Sneak Preview of Trump-Clinton Debate

Threatening to draw Super Bowl-sized ratings, the long-awaited first presidential debate of 2016 arrives Monday. Moderator Lester Holt of NBC News will offer six topic segments, then let the candidates duke it out.

According to their track records, the debate should go something like this:

Holt: The first subject health care. Mr Trump, why don’t you start?

Trump: Hillary, are you dying? You look lousy. What’s wrong?

Clinton: I feel nauseous every time you speak.

Trump: I feel nauseous every time I look at you.

Clinton: I’ll bet you say that to all the girls.

Trump: Not at all. My Melania’s a 10.

Clinton: Are you talking looks or IQ?

Holt: That’s enough! Health care! What will you do about Obamacare, Mr. Trump?

Trump: I will abolish it.

Holt: And replace it with what?

Trump: Something much better.

Holt: Such as? Be specific.

Trump: Something terrific.

Holt: Secretary Clinton?

Clinton: I will keep and enhance it, and include a public option allowing those under 65 to buy into Medicare. I’ll also urge Congress to pass funding to fight the Zika virus.

Trump: Boring!

Clinton: Oh, and that’s right, increasing funding for the mentally ill.

Holt: Let’s move on to international issues. What would you do about Aleppo? Mr Trump?

Trump: I feel terrible for those who have contracted Aleppo. It’s a serious disease. But I plan to build the greatest, hugest Aleppo colony the world has ever seen.

Clinton: Hah! Aleppo is a city!

Trump: I knew that. I’m kidding. Humorless Hillary!

Holt: Mr Trump, you have called Russian President Vladimir Putin a great leader. You do know that he locks up political opposition and murders journalists who write something he doesn’t like?

Trump: Like I said, a great leader.

Clinton: He was KGB!

Trump: The rapper? Even if he did all these things you say, which people tell me isn’t true, if he compliments me, I’m not supposed to compliment him back?

Clinton: Exactly!

Trump: That’s very rude.

Clinton: What’s rude is invading Ukraine.

Trump: Never happened.

Clinton: It did so.

Trump: Did not.

Holt: On that note, I’m afraid our time is up. Thanks to Mr. Trump and Secretary Clinton for appearing, and God help us all.

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The Know Nothing Party Reborn?

How would you feel if you drove into a gas station and asked the mechanic to fix your carburetor, and he answered, “What’s a carburetor?”

That’s exactly how those who are dissatisfied with their presidential choices this year and considering voting for a third party now feel. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson recently revealed himself to be clueless on one of the most important issues of our time.

Johnson is desperate to get to 15 percent in the polls so he can participate in the presidential debates (the first is on Sept. 26). So, he broke the hearts of many who viewed him as a viable option when he answered a query about war-torn Aleppo, Syria, where refugees are trying to escape to other nations.

Proving that ingesting large quantities of pot might not be the ideal preparation for a presidential run, Johnson replied to a question about his solution to the crisis in Aleppo with, “What is Aleppo?”

Hello? Our next president should be familiar with that city, and its situation and implications for us. But the sad truth is, Johnson isn’t alone in his ignorance.

Donald Trump continues to reassure us about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions, saying his pal Putin “is not going into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down!”

When Trump promised this, Putin had already stormed into Ukraine.

Just as you’d want to trust the knowledge and ability of your car mechanic or surgeon before engaging their services, shouldn’t you seek the same level of comfort in the person to whom you are about to turn over the nuclear codes?

But this year’s candidates are not making it easy. Even Hillary Clinton, who usually comes across as the know-it-all nerd in the class, recently vowed that, “We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again.” More than 4,600 troops are already stationed there.

So on Sept. 26, let’s see debate moderator Lester Holt pin the candidates down on basic facts and issues, and not let them squirm out of answering. Trump wants to dump Obamacare and Clinton wants to enhance it — but where are their specific plans? How will they deal with growing U.S. income inequality?

And yes, what will they do about Aleppo?

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From Trauma to Hope: A Child of 9-11’s Journey

Can it really be 15 years since 9/11?

On Sunday, we honor those who lost their lives that terrible morning. Meanwhile, many surviving first responders continue to suffer with illnesses linked to Ground Zero exposure.

But all the victims and survivors weren’t in the towers. And all weren’t adults.

Helaina Hovitz was 12 years old when she stepped out of IS 89, just blocks from the WTC, into a living hell.

Her mom worked at Rockefeller Center and dad in Staten Island, and neither could make it downtown to get her. When her neighbor Ann dashed in to pick up her son, Helaina begged, “Take me with you, please.”

The three bolted through the school doors to blinding smoke, falling bodies, and crumbling towers, as Ann told the kids to cover their faces and run for their lives.

