The Force was strong at the Plumsted Library in Plumsted Township, Ocean County, on Dec. 16 when a celebration of all things “Star Wars” was held in conjunction with the opening of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
NORTH BRUNSWICK — Neal Gaeta received the Young Adult Peer Advocate Award.
A senior at North Brunswick Township High School with a 4.09 GPA, Neal is taking Advanced Placement Government and Politics, Literature and Composition, Calculus AB and psychology in his senior year. He has studied Advanced Placement and honors classes in past years.
He is a member of the National Honor Society, the Student Government Organization, the Mock Trial team, the Waksman Student Scholars Program to research independently the field of molecular biology and bioinformatics, the New Jersey Farm Bureau, the North Brunswick Township Youth Council and the Municipal Alliance Committee.
Neal was selected as the 2015 Municipal Alliance Volunteer of the Year for Middlesex County.
He played varsity basketball since 2012 at the high school. He has worked as an umpire for the North Brunswick Baseball/Softball Association since 2012.
He volunteers with the North Brunswick Summer Enrichment Program, North Brunswick Buddy Ball, the high school’s blood drives and the Franklin Food Bank.
Neal was employed by Suydam Farms during the summers of 2013-15 as a farmhand.
He served as a local canvasser for the North Brunswick Democratic Organization from 2012 to the present.
“I’ve gotten to know Neal since he’s been about three years old,” said Councilwoman Cathy Nicola, “As great as his resume is … his character is even greater.”
After receiving his award from Councilman Carlo Socio, liaison to the Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee, Neal said, “I’d like to thank the council for this proclamation, Lou Ann [Benson] and the Department of Parks & Recreation for all you’ve done through the years, and also Cathy [Nicola] for your support.
“And also, my family, for driving me around and for supporting me throughout the entire process.
“Thank you. I’m very honored,” he said.
On behalf of the Parks & Rec Committee, Socio said, “We’d like to congratulate you on all your work.”
The country in which a baby is born should not determine how long she lives. Now Congress has an unprecedented opportunity to make sure it doesn’t.
A new bipartisan bill has been introduced into both houses of Congress entitled Reach Every Mother and Child Act of 2015. In the Senate, S-1911 was led by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Chris Coons (DDelaware).
In the House, HR-3706 currently has 18 Republican co-sponsors and 20 Democratic co-sponsors. Both bills aim to end preventable child and maternal deaths by 2035.
Unlike many of the world’s problems, this is one we have the power to solve and we have made some incredible progress.
With the support of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), global partners and advocacy groups like RESULTS, the number of children worldwide under the age of 5 dying annually has fallen at an astonishing rate, from 12.6 million in 1990 to 6.3 million in 2013.
But with 17,000 children worldwide still dying each day — mostly from treatable causes like diarrhea and pneumonia — much work remains.
The Reach Every Mother and Child Act of 2015 and the companion version which was introduced in the House in October will set important reforms into law. The legislation supports doing more of what we know works, including quality prenatal care, management of labor and delivery, and basic treatments necessary for child health.
For the first time in history, experts and scientists agree it is possible to stop these avoidable deaths once and for all. Lawmakers should seize this incredible opportunity and pass this common sense, cost-effective and, most importantly, lifesaving legislation.
Working with its partners in developing countries, USAID has long been at the forefront of helping stop child and maternal deaths. However, a 2014 report from a blue ribbon panel, a group of high-level business and development experts, identified a series of specific budget and management challenges impeding faster progress. These include a highly decentralized planning and decisionmaking process, a lack of flexibility, and fragmented data collection that makes it difficult to measure progress.
USAID has already made changes including creating clear benchmarks for success, appointing a coordinator to manage the entire strategy, and realigning $2.9 billion in funds to support a bold target of saving the lives of 15 million children and 600,000 women by 2035. This is major progress. The Reach Act will hold USAID accountable to its promises into the future and ensure that ending preventable maternal and child deaths remains a United States priority after the Obama Administration is gone.
This legislation will maximize our investments, with returns measured in lives saved and healthy, prosperous communities. If they work quickly to pass these bills, members of Congress can make sure that every single child in the world has a chance not to only survive, but thrive.
It is hard to imagine a more powerful legacy for this Congress and the people of New Jersey. Let’s call on representatives Chris Smith and Leonard Lance to co-sponsor the Reach Act so New Jersey can take its place in history by giving all children a chance to survive and thrive.
Phyllis AlRoy is a group leader for RESULTS in New Jersey and the recipient of the Bob Dickerson National Grassroots Leadership Award for her nearly 30 years of child survival advocacy work.
