Saturday, November 29, 2008

Nature's own remedy for turtles

This story from The News and Observer (a local paper from North Carolina) caught my eye the other day. Apparently, vets at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center are using a new remedy to treat rare loggerhead turtles that have been injured by boat propellers, and it's proving very successful. It's nothing high-tech, though: it's honey, mixed up with beeswax. Honey has great antibacterial properties - which have been well-recognized since Roman times - and when mixed with wax it can plug a tear in a turtle shell, keep out water and bacteria and help it to heal. This story underscores once again the importance of the humble honeybee to our planet - and reminds us that many of life's best remedies are really very simple.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A gift for life

Thanks very much to RTBH reader, Karn, for sending in today's touching tale. The article comes from a local paper, the Bemidji Pioneer from Minnesota, US. It tells of an incredibly generous young woman, Tausha Smith, who recently donated one of her kidneys to her ailing grandfather. She decided to donate when her grandfather became increasingly tired after his dialysis sessions and tests suggested that, with an O-positive blood type, she could be an ideal donor. As her grandfather, Don Cook, intimated, he's received a pretty extraordinary gift - one that will be appreciated daily, long after both Don and Tausha have recovered from surgery and well beyond the upcoming holiday season. It's a gift that is, quite literally, for life. (Photo from the Bemidji Pioneer.)


As you may already know, RTBH was nominated for a Divine Caroline award this year - and voting ends soon! (The end of November, I think.) If you are enjoying RTBH, please cast a vote by clicking the button to the right and following the on-screen instructions. Many, many thanks.

Also, although the RTBH blogger's challenge for Donors Choose was running throughout October, you can in fact donate to this fabulous cause any time. The kids' clay art projects selected for funding by RTBH are now fully funded - yeah! - but the two other projects (for musical instruments at a school in Massachusetts and for books at a school in New York) are not. Please consider donating by clicking the button to the right - there is literally no donation too small, as the idea is to gradually amass enough from different donors to buy the classroom equipment needed, and your donation is tax deductible. THANK YOU so much...! (For background, you may want to take a look at RTBH post 356 from October 1st.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Women drive towards independence in Iran

This story from the BBC caught my eye today. It reminded me of one of my favourite stories from RTBH's past, about the Taxi Sisters of Senegal (Day Forty-Three, posted almost exactly a year ago in fact). According to today's BBC report, a women's taxi service now operates in Tehran - run by women, exclusively for female customers. On the one hand, of course, this reinforces the separation of men and women in Iran's conservative society. On the other hand, the female taxi drivers are thriving in a male dominated trade - and many of them have gained financial independence and new skills. Women run the call centre, drive the taxis and maintain them too - the only man about the place seems to be the company's owner... He now plans to expand the service in Tehran to around 2000 cars and take the business model to other cities across Iran. it sounds as if these taxis will bring increased independence to many more women in the years ahead. Maybe they'll be the next generation of business owners too? (Photo from BBC online.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

The electric bay

News today that San Francisco Bay is leading the way - in rolling out alternative transportation. The UK's Guardian newspaper reports that the bay area – which is home to around 7.6m people - intends to replace 1 million gas-guzzling cars with electric ones by 2015. Billions of dollars will be invested in developing the infrastructure, such as charging stations, that can support this major shift in the way people get around. The plan is supported by local politicians and officials, including San Francisco's mayor, and California state governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. It's not the first time California has led the way on the environment and it probably won't be the last. The state, which is in effect the world's eighth largest economy, aims to reduce greenhouse gas levels to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 and has environmental legislation that is very progressive compared to the rest of the US. Hopefully it won't stay that way - we all need to catch up! Call it an electric car chase, if you like...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A letter full of reasons to be hopeful

This is a very moving and poignant story from the BBC in the form of a letter written to Noel Martin, a man attacked and paralysed by neo-Nazis in Germany 12 years ago. Noel currently plans to travel to Switzerland to have an assisted suicide. The letter is written by disabled broadcaster Liz Carr who met Noel when she interviewed him for a BBC Radio 5 Live report. She asks "Is your life really not worth living?", before reminding him of some of the reasons he has to be hopeful. She cites the fundamentals - feeling powerful emotions, being surrounded by people who love and care for him, reaching out to others through his writing... the kinds of things that make all our lives worth living, in short.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The genius in all of us

