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When winter weather is really miserable, shopping is a pleasure at Costco Wholesale

The Costco Wholesale warehouse in Teterboro was a pleasure to shop in before noon today, above and below. When it was time for me t...

Thursday, March 15, 2018

UPDATE: The Record tries to panic us into thinking all of our taxes are going up

Jimmy Margulies, onetime editorial cartoonist at The Record of Woodland Park, has North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un wondering about how much he can get for his nuclear missiles after President Trump's lawyer paid $130,000 to silence adult film star Stormy Daniels.



During his successful campaign and in his budget address on Tuesday, Governor Murphy made clear he wants to raise taxes only on New Jersey's millionaires.

But on Tuesday, he also proposed restoring the 7% state sales tax, which former Gov. Chris Christie cut to 6.625% before he signed a 23-cents-a-gallon hike in the gas tax in October 2016.

That was the first and last tax hike the GOP bully signed during his eight years in office -- starving New Jersey of revenue and prompting him to grab money from mass transit, the environment, women's health and other programs to balance his budgets.

Still, The Record of Woodland Park wasted no time trying to panic non-millionaires into thinking their taxes are going up, too.

"Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled ... $1.6 billion in new taxes that will hit the paychecks of the wealthy and retail purchases of everyone in the state," the lead paragraph of a Page 1 story declared on Wednesday.

Of course, that was a reference to the miniscule hike to restore the state sales tax to 7%, but The Record's reporters made sure to bury that on the continuation page.

Does anyone care? If you can't afford a hike of a few cents in the sales tax, then your personal finances are a disaster.

'Ambitious' agenda

The story, written by James Nash and Dustin Racioppi, called Murphy's first-year agenda "ambitious."

A preview on Tuesday's front page asked, "How is he [Murphy] going to pay for his progressive promises?"

One of the biggest mistakes Gannett editors made was assigning Racioppi to cover Murphy.

The Trenton reporter's coverage of Christie largely ignored the nearly 600 vetoes the GOP thug executed to kill bills passed by the Democratic majority in the State Legislature.

Among many other measures, they included raising the minimum wage, taxing millionaires, hiking the gas tax to fund transportation improvements, and restricting the sale of assault-style rifles.

Affects who?

Inside Wednesday's paper, a graphic showed "how Murphy's $37.4B budget could affect you."

Turns out Uber and Airbnb services would be taxed for the first time in 2019. 

Big deal. Shouldn't they pay taxes, too?

Millionaires would pay a 10.75% tax on every dollar of income over $1 million, compared to an 8.97% tax on income over $500,000 now. 

Long overdue, and the 1% will hardly notice it.

Murphy said NJ Transit fares won't be going up in 2019.

Three cheers.

The state's earned income tax credit program would get an additional $27 million, giving more tax relief to low- and moderate-income earners.

And the state's minimum wage would be raised to $15, starting with a jump to $11 in 2019.

Sounds like a win-win for the vast majority of New Jersey's 9 million residents.

So, why is The Record's coverage of Murphy and his proposals so negative?


A rare correction on Wednesday's 2A noted a headline on Page 1L on Tuesday was "incorrect."

"A former Hackensack police officer will receive $105,416 for unused sick pay and vacation days."

The sub-headline on Tuesday said the payout will be "105,00."

There was no correction of Tuesday's incomprehensible Page 1 headline over the fatal crash of a helicopter into the Hudson River:


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

When winter weather is really miserable, shopping is a pleasure at Costco Wholesale

The Costco Wholesale warehouse in Teterboro was a pleasure to shop in before noon today, above and below.
When it was time for me to check out, there was only one other Costco member ahead of me, and he had purchased only three or four items.



A third snowy nor'easter in three weeks was predicted, but the storm fizzled this morning.

Still, wind and rain lashed my face as I bent forward to walk across the parking lot to the entrance of Costco Wholesale.

Inside, I found a far calmer shopping experience than usual: Uncrowded aisles and only one other Costco member in front of me at checkout.

