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August 6, 2018

Tomato season is finally here! Surprisingly, the justifiably famous Jersey crop is only the third largest grown in the state. Farmers say that field tomatoes are now ripe for picking; and, due to early rain and warm weather, the growing conditions this year are great.

New Jersey annually ranks in the top 10 states in the U.S. for the production of tomatoes. Last year, the production of 112 million pounds grown on 4,000 acres was worth more than $39 million.

New Jersey’s tomato season lasts through October with peak harvest during the first two weeks of August, according to the state’s Department of Agriculture. There are many different types of tomatoes grown in New Jersey, including the Ramapo, Quick Pick, Jet Star, Pik-Red, Floramerica, Celebrity, Supersteak, Supersonic, Mountain Pride, Heirloom, as well as cherry-shaped, pear-shaped and novelty varieties.

And recently, the Rutgers tomato, which started it all, has been reintroduced to the market.

August 3, 2018

Hunger is an issue in 16 percent of New Jersey households where there are children. In households where no children live, hunger is less of a problem (11.5 percent). The gap is highlighted in How Hungry is America?, a new national report by the Food Research & Action Center. According to the report, New Jersey is one of the 15 worst states for a high ratio of hunger in households with children compared to childless households.

The findings underscore “the need to strengthen our child nutrition programs, including school breakfast, summer meals and afterschool meals, as well as well protect food aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,'' said Adele LaTourette, director of the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition. One small cause for optimism: LaTourette noted that New Jersey has made strong gains against child hunger by providing school breakfast and summer meals to more children, although thousands of children still go unserved.

August 2, 2018

The median sale price of a single-family home in June was $340,000, up 4.6 percent from last year, according to New Jersey Realtors, the largest trade association in the state.

Prices overall are on the rise, and properties are spending fewer days on the market, according to the group’s most recent report.

The median price of a townhouse/condo increased slightly to $260,000 in June; adult communities increased 10.5 percent to $210,000 compared with this time last year.

Single-family homes spent an average of 57 days on the market in June, down 10.9 percent over last year. Average time on the market for townhouses and condominiums was down 15.4 percent to 55 days, with adult communities not far behind at an 11 percent decline to 65 days, when compared to this time last year.

New Jersey Realtors indicated that a strong economy and a quarter-point increase to the federal funds rate in June are spurring competition among buyers, with low inventory adding to an already aggressive market. The number of single-family homes on the market in June dropped 12 percent over last year to 37,573. The townhouse/condo and adult community market numbers followed suit, dropping 12.6 percent to 9,741 and 6.9 percent to 2,335, respectively, for June.

August 1, 2018

New Jersey’s “uninsurance” rate ticked up in 2017 to 11.8 percent; it had been 10.6 percent the previous year. This is among the statistics related to health insurance in the Garden State that are highlighted in Trump's ACA Sabotage: Bad Medicine for New Jersey, a new report on what GOP efforts to kill the Affordable Care Act have meant here. The report is by the progressive think tank, New Jersey Policy Perspective.

One key figure cited in the report — 18. That’s the number of actions the report says the Trump administration has taken to undermine the ACA. Among those acts of “sabotage,” it lists reducing funds for navigators in New Jersey by 68 percent (from $1.9 million in 2016 to $600,000 in 2018); cutting outreach funds for 2019 by one-third (down to $400,000); cutting national funding for advertising by 90 percent. But, probably the most cutting action of all comes fourth on the list: repealing the federal individual mandate for people to have health insurance.

“While New Jersey has taken steps to protect its residents from the Trump administration, more must be done to combat the barrage of attacks on New Jersey’s health care market," said Raymond Castro, NJPP director of health policy.

July 31, 2018

New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has joined with nine other state attorneys general in a lawsuit to prevent a firearms developer from releasing computer files that can be used to create untraceable guns on a 3-D printer.

The developer, a Texas-based company called Defense Distributed, has threatened to release the files to the public on Wednesday, August 1, 2018.

