Police Cracking down on Drunk Driving

31 12 2007

As the clock runs out on 2007 tonight, police departments across North Jersey will have additional officers on the streets looking for drivers who got behind the wheel after having one too many.

Police will be on the lookout for the usual telltale signs: erratic driving, slow driving and cars without headlights. Anyone caught driving with a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit of 0.08 percent will be arrested, police chiefs said.

“We’ll have Breathalyzer operators on duty,” said Little Ferry Chief Ralph Verdi. “If somebody’s drinking and driving and they come through town, they’re going to get caught and they’re going to get arrested.”

Police chiefs are eager to show they mean business when it comes to drunken-driving enforcement. Of 772 auto accident deaths in New Jersey last year, 341, or 44 percent, were alcohol-related, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2005, alcohol was a factor in 38 percent of New Jersey traffic deaths.

New Jersey lowered the legal blood-alcohol level to 0.08 percent from 0.10 percent in 2004. First-time offenders caught driving with a level over 0.08 but under 0.10 will lose their licenses for three months and pay $250 to $400 in fines. First-time offenders with a blood-alcohol level over 0.10 will lose their licenses for seven months to a year and will be fined $300 to $500.

For the New Jersey State Police, the annual New Year’s drunken-driving crackdown began Friday at 6 p.m., said Sgt. Stephen Jones. In North Jersey, troopers are paying particular attention to the highways that feed the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, including Routes 80 and 95 and the New Jersey Turnpike, Jones said.

Jones said the state police typically make more drunken-driving arrests around Memorial Day and Labor Day than on New Year’s Eve, perhaps because so much emphasis is placed on enforcement at the end of the year.

“The actual New Year’s Eve night, I think people plan that out a little more in advance,” Jones said. “They’ll plan to stay places overnight or they may take public transportation. There’s generally more forethought.”

Still, police chiefs said they aren’t taking any chances.

In Ridgewood, the enforcement push was scheduled to begin Saturday. Officers planned to do “walk-throughs” in the village’s half-dozen bars and in restaurants that serve liquor, said Chief William Corcoran.

“Our bartenders are keenly aware of their responsibilities,” Corcoran said. “It’s important we walk through the bars. Our mission is to keep the residents and community safe. We don’t need any needless deaths.”

Officials in several departments said they planned to pay overtime for extra officers using money from the state’s Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund. The Division of Highway Traffic Safety, which administers the fund, requires that 50 percent of any grant be used to pay for overtime patrols. The remainder may be used to buy equipment or provide training related to drunken-driving enforcement.

In Lyndhurst, roving patrols will look for drunken drivers, using money from the Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund to cover the overtime, said Chief James B. O’Connor.

The Palisades Interstate Parkway Police plan to station officers along the highway in New Jersey, where both the Rockefeller and Alpine lookouts will be open, officials said.


Woman injured in crash on GSP

31 12 2007

CLIFTON — A driver was left with serious leg injuries and traffic was snarled for two hours following a crash on the Garden State Parkway this morning, police said. At about 8:30 Monday morning, Diane Nachbaur, 49, of Woodcliff Lake slammed her car into the guardrail on the northbound Garden State Parkway just before the Exit 155P ramp to Route 19, according to Sgt. Stephen Jones of the state police. He said no other vehicles were involved and that Nachbaur may have fallen asleep at the wheel. Nachbaur was airlifted to the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark, where she was undergoing surgery, police said. One witness, who didn’t want to be named, said she saw a woman with a mangled leg lying face down in a pool of blood on the highway. “It looked like her leg was torn off,” the witness said. “It was horrifying.” A man and a young girl stood by watching, but it was unclear if they were related to the driver. northjersey.com

Agudath Israel speak’s out against BLOG’S

31 12 2007

There was a time, not terribly long ago, when disturbed individuals bent on broadcasting angry fantasies had only soapboxes in public parks from which to rant. And respectable people knew, if only from the ranters’ appearance, to keep well out of spittle range.

Today, though, the very means of mass communication that enables so much worthy information to reach such large numbers of people at the speed of light – the Internet – has also been harnessed to spread madness, hatred, lies and (not a word to be used lightly but here entirely appropriate) evil. And so, close on the heels of the swindlers and pornographers who have colonized so much of cyberspace, have come the gaggle of electronic soapboxes known as weblogs, or blogs.

