Posts Tagged ‘superstorm Sandy’

Christie aides threatened to withhold money for Hurricane Sandy relief if politicians fails to support his other agenda items, Mayor of Hoboken says

January 19, 2014

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie with President Barak Obama after Superstorm Sandy

By and
The New York Times

ORLANDO, Fla. — A swing through Florida proved no sunny retreat for Gov. Chris Christie on Saturday, as well-organized protesters hounded him outside a Republican fund-raiser here, a powerful ally in the New Jersey State House rebuked the governor’s office and new allegations emerged that his administration tried to intimidate a New Jersey elected official.

Mr. Christie’s trip, which was supposed to showcase his political resilience after the rockiest period of his governorship, was overshadowed by claims from the mayor of Hoboken, N.J., Dawn Zimmer, a Democrat.

In a television interview on Saturday, she said that two high-ranking aides to Mr. Christie had threatened to withhold money for Hurricane Sandy recovery to her hard-hit city if she did not support a real estate development that the governor wanted built in her jurisdiction.

Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer has accused Gov. Chris Christie’s office of intimidation. Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Speaking on MSNBC, she produced journal entries that she said documented conversations in which Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Richard E. Constable, the commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, told her that if she wanted the money, she had to approve the project. The financial assistance, Ms. Zimmer said, was held “hostage.”

She recalled documenting her disappointment in Mr. Christie the day of her meeting with Mr. Constable. “I thought he was something very different,” she wrote at the time. “This week I found out he’s cut from the same corrupt cloth that I have been fighting for the last four years.”

Despite being almost entirely submerged during the hurricane, Hoboken has received a small fraction of the recovery money it requested from the state, Ms. Zimmer said.

In a statement, Mr. Christie’s spokesman, Colin Reed, did not directly address the mayor’s claims of a threat, but said that she and the governor “had a productive relationship” that was delivering the relief money Hoboken needed.

Mr. Reed took the unusual step of denouncing MSNBC, on which Mr. Christie is a frequent guest, as “a partisan network that has been openly hostile to Governor Christie and almost gleeful in their efforts attacking him.”

Attempting to cast doubt on the new allegations of political payback, which have always been a part of American politics, Mr. Christie’s aides pointed to Ms. Zimmer’s history of praising Mr. Christie, such as a Tweet last summer in which she wrote “I am very glad that Gov. Christie has been our governor.”

On MSNBC, Ms. Zimmer hinted at the pressure many mayors felt not to speak out against the governor, saying, “This is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

Soon after Ms. Zimmer’s interview aired, Stephen M. Sweeney, a Democrat, the president of the New Jersey Senate and a key ally of Mr. Christie’s, issued an unexpected rebuke to the governor’s office.

Calling the latest allegations “extremely disturbing” and promising an investigation, Mr. Sweeney said that Ms. Zimmer’s experience, combined with the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge, “suggest a pattern of behavior by the highest ranking members of this administration that is deeply offensive to the people of New Jersey.”

In Florida on Saturday, Democratic activists unleashed a partisan assault on Mr. Christie. Protesters waved placards calling him a “bully,” telling him to “go home” and, in a reference to the gridlock at the George Washington Bridge, declaring that their own “traffic is bad enough.”

Mr. Christie shunned public appearances in Florida, where he is raising money for Gov. Rick Scott, a fellow Republican.

Instead, the New Jersey governor was whisked into an event at the Country Club of Orlando, and, later, a fund-raiser at a Palm Beach home owned by the heir to a sugar fortune.

Inside, Mr. Christie found what must pass, at this difficult moment, as an oasis for him: a group of Ferrari and Jaguar-driving Florida Republicans for whom traffic in New Jersey is a distant thought.

Getting into his Bentley after the fund-raiser, one guest, Geoffrey Leigh, called the controversy over the lane closures “little flies on the wall, quite frankly.”

Michael Barbaro reported from Florida and Kate Zernike from New Jersey. Nick Madigan contributed reporting from Palm Beach, Fla.

A version of this article appears in print on January 19, 2014, on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline: Mayor Says State Officials Held Storm Aid Hostage

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Chris Christie faces ‘super investigative committee’ on Bridgegate scandal — Top New Jersey Democrat insists

January 13, 2014

January 13, 2014

Christie

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie could be impeached if the team investigating the ‘Bridgegate’ scandal find he knew the motive behind the George Washington Bridge closures. Assemblyman John Wisniewski, pictured, who is leading the investigation, said he didn’t find Christie’s denials credible when so many of his close aides appeared to be involved.

  • New Jersey’s Democrat-led legislature is sharpening its knives as the governor insists he knew nothing of payback plot to close bridge lanes
  • The new ‘super investigative committee’ will soon subpoena Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien, two Christie confidantes whom he dismissed on Thursday
  • Liberal assembly Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski called the ‘Bridgegate’ episode ‘a blatant abuse of power’ and hinted that more heads would roll
  • In addition, two federal investigations now dog Christie, including one related to Superstorm Sandy relief money spent on tourism ads that he appeared in just weeks before he was re-elected

By David Martosko, U.S. Political Editor

John Wisniewski, the liberal state assemblyman leading the charge against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the wake of his George Washington Bridge traffic scandal, announced Monday that he has formed a new special investigative committee that will issue subpoenas and press for more answers.

In a press conference, New Jersey General Assembly Speaker-Elect Vincent Prieto called the legislative body a ‘super investigatory committee’ organized to expand the existing work of the transportation committee chaired by Wisniewski.

‘This has become more than a transportation issue,’ Prieto said. ‘We’ve now gone beyond that.’

‘Our concern is that there was a blatant abuse of power,’ Wisniewski told reporters on Monday. ‘It’s not sufficient to fire some people.’

