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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, December 02, 2005

Hot Topics

Steph, you ingrate! Last night on CBS's Survivor, Stephenie LaGrossa, who grew up in Glenolden and went to Temple, betrayed Judd big-time. She got to spend time with her boyfriend, flown to Guatemala from the States, thanks to Judd. She beamed as she hugged Judd (left pic above) and sat by her man (right). And what thanks does Judd get later? His name on her tribal pink slip with a frowning happy face she drew. Nice. In his parting shot, the hotel doorman called the last castaways "scumbags" and said he hoped they got gobbled by gators. Good luck winning with him on the jury, Steph.

"She blindsided me, backstabbed me," Judd said on CBS's Early Show this morning.

Btw, a surprise reward last night: "a Philly steak sandwich," to quote host Jeff Probst. Came with ketchup and fries. Starving players bid for it sight-unseen, and the two who paid $180 jumped for joy and hugged, while jealous Judd could only comment, "Whew ... paradise."

Hatching a new theory about "Lost." My friend John, who loves to speculate and prognosticate, phoned to a share colleague's brainstorm. Wednesday's show ended intimating an imminent "incident" because a character tinkered with a computer. Sounded vague, but very menacing.

Well, the coworker recalled some clues: A mention of "blast doors," rigged to drop in an emergency. The "quarantine" signs on the inside of doors, as if the jungle was once contaminated. Could mean some kind of radiation accident, either a leak or a bomb.

Nah, that could ruin the show, my wife, Anne, thinks. More likely the threats are all lies, part of a fakeout psychological test cooked up by the scientists who turned this isle into a lab.

What do you think? And hasn't the show gotten much better in recent weeks?

Forget Manny Ramirez. Hello, Tom Gordon. Phils new closer Gordon is cheaper but older and less impressive than Billy Wagner. No net improvement there. And GM Pat Gillick ruled out the pricey Red Sox slugger. So what should the Phils do next? Still makes sense to trade Pat Burrell or Bobby Abreu for a top starter, especially if a future catcher, third baseman or closer is thrown in.

Comment here, or vote in our trade-an-outfielder? poll.

Pupperware parties? Aromutt Therapy Spritzer? Tiara Hairpins for Tiny Dogs? Dog-Tired Heated Beds? Pampering pooches unleashed! "I just saw a huge void out there," says the braindaddy of Shure Pets, the company that started the parties. See story. I see a huge void, too, between some pet-owners' ears. What do you think?

Sugar Bear s looks unimpressed by a Souderton demonstration. Photo by Charles Fox / Inquirer

Olivia Macfadden, 9, teacher Mary Hall in Haddonfield.

That's Happening Here?
5 Stories Fast

Now students are taking the lead in parent-teacher conferences. Haddonfield, Council Rock, Central Bucks, Penn Delco and Mount Holly are among area districts joining a national trend that let kids, even elementary schoolers, explain how and what they're doing in class. More. ... $1.9 million for Beethoven manuscript found in Wynnewood. A keyboard transcription of Gross Fuge (right), discovered in October at a seminary, was sold at a London auction. Fell a bit short, though, of estimates and the all-time Ludwig van manuscript record, $3.6 million. More. ... Pa. judges can seize guns under sweeping changes to reduce domestic violence. Passing such "historic" legislation in a pro-gun state took years of effort, "painful" negotiations, and advice from the National Rifle Association. "They did not endorse, but they did not oppose," said a Lancaster lawmaker. "That was critical." More. ... New president of NBC News is Temple grad who grew up in Warminster. Steve Capus is the new president of NBC News. His wardrobe has improved since he worked for two Philly stations. More. ... "Get Your Own Damn Beer, I'm Watching the Game: A Women's Guide to Loving Pro Football" is the great title of a new book by Mount Airy-raised actress Holly Robinson Peete. She rips T.O.'s agent, lauds Donovan McNabb, and tells how she called once called WIP to defend her husband, Rodney, when he was the Eagles' QB. "He wasn't smiling," she told Angelo Cataldi. "He just has big teeth." More.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Developing Story ...
Report: Phils May Swap Abreu for Ramirez
The N.Y. Post is reporting that after losing Billy Wagner to the Mets, "the Phillies have set their sights on a player the Mets have coveted: Manny Ramirez." Phils GM Pat Gillick discussed trading Bobby Abreu during recent GM meetings, and Ramirez wants out in Boston, the Post reports. Holding up the deal: Ramirez earns much more than Abreu, who also has a no-trade clause. Leftfielder Ramirez, 33, hit .292 with 45 homers and 144 RBIs last year. Abreu, 31, hit .286 with 24 and 102.

