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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, February 17, 2006

Book: 'Dangerous' Teachers on Our Campuses
Eight Philadelphia-area professors are "poisoning the minds of today's college students," according to a new book by conservative commentator and best-selling author David Horowitz. Not-so-beautiful minds can also be found at Princeton and Penn State, he charges.

The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America declares on its inside flap that "Horowitz exposes 101 academics—representative of thousands of radicals who teach our young people—who also happen to be alleged ex-terrorists, racists, murderers, sexual deviants, anti-Semites, and al-Qaeda supporters. Horowitz blows the cover on academics who: Say they want to kill white people. Promote the views of the Iranian mullahs. Support Osama bin Laden. Lament the demise of the Soviet Union. Defend pedophilia. Advocate the killing of ordinary Americans."

The book is generating all sorts of reaction, from eye-rolling apathy -- "I have better things to do than worry about this. You can't let your enemies set your agenda," Penn law professor Regina Austin told the student paper, the Daily Pennsylvanian – to denunciations by the ACLU, People for the American Way and the National Educational Association, to impressive sales on, where, four days after its release, it already ranks No. 65.

The outspoken ex-liberal Horowitz has come under fire before.

Also on the list: Penn's Mary Frances Berry (history) and Michael Eric Dyson (religious studies), Temple's Melissa Gilbert (geography and urban studies) and Lewis Gordon (philosophy), Villanova's Rick Eckstein (sociology) and Suzanne Toton (theology), Arcadia University's Warren Haffar (poli sci), Princeton's Richard Falk (politics), and Penn State's Michael Berube (literature, cultural studies) and Samuel Richards (race relations).

Horowitz, known for his support of an academic bill of rights, spoke last month at hearings on academic freedom at Temple University. The forum was organized by the Select Committee on Academic Freedom in Higher Education, a group set up by state lawmakers, to explore alleged indoctrination and abuse by scholars. Temple president David Adamany testified that no student had made an official complaint of classroom bias complaint in five years, The Inquirer wrote.

In his testimony, Horowitz said his campaign had been misrepresented. "It does not say you have to teach holocaust denial or intelligent design. Holocaust denial is a theory for Jew-hating kooks and it has no place in a university. ... Intelligent design is not a scientific theory and it has no place in a biology class." He denied supported affirmative-action hiring of conservatives, saying "You shouldn't hire people only because they're liberals or conservatives."

He said, "It's the left now which practices McCarthyism."

Of his student days at Columbia, he said, "I was an English major. It was a useless subject." (In his book, Columbia has a list-leading nine "dangerous" academics.)

Penn State's Berube, who likes literature, pokes satirical fun today on his blog at the notion U.S. students are brainwashed: "Many of my students come from conservative backgrounds, but by the tenth week of class, they can chant 'all power to the Supreme Soviet' with the best of them. Basically, we party like it's 1929. At the end of the semester, they leave my classroom and plaster the campus with posters reading 'Meat is Murder' and 'Bush is Hitler.' Two years ago, one enterprising student came up with a 'Meat is Hitler' poster. I have recommended that student to some of the nation's top graduate schools."

Get the feeling, class, there'll be lots more discussion of this subject before the semester's over?

High-Speed Dunkin' Donuts Truck Chase
A police pursuit through Fairmount Park, including across a baseball field, involved as many as 13 police cars this morning, according to TV reports. About 4 a.m., a driver left his truck running at 52d and Lancaster, when a man jumped inside and sped away. During the chase, a shot was fired, but no one was injured, KYW-TV (Ch. 3) is reporting. The chase ended on the 1700 block of Peach Street when the truck struck one of the police cars.

3 Tales of Children Who Escaped Disaster
Story No. 1: About 1:30 this morning, a 3-year-old boy was found on a sidewalk in Bryn Mawr. He'd wandered out of a frend's house, where he'd been staying overnight. A mini-mart clerk helped the child, and police solved the mystery.
Story No. 2: Yesterday, after midnight, 6-year-old I'shaia Gary (left), acted like a hero when gunfire her car, according to a WCAU-TV report. "I took my jacket and I put it over me and my little brother because he had glass in his face and I didn't want to touch it because it might hurt his face more," she told Ch. 10. A bullet grazed her stomach, though, and she was treated at a hospital and released. Her mother had briefly gone inside their house when the incident happened.
Story No. 3: On Wednesday, a year-old child in Upper Darby ingested crack cocaine left by a neighbor in the baby's room, the mother told authorities. The neighbor was arrested.

