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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, ...

Sunday, July 29, 2018

'Fake news' Trump knows debunking his lies can take days, weeks or even months

Daily News front pages from July 17, above, and July 21, 2018, below, ran with a New York Times report on layoffs at the tabloid, which "positioned itself as an unapologetically liberal counterpuncher to Rupert Murdoch's New York Post," according to The Times.
The biggest shock in the announcement was not that the newsroom staff would be cut in half and that the editor in chief was out of a job. It was the small number of employees involved -- "more than 40 ..., including 25 of 34 sports journalists and most of the photo department," The Times reported, at what once was the largest-circulation paper in the country.


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- "President Trump often cries 'fake news' when he doesn't like what's being reported even when he knows it's the truth," The Washington Post says.

"For example, Trump said he knew nothing about any hush money paid to ... alleged mistresses Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal during the 2016 campaign," The Post's Fact Checker reported on Friday, adding:

"But we later found out that he did know.
"Trump claimed he had no role crafting his son's misleading statement about a meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign. But his attorneys later conceded Trump had dictated his statement.
"The moral of this story is that some of Trump's claims can be fact-checked quickly -- say, when he cites spurious data -- but other claims, particularly those involving Russia, can be debunked only after reporters and investigators dig up a full factual record.
"The process can take days, week or months.
"It's easy to lose the thread, and there's a risk these types of claims will end up forgotten in a memory hole."

Confront Trump

As I've said many times before, one possible solution is for reporters to confront Trump and appeal to him to "stop lying to the American people."

But Trump seems to have the upper hand in every meeting with reporters, and when he doesn't want to answer a question, simply says, "Thank you" over and over again or insults the reporter.

Also, The Washington Post Fact Checker should stop calling Trump's lies "false claims." 

The White House press corps has only a few members willing to push Trump or his staff; instead they compete to see who can be first to disseminate the latest presidential lie or tweet.

Where are they now?

I occasionally see the name or byline of one of the staffers who fell victim to Gannett's purchase of The Record of Woodland Park in July 2016.

That was the beginning of the end for more than 350 employees at North Jersey Media Group, publisher of my local daily newspaper, which I no longer subscribe to.

In The Washington Post Fact Checker article I cited today, I saw a tagline for Salvador Rizzo, whose byline from Trenton often appeared in The Record.

And onetime Assignment Editor Debra Vial now is director of communications and community relations at Suez, the water company in North Jersey.

Daily News

More evidence that some newspaper print editions are just limping along came in last week's announcement of layoffs at the Daily News.

The New York tabloid's newsroom apparently contained fewer than 90 employees, including photographers and sports reporters.

The New York Times reported that laying off half the newsroom involved "more than 40 employees." I would have said "only about 40 employees."

This at a tabloid that once circulated in the millions, and in May 2o16 still was the ninth most widely circulated daily newspaper in the United States. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Auto press group solicits ideas for ethics policy, but at least one member is skeptical

This week, President Emeritus Scotty Reiss asked members of the International Motor Press Association to submit ideas for the group's first ethics policy.


NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Members of the International Motor Press Association and Washington Automotive Press Association met this week for a free technical conference to improve their content and hone their social-media skills.

Five automakers sponsored the event, held at Volvo Cars Manhattan, including a light breakfast and lunch, and an evening cocktail party on the roof of a hotel called Ink 48.

The party, featuring $29 glasses of French champagne and light snacks, was paid for by Drive Shop, which manages new press and marketing vehicles many members can borrow free for "test drives."

In fact, many IMPA members have such a cozy relationship with auto companies and dealers I was surprised to hear President Emeritus Scotty Reiss solicit ideas for the press group's first ethics policy. 

I didn't get a chance to ask her at the conference on Tuesday why she thought the group needed an ethics policy, and she hasn't responded to my emails.

Freebies galore

I'm not sure IMPA is ready for an ethics policy.