With crews digging through rubble and the air still toxic, IS 89 was no longer safe. When Helaina and her friends were shipped to a school uptown, its students couldn’t understand why planes flying overhead made their new classmates so jumpy. One day, a passing truck loudly backfired, and the IS 89 group ran or hit the ground. “The other kids just stared at us like we were crazy,” Hovitz recalls.

The reporters soon found the displaced kids. “Did you see people jumping?” they’d demand of the traumatized children, waving microphones at them.

As she moved through her teens, Hovitz tried to muffle the panicked voices in her head with drugs and alcohol, drifting into abusive relationships and paranoia. Eventually, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

With help and resilience, Hovitz eventually dug her way out, and became a journalist highlighting positive stories. She recently launched a news service called Headlines for the Hopeful, and her book, “After 9/11: One Girl’s Journey Through Darkness to a New Beginning,” describes her decade-long spiral into addiction and battle to heal.

Although Hovitz seems to have emerged on the other side intact, her PTSD is triggered in times of stress.

“I know that as much as ‘fear’ can stand for ‘false evidence appearing real,’ ” she says, “it can also stand for ‘face everything and recover.’ ”

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Labor Day Isn’t Just About Ribs and R&R

What comes to mind when you think of Labor Day? Summer ending? Barbeque? Football season fast approaching?

All are valid. But how about working people’s rights, dignity and fair wages that many of your ancestors fought so hard to achieve?

Maintaining those rights is why now, over 100 years after the first Labor Day Parade in NYC, people still march all over the nation. In 1882, unionists proposed a day be set aside to honor working people. Today we salute that tradition.

It’s become trendy to knock unions, and some of them deserve knocking. But before the union movement, this nation was cursed with sweatshops, child labor, and other horrid working conditions that plagued America in the early 20th century.

Many workers had their skulls cracked open marching for fair wages and decent treatment on the job. Today, even those Americans who never belonged to a union benefit from the reforms they achieved.

Meanwhile, some politicians belittle these contributions and seem intent on destroying unions and the protections they offer.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has relentlessly demonized and crippled his states’ unions, virtually ending collective bargaining for teachers, sanitation workers and other employees.

It’s no accident that income inequality has risen as union membership has declined. An Economic Policy Institute Report released last week shows that the share of men in unionized private sector jobs plunged from 34% in 1979 to 10% today.

Many feel that the economic deck is stacked against them and income inequality has spiraled out of control__ and they’re not wrong.

Those marching in this year’s Labor Day parades just want to see cops, teachers, nurses and other working men and women get a fair shake. They don’t take sick days, fair pay, and safe conditions in the workplace for granted. They know that without constant vigilance, they can easily disappear once again.

So if you’re at a barbeque, the beach, or just relaxing in the backyard today, take a moment to think about the real meaning of Labor Day.

Those who sacrificed their bodies, jobs and livelihoods so you could have this day off to relax and enjoy life.

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Summer Bugs New Yorkers in So Many Ways

Look up in the sky. Is it a bird? A plane? No, it’s a flying roach!

If you’re a city lover who says you’d only move when cockroaches fly, better start packing. This hot, humid summer has enabled the roaches to spread their wings (yes, they have wings) and take flight.

“With more heat, they have more use of their muscles,” American Museum of Natural History bug expert Louis Sorkin explained to the website DNAinfo. “The more activity, the more flight.”

Cockroaches are amazingly hardy and athletic, as any New Yorker who has turned on a bathroom light and seen one scramble in zig-zag patterns that a football running back would envy can attest.

While a rarity here, flying American cockroaches are often seen in more humid areas such as Florida, where they’re known as palmetto bugs. (Sounds much better, doesn’t it?) They fly up to palmetto and palm trees in search of food. In NYC, all they have to do is glide over to a local trash can.

Sorkin has spotted local flying roaches in the museum’s basement. Have you seen any yet?

Speaking of strange critters, a woman strolled onto the D train last week and tried to sell riders live crickets and worms. After a group of teenagers jostled her, she supposedly lost it, according to the New York Post, tossing the crickets and worms into the air. When they landed on some passengers, all hell broke loose.

Then some genius pulled the emergency brake. Now they were stuck for a half an hour on the Manhattan Bridge, as the AC shut down and sweaty passengers went berserk. Didn’t I see this movie? Who let these (expletive) crickets loose on this (expletive) train?

The cricket and worm lady “started banging on the doors and trying to climb out the windows,” rider Chris Calabrese told the Post. “Everyone had crickets on their arms. My girlfriend was crying.”

A half hour later, the cootie express pulled into Brooklyn’s DeKalb Avenue station, and the cops removed the woman, who later claimed to be an actress pulling a “prank,” from the train. Yep, just another day on the subway.

Hang in there. Counting down to Labor Day.

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Take This Job and…Wait, Not So Fast!

