Happy New Year, Gnusies! If you’ve been listening to the MSM and the gloom’n’doomers, you no doubt believe that 2021 was simply a dumpster fire of covid, climate disasters, and MAGAt madness. But if you’ve been looking past the headlines and reading GNRs regularly, you know that there was a lot of under-reported good news in 2021. What you might not realize is how much of it there was! 

Several excellent end-of-year lists of good news have been published this past week, which has made my job of putting together today’s GNR both easier and harder — the pickings are easy, but the volume is overwhelming, especially since I couldn’t resist re-posting some of my personal favorites.

So pour yourself a cup of your favorite morning beverage, find a comfortable seat, and settle in for what probably ranks as my longest-ever GNR! I hope it cheers and energizes you for the work we’re facing in 2022.

 Let’s begin with a Michael Franti song that reminds us that we can begin today to create change for the better:

You know today would be a very good day just to have a good day
With a little more love and a little more laughter
A little more good vibes, less disaster
You know today would be a very good day just to have a good day

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Good news in 2021 about President Biden — and Dr. Jill

Joe Biden’s Trickle Up Economics WORKED!

Gnusie writer chloris creator featured this story in her Friday GNR, but I have to repeat it here because it’s simply the best take on this important story:

From Evan Hurst on Wonkette:

As we dog paddle the last lap of the year through the toxic waste lagoon that is America’s political and civic discourse, let us just peek our head above the brown water for a moment and breathe in some clean air. Perhaps even haul ourselves out of the muck and touch grass, if you will. Because, thanks to Democratic stimulus bills shepherded by President Joe Biden, the economy is actually in pretty great shape. ✂️

As a recent Bloomberg piece by its former editor Matthew Winkler noted, “Corporate America is booming because the Biden administration’s Covid-19 vaccination programs and $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan reduced the jobless rate to 4.2% in November from 6.2% in February, continuing an unprecedented rate of decline during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

In plain English, when ordinary people have a little more cash in their pockets and feel like things are moving in the right direction, they buy shit. A lot of shit. Unlike rich people, who take their stupid tax cut and sock it away to make sure their grandchildren will never fly coach. (Or corporations, who buy back their own shares.) ✂️ 

Republicans are screaming bloody murder about Communist Biden ruining the economy, but, as Winkler points out, on metric after metric, that’s simply not the case. GDP is ballooning, as the economy recovers from the coronavirus contraction; wages are up, particularly for low-wage workers who need the cash the most; American companies are enjoying a 14 percent profit margin; and the stock market continues to rise.

And about that stock market:

The S&P 500 rang up 68 records in Biden’s 1st year? Here’s how stock-market returns stack up for the 46th president against others.

Note that Dem presidents see the stock market rise during their first year in office, while Rethug presidents see it fall. 

From MarketWatch:

Thus far, since taking the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2021, Democratic President Joe Biden can boast the best annual performance for the S&P 500 index SPX, -0.26% since the first term of President Barack Obama, who sought to extricate America from the Great Recession of 2008-09 along with then-Vice President Biden.

Near midday Friday, the S&P 500 was up over 25% in Biden’s first calendar year in office, compared with a 31.2% gain in the broad-market index under Obama. The equity market return for Biden is better than President Donald Trump’s 18.1% for the same index in 2017.

In fact, the average performance in the first year of a Democratic president since their swearing until the end of first year is a gain of 14.2% on average, compared with a 1.2% loss for the GOP.

Round one of child tax credit payments slashed hunger rates, U.S. data shows

From Politico:

The percentage of American families with kids who report not having enough to eat fell dramatically after the first child tax credit payments were distributed last month, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The government’s finding shows that the monthly payments are having a major and immediate impact on millions of households…✂️ 

The monthly payments of up to $300 for each kid under five and up to $250 for each kid under 18 are the result of one of the most sweeping provisions in the American Rescue Plan, though the policy did not garner much media attention at the time. The payments are set to continue each month through December.

Before the first tranche of tax credit payments hit bank accounts in mid-July, about 11 percent of households with children reported that they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat in the past week. After the money went out, the rate dropped to just over 8 percent — a decrease of nearly 24 percent — and the lowest rate recorded since the beginning of the pandemic.

Five Climate Moves by the Biden Administration You May Have Missed

From Inside Climate News:

Ending Fossil-Fueled Foreign Aid

…government agencies [will] no longer finance or otherwise support any fossil fuel projects that do not capture their own emissions, except under limited circumstances.

Building and Buying Better

getting the federal government to transition its 600,000 cars and trucks to electric vehicles, to move its 300,000 buildings to carbon-free energy and to institute a “Buy Clean” policy for the $650 billion in goods and services it purchases each year.

Efficiency in a New Light

On Dec. 6, the Biden administration took a first step toward reversing Trump era rollbacks on lighting efficiency standards…The Biden administration estimates that a return to efficient lighting standards would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 222 million metric tons over the next 30 years, while saving U.S. consumers a net $2.9 billion per year.

A Team to Lead on Environmental Justice

Earthea Nance, an engineer and associate professor at Texas Southern University, …will spearhead the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts in Texas and surrounding states as the Biden administration’s appointee to lead EPA Region 6.

