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Planning to rent a car at Miami's airport? First, you'll have to walk, walk and walk

WALK, THEY SAID: After my flight from Newark to Miami, I picked up my luggage and set off for the rental-car center, using elevators, ...

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

News media love Trump Liar of the Union speech, more GOP propaganda about FBI

President Trump during his first -- and probably last -- State of the Union speech on Tuesday night (photo by Win McNamee via AP). 
A photo of Trump that was published after he was fired by NBC for calling Mexicans rapists and drug runners. Same tie, same lies as on Tuesday night.



I must be the only one who remembers when a South Carolina Republican shouted "You lie" as President Obama delivered a health care speech to Congress in 2009.

Where were the shouts of "liar" during President Trump's first State of the Union speech on Tuesday night -- or Liar of the Union speech, as I like to think of it?

Instead, I had to listen to upbeat coverage of the speech on the morning TV news, with only a minute or so devoted to a rebuttal from Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass.

"It would be easy to dismiss the past year as chaos. Partisanship. Politics. But it's far bigger than that," he said, according to CNN. "This administration isn't just targeting the laws that protect us -- they are targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection."

Local coverage

The Page 1 headline in The Record of Woodland Park, my local daily newspaper, is puzzling, if not downright awkward:


One definition of "tout" is "attempt to sell." But can you try to sell an "optimistic tone" or should that have been:


The sub-headline claims, "Speech advances infrastructure, immigration plans."

But no action  was taken on Tuesday night -- it was just a speech -- so "advances" is inaccurate.

Liar in Chief

After telling lies his entire life, does anyone really believe Trump -- con man, white supremacist, abuser of women and tax dodger -- was speaking the truth in his call for bipartisanship and unity?

"Trump offers same policies in new bipartisan packaging," was the headline over a Politico.com report.

Sounds just like media reports about Chris Christie, when he was governor of New Jersey and hailed as a "bipartisan compromiser" even as he executed one veto after another to keep Democrats in line. 

Fact Checker

Trump's claim that African-American unemployment "stands at the lowest rate ever recorded" is a total fabrication, according to The Washington Post Fact Checker:

"The African-American unemployment rate has been on a relatively steady decline since it hit a peak of 16.8 percent in March 2010.... "The rate had already fallen to 7.7 percent when Trump took the oath of office -- it is now 6.8 percent."

During the 2016 campaign, Trump claimed falsely that 58 percent of black youths were unemployed -- the actual figure was 19.2 percent, the newspaper said.

Secret memo

And the news media can't seem to get enough of the secret GOP memo about alleged investigative abuses at the FBI as part of the Russia probe.

Reminds me of all the time and space they devoted to the endless GOP lies about Hillary Clinton's emails -- stories that helped derail her campaign against Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

See: Media rewrite Christie history

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Eating In: A wide world of flavors dress up homemade meals, sandwiches and snacks

A pinch or two of a crushed red pepper named after the embattled city of Aleppo, Syria, where my parents were born, can elevate fish and egg dishes, such as this breakfast of organic eggs with Chinese broccoli, and leftover organic whole-wheat pasta with a ragu of sardines and anchovies.
Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto from Costco Wholesale brings the flavors of Italy (imported basil, grated cheese, extra virgin olive oil and pine nuts) to fresh wild cod from Iceland, served here with organic quinoa and a medley of vegetables. The refrigerated pesto also is terrific as a sandwich spread.



Crushed red Aleppo pepper, a fragrant pesto made from basil or mint, a fiery Mexican hot sauce; and za'atar, a dried thyme mixture, are some of the flavors from around the world I love to use in my meatless cooking, sandwiches and snacks.

A pinch or two of the mildly spicy Aleppo pepper can elevate any fish or egg dish, and you can sprinkle it over a hummus made with plenty of lemon and garlic. 

My source for Aleppo pepper and canned hummus from Lebanon is Fattal's at 975 Main St. in Paterson, a Syrian bakery, grocery and butcher shop with its own parking lot.

