Greetings!

Greetings to all you Gnusies, Gnubies, occasional drop-ins, silent regulars, and first-timers! Come sit with us to find and share messages of hope and to celebrate all the ways good people are solving problems and triumphing over evil-doers. The task we have set ourselves here in Gnuville is to search out hope no matter how difficult the situation might be. We’ve learned over the past four years that hope can be found even in the darkest times. And with the Biden era off to a roaring start, there’s so much good news and so much hope that it’s gotten hard to pare Good News Roundups to a reasonable length!  

Don’t forget that the Good News Roundup is a collaborative effort. We warmly encourage you to add your own good news finds in our comment section, The Best Comment Section on the Internet™, where sanity reigns, Gloomy Guses and Debbie Downers are encouraged to see the light, and pie fights are forbidden.

Let’s get to the good news!

Introduction

Goodie blew me away on Saturday with a powerful poem and an even more powerful message drawn from the poem. The message was that we have the framework we need  for making our nation work for all of us, but it will require hard work from all of us to make that goal a reality. As she put it, borrowing the metaphor from the poem “Good Bones”:

America has good bones.  There are no better bones than government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  There are no better bones than justice, freedom, and liberty for all.  

Believing in those bones — seeing and feeling and experiencing those bones — inspires us to do the hard and never ending work of fixing and repairing all that needs to be fixed and repaired — from infrastructure to inequality.  It leads us to continue the neverending fight against persistent problems like prejudice — the rot that always seems to return.  It leads us to keep chipping away; room by room, floor by floor.

And knowing that our work is never done and that the forces of darkness are always fighting us makes our hard work that much more essential.  This house could crumble into the ground without our work.  It could be a pile of dust and sticks of old wood and rot and rusted nails poking out dangerously through the rubble.

But with our hard work, it can be better and better, every single day.

After reading Goodie’s wonderful piece, I felt the resonance of another poem: Langston Hughes’ “Let America Be America Again.” Since April is officially Poetry Month, it feels appropriate to center a second GNR intro around poems. The Hughes poem is long, so I’ll quote only the final stanzas:

From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

Which brings me to Amanda Gorman’s Inaugural Poem, “The Hill We Climb.”  It ends with these stirring words that echo Hughes:

We will rise from the golden hills of the west.
We will rise from the wind-swept north-east where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked south.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.
In every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country,
our people, diverse and beautiful, will emerge, battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

I’m feeling a lot of hope these days that we’re within reach of many of the transformational changes that will make our nation live up to its founding ideals at last. Read on for stories of political courage, grassroots successes, and determination to right some of the wrongs of the past. 

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Good news in politics

Since we can count on hpg to keep us up to the minute on political news, here are just a few political good news stories that caught my attention.

Biden picks vocal Trump critics to lead immigration agencies

From The Hill:

President Biden on Monday nominated two vocal Trump critics to fill top immigration and border policy spots in his administration.

Biden pegged Tucson, Ariz., Police Chief Chris Magnus to lead Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Ur Jaddou to head United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The two agencies are components of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). CBP oversees border and port-of-entry operations, while USCIS is responsible for granting visas, permanent residences and naturalizations.

Biden to nominate first female Army secretary

More evidence that Biden is serious about diversity in his Cabinet.

From The Hill:

President Biden will nominate experienced Pentagon hand Christine Wormuth to be Army secretary, the White House announced Monday, setting her up to be the first woman in the job if she is confirmed.

“Christine is a true patriot with a dedicated career in service to America and our nation’s security,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement. “I have no doubt that, if confirmed, she will lead our soldiers and represent their families with honor and integrity as the Secretary of the Army.”

Wormuth most recently served as the head of Biden’s Pentagon transition team, a role she took over after Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks stepped aside to focus on her own confirmation process.

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She last worked at the Pentagon during the Obama administration. From 2014 to 2016, she served as under secretary of Defense for policy, considered the department’s third most-powerful civilian job, a role that saw her “advising two secretaries of Defense on the full range of foreign policy and national security issues,” the White House said.

Republicans blame everyone but themselves for fallout over racist Georgia voting law

This is going to bite them in the ass. Everyone can see that they’re lying.

From The American Independent:

…Republicans in the U.S. Senate are trying to shift responsibility for the fallout [from Georgia’s voting law].

