Several middle-school students who attended a bar mitzvah for the nephew of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie got infected with the coronavirus, according to Mendham Township schools Superintendent Salvatore Constantino.
Students came out to celebrate on behalf of Christie’s 13-year-old nephew last weekend. On Thursday, the school decided to shut down in-person learning for the entirety of Friday, Constantino said. That day, the school held virtual classes.
“I know that there were some cases where people that were in attendance did end up positive,” Constantino told Insider. “But that was not the only situation that we had. Our school closure really has very little to do with Christie’s bar mitzvah.”
A “couple of cases” surfaced Thursday night, days after the bar mitzvah, Constantino said, but “I can’t give causal relationships between any event and where they got COVID.”
Constantino told Insider the school expects to resume in-person learning by Monday. Friday was used as a reset day for the school to determine its next steps and conduct contact tracing.
“We were able to use Friday to evaluate the situation and make sure we had all the information we needed,” Constantino told Insider.
A photo taken at the event obtained by the New York Post shows the parents of the nephew and their four other kids posing at a club in Newark, New Jersey, without masks.
It’s unclear how many students contracted the coronavirus at the bar mitzvah.
Insider asked Constantino how many people at Mendham Township are currently positive for COVID-19. Constantino declined to say repeatedly, citing privacy concerns. “It’s not pertinent” information, Constantino said. “We’re dealing with young students here. We don’t give out that information.”
“I know it didn’t cause an outbreak because we don’t have enough positive cases to use the word outbreak,” he added.
It’s also unclear how many people were in attendance at the event.
The students who have tested positive for COVID-19 are going to quarantine and participate in remote learning for the time being, Constantino said.
Christie told the Post his brother, the father of the nephew who had the bar mitzvah, had been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
While calls for mass insect murder may seem unnecessarily vicious, they’re critical to stopping the spotted lanternflies’ spread, according to Julie Urban, an entomologist at Pennsylvania State University.
“If you don’t feel comfortably violently killing it, stick it in a container or plastic bag and throw it in the freezer,” Urban told Insider. “Otherwise you might transport it.”
Adult lanternflies hitchhike on clothing and in cars, and large masses of their eggs can be found on any smooth surface, including trees, buildings, and shipping containers.
While they’re not harmful to people – these insects don’t sting or bite – spotted lanternflies are a pernicious invasive species that prey on 70 different species of trees and plants, and can spell doom for grape vineyards and apple orchards.
Fast-spreading sap vampires
Spotted lanternflies are native to southeast Asia, originally found in India, China, and Vietnam.
But about seven years ago, they hitched a ride across the Pacific Ocean in shipping containers. The pests likely made their way to North America on slabs of cut marble, Frank Hale, a horticulturalist at the University of Tennessee, told Insider.
“The eggs remain dormant over the winter until they hatch out in the spring,” Hale said, adding that the rows of eggs look like smears of dried mud.
People in Berks County, Pennsylvania, noticed the first spotted lanternflies ever found in the US in 2014.
As of July, residents in New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, Connecticut, Ohio, and Indiana have reported seeing lanternflies, Hale reported in The Conversation. Last month, the pests sparked a federal investigation in Kansas when a boy displayed a lanternfly carcass at the state fair’s insect exhibition.
Between July and December every year, lanternfly nymphs mature into adults, which not only spread out to feed but also immediately lay eggs that will become the next year’s brood.
Adult spotted lanternflies, known as Lycorma delicatula, are sap eaters. They pierce the bark of trees and vines with their straw-like mouth, called a proboscis, and suck out the nutritious sap inside.
But the removal of all those nutrients can stress out the plant, Hale said, especially if a single tree gets overwhelmed by a multitude of lanternflies.
“The trees use that energy to eventually make new leaves in the spring,” he said. “If the plant doesn’t store enough nutrients over the winter, then it could die.”
Grapes, apples, and hardwood trees are particularly vulnerable to lanternflies.
What’s more, the pests release a sticky residue known as “honeydew” onto bark and leaves when they feed. The coating can promote the growth of fungus or black mold, and block out the sunlight plants need to survive.
Using parasitic wasps to target lanternflies
Urban said she’s heard of people using flamethrowers or salt pellet guns to exterminate a spotted lanternfly infestation. But her group at Penn State is working with the US Department of Agriculture to develop more effective ways of targeting the invasive species.
“It’s not one silver bullet,” she said.
The most promising ways of killing the pests “involve their natural enemies,” she added.
Urban’s group is looking into using two types of parasitic wasps – one that targets lanternfly eggs and another that attacks nymphs – to bring the pests under control.
Insecticides and pesticides are also useful, she said, though these methods can cause harm to other insects like butterflies and bees.
