Biden in 2020? With a smile, he says he's not ruling it out

By Associated Press 8:33pm, December 5, 2016 - Updated 8:37pm, December 5, 2016
You heard it here first, more than a month before Donald Trump even enters the White House: Joe Biden says he's running for president in 2020 - maybe.

The departing 74-year-old vice president said it with a slight smile on his face. Given a chance to walk it back, he did - but only a bit.

Biden was chatting with reporters Monday after presiding over the Senate as it cleared away procedural hurdles to a biomedical research bill he's supporting.

Asked by a reporter whether he would run again, Biden said he would in 2020 - for president.

Asked if he was joking, he said he wasn't committing to not running.

Biden said, "I learned a long time ago, fate has a strange way of intervening."


BREAKING: Mayday called during 2-alarm firefight at Dover apartment complex

By Andrew Sgroi 8:56am, December 6, 2016
A portion of a North Dover apartment complex went up in flames on Tuesday morning.

Dover Fire Department units responded to the two-alarm blaze at The Greens at Cedar Chase, located at 1700 North DuPont Highway, shortly after 7 a.m. on December 6, 2016.

According to broadcast chatter, a mayday was issued upon the report of a down firefighter during the battle.

There were also unconfirmed reports of trapped subjects in the third floor dwelling.

The scene was an active situation and additional information, including the origin and cause of the inferno, would be released at a later time.


Odessa National Golf Club owes $500K+ in school taxes to Appoquinimink as district seeks referendum

By Amy Cherry 11:14pm, December 4, 2016 - Updated 11:23pm, December 4, 2016
Odessa National Golf Club owes Appoquinimink more than $500K in back taxes. (WDEL/Mike Phillips)
More than $50 million is owed in back taxes to New Castle County's six school districts--money that could be used to help fund what many are calling an under-funded and broken education system.

Appoquinimink is owed more than $3 million, according to county figures from Sept. 30, 2016, which was the latest data available, provided in a Freedom of Information request. That's the least amount owed in school taxes for the six school districts in New Castle County; however, it's also home to one of the largest single tax scofflaws.

A chart showing school taxes owed in New Castle County.

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Odessa National Golf Club--owned by the late prominent developer Joseph Capano--owes more than $505,000 in school taxes to the Appoquinimink School District. The commercial entity also owes more than $177,000 in property taxes to New Castle County.

Odessa National Golf Club.  (WDEL/Mike Phillips)

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"Would the half-million dollars help? Absolutely," said Matthew Burrows, Superintendent of Appoquinimink.

The combined school and property taxes due of $683,434.66 may be the largest amount owed by a commercial entity on a single property in the state.

"It would certainly be up there," said State Auditor Tom Wagner.

It's worth noting Appoquinimink is asking residents to vote for a tax hike on December 20, 2016, with a referendum which would cost the average homeowner an extra $17 each month.

But Odessa National is appealing its 2011 $5.4 million county assessment--saying it's worth far less. They've been appealing the valuation for several years. In the appeal's infancy, according to court records, obtained by WDEL, Odessa National was represented by Richard Forsten, a partner with the prominent law firm Saul Ewing LLP.

Forsten is also the Appoquinimink school board president.

Saul Ewing still represents Odessa National, but Forsten told WDEL he no longer works on the case. He said he dropped out to prevent any perceived conflict of interest in 2013.

"I just don't want it to be an issue--the two are unrelated--and I just didn't want there to be any issue with that," said Forsten.

County records obtained by WDEL show the last substantial tax payment made was October 5, 2010 for $7,340.89. After that, no payments were made for nearly two years. Since then, monthly payment amounts ranging from $500 to $1,500 have been made on the property.



"By policy, tax collection efforts are suspended during assessment appeals," according to Chief Financial Officer Michael Coupe, who pointed to Title 9, Section 8313 of the Delaware Code.

A section of Delaware Code dealing with assessment appeals. (Screenshot/Delaware Code)

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Counter to Coupe's belief of what that portion of Delaware code read, the code actually reads: "If any taxable fails or neglects to perfect his or her appeal to the Board of Assessment Review of New Castle County, Kent County or Sussex County he or she shall be liable for the tax for such year as shown by the assessment lists."

If tax payments are suspended during an assessment appeal, it begs the question: Why is Odessa National making any payments at all?