Comment here. For more Phils discussion, see "debate" with Stephen A. Smith below.

Hot Topics
Student's pictures of public sex have created a brouhaha at Penn. Looks like another case of political correctness vs. personal liberties . Two people had sex at a dorm window, and photographs were snapped. One of the shooters, a student, posted pics on the Web. The university, envisioning sexual harrassment and other offenses, is holding a disciplinary hearing today, to weigh possible punishments. Defenders of free speech think the student's the one being harrassed, while others say the true culprits were the window performers.

Oh, the photos are grainy and mostly show the dorm, and it's not clear if more's visible than a naked backside. That's judging from one at

What do you think?

Hot Topics
Who's your candidate for the Inquirer's 2005 Citizen of the Year award? Send an email. Fax: 215-854-5884. Phone: 215-854-5943. Snail mail: Box 41705, Philadephia Inquirer, Philadelphia, Pa. 19101. Deadline: Dec. 9. Winner announced Jan. 1.

'Color Purple' Star Was a Philly Student
Co-producer Oprah Winfrey's so excited about today's opening of The Color Purple on Broadway, tonight she's on Letterman, a show she's avoided for years.

But nobody's more thrilled than the musical's leading actress, LaChanze, who went to Philly's own University of the Arts when she was still going by her given name, Rhonda Sapp. That's her at left, with Alice Walker, Pulitzer-winning author of the original novel.

And LaChanze isn't the only Philly connection to the show. Local legends Patti LaBelle and Jill Scott recorded the duet "What About Love?" for January release as a single.

The Color Purple is told through the eyes of LaChanze's character, Celie, "a timid young Southern woman who is raped by her father, gives birth to two children and suffers years of cruelty married to an abusive man," according to Celie and other character sing "What About Love?" in the first act.

See other songs performed on a recent Oprah show.

According to her LaChanze's Web site, she was born in St. Augustine, Fla., "to teenage parents from working class families." After they moved to Connecticut, she discovered her love for singing, dancing and acting. At the University of the Arts, she was a theatre/dance major. "One summer, I took a job that went to Broadway!" she recalls. "Sounds crazy, but I had a job tap-dancing in the ensemble of Uptown -- It's Hot! at the Tropicana hotel in Atlantic City. Shortly after, the cast was headed for Broadway. Once in New York, I saw a world of opportunity and never looked back. I had the bug."

Her stage and screen credits range from a Tony-nominated role in Once on This Island to appearances on Law & Order: SVU and Sex and the City, to parts in the films For Love or Money and Leap of Faith.

LaChanze, who lost her first husband on 9/11, recently remarried. She has two daughters. For more about her life and career, see a newspaper article as well as a Q&A she did for

Talking Sports
Let's Go Toe to Toe With Stephen A. Smith
The Inquirer columnist pulls no punches today. Read "Phils again lead the league in ineptitude." Have to respect his guts. But don't have to agree. Let's turn this into a mini-debate. After his take and mine, feel free to add yours.

Smith: "To stop opponents from smacking homers all over South Philadelphia, the Phillies are depending on construction workers instead of pitchers."
Mucha: "Uh, sounds smart to me, because it'll be easier to attract free-agent pitchers if the park's less of a launching pad."

Smith: "Even with general manager Pat Gillick in the mix -- clearly astute at what he's doing -- the organization's mere presence is enough to invoke a state of depression."
Mucha: "Uh, actually, hiring a 'clearly astute' general manager is alleviating my depression."

Smith: "If the Phillies had been aggressive in signing Wagner last season, they would not have been in this situation."
Mucha: "Amen to that. It's often cheaper to sign guys before they're free agents. Knowing this is why the Eagles are salary-cap masters."

Smith: "You find it almost impossible to care any longer. Time and again, the Phils are a day late and a dollar short. Time and again, they leave you exasperated, wondering what they're doing."
Mucha: "Uh, I'm willing to cut the new GM some slack. Let's wait and see what he does. Sure, it's annoying to see team president Dave Montgomery inject himself into player decisions, like negotiating with Billy Wagner. But Gillick is bound to have more clout than Wade, who still almost assembled a playoff team."