The writer of a recent article in the Agudath Israel monthly The Jewish Observer expressed chagrin at discovering the nature of many Jewish blogs. Often anonymous as well as obnoxious, some of those personal opinion-diaries, he found, display utter disregard for essential Jewish ideals like the requirement to shun lashon hora or forbidden negative speech, and hotzo’at shem ra, or slander; to show honor for Torah and respect for Torah scholars. I would have added basic fairness to the list. And truth.

There are, of course, responsible bloggers, in the Jewish realm as in others, writers who seek to share community news or ideas and observations with readers, and to post readers‚ comments. Some explore concepts in Jewish thought and law, others focus on Jewish history and society.

But just as an unfiltered e-mail account quickly reveals that the bulk of electronic communications are from people we would really not wish to ever meet in person, so are responsible blogs, in the Jewish realm as in the general, decidedly in the minority. And even many responsible blogs allow postings of comments from people with very different value systems. As one poster on a Jewish blog, “Joe,” noted: “The whole reason people gravitate to blogs with active comment sections is because of the gosip [sic] and back and forth jabs and insults… If thats [sic] not your thing, fine, but anyone who reads or posts on a blog cant [sic] seriously claim that lashon hara bothers them.”

NO ONE knows exactly why the Internet appears to bring out the worst in people, but there is little doubt that it often does. And the cloak of anonymity seems to unleash truly dark, ugly alter egos. As a popular Jewish blog’s founder told the Forward in June, “There’s a lot of testosterone on the Internet, a lot of swagger… anything can happen.” Like maliciousness and mayhem. Recently, for example, a 13-year-old Missouri girl who was targeted on a non-Jewish social-networking site for verbal abuse by classmates became so distraught that she hanged herself in her bedroom with a belt.

Another recent e-outrage, although with a happier ending, was perpetrated by a Milwaukee teacher who presented himself anonymously on a blog as a critic of the local teachers union. In an attempt to garner sympathy for union members, he wrote that the two youths who killed 13 people at Columbine High School in 1999 “knew how to deal with the overpaid teacher union thugs: One shot at a time.” Only because of the implicit threat of violence, and the resultant involvement of law enforcement, was the teacher’s ruse uncovered. Less prosecutable offenses, although malevolent, misleading and violative of the laws of civil discourse, are, needless to say, of no interest to the police.

AND SO, many blogs have become showcases for carefully concocted stews of truth and falsehood well stirred and generously seasoned with gall and spleen. The Jewish sites among them like to malign guilty and innocent people alike – extra points for Orthodox Jews and triple-score for rabbis.

On some sites, targets’ guilt is established purely by rumor, innuendo, anonymous accusations and alleged association with accused or confirmed wrongdoers. Innocent until proven guilty? Not in the blogosphere.

Indeed, if a Jewish blog were fully reflective of Jewish values, even those who are actually guilty would not be subject to “open season” maligning. Truth may be “an absolute defense” in American libel law, but not in Jewish law; true statements are precisely the focus of the prohibition of lashon hora. It might strike some as strange, but the Torah teaches us that the evil of such speech is inherent, not a function of falsehood.

Perhaps even more disturbing is the apparent gullibility of so many visitors to those blogs, who, from their own postings, seem ready to swallow any accusation or character assassination, as long as the charges are sufficiently salacious or forcefully asserted. Some of the many adulatory comments posted on offensive blogs may have been planted by the blogerrai-meisters themselves, but many certainly seem to be from other citizens anxious to join in the fun.

Responsible bloggers don’t deserve to be lumped together with the louts and understandably chafe at having their entire enterprise tarred with the sins of individuals. Unfortunately, though, those individuals and their sins comprise the bulk of the blogosphere. Those who counsel avoidance of blogs are no different from those who advise against frequenting dark, crime-ridden neighborhoods. There may be bargains to be had in such locales, maybe even a good library or pizzeria. But they are scuzzy places to spend time in.

The Internet in general is, pace the popular arbiters of societal propriety, not a healthy place to hang out in. That is why many Orthodox Jewish religious leaders have frowned upon its use altogether for recreational purposes. They feel that the windows it opens to every corner of the wider world allow in not only some sunlight but much pollution of the most pernicious sort.