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John Wisniewski (L) will chair a new 'super investigative committee' to dig into Chris Christie's actions related to the Bridgegate scandal. Assembly Speaker-elect Vincent Prieto (R) appointed him on Monday.
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John Wisniewski (L) will chair a new ‘super investigative committee’ to dig into Chris Christie’s actions related to the Bridgegate scandal. Assembly Speaker-elect Vincent Prieto (R) appointed him on Monday
Unstoppable force meets immovable object? Chris Christie has boasted that he works well with Democrats in his state legislature, but that cooperation is about to come to a screeching halt.
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Unstoppable force meets immovable object? Chris Christie has boasted that he works well with Democrats in his state legislature, but that cooperation is about to come to a screeching halt

The two aides Gov. Christie dismissed last week, former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly and former  Campaign Director Bill Stepien, will receive the new bipartisan  committee’s first two subpoenas, he said.

Emails collected by Wisniewski’s transportation panel implicated both in a  plot to exact political retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J.  by closing several of his town’s entry lanes to the George Washington  Bridge, snarling traffic for four days in September.

Christie has forcefully denied knowing anything about the plan, even as his  confidantes and political appointees tumble around him.

The new committee will officially convene on Thursday in a special legislative session.

Wisniewski said Monday morning in a statement that evidence he has collected to date ‘makes clear that this now goes … into the highest ranks of the executive branch.’

‘This investigation will continue with increased intensity,’ he said. That effort, he told reporters, will require ‘more severe’ allocation of staff and funding.

Wisniewski’s rhetoric has also grown in intensity since last week. In an interview Thursday with MailOnline, he hedged on the idea of launching a bid to impeach Christie, calling it ‘premature’ and ‘not the way to go right now.’

More…

But appearing Sunday on the CBS program ‘Face The Nation,’ he seemed ready to go down that politically fraught road.

‘If it becomes known that the governor was involved and he knew about it and he knew about the cover-up, and he was approving the actions taken by his senior staff, that raises serious questions that the assembly ought to look at,’ Wisniewski said.

‘And that ought to be considered in light of what our responsibility is. The Assembly has the ability to do articles of impeachment.’

Bridget Anne Kelly
Bill Stepien -(left of Chris Christie)

Former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly (L) and former Campaign Manager Bill Stepien (R, looking at Christie) were shown the door on Wednesday and will likely see subpoenas this week

Former Port Authority official David Wildstein resigned in December; he appeared before John Wisniewski's transportation committee on Thursday but refused to answer questions about the bridge scandal.
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Former Port Authority official David Wildstein resigned in December; he appeared before John Wisniewski’s transportation committee on Thursday but refused to answer questions about the bridge scandal

In addition to having subpoena power, the new committee will have the full-time services of a special counsel, Prieto said,

In New Jersey, a ‘special counsel’ is the equivalent of a ‘special prosecutor’ in the federal government, according to a Republican legal expert in the Garden State who spoke with MailOnline.

‘You have a a lawyer recruited from outside the government and trusted with the authority to investigate, subpoena witnesses, and even seek indictments,’ he said.

Prieto, the incoming assembly speaker, told reporters Monday that ‘seeking outside counsel is very important in case there’s other outside agencies that are going to be involved in this.’

A general assembly clerk reached in Trenton would not speculate about how fast the committee would do its job, or how soon Kelly and Stepien might testify.

In a transportation committee hearing on Thursday, former New York New Jersey Port Authority official David Wildstein refused to answer Wisniewski’s questions, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

A raft of emails released by the committee a day later showed that Port Authority officials knew within hours of the bridge lanes’ closure that public safety was at risk. Yet the traffic pattern entering the George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee remained unchanged for four days.

Christie faces new pressure to explain what knowledge, if any, he had of the scheme before it was carried out. He is thought to be a likely 2016 presidential candidate.

Wisniewski’s renewed investigation is one of three now targeting the brash, outspoken Garden State governor.

Top legislative cop: Wisniewski has emerged as Chris Christie's biggest antagonist, and is talking about the possibility of impeaching the Republican governor.
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Top legislative cop: Wisniewski has emerged as Chris Christie’s biggest antagonist, and is talking about the possibility of impeaching the Republican governor
Bridget Kelly and David Wildstein kicked off the traffic shenanigans with a gleeful internal email on August 13, subpoenaed documents show.
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Bridget Kelly and David Wildstein kicked off the traffic shenanigans with a gleeful internal email on August 13, subpoenaed documents show

Feeder lanes onto the George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee, N.J. (lower right) were blocked in September for four days, choking off traffic and gridlocking the town, an effort apparently led by Christie employees out of spite for Fort Lee's mayor.
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Feeder lanes onto the George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee, N.J. (lower right) were blocked in September for four days, choking off traffic and gridlocking the town, an effort apparently led by Christie employees out of spite for Fort Lee’s mayor

U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman, whom President Barack Obama appointed to fill the office that Christie left for the governor’s mansion, is probing the ‘Bridgegate’ controversy. Fishman has already attracted barbs from conservatives for his history of making large donations to Democratic political candidates, including Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.

And an inspector general in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is investigating whether Christie’s administration broke federal law when it awarded disaster relief funds following Superstorm Sandy to a firm that produced tourism commercials.

The ‘Stronger Than The Storm’ ads, produced by East Rutherford, N.J.-based MWW and a subcontractor, cost $4.7 million to make – and included cameos by the governor, his wife and three of their children.

Another firm offered to produce the ad campaign for $2.5 million, but its scripts did not include the Christies. The ads ran in the weeks leading up to the governor’s November 2013 re-election.

