Sunday, February 25, 2024

Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

by Compiled Lorraine H. Marie
Contributor | January 17, 2020 10:43 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

Creating a microbiota vault: Rutgers University hosts a program to preserve ancestral microbes for future generations, so they won’t go extinct in light of modern-day diets. Most babies inherit their microbiome — a mix of bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa — from their mother’s birth canal. Changes in today’s microbiome, Time magazine reports, are linked to rises in obesity, asthma, food allergies and inflammatory conditions in the brain and intestines.

In 2019, close to 40 percent of farm income came from the federal government — a portion from payments to offset China’s retaliatory tariffs. reported the farm bailout cost more than double the 2009 auto industry bailout.

Move over bees: Neonicitinoid pesticides are blamed for the compromised health of honeybees. New research suggests neonics may also harm whitetail deer and migrating birds. The Environmental Working Group reported that scientists in South Dakota suspect neonics are causing birth defects in whitetail deer. The European Union has banned the pesticide out of concern of its effect on pollinators. But EWG says the U.S. “is still caving to the pesticide industry.”

The New York City Bar Association has called for what seems to be a “first ever” for any bar association: asking Congress to investigate the U.S. attorney general. The NYCBA said Attorney General Bill Barr shows evidence of political bias, making him unable to “act impartially” as the nation’s top law enforcement official.

According to Bloomberg, Barr is both enabling and encouraging “political partisans willing to use the levers of government to empower certain groups over others.”

Cancer immunotherapy success depends in part on a patient’s microbiome, and how they can — or cannot — enhance immune system response, according to a University of Chicago study. Some antibiotics can destroy helpful microbes, and an immune system that is over-stimulated can result in autoimmune disease. Study authors noted that human microbiome studies provide significant insights for cancer treatment.

From the Wall Street Journal: President Donald Trump told “associates” that he was pressured to “deal with” Iran’s General Soleimani (whose assassination he ordered in early January) by Republican senators. He regarded those same senators as significant supporters for his expected impeachment trial in the Senate.

Microsoft tested a four-day workweek in Japan. Sales per employee rose 40 percent, the Washington Post reported, while electricity use fell 23 percent. And 94 percent of employees said they were satisfied with the change.

Winter irruptions can kill birds. An irruption is when conifer seed-eating birds seek different habitats in search of food, according to a study from Environment Canada. The research focused on red-breasted nuthatches, and found that when they were in unfamiliar territory the birds had difficulty finding food and avoiding predators.

A recent Gallup poll: The pharmaceutical industry has been rated the “worst” of industries.

The Trump Administration’s planned cuts to food assistance are expected to impact recipients as well as the economy. The administration defends the cuts, saying they will save close to $8 billion over 10 years.

But critics, writing in The New York Times, argue that does not take into account declines in “health and wellbeing of many of the country’s 14.3 million ‘food insecure households.’”

Studies have linked use of food assistance with a $1,400 decrease in health spending annually per person, and lower risks of hospitalization amongst Medicare and Medicaid enrollees.

At least 85 environmental regulations have been rolled back under the Trump Administration, reported The New York Times, including standards for water pollution, toxic substances and factory farms.

“Sandworm,” Andy Greenberg’s non-fiction book about cyber security, reveals why knowledge of the topic is “necessary to civil literacy.” remarked that the book illustrates not just election hacking techniques, but how malicious software caused $10 billion in damages in 2017.

The U.S. House of Representatives, currently controlled by Democrats, passed 400 bills since 2018. But, according to, most have not received a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate. Of those that were voted on, 10 were for renaming federal facilities. In a typical year, Congress passes up to 250 bills.

Blast from the past: “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no result success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly — it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over,” wrote Adolph Hitler in Mein Kampf, 1925. Hitler was regarded as “the master of indoctrination.”

And another blast: “There comes a time when silence is betrayal,” said Martin Luther King, Jr.