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The Morning Briefing September 16, 2014

on Tuesday, 16 September 2014.

JERSEY CITY – There are some big bumps in the road in Jersey City – forcing the city to lower some newly-installedspeed bumps. A quote in the Jersey Journal sums it up: "Oh my God, what moron did this?" as a reporter interviewed a motorist trying to navigate his pick-up over a massive speed bump on Erie Street. Then, another passing car bottomed out. The real entertainment, one observer noted, is the nighttime drivers who don't even know the bumps are there. In response, the city will lower the bumps and include some reflective coating – to the disappointment of area mechanics.

POINT PLEASANT BEACH – There may be some glorious revenge for the many boardwalk visitors who returned to their cars and found the most dreaded departing gift: parking tickets. One lawyer stuck with a ticket argued in court that the parking ordinance is unconstitutional, saying the signs do a lousy job warning motorists that they need to display their parking receipt on the dashboard. The Asbury Park Press says the town may now have to issue refunds to all the motorists slapped with tickets – depending on what the judge deems as fair.

CHARLESTON, S.C. – It seems the Trenton press corps has become more like armchair travel writers, as their main source is rarely showing up at the office. Rather, the news stories are more like a travel log, focusing on what part of the country Gov. Chris Christie is appearing at that moment. Today, news coverage focuses on Charleston, where the governor is raising money for Gov. Nikki Haley, after stopping in North Carolina to raise money for Senate candidate Thom Tillis. Really, how do you cover a Governor who is never around?

ATLANTIC CITY – New Jersey's unintended tribute to the 1980s – Trump Plaza – officially closed its doors at 6 a.m. today. The outdated casino was forever locked in the opulence of another era, when the gambling industry was booming, President Reagan's hair was the ideal shade of brown and it was perfectly acceptable to moonwalk down the boardwalk. New Jersey will miss this hulking tribute to marble and chandeliers, but the property's ideal boardwalk location suggests Trump Plaza will rise again, in some form or another.

ATLANTIC CITY – As tourism folks attempt to ignore the four shuttered casinos – dismissing it all as just some "exciting works in progress," – the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority wants to make sure there is some life over the next year. And that is going to cost some money, the Press of AC reports. The authority is budgeting $1 million to a concert promoter in subsidies and insurance from unprofitable shows. In turn, Live Nation promises to put on 12 "big-name" concerts at Boardwalk Hall over the course of a year. Hopefully, that isn't a 12-night stint featuring Cher.

PATERSON – As our smartphones can instantly adjust the thermostat in a home on the other side of the planet, there must be some sort of gizmo out there to ensure the right parent is picking up the right kid at school. The Paterson Press reports a grandma went to the Dale Avenue School last week to pick up her three-year-old granddaughter. She got the name of her granddaughter right, but ended up leaving the school with another pre-K girl with the same first name, hugging and kissing her all the way to the car. Once the right parents arrived, school officials quickly called grandma to alert her of the slight error. That prompted city education officials to now "tighten" security measures, whatever that means.


Scientists call it the zombie of amoeba – microscopic single cell particles that exist in water that feed on the brain. And this N. fowleri was found one year ago in the tap water near New Orleans, the first time ever found in the U.S. water supply.


The Morning Briefing September 15, 2014

on Monday, 15 September 2014.

ON THE RAILS – With Manhattan-bound trains packed to the gills, NJ Transit is figuring to spend $2 billion or so over the next 20 years to attempt to accommodate the masses. All the old rail cars will be replaced with multi-level ones, which helps decrease the number of trains fighting to get through the tunnels, but increases capacity and train speed. Getting an actual seat at rush hour may be worth all those fare hikes soon to come.

STATEWIDE – It's no surprise to learn that 38 percent of households in New Jersey are struggling to get by with basic needs. A United Way study shows a huge chunk of the population is just a lost job or medical emergency away from financial ruin, reports. The brandy-swilling sect may be quick to note that only 11 percent of state residents fall below the federal poverty line – so all must be well. But the harsh reality is that it is outrageously expensive to live here on a modest income, as opposed to most of the country. says 1.2 million households aren't even living with a basic survival budget. It is some eye-opening perspective, with no apparent solution.

TRENTON – Domestic violence is the issue of the day in Trenton, where the Assembly is looking at a bunch of bills targeting prevention. One of the most important measures is long-awaited: allowing victims of domestic violence to testify in court on a video, rather than have to be in the same room with the nutcases who attack them. Hopefully, such a law would encourage more victims to step forward and give them a stronger voice.

GREEN BAY – After a couple of deflating losses by Rutgers and the Giants this weekend, all seemed right in the world again with the Jets smacking around the Packers. Until the Jets found another way to lose. This time, it was a beautiful Jets TD pass to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. But unbeknownst to everyone, one of the Jets coaches called a time out – causing a huge "AUGHHH" throughout Jets nation. The TD was voided. Final score: Packers 31, Jets 24. Luckily, opening day for baseball is April 5, 2015.

JERSEY CITY – The winds of bi-partisanship will be blowing off the Hudson River today, as Gov. Chris Christie grip and grins with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, NAACP CEO Cornell Brooks, former Govs. Jim McGreevey, Tom Kean and others to mark the opening of a new prisoner re-entry center.The operation will help ex-offenders beat addiction and keep them on the straight and narrow – a pet issue of McGreevey, now a Jersey City official.


GOTHAM CITY – It must have been surreal for the two loud mouths who showed up in Times Square Saturday night to harass the costumed characters. The pair decided to mock two guys dressed as Batman and Spider-Man with "sexually suggestive gestures," the NY Post reports. Because Batman and Spider-Man were not the real caped crusaders, but just guys looking to make a buck, it quickly got ugly. Punches flew, prompting the faux heroes to be cuffed and hauled down to the station on assault charges. Only in New York can you get in a fistfight with Batman.

