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By Jenna Chandler, The Orange County Register (TNS)

Visiting relatives and overindulging can make for stressful holidays. You made it through Thanksgiving; now here are seven tips to get you through the rest of the season safely and comfortably and with the same pants size.


Most decorative holiday plants are safe in the home. Mistletoe and poinsettia can be toxic if ingested — but only in large amounts. One to two mistletoe berries or leaves won’t cause serious harm, but if a curious puppy or child ingests too much, it could lead to vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain, according to California Poison Control.

The only two reported deaths in the U.S. from ingesting mistletoe in the past 25 years were people who drank brewed teas, according to research published in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine.

Poinsettia can also upset stomachs, and its sap may cause a skin rash. It’s related to plants that produce natural rubber latex and, according to the research, about 40 percent of people with latex allergies are also sensitive to poinsettias.


Don’t be fooled by the color of wine and beer — you won’t save calories by picking a pilsner over a porter, or chardonnay over cabernet. In wine, the tint comes from the grape variety, and in beer, the dark color stems from the grain being toasted.

A 5-ounce glass of wine has about 100 calories; a 12-ounce pour of standard beer has about 150 calories. But not every beer is equal. Alcohol has about 7 calories per gram, and some hefty stouts and IPAs have alcohol content as high as 11 percent. A rule of thumb is the higher the alcohol content, the more calories.

If you want to imbibe without packing on extra pounds, drink in moderation and monitor your snack and appetizer intake, said Gail Frank, a dietitian and professor of nutrition at Cal State Long Beach.


Travel provides an easy excuse to skip a workout during the holidays. But elevating your heart rate is as important as watching what you eat if you’re trying to avoid weight gain, said Frank, who recommends packing a jump rope or running in place for 10-minute spurts.


Mishaps don’t just happen in Chevy Chase movies. Decorating for the holidays sent about 15,000 people to emergency rooms in 2012, according to the National Safety Council. To deck the halls safely while using a ladder, don’t stand higher than the third rung from the top and always keep three points of contact with the ladder.


Don’t avoid the topic at gatherings, don’t make it about you and don’t be overly positive, said David Pincus, an associate professor of psychology at Chapman University. Do, however, make sure the conversation ends with the person feeling supported. “Put on your big listening ears. You’re going for empathy,” he said.

The conversation could start like this: “Hey, if it’s OK with you, if this is the right time, how’s the cancer treatment going?” If the person doesn’t want to talk about it, let it go and move on to another topic. If he or she wants to talk about it, ask follow-up questions.


If a family member or friend imbibes too much, to the point that it makes get-togethers uncomfortable, use the intervention cliche, Pincus said. Tell the person what his or her behavior is and its effect on you, and say it early, right after you’ve said your hellos. For example: “Hey, I don’t want to ruin your day, but I want to tell you, if you’re planning on drinking, keep it cool because my kids are here and I don’t want them to see that.”

Keep the person from getting behind the wheel by being clear and assertive, Pincus advised. Say something like, “I know you feel fine, but I’m going to feel very uncomfortable if you drive home. … I’m almost begging that you take an Uber or you let us drive.” Another option is to plan ahead. If you’re taking a cab or a ride-sharing service, arrange to pick up other friends or family members who also drink.


Kim Butrum, a gerontological nurse practitioner and vice president of health services for Irvine-based Silverado Senior Living, said if a loved one has memory loss, make him or her feel valuable. If he loves to cook, invite him into the kitchen. If she makes up a memory or confuses facts, don’t correct her. Redirect the conversation. Don’t insist a person with memory loss recall everyone’s name and don’t correct the person if an error is made.

For presents, consider giving old family photos and music for reminiscing.

©2015 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Shawn Carpenter via Flickr


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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

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Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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