The complaint against the U.S. Department of State, filed yesterday by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson in federal court, was joined by California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. The action seeks to stop a settlement and rule changes that would allow Defense Distributed to post files online to allow individuals to print guns using 3-D printers.

“These dangerous files,” Grewal said, “would allow anyone — including terrorists, domestic abusers, felons, fugitives, and juveniles — to print untraceable assault weapons using a 3D printer.”

Grewal also filed a lawsuit in Superior Court in Essex County, seeking a temporary restraining order against Defense Distributed and its founder, Cody Wilson. The lawsuit follows a cease-and-desist letter the attorney general sent the company on Thursday, July 26, 2018.

On Sunday, July 29, 2018, Defense Distributed and the Second Amendment Foundation, a gun-rights organization, sued Attorney General Grewal in federal district court in Austin, seeking to stop him from preventing publication of the company’s computer files on its website, known as DEFCAD. The same day, Wilson claimed on his personal Twitter account that he had taken steps to prevent the distribution of those files in New Jersey, stating “Yes, DEFCAD has been blocked in New Jersey.”

Despite that claim, as noted in New Jersey’s court filings yesterday, the Defense Distributed website remains accessible in New Jersey.

July 30, 2018

More than 100 million visitors came to the Garden State last year. A nice plump 101 million, in fact. And they spent just a tad less than $43 billion while they were at it. Most visitors (90 percent) came for leisure, with overnight visitors making up most of the numbers (90 percent), according to a report on the economic impact of tourism in New Jersey last year. Moreover, domestic visitors were the mainstay. In fact, international visitors contributed a negligible 6 percent of all visitor spending, a fact the report attributes to their being put off by higher exchange rates.

So, where did our visitors spend their money? Well, quite a lot of it in casinos, it seems; it was the first year since 2006 there was a year-over-year increase in gambling revenues at brick-and-mortar casinos. The visitors spent $11.8 billion on lodging, $10.8 billion on food and beverage, $7.8 billion on retail, $7.2 billion on transportation, and $5.2 billion on recreation.

July 27, 2018

Most rabies cases in New Jersey involve raccoons, but so far this year 11.1 percent of the 81 recorded incidents were due to bats. Although wildlife experts warn residents to be careful, they note that less than 0.5 percent of wild bats carry rabies and bats are considered relatively harmless creatures.

Wildlife experts are asking the public to help them learn more about the state’s bats. Since 2003, the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey and the Endangered and Nongame Species Program have been running a citizen-science project called Summer Bat Count to help track the locations of the state’s bat populations over time. Last year, volunteers monitored 1,300 bats at 12 nesting areas in Hunterdon, Mercer, Morris, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Warren and Cape May counties. Researchers hope larger sample sizes in the future will lead to a more accurate map of the Garden State’s bat colonies.

If you’ve noticed bats living in your barn or backyard during the summer, you can contribute to the research by filling out this form with data from four observations. You’ll have to wait until next year, though, as the study requires two counts between May 15 and June 21 and two more between July 6 and July 31.

In the meantime, munch on this fact: one little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) can eat over 1,200 insects an hour.

July 26, 2018

The Department of Banking and Insurance announced today that it issued fines and ordered the return of funds owed consumers totaling $12.5 million in the first half of 2018. Fines adding up to $4.1 million were imposed on companies and individuals for violations of state insurance, banking, and real estate laws.

In the first quarter of 2018, licensees and carriers were ordered to repay real estate, insurance, and banking consumers $5 million as part of DOBI investigations resulting from formal complaints. The department also imposed a total of $2.7 million in fines.

“These actions should send a clear message that the Department takes very seriously its mission to ensure that New Jersey residents are protected and regulated entities are operating in compliance with the law,” said Commissioner Marlene Caride.

First-quarter enforcement actions included a $2.5 million fine paid by UnitedHealthcare Insurance Co., the largest fine in nine years, for various insurance violations. Infractions by UnitedHealthcare and its affiliates, AmeriChoice of New Jersey, Oxford Health Insurance, and Oxford Health Plans (New Jersey) included use of a nondesignated provider of hemophilia services and supplies for nine months. They also included failures to promptly comply with decisions of the Independent Health Care Appeals Program that reversed denials of claims and authorizations.