Well, this article from the UK Times newspaper is certainly encouraging. It explores what we know - and don't yet know - about the human brain: how it works, and how it maintains its abilities as we age. On the latter, the evidence appears to suggest that the 'use it or lose it' maxim is a good one to live by - play chess, do puzzles or mind games, or just read a lot. It's all good for your brain, which can grow new cells when challenged in this way. But there is also evidence, apparently, that everyone can experience 'eureka' moments - bursts of creative genius - when faced with difficult challenges. In other words, we plug away trying to find the answer to a particular question, analyzing the options, then all of a sudden - just as we have given up hope - we break through and solve the problem. This likely relates to use of the brain's 'prefrontal cortex', which has the ability to 'freewheel' (allowing us to generate unusual or surprising associations between different ideas) and then pull everything together. This ability is particularly well-developed in 'divergent thinkers', including creative geniuses, but we are all capable of it. So, there you go - let your brain freewheel! You may be surprised at the ideas you generate or the problems you solve...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

It's never too late to say sorry...

This is a lovely story. It comes from a local newspaper in the UK – the Bristol Evening Post. According to the article, a Bristol shopkeeper recently received a letter of apology from an former drug addict, who stole 400 cigarettes from his shop - seven years ago. The anonymous letter-writer said they'd been 'a mess' at the time but had now given up drugs and wanted to make amends - indeed, the letter contained £100 in lieu of the stolen cigarettes! The shopkeeper, Imran Ahmed, displayed the letter in his shop, where it's attracting a lot of positive attention. He's also said he will give the £100 to a drugs charity, to help other addicts turn their lives around. It's never too late...

Friday, November 7, 2008

The youth of today...

Many thanks to RTBH reader Suzie for sending me this story from the BBC. It's about a man and his dog who owe their lives to a few skilled and dedicated local students. Stephen Kelly and his dog Molly became stuck on a cliff ledge in Somerset, England, after Molly went over the edge of the cliff and Stephen attempted to rescue her. Fortunately, some pupils from a nearby school were in the area with (as fate would have it) their abseiling gear - and they set about winching both man and dog to safety. What brave young people! The story is also a reminder that we all possess skills that can be put to good use, one way or another - even at the most unexpected moments. (Photo from the BBC.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hope personified

If ever a man carried the hopes of a nation - indeed, of the world - upon his shoulders, this man does. Barack Obama. Sí, se puede!! Let's hope we do... (Photo from NDTV.)


Thanks to RTBH reader Jack for alerting me to today's linked article from NPR, about a 109-year-old woman who voted yesterday for Obama - and herself personifies the huge changes in American society over the last century, which have culminated in Obama's election as the next US President. Amanda Jones' father was a slave until he was freed at age 12. He went on to have 13 children. Only Amanda survived to witness the election of America's first black President. It's a world away from the segregated America of her youth. Now that's change we can believe in...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bat returns from brink of extinction

Although it was only yesterday that I was reading about declining bat populations in the US, today Science Daily carried this story, about the resurgence of the 'Pemba flying fox', a bat from Tanzania. The bats had been hunted for many years and were considered a local delicacy. Sadly, as a result, their numbers were so depleted by the 1990s that they were thought doomed to extinction. But with support from conservationists, and a local community now proud of this unusual creature in its midst, the bat population has soared to at least 22,000. And they do sound quite amazing - with a wing span of around 5.5 feet but with a weight about half that of a guinea pig. Let's hope this flying fox soars even higher in the years ahead. (Picture from Science Daily.)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Living a dog's life

I found this interesting column in the Star Tribune, a local newspaper from Minneapolis-St Paul, today. It offers some useful lessons on how to life a good and happy life - but from an unusual perspective, as the author draws his lessons from the way dogs live their relatively short lives... with deep loving and loyalty, knowing when and how to rest, and taking plenty of exercise, for example. Oh, and demonstrating real persistence, of course. Never giving up. Perhaps we should all be a bit more 'dogged' in our approach to life?