It's a true Christmas medical miracle — the vaccine is ready

02 Roni PaulWell, it’s a medical miracle, and I couldn’t think of a grander Christmas gift to all Americans. Regardless of your political affiliation or sentiments, President Trump and his administration made good on the promise to produce a COVID-19 vaccine in less than a year. Operation Warp Speed made good on that promise when the first shipments of over 2 million doses of Pfizer vaccine were produced and shipped in only nine months. An impressive feat considering the normal R&D development process usually takes 5 to 8 years. Millions of doses of the Moderna vaccine are expected to be shipped soon.

Without incident, thousands of front-line medical workers have already received the first of two vaccinations needed to fend off this deadly disease. The second vaccination will follow in about two weeks.

The vaccine arrived in Fayetteville the morning of Dec. 15 to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center and to Womack Army Medical Center on Fort Bragg. Both hospitals began vaccinating front line health care workers at 1 p.m.

As of this writing, it is predicted that over 20 million vaccinations will be administered across the country by the end of January. This is excellent news and a feat that could only have been accomplished in America. This is a proud moment for our nation and should be celebrated. Not politicized.

There is more good news on the horizon. The CDC announced last week that approval was given for an over-the-counter COVID-19 screening test that will allow individuals to check for the disease by evaluating their symptoms. The results are ready in 20 minutes. The cost? $30.

Getting vaccinated is only one stage in getting this epidemic under control. We still need to use common sense: wash our hands, practice social distancing, etc.

More importantly, we need to make sure we keep our attitudes right by maintaining a positive outlook and focusing on the well-being of our mental health. After all, this is the holiday season, and emotions will be running high mixed with a little anxiety from being separated from friends and family. Usually, this is a joyful time when family and friends get together to celebrate the birth of Christ, congregate to eat, drink and be merry while sharing family traditions. Perhaps, not so much this year as everyone becomes COVID cautious and rightfully so. Almost everyone I come in contact with has either had COVID, know someone with COVID, or know someone who has passed away from the disease. Social responsibility here takes on a whole new meaning. In other words, when it comes to protecting your friends and family from the spread of the COVID-19 disease, consideration of those around you should be your first and foremost consideration.

We care about our readers and the businesses and organizations in our community. Yes, this is a crazy time, and 2020 will be a year for the record books. However, we will get through this. The development of America’s new COVID-19 vaccine has again proven the truth in the adage by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” I believe this, and so should you. Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

Pictured above: Spc. Adam G. Millett, a combat medic assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, administers the first COVID-19 vaccine on Fort Bragg to Womack Army Medical Center emergency room nurse Roni Paul on Dec. 15. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Mary Katzenberger, 18th Airborne Corps)

Will you take the vaccine?

05 vaccine 2Despite the current spike in COVID-19 infections and deaths, there is good news on the not-so-distant horizon. Three effective vaccines are in the pipeline. Some North Carolinians — those battling coronavirus on the frontlines as well as those put at greatest risk by infection — will being vaccinated in the coming weeks.

When vaccines become more widely available, will you be among those who get the shots? A large share of the general public won’t say yes, at least not yet.

According to a late-November survey by the Pew Research Center, 29% of Americans said they would “definitely” get vaccinated if the vaccine were immediately available. Another 31% said they “probably” would. That’s a majority, yes. But with 39% saying they would definitely or probably reject it, there are grounds to wonder whether enough people will get vaccinated to establish the herd immunity required to get us past the pandemic stage.

These are countrywide findings, admittedly. But North Carolinians appear to be, if anything, even more skeptical than the average American. In an October study by Elon University’s survey team, only 37% of registered voters in our state said they would accept a COVID-19 vaccine, with 36% saying they wouldn’t accept it and the rest unsure.

I think it is possible these poll respondent aren’t being entirely honest — or, to put it another way, that they aren’t accurately predicting how they will feel when the opportunity for vaccination actually arrives.

Some Democratic-leaning North Carolinians who are suspicious of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed project to speed the approval and distribution of vaccines may be more willing to get their shots when a different president is in the White House. And some Republicans who tended to downplay their risk of contracting COVID-19 during election season may alter their perceptions of the risk for the same reason, because the political climate has changed.

