New Jersey Real-Time News

    N.J. pets in need: Dec. 17, 2018

    N.J. pets in need: Dec. 17, 2018


    Dogs and cat throughout New Jersey await adoption. If you're interested in helping homeless animals but aren't able to adopt one, there are a number of other ways you can be of assistance. Realistically, not everyone...

    Dogs and cat throughout New Jersey await adoption.

    If you're interested in helping homeless animals but aren't able to adopt one, there are a number of other ways you can be of assistance.

    Realistically, not everyone can adopt. People who live in apartments or developments that have no-pets policies fall into that category, as do people with allergies or disabilities that will not allow them to care for pets of their own. Adoptapet.com offers these suggestions for ways people who want to help can participate in caring for homeless animals.

    * Help out at a local shelter. It's not glamorous work by any means, but it's vital and will be very much appreciated. You can do anything from help walk dogs to bottle feed kittens, help clean kennels or cats' cages or even help with bathing and grooming. Contact your local shelter to find out their policies regarding volunteers.

    * If you're handy, you can lend a hand in many ways. Shelters usually need repairs of many kinds, so fixer-uppers can help out like that. If you sew, quilt or crochet, you can make blankets for your local shelter.

    * Help out at an adoption event. Many shelters and rescue groups participate in local events by hosting a table with pets available for adoption. They also hold these program at malls, pet supply stores and banks, and can always use a helping hand.

    * For galleries like this one and for online adoptions sites, often a shelter or rescue group doesn't have the time or equipment to shoot good photos of their adoptable pets. Something as simple as making yourself available to shoot and provide digital files of pet photos can be a big help.

    * Donate. It doesn't have to be money; shelters need cleaning supplies, pet food, toys for the animals and often even things we don't think twice about getting rid of like old towels and newspapers. Every little bit helps.

    If you don't know where your local animal shelter or rescue group is, a quick online search will reveal a number of results. It doesn't take a lot of time or effort to get involved but it provides immeasurable assistance.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

    An inspiring moment as Democrats back off gerrymandering scam | Moran

    An inspiring moment as Democrats back off gerrymandering scam | Moran


    The most fierce opposition to plan by Democratic leaders came not from Republicans, but from fellow Democrats who want to win elections fair and square. On Saturday, the top two Democrats in the Legislature did what...

    The most fierce opposition to plan by Democratic leaders came not from Republicans, but from fellow Democrats who want to win elections fair and square.

    On Saturday, the top two Democrats in the Legislature did what any sensible burglars would do when the alarm sounds and the floodlights snap on - they dropped their loot and ran.

    The leaders, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, couldn't drum up enough votes to do their mischief. Their plan was to redraw New Jersey's political map in a way that would lock in an unfair advantage for Democrats over the next decade. They tried to do it in the dark, during lame duck session of the Legislature, when they thought everyone in the house was asleep.

    But the alarm did sound, and suddenly the villagers were aroused, charging at Sweeney and Coughlin with torches in hand.

    The surprise - and the glory of this moment - is that most of those charging at them were not Republicans, a party that has been worn down to a nub in New Jersey after the Christie years.

    The storm of protest came mostly from the left, from Democrats and liberal activists who want to win elections fair and square. They signed the petitions, organized the marches, and testified against the plan. Citizen groups like the League of Women Voters, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey all called this a partisan gerrymander. The Princeton Gerrymandering Project warned that Republicans could someday use these same rules to gain unfair advantage against Democrats.

    Grassroots groups joined the protest. They include leaders of NJ 11th for Change, South Jersey Progressive Women for Change, and the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, whose leader, Analilia Mejia, put the case against it succinctly: "We do not have to cheat to win," she says.

    In the end, what started as another unseemly moment in Trenton turned into an inspiring one. Democrats have been watching Trump Republicans across the country cheapen our democracy with stunts like this, and much worse. And they wanted no part of it. Instead of reaching for a club to strike back, they reached for higher ground.

    They listened to national Democrats like Eric Holder, the former attorney general, who said this stunt would damage the national fight against far more radical gerrymandering in states like Texas and North Carolina, along with shamelessly partisan and racist efforts to suppress turnout by restricting voting hours and imposing unreasonable ID requirements.

    Republicans in Wisconsin just offered fresh insult. After losing in November, they used their final weeks in power to strip away key powers of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general. Vladimir Putin must be delighted to find such effective allies in his fight to cheapen our democracy and inflame our divisions.

    Saudi Arabia is committing war crimes with American weapons | Moran

    For now at least, New Jersey Democrats are going to do the right thing, having exhausted all the other alternatives. Sweeney and Coughlin both put out statements that left them wiggle room to try again next year, but it's tough to take that seriously. Gov. Phil Murphy, to his credit, opposed this stunt from the start.

    The irony is that New Jersey is ahead of most states today when it come to gerrymandering, We don't allow the legislature to draw the political map, as in most states. We hand the job to an independent commission, split between the two parties, and with a tie-breaker appointed by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court. Why fix what's not broken?

    This amendment would have tied the hands of the "independent" commission for the first time by requiring that it consider only statewide elections when devising its map. That includes races for president, U.S. Senate, and the governorship, where Democrats dominate. The commission would be barred from weighing the results of legislative elections, where Republicans are more competitive.

    For now, let's relish the moment. With Donald Trump in the White House, these are scary times for our democracy. This time, though, democracy pushed back.

    More: Tom Moran columns 

    Tom Moran may be reached at tmoran@starledger.com or call (973) 836-4909. Follow him on Twitter @tomamoran. Find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

    Saudi Arabia is committing war crimes with American weapons | Moran

    Saudi Arabia is committing war crimes with American weapons | Moran


    President Trump doesn't give a damn. But last week's bipartisan revolt in the Senate is a sign that this alliance is in deep trouble. Americans are told over and over that Iran is the menace in the Mideast, that its...