The National Republican Senatorial Committee released an ad on Sunday in which it places the blame for Major League Baseball moving the 2021 All-Star Game out of Georgia on Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.

The ad, posted under the heading “Warnock’s All-Star Blunder With The MLB,” features …video of CNN’s Dana Bash asking Warnock, “Should boycotts be on the table?” Warnock responds, “I think we all have to use our voices.”

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Georgia Republicans knew that businesses were concerned about the new election law before they passed it.

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce, which represents major businesses in the state, had issued a statement a week before Kemp signed the legislation  expressing “concern and opposition” to its provisions. Major companies like Coca-Cola and Home Depot said they agreed with the chamber’s comments.

Warnock fought against the bill before it was passed and continues to speak out against it, urging Senate Democrats to pass H.R. 1, the “For the People Act,” a government and elections reform bill passed in the House that would prohibit many of the voter suppression tactics GOP state lawmakers have either already passed or are pushing to implement across the country.

More than 100 corporate executives hold call to discuss halting donations and investments to fight controversial voting bills

From The Washington Post:

More than 100 chief executives and corporate leaders gathered online Saturday [April 10th] to discuss taking new action to combat the controversial state voting bills being considered across the country, including the one recently signed into law in Georgia.

Executives from major airlines, retailers and manufacturers — plus at least one NFL owner — talked about potential ways to show they opposed the legislation, including by halting donations to politicians who support the bills and even delaying investments in states that pass the restrictive measures, according to four people who were on the call, including one of the organizers, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale management professor.

While no final steps were agreed upon, the meeting represents an aggressive dialing up of corporate America’s stand against controversial voting measures nationwide, a sign that their opposition to the laws didn’t end with the fight against the Georgia legislation passed in March.

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The online call between corporate executives on Saturday “shows they are not intimidated by the flak [from Republicans like Trump and McConnell]. They are not going to be cowed,” Sonnenfeld said. “They felt very strongly that these voting restrictions are based on a flawed premise and are dangerous.”

Leaders from dozens of companies such as Delta, American, United, Starbucks, Target, LinkedIn, Levi Strauss and Boston Consulting Group, along with Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, were included on the Zoom call, according to people who listened in.

House Democrats have a plan to combat Georgia’s ban on food and drink for voters

From The American Independent:

A pair of House Democrats introduced a bill that would nullify one of the most talked-about provisions in Georgia’s voter suppression law by blocking the state from prohibiting the passing out food and drinks to people waiting in line to vote.

According to the text of the bill, titled the Stay in Line to Vote Act, “A State may not prohibit a person from providing food or drink to individuals at a polling place in the State in an election for Federal office, including at a polling place at which individuals may cast ballots prior to the date of the election.”

The bill is in direct response to Georgia’s new omnibus voter suppression law, which criminalizes handing out food and drinks within “25 feet of any voter standing in line to vote at any polling place,” among a slew of voting restrictions.

In order to try to keep this provision from being enforced, Democratic Reps. Susan Wild of Pennsylvania and Nikema Williams of Georgia introduced the act on Friday, along with 15 Democratic co-sponsors.
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Groups like Pizza to the Polls raised money to send hundreds of pizzas to voters waiting to cast ballots in Georgia’s critical Senate runoff elections. According to the Pizza to the Polls website, some polling locations they visited had wait times of more than four hours.

Pete Buttigieg To Reluctant Evangelicals: ‘Maybe A Vaccine Is Part Of God’s Plan’

I love how smart Pete Buttigieg is when he talks with people who disagree with him. He always manages to find an unexpected and effective hook.

From Huffpost:

[On Sunday,] “State of the Union” host Jake Tapper asked Buttigieg, an Episcopalian, about the large portion of white evangelicals who say they won’t get a COVID-19 vaccine. About 40% of white evangelical Protestants said they likely would not get vaccinated, according to a poll conducted last month, compared to about 25% of all Americans, 28% of white mainline Protestants and 27% of Protestants who are not white.

“I’ve heard people I care about saying, you know, ‘If I’m faithful, God’s going to take care of me,’” Buttigieg said. “And I guess what I would hope that they might consider is that maybe a vaccine is part of God’s plan for how you’re going to take care of yourself.”