"Free" is the operative word at IMPA, which calls itself the country's "oldest organization of automotive journalists and public relations professionals."

Members come from all media -- print, broadcast and Internet -- and include public relations representatives of all the world's automotive manufacturers and suppliers.

In addition to free cars and SUVs to borrow for a weekend or a week, some members have all their expenses paid when they travel to auto shows to report on new models or attend a "reveal" of a new car or SUV.

Few IMPA members disclose these freebies -- including airfare, hotel rooms and fine dining -- and many of their reports are indistinguishable from the advertising and promotion paid for by the automakers and dealers themselves.

Convivial lunches

I joined IMPA in the 1980s, when I wrote a monthly road-test column on new cars for The Record, then in Hackensack, N.J.

After I left the paper in 2008, I let my membership lapse, but rejoined when I began writing a blog, Shocking Car News, which focused on all-electric and hybrid cars, including my 2015 Tesla Model S.

Later, I folded that blog into The Sasson Report, which covers EVs, food, politics, news of Hackensack, where I live, and other topics.

I enjoy the free monthly IMPA lunches in Manhattan, convivial gatherings of writers, public relations people and auto company executives.

But given IMPA's emphasis on members monetizing their content, and the group's distaste for criticizing the industry and dealers, I can't imagine an ethics policy with any teeth.

Climate change 

For example, I don't see IMPA acknowledging how the auto industry damaged the environment in the past century or how auto emissions cause tens of thousands of premature deaths every year.

Few auto writers in the group focus exclusively on all-electric cars and gas-electric hybrids or ever discuss the environmental advantages of owning such a vehicle.

Good luck, Scotty. I sent you my ideas for an ethics policy. But I'm not holding my breath.

At Tuesday's tech conference, IMPA members heard from representatives of Facebook, Volvo and Drive Shop on how they can increase their presence on social media.
Katz's Deli delivered a light lunch, but servers didn't know what was in some of the sandwiches, which is how I ended up eating a chicken-salad sandwich, below, when I thought I was getting tuna fish. (I don't eat poultry or meat).

During the cocktail party atop Ink 48, I asked for a glass of French champagne, which was listed on the bar menu for $29. Delicious.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

U.S. fears meddling in the 2018 elections, but Trump grovels before Russian dictator

In this cartoon by freelancer Milt Priggee, President Trump uses the hammer and sickle to redecorate the exterior of Air Force One.


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Just when you think a single week of Donald J. Trump as president couldn't get more bizarre, the New York billionaire tops himself in all the wrong ways.

After last Monday's disastrous press conference with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin at his side, Trump spent days amending, correcting and trying to lie himself out his treasonous behavior.

The news media just sat there and soaked it all up for dissemination around the world.

Not a single reporter confronted Trump and urged him "to stop lying to the American people."

Grovels before Putin

Here is an essay by Graham West, spokesman for the Truman Center for National Policy and Truman National Security Project: 

