Teen slain in ‘rape-murder fantasy’ was friend to the lonely

Grace Packer, 14, was remembered during a memorial service in Montgomery County.

The smiles radiate from photos posted online by friends: Grace Packer sporting an impish gri…

Abandoned as newborn, Slate Belt man finds birth mother 39 years later

David Volk in 2014 began a search for his birth mother through a social media campaign.

David Volk in 2014 announced a search to find his biological mother on Fac…

Why Lafayette employees are moving to Downtown Easton

About 80 employees will move into Easton’s Alpha Building this week.

Officials at Lafayette College and the City of Easton agree that the success of one is tied to the success of the other.

Their relationship further solidified Monday when the first of 80 college employees moved to new Downtown offices in the Alpha Building.

Lafayette Director of Community Partnerships Bonnie Winfield now finds herself in the city center, making it easier for her to reach out to individuals and groups in all four Easton neighborhoods.

“I have wanted to be down in the center because that’s what we’re all about,” she said. “It’s totally amazing. I’m so excited.”

Information technology employees and the Center for Community Engagement moved in on Monday. The communications department, minus the Athletic Communications folks, will move in Tuesday.

Winfield now has two rooms for programming.

“One room is a circle of rocking chairs where we can have community dialogues,” she said. The other is an artists studio where various community groups can meet to express themselves through art. One group consists of female criminal offenders.

City officials and business owners hope the Lafayette employees avail themselves of Downtown dining options at lunch.

“I stopped to get a local coffee on my way in,” Winfield said. “Terra Cafe.”

Each employee received a gift bag full of restaurant fliers, coupons and gift cards.

The tech department workers have a kitchen area, whiteboards for collaboration and a huge arcade machine that plays 60 games.

New student housing, retailers, science center planned for Lafayette

Lafayette needs more space on College Hill to add 400 students over the next 10 years. One way to make room is to move employees who don’t work directly with students to three of the nine floors in the Centre Square office building.

The plan to add students will help increase revenue and allow Lafayette to institute a “need-blind” admissions process, where no student will be turned away if he or she can’t afford tuition.

MASTER PLAN

The school is pursuing ambitious construction plans:

  • New dormitories, a diner, a bookstore and wellness center are slated across McCartney Street from the traditional campus boundaries. The college continues to work with neighbors and the city planning commission to fine-tune the $55 million project.
  • A 300-space parking lot is in the works near the new public safety and facilities building on Bushkill Drive.
  • A $75 million integrated science center was approved by the city earlier this month. Work will start this spring.
  • Lafayette seeks grants for a $9.4 million outdoor elevator to get from the arts campus on North Third Street and the Downtown offices up to College Hill.

Rudy Miller may be reached at rmiller@lehighvalleylive.com. Follow him on Twitter @RudyMillerLV. Find Easton area news on Facebook.

Forum explores ‘Black America since MLK’ Jr.’s days

Small groups were invited to discuss diversity at the forum at Lehigh University on the civil right’s leader’s holiday.

A few dozen people marked the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday Monday at Lehigh University by focusing on how America has changed since King’s death.

photo.jpegJennifer Swann, a Lehigh University biology professor, participates on Jan. 16, 2017, in a discussion about race and Martin Luther King Jr. (Pamela Sroka-Holzmann | For lehighvalleylive) 

The group attended a luncheon titled “Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise,” held at Lehigh University’s Packer Hall in Bethlehem. It was offered by the university and the Bethlehem National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). 

Prior to the afternoon event, the Bethlehem NAACP also held an MLK Holiday Community breakfast at Cathedral Church of the Nativity.

Those who participated at the Lehigh discussion included students, professors, faculty members, representatives of the Bethlehem NAACP and law enforcement. They did so after watching clips of the PBS series “Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise.”

Questions pondered ran the gamut from, “What experiences have you had with desegregation?; Was your school integrated or predominantly one race?”; and “Today, how integrated is the school you attended?”

Jay Glucksman, a Lehigh junior studying civil engineering, said growing up in Rye Brook, N.Y., did not offer much diversity. He specifically chose Lehigh to further his education based on its multicultural facets, he said.

“It was like one direction, one mentality, one thought,” Glucksman said about his elementary and high school years. “I came to Lehigh because it made my life more diversified. I didn’t have a chance to learn about other cultures.”

