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In a shocking omission, no all-electric car makes Top 10 list at Consumer Reports

Honda will show an all-electric version of its Clarity fuel-cell sedan at the New York International Auto Show in April.  The Chevr...

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Feds may question coziness of automobile writers, manufacturers and car dealers

YouTube celeb Daym Drops was a panelist at a conference sponsored by the International Motor Press Association, the nation's oldest group of automotive journalists and public relations professionals; five auto manufacturers; and DriveShop, a nationwide marketing agency that provides free vehicles for evaluation by members of the automotive media.
The setting for #IMPACon17 was the Automotive Education Center in the Whitestone section of Queens, N.Y., where conference participants could try out the 2018 Honda Odyssey, Mazda Miata and other vehicles during lunch.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

QUEENS, N.Y. -- A conference designed to raise the social-media skills of automobile writers started off on an ominous note.

It seems the Federal Trade Commission, the nation's consumer-protection agency, is reminding so-called influencers to disclose "any material connection" between them and the marketer of a product.

"Boots are shaking at [Vogue publisher] Conde Nast" and at other fashion magazines, said Scotty Reiss, president emeritus of the International Press Association.

In her opening comments, Reiss said she feared the FTC will go after auto writers next, requiring them to disclose flights, rooms and meals paid for by automakers or dealers who invite the media to auto shows or the unveiling of new models.

The FTC says in a sample letter sent to influencers that a material connection "could consist of a business or family relationship, monetary payment or the provision of free products to the endorser." 

Turning over a new Leaf

Nissan, for example, is planning to stage the worldwide "reveal" of the redesigned all-electric Leaf in Japan.

Fewer than a half-dozen elite auto writers will be invited on an all-expenses-paid trip to Tokyo in September to see and write about the second-generation 2018 Leaf, the first mass-market electric car, which debuted in 2011.

Another issue beyond those writers disclosing the flight, room and meals in their articles is whether the federal government will move to tax them.

Free cars, free delivery

Across the United States, DriveShop, Event Solutions International and other managers of large "press" and "marketing" fleets provide free loans of new cars, trucks and SUVs to auto writers and VIPs for up to a week.

Those vehicles are delivered with full tanks of gas to homes or offices, and picked up at no cost to the writer, blogger or video producer.

What industry wants

At Tuesday's conference, DriveShop CEO Derek Drake spoke to about 50 IMPA members and other participants.

The title of his talk was "The View from the C-Suite: What the Auto Industry Wants and How You Fit in the Picture."

Basically, Drake said what the industry and marketers like DriveShop want is for the media to help them "win the hearts and minds of consumers" and a "share of their wallets" through favorable reviews.

A Subaru spokesman said the Japanese automaker would be glad to post on its Facebook page any auto writer's "nice" article about one of its cars.

Presumably, it wouldn't be "nice" to point out that Subaru is the only major manufacturer that doesn't market a gas-electric hybrid in the United States.

Nor was there any discussion at the conference of how the world's biggest automakers are dragging their feet on introducing all-electric cars, aggravating climate change and causing millions of premature deaths from auto emissions every year.

The title of the conference was "The Digital Newsstand: Building Content, Audiences and Opportunities."







Conference participants were welcomed to the decade-old Automotive Education Center by Mark Schienberg, president of the Greater New York Auto Dealers Association, which built the center and sponsors the New York International Auto Show, said to be the largest and oldest in North America.
Honda brought its battery powered Uni-Cub, which is intended for people who can walk, but not walk far. They are now available for rent in Japan. The rider can nod his head forward to get the Uni-Cub going, and look left or right to get the modern-day unicycle to turn.
After a spin in the Mazda MX-5 Miata with a 6-speed manual transmission, below, this Tesla owner can only hope the roadster is the last gasoline-powered car left after the transition to all-electric vehicles.

The conference and test drives took place in the picturesque Whitestone section of Queens, N.Y.
Honda also showed the 2018 Honda Odyssey, but the new minivan loses points by not offering a gas-electric hybrid version or one with all-wheel drive.
The Odyssey and Honda Clarity reintroduce the push-button automatic transmission once found in the Plymouth Valiant (my first car) and other Chrysler Corp. cars of the 1960s.
IMPA members paid $79 to attend the conference, which included breakfast, lunch and a reception with wine and beer, the last sponsored by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

No amount of drinking could prepare me for the return trip to New Jersey on the infamous Cross Bronx Expressway, which was down to one lane when a tractor-trailer in the middle lane hit a car in the inside lane, and both vehicles stopped so the drivers could exchange information.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Six months in, Trump lurches from one disaster to another with no end to the lies

Jimmy Margulies, onetime editorial cartoonist at The Record of Woodland Park, and others are having a field day with President Trump's failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and, in the process, screw tens of millions who got health insurance under the law.
This gem is from cartoonist Rick McKee at The Augusta Chronicle in Georgia.

