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Peter Hotez talked with us from his office. (Ferrill Gibbs.)

In today’s podcast, I interviewed    dd xdxsCOVID-fighting hero Peter Hotez, director of the Texas Children’s Hospital for Vaccine Development, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, and author of Preventing the Next Pandemic. Here’s an excerpt:

We know the omicron variant is coming. But do you think Texas is finished with delta?

No, not at all. I think it'll just be like last year. We had that big summer wave that was really devastating, then it went down on into November, and then it started going up again. I think that's going to happen yet again. So I'm quite worried, as we head into December and January, that we’ll get another big wave.

Too many Texans are needlessly dying. My calculation has been that since June 1 of this year, 20,000 Texans who were unvaccinated have needlessly lost their lives. 

That’s an extraordinary number, right? What other catastrophe can you think of that matches that? It's death by – I don’t know what to call it – anti-science defiance? Self-immolation? Or maybe we should say they were victimized by the anti-science aggression, much of which is politically motivated and partisan in nature.

So what might happen?

I think what you’re going to see is a mixed epidemic of delta and omicron, with omicron affecting the partially immune, and delta affecting the unvaccinated – though there’ll be overlap of course.

Are people safe if they’ve had their boosters?

That right now is the big unknown. I tend to be more optimistic than most. With that boost, we’ve seen a 30- to 40-fold rise in virus-neutralizing antibodies. We’ll see some decline in the amount of antibodies that work against omicron, but there’ll be enough there I think to weather it. We’ll get some hint in the next few weeks. 

Also in the podcast: What precautions are Hotez and his family taking now? And why has he criticized the Biden administration lately?

Crime scene in southeast Houston. (Lisa Gray)

On KUHF 88.7 FM this morning, I’ll join the “Houston Matters” crew for one of our occasional “Pet Peeves” sessions. Right now I’m grumpy about deflated Christmas decorations: They look like front-yard metaphors for holiday exhaustion. Here's what's bugging my Facebook crew.

Lynn Goode: I’m with you on the deflated decorations. It’s like a passed-out Santa or a yard full of slaughtered reindeer!

George Loftin: Next door the other morning, all the dead inflatables looked like a scene from the OK Corral.

Laurie McGann Sturdevant: Half-inflated inflatables are worse. Last year a neighbor’s Santa was repeatedly half-inflated, giving the impression that Santa was, once again, hurling in the bushes.

Amy Ahlbrand Robinson: We still have 20-foot skeletons left over from Halloween in my neighborhood. Santa Skull?

Lisa Gray: Also, when did unicorns become a Christmas thing? Did Santa trade in the reindeer?

Sharon Metzger: Unicorns are also a Halloween thing around here.

Lorri White: Simple math. Unicorns=magical. Christmas festive season=magical. Therefore, by the transitive property, unicorns=Christmas festive season.

Annie Buford-Stephenson: What about Christmas dragons? We have several in our 'hood.

Lisa Gray: What is Christmas-y about a reptilian fire-breathing nightmare?

Randall Baxley: To roast chestnuts!

Ronald Plotkin: My pet peeve is delivery people that leave packages on the doorstep without ringing the doorbell or knocking on the door.

Lauren Meyers: Or to counter, delivery people who DO ring the bell and set off barking/crying frenzies – all while notices were received in real time on a phone.

Carolina JM: My peeve: “Would you like to donate $5 [on behalf of our store, which will take the tax write-off] so that homeless children with cancer can adopt puppies? Or are you a monster?”


🛑 Astroworld’s missed warning signs: A Houston Chronicle investigation into the festival where 10 people were killed and hundreds injured finds loads of failures. Among them: Security guards were hired at the last minute without training or a background check; the Houston fire department wasn’t positioned a mile away from the main festival command post; nearly an hour elapsed between the first report of an injury and the end of Scott’s show; and the festival never broadcast any safety messages during the disasters. (Houston Chronicle)

🚽💰 The money behind a Lakewood Church toilet: At Joel Osteen’s megachurch, a plumber was removing tile to fix a loose toilet – and was shocked when roughly 500 envelopes fell out. They contained thousands of dollars in cash and checks, which are believed to be connected to a 2014 burglary. (Washington Post)

💰🚌 A Christmas gift for the Art Bus: To serve Houston-area kids whose schools can’t afford art classes, Roni Cabrera-Moreno turned a broken-down yellow school bus into a mobile art studio and ran it by scraping together donations and T-shirt sales. Last week on NBC's Kelly Clarkson Christmas Special, Clarkson, comedian Amy Poehler and H-E-B surprised Cabrera-Morena with $100,000 to help build a brick-and-mortar operation. (Kelly Clarkson Christmas Special)


The red berries on yaupon holly, a shrubby native tree, look festive this time of year, and birds love them. But don’t even think about eating those berries yourself: There’s a reason the scientific name is Ilex vomitoria.

Handled carefully, though, yaupon can be great for human consumption. Foragers make tea from dried yaupon leaves: It’s Houston’s only native source of caffeine. 

Follow us on social! 👇 We're like a yard full of slaughtered reindeer!
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All puppies adopted by homeless children with cancer.

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