"You'd have to ask Odessa National why they're making payments," said county spokeswoman Robin Brown.

Odessa National didn't return WDEL's request for comment, nor did their attorney.

Odessa National Golf Club. (WDEL/Mike Phillips)

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WDEL could not find any portion of Delaware Code which stated that tax collection efforts are suspended upon assessment appeal, and, when pressed, the county didn't respond.

"I'm surprised, in an appeal, that you don't pay anything...it seems to me that there'd be a lot of appealing," said House Minority Leader State Rep. Dan Short (R-Seaford).

"That, I've never heard of," said Wagner. "That's interesting--in particular the one in Appoquinimink. I could understand that this is under advisement, so you don't have to pay the full amount, but you have to pay at least 50 percent--pick a figure that you know will be within the bounds, so you've got a revenue stream."

The district's hands are tied, according to Appoquinimink Superintendent Matt Burrows.

"We rely on the county to be our tax collection agency," he said.

Appoquinimink resident Chuck Mulholland spoke out against the tax delinquency at a recent school board meeting. He said he appealed the assessment of his own property more than a decade ago and paid his taxes during that lengthy, five-year process.

"I know a lot of people who would disagree, a lot of people who's taxes are paid on a regular basis to make up that amount--a lot of hardworking people who obey the rules," he said.

"Impressions and perception are reality," said Short. "I think, yes, there is the right to be frustrated with that, because the fact that someone is holding back, and it's justifiably due, then it creates the problem that others might have to pay more to get the situation resolved...because these school districts are planning on that money."

A BROKEN PROCESS

The Board of Assessment only meets a handful of times a year and has a backlog of 400 cases. They're understaffed and don't have the resources to quickly catch up, which explains why the Odessa National appeal is taking so long. However, that's little comfort to district residents who are facing an upcoming referendum. WDEL attempted to gain more information about the backlog from Doug Sensabaugh, New Castle County Property Assessment Services Manager for the board, but he failed to respond to a request for comment.

The New Castle County Law Department told WDEL that penalties are accrued during the lengthy assessment appeal process. Those penalties are paid if an appeal is unsuccessful and waived if a reassessment is granted.

Additionally, not a single dime of those payments is making its way to Appoquinimink.

"It would be nice for us to have that money from the county, absolutely," said Burrows. "If someone knows how we can get those back taxes collected, and get that money, we would gladly go after that."

A copy of the county's finance policy, provided to WDEL, showed that payments of school taxes are made last, after sewer and county taxes--unless specified by the customer.



ATTEMPTS TO REMEDY THE ISSUE

Last spring, the General Assembly passed a tax intercept bill that's aimed at targeting tax scofflaws. The measure acts as a hammer for county governments and school districts by allowing tax refunds to be intercepted by government officials to put the money towards back taxes--similar to what's done for outstanding child support payments.

The bill was signed into law in March of 2016, and Short hopes that by the year's end--he'll have an update from the counties on whether it's working. There's also preliminary discussions about adding more teeth to the law, Short said.

"Everybody has to have a driver's license and everyone has to have a registration for their auto... so maybe at the time of your registration or the renewing of your license, if you haven't paid your back taxes, you won't be able to get that," said Short.

Of course, for the intercept bill to function properly, a commercial property or citizen has to first be eligible for a tax refund--and then, Short said a downfall of the idea would be: prohibiting a citizen from getting their license would interfere with said citizens from getting to work to earn the money they need to gain a refund which would ultimately pay their taxes.

Short added, when he was mayor of Seaford, property taxes were collected during a citywide reassessment process--one which saw several appeals.

"This is real money to folks who owe it, and it's real money to us when we were trying to collect it," he said.

Despite the measure, the number of back taxes owed to Delaware's school districts continues to spiral out of control, increasing dramatically each year. In April of 2015, data used to craft the interceptor bill, showed Delaware's 19 school districts were owed more than $32 million in back taxes.



AFFECTING THE BOTTOM LINE

Frustrated by the entire process, Mulholland said he's been seeking answers, but gets the run-around from the county and the district.

"We just don't think its fair--we don't think its equitable--it's not fair to the general population, it's not fair to the students, the teachers" said Mulholland. "Appoquinmink hasn't gotten anything--it should've been shared."

