Trump’s plan for the G-7 is blatant corruption. Congress should stop it.

The entrance of Trump National Doral near Miami in April 2018.
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LIKE SO many initiatives in the Trump presidency, the Trump Doral Group of Seven summit at first sounded like a joke. As the last G-7 meeting wrapped in France in August, Mr. Trump used the platform to suggest he might host the 2020 meeting, which is due to be held in the United States, at his struggling Trump National Doral golf resort near Miami. With cameras from around the world rolling, the president boasted that his property is close to the airport, has ample parking and features a layout that would suit a big international conference.

Perhaps all he wanted to do was plug Doral and leave it at that? Nope. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney announced at a Thursday news conference that the G-7 actually will be held at Doral, and he confirmed that the site was chosen at the president’s suggestion. This is not a jest: It is blatant and corrupt self-dealing by the president.

“We thought, of the 12 places that we looked at — and you’d recognize the names of them if we told what they were — that this was by far and away the best choice,” Mr. Mulvaney explained, without, in fact, revealing which other properties were considered. Each country can take its own building, he gushed.

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Murphy Gives Green Light to $100M-Plus in Spending

JOHN REITMEYER | OCTOBER 18, 2019 

NJ Spotlight

Gov. Phil Murphy

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Gov. Phil Murphy has now released more than $100 million in spending that was put on hold earlier this year amid a budget dispute with lawmakers.

Appropriations for distressed municipalities, colleges and universities, and a Camden-based cancer program were among the many spending items the Murphy administration took out of reserve yesterday after the latest official state revenue report showed the current fiscal year is off to a solid start.

But even with the promising revenue figures — tax collections are up by more than 7% compared to this time last year — the Department of Treasury is continuing to hold back another $121 million in spending, in part due to the governor’s lingering concerns with several savings initiatives that lawmakers wrote into the fiscal year 2020 budget before its adoption this summer. Murphy issued an executive order in late June that put a combined $235 million into reserve to ensure the budget wouldn’t run in the red.

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Menendez was in the room when Trump mocked Pelosi and Dems walked out. Here’s what he saw.

Updated Oct 18, 2019

WASHINGTON — A day later, the confrontation between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the White House was still reverberating.

By now, most of you know what happened: Pelosi and other congressional leaders of both parties came to the White House on Wednesday to discuss the fallout and necessary response to Trump’s sudden decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. Turkey had immediately invaded and attacked the Kurds who had been American allies in the war against ISIS.

It didn’t go so well. Trump denigrated Pelosi as a “third-grade politician” and she and some other Democrats responded by walking out of the meeting. Later, Pelosi said Trump had a “meltdown.” Trump called Pelosi “unhinged.”

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N.J. Democrats have a big money advantage in Assembly races

Posted Oct 16, 2019

Republicans trying to hold onto seats in the state Assembly and reclaim a seat in the state Senate are staring at a big cash disadvantage heading into New Jersey’s legislative elections next month.

GOP candidates have raised just about $3.3 million and spent less than half of that — $1.4 million — according to the latest fundraising figures from the state’s nonpartisan Election Law Enforcement Commission.

At the same time, Democrats hoping to expand their majority in the Assembly and unseat the chamber’s Republican leader have raised $11 million and spent $5.7 million.

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A Bridge Only Sledgehammers Can Fix Will No Longer Sabotage Rush Hour

By 

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Oct. 16, 2019

The Portal Bridge in New Jersey is over 100 years old. When it fails to close, workers with sledgehammers have to bang it back into place.

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It is a fairly ordinary bridge, not too long and not very tall. But the Portal Bridge’s modest profile obscures its vital role: It is a main rail link between New York City and most of the rest of the country.

And for decades, the balky old bridge in New Jersey, a few miles west of Manhattan, has terrorized commuters. Built early last century, it pivots at its center to allow boats to pass up and down the Hackensack River.

The disruption should last only about 15 minutes. But the 109-year-old bridge is prone to getting stuck in the open position, and when that happens crews have to be summoned to bang on it with sledgehammers.

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Booker tells everyone to stop fighting each other at Democratic debate. And he quotes Yogi Berra.