Philadelphia Law Firms Catch 'Salary Fever'
How about $135,000 a year? And that's just for starters.

Stud Rejects Nail

'CSI' on When Life Begins
Vegas lab-boss Gil Grissom doesn't just know bugs, he knows scripture. In last night's CSI repeat, he told Catherine, who got annoyed at a woman with an embryo-adoption service, how to fight theology with theology. Leviticus 17:11 says, "The life of the flesh is in the blood," he points out. So an embryo shouldn't be considered a life until it's implanted in the womb, about 18 days after conception, he explains. An Internet search shows CSI didn't invent this way to reconcile stem-cell research with religion. Here's a letter to President Bush that builds an argument on this citation. Then again, others point out, the full passage is about a Temple sacrifice.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

She Rubbed Their Backs!
Then they stabbed hers.
In true Survivor tradition.
Will miss you, Misty.

More, Please
Diet be damned.

There Oughta Be a Law
And that's why "25 to Life" has police upset.

Howard Stern on Free FM?
Well, you may have to do some Sirius tailgating.

Reading Matt O'Donnell's Mind
I'm thinking Channel 6 misled us a bit about last night's report on a device that guesses what you're thinking. Fun story, though.

Snider: Fans "a little spoiled," A.I. is staying
On Sunday the Washington Post looked at the rumblings, rumors and restlessness surrounding Sixers star Allen Iverson. Ed Snider, whose ownership group runs the team as well as the Flyers, flat out denied there's been A.I. trade talk: "We're not even thinking about doing that. Allen has been an integral part of our organization and there is nobody that we could get that could do a better job than he's doing. He's pound for pound, the toughest player I've ever seen in my life. He can't do it all by himself."

Sixers president Billy King sounded less definite: "You got to look at players like Allen and say, 'We're going to try to continue to build and win while we have them.' And not worry about trading this guy, because sometimes the grass isn't always greener."

"... while we have them"? Read anything into that?

Snider went on to make an intriguing remark about fans: "Philly crowds are a little spoiled, I think. I think they are disappointed in the overall record of the team."

Disappointed, yes. But spoiled? Sure, Philly's had more recent pro-sport successes than Cleveland, San Diego or Buffalo, say, but should we be satisfied with nice playoff runs and exciting players? Or do you need a title before you'll count your blessings? Partake in a poll:

How spoiled are Philadelphia fans?
Free polls from

'Lost' Reveals Answer to Biggest Mystery
Early Word alerted you this was coming. Last night, fans of ABC's Lost finally found out. Hurley hasn't lost weight ... no, not because of geo-numerological-magnetic-space-time anomalies ... because he squirreled away a bottomless tub of ranch dressing! Urp! Drat, we almost found out another answer: What would happen if the castaways forgot or refused to reset a computerized countdown clock every 108 minutes? Almost happened. Weird symbols -- hieroglyphics? --flipped into view (above). (One message board thread says part of the message means "die.") But then the digits rolled back into view.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A.M. News Briefs
Two mothers deliver babies at home. Talk about a love-related Valentine's Day story. Alethia Armstrong and Toni Brown, both of Philadelphia, wound up sharing the same room at a local hospital after having their babies at their separate homes, according to a WPVI-TV (Ch. 6) report. A 911 dispatcher talked Brown and her boyfriend's mom through the delivery around 8 a.m. Alethia Armstrong had her son Franklin with "her husband and brother panicking around her," just as the paramedics arrived, the story says.

'KKK' pillowcase left for white Mt. Airy firefighter. "An allegedly racially motivated hate crime " is how a new WCAU-TV (Ch. 10) report describes a discovery that disturbed Lt. Joseph Montague. Friday, hanging on his locker he found a found a pillowcase with a pair of eyes drawn on it, and the acronyms "KKK" and "CAFFA" written on it. "I was scared. I was very scared," he told NBC10. "I kind of took it as a threat and a warning. The threat being we know who you are, where you work and we're watching you." CAFFA stands the Concerned America Firefighters Association, which opposes racial quotas, and Montague is its vice president. "Unfortunately, some people perceive that as a race issue," he said. Fire and police officials are investigating.