Mulholland said he wants fairness and even-handed application of tax collections.

"We don't believe that a large commercial entity such as a golf course is allowed to forgo even a dime of tax revenue to the school district for over four years straight," he said.

Democratic state Senator Bruce Ennis, who's district includes Odessa National, understands residents' concerns.

"They're concerned that if they're paying their taxes, why wouldn't the developer be paying--even though he died, personally, but his estate? They're concerned that if they have to pay taxes, why shouldn't everyone pay their fare share," said Ennis.

Short said he's surprised the reassessment process is taking so long.

"That's a shame it's taking so long. I don't ever remember a tax appeal process in our city--of course, we're a lot smaller than the county of New Castle--taking anywhere close to that timeframe," Short said.

Ennis said the assessment process is in dramatic need of reform if it's taking this long.

"In order to properly fund the school, something ought to be done, some change ought to be able to be made, even though it's the responsibility of the county to collect taxes by law," he said.

Frank Szczuka, a resident of the district for 35 years, said he's disillusioned by the entire process.

"There is no record that I could find of where the school board/district office has informed the public of the amount of money owned and problems in collecting back taxes owed to the school district," he said.

However, it's very clearly not the district's job to play tax collector.

"Is the appeal taking longer than we would like it to? Absolutely, but it's the process that's in place, and we really have to wait for the process to play out until we're able to collect the money," said Burrows.

He added even if that $500,000 was collected, the district would still have to go out to referendum--especially for capital projects--because of enormous growth in the Middletown area.

"On the operational side, definitely, we would love to have that half-million dollars, but an example--since we're growing so fast, the three modular classrooms that we had to put in, they cost us almost $1 million. So as you look at those costs, would the half-million dollars have helped in that situation? Absolutely, but in the overall operating budget we have bigger needs."

He added their aging buildings serve as centerpieces for the community as well.

If the referendum fails, Burrows said a lot is at stake, including class sizes and the quality of education.

"You'll get to a point where you can no longer keep adding space--you're looking at crowding in schools; you're looking at impacting the quality of instruction once you have that crowding...you have to convert some cafeteria space or stage space to classrooms, which we've already started to do in many places. We've converted large closet areas in the classroom and offices in the storage places, and we have some teachers actually sharing classroom space at this point."

The referendum process almost always brings controversy. Brandywine passed a referendum this year after a second attempt while it took the Christina School District several cuts and three tries to pass a tax hike. Indian River's referendum attempt narrowly failed two weeks ago.

"We are working on a project to bring more transparency and clarity to the districts' finances," Wagner told WDEL.

Results, which he said would include accountability on how dollars are spent, are likely in the first few months of the New Year.

"At the end of the day, if we're spending $14,000 a year to educate a kid--you should be able to educate a kid. Catholic schools have been doing it for centuries--so the focus is going to have to be on what are we doing right and wrong and how do we reduce the administrative costs," said Wagner. "Consolidation of school districts--I don't care as much about do we have 19 school districts or do we have 50--I care about controlling the administrative costs."

But the issue of collecting back taxes continues to plague an already complicated funding equation, putting added stress on districts.

"I hope it wouldn't affect the referendum; the growth in that area...it's important that if the taxes are levied then people should pay them, and we probably need some change in the appeal process if that's possible," Ennis said.

Both Burrows and Ennis hope residents wouldn't vote down the referendum based on something that's beyond district control.

"I would hope it wouldn't affect the referendum because certainly the growth in that area...there were over 700 new students coming in this year," said Ennis. "I think it's important that if the taxes are levied that people should pay 'em, and we probably need some change in the appeal process if that's possible."

"I don't want them to confuse this and to punish children for something that's an adult issue," said Burrows. "It's not the children's fault."

---

Contact Amy Cherry at acherry@wdel.com or on Twitter

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.




Man, 19, latest shooting victim in Wilmington

By Andrew Sgroi 6:43am, December 6, 2016 - Updated 6:45am, December 6, 2016
Wilmington notched another late-year shooting.

On December 5, 2016, city police might have had difficulty locating the victim had officers not learned--on their way to the scene at Riverview's 22nd and Pine streets--that the 19-year-old man had retreated to a house just blocks away, on the 300 block of East 24th Street.

