Wednesday, October 7, 2015

POSTED: Friday, October 2, 2015, 5:15 AM

Just a few weeks before the third anniversary of Sandy, the Garden State is making preparations for another massive storm. Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency yesterday, in advance of the expected arrival of Hurricane Joaquin late Monday. The storm brings the potential for high winds and flooding, both along the coast and in inland rivers in the southern part of the state.

Earlier forecast models predicted Joaquin would make landfall somewhere between North Carolina and Delaware, which could have spelled trouble for New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore, as well as areas of Atlantic and Cape May Counties that were largely spared during Sandy. By Thursday night, however, there was growing consensus that the storm was more likely to take an eastern track, moving out to sea before hitting the coast and reducing -- but not eliminating -- the threat of coastal flooding.

Regardless, as the first tropical storm since Sandy to come within striking distance of New Jersey, Joaquin raises the question: What lessons have we learned over the past three years, and are the state and its people any smarter or better-equipped to handle a hurricane now than we were then?

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POSTED: Friday, October 2, 2015, 5:14 AM

The federal Environmental Protection Agency yesterday tightened health standards for smog, a pervasive pollutant that can cause respiratory problems for children, the elderly, and those suffering from asthma.

The rule, adopted after years of delay and litigation, falls short of the tougher limits for smog, or ground-level ozone, sought by environmentalists, but is still viewed by business interests as among the costliest regulations ever adopted by the agency.

For New Jersey, a state that has never achieved the health-quality standard for ozone, the adoption of the rule likely will likely lead to new efforts to clamp down on tailpipe emissions that contribute to the formation of smog.

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POSTED: Friday, October 2, 2015, 5:13 AM

Camden Schools Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard this week unveiled his latest strategic plan for the state-run district – the second phase of his “Camden Commitment” -- including additional training for educators and a push for modernized buildings.

But perhaps more significant is that, starting next year, Camden families will sign in to a single enrollment system run by the district that will distribute students across the city, be it to neighborhood schools, nearly a dozen charter schools, or the new hybrid “renaissance schools.”

The idea is to streamline a process that now has families registering in individual schools.

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POSTED: Friday, October 2, 2015, 5:12 AM

High school students and their parents are well aware, as they “shop” for colleges, of the high cost of a four-year degree -- about $24,000, though much higher at some private schools -- but how much are students earning after graduation?

For those graduating from New Jersey four-year colleges, the answer is about $47,500, according to College Scorecard, a U.S. Department of Education tool unveiled last month that allows the public to search and compare colleges by key financial measures.

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POSTED: Friday, October 2, 2015, 5:11 AM

Initially, I thought Donald Trump’s candidacy was akin to the mistaken impression given by a loud automobile that it has a powerful engine when it really is only a little car without a muffler. However, a better analogy may be that Trump is the personification of an anonymous, political email. I say this because I’ve noticed a remarkable similarity between the character and tone of his bombast and the nature of anonymous, political emails. Flowing like a subterranean river of “Ghostbuster” ectoplasm, they endanger the city above. Either by seduction or inclination, Trump has taken a dive into the ooze.

The emails to which I refer are those supposedly “exposing” some stupid or sinister action by well-known public figures. Obama, Biden, key presidential advisors, Clinton, Pelosi, Reid and co-partisans are favorite subjects, although conspiracy theories propounded may include bipartisan references. Generally, those pilloried are categorized as “liberal/socialist,” derelict in their patriotic responsibilities or perhaps traitors. In earlier times they were called “reds,” “pinkos,” or “fellow-travelers.”

Well-known accusations involve the president’s birthplace, religion, Islamist sympathies and appointments, flagrant disrespect of the Constitution through use of executive orders, secret plans to assume dictatorial control through domestic use of the military, conspiratorial efforts as a socialist/Muslim/whatever/ Manchurian candidate, use of an open border to destabilize the country, and so on and so on. One receives them from well-known friends but all lack an identifiable, legitimate author. That key feature is lost in the process of endless forwarding or perhaps the source is deliberately obscured. I suspect it is the latter.

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POSTED: Friday, October 2, 2015, 5:10 AM

The tiered coverage just introduced by the state’s biggest insurer has raised an outcry of concerns and questions -- from hospitals, healthcare providers, and even potential patients. Ironically, the OMNIA Health Alliance from Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is being posited as an answer to the most important question of all: How much can insurance costs be cut in New Jersey?

The simple answer: a lot.

More precisely, a tiered plan will save roughly 23 percent on monthly premiums for public workers and their families who are members of the State Health Benefits Program. That is in addition to as much as $2,980 in annual out-of-pocket cost savings. The secret to the savings offered by the tiered plans is that people pay less if they receive healthcare from a select group of doctors and hospitals.

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POSTED: Friday, October 2, 2015, 5:09 AM

This year’s summer boating and fishing season may be over, but industry advocates are hoping a bipartisan push to offer new tax breaks on boat purchases in New Jersey remains a top concern for state lawmakers this fall.

The state Senate last week voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill that would set a maximum amount for sales taxes on boats or yachts purchased in New Jersey while reducing the sales tax for all boat sales here by 50 percent.

The bill incorporates advanced by both Democrats who control the Legislature and Gov. Chris Christie, a second-term Republican. It has the support of the state’s boating industry, as well, but critics say it will help the rich more than anyone else.

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POSTED: Friday, October 2, 2015, 5:05 AM

Does New Jersey’s high tax rate drive the richest Americans from its borders? The jury seems to be out on that, given that six of those listed on the Forbes 400 list, published this week, call New Jersey home. There were 70 New Yorkers on the list, five Pennsylvanians, and seven from Connecticut.

Topping the six is Livingston’s David Tepper, one of four hedge-fund moguls, with a fortune of $11.6 billion. He’s followed by Donald Newhouse, who is listed as living in Somerset County with a net worth of $10.4 billion. Newhouse is the former publisher of the Star-Ledger and co-owner of Advance Publications, which includes, the Star-Ledger and many New Jersey newspapers, and magazine publisher Conde Nast, among other things.

The four others on the list are Leon Cooperman, of Short Hills, worth $3.4 billion; Peter Kellog, also of Short Hills and also pegged at $3.4 billion; Millburn’s John Overdeck with $2.8 billion; and Alpine’s Larry Robbins with $2.3 billion.

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