To help New Jersey municipalities and counties recover costs from this week’s severe winter snowstorm, Governor Chris Christie today signed a letter to President Barack Obama seeking a major disaster declaration to secure federal funding and ensure New Jersey communities most affected by the storm receive all possible resources to address extraordinary and unforeseen costs from the snow emergency.
“My pledge is to do all we can to help our municipalities and counties in the aftermath of the blizzard, to clean up and to ease the storm’s financial impact,” Governor Christie said. “I want New Jersey to be in the best possible position to receive disaster aid through a prompt application to the federal government and FEMA.
”In the face of such a ferocious and unusual winter storm, our Department of Transportation, State Police and other agencies mounted an effective response, maximized resources and worked tirelessly for days. The eastern municipalities and counties most impacted also did the best they could under very difficult circumstances. There are always concerns about how things could have gone better, but the fact is this was a rare and unanticipated force of nature that hit our state, and we owe our thanks to all those who worked tirelessly to get us through it."
Also today, Governor Christie announced the distribution of more than $11.18 million in FEMA disaster aid from successful applications following major storms earlier this year. Distribution of payments to municipalities and counties began yesterday and will continue through Monday. Payment amounts to some of the hardest hit counties from those storms include, for example, $386,344 to Camden County, $308,936 to Burlington County, $291,612 to Gloucester County, $284,561 to Atlantic County, $278,638 to Cumberland County and $278,091 to Salem County. Payments for amounts ranging from thousands of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars will go to dozens of other municipalities and counties.
In his letter to President Obama, the Governor noted that storm conditions in 13 counties exceed the standards set to qualify for federal disaster assistance. The qualifying counties are Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset and Union. New Jersey, through data being collected by the State Police Office of Emergency Management, will provide additional supporting information following the completion of a Preliminary Damage Assessment pursuant to FEMA’s Snow Assistance Policy.
The snowfall, which began the morning after Christmas, broke many of the historic records established and maintained by the National Weather Service and National Climatic Data Center, as described in an attachment to the Governor’s letter.
“In light of these severe conditions, federal assistance is critical to properly and fairly mitigate the financial impact of this major snowstorm on State and local budgets, which are both currently under tremendous pressure due to severe economic conditions,” Governor Christie wrote in his letter to the President.
Governor Christie urged counties and municipalities to prepare damage and cost assessments as quickly as possible to move the aid application process along as expeditiously as possible.
Friday, December 31, 2010
To help New Jersey municipalities and counties recover costs from this week’s severe winter snowstorm, Governor Chris Christie today signed a letter to President Barack Obama seeking a major disaster declaration to secure federal funding and ensure New Jersey communities most affected by the storm receive all possible resources to address extraordinary and unforeseen costs from the snow emergency.
About all the silly hoopla over the new year: I just don't get it. Never have gotten it, in fact.
New Years Day is a dumb "holiday." It signifies nothing. It's merely the first day of the year - just a unit of measurement, that's all. It's just a way to keep time.
New Year's Eve is equally as dumb if not dumber.
Just because the clock moved ahead an extra second we're supposed to get all worked up? I don't think so.
This is simply an excuse for clubs and restaurants to make a big deal of nothing and charge you big bucks for it. The rudest, loudest, most obnoxious people come crawling out of the woodwork on New Year's Eve. These are the people who don't get around very much (and don't go out very much) during the rest of the year. Trust me, you don't want to be around these people.
This is a sadly artificial holiday - a holiday that reeks of beer, tobacco and lost dreams; a holiday plagued by sticky champagne stains, stale leftovers, weary Christmas decorations and nothing to look forward to but cleaning up and getting ready for the two dreariest months of the year.
Happy New Year, everybody!
Posted by Dan Cirucci at 11:15 AM
Thursday, December 30, 2010
But one of Hollywood's greats has been neglected year after year.
Crawling onto the stage during his father’s Vaudeville act at 18 months in 1922, Mickey Rooney began a truly legendary career - one that has spanned nine decades.
Now celebrating more than 80 years in show business and with more than 200 films to his credit, Mickey Rooney is one of the last great stars of Hollywood's Golden Age. Recently he appeared in the hugely successful movie comedy "A Night At The Museum."
Mickey earned an Honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement, a special Juvenile Oscar he shared with Deana Durbin in 1939, five Oscar nominations, one Emmy Award, five Emmy Nominations and two Golden Globes. Mickey's career has extended through many generations and in many different directions.
Mickey Rooney is also an American patriot who served in the Army during World War II. As a regular GI, during the war he entertained frontline troops with the "Jeep Shows". The "Jeep Shows" consisted of three men in a jeep who delivered much needed entertainment to the troops in foxholes at the front. For his services in the war, Mickey was awarded the Bronze Star with clusters. In 2004 he braved the cold weather to ride with fellow World War II vets in the Inaugural Parade honoring President Bush. He has been welcomed to the White House by nearly every American president since FDR.
But Mickey Rooney has never been chosen for Kennedy Center Honors.
How long will the Kennedy Center wait to recognize this great American talent?
The Times Square Ball Drop is a New Year's Eve tradition -- a dumb tradition, but still a tradition.
But did you know that many other cities have their own midnight "drops" on New Year's Eve?
No joke. Here is a list of some of the other drops:
Raleigh, N. C. - Acorn drop
Carlisle, PA.. - Car
Miami - Orange
Atlanta - Peach
Bethlehem PA. - Peeps (yes, those funny marshmallow chicks)
Marion, Ohio - Popcorn
Harrisburg, PA.. - Strawberry
And my two personal favorites:
Mechanicsburg, PA.. - Wrench (Whoa - Watch out when that wrench drops!)