-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The collapse of Republican efforts to overhaul health care puts President Trump's entire legislative agenda at risk, USA Today reports:

"Trump and aides have repeatedly said that their hopes for tax reform hinged on a new health care law, because it included changes to the tax code.

"Plans for an infrastructure bill, a budget plan and raising the debt ceiling may also be in doubt because of bruised feeling left over from the health care fight," USA Today reporter David Jackson says in The Record of Woodland Park (9A).

According to New York Times Op-Ed Columnist David Leonhardt, the No. 1 lesson to take from the collapse of the Republican health care bills is this:

"They have demonstrated that facts still matter and that the truth has some inherent advantage over falsehood," Leonhardt says.

The Times columnist reminds us "Trump, after all, won the presidency despite a constant stream of falsehoods" [and those tweeted and spoken lies continue unabated].

"He launched his political career with a lie about Barack Obama's birthplace and just kept on lying about almost every imaginable subject. He also admitted to being a sexual molester. He refused to release his tax returns.... And yet he was elected president.
"There was, and still is, ample reason for despondence."

Now, Trump claims President Obama's Affordable Care Act is collapsing, "when in fact it has mostly worked well -- and its flaws, while real, are eminently fixable through bipartisan legislation," Leonhardt reports.

A Record editorial today says "now's the time to work with Democrats" (10A).

Of course, the paper's Editorial Board could have and should have run that editorial every week since 2010, when Republicans won a majority in the House and the Tea Party ignited racial warfare against Obama.

Putin bromance

The latest legislative disaster comes not long after Trump jumped back into bed with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit.

Then, before The Times published them, Donald Trump Jr. released emails about his excitement over meeting during the 2016 presidential campaign with a Russian lawyer who promised to deliver "dirt" on Democratic Hillary Clinton.

And, remember, Trump took office on Jan. 20, just six months ago, and has already earned the title of worst U.S. president ever.

Local news?

On The Record's Local front today, two photos show the Englewood Night Market, but there is no mention the event was sponsored by a unit of Gannett Co.'s North Jersey Media Group, which publishes the paper.

Today's Better Living cover on dining near Grand Central Terminal -- from USA Today -- is aimed at people who live in New York State and Connecticut, and ride Metro-North Railroad.

Very little of the food shown on the cover, 2BL and 3BL is suitable for people who don't eat meat.


Next: Do auto media
 exist solely to sell cars?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Strong U.S. dollar helped me eat my way 'round the world without leaving Montreal

EUROPEAN BERRIES: Raspberries from the European Union, right, and other berries at the Atwater Market, one of Montreal's big produce markets.
MOUTH WATERING: Middle Eastern pastries at Andalos Bakery, 350 Boulevard Lebeau in Saint Laurent, a Montreal borough.

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you charge your restaurant meals to a credit card, you'll be given a portable terminal and asked to add a tip of 15% or 18% on the total price, including wine. The total doesn't include the tax. You also can write in your own tip.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

MONTREAL -- We ate well on our annual visit to the International Jazz Festival, which ran for 11 days on this large, cosmopolitan island in the Saint Lawrence River.

And in the last couple of years, a strong U.S. dollar meant our food purchases and restaurant meals were bargains when compared to northern New Jersey or that other famous island, Manhattan.

One U.S. dollar is worth $1.27 Canadian, down from $1.31 during our visit (June 28 to July 5).

The U.S. dollar seemed even stronger during our visit to Montreal in 2016.

Still, when I withdrew $100 Canadian dollars from an ATM on June 28, my bank in New Jersey deducted only $77.59 from my checking account.

At the Costco Wholesale on Bridge Street in Montreal, I spent $112.91 Canadian on four large plastic jugs of extra virgin olive oil from Greece and another from Spain; a 3-pound box of fresh shallots, and a bottle of red wine, charging them to a credit card that doesn't penalize you with a foreign currency transaction fee.

Back home, the Costco purchases totaled $86.93 on my credit card statement.

Although the U.S. dollar is strong, there is no way to avoid taxes of about 15% on restaurant meals -- more than twice what I pay in New Jersey -- and high levies on alcohol.

At Costco, I paid $2.08 Canadian in taxes on a bottle of red wine that cost $13.89 Canadian.

French or ethnic?