Vulgarities Suck!
Tsk, tsk, tsk. Word on WIP last night was that Temple students were f-bombing the St. Joe's Hawk at the Liacouras Center. At least four times! Glad I was at the Penn-Princeton game, where the trampolining student body (they seemed to jump a lot) exercised much greater discretion. Well, a little more discretion. While there were no "Brokeback Mountain" taunts a la Gonzaga fans, there were two cow boys ... or at least two male students dressed like cows. (One's pictured, with udder.) And a familiar gastrointestinal exit chant that followed a Princeton technical foul. And ... oh well, let's try this: If you're not easily offended ... actually if you're far from a prude about being crude ... you might be interested in taking a poll about words overheard and clever endeavors last night at the Palestra. (By the way, it might help you to know that RPI measures schedule difficulty, Luke Owings plays for Princeton, Joe Scott coaches Princeton, and the NIT's a second-tier tourney.) Students of the game might consider this poll part of their coarse work, while those with sensitive sensibilities should skip it.

Here are some, uh, expressions of enthusiasm from the Penn-Princeton game. Which do you like most?
Free polls from

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Bush's stem-cell policy 'deceptive,'
Penn bioethicist tells '60 Minutes'

In his State of the Union speech last month, President Bush reaffirmed his opposition to embryonic stem cells being used in research, saying, "Human life is a gift from our creator and that gift should never be discarded, devalued or put up for sale."

In actuality, though, thousands of such embryos are discarded every year, Penn bioethicist Arthur Caplan explained on 60 Minutes Sunday. That claim was confirmed by the head of a Morristown, N.J., fertility clinic who said embryos are often thawed then thrown out as medical waste after a couple no longer needs them.

"To me, it means that the president's policy is hypocritical and deceptive," Caplan told reporter Leslie Stahl. "And I say that deliberately because it is not a secret that embryos are destroyed at infertility clinics. ... Every day a clinic somewhere, destroys one — no one says anything."

Defending the White House's stance was Robert George, a Princeton professor on the President's bioethics council. "If we cannot encourage more parents to permit the embryos to be adopted, we're going to be stuck," he said. That meant most embryos would remain frozen in storage, but he views that fate as morally preferable to destroying them for research.

Caplan disagrees. "You got people in wheelchairs. You got people trying to understand how to cure cancer," he said. "You know, people who want to understand genetic diseases. And you have embryos frozen that no one will ever use for any purpose whatsoever. There’s a moral equation here, too. And it seems to be to lead toward research, not just perpetual freezing."

The 60 Minutes Web site has a transcript of the report, as well as video.

Maximum Heartbreak Theory Is Back in Play
Last summer, this Early Word hypothesis predicted the Phillies would tease us down to the wire. Just as the Eagles had in the Super Bowl. And Smarty Jones had the year before. Now's the next chance for fate to crank up the voltage to the torture centers of our brains. Here's the worst-case scenario: The Flyer's best player, Peter Forsberg, suffering from a groin injury, seems destined to cave into homeland pressure and play for Sweden in the Olympics. (See Inquirer story.) Watch: The Swedes will last just long enough for him to aggravate the injury just enough for it to flare up in the playoffs and cost the Flyers a title. I know it sounds pathologically pessimistic ... which is why I wrote to Dr. Phil. See next item.

Calling Dr. Phil-adelphia
As visions of doom and gloom dance in my head (GM Tom Heckert says Eagles won't go after free agents?! ... Forsberg's going to risk his health playing for Sweden?! ... Sixers and Phillies, do something!), I can't help but wonder: Are some of us sports fans nuts? Do we need professional help? Maybe. That's why I sent off an email yesterday to Dr. Phil, urging him to become Dr. Phil-adelphia and do a show offering therapy to citizens of the City of Negativitis. (See item above.)

And what do you know? Just noticed the guy has a prime-time Love Smart special tonight, at 9 on CBS (Ch. 3). Of course, no way any of that advices applies. It's one thing to give up a woman with a history of hurtin', but giving up a local team? Not an option.