Fines imposed in the second quarter of 2018 amounted to $1.4 million. A total of $3.4 million was ordered to be returned to consumers by licensees and carriers.

July 25, 2018

California has recently made headlines for a proposal to split it into three states. But it’s by no means the first to put forward such a radical idea. Thirty other states have had at least one group campaign to secede from the mother state, although few managed to get the issue on a ballot.

New Jersey is one of the states that got as far as voting on the issue. If you’re hazy on the details — or weren’t around then — here’s what happened: In 1980, citizens of Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Cumberland, Ocean and Salem counties voted on a nonbinding referendum to make South Jersey the 51st state in the U.S., with Interstate 195 as its northern boundary. The proposal passed in each county except Ocean, winning 51 percent of the vote overall (180,663 to 174,151). However, the dream of a state united by pork rolls, hoagies and a love for Philadelphia sports soon died in the state Legislature.

The individuals who launched the South Jersey secessionist movement in the 1970s complained of an overinvolved government; they were also dissatisfied with insufficient representation in a Legislature they felt sought to advance the economy of northern New Jersey at the cost of southern reaches. The governor at the time, Democrat Brendan T. Byrne, dismissed them as a group of “rabble-rousers.”

Though the two-state proposal never got beyond that, comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert recently thrust the Garden State’s regional divide back into the spotlight as they investigated the questionable existence of Central Jersey. Can a three-state proposal be far behind?

July 24, 2018

If catching a flight out of Newark Liberty International Airport conjures up visions of long lines and longer delays, you might want to try a less stressful liftoff — Trenton-Mercer Airport. According to numbers released this week by the Federal Aviation Administration, passenger growth at the airport increased 30.6 percent in 2017 over 2016. The FAA indicated that 363,626 people boarded a commercial aircraft out of Trenton-Mercer in 2017, compared with 278,436 in 2016.

The airport is adding four “exciting” new destinations in 2018 by Frontier Airlines — Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Jacksonville, and Nashville. What’s more, Frontier’s newer, quieter A320 NEO Airbus has increased seating capacity over the A319, airport officials reported.

Trenton-Mercer Airport now ranks 143rd out of 533 commercial airports in the United States and is in the top 25 percent of all commercial airports. It supports more passengers than airports with much larger terminals such as Allentown/Lehigh Valley, PA; Tallahassee and Daytona, FL; Fort Wayne, IN; and Santa Barbara, CA.

July 23, 2018

Here are grim tidings. New Jersey has five of the top 15 most unhealthy cities in the United States, according to a Quote.com study. Camden, Trenton, Passaic, Newark, and Paterson are the unlucky five, with Camden coming second overall. The study ranked Gary, Indiana as the least healthy city of all in the country.

Quote.com says it recruited 12 medical experts to identify the most critical health metrics, using data from the CDC and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's 500 Cities Project. On the negative side, they focused on issues such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes; on the positive side, they looked at preventive behaviors like regular mammograms, cancer screenings, and health insurance coverage.

Ohio joined the Garden State for having five cities ranked among the least healthy. And, between them, Indiana, New Jersey, and Ohio accounted for 70 percent of the least healthy cities. As Quote.com put it, “Many of the unhealthiest cities have dealt with, or are currently experiencing, major economic or social issues. These findings concur with a 15-year study by the medical journal JAMA, which found a direct link between poverty and health. That study's authors even estimated a life expectancy difference of 10 to 15 years between the poorest and richest people.”

Newton, MA ranked as the healthiest city; seven cities in California made it into the top 20 healthiest.

July 20, 2018

More than 75 percent of certified public accountants (CPAs) believe New Jersey’s 2019 state budget will affect the economy negatively; they were responding to a survey by the New Jersey Society of CPAs (NJCPA). The pessimists were about evenly split among those who think the economy will get “significantly worse” (37 percent) and those who are of the opinion it will get “marginally worse” (39 percent). Fourteen percent contend the budget won’t impact the economy either way, and there’s an outlier group of optimists (10 percent) that predict the Garden State economy’s going to get either “marginally better” or even “significantly better” under the new budget.

