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 STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR 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.”

Donald Trump is not a qualified candidate

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.

Alma Edly
North Brunswick

Local college student organizes global event in one month

By JENNIFER AMATO
Staff Writer

NORTH BRUNSWICK — A young man from North Brunswick organized a competition that has a global impact.

Umair Masood, a sophomore at Rutgers University, served as campus director for the seventh annual Hult Prize competition at Rutgers on Dec. 5, when 10 teams competed to solve former President Bill Clinton’s challenge for 2015: How to end poverty in urban spaces and encourage students to build sustainable, scalable and fastgrowing social enterprises that double the income of 10 million people resided in crowded urban spaces by better connecting people, goods, services and capital.

“This creates a community platform for social entrepreneurs on campus who are trying to get their name out there,” Masood said.

“The one thing I learned as director is that there is a huge entrepreneurial community at Rutgers and there is a new wave of social entrepreneurship [that is] creating an idea or a project that is profitable while solving the world’s problems at the same time, which is very powerful.”

Masood was able to pull the event together in just a month’s time, having to find teams and judges, obtain sponsors and partners and secure prize money.

His experience was rooted in a five-year internship at the American Muslim Consumer Consortium, founded by his parents, Faisal Masood and Sabiha Ansari, to understand and address the needs of American Muslim consumers and to empower companies developing products for the market.

“I’ve seen them run an event, build a network and brand themselves,” he said.

The winning team members from Rutgers University were Daniel Reji of Holmdel, David Shah of Edison, Chisa Egbelu of Louisiana and Myles Jackson of Pennsylvania. They were awarded $500 and will represent Rutgers at Regionals in Boston in March.

Following the regional finals, one winning team from each host city will move into a summer business accelerator program, where participants will receive mentorship, advisory and strategic planning as they create prototypes and set-up to launch their new social business.

The final round of competition will be hosted at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in September, when one team will be selected as the Hult Prize recipient. Clinton himself will award the $1,000,000 prize to the winning team.

“The Hult Prize is a wonderful example of the creative cooperation needed to build a world with shared opportunity, shared responsibility, and shared prosperity, and each year I look forward to seeing the many outstanding ideas the competition produces,” Clinton said in a statement.

For more information on the event, visit hultprizeat.com/rutgers.

Contact Jennifer Amato at
jamato@gmnews.com.

You can go home again

In theaters now

Sisters lets two women we absolutely love bring their comic genius to the screen. Maura (Amy Poehler) and Kate Ellis (Tina Fey) are tasked with the responsibility of cleaning out their room at their childhood home as their parents are moving to a condo. But in rehashing the memories made there, the two decide there is only one thing to do: throw one last party with their old friends.

As the sisters dig through memories, we realize quickly that Maura has always played it safe, while free spirit Kate has always loved to party. Neither can wrap her head around why their parents want to get rid of this house, but both can agree on throwing the party.

So the sisters do all the prep and invite many of their old friends — who in no way resemble the pictures on Facebook or who they can remember them to be. They set out to be the perfect party hosts, only this time Maura gets to be the free spirit while Kate keeps everyone together.

Amy and Tina are funny. At times they are very funny as this is a raw comedy that doesn’t make any apologies. It is a pleasure seeing these amazingly talented women work and they tend to wow viewers with their quick wit and delivery.

The supporting characters, however, are a mixed bag. Some — Ike Barinholtz and John Cena in a bit role — made me laugh and enjoy the addition to the story. But roles for Bobby Moynihan and Maya Rudolph felt tired in Moynihan’s case and misguided and forced for Rudolph’s character.

The unevenness of the supporting characters does NOT take away from the fact that Amy and Tina — yes, I can just use their first names — are the real stars here. Together they are a breath of fresh air on the comic landscape with everything they do. These two sisters prove you can go home again — just be careful if you plan to throw a party there.

Sisters
Rated: R
Stars: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Ike Barinholtz
Director: Jason Moore

Grade: B

The Big Short
Rated: R
Stars: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling
Director: Adam McKay

Adam McKay’s peek into the credit and housing bubble collapse shows an industry full of corruption, extravagance and the willingness to pull the wool over the eyes of the American public. A startling discovery by a number of seemingly ordinary individuals sets them up financially as they short the banks during the booming housing market of 2005.