Moreover, as December turns into January, and winter into spring, those worried that vaccine development was unsafely rushed during 2020 may get more comfortable with the final product. Millions will already vaccinated by then, likely with few or no side-effects. That will be reassuring.

Still, if we want some semblance of normalcy to return to our economy, our communities, our households, and our personal freedoms, we cannot afford merely to assume that vaccination rates will be high. To the extent some of our fellow citizens maintain a deep suspicion of medical providers and drug manufacturers, or continue to see the vaccination issue through partisan lenses, our leaders need a well-planned, sustained campaign to respond to their concerns.

That’s why three former presidents — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama — have volunteered to get their shots in front of television cameras. That’s why Hollywood and Madison Avenue are getting involved. We need different messages for different audiences, addressing the different sources of public skepticism.

That skepticism isn’t limited to a single group. For example, the Pew survey revealed that 69% of Democratic-leaning voters said they would definitely or probably get vaccinated, vs. 50% of Republican-leaning voters. That’s a partisan gap, to be sure. But that still leaves lots of Democrats in the “no” camp.

Indeed, Pew also found that African-Americans, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic, are far less likely to say they’ll get vaccinated (42%) than are whites (61%), Hispanics (63%), and Asians (83%).

Widespread vaccination will be necessary to put this public-health crisis behind us. It’s the main way we’ll save the businesses, jobs, and community institutions threatened by the virus itself and by the cumbersome regulations governments have enacted to combat it while vaccines were being developed.

Even so, I believe neither that we should use force to get everyone their shots nor that such a recourse will be necessary. While the vaccination rate must be high, it need not be 100%. Some individuals have real health conditions or adverse immune-system responses that merit special consideration.

But for most other objections, I think persuasion will be a proper and effective response. Let’s begin.


03 CowsFeedingHC1706 sourceFood plays a major role in our lives, especially during what we call “the holidays.”

We kick off the season with Thanksgiving turkey and all the “fixins,” whatever that means, at individual celebrations. Right now, we are in what I think of as the goodie phase of the holidays. Neighbors share divine treats — toffee, salted nuts, homemade holiday cookies with icing, even fruitcakes, and we love them all. Many of us have big Christmas dinners, maybe not the proverbial English goose and “figgie” pudding, but our own versions of feasting nonetheless. We top off the season with New Year’s bubbly and greens and black-eyed peas for good luck.

We also have huge problems with the systems that produce our food. Food production in the United States and in other parts of the world has become so industrialized that is endangering us and our environment. Food production of both crops and livestock is so mechanized that it bears little resemblance to the crops our forebears grew or the animals they tended.

What does industrial food production actually mean?

Since the mid-20th century, crops of all sorts have been increasingly grown with the use of machinery, irrigation and especially the widespread use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. This growth takes place on huge fields of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of acres and often lacks crop diversity or crop rotation. This system is efficient and has been profitable for the large corporations which use it, but at a high cost to our environment. Agriculture accounts for as much as 90% of fresh water use in some parts of the nation, and farming the same crops in the same way year after year depletes the soil. In addition, it leaves behind chemicals and elements and, in truth, no one really knows the long-term impacts on our earth or on us. There are lakes and other bodies of water in our nation where swimming and other recreational activities are no longer allowed, dead zones where no plant or animal life exists because of agricultural chemicals.

Ditto for livestock — cattle, poultry, seafood — production, which is so industrialized that some animals’ feet never touch the earth. They go from “house” to “house” as they grow in size until the day they meet their maker and their body parts begin journeys to our neighborhood supermarkets, a practice known as confined animal feeding operations, or CAFO. These packed-in animals grow up on antibiotics, hormones and vitamins, whose effects on us or our environment are not always clear. Eastern North Carolina, including Cumberland and surrounding counties, have ongoing experience with this sort of livestock production and its consequences. No matter what we call them, “lagoons” of animal waste dotting the North Carolina landscape cannot be a state asset.