    President Trump doesn't give a damn. But last week's bipartisan revolt in the Senate is a sign that this alliance is in deep trouble.

    Americans are told over and over that Iran is the menace in the Mideast, that its Islamic rulers are bloodthirsty terrorists spreading mayhem as they force a sectarian showdown between Shiites and Sunnis across the region.

    All of which is equally true of our close ally, Saudi Arabia, under its young ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He is a murderer and a tyrant, and his war in neighboring Yemen is killing innocent people on a scale that could soon rival or exceed the body count in Syria.

    President Trump has made it clear he doesn't give a damn. As long as Saudi Arabia delivers the oil and buys our weapons, our president is willing to sell this country's soul.

    But the U.S. Senate last week finally drew a line, unanimously endorsing a resolution acknowledging that MBS personally ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist who was killed in the Saudi embassy in Turkey on Oct. 2. That was the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies, who found evidence that MBS communicated with the team of 15 killers as they strangled and dismembered Khashoggi in the most brazen and brutal murder of our time.

    The Senate also voted overwhelmingly to end United States support for MBS's war in Yemen, which relies on American weaponry, targeting assistance, and intelligence. The vote was 56-41, a rare and bipartisan rebuke of Trump.

    If there is any consolation to be drawn from Khashoggi's murder, it is the attention it drew to the disaster in Yemen, where Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia are fighting a proxy war as part of their sectarian showdown. It's a bloody stalemate, and the brutality is on both sides. But the Saudi bombing campaign of Yemen is the worst of it, and it directly implicates America.

    The bombing has killed thousands of civilians at weddings, funerals, and on school buses, according to the United Nations. It has left the Yemeni economy in ruins, its ports unable to absorb needed international aid. Save the Children estimates that 85,000 children have died during the three years of fighting, and the forecast is for death on a scale that is almost unimaginable.

    According to the United Nations' World Food Programme, 12 million Yemenis are on the verge of starvation, with children most vulnerable of all. Relief workers say they are bracing for the worst global famine of their lifetimes.

    Stop the shameless power grab by NJ Democrats | Moran

    The Senate's action will change nothing on its own, given opposition from Trump and Republican leaders in the House. But with Democrats taking control of the House soon, that could change. And in any case, the defiance of our amoral president is long overdue.

    More: Tom Moran columns 

    Tom Moran may be reached at tmoran@starledger.com or call (973) 836-4909. Follow him on Twitter @tomamoran. Find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

    A farewell love note from columnist Mark Di Ionno

    A farewell love note from columnist Mark Di Ionno


    Veteran Star-Ledger journalist was Pulitzer finalist in 2013 The newspaper was never wrapped in plastic and tossed in the driveway. It was nestled in the skinny space between the storm and front doors of our house...

    Veteran Star-Ledger journalist was Pulitzer finalist in 2013

    The newspaper was never wrapped in plastic and tossed in the driveway. It was nestled in the skinny space between the storm and front doors of our house in Summit, dry and intact.

    That is where I found The Star-Ledger every day after school, for as long as I can remember.

    Many people my age recall getting The Newark Evening News until it folded in 1972, but I don't. We always were a Star-Ledger family.

    Like most boys my age, I went right to the Sports section. First stop was Jerry Izenberg. The guy had the best job in the world, writing about sports, and I knew I wanted to do that someday.

    The dreams of that prepubescent boy came true, as did others.  Those dreams began with this newspaper and today the "working part" of this wonderful half-century association comes to an end. This is my farewell column.

    I say the working part because I will always be associated with this paper. It is, and will remain, my identity. My obituary will say "former Star-Ledger columnist," foremost.

     I'm proud of that. I always was, and always will be. Every time I introduced myself or made a call and said the words "Mark Di Ionno, from The Star-Ledger," I felt a heart race of pride. It was a physical effect.

    Each time I received a letter or email or, later, an appreciative comment on NJ.com, I felt publicly validated. Each time a reader reached out with a problem to solve or a story to tell, I felt called upon to do something meaningful. There were thousands upon thousands of those communications over the years. Thank you all -- for reading, for reaching out, for your part in that telepathic relationship between writer and reader. I was blessed to have you all on the receiving end of my work.

    At Thanksgiving this year, I wrote a column about the practice of gratitude. Several of you sensed I was winding down and wondered if that was a farewell column. Let's say it was Part I, because when I look back on my career, all I can think is how grateful I am it unfolded this way.

    Mostly, I'm grateful for the all the friendships I made in this frenetic business, the bonds formed chasing stories, making deadlines and reflecting on whatever good it accomplished. There are too many people to name. But over the years I have had mentors, and people I have mentored, people who were like big brothers and sisters to me, or I to them. We were a Star-Ledger family.

    When all is said and done, it's not the stories or awards that matter. It's the people I loved. And loved working with.  And loved talking with. I loved coming to the newsroom every day and still do. That's the hardest part of leaving.

    The recent evolution of this business is well-documented but, technology aside, media always has been a young person's business. It needs fresh eyes, fresh legs and fresh ideas. A smart man knows when to move over.

    Accepting that now allows me to evolve as a writer and make a greater investment in my novels. A theme of my most recent, "Gods of Wood & Stone," is about staying relevant. A retired ballplayer headed to the Hall of Fame feels lost and fears all he is, is who he was. The other main character, a Cooperstown blacksmith, fights to make history relevant in a sports- and celebrity-obsessed world. I know the feeling of both.