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Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2538729/Its-not-sufficient-fire-people-blast
s-NJ-Democrat-announcing-special-super-investigatory-committee-probe-Chris-
Christie-Bridgegate-mess.html#ixzz2qJPDH2cH

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President Obama’s Bypass of Congress to Take Charge of Climate Change

November 2, 2013

By  Associated Press and Daily Mail Reporter

 

President Obama used his executive powers on  Friday to create a ‘Task Force on Climate Preparedness and  Resilience.’

Obama’s plan would be put in place  through  executive order, bypassing Congress, which has stalemated over  climate  legislation in recent years.

A year after Superstorm Sandy devastated the  East Coast, the President signed the order which is designed to make it easier  for states and local governments to respond to weather disasters.

Trick or treat? President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama give Halloween treats to children at the White House.
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Trick or treat? President Barack Obama and first lady  Michelle Obama give Halloween treats to children at the White House. On Friday  Obama used executive powers to create a ‘Task Force on Climate Preparedness and  Resilience’

The executive order establishes a task  force  of state and local officials to advise the administration on how  to respond to  severe storms, wildfires, droughts and other potential  impacts of climate  change.

The task force includes governors of seven  states – all Democrats – and the Republican governor of Guam, a U.S. territory.

Fourteen mayors and two other local leaders  also will serve on the task force. All but three are Democrats.

More…

The task force will look at federal money  spent on roads, bridges, flood control and other projects.

It ultimately will recommend how structures  can be made more resilient to the effects of climate change, such as rising sea  levels and warming temperatures.

The White House said the order recognizes  that even as the United States acts to curb carbon pollution, officials also  need to improve how states and communities respond to extreme weather events  such as Sandy.

Destruction: Satellite image from October 2012 of Superstorm Sandy on the eastern seaboard. A year after Sandy devastated the East Coast, President Obama signed an order .
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Destruction: Satellite image from October 2012 of  Superstorm Sandy on the eastern seaboard. A year after Sandy devastated the East  Coast, President Obama signed an order which is designed to make it easier for  states and local governments to respond to weather disasters

Building codes must be updated to address  climate impacts and infrastructure needs to be made more resilient, the White  House said in a statement.

The task force includes Govs. Jerry Brown of  California, Jay Inslee of Washington and Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, as well as  Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Vermont Gov. Peter  Shumlin and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.

The panel also includes several big-city  mayors, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Philadelphia Mayor Michael  Nutter and Houston Mayor Annise Parker. All three are Democrats.

An administration official who asked not to  be identified said the White House asked several organizations, including the  National Governors Association, to recommend task force members.

Members were chosen based on those who were  recommended or who nominated themselves, the official said.

The official asked to not be identified  because he was not authorized to discuss the task force makeup.

Flood: Inundated farmland next to the Mississippi River in TennesseeFlood: Inundated farmland next to the Mississippi River  in Tennessee. The new task force will ultimately recommend how structures can be  made more resilient to the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels  and warming temperatures

The task force builds on efforts Obama  announced in June to combat global warming, including the first-ever limits on  climate pollution from new and existing power plants.

Obama’s plan is intended to reduce domestic  carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent between 2005 and 2020.

The plan also would boost renewable energy  production on federal lands, increase efficiency standards and prepare  communities to deal with higher temperatures.

The 12 hottest years on record all have  occurred in the past 15 years. The task  force on resiliency is expected to hold its first meeting this  winter.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2483977/Obam
a-takes-control-climate-change-policies-executive-order-bypass
-Congress.html#ixzz2jUPn484h

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Mitt Romney Takes Full Responsibility for Not Beating Barack Obama in November’s Election

March 3, 2013

former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks with FOX News Sunday’s Chris Wallace at his son’s home in San Diego

Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) speaks with FOX News Sunday’s Chris Wallace at his son’s home in San Diego, California for his first post-election interview in this February 28, 2013 FOX News Sunday handout photo obtained by Reuters March 1, 2013. The interview is to be aired March 3rd. REUTERS/FOX News Channel/FOX

ReutersPhoto By HANDOUT/REUTERS

Mitt Romney says it “kills” him that he’s not president. But he doesn’t blame Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or anything else on his loss to President Barack Obama–except his campaign’s failure to connect with minority voters.

“I lost my election because of my campaign,” Romney said on “Fox News Sunday” in his first television interview since his November defeat, “not because of what anyone else did.”

By | The Ticket

Video:

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/m
itt-romney-kills-fox-obama-163333853–election.html

The former Massachusetts governor refused place blame on Christie, who some Republicans say elevated Obama in his embrace of the president in the wake of the storm.

Romney said his inability to win over black and Hispanic voters–and the damage done by those disastrous “47 percent” comments–ultimately derailed his White House bid.

Ann Romney, though, pointed the finger at the fourth estate. “It was not just the campaign’s fault,” Ann Romney said. “I believe it was the media’s fault as well, in that he was not being given a fair shake–that people weren’t allowed to really see him for who he was. … I’m happy to blame the media.”

She added: “I totally believe at this moment, if Mitt were there in the office, that we would not be facing sequestration right now.”

Mitt Romney said President Obama has failed to lead on the sequester.

“He didn’t think the sequester would happen,” he said. “It is happening. To date, what we’ve seen is the president out campaigning to the American people, doing rallies around the country, flying around the country and berating Republicans and blaming and pointing. Now, what does that do? That causes the Republicans to retrench and to put up a wall and to fight back.”

The media at work at US presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s election night event in Boston, on November 6, 2012. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

On election night, Romney said, he was “convinced” he’d win the election–until Ohio went in Obama’s favor.

“It was a slow recognition until ultimately when the Ohio numbers began coming in and they were disappointing,” he said. “By 8 or 9 o’clock, it was pretty clear that we were not going to win.”

Romney, who has avoided the press since his loss to Obama, likened the election and its aftermath to an amusement park ride.