Buttigieg acknowledged during the exchange on CNN that his opinion on the matter may not sway many white evangelicals, and he urged faith leaders to speak out in support of vaccines.

“In the end, I have to admit that it’s unlikely that an official like me is going to be persuasive to somebody who maybe doesn’t feel like Washington has been speaking to them for a long time,” Buttigieg said.

“The idea of pastoral care is about supporting those who look to you for guidance,” he added. “So I hope anybody who is looking after a community of people, including a faith community, will consider ways to help guide them toward steps that can protect them and protect those around them.”

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Good news from my corner of the world

Portland launches outside review of potential racial, political bias in its police department

The context for the following story is a recent incident in which the Portland Police Department leaked information to the media that inaccurately identified the sole Black woman on the Portland City Council as a hit-and-run driver. The commissioner, Jo Ann Hardesty, is the city’s most outspoken advocate of defunding the PPD.  The president of the Portland police union resigned shortly after the leak occurred, citing an unspecified “mistake” he made related to it, which has still not been clarified. So this “outside review” is definitely needed. (BTW, we already know that the answers to the questions about racial bias, political bias, and resistance to change all should be answered in the affirmative.)

From The Oregonian:

The city of Portland has signed a $150,000 contract with a California firm to investigate whether the city’s police agency shows racial or political bias or resistance to change.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who believes she and other Black people have been the targets of Portland police bias, announced the contract details Thursday. The study’s findings are due by December, they said.

The firm they hired, OIR Group, is the same one the city recently retained to perform a narrower investigation into the leak last month of police and dispatch records related to a mistaken report that Hardesty was the driver in a minor hit-and-run car collision.
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The Portland police and city’s Bureau of Emergency Communications have also announced their own internal investigations of the leak, which critics believe was intended to damage Hardesty, a political opponent of the bureau.

The larger independent review of the Portland Police Bureau announced Thursday will examine three broad topics, Wheeler and Hardesty said in a news release.

Racial bias: Are the Police Bureau’s policies, culture or actions influenced by racial bias? If so, what is the extent of that bias, what are its root causes and what are the best practices to addresses them?

Political bias: Are the Police Bureau’s policies, culture or actions influenced by political bias? If so, what is the extent of that bias, what are its root causes and what should be done about them?

Resistance to change: Are the Police Bureau’s policies, culture or actions resistant to change sought by the community? If so, what is the extent of that resistance, what are its root causes and what are the best practices to address that resistance?

Portland approves $6 million plan to prevent gun violence

Note that “the plan does not include any new funding for the police bureau.”

From OPB:

Portland City Council approved a $6 million proposal Wednesday to try to slow a sharp increase in gun violence …The last-minute agreement is a compromise between the mayor and the council’s three newest commissioners, who pushed the mayor to find an answer to the skyrocketing number of shootings that didn’t include earmarking new funds for the police bureau.

The three commissioners got much of what they asked for. The proposal puts no new money toward the police bureau. Instead, $1.4 million will be funneled to the city’s Parks & Recreation bureau to hire park rangers, who would patrol the city’s parks and neighborhoods through the end of the year. Another $4.1 million would go to grants for nonprofits working with the city’s Office of Violence Prevention to reduce gun violence.

But the mayor also got a major win. …[he] got the council’s approval to re-assign 12 officers and two sergeants to form a gun violence intervention team… [including] civilian analysts to provide transparent data.

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All five council members enthusiastically endorsed the proposal. The most notable endorsement came from Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, [who said] “What we’re doing today is starting a pathway to making sure we’re investing dollars where they will make the most good.”

The grants would go to nonprofits working to prevent the rise in gun violence … including Latino Network, NAYA and Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, all of which provide street outreach to at-risk youth.

The new teams for gun violence prevention and investigation are the latest in a string of proposals suggested by police and city leadership since the council voted last summer to disband the Gun Violence Reduction Team, a unit many accused of disproportionately targeting people of color.

Multnomah County Declares Racism a Public Health Crisis

After the welcome announcement last week by Rochelle Walensky declaring that racism is “a serious public health threat,” Multnomah County, Oregon’s most populous county, has done the same.

From Willamette Week:

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners declared racism a public health crisis Thursday, amid a pandemic that has devastated communities of color and a year of street protests that have forced many Oregonians to reckon with the state’s racist history.