    Readers of this column know I used it to advocate for better promotion of New Jersey's under-appreciated Revolutionary War history. I'm especially thankful to have the opportunity and voice to do that.

    Thankful is the best word to sum up how I feel about my career. Lucky is the second-best word.

    Fresh out of the Navy, I was lucky to get Izenberg in a sports writing course at Rutgers-Newark, and he became my lifelong mentor. In appreciation, I dedicated my first novel, "The Last Newspaperman" to him.

    In a few short years, I, too, was a sports columnist at the New York Post.

    In New York, I was lucky to get to know Pete Hamill, and the world of a street columnist enticed me. I dreamed of that job, and eventually got it here, in my home state at my home paper.

    My former editor, Jim Willse, despite being a New Yorker, luckily appreciated my Jersey authenticity, in both knowledge and voice and gave me this space. His successor, Kevin Whitmer, let me keep it, through very tough times. I'm grateful to both.  

    My first column editor, David Tucker, and I were a high-wire act. A poet, he understood the cadence of language. He knew exactly what a column needed to sing but, like all great editors, also knew to get out the way and let me do the singing. Same for Rosemary Parrillo, who took over after David retired. I was lucky to have both.

    I'm grateful that my career here dates enough years to have worked for both Sid Dorfman and Mort Pye, the shoulders on which this paper's editorial legacy was built. I am the last person in the company to have worked for both. That's how much this place is in my DNA.

    It was Sid - he was always just "Sid" to the people who worked for him -- who helped me make the transition from sports to news by saying the magic words all journalists dream of.

    "Do what you want," he said. "Go out and find the stories and write them."

    I did that, the best I could.

    And there is one more piece of gratitude and luck I have to mention.

    When I came to work at The Star-Ledger in 1990, I got to learn so much about this crazy state of ours.

    It, too, became part of my DNA and I was determined to represent it, and its people, well. I covered New Jersey. I never seriously looked to go anywhere else. I wanted to end my journalism career at The Star-Ledger, New Jersey's greatest newspaper.

    And now I have.

    Mark Di Ionno may be reached at mdiionno@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarkDiIonno or at www.markdiionno.com

    Trump is hiring. Apply now! | Sheneman cartoon

    Trump is hiring. Apply now! | Sheneman cartoon


    Not just lawyers. There's an exciting opportunity I'd like to make you aware of. Do you have the burning desire to hasten the end of the republic? Would you like to be a footnote in a chapter about the zombie...

    Not just lawyers.

    There's an exciting opportunity I'd like to make you aware of. Do you have the burning desire to hasten the end of the republic? Would you like to be a footnote in a chapter about the zombie apocalypse?

    Do you have the patience to wrangle a despotic diaper baby while he yells at the television? Would you like to be exposed to legal jeopardy as part of a conspiracy to defraud the citizens of the United States? Well, you may be a good candidate for chief of staff of the Trump administration!

    Your responsibilities will include:

    DVR-ing hours of Fox and Friends Filling the daily intelligence briefings with bright, colorful pictures Subverting democracy Scapegoating immigrants Scrubbing spray tan out of the upholstery  Serving as a punching bag for an elderly man completely ignorant of the government and how it works Hiding the launch codes Establishing the oligarchy  Light filing

    This exciting opportunity as an employee of the federal government comes with generous benefits like health care -- which you will be expected to take away from everyone else -- and mental health coverage that you will absolutely need. Be the last person on your block to have a pension!

    No experience necessary! Walk-ins welcome! Seriously, just stop by. 

    Must be willing to relocate to Washington D.C. but you'll probably want to rent, not buy. Find a month-to-month lease, if you can

    Applicants are urged to forward their resumes to the White House care of Jared and Ivanka or simply get a job at FoxNews and he'll hire you eventually. 

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

    N.J. police-involved shooting bill will aid public trust | Editorial

    N.J. police-involved shooting bill will aid public trust | Editorial


    Put probes of police-involved fatalities into the arms-length hands of the state attorney general's office. New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has a keen sense of what can increase trust between law...

    Put probes of police-involved fatalities into the arms-length hands of the state attorney general's office.

    New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has a keen sense of what can increase trust between law enforcement and the community at large. He often makes policy decisions with the expectation that they will boost cooperation, so that it will be easier to find serious lawbreakers and bring them to justice.

    In one instance, though, Grewal's judgment seems flawed. It's his opposition to legislation that would require the AG's office, rather than county prosecutors, to lead investigations into police-custody deaths involving municipal officers. 

    In an unusual move, Grewal testified Monday against the pending bill, now that it's poised for full legislative approval. The attorney general told the Assembly Appropriations Committee that the legislation would "undermine public trust in law enforcement and will replace a system that already does everything that the sponsors seek to accomplish and more."

    Where is Grewal is coming from? This legislation (A3115) has been hanging around since 2016, when Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, introduced a prior version in response to concerns about the results -- often long-delayed results -- of county-prosecutor led probes into several deaths in South Jersey at the hands of local police officers.

    To restate our reasons for supporting the legislation, they include long silences by prosecutors before these cases are updated, the suspicion that county prosecutors are too "buddy buddy" with municipal cops they must work closely with every day, and that prosecutors can manipulate grand juries against indicting officers. 

    So-called "community activists" have ginned up suspicion over county-prosecutor- led investigations into some police-custody killings, but these loudmouths usually fan neighborhood distrust that is smoldering anyway. What's wrong with adding another layer of scrutiny? These cases are still rare enough -- fortunately -- that it shouldn't put a strain on the AG 's office to take the lead. There were 13 police-involved fatal shootings statewide in 2017, barely one a month. An AG-level probe is small price to pay to defend that important element of public safety protection that allows police officers to use deadly force legally in situations when others may not do so.