I went for a couple of pounds of fresh, wild Cod from Iceland, but was surprised to find skinless-and-boneless fillets of wild-caught Silver Corvina from Suriname, a country in South America, for $8.99 a pound.

This is the first time I've seen that fish at Costco, and I'm looking forward to preparing a Fish & Vegetable Medley with the reddish fillets, fresh organic spinach, grape tomatoes and other ingredients.

Another standout was a 40-ounce bag of Organic Dried Smyrna Figs ($10.49), which are tender and juicy, and the closest you can get to the fresh fruit.

A few of them will be great with Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese and roasted almonds dusted with cinnamon after our fish dinner tonight.

And I also brought home a 5-pound bag labeled "Sweetie," containing small pomelos from Israel ($6.99).

Fresh wild Silver Corvina fillet from Suriname at Costco Wholesale in Teterboro. Below, a 40-ounce bag of Organic Dried Smyrna Figs was $10.49.

A 5-pound bag of pomelos from Israel are labeled "Sweetie."
Kirkland Signature Almonds are now steam pasteurized (3 pounds for $12.49). I roast the sodium-free, raw almonds in the oven for 1 hour and 25 minutes at 275 degrees, then dust them with cinnamon.
I usually grab two 40-ounce jars of Victoria White Linen Marinara when they are on sale at Costco, as they were today, but the high sodium content of this pasta sauce and others has prompted me to make a low-sodium alternative from cans of crushed tomatoes.  A half-cup of the Victoria sauce contains 18% of the recommended maximum sodium in one day.
A Kirkland Signature spread-collar dress shirt ($17.99), and a belt made from Italian leather (also $17.99) in my basket at checkout. A pack of five Kirkland Signature Dress Socks were only $7.99 after instant savings of $2.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

North Korea summit may be a distraction from mountainous breasts Trump adores

Adult film star Stormy Daniels is suing President Trump so she can make, uh, a clean breast of her affair with the New York billionaire after Melania Trump gave birth to their son, Barron. Melania is the stormy weather forecaster in this sendup from cartoonist Dave Granlund.
Cartoonist Granlund satirizing the war of words between North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and President Trump over which leader has a bigger nuclear "button."



We've survived another insane week of the Trump presidency -- with visions of an adult film star's enormous, surgically enlarged breasts and a possible summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Donald J. Trump would be the first sitting U.S. president to meet with a North Korean leader in hopes of obtaining a nuclear-disarmament pledge.

But former President Jimmy Carter obtained a nuclear disarmament agreement with Un's grandfather in 1994, according to ABC News.

And in 2009, former President Bill Clinton also went to North Korea at a time when tensions were high over its nuclear program, and helped free two journalists.

Just a distraction?

Trump's visit isn't a sure thing, but he's got such a mess on his hands at home it may not matter.

And all the coverage of a possible summit is distracting from last week's real news:

The probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election is intensifying, and could result in an obstruction of justice indictment against Trump as one former aide after another is charged or cooperates with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

And details of Trump's affair with a big-breasted porn star starting in 2006, after son Barron was born, are spilling out even as she sues to be allowed to tell all, including "still images" of what satirist Bill Maher speculates is Trump's "junk." 

Meanwhile, many are asking why Trump isn't applying sanctions Congress already OK'd against Russian dictator Vladimir Putin for his war crimes in Syria, and his recent, Kim Jong Un-like boast of having "invincible" nuclear weapons that could destroy U.S. defenses.

These doctored photos of President Trump and Kim Jong Un, above and below, appeared on Twitter (@bornmiserable).

N.J. environment

As today's front-page story in The Record shows, the environment in North Jersey went to hell while Chris Christie was governor from January 2010 to January 2018.

Now, the Woodland Park daily's environmental reporters are spending all their time on toxic disasters in Pompton Lake and Edgewater, the latter just across the Hudson River from Manhattan.

