Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Best of 2008: Merla, Obama, the cat killer and more

The Courier Online is running its countdown of 2008's top stories, with more to come throughout the week.

Click on the headline to check it out.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Long Branch library finds way to help during economic crisis

According to a story by Asbury Park Press reporter Carol Gorga Williams, the Long Branch Free Public Library is responding to recent economic hard times through a new initiative, its Virtual Career Center. The center assists library users in teaching computer literacy, as well as honing existing computer skills.

The center is the culmination of a year-long planning process that included Tonya Badillo, of the Gates Computer Lab.

For the full story, click on the headline to go to the Asbury Park Press.

Could Tuna be returning to Gang Green?

According to NJ.com's John Shabe, the New York Jets may be somewhere the Dolphins' current exec. vice president of football operations, Bill Parcells, lands next season, according to a report at ESPN.com.

Reportedly, Parcells could opt out of his current contract with Miami should the Dolphins' franchise change hands. Published reports say this sale is likely, though, and are speculating about what the next step for Parcells might be.

Parcells is most notably known for his Super Bowl-winning teams with the New Yorkc Giants. However, he is also credited with rebuilding the New England, New York Jets and Dallas franchises. Most recently, Parcells has contributed to what is generally regarded as a strong turnaround for the Miami Dolphin organization, culminating with this year's upcoming playoff berth for that team.

For the full story, click on the headline and go to NJ.com.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Curley may be freeholder candidate again


This is not against Amy A. Mallet, Monmouth ‘s Democratic freeholder-elect, the underdog who beat out Republican John P. Curley by a razor-thin margin of about 350 votes in last month’s historic and nerve-wracking general election that gave her party control of county government for the first time in 23 years.

Mallet waged a strong political campaign. She held her own under some vicious personal attacks by the GOP. Indications are that she will be an active participant in honest and responsible Board of Freeholders-run decision-making So there are no immediate problems there.

But this also is about a lament that Curley, a former Red Bank councilman, was defeated at the polls. He was the first breath of clean, fresh air in the county Republican freeholder candidate ranks in a long time. He ran an election battle that was refreshing and forthright. He was not afraid to tackle ethical issues. . He spoke his mind about GOP insiders, past and present.

Republican leaders didn’t know quite how to handle him. He often was called a “loose cannon”—but some partisan party people found it more advantageous to support him than a Democrat.

Still, it was good to see Curley, another Republican potential officeholder coming to the forefront among the super-special lines of state Sen. Jennifer Beck of the 12th District and Assemblywoman Amy H. Handlin of the 13th District.. Handlin is a former freeholder deputy director who started the county board on a path of much-needed ethical and fiscal reform after the corruption days under the late former Republican Freeholder Director Harry Larrison, Jr. Many Republicans don’t like to talk about those scandal-ridden times and treat them as if they never happened.

Curley said he likes being mentioned in the same company as Beck and Handlin, whom he regards as “two progressive legislators” And the encouraging news today is that Curley is expected to be a freeholder candidate again next year. “I loved every minute” of the campaigning, he said , “and would certainly enjoy doing it again.” . He added: “I continue to stay in contact with elected officials throughout Monmouth in an effort to keep my fingers on the pulse rate of our citizens.” He’s too good to lose.

Things can change in the whole selection process for both parties between now and November--but it appears that Curley coiuld be up against an experienced and formidable foe in incumbent Freeholder barbara mcMorrow. Reports indicate the board's now Democratic majority will name her as director next month to replace Lillian G. Burry.

Curley, who said, “I do not bend to the whims of others,” said he was scolded privately during the campaign by Freeholder Deputy Director Robert D. Clifton and outgoing Freeholder William C. Barham, both Republicans, after he came out publicly in favor of giving a new name to Brookdale Community College’s tarnished Larrison Hall, a county monument to the longtime freeholder director charged in 2005 by the FBI with accepting bribes. He died before the case went to trial. Then U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie led the charge that brought the corruption arrest of 11 officials in the county.

“They told me taking that stand would cost me 500 votes,” Curley stated. And, as it turned out, they may have been right . But that didn’t stop Curley. So you have to admire the guy. He said he “never was concerned about an admonishment, continuing: “Be true to yourself and your beliefs and you never have to look over your shoulder.”

Clifton, through a spokesman, said he never discussed Larrison Hall with Curley. Barham hasn’t been heard from. Curley stands by his story. Interestingly, Beck and Handlin took stands identical to Curley on the new name for Larrison Hall issue.