    Grewal, in his testimony Monday, spoke of "unintended consequences" should the current bill become law. He's concerned that the language could prevent local or county investigators from going to the scene of these police-involved incidents, thus delaying the probe and the ability to uncover critical evidence. It's Grewal's job to adopt policy that prevents misinterpretations of the law. If the AG thinks the bill's language makes that impossible, he can suggest specific amendments to clarify the intent. 

    Grewal's policy revisions earlier in the year to make the current county-run probes more transparent, including requirements to release most relevant body-cam/dash-cam video in a timely manner, should not go unnoticed. Against a background of wider statewide questions over use of force by local police, however, the policy changes don't go far enough.

    Having the AG's office take over these police-involved fatality cases is the right course. It was good to see the Assembly Appropriations Committee release the bill, 7-4, on Monday, despite Grewal's objections. Two local members of the panel, Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, and Assemblywoman Gabriella Mosquera, D-Camden, properly voted to send the bill on to the full Assembly. The state Senate approved it way back in March. 

    It's time. Even if Gov. Phil Murphy sees fit to conditionally veto the bill in line with Grewal's concerns, the Legislature should put it on his desk. He should sign it, once any minor bumps over its language are resolved.

    Send a letter to the editor of South Jersey Times at sjletters@njadvancemedia.com

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

    Vintage photos of the 1960s in N.J.

    Vintage photos of the 1960s in N.J.


    A truly memorable decade. If you're not in your 40s or older, you likely don't remember Arthur C. Clarke, a British historian, inventor and writer who hosted a number of television shows in the 1980s. Clarke also...

    A truly memorable decade.

    If you're not in your 40s or older, you likely don't remember Arthur C. Clarke, a British historian, inventor and writer who hosted a number of television shows in the 1980s. Clarke also co-wrote the screenplay for the 1968 film "2001: A Space Odyssey."

    In the 1960s, those who looked to what the future might bring tended toward "Jetsons" visions of 21st century America, complete with cities in the clouds and flying cars. Clarke made some of his predictions in 1964 as to what life might be like 50 years later and, unlike his contemporaries, many of his predictions were spot-on.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    While not naming them, Clarke foresaw both internet and cellular technology by noting that people of the future would have instant contact with anyone anywhere on earth and that business could be conducted from any location in the world. He saw what we call telecommuting as becoming available to many workers.

    Clarke predicted robotic surgery and noted that surgeons on one continent could treat patients on another. He saw people volunteering for cryogenic suspension and saw bioengineering, including cloning of animals, as scientific fact in the future.

    Clarke almost perfectly described 3D printers being able to "replicate" solid items and predicted that computers, barely out of the vacuum tube era in 1964, would eventually be able to start thinking for themselves ... artificial intelligence.

    Here's a look at the way things were in New Jersey back when those concepts were science fiction, not fact. And here are links to more galleries you might enjoy.

    Vintage photos of the 1950s in N.J.

    Vintage photos of N.J. in the 1960s

    Vintage photos of the 1970s in N.J.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

    Police union grudgingly endorses use-of-force reform | Editorial

    Police union grudgingly endorses use-of-force reform | Editorial


    Better late than never. Watch video The worst stereotype of police unions is that they defend incompetent cops at all costs, hunkering down to oppose public transparency at every juncture;...

    Better late than never. Watch video

    The worst stereotype of police unions is that they defend incompetent cops at all costs, hunkering down to oppose public transparency at every juncture; responding with overly belligerent statements when what's called for is nuance and a dose of healthy self-examination.
     
    Good cops deserve better. So we're pleased to welcome Patrick Colligan, head of the State Policemen's Benevolent Association, to the policing data reform effort. Better late than never.  
     
    After acerbically dismissing an exhaustive and disturbing report on police use of force compiled by NJ Advance Media for The Star-Ledger and NJ.com as "clickbait entertainment," Colligan now pledges to help collect this data in the future.

    N.J. rocked by release of police force records, spurring town meetings, calls for action and promises of reform
     
    He just signed on to a statement with Gov. Phil Murphy's Attorney General and other police unions, saying they'll be "working together to design a new system for obtaining use-of-force data in New Jersey." Great.
     
    But let's be clear: This is exactly what "The Force Report" did. Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal agreed that reporters shouldn't have had to pay more than $30,000 and file hundreds of public records requests to compile it.
     
    As part of their 16 months of legwork, they requested an interview with the PBA. Colligan didn't respond, just like he refused to discuss this with us on Monday.
     
    Yet hours after the report came out, he assailed it as "a clickable database for watercooler banter today, nothing more." Really?
     
    New Jersey's top cop, Grewal, begged to differ, praising it as "nothing short of incredible." "They've analyzed it to see if there are patterns of behavior that should cause concern or raise red flags," he said. "That's something that we should be doing."
     
    Policing data experts heartily agreed. While most cops rarely used force, many departments had troubling outliers, the report found. Multiple officers charged with brutality and other misconduct would have been flagged early, had our state used a better system.
     
    This report states outright: Policing is a risky profession and use of force is not misconduct. It's just an early warning. The calculation that, on average, more than three cops a day are getting injured on the job also cries out for a closer look.
     
    Colligan argued this database should have included additional reports and witness statements, to indicate whether each use of force was justified. But by law, police departments can withhold these documents from the public, which they frequently do.
     
    Colligan knows this, because it's police unions like his that have opposed the public release of such records. Yet now, he complains that more documents aren't included here: "True journalists at least attempt to tell an entire story," he wrote.
     
