Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: I trust airline pilots more than telecom execs

If the stress of booking a flight when there are 1,800 pandemic related cancellations a day isn’t enough, how about the news that even though pilots—PILOTS!—have warned new 5G tech near airports could “harm aviation” …AT&T and Verizon are completing their airport adjacent installations.

“Harm aviation” sounds like a super nice way of saying “will potentially make the planes fall outta the sky.”

Call me crazy but why would I take the word of AT&T and Verizon, who stand to make a fortune once this 5G stuff rolls out, over real-life aviators who have spent their careers keeping us safe in the sky?

That would be like not trusting scientists on the effectiveness of a Covid vaccine, instead believing “angry neighbor man” who claims the virus is “no worse than eating a bowl of bad potato salad.”

AT&T and Verizon are unhappy with the FAA and aviation industry experts who claim the new tech could interfere with onboard equipment like radio altimeters and disrupt flights. Right into a cornfield.

Both companies counter 5G technology is already installed around airports in France, snarkily adding: “The laws of physics are the same in the U.S. and France.”

Untrue. The laws of physics in France waste most of the day smoking in cafes with their free-range poodles, who also smoke. Duh.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete (“Pete”) Buttigieg is leading the fight to delay the 5G until more safety studies are done.

“I’ve got newborn twins, so I haven’t slept in, like, 120 days. Will this make planes fall from the sky? I dunno. Hey! Does anybody else see that moose on the ceiling?”

AT&T head John Stankey (seriously; that’s his name) is now pinky swearing not to deploy 5G around airports for six months.

“We hope that by then, Secretary Buttigieg will be in a better mood. Maybe somebody could get him one of those sleep machine gizmos…” Stankey never said but probably thought.

AT&T and Verizon are only expert at devising fun new ways to jack up your bill. Universal Service Fund? Gross Receipts Recovery Fee? C’mon.

It’s interesting to note the telecommunications giants are only able to use this new tech because they won the C-Band spectrum that makes 5G possible for $80 billion at a government auction. Which really makes that Depression-era glass butter dish I got for a buck fifty that time seem like even more of a bargain.

In general, airlines don’t seem to get much respect for safety protocols. I always feel bad nobody else watches the seat belt demonstration and I always give the stink eye to passengers who have to be told repeatedly—like toddlers—to STOW YOUR DEVICE FOR TAKEOFF. Announced repeatedly, I half expect it to be followed by a stern: “Don’t make me pull this jet over.” Flight attendants can’t buckle up in their weird half seat thing down front if Heather in 18F insists on binging “Virgin River” on her laptop.

So, I lean over and whisper: “Doc Mullins has an incurable disease and Mel is going to secretly get pregnant via AI at the end of Season 3, but she still believes the baby could be Jack’s.” Hahahahahaha.

I’m a rule-follower, particularly where matters of life and death are concerned so I always remember to put my phone in “airplane mode.” Once, I asked Duh Hubby two hours into a flight if he had done so and he said “Huh. I forgot.” Just like it was no big deal to have endangered all 140 souls aboard.

I love that term, “souls.” I never heard it until watching the fabulous plane crash movie “Sully,” the first time. It’s such a sweet way of framing passengers as something more noble. Not Heather, of course, but the rest of us.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write her at [email protected].

From the battle to preserve American democracy to charter school chaos: The week’s top stories on NC Policy Watch

1. Experts say Black lawmakers are sure to lose seats under new NC legislative maps

2. Former Three Rivers principal describes chaos at charter school, which state plans to close

7. The inflation blame game: Five important facts to keep in mind

The subject of inflation has been on many tongues in the public policy world of late – especially as Republican politicians comb every nook and cranny of the news cycle for topics with which to launch broadsides at the Biden administration.

In November, North Carolina Congressman Ted Budd – a candidate for Richard Burr’s soon-to-be-available U.S. Senate seat – introduced a snarky bill that would “require all personnel in the Biden White House to complete a financial literacy course focused on inflation.”