Dillsburg, PA.. - Pickle (Beats me why anyone would celebrate a "pickle drop" or droop.)
Groundhog Day. And strawberry, car, wrench and pickle drops. The Mummers. Something about Pennsylvania seems to attract sometimes silly faux-folk customs.
Senator-Elect Pat Toomey announced a number of key hires for his Pennsylvania Senate offices, including, State Director, Deputy State Director, Western PA Director, Eastern PA Director, Regional Manager for the Lehigh Valley, Regional Manager for Northwest Pennsylvania, and Regional Manager for Southeast Pennsylvania.
We were sad to hear of the death of prominent New Jersey attorney and civic leader Jack Hila.
Jack was an exceptionally vital and active public citizen and we were proud to know him.
He was a positive force for good in Central Jersey.
He loved New Jersey and he devoted much of his life to the betterment of his community and his state. He was also a person of fine character and a loving husband, father, brother and friend.
John A. "Jack" Hila Sr., of the Avenel section of Woodbridge Township, died suddenly Monday, Dec. 27, 2010, at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Rahway.
Born in Perth Amboy, he was raised in Carteret by his parents, the late John and Julia Kachur Hila. He graduated with honors from Carteret High School, Fordham University and Fordham University School of Law and practiced law in Woodbridge Township for the past 45 years.
Mr. Hila was former Deputy Attorney General, Outside Counsel to the Department of Transportation and was a Woodbridge Township Councilman and Council Vice President.
He was House Counsel to the Middlesex County Utilities Authority, a trustee of the Avenel Democratic Club; serves on the Board of Trustees for the George Street Playhouse, the Board of Directors of the Woodbridge Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce; is a member of the Colonia Country Club and the Flame of Charity for the Metuchen Diocese. Mr. Hila was a communicant of St. Andrews Catholic Church, Avenel and belonged to St. Andrews Council 5088, Knights of Columbus. He was an avid freshwater fisherman, enjoyed the Jersey Shore, loved both watching and playing tennis, exercising daily at The Club at Woodbridge, was a sports fan, particularly of the N.Y. Yankees and Giants and loved music, particularly jazz.
Surviving are his beloved wife, Carol Safchinsky Hila; daughter, Melissa Tew and her husband, Jonathan of Columbus, Ohio; son, John A. Hila Jr. and his wife, Kathleen of Keyport; grandchildren, Greta and Maci Tew and Jeanine and Robert Hila; sisters, Jacqueline Fontanella of Highlands and Camy Surowiec and her husband, Joseph of Cherry Hill; sister-in-law, Barbara Safchinsky of Avenel; aunt, Anne Boyer of Carteret; nieces, Jill Shifty and her husband, Don, and Justine Trinidad; nephews, Jack Safchinsky, Jeremy Trinidad, Paul Surowiec and Glenn Surowiec; great-nephew, Michael Chegus; and many cousins, including Mary Ann Gilrain, Mark Checki, Candy Marren and Andrew Marren.
Funeral services will be at 8:45 a.m. Monday, Jan. 3 from the Costello-Koyen Funeral Home (www.costello-koyen.com), 399 Avenel St., Avenel. A Mass of Resurrection will follow at 9:30 a.m. at St. Andrew's Catholic Church, Avenel. Interment will be in St. Gertrude Cemetery, Colonia. Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 2 at the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the John A. Hila Sr. Memorial Fund, c/o Melissa H. Tew, 1119 Mulford Road, Columbus, Ohio 43212.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Sphere: Related Content
CATHOLICISM is a global effort to produce and distribute a groundbreaking documentary series presenting the true story of Christianity and the Catholic faith. In just 2 short years the producers have raised over $2.5 million and filmed in over 50 locations in more than 15 countries, telling the Catholic story.
They are urgently trying to raise $500,000 to fund global marketing and distribution.
You can help. Click here to get involved.
Our friends Shira Goodman and Lynn Marks had a great opinion piece in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer.
Here's part of what they said:
On Wednesday, January 5, 2011, victorious Tea Party endorsed Congressional candidates will be sworn into office as part of the 112th congress. It will be a great day for America.
The Independence Hall Tea Party Association of Philadelphia would like to provide members and friends with an opportunity to witness this historic occasion.
The Association will forward information regarding ceremonies and celebrations.
If there is enough interest, the Association will stage buses in the following areas:
Bus #1 -- In Honor of Congressmen Fitzpatrick, Dent, Barletta, and Sen. Pat Toomey
Staging locations -- Allentown, Doylestown, Willow Grove
Bus #2 -- In Honor of Congressmen Meehan, Gerlach, Pitts, and Sen. Pat Toomey
Staging locations -- West Chester, Havertown, Center City
Bus #3 -- In Honor of Congressman Jon Runyan, Cherry Hill; Christiana, DE
We have traveled to Washington to rally and protest.
Now it's time to celebrate!
If interested, please call 215.690.4043 ASAP.
The Association will sponsor buses provided there is a demand.
When: Wednesday, January 5, 2010, 7 AM -- 6 PM (tentative)
Where: Washington DC
Cost: $35.00 Round Trip
The legendary Carol Channing (in a manner of speaking) is headed back to Broadway (or close enough, anyway).
Let me explain.
RICHARD SKIPPER is CAROL CHANNING in "Carol Channing" in Concert, a show that celebrates the career and persona of the unique theatrical legend.
Skipper is an award-winning "Carol Channing" tribute artist and he is accompanied by a three-piece band as he blends Channing's standards with original material and other familiar songs sung in a spot-on Channing-on-Broadway recreation.