Think your job is lousy? Believe me, it could be worse.

Take it from Sokunbi Olufemi of CWA Local 1182, which represents NYC traffic agents. “Our members get assaulted almost every single day,” Olufemi told of the agents, whose average income is $30,000 a year.

Last week, two traffic agents were pelted with eggs by a finance worker when they ticketed his Lexus parked on a Williamsburg street. He then challenged the agents to a fistfight, but ran off and hid in a nearby building when they called the cops. Mr. Lexus came running back out in a panic when a tow truck arrived. Fun job, huh?

Or you could be a NYC cabdriver. Talk about high stress. Try maneuvering around potholed streets and dealing with drunken passengers who take off without paying the fare — or puke in your backseat.

The NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission last month voted to limit the number of hours a driver can work to 12 a day, or 72 hours a week. “We don’t have a long day every day,” taxi driver Nino Hervias protested to The New York Times, although he admitted to recently starting work at 6 a.m. and driving straight through to 11 p.m.

One job you probably wouldn’t want is being a NYC sanitation worker — especially when dodging vermin and handling garbage in 90-degree heat. But don’t answer too quickly. While the starting salary is a modest $33,746 a year, it jumps to $69,339 after only 5½ years.

Those in private sanitation are really hauling it in, with some earning wages in six figures — and up. Earlier this year, Noel Molina, who works as a driver for Crown Container, told CNN Money he earned $112,000 in 2015.

Molina dropped out of school in the 10th grade. His helper Tony Sankar (who rides the back of the truck and makes a mere $100,000)  also never graduated. “Guys who went to college might not earn the kind of money I make on the back of a garbage truck,” Sankar notes with a smile.

Meanwhile, cabbies continue to drive to exhaustion trying to eke out a living, while traffic agents continue to be regularly abused. “I’ve seen my workers with blood all over,” Olufemi told “It’s crazy. We need more protection.”

Maybe your job isn’t so bad after all.

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Can’t You Take a Joke?

When I was growing up in Brooklyn, every junior high school class had a Ronald.

He’d stick his foot out as you walked by, and after you crashed to the ground, say he was “just playing around.” Or make oinking sounds at a chubby girl eating her lunch. Or mock a stutterer until the boy cried, then sneered, “Can’t you take a joke?”

And God forbid he found out it was your birthday. Ronald would delight in gifting you with birthday punches, until your arm turned black and blue.

Ronald wasn’t particularly bright, but he was crafty. He never studied, but would make sure to sit next to Aaron, the smartest kid in the class, intimidating him to make sure he left his test papers exposed.

Ronald would “borrow” a dollar, then never pay you back. Or if he liked you, he might return a quarter, and act like it was the greatest act of charity in history.

He decided to run for class president. “You’re voting for me, right?” he’d implore, as he squeezed your shoulder a bit too hard. Ronald lost badly, then demanded to see the secret ballots, claiming our teacher, Mrs. Cohen, had “fixed” the election against him.

A little after 3 p.m., Mrs. Cohen stepped into the street to discover someone had mangled her windshield wipers. Two brave little souls told her they saw who did the damage.

Mrs. Cohen called Ronald’s wealthy parents to class and told them what their son did to her car. His father asked the teacher whether she had witnesses. “Two,” she replied angrily. “That’s not many,” said Ronald’s dad, who reluctantly wrote out a check to cover the damages.

One wintry day, Ronald smashed a snowball into the face of Angela, who ran home crying. About 10 minutes later, Angela’s brother, Tommy, showed up and confronted Ronald, who denied doing it, then said he was “only kidding around.”

Tommy beat the living crap out of Ronald and left him whimpering on the ground, much to the delight of my entire class. “Only kidding around, right?” said Tommy.

Then one fine day, Ronald was gone. His parents had shipped him off to military school.

I wonder whatever became of Ronald?

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Another Friend Bites the Dust?

Ever been shocked reading a friend’s political opinion on Facebook or Twitter? You’re not alone. This wild presidential season has led to a nationwide unfriending frenzy.

I learned recently that a woman with whom I had enjoyed singing Radiohead songs at karaoke read my satirical Donald Trump convention speech on my Facebook page. Beverly was outraged.

“Mike, how can you write such awful things about Trump?” she asked. “He’s a great man! Why are you so hateful?”

‘Cos I’m a freak…I’m a weirdo…

Actually,  I responded “Sorry Beverly, but I don’t think I’m the hateful one. Whatever one’s politics, I just can’t vote for anyone who mocks the disabled.”

I never heard back. Perhaps this made an impact?

It sure did. Beverly unfriended me.

I didn’t know Beverly very well — another Facebook “friend” who really wasn’t. But real friendships are ending over political differences, and that’s lousy.