LOS GATOS, Calif. – Interesting to learn that the most questionable thing at a nudist colony has nothing to do with choice of attire. What really is ticking off the rangers with the Midpeninsula Open Space District is that the nudists are taking water from a nearby waterfall for the skinny-dipping pools. The AP reports that rangers disconnected the hose – a real downer for the midnight swim crowd – forcing the nudists to truck in their water instead, or pray it finally rains in California.


It was this day in 1977 that President Carter meets with 15 record company executives. Perhaps Jimmy was interested in a groovy "White House Does Disco" album.


The Morning Briefing September 12, 2014

on Friday, 12 September 2014.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Yet more frequent flyer miles for Gov. Chris Christie today, as our neck-tied crusader is up, up and away to another out-of-state fundraiser. This morning, he will be hanging out in a Panama City restaurant with Florida Gov. Rick Scott before attending a rally outside a courthouse. It is all about celebrating Scott's plan to promote tax cuts, something that now seems impossible in New Jersey.

ATLANTIC CITY – Our impression of Kathy Ireland as the stunning, untouchable supermodel has taken a big hit, as she showed off a talent at the Miss America contest that was less than appealing: burping on command. Ireland, a celebrity judge, proudly proclaimed to the pageant host that she could burp the alphabet. But, upon further pressure, admitted she couldn't, but gave her fans a huge belch. The pageant host – clearly impressed – then proclaimed: "You just made supermodels cool!" Uh, no.

NEWARK – New Jersey's ban on what is called teen-aged "gay conversion therapy" has received support from the courts – good news for self-conscious teens who just want to be left alone, rather than "converted." Several people, including two licensed therapists who make a living as purveyors of "sexual orientation change efforts," argued the ban violates their rights to free speech and free exercise of religion. A similarly ludicrous argument is that road rage is "freedom of expression."

JERSEY CITY – The new school year has started off a wee bit rocky for a day care center where a substitute teacher's aide mistakenly served up water mixed with bleach to a couple dozen kids yesterday. ABC-TV reports there were 28 kiddies, ages 3 and 4, as well as two adults, sent to a local hospital. All were treated for minor ailments, like tummy-aches. Meanwhile, it remains unclear what ailments the day care center owners will be suffering – following the wrath of furious parents.

AT THE MALL – With a name like RadioShack, is there any question that the company is deemed obsolete? The retailer, which has desperately attempted to compete against the likes of Best Buy and the Internet, has never been able to dodge its reputation for selling boom boxes, landline telephones and plugs for items now being sold for a nickel at garage sales. RadioShack now says it may need to file Chapter 11 if it can't find another way to raise money. Perhaps changing its name is a first step to freshening things up. Perhaps "CD Shack" or "Sam Goody."

BAYONNE – The masterminds behind the $1.3 billion raising of the Bayonne Bridge are striking again – this time closing the span for the entire weekend. You better get over the bridge by 9 p.m. tonight, otherwise it will be out of service until Monday morning, forcing you to join the masses on the Goethals Bridge. Or, just stay out of Staten Island.


ROCHESTER, N.H. - A crushing defeat for Human's race. A candidate running for the New Hampshire state legislature – who changed his name to "Human" – was blown away in a primary race that only had 210 voters. If somehow elected, Human would have been representing the good people of Rochester, who now have politicians less than Human.


It was this day in 1885 that two "first-class" soccer teams somehow managed to score a collective 35 goals, marking the one day in history that watching a soccer game was edge-of-your-seat interesting.


The Morning Briefing September 11, 2014

on Thursday, 11 September 2014.

ON THE BEACH – Remember how the state Legislature was pushing through a law limiting people from smoking on beaches? Remember how excited you were to no longer have to step barefoot on cigarette butts, or that your children would not be sucking in smoke from some Staten Island yahoo on a neighboring blanket? And remember what you thought was a great message from Trenton: that our lawmakers believe we all have the right to enjoy the clean beach air? Well, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed all this, for some reason. So, smokers, have at it.

TRENTON – Good news for divorce lawyers, as new state legislation will perhaps prompt a whole new crop of married couples to call it quits. Gov. Chris Christie is scrapping permanent alimony for future divorces in the state. Also, alimony for marriages lasting less than 20 years would be paid no longer than the duration of the marriage. The new law also gives a break to people who lose their jobs or retire. They also no longer need to keep cutting checks if the ex shacks up with some poor schlep with no idea what he/she is getting into.

TOMS RIVER – Remember when September meant Homecoming parties and a full social calendar? Now, what is getting penciled on the calendar is "National Medicare Education Week." (Insert applause here) Local seniors and other "active adults" are invited to capture the thrills and chills of Medicare at free events on Monday, 1 p.m. at the Toms River Community Medical Center and next Friday, September 19, at 2 p.m. at the Toms River branch of the Ocean County Library. To register for the party, visit

ATLANTIC CITY – Amazing to see that the lead bid now for the Revel is a paltry $90 million, as a Florida-based country club is prepared to pay pennies on the dollar for the $2.4 billion castle to nowhere. It seems the luxury casino would be worth more if just stripped for parts. But this is a legitimate, serious bid, with the Polo North Country Club already sticking $10 million in escrow and eagerly awaiting the Sept. 24 auction. At this rate, perhaps a Rutgers fraternity should submit a bid.

TRENTON – It is officially called a "lack of consensus among elected leaders on how to return to structural balance." And that is why another Wall Street credit agency is jumping on the bandwagon to downgrade the state's credit rating. Standard & Poor's – never to be outdone by Fitch Ratings – has also announced it is dropping the state's rating to an "A," its second drop since April, the Record reports. While many yawn when they hear about credit ratings, it is the one true indicator of how our state is faring, minus all the partisan politics, finger pointing and flurry of accusatory press releases. The true leader is the one who will stand up and say: "I have a plan to return New Jersey to "AAA."


NEW YORK – In America, the average family lives on an income of $51,000 a year. Perhaps that will make this next sentence seem even more ridiculous: The price for a parking space at a new ritzy development in SoHo has hit a Manhattan record: $1 million. And that is just for 200 square feet of underground cement. Meanwhile, another fun fact: the average home price in America is $218,000.