Nat King Cole

By Ali Datko,
ReMIND Magazine

Among the many joys of the holiday season are the classic, beloved songs that have been passed down from one generation to the next, bringing together listeners young and old. Among the most notable and nostalgia-provoking is the delightfully ubiquitous “The Christmas Song,” subtitled “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.” Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe (and the baritone voice of Nat King Cole) help to make the season bright.

Nathaniel Adams Coles was born on March 17, 1919. The son of a Baptist minister and a church organist, he was immersed in a musical lifestyle at a young age. By the age of 4, he was performing for his father’s congregation, and by age 12 he had begun classical piano lessons.

Although Nathaniel was born in Montgomery, Ala., he grew up in Chicago, where he was influenced by such club performers as Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines. In his mid-teens, driven to pursue a career in music, he dropped out of school to play full time.

He landed a gig with the nationally touring revue “Shuffle Along,” but faced a standstill in Long Beach, Calif., when the act floundered abruptly. In Long Beach, he formed the King Cole Trio (by that time, he’d adopted the nickname “Nat King Cole”), a jazz group that toured extensively throughout the late ’30s and early ’40s. In 1943, the trio signed with Capitol Records, with whom they released the breakout hits “That Ain’t Right” and “Straighten Up and Fly Right.”

In 1946, they recorded the now-classic tune “The Christmas Song.” Cole later recorded three alternate versions; the fourth, recorded in 1961, is the most famous and the one still played on the radio today.

Cole’s other popular hits included “Mona Lisa” (1950), “Unforgettable” (1951), “Love Is the Thing” (1957) and “L-O-V-E” (1965). During his wildly successful career, he also hosted NBC’s “The Nat King Cole Show” (the first African- American-hosted variety show), and appeared in numerous short films and sitcoms.

Cole married twice and raised five children, among them Grammy-winning artist Natalie Cole. He passed away in 1965 due to lung cancer, with wife Maria by his side. In 1990, he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement award, and in 2000 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Did you know …

 Ryan Seacrest  ABC/LOU ROCCO Ryan Seacrest ABC/LOU ROCCO Global super-group One Direction returns to headline the Billboard Hollywood Party on “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2016” beginning Thursday, Dec. 31, at 8 p.m. on ABC and broadcasting non-stop until 2:13 a.m.. One Direction will perform three songs throughout the show during a bi-coastal celebration. They join Carrie Underwood, who will be performing for over 1 million fans in Times Square moments before the ball drops. With over 38 performances and 5 ½ hours of music, this is America’s biggest celebration of the year.

Author Michael Pollan’s global journey to rediscover the pleasures of healthy food will be shared with us when PBS premieres “In Defense of Food” on Wednesday, Dec. 30, from 9 to 11 p.m. (check your local listings). Busting myths and misconceptions, “In Defense of Food” reveals how common sense and old-fashioned wisdom can help rediscover the pleasures of eating and at the same time reduce our risks of falling victim to diet-related diseases.

In January 2016, ABC Family will be renamed Freeform. On Tuesday, Jan. 12, the network will premiere its new series “Shadowhunters” at 9 p.m. One young woman realizes how dark the city can really be when she learns the truth about her past in the first episode. “Shadowhunters” is based on the bestselling young adult fantasy book series “The Mortal Instruments” by Cassandra Clare, and follows Clary Fray, who comes from a long line of Shadowhunters — humanangel hybrids who hunt down demons.

Dateline NBC correspondent Keith Morrison joins Investigation Discovery as new host of “Dateline on ID,” beginning January 2016, along with “Front Page” specials throughout next year.

Old Bridge will keep Cittadino in charge of school disrict

By KATHY CHANG
Staff Writer

OLD BRIDGE — Superintendent of Schools David Cittadino will remain at the helm of the Old Bridge School District.

The Board of Education at its Dec. 15 meeting conducted the required annual summary conference with the superintendent and voted to reappoint him as superintendent beyond June 30, 2016, subject to the negotiation of a mutually acceptable contract.

Cittadino waived his privacy rights for the board to discuss its review in a public forum of his performance during 2014-15.

The board’s tardiness on the required annual summary conference and notifying Cittadino whether or not they would reappoint him caused a big uproar at the meeting. Staff members, students, alumni and parents came to the podium to praise Cittadino’s commitment to the district.

In 2013, after a lengthy interview process, Cittadino was appointed as superintendent with a three-year contract that expires in June 2016, with a salary of $170,000 for the first year, followed by $171,700 and $174,276 in the second and third years, respectively, plus a $2,500 high school stipend each year.

