Local News

UPDATE: Paterson, Lodi Women Struck by Gunfire in Paterson

Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes and Paterson Police Chief Ibrahim Baycora announce that at approximately 10:02 p.m. on June 29, 2020, members of the Paterson Police Department were dispatched to the area of East 25th Street and 15th Avenue in Paterson on a report of shots fired.

Upon arrival responding officers discovered a potential crime scene, but no victims were located.

Police say a short time later members of the Paterson Police Department were advised that a 24-year-old woman Paterson resident and a 24-year-old woman Lodi resident arrived at Saint Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson seeking treatment for non-fatal gunshot wounds.

The investigation remains active and ongoing.

The Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office asks anyone with additional information about this incident to contact us on our tips line at 1-877-370-PCPO or or contact the Paterson Police Ceasefire Unit at 973-321-1342.

Covid-19 State News

Latest coronavirus updates in New Jersey: Friday, June 26, 2020

NEW JERSEY — Below you will find the most up-to-date information on coronavirus news impacting New Jersey. You can find additional resources and coverage on our coronavirus page.

1 p.m.
Gov. Phil Murphy held his daily coronavirus briefing. Watch in video below.

New Jersey reopening

  • Guidelines for reopening schools were unveiled.
  • Gov. Phil Murphy said he has “every expectation” that kids will return to schools come September.

Daily indicators

  • Total cases: 170,584
  • Death toll: 13,060 + 1,854 probable deaths
  • Hospitalizations: 1,118
  • ICU/CCU: 234
8:45 a.m.

Gov. Phil Murphy talked to the PIX11 Morning News about schooling in the fall and the latest reopening plans. Watch the interview below:

NJ Gov. Murphy talks school plans, travel advisory and reopening updates

Latest official numbers:
As of Friday morning, there are 170,196 confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Jersey with 13,018 coronavirus-related fatalities.


2020 NHL Draft Lottery Results: New Jersey Devils Fall to Seventh Overall

After weeks of waiting, wishing, speculating, hoping, and dreading, the first phase of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery was completed this evening. The Devils, along with six other teams, are not going to hit the ice as part of the NHL’s Return to Play format. Tonight was their one event that directly involving them until whenever the draft will be held. The results were quick and tough to swallow. The New Jersey Devils fell one spot to seventh overall and the first overall pick will go to a placeholder team that did not win their qualifying round matchup.

The Devils were originally slotted to go sixth overall, so moving down a spot by itself is not a concern. What is more of a concern is the placeholder team. Not only does a team that finished between fifth and twelfth overall in their conference get the first overall pick and will draft Alexis Lafreniere; it could deny the Devils an additional first round pick in the NHL Draft. Worse, we have to wait until we find out who this placeholder team will be. The second phase of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery will be held after the Qualifying Round and before the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin. That may be in August. That may be in September. Who knows exactly when it will be.

Let me reiterate the Devils’ picks from their trades in the 2019-20 season. They own Vancouver’s first round pick, which has a condition. The condition is that they make the playoffs. If Vancouver does not win their Qualifying Round matchup against Minnesota, then it does not matter to the Devils if they win or lose the second phase of the 2020 NHL Draft. They will not have Vancouver’s pick in 2020; it will move to 2021. Same as before, if you want the Devils to have multiple first round picks in 2020, then you are a Canucks fan whenever the Qualifying Round games begin.

The bigger concern is with Arizona. The Devils own their first round pick from the Taylor Hall trade – which has a lottery protection. If Arizona ends up winning the second phase of the 2020 NHL Draft, then they will keep their first rounder in 2020 and pick Lafreniere. The Devils will then get their first rounder in 2021. Who knows where that pick would be. And the odds of Arizona winning that phase is 12.5% or 1 out of 8. It is not minute – assuming they lose their Qualifying Round matchup. You may want to consider cheering on the Coyotes in their Qualifying Round matchup against Nashville. However, if they do that, then their first rounder would be New Jersey’s – and deeper in the first round of the draft. If you were hoping for two top ten picks for the Devils in 2020, then you need the Coyotes to lose and hope and pray that Hall’s lottery magic does not strike again (and you need Montreal and Chicago to not lose either and either to not win the second lottery, they would bump Arizona to 11th overall). This not a gimmie for Nashville; Rantta and Kuemper are talented and the Preds are coached by John Hynes after all.

