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Edward Lea  

Egg Harbor Township vs ACIT the first half of the boys basketball game at Egg Harbor Township High School Tuesday Feb 4, 2020. Edward Lea Staff Photographer / Press of Atlantic City

Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press  

Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks to supporters at a caucus night campaign rally, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

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Two former South Jersey residents among Sunday's Oscar nominees

Two former South Jersey residents will sit in the audience of Sunday’s Oscar ceremony and wait to hear whether they will join the ranks of first-time winners.

In the category of best documentary feature, Julia Reichert, her nephew Jeff Reichert and Steven Bognar are listed as producers of “American Factory.” They will each receive Academy Awards if the film wins in its category.

“This will be my first time attending the Academy Awards. I’m beyond excited,” said Jeff Reichert, who now lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Julia Reichert, 73, spent her summers growing up during the late 1950s and early 1960s on Long Beach Island. She graduated from Antioch University in Ohio.

Jeff Reichert, 41, was raised in Northfield. He graduated in 1996 from Mainland Regional High School in Linwood. He studied in the film program and graduated in 2000 from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

“It (Northfield) was a pretty great place to grow up,” said Jeff Reichert, who worked at the former Tilton 9 movie theater for many years.

Jeff Reichert also remembers seeing movies at the now defunct Frank Theatres Towne Stadium 16 in Egg Harbor Township. During the 1980s, his parents, Lou and Marsha Reichert, who now live in Little Egg Harbor Township, ran the Little Art Theater in Egg Harbor Township.

Jeff Reichert has wanted to be a filmmaker since high school, but before that, he entertained the idea of being an archaeologist after seeing the “Indiana Jones” films.

“American Factory” has a higher profile than a typical documentary.

The film documents when Chinese auto glass manufacturer Fuyao bought a former General Motors plant in Dayton, Ohio, and reopened it with Chinese and American employees working together.

It was the first documentary released by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground, and was released by Netflix last year. Jeff Reichert said he has not met the Obamas yet.

“We were pretty surprised when we met with Netflix,” said Jeff Reichert, who added China doesn’t allow Netflix in the country. He said he’d heard that hundreds of thousands of people in China have seen “American Factory” through pirated copies of the documentary.

“It is sparking a conversation,” Jeff Reichert said. “There is no physical DVD of the film.”

Jeff Reichert was in London on Sunday for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, where “American Factory” did not win for best documentary.

Besides the Oscar, “American Factory” has been nominated for best documentary by the Film Independent Spirit Awards. Jeff Reichert will attend Saturday in Santa Monica, California.

“American Factory” won the Critics Choice Award for best political documentary and outstanding directorial achievement in documentary from the Directors Guild of America.

This is Jeff Reichert’s first Academy Award documentary nomination, but it is Julia Reichert’s fourth best documentary feature nomination. On “American Factory,” Jeff Reichert is a cinematographer as well as a producer. Julia Reichert is a co-director and a cinematographer as well as a producer.

Jeff Reichert said the documentary happened because Fuyao gave his aunt and Bognar complete editorial control and access. “American Factory” took Jeff Reichert to China for close to two weeks of filming.

“I was following multiple people. We were really autonomous,” said Jeff Reichert, who added some days only one or two cinematographers worked while on others five of them worked, such as the day of the plant’s grand opening in Ohio. “We were around a lot. We became part of the furniture.”

Sometimes, Jeff Reichert started his workday at 5:30 a.m., so he could ride to work with his subjects and spend the next eight hours with them at their job.

“American Factory” took three years to make, he said. Filming took place from early 2015 to the middle of 2017. The documentary was edited from the middle of 2017 through the end of 2018.

In South Jersey, “American Factory” was screened in June during the Lighthouse International Film Festival on Long Beach Island. Jeff and Julia Reichert and Bognar were in attendance.

Christine Rooney, Lighthouse International Film Festival’s managing director, said “American Factory” is an interesting look at globalization and how cultures merge and clash.