The young man--who police advised had taken bullets to his arm, leg, and hip--was treated on scene by New Castle County Paramedics and then taken to Christina Hospital. He was last listed in stable condition.

As the search for the shooter continued, information about the incident was asked to be directed to Wilmington Police Detective Michael Hayman at 302.576.3620.


Wilmington City Council to ask state for funding to help the Wilmington Fire Department

By Joe Irizarry 11:32pm, December 5, 2016
Council to seek money from state for Wilmington Fire Department
A resolution asking the state to allocate $300,000 for the Wilmington Fire Department will be in front of City Council on Thursday.

The resolution which was briefly discussed at the City Council Finance Committee meeting is a request for assistance to keep Engine 6 in operation.

Councilman Charles "Bud" Freel says the $300,000 is nice, but not enough to fix all of the issues.

"We have to be honest that, that's kind of a band-aid to a bigger issue--that is our personnel costs--not just in the fire department, but actually in other departments, too," said Freel. "Long term the city has got to to find a way to cut costs, and when 71% of your budget is personnel costs, you have to look at the level of staffing we have here in the city of Wilmington throughout all of the departments."

The resolution is requesting the money from the state through State Representative Helene Keeley to ensure Engine 6 remains open at all times.

City officials say Engine 6 would only close conditionally, and it would not close permanently until January 1st.

Councilman Bob Williams--a sponsor of the resolution--has been a critic of any closure of Engine 6.


US Senate honors the late Beau Biden by renaming portion of bill after the former Delaware AG

By Joe Irizarry 11:50pm, December 5, 2016
Beau and Joe Biden (file photo courtesy of Associated Press)
The Cancer Moonshot portion of the 21st Century Cures Act has been renamed for Beau Biden.

The U.S. Senate passed and renamed the bill in a session which Vice President Biden presided over.

When Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell formally asked in the chamber to rename the bill after Beau, an emotional vice president said, "Without objection."

The full bill is expected to be passed later this week, with President Obama promising to sign it soon after passage.


'It's the joy that I see in their eyes': Delaware children with disabilities create mural

By Lauren Huet 5:21pm, December 5, 2016 - Updated 7:04pm, December 5, 2016
VIDEO: WDEL's Lauren Huet reports.
More than 100 Delaware students with disabilities expressed themselves through an art therapy project Monday at the Absalom Jones Community Center.

Dwayne Szot is an artist who travels around the world helping children with disabilities create art. He's the founder of Zot Artz.

"It's just a part of who I am. I grew up with individuals with disabilities in a foster home," said Szot. "My foster sister and I, she used crutches, she has (cerebral palsy) and it would take us forever to get to the bus. I used to pull her in the red wagon so that we would make the bus stop in time."

He said those experiences gave him the courage to create the first painting wheelchair in the early 90's.

"We all need to be creative. So, it's so important to be able to reach out and leave our mark, or write our name in poetry, and chalk on the sidewalk," said Szot. "So, when somebody rolls through the painting leaving their mark along with everybody else. It makes us complete. It's so important."

Monday, he helped disabled students from the Meadowood Program and the John G. Leach school, along with volunteers from The College School, paint a mural stretched out across the floor of the gymnasium. Szot provided paint rollers that could be attached to wheelchairs and walkers. He also provided pogo paint poles and other tools designed for children with disabilities.

"Dwayne will actually cut the material and make it into boxes and cards, and it will be re-gifted back into the schools," said Founder of the Art Therapy Express Program Lisa Bartoli. "So, the students will get a piece of the mural."

Students also rotated through different art stations, and will take home their piece of art. New Castle County will receive and display a piece of the mural.

Bartoli said art empowers children with disabilities.

"I believe that it is such a powerful tool. So, even students who are nonverbal or don't have verbal skills can express themselves very powerfully," said Bartoli.

"We are all unique individuals," said Szot, "and for somebody who has a disability and is not able to with words say something, they can with paint as they move through the canvas."

Both Szot and Bartoli agree, art helps children with disabilities express themselves.

"It's the joy that I see in their eyes," said Szot. "It's that happiness. For the first time ever they are able to do this. Can you imagine that?"

"We're creating art together," said Bartoli. "We're breaking down the walls of disability."