But even if business or other life exigencies require individuals to utilize the Internet, there are dark corners of the Web that are filled with venomous spiders, that pose extraordinary risks and should be avoided at practically all costs. The blogosphere is a particular infested corner.

New Jersey;Year End Review

29 12 2007

This year, New Jerseyans prayed that Gov. Jon S. Corzine would recover after a car crash left him with near fatal injuries that were no doubt worsened by his reluctance to buckle up at speeds up to 91 mph.

Corzine’s rocky year nearly turned tragic in April when his sport utility vehicle collided with a guard rail on the Garden State Parkway as his driver, a state trooper, was speeding at 91 mph en route to Drumthwacket, the governor’s mansion in Princeton.

Corzine, who was not wearing a seat belt, was hospitalized for 18 days, broke 15 bones and lost more than half his blood. He emerged as an advocate for buckling up and taped a federally funded public service announcement promoting it. Imus and Rutgers

Corzine’s rush that night was for another national story with Jersey origins: radio host Don Imus and the Rutgers University women’s basketball team. After the team made a surprising run at the national championship that ended with a loss in the finals, Imus dampened spirits with racially charged comments aimed at members of the team.

Imus was fired from CBS radio — actually, just hours before Corzine’s crash. Imus met with the team at Drumthwacket, sued CBS radio for lost wages, then recently returned to the airwaves on ABC radio.

Death penalty abolished

For a change, New Jersey made world-wide headlines without giving fodder to late-night comedians when it became the first state to repeal the death penalty.

This month’s signing of the repeal drew attention from across the country and the globe, as the Colosseum in Rome — site of gruesome gladiator fights centuries ago — was lit in support of Corzine’s signing the repeal.

Some critics, however, pointed to a public opinion poll that showed split views on whether to repeal and strong support for keeping capital punishment for the most heinous murders. While some families of murder victims lobbied for the repeal, others vowed to work against those politicians who pushed it. Slayings shock Newark

Every year dozens are murdered in New Jersey’s largest city — yet none gripped the city, state and country like the execution-style shootings in a Newark schoolyard of three Delaware State University students and a friend planning to enroll. One victim survived.

The August shootings also swirled together themes of gangs, illegal immigration and child sexual assault, as one of the six suspects is an illegal immigrant who was free on bail on child rape charges at the time of the shootings. Several suspects are members of the dangerous MS13 street gang.

The families were also upset when they learned that the television show “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” based an episode called “Senseless” on the shootings. Clerk foils Fort Dix plot

After an electronics store clerk told the FBI that a customer asked him to transfer to a DVD footage of men firing assault weapons and yelling about jihad, five men were arrested in May in what federal investigators call a plot to attack Fort Dix and kill U.S. soldiers.

The five, all foreign-born Muslims, are scheduled for trial in March. A sixth pleaded guilty to conspiring to sell firearms and ammunition.

The trial seeped into dirty Jersey politics when the wife of one of the court-appointed defense lawyers ran for a state Assembly seat in Burlington County. Her Republican foes mailed an ominous-looking flier filled with masked men carrying guns insinuating the candidate would be soft on crime and terrorism. The mailing drew a rebuke from the federal judge on the case. Bryant indicted

Longtime Camden County legislator Wayne Bryant, D-Camden, head of the influential Senate budget committee, was charged with with creating a no-work job at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey to boost the school’s state funding.

Sen. Bryant, who pleaded not guilty, declined to run for re-election in November.

Government corruption

State senators, mayors of big cities and the 23-year-old president of a local school board found themselves among New Jersey’s growing hall of shame for elected officials as law enforcement netted some large names in their bid to clean New Jersey government.

In addition to Bryant, state Sen. Sharpe James, D-Essex, also a member of the budget committee and former longtime mayor of Newark, was indicted. James was accused of using city credit cards to pay for personal trips and selling city property on the cheap to a travel companion. All have pleaded not guilty.

The offices of a third member of the Senate budget committee, Joseph Coniglio, D-Bergen, were raided by FBI agents in November in a separate investigation related to state grants. Coniglio has denied any wrongdoing. None of the three ran for reelection.

