New COVID vaccines will be ready this fall. Too bad America won’t be.

This, perhaps, is not where experts thought we’d be a year and a half ago, when the vaccines were fresh and in absurdly high demand. Since then, the tale of the U.S.’s COVID immunity has taken on a tragicomic twist: First we needed a vaccine; then we needed more people to take it. Now the problem is both.

Yes, fall’s vaccine recipe seems set. But much more needs to happen before the nation can be served a full immunization entrée. “It’s July, and we just heard that the FDA would like to see a bivalent vaccine,” with the spike of BA.4 and BA.5 mixed with that of the OG SARS-CoV-2, [Jason] Schwartz told me. When, exactly, will the updated shots be ready? How effective will they be? How many doses will be available? We just started prepping for this new inoculation course, and are somehow already behind…

Then, once shots are nigh, what will be the plan? Who will be allowed to get one, and how many people actually will? Right now, America’s appetite for more shots is low, which could herald yet another round of lackluster uptake.

There’s little time to address these issues. Fall “is, like, tomorrow,” says Jacinda Abdul-Mutakabbir, an infectious-disease pharmacist at Loma Linda University, in California. Autumn, the season of viral illnesses and packed hospitals, already puts infectious-disease experts on edge. “We dread fall and winter season here,” says Yvonne Maldonado, a pediatric-infectious-disease specialist at Stanford University. The system has little slack for more logistical mayhem. The world’s third COVID autumn, far from a stable picture of viral control, is starting to resemble a barely better sequel to the uncoordinated messes of 2020 and 2021…

A sequel? Or will the melange of politicians, scientists and physicians produce nothing better than pre-packaged oatmeal? Bland, tasteless, a useless imitation of the real deal?

Republican Party tries to hustle you with a fundraiser disguised as a census form

The Republican National Committee (RNC) is sending fundraising mailers in California and other states that look like the official U.S. census, a move critics worry will confuse people and skew actual census results.

The mailers are labeled “2020 Congressional District Census” and are sent in envelopes reading: “Do Not Destroy. Official Document.” The envelope contains a questionnaire on blue paper in a similar format to the actual census, and includes questions on political policies and stances…

The questionnaire does include fine print identifying it as a Republican piece of mail, stating near the top that it is “commissioned by the Republican Party” and in smaller print noting it’s paid for by the RNC…

The official 2020 census is expected to be mailed in March. Census survey documents are issued from the U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Census Bureau and do not ask for money.

The Republican Party already has access to more money than the average small country. You have to wonder why this clown show is doing something so smarmy. Maybe it’s just to impress the boss. Win a weekend at Mar-a-lago with the best hustle of ordinary Republican voters?

AT&T’s offering a crap new product that’s a tiny bit better than their old crap product — WooHoo!

Smell that? Those are blocks of dried horse dung…

❝ AT&T will soon offer 5G mobile service on its 850MHz spectrum, which will enable wider coverage than existing 5G networks but offer only 4G-like speeds at launch. Significant speed increases will arrive in 2020, AT&T says.

❝ The 5G networks already deployed by carriers use millimeter-wave signals that don’t travel far and are easily blocked by walls and other obstacles. This has resulted in coverage maps with small pockets of 5G, and 4G just about everywhere else.

But 5G can work on all frequencies, such as the lower-band frequencies used by 4G. There isn’t as much spectrum available on these bands, so you won’t see anything like the huge speed increases available on millimeter-wave spectrum. But 5G on low-band spectrum will cover wider areas and indoor spaces and hopefully bring some speed increases—Verizon says 5G on the lower bands will be like “good 4G.”

Golly gee, gang. So, what we have to look forward to is “new and improved” crap hardware that finally delivers what the old crap hardware promised.

Anyone wonder if we’ll be charged for the “improvement“.

Romance for rent – for Spring Festival

For young, single city professionals, the Spring Festival holidays present many reasons to be fearful: standing in line for hours to get a train ticket, exhausting long journeys, stuffing red envelopes with cash. Arguably the No 1 reason is the prospect of turning up at home alone. Not only does it give parents the opportunity to nag – “Your classmates and cousins are married and have children. What’s wrong with you?” – but it is also likely to result in a holiday spent on blind dates. To ease the pressure, Chinese singletons are simply paying people to pose as partners for their holiday homecoming.

