News

New Jersey's Supreme Court is clarifying some of the ground rules of the state's new bail system that took effect in January.

The state's highest has ruled the defense should have access to documents and reports prosecutors rely on when seeking to hold violent defendants without bail until trial.

Alexander Shalom, the senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey says the decision sends a strong message that detention hearings need to be meaningful, adversarial proceedings.

New Jersey plans something new to prevent delays at Motor Vehicle Commission offices.

The commission's chief administrator Ray Martinez says two mobile agencies will be available by the summer to be sent where needed in the state.

"We can bring those mobile agencies to do actual transactions. In situations where an office is down for some reason we can bring them in to augment processing or senior citizens locations or things like that."

Martinez says wait times have gotten shorter since last summer when computer problems resulted in long lines.

New Jersey Transit is making efforts to minimize lost revenue from uncollected fares.

The conductors' union says the agency might have lost more than $5 million in fares last year because more than 240,000 tickets weren't collected on overcrowded trains.

New Jersey Transit executive director Steven Santoro questions that amount  because about 80 percent of commuters buy pre-paid monthly passes.

"So the $5 million is probably a very high number but I'll say that it's greater than zero. So there are a couple of things that we are doing to get it closer to zero."

New Jersey lawmakers are considering legislation that would permit anyone 16 and older to buy and possess sparklers.

Eric Turner represents the United States Fireworks Safety Commission. He believes the measure is a safe way for New Jersey residents to have a 4th of July display in their own backyards.

"A sparkler burns about the same temperature as a blue tip kitchen match. If you touch a lit sparkler to your hand, it will burn. But to the best of our knowledge there has never been a death in the United States attributed to these products."

Ang Santos / WBGO

The 115th Street library in Harlem is being named after singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte.

“I grew up in this very space.  I lived on 114th Street and Manhattan Avenue.  I used to go to Manhattan Park to hang out and do mischief.  But this library and this community did a lot to shape my life,” Belafonte said.  “I’ve done a lot in my life, but this particular ceremony has deeper resonance and deeper meaning than I think many of you would realize.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made it official.

Anastasia
Michael Bourne for WBGO

WBGO Theater Critic Michael Bourne reviews Anastasia and has some thoughts on the Tony Award nominations.

Kathleen Jordan
Allan Wolper for WBGO

Kathleen Jordan, a Los Angeles television writer and producer, completed the unfinished memoir of her late father, Hamilton Jordan, who died of brain cancer . He was the chief of staff of former President Jimmy Carter.

She reads an excerpt from the manuscript in which her father, who was brought up a Baptist in the segregated south was stunned to learn at his grandmother’s funeral that she was Jewish, making him Jewish as well.

Ang Santos / WBGO

Over ten years ago, New Jersey became the first state to enact legislation requiring every new mother to be screened for postpartum depression and anxiety before leaving the hospital.  But only fifteen percent of women are reaching out for help after being discharged.

“The stigma, the shame, the failure you’re already feeling while in the throes of this illness prevents you from admitting and asking for help,” said Lisa Tremayne, Program Director at The Center for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders at Monmouth Medical Center.

Chuck Wepner
Doug Doyle for WBGO

The boxing movie, Chuck, is being released this Friday.  Boxing legend Chuck Wepner, known as the "Bayonne Bleeder" and his wife Linda joined SportsJam with Doug Doyle  in April of 2016 when the movie was to be titled The Bleeder

Wepner was the man who inspired Sylvester Stallone to write Rocky after Chuck's famous bout with Muhammad Ali in 1975.

Liev Schreiber and his wife Naomi Watts play the Wepners in Chuck.

Wepner also scored notable heavyweight wins over Randy Neumann and Ernie Terrell.

The Public Theater
The Public Theater

This season on Broadway has been, to say the least, active. Same for off-Broadway, says WBGO Theater Critic Michael Bourne, especially downtown on Lafayette Street.

The Circle Premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival

Apr 30, 2017
Emma Watson
Harlan Jacobson for WBGO

The Tribeca film Festival ends this weekend, after a pretty full 10 days of some 104 films, plus TV and immersive media experiences and celebrity chats. 

The highest profile premiere at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival is The Circle, directed by James Ponsoldt from Dave Eggers screenplay of his own novel. Which conjures up a techno information gigantum that looks a lot like a cross between Google and Apple corporate cultures, with Tom Hanks as the Steve Jobs-like Eamon Bailey at the head of it all, backed up by Patton Oswalt his enforcer, Tom Stenton.

Yadira Arroyo
DC 37 Local 2507

Last month's violent line of duty death of 44-year old FDNY EMT Yadira Arroyo has thrown a spotlight on the vast pay disparity between what members of the FDNY’s Emergency Medical Service are paid versus every other uniform agency including the Department of Sanitation.

Giving Back Through Baking Birthday Cakes

Apr 28, 2017
MSU students
Human Needs Food Pantry

Can high schoolers make a difference in their community by baking a cake?  A group of Montclair High School students are trying to do just that.

On a Friday afternoon in April, while other students are fleeing Montclair High School, about fifteen young women assembled in a second floor classroom with a cake and brownies. But they weren’t having a party.

Instead, they were making plans for an upcoming bake sale. The club is called “Baking for a Change,” and they discussed where they want to donate the money they raise – the local animal shelter or a conservation project.

A study ordered by Governor Christie and New Jersey lawmakers has determined the state should not force middle and high schools to have later start times.

The study group says research suggests sleep deprivation endangers students’ academic performance and well-being, but there are impediments to delaying the start of school times.

Frank Belluscio is deputy executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association.

New Jersey lawmakers grilled the head of Amtrak about recent disruptions in rail service and the planned acceleration of projects to replace some tracks.