It’s near impossible to tune in to RFDTV’s Larry’s Country Diner and not want to climb through the screen to share some pie and sociability with host Larry Black and his cast of amiable characters as they crack wise, reminisce about classic moments in music and TV and generally have a fine time. The 70-year-old, Alabamaborn preacher’s son turned his love of music and rich baritone voice into a decades-long career as a disc jockey — during its heyday, the Larry Black Show aired on 125 radio stations across the country. Acting gigs followed on I’ll Fly Away and In the Heat of the Night and in feature films such as Ernest Goes to Camp and October Sky. Now Nashville-based, Black also serves as producer of the downhome Diner and its equally nostalgic companion series Country’s Family Reunion that give folks longing for the homespun days of Hee Haw new options. We caught up with Black to talk about keeping the rated- G in TV.
Country’s Family Reunion was your first TV venture — how did that come to be?
I was doing a project with [the Gaither Homecoming series’] Bill Gaither — a comedy album that he was producing for me — and when we finished the album, we were having dinner at Amerigo’s here in Nashville. I said to him, “What you’re doing with the Southern gospel people, we ought to do with the country beat.” This was in 1997, just before it just all broke loose for Gaither with the Homecoming gatherings that he does. He said, “I’m too busy,” so I said, “Then I’ll do it.” We got together 30 people and put them in a room. Of those 30 people, about 18 have now died. So what we really created was a piece of video history and remembrance. Grandpa Jones. Johnny Russell. Little Jimmy Dickens. It has been a real jewel — and we’ve continued to do them.
And Reunion begat Larry’s Country Diner?
Once we hit RFD-TV, I realized what the audience was and that Ralph Emery was no longer going to do his TNN show. So I thought this was a perfect time to do a different kind of talk and variety show. But I don’t like sitting in front of fireplaces to do interviews, or across couches or a desk. So, “Hmm, we’ll do a little Podunksville diner, and every day at lunchtime the local cable company — because they have nothing better to do — brings some cameras into the diner to shoot the people having lunch. The sheriff in town [played by National Musicians Hall of Famer Jimmy Capps] just happens to be a world-class guitar player, so he’ll pull up and bring his guitar in, and if anybody drops by and wants to sing, they can sing and he’ll play the guitar for them!”
Nadine is your breakout star.
Every small town has the town gossip. I’d gone to church with Nadine for about 17 years — Ramona Brown is her real name — and she did this little character for a Valentine’s party one time. So I went to her and I said, “Why don’t you go online and get the church bulletins that are all screwy, and you come in and do that? You can mess with people all you want as the church lady.” So she did that, and that character has just really blossomed. Her husband is an optometrist and she’s worked for him all of their married life. Now she goes out on weekends and will do 45 minutes worth of standup.
How do you choose your guests?
While we have the Larry Gatlins and the Vince Gills, Randy Owen of Alabama, there are other artists — Gene Watson, Moe Bandy, Jimmy Fortune — those guys say the shows just totally revived their careers, and have given them a new lease on life in terms of touring. I want to reach out, and help more artists who don’t get airplay anymore because they don’t have labels, but they still produce product. They just don’t have a way to get it to the marketplace.
Describe your audience.
Because we deal with a more mature audience, they introduce us to their kids, and to their grandkids. Then the kids and grandkids become fans. Also, we find that when we go to Branson, oftentimes there are young adults who bring their parents because they know their parents want to come see the show live, and they have become fans also. Our viewing audience is getting younger because they’ve experienced the same thing.
That’s a rarity.
That’s a joy. Bill Medley, one of The Righteous Brothers, lives in Branson and performs there as well as Vegas, and he said, “It’s so funny. You perform in Branson and you see these busloads come in and you watch the old people get out of the bus … with their parents.” I thought, that is so true, man! You have these 60- year-old people getting off the bus with their 85-year-old parents!
NBC’s popular party-time series, “Hollywood Game Night,” is set to return for its fourth season on Tuesday, Jan. 5, at 8 p.m. Jane Lynch, who has won the Emmy Award two years in a row as outstanding host of a reality or reality-competition program, will once again lead the on-screen festivities. A slew of high-profile actors, athletes and recording stars will participate in the fun as they compete in hilarious party games. Two contestants are transported from their everyday lives into this once-in-a-lifetime night of fun and compete for a chance to win up to $25,000.
Ben Higgins will begin his search for that one special woman when ABC’s hit romance reality series, “The Bachelor,” returns for its 20th season on Monday, Jan. 4, at 8 p.m. What do a single mom with two young daughters, a television news anchor, a free spirit, a battle-tested war veteran and fun-loving identical twins have in common. They are all among 28 identified bachelorettes who look to capture
Ben’s heart. One by one, these gorgeous women are prepared to make a lasting impression.