Montreal may be the largest French-speaking city in North America, but we don't go there to eat French food, which is prepared with artery clogging butter and heavy cream.

Instead, we get to pick among an incredible variety of restaurants serving ethnic food, and roam the city's large produce markets, which are feasts for the eyes.

On this trip, we also visited Andalos, a huge Lebanese bakery that sends fresh pocket bread to Boston and New Jersey, as well as to stores across Canada; and Adonis, the biggest Middle Eastern supermarket I've ever seen, at 3100 Boulevard Thimens (1-514-904-6789).

And one nice touch when you order a glass of wine in a Montreal restaurant is that your server will offer to pour you a sample to make sure it's exactly what you want.

Complex Desjardins

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Montreal, which is perched atop the Complexe Desjardins, a multi-level mall in the heart of the entertainment district where the jazz festival is staged.

The mall also is linked to Underground Montreal and the city's subway system.



SAY CHEESE: Seafood Fettuccine ($20 Canadian) comes with fresh dill and a lemon wedge at Restaurant La Piazzetta, which also serves Neapolitan-style pizza, below. My wife loved her Spaghetti and Meatballs ($19). 

FARM FRESH: This may be fresh wild salmon season, but I saw only farmed Atlantic salmon fillets on menus in Montreal, including this lunch entree at Restaurant Casa Cacciatore ($23.95 Canadian). Couples at other tables were eating large bowls of spaghetti marinara and drinking red wine. My wife ordered Shrimp a la Cardinal ($24.50), below.



TRADITIONAL ITALIAN: How traditional is Casa Cacciatore? My wife thought her water glass was dirty, so she asked for bottled water. This is what our server brought to the table.
SHOWING ITS AGE: The restaurant, which is near the Jean Talon Market in the heart of Montreal's Little Italy section, has been open for more than 30 years, as you can plainly see from the dark black stain on the red carpet runner inside.
OUT OF OYSTERS: The Fresh Lobster Salad ($21 Canadian) at Notkins, a well-known Montreal oyster house that didn't have any oysters the day we stopped for lunch, below. My Sea Bass Fillets a la Plancha were served over pureed beets ($19). My wife had Fennel Soup ($6), we shared a seasonal salad ($5) and we drank Pinot Grigio ($9 a glass).
ACCENT ON SEAFOOD: Roasted Sardines and Pickled Vegetables was my starter when I ordered the fixed-price lunch at Taverne F, a Portuguese restaurant. You get two courses, plus a green salad or handmade french fries, for $24 Canadian or $3 more than in 2016.
IN COD WE TRUST: Roasted Fresh Cod on a Warm Salad (cherry tomatoes, red onion confit, caper berries, olives, arugula, fried chickpeas and salsa verde) was my main dish at Taverne F.
MORE COD: My wife started with Cod Cakes over Piri Piri Mayo, above, and finished with the Taverne F Hamburger, served on a Brioche Bun, and french fries.
AND ALL THAT JAZZ: Taverne F has outdoor seating on the plaza where free concerts are staged during the jazz festival.
FEAST FOR THE EYES: A baker, butcher and fishmonger, among others, have shops at Atwater Market, which is a feast for the eyes, above and below.
FOR YOUR GARDEN: Concessions selling flowers and plants flank the Art Deco market building.
ALL DIETS ACCOMMODATED: For a quick bite to eat at the Atwater Market, try the paella, above, or a vegan meal, below.

BONES AND ALL: Fried Smelts with Spicy Mayo are made to order for $10.50 Canadian (cash only) at Aqua Mare, a fish store in Montreal's Jean-Talon Market, another large produce market, above and below. The smelts might remind you of sardines.


GOOD DEAL: At Jean-Talon Market, these American cherries were selling for $1.99 Canadian a pound when supermarkets in New Jersey were selling them for $2.99 and $3.99 a pound.
THEY HAVE YOU COVERED: Jean-Talon Market once offered free samples without toothpicks, but when we visited this year, we found the cut-up tomatoes, fruit and other produce were covered, and tongs were provided, making it more difficult to try something.
THYME FOR ZA'ATAR: One of the classic Middle Eastern flavors is the spice mixture called za'atar (Arabic for thyme), which is sold on pies mixed with oil, above, and loose in bags at Andalos Bakery in Saint Laurent, a Montreal borough. The dry mixture includes thyme, sumac, salt and sesame seeds. You can sprinkle za'atar over non-fat Greek Yogurt drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, and eat it with a spoon or scoop it up with pocket bread. 
WE WERE STUFFED: We had lunch at Andalos, including vegetarian grape leaves and one stuffed with meat, fried eggplant, tabbouleh, and Lebanese meatballs served with white rice, above.