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Hot Topics
I nominate Barbara Walters for dumbest journalist of 2005. Last night, she picked Camilla Parker Bowles (left) as the most "fascinating" person of 2005. Only to Prince Charles, Barbara. Only to Prince Charles. Outside of getting a potential king to say he wished he was her tampon, what's she done?
How about new Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts? But no. He couldn't knock Michael Jackson's lawyer off Walters' list.

How about Angela Merkel, Germany's first female chancellor? Sorry. Far more "fascinating" to find out that preteen actress Dakota Fanning doesn't want to be treated "like a kid."

Better idea: Redo last year's top choice, Karl Rove, a key figure in the CIA leak case.
The rest of Walters' top 10: Condoleezza Rice. Couch-jumper Tom Cruise. Grammy winner Kanye West who said, "George Bush doesn't care about black people." Beth Holloway Twitty, mother of Natalee Holloway, the student who disappeared in Aruba. Jamie Foxx. Lance Armstrong. Teri Hatcher.

Who'd make your list?

Pete Rose, not T.O., is the most excessively punished figure in sports. As of Monday, Rose is no longer eligible to be voted by writers into the Hall of Fame. See story.

Sorry, but to me, it's a travesty. He's no saint, but he didn't commit the worst crime against baseball. Not even close. Yes, fans have to trust that games are legit. So isn't the worst crime obvious? It's fixing a game. And no one has accused Rose of even discussing a fix or intentionally throwing a game.

Shoeless" Joe Jackson took money from fixers, and didn't spill the beans. That's far worse than what Rose did.

Rose is the victim of 1950s logic: Betting leads to blackmail, which leads to fixing games, so one's as bad as the other. Poppycock. By that marijuana-leads-to-heroin kind of thinking, baseball's drug abusers should also get lifetime bans without parole. They not only influence games and tarnish records, they also fraternize with crooks / would-be blackmailers.

I wish early on Rose had simply kept repeating, "I never threw a game." Maybe by now, he'd be in the Hall of Fame.

Who'll join my Pete Rose Amnesty Drive?

We're Not Kidding ...
Not one state required security measures for its chemical facilities. At least not yesterday when New Jersey made its previously voluntary plans mandatory. Makes you wonder what protect us most: government measures or lack of terrorists? More. ... A $2.2 million discrepancy in reported campaign contributions was an honest mistake, says a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach. "This goes beyond sloppy accounting," said Lower Merion attorney Lois Murphy, who filed a complaint and may run against the Pa. Republican next year. More. ... Peco customers aren't the only ones who will pay $50 to $100 more each month this winter because of higher natural gas prices. Expect announcements PGW and PSE&G any time. More. ... It took 18 months for two Philly police officers to get arrested and charged with assault and other offenses for an alleged attack on a plainclothes officer at the building where MTV's Real World was being taped. More. See also Tom Ferrick's column, "Case shows need to police the police," about a costly officer with possible "anger issues."

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Hot Topics
Restrain my trade, please. Give me $1 million to not play for the Eagles. How about you? (See story on Arlen Specter's goofy remarks about the Terrell Owens situation.)

I'm glad the Phillies didn't sign Billy Wagner. A $43 million commitment for a 34-year-old guy who pitches less than 80 innings a year? Isn't the money better used on younger starting pitchers?

Tomorrow, colorful lights will give Philadelphia City Hall a holiday glow. The hope is that the look, which will change nightly, will draw tourists. The cost: $300,000. See story. Think it's worth it? Think you'd travel to get a look?

Where would you like to dump your ashes? On Sunday, Christopher Noteboom sprinkled his mom's at the Linc. See story. As for my own ashes, I'm thinking the front steps to melt ice on a cold winter day.