Cittadino has a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education and a Master of Arts in school administration from Kean University. He began his career as a sixth-grade teacher at Theodore Roosevelt Middle School in Elizabeth in 1997. He was promoted to school disciplinarian in 2003 and worked in that capacity for two years.

In January 2006, Cittadino joined the Old Bridge School District as vice principal of Jonas Salk Middle School. Six months later, he was promoted to principal and held that post until June 2011, when he became principal of Old Bridge High School.

In June 2012, he became assistant superintendent for human resources.

Cittadino said he was “deeply humbled” by the kind words of his peers as well as from current and former students.

He said the success of the Old Bridge School District is not due to him, but everyone in the community and the teachers of the district, whose contract was ratified at the meeting.

Board members acknowledged that they did drop the ball on the time-frame of the review and said Cittadino’s dedication to the district speaks for itself.

Board Vice President Kevin Borsilli said Cittadino deserves a fair evaluation and said the superintendent has many positive qualities including being approachable. He said he would like to see a better long-term plan for the district.

Board member Nancy Mongon, who chairs the negotiations committee, said she was voting in favor of reappointing Cittadino.

“It is not in our best interest of the committee to conduct another superintendent search,” she said, adding the pool of candidates would not come close to what Cittadino has provided for the district.

Negotiations for Cittadino’s contract will begin in February and should be completed by July 1, according to Lori Luicci, public relations coordinator for the Old Bridge School District.

Do not let terrorists taint truth behind Islam

As a Muslim U.S. citizen I want to echo the sentiment of the Muslim community that is now a target of Donald Trumps’s slander following the terrorist act in San Bernardino that is a misrepresentation of Islamic faith.

Islam promotes peaceful, tolerant and harmonious co-existence of people of all faiths. The Quran states that slaying of one innocent human being amounts to slaying of all humankind.

“Jihad” does not mean holy war. It is misunderstood, misconstrued and misapplied. Its literary meaning is “to strive” and “to exert effort” for self-purification and striving for goodness in our relationship with others.

The media’s focus on prayer beads, prayer plaques and the Quran is misleading. These articles do not contribute to the image of radical and terroristic behavior but are objects that signify a faith just as much as pictures of Christ or Mother Mary would in Christian homes. Trump’s proposition to ban all Muslims from entering the country is ridiculous and in itself, Radical. It incites, ignites, promotes and provokes fear and hatred in the hearts and minds of the civilians against their Muslim neighbors, coworkers and friends. This capitalizing approach is only adding fuel to fire rather than provide reassurance to Muslims and non-Muslims of the country alike.

So, fellow Muslims, let’s become more vocal in our support for safety, security, solidarity and peace and come together to show real Muslim, law-abiding behavior, for there is no radical Islam. There are radicals in Islam, just like in any other faith.

Nausheen Ahmed
North Brunswick

Generosity of Sayreville Middle School overflows for foster children

This holiday season, Middlesex County community members joined together to ensure some of the most vulnerable children in the county have a reason to celebrate.

Throughout November and December, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Middlesex County received donations of holiday gifts for the children they serve, all who live in foster care due to abuse or neglect.

The majority of the gifts came from Sayreville Middle School, which provided 66 overflowing bags of toys and games collected from kids, teachers and the Parent Teacher Association. Each gift was hand-selected based on the wishes of the recipient. They were all wrapped by the students in the Community Service Club.

Colette Scozzafava, a CASA staff member who delivered gifts to a family with seven children, indicated that delivering the gifts “is a really gratifying, positive experience” and that “some of the children don’t get holiday gifts except for the ones we bring.”

Avalon Bay Communities donated approximately 80 additional gifts that will be given to children to celebrate special occasions throughout the year.

CASA was also grateful to receive 35 bags full of gifts from the Highland Park Middle School to help children living in foster care celebrate their adoptions.

CASA hopes to partner with additional local organizations to provide gift cards to youth in foster care. The gift cards will serve as an incentive to encourage youth to attend the Adolescent Conference scheduled for the spring, which will help youth develop the knowledge and skills necessary to become independent adults.

For more information about CASA or its gift giving options, visit www.casaofmiddlesexcounty.org or contact Stephanie Brown at stephanie@casaofmiddlesexcounty.org or 732-246-4449, ext. 1.