Good morning and happy Tuesday, Gnusies! This turned into a lo-o-o-ong roundup, so I won’t add an intro today. Just get a cup of your morning beverage of choice, settle into a comfortable chair, and read some good news from all over.
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Good news in politics
BREAKING: Rep. Devin Nunes to leave Congress to become Trump media company CEO
I love this! Not only do TFG and Nunes totally deserve each other, the media company is doomed to fail because Everything TFG Touches Dies, so poor Devin will end up jobless. Just delicious.
BTW, note that third paragraph. Is Nunes’ decision to take this gig a sign that the GQP is less than totally confident that they’ll take back the House in 2022?
From The Washington Post:
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) plans to leave his seat at the end of this month to become CEO at a new media company founded by former president Donald Trump, the company announced Monday. The move was confirmed by a political ally of Nunes, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the congressman’s plans. Nunes’s office did not respond to inquiries.
Nunes, who was first elected to Congress in 2002 at age 30, was reelected to his seat last year for a 10th term, which ends in January 2023. A news release Monday said Nunes would be joining the Trump Media & Technology Group as its chief executive starting in January.
If the GOP were to take back the House majority in 2022, Nunes would be in line to be chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. By stepping down, he would be potentially giving up what is considered the most powerful committee gavel.
BREAKING: Justice Dept. sues Texas over state redistricting maps, citing discrimination against Latinos
From The Washington Post:
The Justice Department on Monday sued Texas for the second time in a month over voting-related concerns, this time alleging that Republican state lawmakers discriminated against Latinos and other minorities when they approved new congressional and state legislature districts that increased the power of White voters.
Attorney General Merrick Garland’s announcement marked the department’s first major legal action on redistricting. ...
While the Supreme Court has declined to put limits on partisan gerrymandering, drawing lines that unfairly disadvantage racial and ethnic minorities is illegal. ✂️
The 2020 census showed that Texas’ population grew dramatically, by nearly 4 million people. Most of that growth was among minority populations, with White Texans accounting for only about 5 percent of the increase in population.
The growth means the number of Texan seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will grow from 36 to 38 — the only state to gain two seats. Rather than reflect the growth of Latino voting strength in the state, the Justice Department argues, the new districts would unfairly and illegally dilute their representation.
U.S. Homebuyers Could Soon Get Help with the Down Payment
Just one more reason to fight to pass Build Back Better. This would be life-changing for so many families.
From reasons to be cheerful:
Florida’s [down payment assistance program] is one of more than 2,500 local and state down payment assistance programs meant to help mostly low-income and first-time homebuyers surmount a hurdle that often keeps homeownership out of reach. Now, if legislation working its way through Congress makes its way into law, that patchwork of programs could be complemented by a national down payment assistance program to help more Americans leap that hurdle.
Proponents see down payment assistance as a method to help narrow the country’s intertwined racial homeownership and racial wealth gaps. Thanks to decades of discriminatory lending practices like redlining and outright bans on home sales to non-white residents, today there is a stark gap in white and Black homeownership in the U.S. Some 44 percent of Black families own their home compared to 74 percent of white families. Many factors contribute to the persistence of this problem, but one big one is the down payment, a large lump sum of cash that often requires a degree of privilege to scrape together. ✂️
If the Senate...passes the Build Back Better Act, it will create the federal First Generation Downpayment Fund, which would provide down payment assistance to first-generation, first-time home buyers earning no more than 120 percent of the median income where they live. Qualified applicants are eligible to receive up to $20,000 or 10 percent of the home price, whichever is higher, to put toward a down payment. The legislation defines a first-generation home buyer as someone whose parents or guardians do not currently own a home or, if no longer living, did not own a home at the time of their deaths.
According to research from Urban Institute, about 4.4 million Americans would qualify based on the criteria of being renters whose parents haven’t owned a home in the past three years (a real estate industry definition for first time homebuyers). Of those 4.4 million, 1.58 million are Black, 1.22 million are Latino and 1.32 million are white.
A Willfully Misunderstood Earmark [in BBB] Can Help Reduce Climate-Change Heat Deaths
This story could have gone in the environmental news section, but it’s also good political news.
From The New Yorker:
Critics of President Biden’s Build Back Better Act have singled out for mockery two words in the two-thousand-plus-page, roughly two-trillion-dollar legislation[: “tree equity”]…, a reference to research showing that more tree canopy can save lives. This summer, when a once-in-a-millennium heat wave enveloped the Pacific Northwest, shattering high-temperature records and ending hundreds of lives, people in neighborhoods with scant tree cover suffered the most. Five of the at least sixty-two people who died of hyperthermia in the Portland metro area, for instance, lived in the lower-income Lents neighborhood, where in some areas trees shade just ten per cent of the surface—compared with Marquam Hill, where trees shade more than sixty per cent of the surface and no one died. ✂️
In its current form, the bill, passed by the House earlier this month, earmarks three billion dollars to expand and protect urban tree canopies, with priority toward neighborhoods where thirty per cent or more residents live below the poverty line and in areas “with lower tree canopy and higher maximum daytime summer temperatures compared to surrounding neighborhoods.” Grants would go to nonprofits and state and local governments to achieve equity goals. According to one estimate, that will require five hundred and twenty-two million new trees in urban neighborhoods.
Good advice for activists from the ACLU re: abortion rights
Get in touch with your Senators and open your wallet!
From an ACLU newsletter, Dec. 1:
...while the Court's ruling will likely not come for months, all of us dedicated to defending abortion rights will remain relentless:
- We at the ACLU are positioned to fight back with a national and affiliate presence in all 50 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico. We've blocked over 20 abortion restrictions across the states in 2021 alone – and our work in the months ahead will amplify that reach as we continue to both block state attacks and simultaneously work to expand protections for abortion at the state and federal level.