Terrell Owens: Keep Him or Cut Him?
Talk about timing.'s ongoing roster poll taps No. 81's shoulder on Valentine's Day. T.O. went from Cupid to stupid: He inspired affection, then rejection. Almost all Eagles fans pulled that arrow out of their rears weeks ago. Also up for a vote today: Jerome McDougal, who's made no plays or enemies.

Grandpa Crankypants' Thoughts About Dating
OK, I'm not really a grandpa yet. (As far as I know.) But as a husband of 25 years, I'm admittedly a fossil when it comes to courtin' and wooin'. And ... I'll throw my two cents in anyway about a couple of provocative pieces on lousy dates that appeared in Sunday's Image section. Enjoyable pieces. About where guys go wrong ("he's a mama's boy") and where women do, too ("she thinks she's on MTV"). Still, it occurred to me maybe what's really wrong is this ritual of talk, talk, talk over dinner or drinks before or after the talk, talk, talk of a movie, lecture or play. I mean, who doesn't stumble and stammer and induce disbelief while talking about me, myself and I? Think about it: What was the best time you ever had? More often than not, it was during some playful activity (a category that can include more than sex) that led to spontaneous surprises and laughter -- and away from practiced patter. Try some art or craft together, like throwing a pot. Play a sport you hardly ever play. Go on a random road, bike or bus ride. Go on a farm or factory tour. Totally adlib and improvise. Sure, you risk disaster. But you also risk having a time worth remembering when you're a Grandpa (or Grandma) Crankypants.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Signs of Our Times
As you drive up Vine Street, first you see this sign over 11th Street, for a certain satellite-radio shock jock.

That's followed by this one at 12th for an afternoon show on "Free FM."

Wonder if the sarcasm of the second one is obvious enough in this era of the FCC prude police.

Elephant Love
We're impressed. But let's see you do clubs or spades.

Get a Whiff of This
Philly scientists work on an "e-nose."

Craig's List, Inky Style
Inquirer critic Craig LaBan has revised his list of top restaurants. Talk about an exclusive club. His top ranking, 4 bells ("superior"), lost two members (Pasion was downgraded to 3, Django to 2) but Striped Bass moved up into rarefied realm with Le Bec-Fin, Fountain, Vetri and Susannah Foo. It's tough to even get 3 bells ("excellent") from this guy, but 8 more managed, he reported in yesterday's Image section: Amada, Morimoto, Lacroix at the Rittenhouse, Savona, Barclay Prime, Marigold Kitchen, Matyson, and Gilmore's. Since LaBan doesn't award any half-bells, that means a couple of places would be in his top 15 with only 2! Clearly, a bell is like a gold-star -- get 2 out of 4 you're doing pretty well, not at all average. To ask LaBan about restaurants, visit his online Q&A. He'll answer questions tomorrow at 4 p.m.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Terrell Owens Joins Reality ... on TV
First heard about this Friday morning when WPVI-TV coanchor Tamala Edwards got off a great crack: "How many calories can you lose by running your mouth?" Finally found the official announcement confirming, yes, Eagles persona non grata Terrell Owens will have a celebrity-talk/exercise show with Philly-based Banyan Productions. (And you thought it would be Survivor: Exile Island.) "The show will combine T.O.'s passion for working out with his natural curiosity about other people. Guests on the show will come from the worlds of sports, entertainment and even politics -- and no subject will be off limits," Banyan's announcement states. (Picture of T.O.'s from the front of Banyan's website.) Sure, he'll talk ... after he lands another fat contract. But until then, don't expect a peep from the guy who didn't get tired in the Super Bowl about being accused of "black on black crime" (translation: criticizing Donovan McNabb) and single-handedly destroying the Eagles season (other teams better be careful, Brian Dawkins warns). Banyan has a long list of TV credits, and was recently nominated for a daytime Emmy for Trading Spaces: Boys Vs. Girls.

What other TV shows could spin off from this disastrous Eagles season? How about a Drew Rosenhaus quiz show, Next Question? Freddie Mitchell could do a new version of Jeopardy! called Career in Jeopardy! How about Extreme Makeover: Defensive Line Edition? Or Joe Banner in My Price Is Right -- or See Ya. Post your idea here.

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