The musical production surveys Channing's life with many stops along the way for Skipper's unique--and riotous--"ad-lib" interactions with the audience.
Skipper is a 4-time recipient of the MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabaret) Award, a Back Stage Bistro Award, and a Cloney Award in Las Vegas for best performer. He was named as one of the Top Ten Cabaret Performers by Cabaret Hotline and as one of the Top of the Century Premiere Cabaret Acts by Cabaret Scenes Magazine. The show is directed by Mark Robert Gordon and produced by The Camelback Kid.
Here's what Carol Channing has to say about the show: "The first time EVER I have been shown with such love, respect and polish! Richard Skipper is a true musical theater star! He is FABULOUS as me!"
The show is now in previews and is scheduled to open January 12.
Click here for ticket information.Sphere: Related Content
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Bailey, who starred for his Paul VI High School team came home to support Cherry Hill West graduate and friend Shawn Senior, a former pitcher in the Boston Red Sox organization and the man who shared pitcing tips with Bailey. Senior is part of the Elite Academy's baseball staff.
We visited Elite last night and found that he Academy is an impressive facility.
Elite is located off of Church Road at 14 Federal St, in Mt Laurel. It's convenient to Route 38, Route 73, the New Jersey Turnpike and Route 295.
Full baseball, soccer and other sports programs are available along with workout and changing facilities.. Check it out.Sphere: Related Content
Toy Story 3 On Ice at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The show runs through January 2 and we urge you not to miss it.
It's a great show for kids of all ages and fortunately we attended with two of the nicest kids we know.
But here's the truth: While it was heartening to see so many kids (and families) having a fun time, this is a show that you can enjoy with or without the kids.
The characters are wonderful. The themes are universal. The lighting, costumes are staging are impressive. And here's one of the best parts: The ice skating is marvelous.
Thanks to Disney, ice shows have moved well beyond the days of mere pageantry. Now, the show encompasses a story. And since it involves the classic toys from the Disney feature films, even the tiniest tots can relate to the characters and the story.
On top of all that, the folks at Philly's Wells Fargo Center (formerly the Wachovia) are so courteous, professional and helpful that it's a joy to visit this world class sports and entertainment facility. Bravo to Comcast Spectacor!
Photos copyright 2010 by Dan Cirucci.Sphere: Related Content
There's been a terrible ski tragedy at Sugarloaf Resort in Maine.
Five chairs have reportedly fallen from a ski lift after the cable came off its tracks.
The ski mountain has been ravaged by the coastal storm and high winds in recent days.
Life saving medics and medivac helicopters have been called in.
More information as it arrives. Click here for additional information.
Here are two numbers for Democrats to remember as 2011 approaches: 660 and 87.
The first is the number of seats won by the Republicans in Congress, state legislatures and among governors throughout the United States. Six hundred and sixty seats. That's lots of new power for the GOP -- power from local, individual legislative districts in each state right on up to the nation's capital. As a result of the 2010 elections, that's REAL power.
The second is the number of new Republican members of the House and Senate who will arrive in Washington next week to take their oaths of office. Eighty seven. That's a huge number and it represents a significant shift in power.
Ohhhhhhh, yes . . . Elections really DO have consequences!
On a short two mile trip from my home this morning I spotted four moving autos and one truck covered with snow --lots of snow, especially on their roofs.
Who are these idiots who don't bother to clean their vehicles off?
They are placing all of the rest of us in danger.
Be forewarned: In New Jersey there is a $120 fine for driving a snow covered car or truck.
Get with the program!
You know this as soon as Feinstein plays "I Love A Piano" on the Steinway concert grand.
You know this as soon as Hamlisch plays his adaption of Scott Joplin from the classic film The Sting.
Feinstein's sound is more Broadway, accompanied by his gentle, melodic vocals.
Hamlisch is more Hollywood, with clever riffs and jazz elements thrown in.
They are both superb entertainers.
Feinstein is a master historian of the great American songbook but he doesn't lecture. Instead he weaves his vast knowledge into the stories surrounding the music. Hamlisch incorporates a self-effacing humor and dry wit into his commentaries and they blend seamlessly with the music.
We saw the two of them in a performance at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia over the weekend and enjoyed every moment.
Feinstein the first half; Hamlisch the second.
But here's the best part: The two performed together for several numbers in the final portion of the program. It was perfection.
Every young person (at least every young person over 18) should be brought to a concert such as this and -- just once -- be exposed to masters of the great American songbook.
Our nation would be the better for it.
BTW: Speaking of a better nation, in the audience (at the other end of the row we sat at) were two of Philadelphia's finest citizens, former Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Sayde Ladov and her husband, Cozen & O'Connor law firm partner David Ladov. What a joy it was to see such good friends.Sphere: Related Content
Now we have the new film, The King's Speech in which the Queen appears as a child with her late sister Margaret as they are thrust into the spotlight with her father's unexpected ascendancy to the throne. Were it not for this event, Elizabeth would probably not be the Queen of England today.
Of course we all know the story of King Edward (Elizabeth's uncle) and his abdication of the throne to marry a twice-divorced American socialite from Baltimore named Wallis Simpson. This couple later became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
But how many of us know the real story of Edward's brother who became King George VI upon Edward's departure?
The King's Speech stars Colin Firth as King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as speech therapist Lionel Logue, who helped George VI overcome a stammer. The stellar cast also includes Helena Bonham Carter, Derek Jacobi and Guy Pearce.
As a hopeless anglophile I found myself enthralled by this historical drama. But you don't have to be an honorary (or actual) British subject to enjoy the film.
The story is engrossing. The acting is first-rate. The whole production is masterful.