The Art Therapy Express Program invited Szot to Wilmington for this art therapy project. Bartoli said the Art Therapy Express Program is grant funded, and the county, the DFRC Foundation, and the Delaware Division of the Arts made this project possible.

"I've been doing this 30 years," said Bartoli. "It's a job, but it's not a job, because you see their faces. That's where you see the joy and they're connecting. Isn't it about students that may feel isolated not feeling that way anymore? So, the art is just the tool in bringing people together and creating friends."


Christina School District signs principled settlement with 15 charter schools seeking revenue from 2003 referendum

By DJ McAneny 7:13pm, December 5, 2016
WDEL file
Representatives from the Christina School District on Monday announced a settlement in principal with 15 charter schools who had brought civil action centered around property tax revenue sharing.

The suit alleged the law was breached in August and September by the Delaware Department of Education (DOE), the Secretary of Education, the Christina School District, and the Christina School District's chief financial officer.

The suit was focused on a dispute over revenue which had been generated by a 2003 referendum, passed by Christina taxpayers for $.10 per $100 of assessed property value to the tune of about $5.5 million, as long as the expenditures for raised funds were limited only to: phasing in full-day kindergarten for academically at-risk students, a expanding the Gifted and Talented program, expanding Alternative programs, and scheduling technology replacement.

The agreement required the approval of all 20 parties involved in the suit. The Christina Board of Education voted approval on November 30. All parties agreed the revenue from the aforementioned referendum would be considered restricted. The funds allocated to Christina students receiving charter school educations would be about $1.5 million.


HealthWatch: Clinic helping military members overcome PTSD through virtual reality needs funding

By Lauren Huet 3:20pm, December 5, 2016 - Updated 3:30pm, December 5, 2016
A clinic in Florida is providing groundbreaking treatment to veterans and active duty personnel, and showing remarkable success in helping patients overcome combat related Posttraumatic stress disorder. Patients are transported back to relive their traumatic experience through the use of virtual reality.

Click here to listen



UCF RESTORES is a clinic that provides treatment to individuals who have anxiety, stress, or Posttraumatic stress disorder. It's part of the Department of Psychology at the University of Central Florida.

"The largest program that we have within the center is our program for veterans and active duty personnel who have combat related post traumatic stress disorder," said Pegasus Professor of Psychology and Medical Education and the Director of the UCF RESTORES program, Dr. Deborah Beidel. "We provide behavioral treatment that includes the use of virtual reality assisted exposure therapy,"

Exposure therapy has been used for about 50 years. Beidel said it's the most scientifically valid treatment for anxiety and Posttraumatic stress disorder.

"You can think of it in terms of a fear," said Beidel. "If you were afraid of a dog and I asked you how do you get over your fear of a dog? You'd say, well I probably have to be around a dog. The answer to that is yes, but it has to be the type of dog that you're afraid of. So, if you're not afraid of Chihuahuas, but you're afraid of German Shepherds, you have to be around a German Shepherd in order to get over your fear."

In order to treat veterans and active duty personnel suffering from PTSD as a result of combat experiences, psychologists at UCF RESTORES must recreate the traumatic experiences.

"The idea is going back to the dog," said Beidel. "If you have enough contact and enough experiences with that German Shepherd who doesn't bite you and the bad thing doesn't happen, you will eventually lose your fear of German Shepherd dogs."

That's where virtual reality enters the picture.

"In order to treat the post traumatic stress disorder, we have to put you in contact repeatedly with the traumatic event," said Beidel. "Because we can't do the traumatic event in real life, we can't certainly explode IED's or those kinds of things in real life, our only choice is to have someone imagine that event. Or we can make the event even stronger by using virtual reality. So, rather than relying on someone's imagination to remember the sounds, and the smells, and even the sights of the event, we can use virtual reality to recreate that and actually have someone immersed in a virtual environment that recreates the particular trauma."

Patients wear a head mounted virtual reality display and ear phones. A machine delivers the scents and smells they remember from the traumatic event.

"We recreate the event that happened to them," said Beidel. "So, it would depend on what they smelled during that period of time of the event. It could be weapon fire. It could be diesel fuel. It could be smoke. If they were patrolling in a market area it might be the smell of spices that are sold in the market area."

The virtual reality is like a computer game. It doesn't use live action video, but is very realistic. If the patient's traumatic experience happened in a cave, the VR takes them to a similar cave. If it occurred in a crowded market, the VR takes them to a crowded market.