Industrial food production is efficient but unsustainable, with preserved food traveling sometimes cross-country and internationally before human beings consume it. We cannot continue this way without severe and long-lasting environmental damage and negative effects on the human beings in proximity to such operations. We do not really know the effects on those who consume these products, both plant and animal. Quantity may not be more important than quality.

To be sure, there is growing concern about industrialized food production, and increasing numbers of Americans are turning to more sustainably produced food, grown in more traditional and more humane conditions. Such food, however, is unavailable in some communities and when it is available, it is likely to be more expensive than industrially produced food.

Among the many challenges facing our nation and the world in coming decades is developing more sustainable and more humane food production and making it both available and affordable. Earl Butz, America’s Secretary of Agriculture in the 1970s, famously said to farmers “get big or get out,” and that has largely happened. It is time now to pay attention to a quote attributed to various 19th century Europeans, “we are what we eat.”

All I can say is that this American is trying to eat cleaner and closer to home this holiday season, goodies and all.

Christmas gifts for the dumb at heart

04 Pitt IMG 4739Are you stressed out enough, Bunkie? Would you like some more tension in your life? Time to add a new layer of anxiety to your weary load. What are the perfect Christmas presents to magically cancel your loved ones’ 2020 stress? As a service to both my readers, here are some gift ideas that will turn 2020 into purple haze of happiness morphing this year into a triumph of comfort and joy.

Being a person of the oblivious male persuasion, I frequently encounter troubles finding the perfect gift for my wife, Lani. Other clueless husbands may have similar Christmas issues. Husbands, I feel your pain. I know you would rather watch a basketball game than go shopping, but that is not to be. You must buy the perfect gift. No pressure. Find something for her that will erase all of your shortcomings of the past year.

The first place to start looking for gift ideas is on the inside back cover of old Superman and Donald Duck comic books. There are more gift ideas there than a 19th Century Mormon would need for all his wives. I began collecting comic books back in the 1950s when they were only a dime. I had zillions of them. I ordered treasures from the back of the book: ant farms, toy soldiers and an Invisible Space Helmet. Really good stuff. A bit of background information about those ads to get us started. The Father of Comic Books ads was a dude named Harold von Braunhut. Harold was an inventor and better salesman than even Don Draper of “Madmen.” According to Mr. Google, Harold came up with 195 patents including the amazing Sea Monkeys, Invisible Goldfish, and X-Ray Specs which allegedly allowed adolescent boys to see under the clothing of ladies of the female race. (Author’s note: the X-Ray Specs did not work).

Enough history, you say: “What hath Harold wrought?” The ads on the back of the comic books were a wonderland of great gags, hilarious and disgusting products and phony teeth. Consider what you can buy from the inside cover: a 7-foot-long Polaris nuclear submarine which fires rockets and torpedoes for only $6.98. Learn to be a ventriloquist for only a quarter. See Behind Glasses with secret mirrors that let you see what was happening behind your back. Onion Gum that “looks like real gum but tastes like ONIONS!” (emphasis in original). A Joy Buzzer you wear like a ring “when you shake hands, it almost raises the victim off his feet with a shocking sensation.” (I had one of those) Trick black soap that “looks ordinary but the victim washes his face and gets blacker and blacker” for only 25 cents. A Secret Spy scope with “a wide field magnifier concealed in a pen sized pocket scope that lets you peek to your heart’s content. So handy for sporting events, counter-spying, and Girl Watching.” Only $2.98.

But wait! There are more items for your consideration: police handcuffs for $4.98. Fake bullet hole decals that are “strikingly effective on cars or windows. Looks like you’ve been shot at.” 49 cents. Fake vomit, providing loads of laughs. A squirrel monkey for only $13.50. A Geiger Counter for $24.95 — “This is no toy! It is a scientific instrument — yet a child can use it to find great wealth!” A tool that can remove ugly blackheads in seconds for only $1.00.