And there's this: Colin Firth's performance is a joy -- human, restrained and deeply affecting. And Firth is ably matched by the great Geoffrey Rush. So, this becomes a dual acting tour de force the likes of which we rarely see nowadays.
The Kings Speech is the unexpected story behind one of the great stories of the twentieth century.
And now the film itself seems destined to make history.
Oscars? The King's Speech is likely to be nominated more than once.Sphere: Related Content
It was one of the last of the great TV comedy-variety shows.
Each week (for 278 editions) Carol Burnett and her company of players, along with weekly guest stars, presented a full scale hour of comedy, dance and music featuring high-quality production values and some of the greatest names in entertainment.
The team that Carol Burnett assembled for her show was top notch, all the way.
Now Burnett has written a delightful book of recollections (This Time Together) touching upon important parts of her life, including the 11 years that encompassed The Carol Burnett Show. The book is subtitled "laughter and recollection" and even the sad parts are lightened by Burnett's distinctive comedic take on the human condition.
The book is like a series of short anecdotes that almost take the form of a conversation with Carol. In fact, you can hear Burnett's voice on every page and this is what makes the book so honest and so real. These truly are authentic, irrepressibly human reflections from Carol Burnett herself.
In this book you will find unforgettable about Cary Grant, Lucille Ball, Marlon Brando, Walter Matthau, Beverly Sills, Julie Andrews, John Huston, Carol Channing, John Crawford, Garry Moore, Bob Mackie, Laurence Olivier, Mike Nichols, John Steinbeck, Ray Charles, Zero Mostel, Peggy Lee and of course Tim Conway, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner. Through these stories and through her own reminiscences, Carol Burnett tells her own story as well. And it's funny, revealing and poignant at the same time.
Count this one as an absolute must read.
BTW: The title of the book comes from the song that Carol Burnett sang at the end of each one of her shows: I'm So Glad We Had This Time Together.Sphere: Related Content
Monday, December 27, 2010
Who are the biggest jerks of the year?
Well it just so happens that in 2010 there were more than a few jerks in the public spotlight.
From philanderers, to creeps, to tiresome public officials, to liars and swindlers and dumbbells, the jerks (and the jokes) just kept on coming.
It seemed that every day, some new jerk popped into public view.
Some were well known and some became instant celebrities but all were stupid or clueless or inept or dishonest or just plain insufferable.
This year's crop of jerks really got to us. In no particular order, here they are:
SNOOKY - This busty, foul-mouthed, obnoxious dame has no reason whatsoever to be famous or even recognized other than for her inanity and her piled-high hair -- and neither one of those is anything to be proud of. She's a sad commentary on what passes for the popular culture.
CHARLIE SHEEN - Is there no end to this man's excesses? And why does he keep getting away with it? When they allowed him to trash his room (and then covered for him) I lost all respect for Manhattan's legendary Plaza Hotel.
JESSIE JAMES - Why would you act like this when you're married to a certified beauty (with smarts and talent) like Sandra Bullock? Why? And why in hell did Bullock ever get involved with him? What did she see in him?
HARRY REID AND THE PEOPLE OF NEVADA - The people of Nevada really, really, really don't like Harry. So first, they nominated the weakest candidate to run against him. Then they looked the other way while Harry lapped up special favors and special interest money. And finally a bunch of them voted for him anyway. And Harry? Well, he kicked his son under the bus, chuckled and went right back to his Washington suite at the Four Seasons where he promptly resumed his jerky ways.
LADY GAGA - If you don't believe she's a jerk, you haven't looked at her lately.
BRET FAVRE - Brett apparently has a strange way of picking up gals. Though he's way past the age for it, he seems to be into sexting. Allegedly, he texts photos of his, well . . . you know. But apparently he still has very little to show for it.
JOY BEHAR - The Mouth That Bored. She gives new meaning to the phrase: "The empty barrel makes the most noise."
TONY PARKER - Hmmm . . . So what if I'm married to a gorgeous actress? How bout an affair with my teammates wife? That sounds like a good idea! What is it about zillionaire athletes thinking with the wrong head?
NANCY PELOSI - This woman still doesn't seem to get it. Yo, Nancy: You ain't gonna be Speaker anymore, understand? Next week you're gonna have to give up your office and all your perks. And all those so-called moderates who stuck out their necks for you? They lost. They lost and you lost, Nancy! It's over.
JOHN EDWARDS - Need we say more?
Sunday, December 26, 2010
The National Weather Service in Mount Holly (NJ) has issued a winter storm warning for the South Jersey area, effective until 1 p.m. Monday. Accumulations of 7 to 12 inches are expected in South Jersey, along with strong winds that could reach gusts up to 40 mph overnight.
Forecasters are projecting the storm to begin by 11 a.m. today and end by 9 a.m. Monday. Blowing, drifting snow is expected, with greatly reduced visibility at times.
Residents should avoid travel for the duration of the storm.
Cherry Hill Township (NJ) Public Works crews reported for duty early Sunday morning, and will begin treating municipal roads as precipitation begins to fall. Administrative staff is on-hand to take calls. Township emergency personnel are also on-hand to respond to any emergency situation.
To report any weather-related issue – including fallen trees and limbs – call Public Works at (856) 424-4422. Power outages should be reported to PSE&G by calling (800) 436 7734.
Cherry Hill offers the following tips to help you prepare for this impending storm:
• Apply de-icer to steps and sidewalks at the storm’s onset, to prevent moisture from freezing over.
• Salt is most effective when applied as soon as a light accumulation has developed – it will make it easier to shovel and will prevent a layer of ice from forming.
• Check on any sick or elderly neighbors.
• Keep pets indoors and warm for the duration of the storm.