The vote was unanimous.

Ebony Clarke, the Multnomah County Health Department’s interim director, introduced the proposal at the commissioners’ meeting.

“We talk about leading with race, and leading with race means that we’re working to dismantle and undo the poor outcomes associated with those social determinants of health around race and racism,” Clarke said.

Formally recognizing racism as a public health problem is a significant step because it bakes consideration of race into any future policy the county bureaucracy considers. In other words, now that county leaders have declared racial inequity a threat to public health, they will be obligated to look for ways to counteract racism in future, practical policy decisions.

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Good news from around the nation

Maryland becomes first state to repeal police Bill of Rights, overriding Hogan veto

From Politico:

Maryland’s Democrat-controlled legislature on Saturday moved to pass a sweeping police reform package that repealed the state’s police Bill of Rights, becoming the first state in the nation to do so and overriding Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s vetoes in the process.

The state’s police Bill of Rights covered due process for officers accused of misconduct. Advocates for repeal have called it “one of the most extreme in the nation.” The new law will also give more oversight power to civilians.

Another one of the bills Hogan vetoed will require “certain” no-knock warrants to be approved by both a supervisor and the State’s Attorney and be between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., barring “exigent circumstances.”

One of the new laws will also require officers to use force only if it is “necessary and proportional.”

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“Maryland is leading the country in transforming our broken policing system,” Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne Jones, a Democrat, wrote in a tweet Saturday. “Now, for the first time in our nation’s history, the rights of officers will not be held above the rights of individuals, and policing in Maryland will be transparent and citizen-centered.”

Baltimore will no longer prosecute for drug possession, prostitution, or other low-level crimes after pandemic experiment ‘success’

More good news from Maryland!

From the Insider:

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced Friday the city would no longer prosecute low-level, non-violent offenses after a year-long experiment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mosby stopped prosecuting such crimes a year ago as part of the Covid Criminal Justice policies effort to prevent virus transmission in jails and prisons, a move that was adopted by prosecutors in other cities as well.

A year on, the policies have been a “success,” according to a joint statement from the state’s attorney, mayor, and community partners. … As a result, the policies will be adopted permanently.

“Today, America’s war on drug users is over in the city of Baltimore. We leave behind the era of tough-on-crime prosecution and zero-tolerance policing and no longer default to the status quo to criminalize mostly people of color for addiction,” Mosby said. “We will develop sustainable solutions and allow our public health partners to do their part to address mental health and substance use disorder.”

Offenses that will no longer be prosecuted include drug possession, prostitution, public urination, and open container laws, among others.

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Crime is also down in Baltimore, which has a notoriously high violent crime rate, despite some other US cities experiencing a sharp spike in crimes in 2020. In Baltimore, violent crime is down 20% over the year, while property crime is down 36%.

New Boston Mayor Kim Janey: ‘We cannot go back to normal’ on racial equity

From The Hill:

Kim Janey, who last month became the first Black woman to be named mayor of Boston, said in a CNN interview published Sunday that the city cannot return “to normal” when it comes to its history of racial inequities.

Janey made the remark while discussing the city’s history on race and a perception of Boston, which had only been represented by white men in the mayor’s office before she assumed the role, as a racist city.

“I know there is a perception and a reputation that Boston has, but I think what is important is that the reality and the opportunities that we create for residents here is one that is focused on equity, on justice, on love and ensuring that there is shared prosperity in our city and shared opportunities,” she said.

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CNN noted that glaring racial disparities persist for the city, despite strides made in recent decades.

The report comes after research emerged that showed white families in Boston alone had a median net worth of $247,000. By contrast, Black families had a median net worth of $8, according to the network.

In her interview, Janey said she thinks “there is certainly a call for racial equity and making sure that we are leading with that lens. … We cannot go back to normal,” she told the network. “I know, people are anxious to get on with their lives, put this pandemic behind us. And I certainly want to do that as well, put the pandemic behind us. But we have to come out of this pandemic stronger than before.”

Sweeping climate law zeroes out carbon pollution for Massachusetts

More good news from Massachusetts!

