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    As prom season winds down, NJ.com compiled a collection of some of the best dancing from prom attendees in 2018.

    As prom season winds down, NJ.com compiled a collection of some of the best dancing from prom attendees in 2018.

    BUY THESE PHOTOS

    Are you one of the people pictured at this prom? Want to buy the photo and keep it forever? Look for the blue link "buy photo" below the photographer's credit to purchase the picture. You'll have the ability to order prints in a variety of sizes, or products like magnets, keychains, coffee mugs and more.

    Be sure to check out the complete prom coverage at nj.com/prom.

    Ed Murray may be reached at emurray@njadvancemedia.com. Follow Ed on Twitter at @EdMurrayphoto. Find NJ.COM on Facebook.


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    Helen accepts treats gently and gives up her food and toys without problems.

    ex0624pet.jpgHelen 

    NEWARK -- Helen is a 2-year-old American Staffordshire terrier mix at the Associated Humane Society in Newark.

    According to Humane Society personnel, she was "outstanding during evaluation -- cuddling and obeying commands, accepting treats gently and giving up her food and toys without problems."

    Helen needs to be an only-dog, but will otherwise do well in most homes. She has been spayed and is up-to-date on shots.

    To meet Helen and other adoptable pets, visit the Associated Humane Society at 124 Evergreen Ave. The shelter is open Monday through Friday from noon to 5:30 p.m. and weekends from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call 973-824-7080 or go to petfinder.com/pet-search?shelter_id=NJ01.

    Shelters interested in placing a pet in the Paw Print adoption column or submitting news should call 973-836-4922 or email essex@starledger.com.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at ghatala@starledger.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    Meet your all-state athletes from the 2018 boys track and field season!


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    MILLBURN -- The lunch counter at Woolworth's in Millburn is shown in this 1958 photo. MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey The store was located on the 300 block of Millburn Avenue. MORE: Glimpses of history from around New Jersey If you would like to share a photo that provides a glimpse of history in your community, please call 973-836-4922...

    MILLBURN -- The lunch counter at Woolworth's in Millburn is shown in this 1958 photo.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    The store was located on the 300 block of Millburn Avenue.

    MORE: Glimpses of history from around New Jersey

    If you would like to share a photo that provides a glimpse of history in your community, please call 973-836-4922 or send an email to essex@starledger.com. And, check out more glimpses of history in our online galleries on nj.com.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at ghatala@starledger.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    The best of the best in New Jersey track and field


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    Spiotta Park now features six lamp posts painted in the eight colors of the Rainbow Pride Flag that were painted by the community. Watch video

    South Orange's Spiotta Park was filled with people Thursday night volunteering their time to create a symbol of inclusion and diversity in their town: rainbow painted lamp posts.

    Inspired by their sister city of Maplewood's new permanent rainbow crosswalks, South Orange created an event to involve the community in honoring their town's motto of "everybody belongs here."

    Six gas lamps were chosen to be painted with horizontal stripes representing the eight colors of the Philly Pride Flag, including the six colors for LGBTQ pride as well as black and brown for the intersection and inclusion of all members of the LGBTQ community.

    "We have a great turnout and we're expecting more and more residents. We also have members from our surrounding governing bodies supporting us, specifically from Maplewood," said Sheena Collum, Village President. 

    Dean Dafis, the first openly LGBTQ Maplewood Township Committee member who initiated the rainbow crosswalk project, as well as other committee members and Maplewood citizens attended to help paint and support the cause.

    "All of us, whoever we are, we are so thirsty to connect with each other right now. We really need to lock hands. We need to stand together. South Orange's motto is 'everyone belongs here.' In Maplewood there are signs that say 'this is a stigma free town' and so we're trying to do what we can do to live out our values and at a distressful time such as this one we can create these symbols of inclusiveness," said Dafis.

    The event was sponsored by South Orange Village Center Alliance which paid for paints and supplies using its budget for placemaking projects for business improvement in the Village Center.

