- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The warnings are already up in the popular press: Conversations during the Thanksgiving feast can be hazardous if they veer into political territory. But political talk can take place in theory: A data research company has now determined what topics are “safe” to talk about on the holiday.

“With some qualitative analysis and a little common sense, we’ve created a cheat sheet that will help you blaze a path through Thanksgiving dinner that steers clear of treacherous political pitfalls and dangerous inter-uncle conflicts,” reports Ranker.com, a Los Angeles-based media company which uses crowdsourcing to rank public opinion on multiple topics, typically at the rate of 15 million votes a month.

They have determined what political topics are the least — and the most — likely to set off a Thanksgiving dinner squabble. Their judgment is based on 300,000 votes from 40,000 respondents.

The topics to avoid this year: Abortion, immigration, terrorism and gender equality. The topics which are “safe for dinnertime discussion”: Ineffective government, health care reform and education.

If there are millennials present, they will be triggered, the organization says, by talk of abortion, police brutality and pollution. Generation X members will be set off by such topics as homelessness, affordable housing and campaign finance reform. Baby boomers will go to battle over terrorism, immigration and the moral decline of the nation.

The organization also has warnings for dinner hosts in certain states. If they live in Florida, their guests will be particularly sensitive about discussions of vaccines. In Indiana, it’s gender equality while Georgia diners are prone to fight over police brutality. Beware of talking about gun control at dinner tables in both California and Missouri; Texans get feisty over moral decline. New Yorkers get upset over transgender issues.

“We examined each issue on a case-by-case basis to find the topics that are most likely to cause disagreement, as well as the ones on which people tend to either agree or not care about,” Ranker.com explains.


While most of us are enjoying turkey and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, the staff at one laboratory at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles will be busy serving a meal to stem cells.

“Stem cells do not observe national holidays,” says Loren Ornelas-Menendez, manager of the very specialized lab that converts samples of adult skin and blood cells into stem cells — which the human body uses to make our cells in the first place.

These special cells help medical scientists learn how diseases develop and how they might be cured. The lab is tending millions of them. Oh, but they have needs.

“Stem cells are living creatures that must be hand-fed a special formula each day, monitored for defects and maintained at just the right temperature. And that means the cell lab is staffed every day, 52 weeks a year,” the lab notes in a public advisory.

“Many people have dogs. We have stem cells,” says Ms. Ornelas-Menendez.

Derived from hundreds of healthy donors and patients, the resident induced pluripotent stem cells — or “iSPCs” — are keys to potential treatments for diabetes, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, blindness, Parkinson’s disease and Crohn’s disease, among other conditions. Ten lab technicians monitor the cells through microscopes each day and cull out any cells which have gone awry for one reason or another.

But what do they eat — even on Thanksgiving?

“While the cells get sorted, a special feeding formula is defrosting in a dozen bottles spread around a lab bench. The formula includes sodium, glucose, vitamins and proteins. Using pipettes, employees squeeze the liquid into food wells inside little compartments that contain the iPSCs. Afterward, they return the cells to their incubators,” the lab advises.

Lab director Dhruv Sareen suggests that people consider offering a toast to the stem cells on Thanksgiving.

“One day the cells they tend could lead to treatments for diseases that have plagued humankind for centuries,” he says. “And that’s something to be truly thankful for.”


Back by popular demand, Inside the Beltway again shares this little known but historic recipe for “President Reagan’s Favorite Macaroni and Cheese” — enjoyed by Ronald Reagan and his family on Thanksgiving and other holidays. What follows is a step-by-step shared by “Mrs. Ronald Reagan, Washington, D.C., Wife of the President” in a spiral-bound community cookbook published by the American Cancer Society’s Northern Virginia division in 1983. The recipe serves six and is baked at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes.

The directions are from the cookbook — reflecting the style, perhaps, of another era:

“1/2 pound macaroni, 1 teaspoon butter, 1 egg, beaten; 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon dry mustard, 3 cups grated cheese, sharp; 1 cup milk.

“Boil macaroni in water until tender and drain thoroughly. Stir in butter and egg. Mix mustard and salt with 1 tablespoon hot water and add to milk. Add cheese leaving enough to sprinkle on top. Pour into buttered casserole, add milk, sprinkle with cheese. Bake until custard is set and top is crusty.”

Curious about what transpired at a Reagan Thanksgiving? A 1985 Los Angeles Times account noted this:

“President and Mrs. Reagan gathered with their family for a quiet Thanksgiving dinner at their fogbound ranch in the Santa Ynez mountains, where the main topic of conversation was the weather. The Reagans did not seem to mind the enforced seclusion as they sat down to a traditional turkey dinner, prepared by Ann Allman, the Reagan family’s longtime cook in California. It was an all-American menu that included cornbread dressing, cranberries, string beans, mashed potatoes, salad, pumpkin pie and monkey bread, a family favorite.”


46% of Americans say “long standing family tensions” are the cause of family fights during holidays.

37% say “general politics” is the cause; 33% cite the 2020 presidential race.

24% say “someone’s future plans” cause the fights; 24% say money.

22% say the “behavior of guests”; 21% say drinking and alcohol.

18% say holiday cooking is the cause.

Source: A YouGov poll of 1,310 U.S. Adults conducted Sept. 25-26 and released Tuesday.

• Have a happy Thanksgiving and thank you for reading Inside the Beltway.

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