It is this morning in which Pete Best blearily awakes in his darkened bedroom, glances at the bedside calendar, and then pulls the covers back over his head, eagerly awaiting the dawn of September 12. That's because it was this day in 1962 that the Beatles fired Best as their drummer, replacing him with the questionably-talented Ringo Starr.


The Morning Briefing September 10, 2014

on Wednesday, 10 September 2014.

AT THE STORE – We are still shaking the sand off our flip-flops, yet Walmart has deemed we must now get into the Christmas spirit. The Record reports that Walmart has released the list of the top "must-have" toys this Christmas season, getting a jump on Toys "R" Us, which probably even thinks that Sept. 10 is ridiculously early. So, as we hike up the air conditioning, put on another coat of sunscreen and send the kiddies off to the pool, let's get going on that Christmas shopping. You know, before it's too late.

OCEANPORT – Monmouth Park has instantly reinvented itself, with word that it hopes to be taking bets this Sunday on the NFL games. Monmouth Park is springing into action after Gov. Chris Christie announced the state will sit on its hands if the casinos or horse tracks start taking sports bets. Wow. Why watch a game at a local sports bar when you can sit among fans with thousands riding on the outcome? That has to be more exciting than 25-cent chicken wings.

ATLANTIC CITY – Could we see a fifth casino go down in flames this year? Lawyers for Trump Taj Mahal are in bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Del., threatening to shut down the place if the unions don't make some serious salary concessions. An impossible situation for the unions, no doubt, as it is evident these Trump guys have no problem shutting down casinos and putting thousands of people out of work. (See Trump Plaza.)

EAST BRUNSWICK – We don't know if you had any national political figures at your last birthday party. But, for Gov. Chris Christie, the belle of the ball today will be his friend, Mitt Romney, who considered Christie for the veep slot on his failed Presidential bid of 2012. In typical Christie fashion, the governor will be elsewhere for most of the day – this time in Illinois to campaign for gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner.

JERSEY CITY – It wasn't long ago that a PATH ride was one of the best bargains around. For just a buck, you can take that screeching, jerking ride under the river into Manhattan. But now, beginning October 1, the fare has jumped to $2.75 a ride. It is all part of the effort to expand and improve the PATH system through a 10-year capital plan, which apparently can't be covered by your crimpled buck.

ATLANTIC CITY – So, how will the Miss America pageant stir up some interest today? The PR gurus have decided to hold yet another press conference. This time, Miss America Organization Chairman and CEO Sam Haskell III will gush about the caliber of the pageant's seven judges (snore). Two other suggestions: 1. Talk about how someone would actually get the gig of CEO of the Miss America pageant. 2. Talk about how Miss Rhode Island fell on the stage last night, suffering from heatstroke. Or, any subject other than the judges.

RINGWOOD - He took five million steps, walked 3,003 miles, lost 41 pounds and somehow was able to pick up $197 in loose change during his "Journey for 9/11." NY Giants legend George Martin has written a memoir of his walk across America that raised millions of dollars for ailing 9/11 rescue and recovery workers. This week, the Ringwood resident will meet with 9/11 families, ring the bell at the NYSE, and have the Chicken Cordon (Big) Blue Sandwich named for him at Foley's, NYC's well-known sports bar. Martin will be signing copies of his book, Just Around The Bend, there tonight from 5-7 pm. Wish we could say the beer will be free for anyone who says they read this plug in the "Morning Briefing."

SAYREVILLE - Our favorite trade group - the New Jersey Gasoline, Convenience, Automotive Association - has released another over-the-top press release, criticizing Sayreville officials for raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21 years old. The association accuses town leaders of stripping people of personal choice, sending customers to other towns and blatantly ignoring their many concerns. Here's a quote from the group's "angry" executive director: "How would you like to be a store owner working the sales registers when a 20 year old in a military uniform attempts to buy a pack of cigarettes? Are you going to deny the person serving our nation from making the purchase? Do you honor the soldier, make the sale, and then risk a $250 fine? Or worse do you risk spending time in jail or losing your business? Does the governing body in Sayreville really think that this "feel good" law will stop young people from smoking?"


It was this day in 1992 that the ever-escalating cost of psychiatric care hits Main Street, as Lucy Van Pelt is forced to increase the cost of her psychiatric help from 5 cents to 47 cents a session.


The Morning Briefing September 9, 2014

on Tuesday, 09 September 2014.

ATLANTIC CITY – It's hard to imagine what a reporter could have done wrong to be assigned to the 1 p.m. press conference today featuring the shoes that Miss America contestants will be wearing during Saturday's "Miss America Show Us Your Shoes Parade." Unclear about the need for a press conference, especially with reporters forced to ask such questions as "Uh. It looks like your shoes are, um, black. Uh, why is that, I guess?"

STATEWIDE - Fed up with Uncle Sam? Ready to ditch it all and move to a remote island? Well, the United States isn't going to let you go that quickly. With a record number of Americans renouncing their citizenship since President Obama took office, at the very generous price of $450, the State Department says it is ready to sock it to expatriates. Yahoo News reports it will now cost you $2,350 to flee. The new fee takes effect Friday, so better pack those bags quick.

PATERSON - The Paterson Press continues to beat the heck out of city officials, this time reporting that City Hall wants to strip $440,000 from after-school and summer recreation programs. The federal funds would then be diverted to pay for road resurfacing work - a PR disaster in the making. But perhaps there is a compromise: Have the kiddies fill potholes all afternoon and call the program "Fun & Sun with Asphalt."

ATLANTIC CITY – Sports betting is now suddenly legal in New Jersey – at least according to Gov. Chris Christie. The governor says he has found nothing that blocks casinos and tracks from taking bets, just as long as the state looks the other way. Of course, this brash interpretation will be immediately challenged. No one messes with the professional and collegiate sports leagues that have been so successful in banning sports betting in all but four states. But kudos to the Governor for rolling the dice, trying all he can to save Atlantic City. Let's hope this sticks.