“We were on a roller coaster, exciting and thrilling, ups and downs,” Romney said. “But the ride ends. And then you get off. And it’s not like, oh, can’t we be on a roller coaster the rest of our life? It’s like, no, the ride’s over.”

Video:

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/m
itt-romney-kills-fox-obama-163333853–election.html

Is John Boehner actually an American hero?

January 8, 2013

The House Speaker had a bleak December and a blah two years. But it could have been so much worse…

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) isn’t anyone’s idea of a latter-day LBJ or Sam Rayburn — a super-legislator who twists arms, swaps pork for votes, and most of all, gets stuff done. But despite his rough December and New Year’s — in which his own caucus humiliated him by rejecting his fiscal cliff “Plan B,” he was cut out of negotiations before having to join Democrats to pass a Senate-brokered bill, survived an incompetent coup attempt, and was trash-talked on live TV by Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) — “Boehner has done his country a more important service over the last two years than almost any other politician in Washington,” says Ross Douthat in The New York Times.

 The Week

That service hasn’t been the achievement of a grand bargain with the White House, which he has at times assiduously sought. Nor has it been the sweeping triumph over liberalism that certain right-wing activists expect him to somehow gain. Rather, it’s been a kind of disaster management — a sequence of bomb-defusal operations that have prevented our dysfunctional government from tipping into outright crisis…. The fact that all these crises have been resolved at the 11th hour, amid persistent brinkmanship and repeated near-death moments for his speakership, isn’t a sign that he’s a failure. Instead, given the correlation of forces he’s dealing with, this is what success looks like. (For a glimpse of the alternative, just imagine rerunning the last two years with Newt Gingrich in the speaker’s chair.) [New York Times]

The idea of Boehner as a “downright American hero” is a little hard to swallow, says Matt Lewis at The Daily Caller. If averting catastrophe now qualifies for heroism, boy, “talk about grade inflation.” There are, in fact, two ways Boehner could try to herd the cats of his GOP caucus. And since he can’t really use the first option — he doesn’t have the power to “essentially bribe or blackmail” his members — “the only arrow left in the quiver is to be a transformational leader — to actually inspire your team to follow you.” That’s isn’t something Boehner seems capable of. So “‘hero’ just seems to me to be a tad too strong, all things considered.” Maybe “victim” or “hostage” would be more apt.

SEE MORE: Will Republicans apologize for accusing Hillary Clinton of faking her concussion?

 

Can we not make Boehner a hero for being forced to finally do his job?

— jordan duncan (@FoL2009) January 2, 2013

Boehner isn’t a hero but @douthatnyt is right that Boehner is much better at his job than most people realize.nyti.ms/Sc0iDs

SEE MORE: Is the conservative dream in its death throes?

— Lawrence O’Donnell (@Lawrence) January 6, 2013

Give Boehner a break, says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post. He has had to grapple with more ideologically inflexible members who are loyal to themselves or their big donors rather than House leadership, backbenchers who have their own media-driven power bases, and political disincentives to compromise with Democrats. Indeed, Boehner has faced a series of “monumental challenges with as little power over his House majority as any speaker in modern memory.”

Meh, “I expect nothing from the GOP,” says Thomas Friedman in The New York Times. “It’s lost and leaderless.” But if we’re talking about the need for heroism, “I expect a lot from Obama, who knows what needs to be done” but focused his fiscal cliff fix entirely on raising taxes for the wealthy. “I expect him to stop acting as a party leader and start acting like the president of the whole country.” That means not giving up on that grand bargain, and expending political capital to achieve it, with or without Boehner’s help.

SEE MORE: A 4-step program to cure the GOP of its self-destructive behavior

 

He’ll have to change the polls, not just read the polls. He will have to take on his own base and the GOP’s. There are many successful Americans who got their wealth the old-fashioned way — by risk-taking, going into debt to start a business or pursue a dream. It’s time for the president to do some risk-taking — to stop just hammering the wealthy, which is so easy, and to start selling the country on a strategy to multiply them. We need to tax more millionaires, but we also need more millionaires and middle classes to tax. The president was elected to grow our national pie, not just re-divide it. [New York Times]

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Superstorm Sandy 12-12-12 Benefit Concert for Victims

December 13, 2012

By Geoff Mulville

To the rest of the world, the “12-12-12” concert was an all-star fundraiser for those affected by Superstorm Sandy.

In a hard-hit New Jersey shore community, it was a break from a changed, stressful world.

Judy Kessler, who lives in Howell, says she wasn’t hit hard by the late October storm though her home was damaged and her power was knocked out. Neighbors hooked her up to their generator and with her gas stove she cooked for everyone she could.

“I’m not hoping for anything other than a lot of feel-good feelings,” she said as she walked into one of 28 movie theaters in storm-affected areas simulcasting the concert from New York’s Madison Square Garden for free.

The crowd in the theater, a short drive from the Highway 9 that Bruce Springsteen mentions in “Born to Run,” cheered when Springsteen joined Jon Bon Jovi on stage and sang along with Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” and hooted when they were filmed watching the concert as part of the broadcast.

The people watching the show near some of the spots that sustained the most damage included some whose houses are uninhabitable and others who put up friends in the weeks following the storm.

Barbara Dattoli, who had the power was knocked out at her Brick Township home for a week, said one of the most moving things about the production was knowing that hundreds of millions of viewers were seeing footage of devastation in places near her. The other was seeing the native son rockers perform together. “The whole thing was just so incredible,” said Datolli, who was wearing a “Restore the Shore” sweatshirt. “Especially Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi.”

Jerry Frasco, a mail carrier from Toms River, said he was in awe of a lineup that included many of his favorites from 40 years ago, including The Who, the Rolling Stones, Roger Waters and Springsteen.

“We didn’t want to go through a hurricane to have it,” he said.