Need a gift for a 97-pound weakling? Give the gift from Charles Atlas who can make you a new man in only 15 minutes a day through his patented Dynamic Tension method. Remember the beach bully who yelled “Hey Skinny… Yer ribs are showing” at Joe the 97-pound weakling? His girlfriend tells him not to let the bully hit him. Unfortunately, the bully clobbers him, telling Joe: “Shut up, you Bag of Bones!” Embarrassed, Joe orders Charles Atlas’ system and works out. On Joe’s return to the beach, he socks the bully saying: “Here’s a love tap from the Bag of Bones.” Girlfriend dutifully impressed, takes Joe’s arm and says “Oh Joe, you are a real He-Man after all.” Two other girls on the beach say “What a man, and he used to be so skinny!” Turn your 97-pound weakling friend into a real He-Man.

Unfortunately, not all ads could be verified as truthful. The World of Hijinks page from Unsupervised Corp accompanying this column may have some fake items. Pet cigarettes featuring a cat smoking might be an exaggeration. A Door Mat Mine that explodes will make your friends fly. Pit Vipers “delivered direct to your favorite victim. What a hoot!” Eye Daggers with “spring loaded carbon steel knives shoot from your eyes.” Uranium Gum Looks like regular gum. But it will make their teeth glow in the dark.” A life-sized model guillotine for $3. A barrel of live monkeys —“Oh boy, that’s right, real monkeys! Don’t ask where we got ‘em. We have to move them fast. They already ate all our exploding sandwiches.” The famous Exploding Sandwich “Sit back and watch the fun. Your victim will go on a diet.”

Everyone on your Christmas list will be more than delighted to receive any of these fine items as a Yuletide treat. Sorry, no refunds. All sales are final. Merry Christmas!

Up & Coming Weekly: Supporting the community, local news and views for 25 years

02 UCWLOGO 25 yearsNo doubt about it, the flow of relevant, truthful and honest news is being attacked on many fronts.

The business of media has experienced profound changes, and we find ourselves continually dealing with the way we gather the news, receive the news, and actually how we fund the news. Local media is under assault nationwide with chains absorbing community newspapers, and often decimating them.

The Fayetteville community lacks a strong, daily source of local news. We have a mediocre talk radio station, no local TV station, and a daily left-of-center daily newspaper that is a shadow of its former self. It's a sad situation for a community of 300,000-plus residents. No doubt, Fayetteville is on the verge of becoming North Carolina's next "news media desert." We cannot let this happen.

Here in Fayetteville, we have difficulty staying informed of important issues that go before the Fayetteville City Council, County Commissioners and the CC school board. Without dedicated news reporters no one is covering these meetings, asking pertinent questions and presenting the facts for analyses and discussion by the community.

Up & Coming Weekly, like other weekly newspapers across the country, has always been the local community's heart and conscience. We celebrate the community and promote people, businesses, organizations, music, the arts and culture. We showcase our community's uniqueness and provide a platform for views – both popular and unpopular. We reflect the values of our residents, businesses and organizations. When the occasion calls for it, we challenge decisions and actions made by community leaders. This is necessary to ensure transparency. Our citizens deserve no less than our best effort on these tasks.

Local community newspapers are different than dailies, many of which carry the same regional and national stories shared from content sources. The publishers of a daily in Raleigh simply are not interested in reporting on local details here that do not profoundly affect their city. That task is often left to local area community newspapers, like Up & Coming Weekly, and we’ve been doing that for 25 years.

You can get headlines anywhere. But, as more and more people rely on social media to keep up with their community, they realize they are missing the essence of what defines their community. This is why a community newspaper is so important. Locally, our citizens need a voice, and they need to know what is going on and taking place in the community. They need to know what their leaders are doing and what decisions are being made. Unlike the state, regional, national and international news, there is no substitute for locally-produced news and views. However, local coverage depends solely on local newsgathering. Local news is all about the community and what is happening in and about your neighborhoods.

At Up & Coming Weekly, we are committed to continuing to serve as a local news source. We endeavor to keep you informed of what is happening in our community and highlight people and organizations doing great things. We aim to hold our leaders accountable to you. We know Fayetteville and Cumberland County residents value Up & Coming Weekly and our efforts to provide news and information. We welcome your ideas and feedback. We hear you, and rest assured, our newspaper will be expanding to meet the demands of the community.

Thank you for a great 25 years. We look forward to continuing to serve as your community newspaper.

Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

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