We have less than a week until 2019, and by now you’ve probably seen your fair share of end of the year round ups across the internet. We’ve made a few too, of course, but I’ll say my colleague Stephanie Farr’s meticulously crafted list of the strangest stories that happened in Philly trumps everyone else’s because c’mon, it’s Philly. We’re the city that’s embraced Gritty as a champion. Across the river, and in South Jersey, we have an important update on the growing outrage over a referee’s questionable and controversial decision to force a young black Buena Regional wrestler to cut his hair or forfeit his match.

In 1992, Congress approved a plan to deepen the Delaware’s main channel to open up traffic to more international shipping companies. Two years behind schedule and $100 million over its original $300 million total budget, the project is finally finishing up.

The project has had its fair share of stalls and disruptions. At one point, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency overseeing the work, had to dislodge rock outcroppings using explosives and an eight-ton underwater hammer imported from Europe to break up the hardest bedrock near some pipeline crossings. Now, the project is expected to be complete come 2019.

What does Philadelphia get out of all of this? The ability to keep up with competition from other East Coast ports for vessel traffic and lucrative access and space for shipping companies — all of which the agency says will add $13 million annually to the U.S. economy.

A week after a viral video showed 16-year-old Andrew Johnson, a black wrestler at Buena Regional High School in South Jersey, deciding to have his dreadlocks cut to avoid forfeiting his match, the Buena Regional school board hastily called an emergency meeting to hear the concerns from the local community.

Nearly 100 community members packed the room to vocalize their visible frustrations. Some lauded Johnson for his actions and others called into question those who allowed the action to happen.

The controversy has thrusted the Jersey school district into national spotlight since the video captured more than 15 million views on Twitter. Even a former U.S. Olympic gold medalist weighed in. The board has said it would take no action for the time being.

As mentioned earlier, my colleague Stephanie Farr had a fun job curating, and reporting, some of the weirdest and whackiest stories that happened in the Philadelphia region this year.

From the professional fisher who was literally fishing in Center City storm drains using pieces of hotdogs, to the viral video of a man running into a subway station pillar (remember that?), she’s built an impressive list of moments that’ll make you laugh and say “only in Philly.”

What you need to know today

  • The first phase of the Pennsylvania’s Clean State law has gone into effect. It allows for expungements of offenses including certain misdemeanors if you’ve stayed out of trouble for at least a decade. The next phase, which will automatically expunge some lower-level criminal records, goes into effect June 28.
  • After taking a nosedive and dropping more than 600 points and dipping into a bear market earlier this week, the stock market bounced right back up, notably because investors seemed reassured about one man.  
  • The punishment for driving under the influence just got tougher. Previously, if you got a DUI in Pennsylvania, you received a misdemeanor, which has fewer consequences. Now, drivers should really think twice before getting behind the wheel after a night out.
  • Food critic Craig LaBan has dined at dozens upon dozens of restaurants all around the Philly region, and he’s selected 14 of his favorite dishes that stood out from the rest of the pack. As a warning, this list might make you extremely hungry.  

Through Your Eyes | #OurPhilly

He’s not wrong! Thanks @visual.jawns for this illuminating picture, and welcome back home.

Tag your Instagram posts or tweets with #OurPhilly and we’ll pick our favorite each day to feature in this newsletter and give you a shout out!

That’s Interesting

Opinions

Kremlin on the shelf
Adam Zyglis / The Buffalo News
Kremlin on the shelf

“It has become painfully clear over the last two years that the GOP is a party without a purpose. Winning is not a purpose; it is a means to an end. When you decided that winning was the end, you forfeited your ability to do anything worthwhile," — writes Antony Davies, associate professor of economics at Duquesne University, and James R. Harrigan, professor in the Political Economy and Moral Science at the University of Arizona, on how the Republicans lack of direction is no longer acceptable by the American public.

  • As people across the world celebrated Christmas with family or loved ones, Jesse Harvey was out preaching to people not about God, but about the Church of Safe Injection. Perhaps, columnist Abraham Gutman writes, this is a step in the right direction in shedding light on those actually doing the work to save people from overdosing. 
  • Our Editorial Board explained how Philadelphia is trying to provide more services to those who find themselves homeless during the holiday season, and even included a 24/7 hotline for those who want to help.

What we’re reading

  • I grew up watching some of the best NBA stars like Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade and Vince Carter shine while they were in their prime. The Ringer published a wonderful recap that looks at the legacies these still-active players are building as they enjoy the twilight chapters of their basketball careers.
  • Have you wanted to learn more about administering Narcan to save a life but can’t find time to go to a training? WHYY reports that researchers at the University of Pennsylvania developed a virtual reality Narcan tutorial app that could serve as an effective substitute to real-life training to help those learn on their own time. 
  • The Washington Post has a shattering account on the toll school lockdowns take on students. More than 4.1 million students endured a school lockdown in the last school year. Some wept, others wrote wills, and texted parents goodbye.
  • Did Donald Trump avoid being drafted into the Vietnam War thanks to his father’s connections? A New York Times investigation uncovered a possible explanation, one that traces a timely diagnosis to a foot doctor who happened to rent his office from Trump’s father.
Wilmington native Hope Alexander in Disney On Ice Presents Follow Your Heart.
Geo Rittenmyer/Feld Entertainment
Wilmington native Hope Alexander in Disney On Ice Presents Follow Your Heart.

A DAILY DOSE OF | PERFECT PRACTICE

Disney on Ice performers dazzle the crowds with figure-skating choreography, aerial stunts and impressive acrobatics, but what you might not know if that theydedicate every single day to intense workouts just to prepare for these eye-capturing performances.