There are other disappointing possibilities. What if Pittsburgh crashes out to Montreal and wins big for Lafreniere? Their window for contending gets wider and the Devils have another tough opponent in their division. What if Columbus loses out and come back in 2020-21 with full health, a lot of motivation, and an agrressive and talented winger who is ready to play in the NHL right now in Lafreniere? Forgive me for giving you thoughts of this heinous situation, but what if Our Hated Rivals gets that pick after losing to Carolina? We may have to – no, I cannot type it. I will not. You cannot make me.

Ultimately, the 30 minute broadcast that stretched out about two minutes of actual work for Bill Daly flipping cards came and went like a balloon being deflated. I am not so much bothered by the Devils dropping to seventh overall alone. Again, in this year’s draft class, the Devils would have to try to not take a top-end talent at seventh overall given that there are ten to twelve prospects that are very tantalizing. If you were hoping for the likes of Lucas Raymond, Alexander Holtz, Marco Rossi, or Cole Perfetti, then that is still a possibility. Taking the “left over” of those four is a very, very fine left over. The disappointment comes with the possibility of seeing a Coyote logo or a logo of Our Hated Rivals later this Summer whenever the second phase of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery takes place. The former would mean the Devils would have one fewer pick in the first round; and the latter means Our Hated Rivals get the best player in the draft class.

We will have more thoughts about what to do at seventh overall in the coming days. Dan and I will certainly discuss it when we record the next Garden State of Hockey. We will have a roundtable among the writers for initial takes. And when the Qualifying Round games are coming soon, then I will ask you, the People Who Matter, how we should approach it. Whether you care about it or not, the Devils now have a vested interest in the results of those games. In my view: Go Nucks and, uh, please do not win a lottery later, Arizona.

In the interim, I would like your take on tonight’s lottery results. How did you react to seeing the Devils at seventh overall? Who do you want them to take? Who are you cheering for now in the Qualifying Round games? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the draw in the comments. Thank you for reading.


The Curious Case of the New Jersey Devils History of Drafting Finnish Players

The New Jersey Devils have not had a lot of success when it comes to Finnish players in the team’s history. Whether it was players that were signed, traded for, or drafted, the list of success is surprisingly minimal for a team that has been around since 1982. The most successful Finnish player in Devils history is actually Sami Vatanen. The defenseman leads all Finnish players in team history with 154 games and 68 points. The only other Finn to play over 100 games for the Devils is Tuomo Ruutu who reached 129 games and 22 points. In total, only 16 Finnish players have ever dressed for the Devils with 15 of those players actually making an appearance. The Devils have only drafted 13 Finnish players since moving to New Jersey. Only 5 of those draft picks ever dressed for the Devils, 4 of them actually played for a combined total of 145 games and 50 points. The Devils currently have 2 of those draft picks developing in forwards Aarne Talvitie and Eetu Pakkila. This post will focus on the Devils history of drafting Finnish players, their current Finnish prospects, and those Finnish prospects that they could select in the upcoming 2020 NHL Draft.

Finnish Players Drafted by the Devils

When looking at the Devils Finnish draft history, I want to first focus on those players that actually made it to New Jersey or the NHL. After touching on those players, we’ll look at the players that never appeared for either the Devils or in the NHL, going in order of their draft year. Since Aarne Talvitie and Eetu Pakkila are recent draft picks and still developing, we’ll talk about them in another section.

Thanks to the information via Elite Prospects, we can see that C Janne Ojanen was the most succesful Finnish draft pick the Devils had in their history. He was a 3rd round pick in 1986 after standing out for Tappara at the U20 level. Ojanen would put up 2 strong seasons with Tappara in Liiga as well as 2 succesful WJC campaigns as the captain of Finland’s U20 team prior to coming over to North America for the 1988-89 season. Ojanen would make only 3 appearances for New Jersey that season putting up an assist. He spent most of the season in the AHL with Utica where he was 4th on the team in scoring with 60 points in 72 games. Ojanen spent the entire 1989-90 season with New Jersey, finishing 10th on the team in scoring with 30 points in 64 games. However, Ojanen would return to Tappara for the next 2 seasons where he was comfortably a point per game player in Liiga. He did return to New Jersey for the 1992 NHL Playoffs where he had 2 assists in 3 games. The 1992-93 season would prove to be his last with New Jersey and North American hockey. He had 13 points in 31 games with the Devils and also put up 9 points in 7 games with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the IHL. He would then return to Europe, spending most of his seasons with Tappara. He even captained Tappara from 2000 to 2010 to close out his career. The Devils did well to identify a talented player that had a long professional career. They were unable to develop his talents into being a long term contributor to New Jersey.