The Power of the Transportation Purse-String

with the future of [BBB] in doubt, Biden’s team is focusing on what it can achieve on climate and environmental justice with the money that Congress already has approved. …The most significant piece is the $126 billion in new spending over the next five years that will be managed by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

This is the photo that will define Dr. Jill Biden as First Lady

From SemDem on Daily Kos, June 22, 2021:

x

The young man was super nervous. Biden reached out to grab his hand while blocking his view of the needle. The boy is gripping her hand for dear life but it was in and out, and everyone cheered. ✂️ 

Thank you, Dr. Jill, for restoring love and compassion in the White House. You have no idea how much that means to millions of Americans, including me.

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Good political news in 2021

Anonymous “Epik” Hack Spills All the Alt-Right’s Secrets

This is my pick for the 2021 story that tickled me the most.

From Medium, Oct. 4, 2021:

The breaking news of the hour is that the infamous hacker group Anonymous has again released a massive amount of data exposing the activities of alt-right groups.

In operation “Epik Fail,” Anonymous breached alt-right Web Hosting Provider Epik last month. Today they released a huge third batch of files on the web for download. ✂️ 

The data that’s been leaked so far came in three installments. The first two installments of 70 and 180 GBs were released in September.

Today‘s ’leak contains over 300 GB of data. Among other intel, it’s supposed to contain documents of the Texas GOP. ✂️ 

Epik’s other customers include 8chan, The Donald, Parler, and Gab. Basically, the who’s who of people who don’t believe in science and want to send us back to the Middle Ages.

Jury finds rally organizers liable for the violence that broke out in Charlottesville

We’re on the way to bankrupting these assholes!

From NPR, Nov. 23, 2021:

A jury in Virginia has found a group of white nationalists who organized the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., liable of engaging in a conspiracy ahead of the violent demonstration, awarding the plaintiffs who brought the case more than $25 million in damages on Tuesday. ✂️ 

Richard Spencer, Jason Kessler and Christopher Cantwell, as well as other white supremacists and neo-Nazis, were ordered to pay the nine plaintiffs in the civil trial millions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages for physical and emotional injuries. ✂️ 

Lawyers with the plaintiffs have acknowledged that one of the goals of the lawsuit was to diminish the ability of white supremacists to spread their message and influence by draining them financially.

“We know that we can really bankrupt, disrupt and dismantle hate groups and their leaders through civil litigation,” Amy Spitalnick, executive director of Integrity First for America, told NPR in October.

Indivisible Publicly Launches the “Truth Brigade” to Combat Online Disinformation

My favorite progressive initiative of the year.

From Indivisible, June 1, 2021:

“At a moment when disinformation is threatening our democracy, and even our lives, we are thrilled to be spreading the word that ordinary people can work together and stop it. We are welcoming concerned people everywhere to join the Truth Brigade and be a part of the fight,” said Leah Greenberg, Co-Executive Director of Indivisible. “When we share and amplify unified, factual messages, we shift the narrative. When we come together by the thousands and do it together, we may be the only thing that can stop the disinformation machine. The Truth Brigade is a groundbreaking program designed to do just that.”

Beginning as a pilot program ahead of the 2020 election, the Truth Brigade was first created in response to the growing alarm within the Indivisible network about the creep of disinformation at the national and local level. Building on research that showed ordinary people sharing specific types of content could be integral to fighting disinformation, the Indivisible Project created the Truth Brigade to give frustrated volunteers a way to channel their anger into action.

Since Jan. 6, the pro-Trump Internet has descended into infighting over money and followers

Have at it, morons!

From The Washington Post:

The far-right firebrands and conspiracy theorists of the pro-Trump Internet have a new enemy: each other.

QAnon devotees are livid at their former hero Michael Flynn for accurately calling their jumbled credo “total nonsense.” Donald Trump superfans have voiced a sense of betrayal because the former president, booed for getting a coronavirus immunization booster, has become a “vaccine salesman.” And attorney Lin Wood seems mad at pretty much everyone, including former allies on the scattered “elite strike-force team” investigating nonexistent mass voter fraud.

After months of failing to disprove the reality of Trump’s 2020 presidential election loss, some of the Internet’s most popular right-wing provocateurs are grappling with the pressures of restless audiences, saturated markets, ongoing investigations and millions of dollars in legal bills. ✂️

“The fact that they’re all mad at each other, that’s all a byproduct of the fact that they’re just desperate for money, and there’s only a certain amount,” [said conspiracy theory researcher Mike Rothschild].

The Year Basic Income Programs Went Mainstream

From Bloomberg:

At least 20 guaranteed income pilots have launched in cities and counties across the U.S. since 2018, and more than 5,400 families and individuals have started receiving between $300 and $1,000 a month, according to a Bloomberg CityLab analysis. If all these programs complete their pilot periods as planned, they’ll have given out at least $35 million.

These figures mark the close of a year of rapid growth for U.S. programs that give some residents direct cash payments, with a half-dozen other pilots promised to launch in cities next year. For many advocates, the concept of “basic income” has evolved from the more expansive UBI — a universal basic income to all residents — to more targeted guaranteed income programs that have the goal of narrowing inequality and dismantling poverty.