The sweetest competition returns to Food Network when the new season of “Cake Wars” premieres on Monday, Jan. 11, at 9 p.m. Four bakers battle it out to create the most mind-blowing cake to star at a special event, along with a chance to take home the grand prize of $10,000. Jonathan Bennett (“Mean Girls”) is the host, and master pastry chefs Ron Ben-Israel and Waylynn Lucas will serve as judges, along with a special guest judge.
HBO will debut its concert film, “J. Cole Forest Hill Drive: Homecoming,” on Saturday, Jan. 9, at 10 p.m. One of music’s biggest stars returns home to Fayetteville, N.C., delivering a riveting performance that showcases live versions of all 13 songs on his third album. Also included are guest appearances by Jay Z and Drake.
Does it surprise you? It does not surprise me that Donald Trump called attention to “her (Hillary Clinton) use of the restroom at the last Democratic debate was ‘too disgusting’ to talk about and that in 2007 she got ‘schlonged’ by Barack Obama.”
This candidate with his limited vocabulary and egotistical personality, in my opinion, is a creation of the hateful rhetoric and repetition of negative language and strategies of the GOP since Obama was a candidate for the presidency. The very first day that Barack Obama was installed as president of the United States, the assault was broadened to include the members of Congress. Never in my lifetime — I have lived over 80 years — have I heard such noxious remarks against any president by the people who represent us. Never in my lifetime has any president’s loyalty to our country been questioned.
This barrage of hate has unsettled the populace, given fodder to the lies and halftruths predisposing our culture to the acceptance of the sacrilegious and profane message that is manifested in the ignorant and bigots of our beloved nation.
Behold, Mr. Donald Trump is our leader. The GOP can be proud of their efforts and the success they share. We now have a wonderful example for the children of our country.
Concussion focuses on the startling discovery made by Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) while working as a pathologist in Pittsburgh. Omalu was on duty in September 2002 when the body of legendary Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster (David Morse) was to be autopsied. Taking the care and methodical approach he used with all of his cases, Omalu discovered frightening facts that puzzled him.
It was those facts that led him to dig deeper — even spending his own money — to uncover why this man was lying in a morgue at age 50.
A native of Nigeria, Omalu has never found himself drawn to American football. He doesn’t realize how embedded the NFL is in American culture, and as he digs deeper into Webster’s case, he finds that the sport America adores just may have been the root of the player’s death. As more NFL athletes pass away prematurely, Omalu is able to link them all together through a condition that he comes to name chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
But the discovery of the disease is not the end of Omalu’s story. He then needs to take his discovery to the organization that is the common denominator in all the deaths: the NFL. Though he feels he is doing a great service for the players and the NFL in general, Omalu is shocked to learn that the organization is not receptive to his findings. To change the world may be easier than to change the NFL and its fans. Despite the repeated attempts to silence him, Omalu will continue to fight for what’s right until someone will listen. But will it all be too late?
I love football. I played football in high school. I play fantasy football. I cheer for my teams on a weekly basis. To have a film that takes direct aim on the game I love is tough. But after viewing Concussion, I realized that Omalu’s work is necessary to positively impact the game I love.
Will Smith delivers a powerful portrayal of Dr. Omalu. I believe him in all his naiveté of the importance of football in America. All he cares about is people, both living and dead. And it is Smith’s ability to portray Omalu as that amazingly intelligent man — one who is simply unaware of American culture — that is vital to the success of the film.
Although the film does introduce us to the science of CTE and its impact on the men in the NFL, it doesn’t go far enough. My criticism lies with the soft treatment of the men and women making decisions in the NFL. At times, the league office is seen as being uncaring and a bit threatening; the film just ends, rather than offering harsher criticism of that status. But maybe I just wanted more there, and no more needed to be said; after all, this film is more about the good Dr. Omalu than about concussions.
Dr. Bennet Omalu has a true love of all people. His desire for us all to live long and healthy lives is evident, and his hope is that the research he carried out will help all athletes become better educated about the risks they are taking. I would have loved the film to be more about football and concussions in sports — the tale weaved is full of intrigue, but we are left wanting that additional part of the story.
Thanks to the research at the heart of Dr. Omalu’s career, football will — hopefully — never be the same.
Stars: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin,
Director: Peter Landesman
North Brunswick Township High School (NBTHS) held a Pearl Harbor Day remembrance ceremony on Dec. 7. Pictured are NBTHS Principal Pete Clark, left to right, NBTHS 12th grader Max Maguire, North Brunswick teacher and New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) President Joanne Anderson, NBTHS 12th grader Zach Kriegel, NBTHS 9th grader Bryan Valderrama, North Brunswick veterans Joe Maroccia and Richard Pender, teacher and NJEA Pride Committee Representative Jennifer Hochman and NBTHS Assistant Principal Michael Kneller.