If you're in search of ways that you can be involved in the broader work today, here are just a couple of resources to help:
Why We Should Stop Freaking Out About Inflation
For the first time in decades, we are in the midst of a bona-fide inflation scare. Recent numbers came in at 6.2%, the highest since 1990. With government spending in the trillions and economic activity surging as the pandemic wanes, much of the world is beset by high demand for goods that have created massive supply-chain bottlenecks, with not enough ships and capacity at ports leading to long delays and higher prices for almost everything.
The $64,000 question (or perhaps now the $128,000 question) is whether this is a dramatic and dangerous new normal or simply a hiccup as the world emerges from 18 months of the COVID-19 economy. No one knows, of course, what the future truly holds, even as that doesn’t stop many from proclaiming with certainty. But as we weigh the answers, a few things should guide us: not much has changed structurally in the global economic system in the past few months; our economic numbers are based (as they always are) on changes over the last twelve months, and last year was epically problematic with much of the world in lockdown; and finally, the scars of the ravages of inflation in the 20th-century has never fully healed. ✂️
Not all inflation erodes lifestyle; wages rising, social security increases, modest rises in interest rate can add to middle-class savings and disposable incomes. For years, largely because of the proliferation of new technologies, prices have been dropping everywhere. Deflation, not inflation, has been the dominant trend, and in terms of costs of services and many goods, that tech-fueled trend has not been altered. The rise in the cost of sofas and refrigerators and gas is a product of demand, not intrinsic changes in how much it costs to make those goods. Once supply adjusts to increased demand, and once the surge of post-COVID-19 pent up demand levels off, we will be largely in the same world we have been in: a world where technology pushes costs lower.
Of course, it may be that the long-awaited inflation shoe is indeed dropping. You can’t disprove a future fear, and the memory of destructive inflation runs so deep that even a hint of it is sufficient to spook markets and nations. But it is far more likely that our current inflation fear is more a product of the past than of the present and the future, and that the larger danger is not that prices are inflating for good but that our fears are inflated. We’ve had enough fear over the past two years; let’s not succumb to another wave.
And more reassurance about inflation. (I put this tweet into a couple of screenshots because the images kept being cut off at the bottom.)
The next story is a few weeks old, but I think we could all use the reminder that the Rethugs’ favorite economist has said that Build Back Better will save money. Let’s spread the word!
GOP quiet after top economist says Biden jobs plan will save money
From The American Independent:
Republicans have repeatedly cited former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers in recent months as a prescient expert on inflation and government spending. But they are silent now that he is urging passage of President Joe Biden's $1.75 trillion jobs bill and undermining their talking points against it.
In a Washington Post column..., Summers predicted that provisions in the Build Back Better plan that would crack down on wealthy tax cheats will bring in even more money than the Biden administration is predicting.
The Treasury Department has estimated that investing $80 billion more in IRS enforcement would bring in an additional $480 billion in revenue over the next decade in money already owed to the government but not paid by rich tax evaders.
"My judgment is that even Treasury is far too conservative," Summers predicted. "This estimate is less than half of what I concluded, in work with Natasha Sarin (who is now at the Treasury Department), can be generated by an infusion of resources into the IRS of about the same size as proposed by the Build Back Better Act." He further noted that other top economists have estimated the windfall might be as much as twice his own estimates.
This flatly contradicts a popular GOP talking point that the Congressional Budget Office reportedly believes the crackdown will bring in only $120 billion over a decade, proof that Biden's plan, which would invest billions of dollars in climate change, clean energy, child care, health care, home care, and an expanded child tax credit, is not really paid for.
Congressional Cannabis Caucus Co-Chairs Urge VA to Offer Veterans Access to Lifesaving Cannabis Treatment
From The Skanner:
Congressional Cannabis Caucus Co-Chairs Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), David Joyce (R-OH), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Don Young (R-AK) today urged the Department of Veterans Affairs to allow access to medical cannabis for VA patients as quickly as possible.
The push comes amid growing frustration within the veteran community, which has been fighting for the change to help address opioid addiction and manage PTSD and other health issues, including multiple sclerosis and seizure disorders.
“Research has shown that cannabis can be safe and effective in targeted pain-management. Additionally, cannabis has proven benefits in managing PTSD and other health issues, including multiple sclerosis and seizure disorders. Despite its efficacy, antiquated bureaucratic red-tape continues to deny veterans these life-altering treatments,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “Congress and several administrations have enacted various well-intentioned intervention attempts, however, over 20 veterans continue to die by suicide each day—it is past time we stop barring access from these innovative therapies. We therefore respectfully urge you to ensure no veteran can be denied medically prescribed cannabis treatments.”
“America’s veterans have risked life and limb to preserve our freedoms, so we must not allow the unnecessary politicization of medical cannabis to hinder their lifesaving therapies. We stand ready to work with you and your administration in advancing these necessary treatments,” they continued.
This final political item isn’t good news, but it did make me laugh. It’s kind of refreshing to know that other countries besides our own have hypocritical, law-breaking politicians. Plus that photo of BoJo cosplaying a cop is hilarious.
‘Rife’ cocaine use reported in U.K. Parliament — just as Boris Johnson announces crackdown on drug crime
From The Washington Post:
The speaker of the House of Commons has said he is calling in police to investigate reports that drug use is “rife” in the British Parliament — as Prime Minister Boris Johnson dressed up as a police officer to promote his tough new anti-drug strategy for the country.
A report in Britain’s Sunday Times said a dozen sites inside the Palace of Westminster, which includes the House of Lords and House of Commons, tested positive for traces of cocaine.
Areas of interest included the bathrooms nearest Johnson’s office and those of Home Secretary Priti Patel, who is in charge of domestic security.
Drug residue, the newspaper reported, was also found close to rooms used by the opposition Labour Party, as well as a sedate dining room in the House of Lords, and the exclusive, sometimes raucous Thames-side pub called the Strangers’ Bar.