“The thing that’s concerning is we don’t want people applying pesticides everywhere,” she said. “We don’t want people to preventatively treat their trees before they see the threat.”
Hale said he thinks it’s too late to eradicate the lanternflies from the US, but a combination of insecticides and other biological controls could stop their future movement westward and north into Canada.
“They could spread across the continent if we don’t do enough,” he said, adding, “We’re probably always going to have them in North America.”
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie supports getting the COVID-19 vaccine, but he thinks President Joe Biden’s new mandate for private employers is “on shaky ground” legally.
“Working for the government and ordering government workers to have a mandate, there is one thing,” Christie said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”
“Extending that to two-thirds of all the jobs and make it either get vaccinated or not, it’s also contradictory logically,” Christie said.
The White House last week rolled out a new series of rules in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus, as cases again surgeand the vaccination rate in the country far too low to support herd immunity. Biden’s new rules require private employers with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccines or weekly testing. Federal employees and healthcare workers are also required to be vaccinated, per Biden’s new plan. The administration will also enforce fines of up to $14,000 per violation for employers that ignore these mandates.
“I think they’re really on shaky ground as to whether they can force this or not. So, it’s subject to legal challenge,” Christie said. The government needs to be “persuasive” but “let people get vaccinated on their own accord,” he added.
Christie tweeted out a video of himself speaking at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, where he said the Republican Party should disassociate with Trump. He called Trump’s supporters “conspiracy theorists.”
“The Democrats will not be defeated without sound alternatives to their flawed ideas,” Christie tweeted with the video. “Calling them wrong is not enough. Calling them names is immature & ineffective. Pretending we won when we lost is a waste of time, energy & credibility.”
Some on Twitter criticized Christie for sharing the video on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 instead of writing something in remembrance. Some called him “tone deaf” and replied with comments like “this is what you choose to put out on 9.11?” and “it could have waited a day.”
Two cars smashed into a Wendy’s drive-thru restaurant in New Jersey, narrowly missing a family eating outside, after one of them drove off the highway, the South Brunswick police department reported on Monday.
A Toyota was heading south on Route 130 when it drove off the road, across the grass, hit a ridge, and launched into the air, police said in a statement.
The car flew through the parking lot and struck an Audi waiting in the drive-thru line, police said.
The collision pushed both vehicles into the Wendy’s restaurant, smashing the windows and damaging the building structure, the police department said.
A family eating on a table outside Wendy’s narrowly avoided being hit, according to the police.
The Toyota driver and a child in the Audi were taken to hospital, police said.
The restaurant is now closed for examination, police added.
“This is nothing short of a miracle that no one was seriously injured or killed in this crash,” South Brunswick police chief Raymond Hayducka said in the police statement. “To think it was the middle of the day, people were eating both inside and outside and none of them were injured.”
The police department on Monday tweeted a video of firefighters cutting the driver out of the Toyota.
Trump met with “cabinet members” at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey to discuss his political future, Meadows hinted during an interview with Newsmax’s Steve Cortes on Friday evening.
“As we were looking into that, we’re looking at what does come next,” he continued.
Meadows, a loyal ally to the former president, further teased a potential Trump run.
“I’m not authorized to speak on behalf of the president, but I can tell you this, Steve,” Meadows said. “We wouldn’t be meeting tonight if we weren’t making plans to move forward in a real way, with President Trump at the head of that ticket.”
Three New Jersey brothers will pay $1.66 million to settle a federal lawsuit that said they made 59.6 million robocalls.
Environmental Safety International, run by Sean and Joseph Carney, and telemarketing company Carbo, run by Raymond Carney, were using the calls to sell cesspool and septic-tank cleaning products, the Justice Department said on Friday.
The DOJ said the three Carney brothers agreed to a civil penalty of $10.2 million, most of which was suspended. They’ll instead pay $1.66 million, along with forfeiting $774,000 in property. They also agreed not to collect $164,402 in unpaid customer balances.
Working cooperatively, the two companies made millions of unlawful telemarketing calls between January 2018 and December 2020, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
The government said in its complaint that the calls were made in two groups. The first was 45 million calls, followed nine months later by another 14.6 million calls.
More than 37.7 million calls, or about 63%, were made to numbers listed on the National Do-Not-Call Registry, according to a complaint filed in federal court earlier this month.
“Hello, this is not a sales call or a solicitation,” the robocalls began, according to a transcript in the complaint. “We’re calling from an environmental company with information for all septic tank and cesspool owners.”
They added: “We would like to give you some free info on our environmentally safe, all-natural septic-tank cleaning product.”
If customers pressed “1” during the , they were put into a pipeline that led them eventually to a live telemarketer offering Environmental Safety International’s products, the government’s lawsuit said.