    Marty Finkle, who along with his husband Mike, has been a citizen of South Orange since 2001. He arrived proudly wearing a shirt featuring six labrador retrievers in the six colors of the pride flag.

    "This means a lot to me," said Finkle. "Mike and I were the first domestic partners in New Jersey in 2004."

    The community project has also helped a new generation of activists feel safer to be themselves. 

    "We're very lucky to have a town like this," said Zee Shaheen, 15 years old. "It's easier to be yourself when there are so many community projects like this. It makes us feel like it's so much more normal to be queer in the world."

    Zee and Isora Shaheen and Chloe Kaplan are three 15-year-old members of the LGBTQ community. Zee and Chloe are members of Columbia High School's Spectrum Club which has hosted events such as a pride day where students come to speak about their own experiences at school and of finding themselves. Isora, who attends Newmark High School, wants to start a Spectrum Club there.

    "At my school I tried to push for a Spectrum Club of our own but so far I'm the only person who really wants it. If I work really hard and find a teacher who wants to support me I may be able to do it," said Isora. 

    When asked if they had faced any backlash all three said "yes" simultaneously.

    Zee, who is transgender, said he heard classmates talking about him outside of school on Wednesday, referring to him as "it."

    "These two people walk by me and one of them says 'it looks like a boy', and then the other says 'but it's a girl.' It's like first of all they called me 'it' and second of all I am a boy. This event gives the community more recognition and soon hate is gonna be so minimized that it's not gonna make sense anymore," said Zee. 


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    Protesters carried a "Families Belong Together" banner to the "Nurse-in" in front of the federal building in Newark. Watch video

    More than 50 people pushed strollers through the streets of Newark and gathered in front of the federal building where more than a dozen mothers breastfeed their babies Friday in a "Nurse-in" to protest the Trump administration's treatment of immigrant families.

    Carrying a "Families Belong Together" banner, the mothers sat on the ground and nursed their babies in the courtyard in front of the New Jersey headquarters of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

    The women and their babies were not disturbed or asked to leave by police or security guards watching the protest. Other protesters, who included other parents, children and activists, chanted "Keep families together" and waved signs.

    "Our job is to protect our children," Rabbi Jesse Olitzky, of Congregation Beth El in South Orange, told the crowd. "Our job is not to put them in cages -- to put them in jail."Immigrant kids brought to N.J. shelter

    At least 20 immigrant children have arrived in South Jersey in the last month to be housed in a local shelter that has a contract with the federal government. The children include at least three who had been separated from their parents at the border, according to the Center for Family Services in Camden, the agency that oversees the facility.

    President Donald Trump signed an order Wednesday stopping his administration's policy of separating children from their parents if they are caught illegally crossing the U.S. border. The policy had prompted protests and outrage around the country.

    Congress continues to debate legislation to overhaul the nation's immigration system, including the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" policy that requires the detention of adults and children caught illegally crossing the border.

    The "Nurse in" in Newark was organized by several local groups, including Laid Back Lactation, a breastfeeding consulting group based in Morristown.

    "As parents we refuse sit by while the government removes children from their parents at the U.S. border," the organizers said when they announced the event. "We are especially heartbroken and enraged by stories of breastfeeding children being taken from their mothers' embrace." 

    Melissa Abramson, of South Orange, breastfed her 11-month-old daughter, Evelyn, at the nurse-in.

    She said she came because she felt she needed to use her voice to speak for mothers at the border who had their children taken from them, but have no way to speak publicly for themselves.

    "We should be welcoming them with open arms. We should be encouraging families to stay together," Abramson said. "To have your child torn from your arms -- children separated from their parents -- it causes irrevocable damage."

    Kelly Heyboer may be reached at kheyboer@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KellyHeyboer. Find her at KellyHeyboerReporter on Facebook.


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    The 18-year-old was ejected from the vehicle at end of the 70-mph chase.

    The driver who led police on a high-speed chase though the streets of Newark, ultimately crashing a stolen car and killing his friend, has been convicted by a jury in the death.

    Mutah Brown, 21, of Newark, could be sentenced to as much as 20 years after his conviction Thursday on aggravated manslaughter and vehicular homicide charges.