NO CREDIT: Andalos Bakery at 350 Boulevard Lebeau in Saint Laurent, a Montreal borough (1-514-856-0953), takes only cash or debit cards. We drove there during the week and easily found parking on the street.
ROLLING: Montreal subways run on rubber tires and are quieter than those in Manhattan. And during the summer, stations don't become ovens. The fare is $3.25 Canadian, but you get a discount when you buy two or more tickets or multi-day tickets from machines that accept cash, credit and debit cards.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: The annual Canada Day Parade in downtown Montreal was celebrated on July 1 in a display of the country's diversity, above and below.
150 YEARS: Canada celebrated its 150th anniversary this year.
WEARING THE FLAG: A couple looked for a good place to watch the parade.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Dated columns, chest thumping, errors -- what Gannett did to once-great newspaper

An undated photo of Donald J. Trump appeared with a NewJerseyBride.com article on country club weddings. The photo was taken at the site's No. 1 pick, the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, which has become the president's New Jersey White House.

Ex-Record editor Bill MacNeil is dead

HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

When Gannett Co. redesigned NorthJersey.com after a long promotional campaign, readers of the print edition of The Record may have missed the subliminal message.

The website of North Jersey Media Group -- the Gannett division that publishes The Record, other newspapers and a magazine -- would become the main focus, and get the best of what the decimated staff could offer.

In two rounds of layoffs that ended in March, Gannett had cut the NJMG staff by more than 350, including 50 editors and reporters.

The remaining columnists, reporters and editors were told their main job was to write, report and edit for NJMG's digital platform.

That meant older readers, who didn't use smart phones or computers, were stuck with a downsized print edition based in Woodland Park that struggled to cover local news, and looked and sounded like the homogenized USA Today.




Dated columns

For example, today's Sunday edition contains two overlong, outdated columns by Mike Kelly -- one on Newark 50 years after the 1967 riots, and the other on the sentencing last Wednesday of David Wildstein, the so-called mastermind of the George Washington Bridge lane closures (1A and 1O).

I, for one, have heard and seen enough about both on radio and TV in the last few days and weeks, and have no interest in reading either column.

What message does Editor Richard A. Green send when he couldn't find room in the print edition for Kelly's column on Wildstein the day after the final Bridgegate sentencing?

Gee-whiz disease

The two news stories on Page 1 today -- one on childhood suicide, the other on leprosy -- affect few New Jersey residents (1A).

But they may serve to distract readers from The Record's failure to cover much bigger health stories, including the obesity epidemic, heart disease (the No. 1 killer in the United States), and dementia.

Missing big story

Only an egomaniac like Staff Writer John Brennan can turn missing the chance to interview President Trump into naked self-promotion (12A).

Or, as a reader said in an email:
"Check out John Brennan's bloviating column inside today's A section. Thumping his chest about his incredible career in a column about how he missed seeing Trump by mere seconds at the Bedminster golf course."
By the way, "bloviating" is arrogant boasting and making the story all about himself.

Brennan actually claims in today's story promoting his sorry sports and news career that his exceedingly boring coverage of the Meadowlands Xanadu project in the past 15 years has been "well read." 

What a joke!

Local news?

Only three and a half pages of today's 8-page Local section carries news and feature stories from the 90 or so towns in the circulation area.

Bergen County readers may be in the clear majority, but they are stuck with a single section containing news of Passaic, Morris and Essex counties, too.

'Summer of Hell'

An editorial today finally admits The Record's coverage of the impact of track repairs at New York's Penn Station was totally overblown (2O).

The headline:

"First week of 'Summer
of Hell' was not so bad

Meanwhile, the Woodland Park daily has never pressed Port Authority officials on why they have refused to expand PATH rail service beyond a proposal to add a Newark airport link.

Nor, has the Editorial Board called for more exclusive bus lanes at the Lincoln Tunnel during both the morning and evening rush hours.

Errors mount

There isn't room here for all of the errors, typos and just plain awkward writing that appears in The Record these days.

But one photo in the weekly Hackensack Chronicle jumped out at me:

The caption said the photo showed State Street, which is being converted into two-way traffic, but it actually showed Passaic Street.

On Friday, temperatures were in the 60s and rain fell much of the day -- in vivid contrast to Thursday's searing heat and humidity -- but a photo overline on Friday's front page declared:


"NEW JERSEY SEEKS RELIEF FROM HEAT"

That appeared over dated photos of an exhausted Paterson fireman pouring water over his head on Thursday afternoon, when temperatures soared into the 90s, as well as children splashing in a Paterson pool on Thursday.