WOODBRIDGE – The Star-Ledger, now home in a faceless office complex in Woodbridge, today unveiled the redesign of the newspaper. Initial thoughts: Nice, modern design. Big photos, and easy to read for people who no longer have interest in reading anything beyond 140 characters. And thank you, Mr. Newhouse, for keeping the comics. But it is eerily similar in look to many of those struggling Gannett newspapers that have ultimately been whittled down to nothing. On the bright side, The Star-Ledger continues to publish seven days a week, an accomplishment worth celebrating.


DETROIT – So, how broke is the city? It's so broke that city firefighters use soda cans filled with screws to be alerted when an emergency call is faxed in. Yahoo News reports the Detroit Fire Department gets 11,000 or so emergency calls a year. Because the bankrupt city has no money for technology, the firefighters rely on fax machines and the soda cans they place on top. When an emergency fax comes through, the paper pushes the can onto the floor, making one simple clang. Consider firefighters "notified."


It was this day in 1991 that only 1,695 fans showed up to watch the Boston Red Sox play the Cleveland Indians. Price of admission likely included 1,000 already-cooked hot dogs and an opportunity to play right field.


The Morning Briefing September 8, 2014

on Monday, 08 September 2014.

BRIDGEGATE – For Democrats, it's an anniversary certainly worth celebrating. Just one year ago tomorrow, the massive traffic jams began on the George Washington Bridge, as the lanes were mysteriously closed. We all know what happens next, which is why Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and state Democratic leaders are holding a bit of a celebration tomorrow morning in Fort Lee. David hasn't toppled Goliath with his stones, but certainly has given the giant a huge headache.

ATLANTIC CITY – Maybe we just don't understand beauty pageants. But why do these gorgeous, smart and talented women need to dig up every family tragedy they can muster to score some extra points with the judges? The AP reports there will be a whole host of homicides, drug abuse and suicide to tell about when the contestants hit the stage today for preliminary competition. Sure, it gins up some interest in what many consider to be an outdated contest. But the motive behind sharing these stories dims the sparkle.

FREEHOLD – It is only one week into the new school year and there's already the first teacher/student sex scandal to report – although the arrest is a holdover from last year's batch. A freshman English teacher at Wall High School is now indicted for apparently bringing a 15-year-old boy to her house for trysts. Sigh. This same story plays out again and again. Here's the worn plot: Teacher stupidly has sex with student. Student gleefully blabs to friends apparently sworn to secrecy. Teacher immediately arrested, embarrasses entire family, goes to prison and loses career. And it is happening again right now, somewhere in New Jersey. Stay tuned.

TRENTON – While Gov. Chris Christie was getting the hero treatment in Mexico on Friday – as 2,000 flag-waving students from a Mexican public school were apparently overwhelmed to cast their eyes upon the governor of New Jersey – the Wall Street credit agents were stewing at their cramped desks, and less than impressed. For the second time this year, Fitch Ratings downgraded the state's credit rating. A key reason was the governor's decision to backfill the state budget with $2.4 billion that was promised to the state pension fund. But, hey, Viva New Jersey!

BERNARDSVILLE – After Gov. Chris Christie spent most of the summer travelling cross country to stump for Republican politicians, it is good to know that one is returning the favor. The GOP faithful will welcome Maine Gov. Paul LePage this morning in Bernardsville, where attendees need only pay $3,000 for the honor of sharing a plate of eggs with LePage and Christie. Christie has visited LePage twice and plans to return to Maine one more time, in the effort to ensure he wins re-election in a tight three-way race that needs an infusion of Jersey politics.

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP – Upon further consideration, it might have made better sense to call an exterminator. That's because "Plan A" didn't work out so well for a resident attempting to scare away bees from the Mercer County house yesterday. The Trenton Times reports the resident dumped hot coals in the backyard of the house to scare away the bees. The coals ignited a mulch pile, which then ignited the back of the house which then ignited the attic. Ten firefighters suffered bee stings, as they extinguished the blaze. Bet the bees are still there.


Trekkies are wearing their favorite Spock ears today – while waiting for their mothers to call them upstairs from the basement for breakfast –as they celebrate the airing of the first Star Trek episode on this day in 1966.


The Morning Briefing September 5, 2014

on Friday, 05 September 2014.

PUEBLA, MEXICO — Gov. Chris Christie concludes his triumphant PR tour of Mexico today, meeting with local bigwigs, while visiting a park and school. He can point to some actual state business that was accomplished, such as establishing more collaboration between colleges in New Jersey and Mexico. But Christie was quick to sidestep the issue of immigration reform, as his position as an unannounced Presidential candidate would actually create legitimate news.

PATERSON – The Paterson Press continues to show its shoe leather journalism, this time reporting the school district awarded a 36 percent bump to a Pittsburgh-based consulting company that provides training to school staff. School board members told the Press they haven't seen any reports from the company, don't really know how to measure its success or the reasoning behind why its services now cost a robust $1.6 million a year.

EDISON – If you are a bit wary of Atlantic City these days, but still want to catch some pageant excitement on September 14, look no further than the great town of Edison. The town will play host to the 12th-annual "Miss & Mr. Pakistan World" pageant, held for the first time in the U.S. It's certainly a refreshing break from Miss America, but we may decide to skip the Mr. Pakistan bathing suit competition.

NEWARK – Working as a senior VP of a large supermarket chain would seem to have plenty of perks. But it wasn't enough for a corporate honcho who sold the company's concert and sports tickets for his own profit. Feds sentenced the former veep in Newark yesterday for selling $1.2 million in tickets meant for A&P. He's now looking at three years in prison, as well as $3.2 million in restitution, for his side business, which involved the sale of 7,000 tickets to such venues as the Super Bowl and Lady Gaga.

AT THE PUMP – Could there be $20 gallons of gas at the local BP, after a district judge ruled that "profit-driven decisions" led to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history? The company has been slapped with $18 billion in fines. Interesting to see how all this will be negotiated down to a voucher for three free fill-ups of regular unleaded, some window washer fluid and a strawberry air freshener.