The next most succesful Finnish draft pick in Devils history is RW Ilkka Pikkarainen. I’ll always remember Pikkarainen for being the player that the Devils signed in July of 2009 after reports came out that they were signing a “mystery player”. He was a 7th round pick in 2002 after becoming a regular for HIFK in Liiga as a 20 year old. He would spend another season with HIFK before making his way over to North America for the 2003-04 season. That was the first of 3 seasons he would spend with Albany in the AHL where he would appear in 196 games and put up 29 goals and 33 assists. After failing to crack New Jersey’s roster, he returned to HIFK for the next 3 seasons from 2006-09 where he became a solid contributor. After putting up 37 points in 54 games in Liiga in 2008-09, New Jersey would opt to sign him ahead of the 2009-10 season, his age 28 season. Pikkarainen finally made the NHL but wouldn’t be able to make it last, putting up just 4 points in 31 games while averaging 8:09 per game. He played in one AHL game for Lowell and finished out the season on loan to CSKA Moscow in the KHL. He’s spent the rest of his career with short stops in Sweden and Germany while mainly playing in his native Finland. He just crushed it this past season for IPK in the 2nd tier Mestis with 45 points in 43 games though.

Next we have LW Tuomas Pihlman, a 2nd round pick in 2001. Pihlman had carved out a regular role as an 18 year old for JYP in Liiga in the 2000-01 season while also being on Finland’s U20 team in the WJC. He’d repeat those feats, with greater production, in the 2001-02 season. The 2002-03 season would see him take a step forward for JYP with 34 points in 53 games. That performance was enough for the Devils to bring him over for the 2003-04 season. He played just twice for the NHL team but was 5th in scoring for Albany in the AHL with 29 points in 73 games. His production would slip for Albany in the 2004-05 season, a year when the quality of play in the AHL rose due to the NHL lockout. That season he put up just 22 points in 68 games, finishing 9th in scoring on the team, just one spot behind Pikkarainen. Pihlman would end up being a regular for Albany over the next 2 seasons, getting in to just 13 games with 2 points for New Jersey. He spent the rest of his career in Finland, mainly with JYP.

G Ari Ahonen was a 1st round pick in the 1999 draft after putting up 10-10-1 record with a 2.90 GAA and .906 SV% for JYP U20 in the 1998-99 season. He moved to HIFK for the 1999-00 season, splitting time between the U20 league and Liiga. He impressed at the junior level with a .929 SV% in 11 games for HIFK U20 and a .910 SV% for Finland in the WJC. At the pro level he went 11-9-1 with a 3.11 GAA and .901 SV% in Liiga. The 2000-01 season would see him establish himself for HIFK in Liiga with a 18-12-4 record and 2.77 GAA and .920 SV%. He was excellent at the WJC for Finland’s U20 team with a 5-1 record and 1.34 GAA and .933 SV% as they won a Silver Medal. The Devils would bring over the promising prospect for the 2001-02 season, the first of 5 straight AHL seasons with Albany. He would have mixed results over those 5 seasons from putting up a .914 SV% in 36 games in 2001-02, to a .898 SV% in 38 games in 2002-03, to a .902 SV% in 50 games in 2003-04, to a .910 SV% in 38 games in 2004-05, and finally a .892 SV% in 16 games in 2005-06. As NHL Backups notes, Ahonen was recalled 5 times to New Jersey over 3 seasons, dressing for 18 NHL games, though never making an appearance. Ahonen returned to Europe in 2006 and would stay there until his career ended in 2018. He spent time between Liiga, SHL, KHL, and Denmark.

Finally, we get to D Mikko Jokela, a 4th round pick in 1998. He never actually played for the Devils, though he did spend the 2001-02 season with Albany in the AHL and half of the 2002-03 season with them. He was traded to the Vancouver Canucks for Steve Kariya and managed to get into one NHL game for them in a season and a half. He returned to Liiga in 2004-05 and spent most of the rest of his career in Finland.