In September, 11 public officials from Atlantic to Passaic counties were charged with taking bribes from phony roofing and insurance firms set up by the FBI. Those arrested include Assemblymen Alfred E. Steele, D-Passaic, and Mims Hackett Jr., D-Essex, who is also the mayor of Orange. Both resigned from the Assembly. The roundup also snared municipal and school board officials, including the 23-year-old president of the Pleasantville Board of Education. Six of the 11 have pleaded guilty.

After a two-week disappearance, Atlantic City Mayor Bob Levy resigned and admitted he lied about his Vietnam War service to get a bigger benefits check. Voters: Quit spending

Following the budget debacle of 2006, when a stalemate between Corzine and the Legislature shuttered state government over the governor’s proposal to raise the sales tax, things appeared smoother midway through 2007.

State leaders approved the largest-ever property tax rebate, sending 10 percent to 20 percent back to most homeowners, depending on income. They approved a budget three days before the July 1 deadline, remarkably early for a Legislature that usually waits until, or past, the last minute.

Then in November, Corzine, Senate President Richard J. Codey and Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts Jr. took a hit when — for the first time in 17 years — voters unexpectedly rejected ballot questions.

Each of the three were vested in the questions: Corzine and Codey supported and funded the drive to borrow $450 million for stem-cell research, and Roberts was the driving force behind a measure to dedicate the proceeds from the 2006 sales tax hike to property tax relief. While Democrats maintained their control of the Legislature, the votes were seen as their first statewide rebuke since the tax revolt of the 1990.

Corzine and the toll roads

Most likely to appear on next year’s list is Corzine’s toll-road transaction – monetization, or financial restructuring, as he now calls it. That’s because the details won’t be known until Jan. 8, when the governor finally explains the plan that has been source of much speculation and scrutiny through the year.

The plan basically calls for the state to get a lump sum of cash up front, to be paid back through future toll hikes, in order to pay down existing debt and free up funds for other priorities.

Corzine’s reluctance to detail the plan caused even Democratic legislative candidates to say they will oppose it on the campaign trail. He has acknowledged the plan may spark a backlash but says the state needs to change its fiscal direction and urged people to wait to hear the details before deciding whether to support it.

Warren Grove fire

Thousands of people were driven from their homes when a large portion of the South Jersey coastal region burned in May from an errant flare dropped from an Air Force fighter jet.

The blaze burned more than 17,000 acres in the heart of the Pinelands and encroached on the developed environs, destroying three homes and damaging more than a dozen others.

It was the latest scare to residents in Ocean, Burlington and Atlantic counties who live around the Warren Grove Gunnery Range, a military training facility.

The fire renewed calls to shut the range that have arisen through the years after other incidents — an F-16 firing 40 rounds of ammunition that landed on an elementary school roof in the middle of the night in 2004, a 2002 crash that left a jet in the middle of the woods near the Garden State Parkway and an errant dummy bomb in 1999 that sparked a 12,000-acre fire.  courierpostonline

Gary Schaer Helps Orthodox Jews From Signing Papers On Shabbos In NEW JERSEY

28 12 2007

Shabbat-observant Jews who find themselves hospitalized on Saturdays will now be able to keep the Sabbath and fill out admission paperwork after sunset, thanks to a new bill signed into law last week.

Gov. Corzine signed two religious-themed bills that were part of a seven-bill package pushed by North Jersey legislators to promote religious diversity in the state. The bills are meant to provide accommodations and protections for religious observance across the private and public sectors, according to the package’s sponsors.

Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-dist. 36) authored the bills in the Assembly in the spring, and Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-dist. 37) introduced them in the Senate soon after. The new laws are an important step forward for New Jersey, Schaer said.

The first bill guarantees alternate testing dates for applicants seeking a state-issued license when the test date conflicts with a religious observance. The second bill provides religious accommodation to patients when entering a licensed health-care facility.

“The governor supported and signed this bill because it responsibly addresses situations where religious observance may prevent a person from signing hospital admission papers on a particular date,” said Gloria Montealegre, spokesperson for Gov. Corzine.

Although life-threatening situations can override Shabbat observance, not all hospital visits are immediately life-threatening, Schaer said. This bill allows the patient to avoid making a decision to break the Sabbath.

“It simply makes it easier for people, and I think that’s a positive thing,” Schaer said. “It’s one less decision that one has to make in a difficult and trying situation.”

Asked how often these cases came up to require legislation, Schaer answered, “If it’s once, it’s enough.”