    This is why reporters fought the PBA in court. As its state head, Colligan hasn't exactly been on the front lines, pushing for more disclosure.
     
    NJ Advance Media also hired a statistician who has studied use of force extensively, John Lamberth, to review its team's work. His primary criticism was that the database was too deferential to police. If five officers used force on one person, for example, it was counted as a single incident for that department's rate of force, even though it could be argued that there were five uses of force.
     
    Colligan maintained to the Asbury Park Press last year that bad apple cops "will either be weeded out by their peers, or their actions will weed themselves out." But obviously, that's not happening.
     
    Among the officers who would have been flagged early, had the state been keeping track: Sterling Wheaten, one of the five Atlantic City cops involved in mauling a drunk man who yelled at them.
     
    After Wheaten sicc'ed his snarling police dog on the guy, leaving him with 200 stitches, taxpayers settled the case for a staggering $3 million. Did we really want to let this cop's actions "weed themselves out?"
     
    We need to do better, Detective Colligan.

    The Force Report is a continuing investigation of police use of force in New Jersey. Read more from the series or search your local police department and officers in the full the database.

    Read more from The Force Report:

    How N.J.'s system for stopping potentially abusive cops broke down Search your town and local police officers to see how much force they use They claimed they were victims of police brutality. Read their stories. Everything you need to know about how police use force, from A-Z See how often police in every N.J. town punch, kick or use other force (MAP) Frequently Asked Questions about The Force Report How we built the largest database of police force in N.J. history

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

     

     

    Loud and clear, N.J. is not having a blast at coast | Editorial

    Loud and clear, N.J. is not having a blast at coast | Editorial


    Seismic testing off the Atlantic Coast is an unwanted precursor to offshore drilling, and New Jersey's lawmakers should try to stop it. One reason that U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd Dist., will be missed when...

    Seismic testing off the Atlantic Coast is an unwanted precursor to offshore drilling, and New Jersey's lawmakers should try to stop it.

    One reason that U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd Dist., will be missed when Congress reorganizes is that the congressman is fighting to the end to protect the New Jersey coastline from offshore oil and gas drilling.

    With only about three weeks until retirement, LoBiondo let it be known last week that he's added his name to those of 92 other House members who are pushing back against the Trump administration's latest gambit to lure energy companies to the Atlantic Ocean in search of fossil fuels that they can convert into cash.

    New Jersey's congressional delegation has long been successful in fighting off authorization to open the ocean off our state far and wide to oil rigs, the Trump drill-baby-drill team's newest effort pulls an end run under the guise of research.

    Late last month, the federal government, through the National Marine Fisheries Service, authorized Marine Mammal Protection Act permits for five companies to use powerful compressed air blasts to survey what lurks beneath the ocean floor in the mid- and south Atlantic. The results of this "seismic testing," as it is called, are known to be of more interest to energy prospectors than to legitimate marine-life scientists. 

    The automated air-gun blasts, which can take place every 10-12 seconds for months at a time in a designated area, provide data about sand and gravel and sea floor hazards, but they also help to discern where oil and gas deposits are lurking.

    What's wrong with knowing if there are deposits? Nothing, really, except that in a Trump administration that is tone-deaf to threatened species -- and to threatened water-related tourism -- the cheerleading for pulling that oil and gas out of the ocean will get louder if the results suggest that even a teaspoon of black gold, Texas tea, etc., is recoverable.

    The northernmost spot for the pending blast permits is the New Jersey-Delaware line. For a region whose economy depends so much on commercial and recreational fishing, beach-going and wildlife sightseeing, any spill from the drilling activity would be disastrous. It would be different if the United States were in an  emergency stemming from a severe energy shortage, but we're not. The temptation for President Donald Trump to open new offshore oil spigots just to ease price pressures -- caused in part by Trump's renewal of sanctions against Iran, for example -- might prove irresistible.

    The negative impacts of the seismic testing itself are less certain and subject to some embellishment by environmental groups that claim it will drive into extinction species such as the North American whale. But it stands to reason that incredibly loud blasts and the sound waves they create will cause some disruption to habitat for all sorts of aquatic creatures.

    It's U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and scandal-plagued Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke who will issue the final go-ahead for the testing under misleadingly named "incidental harm authorizations." Don't expect a fair hearing from these zealots for the destruction of federally managed land. So, it's important for New Jersey's congressional delegation to hang together and use their political clout to oppose this threat.

    New Jersey gets four new members of Congress next month. While it's expected they'll also oppose the seismic tests and any drilling authorization, they'll need to schooled on how to do so effectively. Sadly, LoBiondo's expertise will be gone, but other ocean champions like Rep. Frank Pallone, D-5th Dist., and Sens. Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, both D-N.J., can lead the way.

    Send a letter to the editor of South Jersey Times at sjletters@njadvancemedia.com

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

    Marijuana debate reaches an unpleasant point at the beach | Mulshine

    Marijuana debate reaches an unpleasant point at the beach | Mulshine


    The mayor of a town filled with rowdy summer bars is leading the charge against legalizing marijuana; a former mayor argues it's hypocritical to slam marijuana when the town has lots of loud bars that attract a rowdy summer...

    The mayor of a town filled with rowdy summer bars is leading the charge against legalizing marijuana; a former mayor argues it's hypocritical to slam marijuana when the town has lots of loud bars that attract a rowdy summer crowd

    A friend of mine who grew up near the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk recalls a time when Martell's was not much more than a glorified shack on the beach where the kids could buy penny candies.

    "Watermelon slices, red-hot dollars, pink nougats, Mary-Janes, baby Sugar Daddies and of course the string licorice," she recalled.