“This is a big film. It was given by Netflix to us to screen ahead of time,” Rooney said. “It was a real honor to be one of the few festivals to be selected to show ‘American Factory.’ ... It’s a very insightful, awesome film. It’s a political documentary, but also very personal.”

Trump boasts of economic gains on eve of impeachment verdict

WASHINGTON — Addressing the nation in extraordinary times, President Donald Trump declared America “stronger than ever before” Tuesday night as he delivered his State of the Union address on the eve of his likely impeachment acquittal and in the aftermath of the chaotic first votes of the race to replace him.

The first president to run for reelection after being impeached, Trump received a sharply partisan welcome to the House of Representatives, with some Republicans chanting “Four more years!” while Democrats stood silently.

“America’s enemies are on the run, America’s fortunes are on the rise and America’s future is blazing bright,” Trump declared. “In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American decline and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny. We are moving forward at a pace that was unimaginable just a short time ago, and we are never going back!”

Setting a yardstick for success and then contending he’d surpassed it, Trump has gone from an inaugural address that decried “American carnage” to extolling the “great American comeback,” claiming credit for the nation’s economic success as a chief rationale for a second term.

Republican members of Congress applauded nearly every sentence of Trump’s speech, often leaping to their feet to cheer him.

The only suspense concerned whether he would address the impeachment charges against him.

In the nationally televised speech, Trump spoke from the House of Representatives, on the opposite side of the Capitol from where the Senate one day later was expected to acquit him largely along party lines.

Trump spent the first part of his speech highlighting the economy’s strength, including low unemployment, stressing how it has helped blue-collar workers and the middle class, though the period of growth began under his predecessor, Barack Obama.

And what Trump calls an unprecedented boom is, by many measures, not all that different from the solid economy he inherited from Obama. Economic growth was 2.3% in 2019, matching the average pace since the last recession ended a decade ago in the first year of Obama’s eight-year presidency. Trump had promised much higher.

The White House promised an optimistic speech that would look past the impeachment trial that has consumed Washington in favor of a recitation of accomplishments and promises. But Trump often veers from his script and may not have been able to resist using the moment to claim exoneration and settle scores. And even in the moments when Trump strikes a tone of bipartisanship and cooperation, he consistently returns to his scorched-earth rhetoric within days.

Even for a Trump-era news cycle that seems permanently set to hyper-speed, the breakneck pace of events dominating the first week of February offered a singular backdrop for the president’s address. Yet Trump told TV anchors at a midday meal that his address would be “extraordinarily low key.”

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who has presided in the Senate over only the third impeachment trial in the nation’s history, was on hand Tuesday night — this time in his more customary seat in the audience. Trump stood before the very lawmakers who have voted to remove him from office — and those who are expected to acquit him when the Senate trial comes to a close.

And over his shoulder, visible in nearly every camera shot, was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a frequent thorn in Trump’s side who authorized the impeachment proceedings that charged the president with abusing the power of his office to push Ukraine to investigate a political foe. Pelosi created a viral image with her seemingly sarcastic applause of the president a year ago. When Trump entered the chamber this time, he did not take her outstretched hand, but it was not clear he had seen her gesture. Later, as Republicans cheered, she remained in her seat.

Trump stared out at some of the Democrats who have been vying to take his job, although it was unclear if he would weigh in on the confusion in Iowa, where the results of Monday’s leadoff caucuses were delayed. In advance of his address, Trump tweeted that the caucus chaos showed Democrats were incompetent and should not be trusted to run the government.

Trump spent the hours before his speech tucked away at the White House, hosting network anchors for lunch while working on final drafts of the address. He entered the moment on a roll, with his impeachment acquittal imminent, his job approval numbers ticking upward and Wall Street looking strong. Aides played down the possibility he would use the address to seek vengeance over impeachment.

“I think that this has gone on for too long, and I think that, if you look at the ratings, the American people are frankly bored of it,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told Fox News early Tuesday.

In the closest historical comparison, Bill Clinton did not mention his recent impeachment when he delivered his State of the Union in 1999. In his address a year ago, Trump remained on message, making no mention of how Pelosi had originally disinvited him from delivering the speech during the longest government shutdown in the nation’s history.