But you’d hardly guess it as Christmas approached. We Americans love our holiday and its traditions, most of which we take for granted and some of which emerged from the World War II era and years immediately following.
Take early shopping. Sure, it’s a way to avoid overcrowded malls and the fruitless search for parking, but in wartime, getting packages to soldiers in the Pacific by December was the main priority. Of course, gifts closer to home need a tree, no matter what it’s made of — or even what color. Futuristic aluminum models, sometimes in purple, gold, pink and black, made an appearance in postwar home décor, although their popularity took a hit after being satirized in 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. A decade later, the “back to nature” movement helped restore the real thing to favor.
Americans send over a billion Christmas cards each year, and the first such White House missive debuted in 1953. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, an amateur artist, worked personally with the head of Hallmark cards, and many of the cards sent during his office term featured his artwork. Though war-weary Americans at first preferred sentimental messages, by the 1960s, cards had taken on a more sophisticated and humorous bent, sometimes featuring elves with Beatle-inspired haircuts or Santas driving convertibles.
Gifts purchased, tree decorated and cards sent, filling our stomachs is the next priority. Would it really be Christmas without green bean casserole, created by the Campbell Soup Company as part of a promotion? Or a casual get-together without Chex Mix, said to have become a favorite when the wife of a Ralston Purina executive served it at a 1955 holiday function?
Once the goodies have been consumed, it’s time to follow Santa’s journey via the NORAD Tracks Santa service, for which we can thank a 1955 advertising error encouraging kids to call Santa Claus on a special telephone number. No doubt Col. Harry Shoup, of the Continental Air Defense, was dumbfounded to receive inquiries about the jolly old elf’s whereabouts that Christmas Eve, but, good sport that he was, he instructed his operators to give Santa’s current location to any child who called in. Three years later the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) was formed, and the NORAD Tracks Santa service continues to this day.
Finally, let’s not forget our holiday soundtrack. Whether you’re bopping to “Jingle Bell Rock” or warbling “White Christmas” this month, truer words were hardly spoken than Rolling Stone magazine’s “What Jesus is to Christmas, Bing Crosby is to Christmas music.” The Irish crooner’s version of the Irving Berlin classic, ranked by Guinness as the best-selling single of all time, still brings a lump to our throats, at home or abroad.
Whatever traditions are on tap at your home this year, may they be filled with the best things the season stands for: peace, love and joy.
OLD BRIDGE — More than 10,000 letters from students all over the Old Bridge School District were delivered to the Macy’s department store in East Brunswick as part of Macy’s Make-A-Wish Believe Campaign last week.
For every letter completed, Macy’s donated $1 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses.
Spearheading the endeavor was 11-year-old A.J. Silvestri, a sixth-grader at Carl Sandburg Middle School, who had his own wish granted three years ago. A.J. has cystic fibrosis, a chronic and progressive cellular disease affecting the lungs.
A.J.’s wish involved traveling to Las Vegas to meet the cast of “Pawn Stars.” A.J. also got to meet the cast of “American Restoration,” a show also on the History Channel.
“The trip was a week after [superstorm] Sandy [in 2012],” Silvestri said.
A.J. said it was two years ago when he watched a commercial about the Macy’s Make-A-Wish Believe Campaign,
“I thought it was something that I wanted to do,” he said.
So A.J. broached the idea with his family and his school principal, who was Suzanne Misckiewicz last year at Leroy Gordon Cooper Elementary School. Misckiewicz has since retired.
The school staff and fellow students rallied behind A.J.’s idea and were able to produce thousands of letters.
This year, Silvestri said her son again wanted to pursue the fundraiser.
“With being at a brand new school, we weren’t sure how well we would do,” she said.
Some 5,300 letters were written by students at Carl Sandburg Middle School, and over 5,000 more letters came from students all over the school district.
“This is the largest amount of letters [collected],” A.J. said, adding that he would like to continue the letter campaign every year.
A.J. and his family delivered the letters to Macy’s on Dec. 19. Representatives of the Make-A-Wish Foundation were on hand to thank A.J. for his efforts.
Silvestri said their family is big on service to others and said A.J., despite his debilitating disease, is strong and always thinks of doing things for others.
“We are so lucky to have so much support,” she said. “Everyone is so caring and supportive, it’s amazing. [Schools Superintendent David] Cittadino was at the Macy’s on Saturday with us.”
The Board of Education recognized A.J. at a meeting on Dec. 15 with a Service Leadership Award.
The district-wide “Pay it Forward” campaign was derived from the district’s theme, “Local Pride, Global Impact,” and was introduced during the staff’s first day of service on Sept. 1.