PORTLAND, OR – It likely did not take a medical degree to figure out what was ailing a local Great Dane with a bellyache. An X-ray showed the pooch ate 43 ½ pairs of socks, Reuters reports, prompting emergency surgery. Veternarians noted it was the most articles of clothing they have removed from a pet, noting the Great Dane had an affinity for lush, brightly-colored socks. Beware, Bruno.



It was this day in 1997 that Larry King (a.k.a. Lawrence Leibel Harvey Zeiger) married his seventh wife, Shawn Southwick – 26 years his junior. Seems like a match made in heaven, which has been patiently waiting for King for the past three decades.


The Morning Briefing September 4, 2014

on Thursday, 04 September 2014.

ABERDEEN – A local man carries a unique distinction: he is forever banned from owning a cat. Authorities tell the man put his cat (named Rosie) in a Tupperware® container and then chucked it into an apartment complex Dumpster. A witness saw the deed, prompting the man to be fined $2,000 and slapped with a lifetime cat ban. Tupperware folks are proud that Rosie – now up for adoption – "was still good."

MEXICO – In what has become the 2014 version of the battle for Mexico, Gov. Chris Christie has a clear advantage over other undeclared presidential candidates. Why? Because the governor is already South of the Border, shaking hands with all his new amigos. Now Hillary Clinton can't sit idly by and watch New Jersey's own hot tamale get all the tacos. She flies into Mexico City tomorrow, yet will remain a safe distance from Christie. Why is this all relevant? We have no idea.

WILLINGBORO – Uh, thanks, President Obama, but your name isn't replacing "John F. Kennedy" on the town's recreation center after all. The town council did a complete about-face on the issue, voting 5-0 to bounce President Obama. The back-pedaling followed the outcry from 200 people from the former high school that once housed the building who packed the council meeting and complained, prompting apologies all-around. No worries, there is likely a municipal pitch-and-putt that can be named after Obama – as long as that pesky Eisenhower didn't get there first.

ATLANTIC CITY – You would think the Miss America pageant airing on September 14 would be whipping the city into a frenzy. But what has the media glued is the deathwatch surrounding the casinos still struggling to stay open. The New York Post broke a story in which it believes the Trump Taj Mahal could be the next to declare bankruptcy. The hope is that casino owner Carl Icahn would be willing to swap some equity to pay off debt, the newspaper reports, but it's all now in the hands of lawyers as the casino careens toward Chapter 11.

JERSEY CITY – Three hip-hop stars – none of whom we knew existed – were at a McDonald's on Grand Street yesterday to hand out school supplies to kids who we assume know their songs. One of these apparent mega-stars told the Jersey Journal: "What's important is not me being here, it's that they got what they need." Another one said: "Coming from where we come from, it's always good to give back." And the third one said some stuff, too.


THE BRONX – Hey, psst. Wanna buy a lobster? There is apparently plenty of stolen shellfish on the streets of the Bronx this morning, as the NYPD investigates the theft of a truck carrying 30,000 pounds of frozen lobster and shrimp from outside a junkyard in Eastchester. It would seem easy to find the culprits – especially when $100,000 in treif begins to thaw and someone tries to buy 200 sticks of butter from the Quicki-Mart.


It was this day in 1988 that Mike Tyson drove his silver BMW into a tree in the Catskills, a blessing for nearby "Borscht Belt" comedians desperate for some new material.


The Morning Briefing September 3, 2014

on Wednesday, 03 September 2014.

UP, UP AND AWAY – This is apparently the time for undeclared Presidential candidates to exercise their mastery of foreign matters, expertly taking flights somewhere else. Gov. Chris Christie heads to Mexico on a three-day trip that apparently has absolutely nothing to do with 2016. Meanwhile, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is in Israel, while Texas Gov. Rick Perry is packing his bags for China. It's unclear if these guys are Presidential material, but at least they know how to find the international gate at the local airport.

PATERSON – One must seriously question the caliber of the newest employees in the Paterson Public Schools, as the district scrambles to find teachers and other school staff for the year that begins tomorrow. The Paterson Press reports there are 122 vacancies – especially teaching gigs for special education and ESL classes. School officials expect to start the year with substitutes as they scrape the barrel – begging the question if the kids would just be better off with the subs. New district motto: "Paterson Public Schools: Providing almost every student with a teacher."

HELMETTA – The Borough Council is senselessly springing to action, after a town cop made national headlines for being recorded disparaging President Obama. The cop, who has since resigned, told a resident: "Obama has decimated the friggin' constitution, so I don't give a damn. If he doesn't follow the Constitution, we don't have to." Now, reports, the Borough Council wants to ban video or photographs at town hall without a permit. No kidding. Rather than taking on the First Amendment, why can't Helmetta just hire smarter cops?

ATLANTIC CITY – The arriving contestants for the Miss America pageant keep, well, arriving. Last night, it was the arrival of a bargain People Express flight that chugged all the way to a safe landing, with smiling contestants exiting (likely from emergency chutes). Today, the PR machine includes Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno welcoming the 53 contestants arriving on the boardwalk. They will then arrive at their hotels, eager to begin a new day of arriving.

NEW BRUNSWICK – In response to anticipated overflow parking during Rutgers Big 10 home games, the city parking authority is trying to make a quick buck by selling $23 parking spots in the Hub City's largest park, Buccleuch Park, conveniently located just across the river from High Point Solutions Stadium. The thing is, the city never approved the arrangement and a century-old park deed restriction appears to call for the city's forfeiture of the park "if the premises are ever diverted towards any use besides a public park," according to New Brunswick Today. At the very least you have to credit the city for lifting a move right from Jon Corzine's "asset monetization" playbook.

GOV. CHRISTIE'S OFFICE – The Wall Street Journal reports that the governor's office has spent more than $50 million on legal bills since January 2013—and $22 million this year alone, fueled largely by more than $7 million in Bridgegate-related fees. In fact, the governor is set to outpace any governor in at least the past 10 years, making clear that, despite the state's flagging economy, the one reliable growth sector in New Jersey is high profile legal counsel.