And in related news:

UBI Success: Updates from the case study in Stockton, CA

The results of this program are especially valuable because they disprove the widespread belief that UBI causes people to stop working.

From Optimist Daily:

…the program was set to run for 24 months from February 2019 to February 2021. …Early data from the experiment shows that full-time employment levels in the UBI group grew faster than in the control group. Full-time employment among the 125 participants rose from 28 percent to 40 percent in the first 12 months compared to a 32 to 37 percent increase in the control group. One of the participants reports that the extra income allowed him the liberty to take an unpaid internship which then translated to a stable full-time position. Another said the money allowed him to reduce his work hours and dedicate the extra time to earning his real estate license.

Early reports also indicate significantly improved mental health and wellbeing among participants. We recently shared an article about how raising the minimum wage improves mental health because financial security is a primary factor in reducing stress and anxiety. Many of the participants reported using the stipend to pay off credit card debt or relocate to a more stable housing situation.

And see a story below, in the world news section, about the transformative power of giving homeless people a one-time significant gift of cash.

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Good news in 2021 from my corner of the world

From hate crimes to cold medicine, many new Oregon laws take effect Jan. 1

From KGW:

Police reform:

  • Gives the civilian oversight board access to a database of police encounters and arrests. 
  • Gives local jurisdictions the ability to set law for community oversight boards that oversee police discipline.
  • Requires CPR training for police certification and requires police to call for emergency medical aid if a restrained person suffers respiratory or cardiac crisis.
  • Requires police officers to report misconduct…, mandate investigation into such a report with 72 hours, [and] report misconduct findings to a state board.
  • Creates a background checklist and standardized personal history questionnaire for aspiring police officers and exempts law enforcement from a prohibition on employer access to personal social media accounts.
  • Requires police departments to report officer discipline to the state within 10 days. The state will publish those reports in an online publicly accessible database.
  • Requires police officers be trained to investigate and report bias crimes.
  • Requires any arrests associated with “unlawful assemblies” to be based on crimes other than a failure to disperse.

Elections:

  • Requires Oregon to count ballots mailed the day of the election. Previously, counties would count only ballots actually received on or before Election Day. …This will delay how quickly election results can be determined but is likely to lead to higher election turnout.

Affordable housing:

  • Requires local governments to allow development of affordable housing even on land not zoned for residential use, with some exceptions for lands designated for heavy industry and publicly owned properties next to sites zoned for school or residential use.

Racial equity:

  • Bans discrimination in schools or the workplace “based on physical characteristics that are historically associated with race.” The law specifies hair style and hair texture are among those newly protected traits.

Juvenile suspects:

  • Establishes that if a police officer intentionally uses false information to elicit a statement from someone under age 18, that statement will be presumed to be involuntary.

Special session: Oregon lawmakers pass rental assistance funding, extend eviction protections

From KGW:

[in December,] the Oregon Legislature held a special session to vote on a number of bills, [including one] which extends the safe harbor period for tenants who have applied for rental assistance and also provides support for the rental assistance program [and another] that moves millions of dollars to help support the rental assistance program. [It] also allocates $18 million to support Afghan refugees. Oregon is preparing to take in 1,200 refugees in the next year and this money will help refugees with housing, education, legal aid, job training and culturally-specific support as they come to Oregon.

Washington State bans use of for-profit detention facilities

From Optimist Daily:

Under the new law, the Northwest Detention Center, a 1,575-bed immigration jail in Tacoma, will be forced to shut down. The facility is run by GEO Group, a private prison company under federal contract.

Matt Adams, legal director at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project told AP, “The enactment of this bill is an important step towards rejecting the privatization and profiteering model of immigration detention centers that has pushed the massive expansion of immigration detention. ”

Give!Guide Raises More Than $7.7 Million for Portland Nonprofits

Portlanders are generous! Give!Guide, hosted by Willamette Week, is Portland’s annual opportunity to support its favorite nonprofits. Each year breaks the record set the year before. The average donation in 2021 was just over $480 per donor.

More than 16,000 people donated $7.7 million to the 2021 Give!Guide campaign, which closed at midnight Dec. 31. That’s a record-breaking figure—$1.1 million more than the previous all-time high in 2020.  ✂️ 

TOP 10 NONPROFITS ACROSS ALL CATEGORIES

1. Oregon Cultural Trust $608,470 [provides grants and funding to arts, humanities, and heritage organizations — gifts to OCT provide credits on OR state income taxes up to $500 per single filer or $1000 per couple]

2. Oregon Food Bank $246,295 [distributes emergency food statewide]

3. The Pongo Fund $243,718 [Oregon’s only full-time charity focused on fighting animal hunger — and providing help to their low-income owners, too]

4. Friends of the Columbia Gorge $232,535 [The only conservation organization dedicated entirely to protecting the Columbia Gorge]

5. Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette $138,485 [provides services in OR and southwest WA]

6. Blanchet House of Hospitality $116,853 [nonprofit social services organization]

7. Transition Projects $103,952 [helps people move from homelessness to housing]

8. Central City Concern $99,675 [provides housing, health care, and jobs to those experiencing homelessness]

9. Outside In $97,749 [health care and other support for Portland’s most vulnerable, especially homeless youth]

10. Adelante Mujeres $97,320 [mentors and supports Latina leaders]

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Good news in 2021 from around the nation

Americans have become more liberal re: sexuality and race

From Future Crunch:

  • Attitudes to sexuality can and do change, sometimes in the space of a single generation. Support for same-sex marriage in the United States in 2021 reached an all time high of 70%, up from 60% in 2015 when it was legalized, and from 27% in 1996, when Gallup first started asking the question.
  • Attitudes to race can change too. In one of the largest shifts of public opinion ever recorded, Gallup said this year that 94% of American adults now approve of interracial marriage, a huge leap from 4% when the poll began in 1958. People over the age of 50 reported the biggest shift, increasing their approval by 64% in the past 30 years.