"Elevated levels of  a chemical that can be harmful to humans ... has been wafting in the air from the Quanta Superfund site in Edgewater for nine months [italics added] as workers continue to entomb a century's worth of pollution on the property closely surrounded by homes and businesses, Staff Writer Scott Fallon reports.

If the foul-smelling, potentially harmful air has been present for nine months, why is The Record just writing about it now?

Dysfunctional Englewood

The small city of Englewood has been mismanaged for decades.

Just look at the segregated elementary and middle schools; and high property taxes, despite revenue from the owners of million-dollar mansions on the East Hill, a small industrial area and hundreds of new apartments downtown and along Route 4.

Now, The Record leads today's Local front with a story under this headline:

"Englewood's 'dire' finances
 to be studied"

In the same sentence that quotes the "city manager," Englewood is referred to as a "borough" (1L).

Copy editors wanted

Readers eyes are rolling at another Mike Kelly piece that keeps them guessing on the meaning of the headline on today's Opinion front:

"It's time for a new plan
for Hudson rail tunnels"

Readers have to plow through thousands of words of background information on the Opinion front (1O) and the continuation page (4O) before Kelly reveals his solution in the last five paragraphs:

Appeal to the Port Authority to take over the project now that Trump has refused to fund the second attempt to replace the 100-year-old tunnels, which Christie initially killed in 2010. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Years late, Consumer Reports puts an EV on Top 10 list, but killer gas cars still rule

Consumer Reports' annual Auto Issue for 2018 shows one gas-electric hybrid on the cover. And the Chevrolet Bolt is the first all-electric car to make the magazine's 10 Top Picks (Page 19).



An all-electric, zero-emissions car has one major, life-saving advantage over every car that uses gasoline or diesel fuel -- no killer fumes.

A 2010 MIT study estimated 200,000 Americans die prematurely every year from so-called combustion emissions (industry, power generation, cars, trucks, trains and ships), and 53,000 of those deaths are caused by tailpipe emissions.

Yet, Consumer Reports stubbornly downplays the benefits of all-electric cars and gas-electric hybrids, and only this year named an EV to its Top 10 list in the magazine's annual Auto Issue.

Every other vehicle on the coveted list uses a gasoline engine; the editors couldn't find room for a single gas-electric hybrid, even though they are available in sedans, SUVs and crossovers.

Is CR truly independent?

This despite Consumer Reports' claim of independence: 

Unlike virtually all other publications and websites, Consumer Reports doesn't borrow the vehicles it road tests from the automakers' press fleets.

Each year, "we spend $2.2 million to buy" about 50 cars, SUVs and trucks, the magazine says.

And it doesn't accept any form of advertising from carmakers, automobile dealers and oil companies, so shouldn't feel any pressure to promote big SUVs, pickup trucks and cars powered by antiquated gasoline-combustion engines. 

Still, like all other auto publications, Consumer Reports pays little attention to climate change or the environmental benefits of EVs, gas-electric hybrids and hydrogen-powered cars.

This video will help you avoid breathing in deadly fumes while driving:

'10 Noteworthy Newcomers'

Also in the annual Auto Issue is a section on "10 Noteworthy Newcomers." But here, too, no all-electric car or hybrid is included.

This despite the debut of a second-generation Nissan Leaf, which is mentioned in another section, "New Car Profiles."

"The Nissan Leaf electric car has been redesigned for 2018 with a more powerful electric motor, a larger 40-kWh battery that is claimed to yield 150 miles of driving range, and a new driver-assist feature.

The price range is given as $29,990 to $36,200.

An optional 60-kWh battery (like the one in the Chevrolet Bolt and my 2015 Tesla Model S) is expected to arrive at the end of 2018, giving the car a claimed 200-mile range.

The 2018 Leaf is the first new all-electric car from Nissan since the December 2010 debut of the homely, first-generation Leaf, below.