• Please park your car(s) off-street as much as possible, to allow Township snow plows and salt trucks the most access to the roads.
• Wait until your street has been plowed to shovel snow from your driveway apron.
• Report and avoid downed trees and power lines.
• Remember that municipal code requires that snow be removed from residential and business sidewalks and parking lots within 24 hours of the storm’s end.
I've just come off the roads here in the South Jersey region and I can report that the major roads in Camden County (NJ) have already been pre-slated as the snow begins to fall throughout the area.
I crossed over into Burlington County and found quite a different situation.
As far as I can tell, the major roads in Burlington County have not been pre-salted.
So, take precautions as you move about Burlington County.
And congratulations to the Camden County road crews for getting out ahead of the storm.
Click here to find out more about Camden County's pre-treatment efforts.
I've not yet seen them all but I'm reliably told that (in no particular order) these are the movies to see right now:
The King's Speech
I Love You, Phillip Morris
If you're trying to pick a movie, try one of these.
More than a few of them are said to be Oscar contenders.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Several generations of cousins gathered to continue this annual Christmas custom.
Some of us still remember when the Cirucci brothers (Danny, Carmen, Lou "Doc", Enrico "Henry", Johnny and Mike) would visit all the Cirucci homes on Christmas morning. This progressive Christmas caravan -- from house to house -- heralded the arrival of Christmas for so many of us when we were children. The unabashed love that the uncles showed (the men never hesitated to kiss one another and often became teary-eyed) inspired us.
Of course, in those days we all lived much cloer to one another (many in small row homes in South Camden, NJ) and the uncles' Christmas caravan was boistrous, indulgent, bountiful fun.
We don't live around the corner from one another anymore and not all of the cousins can be with us. But our successive generations try to keep at least a bit of the tradition alive by gathering some among us together -- and visiting with one another (either physically or virtually) this time of the year.
We keep the uncles (and aunts) with us in our hearts. Cherishing their memory, we continue to be strengthened by the unconditional love that they gave us.
Today and every day they walk alongside us.Sphere: Related Content
Friday, December 24, 2010
I used a pre-prepared vanilla cake mix along with fresh eggs, shortening and milk.
Then, I decided to top it all off with vanilla icing and shredded coconut.
When I reached that point, it looked so nice I decided to leave it just the way it is.Sphere: Related Content
And I see dead people.
They are all around me and they are here to celebrate Christmas with me.
I turn on the TV and Jimmy Stewart is racing down Main Street in Bedford Falls hoping to escape the confines of a small town but knowing that he never will.
And Alastair Sim, the quintessential Scrooge, is grimacing in the classic black-and-white version of everyone's favorite Christmas tale.
And in living color I still see Judy Garland and Bing Crosby and Perry Como and Dinah Shore and Andy Williams singing Christmas songs. Judy's still full of pathos as she tenderly sings Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.
Jack Benny is here too and so is Lucy in a tender episode that ends with two Santas where there should be only one. One of the Santas is clearly Fred (William Frawley) but who's that other guy?
And when I turn on the radio I hear Christmas carols by Luciano Pavarotti and Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra and Mahalia Jackson and Mario Lanza.
On You Tube I watch President Reagan deliver a Christmas message from the White House. The President is warm and reassuring and he speaks confidently of faith in God and our Judeo-Christian heritage.
My mind tumbles back to the gritty, industrial city that I grew up in -- a riverfront city that didn't realize back then that its glory days were already behind it. It's a bleak, damp, gray December day but I'm warm and secure in the confines of my father's old Plymouth as we rush from place to place through narrow city streets marked by row houses and the occasional corner store.
We don't speak very much but I'm so happy to be with him. He's making lots of stops, picking up small treats and gifts from a variety of friends and businesspeople for whom he may have done odd jobs during the year. Whatever he manages to gather will help to make our Christmas a bit happier.
Even in the run up to Christmas, he's a tough negotiator. He barters with merchants and grocers. as he tries to select just the right provisions for our Christmas feast.
He maneuvers through and around streets, neighborhoods and landmarks with the swiftness of a true native.
His energy fills the room wherever he goes. He's not a big guy but he makes a huge impact. And I know that as long as I'm by his side, no harm can come to me.
On Christmas eve aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbors come and go as the all-night feast of the fishes drifts into the wee hours of Christmas day.
On Christmas morning the uncles begin their ritual home visitations, gathering more participants as they move from house to house. Loud, boisterous and well-lubricated, they pass out silver dollars to the children. These will be accepted as treasured tokens and saved in a safe place.
Through it all I see my mother, full of wry wit, optimism and just a the right perspective on the whole panoply. She's got a sharp eye and she's a great mimic as she jokes about people, places and personalities.
If you press her, she may even remember some of the people from her own earlier Christmases but she'd rather dwell in the present. She's very much about her own family, right here, right now.
Of course, now I understand why she took that approach.
As you get older, this is what happens.
Christmas isn't totally joyous. It isn't always candy canes and sugar plums.
So many Christmas memories; so many Christmases past.
Christmas with dead people is bittersweet.
Not to worry, though.
The memories are good. And the sights, sounds and glad tidings live within me.
Plus, at this time of year all of these people seem to come alive once again -- alive in a very special way. They are with me. They are part of me. And I treasure them.
And I suppose that's one of the lessons of Christmas: Let all the people and the events and the memories of the Christmases past deepen and enrich your understanding of this wonderful holiday. Savor it all.
Bring them along with you. Let them walk by your side. Be strengthened by their presence and pass on what you know, who you are, how you feel, what you have learned.
And be proud, strong and tender -- especially for the children who watch you more closely now than at any other time of the year.