From Ars Technica:

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law late last week one of the nation’s most sweeping climate bills, putting the state on a path to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The law sets emissions limits of 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 75 percent cuts by 2040 with interim limits every five years. To achieve those goals, the Bay State will add gigawatts of offshore wind power, spur cities and towns to adopt a net-zero building code, and set targets for electric vehicles, charging stations, and energy storage.

The state expects that it will be able to fully eliminate 85 percent of all carbon emissions by 2050. For the remaining 15 percent, it will have to find other options, including tree planting or direct air capture of carbon dioxide. The net-zero target of 2050 is encouraged by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to avoid warming of greater than 1.5˚ C.

The governor’s office and the legislature had been volleying the bill back and forth for months—this was the third time the legislature had sent the bill to Gov. Baker’s desk. Baker, a Republican, has publicly supported climate legislation, but he vetoed the first version in January and a second in February. The legislature, which is majority Democrat, adopted some of his suggested amendments and returned it a third time with a veto-proof majority.

EPA takes tougher stance on new chemicals

From Chemical & Engineering News:

The US Environmental Protection Agency is making major changes to the way it evaluates the safety of new chemicals, the agency announced March 29. To start, the EPA will assess the risks of all uses—known and potential—of a new chemical, and it will mandate necessary protections for workers.

The changes aim to better align risk assessments of new chemicals with the requirements of the Toxic Substances Control Act, the EPA says. The agency intends to make additional changes as necessary to ensure new chemicals do not pose unreasonable risks to human health and the environment.

Under the Trump administration, the EPA commonly justified approving new chemicals without addressing the risks of potential future uses of the chemical by issuing what is known as a significant new use rule (SNUR). A SNUR postpones risk assessment of a potential use until a company tells the EPA it will use a chemical in that way. The agency says that it will no longer rely on SNURs to exclude reasonably foreseen uses from its evaluation of new substances.

“Congress anticipated that EPA would review all conditions of use at the time it made safety determinations on new chemicals,” Michal Freedhoff, acting assistant administrator of the EPA’s chemicals office, said during a March 29 plenary session at the industry-sponsored GlobalChem Conference. “Under the Biden EPA, when our review leads us to conclude that one or more uses may present an unreasonable risk or when we lack the information needed to make a safety finding, we will issue an order to address those potential risks,” she said.

A Black family’s beach property in California was taken during the Jim Crow era. The county is now giving it back, and it’s worth millions

From CNN:

A century ago, a Black couple owned a beach resort in Manhattan Beach — a Southern California town known for its scenic expanse. An inviting soulful energy and the songs of Black entertainers radiated throughout the corridors of the dance hall and lodge.

But the music and good times would not last due to the strict racial segregation that dominated American life then. Harassment from White neighbors and the Ku Klux Klan tore away at the dreams of owners Charles and Willa Bruce.
The final blow came in 1924 when the city took the property through eminent domain and paid the couple a fraction of what they asked for. The city wanted the land for a park. The Bruces left and died just five years later.
      Now, there’s a move afoot to provide justice to their descendants. Los Angeles County officials on Friday said they are working with state lawmakers on legislation that would return the property — worth perhaps $75 million — to the family.
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      Giving the land back to the Bruce descendants will require state action. A bill will be introduced this week.

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      Good news from around the world

      ‘Our biggest challenge? Lack of imagination’: the scientists turning the desert green

      This is a long article from which I’m quoting only enough to give you an overview. It’s worth reading in full. 

      From The Guardian:

      [Ties] van der Hoeven is a co-founder of the Weather Makers, a Dutch firm of “holistic engineers” with a plan to regreen the Sinai peninsula – the small triangle of land that connects Egypt to Asia. Within a couple of decades, the Weather Makers believe, the Sinai could be transformed from a hot, dry, barren desert into a green haven teeming with life: forests, wetlands, farming land, wild flora and fauna. A regreened Sinai would alter local weather patterns and even change the direction of the winds, bringing more rain, the Weather Makers believe – hence their name.

      “If anybody doubts that the Sinai can be regreened,” Van der Hoeven told [a group of Egyptian delegates academics, and representatives of ministers and military top brass], “then you have to understand that landing on the moon was once thought unrealistic. They didn’t lay out a full, detailed roadmap when they started, but they had the vision. And step by step they made it happen.” 