“Clearly there are many faith communities which have certain needs,” he said. “Those needs have not been met. New Jersey prides itself — and rightfully so — on its diversity. This is one more way New Jersey can reaffirm the importance of diversity in the state, not only racially and ethnically, but religiously as well.”

Schaer hopes that the lame-duck legislature will pass one more bill from the package before the end of the session. The bill in question would require employers to accommodate employees who choose not to work on their holy days. For example, if a Shabbat-observant retail store employee was asked to work on a Friday night or Saturday and refused on religious grounds, the employer would be required to provide an alternate date for that employee to work.

For Linda and Stanley Rutta of Englewood, this bill is long overdue.

Stanley Rutta works for a Netherlands-based computer company that services the retail industry. Two weeks ago he received a memo about vacation time in 2008. The company defined the start of the retail season in October, and accordingly no requests for vacations between Oct. 15 and Dec. 14 would be approved. Sukkot begins on Oct. 14 and is followed by Shemini Atzeret.

Three vacation days would be offered to employees before Oct. 15 or after Dec. 14, according to the memo. If Schaer and Weinberg’s bill becomes law, Rutta’s company would have to allow him to take off on the holidays.

“This legislation is very significant and long overdue,” said Linda Rutta. “They’re planning the retail season in October. Because of that stretch it’s affecting us more.”

More companies require weekend hours now than they did 30 years ago, when her husband began working, Rutta said. This requirement has kept her husband from advancement because he won’t work on Saturdays or Friday afternoons, while recruiters ignore applications from people who say they won’t be available on weekends, she said.

“You have to go begging to get your holidays off,” Rutta said. “It has become onerous. and we need federal protection for the wage-earners.”

New Jersey has not been as accommodating to religious needs as it should be, Weinberg said.

Her interest in the legal protection of religious observance was sparked as a result of the Torah Academy of Bergen County Mock Trial Club. In 2005 the team found itself unable to compete in a national competition because it conflicted with Shabbat. In the end, the National High School Mock Trial Championship board of directors made special arrangements so TABC could compete but then said the board would not make any future accommodations. To protest that decision, the New Jersey Bar Association and the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers created a separate competition that did not conflict with weekend religious observance.

“Our environment was so unaccommodating,” Weinberg said of the incident. “It was those kinds of issues that we’re attempting to call attention to in this legislation, to remind people that they have to be accommodating.”

Other measures in the package would require New Jersey colleges and universities to accommodate students whose religious obligations prevent participation in testing that falls on holidays.

Schaer was hopeful that this bill would pass within the first two quarters of next year.

The package includes two other bills that would affect the state’s health-care governance. One ensures nursing home residents the right to receive food in line with their religious dietary laws, such as kosher or halal. The second bill ensures that doctors make their medical decisions — end of life issues, for example — in accordance with the patient’s religious beliefs.

Those bills still require work before they pass out of the legislature, Schaer said. The assemblyman was hopeful that they would all pass by the end of 2008, though.

“It’s an important recognition of the role all faith communities play in our state,” he said. “We’re excited by the bills and very gratified.”Jewish Standard

Passaic New Jersey Motor Vehicle Accident. Both Cars Everyone Wearing Seat Belts only minor injuries

27 12 2007

Passaic New Jersey–Last night at about 6:00 there was a two car accident at the corner of Aycrigg And Pennington. The accident happened after one of the cars ran the stop sign. Hatzolah Of North Jersey transported one patient to Hackensack University Medical Center and the other two Patients refused medical care. One of the cars were totalled. Editor’s Note: Please make sure to wear your seat belt.

Cop killed wasn’t wearing seatbelt

27 12 2007

PATERSON — An off-duty police officer who was killed this week when he lost control of his vehicle did not appear to be wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, a state police spokesman said.

Christopher Dotter, a 13-year veteran of the Paterson Police Department, died early Monday after he crashed on Interstate 80 near exit 60. Dotter was traveling at 2:26 a.m. in the right lane when he began to drive off the side of the road, state police said.

It has not been determined if the force of Dotter’s crash caused his seatbelt to come undone, said Sgt. Stephen Jones, a department spokesman. It was also unclear if a seatbelt would have saved the 43-year-old officer’s life. NorthJersey.com