STATE COLLEGE, PA. – So maybe she won't be invited to the cool parties on campus. But a junior at Penn State is getting a name for herself for making friends with a local squirrel she calls "Sneezy." The girl tells WJAC-TV that she even dresses up Sneezy in party hats and gets him to hold up little props. The squirrel has quickly been dubbed "Sneezy the Penn State Squirrel" and has more "likes" on his Facebook page than the Nittany Lion. Sneezy seems considerably more adorable than the "Rutgers Roadkill."


It was this day in 1940 that color television debuts – beginning the golden age of cheap motel signage that also advertised air conditioning and chronic vacancy.


The Morning Briefing September 2, 2014

on Tuesday, 02 September 2014.

ATLANTIC CITY – The Revel Casino Hotel will be even more empty than usual today, as the $2.4 billion structure closes its doors after two years of bankruptcies and failure. It has been a brutal year for New Jersey's gaming mecca, with four casinos closing this year – the last slated to be Trump Plaza on September 16. With the thinning of the herd, is this enough for the other casinos to succeed?

MEXICO CITY – Maybe the solution for Atlantic City – and all the other economic issues facing New Jersey – can be solved with a simple trip South of the Border. That is where Gov. Chris Christie is headed tomorrow to meet with Mexico President Peña Nieto to talk about all the wonders of New Jersey. Perhaps Christie will bring some coupons for the buffet at the Borgata.

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL – With all the relaxation and other frivolity associated with Labor Day safely behind us, now is the time to address what at least on person thinks should be a burning question of the New Jersey voter: Should the U.S. bring back the gold standard? That is the top issue of Jeff Bell, the long-shot Republican running this fall against Sen. Cory Booker. Bell, a wonkish former aide to President Ronald Reagan who has been tucked away in Virginia for decades, hopes to convince voters that he is the fresh, up-and-comer who can topple Booker – even though he hasn't sought public office since 1982. If Bell's crusade for the gold standard is not sexy enough, the conservative candidate has some other burning issues to talk to us about, such as interest rates.

LACEY TOWNSHIP – Rover is probably spending plenty of time outdoors these days, after police say the dog somehow ignited his owner's stove, which set a laptop ablaze. The Asbury Park Press reports someone decided to leave their laptop sitting on the burners – certainly asking for trouble – when the family dog somehow was able to turn on the stove. Smoke shot through the roof from Friday's fire; firefighters rescued Rover. No one can figure how he turned on the stove, and the dog isn't talking.

ATLANTIC CITY – The marketing gurus behind Miss America want everyone to know the pageant is as glitzy as ever. Yet they are forcing the contestants to arrive tonight on a People Express plane – the name of the same 1980s, low-budget airline that hawked 50-cent sodas, checked extra bags for 3 bucks and had its passengers pay in cash when they came on board. Perhaps these beauty contestants could have flown in on Virgin – which would have at least generated a clever headline or two during the bathing suit competition.


AUSTIN, TX – We all know about the 99 bottles of beer on the wall, but what about the 99-pack of canned beer? An Austin brewery is now selling a 99-pack of a beer called Peacemaker Anytime Ale – available only in Austin and only in "limited quantities." Apparently this seven-foot-long pack of cold ones is selling off the shelves, although it takes two sturdy Texans to navigate it over to the cash register. No clue if this beer is any good, but at a buck a can, you can bet there are plenty of pick-ups backing up to the liquor store. Just move over dem gun racks, would ya?


It was this day in 2012 that it suddenly mattered if women covering the news in Egypt were attractive, as the country's television station ended a 50-year ban on requiring women to report the news in veils. Gives a whole new meaning to uncovering the news.


The Morning Briefing, August 15, 2014

on Friday, 15 August 2014.


**The Morning Briefing is Hittin' the Beach. See you Sept. 2!**

ATLANTIC CITY – Yes, thousands of casino workers are about to lose their jobs. But is it really feasible to demand that Gov. Chris Christie find them new ones? Apparently, that answer is a firm "yes," as the governor pledges he will try everything possible to keep them "safe, secure and employed." Such a statement is a stretch; what is the current market in New Jersey for experienced card dealers, cocktail waitresses and pit bosses?

STATEWIDE – Perhaps that particular work is out there, as state officials announced that New Jersey welcomed 5,700 new jobs in July, bringing down the jobless rate to 6.5 percent. The state stat is still higher than the national record of 6.2 percent, The Record reports, but there has been a steady rebound since Gov. Chris Christie was getting slammed for the high unemployment rate during his march to a second term.

TRENTON – "As Seen on TV" has become "As Seen in the New Jersey Media," as reporters are writing about the state complaint filed against the company hawking "As Seen on TV" products. The company is being accused of shady tactics, such as making it virtually impossible to return a product or marketing a "free second item" with just a simple "separate fee." State investigators bought such crap as battery operated lights and collapsible fabric garden hoses, and then got the run-around. The suit follows some 300 complaints from customers who received products they never ordered or who suffered the brunt of greasy salesman obviously working on commission. Let's assume their sport coats are plaid.

ROBBINSVILLE – The news articles started appearing a month ago: Robbinsville girls' softball team host state tournament... Robbinsville girls win, head to eastern regionals... Robbinsville girls kick butt in regionals and move on... The team, which has become the Jersey girls of summer, ended up winning the Little League World Series, with lopsided victories over the best teams in the country this week. The domination culminated with six straight victories in a tournament in Portland, capping off a 22-0 record. Now that's something these girls can note when they return to school next month.


GARWOOD – It all began with a tweet, showing a photo of a flag now associated with the militant ISIS group, waving proudly in front of a Garwood apartment. News 12 New Jersey reports it prompted plenty of concern among residents wondering if they had a terrorist in their midst. The resident, a Muslim, says he has been waving the flag for 10 years – long before ISIS adopted it as their own. Cops told the man he could fly his flag, being that America has the First Amendment and all. But he opted to take it down, replacing it with an American flag in the colors of the San Diego Chargers – which could insult a whole new crop of people.

