Monday, November 30, 2015

POSTED: Monday, November 30, 2015, 5:15 AM

Fourteen pairs of little eyes were glued to the book in their teacher’s hands, as Henny Penny experienced an unwelcome surprise.

“‘Ouch!’ cried Henny Penny. ‘What was that?’” teacher Joanne Leibowitz read, during a class at her Camden preschool earlier this month. “She looked around but she didn't see anything! ‘My goodness! The sky must be falling. I must go tell the king.’”

Leibowitz looked up. “Is the sky really falling?” she asked.

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POSTED: Monday, November 30, 2015, 5:14 AM

Another initiative to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from the largest source of carbon pollution in the region is taking shape among five states and the District of Columbia -- but not New Jersey.

The agreement to develop a cooperative regional approach to cut emissions contributing to climate change from the transportation sector builds on clean-energy strategies developed by the 12 Northeast and mid-Atlantic states through the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI).

According to a report from the Georgetown Climate Center, clean transportation policies could curb carbon pollution in the TCI region between 29 percent and 40 percent from 2011 levels by 2030, depending on what strategies are selected and how states comply with aggressive goals to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

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POSTED: Monday, November 30, 2015, 5:13 AM

Federal and state officials gave the plan to build a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River a major boost earlier this month when they announced a commitment to evenly share costs that could be as high as $20 billion.

But now comes the hard part: Determining exactly how to come up with the money.

A report issued last week by Moody’s Investors Service drove home that challenge, offering up some sobering facts about New Jersey’s ability to help fund the tunnel project, dubbed Gateway, including a tight state budget, significant debt and a fund for new transportation projects that’s on course to run out of money by the middle of next year.

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POSTED: Monday, November 30, 2015, 5:12 AM

New Jersey has more than 5.4 billion square feet of roads packed into the fourth-smallest state geographically, and they get plenty of use carrying 8.9 million residents across the most densely populated state in the nation. But there are problems with this setup.

The state has spent more than $15 billion in Transportation Trust Fund money on highways and local roads, according to the report “The Fiscal Implications of Development Patterns: Roads in New Jersey” released earlier this month by New Jersey Future and Smart Growth America. This year, the state expects to spend $754 million. Neither of those figures includes money that municipalities spend to maintain local roads.

Despite all this spending, the report states that 35 percent of roads in the state are in poor condition and 36 percent of bridges need repair or replacement.

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POSTED: Monday, November 30, 2015, 5:11 AM

It can be difficult for new or expectant parents to learn that their child has been diagnosed with Down syndrome – and legislators want to ensure that parents have up-to-date, evidence-based information when that diagnosis happens.

A bill (A-3233/S-475) advancing in the Legislature would require doctors, midwives, and genetic counselors to provide printed information regarding Down syndrome, including details about developmental outcomes, treatment options, and support services.

Advocates for families of children with Down syndrome say medical providers aren’t giving them all the information they need to know, noting that obstetricians frequently haven’t received specialized training in Down syndrome and often have no information on hand to give to parents.

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POSTED: Monday, November 30, 2015, 5:10 AM

What it is: A bill approved by the Senate and progressing in the Assembly this winter would require all students in kindergarten to fifth grade to have at least 20 minutes a day of recess. The bill leaves some discretion to schools as to whether recess is held indoors or outdoors, and to address extraordinary circumstances.

Sponsors: State Sen. Shirley Turner is the prime sponsor in the Senate; its main sponsors in the Assembly are Assemblymen Erik Peterson, Joseph Lagana, and David Rible and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey.

What it means: There is little argument against this one; most schools provide at least some daily recess already. Still, there are some exceptions, advocates say, and even this bill has taken time to reach critical mass, dating back to Turner’s first filing in 2009. And even as it has won overwhelming approval in both chambers, it comes with several caveats.

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POSTED: Monday, November 30, 2015, 5:05 AM

New Jersey is home to 428,000 veterans, 33,000 of whom are women, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. More than half -- or 236,000 -- are over the age of 65.

In fiscal year 2013, Veterans Affairs spent $2.1 billion on New Jerseyans. By far the largest portion, or about $1 billion, went to compensation and pension payments. More than 53,000 veterans receive a disability compensation and 3,168 receive a pension. In 2013, there were 2,870 death-pension beneficiaries.

The second-largest category of spending is medical care, with $784 million being spent on about 77,114 patients. There are 146,348 New Jersey vets enrolled in the VA health system, which consists of two hospitals and 15 community health outpatient centers.

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POSTED: Wednesday, November 25, 2015, 5:05 AM

Whether you’re taking another slice of white meat or dark (or another helping of Tofurkey), spare a thought to the wild turkey, the undomesticated relative of the likely centerpiece of your Thanksgiving feast. Virtually wiped out in New Jersey by the mid-1800s -- due to overhunting and habitat changes -- 22 birds were reintroduced in the state by the New Jersey chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation in 1977. Today, some 20,000 to 23,000 of their descendants are comfortably ensconced in the Garden State, according to the New Jersey chapter of the National Wildlife Control Operators Association. To get a sense of the size of the wild turkey population, Petersen’s Hunting website has named New Jersey one of the 20 Best Turkey States for 2014, noting that hunters this year bagged 3,387 birds.

As many New Jerseyans know, wild turkeys are apt to turn up anywhere, from city streets and suburban cul-de-sacs to open country and even South Jersey beaches. The birds are typically three to four feet high and can weigh up to 20 pounds. They can be very aggressive, and are known to peck at shiny surfaces like cars and windows. This is a particular problem, since wild turkeys are not “self-aware” -- able to recognize their own images -- and may continue to batter away at that bird in the mirror until something gives.

Several years ago, a wild turkey reportedly smashed through a window in a house in Smoke Rise in Morris County, wreaked $5,000 worth of damage, and escaped through another window.

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