      “This world is ready for regenerative change,” [van der Hoeven] says. “It’s going to be a complete change of our behaviour as a species in the longer term. It is going to be a step as big as fire was for humanity.”

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      There is evidence that the Sinai once was green – as recently as 4,500 to 8,000 years ago. Cave paintings found there depict trees and plants. Records in the 1,500-year-old Saint Catherine’s monastery, near Mount Sinai, tally harvests of wood. Satellite images reveal a network of rivers flowing from the mountains in the south towards the Mediterranean.

      What turned the Sinai into a desert was, most likely, human activity. Wherever they settle, humans tend to chop down trees and clear land. This loss of vegetation affects the land’s ability to retain moisture. Grazing animals trample and consume plants when they try to grow back. The soil loses its structure and is washed away, hence the silt in Lake Bardawil [which van der Hoeven was hired to dredge]. Van der Hoeven calculated the lake contained about 2.5bn cubic metres of silt. If one were to restore the Sinai, this vast reserve of nutrient-rich material was exactly what would be needed. “It became clear we had a massive opportunity,” he says. “It wasn’t the solution to a single problem; it was the solution to all the problems.”

      Indonesian eco-warrior turns arid hills green

      From Future Crunch:

      Meet Sadiman, a 69 year old eco-warrior who single-handedly planted 250 hectares of trees around his drought-prone region of Central Java in Indonesia, restoring critical water sources that have led to a boom in local agriculture production.

      Sadiman started his mission 24 years ago, after fires that were used to clear the land left the mountains barren, and local rivers and lakes close to dry. With a deep understanding of plants, Sadiman knew that the wide-spreading roots of banyan and ficus trees would help retain groundwater and prevent further land erosion.

      People around his community were skeptical at first, and many of them called him a madman. Sadiman was undeterred and went about his mission alone. Wearing his trademark ranger hat and safari shirt, he worked tirelessly for two and a half decades to plant 11,000 trees. Despite having little money of his own, Sadiman never asked for handouts and purchased the tree seeds by trading his goats and bartering from his nursery of cloves and jackfruit.

      Today Sadiman is celebrated as a local hero and affectionately addressed as ‘mbah’ or ‘grandpa’ by his community. Thanks to his relentless drive, springs have formed around the once arid land. Water is piped to homes and used to irrigate local farms, some of which have tripled their yearly harvest thanks to the abundant water sources that are now available.

      The deforestation solution that not enough people are talking about

      Click on the link to read this eye-opening article all the way through.

      From Positive News:

      The world’s rainforests are shrinking at a truly scary rate. That’s hardly news. But their destruction is now threatening to overwhelm all our efforts to slow climate change. Scientists warn that if we are to have any hope of capping the global temperature rise at the 1.5 degree threshold seen as the maximum ‘safe’ level, then we need to halt forest destruction, and soon.

      Easier said than done. But when it comes to rainforests, the most promising solution seems surprisingly simple: trust the people who live there.

      That may sound like wishful thinking. However there’s growing evidence that giving indigenous peoples control over the forest which they have called home for generations can be the best – and most cost-effective – way of safeguarding its future. Simply awarding them formal title to their land can make a huge difference. In the Peruvian Amazon, for example, studies show that giving indigenous communities legal title to their land cut forest loss by a whopping 81 per cent over the following year. Intriguingly, such recognition is even more effective than declaring a forest region to be a protected area, such as a national park.

      Mi’kmaq reclaim their fishing rights

      From Future Crunch:

      The Mi’kmaq First Nations people of Nova Scotia have reclaimed their native fishing rights after becoming majority owners in one of the largest seafood businesses in North America. The landmark deal is part of a growing movement of indigenous people regaining control of their traditional food ways to restore the crucial marine and land habitats that have nourished their tribes for centuries.

      Archaeologists Discover ‘Dazzling’ 3,000-Year-old Egyptian City, Left ‘As if it were yesterday’

      From the Good News Network:

      Photo of recently uncovered 3000-yeaar-old Egyptian city.

      Excavations began 6 months ago in September about 300 miles south of Cairo, and before long “to the team’s great surprise, formations of mud bricks began to appear in all directions.” These are the words of famed Egyptologist and former antiquities minister Dr. Zahi Hawass, who posted a statement of the discovery on Facebook.

