STATEWIDE - First, we couldn't vacation by plane or boat. Now, by car? Hitting the open road will be a bit more limited for vacationing New Jerseyans, desperate to get the heck out of here for R&R. New Jersey officials have hiked the number of states where we just shouldn't go, as they try to control the coronavirus spread within our borders. There are now 22 states that are considered hotspots, with Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, and Wisconsin now added. If we venture out to any of these states, we would then need to self-quarantine for 14 days. That would make a quick vacation suddenly an endless summer as you stare, yet again, at the same walls. So, be safe, stay local. And remember: there's plenty of fun involved in watching the grass grow. This party never, ever ends.

PRINCETON – Searching for extraterrestrials isn’t nearly as thrilling as the excitement you get from Ivy League soccer. Apparently. That must be why Princeton University is demolishing its historic FitzRandolph Observatory to build a spanking-new soccer stadium. The Italianate-style observatory was state-of-the-art when it opened in 1934. Up until 2004, university astronomers had federal funding to scan the cosmos for alien life. A university spokesman now tells Planet Princeton that the observatory “became obsolete long ago and has since been used for storage,” while years of neglect “made it not worth preserving.” So if ET ever does phone home, will we hear him over the roar of soccer fans?

OLD BRIDGE – No question that “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a literary classic. Yet it also is known for plenty of controversy, with its liberal use of the “n word” to capture hate-filled, back-assed Alabama in 1933. Sixty years after the book was published to wide acclaim, the Old Bridge schools are facing a lawsuit from one mother, furious that her daughter’s teacher used the “n word” during a lesson about the book. The Home News Tribune reports a Black child was a student at Jonas Salk Middle School in December when her English teacher was teaching about racial inequality. The girl, the only Black student in the class, began to cry. The teacher then asked if she was all right and rubbed the student’s back. But the teacher didn’t apologize, the lawsuit contends, adding the teacher’s harassment was “purposeful, intentional and willful.” School officials aren’t commenting, but they certainly must be wondering if teaching this book in the early grades is worth it.

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BRIEFING BREATHER

A convenience store outside of Garland, TX has 58 checkouts.

SPARTA – Here’s an odd switch: A county freeholder (er, commissioner?) is quitting to run for a council seat here, in his hometown. Sussex County Freeholder Josh Hertzberg was Sparta’s mayor until 2018 when voters boosted him to freeholder. The New Jersey Herald says Hertzberg realizes returning to Town Hall is odd: “People don’t usually step backwards in politics.” But, he feels compelled after hearing mounting complaints from residents. If he’s elected in November (and that’s likely), county Republicans must find a politician to finish Hertzberg’s final year as freeholder – which shouldn’t be difficult among all those rural officials with big dreams of moving up to the big time, mesmerized by the bright lights of Newton, for freeholder meetings.

LONG BRANCH – A classic rocker who made his living during the hazy, drug-infused 1970s is now amazed and how utterly reckless New Jersey beach-goers can be. Peter Frampton – who fueled himself on drugs and brandy for more than 20 years while performing live in front of tens of thousands of people – retweeted a NJ.com photo from Long Branch on Sunday, when the beaches at Pier Village were packed. “Are we sure this is today? Is it photoshopped? Are people really this stupid?,” asked Frampton, in his retweet. Yep.

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS

ATHENS – It’s tough these days to grab a flight from Scotland to Greece, which is why a student at the University of Aberdeen figured he would just grab his bike and pedal home. “Home” happens to be 2,175 miles away, which is why it took the 20-year-old student 48 days to eventually get there, CNN reports. Armed with bread and canned goods, the student would typically ride his bike 35 to 75 miles each day, as he chugged through England, then the Netherlands, then Germany, then Austria, then Italy and eventually home, via a boat to the Greek port of Patras, en route to Athens. When asked why he did all this, his simple reply: His flight was cancelled three times and he could no longer rely on the airlines. Or, apparently, trains, cars and boats.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

Expect no card-carrying Republican to give even the slightest hoot that it was this day in 1996 that left-leaning MSNBC went on the air, headquartered at the time in Fort Lee. Fox News sprouted up four months later, and there you have it.

WORD OF THE DAY

Indite – [in-DYTE] – verb

Definition: Make up, compose

Example: This is an easy one: I indited today’s newsletter.

WIT OF THE DAY

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”

- Benjamin Franklin

TODAY'S TRUMPISM

“Would be so great if the Media would get the word out to the people in a `fair and balanced’ way. We will win anyway, but they are a far more difficult adversary than their Radical Left Do Nothing Democrat Partner!”

- Donald J. Trump

WEATHER IN A WORD

Clouds