That's Happening Here?
6 Quick Stories
Kimmel Center sues architect over delays. Not Verizon Hall's questionable acoustics. No damages were specified, but cited was a loss of $23 million. More. ... A gender bender for "Cuckoo's Nest." Cherry Hill High School East students will do the first-ever all-female version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The playwright even helped with revisions, saying it's "an idea whose time has come." More. ... "Stupid is forever!"
Another gem from that human quotebook, John Chaney, Temple's irascible basketball coach. In the final two minutes of Sunday's home game, Chaney grabbed a mike after someone tossed a breath mint onto the court. Don't behave like "idiots," he said to a student section. "It is not Temple's way... to not have manners. Always remember: Stupid is forever. You can't change stupidity." More. ... North America's largest trove of Islamic manuscripts is at Princeton. The university is starting an ambitious project to categorize the collection's 10,000 texts, and digitize and post online about 200 of the most important works. More. ... Miami Beach loves a stunning facade that once was Norristown's. In 1983, the borough lost out when what was left of the Norris Theater was leveled for a McDonald's. The window grille facade with its six stained-glass windows (pictures shows three) is "a masterwork of its kind," said art collector Micky Wolfson Jr., who bought the marvel for a museum with his name, says an Inquirer article. "It was a tragedy," said the chairman of a merchants group. ... More students speak up at parent-teacher conferences. It's a national trend, even for elementary schoolers, like Olivia Mcfadden of Haddonfield. Gets kids more invested in learning, backers say. Council Rock, Central Bucks, Penn Delco and Mount Holly are among area districts taking part. More.

Thought You'd Wanna Know
Don't Name a Star After Someone
In fact, you really can't. Yes, you pay $50 to $100 or more to get your "star name" in a book that's registered in the U.S. Copyright Office. But anybody can get put names in a book and copyright it.

"The name-a-star organizations are nothing but money-making shams, and no astronomer would recognize names given in this way," says Brian Marsden of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

"No individual or group other than the International Astronomical Union is authorized to name stars," says IAU vice president Robert Williams, a researcher with the Space Telescope Institute in Baltimore. "Anyone who claims the right to name stars after people is pulling the wool over your eyes."

Worse, chances are your star is so faint you'll never see it -- unless it's also been assigned to lots of other people. Visible stars number only in the thousands, while customers of the half-dozen or so star-naming enterprises may total a million, one web site estimates.

Craters on Mercury are named for people -- after they've died. Asteroids have been named for the living -- by astronomers. Discover a comet and you can put your own name on it. But only a few stars, such as Barnard's star, were named for people -- "the astronomers who studied them and established that importance," says Marsden.

So save your cash. If it's too late, well, your heart was in the right place. But as a true gesture of cosmic thoughtfulness, wouldn't it be nicer to name a charitable contribution after someone?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Hot Topics
Who's on your list of turkeys of the year? The Inquirer's John Grogan has a long list: various legislators, Catholic officials, and a mother of sextuplets. More. What, no T.O.? Why, his initials kickstart the phrase "turkey of the year."

My list would include Ed Wade, ex-FEMA director Michael Brown, Temple football, Pat Robertson for insinuating God'll get Dover, Pa., Michelle-Wie tattletale-come-lately Michael Bamberger, and Jersey's multimillionaire goober-nut-orial insultmongers, Jon Corzine and Doug Forrester.

Guess, I should also include myself, because I've just surrendered to an obnoxious media trend: Looking back on the year before it's over. That's not so much a slap at Grogan (he was just doing Thanksgiving shtick) but at the likes of Barbara Walters. Her ABC special at 10 p.m. Tuesday looks at the most fascinating people of 2005. With five weeks left? That's enough time for all sorts of athletic legend retirements, pop star indictments, and sordid Hollywood liaisons.

We're Not Kidding ...
Costly Philly cop is still on the job. Kenneth Fleming has cost the city and an insurer nearly $1 million in settlements. A minister was nearly paralyzed when Fleming threw him down at the airport, where Fleming still works. He was suspended for punching a court officer in front of a judge, and for doing a strip search in public. Today he faces another disciplinary hearing. More.
God once had a wife. Or at least ancient Israel once believed in a cosmic first couple: Yahweh and Asherah. (At left is an image of her from a gold pendant.) Professor William Dever defended the idea, based on archeological evidence, as well as his book Did God Have a Wife? at a Philadelphia meeting of biblical scholars last week. More.
Bacteria take photos with resolution of 100 megapixels. It's part of a trend toward genetically manipulating micro-organisms to create new machines. In this case, E. coli were given light-senstive algae genes. I've said "cheese" near a burger before, but never so the burger's bugs could shoot my mug. More.

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