"There’s no softer or more polite way to say it: President Trump groveled before Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland. His display – and the conduct of his administration in the days since – sent a dangerous message to our intelligence communities here at home and audiences watching around the world, while also leaving some serious questions unanswered.
"The focal point of the presser [press conference in Helsinki, Finland] was when the president was asked point blank who he believed on Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election: his own intelligence agencies, or Vladimir Putin himself. It is a question Trump has struggled with many times before. Predictably, when asked at the presser, he whiffed; his answer was garbled per usual, but he ultimately said he “didn’t see why it would be” Russia who meddled.
"Every news cycle since has been dominated by the White House’s attempts to clarify (that is, change) the president’s statement, with the president qualifying his heavily scripted walk back, saying contradictory things in different interviews, and freewheeling on Twitter. This has all been complicated by contrasting statements from national security leaders within the Trump Administration. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates maintains that the Russians are actively working to interfere in the fall midterms, while Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen still can’t admit that they were helping Trump in 2016.
"The net effect of all of this is a massive strain on the relationship between the White House and the intelligence community, which is self-evidently bad for our national security. It is also leading to a failure to respond to what Coates correctly identifies as an ongoing problem: Russian interference in elections to come. Perhaps because they felt the need to rally around their besieged leader, House Republicans blocked Democrats’ attempts to bolster funding for the Election Assistance Commission, which protects the critical voting infrastructure of states.
"There was also optical damage done at the Trump-Putin meeting, on which the eyes of the world were trained. President Trump missed an opportunity to call out Russia’s destructive behavior on the world stage. Instead of denouncing the invasion of Crimea, the downing of a civilian airliner, the poisoning of ex-pats on foreign soil, the killing of journalists, the arrest of opposition leaders, or the protection of murderous Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, he offered his classic ‘both sides are to blame’ take when asked about the source of difficulties in the U.S.-Russian relationship...."
(Copyright 2018 Graham West, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
(Graham West is the Communications Director for Truman Center for National Policy and Truman National Security Project, though views expressed here are his own. You can reach West at gwest@trumancnp.org.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A modest proposal: Hackensack should use some of HUMC's millions to fix streets

A PATCHWORK OF PATCHES: Hackensack hasn't paved the block of Euclid Avenue, between Prospect and Summit avenues, for more than three decades, according to longtime residents.
A GOOD THUMPING: Potholes like these, above and below, are found along the entire length of the block, and though small, they can rock even a heavy luxury car like the one I drive.
SUMMER POTHOLES: Who ever heard of potholes that go unfilled through the summer? Welcome to Euclid Avenue in the Fairmount section of Hackensack.

EDITOR'S NOTE: With my property tax bill approaching $19,000 a year, I want more than tax relief from the millions of dollars the city will receive from Hackensack University Medical Center, a so-called non-profit that pays its CEO more than $3 million a year.


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Have you heard the latest news in the decades-long battle between the city and the hugely profitable but tax-exempt Hackensack University Medical Center?

In a new deal, approved by the City Council on June 26, the sprawling medical center will pay $4 million a year for six years in lieu of property taxes -- a total of $24 million by the end of 2023.

City officials estimate the medical center would pay $19 million annually in property taxes, if it wasn't tax exempt, and say they hope to use some of the $24 million for tax relief.

A tax cut would be welcome to me and the thousands of other residential and business property owners, but I'm sure I'm not alone in hoping some of the hospital's millions can go to improve the quality of life here. 

Euclid Avenue

That means fixing some of the patched, potholed and broken streets in Hackensack, including my block of Euclid Avenue, which hasn't been paved in more than three decades.

Of course, Hackensack isn't alone in having poor pavement:

Tenafly, Englewood, Teaneck and Bogota -- the towns I drive in or through most of the time -- have dozens of doozies.

Yet, residents of Hackensack and other towns in Bergen County pay some of the highest property taxes in the nation.


In Hackensack, residents resent having to carry the hospital's $19 million tax obligation, which is shifted onto every home and business property owner, and reflected in their high tax bills.

City residents also carry the tax burden of other non-profits, notably Bergen County government, the county jail and homeless shelter; state Superior Court, Fairleigh Dickinson's Hackensack campus, Bergen Community College and the Bergen County Academies.

$3.3 million salary

Robert C. Garrett, CEO of Hackensack University Medical Center, was paid $3.3 million in 2014, according to NJ.com, which cited records from the Internal Revenue Service.

Garrett issued a statement after the City Council approved the $24 million payment plan in lieu of taxes, saying the deal "further deepens our commitment to this community."

He also claimed HUMC is "the largest employer in the county," and that the medical center is "the city's economic engine," but provided no figures to substantiate either claim.

2015 ruling

In the summer of 2015, state Tax Court Judge Vito Bianco ruled Morristown Medical Center should lose its tax-exempt status -- in part because of its parent company CEO's $5 million-a-year pay package.