The era of surprise medical bills may be ending

Jessiestaf highlighted this news in yesterday’s GNR, but I think it’s important enough to repeat and expand a bit.

From CNBC:

  • The No Surprises Act, which takes effect [on Jan. 1, 2022], will greatly reduce the number of unanticipated out-of-network medical bills that many people are hit with during emergency medical treatment.
  • “These bills are really the epitome of lack of choice combined with high prices that people experience every day,” said Caitlin Donovan, a spokeswoman for the Patient Advocate Foundation.
  • Here’s what people need to know about the new protections:

    • Starting in 2022, there will be only a few cases in which a patient can get an out-of-network bill for a medical visit that they believed was covered by their insurer. (Those exceptions include ground ambulances, any non-emergency service treatments at an urgent care facility and if you’ve given informed and written consent for an uncovered treatment.)

      In addition, if your doctor moves out-of-network, the law requires that your insurer provide you with at least 90 days of coverage at your previous in-network rate. 

    Executions in 2021 Dropped to Lowest Level in Three Decades

    From The Wall Street Journal, as quoted by The Progress Network:

    The death penalty is increasingly geographically isolated. Four counties in Texas and one in Oklahoma account for more than 20% of executions in the US since the death penalty resumed in the 1970s, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. These counties accounted for more than one-third of the executions in the entire US this year.

    Capital punishment isn’t just fading in liberal states but in many conservative places as well. In the spring, Virginia became the first Southern state to repeal the death penalty. The majority of states have now either abolished capital punishment or imposed a moratorium on its use, according to the report.

    A push is under way in more conservative states to get rid of the death penalty. The number of Republican sponsors of death penalty repeal bills rose to 36 in 2020 from four in 2000, according to the nonprofit Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty.

    Government lifts ban on federal student aid for incarcerated individuals

    From The Optimist Daily:

    Last month, the federal government finally lifted the ban on federal student aid for incarcerated individuals, opening up new avenues of support to reduce recidivism rates.

    The lifted ban is part of the $1.4 trillion government pandemic stimulus package for 2021 and reflects a long push for prison reform which encourages rehabilitation and lowered incarceration rates.

    The effect of education on lowered recidivism is well documented with educational programs lowering the rate that people re-offend by 43 percent. According to Andrea Cantora, the director of a prison college program at The University of Baltimore, every dollar spent on prison education saves American taxpayers 5 dollars in reincarceration costs.

    *   *   *   *   *

    Good news in 2021 from around the world

    The world became more socially progressive

    Of course, it’s not good news that the U.S. is one of only four nations that regressed, but we can work to turn that around in 2022.

    From Positive News:

    Despite the culture wars, creeping nationalism and rise of authoritarianism, the world has become more socially progressive.

    That’s according to the latest Social Progress Index. Since 2011, it has charted the progress of 167 nations, assessing them on things like rights, access to education, quality of healthcare, personal safety and quality of environment.

    The result? Good news, largely: 147 nations recorded a better score in 2021 than they did a decade ago, with just four countries (the US, Brazil, Syria and South Sudan) regressing. “Social progress is advancing across the world,” the report concluded.

    World Central Kitchen responded to disasters all over the world

    Europe Is Guaranteeing Citizens the “Right to Repair”

    From Reasons To Be Cheerful:

    Across Europe, legislation is pushing back against a waste-based economy and restoring for citizens something companies have gradually taken away: the right to repair what they’ve bought. ✂️ 

    The EU’s existing eco-design regulations could be an instrument to [establish right to repair]. These mandates were established years ago to improve the energy efficiency of products sold in the EU. But in March, the first eco-design regulation that will define standards for repair and useful life will come into force. Manufacturers of washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators and monitors will have to ensure that components are replaceable with common tools. Instruction manuals must be accessible to specialist companies. And producers must supply spare parts within 15 days.  

    World’s largest four-day workweek trial is an “overwhelming success”

    From The Optimist Daily:

    The idea of implementing a four-day workweek is gaining momentum. Over the course of the last year, we’ve seen the governments of New Zealand, Singapore, and Spainopenly considering introducing the concept — which not only has wide-ranging benefits for productivity and mental health, but also for the environment.

    Now, researchers in Iceland have shared the results of the largest ever trial of a four-day working week, hailing it as an “overwhelming success” that should be tested elsewhere too.

    More than one percent of Iceland’s working population participated in the pilot scheme, which cut the usual 40-hour working week to 35-36 hours with no reduction in overall pay, reports The Independent.