But, why the preponderantly gloomy outlook? For one, the budget’s millionaires tax: According to one respondent, this tax will fuel “…the outward migration of wealth… and the long-term effect will be disastrous.” Another reason cited: The budget’s tax increases on corporations won’t help the job market, will be a disincentive for businesses to remain in the state, and will make the state less friendly to investors and businesses.

July 19, 2018

Undergraduate students at Rutgers will see a 2.3 percent increase in the cost of tuition and fees for the 2018-2019 academic year, the state university’s board of governors decided yesterday. The increase is in line with the trend at the university during the past five years and below the 10-year average (3.2 percent). “We understand that any increase is difficult for our students, but we must balance that with the need to provide access to the highest quality education for our students,” said Sandy J. Stewart, chair of the board of governors.

Here’s what the increase will mean for students’ bottom line: A typical in-state, full-time Arts and Sciences undergraduate at Rutgers University-New Brunswick will be billed $14,975 in combined tuition and mandatory student fees in 2018-2019. If they live on campus, the total charges (tuition, fees, room and board) will go to $27,681, an increase of 2.18 percent over last year. At Rutgers University-Camden, the comparable figures will be $14,836 and, for those living on campus, $27,172 for total charges. And at Rutgers University-Newark, tuition and fees will go to $14,410 and $27,946 for total charges for students living on campus.

Rutgers notes that, although the 2.3 percent increase is for most undergraduates, charges for tuition, fee, room and board may vary across the university’s colleges and schools. Yesterday, the board also approved a $4.3 billion budget for the 2018-2019 academic year.

July 18, 2018

Federal funding for the multistate Delaware River Basin Restoration Program (DRBRP) has been awarded, for the first time ever. The amount — $5 million — isn’t a heck of a lot of money given the scope of the work involved, but advocates are taking it as a good sign and perhaps a harbinger of future funding. The money will go toward conservation and restoration projects in fish and wildlife habitat, water quality and management, repairing flood damage, and improving recreational opportunities and public access. The basin supplies drinking water to about 15 million people.

New Jersey’s portion of the Delaware River Basin covers 40 percent (2,961 square miles) of the land area and includes 22 percent of the state's population. The region’s a real economic engine for the Garden State, with more than 60,000 related jobs and $1.3 billion in annual wages; the jobs are in fishing, recreation, tourism, water/sewer construction, water utilities, and ports. (The basin also encompasses portions of New York, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.)

July 17, 2018

The Murphy administration wants to double the number of medical marijuana dispensaries operating in New Jersey, from six to 12. The dispensaries are known as Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs.) The administration plans to give two new licenses each in the northern, central and southern regions of the state.

If you want to apply, you must pay a hefty application fee — $20,000, $18,000 of which would be returned to unsuccessful applicants. But it’s not just a matter of plopping down the money and hoping to get picked. Would-be license holders must go through a mandatory preapplication conference; that will take place on Thursday, August 9 at the Department of Health headquarters in Trenton. Applications are due by August 31, 2018.

More than 25,000 patients, 1,000 caregivers, and 700 physicians participate in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. “Due to the steps that Commissioner Elnahal and I have taken since January, we have seen the addition of 10,000 new patients,” Gov. Phil Murphy said. “Accordingly, we have to expand the number of businesses who are growing product and serving patients,” he added. (He was referring to Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal.)

July 16, 2018

It’s been 10 years since one of the most renowned varieties of New Jersey tomatoes was relaunched — after having dropped out of our salads and off the face of the earth.

In general, New Jersey tomatoes are justifiably famous for their size, flavor and juice. But when Rutgers University developed the Ramapo tomato in 1968, it was somewhat of a miracle plant: fast-growing, crack-resistant and immune to diseases. Bernard Pollack of Rutgers’ New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) had spent eight years breeding it to be the perfect Jersey tomato. Gardeners — and gastronomists — loved it.