The cleaning products were called the “Activator 1000” and “Activator 2000.”
The DOJ complaint said the calls violated the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule, which requires telemarketers to disclose the seller’s identity. It also requires callers to skip numbers on the Do-Not-Call Registry.
“The Department of Justice is working together with the FTC to prevent the scourge of robocalls that harass and invade the privacy of millions of people every day,” said Brian M. Boynton, acting assistant attorney general at the Justice Department.
More than 20 years in the making, the mall opened in October 2019 only to come to grips with a worldwide pandemic that would accelerate the decline of in-person shopping while boosting e-commerce to unforeseen heights.
But with COVID-19 on the ropes, American Dream is once again a reality and its doors are open to shoppers, adventure-seekers, and the host of other visitors to whom the infamous mall caters.
I stopped by American Dream, conveniently located off the New Jersey Turnpike right next to MetLife Stadium, on my way to Newark airport. Here’s what I found.
I entered the mail from the retail parking lot on the south side. At first, the three-level structure seemed deserted despite a crowded parking lot on the weekday of my visit.
But it wasn’t that the mall was empty. American Dream is so massive that it just seemed empty by comparison. There are around 100 stores and retailers at present, around a third of the mall’s capacity.
Besides its size, though, there was nothing special about the mall part of American Dream. There wasn’t much here that I couldn’t find in my local mall, for example, and it lacked a lot of the high-end retailers found in nearby malls like The Mall at Short Hills.
That may change, however, in September when more than 20 luxury retailers are slated to open.
Many of the stores that were open – like Primark, Best Buy, and Zara – were cavernous in size. Some were even two levels.
I was truly impressed with how deep some of them were, including Urban Planet. It’s a testament to the mall’s size.
The lack of patronage, however, has forced some of the larger stores to scale back. It’Sugar, for example, is scaled down to one floor.
Speaking of the confectionary, this was the first time I’d been in a self-serve candy store since the pandemic. Patrons are required to wear gloves when making their selections.
It’s a fair COVID compromise that lets customers experience the joy of scooping up their own candy.
Despite the mall’s size, however, it doesn’t have that Mall of America feel. I attribute that closed-in feeling to the lack of natural light in the mall.
There are not a lot of windows or skylights in the main shopping areas or even the atriums.
The best parts of the mall, I found, were the spaces with skylights so that natural light could come in.
This luscious gnome garden, for example, was my favorite part of the mall and a natural attraction.
This was also the only spot in the mall that had the true communal feeling of a mall. The only problem was that it was flanked by bare walls.
Some of the areas of the malls that hadn’t been filled were walled out from public access completely.
The food court featured many mall favorites and eateries like Kelly’s Cajun Grill, Wendy’s, and Taco Bell.
There were some higher-end food options, like Grisini, but they hadn’t yet opened for business during my visit.
Being an amateur mall food enthusiast, I had to try the staple of any mall food court: bourbon chicken, from Kelly’s Cajun Grill. And to American Dream’s credit, it was spot on.
I continued my journey and found the main atrium, another centerpiece where the mall’s size truly shows.
But once more, I didn’t find it to be too welcoming. A few couches were laid out in lieu of a grand centerpiece in the way other malls have.
In addition to good food court food, American Dream also featured the other two staples of a mall: a Hot Topic…
Some stores that I’ve never seen in my local malls can be found in American Dream include the Beef Jerky Experience…
And a Korean-themed store, which proved to be one of my favorites.
Masks aren’t required for vaccinated shoppers but each store can have its own rules, as this one did.
BTS was a major theme, unsurprisingly, and I couldn’t help but hear the song “Dynamite” in my head while browsing.
Kakao Friends, pointed out to me by former Seoul resident and Insider’s own Rachel Premack, was another big theme on display.
I also got a glimpse at Korean apparel, a style that I never really had seen promoted in my local malls in the past.
Another mall staple that American Dream can boast is animal rides. I fondly remember riding on these in my youth.
Attractions are truly where the mall shines and there’s no shortage of them. Big Snow is the massive indoor ski slope that offers year-round snowboarding.
Two hours on the artificial slope, with rentals included, starts at $69.99. Without rentals, it can be as cheap as $34.99.
Attractions for children are the bulk of the offering, however, and include Legoland…
Sea Life Aquarium…
Angry Birds-themed miniature golf…
And Out of This World miniature golfing.
There’s even an ice skating rink that doubles as a hockey rink. Prices start at $25 for those ages 10 and up.
For more thrill-seeking kids, Nickelodeon Universe and DreamWorks Water Park are the two main amusement parks in the mall.