    The trials — which ran from 2015 to 2019 and involved over 2,500 people — significantly improved productivity and wellbeing…

    ‘Groundbreaking’ Children’s Code came into force in UK

    From Positive News:

    Tech firms operating in the UK are now legally obliged to make the digital world less intrusive for children, thanks to landmark legislation… Firms failing to comply could be fined up to four per cent of global annual turnover.

    The Age Appropriate Design Code, also know as the Children’s Code, is the first of its kind, and represents a significant taming of big tech. The law requires online firms – including social media platforms, gaming platforms and search engines – to respect children’s privacy and personal data, reducing their exposure to intrusion and risk.

    Tech firms have already introduced changes to comply, not just in the UK but globally. Instagram no longer allows unknown adults to direct message under-18s; YouTube Kids has removed auto-play, to prevent children being fed endless videos; and Google has said it will stop targeting ads at under 18s.

    Vancouver Gave Homeless People $5,800. It Changed Their Lives.

    From Reasons To Be Cheerful:

    50 people experiencing homelessness in Vancouver, British Columbia [were] selected in 2018 to receive a lump sum of cash deposited into their personal bank accounts — no strings attached. The gift (about USD$5,800) was part of a pilot project, the first of its kind, and the early results are so impressive that cities across Canada and the U.S. are looking to try it themselves. ✂️ 

    Participants were recruited from local shelters and screened to ensure they were recently homeless and functional in their daily lives to reduce the risk of potential harm that funds might bring if they drove people deeper into addiction. ✂️ 

    Though the formal research has yet to be published, the early results are staggering. Half of the cash recipients moved into stable housing one month after they received the money, compared to 25 percent of the control group. …Almost 70 percent of them were food secure in one month. …After one year, cash recipients reduced their spending on alcohol, drugs and cigarettes by an average of almost 40 percent, challenging “the widespread misperception that people in poverty will misuse cash funds,” the report stated. At the end of the year-long study, participants had an average of $1,000 still left in the bank. 

    More of 2021’s good news around the world

    from Future Crunch:

    • Worldwide, democracy appears to be under threat, but remember — bad news travels, good news doesn’t. When Afghanistan’s government collapsed, the whole world watched. But when Indonesia, the most world’s most populous Muslim country, produces the planet’s most effective democratically elected leader — Joko Widodo — almost no one hears the story.
    • Bangladesh, home to 160 million people, celebrated a ‘development miracle’ in 2021, its 50th year of independence. In the last three decades, GDP per capita has increased seven fold, 24 million people have been lifted out of poverty, life expectancy has risen to 73 years, infant and maternal mortality rates have fallen by a factor of five, the literacy rate has increased from 35% to 74%, and more than 97% of the population now has access to electricity, up from 62% in 2014.
    • 100 of the world’s biggest companies will now pay a minimum tax rate of 15% after the first global revamp of corporate tax rules in over a decade. 136 countries signed the new global tax agreement this year, which will raise an additional $150 billion for governments per year.

    *   *   *   *   *

    Good news in 2021 in medicine and science

    x

    Experimental Treatment in Spain Puts 18 Cancer Patients in Complete Remission

    From Good News Network:

    18 out of 30 Spanish patients with incurable blood cancer are in complete remission, and a few more have seen the cancer’s progression stopped in its tracks, thanks to a new and much cheaper treatment option.

    Using a patient’s own white blood cells, doctors reprogramed them to better identify and attack the cancerous cells which cause multiple myeloma.

    The treatment essentially saved the lives of the 18 patients, all of whom had earlier stage treatments like bone marrow transplants and chemotherapy fail, after which the survival rate becomes “very, very low,” according to [hematologist Carlos Fernández de Larrea,] the Spanish doctor leading the procedure. ✂️

    Multiple Myeloma is the incurable second-most common blood cancer, and it begins in the bone marrow where immature blood cells mutate into cancerous forms of white blood cells called plasma cells.

    Doctors complete first successful pig to human kidney transplant

    From The Optimist Daily:

    For the first time ever, doctors at NYU Langone Health in New York City have successfully transplanted a pig kidney into a human. The primary function of this organ is to filter waste products and excess fluid from the blood, which is subsequently turned into urine. When this process breaks down, a wide range of health complications can arise.

    According to the HRSA, there are around 106,758 people currently on the national transplant waiting list in the US. Sadly, 17 deaths occur each day from not receiving one in time. On average, the wait time for a kidney is three to five years, though this advancement may be able to curb the shortage.

    Using different animal tissues in humans had not previously been achievable due to the recipient’s immune system rejecting the organ, recognizing it as foreign material. Thanks to advances in biotechnology, the gene responsible for this reaction was able to be altered in the pig tissue, allowing the human body to accept the organ and use it as their own.

    The recipient of this novel procedure was a brain-dead patient with signs of kidney dysfunction, whose family and an ethics committee approved the groundbreaking surgery to take place. …The organ was maintained outside the body, attached to the patient’s blood vessels, for three [days]. Testing revealed after the transplant that urine production was operating smoothly, and abnormal levels of molecules associated with kidney dysregulation returned to normal.

