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Joe's Take: The Smile hasn’t lost its magic

There is something magical about Holy Week and Easter Sunday that take me back, every year, to The Smile.

I was 16 and working for my father in Philadelphia in his church-decorating business – a job that had me driving to churches all over the area during Easter vacation from high school. Daffodils and forsythia were blooming in great profusion in front yards, bright yellow happiness luxuriating in the sunshine of the spring days.

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At Large with Tom Williams > > So, you are a Democrat?

Submitted / Taking a look back at what some leading Democrats have said in the past.Submitted / Taking a look back at what some leading Democrats have said in the past. Submitted / Taking a look back at what some leading Democrats have said in the past. A month ago this column pointed out the changes in the Republican Party – how former Republican presidents like Abraham Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan might have trouble getting support from members of the current party, based on the way they stood on important issues.

But the Democrats have changed, too.

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The Mom’s Beat: Children are natural environmentalists

The Mom's Beat blog The Mom's Beat blog

Twitter party hosted by PBS Kids offers new ideas for exploring outdoors

 “Kids these days!” It’s a complaint as old as time.

While there are times you will catch me saying the same thing (especially after seeing teenage girls walking around in yoga pants at school), I actually find a ton of hope in this generation of caring and conscientious children, particularly each year when we celebrate Earth Day on April 22.

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Joe's Take: The lessons of Bletchley Park

Must have been an interesting place to work, that fabled British code-breaking headquarters at Bletchley Park there in the beautiful English countryside, about halfway between Isaac Newton’s Cambridge and the even more fabled dreaming spires of Oxford. The tales of how geniuses like Alan Turing and squads of the keenest minds anywhere labored to break the Nazi codes in World War II, and succeeded, rank among the most riveting accounts to come out of the war.

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At Large with Tom Williams > > Mickey Rooney’s shore connection

Donald B. Kravitz/DBKphoto/City of Ocean City / This photo was on the Ocean City Boardwalk after the 2006 Doo Dah Parade. Donald B. Kravitz/DBKphoto/City of Ocean City / This photo was on the Ocean City Boardwalk after the 2006 Doo Dah Parade. If you are not yet collecting Social Security or signed up for Medicare, Mickey Rooney is probably just a character actor to you.

He was Gus, one of the security guards, in “Night at the Museum” and was in “The Muppets” movie. He also appeared in the past couple decades on TV shows like “ER,” “Murder She Wrote” and “Kung Fu-The Legend Continues.” He loved to work and no matter how big or small the part, he delivered.

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The Mom's Beat: Top 5 ideas to keep family car organized

  The Mom's Beat blog by Laura Stetser The Mom's Beat blog by Laura Stetser

The good news and the bad news is that my family is in the market for a new minivan. I wish it could be a different style of car, but it truly is the only mode of transportation that works for us.

 After driving the same one for seven years, I am looking forward to a clean slate. I can’t wait for that new car smell, unfaded upholstery and corners without hidden crumbs.

 I am dreaming of the seats yet unstained by ketchup droppings from meals on the go and of a pristine paint job that has not been scratched by uneven writing of children as they make their mark in the frost that forms on the door panels on winter mornings.

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The Mom's Beat: Wholesome lessons of Berenstain Bears brought to the stage this Saturday (VIDEO)

  Submitted/Berenstain Bears will be brought to life as “The Berenstain Bears Live!: Family Matters, The Musical” comes to the Atlantic Cape Community College on Saturday, April 12. Submitted/Berenstain Bears will be brought to life as “The Berenstain Bears Live!: Family Matters, The Musical” comes to the Atlantic Cape Community College on Saturday, April 12.  The wholesome lessons of the Berenstain Bears will be brought to life as “The Berenstain Bears Live!: Family Matters, The Musical” comes to the Atlantic Cape Community College on Saturday, April 12. The off-Broadway musical, adapted from the classic children's book series by Stan and Jan Berenstain, introduces Mama Bear, Papa Bear, Brother and Sister Bear to the younger generation through song.

The story set in Bear Country is not without its complications, of course. Brother Bear's grades are slipping. Sister Bear still has a few things to learn about making new friends and Papa Bear just can't stop eating junk food. It’s up to Mama Bear to use her patience and help set things right.  

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At Large with Tom Williams > > Increasing autism awareness

According to the latest figures, one of every 68 American children is on the autism spectrum. The rate is higher in New Jersey. According to the latest figures, one of every 68 American children is on the autism spectrum. The rate is higher in New Jersey. Every week and every month of every year is dedicated to something in this country.

For example, last week was Library Week and Read a Road Map Week.

This week is Garden Week and next week is Organize Your Files Week (which kind of fits with the April 15 tax deadline) and Medical Labs Week. The last week of April is Administrative Assistants Week and, getting a smile from Troy David and Leon Hart, is also National Karaoke Week.