See this video for a falafel sandwich that reveals multiple layers of flavor as you eat more and more of it:

I've been on a no-bread, no-pizza diet for years, but an occasional guilty pleasure is the toasted end of a loaf of Dave's Killer Bread, an organic loaf with 21 grains or seeds sold at Costco, spread with a homemade mint pesto.
A small Za'atar Bread from Fattal's Cafe is another guilty pleasure. I had the bread in the freezer, but warmed it up in the oven and drizzled olive oil over the dried mixture: thyme, sour-tasting sumac, sesame seeds and salt.
Kimbap (seaweed-and-rice rolls) and Cabbage Kimchi add a spicy Korean accent to a simple egg-white omelet.
My wife rubbed a Jamaican Jerk Sauce into antibiotic-free, vegetarian-fed chicken wings from ShopRite, and roasted them until they were a golden brown. The chicken is sold under the Wholesome Pantry label.
Greek extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Italy are all the dressing I need on my almost nightly salad of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix with hothouse cucumbers and Campari Tomatoes, all from Costco.
Valentina Mexican Hot Sauce from Guadalajara, Mexico, is a modestly priced sauce that doesn't obliterate the taste of your food, if used sparingly (the "extra hot" version has a black label).
I like to use Valentina with the Jamaican national dish, Ackee and Salt Fish, which combines salted cod with hot and sweet peppers, a bland fruit called ackee and a side of boiled and mashed green bananas.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Omitting, rewriting or fudging Christie history is lowest form of journalism by far

President Trump's attempts to derail the Russia investigation by firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller and demonizing the FBI are reflected in cartoons by Steve Sack of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, above, and freelancer Milt Priggee, below.




In the nearly three months since Phil Murphy was elected governor of New Jersey, my local daily newspaper has been rewriting the eight years Chris Christie reigned as the worst chief executive in state history.

Editors, columnists and reporters at The Record, a Gannett-owned daily, seem to have been struck with amnesia.

A week ago, a front-page column ran under this headline:

"Gov. Murphy
must earn his
$175,000 salary"

In just his third paragraph, burned-out political columnist Charles Stile penned this fiction:

"Voters gave [Governor] Christie, and his penchant for lavish perks and his colorful, sometimes abrasive behavior, a wide berth because he was on the job, getting things done. He was earning his pay."

Getting things done?

Like destroying the environment? Like executing more than 600 vetoes to kill a tax surcharge on millionaires, a $15 minimum wage and other progressive bills approved by the state Legislature?

Violated Constitution

On Page 1 the very next day, readers of the Woodland Park daily learned Christie borrowed nearly $1 billion to renovate the State House and two other projects -- "all without asking permission from voters, as required by the state's constitution."

We need more debt like we need a hole in our collective heads.

The day after that an editorial blasted Christie for seven years of "head-in-the-sand thinking" -- pulling New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, "a coalition of nine New England and mid-Atlantic states that require utilities to buy credits for each ton of carbon they emit." 

The goal of the multi-state coalitions is to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and slow climate change.

Destroyed transit

Also last week, a front-page story reported Governor Murphy ordered a comprehensive audit of the state's troubled commuter rail and bus agency, NJ Transit, which has raised fares, cut service, and neglected maintenance and safety improvements.

Remarkably, reporters Curtis Tate and Dustin Racioppi never mentioned Christie, who put the agency on the ropes beginning in 2015.

How could they forget Christie cut the direct state subsidy to NJ Transit's operating budget to $33 million in 2015 from $348 million in 2009, the year before he took office, according to The New York Times' New Jersey Transit, A Cautionary Tale of Neglect.

See: Good riddance to Chris Christie

Local news?

One of the biggest impediments to stronger penalties against drivers who kill pedestrians in crosswalks is John Cichowski, who has written The Record's Road Warrior column for more than 14 years.

On Thursday, he devoted an entire front-page column to praise "traffic reform" after graduate student Weiqi Wang, a native of China, was fatally injured crossing the street in November 2016 in front of Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Cichowski doesn't call for stronger, criminal penalties against drivers who kill pedestrians.

Nor does he mention that Carlos A. Poole, 49, of New Milford, identified by police as the driver of the car that struck her, was issued only three motor-vehicle summonses for violating a 2010 law that drivers must stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.

Food coverage

Like coverage of local news, The Record's food coverage is going from bad to worse:

On Jan. 20, a Better Living cover story on "top cheese shops in North Jersey" ignored Jerry's Gourmet & More, the Englewood store that has one of the best selections of cheese in North Jersey as well as numerous free samples. 

Then on Wednesday, the Better Living cover puzzled readers with this headline:


Kate Morgan Jackson, a food blogger also known as the Queen of Cholesterol, offered a "few smart [kitchen] tricks and tips," such as using a "vegetable peeler to dot butter" (3BL).

The word "hack" was never defined; one definition is "a writer or journalist [like Jackson] producing dull, unoriginal work."