    3 Covid-19 medical advancements that will endure post-pandemic

    From The Optimist Daily:

    Genetic vaccines.

    After thirty years of lab research and development, the pandemic set the stage for scientists to see how gene-based vaccines would perform in the real world. ✂️

    Because mRNA vaccines use genetic codes from a pathogen rather than the entire virus or bacteria, they can be developed and designed in weeks and have millions of doses manufactured within months. …One day, gene-based vaccines could cure cancer and replace less effective traditional vaccines. It could mean that we are ready to stop pandemics before they even begin in the future.

    Wearable tech and early illness detection.

    Fitbits, smartwatches, and other wearable health and wellness technology were measuring our temperature, heart rate, level of activity, and other biometrics even before the Covid-19 health crisis, but what the pandemic did for this technology was to show researchers how these devices could monitor disease. … The pandemic served as an opportunity for scientists to see how health wearables could be implemented to study real-time infectious disease detection.

    A new way to discover drugs. 

    According to Nevan Krogan, Professor of Cellular Molecular Pharmacology and Director of the Quantitative Biosciences Institute at the University of California, studying the connections and interactions among proteins (protein networks) can lead to a new way to look for drugs that will treat specific diseases. … The beauty of the protein mapping technique is that it can be employed to find new treatments for all kinds of diseases like cancer and neurodegenerative or psychiatric disorders. 

    London’s cabbies help navigate research into Alzheimer’s disease

    Note that the phrase “black cabbies” refers to the color of the cabs, not the drivers. 😉

    From The Optimist Daily:

    London’s licensed black cabbies don’t need the modern convenience of GPS devices. Instead, they rely on “the knowledge,” which they earn through years of experience and training to memorize the labyrinthine street network of the city’s 58,000 streets. Now, researchers from the University College London’s (UCL’s) Spatial Cognition Group are tapping into the grey matter of the brains of up to 30 taxi drivers for their new Taxi Brains project. ✂️

    “Their hippocampus appears to get bigger the more years [the cabbies] put into the job,” says research lead, Professor Hugo Spiers, from UCL’s department of experimental psychology. “That’s really interesting for dementia research because it’s precisely the part of the brain that declines in size with Alzheimer’s disease,” he adds.

    *   *   *   *   *

    Good news in 2021 for the environment

    Top 10 Wins For the Planet in 2021 – These Will Turn Anyone Into an Optimist

    If you click the link below, you’ll find links with further info on each item.

    From Good News Network:

    1) Canada Launches Satellite Technology That Identifies ‘Dark Vessels’ Illegally Catching Billions of Fish

    2) 20,000 Pounds of Trash Removed From Pacific Garbage Patch

    3) Largest Farm to Grow Crops Under Solar Panels Proves to Be a Bumper Crop for Agrivoltaic Land Use

    4) Huge Supply of Water is Saved From Evaporation When Solar Panels Are Built Over Canals

    5) Researchers Pull Carbon Out of the Sky And Convert it to Instant Jet Fuel, Reshaping Aviation For Good

    6) Island Overrun With Rats Completely Recovers in Only 11 Years After Ecosystem Had Been Decimated

    7) Hundreds of Solar Farms Built Atop Closed Landfills Are Turning Brownfields into Green Fields

    8) Kenyan Woman’s Startup Recycles Plastic Waste into Bricks That Are 5x Stronger Than Concrete

    9) World’s Biggest Factory to Suck Carbon from the Sky and Store it For Millions of Years Turns on in Iceland

    10) Spectacular Coral Event This Year Spawns Hope –And Billions of Babies For Great Barrier Reef

    5 environmental victories from 2021 that offer hope

    From National Geographic:

    1. Pushback on fossil fuels

    Globally, renewable energy use in 2021 is expected to increase by 8 percent, the fastest year-on-year-growth since the 1970s, while in the U.S., a new report found that it had nearly quadrupled over the last decade.

    2. Progress on plastic

    The last 12 months saw a raft of legislation to reduce growing plastic pollution [including in Washington and California]… [And] In November, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced that the U.S. would back a global treaty to tackle plastic pollution.

    3. Protection of forests

    By far the biggest news in forest conservation was the pledge at the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow to end deforestation by 2030…[And] 2021 did see a number of on-the-ground victories [including in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, and Ecuador].

    4. Restoration of habitats

    [Good news for national monuments, Pacific Northwest old-growth forests, migratory birds, and sage grouse habitat. And] In May, the Biden administration unveiled its America the Beautiful initiative, which among other things established the first-ever national conservation goal: conserving 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. …In November, Colombia pledged to protect 30 percent of its land by 2022. And Panama took major steps toward the same goal by tripling the size of its Cordillera de Coiba Marine Protected Area. Also in November, Portugal established the largest fully protected marine reserve in Europe.  

    5. Support for wildlife

    In July, China announced that it no longer considers the giant panda, the symbol of the World Wildlife Fund, to be endangered. …Humpback whales…are increasing in number in many parts of their range. Several species of tuna are no longer heading toward extinctionAnd in the U.K., a government report concluded that lobsters, crabs, and octopuses are sentient beings that feel pain, and as a result should be granted protection under the country’s draft Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill.