A study by Israeli researcher and writer Nicholas John said, “We already know that Facebook and search engines provide us with a feed and results that are tailored to us. By unfriending, we are further contributing to the formation of echo chambers and filter bubbles.”

He’s right. Liberals and conservatives increasingly live in political isolation, hearing only what they want to hear from people who agree with them. Anyone with a different opinion is ignorant — or worse.

Shutting out people who don’t agree with your point of view is not only self-righteous and childish, but also hurts you in the long run.

I have friends whose politics are light years from mine. We respect and trust each other enough to know we can express ourselves without being judged. It gives me a different perspective, and makes me realize all the good people are not necessarily on my side of the political fence, and vice versa.

So unless you’re dealing with a bigot or nut, keep the channels open. As British writer Evelyn B. Hall put it, “I do not agree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.”

What’s that? Everyone knows that’s a quote from Voltaire? So you’re not going to read my dumb blog anymore?

Wait, look it up! Hey, don’t unfriend me!

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NYC Funeral Homes are Dying

When my father made out his will, he requested to be cremated. My brother and I asked what he’d like us to do with the ashes. Dad said he couldn’t care less. When we pressed him, he replied, “That’ll be your problem, not mine. You can toss me down the incinerator if you like. I’ve got enough problems. I’m dead!”

My dad was ahead of his time.

From coast to coast, and particularly in New York City, funeral homes are shutting their doors in record numbers. According to Crain’s New York Business, there’s been a 44 percent decline in the number of funeral homes in the metropolitan area since 1990.

How did this happen? Aren’t death and taxes inevitable? Yes, but people are living longer, and, like my dad, often don’t want to be buried or even have a traditional funeral.

The cost of the average funeral is about $8,500, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. Cremation costs less than half, about $4,000. In 1999, the cremation rate was about 25 percent. By 2014, that percentage was up to 47 percent, according to the Cremation Association of North America.

Another factor driving funeral homes into the ground is gentrification, which has shot NYC real estate prices through the roof. It’s hard for funeral home directors steadily losing business to refuse multimillion-dollar offers for their property — particularly when their kids are not keen on taking over the family business.

Meanwhile, medical advances have led to people living longer. Average life expectancy in NYC is 81 years__and if you’ve reached 70, you can expect to live another 17 years.  Good for us, bad for business. “Thank God for medical technology,” Joe Aievoli, who owns four funeral homes in Brooklyn, told Crain’s. “But let’s just say it’s not exactly funeral-home friendly.”

With religion on the wane and families on the move, it’s harder to get relatives together for a big, elaborate funeral. Many are choosing more personalized ways to celebrate the lives of their loved ones.

When my father, who loved going to Brighton Beach, passed away a while back, we took another look at the will. In the corner, in longhand, was written, “to ease the anxieties of my sons, throw me in the ocean.”

So we did. Rest in peace, Dad.

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Revealed: A Hillary Email

While FBI director James Comey recommended no charges against Hillary Clinton regarding her emails, I still wanted to see for myself how secure her server is. Using a friendly hacker, it wasn’t long before I was reading them all, and let me tell you, this is one frustrated woman!

Here’s one she sent to a friend during this week’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia:

“Aack! I can’t believe I’m behind in the latest polls to this…this con artist! Do people really dislike me that much? I’m a nice person, dammit!

My pollsters say I’ve got to show more pizzazz, be more ‘hip’, to appeal to young voters. Maybe before I give my acceptance speech on Thursday, I’ll dye my hair fire-engine red. Hah!! That’ll show them pizzazz!

Or maybe I’ll get a tattoo. What should it say? My slogan, ‘I’m with her’? No, I am her. ‘They’re with stupid’? How about ‘Trump sucks’? Too much?

“I can’t believe the creator of ‘Trump University’ calls me Crooked Hillary. LOL! Maybe I should call him Don the Con. President Obama ‘faked’ his birth certificate? Ted Cruz’s father was in on the Kennedy assassination? WTF? If I said things like that, I’d be put in a straightjacket. But he gets away with it. Aagh!

“He’s lecturing me about honesty? It’s like Chris Christie saying ‘Hillary, you’ve put on weight, have a salad.’ The gall of these guys!

“Michelle Obama was terrific Monday night__she’s a natural. Like my husband Bill Clinton, who charmed with his folksy  speech Tuesday. Great. Now I’m going to look like a stiff with mine. And if Obama calls me “likeable enough” again when he speaks tonight, I swear I’ll rush the stage.

“What should I highlight in my acceptance speech? Should I make crystal clear how incredibly smart I am, how knowledgeable about world affairs? Men hate a woman who is smarter than them.

“Too bad! What if I put this in my speech: I am smarter than all of you—deal with it!

“Let me run these ideas by Bill. Where did he go? Bill?? Maybe I’ll shoot him an e-mail. Oh wait…




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