Lighter Moments

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Given the amount of terrible news that has occurred so far this year, I thought I’d post a few ‘feel-good’ stories from the year so far, just to show everyone that it’s not all doom and gloom out there!

#Lovestorm: 35,000 protest racism, xenophobia in Germany’s Dresden

Around 35,000 attended a rally against racism and xenophobia in the German city of Dresden, joining hundreds of thousands, who took to the street in France in response to this week’s Charlie Hebdo attack and hostage crises […]

“We won’t permit hate to divide us,” Helma Orosz, Dresden’s mayor, told the crowd as cited by Reuters.

The demonstrators carried banners, reading “We are Charlie,” “No to racism,” “We all laugh in the same language” and “Germany is for all.”

The gathering, jointly organized by the Dresden administration and the government of Saxony, was also a response to a series of anti-immigrant rallies, which recently took place in the city.

“I’m not here because I’m against people who go to PEGIDA [marches],” Orosz said as cited by Deutsche Welle, “but because I don’t fear people with a different skin color, customs or ways.”

“We stand here not in protest or opposition but for all Dresden, for Saxony and for everyone who lives here,” she added. “Regardless of whether you’re Christian, Jewish, Hindu or Muslim – we will not be separated by hate.”

‘Love to Prophet Mohammed’ rally in Grozny, Chechnya

About 1 million people, residents of Chechnya and other Russian Caucasus republics, gathered for the rally, the Interior Ministry press service said. Orthodox priests, mostly from the neighboring republics, have also arrived for the demonstration.

Thousands of balloons were sent into the air at the beginning of the rally.

The protesters were carrying banners, saying “We love Prophet Mohammed,” “No to Mohammed cartoons,” “Islam is a religion of peace and creation.”

Participants at the rally said Muslims should not respond to provocations. “Violence is not the method,” one of their slogans said.

The crowd gathered near the “The Heart of Chechnya,” one of the biggest mosques in Russia.

Homeless cat praised for saving abandoned baby in Russia

A baby boy not older than 12 weeks has been found in a box on a staircase in an apartment block in the Russian town of Obninsk. The box was meant for a cat, who – after having found a new soul in misery, warmed up the baby and was worried to let him go.

The baby in the cat box was discovered by one of the neighbors, who had heard what she thought to be loud meowing and rushed to rescue the cat from possible offenders.

The furry feline has been living in the apartment block for three years, fed and petted by its residents. The day when she found an unexpected guest in her box was a freezing one, but the baby was very warm, according to the woman, who first discovered the abandoned boy.

“She has been keeping the baby warm for several hours and meowing to call for help,” she told Ruptly video agency.

Thousands cheer Chadian troop deployment against Boko Haram

Thousands of people have marched in the Chadian capital N’Djamena in support of the government’s decision to send troops and armored vehicles against Boko Haram to challenge the Islamist advance in Nigeria and Cameroon.

People took part in the rally to show their support for the government’s decision to take part in a regional force.. Last Wednesday, Chad said it would support Cameroon, whose president, Paul Biya, appealed for an international response to the radical Islamist threat.

Florida cops return ‘In Dog We Trust’ rug

What if the omnipotent creator of everything turned out to be a dog? That’s what a misprinted rug would have you believe. A Florida sheriff’s office is sending an ‘In Dog We Trust’ rug back to the seller, though the typo went unnoticed for two months.

The mistake wasn’t noticed until it was pointed out by Pinellas County reporters upon visiting an administration building used by the local sheriff’s office.

Only on Wednesday did local law enforcement realize that the forest green rug embroidered with a yellow sheriff’s badge contained the rather peculiar misprint – even though it had been displayed for two months.

“In Dog We Trust,” reads the rug; not “In God We Trust.”

A Florida ABC News affiliate first reported the error on Wednesday this week and said the rug was “quickly rolled up and put away.”

Homestead Act for Russian Far East – Putin supports free land handout

The Russian president has approved the idea to offer large land plots for free to anyone who resettles to the Russian Far East to start a farm or other business.

The initiative was first voiced by the deputy PM and presidential envoy to the Far East Federal District, Yuri Trutnev, who said that such a step would “strengthen the tendency of people’s migration to the Far East,” Interfax reported.

Trutnev told reporters that Putin called the idea right in principle and noted that similar programs had been successfully implemented in Siberia historically. Putin urged all responsible officials to be precise and cautious when detailing the conditions for land ownership, however.

Trutnev’s initial suggestion was to “create a mechanism for the free allocation of a 1 hectare (2.5 acres) plot of land to every resident of the Far East and to anyone who is willing to come and live in the region so that they could start a private business in farming, forestry, game hunting or some other enterprise.”

He added that the agreement could be signed for five years, and then it should either enter full force if the new landlord follows the plan, or be declared void if the land is not used. He also added that corruption in the process of distribution can be prevented if the land plots are far from big cities with their well-developed infrastructure and competitive environment.