Curley also took on another heavy-hitter in Malcolm V. Carton, chief county counsel and a former Larrison lieutenant and crony. Curley got the ball rolling to reduce the hourly rate for couny attorneys and to prevent them from being hired as fulltime employees. “This practice costs too much money long-term,” Curley said. And he won’t stop at just hiring a handful. “I believe in shrinking the size of government and not creating more pensioners.” He wants a term limit on Carton’s position. That’s tough talk—but it is in the best interests of taxpayers.

So if Curley runs again for freeholder, it will add to the excitement of next November’s election in Monmouth County. Just think—Christie the reformer might be the Republican candidate for governor on the same ticket with Beck seeking to run for lieutenant governor. And the icing on the cake: Handlin will seek Assembly re-election.

While the economy will continue to be the main issue, with that potent GOP political lineup, voters can be sure that the ravages of corruption that laid this county low in disgrace not too many years ago will not be forgotten and discussed openly. And the symbol of those dark days – an academic building on the county’s community college campus no less—will get another name to herald a new ethical era for the county and the state.

(Arthur Z. Kamin, Fair Haven, is an independent journalist who has taught English and journalism as a Brookdale adjunct instructor.)

Third dead dolphin was pregnant

The third dolphin from a pod washed up in Sea Bright. Sadly, the female bottlenose dolphin was pregnant. The story of the dolphin pod that has unfolded in recent months has been tragic. For the full story, click on the headline and go to NJ.com.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

N.J. ranked 25th in unemployment nationally

According to a CNN/Money rating, New Jersey is ranked 25th in unemployment claims nationally. Then poll noted that the state is currently at a 6.1 percent unemployment percentage.

Click on the headline to go there.

Military doctor from N.J. killed during mortar attack

According to a story by Star-Ledger reporter Sharon Adarlo, Dr. John P. Pryor, a 42-year-old doctor from Moorestown, New Jersey, was killed on Christmas morning by a mortar attack in Iraq. The round reportedly struck his trailer in Mosul. The report noted that Dr. Pryor was probably asleep when the round struck.

For the story, click on the headline to go to NJ.com.

Friday, December 26, 2008

These are the days to remember, for good and bad


My father told me stories about how my family and their neighbors made it through during the Great Depression. He was 10 years old when "things failed" in 1929. I wouldn't be born for another 30-plus years so, other than what he said or what I read, I didn't really know that world.

He told me that when people said, "The Depression was hard times but good times" that they were lying and they weren't, at the very same time.

Dad's memories were of the Irish Ward in Newark, and a time when a few coins in a boy's pocket might as well have been a fortune. There was no big technology and it wasn't so strange to see a tinker using a wagon drawn by a horse. Medicine wasn't what it is today, but my father and his family didn't believe in doctors anyway. But, family was always around and the friendships forged in the poverty of Newark's streets lasted a lifetime. By the late 1930s, Dad's generation was young, strong, independent and ambitious. The end of World War II was when Dad, his brothers and friends finished their education. Some had lived, others had died, but all of them served a cause, and could serve that cause without reservation or doubt because it was right.

At 42, I don't have enough years under my belt to be 'officially old.' But the world looks a lot different through my eyes today than it did 20 years ago. This economy terrifies me. The changes going on in the world are frightening. The very ground beneath our feet is sinking.

When I first became a reporter I was in my late 20s. There was enough opportunity in this industry. There was enough opportunity in almost every industry. In fact, in the world that all of us have lived in, to this point, there was not a lack of opportunity.

But then, one day, we woke up, turned on CNN and started hearing bad news that just wouldn't stop about the economy. It was all intellectual until people had friends or family that started getting laid off. One might be able to ignore the more-than-usual vacant stores if they focused on the road a bit more. But the houses being auctioned off in Middletown, where I work, and Freehold, where I live, were harder to ignore. More people are out of work today than have been for the past 15 years, according to Bloomberg TV.

By now, with new bad news coming around the corner from the retail market and commercial real-estate industry, it seems deluded to say there will be some big comeback that will put everything back in place all at once.

With so much instability, I should be comforted by all our technology, which is a great tool of industry, society and medicine. Likewise, the population today is more educated than at any time in the nation's history. And, those immense corporations that were giants just a moment ago should be reassuring to me. But, none of these things are doing much for my confidence these days. I find myself glad that I live within my means, residing someplace that I can afford, driving an unstylish car I own (and which recently passed inspection), and returning home to someone that is my family.

In general, though, this generation is not as strong as my father's. But, this generation better become stronger. And, by becoming stronger I am not talking about going to the gym. There is no substitute for believing in one's own self, or those around them. Yet, to trust institutions and people that patently cannot be trusted is unsound. Insane trust will not rebuild anyone's life or this tattered economy. Revisiting who we are, where we place our faith, and in whom we place our trust, and then daring to make something better amidst the ruin of an old world – I think that might work. Certainly, it has the advantage of being untried.