    The crash on May 6, 2017 killed Quadir K. Jackson, 18, of Newark -- the man authorities say stole the vehicle. A third man in the car, Kevon Anderson, 22, was convicted Thursday of resisting arrest after he fled the crash.

    newark-carjack-deathMutah Brown, 21, left, was convicted Thursday, June 21, 2018 of aggravated manslaughter and vehicular homicide, while Kevon Anderson, 22, right, was convicted of resisting arrest. (ECPO) 

    According to the Essex County Prosecutor's Office, Jackson carjacked a Mercedes-Benz on Martin Luther King Boulevard around 6 p.m. on May 6, 2017.

    Newark police spotted the car and attempted to pull it over, but Brown, who was driving at that point, took off in the car. He traveled at speeds of over 70 mph during the chase, the prosecutor's office said.

    Brown lost control and crashed the car in the area of 16th and South 10th streets, ejecting Jackson from the backseat and causing his death. Brown and Anderson fled on foot but were caught by police.

    "This case is a cautionary tale about the dangers of carjacking, car theft and attempting to outrun the police," Assistant Prosecutor Brian Pollock said in a statement. "It is also a message to criminals that authorities will not stand for motorists running from the police and putting citizens at risk."

    Both men will be sentenced Sept. 10.

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at reverett@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    Bloomfield High School held its commencement ceremony on Friday evening at Foley Field in Bloomfield. Graduating seniors waived to family and friends as they marched into the stadium. The ceremony started at 7:00 pm and featured speeches by valedictorian Lillian Hoffman and salutatorian Emily Paule. MORE PHOTOS  Bloomfield High School 2018 prom (PHOTOS) Graduation season is here, and NJ.com is capturing the moments for...

    Bloomfield High School held its commencement ceremony on Friday evening at Foley Field in Bloomfield.

    Graduating seniors waived to family and friends as they marched into the stadium.

    The ceremony started at 7:00 pm and featured speeches by valedictorian Lillian Hoffman and salutatorian Emily Paule.

    MORE PHOTOS 

    Bloomfield High School 2018 prom (PHOTOS)

    Graduation season is here, and NJ.com is capturing the moments for many New Jersey high schools. Check back at nj.com/essex for other local high school graduation coverage. Be sure to check out our complete graduation coverage at nj.com/graduation.

    BUY THESE PHOTOS

    Are you one of the people pictured at this graduation? Want to buy the photo and keep it forever? Look for a blue buy image link below the photo.  You'll have the ability to order prints in a variety of sizes, or products like magnets, keychains, coffee mugs and more.

    Aristide Economopoulos can be reached at aeconomopoulos@njadvancemedia.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @AristideNJAM and Instagram at @aeconomopoulos  Find NJ.com on Facebook


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    NJ Advance Media obtained a list of all the taps sampled by Newark between Jan. 2017 through May 2018 from the state Department of Environmental Protection. See where the lead levels are too high.


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    Thirty-one district employees were told on Friday to resign and accept a buyout package or else face termination on Tuesday.

    In an early and sudden move by incoming Newark Schools Superintendent Roger Leon, 31 employees -- including several high-ranking administrators -- were told Friday they would be fired if they didn't resign by next week, two sources with knowledge of the matter told NJ Advance Media. 

    The overhaul, first reported by Chalkbeat Newark, comes a week before Leon takes the helm as the district's first School Board-picked leader in 22 years. The state returned local control of the schools to the board earlier this year

    A school district spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday. 

    The shake-up appears to target employees associated with former state-appointed superintendents Cami Anderson and Christopher Cerf, often criticized for bringing in "outsiders" to run the district, and foreshadows Leon's likely departure from their vision. 

    A native Newarker, Leon has worked in the district for 25 years, as a principal and later as an assistant superintendent. He officially begins his tenure July 1.

    Those asked to leave include Chief Academic Officer Brad Haggerty, the head of student enrollment, chief information officer and chief data officer, according to a list obtained by NJ Advance Media.