ASBURY PARK – It seems the ideal day for a gubernatorial stroll down one of the most famous boardwalks around. You can see Gov. Chris Christie at 2:30 p.m. mixing it up with the sea of people expected today, as he does a casual walk with state Environmental Commissioner Bob Martin to talk about beach cleanliness and efforts to prevent water pollution. You can't miss the pair; likely the only guys around in neckties.


FLORENCE, Ariz. – If you are a high school teacher who gets drunk before class, does it really make sense to stop drinking once the kids file in? Apparently not at Poston Butte High School, where a math teacher was hammered in the classroom on Wednesday, yelling and cursing at her students, CBS reports. Later that school day, a school officer found her back in the bottle, working through a 750 ml of vodka and a single-serve bottle of white wine. The teacher admitted she was drunk the night before, that morning and during lunch. How she made it through lunch without getting pulled is a mystery. The drunkard did note she was acting somewhat responsible, taking a taxi to school that morning. But then school officials learned her car had been impounded the night before during a DWI bust.

Statement from the school district: "Please remember, as troubling as this situation is, it was the act of an individual and does not reflect the standards of the Florence Unified School District or the amazing people who work tirelessly for the kids who attend our schools." (Or the people who hired and supervised this drunk.)


On this day in 1998, there was a frigid air pattern originating in Washington D.C. and spanning the globe with mammoth ice, blinding cold winds and bone-chilling temperatures. Why? Bill tells Hill about Monica.


The Morning Briefing, August 14, 2014

on Thursday, 14 August 2014.


** The Morning Briefing will be on summer vacation beginning Monday, August 18, returning September 2 **

ON THE RAILS – A difference between Sen. Cory Booker and Gov. Chris Christie: Booker tweets, and voters swoon. Christie tweets, and voters fume. Commuters waiting for delayed trains at Penn Station had little patience for Christie tweets Friday night, in which he was talking up the Jersey shore, The Record reports. @Drift22 wrote, "You have no clue what's going on in Penn Station right now, do you?" And @MilindShah tweeted, "Delays due to one tunnel are far too frequent." Christie tweeted they should all "hang in there," blaming Amtrak for delays. It prompted commuters to blast the Governor on social media, questioning – once again – why he cancelled construction of that extra rail tunnel his first year in office. Meanwhile, commuters were calmed by Booker tweets about an itty-bitty bunny.

OCEAN CITY – Before Gov. Chris Christie tweets about the beauty of the Ocean City Music Pier, he may want to check to see if the trains are running on time. He will be in town today to chat up vacationing voters who had thought they escaped the frenetic pace. Instead, they have the opportunity to be a part of the "No Pain, No Gain" summer tour, in which they can hear Christie talk tough about state pension reform and the difficult decisions they lie ahead. Or they can spritz on more lotion and turn the page on the paperback. Tough decision.

TRENTON – It should be one depressing meeting on September 8, when Gov. Chris Christie convenes a summit to talk about what is happening to Atlantic City. The room will be filled with the top political, business and labor execs, who are still trying to wrap their heads around the mounting competition and Atlantic City's self-implosion. Four casinos will likely be dark this fall and room rates at Harrah's are now selling for $41 on Priceline. The big question: How do we save the eight remaining casinos?

ATLANTIC CITY – How'd they do it? Perhaps the State Police will offer up some tasty tidbits in the armed robbery of Caesars on July 21, in which bandits made off with $180,000. State Police will be talking to media later today about the arrest of eight people, including a former casino guard, who took off with two plastic boxes of cash two weeks after he was fired. Expect some Hollywood screenwriters to be scribbling furiously, desperate for new material for "Oceans 14."

ROSELLE – These days, there isn't much municipal government can afford to offer, other than plugging that gaping sinkhole in front of your house. And that's what makes the ever-evolving "Roselle First" program newsworthy, as the borough initiative has helped find jobs for 100 residents this year, while aiding many others to prepare resumes and learn job-hunting skills. Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. has taken notice; he will be in Roselle today to learn why Roselle First is succeeding, as he promotes some workforce legislation.

STATEWIDE – Of no surprise to anyone, New Jersey pays more for heath benefits for state workers than most other states, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts and the MacArthur Foundation. Their report says New Jersey ranked number three in costs, at $1,334 per employee on average. That doubles the lowest premium paid, in South Dakota, where costs an average $580 per worker. No clue why there is such a disparity, but we can't grouse about health care costs for state employees – promised pensions when they retire, yet keep seeing governors raid their fund to balance the state budget.


MARTHA'S VINEYARD – With the First Family now on summer vacation, CBS thought it would be a good time to compare the amount of "days off" President Obama has taken, compared to his predecessor, George W. Bush. Comparing the presidencies side-by-side in the amount of days served, Bush had 381 days of vacation, compared with 129 days for Obama. But when it comes to golf, Obama wiped the floor with Bush - playing 186 rounds since January 2009. Bush only played 24 rounds, saying the criticism was just too much when he had troops deployed overseas.


It's difficult to imagine the Democrats trying to muster up raw, unbridled enthusiasm for their Presidential candidate – Jimmy Carter – who they nominated on this day in 1980 during Democratic National Convention in New York.


The Morning Briefing, August 13, 2014

on Wednesday, 13 August 2014.


** The Morning Briefing will be on summer hiatus beginning Monday, August 18, returning September 2. **

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - If you were to track the Governor's travels with pushpins and a map, you would either need more pins or a more detailed map. That's because he seems to be hitting every town in the union this summer to shake out the GOP faithful for money. Today, he is in Birmingham to rake in cash with Gov. Robert Bentley and will tour the non-profit "Southern Research Institute" before shoveling some general, undeclared candidate quotes to reporters.

