OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

STATEWIDE - Say what you want about Obamacare - and there has been plenty - New Jersey is now bracing for the next generation of healthcare in the U.S. It still needs a clever name, like "BookNowForAGreatTrumpHotel-Care." (Or something like that.) Some are expressing shock and alarm over this new proposal - like the liberal New Jersey Policy Perspective, which warns the replacement could cost New Jersey $8.8 billion over the next decade. Democrats are calling for Gov. Chris Christie to act, assuming he still has the special number for the Oval Office Batphone, and tell President Trump that his health care plan will leave more than 475,000 New Jerseyans without health care coverage. Read the report - which Republicans would vociferously dispute - here.

STATEWIDE - The retail industry has Sears on death watch, after announcing in January that it will be closing 150 stores. Company officials admit "substantial doubt" the stores can stay in business, unless they borrow more cash and somehow squeeze more revenue from assets. Really sad news for a company that has been around since 1886, which is now cursing itself for merging with Kmart, another circling-the-drain retailer. And sad news for us. Where will we get our Kenmore appliances, DieHard car batteries and Craftsman tools? 

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LINDEN - Ah, the benefits of public service. Like having to deal with a simple assault charge for an alleged "shoving match" during a charity fundraiser. Veteran firefighter Christopher Lukenda filed a municipal court complaint against Mayor Derek Armstead after a bar-side argument apparently got out of hand Friday night. Police told NJ.com that officers arrived at Amici III Ristorante after other patrons intervened in the dispute, but cops saw no reason to press charges. And, the mayor says there "was no physical altercation whatsoever." Looks like a judge - presumably from another town - gets the final word on the silliness.  

TRENTON - One day, very soon, we are going to miss the colorful Chris Christie, admitting yesterday he actually read a Star-Ledger op-ed from the state largest teacher's union, which suggested state officials wait for the next governor before tinkering with the school funding formula. And, the governor suggests, that op-ed should be set ablaze. "I'm glad there's some snow and still some cold weather, because it will be great in my fireplace to help burn that," Christie said. "We're going to continue to ignore them." The governor also noted: "That ridiculous op-ed by the incredibly overpaid Wendell Steinhaur was really a delight to read." The NJEA quickly responded, saying Christie is "doing his best Donald Trump imitation, stooping to the same sort of name-calling and bombast to try to cover up his utter lack of a record." Gotta love this stuff.

IN THE MEDIA 

TRENTON - Columbia Journalism Review is out with an absolutely terrific profile on the longest-serving statehouse reporter in America: Joseph Albright of the Jersey Journal, who landed a freelance gig with the paper on October 12, 1964 and still bangs out copy on his manual typewriter. Read the profile here; enjoy the lede below:  

"Discarded peanut shells litter the sidewalks of downtown Trenton around the entrance of the New Jersey statehouse, where Joseph Albright-the longtime octogenarian Jersey Journal columnist-arrives every weekday at 1 p.m. sharp. Albright carries the peanuts in a basket attached to his red walker; on most afternoons, after a couple of hours mingling with the reporters on press row and perhaps banging out a piece, Albright eases his way down State Street like a geriatric Johnny Appleseed, tossing the peanuts to plump gray squirrels who wait for their daily meal. 

Usually stuffed into Albright's basket, too, are corn muffins and Kaiser rolls for the local birds, along with a few cans of Friskies Prime Filets, a box of dry cat food, a bag of chopped-up hot dogs and a container of milk for stray cats who have grown accustomed to the lavish plates Albright leaves for them on a nearby public lawn.  

Albright's colleagues long ago began thinking of him as a kind of modern-day Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals (and, as it happens, the favorite saint of Albright, who is deeply Catholic). A lifelong bachelor who has always lived an ascetic life, Albright can often be seen blessing various objects and areas as he moves about the statehouse and its environs..." 

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS 

EDWARDSVILLE, Pa. - Um, duh? A 29-year-old Plymouth man saw his drug deal quickly go bad, when he mistakenly sent a text to an assistant district attorney, looking to swap marijuana for heroin. It quickly got worse, as she then received a photo showing the goods - a bag of pot on a scale. The sting was then set up, with a supposed drug swap outside a shopping mall in Edwardsville and a quick n' easy arrest. Now cops are after him again, as he failed to appear for a hearing. No worries; he'll probably just text the DA with his whereabouts.

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. - Maybe he really wanted a cherry Slurpee or maybe, as police claim, an 83-year-old Long Island man was upset about his medical care. Whatever his reasons, the scrappy patient stole an ambulance at Nassau University Medical Center at 1 a.m. Tuesday. Then, he made a beeline straight to a nearby 7-Eleven, where police found him. Cops charged the man with grand larceny, returned him to the hospital and scanned the ambulance for any extra Slim Jims, hot dogs or extra cheesy nachos. 

THIS DAY IN HISTORY 

Hungry for beef? Not from Hungary, which British officials accused on this day in 2013 of packaging 100 kilograms of horse meat as beef and then shipping it to England. 

WORD OF THE DAY 

Ort - [awrt] - noun 

Definition: A scrap or morsel of food left at a meal.  

Example: Hey, gonna eat your orts? 

WEATHER IN A WORD 

Chilly