    Now it's a giant nightclub that plays host every summer to hundreds of  people who look like they're answering a casting call for the next remake of "Jersey Shore." The same can be said of neighboring Jenkinson's.

    There's a place for that sort of thing, I guess. But if you're going turn your town over to some of the rowdiest people on the planet every summer, why get all worked up about the prospect of some people buying a little pot?

    That is the question riling the town at the moment. The mayor, Stephen Reid, has been having a tiff with a former mayor, Vince Barrella over the town's identity.

    It seems that Reid is not only the mayor but the paid executive director of an anti-pot group known as New Jersey Responsible Approaches to Marijuana Policy (NJRAMP).

    In that role he has been going around the state encouraging his fellow mayors to resist the establishment of marijuana dispensaries in their towns in the event legalization is approved by the Legislature, which could happen as soon as next week.

    Barrella, who is a professor at a law school, questions whether that represents a conflict of interest.

    Reid says no. But the issue has certainly livened up the meetings of the Borough Council.

    Last week the representatives of a medical-marijuana advocacy group showed up to attack the mayor for opposing the expansion of medical marijuana at a  Nov. 26 meeting of a legislative committee.

    "Your mayor has been going all over the state of New Jersey, against the wishes of the board of health no less, trashing us, stigmatizing us,"  said one member of the group called "Sativa Cross: Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse." Another said Reid  called such dispensaries "pot shops."

    In the middle of the scrum, Barrella took the floor to decry statements from Reid and council members that Point Pleasant Beach is a family resort.

    "We are not a quiet fishing town," Barrella said. "We're a town with 21 liquor licenses. The liquor industry here in town looks at the legalization of marijuana as a competitive disadvantage."

    When Barrella was mayor, he pushed for an ordinance setting a midnight bar closing. The goal was to put a lid on the megabars in town, as Belmar successfully did in the 1980s, and perhaps forge a return to the days of the penny candies - adjusted for inflation, of course.

    Opposing that ordinance was none other than the governor, Chris Christie. He engaged in a public fight with Barrella that ended with his Alcoholic Beverage Commission director nixing the midnight bar closing The mega-bars continued to thrive.

    Though Christie was pro-bar, he is anti-marijuana. That set the parameters for the current debate, Barrella said when I called him the other day.

    "I gotta think there'd be less intrusion from a dispensary than there are from multiple liquor licenses," said Barrella.   "It's hypocritical to pretend we're like Bay Head or Mantoloking or Spring Lake."

    When I gave Reid a call, he said that Barrella is exaggerating the problems with the big bars along the beach.

    "That's what Vince likes to say, but I really don't see too many problems  with Jenkinson's  and Martell's," Reid said. "They wouldn't belong in Bay Head, but like it or not this is a tourism town."

    Who does belong in Bay Head? Chris Christie, that's who. When it came time to buy a summer home after he left office, he decided to buy in Bay Head rather than Point Pleasant Beach.

    He will thus be spared the prospect of hearing loud drunks walking past his door after closing time at 2 a.m., a prospect with which his neighbors to the north are all too familiar.

    As for the potheads, I suspect Christie will be safe from them as well.

    But I certainly wouldn't trust them around the candies.

    Follow Paul Mulshine on Twitter @Mulshine. Find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

    This NJ congressman just changed how government works | Editorial

    This NJ congressman just changed how government works | Editorial


    The goal is to restore a semblance of regular order. Imagine: conventional public hearings and committee deliberation, rather than bills produced in a locked room by a "task force." Watch video During...

    The goal is to restore a semblance of regular order. Imagine: conventional public hearings and committee deliberation, rather than bills produced in a locked room by a "task force." Watch video

    During his noble but often futile pursuit of bipartisan lawmaking, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat, was occasionally pulled aside by a party elder and asked the kind of question that most House freshmen would find daunting: "Why are you helping the other side?" the colleague would sneer. "What benefit can come out of this?"

    The co-founder of the Problem Solvers Caucus, which is composed of 24 members from each party, would explain that it's more about practicality than politics: Nothing can be accomplished without collaboration, and as long as a bill is good for New Jersey's 5th District and the country, his own party is an afterthought.

    How did they usually respond to this mantra?

    "I'm not getting any flowers," Gottheimer says in full deadpan.

    If Congress takes a credible step toward restoring democracy next session, someone should send Gottheimer a bouquet, because it probably will be the result of him helping Nancy Pelosi take a strategic step away from the massive prairie fire that is the legislative process.

    Endlessly frustrated by the partisanship and obstructionism that torpedoes most meaningful legislation, Gottheimer leveraged the votes for speaker from his caucus to convince Pelosi that the rules of the House must change in the upcoming session to make it a more open and inclusive process.

    He calls the initiative Break The Gridlock, quixotic as that may sound.

    Among its eight provisions is the creation of a "consensus calendar," which allows for bills with 290 co-sponsors to automatically be sent to the floor after a certain time lapse. Why? Because if a bill has two-thirds support in the House, it should not be jammed by a committee chairman or by party leadership.

    That's the big one, because there are "too many issues that have massive support off the floor among membership and the public," Gottheimer says, "but the obstructionists won't let it get to the floor."

    He means issues such as infrastructure, gun safety, immigration reform, climate change, protecting entitlements, lowering health care premiums, education costs, and minimum wage -- all that frivolous stuff that isn't being debated now, which is why so many Americans want to trash the place.

     

    Another provision guarantees a debate and a vote for all amendments with at least 20 cosponsors from each party, while another modernizes the discharge petition process, which is easily smothered under existing rules.