    Lower-ranking workers, including 10 assistants are also on the chopping block, raising questions among staffers about the larger strategy and vision behind the restructuring. 

    It's not clear what this means for the district's summer school program or its controversial enrollment process, as the people who led those divisions will be leaving. 

    "The big problem I see: This is 31 people that do some pretty essential functions in the district," one person with knowledge of the overhaul said. "People were literally packing up their things on Friday. One wonders what that does for the operations (of the district)."

    "How do you feel that this is going to benefit the children of Newark?" the person said.  

    Three assistant superintendents were also demoted, sources said. 

    Employees were told Friday to submit their resignations and accept a buy-out package or face termination at Tuesday's School Board meeting, the sources said. One person close to the matter said Haggerty and interim Superintendent Robert Gregory (who also applied for the superintendent position) were the ones who told employees about the cuts; Leon was not present.

    New leadership always signals a major reorganization and staff shake-up, but sources said in this case, district employees were not expecting the move so soon and without a clear transition plan for how to continue day-to-day functions. 

    While Leon submitted a list of cabinet members for the School Board to consider, it's not clear what the plan is to replace other positions. 

    Karen Yi may be reached at kyi@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @karen_yi or on Facebook


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    All four victims were treated for non-life threatening injuries, according to Newark Police.

    Four people, including two officers, were injured when a vehicle and police cruiser collided in Newark on Saturday afternoon. 

    Newark police the injuries were not life-threatening.

    According to police, a vehicle carrying two people and a police car with two officers crashed into one another at the intersection of South Orange Avenue and Grove Street around 1 p.m.

    All four were transported to University Hospital for treatment.

    This incident is under investigation. No further information is available.

    Taylor Tiamoyo Harris may be reached at tharris@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @ladytiamoyo.

    Find NJ.com on Facebook.  

     

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    One may be eligible for a new trial depending on the results of a DNA test.


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    Texting while driving is a well known hazard. But one New Jersey town is trying to raise awareness about the dangers of cellphone use while walking.

    We've all seen the ads and PSAs, and by know, we know -- texting while driving is dangerous. But, one New Jersey town is taking big steps to raise awareness about the dangers of cellphone use while walking. 

    Officials in Summit say they are coordinating with the local school district and trying to educate residents about the dangers of walking while texting. But because the practice is so widespread, the city has also started to make structural changes to its busiest roadways to try to slow drivers down in popular walking spots around town.

    A lot of pedestrian accidents happen in crosswalks where the driver is making a left turn, Summit Police Chief Robert Weck told NJ Advance Media. "You might ... have the right of way. But if you're not paying attention, you may be dead."

    "You need to look and be aware of your surroundings," he said.

    Summit has "bumped out" the curbs at busy intersections, at a cost of about $5,000 each, to prompt drivers to slow down. It has also painted lines similar to those in bike lanes to make the road appear narrower -- another strategy to slow drivers. And, it is putting in four-way stop signs at four intersections, Weck said.

    The city also has added large flashing pedestrian beacons -- similar to railroad crossing signs -- at four busy intersections. Pedestrians can click the large yellow signs before walking across the street, alerting nearby drivers. The beacons cost between $25,000 and $40,000 each, a city spokeswoman said.

    City officials also plan to install speed humps on several busy roads where speeding has been an issue.

    Even in areas where drivers don't typically go that fast, Weck said, "we want to get out in front" of the problem.

    What's going on? Ask Alexa what's happening around New Jersey

    And it seems they might be. Pedestrian-related accidents are actually on the decline in Summit, he said. "We always want to be proactive," Weck said. 

    Summit has not had a pedestrian fatality since 2011, when it had two in December of that year, Weck said. Many of its pedestrian-related accidents since have been minor, he said. For example, a mom running over someone's foot in the King's parking lot, two car wash workers getting bumped by a vehicle, or a pedestrian being grazed by a side-view mirror.

    But, "we're always shooting for zero," he said. 

    Last week, the Summit Police Department released a list of safety tips for pedestrians that includes advice on avoiding distractions from texting, making calls, using social media while walking.