"We basically take the person through the traumatic event and they re-experience it. The only thing that's different is that the bad thing never happens. The event occurs, but the people don't really die," said Beidel. "By doing it over and over again we find that they lose their fear to this event."

Losing that fear helps the patient live a normal life once more.

"In real life when they hear fireworks they no longer drop to the ground, because they think it's a mortar attack. They are once again able to sleep. They are once again able to go out in public and interact in crowded places," said Beidel. "So, the idea is that we are not trying to erase their memory, and I think that's very important for people to understand, that's not the goal. I don't think memories like that are ever really forgotten, but what we try to do is uncouple the anxiety that is associated with that event so that people now that they're back in the United States are no longer afraid to drive on the road fearing that a pile of garbage might be an IED."

UCF RESTORES is seeing high success rates. Higher than what's been reported in the scientific literature for treatments that are more commonly used by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' clinics.

"We have done two different studies now," said Beidel. "In one study we have done this in a very intensive three-week program where people come every day for treatment, five days a week, for three weeks. In addition to the exposure therapy they have group therapy in the afternoon. We've treated about 100 people in that study and at the end of treatment 66 percent no longer have a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder. The rest are better, but they still have some symptoms."

Researchers are in the process of completing a second study.

"Where we deliver the treatment in more of what you might think of as a typical outpatient clinic. Where rather than getting the treatment every day you come to the clinic once or twice a week," said Beidel. "Although we haven't finalized all of the data analysis for that, we find that again we're between like I said, we haven't quite finished, but it's between 60 and 65 percent no longer again meet diagnostic criteria (for PTSD)."

Now that UCF RESTORES has finished its research, it needs funding to continue treating patients.

"This whole program was funded by the Military Operational Medical Research Program, which is a division of the Army and the Department of Defense," said Beidel. "They funded us to develop and evaluate this treatment program and that's what we've done. So, at this point they gave us the money to develop a treatment, test it out, and we've done that and we have the results."

UCF RESTORES is out of funding because psychologists finished what they set out to do. The research study is over. However, after seeing such great success and helping veterans and active duty personnel lead normal lives once again, psychologists want to continue helping patients.

"We have seen such great success, and we treat so many people who have no place else to go for treatment that we do not want to shut down the program, as it is shut down the clinic, and just say well we can't do anymore. We finished the research study, thank you very much," said Beidel.

She said UCF RESTORES is now moving from being a research study to a clinical operation. Psychologists also want to help first responders, especially those suffering from PTSD after the Pulse shooting in Orlando.

"We work with many veterans' courts and they send people to us and we want to be able to continue to do that," Beidel said. "We've also had request for treatment from individuals who were not part of Iraq and Afghanistan, because that's what we were funded to do. We've had requests from Vietnam veterans who would like to get treatment as well. We've also begun to work with first responders who also have traumatic events, and particularly down here in Orlando after the Pulse shooting, that's become particularly important to us. So, the idea is that we want to continue to offer services to those for whom we have been offering them and we want to expand our clinic so that everyone that needs our help can get the help."

What began as a research study has become personal for those working at UCF RESTORES.

"Because of the results that we've gotten, they tell us, 'I've got my family back. I'm able to work again. I'm able to think about the future again. I'm able to sleep,'" said Beidel. "This has become not just a research project to us, this has become a program that we love and that we feel we just cannot let it go.

"We are providing a service to people who have dedicated their lives to providing services to us, and so for us it's become more than just science, it's become our calling."

UCF RESTORES has treated veterans and active duty personnel from 15 different states. Beidel hopes an organization or benefactor funds the clinic so psychologists can continue to help people.

"We're providing a service to veterans that is of benefit to communities and hopefully to the nation," said Beidel. "So, we're hoping that we'll find some people who might be interested and might be willing to help."

If you are a veteran, active duty personnel, a first responder, or anyone with PTSD who is interested in being treated by this program, Beidel encourages you to contact her.

"We're still running, and if there are people who believe that they need our services we are always willing to talk to them," said Beidel.

Those interested in the program or assisting with funding UCF RESTORES is encouraged to contact Beidel at 407.823.1668 or at deborah.beidel@ucf.edu.