Joe Montagna, a retiree from Brick, said his home was fine though he did put up friends of his son’s who didn’t fare well. He said music has a special healing power and he was impressed with musicians heeding the call.

“Musicians seem to be the ones everybody looks for when tragedies happen,” he said.

Not everyone on the shore was excited about the show, though, including the mayor of Toms River, which has sections on a barrier island and the mainland that were decimated.

Mayor Thomas Kelaher said he hoped that low-profile devastated communities such as his would benefit financially. He said he fears most donations are heading to places known by tourists, including New York City and nearby Seaside Heights, where a roller coaster was dumped into the Atlantic Ocean by the storm.

He said in his community 542 people had to be rescued from a mainland area where evacuations weren’t mandatory and public works crews and police used front-end loaders to pluck people from second-story windows.

“You go up and down the streets, it’ll just break your heart,” he said.

Organizers of the Sandy benefit say that 40 percent of the revenue will go to New Jersey and the rest will be sent to relief efforts in New York and Connecticut.

The powerful storm submerged parts of New York City and knocked out electricity for millions of people in several states. It destroyed or damaged 305,000 housing units in New York and is blamed for scores of deaths in the United States, most of them in New York and New Jersey.

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Highlights from the 12-12-12 Benefit Concert for Hurricane Sandy relief in Madison Square Garden in New York, Dec. 12, 2012. Music royalty from the Rolling Stones to Kanye West gathered at Madison Square Garden for a benefit concert to help storm victims.

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Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones performs during the “12-12-12” benefit concert for victims of Superstorm Sandy at Madison Square Garden in New York December 12, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

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Mick Jagger (L), and Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones perform during the “12-12-12” benefit concert for victims of Superstorm Sandy at Madison Square Garden in New York December 12, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas

Eric Clapton performs during the “12-12-12” benefit concert for victims of Superstorm Sandy at Madison Square Garden in New York December 12, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

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Roger Daltrey (L) and Pete Townshend of The Who perform during the “12-12-12” benefit concert for victims of Superstorm Sandy at Madison Square Garden in New York December 12, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas

Roger Daltrey (L) and Peter Townshend of The Who perform during the “12-12-12” benefit concert for victims of Superstorm Sandy at Madison Square Garden in New York December 12, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas

Comedian Chris Rock performs during the “12-12-12” benefit concert for victims of Superstorm Sandy at Madison Square Garden in New York December 12, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

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Bruce Springsteen performs with drummer Max Weinberg (top) of E Street Band during the “12-12-12” benefit concert for victims of Superstorm Sandy at Madison Square Garden in New York December 12,  2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Roger Waters performs during the “12-12-12” benefit concert for victims of Superstorm Sandy at Madison Square Garden in New York December 12, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Actress Kristin Stewart speaks during the “12-12-12” benefit concert for victims of Superstorm Sandy at Madison Square Garden in New York December 12, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

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Jon Bon Jovi joins Bruce Springsteen (R) on stage during the “12-12-12” benefit concert for victims of Superstorm Sandy at Madison Square Garden in New York December 12, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Roger Waters (L) and Eddie Vedder perform during the “12-12-12” benefit concert for victims of Superstorm Sandy at Madison Square Garden in New York December 12, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones performs during the “12-12-12” benefit concert for victims of Superstorm Sandy at Madison Square Garden in New York December 12, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Jon Bon Jovi (R) performs with Richie Sambora during the “12-12-12” benefit concert for victims of Superstorm Sandy at Madison Square Garden in New York December 12, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

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Superstorm Sandy Gave Some Americans a Taste Of Living in Asia

December 11, 2012

Photo: Water surges over the road in Southampton, New York, October 29, 2012 during Superstorm Sandy

By William Pesek

New York’s brush with developing-nation status is an even bigger warning for Asia than it is for the US.

The city could be excused for wondering if it had suddenly been transported to Bangladesh in October. The deadly floods and crippling power outages following Hurricane Sandy made for more than graphic television. They made a mockery of the climate-change deniers. Just ask res

idents of lower Manhattan as they referred to neighborhoods such as pricey Tribeca as “Little North Korea.”The Asia reference is fitting, because that region is where the real wake-up call should be.Asia’s rising importance is well known. Asia-Pacific nations generated roughly 25 percent of the world’s gross domestic product between 1980 and 2009, and that share is rising fast. Less well known is that it endured almost 40 percent of the world’s losses from natural disasters during that period. Violent weather is sure to increase, compromising Asia’s economic outlook.Asia-Pacific residents are four times more likely to be victims of natural disasters than Africans, and 25 times more likely than North Americans, according to a new Asian Development Bank report. Asia is home to most of the megacities facing extreme vulnerability to climate change. The increasing frequency and severity of disasters will reduce growth and set back anti-poverty efforts.Development threat

We need to stop thinking that such events just come and go — that stuff happens. Asia must embrace the idea that natural phenomena are a rising threat to development. Steps must be taken to brace for their impact and reduce their incidence. Both challenges require far more energy, planning and resources than Asian leaders have mustered to date.

The first is complicated by demography. The largest urbanization history has ever known is unfolding chaotically and faster than cities can keep up with. Asia’s mix of rising ocean levels, surging populations, poor urban planning and deforestation dwarfs New York’s challenges.

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Swarms of people are fleeing environmentally stable but impoverished rural areas for coastal cities that lie in harm’s way. In the 1980s, roughly 24 million people in the region were directly at risk from natural disasters; today it’s 152 million and increasing. That means Vietnam, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, China, India, Pakistan and Cambodia — all of which are on ADB’s list of the 14 most vulnerable developing nations — need to spend untold billions of dollars making infrastructure less susceptible to disaster.

China, India, Indonesia and Thailand are among Asia’s biggest and most-watched economies. How vibrant will they be if their top cities are constantly being swamped? How alluring will Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Karachi, Pakistan, or Manila markets be as Mother Nature encroaches? Longer-term, add Shanghai and Tokyo to the vulnerable list as water levels rise.