The answers to changing things for the better are not inside a financial market, or in some stock index. Those answers are in each one of us, and they are going to involve thrift, vision, hard work, family, loyalty and judgment. In old Westerns, settlers were always rescued by the cavalry coming over the hill to fight back the bad guys. Well, we're all in the cavalry now, and how things turn out is up to each one of us.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Faith becoming more important for some

Star-Ledger reporter Jeff Diamant wrote a story about Tracey Keim, from Metuchen. Ms. Keim is becoming Catholic and has made a choice to move toward faith. Click on the headline to go to the story.

What a Wonderful World

This being Christmas, the late Louis Armstrong sang a great version of "What a Wonderful World."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Winter Wonderland

"Winter Wonderland" by Amy Grant. Merry Christmas to all.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Snoopy vs. The Red Baron

It being just a few days before Christmas, here's Snoopy vs. The Red Baron.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The auto bailout

Courier Editor Somdatta Sengupta has penned a piece about the auto bailout for this week's edition of The Courier Online. Click on the headline to go to the story.

Great day trip: Princeton Art Museum

The art museum at Princeton University is truly a worthwhile day trip, which is family friendly and educational for all. As well as featured shows, the museum has an incredible permanent collection that is breathtaking. Click on the headline to go to the link.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hospital cuts hit Southern Ocean

In Stafford, Southern Ocean County Hospital is looking at staff cuts. This is a concern to many area residents, who are concerned about what could happen at either Riverview or Bayshore. Hospital cuts are perhaps the most troubling sign of recent times. Click on the headline to go to the story at the APP.

Homeland security seeks more information

The Department of Homeland Security is soliciting tips. Click on the headline to go to the story at NJ.com.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

NJ.com weighs in on the tough issue

Pork roll or Taylor Ham: NJ.com settles the debate. Click on the headline to go to the story.

Bayshore braces for some very bad weather

According to NJ.com, tomorrow (Friday) is going to bring a good blast of winter. Be ready for winter tomorrow. Click on the headline to see the story.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

State finds probable cause in Schwebel case

Middletown resident Carolyn Schwebel filed a complaint with the state Attorney General this past February.

In a report dated Dec. 1, the state Division on Civil Rights announced that Schwebel did, in fact, have probable cause in filling her complaint, as ruled by J. Frank Vespa Papaleo, the divison’s director.

Schwebel filed the complaint after her dismissal from the Middletown Township Human Rights Commission last December, a committee on which she had voluntarily served for 18 years, most recently as chairwoman.

For the full story, click on the headline and go to The Courier Online by Courier Staff Writer Melissa L. Gaffney.

Promotional video for the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hazlet's plan is on the map

Children are not the only ones submitting wish lists this season. The Hazlet Open Space Advisory Council recently completed its Open Space Recreation Plan that would serve as a wish list of possible properties for preservation, said Annie Eng, who sits on the board.

“We’ve been working on this since [the advisory council] formed about two years ago,” Eng said. “This is the first completed [Open Space Recreation] Plan ever.”

The plan will be submitted to Green Acres for filing, Eng said. Creating such a proposal also gives the township a break on grants from the organization, which is operated through the state Department of Environmental Protection, she said.

For the full story, click on the headline to go to The Courier Online.

Meares opens 'JAM' gallery in Keyport

The "JAM" gallery is set to open in Keyport. Jennie A. Meares is the owner of the gallery. For the whole story, click on the headline and go to The Courier Online.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Legislature may curb scholarships to brightest students

The APP has a story about how the NJ Legislature could curb scholarships associated with a program that gives scholarships to the top 20 percent of New Jersey high-school students. Click on the headline to go there.

'The Wrestler,' filmed in Hazlet, was important to Rourke

NJ.com has a good story about Mickey Rourke, star of the upcoming film "The Wrestler" about a down-and-out wrestler seeking a comeback. Rourke was the star of several iconic 1980s movies like "9-1/2 Weeks," "Barfly" and "Angel Heart," among others.

As an aside, some of the scenes of the picture were shot in a mobile home park owned by Hazlet businessman and recent independent candidate for the committee John Conti. An excellent business person in his own right, Michael Conti, John's son, is the owner of the Shore Cafe, also in Hazlet. He described Rourke as a "class act who was very receptive to fans that approached him while he was in the area filming."

Rourke talks plainly about his career and life in this very good article. Click on the headline to go to the story.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

The late Gene Autry's Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Keansburg promotes 5 police officers

Sable Minded blogger Melissa Gaffney has a post about 5 Keansburg police officers that were recently promoted: John White, now detective captain; Gary Kronenberger and Robert Sheehan, to lieutenants; and Wayne Davis and James Nelson, both promoted to sergeants.

