STATEWIDE – There’s an annual analysis of the healthiest counties in New Jersey, lauding those wonderful leafy places where everyone is speed walking through their happy lives. We can report on all that, but, of course, we chose to peruse down the rankings and check out the rock bottom. These are the counties where breakfast is a coffee and a smoke, where the Cheeto is the official high school mascot and the only gym went out of business after its one remaining treadmill rusted from inaction. And the winner, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation? That would be Cumberland County, followed by the “healthier” counties of Salem, Camden and Atlantic counties, all of which are home to higher premature death rates among fatter, sedentary populations. There’s much more to report on this, but we don’t want any more tobacco-stained hate mail from South Jersey.

STATEWIDE – Many, many more New Jerseyans are becoming eligible for the COVID vaccine, like teachers, reporters and librarians, as 1.77 million of us are now fully vaccinated. But the challenge remains how to create more access among poorer communities comprising Blacks, Latinos and Asians. NorthJersey.com reports immunization rates among communities of color are falling well short of more well-to-do areas. There are plenty of reasons, like vaccine shortages, mistrust in medicine, limited internet access and people with working-class, hourly jobs who just don’t have the time, interest or patience to attempt to land an online vaccination appointment. One viable solution is the roll-out of the long-awaited vaccination vans, NJ Spotlight reports, noting the state ordered three vehicles in November and they could finally hit the streets in a few weeks. But first they need to somehow be registered through the MVC. Good luck there.

NEWARK – The city’s established neighborhoods were infamously sliced and diced between the 1950s and 1970s, as work crews cut the Garden State Parkway, Route 78 and Route 280 through residential streets, displacing a countless number of people. Now, President Biden believes that Newark – as well as cities across the country that had no choice but to accommodate these super highways to the suburbs – should receive federal aid for economic revitalization. So Biden wants to earmark $20 billion in his $2 trillion infrastructure plan to help right the wrongs that steamrolled neighborhoods, comprising poor people with zero political clout to fight the government. The damage was done, decades ago, creating generations of slums. It’s unclear what today’s money can do to turn the tide, as those lost neighborhoods are forever lost. But perhaps we can begin by addressing the air pollution.

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BRIEFING BREATHER

A group of hippos is called a “bloat."

STATEWIDE – Believe what you want. But the National UFO Reporting Center has been busy dealing with heaps of calls from New Jersey, which has submitted 1,954 reports (and counting) since 1950 of UFO sightings. NJ.com offers a running list. Sure there are plenty of kooks, crackpots, lunatics, conspiracy nuts and the like. But, gotta ask, what about the lucid ones? A quick sampling: Jan. 20 at 1 a.m., Mountainside: “After encountering a strange scene on the highway, I couldn’t account for three hours of my time.” Or Dec. 27, 2020 at 4:27 p.m., Eatontown: “This time I got it on camera and chased it for 30 minutes with my 6-year-old daughter.” Or, June 29, 2020, 12:55 a.m., Bayonne: “This is the first time I have ever seen what appeared to be a UFO over this town. I will never forget it!”

DUMONT – Those with children carry fuzzy memories of when they were deliriously dealing with infants, and “vacation” meant a trip to Costco to pile up on yet more diapers. And those diapers were darn expensive, especially when that carrot mush kept re-appearing in new and exciting ways. Up to 12 diapers a day quickly became $100 or so a month. And that is why Bergen County is distributing more than 1 million diapers over the next four months, fueled with $200,000 in federal CARES Act funds and distributed through non-profits, the Record reports. Diapers aren’t covered by emergency food programs, so there is now, at least, some welcome relief for parents.

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS

LAS VEGAS – Business was brimming at the Elvis wedding chapels on Saturday, as it seems everyone wanted to be married on a very unique date: 4-3-21. To prepare for the big day, the city’s marriage license office was filled with brides and grooms on Friday afternoon, with nearly 700 couples processed for Saturday. Las Vegas officials – always ready for some hype – presented all the couples with keepsake certificates with the countdown date. The lesson was learned from seven years ago, when 1,800 couples flocked to Sin City to be married on 12-13-14. The most popular date to get married in Vegas? That was 7-7-7, of course.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

It was this day in 2013 that the always frowning Queen Elizabeth was named “the most memorable Bond girl” by Britain’s film agency because of her promo video for the London Olympics with 007. Number of syllables uttered by the Queen: Zero.

WORD OF THE DAY

Plinth – [/plinTH/] – noun

Definition: A heavy base supporting a statue or vase.

Example: At my office, the boss keeps his bust on a marble plinth.

WIT OF THE DAY

“Money never sleeps, pal.”

-Gordon Gekko

BIDEN BLURB

“Wall Street didn’t build this country—the great American middle class did. This time, when we rebuild the middle class under the American Jobs Plan, we’re bringing everyone along.”

-Joe Biden

WEATHER IN A WORD

Perfect