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Joe's Take: Frank LoBiondo, Bill Hughes, and the Money Power

Were it not for the money, it might be a real horse race. But in politics campaign funds are the horses. Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo was, I understand, sitting on a war chest of well over $1 million as of Dec. 31 and has been vigorously raising money ever since. How much we won’t know until current reports are filed next week. His likely Democratic challenger Bill Hughes, Jr. had reportedly raised less than $200,000 in comparison, and is doing his best to attract funds.

How successful Hughes will be in that effort is hard to say. He is an underdog up against a 20-year incumbent in the currently majority Congressional party, but is an experienced lawyer with a clean reputation and an attractive family who was born and raised in the District and knows it well. He is gifted with energy and the million-dollar name of his still highly regarded father, our former congressman and later ambassador to Panama after whom the William J. Hughes Technical Center and the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton is named.  (Full disclosure: Bill Hughes Sr., then a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, graciously came in person to move my admission to the Bar of the US Supreme Court as I’m sure he did for other local lawyers over the years he was in Congress.)

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The Mom’s Beat: Autistic children benefit from early identification (VIDEO)

The Mom's Beat by Laura Stetser

Just five days before Autism Awareness Month began, the Centers for Disease Control issued a report indicating that autism diagnoses across the country had spiked by 30 percent more than experts had expected over a two-year period.

According to the report, one in 64 children nationwide is being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, up from one in 88 children in 2012.

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Joe's Take: Aunt Tess has some words for the governor

“What I want to know is can I get my 50 bucks back? If I’d known what a total louse that Christie is, I’d never have sent him my donation!”

She had caught me among the bakery shelves at ShopRite, trying to decide whether to imperil my health with a blueberry pie that I’d eat one piece at a time or with a box of sugar-coated doughnut holes I’d wolf down before I got out of the parking lot. Her voice is getting sharper with age, and even with the speaker off on my iPhone it carried to nearby shoppers; two women whose ears perked up at the conversation. There was a time when Aunt Tess would have been in her living room talking on a plugged-in telephone and I would have been at my desk, keeping clients on hold while she vented. Not so anymore. Since I got her that iPhone she delights in catching me on the wing and diving right into whatever’s on her mind. You do not put the old dear on hold. Never. It’s like getting a call from the White House, only more important.

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At Large with Tom Williams > > The death of Will Gardner and more

When Will Gardner,  the male lead character in the hit CBS drama, “The Good Wife,” was killed off, it was a surprise to viewers. When Will Gardner, the male lead character in the hit CBS drama, “The Good Wife,” was killed off, it was a surprise to viewers. Will Gardner is dead.

If you don’t watch the hit CBS drama, “The Good Wife,” that probably doesn’t mean much to you. Those who do watch are largely in mourning.

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At Large with Tom Williams > > There’s an app for that

As we near the end of the first quarter of 2014, this is a good time to look at some interesting apps, many just available this year. As we near the end of the first quarter of 2014, this is a good time to look at some interesting apps, many just available this year. You’ve got a notebook computer. Maybe you also have a tablet. You almost definitely have a smart phone. Technology has changed the world.

There was a time, not too long ago, when it was widely thought that the fax machine had changed the way business was done. And it did. You could request a document and get it within minutes without waiting for postal service delivery or a messenger.

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Joe's Take: Consensus: It’s time to start paying student athletes

One of the many things about which I don’t know enough is college athletics. If you want the real stuff on that, read my fellow columnist, sports writer Tom Williams. But what I do know something about is working your way through college and graduate school the hard way.

The track scholarship I had hopes for at St. Joe’s vanished when I dropped a bureau on my foot while moving furniture my senior year in high school. I eventually graduated from LaSalle College with three kids and two jobs and from law school with five kids, three jobs and a bucketload of loans and bills. The only college sport I tried was rowing in my freshman year, where you got up at 5 a.m., were on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia by 6, and had the privilege of hard rowing on cold mornings in your wet socks with seven other straining guys while being yelled at by a pint-sized coxswain with a Napoleon complex.

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Joe's Take: The last snowflake of winter may have already fallen

There will be one, you know.

While this is being written, it’s still coming down in Galloway, and Atlantic City, and probably a bit in Cape May. But it’s tapering off. Having no meteorological chops at all, I can nonetheless confidently predict that the last snowflake will arrive soon. Very soon. How can I be so confident, you ask? It is a matter of experience; a lifetime of waiting for the last snowflake of every winter (and just as impatiently for the first in the fall).

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At Large with Tom Williams > > So, you are a Republican

One has to wonder whether Republican presidents past would find a home in today’s Republican Party. One has to wonder whether Republican presidents past would find a home in today’s Republican Party.  Chances are if you are reading this in print and are registered with a political party, you are a Republican. After all, twice as many Cape May County residents are registered Republicans and Democrats have just a 10 percent advantage in Atlantic County. Actually, the largest group in both counties is the unaffiliated or independent voters.

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