    The new rules also make it more difficult to oust the Speaker: No longer can a single hardliner use the "vacate the chair" motion as a cudgel to keep certain pieces of legislation off the floor by calling for a new House speaker. That was used so often by Tea Partiers, it chased John Boehner into retirement. That threshold has been raised, so the speaker can now take legislative risks.

    All these proposals won the support of Pelosi and the next chairman of the Rules Committee, Jim McGovern (D-Mass.).

    The Democratic majority will still have a clear advantage. But a House consensus - and minority access - gives a bill a better chance of getting past the Republican Senate and getting the president to sign it.

    Re-elect Gottheimer. The last thing we need is another petty partisan | Editorial

    Yes, Gottheimer knows he has a bull's-eye on his back. Some say he shouldn't be so eager to give Republicans such a soft landing after they were routed in the midterms. Even Democratic newbies such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that Gottheimer is "hold(ing) the entire 220+ caucus hostage if we don't accept their GOP-friendly rules."

    No flowers from trolls, either.

    "I don't get that," Gottheimer says. "We can't meet in two years and still have Dreamers living with the same uncertainty. We can't leave Gateway unfunded. If we insist on all or nothing, then nothing will pass the president's desk. We can't use the next two years to obstruct."

    True, that's a bad way to govern. And judging by the midterms, voters want Congress to put the nation's interests ahead of any party's agenda. How refreshing.

    9 Dems are choosing to hold the entire 220+ caucus hostage if we don't accept their GOP-friendly rules that will hamstring healthcare efforts from the get-go.

    People sent us here to get things done, not "negotiate" with an admin that jails children and guts people's healthcare. https://t.co/ih8ygftjHo

    -- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) November 23, 2018

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

     
    N.J. pets in need: Dec. 10, 2018

    N.J. pets in need: Dec. 10, 2018


    Pets throughout New Jersey await adoption. Last week, I wrote about the money pet owners will spend on gifts for their furry friends this holiday season. But, what are the options for people on a budget -- or, for...

    Pets throughout New Jersey await adoption.

    Last week, I wrote about the money pet owners will spend on gifts for their furry friends this holiday season. But, what are the options for people on a budget -- or, for those, like me, who are just plain cheap?

    Livingonthecheap.com has some suggestions for low-cost, and even no-cost, pet gifts.

    Some household items make great cat toys. If you were going to throw out old shower curtain rings, toilet paper cardboard tubes or just plain empty boxes, your kitty can have hours of fun with them instead.

    A simple homemade dog toy can be made by inserting an empty plastic water bottle into an old sock, then tying a knot in the end. Dogs love the crunching sound.

    If it's okay for your dog to have peanut butter, give him or her the old plastic jar before you throw it out; it'll provide lasting fun for your dog and for you watching.

    Those little bell balls that were all the rage on shoelaces can be tied to a doorknob with string to make cat toys all around your house.

    Finally, you can make a durable pull toy for your dog by braiding long strips of old clothes.

    Jersey City faith leaders push for accelerated action on affordable housing, gun safety

    Jersey City faith leaders push for accelerated action on affordable housing, gun safety


    The group, Jersey City Together, has scheduled meetings with Gov. Phil Murphy and state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. JERSEY CITY -- More than 500 faith & community leaders from the city came together Sunday...

    The group, Jersey City Together, has scheduled meetings with Gov. Phil Murphy and state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.

    JERSEY CITY -- More than 500 faith & community leaders from the city came together Sunday night to push the city and state's elected officials for accelerated action on affordable housing, gun safety, and a number of other issues prevalent in the community.

    The meeting, at the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Bergen Avenue, featured dozens of speakers from a number of different religious institutions in Jersey City as well as in the state.

    The event was organized by Jersey City Together, a group comprised of 35 religious congregations and non-profits. It launched in April 2016 with 890 leaders at Old Bergen Church in April 2016 and gathered 1,100 leaders in 2017 for the largest pre-election action in Jersey City.

    "How completely alone you feel when you send your child off to school and worry if they'll make it home, how terrifying and isolating that feeling is," said Rev. Laurie Wurm of the Grace Church Van Vorst. "Or when you're in school and... with all of the wealth and all of the development in this city, there isn't enough money to get the education you deserve, how isolating that feels."

    Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop assured the audience that they had a partner in him in addressing these issues, but said that tackling them -- and creating a more equal community -- will take time.

    The hundreds of people in the audience heard troubling stories of life in Jersey City for some: one Greenville resident described her fear walking home every night; a McNair Academy High School student described how the school was so short on funding it couldn't fix a broken sink that had fallen off the wall.

    One resident of the Holland Gardens Housing complex, Tanisha Johnson, told the crowd that she catches at least 17 mice in her apartment a night.

    "With all of the high rises built around us... it's sad and ridiculous," she said.

    Fulop responded, "When individuals like that come up and tell that story, it's troubling, I take that stuff very personally. At the end of the day I'm the one accountable for it, and there's work to be done. We want to move past that perception of a tale of two cities that people say, and it's going to take time. Rest assured you have a partner."

    Fulop was not the only one called on to help address these issues. The group has meetings scheduled with both Gov. Phil Murphy and state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal in January of 2019.

    "We've got to hold (Murphy) accountable, because we understand that they're are a lot of things we will not be able to do and accomplish unless he becomes a partner, just like our mayor has become a partner," said Rev. Joshua Rodriguez of the Cityline Church.

    But clergy members also highlighted the successes the city has had, pointing to the 95-acre Bayfront site on the city's west side, that Fulop estimates could include 35% affordable housing and would be one of the largest mixed-income, mixed-use developments in the state. 