Despite Russian meddling in the 2016 election and the chaos of his first year in office, President Trump is expected to claim during his State of the Union speech on Tuesday the country is stronger and better than ever before, as shown in this cartoon by freelancer Dave Granlund. 

Trump booed

I doubt cowardy White House reporters or others in the United States will follow the lead of members of the foreign press who booed President Trump in Switzerland last week.

Trump was complaining about the news media again, and lamenting how "mean," "nasty" and  "fake" the press can be.

You can hear the boos in this piece from the Huffington Post:

Trump booed at Davos

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Eating Out: Bargain seafood lunch at Esca, comfort food at Cuban cafe in Hackensack

A humble Porgy was the delicious centerpiece of my $29 three-course meal at Esca in Manhattan, among hundreds of restaurants offering bargain lunches and dinners during the NYC Restaurant Week promotion, which runs through Feb. 9.
The whole, wild-caught Porgy was slightly charred outside, but moist and juicy inside. Esca, which calls itself a southern Italian trattoria, served the fish ("Orata" in Italian) with extra-virgin olive oil and a green salsa.


NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Exiting the bus terminal on 9th Avenue, my hunger pangs increased as I got closer to Esca Restaurant, a little over two blocks away.

I took the bus into the city from Hackensack on Tuesday, my heart set on a bargain three-course lunch of seafood, extra-virgin olive oil and fresh herbs.

Esca, a southern Italian trattoria known for celebrating fish and other seafood, usually is the first fine-dining place I seek out during the semi-annual NYC Restaurant Week promotion.

Through Feb. 9, hundreds of restaurants, the vast majority of them in Manhattan, offer three-course lunches for $29 and three-course dinners for $42, plus tax, tip and beverages.

Lunch is the better deal, because many of the Restaurant Week dinner menus largely duplicate what is served for lunch.

With tax and a 20% tip, my lunch at Esca totaled $37.37 -- not much more than what the restaurant charges for a lunch entree when ordered a la carte.

Last year, I was able to cut that to around $32 by using a registered American Express card to pay for the meal, but Amex has ended that deal (I got a $5 statement credit).

Lattarini to start

I was by myself at Esca (the Italian word for "bait"), but the woman who greeted me at the door, and took my raincoat and umbrella, seated me at one of the small tables for 2 in the main dining room.

First, I got the chef's complimentary crostini -- with white beans and mackerel -- then a small bowl of tasty olives, then a crusty slice of Italian bread (followed by another of focaccia), and finally a small plate of fruity extra-virgin olive oil for dipping the bread.

Esca's Restaurant Week lunch menu offers four starters, three entrees and two desserts.

I started with Lattarini, a Crispy Rainbow Smelt with a Caper-Tarragon Aioli.

The small fish was butterflied, deboned, fried to a crisp and arranged on a plate with extra-virgin olive oil and fresh herbs -- as if it had been hooked and was leaping out of the water.

Entree, dessert

I moved on to the Orata Americana, a whole wild-caught Porgy that was grilled and served with Salsa Verde, and finished with a refreshing Trio of Sorbets -- Tangerine, Grape and Pear.

That was a substitute for the Tangerine Curd Tart or Chocolate Trifle Cake listed on the menu, desserts that sounded as if they had a lot of sugar and calories. 

Esca's service is top notch: My water glass was filled repeatedly, and my table crumbed before dessert.

And the young woman who took my raincoat and umbrella when I arrived didn't need the claim check she gave me to retrieve them.

Here's to another great Restaurant Week lunch at Esca.

See: NYC Restaurant Week

Side dishes of soupy black beans and white rice at Casual Habana Cafe in Hackensack ($4 each), a combination that is sometimes called Moors and Christians, a reference to Spanish history.
Once a BYO, the popular Cuban restaurant now has a full bar, a liquor license and floor-to-ceiling windows on Main Street. But there are fewer seats for diners than before.

A favorite in Hackensack

We had a delicious dinner of Cuban comfort food at moderate prices on Saturday night at Casual Habana Cafe:

We shared a Baby Spinach Salad with Beets and Blue Cheese ($6), a fried whole Red Snapper with two side dishes ($19), and two more sides ($4 each).

The sides were tostones, twice-smashed and fried green plantains with a dipping sauce; tender yuca con mojo or yuca in a garlic sauce; and white rice and soupy black beans.

I poured some of the garlic sauce over the beautifully fried fish, which seemed to be swimming.

We drank pleasantly sweet Basil Lemonade ($3 each).