Click on the headline to go to the post at Sable Minded.

Rutgers posts win over Delaware in hoops

Star-Ledger staffer Brendan Prunty has a story about how the Scarlet Knights Men's Basketball Team edged out Delaware State 60-55 on the hardwood.

The star of the game was Rutgers senior guard Anthony Farmer. Click on the headline to go to the story at NJ.com.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sandy Hook in pictures

A YouTube collage of Sandy Hook, NJ footage and photos, put to music by composer/musician Herbie Hancock.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gaffney interviews Schwebel about complaint

Courier Staff Writer Melissa Gaffney recently interviewed Middletown resident and human rights activist Carolyn Schwebel regarding her complaint against Middletown Township.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Blackout in Monmouth County

So, what happens when all the lights go out?

A widespread power outage early Tuesday evening led to extreme traffic congestion on nearly every highway in Monmouth County, according to reports.

Officials said a massive electrical failure caused a blackout in the majority of Monmouth County, Northern Ocean County and even towns in Middlesex County.

Reports state the outage is affecting areas from Manahawkin up to Old Bridge, and as west as Freehold.

After experiencing what some described as an “explosion” of a JCP&L transformer, in Neptune Township, at approximately 5:30 p.m., officials are recommending residents stick to back roads and avoid major highways.

An estimated 40,000 residents are without power, while even more are trying to trek home, reports claim.

Both Brookdale Community College, in Lincroft, and Monmouth University, in West Long Branch, cancelled classes for the evening.

Officials are encouraging residents to take extra caution, if driving is necessary.

—Melissa L. Gaffney

NJ.com has good story about power outage

NJ.com has a good story about the power outage, including maps of impacted areas in the state. Click on the headline to go there.

Power outage impacts most of Monmouth, parts of Ocean, Middlesex

There is a power outage going on right now in much of Monmouth County, parts of Southern Middlesex County and Northern Ocean County.

Traffic is a major concern throughout the Greater Middletown Area. There are some lights functioning along Rt. 35 in the township. There is a police presence at key intersections. But, traffic is heavy as literally hundreds of people are stuck on the road during the drive time commute heading toward home.

Notably, power is on in Freehold and the surrounding area. The source of the problem is allegedly a power terminal in Neptune.

The WABC website has a good story about the problem. Click on the headline to go to the site.

N.J. commuters lead commuters with time in car

It will not surprise New Jersey commuters that they lead the nation in the amount of time they spend in their cars commuting. Click on the headline to go to the story at NJ.com.

Sister Elizabeth Garvey promotes the Bayshore Banquet Hall

Courier Staff Writer Melissa Gaffney reported on the Bayshore Banquet Hall yesterday. She interviewed Sister Elizabeth Garvey, the director of the Bayshore Senior Health, Education & Wellness Center, in Keansburg. The banquet hall is physically atop the center and is operated by the center's staff.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Rutgers heads to PappaJohns.com Bowl on heels of big win

NJ.com has a story from The Star-Ledger's Tom Luicci about the Rutgers' Scarlet Knights football team knotting an impressive win against Louisville en route to the PappaJohns.com Bowl, where they will face N.C. State.

Friday, December 05, 2008

McMorrow expected to become freeholder director

According to Michael Mangan, spokesperson for the Monmouth County Democratic Party, Monmouth will have its second female director in history come January 6th. Freeholder Barbara J. McMorrow has earned the support of her fellow Democratic Freeholders to become the next Director of the Board. McMorrow pledged to fulfill the promises she made to the people of Monmouth County by fighting for less costly and more efficient and open county government.

The first female freeholder director was Lillian Burry, who McMorrow will replace in January. Burry, a Republican, won re-election to the board in November, along with Democrat Amy Mallet.

Read about this in more detail in the upcoming edition of The Courier.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Some changes in Courier policy for letter, events and obituaries

The Courier has some announcements in this week's newspaper that have an impact to readers.

Going forward, all letters to the editor need to be submitted to letter.courier@gmail.com. No printed letters, either sent via mail or delivered to the office will be considered for publication.

In addition, the releases submitted for consideration to the Monmouth Scene section of the newspaper must be submitted via e-mail to courier.calendar@gmail.com.

There will no longer be unpaid obituaries printed in the newspaper. Instead, all obituaries for publication must be submitted with a payment of $5 for a maximum of 125 words. Obituaries can be received through the courierreporter@gmail.com address for the moment. But, by next week, there will be a dedicated e-mail address established expressly for this purpose at obits.courier@gmail.com