    Distracted walking accidents are on the rise nationally, according to the National Safety Council. Nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed in 2017, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. And pedestrian deaths account for 16 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities, up from 11 percent a few years ago, it found. 

    Smartphone use, meanwhile, increased by 236 percent from 2010 to 2016, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. 

    Maplewood, earlier this year, began mulling fining pedestrians who step into the street while looking at their phones. It was inspired by a similar law passed in Honolulu.

    A state law was proposed in 2016 that would fine pedestrians $50 for using a cellphone while crossing the street. 

    "We continue to caution citizens to avoid being distracted by putting down their phones and staying focused on their surroundings as they walk or cross city streets," Weck said.

    The safety tips from Summit Police also urged pedestrians not to rely on a car to stop -- make eye contact with the driver to be sure they see you, even in crosswalks -- and to look left, look right and then look again.

    "We have a vibrant downtown. Schools are getting out soon," Weck said. "We hope parents see it and say, 'remember when you cross the street to pay attention - but it's not just the kids."

    Allison Pries may be reached at apries@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @AllisonPries. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    West Orange High School students earn top honors a the 2018 10 Day Film Challenge.

    ex0624schoolwestorange.jpgWest Orange High School filmmakers Dane Clarke II, Thomas Hughes, Juaquin Goodbar, Lourdes Korczukowski and teacher Wendy Mapes accept the award for Best Film at the 10 Day Film Challenge. 

    WEST ORANGE -- A group of young filmmakers from West Orange High School captured top honors at the 2018 10 Day Film Challenge, a national student short film competition.

    The film, "Deadlines" won Best Film and Best Performance honors at the Challenge for filmmakers Thomas Hughes, Dane Clarke II, Lourdes Korczukowski, Rajeev Persad, Isabel Oden and Joaquin Goodbar, students in Wendy Mapes' acting principles class. The win was a repeat of their performance at the New Jersey 10 Day Film Challenge in April.

    On the first day of the 10 Day Film Challenge, students are given a list of things they must include in their film, such as the backstory, the name of a character and a line of dialogue; they then get 10 school days to write, shoot, edit and score an original 3- to 4-minute film during film class only.

    "I had a lot of faith that we would win the Best Performances award," said Hughes, a senior and the film's writer and director. "My actors were absolutely fantastic, so I was completely confident that we would come home with that award. But winning Best Film was a huge surprise for me. I was in awe when our film was announced. It was a really great feeling."

    This year, the 10 Day Film Challenge was held June 10 in Philadelphia.

    To submit school news send an email to essex@starledger.com.


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    The Mars Essex Horse Trials help raise money to send 300 Newark kids to summer camp in Pottersville. Watch video

    It's a race for a good cause in which the winner is 300 Newark-area kids. 

    The Mars Essex Horse Trials, an equestrian competition held at Moorland Farm in Far Hills on Sunday, helps raise money to benefit the Greater Newark LifeCamp. The camp takes 300 Newark kids and brings them to a six-week day camp approximately 40 miles away in Pottersville. 

    The riders competed in dressage, show jumping and cross country jumping.

    In addition to the ring competition, the horses followed a two-mile cross country course with 17 obstacles.

    Riders enjoyed the nice weather and cooled off when they rode through Dew Pond that had a foot of water and a giant log obstacle to jump over.

    View photos from the event:

    Expo preview

    Ed Murray may be reached at emurray@njadvancemedia.com. Follow Ed on Twitter at @EdMurrayphoto. Find NJ.COM on Facebook.


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    Dogs and cats throughout New Jersey await adoption.

    Some pet stats for the day:

    A 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association found that 68% of U.S. households own pets. This is up from 56% of U.S. households in 1988, the first year the survey was conducted.

    The kinds of pets owned? Dogs account for just over 60%, with cats at 47% (bear in mind, the total can exceed 100% because some households, like mine, have cats AND dogs, as well as other possible pets). Fish, freshwater and saltwater, account for 15%, birds 8%, and small animals like hamsters and gerbils 7%.