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Good news from my corner of the world
Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio to retire
No, it isn’t good news that one of the most reliable progressive voices in Congress is leaving when his term ends. What is good news is that the redistricting in Oregon has strengthened the position of Democrats in DeFazio’s district enough for him to feel comfortable retiring, which he richly deserves.
From The Oregonian:
Oregon’s longest-serving congressman will not seek re-election, he announced Wednesday.
Rep. Peter DeFazio said he will not seek re-election in 2022, leaving open Oregon’s District 4 seat. DeFazio has served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years, and is currently the chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. ✂️
DeFazio said he hoped to focus on his health and well-being in his retirement. In a Wednesday press conference, he said he had recently had back surgery and some other minor health issues, and said the frequent cross-country flights have become more challenging. He said he also wants to spend time with his family and enjoying Oregon’s outdoors.
“This was a tough decision at a challenging time for our republic with the very pillars of democracy under threat, but I am bolstered by the passion and principles of my colleagues in Congress and the ingenuity and determination of young Americans who are civically engaged and working for change,” he said. ✂️
DeFazio said he feels he’s leaving at a time when his district is secure for Democrats. The redistricting process earlier this year threw into question where the boundaries of DeFazio’s district would be redrawn, and whether that would give Republicans an advantage. Ultimately, the process reinforced DeFazio’s district as a stronghold for Democrats.
Oregon Sen. Sara Gelser Blouin wins national award for oversight of foster care
This well-deserved award shines a light on the appalling for-profit residential programs to which too many foster children are sent.
From The Oregonian:
Sen. Sara Gelser Blouin, a Corvallis Democrat who has fought for years to fix Oregon’s troubled foster care system, has won a national award for her legislative oversight.
The honor, the Carl Levin Award, is designed to promote bipartisan, fact-based oversight and to recognize legislators who conduct it.
Gelser Blouin, who chairs the Senate Human Services Committee, is particularly well-known for her work to end the placement of Oregon foster children in poorly-regulated out-of-state institutions, where she showed children have suffered emotional and physical mistreatment. The return of those children to their home state by 2020 was a signature success. ✂️
Gelser Blouin said in a statement, “I’m grateful to Secretary of State Shemia Fagan for the nomination and for many colleagues on both sides of the aisle for working together on this critical work for kids. Investigating challenges within our child welfare system and uncovering abuse and exploitation across multiple states from for profit residential programs has become (a) life passion for me.”
Juneteenth Becomes Paid Holiday in Another Oregon County
From The Skanner:
Washington County joined the federal government, the State of Oregon, the City of Portland and Clackamas and Multnomah counties this week in offering Juneteenth as a paid holiday.
“Celebrating Juneteenth as a paid holiday in Washington County shows that we are truly committed to acknowledging oppression in our country’s past and changing our governmental structures to create broad awareness and, more importantly, healing for our community and our workforce,” said Board of County Commissioners Chair Kathryn Harrington.
“When the first Independence Day was celebrated and for nearly a century afterwards, not all people born in the United States were independent. That holiday has rung hollow for many who have generations of ancestors who were enslaved,” added Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer Latricia Tillman. “Juneteenth is significant because it represents the time when all people in the United States would finally be deemed free under the law. It represents resilience and a recognition of a more complete history of the pathway to freedom in the United States.”
Because June 19 falls on a Sunday in 2022, this new paid holiday will be first honored by Washington County on June 20.
Although county buildings will not be open to the public on that day, services that are provided on a 24-hour basis will continue.
More information about the historic significance of Juneteenth and its long-sought acknowledgement of the abolition of slavery in our country can be found at:
A well-positioned skylight is a simple way to harness ‘passive solar’ power, Oregon research finds
This story could have gone in the environment section, but it gives me the opportunity to brag about the excellent research being done in Oregon universities.
From Oregon Public Broadcasting:
Heating houses is a major energy suck. Behind passenger cars and trucking, it’s the largest energy draw in the United States. ✂️
Research out of the University of Oregon shows that, even on the cloudy western sides of Oregon and Washington, a large chunk of our heating needs could be met with a few well-positioned (and well-managed) skylights. ✂️
Passive solar heating is one way to reduce reliance on fossil fuels like natural gas and heating oil to warm homes. [University of Oregon environmental scientist Alexandra] Rempel set out to quantify just how much of this solar energy is available for use in locations across the country.
“Just what is the size of this resource we’re talking about? Is it worth going after or not?” she asked.
And according to the analysis, it is.
The researchers found that there is enough solar radiation available to provide about one-third of residential heating needs nationwide. The calculations were based on homes having 100 square feet of skylights oriented towards the south.
To understand the potential, the researchers used home energy consumption data and paired it with satellite observations of solar radiation.
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Good news from around the nation
BREAKING: New York City sets a sweeping vaccine mandate for all private employers.
From The New York Times:
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a sweeping coronavirus vaccine mandate for all private employers in New York City on Monday morning to combat the spread of the Omicron variant.
Mr. de Blasio said the aggressive measure, which takes effect Dec. 27 and which he described as the first of its kind in the nation, was needed as a “pre-emptive strike” to stall another wave of coronavirus cases and help reduce transmission during the winter months and holiday gatherings. ✂️
New York City has already put vaccine mandates in place for city workers and for employees and customers at indoor dining, entertainment and gyms. Nearly 90 percent of adult New York City residents now have at least one dose of the vaccine.
But Mr. de Blasio said the city must go further to combat another wave of the virus in New York City, once the center of the pandemic. ...the new measure would apply to about 184,000 businesses. Employees who work in-person at private companies must have one dose of the vaccine by Dec. 27; remote workers will not be required to get the vaccine. There is no testing option as an alternative. The city plans to offer exemptions for valid medical or religious reasons...
Nevada to make unvaccinated state workers pay insurance surcharge
On Friday, chloris creator brought this to our attention, but I’m reiterating it here to include the additional good news that Louisiana’s largest HMO is doing the same with their workers and the workers’ partners/spouses who share the employees’ benefits. It’s definitely time to put teeth into vax policies.