Today's non-profit hospitals generate "significant revenue and pay their professionals salaries that are competitive even by for-profit standards," NJ.com said, quoting Bianco's ruling.

Months later, a settlement was reached that allowed Morristown to remain a non-profit entity, while paying out $15.5 million over 10 years to help offset property taxes.

The multi-year deal with Hackensack is similar, so let's hope residents get both tax relief and smoother streets as a result.

Trump gets played by Putin days after U.S. indicts 12 Russians for election meddling

Editorial cartoonists around the world are lampooning President Trump's bromance with Russian dictator and Syrian war criminal Vladimir Putin. Kevin Siers of The Charlotte Observer pulls no punches, above. See The Cagle Post for more.

Holds ex-KGB spy blameless
after acting like drunk uncle with allies


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Former Republican New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman called on President Trump to step down after his shameful performance on Monday in Finland.

Standing next to Vladimir Putin -- the ex-KGB spy he met with behind closed doors -- Trump backed the dictator's claims of innocence over U.S. officials who have condemned Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

Remarkably, no member of the U.S. media laughed in his face or shouted, "Shame on you!"

Just last Friday, the Justice Department unveiled indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers on charges of hacking Democrats' computers during the 2016 campaign. 

Your drunk uncle

Trump went to the meeting in Helsinki, Finland, after acting like your drunk uncle by insulting everyone -- high and low -- and making inappropriate comments in Europe and Great Britain.

All of that was on display at the NATO meeting this week and during his visit to London, where he blasted Prime Minister Theresa May in a newspaper interview, then praised her in person.

Is Trump off his meds? Did he ever take them during the 2016 presidential campaign? Talk about a loose cannon.

The White House insisted the so-called summit meeting with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin was on despite the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers.


Of course, whether that interference affected the outcome is beside the point. If Trump campaign officials knew about Russian hacking of Democrats, that's treasonous on its face.

Also this week, The New York Times published the "complete list" of the 487 "people, places and things" Trump has insulted on Twitter since he became president.

That number likely soared close to or over 500, if you include his bombshells at the NATO meeting and in London.

The two faces of President Trump were explored in cartoons by Steve Greenberg, above, and Sherif Arafat of Egypt, below. Above, Trump says, "Keep your friends close ... and your enemies closer."
A happy face to the Russian Bear, left, a howling maniac to NATO officials.
Dutch cartoonist Tom Janssen shows how Trump left Europe and England in shambles, but has nothing but good things to say about Putin.
The anti-Trump demonstration in London was the focus of cartoonists Bob Englehart, above, and Sean Delonas, below.
Delonas, onetime cartoonist at the New York Post, shows how Trump provided the "hot air" for London's "Baby Trump Balloon."

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Summer seafood: Soft-Shell Crabs, fresh wild Sockeye are unbeatable in the heat

THE PERFECT LUNCH? Two Soft-Shell Crabs, sauteed in olive oil and smothered in garlic, came with roasted potatoes and a steamed vegetable medley at Seafood Gourmet, the fish market-restaurant in Maywood.
MEATY SEAFOOD? We need a new word to describe crabs with a lot of, well, crab, besides "meaty," a reference to beef or other meat.


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Summer can bring oppressive heat, but the season also offers great eating for pescetarians and other seafood lovers.

Fresh, wild Sockeye, King and Coho Salmon are widely available in markets, and Soft-Sell Crabs are on the menu at Lotus Cafe in Hackensack, Seafood Gourmet in Maywood and many other restaurants. 