Complacency complicates the second challenge. The World Bank foresees “cataclysmic changes” caused by extreme heat waves (ask Australia), rising seas (check the Maldives) and depleted food stocks (query the Philippines) as the climate heads toward warming of 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) this century.

Yet all the latest round of United Nations climate talks (this time in Doha) has managed to achieve is raising the carbon footprint of government ministers and activists jetting in, hiring motorcades, dining at swanky eateries and staying at five-star hotels. All the while, evidence mounts that this generation’s environmental legacy will be one of gross negligence.

Going green

It’s hard to persuade poorer nations to take the lead in reducing emissions. Not with the US shirking its responsibilities, and the rising carbon emissions of Japan, home of the Kyoto Protocol. Going green, Asia says, is too costly for nations struggling with poverty. The region should be free to generate greenhouse gasses the way developed nations did when they were industrializing in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Our planet can’t handle more than 7 billion people polluting that way, so Asia must change its thinking. Economies that go green fastest will be the most prosperous 20 years from now. Nations with the fewest energy imports, lowest subsidies, most innovative renewable-energy sources and foreign policies that aren’t beholden to oil suppliers will be the most attractive and have the highest credit ratings.

Asia should announce the energy equivalent of the Manhattan Project. With developed economies in tatters, a pledge by rich nations to provide $100 billion in annual global-warming aid by 2020 looks unrealistic. Asia should take matters into its own hands and deploy its $6.6 trillion of currency reserves for research and development. If an institution is needed, create one. Call it the Asian Green Growth Project and empower it to find alternatives to the coal and other fossil fuels blackening the skies and imperiling the future.

Sure, that’s easier said than done. But Asia’s biggest challenges include continuing growth without choking on it, finding ample water supplies and feeding swelling populations. Status-quo policies won’t get the region where it needs to be 20 years from now. Nor will squabbling with North America and Europe, which isn’t on the front lines the way Asia is. Only a big, coordinated and creatively financed effort will do that.

Hurricane Sandy showed New Yorkers they are vulnerable and must begin planning for a more chaotic future. Asians don’t have that luxury. They are already living in it.

William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist

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Philippine Typhoon December 2012: Drivers of private vehicles handed out donations but the lack of coordination led to more confusion. (AFP, Ted Aljibe)

Philippine Typhoon December 2012: Scenes of hardship are everywhere in southern areas of the Philippines hit by this year’s strongest typhoon (AFP, Ted Aljibe)

In this photo provided by NBC, Bruce Springsteen performs during “Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together” Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, in New York. Hosted by Matt Lauer, the event featured stars identified with New Jersey and the New York metropolitan area, which took the brunt of this week’s deadly storm.  CREDIT: AP Photo/NBC, Heidi Gutman An even bigger fundraising concert is scheduled for 12-12-12.

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Superstorm Sandy: Obama Asks for $80 Billion; Rock Stars Pledge Huge Fundraiser on 12-12-12

December 8, 2012

In this photo provided by NBC, Bruce Springsteen performs during “Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together” Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, in New York. Hosted by Matt Lauer, the event featured stars identified with New Jersey and the New York metropolitan area, which took the brunt of this week’s deadly storm.  CREDIT: AP Photo/NBC, Heidi Gutman An even bigger fundraising concert is scheduled for 12-12-12.

The Rolling Stones are the newest addition to the star-studded lineup for “12-12-12,” a concert to benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy that will take place at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 12. The concert will be the largest gathering of musicians ever held at the Garden, the show’s producers said at a press conference today. All proceeds from the event will be donated to the Robin Hood Relief Fund.

The Rolling Stones, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, also performed at the Robin Hood Relief Fund’s “Concert for New York City” on Oct. 20, 2001. Next week they will share a stage with stars Paul McCartney, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, The Who, Eric Clapton, Roger Waters, Chris Martin, Eddie Vedder, Kanye West and Alicia Keys.

(MORE: The Rolling Stones, By The Numbers: Celebrating 50 Years Since They ‘Start It Up’)

The news was announced by the show’s three producers, Harvey Weinstein, CEO of The Weinstein Company, James Dolan, Executive Chairman of The Madison Square Garden Company, and John Sykes, president of Clear Channel Entertainment Enterprises, as well as David Saltzman, Executive Director of Robin Hood.

“We wanted to put together the greatest rock show ever on one stage, and we realized we were missing one group,” Sykes told TIME.

Other celebrities who will participate in the concert and help raise money through the show’s telethon include: Billy Crystal, Leonardo DiCaprio, Susan Sarandon, Jake Gyllenhaal, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Sean Combs, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Myers, Quentin Tarantino, Brian Williams, Jon Stewart, Steve Buscemi and Chelsea Clinton.

Organizers anticipate that nearly 2 billion people worldwide will be able to tune in to the concert via television, radio and the Internet through sites like YouTube and Hulu. Or just come back and watch the livestream on TIME.com.

LIST: Top 10 Everything of 2012: Arts & Entertainment

MORE: Keith Richards’ Life: Somehow He Still Has One
Read more: http://entertainment.time.com/2012/12/07/rolling-stones-added-to-12-12-12-sandy-relief-concert-lineup/#ixzz2EV4KzfhJ

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After days of complaints from music fans, the producers behind the 12-12-12 benefit concert for Hurricane Sandy victims denounced scalpers on Friday for reselling tickets to the event on StubHub and other Web sites for many times their face value.

By James McKinley Jr.
The New York Times

The producers — James Dolan of Madison Square Garden, John Sykes of Clear Channel and the film producer Harvey Weinstein — urged people to shun the tickets popping up in the secondary market and to give to charity instead.