      Identified as “Dazzling Aten,” it’s the largest-ever lost city to be uncovered in Egypt, and dated to the reign of one of the most powerful pharaohs to rule during the kingdom’s golden age, Amenhotep III. Ruling from 1391 to 1353 BCE alongside his son, the equally famous Akhenaten, Hawass described their city as being in “a good condition of preservation, with almost complete walls, and with rooms filled with tools of daily life.”

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      Featuring zigzagging walls, a rarity in ancient Egypt, the haunts of specialty craftsmen, such as brickmakers, glazers, and jewelers, have been discovered, along with evidence of their work, such as the seal of Amenhotep III that would have been used to stamp into mud bricks that likely built several nearby monuments such as the Temple of Ramses II.

      Other districts for large-scale baking and storing of foods were also discovered, and the archaeologists determined that they would have been capable of hosting many workers at one time—likely for festivals and funerary ceremonies.

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      Good news in science

      New Brain Cancer Immunotherapy Shows Promise in Human Trial – Most Patients Saw No Tumor Growth For 3 Years

      From Good News Network:

      A landmark human trial testing a vaccine that’s designed to help the immune system target brain tumors has shown promising results—and Phase 2 of the trial is now being planned.

      According to a Nature article published by the researchers leading the trial, the vaccine was safe for all patients, and showed the hoped-for immune response to cancerous tissue.

      Diffuse gliomas are usually incurable brain tumors that spread in the brain and are difficult to remove completely by surgery. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy often only have a limited effect too.

      In many cases, diffuse gliomas share a common feature: in more than 70 percent of patients, the tumor cells have the same gene mutation. An identical error in the DNA causes a single, specific protein building block to be exchanged in the IDH1 enzyme. This creates a novel protein structure, known as a neo-epitope, which can be recognized as foreign by the patient’s immune system.

      “Our idea was to support patients’ immune system and to use a vaccine as a targeted way of alerting it to the tumor-specific neo-epitope,” explained study director Michael Platten, Medical Director of the Department of Neurology of University Medicine Mannheim and Head of Division at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ).

      Compounds in Amber Could Help Fight Drug-Resistant Bacteria Superbugs

      From Good News Network:

      For centuries, people in Baltic nations have used ancient amber for medicinal purposes. Even today, infants are given amber necklaces that they chew to relieve teething pain, and people put pulverized amber in elixirs and ointments for its purported anti-inflammatory and anti-infective properties.

      Now, scientists have pinpointed compounds that help explain Baltic amber’s therapeutic effects and that could lead to new medicines to combat antibiotic-resistant infections.

      Each year in the U.S., at least 2.8 million people get antibiotic-resistant infections, leading to 35,000 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

      “We knew from previous research that there were substances in Baltic amber that might lead to new antibiotics, but they had not been systematically explored,” says Elizabeth Ambrose, Ph.D., who is the principal investigator of the project. “We have now extracted and identified several compounds in Baltic amber that show activity against gram-positive, antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”
      ✂️ 
      [Amber] is fossilized resin formed about 44 million years ago. The resin oozed from now-extinct pines in the Sciadopityaceae family and acted as a defense against microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi, as well as herbivorous insects that would become trapped in the resin.

      Using Submarine Cables to Detect Earthquakes

      From Caltech:

      Seismologists at Caltech working with optics experts at Google have developed a method to use existing underwater telecommunication cables to detect earthquakes. The technique could lead to improved earthquake and tsunami warning systems around the world.

      A vast network of more than a million kilometers of fiber optic cable lies at the bottom of Earth’s oceans. In the 1980s, telecommunication companies and governments began laying these cables, each of which can span thousands of kilometers. Today, the global network is considered the backbone of international telecommunications.

      Scientists have long sought a way to use those submerged cables to monitor seismicity. … Previous efforts to use optical fibers to study seismicity have relied on the addition of sophisticated scientific instruments and/or the use of so-called “dark fibers,” fiber optic cables that are not actively being used.

      Now Zhongwen Zhan (PhD ’13), assistant professor of geophysics at Caltech, and his colleagues have come up with a way to analyze the light traveling through “lit” fibers—in other words, existing and functioning submarine cables—to detect earthquakes and ocean waves without the need for any additional equipment. They describe the new method in the February 26 issue of the journal Science.