Rich Freed of the Nazareth area, who works at the Lehigh University Career Center, recalled growing up in upper Bucks County and said there was little diversity. He said “classism” also was an issue.

Today, Freed said, his children in the Nazareth Area School District also learn with very few people of color in contrast to the school systems in Easton and Bethlehem.

Marchers recall King’s spirit (PHOTOS)

Lehigh athletic director Joe Sterrett noted that in South Bethlehem, churches on virtually every block provide services in various languages. He described the section of the city as a “melting pot.”

Another set of questions focused on specific neighborhoods folks grew up in, asking, “Did you experience other cultures moving in?;” “What type are you in now?;” “How are you discussing this with your children and others?”; and “What are the advantages and disadvantages of living in integrated areas?”

Sterrett said he moved six times and attended nine school districts as a kid due to his father’s corporate work schedule. He said different places in terms of equality were “eye-opening” to him.

In Atlanta, he found just one Roman Catholic church, noting, “There was a religious segregation that was pretty prominent.” Then, when he moved to the Philadelphia area and joined the basketball team, the team was “very integrated.”

“It’s interesting the reverse experiences there,” he said. “It reinforces the notion that we all have parts of our life where some measure of expression exists — it could be the clothes we choose or it could be class.”

Others reiterated there’s more hope for the future in terms of greater equality.

Ginny McSwain, a faculty member, said social media reflects diversity and urged others to “follow” or “friend” different races and groups.

“Make sure you’re following them,” she said. “Make sure you’re listening to more diverse issues.”

Esther Lee, president of the Bethlehem NAAP, said growing up in the South, no one had the discussions like those presented at the luncheon. It shows progress after King’s death, she said.

“They couldn’t be as open as we are now,” she recalled. “It was not talked about.”

Pamela Sroka-Holzmann may be reached at pholzmann@lehighvalleylive.com. Follow her on Twitter @pamholzmann. Find lehighvalleylive.com on Facebook.

The B Street Band withdraws from inaugural ball, cites ‘gratitude’ for Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen’s music will not soundtrack Donald Trump’s inaugural celebrations after all.

BELMAR — Bruce Springsteen’s music will not soundtrack Donald Trump’s inaugural celebrations after all.

The B Street Band, a long-running Boss tribute act based in Belmar, announced Monday it will not play the Garden State Inaugural Ball in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, after a weekend of intense criticism and thousands of emails from around the world.

“It’s like we were in a hurricane,” Will Forte told NJ.com Monday. “And we realized what was most important to us was being grateful and respectful to Bruce. The last thing we want is for it to seem like we are being disingenuous to him and E Street.”

The band now deals with the legal consequences of breaking a contract with the bipartisan event, held by the New Jersey State Society, but Forte added: “that still wasn’t as big as my worry that we were being disrespectful to Bruce.”

In a statement provided to the Springsteen fan blog Backstreets.com, keyboardist Will Forte cited the band’s reverence for Springsteen as the group’s reason for withdrawing.

“Our decision is based SOLELY on the respect and gratitude we have for Bruce and the E Street Band,” Forte told the website. “Bruce’s music has been the foundation of our livelihood. The B Street Band would not exist without the talents of Bruce and our E Street brothers.”

The band was met with a media deluge last Thursday, when news broke that they would be playing the event, ostensibly connecting them to Trump. The ball is held quadrennially, regardless of who takes office.

But Forte initially defended the gig, saying the band had signed a contract to play in 2013 and planned to honor it.

But the backlash proved to be too much from Springsteen’s fans, who in comments sections across New York Times, Rolling Stone and NJ.com stories online labeled the group (in much harsher terms) an unfitting extension of Springsteen’s music and values.

Springsteen has publicly called Trump a “moron” to Rolling Stone and earlier this month admitted to Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast that he is fearful for America under Trump’s rule.

The B Street Band performed in Easton in November the night before the Lafayette-Lehigh football game.

The band’s decision about the inaugural comes on the heels of a similar about-face from Broadway noble Jennifer Holliday, who also withdrew from an inauguration performance, citing loyalty to her fans after a firestorm on social media.