“It’s despicable,” Mr. Weinstein said. “Don’t buy them.”

Their comments came at a news conference at which they also announced that the Rolling Stones had joined the lineup for the concert, next Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. That addition makes the concert one of the largest gatherings of major rock musicians in recent memory, with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Dave Grohl, Eric Clapton, Billy Joel, Eddie Vedder, Roger Waters, the Who, Kanye West and Paul McCartney, among others.

On Thursday, Senator Charles E. Schumer sent a letter to StubHub and three other major online ticket exchanges, urging them to not allow sellers to profit from the demand for the concert.

“Every dollar spent for these concert tickets should go to help the victims of Superstorm Sandy, not to line the pockets of unscrupulous scalpers,” Mr. Schumer said in a statement. He urged the Web sites to refuse to list the tickets unless they were sold at face value or the seller promised to give the proceeds to charity.

A spokesman for StubHub, Glenn Lehrman, said it did not have the technology to require sellers to give their profits to charity. He said StubHub had decided the best policy was to give its fees to the cause, rather than reject the tickets altogether.

Tickets for the concert sold out on Ticketmaster within minutes of going on sale on Monday at noon. (Chase Bank customers were allowed to buy tickets at 9 a.m.) That same day StubHub was flooded with tickets to the show at inflated prices. The face value of the 13,500 tickets sold on Ticketmaster ranged from $150 to $2,500, but they have been listed on StubHub for much more.

On Thursday afternoon tickets for the floor in front of the stage were listed for as much as $48,000 while those in the upper level were going for $525 to $3,000.

Mr. Lehrman said StubHub had decided even before the tickets went on sale that it would donate its fees on these sales to the Robin Hood Foundation, which is distributing the money raised by the concert. He said his company had rejected the idea of barring sales because the tickets would have been resold through Craigslist or other sites in any case.

“This is going to take place regardless of whether we enable it or somebody else does, and at least by us enabling it, we can give a good portion to charity,” Mr. Lehrman said.

By Friday afternoon, StubHub, which gets a commission of about 25 percent of the selling price on tickets, had given more than $500,000 to the charity, he said.

Jacqueline Peterson, a spokeswoman for Ticketmaster, which handled the initial ticket sales, said her company had evidence that scalpers had used computer programs to snap up large numbers of tickets for resale. She said Ticketmaster had blocked thousands of sales to buyers that it identified as using these programs.

Among the recipients of Senator Schumer’s letter were TicketMaster’s in-house resale marketplaces, TicketsNow and TicketExchange. But Ms. Peterson said that 12-12-12 tickets were not being allowed on those sites.

“It’s a charitable event and profiteering on it isn’t what it’s about,” she said.

The fourth site that was sent the Schumer letter, TicketLiquidator, also said that it had declined to carry tickets for the concert.

Mr. Dolan, the executive chairman of the Madison Square Garden Company, said ticket sales on Monday brought in about $30 million. Because production costs are being underwritten by Chase Bank and other corporate sponsors, all of the money from ticket sales will go to the Robin Hood Foundation. The concert will also be televised on 34 American channels and 24 global channels and will be broadcast throughout the country on Clear Channel radio stations, so the producers envision raising millions by asking viewers and listeners to donate.

Mr. Dolan said it was impossible to know how many of the 13,500 seats sold on Monday were bought by ticket brokers.

“It’s the Wild West once it gets into the hands of the brokers,” he said. “We are not happy about it, but we are not going to make that our focus.”

Mr. Weinstein vowed to track down people who had bought tickets to resell them for profit. “We have private investigators,” he said. “And we will investigate this with the city and we will find every one of these guys.”

Mr. Lehrman of StubHub said that typically about 35 percent of the tickets on resale sites for a major concert were offered by professional brokers.

In recent days, the apparent profiteering on the tickets has drawn criticism from fans on the concert’s Facebook page, especially from people who were not able to get a seat.

“I understand I didn’t get the luck of the draw on Ticketmaster,” wrote one, Bob Malachowski, on Monday. “It’s not sour grapes about that. It’s disgusting how much the price is jacked up on StubHub, eBay, etc. Disgusting. Fine, I didn’t get a ticket, I’ll live with that. But why should people gouge others for a benefit concert?”

Ellen Fuhrer, 59, of Armonk, N.Y., was also unable to buy tickets, despite trying for hours. When the tickets went on sale Monday at noon, she was at her computer, credit card in hand, her cursor on Ticketmaster’s buy button, hoping to land any seats she could find. But despite several attempts over the Internet and calls to Madison Square Garden’s box office, she never got close to a ticket. During the same period, she saw tickets appear on StubHub for many times their face value.

“We should have an equal opportunity to get a ticket,” Ms. Fuhrer said in a telephone interview “It seems we were all blocked up and if you go to StubHub you see hundreds of tickets available.”

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AFP

December 8, 2012

President Barack Obama has asked Congress for $60.4 billion in emergency funds to repair devastation from Superstorm Sandy, which paralysed the US east coast when it hit in October.

“In total, the administration requests $60.4 billion in federal resources for response, recovery and mitigation related to Hurricane Sandy damage inall affected states,” said Jeffrey Zients, White House deputy director for management today.

“While much of this damage is covered by insurance, current estimates suggest that a significant amount of damage is not covered,” Zients said in a letter to Republican House speaker John Boehner.

New Jersey governor Chris Christie and New York governor Andrew Cuomo said the package would enable their states to “recover, repair, and rebuild better and stronger than before.”

Sandy, whipping up hurricane force winds and a storm surge, roared ashore on October 29, killing more than 110 people, flooding the New York subway system and knocking out electricity for hundreds of thousands of people.

The floods and wind also destroyed or damaged hundreds of thousands of homes, schools and hospitals, and created chaos in fuel supplies after refineries and gas stations were damaged.