Updated Oct 16, 2019

WASHINGTON — As his fellow Democrats clashed over health care and guns, Cory Booker invoked Yogi Berra in warning that they were giving aid and comfort to President Donald Trump.

“As a great New Jerseyan, Yogi Berra, said, ‘I am having deja vu all over again,’” Booker said during the fourth Democratic presidential debate, held Tuesday in Ohio. “I’m having deja vu all over again, first of all, because I saw this play in 2016′s election.”

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were hammered over their support for a Medicare for All plan that would eliminate private insurance. Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke later argued over whether to confiscate assault weapons. Booker refused to be drawn into that fight.

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State Officials Confirm Minimum Wage on Track to Reach $11 at Start of 2020

JOHN REITMEYER | OCTOBER 16, 2019

NJ Spotlight

The statewide minimum wage is set to go to $15 by 2024.

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New Jersey’s statewide hourly minimum wage is on course to increase to $11 at the beginning of next year for most low-wage workers, state labor officials said yesterday.

The announcement by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development was a formality since the increase for 2020 had already been scheduled under a law enacted by Gov. Phil Murphy earlier this year.

But labor officials are still required to conduct an annual analysis of year-over-year inflation to determine whether workers could get an even bigger increase than what the law calls for. While that won’t be the case for 2020, the officials suggested most minimum-wage workers will still do far better under the new law than under previous regulations since the new law calls for annual, $1 increases instead of simply tying annual increases to changes in inflation.

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Murphy defends spending $1M on new office in Newark

Updated Oct 14, 2019

Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday defended the decision to spend at least $1 million in taxpayer money on a larger satellite governor’s office in Newark.

Murphy’s main office is in Trenton, the state capital. But he also has run a second office out of Newark. Now, as first reported on by NJ Advance Media, the Democratic governor is upgrading to a larger space in Newark.

It will cost more than $145,000 a year in rent, according to lease records — about $100,000 more than the current space in Newark.

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$200 Million, Jailed Immigrants and a Democratic Bastion Under Fire

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

Oct. 14, 2019

Protesters have targeted the Essex County Correctional Facility, which holds about 800 people who have been arrested on immigration charges. 

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In 2011, lawmakers in Essex County, N.J., agreed to house detained immigrants at the local jail in exchange for what would eventually add up to around $200 million from the federal government. Across the country, hundreds of other local communities were shoring up their budgets with similar deals.

But that decision has turned into an unexpected source of tension as critics who oppose President Trump’s immigration policies have pressured the county to end to the contract. Protesters regularly amass outside the Essex County Correctional Facility carrying “Abolish ICE” signs. Activists pack public meetings demanding the county pull out of the agreement.

Lawmakers in the county, a longtime Democratic stronghold in one of the bluest regions in the nation, are now caught between their reliance on steady income from the federal government and anger from a more activist left.

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Ads try to hide the real cause of those sky-high surprise medical bills | Opinion

Posted Oct 13, 2019

By Eileen Appelbaum

 

Most people assume that if they are treated at a hospital in their insurance network, the doctors they see will accept their insurance. But that’s not always the case. Since 2010, an increasing number of hospitals have outsourced their emergency rooms, radiology, anesthesiology, and other specialized services to physician staffing firms. Patients who need these critical services may inadvertently receive care from a doctor outside of their insurance network and find that they owe thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars in surprise medical bills.

Rates of surprise billing are highest for insured patients treated in emergency rooms. A Stanford University study of millions of ER visits found that more than 2-in-5 (43%) visits resulted in a surprise medical bill in 2016. A person who urgently needs care is in no position to argue and has no choice about either the ambulance, the hospital, or the ER they are taken to. One estimate is that almost 65 percent of U.S. hospitals have ERs staffed by outside firms. As might be expected, surprise billing is most likely to occur in these hospitals.

Horror stories abound. A woman in Hoboken left the emergency room of a hospital when she discovered that the plastic surgeon who would see her was not in her insurance network, and sought treatment at an in-network facility instead. Despite not having received a diagnosis at the first hospital and having left the ER without receiving any treatment, she got a bill from the hospital for $5,751. Her insurance plan paid the hospital $862, which it deemed a “reasonable and appropriate” fee for the services the woman received. That left her stuck with a bill for $4,989.

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