ATLANTIC CITY - Future historians will likely have plenty to say about the Revel - the $2.4 billion gleaming structure that carried such hope and promise for New Jersey's gaming mecca. But, today, the focus is more about what to do with the bankrupt mass, with word that it is set to close on Sept. 10 after two years of well-documented failure. Someone needs to swoop in quickly before it becomes a shuttered, rusting hulk; an eternal monument to overconfidence.

FREEHOLD - The wheels came off the campaign bus for a Republican seeking the state senate seat in the 13th district last year, when the campaign manager decided to send out a 4 a.m. "robocall" that urged voters to support the three incumbents just hours before polls opened, Politicker reports. The campaign manager must have figured such an annoying call would tick off a chunk of the electorate, propelling his long-shot Tea Party candidate to victory. The campaign manager was indicted earlier this week for impersonation. Perhaps impersonating a professional.

MENDHAM - Unless you live in a cave and read the Morning Briefing by candlelight, you know the ALS Foundation has a brilliant viral campaign underway: The Ice Bucket Challenge, which has raised $4 million since the first dumping on July 29. Never one to miss a viral opportunity, Gov. Chris Christie posted a video on his Facebook page with his kids dumping water on his head and sending out his own challenge to three pals: Sen. Cory Booker, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Jimmy Fallon.

TRENTON - While the Governor is happy to show the world he can withstand a dousing of ice water, The Record reports he has been less than willing to respond to requests through the Open Public Records Act. The newspaper reports his administration is waging 20 simultaneous legal battles to keep government documents out of public view. Reporters want his hotel receipts for all those out-of-state trips and the reasons staffers gave for leaving their jobs after the GWB debacle. Reason for denial? Threats of terrorism, overly vague language and protecting the governor's privacy. The Record contends this may be the biggest public-records bottleneck since OPRA became law in 2002. We'll never know; that information is confidential.

HADDON HEIGHTS - NJTV travelled to the legislative offices of former Rep. Rob Andrews to assess the level of constituent service. Andrews resigned six months ago; NJTV's Michael Aron found six leaderless people working on constituent matters, noting one staffer was engaged in a thrilling game of solitaire. The situation poses two key questions: Shouldn't there be a temp congress member assigned to the First District until the special election in November? Or, better yet, can this be an exercise in assessing how long a district can muddle on without representation in Congress? Perhaps the magic number is 50 years.


It was this day in 1981 that the last episode of "The Waltons" aired on CBS. Good night, John Boy.


The Morning Briefing, August 12, 2014

on Tuesday, 12 August 2014.


** The Morning Briefing will be on summer hiatus beginning Monday, August 18, returning September 2. **

STATEWIDE - More number crunching this morning from banking websites that release "studies" to the media. This time, has deemed New Jersey the fifth most expensive state to drive a car, with, on average, $2,421 spent on repairs, insurance and gas each year. Apparently, according to, the most expensive state to drive a car is Wyoming - probably because it is 300 unpaved miles between gas stations, your primary commuting vehicle is a 1974 Ford pick-up and there is the constant threat of a stampede.

RED BANK - While we all sat in lawn chairs and enjoyed another drink, a Red Bank man has spent the summer walking and jogging across the United States to raise money for cancer research. It looks like Garth Watson is set to finish his coast-to-coast journey tomorrow when he crosses the George Washington Bridge. He has raised $14,000 for the trek since he left Oceanside, Calif., on May 11, the NY Post reports, although it seems such a Herculean effort is worth a major corporate contribution or two. Hey Nike: Imagine the PR.

ATLANTIC CITY - It's been known that the bankrupt Revel casino is going to be sold for pennies on the dollar, but, at this point, the new owner may just be thrown the keys from the car window, as the current owners speed out of town. No one can seem to make any money on this $2.4 billion monstrosity; NBC reports there are no qualified bids for the Revel with the postponed auction slated now for Thursday. The Revel board of directors was apparently meeting yesterday to discuss next steps, which, surprisingly, they have not shared with us.

SECAUCUS - It is Tuesday, again, folks, so, for Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno - and the small group following her travels - it must be "Tourism Tuesday!" Today, our intrepid first mate heads up to Secaucus to visit "Field Station: Dinosaurs," an outdoor prehistoric theme park with the appropriate address of "1 Dinosaur Way." Today's special is "Stegosaurus."

NOT IN SECAUCUS - As our lieutenant governor goes back 90 million years to celebrate "Tourism Tuesday," she will also be in charge of nine million people. That's because Gov. Chris Christie returns to Maine today, stumping for Gov. Paul LePage. Christie will be touring C&L Aviation Group in Bangor today, which, we believe, does not have any dinosaurs. Then, the Governor hits a pair of fundraisers to rake in cash for the Republican faithful. Perhaps, upon his return to Trenton, there will be a dinosaur snowglobe sitting on his desk.

TRENTON - A new Rutgers Eagleton poll says New Jersey voters are split on Gov. Chris Christie, with an approval rating around 50 percent. Or, perhaps, voters are tired of polls and politicians and this could just be a huge "whatever." Of the 750 people polled, Rutgers Eagleton reports that 57 percent think he is going to run for President. If these people knew about the Governor's hectic travel schedule to other states and Mexico this summer, one would think the percentage points would be considerably higher.

ON THE RAILS - One could argue we are entitled to know that up to 30 trains of highly explosive crude oil are traveling through North Jersey suburbs in aging tanker cars, as The Record reports. On the other hand, rail companies and government officials have rightfully attempted to keep the information hush-hush, as terrorists and other nutjobs would find the details fascinating and immensely relevant. Let's debate this all we want; but the public should demand that every reasonable security and safety measure be implemented.


The Twitter feed for Yahoo News was hacked over the weekend, sending out a tweet about an Ebola outbreak in Atlanta infecting 145 people. While Yahoo News and Twitter try to figure out what happened, all the old crusty guys are grousing: "You never see a newspaper getting hacked. And you don't need to remember all those damn passwords. Pass the Mylanta."


It was this day in 1969 that the Boston Celtics were sold for a record $6 million - the same price it now costs to keep a ho-hum player riding the pine all season.


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