New Jersey Sen. Lautenberg dead at age 89
TRENTON, N.J. — The next time a flight attendant reminds you there’s no smoking or you witness a teenager getting carded at a liquor store, think of Frank Lautenberg.
The liberal Democratic senator from New Jersey left his mark on the everyday lives of millions of Americans, whether they know it or not. In the 1980s, he was a driving force behind the laws that banned smoking on most U.S. flights and made 21 the drinking age in all 50 states.
Lautenberg, a multimillionaire businessman who became an accomplished — if often underestimated — politician, died today at a New York hospital after suffering complications from viral pneumonia.
At 89, he had been the oldest person in the Senate and its last World War II veteran.
President Barack Obama praised him as “a proud New Jerseyan who lived America’s promise as a citizen and fought to keep that promise alive as a senator.”
“He improved the lives of countless Americans with his commitment to our nation’s health and safety, from improving our public transportation to protecting citizens from gun violence to ensuring that members of our military and their families get the care they deserve,” the president said in a statement.
Possessed with neither a dynamic speaking style nor a telegenic face, he won his last race in 2008 at age 84, becoming the first New Jersey politician ever elected to five Senate terms.
“People don’t give a darn about my age,” Lautenberg said then. “They know I’m vigorous. They know I’ve got plenty of energy.”
Over the years, Lautenberg was a reliable Democratic vote on such issues as unions, guns and the environment. A native of one of the most congested and heavily industrialized and polluted states, he worked to secure hundreds of millions of dollars for mass transit projects, ardently defended Amtrak and pushed for money for the Superfund toxic-waste cleanup program.
A former smoker, Lautenberg was one of two prime sponsors of the 1989 law that banned smoking on all domestic flights of less than six hours, one of several anti-smoking laws he championed.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called Lautenberg “a patriot whose success in business and politics made him a great American success story and a standout even within the fabled Greatest Generation.”
Not guilty plea entered for ‘Kai the Hitchhiker’
ELIZABETH, N.J. — A man who gained Internet fame as “Kai the Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker” has pleaded not guilty through a lawyer to a murder charge.
Caleb McGillivary appeared today in a Union County jail courtroom. The 24-year-old is accused of killing 73-year-old lawyer Joseph Galfy, whose body was found May 13 in his Clark home.
Wearing an oatmeal-colored T-shirt, McGillivary stood behind thick glass. He questioned Judge Brenda Coppola Cuba numerous times about his plea and bail.
Authorities say McGillivary and Galfy met in New York City. McGillvary stayed at Galfy’s home. He was arrested in Philadelphia days later.
McGillivary took a star turn in February after intervening in an attack on a Fresno, Calif. utility worker.
He described himself as “home free” instead of homeless and said he’s from West Virginia. He is actually Canadian.