Now we’ll quickly move on to those Finnish players drafted by the Devils that never played in New Jersey or the NHL. First we have F Jarkko Piiparinen, an 11th round pick in 1984 and the first Finnish player selected by the Devils. He spent his draft season of 1983-84 and the following year in Liiga before spending almost the entire rest of his career in the lower divisions.

It would take until 1996 for the Devils to select a 3rd Finnish player, when they selected D Pasi Petriläinen in the 9th round. While he never made it to North America, he had a long career in Liiga (438 regular season games) and had some stops in Sweden, Slovenia, and France. This draft year would actually start a mini-run on Finnish players for the Devils as they selected 8 Finns from 1996 to 2002.

Next we have C/LW Marko Ahosilta, an 8th round pick in 1998. He had a decent junior career in Finland and was able to turn it into a long career in Mestis, the 2nd division. He did manage to get into some Liiga games late in his career after helping KalPa get promotoed to the top tier.

D Teemu Kesä was a 4th round pick of the Devils in 1999. He spent a few seasons in Liiga before coming over to play for Albany in the AHL from 2004 to 2006. He put up 12 points in 79 AHL games and returned to Europe in 2006-07. He spent the majority of his career in Finland with stops in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Switzerland.

LW Teemu Laine was a 2nd round pick in 2000. He never came over to North America, instead spending the 1st half of his career in Liiga before finishing his career across the SHL and KHL.

Finally, we get to RW Vili Sopanen, a 6th round pick in 2007 and the last Finnish player drafted by the Devils until Aarne Talvitie would break a 10 year gap in 2017. Sopanen has played in over 500 Liiga games in his career with some quick stops in Sweden and Germany. He was still actively playing for Lukko as of 2019-20.j

The Devils Current Finnish Prospects

Now let’s take a look at the 3 Finnish prospects the Devils currently have. Aarne Talvitie and Eetu Pakkila were draft picks in recent years and represent the Devils reaching out to Finland after Director of Amateur Scouting Paul Castron took over ahead of the 2015-16 season. They also have Janne Kuokkanen in the fold now after Interim GM Tom Fitzgerald acquired him in the Sami Vatanen trade with the Carolina Hurricanes at the deadline.

LW Janne Kuokkanen is a recently turned 22 year old that has already put up 126 points in 164 AHL games (0.77 Pts/GP). Like most Finns that reach the NHL, he came up through the top junior leagues in Finland and had some brief pro experience before coming over to North America. He made the jump early, heading to the London Knights of the OHL for his post-draft season where he put up a solid 62 points in 60 games. He spent the following season playing for the Charlotte Checkers in the AHL where he had a strong 40 points in 60 games as a rookie in the AHL. He even managed to get into 4 NHL games with Carolina that season. In 2018-19 he had 38 points in 48 games for Charlotte and managed to get into 7 NHL games for Carolina. Last season he continued to show progress with 42 points in 52 games with Charlotte before being traded to New Jersey. He joined Binghamton where he quickly made an impression with 6 points in 4 games. He even got into a NHL game with the Devils before the season ended. As you can see from Byron Bader’s NHLe Player Comparison tool above, Kuokkanen has consistently improved since his draft season of 2015-16. As of his draft+3 season of 2018-19, he has raised his NHLer probability (200+ games) by 7% from 37% to 44%. He should have a real shot at being a regular in New Jersey’s line up whenever the next season takes place.

C/LW Aarne Talvitie was a 6th round pick of the Devils in the 2017 draft. He was a standout player for the Espoo Blues U20 team in his draft season of 2016-17 and in 2017-18. He captained Finland’s U18 team in his draft season, captained his club team in his draft+1 season while also playing for Finland’s U20 team, and captained Finland’s U20 team to WJC Gold in his draft+2 season while a freshman at Penn State University. As has been well documented, Talvitie suffered a torn ACL and had season ending surgery after the WJC. His numbers for his sophomore season in 2019-20 are a bit pedestrian at 19 points in 30 games, though it’s worth noting he really cooled off after a hot start. Hopefully he can be a more consistent contributor as a junior where he will also serve as an Alternate Captain. According to the Hockey Prospecting model, his NHLer probability has fallen 21% from 37% to 16% though he will hopefully get back on track with a strong junior season for Penn State.