IN THE CASE AND ON THE PLATE: At Seafood Gourmet, Soft-Shell Crabs are available in the market, lower left, and in the BYO dining room, where my filling lunch was $18. The fish-market restaurant is at 103 W. Pleasant Ave., Maywood. Closed Sundays. With less than 40 seats. reservations are recommended for dinner (201-843-8558).
AT LOTUS CAFE: Our dinner for 3 included bite-sized Soft-Shell Crabs with Ginger & Scallion ($22.95), above; Filet of Sole in Garlic Sauce ($17.95), Fried String Beans Szechuan Style ($11.95), Boiled Seafood Dumplings ($7.95), and Pork & Pickled Cabbage Soup for 2 ($5.95).
SALT & PEPPER: We're planning to return to Lotus Cafe to try Salt & Pepper Soft-Shell Crabs. The Chinese BYO is at 450 Hackensack Ave., in the Home Depot Shopping Center, and is open 7 days.
FRESH WILD SOCKEYE SALMON: My favorite way to eat a leftover Sockeye Salmon Fillet is right out of the refrigerator on toasted slices of Dave's Killer Bread, an organic loaf sold at Costco Wholesale in Teterboro, spread with pesto or Dijon mustard, above and photos below.

SMOKED WILD SALMON: An over-the-top Sockeye Salmon sandwich includes silken slices of Kirkland Signature Wild Alaskan Smoked Sockeye Salmon from Costco, above and below.

AMAZON PRIME DEALS: Last week, fillets of fresh, wild Sockeye Salmon from Alasaka were $13.99 a pound at Whole Foods Market in Paramus or $6 off per pound for Amazon Prime members.
STOVETOP GRILL: I preheated a stovetop  grill that straddles two burners over a medium flame, added spray oil and cooked serving pieces of Sockeye Salmon for 3 minutes skin-side down and then another 3 minutes on the other side for medium-rare. I topped them with organic Mexican-style salsa, heated separately, and fresh herbs from my garden.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Trump is all talk but no action on opioids, infrastructure and other crises; Pruitt out

The resignation of President Trump's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency was welcome news. No one voted for more pollution, but Scott Pruitt did his best to rescind many of the Obama administration's environmental initiatives. As cartoonist Dave Granlund shows, Pruitt was unethical and the equivalent of sewage.
Unfortunately, Pruitt's successor is a former coal lobbyist who is expected to continue the work of destroying the environment and trying to revive the fossil-fuel industries. Cartoonist Bruce Plante of the Tulsa World calls Andrew Wheeler a "lump of coal."


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- If President Trump has demonstrated anything, it's that talk is cheap.

Despite all his promises to address the opioid and infrastructure crises, little has been accomplished.

Even his summit with the dictator of North Korea and so-called nuclear treaty appear to be unraveling.

As cartoonist Dave Granlund points out, both opioid sales and overdose deaths still are going up.
A proposal to cut Medicaid funding would deprive people who are seeking treatment for drug addiction, causing advocates to question the president's commitment to fight the opioid epidemic, according to the Los Angeles Times. This cartoon is by Nate Beeler of The Columbus Dispatch.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Big, new 99 Ranch Market in Hackensack shows Chinese eat every part of the animal

Duck Tongue, above, and Duck Feet and Pork Snout, below, are among the unusual items at 99 Ranch Market, a new Chinese supermarket in Hackensack's Home Depot Shopping Center.


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- The expensive, edible bird nest in Chinese Bird's Nest Soup is made from the solidified saliva of cave-dwelling birds.

Duck tongues and feet, pig snouts and brains, and snakes are other unusual items commonly used in the Chinese kitchen.

I've long heard the Chinese eat every part of the animal, and that was readily apparent on my first visit to 99 Ranch Market in the Home Depot Shopping Center on Saturday afternoon, though I didn't see any snakes for sale.

The big, brightly lit Chinese supermarket, which opened on Wednesday, is the closest you can get to Chinatown without leaving New Jersey.

And it's big news in Bergen County, where H Mart and other Korean supermarkets have dominated for decades.

Chinese-Americans have had only King Fung Supermarket on Kinderkamack Road in River Edge in which to shop, but after two major renovations since 2009, that place is closed again.

Cantonese-style dim sum are available in the food court, above and below.