'Brands that deliver'

Another section of the annual Auto Issue ranks auto brands "based on CR's exhaustive vehicle testing, as well as owner feedback on more than 640,000 cars to determine the predicted reliability and owner satisfaction ratings," the editors say.

The brand rankings are useful to compare to all of those TV auto ads we saw during Olympics, especially the annoying ones from Chevrolet.

CR's ranking appear in parentheses:

Mercedes-Benz (15), Volkswagen (16), Volvo (18), Chevrolet (23), Cadillac (24), Jaguar (29), Alfa Romeo (31), Land Rover (32), Jeep (33) and Fiat (34).

Ranked 1 to 8 are: Genesis, Audi, BMW, Lexus, Porsche, Kia, Subaru and Tesla.

The slow-selling Chevrolet Bolt EV is on Consumer Reports' Top 10 list for 2018.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

New immigrants prepare a delicious meal, reminding me of my roots in Aleppo, Syria

SYRIAN COMFORT FOOD: At a Syria Supper Club event in a private home in Oradell last weekend, I loaded my plate with hummus, tabbouleh, a rice-and-lentil dish called mujadara, stewed okra with tomatoes, eggplant salad, pocket bread and more.
GRAPE LEAVES OF WRATH: A couple who fled the Syrian civil war prepared the buffet. Yabra or grape leaves, one of my all-time favorites, were stuffed with rice and vegetables, front.



My most vivid memories of growing up in Brooklyn revolve around the Sephardic Jewish specialties prepared by my mother, who emigrated to the United States from Aleppo, Syria.

My favorite dishes are too numerous to mention, but last weekend, me and my wife attended a Syria Supper Club event in a private home, and enjoyed some of them in a buffet prepared by a couple who fled the Syrian civil war. 

The Syria Supper Club program connects Americans and recent immigrants, providing moral and financial support to the refugees who cook the meals and to their families.

Our nation of immigrants

I am a first-generation American, whose parents emigrated from Aleppo, met on Manhattan's Lower East Side, married and then moved to Brooklyn, where they spent the rest of their lives.

But the Saturday night dinner at the Oradell home of Lisa and Sean O'Donoghue proved to be an eye-opener, as Jews, Christians, Muslims and people of other faiths sat down to a great meal.

During an ice-breaker in the couple's family room, paying guests, the hosts, cooks and translators discussed their roots:

We were immigrants, and first- and second-generation Americans from Jamaica, Costa Rica, Panama, England, Ireland, Italy, India and other countries opening our hearts and wallets to the Syrians who had escaped the brutal civil war, which the United States and United Nations continue to ignore.

Four of the guests at the Syria Supper Club event on Saturday night in Oradell.

Syrian food

The 17 guests paid $53 each for a belly busting dinner from a buffet of Syrian food, plus wine, seltzer and dessert.

We were told to sit next to someone we didn't know, and the four Syrian cooks and translators, and our hosts -- a total of 23 people -- also sat down among us.

My favorites were mujadara, a dish of cooked rice, lentils and caramelized onions, which I ate with a fluffy garlic sauce I had never tasted before. 

We were invited to take home leftovers, and I had another big portion of mujadara for breakfast today.

'Taste of Syria'

"Taste of Syria" starts at 12:30 p.m. on March 21 at William Paterson University in Wayne, where guests will learn about Syrian culture and the current struggles Syrians face.

Admission is $10, including lunch, and the location is University Commons 211.

The event will be presented by the co-founder of the Syria Supper Club. To buy tickets, go to WPPresents.org.

For information about Syria Supper Club dinners in private homes in New Jersey, go to United Tastes of America.