The scheme has been designed to limit the possible selling of the land plots to foreign companies and individuals, Trutnev said. “We will give it a try,” he said. “I think this measure will prove to be effective.”

Chinese firm 3D-prints 5-story house using construction waste ‘ink’

A Chinese company has used 3D printers to create five-story homes using construction waste. The project architects say this is the world’s tallest building constructed using this technology.

The new project is the brainchild of Shanghai-based WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co, who also managed to use 3D printing technology to create a 1,100 square meters villa in the Suzhou industrial park of China’s Jiangsu Province. It is not known how comfortable the buildings will be to live in, but one cannot argue with the cost, the villa complete with interior decoration cost a little over $160,000.

U.S. Government admits Australian former Guantanamo Bay prisoner David Hicks is innocent

The United States has agreed that former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Australian David Hicks, is innocent, his lawyer has said.

Mr Hicks pleaded guilty in 2007 to providing “material support for terrorism” but his legal team claimed that he did so under duress and filed an appeal last year.

Mr Hicks’s lawyer was confident his name was set to be cleared after the change of position by the US government.

Mr Hicks had appealed against his 2007 conviction for providing material support for terrorism.

Lawyer Stephen Kenny said they had been told the government did not dispute his innocence and also admitted that his conviction was not correct.

Greek people elect anti-austerity party to government

Greece’s radical leftist party, Syriza, is leading the country’s parliamentary election, claiming 36 percent of the vote, and leaving the ruling New Democracy party in second place with 28 percent, according to the preliminary results.

The votes have so far been counted at 96.6 percent of polling stations across the country.

Greek Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, has acknowledged defeat and congratulated Syriza’s leader, Alexis Tsipras, on the phone regarding his victory in the election, Reuters reports.

“Greece leaves behind catastrophic austerity, it leaves behind fear and authoritarianism, it leaves behind five years of humiliation and suffering,” Tsipras told thousands of cheering supporters at a rally in Athens.

Online privacy ‘a human right’, European security body rules

A new paper from Europe’s top civil liberties body has declared online privacy to be a human right, while challenging the British government’s plans to introduce more surveillance on communications technology.

Revolutionary ‘Da Vinci’ robot performs breakthrough micro-surgical treatment

In a huge breakthrough for medical science, a robot fitted with multiple arms has performed its first operation on a human patient, meaning revolutionary new treatments will be available for the first time.

The Da Vinci XI is a specialist robot operated by surgeons which has the ability to make extremely small incisions. The advance means patients previously requiring invasive surgery with long recovery times can now undergo more delicate treatments.

Croatia writes off debts of 60,000 poorest citizens

Croatian government have gotten creditors on board a plan to erase the debts of some 60,000 poorest citizens. The “fresh start” scheme targets less than 1 percent of the entire debt, but is hoped to boost the economy in the long-term.

The unorthodox measure was voted for by the government on January 15 and comes into force on Monday. To be eligible to participate debtors must have no savings or property, have a debt no greater than about $5,100 and live on welfare or an income of no higher than $138 per month.

“We assess that this measure will be applicable to some 60,000 citizens,” Deputy Prime Minister Milanka Opacic said as he was introducing the bailout. “Thus they will be given a chance for a new start without a burden of debt.”

Good Samaritans donate to Detroit man who walks 21 miles to work each day

Unable to afford a car, Detroit resident James Robertson walks a 21 mile round trip to his factory job each day. A local man noticed his plight and began offering him rides. Now, an online donation page has reeled in plenty of money for a car – and more.

As of 3:20 p.m. EST, the GoFundMe page ‘Help James Robertson Get a Car’ had more than $222,000 in donations.

CIA torture whistleblower John Kiriakou released from prison

John Kiriakou, the 14-year former CIA veteran sentenced to two-and-a-half years in federal prison after disclosing the agency’s torture program, was released Tuesday to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest.

FCC chairman proposes ‘strongest open internet protections ever’

The chairman of the United States Federal Communications Commission has unveiled his plans concerning the future of net neutrality and promised “there would be no rate regulation, no tariffs, no last-mile unbundling” involved.

Fiji removes Britain’s Union Flag from its standard to ‘dispense with colonial symbols’

Fiji will remove Great Britain’s Union Flag from its own national banner, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has announced.

Bainimarama said it was “time to dispense with the colonial symbols.”

Alibaba drone deliveries to quench China’s thirst for tea

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba launched the maiden voyage of a drone delivery service that promises to have a cup of tea in subscribers’ hands within an hour.

The online retailer, which was listed on the New York Stock Exchange last year in the largest initial public offering (IPO) to date, will limit the promotion to a three-day period, and only for a few neighborhoods in the Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Pregnant activist crashes glitzy arms industry dinner, urges guests to ‘consider career change’

A pregnant political activist entered a glitzy arms industry dinner in Westminster, commandeered a microphone and warned assembled arms dealers and MPs that making profit “causing death and destruction around the world” is unacceptable.