Two specialties from mainland China are Cold Jelly Noodles and Northern Fried Shredded Pancakes, above, and a Meat Wrap, below.
Customers can use a large foam container to assemble a combination meal of Chinese favorites from this steam table for $8.99.
Hong Kong-style Whole Roast Ducks, Roast Pork and Barbecued Spare Ribs.

Food court

Judging from the lines I saw on Saturday, a big draw at 99 Ranch Market is the mouth-watering prepared food available in the food court:

I saw Cantonese-style dim sum, specialties from mainland China, Thai and Malaysian food, and sweet buns and cakes, all available for takeout or dining in.

There's more: Hong Kong-style whole roast ducks ($21.88 each), roast pork and barbecued pork spare ribs, which you see displayed in every Chinatown you've ever visited; and a steam table with Chinese favorites you can buy as a combination meal for $8.99.

And another stand offers a rice porridge called congee with scallops, fish fillet, sliced pork, preserved egg or chicken ($6.50 to $7.25); and soups with shrimp wontons or noodles.

Go fish

The seafood department is a winner, offering live crawfish, crabs, lobster and fish, as well as plenty of fresh fish on ice. 

There is no charge to have the crustaceans steamed, but you can also ask to have live or fresh fish cleaned and fried "regular" or "crispy"

The supermarket also has a liquor license, though none of the bottles of sake and beer I saw can be sold on Sundays before noon.

On Saturday, my wife spent some time in the store's boutique, testing Korean skin-care products.

Fresh fish on ice included Shark ($2.99 a pound), above, and Strawberry Grouper ($7.99 a pound), below, which I've never seen in a fish market before.
The eggs from wild-caught salmon were being offered for $49.99 a pound.

A great seafood meal

This morning, I returned to 99 Ranch Market to assemble our Sunday dinner:

I bought 2.2 pounds of live Crawfish for a boil ($4.99 a pound); trays of Fried Fish and Shrimp Balls from Taiwan for a noodle soup I'll make at home (about $10), and two whole Porgies, which I asked to have cleaned and fried crispy (about $5.50).

For an appetizer, I picked up three kinds of shrimp dim sum, 9 pieces altogether (3 for $2.90).

The Chinese market doesn't offer a discount card like ShopRite or a cash-rebate card like H Mart, but after spending more than $26 today on live or fresh seafood, I received a $1 coupon for the bakery or hot food.

Which is bigger?

California-based 99 Ranch Market was established in 1984, and with more than 50 locations, claims to be "the largest Asian supermarket chain in the United States."

But Han Ah Reum, which opened its first market in Queens in 1982, has more than 60 stores, including 6 H Marts in Bergen County.

Han Ah Reum, now based in Lyndhurst, opened a new H Mart in Paramus in May, but unexpectedly closed the Englewood H Mart, shocking many hundreds of loyal Jamaican-American and other non-Korean residents who had shopped there since that supermarket opened in 1992.

Although the many H Marts I've patronized have an edge on low prices, the new 99 Ranch Market in Hackensack is clearly a better Asian supermarket.

The 59,170-square-foot Hackensack supermarket once was a Pathmark, but that store closed in 2011.


99 Ranch Market is at 450 Hackensack Ave., Hackensack, in the Home Depot Shopping Center; 1-201-489-8899. Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. WebsiteHackensack is our newest store

Two more item in the meat case at 99 Ranch Market are Pork Tongue, and containers of Pork Brains, not shown.
Silkie Chickens are a highly prized breed of chicken that has beautiful, silky white plumage and startlingly black skin, according to Kitchen.com. They are found in China, India and Southeast Asia.
A Silkie Chicken (photo credit: The Happy Chicken Coop).
Taiwan Spinach is one of three varieties of spinach I saw in the produce department. Unfortunately, 99 Ranch Market has only a small selection of organic produce.
The store's coupon policy is explained in the vestibule.