after being trapped in the car, along with Christopher Cullen and Anthony Daponte, both in serious condition at the same hospital. A hospital spokesperson said one is 15, the other 16. Tara Walp, 16, who was ejected along with Teranto, is in serious condition at Frankford-Torresdale Hospital. Debris on the road may have been a factor in the accident. Bristol Township schools are closed for Columbus Day.

Today's Inquirer has a column by John Grogan about the earlier tragedy. The headline: "Young lives lost, lessons unlearned."

Read "More riders, more risks," last week's Inquirer editorial calling for Pennsylvania to follow the lead of other states and limit the number of teens in a vehicle.

Talk About It, Talk About It ...
What Happened to the Defense?
Dallas racks up 33 points, the week after Kansas City slaps up 31. Last season, the Eagles gave up 30-plus only once with its regular squad. Sure, the offense seemed inept too in yesterday's 33-10 loss, but the defense let the Cowboys control the ball for more than 40 minutes. Does this alarm you? And what worries you the most? Lito Shepard getting burned? The mysterious lack of blitzing? McNabb looking ineffective? Have a bad feeling about this season? Or, forget it, it's just one game? Notice the Birds are last in the division? Post a comment and take a poll.

I'm Not Going to Worry About Avian Flu
Plenty of other things more likely to kill me sooner. You?

Some Surprises From Science
"Resistance is futile!" declared the Borg on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Now along comes a book saying those networked half-human automatons were right. In The Singularity Is Near Ray Kurzweil says in children's lifetimes people will start replacing brains and other body parts with far superior artificial components. Read "The future body, very unlike ours," a review by Frank Wilson. ... Also, the bald eagle is back. Pennsylvania has even removed the bird from the state endangered list. Birdwatchers (above) are happy. See story. ... And giant squid have strange sex. See "Carnal Knowledge" column.

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