In that way, you'll keep the true spirit of Christmas.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
The American Humane Association believes that pet owners should take special care with pet animals (particularly dogs) during the cold weather months. The AHA says: if you must leave an animal outdoors in cold weather, follow these tips:
- Snow is not an adequate source of water and water left in regular bowls will freeze — heated water dishes are essential.
- Provide your pet more, high-quality food — animals will burn more calories when left outside.
- Take extra care of elderly and very young pets — they are most susceptible to suffering in cold weather.
- Elevate doghouses off the ground so cold and moisture don’t rise through the floor. Face the doghouse away from the wind and provide a door flap to keep wind and snow out. Pile up straw around the outside of the house to insulate it.
- Your indoor dog will appreciate the extra warmth of a doggie coat, but if your dog stays outside, don’t use a coat — the fabric will freeze when wet.
- When walking your dog, consider dog booties to protect foot pads from chemicals, salt and sand. Also, wear gloves that will not impede your ability to properly hold the leash and clear the leash clasp of ice build-up.
- Antifreeze is highly toxic to pets, but its sweet flavor is enticing. Keep containers sealed and out of reach and check for puddles. If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, seek immediate emergency veterinary treatment.
- Don’t leave your pet in a parked car — the car will act as a refrigerator and could result in death.
- Cats and other animals are often lured to warm parked-car engines. Bang on your hood before starting up the engine.
- Don’t let your dog chew on firewood and keep him away from indoor or outdoor fires, matches and accelerants.
- After being outside, check your pet for signs of hypothermia: shivering, muscle stiffness, low body movement, a weak pulse rate, lethargy, shallow breathing and disorientation. If you suspect your pet has hypothermia, seek immediate veterinary treatment. Don’t submerge your pet in warm water or place anything hot on his skin. Warm water bottles wrapped in towels, as well as blankets and towels fresh from the dryer, are best.
- In addition to protecting your own pets, keep an eye out for other animals exposed to the weather and contact your local animal control or humane society to report concerns.
- See more winter care tips on the AHA website.
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Pre-Inaugural After Party, Downtown Club, Public Ledger Building, 6th and
Hot cocoa and hot cider will be served, along with traditional cookies.
Commemorative program booklets will be distributed.
However, we're asking you to donate a small Christmas gift to our troops.
Hors d'oeuvres and cash bar.
Italians take great pride in the creation of the manger, which was thought up in 1223 by St. Francis of Assisi, who wanted to involve the peasants in celebrating the life of Jesus.
Bagpipes are the most common Italian Christmas sound. The zampognari, the shepherds who play the bagpipes, come down from their mountain homes at Christmas time and perform in the market squares. The playing of bagpipes is popular in the regions of Calabria and Abruzzo, and in the piazzas of Rome.
The melodies played are adapted from old hill tunes. Modern zampognari wear the traditional outfits of sheepskin vests, leather breeches, and a woolen cloak.
On Christmas, the zampognari perform their own private pilgrimage, stopping before every shrine to the Madonna and every Nativity scene.
Children in Italy believe in a female version of Santa Claus called La Befana, an old woman who flies on a broom and brings presents.
On January 6, the Feast of Epiphany, La Befana goes out on her broom to drop off stockings filled with treats to all the sleeping children of Italy.
Just as children in America leave milk and cookies for jolly Santa Claus, La Befana collects messages and refreshments throughout the night.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
New Jersey Senate Republicans attempted to force consideration of eight unfinished toolkit bills during Monday’s voting session, including those that dealt would greatly encourage shared services among towns and school districts. The bills were unanimously opposed by Senate Democrats when motions were made to consider them on the floor. In reference to shared services, the Democrats declined the GOP's motions to take up the following pieces of legislation:
S-2024 (Kyrillos)- Provides latitude to local government bodies to combine workforces/services
Goal: To encourage greater sharing of services among municipalities by easing workforce consolidation rules.
S-2025 (Kyrillos)- Requires executive county superintendents to expand sharing of services among school districts
Goal: To take advantage of cost saving opportunities between school districts by sharing certain services and functions where possible and appropriate.
For good measure, Senate Democrats also opposed considering legitimate Civil Service Reform:
S-2039 (Bateman)- Civil Service Reform/Local Opt Out
Goal: To provide meaningful civil service reform that affords local governing bodies greater layoff and furlough authority, as well as the opportunity to opt out of a system first conceived prior to modern collective bargaining and labor law employee protections.
Terrain at Styer's on Baltimore Pike in Glen Mills (PA).
Fulfilling a critical element of his Reform Agenda, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has signed comprehensive arbitration reform legislation as part of a wider set of far-reaching reforms designed to curb property tax costs for hard-working New Jerseyans. The measure is the result of a bipartisan agreement reached on December 9 with legislative leadership to change the long-overdue interest arbitration reform process by providing municipalities with the tools they need to rein in property tax costs and live within their means.
“Trenton is demonstrating what can be done when we work together to find substantive solutions to the issues facing the hard-working taxpayers of our state,” said Governor Christie. “Working with Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean and Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce, we are delivering meaningful and substantive reform to New Jerseyans, transforming the interest arbitration process and providing a long-term solution that will help local governments keep property taxes down and costs under control.
“Our work, however, is not done, and I urge the legislative leadership to keep the momentum going by acting on other critical pieces of the tool kit of reforms that will ultimately help to keep property taxes low. New Jerseyans can no longer afford inaction and delay which is why the legislature must move on real, comprehensive civil service reform as I have proposed, not a watered-down version,” concluded Governor Christie.