From The Hill:
Nevada state workers and adult dependents who are covered under public employee benefits and remain unvaccinated will soon be hit with a surcharge of as much as $55 a month starting next July in an effort to alleviate COVID-19 testing costs, the Associated Press reported.
Beginning in July 2022, unvaccinated state employees and their dependents will have to pay a monthly fee as a result of Nevada’s Public Employees’ Benefit Program Board voting in favor of a surcharge on Thursday, according to the news outlet. Weekly testing is mandated in Nevada workplaces, and it is estimated that for 2021 alone, over $6 million in COVID-19 claims will be filed by Nevada employees. ✂️
The largest health system in Louisiana said earlier this year that it would be charging $100 per pay period, or $200 monthly, to their workers if their partners or spouses that receive benefits through the employer remain unvaccinated.
“We spent more than $9 million on COVID care for those who are covered on our health plans over the last year. ...Approximately 90% of those hospitalized with COVID in our facilities have been unvaccinated since vaccines were approved in December 2020,” Ochsner Health President and CEO Warner Thomas said in a statement at the time, according to KLFY NEWS 10. “Widespread vaccination is critical to stopping the spread of COVID-19, and we hope this change will encourage even more community members to get vaccinated,” he added.
The Nez Perce Tribe Paid More Than $600,000 for Their Own Artifacts. Now They’ve Been Repaid.
A shocking story that now has a happy ending.
In the 1990s, the Ohio Historical Connection, previously known as the Ohio Historical Society, gave the Nez Perce an ultimatum: either the tribe would purchase tribal artifacts owned by the Society, or the artifacts would need to be permanently returned after their 20-year loan agreement expired. The tribe scrambled to come up with the $608,000 that the Society requested and, in the end, were able to raise the funds to purchase the artifacts. This past week, however, the Ohio Historical connection reimbursed the tribe the full amount of the sale, reported Artnet News. ✂️
In September, the Ohio Historical Connection’s board of trustees agreed that, if they still held the Wetxuuwiitin Collection, they would have returned the objects freely. The repayment occurred on November 23, days before Thanksgiving. ✂️
“These items are priceless,” said Samuel Penny, Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Chairman, during the reimbursement ceremony in a moment of reflection. “Though we did not agree with having to purchase these items back in 1996, we knew at that time we had to bring them home, regardless of the cost.”
Burt Logan, executive director and CEO of the Ohio History Connection, wrote in an email to Artnet News, “Organizations, like individuals, can grow, evolve, and mature. Today we acknowledge how misguided our treatment of American Indians, their ancestors, and their legacies has been since our founding in 1885.”
As Calls to Ban Books Intensify, Digital Librarians Offer Perspective
The Internet Archive doing vitally important work, as usual.
From Internet Archive Blogs:
From Texas to Virginia to Pennsylvania, there is a growing movement to challenge books in schools that some suggest are inappropriate for students. Concern goes beyond explicit content; it now includes opposition to LGBTQIA material, the history of racism, and material that may cause discomfort to readers.
While efforts to ban books are not new, the solutions to counter censorship are—thanks to technology that is used to create access for all.
The Internet Archive’s Open Library (https://openlibrary.org) does not face the same local pressures that many school districts or school libraries do. At a time when students and teachers may be encountering limited access to content in their local community, the Internet Archive acquires and digitizes material for its online library, and lends a wide array of books for free to anyone, anytime.
For example, the American Library Association’s list of most challenged books in the past decade are available in a curated collection. Among the titles: The Glass Castle by Jennette Walls, banned for offensive language and sexually explicit content; The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, cited as being insensitive, anti-family and violent; and Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin, challenged for its LGBTQIA content and the perceived effects on young people who would read it.
Books dealing with gay and trans rights have long been targeted in school libraries. There are more than 1,800 titles in Open Library’s LGBTQ Collection—sorted, searchable and available to borrow online for free. Many of the novels, memoirs and works of history are not otherwise accessible to people who live in rural areas or places where those materials are explicitly banned.
Hundreds of Roundabouts in Two U.S. States are Saving Lives, Reducing Injuries, and Lowering Carbon Emissions
I had never thought about the advantages of roundabouts. Now I wonder why they’re not more common.
From Good News Network:
In the state of Indiana, 256 roundabouts (also called traffic circles) have been constructed since 2016, and the data is showing what Europeans have known for decades: they definitely reduce collisions, fatalities, traffic congestion, and fuel consumption.
Not only that, roundabouts cut pollution, while reducing construction and maintenance costs.
Due to the fact that the only type of maneuver inside a roundabout is a right turn, they are safer—...[it’s] quite obvious what even reckless and unpredictable drivers are trying to do. Furthermore, because entering the circle requires drivers to yield to others in the roundabout, there’s a certain amount of attentiveness that all drivers must give, which will naturally provide more safety in a state that saw 700 people die every year from running red lights, or being hit by someone running a red light.
If you miss your exit in a circle, you simply continue to circulate as normal until you arrive once again at the correct exit.
For all these reasons and more, Indiana has seen reductions of 90% in intersection fatalities when they are replaced with traffic circles, and a 76% reduction in crashes resulting in injuries.
The Computer Designed to Last
From reasons to be cheerful:
Sleek aluminum housing? Check. A 13.5-inch, high-resolution display? Check. Backlit black keyboard? Check. Fingerprint scanner? Check.
The Framework Laptop might have more than a passing resemblance to the latest MacBook. But it’s different in one key aspect that could kickstart a revolution: repairability.
“Consumer electronics is an industry of disposability,” says Nirav Patel, founder of Framework, the California-based company behind the device. “It was really clear this wasn’t a problem that was going to solve itself. We want to prove that a different model works. You don’t have to get a shiny new product every time something goes wrong. ”
Patel, who previously built cutting-edge hardware for the likes of Apple and the virtual reality headset company Oculus (owned by Meta, formerly known as Facebook), argues the consumer electronics industry is broken. And he hopes the Framework Laptop, dubbed by its creators as “a notebook designed to last,” can help fix it.