And then it disappeared.

By the late 1980s, seed companies had completely phased out the Ramapo. They were more interested in marketing new tomato varieties that were firmer, more durable and could withstand being shipped cross-country. But they weren’t nearly as tasty.

Ramapo loyalists got upset and even started a letter-writing campaign demanding the return of their favorite tomato. For a short while, NJAES produced and distributed small batches of the variety to appease them.

Decades after the last Ramapos went off the market, vegetable agents at Rutgers sought to reintroduce the plant. In 2008, they identified a facility in Israel that could produce large enough quantities of the seeds to resurrect the Ramapo variety. The seeds sold out within three months of hitting the market — and were quickly restocked.

Today, the Ramapo lives on, in grocery stores, farmers markets and backyards. Since its reintroduction in 2008 — and the associated launch of the Rediscover the Jersey Tomato program — three more varieties with the “delicious tangy old time Jersey tomato flavor” have been introduced: the Rutgers 250, the Moreton and the KC-146. Fortunately, tomato season is just around the corner.

July 13, 2018

Sports betting became legal in New Jersey on June 11 and gamblers here haven’t wasted any time exercising their new right. They wagered $16.4 million in the first month of the law’s operation, generating $3.5 million in gross revenue.

The figures have put a smile on the faces of those in the legal sportsbook industry; given that only three establishments took in the wagers, the results were above expectations. The Borgata Casino in Atlantic City opened for sports betting on June 14, as did Monmouth Park. The Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City got in on the game on June 28. Monmouth Park won the revenue race in the first month. It had $2.3 million in gross revenue, generating $142,448 a day. The Borgata’s total was $986,831, for $61,677 a day. The Ocean Resort grossed $192,671 in revenue, for $64,224 a day.

“Total amount wagered and revenue will increase exponentially as more casinos and racetracks begin to offer wagering, and as online betting kicks off later this summer and into the fall,” said Dustin Gouker, a sports betting analyst for PlayNJ.com. Sports betting is expected to get going at Meadowlands Racetrack on July 14, with more operators to follow (you can bet on it).

July 12, 2018

New Jersey’s overall infant mortality rate is lower than the national rate (4.7 per 1,000 live births versus 5.9 in 2015). But there’s a big disparity between the results for white and black infants in the Garden State (3.0 per 1,000 births for white infants compared to 9.7 for black infants). To improve health outcomes for black infants and mothers, several state agencies under the aegis of the Department of Health have just awarded grants of $4.3 million as part of a “Healthy Women, Healthy Families” initiative. The money is going to six community-based organizations across the state.

In addition, the Department of Health is giving $450,000 for a doula pilot program in municipalities with a high mortality rate among black infants. (Doulas provide patient education, labor support, and home visits. Studies show their involvement in maternity care reduces the incidence of cesarean births, increases the likelihood of a shorter labor, and can lead to a more positive childbirth experience.)

July 11, 2018

Geoffrey the Giraffe, all 550 pounds and 16-plus feet of him, once lived at the Toys ‘R’ Us headquarters in Wayne, New Jersey. But when the toy retailer filed for bankruptcy last September and began liquidating its assets, it couldn’t find a buyer for the gangling fiberglass ruminant; the difficulty of moving him and the associated costs proved too big a reach for would-be takers. What would be his fate? Well, even amid the ashes of an iconic retailer’s demise, there was something to cheer.

This very morning, Geoffrey is being given a welcoming party in the lobby of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital in New Brunswick. It turns out the big guy found a buyer after all. Joseph Malfitano, liquidation adviser to Toys ‘R’ Us, bought the giraffe and funded the $10,000 cost of packing and shipping him 50 miles to New Brunswick. Then, RWJBarnabas Health board member Ken Rosen said he would donate the $6,000 needed to settle Geoffrey in his new spot in the hospital’s lobby, which henceforward is where he shall be receiving guests. Most other giraffes live in Africa where they browse on tall plants and keep an eye out for lions and leopards.