FALAFEL AND KIBBEH: Falafel and kibbeh (bulgur wheat formed into ovals and stuffed with ground meat), were two of the items on the buffet.
TABBOULEH: A refreshing salad of finely chopped parsley, tomatoes, bulgur wheat and other ingredients.
HUMMUS: Ground chickpeas, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice are the ingredients in this Syrian classic.
OKRA AND TOMATOES: Bamia or okra stewed with tomatoes and other ingredients is another great dish from the Syrian kitchen, which relies on garlic, tamarind, lemon, cumin and other flavors.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Record calls Trump tweets stressful, but week-long series fails to look inward

Costa Rican cartoonist Arcadio Esquivel commenting on Russian Dictator and Syrian War Criminal Vladimir Putin's latest stunt -- claiming his new "invincible" missile can pierce U.S. defenses. President Trump didn't comment directly on the assertion by his BFF.
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, a former model, is leaving after testifying she told "white lies" for Trump, including "Your hands are so big and strong," "Your tweeting is bringing the country together" and "You are making America great again," says cartoonist John Darkow of the Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune.



The Record's weeklong series -- "EVERYBODY IS EXHAUSTED" -- identifies the "non-stop barrage of Presidential tweets" as among the chief causes of "why we're stressed."

"The chaos of life and its collision with technology and tragedy has more of us feeling drained, frazzled and emotionally overrun," Staff Writer Jim Beckerman wrote on Page 1 a week ago.

The series in my local daily newspaper examined the causes, and what we can do about it.

"Politics may actually be stressing you out," The Record reported last Sunday in a Better Living cover story appearing under this headline:

"The Trump effect"

A therapist is quoted as saying some of her patients point directly to President Trump as a major cause of their stress.

Often, his tweets are hateful, and they are always filled with lies, yet the news media seem to take delight in repeating them word for word.


But the Woodland Park daily left enormous holes in this weeklong report: 

For example, the Gannett Co. takeover in July 2016 has played a big role in stressing out readers -- from the widespread layoffs that deprive them of a full local-news report to the $75-a-year hike in 7-day home delivery of the print edition.

Also missing is how The Record reports almost exclusively on political conflict in Trenton and Washington, ignoring issues and what is good for the people, their state and their nation.

Web going dark

Now, Executive Editor Rick Green has informed readers that starting on Tuesday, "only subscribers" will be able to have full access "to our digital content anytime and anywhere."

"We are limiting access to content on our website [New Jersey.com] and apps for people who do not subscribe," said Green, a Gannett goon who showed no hesitation in axing more than 350 staffers at North Jersey Media Group, publisher of The Record.

Many readers, who are retired, won't miss smartphone alerts telling them NJ Transit trains are delayed or about the usual 45-minute wait at Hudson River tollbooths.

Nor will they miss NorthJersey.com rewrites of CNN bulletins or Breaking News emails from The New York Times.

Web emphasis

The previous owners put into motion the biggest downsizing in the paper's history in 2008.

About a year later, then-Publisher Stephen A. Borg moved The Record and NJMG headquarters to Woodland Park from Hackensack, where the Borg family had prospered for more than 110 years.

Gannett bought the paper from the Borgs in July 2016, and focused most of its resources on redesigning the lame website.

Meanwhile, Gannett editors gutted the staff of the print edition, and reduced the space devoted to local news from the 90 or so towns in the circulation area, as well as closing about 20 NJMG weeklies.

A redesigned NorthJersey.com shut out the mostly older readers of the print edition, many of whom don't use a computer or smartphone, and wouldn't know an app from an appetizer on an early bird menu.

Doblin leaves

Alfred P. Doblin, who was editorial page editor of The Record, left to take a job with New Jersey Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, says David Wildstein of NewJerseyGlobe.com (yes, that David Wildstein, who was the feds' star witness in the Bridgegate trial).

Meanwhile, NorthJersey.com's Facebook page
has been revised, and readers will no longer be able to post bad "reviews" of the fading daily or complain about not being able to reach anyone to cancel the paper.

Lindy Washburn

Lindy Washburn, a veteran reporter who survived the layoffs, continues to do meaningful reporting on her medical beat.

Her byline appears today over a Page 1 investigation of deaths at New Jersey surgery centers (includes reporting by Kaiser Health News).