“The entire inside is designed to be repairable,” explains Patel. “We’ve also designed it so that upgrades can be made in the future. Why? It’s about respecting consumer rights and the environment, reducing extraction of the planet’s resources.”
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Good news from around the world
Honduras elects democratic socialist as first female president, unseating conservative ruling party
It’s good news for Honduras that Juan Orlando Hernandez is no longer president. Let’s hope Xiomara Castro can get a handle on the country’s problems.
From The Washington Post:
Democratic socialist Xiomara Castro is poised to become Honduras’s next president after her main rival conceded Tuesday, bringing the country’s left back to power after 12 years of conservative National Party rule, much of it pockmarked by scandal. ✂️
Castro, 62, will be the first female president of the Central American country. The wife of Manuel Zelaya, a former president who was removed from office by the military in 2009, Castro ran on an anti-corruption platform with promises to end what she deemed a narco-state.
She will succeed President Juan Orlando Hernández, whose last term in office was clouded by investigations into his alleged ties to drug trafficking. Hernández’s brother, Tony, was sentenced in U.S. federal court this year to life in prison plus 30 years for drug trafficking. Juan Orlando Hernández was implicated in the court filings. He has denied wrongdoing. ✂️
Honduras is now the biggest source of migration to the United States — a fact that critics blame partly on the Hernández administration’s poor governance and an issue Castro will now inherit.
Agricultural waste can replace cement
From Warp News:
Cement has been a hot topic lately in Sweden. This is because of the single largest domestic producer, Cementa's problems with obtaining permission to mine lime on Gotland. The basic problem is that cement has a large environmental footprint and is a necessary component in concrete, which in turn is a necessity in many construction projects.
But now Byggvesta, a construction company, together with the concrete manufacturer Strängbetong and researchers from the research institute RISE have found a way to dramatically reduce the amount of cement needed in concrete.
"We have managed to halve the amount of cement required in prefabricated concrete by using waste from agriculture. Agricultural residues, such as oat husks or rice husks, are commonly used as biofuel to create district heating. Now we take advantage of the ash that's left over from thermal power plants, with some finishing, and use it in concrete production so that it is not wasted", says Bill Ögren, business manager at Byggvesta, in a press release.
The strength of the concrete is just as good as with cement. The first concrete elements produced with the new method will be installed in a new residential property as soon as this month.
English Teenager Discovers Hoard of 3,300 Year-Old Axes and Becomes Metal Detecting Celebrity
From Good News Network:
A rising star among the UK’s passionate “detectorist” community has found a buried hoard of 65 objects, many of which are bronze axes.
It’s being called a once-in-a-lifetime find, one which had to be handled by archeologists, and which is now undergoing the British government’s Treasure Review to determine if the nation will purchase the artifacts.
Milly Hardwick from Suffolk was out detecting in a field with her dad Colin, when the 13-year-old made the find.
“It was my third time out and I didn’t quite know what I was doing,” Milly told the BBC. “I got a signal and yelled at my dad and when he started digging he went ‘this could be an axe’, and he was joking around about it.”
It’s thought the axes and other objects, 65 in total, date from around 1,300 BCE. After finding the first 20, the father-daughter team had to cover the site back up until archeologists could come the next day.
Priceless Roman mosaic spent 50 years as a coffee table in New York apartment
This is a wildly improbable story, which was also highlighted recently on “60 Minutes.”
From The Guardian:
A priceless Roman mosaic that once decorated a ship used by the emperor Caligula was used for almost 50 years as a coffee table in an apartment in New York City.
Dario Del Bufalo, an Italian expert on ancient stone and marble, ... gave a lecture [in New York in 2013] and signed copies of his book, Porphyry, about the reddish-purple rock much used by Roman emperors.
The book included a picture of the long-lost mosaic, which once formed part of a floor on one of two vast “party ships” commissioned by Caligula to float on a lake near Rome and sunk when the emperor was killed. The mosaic and other antiquities were recovered from the lake in the 1930s and housed in a lakeside museum. In 1944, as the Nazis retreated from Italy, the ships and many other treasures were burned.
Nearly 70 years after that, as he signed copies of his book, Del Bufalo overheard a man and a woman say the woman had the mosaic they were looking at on the page. … Del Bufalo tracked down [the woman,] Helen Fioratti, an art dealer and gallery owner. According to an interview she gave the New York Times in 2017, she and her husband, an Italian journalist, bought the mosaic from an Italian noble family in the 1960s. When it arrived in New York, the couple turned it into a coffee table.
“It was an innocent purchase,” Fioratti told the Times. “It was our favorite thing and we had it for 45 years.” ✂️
Del Bufalo said he wanted to make a copy of the mosaic for Fioratti to keep in her apartment. “I think my soul would feel a little better,” he said.
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Good news in medicine and science
Discovery brings hope to battle against antibiotic resistance
From Warp News:
Antibiotic resistance causes 750,000 deaths annually around the world. To bring that number down, new types of antibiotics are required that circumvent the resistance certain bacteria have against drugs available today.
Researchers at Karolinska Institutet, Umeå University, and Bonn University have identified a group of molecules that can form the basis for just such a type of antibiotic. The researchers tested a group of molecules called THCz, which were shown to be able to inhibit the formation of the bacteria's cell walls, even for resistant bacteria.
In brief, these molecules bind to a special molecule, lipid II, which all bacteria need to build up the cell wall. The same method is already used in available antibiotics, but the molecules used there are usually large and complex. They are difficult to improve if the bacteria develop resistance and they do not work well against some bacteria.
THCz on the other hand is significantly less, which is a big advantage. ✂️
In laboratory experiments, THCz has been shown to be effective against a range of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The researchers also did not find any bacteria that developed resistance to THCz in the laboratory environment.