The civil service bill proposed by the legislature falls short by, among other things, not offering municipalities the option to opt-out of the antiquated and burdensome civil service requirements. As proposed by Governor Christie, arbitration and civil service reform get at the root of the problem faced by many local governments struggling to live within their means – ever-expanding operational costs.
Also awaiting legislative action is Governor Christie’s conditional veto of Senate Bill 2220, which would more effectively stop the abuse of sick and vacation benefits and prevent future use of sick days -- meant for employees who are sick -- as supplemental cash payouts for employees who already have generous pensions. Among improvements to the original bill, the conditional veto would phase out the practice of distributing cash payouts for sick days by prohibiting supplemental compensation for sick days that accumulate after the effective date of the legislation. It would also suspend supplemental compensation for any employee under indictment for a crime that involves or touches his or her public office and mandate the forfeiture of any supplemental compensation if convicted. The Governor continues to urge the legislature to act quickly to adopt the substantive changes in the conditional veto. The news release outlining the Governor’s conditional veto can be found HERE.
The bipartisan agreement signed into law mirrors Governor Christie’s call for a meaningful cap that matches the tax levy cap of 2.0. This 2 percent cap will be applied to all salary items, such as across the board and cost of living increases, step increment payments and longevity pay. In addition, there will be no additional exceptions for non-salary economic terms moving forward. The agreement also created a prohibition on allowing non-salary economic issues to be arbitrated above the cap, unless already included in an existing contract. This is an important provision because arbitrators will no longer be able to create new cost items in successor contracts.
The Christie Bipartisan Agreement on Interest Arbitration Reform:
· Provides a meaningful cap of 2 percent on arbitration awards that will be applied to all salary items, such as the cost of across the board and cost of living increases, step increment payments and longevity pay.
· Has no Exceptions for Additional Non-Salary Economic Terms Moving Forward. The agreement prevents arbitrators from awarding any new economic items moving forward. The agreement creates a prohibition on allowing non-salary economic issues to be arbitrated above the cap, unless already included in an existing contract. All salary items are subject to a maximum 2 percent cap. This is an important provision because arbitrators will no longer be able to create new cost items in successor contracts.
· Eliminates Accruing Labor Costs By Creating a Fast Track Arbitration Process. The agreement transforms the system by putting in place concrete deadlines to help eliminate delays in the arbitration process, from contract negotiation to the receipt of the actual award. Traditionally, once a contract expires, labor costs continue to mount until a new contact is reached. Enforcing deadlines and speeding up the process will ensure timely implementation of new contracts and the cap on interest arbitration awards. Effective January 1, 2011, there will be a concrete deadline of 45 days from the filing of a request for interest arbitration to the date of award, without any extensions. All appeals must be decided within 30 days, if arbitrators do not comply with the 45 day deadline, they will be penalized financially.
· Caps Arbitrator Pay. The agreement will cap arbitrator compensation at $1,000 per day and $7,500 per case. Capping arbitrator pay will further incentivize speedy resolution of arbitration cases.
· Increases Ethical Standards and Training for Interest Arbitrators.
· Randomizes the Selection of Interest Arbitrators.
The legislation also creates a Task Force to examine the impact of interest arbitration reform and the effectiveness of the cap on restricting municipal spending. The taskforce will study the impact of the cap on taxes, services, expenditures, public safety, recruitment, retention and professionalism. The Governor will directly appoint four members and two members will be directly appointed by the Senate President and Assembly Speaker. The Task Force will provide its recommendations no later than December 31, 2013. Since September, Governor Christie has been traveling the state to talk about the importance of enacting a tool kit of reforms to help local government leaders directly address cost drivers and manage within Cap 2.0 without adversely impacting core government services. Hundreds of mayors and local elected officials across political parties have voiced their support for the tool kit, and underscored the tool kit’s importance in helping them manage their local budgets.
In October, Cherry Hill (NJ) put a landmark joint-purchasing agreement out into the marketplace that included five separate government entities and encompassed more than 45,000 homes. Now, the results are in, and the Township, Gloucester Township, Merchantville Borough, the Cherry Hill School District and the Cherry Hill Fire Department have realized a savings of about 10 percent across the board on their trash services – a clear victory for shared-services and for the taxpayer.
“Our message was clear: We went out to the marketplace and told these contractors to sharpen their pencils to get our collective business,” Mayor Bernie Platt said. “Acting as a single entity, we were able to leverage economies of scale to realize a substantial savings over the course of this new contract.”
“There is no question in my mind that this shared-service experiment was a success; we’ve secured the absolute best price for the taxpayer,” Platt added.
This was the largest residential solid waste and recyclable materials collection pickup and disposal bid in South Jersey, and just the latest example of Cherry Hill working with other government agencies to share services and consolidate costs. Currently, the Township has existing shared service agreements with Merchantville, Haddonfield, Gloucester Township, the Cherry Hill Schools, and Camden County.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Statement of Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted
Diocese of Phoenix
December 21, 2010
Jesus says (Cf. Mt 25:40), “Whatever you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me.”
Authentic Catholic care in the institutions of Catholic Healthcare West (CHW) in the Diocese of Phoenix has been a topic of discussion between CHW and me from the time of our initial meeting nearly seven years ago.
At that first meeting, I learned that CHW already did not comply with the ethical teachings of the Church at Chandler Regional Hospital. The moral guide for Hospitals and Healthcare Institutions is spelled out in what are called the Ethical and Religious Directives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I objected strongly to CHW’s lack of compliance with these directives, and told CHW leaders that this constituted cooperation in evil that must be corrected; because if a healthcare entity wishes to call itself Catholic (as in “Catholic” Healthcare West), it needs to adhere to the teachings of the Church in all of its institutions. In all my seven years as Bishop of Phoenix, I have continued to insist that this scandalous situation needed to change; sadly, over the course of these years, CHW has chosen not to comply. . . .
