August 5: FBI probing Doc | SDP retesting lead in schools | Parking lawyer robots

FBI investigators probed several locations this morning including labor leader John Dougherty’s home in Pennsport, the IBEW Union Hall on Spring Garden, and Councilman Bobby Henon’s office, CBS 3 reports. Pennsylvania state police are also assisting in the ongoing investigation.

The School District of Philadelphia will retest lead levels in drinking water at 40 city schools, reports Avi Wolfman-Arent “The old testing program came about after samples showed high lead levels at select Philadelphia schools. The district’s current testing push follows a swell of chatter about water safety and access.”

In New York City, an app called DoNotPay has successfully appealed thousands of parking tickets, and Stephen St. Vincent hopes it will debut in Philly. “The program simply asks a series of simple questions about why you feel you shouldn’t have received the ticket. It then gathers basic information, like your name and the ticket number. And then it submits your appeal.”

The Wolf administration announced that over 250,000 Pennsylvanians have used the state’s online voter registration site to register to vote for the first time since the site debuted last August. The state has also released an API that will allow developers to create third party voter registration apps. The registration deadline for this year’s general election is October 11th.  

What allows a bicycle without a rider to balance itself? It’s a mathematical question that has bedeviled engineers for a century, but Brendan Borrel reports that a trio of researchers may have finally cracked the code. “Their findings could spur some much needed innovation — perhaps helping designers to create a new generation of pedal and electric bikes that are more stable and safer to ride. Insights from bicycles also have the potential to transfer to other fields, such as prosthetics and robotics.”

Robin Harding writes about Tokyo’s urban construction boom, and notes that despite facing similar “return to the city” market forces as western cities, housing prices there have risen very little. Harding hypothesizes that a combination of strict national-level zoning laws and strong property rights removes many of the veto points that slow down housing development in many U.S. cities. “Subject to the zoning rules, the rights of landowners are strong. In fact, Japan’s constitution declares that ‘the right to own or to hold property is inviolable’. A private developer cannot make you sell land; a local government cannot stop you using it. If you want to build a mock-Gothic castle faced in pink seashells, that is your business.”

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