This cutting edge camera is the size of a grain of salt
From The Optimist Daily:
Micro-cameras are used in virtually all industries. In the medical field, these tiny cameras have helped facilitate less invasive medical imaging practices and improved robotic surgical tools. Structures of molecules and neural pathways have been uncovered using this technology, although achieving high resolution at a tiny scale is difficult. With the best attempts resulting in blurry and distorted images, leading to some inaccuracy when interpreting the results.
Research teams from Princeton University and the University of Washington have managed to overcome this problem with their latest invention. Their paper, published in Nature Communications, discusses an ultracompact camera the size of a grain of salt! It is the device’s lens that separates it from comparable previous micro-cameras, with it being 500,000 times larger in volume, giving clear full color images.
Traditionally, glass or plastic lenses are utilized to curve light rays inside the camera. This micro-camera uses a new technology called metasurface, which is an area covered with 1.6 million tiny cylinders. Each of these acts as an antenna, designed with its own unique shape in order to accurately capture light from the scene in front of it. Additionally, the algorithms used to turn these light signals into the image on the screen are also groundbreaking. Computing the complex information from six refractive lenses, into beautiful, colorful images.
A great thing about this invention is the materials and method used to produce the metasurface. As computer chips are made in a similar way and with similar glass-like material, metasurfaces have much lower manufacturing costs than conventional cameras. Affordable mass production of this incredible technology is likely to hugely advance the medical field. The speed of groundbreaking research can be increased, plus more accessibility across the world to carry out life saving procedures.
New Solution to Cleaning Up Oceans: Filtering Microplastics From Water Using Acoustic Waves
From Good News Network:
Microplastics are released into the environment as cosmetics, clothing, industrial processes, and plastic products like packaging, break down naturally.The plastic pollutants then make their way into rivers and oceans, endangering marine life.
Filtering and removing these particles from water is a difficult and timely task, but using acoustic waves may provide a solution to this impenetrable task.
Dr Dhany Arifianto from the Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember in Surabaya, Indonesia, created a filtration prototype using acoustic waves and presented his method and its data at the Meeting of the 181st Acoustical Society of America in Seattle, designed to showcase the latest research about the science of sound.
Dr Arifianto and his team used two speakers to create the acoustic waves and the force produced was able to separate the microplastics from the water by creating pressure on a tube of inflowing water.
As the tube split into three channels, the microplastic particles are pressed towards the center as the clean water flows towards the two outer channels on either side.
The prototyped device cleaned a staggering 150 litres of polluted water per hour and was tested filtering three different microplastics.
Scientists Unearth Dozens of Giant Dinosaur Eggs in Fossilized Nest
Archeologists have extracted 30 titanosaur dinosaur eggs found in a two-ton rock in northern Spain and believe there could be as many as 70 more deeper inside the boulder.
The titanosaur was a long-necked sauropod that lived until the extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous period 66 million years ago. The eggs were found at a dig site in Loarre in the northeastern Spanish province of Huesca in September.
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Good news for the environment
These Portuguese kids are suing 33 European countries to force them to cut emissions
Sofia and André Oliveira, siblings and teen climate activists, did not expect much from the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow.
"Most politicians make these statements that they're going to lower emissions 60% by 2030," says André, 13. "And we want to believe that. But because of their history, we know that they really can't be very trusted."
"And so that's why we had to sue them," says Sofia, 16, "so we can give them another chance to do the right thing."
The Oliveira siblings, along with four other young people from Portugal, are suing the governments of the 33 most polluting countries in Europe, including their own, to drastically reduce the production of planet-warming emissions. They argue that climate change risks their health and future, violating their human rights. Portugal is facing sea-level rise as well as chronic droughts and heatwaves.
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, has fast-tracked the lawsuit, filed in 2020, which means a judgment could come next year. The court's decision will be legally binding; if the young Portuguese win, the judgment could be enforced in national courts throughout Europe, says Gerry Liston, legal officer at the Global Legal Action Network, a nonprofit based in Ireland and the U.K. that's representing the youths.
Hundreds of Solar Farms Built Atop Closed Landfills Are Turning Brownfields into Green Fields
From Good News Network:
One of the big knocks against solar panels is how much land they take up compared to how much power they generate. But what if there were a readymade source of open land nearby to cities and towns that was guaranteed not to be used for anything else?
As it turns out, landfills are becoming prime real estate for solar farms, and one nonprofit believes the U.S. could increase the nation’s solar energy capacity by 63 gigawatts, or approximately 60%, simply by building solar farms on landfills.
Solar firms are building these landfill solar farms all over the country, and while they present a bigger engineering and economic challenge then building one on flat ground, the appeal of refurbishing capped landfills and brownfields from their barren state into a new service for the community is deeply appealing.
Government Saves Rare Old-Growth Trees From Further Logging on 10,000 Sq-Miles of BC Forest
From Good News Network:
British Columbia’s provincial government has recognized that its old-growth forests are irreplaceable, vital ecosystems, and has spared 10,000 square miles, or 2.6 million hectares of forest from logging.
The pause was issued following B.C.’s recently announced commitment to halt one-third of all old-growth logging, which itself came on the same day as world leaders at COP26 announced their own attempts to end deforestation.
The woods of B.C. gave it the name the “Brazil of the North” in the 1990s, and are filled with Douglas fir, western red cedar, and Roosevelt elk, black bears, wolves, and endangered birds. Some of the forests have remain undisturbed essentially since the last Ice Age, reports Globe and Mail.
“We’ve identified 2.6 million hectares of our largest, rarest and most ancient old-growth forests,” Forests Minister Katrine Conroy told a news conference. “Deferring harvest in an area this large is unprecedented and surpasses the size of 226 cities of Vancouver.”
A project launched to map fungal networks
From Positive News:
...hidden beneath the soil are vast fungal networks, which for the first time are to be mapped – a vital step towards protecting them.