Let me explain.
CHW and St. Joseph’s Hospital, as part of what is called “Mercy Care Plan”, have been formally cooperating with a number of medical procedures that are contrary to the ERDs, for many years. I was never made aware of this fact until the last few weeks. Here are some of the things which CHW has been formally responsible for throughout these years:
• Contraceptive counseling, medications, supplies and associated medical and laboratory examinations, including, but not limited to, oral and injectable contraceptives, intrauterine devices, diaphragms, condoms, foams and suppositories;
• Voluntary sterilization (male and female); and
• Abortions due to the mental or physical health of the mother or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
This information was given to me in a meeting which included an administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital who admitted that St. Joseph’s and CHW are aware that this plan consists in formal cooperation in evil actions which are contrary to Church teaching. The Mercy Care Plan has been in existence for 26 years, includes some 368,000 members, and its 2010 revenues will reach nearly $2 billion. CHW and St. Joseph’s Hospital have made more than a hundred million dollars every year from this partnership with the government.
In light of all these failures to comply with the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Church, it is my duty to decree that, in the Diocese of Phoenix, at St. Joseph’s Hospital, CHW is not committed to following the teaching of the Catholic Church and therefore this hospital cannot be considered Catholic.
The Catholic faithful are free to seek care or to offer care at St. Joseph’s Hospital but I cannot guarantee that the care provided will be in full accord with the teachings of the Church. In addition, other measures will be taken to avoid the impression that the hospital is authentically Catholic, such as the prohibition of celebrating Mass at the hospital and the prohibition of reserving the Blessed Sacrament in the Chapel.
For seven years now, I have tried to work with CHW and St. Joseph’s, and I have hoped and prayed that this day would not come, that this decree would not be needed; however, the faithful of the Diocese have a right to know whether institutions of this importance are indeed Catholic in identity and practice.
Click here for more on this story. Sphere: Related Content
I'm officially proposing "Little Billy's Law" to outlaw Santa Claus.
And I'm looking for sponsors in key states to get things rolling.
Here's why: Little Billy is frightened. He's afraid of Santa Claus.
Little Billy has heard that Santa has taken an unnatural interest in him. He's been told that he "better watch out" for Santa because Santa "knows when he is sleeping and knows when he's awake" and that frightens little Billy.
Little Billy is an aware, sensitive kid.
And he understands when somebody is trying to entice him and/or frighten him or bully him. He also knows that he must watch out for other children as well. In fact, we must all watch out for one another and collectively, the state must watch out for all of us. Little Billy's enlightened and compassionate parents have taught him all this.
He and his parents know and understand that Santa is clearly using toys to entice children to consume unhealthy items like candy canes, sugar cookies and hot chocolate.They also know that Santa may be pushing inappropriate and/or needlessly violent or dangerous toys.
So, to protect the little children all over America, we must act quickly.
In fact, we must act now.
Will you join me to help enact "Little Billy's Law"?
I assure you: The world will be a better, safer, happier place if we succeed. Trust me.
It's come to this: Some students in Manassas, Virginia who formed a high school Christmas Sweater Club have been punished by there school.
WUSA 9 News in Manassas reports as follows:
They call themselves the "Christmas Sweater Club" because they wear the craziest ones they can find. They also sing Christmas songs at school and try their best to spread Christmas cheer. Now all 10 of them are in trouble because of what they did at their school.Basically, these were just a bunch of young guys trying to have some fun.
"They said, 'maliciously maim students with the intent to injure.' And I don't think any of us here intentionally meant to injure anyone, or did," said Zakk Rhine, a junior at Battlefield High School.
The boys say they were just tossing small two-inch candy canes to fellow students as they entered school. The ones in plastic wrap that are so small they often break apart.
Click here to read the whole story and view a video of the Christmas Sweater Club.Sphere: Related Content
A reader (Joe Welsh of Haddonfield) placed a letter in the Courier-Post today that makes a lot of sense when it comes to the whole issue of Christmas in today's "politically correct" environment.
Here's part of what he had to say:To read the rest of this fine letter, click here.Sphere: Related Content
When people say "happy holidays," it seems logical and appropriate for Thanksgiving and New Year's celebrations, but what exactly are they celebrating on Christmas Day? Do they know or are they embarrassed and just trying not to make waves and to be politically correct?
I also wonder why songs for Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Santa are sung in public schools to the exclusion of traditional Christmas carols? Don't any Christians go to public schools? This movement begs the question: How long will the words "under God" remain in the Pledge of Allegiance, or "In God We Trust" stay on our money?
This not only attacks religion, it attacks the U.S. Constitution at its core. It should be noted that nowhere in the constitution is religion excluded and more than 85 percent of Americans are Christians of many, many denominations.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Santa's elves at K'NEX Toys will be on NBC 10 tomorrow morning.
Check it out from 5-7 am if you're up e-a-r-l-y (or just stay up after the lunar eclipse!). Ho ho ho!
And congratulations to KNEX PR pro Aimee Cirucci for pulling off this major coup.
K'NEX is the next generation of construction sets. It inspires creativity, builds self-confidence and encourages interaction among children and parents. The possibilities are endless!
K'NEX Brands, L.P. is a privately held company, with the headquarters and manufacturing facility located in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. Today, K'NEX is the most innovative and fastest growing construction toy company. Internationally, K'NEX products are distributed in over 30 countries. K'NEX Brands is also proud to distribute BRIO trains and toys, as well as Lincoln Logs in the North America.