LW Eetu Pakkila was a 7th round pick in the 2018 draft. Over his draft season in 2017-18 and draft+1 in 2018-19, he established himself as a strong goal scorer in Finland’s top U20 league with 23 goals in 48 games and 38 goals in 52 games respectively. Overall, across those 2 seasons he had 40 points in 48 games and 60 points in 52 games respectively. He made the move to become a full time pro last season by moving to Ilves. In 39 Liiga games with them he had 11 points while he impressed on loan to KOOVEe in the Mestis with 14 points in 18 games. The Hockey Prospecting NHLe model may have soured on him a bit, as it tends to do for most prospects since their draft year. His NHLer probability has gone down 20% from 37% to 17% though he is about to enter his critical draft+3 season which can really change his outlook. He’ll enter his 2nd season with Ilves with a lot more experience under his belt and I expect him to take a step forward in his development next year.

Finnish Prospects of Note in the 2020 Draft

Elite Prospect’s Draft Center has this list of Finns available for the upcoming draft. In the top prospects category they list C Anton Lundell, C Roni Hirvonen, and RW Kasper Simontaival. Lundell is expected to go in the 1st round, Hirvonen in the 1st/2nd round range, and Simontaival in the 1st/2nd round range. Hockey Prospecting really rates Lundell giving him a 10% Star probability (greater than 0.70 Pts/GP) and 53% chance of making the NHL as a regular. For Hirvonen they give him a 4% Star probablity and 37% chance of being a regular NHLer. They also list D Topi Niemla and D Eemil Viro. Both of these defenseman played their draft seasons in Liiga with Niemla expected to go in the 1st/2nd round range and Viro in the 2nd/3rd round range. Hockey Prospecting gives Niemla a 37% chance of becoming a NHL regular while giving Viro a 28% chance.

Other names to keep an eye out for that figure to go in the later rounds are RW Veeti Miettinen and LW Roby Jarventie who have excelled in the top U20 junior league in Finland. Hockey Prospecting gives Miettinen a 53% chance of making it as a regular and gives Jarventie a 37% chance. Jarventie has been on my radar for a bit as he is one of the younger players in this draft (turns 18 in August), is already 6’2”, 185 lbs., and was a teammate of Pakkila’s last season. Also, keep an eye out for F Oliver Suni and D Ruben Rafkin that spent their draft seasons in the OHL. Hockey Prospecting gives Suni a 37% chance of becoming a NHL regular and Rafkin a 46% chance. In terms of goaltenders, Joel Blomqvist is the one that stands out the most with his 6’1”, 205 lbs. frame, his .931 SV% in 34 games in Finland’s top U20 league, and he already has 2 games of Liiga experience.

How Can the Devils Target and Develop Finnish Talent

The nature of the draft is that you’re going to miss a lot more than you hit. While the Devils have had their ups and downs, especially their downs in the latter part of former Director of Scouting David Conte’s time with the team, things to appear to be trending up under Paul Castron. When looking back at New Jersey’s draft history as a whole, it’s no surprise that the overwhelming majority of players come from Canada and the United States. When it comes to European countries they have selected 33 players from Russia, 18 players from Sweden, 13 players from Finland, and 10 players from the Czech Republic. There are a few other countries they have selected from but that is just a handful of players. While the Devils have had a lack of success with Finnish draft picks, the sample size just isn’t that large. Right now 2 of those 13 picks are still active in their developmental stages and could turn into something for New Jersey. I think as long as the Devils try to focus on players that perform well compared to their peers they will be bound to eventually hit on prospects from Finland. As I mentioned in the previous section, there are some intriguing options both in the early part of the draft but also the latter rounds. Castron’s focus on skilled players that can skate well should eventually lead him to finding some legitimate NHL talent from Finland for this organization. Of course drafting is just one part of the equation and they will need to develop these prospects in Binghamton eventually. That’s where you hope that Mark Dennehy, Binghamton coach the past 2 seasons, and the other coaches in the organization can step in and help these players reach their potential.

Your Take

What do you make of the Devils track record when it comes to drafting players from Finland? What about their lack of success with Finns overall? Did you have high hopes for any of their past Finnish draft picks? What do you think of Kuokkanen, Talvitie, and Pakkila as prospects? Are there any Finns you hope the Devils target in this upcoming draft? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!


