NEW BRUNSWICK – The international hero of the moment is Johnson & Johnson, getting federal support for its one-shot COVID 19 vaccine. The pharmaceutical giant has likely not gotten such great press since it unveiled the Band-Aid in June 1920. J&J says it could be able to deliver 20 million doses by the end of next month, with an FDA “emergency use authorization.” There are some nice pluses. Besides only requiring one dose, the J&J vaccine doesn’t need that super-cold storage – a clear advantage over Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. So, let’s try out this new possible J&J slogan: “I’m stuck on vaccine because vaccine is stuck on me.” Hmm. May need tinkering.

TRENTON – It has been a very, very long 12 months, and the state Treasurer has noticed. NJ.com reports the state is experiencing a nice boost in alcohol and cigarette taxes, as stressed-out New Jerseyans hit the liquor store way too often and chain smoke with reckless abandon. The state Treasury anticipates it will collect $42.1 million more in tobacco tax revenue and $25.9 million more in alcohol taxes than bean counters originally predicted – equaling a nice little piece of unanticipated revenue for state coffers. “Cigarette sales have more than held up during the pandemic, actually halting a decades-long downward trend,” state officials say. Goes to show there’s a silver lining anywhere – if you just look really, really hard.

STATEWIDE – The next step: 50% occupancy in New Jersey restaurants and bars. Gov. Phil Murphy is telling reporters that the latest increase can happen “sooner than later” as the state continues to see a glorious and steady drop in the number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. The governor is not giving us a date, but he usually floats trial balloons before making the grand announcement – sure to make restaurant owners who are surviving this endless winter downright giddy. The hope is the improving temperatures and easing of restrictions will help ensure a large majority of eateries will be there for us in spring – deserving of a statewide celebration.

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BRIEFING BREATHER

Laser is an acronym for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emissions of Radiation.”

WEST ORANGE – Sure, there are two sides to every story. But you gotta wonder what’s going on at the ZuluBa Lounge on Main Street, which has been smacked with 28 liquor license violations since November, as the bar continued to ignore executive orders for wearing masks, social distancing and closing up by 10 p.m. It seems the most “regular” customer was the state Division of Alcohol Beverage Control, which began visiting Nov. 21 and then kept coming back with violations on Dec. 5, 12, 19, 26, 30, 31 and Jan. 2. NJ.com tried to chat up the barkeep, but the phone line was disconnected and no one responded to an email by press time. Perhaps a reporter would have a better shot of an interview swinging by after “closing time.”

BOONTON – Babe Ruth has hit a home run for the family of a late baseball card collector. A rare 1933 baseball card, autographed by the ‘Sultan of Swat,’ fetched $761,100 at auction on Sunday for the man's family. TMZ says the vintage Goudey #149 card was among more than 1,000 vintage baseball cards, many signed and rare, found stashed in the home of James “Uncle Jimmy” Micioni after the 97-year-old died last March. One expert says Micioni's collection was so well-preserved that the cards had the “look and feel like they were printed yesterday,” and maybe even faintly smelled like bubble gum, making them a priceless legacy for Uncle Jimmy’s surviving nieces and nephews.

SANDY HOOK – So much for the crime of the century. A federal court has dropped the silly drunken and reckless driving charges against Bruce Springsteen. Instead, the icon pleaded guilty, or whatever, to a charge of drinking booze in a closed area. On a Zoom call before a federal magistrate judge, the Colts Neck resident said he should be able to rustle up the big fine “immediately,” after admitting to consuming two small shots of tequila near the Sandy Hook Lighthouse on Nov. 14 with some fans. The court actually did some digging into Springsteen’s driving record back to 1973, revealing just three violations. (Not bad for a rock star who can easily afford to floor a fleet of Lamborghinis.) Being that Springsteen has no criminal history, the judge deemed “nothing but a fine,” as opposed to six months in jail. Such stupid international news.

IN THE MEDIA

NEWARK – Be one of the first to own the tote bag, as NJTV is rebranding itself as NJ PBS. Makes sense; NJTV is the public TV network and everyone knows about PBS. Changing the name shows the station is part of the national public broadcasting service, with the hopes of bringing in more corporate and individual support. We look forward to the fundraising campaign in which we can finally buy that seven-disc Elvis collection.

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS

THE OUTBACK – Animal rescuers found a sheep living in the wild of Australia, desperately in the need of a shearing. In fact, when Edgar’s Mission Farm Sanctuary got their hands on the sheep, named Baarack, they cut off 78 pounds of wool. It looks like Baarack had been on his own for years. At one point, Baarack had been tagged on his ear, but all the overgrown fleece ultimately ripped it off. The main focus was to cut the wool from Baarack’s face so that he could once again see. He will now be sticking around the farm sanctuary, with many scheduled shearings.

WORD OF THE DAY

Meliorism – [MEE-lee-uh-riz-um] – noun

Definition: The belief that the world tends to improve and that humans can aid its betterment

Example: I will now officially call myself a meliorist – my new descriptor is certain to aid the planet.

WIT OF THE DAY

“Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we're being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I'm liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That's what's insane about it.” 

-John Lennon

BIDEN BLURB

“The fabric of our complex society is woven too tightly to permit any part of it to be damaged without damaging the whole.”

-Joe Biden

WEATHER IN A WORD

Melting