Obama’s request, which will likely trigger fierce infighting in Congress, is lower than the more than $80 billion cost of the damage assessed in the three worst-hit states, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. 

Christie, a Republican, and Cuomo, a Democrat, were both at the White House in recent days as negotiations climaxed on the request for funding outside already lodged budget requests that Obama will make to lawmakers.

They said that in addition to repairing the damage, the package would fund “essential mitigation and prevention efforts that will better protect our region against the devastating impacts of future superstorms.” 

“We thank President Obama for his steadfast commitment of support and look forward to continuing our partnership in the recovery effort,” they said in a joint statement.

The White House said that Sandy was on track to be the third most costly storm in US history, after Hurricanes Katrina in 2005 and Andrew in 1992.

Republican House appropriations committee chairman Hal Rogers foreshadowed wrangling likely to come over how to pay for the package as Republicans and Democrats feud over the federal budget.

“It is critically important Congress fulfils its responsibility to those individuals, families, businesses and communities recovering from Hurricane Sandy,” Rogers said in a statement.

“It is also our responsibility during these tight-budget times to make sure that the victims of this storm are getting the most of every single recovery dollar, and to ensure that disaster funds are timed and targeted in the most efficient and appropriate manner.”

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From December 5, 2012

Gov. Cuomo said the White House has dismissed a report that President Obama would seek just $50 billion in post Superstorm Sandy federal aid for the region as “premature.”

“I will wait to find out exactly what they’re saying,” Cuomo told reporters when asked about the report.

New York and New Jersey are seeking nearly $80 billion combined in federal storm relief.

“I know it’s a lot of money,” Cuomo said.  “I understand the fiscal situation. But that is the need and e’re looking to meet the need.”

Cuomo said he has yet to hear not only what the White House will seek, but what the plans are from the Democrat-controlled Senate and House Republicans.

“They all said they wanted to be cooperative, but we’ll wait and see what they actually do,” he said.

He said regardless of what the White House proposes, it could mean nothing if Congress doesn’t agree.

“This is just a proposal from the White House,” Cuomo said. “This is like the governor sending up a program bill, totally pointless sometimes.”

Cuomo said he would have to see what was included in the $50 billion and whether is the total aid or just a first step.

He also wouldn’t bite when asked if a significantly lower proposal from the White House would be a “betrayal” of a promise from President Obama to do whatever the states need to help.

Cuomo also said his administration has not yet begun ways to generate revenue if the feds don’t come through with what was requested.

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Typhoon Bopha

 

US consumer borrowing rises to record $2.75T

December 8, 2012

credit card

Associated PressBy MARTIN CRUTSINGER | Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans swiped their credit cards more often in October and borrowed more to attend school and buy cars. The increases drove U.S. consumer debt to an all-time high.

The Federal Reserve said Friday that consumers increased their borrowing by $14.2 billion in October from September. Total borrowing rose to a record $2.75 trillion.

Borrowing in the category that covers autos and student loans increased by $10.8 billion. Borrowing on credit cards rose by $3.4 billion, only the second monthly increase in the past five months.

The strong rise in borrowing came in a month when Americans cut back on consumer spending, reflecting in part disruptions from Superstorm Sandy.

Many consumers may also have scaled back because of fears about the “fiscal cliff.” That’s the name for automatic tax increases and spending cuts that will take effect in January if Congress and the Obama administration fail to strike a budget deal by then.

Consumer spending drives roughly 70 percent of economic activity.

Economists think that it could bounce back in November. But the underlying trend remains weak because with unemployment remaining high, households don’t have the incomes to spend.

Many consumers have been reluctant to build up credit card debt, which typically carries steeper interest rates than other loans.

Credit card usage has fallen sharply since the 2008 credit crisis. Four years ago, Americans had $1.03 trillion in credit card debt, an all-time high. In October, that figure was 17 percent lower.

During the same period, student loan debt has increased dramatically. The category that includes auto and student loans is 22 percent higher than in July 2008. That reflects in part the fact that many Americans who have lost jobs decided to go back to school to get training for new careers.

Bon Jovi: “I Was Shocked by My Daughter Stephanie Bongiovi’s Drug Overdose”

December 7, 2012

Jon Bon Jovi and his daughter Stephanie Rose backstage at the White Trash Beautiful fashion show at the IndigO2 in London.Credit: PA Photos /Landov

By Zach Johnson
US Weekly

It’s been several weeks since Jon Bon Jovi‘s daughter overdosed on heroin in her college dorm room, and the rocker is still struggling to make sense of what happened.

On Nov. 14, 19-year-old Stephanie Bongiovi and her friend, Ian S. Grant, were arrested at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. Charges were later dropped due to recently amended state laws; she recovered from the overdose at a local hospital.

PHOTOS: Star meltdowns

“I didn’t have any sisters . . . There was no manual,” Bon Jovi, 50, told the Associated Press Dec. 3 of raising a daughter. “So you bring her up the best you can, you surround her with hugs and kisses and know that she may eventually fall down.”

PHOTOS: Personal lives of rock stars

The “It’s My Life” rocker continued, “I appreciate the outpouring of kindness in light of what happened in my household. I’m shocked as much as the next parent with this situation and had no idea. But then you surround them with best help and love and move on, and that’s where we’re at with it.”

“Steph is a great kid,” he insisted. “Great GPA. Cool school, Hamilton College up in Clinton, New York. Everything about it is idyllic. She was doing great. Then a sudden and steep decline.”

PHOTOS: Celebrity dads

Bon Jovi — who has four children with wife Dorothea Hurley — said he’s glad “we caught it when we did” and hopes “that’s the end” of his daughter’s troubles. “I’m confident, but no one knows the future,” he told the Associated Press. “It is what it is.”

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