July 10, 2018

More than 1,000 people will soon be working in Parsippany-Troy Hills at the new U.S. headquarters of Teva Pharmaceuticals USA. Teva is a global company that originated in Israel; it specializes in the manufacture of generic and specialty drugs, as well as other health-related products. Currently headquartered in North Wales, Pa., it looked at several locations for a new HQ before choosing to expand in New Jersey, where it already has more than 200 employees.

The company said it will increase its existing Parsippany-Troy Hills facility, and transfer — and create — 843 jobs there, adding to those already working for it at that location. The median annual wage for the 1,000 jobs is a healthy $128,073. Teva received tax credits from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA).

July 9, 2018

Forty-four percent of children under the age of 10 in New Jersey are non-Hispanic white, placing the state 11th among the states, as sorted by the lowest percentage of whites. Hawaii is 1st (15.3 percent), New Mexico next (23.9 percent), followed by the District of Columbia (25.3 percent), California (25.4 percent), and Texas (31.1 percent). At the other end of the scale, 88.6 percent of children of that age in Vermont are non-Hispanic white, followed by West Virginia (88.3 percent), Maine (87.7 percent), New Hampshire (84.3 percent), and Kentucky (77.6 percent). New York comes 12th on the list (46.2 percent).

The figures, from the U.S. Census Bureau’s recent release of statistics on race and age, also indicate that “for the first time there are more children who are minorities than who are white, at every age from zero to nine” in the country, according to a new report from the Brookings Institution. Those born in the United States in the years since 2007 — the report dubs them Generation Z-Plus — comprise “the first truly minority white generation, at 49.6 percent white, where 26 percent of its members are Hispanics, 13.6 percent African-Americans, and nearly 10 percent include Asians and persons of two or more races.”

July 3, 2018

You can gas up the car for a hot, steamy drive to the Jersey Shore or other Fourth of July destination happy in the knowledge that, if you fuel up at a New Jersey gas station, you’re highly likely to get what you pay for. That’s according to the results found by a task force of inspectors that fanned out across the state between June 11 and June 27, carrying out unannounced fuel-quality tests at 371 of the state’s 3,000 licensed stations.

Conducted by the Office of Weights and Measures (part of the Division of Consumer Affairs), Operation Summer Octane tested the quality of gas being sold to Garden State drivers. The result, reports the office of state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, is that “A total of 7 samples were sent to the labs. Samples from two stations — Runway Gas on Greenwood Avenue in Trenton and USA Gas on Landis Avenue in Vineland — allegedly failed to deliver the octane levels advertised by the stations.”

“Operation Summer Octane was a proactive sweep to let stations know we’re watching to make sure they’re not charging consumers premium prices for low-grade gasoline,” said Paul R. Rodríguez, acting director of the Division of Consumer Affairs.

For the Independence Day holiday, gas prices are the highest they’ve been in four years, according to the Automobile Club of America. In New Jersey, the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline is $2.884; premium gasoline costs $3.358 a gallon.

July 2, 2018

New Jersey has the worst funded public-employee retirement system in the country, but the budget deal that Gov. Phil Murphy reached with legislative leaders over the weekend includes a record, $3.2 billion contribution to the various funds that make up the pension system.

The fiscal-year 2019 spending plan calls for the state pension contribution to increase by $700 million compared to the $2.5 billion payment that was made during the 2018 fiscal year (which ended Saturday at midnight). It also represents the latest incremental increase in a multiyear plan to restore the health of the pension system that was established during the tenure of former Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

But New Jersey is still nowhere close to being out of the hole, despite the record-breaking payment in the new budget. Under the ramp-up plan, the state must continue increasing the pension contribution for another four fiscal years to ensure it is making the complete payment recommended by actuaries to fully cover the benefits of current and retired employees.

June 29, 2018

No matter how down you are on the Garden State, the findings of a recent paper, “Psychopathy by U.S. State,” are going to make you look like a cock-eyed optimist. The study ranked New Jersey fourth according to the likely presence of psychopaths in the population. Washington, D.C., was ranked tops, leading the author to observe, “The presence of psychopaths in District of Columbia is consistent with the conjecture found in Murphy (2016) that psychopaths are likely to be effective in the political sphere.” Connecticut and California were ranked two and three, while New York and Wyoming were tied for fifth.