Old box scores

Another reader pointed out that Saturday's Sports section carried box scores from last Sunday:
"Victor -- I know that you are not a sports fan and do not look at the Sports section, but in today's Record, they had the box scores from last Sunday's baseball games. Those games are more ancient history, and no baseball fan would have any interest in Sunday's box scores. It would be like putting the closing stock prices from July 6 in today's paper or putting last Monday's weather report and temperatures from worldwide cities in today's paper. It makes no sense and just filled up space."

Bill MacNeil

William A. MacNeil, who started his newspaper career at The Record of Hackensack, died on July 6 in Santa Fe, N.M. He was 77.

Here is a link to his obituary, which appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican and included an illustration by Bill Hogan, another former staffer:

It's safe to say they don't make newspaper editors like Bill MacNeil anymore, and there is certainly no one at the Gannett-owned Record who is anywhere near his equal.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Food shopping: Rotten fruit from Costco Wholesale, Can't Can't Sale at ShopRite

A display of Victoria Pasta Sauce was mislabeled as Silver Palate Pasta Sauce this week during the Summer Can Can Sale at ShopRite, Forest Avenue and Route 4 east in Paramus, above.
A couple of days later the correct sign showed a 24-ounce jar of Victoria Marinara still wasn't a bargain at $2.99.

ENGLEWOOD SHOPRITE 
EXPANSION DRAGS ON

-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

If you missed seeing the trays of large California peaches that started appearing at Costco Wholesale in Teterboro in June, there's a good chance you were attracted by their fragrance.

We made sure to buy a tray of 11 peaches weekly, and if we didn't eat them out of hand, they were terrific grilled and served with Costco's fresh wild sockeye salmon fillets.

But the 5-pound tray of white-flesh peaches ($10.99) we brought home on July 6 from the warehouse in the Teterboro Landing Shopping Center started rotting almost immediately, attracting fruit flies.

Meanwhile, instead of ripening on the counter, a 3-pound tray of large apricots ($6.49) from the Costco Wholesale Business Center in Hackensack also rotted.

We were able to return peaches and apricots for a full refund, but I didn't bother going back to the ShopRite in Paramus after a couple of the small California peaches I bought there got moldy instead of ripened.

Was all that bad fruit stored improperly?


Summer Can Can Sale

Never have so many food shoppers searched in vain for bargains as they have at recent Can Can promotions, and the Summer Can Can Sale going on now at ShopRite Supermarkets is no exception.

In fact, every Can Can Sale seems to have fewer deep discounts than its predecessor, as if manufacturers are saying, We Can't Can't subsidize the promotion any longer.






Adirondack has changed the design of its 12-can packages of Lemon Lime Seltzer and other flavors, but they weren't on sale for $1.99, as they have been in the past during Can Can Sales at ShopRites in Paramus and Englewood.
A Summer Can Can special at the Paramus and Englewood ShopRites are large cans of Dole 100% Pineapple Juice from concentrate for $1.88 each, above. But the Costco Business Center at 80 South River St. in Hackensack has an instant coupon good through today for three cans of Dole 100% Pineapple Juice -- not from concentrate -- for $1.36 each. Both are non-GMO and come in BPA-free cans.
Cans of Glade air freshener were 93 cents each with ShopRite's Price Plus loyalty card.
Two-liter tins of Botticelli Extra Virgin Olive Oil for $9.99 are marked "Imported from Italy," but most of them contain oil from Tunisia, Spain and Greece, as marked near the spout, below.

Although not part of the Summer Can Can promotion, New Jersey peaches were selling for $1.69 a pound at the Paramus ShopRite this week or 20 cents a pound more than Tree Ripe-brand peaches from California.
At the Paramus ShopRite on Thursday, I wasn't willing to pay $2.99 for a jar of Victoria Marinara, but did pay $2.99 for Victoria Low Sodium Marinara, left, which has 120 milligrams of sodium in each half cup (5% of the recommended daily maximum), compared to 420 milligrams in a half cup of the regular Victoria Marinara (18% of the recommended maximum). Victoria Marinara also is among the few bottled sauces with no added sugar.
The expansion and renovation of the ShopRite at 40 Nathaniel Place in Englewood is far from complete, as I discovered on Friday, when I went there to see if the store had Summer Can Can Sale promotions not available in Paramus. None were to be found.
If you didn't know better, you'd think the store had been hit by a storm or that you had been transported to the third world, above and below.