      “This new technique can really convert the majority of submarine cables into geophysical sensors that are thousands of kilometers long to detect earthquakes and possibly tsunamis in the future,” says Zhan. “We believe this is the first solution for monitoring seismicity on the ocean floor that could feasibly be implemented around the world.

      *   *   *   *   *

      My favorite video of the week

      A few minutes of mesmerizing art. 

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      Good news for and about animals

      Coronavirus pandemic slowdown has made the oceans quieter, which has been good for whales

      From NBC News:

      …the global slowdown has actually been good for the whales, as human interference has decreased. Ambient noise in the world’s oceans from cruise ships, sonar and construction is way down.

      ✂️

      [Ari Friedlaender, a marine ecologist and biologist with the University of California at Santa Cruz] is studying how the quieter oceans have affected whales by measuring their stress levels through hormone samples. Friedlaender said animals use acoustics such as whale songs to communicate with one another and locate food. Noise in the environment can interfere with those communications and other critical life functions.

      ✂️ 

      The pandemic has had an even more concrete impact on the whale population off Iceland’s coast: It has helped accelerate the end of commercial whale hunting.

      The biggest animal welfare success of the past 6 years, in one chart

      From Vox:

      Graph from USDA and Humane League Labs showing a dramatic increase in cage-free hens from 2008-2020

      …some of the worst factory farming practices are on their way out.

      One of those practices is the use of “battery cages” in the egg industry, cages so small that hens can’t even spread their wings. Since the 1960s, egg farmers in the US have predominantly used these cages — but that’s starting to change.

      Due to a number of states banning the use of battery cages, and some states even banning the sale of eggs from caged hens, along with big food companies pledging to phase them out of their supply chains, the use of battery cages has been on a rapid decline in the last six years, replaced by cage-free barns.

      According to an analysis by the Humane League, one of several animal welfare nonprofits that lobby food companies to improve their animal welfare standards, in 2015, just 6 percent of US hens were raised cage-free. Now, 29 percent are. That’s over 70 million hens out of cages in just six years — easily one of the biggest successes of the animal welfare movement.

      *   *   *   *   *

      Lynx-rest-sunshine_iphone_320x480.jpg

      Hot lynx

      www.theatlantic.com/…Research Proves It: There’s No Such Thing as Noblesse Oblige. “…people of higher socioeconomic status, compared with those lower down the ladder, are more prone to entitlement and narcissistic behavior.” (Is anyone surprised? Now let’s raise their taxes!!)

      www.theatlantic.com/…The Sand Octopus Was Hiding in Plain Sight. A rare species found in the 19th century, lost, then found again in the 21st. 

      www.goodnewsnetwork.org/…Mountains of Garbage in Russia are Being Turned Into Fashionable Accessories. A cool use of 3D printers to solve an environmental problem.

      www.theatlantic.com/…Your Diet Is Cooking the Planet. “To help save the planet, quit wasting food and eat less meat.” 

      www.europeanpharmaceuticalreview.com/…Novel HIV vaccine approach shows promise in “landmark” first-in-human trial. Using mRNA technology (like the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines), this HIV vaccine produces “broadly neutralizing antibodies (the ‘holy grail’ for HIV treatment) in 97% of participants.”

      *   *   *   *   *

      “Where ever is herd…”

      Our resident mentor, tech guru, and town crier, 2thanks, posts this in his Sunday roundup, and I like it so much I’m adding it to my own roundups from now on. It’s a terrific guide for new Gnusies and a handy reminder for all of us.

      Morning Good News Roundups at 7 x 7: These Gnusies lead the herd at 7 a.m. ET, 7 days a week: 

      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 Sunday afternoons at 3 p.m. ET. Our first regular afternoon Gnusie outpost! In search of a TOTW diary? Look here or here.

      For more information about the Good News group, please see our detailed Welcoming comment, which is usually the first comment in our morning diaries.

      *   *   *   *   *

      Closing music

      I know I’ve used this before, but any GNR that talks about fulfilling the promise of America would be incomplete without this most heartfelt of all renditions of “America the Beautiful.” This performance is from the Dick Cavett show in 1972.

      Thank you, Ray.

      ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️

      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!  💙❤️

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