Funeral details released for third fallen Wilmington firefighter

By Amy Cherry 11:13am, December 4, 2016
Ardy Hope (WDEL/file)
A fallen Wilmington firefighter will be laid to rest next weekend.

The Wilmington Fire Department released details on a full honors, line-of-duty death funeral for senior firefighter Ardythe Hope.

A public viewing for Hope will commence at 10 a.m. Saturday, December 10, 2016 at the Chase Center on the Riverfront. It will last until noontime.

A public funeral and memorial will get underway Saturday at 1 p.m.

The family will have a reception immediately following the service though that location wasn't listed.

Hope died Thursday, more than two months after she suffered burns over 70 percent of body in a Canby Park row home fire on Sept. 24, 2016 which authorities have labeled as arson.

Her firefighter brothers, Capt. Chris Leach and Lt. Jerry Fickes were also killed in that fire.

Firefighter Brad Speakman was released from the hospital last month.

Goode revealed Friday that Hope, a 23-year veteran,

planned on retiring from the Wilmington Fire Department next month in January of 2017.


Wilmington woman sentenced to a year in prison for stealing $150K from disabled sister's Social Security benefits

By DJ McAneny 1:57pm, December 5, 2016
A 40-year-old Wilmington woman was sentenced to a year and a day in prison and ordered to pay full restitution after she admitted to stealing more than $145,000 from her disabled sister.

According to officials from the Department of Justice, Rachel Woodall pled guilty in January 2016 to conversion of social security benefits.

Officials said in November 2014, Woodall abused her position of trust, in which she was the representative payee and responsible for all financial care for her intellectually disabled sister, spending Social Security funds on two Mercedes vehicles, writing a $25,000 check to her own business, and making a number of bank account withdrawals she then deposited into her own account--including one as large as $51,000.

Officials said there was a 48-hour period were the defendant managed to spend or transfer nearly $100,000.

Woodall also continued to make withdrawals on her sister's account even after pleading guilty in January.


With plunging jet stream, so go temperatures by late week

By Andrew Sgroi 11:47am, December 5, 2016 - Updated 1:01pm, December 5, 2016
Accuweather
Forget about a white Christmas...how about a more seasonal December?

An arctic air mass--the most widespread of the nascent winter season--has set itself up to careen eastward, courtesy of a drooping jet stream, after chilling the Pacific Northwest during the first weekend of December.

AccuWeather meteorologist Joe Lundberg told WDEL, though the cold snap will arrive with little fanfare in terms of a precipitation, its impact will be hard to ignore.

"We're expecting temperatures on Friday to be hard pressed to get into the low 40s, when the normal high would be in the upper 40s to almost 50 degrees for this time of the year. And then it's really cold Friday night, temperatures are down in the 20s, (and) I think temperatures on Saturday don't get out of the 30s."

AccuWeather has reminded its readers to wear proper clothing as well as to shelter animals from the extreme dip in temperature.

The cold snap won't linger, however.

"The cold should begin to moderate a little bit by Sunday (December 11, 2016)," Lundberg projected, "and by Monday and Tuesday of next week, the cold is definitely easing up."

Still, the late week blast is just preview of more sustained winter chill, which is expected to take hold for our region by mid-month.




Man, 25, found shot in Red Lion community

By DJ McAneny 1:38pm, December 5, 2016
Officers found a 25-year-old man suffering from an apparent gunshot wound in Red Lion Sunday night, New Castle County Police announced Monday.

According to authorities, the victim was found in the 100 block of Garwood Drive in the Garwood Estates community at 10:20 p.m. on December 4, 2016.

The victim was transported to an area hospital, where he was listed in stable condition.

The investigation is ongoing, and anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to contact New Castle County Police at 302.573.2800 or Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1.800.TIP.3333.




Woo weighs in on Trump and Taiwan

By Amy Cherry/Allan Loudell 3:29pm, December 5, 2016 - Updated 7:06pm, December 5, 2016
Former Delaware Lt. Governor S.B. Woo weighed in on President-elect Donald Trump's surprise move to talk with the Taiwanese president via telephone, a potential shift on foreign policy that could signify the United States moving away from the so-called "One-China policy."

Dr. Woo, a the Chinese-American elected to the highest statewide office at the time, said the decision shouldn't impact U.S. relations with mainland China much because Beijing wants to maintain a good relationship with the United States.

