Chris Christie's Port Authority boss blackmailed United into scheduling a flight to bring him to his weekend place

Former NJ Port Authority Chairman David Samson -- a "staunch ally" of Chris Christie -- got United to schedule an extra, largely empty Friday night flight from Newark airport to Columbia, SC, where he had his weekend place (the flight returned early Monday in time for him to go back to the office). A court has now accepted his guilty plea for accepting bribes and sentenced him to one year of house arrest and four years of probation. Read the rest

Archbishop of Newark builds himself a palace while the church shuts down schools for lack of funding

The Catholic Archdiocese of Newark is shutting down its schools due to lack of funding, but it still has a fortune it can use to build a small palace for its archbishop John J Myers, who is soon to retire after a career whose highlights include dismissing victims of sexual abuse and shielding abusing priests. Also, he insists on being addressed as "Your Grace." He's a made-in-America version of Germany's disgraced "Luxury Bishop." Read the rest

Pastafarian denied religious freedom in New Jersey driver's license scandal

Aaron Williams, a devout follower of Pastafarianism, has had his religious rights trampled by the New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission, which refused to allow him to wear his religious headgear (a pasta strainer) for his official driver's license photo.

“Had it been a turban or a headscarf, or something from a mainstream religion, then it would’ve been fine,” Williams, 24, told New Brunswick Patch. “I guess since they hadn’t heard of the religion, that’s why they opposed it. But that’s not really acceptable to me. They’re not in a position to discriminate against religions that are mainstream, or not mainstream, just because they may not have heard about it...

...Williams was told by police that he could try to get the state to recognize the colander as religious headwear, but until they did, he could not wear it for the photo.

“The people there were very polite, but I’d like to have better training for their employees, so I may be looking into some way to educate their employees on their own policies,” Williams told Patch. “I feel like after I expressed my opinions and beliefs they were definitely more accepting. I was met with hostility at first and they were asking me what my problem was.”

I think it's outrageous that New Jersey holds for itself the right to determine which solemn faiths are and are not legitimate. As a Pastafarian myself, I've often thought that tales of burning bushes, miraculous healings, and alien beings strapped to volcanoes were somewhat hard to credit at first blush, but I reserve judgment out of respect for the faith of my neighbors. Read the rest

Coffee shop also provides paternity tests, urine tests, notary, tax prep

Camden, NJ's City Coffee has managed to thrive, despite the retail mass-collapse in Camden's city center. The coffee shop's secret is to offer every conceivable service. So in addition to coffee and pastries, you can also get a urine test, a paternity test, financial planning, tax prep, a studio photo-portrait, and, soon, a specialist cleanup service for landlords whose houses have been rented by compulsive hoarders. The counter-staff also serve as unofficial fixers for local lawyers, because all the judges and clerks eat there. Jo Piazza profiled the business for the WSJ:

On a normal day, jurors and lawyers mix with criminal defendants, city bureaucrats cross paths with recovering addicts from the nearby methadone clinic — and everyone comes to see Mona Pryor, whose job title as City Coffee’s operations director scarcely hints at her many roles.

“Lawyers are always coming in here to ask me to put in a good word with judge so-and-so, or asking me to introduce them to someone from the other side,” said Pryor. She is the one-woman force behind most of City Coffee’s services, with an associate’s degree in accounting and a variety of specialty certificates.

“We did about 300 tax returns this season. I do the DNA swabs and the drug testings. I’m one of the only notaries around and I am always marketing the businesses,” Pryor said from a desk covered in dozens of note pads. “But I also make a perfect latte.”

City Coffee owner Ronald Ford Jr. succinctly sums up the central insight behind his multi-business strategy: “You can get your drug test while you are waiting for your coffee to be done.”

Struggling City’s Coffee Shop Serves It All (via Consumerist) Read the rest

Newark Terminal C evacuated because TSA forgot to screen a tiny baby

The Port Authority Police and/or the TSA (they blame each other) at Newark Airport evacuated Terminal C on Friday because a tiny, little, itty-bitty baby didn't get screened (Mom passed the kid to Dad, got screened, and then they swapped). When the TSA's ever-vigilant anti-hugging squad figured out what had happened, the terminal was evacuated. But the mom, dad, and baby were never found. They had already taken to the air, and they may be there still. This is a stark reminder of the grave, existential risk that the TSA protects us from every day. When I think of the unscreened baby somewhere airside, circulating through America's aviation system, well, it gives me chills. I don't think I'll ever feel safe again.

Newark Airport Terminal Evacuated Over Unchecked Baby Read the rest