Challenges a family caregiver faces

Family caregiving is the process of taking care of a loved one who is suffering from a physical or mental ailment. Family caregivers are usually relatives, neighbors, friends, or close acquaintances who undertake this challenging role but are not paid for it. Most people are family caregivers at some point in their lives – someone might have aged parents; others might have disabled children or spouses having gone through accidents. Whatever the reason may be, family caregivers are, beyond a doubt, some of the most selfless people you’ve ever seen.

Challenges and solutions of family caregiving

Being a family caregiver is not an easy job, even if the person you’re caring for is a very close relative or friend. The task is challenging, exhausting (both physically and mentally), and requires a lot of problem-solving on a daily basis. Some challenges that family caregivers face include:

  • Time management: Many family caregivers find that balancing work and other relationships becomes tough when caring for someone dependent on them.
  • Emotional and mental stress: Many conditions such as Alzheimer’s can be mentally exhausting for the caregiver.
  • Physical exhaustion: Family caregiving can also be physically exhausting if it involves lifting a patient who has limited mobility.
  • Lack of privacy: When taking in a dependent, many caregivers find that their privacy is compromised, as they are always in contact with the dependent person.
  • Financial strain: Caregiving is a full-time job and becomes even more exhausting when it’s unpaid. The time that could be utilized in money-making is being given to caregiving.
  • Sleep deprivation: Most people have a very tough sleep cycle when they take on the role of a family caregiver. The patient’s sleep is very unpredictable, and that takes a toll on the caregiver’s health.
  • Isolation and depression: Caregivers are often so consumed by their duties that they find little time to socialize and interact with others. This leads to loneliness, depression, and frustration. Caregivers are often so consumed by their duties that they find little time to socialize and interact with others. This leads to loneliness, depression, and frustration. Cargiver’s challenges & support are important part in their life
  • Hesitation in asking for help: If you take on the role of a family caregiver, then you are, undoubtedly, giving it your best shot. But many times, caregivers feel that if they ask for help, it somehow reflects negatively on their caregiving abilities – even though that’s not the case.

The best way to deal with these challenges is to find a support group for family caregivers who will be able to help each other with their own experiences and insights. A support group for family caregivers provides a much-needed pillar to lean on when things become too difficult. If you feel isolated and experience stress, consider talking to family members and share your feelings with them. If that isn’t possible, it is a good idea to seek help from online support groups.

Where can I reach out?

ExtendaTouch’s caregiver support group online is a great platform for family caregivers to come together and help each other during tough times. They can share their problems and solutions and draw strength from each other – uplifting spirits, supporting mental health, and showing each other the silver lining. If you are a family caregiver, don’t hesitate to reach out to ExtendaTouch.

Covid-19 State News

Latest coronavirus updates in New Jersey: Friday, June 19, 2020

NEW JERSEY — Below you will find the most up-to-date information on coronavirus news impacting New Jersey. You can find additional resources and coverage on our coronavirus page.

11 a.m.
Gov. Phil Murphy held his daily briefing. Watch below.

Daily COVID-19 numbers and updates

  • Thursday saw 516 new positive test results, bringing total confirmed cases in New Jersey to 168,496 since pandemic began.
  • New Jersey reports 37 new confirmed coronavirus fatalities, bringing state total to 12,835 since pandemic began.
  • New Jersey nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other long term care facilities can welcome visitors again, in designated outdoor space, starting this Sunday, June 21.
    • Some rules and restrictions are in place if a resident has COVID-19 symptoms or has tested positive, Murphy says.

COVID-19 in long term care facilities

  • 116 new cases overnight, bringing NJ total to 35,600 cases
  • 22 new deaths in these facilities, bringing total to 6,152 total virus fatalities

Latest official numbers:
As of Friday morning, a total of 168,107 people have tested postivie for COVID-19 in New Jersey, with the state’s death toll now at 12,800.

U. S. News

US has hit agreed troop-cut target of 8,600 in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON – The United States has reduced its troop presence in Afghanistan to 8,600, fulfilling its obligation as part of a February deal with the Taliban, the general who oversees American forces in that region said Thursday.

Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie gave no indication of when, or at what pace, U.S. forces would be further reduced. He noted that the February deal requires the U.S. to fully withdraw its forces by next May, but he called that an “aspirational” commitment that would depend on certain actions by the Taliban.

President Donald Trump has been eager for a full U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, asserting that American forces are merely policing a civil conflict and should be brought home. The war began in October 2001.