    The survey also found that 10% of dog owners and 5% of cat owners have health insurance for their pets. Based on the total number of dogs and cat in the US that equates to nearly 9 million dogs and over 4.5 million cats with insurance.

    And some completely random pet facts:

    Three dogs (from First Class cabins!) survived the sinking of the Titanic - two Pomeranians and one Pekingese.

    Dogs and humans have the same type of slow wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) and during this REM stage dogs can dream. The twitching and paw movements that occur during their sleep are signs that your pet is dreaming

    Cats make more than 100 different sounds whereas dogs make around 10.


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    See which schools had the best year across the board in high school sports.


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    A pediatric neurologist affiliated with RWJBarnabas was the co-lead investigator of the clinical trials.

     

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved the first cannabis-derived drug for sale, which has shown to control seizures in children with life-threatening forms of epilepsy.

    Epidiolex, manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals in the UK, is made from cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive part of the cannabis plant. It was made for children 2 and older who are diagnosed with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, two serious forms of epilepsy that cause life-long developmental delays.

    It's not clear how quickly the drug will be available for prescription.

    The goal is have it available in pharmacies by the end of the year, said Orrin Devinsky, a pediatric neurologist and director of the New York University-Langone and Saint Barnabas Comprehensive Epilepsy Center in Livingston, who co-authored the research.

    Marijuana liquid could be ally of kids with epilepsy, study says

    First, the FDA must confer with the Drug Enforcement Administration to decide when to "reschedule" cannabidiol, better known as CBD, Devinsky said.

    Cannabis, including CBD, is a "schedule 1" drug, meaning it has no medicinal value and poses a high risk for abuse. This status has stifled rigorous research, because the federal government will not pay for it.

    Now with the approval of Epidiolex, a drug that will not produce an euphoric "high" feeling in the user -- Devinsky said he expected CBD would be moved down to a schedule 4 or 5 drug, which is one that poses a low potential for abuse and dependence.  

    "In my practice, I often see patients with these highly treatment-resistant epilepsies who have tried and failed existing therapies and are asking about CBD," Devinsky said. "I am delighted that my physician colleagues and I will now have the option of a prescription cannabidiol that has undergone the rigor of controlled trials and been approved by the FDA to treat both children and adults."

    The drug should provide a more reliable alternative than the homemade cannabis oil parents for years have made for the children, said Devinsky, who once treated Vivian Wilson of Scotch Plains, a toddler with Dravet syndrome.

    Vivian's parents, Brian and Meghan Wilson, elevated the shortcomings of the state's medicinal marijuana program and helped pass a law that led to the availability of a wide range of strains. The family moved to Colorado in 2014 to take advantage of that state's more advanced medicinal marijuana program.

    Relying on homemade oil "is is a terrible system, creating products that likely have more variability and can potentially contribute to more side effects and less consistency," Devinsky said.

    Epidiolex is also the first prescription designed to treat children with Dravet syndrome, according to the FDA's announcement.

    Meghan Wilson, now a Denver resident, said she was "ecstatic" over the news.

    "This is really monumental and in my opinion strongly correlated to the outcry from Dravet parents four to six years ago, begging neurologists for help accessing cannabis products for their children," Wilson said.

    "In the world of Dravet, there is always the fear of 'running out of options' and now, as a community, we have one more option which gives families more hope and peace of mind," she added.

    The FDA's decision is historic but it is not unexpected.

    An FDA advisory panel recently endorsed Epidiolex, saying any unknown risk associated with using the schedule 1 substance was worth it based on three clinical trials involving more than 500 children which showed children with life-threatening forms of epilepsy suffered fewer seizures while taking it.

    In 2013, the FDA gave GW Pharmaceuticals of the United Kingdom permission to use the cannabidiol-derived drug, in clinical trials.

    FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency "will continue to support rigorous scientific research on the potential medical uses of marijuana-derived products and work with product developers who are interested in bringing patients safe and effective, high quality products." 