While there’s no foolproof way to ID psychopaths, the paper indicates that “occupations that were most disproportionately psychopathic were CEO, lawyer, media, salesperson, surgeon, journalist (no comment), police officer, clergyperson, chef, and civil servant.”

The safe professions: care aide, nurse, therapist, craftsperson, beautician/stylist, charity worker, teacher, creative artist, doctor, and accountant. The least psychopathic states are West Virginia, Vermont, Tennessee, North Carolina, and New Mexico.

Basically, if your neighbors aren’t beauticians and creative types from North Carolina, you’re in big trouble.

June 28, 2018

The race to fill New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District seat is whisker close, according to yesterday’s Monmouth University Poll, with Democrat Mikie Sherrill at 40 percent to Republican state Assemblyman Jay Webber’s 38 percent.

Twenty percent of likely voters are undecided. Likely voters are those who have participated in an election since 2010 or have newly registered (a group representing about 84 percent of all registered voters in the district).

Among all potential voters, Sherrill has stronger support among fellow Democrats (92 percent to 1 percent for Webber) than the assemblyman has among his fellow Republicans (78 percent to 6 percent for Sherrill). The two are basically tied among independents at 32 percent for Sherrill and 31 percent for Webber.

Neither candidate is particularly well known at this point. Sherrill has a rating of 31 percent favorable, 7 percent unfavorable, and 62 percent no opinion. Webber has a 22 percent favorable, 12 percent unfavorable, and 66 percent no-opinion rating.

That partisan enthusiasm gap is making this traditionally Republican district competitive for the first time in decades. A majority of all voters (55 percent) have a lot of interest in this election, but self-identified Democrats (67 percent) are significantly more likely than Republicans (48 percent) to feel that way.

June 27, 2018

Congressman Leonard Lance, whom Democrats have targeted for defeat in the fall election, might take some comfort from a poll that finds 44 percent of voters in his district have a favorable opinion of him.

The poll, by the Global Strategy Group, recorded an even higher number favoring President Donald Trump (46 percent) but the figure for those holding an unfavorable opinion of the president was also significantly higher (50 percent).

Asked about the hottest issue of the day, the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy at the border, 7th District folks came down clearly against it (50 percent strongly opposed the policy and 12 percent somewhat opposed it), whereas those who strongly supported it numbered 20 percent with 12 percent somewhat supporting it.

June 26, 2018

As of June 30, 2017, more than 37,255 New Jersey residents were living with HIV or AIDS.

While any number of HIV/AIDS cases is one too many, there was some good news on this front. “In New Jersey, the rate of new HIV cases declined 34 percent in nearly a decade because of success in linking people to treatment,” said Christopher Rinn, who served as acting health commissioner for the last few months of 2017. “The number of new HIV diagnoses went from 1,722 cases in 2006 to 1,137 in 2015,” he added.

It is estimated that about one in nine people living with HIV in New Jersey do not know they are infected.

June 25, 2018

When Gov. Phil Murphy signed Senate Bill 427 this past Friday, New Jersey became only the second state to prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from marrying or entering into a civil union.

Previously, New Jersey minors ages 16 or 17 could get married with parental consent. Minors under the age of 16 could be married after obtaining parental consent and approval from a judge. According to the New Jersey Department of Health, more than 3,600 minors got married in New Jersey between 1995 and 2015.

Research has shown that young women married at 18 or younger suffer negative psychological, social, educational, and financial consequences.

June 22, 2018

The distinction goes to Mark Geiger, a Beachwood native. It’s actually a double distinction: Geiger is also the only American referee at the 2018 World Cup; he served as the main referee at the Portugal–Morocco game.

Geiger studied education at Trenton State College and worked as a math teacher at Lacey Township High School in Lanoka Harbor. He received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching in 2010.

Geiger became a United States Soccer Federation National Referee in 2003.

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