On Dec 14, Tang Yongxue stood on a street in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, and waved a placard that read: “Fake boyfriend needed for Spring Festival – 10,000 yuan ($1,500) for five days’ work.” She told reporters she wanted to rent a man to accompany her home to reassure her parents. The candidate had to be aged 26 to 30, at least 1.75 meters tall and “insightful”.

Although dismissed as a publicity stunt by many people, the incident highlights the huge pressure on China’s growing population of single urbanites to marry.

Tang’s tactic has been widely adopted online by desperate bachelors and bachelorettes. Want ads for fake holiday partners run for pages on many popular Chinese micro-blogging websites, such as Sina, while some stores on Taobao, the online marketplace, also offer boyfriends and girlfriends for hire.

“It’s a fun idea to help another person temporarily release the pressure of getting married,” said netizen “Howe.C”, who declined to give his real name. “Plus, spending the holiday with total strangers is interesting.”

The office worker, who is in his late 20s and lives in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, said he will not go home this Spring Festival as he fears the long journey may stop him from returning to work on time. He posted an advertisement on Douban, a major online community, offering to pretend to be someone’s boyfriend in Wuhan or neighboring cities. He describes himself as athletic, outgoing and humorous, not handsome but well educated and polite.

Speaking for his generation, “Howe.C” said: “We shouldn’t marry simply because we reach marital age. We’ll find true love but it takes time. Sometimes parents push us too hard. The pressure is especially bad for women who are almost 30. The general conception goes that the older a woman gets, the fewer marriage opportunities she is left with. I empathize with them…”

Although renting a boyfriend or girlfriend sounds like cheating the people who care most, supporters often defend the practice by saying it is a white lie with mutual benefits. Not only does it bring comfort to elderly family members, they argue, but it also saves singles from a holiday of arguing with their parents. For hired lovers, they get their fee, as well as free accommodation and travel.

There’s already been an episodic drama based on this “solution” on Chinese TV. It probably would make a decent film on the order of “You’ve got mail”. Which Hollywood would copy and set in New York City for Xmas, no doubt.

The interest for me is in the dynamics of a rapidly-changing society. It ain’t ever easy.

Poet hijacks Atlanta street adverts with haiku

Artist John Morse has been peppering Atlanta’s road intersections with haikus, nailing his poetry to traffic lights and streetlamps in an attempt to provide commuters with “poetic snapshots of the urban condition”.

Mimicking the usual advertisements for weight loss and health insurance, Morse’s poems began appearing throughout the city last month. From an exhortation to “Lose ugly weight fast!!/ Feel Happier! Healthier!/ Dump your bigotry” to “Meet local singles!!/ Easy: stand near others/ Hang up your cell phone” and “Free debt counselling/ Take the important first step/ Beware signs like these”, the artist has written 10 different haikus, printed 50 copies of each and placed them at 500 locations across Atlanta.

“People read these bandit signs. They’ll read them if it’s about an electrician or they’ll read them if it’s about anything,” explained Morse. “So if they read it and they like it, great, if they read it and they don’t like it, great. But the fact is they’ll read it, they’re going to read your poetry and that’s my goal.

“There’s a great deal of bad in the world, and one of the few things that ameliorates the cruelties of the world is art,” he said. “A little bit of art can do a great deal of good. And I want to spend my life doing something good … Will it be good? I don’t know. But I’m going to try.”

Predictable Scrooges are whining about the haiku. They probably don’t get it.

Frankly, I’m tempted to crank out a couple myself. Haiku always was one of my favorite forms when I was working hard at being a poet. And the tradition of humor – and social critic – fits perfectly.

Imitation bombs made of carrots freak out Swedes

Earlier version – dedicated to George W. Bush

A Swedish art project caused a bomb scare when people mistook carrot “explosives” for the real thing.

Artist Conny Blom set up The Bunny Project: Bombs, at 15 locations near the southern Swedish city of Orebro.

He taped bunches of carrots together with black tape and attached blue and red wires and a clock to them.

Police received worried calls from members of the public who thought they were real bombs. Mr Blom was forced to remove his art – and may face charges.

The carrot bombs had been placed around the city at the request of a local art gallery, as part of an open-air arts festival.

They had only been in place for an hour before police received their first call.

The artist – of course – said it was a harmless stunt. Does that mean no one should worry?

Though this is not so different from stunts I pulled back in the day, we didn’t have so many nutballs prowling the world seeking an excuse to blow up anyone who disagrees with their theology.