Fungal networks are not well understood, but we know they produce mushrooms, sequester carbon and send nutrients to plants. Yet they face an uncertain future: agriculture, pollution, urbanisation and deforestation are destroying these networks; losses that are largely invisible.
But not for much longer, perhaps. On Tuesday, the Society for the Protection of Underground Networks (SPUN) announced plans to map the networks using soil samples and AI. “An understanding of underground fungal networks is essential to our efforts to protect the soil, on which life depends,” said conservationist Jane Goodall, who is advising SPUN.
Jeremy Grantham is the philanthropist funding the project.“Below our feet lies an invaluable ally in mitigating climate change: vast hidden fungal networks,” he said. “Yet these carbon sinks are poorly understood. SPUN is pioneering a new chapter in global conservation.”
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Good news for and about animals
Brought to you by Rosy, Nora, and Rascal.
Usually my three co-editors choose stories about dogs, cats, and birds. But this time they’re happy to turn their space over to otters, tigers, white rhinos — and gnus!
California’s Adopted Otter Pups Are Fighting Climate Change
From reasons to be cheerful:
At California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium, an adoption program is pairing orphaned otters with females living in captivity who teach the pups to become crusaders for the climate.
It all starts when wild otter pups who’ve lost their parents (often to shark attacks) are rescued from the ocean and handed over to female otters at the aquarium. The adoptive moms teach the pups how to do “sea otter things,” as Wired puts it, including how to use rocks to crack open sea urchins, which otters find delicious. Returning the pups to the ocean as voracious sea urchin eaters helps to preserve carbon-sequestering kelp forests, which sea urchins — whose numbers have ballooned in recent years — decimate if left unchecked.
Preserving kelp forests is a big deal — a healthy California kelp forest can cancel out the emissions of up to five million cars. The scheme appears to be working, as the otter pups thrive when returned to the wild. This has helped California’s otter population swell to 3,000 from a low of 50. Not surprisingly, the kelp forests have made a comeback too — a major one in Elkhorn Slough has expanded by 600 percent. “The [kelp forests] are removing carbon dioxide at rates that are up to 10 times as fast as we see in terrestrial systems,” said a scientist from Conservation International.
Critically endangered Amur tigers might be expanding their range
From Sustainability Times:
Tigers have fallen on hard times throughout their remaining ranges across Asia, their numbers having plummeted to a mere 5,000 or so from 100,000 a century ago. Several subspecies of the iconic predators have especially been affected by habitat loss and poaching.
Now and then, though, comes some good news.
One bit of good news has come from Russia where for the first time in a half century the footprints of Amur tigers have been seen in the northeastern Siberian republic of Sakha.
The discovery, which was made by local forestry officials, has been hailed by conservationists as a sign that the area’s wild tigers might slowly be expanding their range thanks to stepped-up protection measures.
The footprints were found on the right bank of the Aldan River in the southeastern region of Sakha, also known as Yakutia, where an absence of suitable forests and wild boars for prey make it harder for tigers to thrive; and so the find was especially noteworthy.
“The fact that the tigers are exploring their ancestral hunting grounds indicates that the number of the northernmost tigers is not a cause for concern,” observed Viktor Nikiforov, who leads the Tigrus conservationist group.
Conservationists flew 30 white rhinos to Rwanda in a huge operation to protect them
Conservationists flew 30 white rhinos from South Africa to Rwanda last week in what they say is the largest single rhino translocation ever.
The roughly 2,000-mile journey took the rhinos to their new home in Akagera National Park, where advocates hope the animals will be able to establish a new breeding stronghold and evade the rampant poaching that's put their species in danger.
"Introductions to safe, intact wild landscapes are vital for the future of vulnerable species like white rhino, which are under considerable human-induced pressures," Peter Fearnhead, CEO of the non-profit conservation organization African Parks, said in a statement. ✂️
Each of the 30 rhinos ... was fitted with a tracking transmitter for constant monitoring. Authorities have also deployed an anti-poaching canine unit and helicopter surveillance to protect the new arrivals.
Why the wildebeest is the unlikely king of the Serengeti
Good news about gnus! The story with the above title was just published in National Geographic. Unfortunately, it’s behind an impenetrable paywall, but their email newsletter, which I receive, had a brief summary of it, written by National Geographic’s Animal features editor. And fortunately the newsletter included the stunning photos.
The wildebeest—with its extra-long face, shaggy beard, diminutive horns, and sloping backside—is an animal I never thought much about, outside of watching The Lion King as a kid. ✂️
But I just read Peter Gwin’s new story about wildebeests, for our December issue on Africa’s Serengeti ecosystem, and … whoa. I have a newfound appreciation for them. They can run 50 miles an hour (pictured above, plunging down a steep riverbank). They sense where the rain is falling and head that way (pictured below, on the move)—and by the time they get there, there’s new grass. And the females give birth all at once: half a million calves over three weeks, or about 24,000 a day. ✂️
“One measure of evolutionary success is population,” Gwin writes. “In this sense, the wildebeest, at upwards of 1.3 million, is by far the most triumphant large mammal in the Serengeti.”
Fuller information about how gnus help preserve the Serengeti is also available in this article from The Ecologist: Insights into the Serengeti ecosystem. Considering how much Gnusies care about our planet, it’s appropriate that gnus are environmental superstars!
An interview with Dr Richard Despard Estes.
American ethologist Richard Despard Estes is a world authority on the wildebeest (gnu) and their epic migration through the Serengeti national park in Tanzania (including the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the gateway to the Serengeti), an extension of the Masai Mara ecosystem in neighbouring Kenya. ✂️
How do wildebeests drive the ecology and evolution of the Serengeti - the largest eco-system in the world?
The migrating wildebeests create and maintain the Serengeti ecosystem. They churn the soil with their hooves and nourish it with their urine and dung.