    And a couple more from Future Crunch:

    • This might have been our favourite (and most wonky) energy news this year: Goldman Sachs, the notorious tree hugging, left-leaning woke investment bank [/s], said that financial markets have starting pricing in climate risk, effectively creating their own carbon price. It’s pretty much impossible to now finance new coal, and the cost of capital is more than 20% for offshore oil, 12% for LNG and just 4% for renewables. Like we said: it’s cheaper to save the world than it is to ruin it.
    • The biggest energy story you didn’t hear was that Guangdong, China’s most populous province and one of its most industrialized, banned the construction of coal plants in the Pearl River Delta, the first ever crackdown on coal by a major Chinese province. Then there was the one you did hear about — Xi Jinping announced that China would not finance or build any new coal-fired power projects abroad, a huge deal for the world’s biggest coal financier.

    5 clean energy stats that will wow your friends

    From Canary Media:

    1. 90 percent of Americans like solar energy

    2. Just over 3 million Americans work in the clean energy sector

    3. 20 percent of renewable energy development in the U.S. this decade could be driven by corporate clean energy buyers

    4. 71% of Americans are interested in buying EVs

    5. Global sales of plug-in electric vehicles are expected to top 6 million in 2021

    World’s Largest Seagrass Project Proves “You Can Actually Restore the Oceans”

    From Reasons To Be Cheerful:

    In 2001, [marine biologist Robert Orth] started an effort to physically rebuild the ocean ecosystem, seed by seed. From a moving boat, he and his team scattered seeds across four bays: South, Cobb, Spider Crab and Hog Island. The seeds survived, growing into plants which, in turn, produced their own seeds. “Nature kind of took over,” says Orth. “While we continue to put seeds in areas that don’t have eelgrass, nature has been spreading eelgrass naturally.”

    Over the last 20 years, supported by an army of volunteers, the project team has sown nearly 75 million seeds. Around 9,000 acres of coastal bays are now blanketed with eelgrass, which has improved water quality, increased marine biodiversity and helped mitigate climate change by capturing and storing carbon.

    The project is “game changing,” says Carlos Duarte, a seagrass expert and marine science professor at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, both in its sheer scale and the raft of long-term data it provides on the climate benefits of seagrass.

    The future is bright white! How paint can help cool a city

    From The Optimist Daily:

    [A team of researchers led by Purdue University mechanical engineering professor Xiulin Ruan] has created a paint that is so reflective it [now reflects] up to 98.5 percent of the sun’s rays… In a recent paper, the team reported that it could keep outdoor surfaces eight degrees (Fahrenheit) cooler in the heat of the day, and an incredible 19 degrees cooler than the ambient surroundings at night.

    According to the paper, this lowering of temperatures can also significantly drop the need for air conditioning, making it a solution to improve a building’s efficiency. This technology …can lead to significant electricity savings, while not being too expensive to make.

    Bootleg fire demonstrates efficacy of Indigenous forest management

    Now let’s hope that what firefighters learned about the efficacy of Indigenous forest management will actually become widespread policy.

    From The Optimist Daily:

    The wildfire was moving rapidly through the state when it came upon the Sycan Marsh Preserve, a 30,000-acre wetland. The region is thick with ponderosa pines and managed by The Nature Conservancy who works with local Klamath Tribes to implement pre-colonial forest management techniques. Thanks to their work, the fire slowed and dimmed as it reached the forest, giving firefighters time to move in and steer the blaze away from a critical research center.

    As part of their Indigenous forest management, the tribes work with researchers to conduct prescribed burns and thin out some younger trees. The forest not only helped slow the wildfire’s progression, but damage to the forest was also far less severe than in other areas the flames moved through. Some firefighters even reported wildlife seeking refuge on specially designated “green islands” designed to be avoided by flames under the treatment method.

    Hundreds of Native American tribes used to conduct regular controlled burns throughout the west until European settlers outlawed the practice.

    *   *   *   *   *

    Good news in 2021 for and about animals

    Brought to you by Rosy, Nora, and Rascal.

    ScreenShot2021-06-20at2.12.48PM.png

    All three of my animal co-editors voted to simply use the list of good news items about animals that our friends at Future Crunch gathered. Wow, there are a lot of them!!