As for Trump’s inauguration Friday, what we know so far is that teen opera singer and “America’s Got Talent” star Jackie Evancho will sing the national anthem. Elton John, Andrea Bocelli, Celine Dion, and Garth Brooks have all turned down the gig.

Bobby Olivier may be reached at bolivier@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @BobbyOlivier. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

Township paying $375K to settle housing discrimination claim

A nonprofit sought to build affordable housing in a former mill in Whitehall Township.

Whitehall Township will pay $375,000 to a nonprofit group as part of a federal settlem…

Slate Belt man wanted in deadly Fla. hit-and-run, report says

The suspect was behind the wheel of a pickup truck that struck and killed a 38-year-old man, The Palm Beach Post reported.

A 42-year-old Lower Mount Bethel Township man, who face…

Marchers honor spirit, legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. (PHOTOS)

The Bethlehem march was held on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday 2017.

Participants recalled the legacy and times of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday during a march in Bethlehe…

This is the calm before the storm for N.J. gas prices, experts say

Drivers got some welcome relief last week as gas prices stabilized, but experts predict they’ll resume their upward march.

If drivers in New Jersey have noticed a little relief this past week from climbing gas prices, it was not just a pleasant dream.

But they may have a little less than a month to enjoy that break before prices start marching up again.

“We’ve seen gas prices back-off a little bit after the rise,” said Tom Kloza, Oil Price Information Service global petroleum expert.

Last week saw prices stabilize at an average price of $2.44 for regular, GasBuddy.com reported, and that price was $2.43 on Monday.

He expects that to last roughly from Martin Luther King Day to Lincoln’s Birthday. That corresponds to the same time period last year, was when prices bottomed out around Feb. 12, he said.

7-11 gas 1 13 17 W. Pond rd.jpgThis price at a 7-11 station on West Pond Road in Woodbridge was below the state average for regular on Friday. Larry Higgs | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

What’s helped stabilize gas prices this past week is that this is a low demand, high production time of the year.

“The demand numbers are like no one was driving,” Kloza said, attributing that to seasonable winter weather. “The days are short and people aren’t going out and using those gift cards.”

U.S. refineries also produced more crude oil last week, which helped stabilize prices, Kloza said. But that will be short-lived as refineries slow production to do spring maintenance and prepare for the change to reformulated gas.

That is the launching pad for a 22 to 25 cent per gallon price increase to come in some time in mid to late February, he said.

“For the moment, we are making more gas than we need,” he said. “That will shift later in the first quarter (of 2017). Traders will anticipate that shift and prices will go up.”

The federal Energy Information Administration has predicted very conservative crude oil price increases this year and for 2018 in its short-term energy outlook.

Crude oil finished the trading week at $52.52 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, as reported by NASDAQ.

“It’s been a goofy week. We’ve had big down days and some up days, it’s been choppy in general,” he said. “Crude was down to $50, it went as high as $55, now it is in the middle.”

In May, OPEC will meet to determine if it’s production cut agreement is having the desired effect and being adhered to.

Larry Higgs may be reached at lhiggs@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @commutinglarry. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

Forecast firms up: Watch for freezing rain Tuesday morning

What areas are now included in the advisory, which warns of slippery road conditions?

The National Weather Service told people to pay attention to the forecast.
And just aft…

Constable shoots attacking German shepherd, police say

The animal later died during surgery, police say.

A constable serving a warrant Thursday morning in Monroe County shot a dog that attacked him, Pennsylvania State Police re…

Could we be in for a slippery Tuesday morning commute?

The National Weather Service offers caveats in its latest forecast.

UPDATE: National Weather Service alters its freezing-rain forecast
When the National Weather Service…

Bangor area judge will run to retain her seat

Alicia Zito serves as district judge in the Bangor area.

The Bangor area’s district judge announced she is running to keep her seat.
Alicia R. Zito was appointed on July 13 …

This revered Lehigh Valley eatery is getting a new look

The restaurant at the Allentown Fairgrounds, known for its ice cream, will reopen on Friday.

A new year means a new look for the landmark Ritz Barbecue at The Allentown Fair…

Vintage photos of Lafayette College campus living in the 1950s

The residence hall now known as the Kirby House opened more than 60 years ago.

When Lafayette College students return to Easton to start spring semester classes on Jan. 23…