"There's no better option for China than to assume that Donald Trump is still a civilian and/or that he is a little naive about international politics and not to make a big deal out of it," said Woo.

On that note, Woo, who's also an emeritus professor of physics at the University of Delaware, said Trump's actions, however, will be taken more seriously once he's sworn in as president, particularly if the U.S. wants mainland China's help in dealing with North Korea.

"After he has been sworn in, if he or his subordinate would make any move that tells China that he is not sticking to 'One-China' policy, then look out--things will very quickly go south," he warned.

Woo said, unless the U.S. shifts attitudes to a "two-China" policy, Taiwan is no longer an important player in keeping world peace.

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Contact Amy Cherry at acherry@wdel.com or on Twitter

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Newark man ordered to pay back $420K after pleading guilty to bank fraud

By DJ McAneny 1:23pm, December 5, 2016
A 26-year-old Newark man was sentenced to 2 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $420,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to bank fraud and money laundering earlier this year.

"I am pleased with Mr. Harris's sentence," said U.S. Attorney Charles M. Oberly. "Though not at the helm of the schemes, (Akeem) Harris played a vital role and made the schemes profitable for himself and others involved. I hope that others, when approached about playing a similar role, will understand that they will be held accountable for such conduct."

According to officials with the Department of Justice, Harris had engaged in multiple fraud schemes in and around Wilmington between January and June 2016, opening bank accounts under the names of fictitious businesses and depositing stolen funds into those accounts, before liquidating the proceeds of those schemes in a series of large cash withdrawal transactions.

Harris was pled guilty on June 2, 2016, and, in addition to the 24 month sentence imposed Monday, December 5, 2016, will also have to pay back $422,946.04


Dover home, occupied by man and his son, shot 8 times

By DJ McAneny 1:30pm, December 5, 2016
A residence occupied by a man and his son, and a vehicle out front were struck by gunfire during the early morning hours Monday, according to Dover Police.

Authorities said at about 12:10 a.m. on December 5, 2016, a home in the 100 block of Ann Avenue was struck by gunfire at least eight times. A vehicle was hit twice. There were no injuries a a results of the gunfire.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to contact Dover Police at 302.736.7130 or Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1.800.TIP.3333.


Gold Alert issued for missing Wyoming man

By Brandon Bossert 5:17pm, December 4, 2016 - Updated 1:47pm, December 5, 2016
Joshua Krause, 29, of Wyoming, DE.
Joshua Krause has been located, and this gold alert has been canceled.

A Gold Alert has been issued for a missing Wyoming man.

Troopers are looking for Joshua Krause, 29, who has not been seen since approximately 9 p.m. Saturday, December 3, 2016 after he left the Camden-Wyoming area.

Police have not been able to make contact with Krause and there is a real concern for his well-being.

Krause is described as being 6'2", weighing about 175 lbs., has brown hair and blue eyes.

Anyone who knows the whereabouts of Joshua Krause are asked to call Troop 3 at 302.697.4454. Information may also be provided by calling Crime Stoppers at 1.800.TIP.3333, or by sending an anonymous tip by text to 274637 (CRIMES) using the keyword "DSP."


Tradition still alive: Claymont Christmas Parade celebrates 'The Weed'

By Amy Cherry 11:43am, December 4, 2016 - Updated 11:47am, December 4, 2016
Claymont kicked off the holiday season with its annual and admittedly odd tradition--the Christmas Weed.

A mile-long parade made its way down Philadelphia Pike, featuring the Mt. Pleasant High School Marching Band, girls and boy scout troops, soon-to-be Governor John Carney, WDEL's Rick Jensen on-board the top of a fire truck, and of course, Santa.

Rick Jensen, emcee of the Claymont Christmas Parade on-board the top of a fire truck. (WDEL/Chris Carl)

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In 1993, someone decorated a weed that had sprung up along a crack in concrete along Philadelphia Pike, and DelDOT cut it down. Since then, Claymont residents have always ensured a weed stayed decorated. The parade and honoring of the weed began in 1998.

Check out photos:



WDEL's Own Rick Jensen emceed the parade and the blessing of the Christmas Weed.



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Contact Amy Cherry at acherry@wdel.com or on Twitter

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