After making her way to a microphone undetected, Anne Marie O’Reilly expressed concern her unborn child would face a world where arms dealers profit from human suffering and bloodshed.

The anti-arms activist’s unexpected intervention left the crowd somewhat stunned.

While O’Reilly’s unassuming manner initially drew a warm reception, her criticism of the UK establishment’s links to the arms trade was followed by a long and awkward silence.

Before being escorted off stage, O’Reilly suggested arms dealers in the audience should reconsider their careers.

New smartphone dongle diagnoses HIV in just 15 minutes

A cheap new device that can be attached to a smartphone can reportedly diagnose cases of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and syphilis – and, amazingly enough, the test only takes 15 minutes to complete.

Developed by researchers at Columbia University, the new phone attachment is being heralded as a potentially transformative breakthrough, due in no small part to its low cost. While the typical diagnostic machinery used to detect HIV and syphilis costs more than $18,000, the new mobile “dongle” costs a mere $34 to manufacture.

‘Historic opportunity’: Renewables start competing with fossil fuels

The cost of supplying wind and solar energy has been plummeting since 2010, with accelerated deployment putting it on par with the costs of fossil fuel energy generation in some of the areas, says the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Hydro, biomass, geothermal and wind power are now competitive with or cheaper than coal, oil and gas-fired power stations, despite oil prices are falling , according to a IRENA report. The IRENA study called Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2014, shows how renewable energy technology has changed over the past four years.

“Renewable energy projects across the globe are now matching or outperforming fossil fuels, particularly when accounting for externalities like local pollution, environmental damage and ill health,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Amin. “The plummeting price of renewables is creating a historic opportunity to build a clean, sustainable energy system and avert catastrophic climate change in an affordable way,” he added.

It’s been the decline in equipment and technology costs that have driven down the cost of wind and solar. “Renewable power generation equipment costs are falling, even as the technologies themselves continue becoming more efficient. The combination of these two factors has led to the continual, often rapid, decline in the cost of electricity from renewable-based technologies,” the report says.

Six-year-old artist donates first income to help poor kids in Angola

A 6-year-old artist has donated money raised through his charity exhibition to kids in Angola. “We need to go see other people’s lives,” Paul Jules Butler said. “Maybe we should live like them, maybe they can live like us. Then we can get along better.”

Notorious for mountains of burning garbage that choke the air, Lixeira is where the planet’s poorest of the poor live, in the middle of nowhere. Without the aid of UNICEF and missions like the one Paul helped, [many] local children would have died long ago. [And] Paul’s €210 that his paintings brought is a fortune in Luanda’s slums where child labor is common practice.

The other day when Paul was watching TV, a UNICEF commercial about Syrian children feeling cold was aired, prompting the boy to ask his father: “Can we text some money to help those little kids be warm?” […]

The self-taught painter lives in a German village with his parents. Half American, half Romanian, Paul has a dream. He is craving to go to his father’s hometown, the oldest city in America, Charleston, to take part in the Spoleto Festival USA and Piccolo Spoletto arts event in South Carolina in May. The little boy is curious to see whether people would enjoy his paintings. But – first and foremost – Paul says he wants to talk to the Indians.
“Are there any of them left in America?” he wonders.

Paul’s parents have set up a crowd-funding effort at Indiegogo to raise money for the trip.

New Mexico sheriff foils IRS attempt to seize resident’s property

A sheriff in New Mexico physically stopped US Marshals from enforcing Internal Revenue Service orders at a residential property, later calling on the IRS to halt a public auction of the premises until the tax-owing homeowner’s court appeal is heard.

Tripping dinosaurs? Oldest-ever grass evolved along with fungus used as basis for LSD

The discovery of a 100-million-year-old grass fossil preserved in amber also contains an ancient type of ergot – the [fungal]  parasite that is key to synthesizing the hallucinogenic drug LSD. This points to its presence in the earliest of food chains.

“It seems like ergot has been involved with animals and humans almost forever, and now we know that this fungus literally dates back to the earliest evolution of grasses,” expert on amber-based life-forms at OSU George Poinar Jr. says.

“This is an important discovery that helps us understand the timeline of grass development, which now forms the basis of the human food supply in such crops as corn, rice or wheat,” he continues. “But it also shows that this parasitic fungus may have been around almost as long as the grasses themselves, as both a toxin and natural hallucinogen.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind that it would have been eaten by sauropod dinosaurs, although we can’t know what exact effect it had on them.”

First Palestinian embassy in W. Europe opens in Sweden

The first-ever Palestinian embassy in Western Europe has opened in Sweden on Tuesday evening, the Swedish prime minister’s press service said. President Mahmoud Abbas has arrived in Stockholm for the event.

“Your recognition…should push forward negotiations in the peace process,” Abbas said.

Say cheese! Hubble telescope captures extraterrestrial smiley face

The heavens are smiling back at mankind through a star constellation discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope, which captured an image of a galaxy cluster that looks exactly like the smiley face we have all grown accustomed to in the internet age.

(c) nasa.gov

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