Trump stressed the new trade agreements he has negotiated, including his phase-one deal with China and the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement he signed last month.

While the White House said the president would have a message of unity, he spent time on issues that have created great division and resonated with his political base. He attacked the Democrats’ health care proposals for being too intrusive and again highlighted his signature issue — immigration — trumpeting the miles of border wall that have been constructed.

“The United States of America should be a sanctuary for law-abiding Americans — not criminal aliens,” Trump said. “My administration has undertaken an unprecedented effort to secure the Southern Border of the United States.”

He also dedicated a section to “American values,” discussing efforts to protect “religious liberties” and limit access to abortion as he continues to court the evangelical and conservative Christian voters who form a crucial part of his base.

As usual, the presidential guests will reflect issues that Trump wants to highlight. The invited guests include military families, immigration officials and the former sheriff from Venezuela who fled to the United States.

The Democrats were supplying plenty of counter-programming, focusing on health care — the issue key to their takeover of the House last year. Many female Democrats were wearing white as tribute to the suffragettes, while a number in the party were wearing red, white and blue-striped lapel pins to highlight climate change, saying Trump has rolled back environmental safeguards and given free rein to polluters.

Several Democratic lawmakers, including California Rep. Maxine Waters and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, announced in advance of the speech that they would be skipping it, with the high-profile New York freshman tweeting that she would “not use my presence at a state ceremony to normalize Trump’s lawless conduct & subversion of the Constitution.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was delivering the party’s official response and, in excerpts released ahead of the speech, was to draw a contrast between actions taken by Democrats and the president’s rhetoric.

“It doesn’t matter what the president says about the stock market,” Whitmer says. “What matters is that millions of people struggle to get by or don’t have enough money at the end of the month after paying for transportation, student loans, or prescription drugs.”

Super Bowl Sunday was good to gamblers, casinos

ATLANTIC CITY — Sports gamblers in New Jersey cashed in on the Kansas City Chiefs’ comeback win in Super Bowl 54.

Early figures, released Monday by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, reported that $54,288,227 was legally wagered on the game, with a projected payout of $58,568,699.

The net loss of $4.28 million represents a negative hold percentage of 7.8% for the state’s 10 retail sports books and 19 mobile applications.

But the news is not all bad for sports books operators, especially in Atlantic City, where the eight brick-and-mortar betting parlors were nearly filled to capacity.

The resulting revenue bump from food and beverage sales, hotel rooms and other entertainment options was a win for Atlantic City, several casino executives said.

“Sports betting is doing exactly what it was intended to, which is drive people to New Jersey and the casinos,” said Mark Giannantonio, president and CEO of Resorts Casino Hotel, home of the DraftKings Sportsbook. “We’ve created an experience that years ago we just weren’t able to create. Super Bowl Sunday worked out about as well as can be expected.”

Steve Callender, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey and senior vice president of Eastern regional operations for Tropicana Atlantic City’s parent company, Eldorado Resorts, said the property’s variety of viewing options, such as Hooters, Chickie’s and Pete’s Crab House and Sports Bar, A Dam Good Sports Bar and Ri Ra Irish Pub, all did well Sunday.

The William Hill Sports Book at Tropicana “won a little bit” and had its highest single-day handle (the amount of money wagered), he said.

“You’re going to have good days and bad days,” Callender said of operating a sports book. “You know it’s going to happen sometimes, and you prepare for it.”

The trend from most of New Jersey’s sports books was that more money and bets were placed on the Chiefs, who were 1.5-point favorites over the San Francisco 49ers. The 31-20 final score meant those bettors cashed winning tickets.

FanDuel, which operates the state’s most lucrative sports book at the Meadowlands Racetrack and mobile app, said more than $2 million was won by gamblers with the Chiefs’ victory.

But proposition bets also played a part in gamblers’ success Sunday. Sports bettors could wager on anything from the result of the coin toss to the color of Gatorade dumped on the winning coach (it was orange).