Nickelodeon Universe offers roller coasters and standard theme park attractions while DreamWorks Water Park offers water slides, wave pools, and tube rides.
Masks are similarly not required in DreamWorks Water Park as “there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas, or water play areas,” American Dream claims.
It’s no secret that mall patronage is in decline following the rise of internet shopping, as Taylor Swift notes in her song “Coney Island,” and these attractions give consumers a reason to come to the mall that isn’t shopping.
But these attractions aren’t cheap. A standard adult ticket for Nickelodeon Universe is $75.
DreamWorks Water Park is a more expensive $99 per adult.
So far, the inner 1980s teenager in me wasn’t overly impressed. Unless you’re willing to pay up, there’s not much that this mall has to offer after visitors get bored marveling at its size.
But American Dream definitely does try to tap into that 1980s-era nostalgia.
There’s even a DeLorean replica a la “Back to the Future.” Marty McFly, however, would quickly note this isn’t the average Twin Pines Mall.
In some areas, American Dream does a great job of papering over the cracks – in this case, its lack of stores – but other places seem bare.
American Dream hasn’t yet reached its full potential and one can hardly blame it as the pandemic accelerated the downfall of malls and the continued rise of the e-commerce giants that are making malls obsolete.
Once more stores line its hallways, American Dream may very well be the premier shopping destination that it has always wanted to be.
Trump, a self-described germaphobe, had “seen the spittle” come out of Christie’s mouth and “tried to duck from the droplets” as they sat across from each other at practice debate sessions, Wolff wrote in his book, “Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency.”
Trump later blamed his exposure to COVID-19 on Christie, who tested positive around the same time as him and battled the virus for a week in the ICU.
It’s unclear exactly how the virus spread to Trump. But he was furious with Christie following a final debate session in which Christie had assumed the role of Biden and attacked Trump, according to the book.
“You have blood on your hands,” Christie reportedly told Trump. “You’re a complete failure. All these people have died from the virus. And it’s your fault.”
Christie, still playing Biden, also pointed out that Trump had criticized Biden’s son, Hunter, while his own family was “full of problems,” the book said.
Trump became “clearly agitated” at the practice strategy and had his “arms tightly crossed,” Wolff wrote. He said that Christie attacked him “like he meant it,” per the book.
Whether or not Christie gave coronavirus to Trump, the former president was “convinced” that he did, Wolff wrote.
The pair’s relationship eventually fell apart. After their bouts with COVID-19, Christie went on to criticize Trump’s handling of the pandemic in the country.
Christie told the New York Times last October that he was “wrong” to have trusted the White House grounds was a “safe zone” and that he should have worn a mask.
New Jersey taxpayers reportedly coughed up at least $2.4 million to fund former President Donald Trump’s dozens of golf outings in the state.
According to records obtained by NJ Advance Media, the bulk – $1.9 million – went to hotel accommodations for Trump’s Secret Service agents. Trump has a private golf club in Bedminister, New Jersey, and he’s visited the city 99 times over the course of his presidency, NJ Advance Media reported.
The Secret Service also paid more than $454,000 on travel, rental cars, golf carts, and portable toilets, the local news outlet reported. The Secret Service did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
NJ Advance Media pointed out that the $2.4 million sum does not include the cost of Trump’s Air Force One trips to and from Bedminster. An hour aboard that private jet costs more than $142,000. Also unaccounted for is the cost of getting to the golf club from the Morristown Airport in the presidential helicopter, NJ Advance Media said.
Even now, as the former president is no longer in office, Secret Service continues to spend lavishly.
“As we commemorate Juneteenth, we must commit to both remembering the past and continuing to take action to ensure communities of color, especially Black Americans, achieve the full equity they deserve,” Murphy said in a press release.
“Today, I am proud to sign the Fair Chance in Housing Act into law and work to level what has been for too long an uneven playing field when it comes to access to housing,” Murphy said. “I thank the sponsors and advocates for their tireless commitment to making this bill a reality and ensuring that New Jersey is a fairer place to live.”
The legislation bars landlords from asking about a prospective tenant’s criminal history unless they’ve met certain parameters, like having been flagged as a sex offender or convicted for making meth in federally-assisted housing, the text of the Fair Chance in Housing Act says.
Only after a landlord makes a conditional offer to a tenant, the legislation says, can the former run a criminal background check.
The move has been heralded by leaders of civil-rights organizations across New Jersey.
“The Fair Chance in Housing Act will significantly impact Black and brown communities who have been devastated by our broken criminal justice and housing systems for generations,” said Richard T. Smith, NAACP New Jersey State Conference President.
“We thank Governor Murphy for his strong support, and for signing this essential step towards equity into law,” Smith added, according to the press release from the governor’s office.