Without directly mentioning the 8,600 figure, McKenzie said, “We’re at that number now,” in accordance with the February agreement. The deal said the U.S. would drop to 8,600 within 135 days, which is mid-July. It represents a reduction from about 12,000 troops at the time of the agreement.

“We have met our part of the agreement,” he said, speaking at an Aspen Strategy Group webinar.

McKenzie said a full U.S. withdrawal would happen if conditions are right.

“Conditions would have to be met that satisfy us that attacks against our homeland are not going to be generated from Afghanistan,” he said. “That’s not the Taliban. That is, of course, al-Qaida and ISIS,” referring to the extremist group that used haven in Afghanistan during the Taliban’s previous rule to plan the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, as well as the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate.

As part of the February deal, the Taliban agreed they would not allow any extremist group to use Afghan territory to plan or carry out attacks on the United States.

“The jury is still very much out on that” Taliban commitment, McKenzie said, “and so we will watch the Taliban.” He added, “They have not yet completely made that case. There remains an opportunity for them to do it, but time is now beginning to grow short.”

McKenzie spoke cautiously of trends in Iraq, where several thousand U.S. troops are training and advising Iraqi forces and contending with periodic hostility from Iranian-backed militia groups. Although he praised recent efforts by the Iraqi government to deal with Iranian influences in the country, he cited “a beginning of a spike in unprovoked rocket attacks on Iraqi bases that host U.S. forces.”

He said he thinks Iran and its proxies in Iraq are conducting these recent attacks “because they have been unable to prevail in the political arena in Iraq.” He spoke after Iraqi authorities reported that four rockets exploded inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone near the American Embassy. It was the third such reported attack since the U.S. embarked on strategic talks with Iraq’s new government.

Crime & Safety State News

Leader of Trenton Drug Trafficking Organization Indicted

TRENTON, N.J. – A federal grand jury today indicted the leader of a Trenton drug-trafficking organization for his role overseeing and managing the distribution of large amounts of heroin in the Trenton area, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Robert M. Gbanapolor, 33, of Trenton, was charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin with the intent to distribute and distribution. Gbanapolor and 10 others were previously charged by complaint in June 2019. He will be arraigned on a date to be determined.

Eight other members of this drug trafficking conspiracy have previously pleaded guilty in this case. The charges against two other defendants remain pending on complaint.

According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:

From June 2018 through May 2019, the defendants and others engaged in a heroin trafficking conspiracy in the areas of Stuyvesant Avenue, Hoffman Avenue, and Highland Avenue in Trenton, as well as in the area of Barbary Road in Philadelphia.

Through the interception of telephone calls and text messages pursuant to court-authorized wiretap orders, controlled purchases of heroin, the use of confidential sources of information, and other investigative techniques, law enforcement learned that Gbanapolor obtained regular bulk supplies of heroin from Duane Paulino-Escalera, whom Gbanapolor referred to as “Papi.”

Members of the conspiracy distributed the heroin supplied by Papi to other conspirators, distributors, sub-dealers, and end-users in and around Trenton. Law enforcement officers intercepted numerous discussions among the conspirators regarding issues such as heroin quality and availability, branding, quantity and customer satisfaction.

The charge against Gbanapolor carries a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum potential penalty of 40 years in prison, and a $5 million fine.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, New Jersey Division, Camden Resident Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Susan A. Gibson; and task force officers of the Trenton Police Department, under the direction of Police Director Sheilah Coley, with the investigation leading to the charges. He also thanked detectives and officers of the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Christine A. Hoffman; detectives and officers of the Gloucester Township Police Department, under the direction of Chief Harry Earle; members of the N.J. State Police, under the direction of Col. Patrick J. Callahan; detectives and officers of the Bordentown Township Police Department, under the direction of Chief Brian Pesce; and special agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Charlie J. Patterson for their assistance.

This case is being conducted under the auspices of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric A. Boden and Michelle S. Gasparian of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Trenton.

The charges and allegations contained in the indictment and the original complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Local News


(Passaic County, New Jersey) – The Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders will launch a $10 million dollar grant program to help Passaic County small businesses and non-profit agencies financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Passaic County has partnered with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) to offer up to $10,000 of grant funding for eligible businesses and agencies.