Males bashing bushes with their horns in territorial displays help keep the savanna from growing into forest. Even a component in the wildebeests' saliva has been found to stimulate grass to grow. And because the animals move on after grazing, (unlike cattle) the grasses grow back, stronger than ever.
We already know what the predators and scavengers get out of the serengeti migration — lunch. But what do the hundreds of thousands of zebras, gazelles and other antelopes get out of it?
I counted twenty-eight other species of mammals that can thrive in Serengeti because of the wildebeest migration. But new studies suggest that number may be too low.
Additional species that benefit range from aquatic micro-organisms and fish (nourished by the carcasses of gnus who die crossing rivers) to giraffes (whose babies suffer less from predation when the wildebeest migration sweeps through their territories. Wildebeest are even more important to the ecosystem than I could have imagined when i began my work in 1962.
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And now for something completely different
A Surreal New Bookstore Has Just Opened in China
This is one of the links from Laura Olin’s fabulous weekly newsletter, which I can’t recommend highly enough.
From Architectural Digest:
For a book lover, stepping into a bookstore is always exciting, but a new bookstore in China makes the experience absolutely spellbinding. Dujiangyan Zhongshuge, located in Chengdu, was designed by Shanghai-based architecture firm X+Living, which has created several locations for Zhongshuge. The two-story space appears cathedral-like, thanks to the mirrored ceilings and gleaming black tile floors which reflect the bookcases, creating a visual effect that feels akin to an M.C. Escher drawing. ✂️
Upon entering, shoppers encounter C-shaped bookcases, which create a series of intimate spaces. In the center of the store, towering arches and columns take advantage of the full height of the space. These bookcases were inspired by the history and topography of the region. “We moved the local landscape into the indoor space,” says Li. “The project is located in Dujiangyan, which is a city with a long history of water conservancy development, so in the main area, you could see the construction of the dam integrated into the bookshelves.”
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theoregonway.substack.com/...Left, Right, and Rural: A Case Study in Finding Common Ground. ”Failing land and water protections create common ground in rural Oregon.”
orionmagazine.org/… A River Reawakened: Ten Years of Rewilding the Elwha Watershed. A heartening and beautifully written account of what happens when dams are removed, a river flows free, and the fish return.
www.theatlantic.com/...The Tomb Raiders of the Upper East Side. A fascinating piece about the Manhattan prosecutor who targets buyers of looted antiquities.
www.newyorker.com/… For the Love of Bread. An appetizing video that invites you to stop demonizing carbs.
… She’s a registered farmer — and she’s only 6 years old
. A delightful story about a young Black girl making an impact with her backyard garden.
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Wherever is herd…
A tip of the hat to 2thanks for creating this handy info sheet for all Gnusies new and old!
Morning Good News Roundups at 7 x 7: These Gnusies lead the herd at 7 a.m. ET, 7 days a week:
- The Monday GNR Newsroom (Jessiestaf, Killer300, and Bhu). With their five, we survive and thrive.
- Alternating Tuesdays: NotNowNotEver and arhpdx.
- Wednesdays: niftywriter.
- Thursdays: Mokurai the 1st and 2nd Thursdays, WineRev the 3rd, MCUBernieFan the 4th, and Mokurai the 5th (when there is one).
- Fridays: chloris creator. Regular links to the White House Briefing Room.
- Saturdays: GoodNewsRoundup. Heart-stirring and soul-healing introduction and sometimes memes to succumb to.
- Sundays: 2thanks. A brief roundup of Roundups, a retrospective, a smorgasbord, a bulletin board, an oasis, a watering hole, a thunder of hooves, a wellness, a place for beginners to learn the rules of the veldt.
hpg posts Evening Shade diaries at 7:30 p.m. ET every day! After a long day, Gnusies meet in the evening shade and continue sharing Good News, good community, and good actions. In the words of NotNowNotEver: “hpg ably continues the tradition of Evening Shade.” Find Evening Shades here.
oldhippiedude posts Tweets of the Week on Sundays at 6:00 p.m. Central Time — New time! Our second evening Gnusie hangout zone! In search of a TOTW diary? Look here or here.
For more information about the Good News group, please see our detailed Welcoming comment, one of the first comments in our morning diaries.
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How to Resist: Do Something …
The following invaluable list was put together by chloris creator:
Indivisible has created a Truth Brigade to push back against the lies.
Propaganda, false characterizations, intentionally misleading messages, and outright lies threaten our democracy and even our lives. We can effectively combat disinformation, despite the well-funded machines that drive it. They may have money, but we have truth and we have people. People believe sources they trust. When we share and amplify unified, factual messages to those who trust us, we shift the narrative. When we do this by the thousands--we’re part of the Indivisible Truth Brigade, and we get our country back. Join us.️
Our own Mokurai is a member. You can see all of the diaries in the Truth Brigade group on DK here.
From GoodNewsRoundup (aka Goodie):
Most important: DON'T LOSE HOPE. This is a giant and important fight for us but, win or lose, we keep fighting and voting and organizing and spreading truth and light. We never give up.
And I’ll add a recommendation for you to check out Activate America (formerly Flip the West), which is recruiting people to send postcards to Dem voters whose GQP Representatives voted against the infrastructure bill. The message is about all the benefits of the new law so they’ll be likelier to vote for the Dem challenger.
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11-year-old superstar drummer Nandi Bushell and 10-year-old guitarist Roman Morello (son of Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello) got together with Roman’s dad to write this hard-rocking protest song. Billboard noted that “Bushell said she learned about climate change at school and wanted to do her part to made a difference. She said she asked the Morellos to collaborate with her and once they had the tune locked in they asked Black and Thunberg if they wanted to help them raise awareness about climate change.”
So let’s follow the lead of these awesome kids and find our own ways to make a difference in our communities, our nation, and the world.
❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️
Thanks to all of you for your smarts, your hearts, and
your faithful attendance at our daily Gathering of the Herd.
❤️💙 RESIST, PERSIST, REBUILD, REJOICE! 💙❤️