Website: Cuban Comfort Food

See a video report on our meal:

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Large and small news media are killing us with political conflict, sowing voter apathy

Evangelicals supporting President Trump are relieved the porn star he screwed didn't get pregnant and have an abortion, says Jimmy Margulies, a nationally syndicated cartoonist. On Friday night, satirist Bill Maher noted she was the first porn star paid to keep her mouth closed.
Here, Margulies expresses skepticism about the overweight 71-year-old's clean bill of health, given that the New York billionaire's favorite foods are cheeseburgers, steaks and huge slices of chocolate cake.


Editor's note: The end of this post has been updated to include mention of a flawed article about Hackensack that ran in The New York Times' Real Estate section.


For as long as I can remember, the most overused words in news media coverage of government are "Republican" and "Democrat."

The media know partisan conflict makes headlines, and there is nothing more infuriating than those TV sound bites from President Trump, Mitch McConnell and Democratic leaders.

Newspapers and TV anchors reduced to a blame game the chaotic government shutdown on the first anniversary of Trump's inauguration as the illegitimate president.

Saturday's Page 1 headline in The Record, the Gannett-owned local daily newspaper, couldn't be clearer:

"Midnight deadline passes
after Democrats block
GOP's stopgap plan"

The media -- large and small -- seem incapable of covering government by discussing issues, and taking a stand on what is good for the nation, New Jersey and their people.

And the relentless focus on partisan politics causes widespread voter apathy; tens of millions of Americans, many of them Democrats, simply don't vote, which is how the Liar-In-Chief got into office in the first place.

Coal and fish

The other night, I watched Major Garrett, White House correspondent for CBS News, struck dumb when Trump's environmental protection administrator said he refuses to favor renewable solar and wind energy over other forms, including coal.

Garrett could have pointed out that emissions from coal generating plants kill people prematurely or that they are linked to mercury in fish, but didn't.

What would EPA Czar Scott Pruitt say to that? I guess we'll never know.

Governor Murphy

Phil Murphy was sworn in as New Jersey's 56th governor last Tuesday.

But by Thursday, his pledge to raise the minimum wage to $15, and his executive order tightening rules on disclosing gifts weren't considered front-page news in The Record.

In fact, the Woodland Park daily has been running a series of news stories and columns suggesting Murphy might be "too liberal" for New Jersey -- echoing the lie-filled gubernatorial campaign of Kim Guadagno, who was lieutenant governor under Chris Christie, the worst governor in state history.

And The Record, often referred to as The Wretched, ignored Governor Murphy's non-partisan tweet on inauguration day:

I urge you to join us on the road forward. Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or an independent. We all share a common destiny. We must undertake a common cause.

Tarnished, not golden

Take a look at today's Opinion page (1O), which is dominated by a guest columnist, Carl Golden, who claims: 
"One essential truth emerged from Gov. Phil Murphy's inaugural address on Tuesday: It will be a metaphysical impossibility to get to his left. New Jersey has not been governed in modern history by a chief executive so unabashedly and unapologetically left of center."
Golden is a onetime Record reporter who went on to become chief spokesman for two of New Jersey's most conservative governors, Tom Kean and the other Christie -- Christie Whitman -- so the column about Murphy, a Democrat, is no surprise.

And The Record takes pains to hide Golden's conservative past by identifying him at the end of the column only as "a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University" (4O).

Golden; Charles Stile, The Record's political columnist; and Staff Writer Dustin Racioppi, who was assigned to cover Murphy after years of covering Christie, know "left" and "liberal" are loaded descriptions for progressive Democrats like Murphy.

They seem only interested in creating conflict and making headlines in their coverage of the new governor -- lots of heat, but no light. 

Food coverage?

The Record's Better Living cover today claims "one of the season's best dining deals" is Hudson Restaurant Week (Jan. 22-Feb. 2), when restaurants offer three-course lunches and dinners "for $40 and under."

But there is no mention that a far better deal can be found across the Hudson during New York City's Restaurant Week (Jan. 22-Feb. 9), when hundreds of restaurants offer three-course lunches for $29 and three-course dinners for $42.

Saturday's Better Living cover purported to report on the top cheese shops in North Jersey, but Food Editor Esther Davidowitz somehow omitted the incredible selection of cheeses -- as well as free samples -- at  Jerry's Gourmet & More in Englewood.

Taxing hospital

Friday's Record brought some good news for home and business owners in Hackensack, where property taxes are unusually high because of all the tax-exempt property located in the city of 45,000.