    The most common side effects among the clinical trial patients were sleepiness, elevated liver enzymes, decreased appetite, diarrhea, rash and infections, according to the FDA's announcement.

    "Because of the adequate and well-controlled clinical studies that supported this approval, prescribers can have confidence in the drug's uniform strength and consistent delivery that support appropriate dosing needed for treating patients with these complex and serious epilepsy syndromes," Gottlieb said.

    Susan K. Livio may be reached at slivio@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.


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    The developer of a proposed Wawa for Newark has decided to pull out of the project.

    The developer of a proposed Wawa in Newark has thrown in the towel on the project, a decision that pleases nearby residents but disappoints some business owners and public officials.

    Tonymar LLC in Elizabeth had its attorney send a letter to the planning board last week explaining that it wants to withdraw the application and has terminated the lease with Wawa for a complex that would have been built on a 2.48-acre location at McCarter Highway near Gouverneur and Clark streets.

    Michael Oliveira, attorney for the developer, said his client and Wawa agreed not to proceed with the project because of a lawsuit filed by a neighborhood group opposing the development.

    MORE: Recent Barry Carter columns  

    "Litigation could run as long as two years, and the developer and Wawa mutually decided it didn't make sense to wait that long," Oliveira said.

    Wawa could not be reached for comment.

    In its lawsuit to stop the project, the Broad Street Block Association contends that the planning board did not approve the project last October, when it voted 3-1, with four abstentions, to permit construction of a 24-hour convenience store with 16 gas pumps.

    The complaint argues that under municipal land use laws, the planning board failed to have a majority vote on the project.

    When this issue was raised prior to the complaint being filed on May 22, planning board Chairman Wayne Richardson said the three members who voted for the Wawa represented the majority of the board at the October meeting, which was attended by eight of the nine board members. He said the plan actually passed 7-1, because the four abstentions were counted with the majority.

    The complaint also says the planning board should not have been voting on the project, because the developer's request for a wider driveway can be considered only by the zoning board of adjustment.

    Objections to the Wawa, though, are not just about procedure and issues of jurisdiction.

    Lisa Gray, president of the neighborhood association, insists that, without a security guard on duty, the Wawa would have brought loiterers. She said the group also feared that prostitution, which her organization fought years ago, would return to the community.

    Gray said she would reach out to the developer on other ideas, such as a supermarket like Trader Joe's.

    "We want the developer to work with us to bring something that is going to benefit the community," Gray said. "It's a spacious lot. It has lots of potential."

    Oliveira said the developer has no idea what he wants to do with the property.

    Business owners in the neighborhood, meanwhile, are not happy. Vacant land doesn't do them any good. The Wawa, they said, would light up the area and bring business to the corridor.

    George Gomez, owner of a car wash, said he had gone to a community meeting last year and was looking forward to the Wawa.

    "It would have been nice to have a building there," Gomez said. "It's more revenue for the city.  An empty lot doesn't make money. They have to do something there."

    Another business owner, who did not want to be identified, said he would have lost some business with the Wawa, but he didn't mind because their customers along the busy corridor would make it safe for other business owners on McCarter Highway.

    MORE: New Girl Scout CEO in N.J. prepares girls for lifetime of leadership | Carter

    "Just for the increased traffic, I would take it," the owner said. "It's a benefit to the strip. I would have loved to have the Wawa."

    Outgoing Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins said it's unfortunate that the developer had decided to pull out. She was concerned that developers in the future might shy away from investing in the city if they sense legal entanglements.

    "It may give other people pause to develop, which is sad because we do need development in the city of Newark," Chaneyfield Jenkins said.

    At-Large Councilman Luis Quintana said the developer is "disgusted," because he's been unable to use the land.

    Despite the disappointment, Quintana said he hopes the city can sit down with the developer and decide what is feasible.

    "This area of the city can't continue to be an eyesore," Quintana said. "A major arm to the city is an eyesore. You have to make sure you have something there that's sufficient for the community.''

    Barry Carter: (973) 836-4925 or bcarter@starledger.com or

    nj.com/carter or follow him on Twitter @BarryCarterSL


     


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