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Bits n’ pieces from east, west and beyond

by Compiled by Lorraine H. Marie
| January 3, 2023 7:00 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact.

A recent sampling:

Don’t do it. That’s the advice about drinking alcohol during pregnancy, from University of Vienna.

Researchers scanned 24 fetuses between 22 and 36 weeks gestation, whose mothers had consumed anywhere from less than one drink a week to intoxication.

When compared to fetuses with no alcohol exposure, the alcohol-exposed showed a “significant reduction” in brain development in the area associated with language development and social cognition.

On Christmas day vandals attacked four power substations in Pierce County, Washington, stopping power to 14,000 customers. ABC News said damages were more severe than initially estimated. Earlier in December, two substations were shot up in North Carolina.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky recently visited U.S. Congress with a message of gratitude for support as his nation fights Russian aggression, Axios reported. “Your money is not charity,” he said. “It’s an investment in the global security and democracy...”

Zelensky was given a standing ovation by lawmakers, with the exception of some from the far-right. (Msn.com reported that Kremlin state TV has applauded Rep. Lauren Boebert for refusing to stand, and also lauded Rep. Matt Gaetz and Tucker Carlson of Fox News for their pro-Russian stances.)

Following Zelensky’s visit, The New York Times said Congress passed a bill expanding the government’s power to prosecute international war crimes.

Congress rejected Zelensky’s request for battle tanks and fighter jets.

Resolution fodder: Three long-term studies on how exercise can protect against developing dementia are

timely. While vigorous exercise is the best, there were also benefits from “non-traditional” exercise, such as household chores, The New York Times reported.

Those who exercised regularly (ranging from walking to gym workouts) had a 17% lower risk for developing dementia. Another study showed benefits of starting exercise while young: higher levels of fitness as a youth resulted in higher cognitive function in midlife.

One study’s take-away: do the exercise you like best. For more about exercise and cognitive decline, read Dr. Dale Bredesen’s books about reversing Alzheimer’s.

The House voted to publicly release Donald Trump’s tax returns after years of his refusal to do so, The New York Times reported. One finding: the IRS, despite a mandate to audit sitting presidents, did not audit Trump in his first two years in office. The released tax info was still not a completed audit.

Congress voted to fund the government through September, numerous media reported. Included in the $1.7 trillion bill were investments in education, childcare, healthcare, public and mental health, the opioid crisis and basic needs like food security, housing and heating.

Members of the armed forces got a 4.6% pay raise. Funds also went to state and local law enforcement, Ukraine and disaster relief.

Of particular significance was inclusion of the Electoral Count Act, meant to deter any scheme to overturn the election results. The spending bill’s passage prevents a struggle by some Republicans to hold the spending hostage so their demands can be met.

Exclusions from the bill included an extension of the Child Tax Credit, $9 billion to fight the Covid pandemic and energy permitting “reforms” coveted by West Virginia coal businessman Sen. Joe Manchin.

The U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit, has ordered the EPA to protect endangered species, including pollinators, from the insecticide sulfoxaflor. A senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety commented that the EPA was tasked by Congress “with protecting endangered species and the environment-at-large, not just the interests of the pesticide companies.”

Various media reported that at least 50 people died as a result of recent weather -- 53.7% of the nation was covered in snow. More recorded loss of life is expected; emergency aid has been hampered by snowfall that exceeded any time frame since the beginning of weather record-keeping.

Wells Fargo bank has agreed to pay a “record-breaking fine” of $1.7 billion in penalties and $2 billion in damages to settle claims about various banking violations occurring over the last decade, The New York Times said.

The director of the Consumer Protection Bureau said the agreement “should not be read as a sign that Wells Fargo has moved past its longstanding problems…”

Polio has resurfaced. Complicating eradication efforts is the fact that by the time the virus is detected, it may already be out of control, The Nation says. Like Covid, a person can be an unaware carrier. Unlike Covid, polio can suddenly cripple victims, who are most often children, but sometimes adults. The author of the Nation article recounted his own childhood experience with polio: he had not been vaccinated, was hospitalized with polio for three months, then had to wear leg calipers, and a device to keep his back straight.

It took years to gain better mobility, and he’s always had a severe limp. The whole account is found Patrick Cockburn’s autobiographical book, The Broken Boy.

Blast from the past: “Patience is also a form of action.” Auguste Rodin, French sculptor, 1840-1917.