Senator Bob Gordon questioned Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman on how the work will affect commuters.

"How many tracks are going to be shut down? What does that mean in terms of commuter delays?"

"We can't answer your question until we have gone over that plan with New Jersey Transit and Long Island Railroad and what they would prefer to see in order to minimize the impact to their passengers.”

New Jersey commuters can expect more delays into the summer as Amtrak closes and repairs tracks that lead to New York's Penn Station.

Instead of replacing the aging infrastructure over several years, Amtrak officials plan to work on a series of projects through June of 2018.

Senator Tony Bucco says disruptions from the track work are a big inconvenience for thousands of New Jersey commuters.

Alexandra Hill

The Newark Police Department is rolling out its body and dash cam pilot program, as the embattled department continues to implement reforms as part of its five-year federal consent decree.

Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose says 80 body worn cameras and 15 dashboard cameras, donated by Newark based tech giant Panasonic, will be outfitted to officers in the city’s south ward beginning Monday.

Ang Santos / WBGO

Thomas Chapin’s undeniable talent could have been enough inspiration for an Emmy-Award winning documentarian to make a movie. Stephanie Castillo who has just put the finishing touches on Night Bird Song:  The Incandescent Life of Thomas Chapin has another pretty important reason.  She’s his sister in-law.

Governor Christie has been insisting that marijuana is a gateway to other drug use. Now, his opposition to legalizing recreational marijuana in New Jersey is focusing on the revenue it might generate.

Speaking at an event in Toms River where he highlighted his efforts to combat opioid addiction, Christie said some are moving at breakneck speed to legalize marijuana in the state because they believe it will bring in about $100 million of tax revenue.

As part of efforts to curb the opioid addiction problem, Governor Christie and other officials are urging New Jersey residents to safely dispose of prescription drugs they no longer need.

Collection boxes at police departments and pharmacies provide a convenient way to get rid of those medications.

Angelo Valente leads the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey. He says after drugs are dropped off, they're incinerated.

Wolfgang Almer / Late Blossom Blues

Bluesman Leo ‘Bud’ Welch and his manager Vencie Varnado make an unlikely duo from a small Mississippi town.

Albert Spevak / ambassadortv.com

‘I Was Saved by the Bell:  Stories of Life, Love, and Dreams That Do Come True’ is a new memoir from Peter Engel, a producer who suffered decades of missed opportunities.

“These stories kind of chronicle my journey of searching for a hit.”

He says some were small, some were downright ridiculous, some were humorous, and some were really big.

“The show that I really would have wanted to do was ‘Saturday Night with John Lennon’,” Engel said. “Everything was going fine and I got a call from John’s guy and he says John has a little change that he wants in the contract.”

Holocaust Survivor Recalls an Act of Kindness

Apr 25, 2017

The bottom line at Auschwitz is, eighty percent of the people who were sent from Hungary, Jews, upon arrival in the gas chambers.  The other twenty percent will be sent to slave labor camps all over Nazi occupied areas.  I see people dying all around me.  They’re dying of hunger, dying from diseases, accidents on the work sites from really hard labor.  They’re going to kill you.  One morning we are standing at attention when an S.S.

New Jersey's Attorney General says heroin that's mixed with fentanyl is becoming more pervasive in the state.

Attorney General Chris Porrino says fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and he's heard that some drug dealers will lace one bag in a hundred with a lethal dose.

"You might ask yourself, why would a drug dealer intentionally kill one of his or her customers? And the answer is marketing. Because the word on the street then travels that that particular dealer has the most potent heroin out there and that's what's selling."

New Jersey officials are considering some tweaks to the bail changes that have been in effect in January.

Senator Sandra Cunningham is working on legislation that would take a history of gun violence into consideration when determining if a defendant should be released while awaiting trial. 

"We've had a lot of people in Jersey City who have been hurt because that's happened with gang members and people who have just gotten out immediately and either did the same crime again or did something that was really hurtful at that point."

Parents and officials from some New Jersey school districts that get significantly less state aid than required by the school funding formula packed an Assembly committee hearing.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli questioned Acting Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington about the Christie administration’s budget plan to hold school funding at current levels.

“Is the Department’s position that the status quo and the effect of the status quo is having is acceptable?

Harrington says the state does not have the money to fully fund the formula.

Chelsea Beck/NPR

Before his election, back in October, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump laid out a 100 Day Action Plan. He called it his Contract With The American Voter. Among other things, it called for the full repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, suspension of immigration from certain "terror-prone regions," and the lifting of "roadblocks" to let "infrastructure projects like the Keystone Pipeline move forward."

Broadway's Indecent Brings Up Painful Memories

Apr 21, 2017
Indecent
Michael Bourne for WBGO

A play now on Broadway tells the story of a play that became a scandal a hundred years ago — in Yiddish.  Theater Critic Michael Bourne reviews Indecent.A play now on Broadway tells the story of a play that became a scandal a hundred years ago — in Yiddish.   Theater Critic Michael Bourne reviews Indecent.

Mesh Network
Jon Kalish for WBGO

For many Americans a broadband connection to the internet is an essential necessity of 21st Century life. And yet there are some who can't afford it. A small town in Vermont is the latest in a series of efforts to organize a wireless network that offers high-speed internet access at a price that low-income people can afford. WBGO's Jon Kalish reports on the wireless mesh movement.

Click above to hear Jon's report on the WBGO Journal.

Police say about a dozen people in Newark became ill after ingesting the synthetic marijuana K2.

A state law, enacted four years ago, that bans those products is having some effect.

Bruce Ruck with the New Jersey Poison Education and Information System says since the ban took effect, calls are down to the poison center about the products treated with chemicals designed to mimic the effects of marijuana.

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