    • China doubled the number of wild animals protected under its conservation rules, imposing hefty fines on the trading and consumption of 500 species, including many birds and wolves. 
    • The population of the critically endangered Grauer’s gorilla has doubled [in the Congo], with numbers up from 3,800 in 2016 to 6,800 today… . Across Europe, the population of European bison has tripled in the last 17 years. In Vietnam, the population of the Delacour’s Langur, a critically endangered monkey, has quadrupled in the past 20 years.
    • In Kazakhstan, the Saiga antelope has more than doubled its numbers since 2019, in the UAE, the population of the Arabian oryx has increased by 22% in the last four years, and the mhorr, or Dama gazelle, is on the road to recovery thanks to a rescue mission by an army captain from Spain 50 years ago. The descendants of the rescued gazelles now number 4,000 and have been reintroduced in Tunisia, Morocco, and Senegal.
    • The Polish wolf has recovered to an estimated population of 3,000, a massive leap from the 60 in existence in the early 1970s, and in Scotland, the number of beavers has more than doubled in the last three years.
    • Nepal’s tiger population has grown steadily from 121 tigers 11 years ago, to 235 tigers 3 years ago and the country is likely to reach the 250-mark next year.
    • Animal rights activists …in the United States… celebrated big wins on trophy hunting, state-funded wildlife killing experiments, cage confinement, and a historic ban on fur.
    • The EU voted to phase out the use of animals in laboratory experiments, saving eight million monkeys, dogs, cats, rabbits, mice and rats a year, Virginia became the fourth state in America to ban cosmetic animal testing and Mexico became the 41st country to do the same… .
    • Consumption of wild animals was reported to have dropped by almost 30% across China, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and the USA…, and an undercover investigation forced South Korea’s largest dog meat auction house to close, with advocates now calling for a permanent ban on all slaughtering and processing of dogs for food.
    • Tanzania said it was hopeful of reaching its ‘zero-elephant-poaching’ target after making thousands of arrests, including 21 kingpins of the illegal trafficking trade. 
    • 400 years after being wiped out, the UK’s crane population has passed a crucial milestone on its road to recovery, in Chile, the population of the Burrowing Parrot was reported to have increased from 217 in 1986 to over 4,000 today, and in Namibia fisherman said they have reduced the accidental deaths of seabirds from 30,000 per year in 2009 to just 215 at last count, thanks to bird-scaring lines (a sort of nautical scarecrow) on fishing boats.
    • The bald eagle has quadrupled its population in the past decade with more than 300,000 birds soaring across American skies, the California condor is returning to its home skies after nearly a century thanks to the efforts of the Yurok Tribe, and Bulgaria now has a stable population of around 80 griffon vultures, more than 40 years after the birds were declared extinct.
    • Gabon passed landmark measures to protect the country’s 69 species of sharks and rays. Mozambique passed a powerful new fisheries law protecting dolphins, whale sharks and manta rays, …[and] the country’s largest marine conservation area has cut illegal fishing by nearly half.
    • The population of four endangered tuna species — Atlantic bluefin, Southern bluefin, Albacore and Yellowfin — are all showing signs of recovery thanks to the enforcement of fishing quotas over the past decade, and in the United States, overfishing has essentially ended with 91% of stocks now reporting recoveries.
    • In North Cyprus, nest counts of green turtles have increasing by 162% and loggerhead turtles by 46% since 1993 and in Cape Verde, the number of nests has increased from 10,000 to almost 200,000 in the past six years, thanks to conservation measures and new laws to criminalise the killing, trade, and consumption of sea turtles.
    • The US government ramped up its protection of endangered humpback whales this year, declaring 300,000 km² of the Pacific Ocean as critical habitat. 
    • Animal rights activists in China pulled off an incredible rescue mission, removing 101 moon bears from a bile extraction facility and transporting them over 1,200 km to a rehab centre.

    *   *   *   *   *

    My favorite videos of 2021

    Guy promises he’s not going to keep his foster dog

    Well, he’s not just any guy, he’s Lee Asher, who founded the nonprofit Asher House Sanctuary in Estacada, OR. And I’m pretty sure he intended to keep this dog from the beginning. But that doesn’t make this video any less heartwarming.

    Tool-using kea

    An inspiring example of the intelligence and resourcefulness of birds.

    The smallest parrot you have ever seen

    The tenderness with which this guy incubates the tiny egg and then raises the little parakeet just blew me away. 

    Serbian cave hermit receives Covid-19 vaccine  

    My favorite pandemic hero! Just click the “Watch on YouTube” link to watch this. It’s blocked from being embedded.

    There are wonders all around us if we only take the time to look.

    *   *   *   *   *

    Hot lynx

    Lynx-rest-sunshine_iphone_320x480.jpg
     
     

    nymag.com/…Seriously, Upgrade Your Face Mask. “Omicron is everywhere. Dr. Abraar Karan explains why cloth masks don’t cut it.” Read this — it’s important!

    www.nationalgeographic.com/… National Geographic’s Best Animal Photos of 2021. An annual treat I always look forward to.

    www.washingtonpost.com/… I read a week’s worth of newspapers from 1921. It was comforting how wrong they were about what mattered. More evidence that we don’t need to take media as gospel.

    https://anniversary.archive.orgCelebrate the Internet Archive’s 25th Anniversary! 25 years of saving everything from old news reports to Grateful Dead concerts. 

    www.bbc.com/… The 432-year-old manual on social distancing. In 1582, a brilliant doctor figured out how to save his city in Sardinia from the Black Death with lockdowns and 6-foot social distancing.

    www.salon.com/…Why we can’t have a “meritocracy”: We have no idea how to measure worth. “Under current conditions of capitalism, our only measure of worth is wealth — which leads to worsening inequality.”

    www.salon.com/… A chocolate sandwich tastes exactly as comforting as it sounds — and it’s sublime​​​​​​. ​An ideal pandemic treat, available any time!

    And if you’re hunkering down at home to avoid Omicron and have lots of time on your hands, there’s this: 

    *   *   *   *   *

    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: 

    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.

    *   *   *   *   *

    Closing music

    A song about having hope and never giving up. Because that’s what we all need, especially at the start of a new year.

    ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️

    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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    This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.

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