In January, Washburn exposed the nearly 2 times higher risk of death during childbirth of New Jersey moms, compared to those in other parts of the country, and the even higher risk if they are African-American.

Cartoonist Paresh Nath commenting on the many countries that have intervened in the never-ending Syrian civil war, propping up the regime of President Bashar Al Assad, a war criminal who reportedly is using chemical weapons against civilians.
Cartoonist Dave Granlund envisioning the natural evolution of President Trump's call to arm teachers after a former student killed 17 students or staff members at a Florida high school.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Costco confusion: Members hoping to get rebates in cash find registers with few bills

STORMY WEATHER: I finally got out of the Costco Warehouse in the Teterboro Landing Shopping Center off of Route 46, above, about an hour after I arrived this morning. I found many more shoppers than unusual stocking up before the expected arrival of a nor'easter.




Paying for my purchases this morning at the Costco Wholesale in Teterboro was a genuine ordeal in a warehouse usually known for its many efficient cashiers.

A February tradition for members is receiving hundreds of dollars in rebates from Costco's no-fee, cash-back Visa credit card, and spending them in the warehouse.

This year, my reward certificates totaled $365 --three times my annual Executive Membership fee of $12o.

Despite knowing that thousands of customers would be asking for the balance of their rewards in cash, Teterboro managers refused to alter their system of keeping as few bills as possible in register drawers.

So, this morning, paying for $172.36 in fresh food and other purchases with a $296.16 reward certificate took longer than I care to remember, because the cashier didn't have enough change in her drawer.

And while I was waiting for my $122.75, the disorganized cashier started ringing up the purchases of the shopper behind me.

Then, a supervisor came over to "upsell" him to a $120 Executive Membership from the regular $60 Gold Star membership he held.

(With an Executive Membership, you get 2% cash back on all your purchases in the warehouse and on Costco.com, compared to 1% back for Gold Star members, in the month you renew.)

By the time I got my change, the shopper who was  behind me on line was well on his way, and I left without a gallon jug of Langer's Mango Nectar my cashier forgot to ring up in the first place.

GROWS ON YOU: The Deluxe Garden Bunch at the Teterboro Costco is a better deal than buying fresh flowers at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods Market.
I'M WILD FOR THIS FISH STICK: A 4-pound bag of The Ultimate Fish Stick from Trident, made from wild Alaskan Pollock and panko breadcrumbs, was $7.99 after an instant savings of $4.
SMOKED WILD SOCKEYE: Ignore all the artificially colored farmed salmon Costco offers -- smoked and fresh -- and go for the Kirkland Signature Wild Alaskan Smoked Sockeye Salmon. At $18.89 for a 1-pound package, this still is the best deal on smoked wild salmon in northern New Jersey.
REDUCED-FAT SWISS: One of the few reduced-fat cheeses at Costco is Jarlsberg Lite Sliced Swiss (two 1-pound containers for $7.99). I use this cheese and slices of smoked wild salmon in sandwiches and egg dishes or roll up them up with organic spring mix and Dijon mustard for a tasty, no-bread snack.  
CANNED YELLOWFIN: Six 7-ounce cans of the pricey Genova-brand Yellowfin Tuna in Olive Oil was easier to swallow  for $10.79 after instant savings of $2.70. This tuna makes a great salad with diced celery, sweet peppers and a dressing of Dijon mustard, fresh lemon juice and cumin.
ANTIBIOTIC- FREE SLICED TURKEY: Unfortunately, Plainville Farms Oven-Roasted Organic Turkey Breast, top, appears to be the only cold cut sold at the Teterboro Costco raised without harmful antibiotics.
TAKING A POWDER: One of the last items I looked at today before heading for the check-out lanes was this pouch of Ujido-brand Matcha Green Tea Powder from Japan, another in an increasing number of items aimed at North Jersey's Asian residents. Three-quarters of a pound of Green Tea Powder was $32.99.