    They also lauded new leadership surrounding rent control, with more focus on predatory landlords.

    And they assured the audience that despite the hardships they may feel, they are not alone.

    "When we gather together, we are no longer alone, and that light of truth, that light of listening and understanding and compassion... that light shines brightly," Wurm said. "Remember you are not alone and this community will work together... We will share our burdens together until Jersey City is really a city for all people."

    Corey W. McDonald may be reached at cmcdonald@jjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @coreymacc. Find The Jersey Journal on Facebook.
    Shame on N.J.? Nope. Shame on ICE for letting criminals loose | Editorial

    Shame on N.J.? Nope. Shame on ICE for letting criminals loose | Editorial


    The message is clear: Let ICE do its job, and let the fire inspectors and the cops do theirs. New Jersey's sensible new policy on immigration enforcement has elicited the predictable histrionics, mostly from...

    The message is clear: Let ICE do its job, and let the fire inspectors and the cops do theirs.

    New Jersey's sensible new policy on immigration enforcement has elicited the predictable histrionics, mostly from President Trump's propaganda machine at Fox News and some miffed bureaucrats.
     
    No, this will not "handcuff cops from arresting illegal immigrants," as Fox's Laura Ingraham claims. Anyone who breaks the law will still be arrested, regardless of their immigration status.
     
    Police in New Jersey know this. Kim Guadagno, whose slimy "Willie Horton"-style ad stirred up the worst fears of immigrants and helped her lose the governor's race to Phil Murphy, knows it too.

    Ex-AG Milgram: Why I agree with AG Grewal to change my rules on cops and immigration
     
    Yet there she was on TV, chiming in with Ingraham, one of Fox's most anti-immigrant blowhards, fanning the same flames again as she parroted the talking points of Trump officials.
     
    In truth, the new policy announced by Murphy's Attorney General does nothing to protect criminals. They will still be arrested and jailed, and if U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement does its job, deported.
     
    What Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal does is set some reasonable limits on cooperating with ICE, because police can't do their jobs and arrest criminals without community trust. "Create trust - do you buy that?" Ingraham scoffs.
     
    The answer is yes. It's not hyperbole to say that immigrants are often afraid to report crimes when they fear that the cops will turn them over to ICE. They don't even report fire code violations, or domestic abuse.

    Another day, another slander by ICE | Editorial
     
    This culture of secrecy only makes it harder for cops to find the witnesses they need to catch criminals, as police chiefs in urban departments confirm.
     
    "If an illegal immigrant witnesses an assault or a shooting, we want them to call us," says James Shea, Jersey City's director of public safety. "That's how we prevent crimes, and that's how we solve them. And I want them to know they can come to us without any fears."
     
    His counterpart in Newark, Anthony Ambrose, believes that if cops flagged immigrants for deportation, it would actually boost violent crime. "Without a doubt, we would definitely see an increase," he said. "Right now they can be witnesses and they've been very helpful."
     
    For this reason, Grewal's directive says cops should not be stopping people and interrogating them about their immigration status. His office recorded videos in a dozen languages, by police officers who grew up speaking them, to assure the community that if you get pulled over or report a crime, you aren't at risk of being deported.
     
    The message is clear: Let ICE do its job, and let the fire inspectors and the cops do theirs.
     
    Local jails are a different story. They should tell ICE when a dangerous criminal is about to be released into the community. Such people are our first priority for deportation.
     
    What Grewal says is that ICE needs to do its part and pick up detainees in a timely manner, or get a court order to authorize their added time in detention. It can't just expect jails and local taxpayers to assume all the legal risk in holding people past the final date of their sentences.
     
    Courts have repeatedly declared this unconstitutional, putting us on the hook for big settlements, paid for by property taxes. Yet over and over, ICE has blamed the jails that follow a responsible policy like Grewal's for its own incompetence.
     
    Take the Luis Perez case cited by Fox News. He was arrested on domestic violence charges and held in Middlesex jail. ICE could have gotten an order from a federal judge to keep him in the jail until it could pick him up. Instead, for 51 days - until he was sentenced to time served and released - ICE took no action.
     
    It never responded to the jail's notification that under its guidelines, it could not detain Perez past the final date of his sentence, and never took him into custody. Then he got out and killed three people. "New Jersey, it's a shame. Shame on you," Ingraham said.
     
    No. Instead of ranting about so-called "sanctuary" policies and threatening more indiscriminate sweeps to arrest pizza guys and grandpas, why not get over to the jail to pick up a violent criminal? That's your job, ICE. Shame on you.

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

    Ol' Saint Nick parades through North Hudson during 19th annual Santa Parade (PHOTOS)

    Ol' Saint Nick parades through North Hudson during 19th annual Santa Parade (PHOTOS)


    The parade is organized in conjunction with North Bergen, West New York, Weehawken, Guttenberg and Union City. Ol' Saint Nick paid a visit to North Hudson on Sunday for 19th annual Santa Parade. The parade, presented...

    The parade is organized in conjunction with North Bergen, West New York, Weehawken, Guttenberg and Union City.

    Ol' Saint Nick paid a visit to North Hudson on Sunday for 19th annual Santa Parade.

    The parade, presented by the North Hudson Fire Union's Charitable Foundation -- in conjunction with the North Hudson firefighters -- featured a number of festive floats, the Union City High School marching band, as well as several costumed characters.

    It started at noon on Bergenline Avenue at 85th Street in North Bergen, and made its way south, ending on 32nd Street in Union City.

    The parade is organized in conjunction with North Bergen, West New York, Weehawken, Guttenberg and Union City.

    Scroll through the gallery above to see photos from the parade.