More recently, Sen. Thom Tillis has echoed this familiar conservative refrain by issuing a statement blaming the surge in prices over the past year on the Biden administration’s “out-of-control spending.”

Not surprisingly, both attacks are, in the immortal words of the iconic baseball commentator Bob Uecker in the film “Major League,” “just a bit outside.” [Read more…]

8. MLK Day numbers: The battle to preserve American democracy

9. Weekly Radio Interviews and Daily Commentaries:

Click here for the latest podcasts from PW Director Rob Schofield.

10. Weekly Editorial Cartoon:


E.R. physician: Vaccine mandates have always faced resistance…and saved lives

An 1806 work from English physician Robert John Thornton included an illustration of the theory that cowpox injections might lead women to have sex with bulls and produce half-cow offspring. Image courtesy of Wellcome Collection.

Health care professionals had high hopes that rapid vaccination of our entire U.S. population would slow COVID-19 transmission and stem the disproportionately high death count in the United States. We also hoped to avoid more concerning mutations that are inevitable when viruses multiply unchecked.

I lost my mother to COVID-19 in November of 2020, less than two months before the vaccine became available. Last spring, I checked in with my mother’s youngest brother in Oregon. He had questions about the new vaccines which had kept him from getting vaccinated. I tried to reassure him about the history, safety, and effectiveness of each of the vaccines. I described my own positive experience getting a two-shot vaccination as part of the early rollout to healthcare workers. However, he preferred to do some more investigating before committing to vaccination.

Despite impressive data on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccinations, only 63% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated and a smaller percentage has been boosted. A year after the vaccine rollout we find ourselves in the midst of the highest COVID-19 transmission rates and hospitalization numbers since the start of the pandemic. Vaccine hesitancy rates are still as high as 25% in certain regions of the country.

This past September, I got a 6 a.m. call from Oregon and was numb as my uncle informed me that he and my aunt had contracted COVID and had just transferred to hospital beds from the Emergency Department.

He apologized for his muffled voice as he talked to me through a breathing machine and reported his oxygen saturation was just 45% when he arrived in the ED. He joked and asked if I might be willing to come to Oregon for a house call. My aunt was able to return home on oxygen after a few days in the hospital, but four days after that phone call my uncle was gone.

I wept when my aunt called me with the news.

A cowpox vaccine certificate issued to Ole Olsen, the great-great-grandfather of the author, in Sweden in 1832.

Vaccine hesitancy is not new. It has been around for as long as there have been vaccines. It is born out of the most basic and rational thought one can have about life and health: “Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Will this vaccine help me or my loved ones survive?”

However, we know that decisions we make about our health aren’t purely rational. We smoke and drink too much. We eat too much and spend too much time idle, all the while knowing these decisions are at odds with good sense and our health.

We are easy prey to fear and emotional arguments that distract us from data, and smear the character or personality of vaccines as if they were persons to be debated or despised instead of a 225 year-old proven tool of survival.

The first vaccine was found through observation of a natural process. In the late 1700s in England where smallpox was the greatest cause of untimely death, Dr. Edward Jenner saw that milkmaids previously infected with cowpox were immune to smallpox.

Trading the discomfort of a mild illness and a few cowpox on an arm proved much safer than getting smallpox. Before that first vaccination existed, about a quarter of all children died before their first birthdays, many from infectious diseases that are now preventable. No country had a life expectancy of more than 40 years old. Since then, the average human lifespan has doubled, largely thanks to vaccines.

In 1796 as Jenner distributed his cowpox vaccination the rational question of improved survival was answered, but distractions from this answer had just begun. Some argued political and religious calamities would ensue; others proclaimed that half-cow babies would be the inevitable result. Amid all the loud angry distractions and emotional outrage expressed against smallpox vaccination, the reality was that it saved lives and kept infected people from easily causing new outbreaks.

We continue to live in such a world where emotion and fear distract our rational inclination to survive. Read more

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