“Passaic County is known for being one of the most diverse counties in the state, and this extends into our local businesses and organizations. This pandemic has taken a toll on so many of our local entrepreneurs and grass roots organizations,” stated Freeholder Director Lazzara. “In addition to increasing resources like testing and food assistance, the county freeholder board is making sure our local businesses and social service agencies are given the support they need in these difficult times.”

The $10 million grant program allocated for Passaic County businesses and organizations is part of Phase 2 of the NJEDA’s Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program. The county grant program will allow businesses and non-profits with fewer than 25 employees to apply for the grant, on a first come, first serve basis. The deadline to apply for the grant is June 30th, 2020.

“The NJEDA and Passaic County share Governor Phil Murphy’s commitment to getting funding to recovering small businesses quickly and efficiently. We are also committed to ensuring funding goes to businesses that need it the most,” said NJEDA CEO Tim Sullivan. “The COVID-19 outbreak created unprecedented challenges for all businesses, but the data shows it hit minority- and women-owned businesses particularly hard. Our collaboration with the County will maximize our collective resources to assist businesses that need help recovering from this crisis while bringing us closer to Governor Murphy’s vision of a stronger and fairer New Jersey economy.”

“Our residents rely on many of the services and resources that our local businesses and organizations offer on a daily basis. Our partnership with the NJEDA will help ensure that our small businesses and support agencies have funding to keep serving our residents and families,” stated Freeholder Director Sandi Lazzara.

Covid-19 State News

Latest coronavirus updates in New Jersey: Tuesday, June 16, 2020

NEW JERSEY — Below you will find the most up-to-date information on coronavirus news impacting New Jersey. You can find additional resources and coverage on our coronavirus page.

1 p.m.
Gov. Phil Murphy is holding a coronavirus briefing. Watch the news conference below.
Reopening plans

  • Murphy thanked the “overwhelming majority” of residents who made the first day of Stage 2 on Monday “a successful one.”
  • The governor said people sharing a table during outdoor dining who do not live together should consider wearing a mask while not eating or drinking.

New Jersey Wind Port

  • New Jersey will build the first purpose-built marshaling and manufacturing port dedicated to the offshore wind industry.
  • When complete, the port will house multiple factories where the parts for offshore wind turbines will be built, as well as serve as the staging area to move them to the offshore wind farms along the New Jersey coast.
  • The port is “critical to our goals of 7,500 MW of offshore wind by 2035 and a 100% clean energy NJ by 2050,” Murphy said.
  • The project will be inclusive, with a focus on a diverse union workforce in its construction, and bringing women-and minority-owned businesses to the project.
  • As the state restarts its economy in the wake of COVID-19, the wind port will create thousands of green-economy jobs.
  • Construction is expected to begin in 2021 with a 25-acre manufacturing site and a 30-acre marshaling and staging site.
  • “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” Murphy said. “The emerging offshore wind industry gives us tremendous growth potential, and offers the opportunity to position ourselves as a leader in an emerging global industry.”
  • Tim Sullivan, the CEO of the Economic Development Authority, said the port will take a $3 to $4 million investment in construction and will generate about $500 million in economic activity a year when it’s complete.
  • “Is a central part of how we bounce back stronger and more resilient not just in the face of COVID-19 but also global warming,” he said.
  • The site that was chosen in Salem County, adjacent to PSEG, was chosen because it is not near any major bridges and offers easy access to the water, which is how the equipment will be shipped up and down the coast.

Health data

  • There are now 167,426 confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide.
  • Of those sick, 1,291 are hospitalized, 362 are in ICUs and 245 are on ventilators.
  • The state reported another 51 new deaths, for a total of 12,727 lives lost.
  • Deaths reported in nursing homes rose to 6,020.
  • The daily spot positivity rate is 2.46% from June 11.
  • The rate of virus transmission remains less than one-to-one, at .69%.
  • More than 16% of those who died of COVID-19 in New Jersey had lung-related preexisting conditions.

Inflammatory syndrome in children

  • There are two new cases of MIS-C, for a total of 42.
  • All of the children, who range in age from 1 to 18, tested positive for COVID-19 or the antibodies.
  • No deaths have been reported and four children remain hospitalized.
  • Black and Hispanic children make up more than 60% of the cases.
Latest official numbers:

As of Monday morning, a total of 167,103 people have tested postivie for COVID-19 in New Jersey, with the state’s death toll sitting at 12,676.