“Patrick Mahomes (quarterback for the Chiefs) scoring a touchdown was the biggest prop bet win for our customers,” FanDuel said in a statement after the game. “Plus, the adage ‘Tails Never Fails’ proved true, delivering $200,000 in the accounts of FanDuel Sportsbook customers before kickoff.”

Dustin Gouker, lead sports betting analyst for PlayNJ.com, said a lot of the betting action revolved around “one of the game’s biggest stars” in Mahomes, who scored the game’s first touchdown and won the Most Valuable Player award.

While Sunday’s results were good for gamblers, the long-term benefits for casinos, racetracks and sports book operators was likely even better, Gouker said. Big events, such as the Super Bowl and March Madness, are “more about customer acquisition,” he said.

Callender said William Hill — who also operates sports books at Ocean Casino Resort and Monmouth Park Racetrack — and Tropicana’s online casino had a large number of signups Sunday.

“We were thrilled (with Sunday’s results),” Callender said. “When people do good, they have a good feeling, and that brings people back.”

PHOTOS: Atlantic City sports books on Week 1 of 2019 NFL season

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Somers Point receives grant for new sidewalk along dangerous portion of Route 9

SOMERS POINT — The city has received a $200,000 grant that will help fund the construction of a sidewalk along Route 9 between Laurel Drive and Somers Point-Mays Landing Road — a stretch of road students often take to walk to school.

An additional $200,000 grant from the New Jersey Department of Transportation, received in 2018, also will help fund the sidewalk.

“This sidewalk project has been a high priority for the city,” said Mayor Jack Glasser. “Now we will have a safer walkway connecting the neighborhoods of the Somers Point-Mays Landing Road area to important destinations to the north of Laurel Drive, including Jordan Road Elementary School.”

That stretch of Route 9 cuts through the Greate Bay Country Club golf course, has little to no shoulder and only sporadic stretches of sidewalk. In the past two years, students have had to walk to school, sometimes along that stretch of road, or find other means of transportation after the district eliminated courtesy busing in 2018.

The project is being fast-tracked, with the city starting construction this spring.

“It’s a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t reach all of the way to our neighborhood,” said resident Amy Sturgis, who has two kids in the school district.

Sturgis lives in the Hickory Point neighborhood near the Garden State Parkway exit/entrance ramp. Atkinson Avenue, from the parkway ramp to the intersection of Somers Point-Mays Landing Road and Route 9, where Sturgis lives, does not have a sidewalk.

“There’s an inch or two of shoulder,” she said. “I’m more concerned with the traffic coming off of the parkway.”

She’d let her children, ages 9 and 12, walk the soon-to-be sidewalk to the Jordan Road School, but getting to the sidewalk is the problem.

“There’s the problem of getting out of our neighborhood when it’s really dangerous,” Sturgis said. “Not to mention when it’s dark in the morning or there’s snow. There’s no safe way of getting from Hickory Point to where that sidewalk will be.”

Atkinson Avenue is not a part of the sidewalk project, said city engineer Greg Schneider.

“The state is still working on getting funding for that,” he said.

The city also is urging NJDOT and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to continue the bike path to Upper Township by way of the parkway, but no movement has been made. A sidewalk won’t be constructed on Atkinson Avenue if a bike path isn’t implemented on the bridge, city Administrator Wes Swain said.

“Then we would have a walkway going to nowhere,” Swain said.

The city recently received grants to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians on its bike path.

A $1.75 million NJDOT grant was awarded in the fall to widen the bike path up to 14 feet from the Linwood border to the Route 52 causeway. LED lights, bike racks and flashing beacons will also be installed along the path.

An additional $130,000 NJDOT grant will be used to create bike lanes on Somers Point-Mays Landing Road between Routes 52 and 9.

“The Route 52 causeway is constantly being used for biking and walking, and our bike path connects all the city’s points of interest, including the schools and park,” Glasser said. “We are striving to make Somers Point the ‘Bikeway Hub of South Jersey.’”

He said all of the planned projects will be completed by the summer.

PHOTOS of fire at Sure Storage in Somers Point