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Broken promises & disposable players: The remarkable story behind a high school sports scandal

Paterson Eastside High School

By Matthew Stanmyre and Steve Politi | NJ Advance Media for
on April 04, 2017 at 7:03 AM, updated April 04, 2017 at 5:12 PM

Andrea Aquino began her journey in Paraguay. At 6-foot-7, people in her village thought she was a freak — all arms and legs clinging to the motorcycle she and her mother sold clothes from to support themselves.

Selwyn Rodriguez and Christian Ortiz started their odyssey in Puerto Rico. Once in the mainland United States, Ortiz slept on piles of laundry and cold floors, while Rodriguez lived with a stranger who openly used drugs.

And Blessing Ejiofor landed in the U.S. on the fast track to college, via Nigeria, but her dreams were crushed by the adults she trusted most. That trust has cost her a scholarship to Vanderbilt and forced her back to Africa, where she remains a prisoner of immigration rules.

Four players from three continents — all bound by the same dream and pitch: Leave your friends and family behind, travel thousands of miles and use basketball to find a better life.

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As he nears end of second term, governor still struggling with state’s deeply troubled public-worker pension system, while some stakeholders look to a new administration for relief

Credit: Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen

Gov. Chris Christie once bragged about “fixing” New Jersey’s beleaguered public-employee pension system with a series of reforms that were enacted during his first two years in office.

But now, as the second-term Republican prepares to present a final state budget to lawmakers next week, the retirement funds for public workers remain a huge problem, and any long-term solution will likely not come from Christie, but from a successor who will be elected later this year.

Christie confirmed during a recent NJ 101.5 FM radio appearance that he’s planning to boost the annual state pension contribution up to $2.5 billion in the 2018 fiscal year spending plan. The increase would set a record for state pension funding in a single budget, but also fall well short of the full amount that actuaries say is needed to return the retirement system to overall good health. And it was Christie, in 2010, who signed a law that committed the state to fully funding the actuarial estimate by the 2018 fiscal year.

Christie, meanwhile, also left the door open during the radio interview to calling on lawmakers to approve new benefits cuts for public workers along with the next state budget. That comes even after he bragged in 2011 that benefits changes passed that year were “providing real, long-term fiscal stability for future generations.”