The City Council is renewing its attempt to get one those non-profits, Hackensack University Medical Center, to "pay some of the estimated $19 million" in taxes it would owe every year, if HUMC wasn't tax exempt, The Record reported.

In a 2015 settlement, the hospital agreed to pay Hackensack $4.5 million over three years, resolving several issues, including tax appeals on four hospital properties.

Upbeat article

Many Hackensack residents were pleased last week after The New York Times published an upbeat profile of the city under this headline:

Hackensack, N.J.: Small, Ethnically Diverse and Affordable

But in the comments section, others noted flaws in the piece, including absolutely no mention of the high property taxes home and business owners pay to make up for the tens of millions of dollars in revenue withheld by such non-profits as Hackensack University Medical Center.

That omission was especially glaring because the article was published in The Times' Real Estate section.

Noisy jets

There also was no mention of the biggest quality of life issue: 

Endless noise from the business and celebrity jets at Teterboro Airport that pass over the Fairmount section and Prospect Avenue high-rises.

The article was written by Jay Levin, a reporter at The Record who was laid off last year.

Levin spent many years crafting expanded obituaries of prominent local residents, but his flawed Hackensack article shows he may be out of practice writing about the living.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Eating In + Eating Out: Victor's Healthy Kitchen on YouTube; Fattal's, Lotus Cafe



After I gave up meat and poultry more than 5 years ago, I had to come up with recipes for fish, eggs and pasta for the nights my wife prepared a chicken, pork, beef, lamb or goat dish.

I've described the preparation of these meatless dishes in my blogs, The Sasson Report and Do You Really Know What You're Eating?

Now, I've started to post videos on a YouTube channel called Victor's Healthy Kitchen, showing how easy it is to assemble meatless meals at home.

I cook in large quantities, using leftovers to cut down on meal-preparation times in the next several days, but all of my recipes can be adjusted for one or two people.

I am also posting videos from the stores where I shop, including Costco Wholesale, Whole Foods Market, ShopRite, Trader Joe's, H Mart and H&Y Marketplace.

I am trying to buy as much organic or non-GMO food as I can to cut down on the pesticides, chemicals and harmful antibiotics that we ingest.

My visits to the Whole Foods Market in Paramus have increased to take advantage of lower prices for organics, fish and shrimp after the merger with Amazon, and Costco seems to be adding organics every day.

ShopRite also has christened a new line of organic and non-organic food, as well as antibiotic-free poultry, called Wholesome Pantry.

On Monday, on the way home from doing an errand in Bernardsville, we stopped in Paterson to shop at Fattal's, and pick up takeout from Aleppo Restaurant, at Main and Thomas streets (falafel, muhammara, salad and bread).

During our one dinner out last week, we saw the first women servers at Lotus Cafe in Hackensack in the nearly 30 years I've been going to the Chinese restaurant.

Spinach & Cheese Pies are among the savory baked goods offered at Fattal's, a bakery, grocery, butcher shop and cafe that also sells gold jewelry at 975 Main St., Paterson, in the Middle Eastern Shopping District called South Paterson.
At Fattal's, I picked up a half-gallon of Merve Ayran Yogurt Drink flavored with mint ($5.49).
Al Shark-brand Moroccan Sardines in tomato sauce, in red boxes, are 99 cents each, compared to skinless-and-boneless sardines in soya oil for $1.69 a can.
Some of the offerings in Fattal's small cafe, below.
On the way home from Fattal's and Aleppo Restaurant on Monday afternoon, we stopped at the Aldi Supermarket on Main Street in Hackensack to take advantage of a sale on a 1-pound package of triple-washed Organic Spring Mix ($3.49), a great salad with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
See Victor's Healthy Kitchen for a video on how to prepare organic sunny side up eggs and smoked wild salmon, which I served over leftover organic whole wheat spaghetti with sardines and anchovies.
Homemade Tuna and Sardine Salad with diced onion, sweet peppers and celery dressed in Dijon mustard, lemon juice and cumin, plus a non-fat Greek yogurt sauce with cucumber, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil called tzatziki.
We had dinner last Saturday night at Lotus Cafe in the Home Depot Shopping Center, 450 Hackensack Ave., Hackensack (201-488-7070). Our whole butterflied Striped Bass with Scallion & Ginger was enough for two with leftovers, but took 20 minutes to steam ($28.95).
A seasonal item, Sauteed Chinese Star Squash ($11.95), above, and brown rice, below, completed our delicious meal.
This hot chili pepper paste is available on request.