In New Orleans, a Mother's Search for Her Lost Son

Five years ago, Chris Turnbow left home in Marion, Ark., and just disappeared.

His family had reason to believe he was living in New Orleans; a family friend had bumped into him there at Mardi Gras. But that was before Hurricane Katrina. Turnbow's mother, Jean Aaron, tried not to consider whether his long silence meant he was alive or dead.

Earlier this month, 69-year-old Jean heard her son's voice for the first time since he had left home. She heard him on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, in a story about homeless people living in Duncan Plaza, a park in front of City Hall. (NPR)

Christmastime is here...

It's official: the last day of school is over! Posting here will be infrequent until school's back in session in January, but please check Good News Sources in the sidebar to get your fix of hope in the headlines.

Free online materials could save schools billions

Since March, Dixon Deutsch and his students have been quietly experimenting with a little website that could one day rock the foundation of how schools do business.

A K-2 teacher at Achievement First Bushwick Elementary Charter School in Brooklyn, N.Y., Deutsch, 28, has been using Free-Reading.net, a reading instruction program that allows him to download, copy and share lessons with colleagues. (USA Today)

U.S. Cholesterol Levels Dip To Ideal Range

For the first time in nearly 50 years, the average cholesterol level for U.S. adults is in the ideal range, the government reported Wednesday. Results from a national survey, which includes blood tests, found the total cholesterol level dropped to 199. Doctors like patients to have total cholesterol readings of 200 or lower. (CBS)

Giant offshore wind farms to supply half of UK power

Britain is to launch a huge expansion of offshore wind-power with plans for thousands of turbines in the North Sea, Irish Sea and around the coast of Scotland.

John Hutton, the energy secretary, will this week announce plans to build enough turbines to generate nearly half Britain’s current electricity consumption. (Times)

Madagascar: UN rural development fund to back small-scale enterprises

The United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development announced today that it will spend more than $30 million to help farmers and other rural residents in Madagascar develop microenterprises to boost their incomes. (UN News)

UPS cuts fuel usage dramatically by reducing left turns

It seems that sitting in the left lane, engine idling, waiting for oncoming traffic to clear so you can make a left-hand turn, is minutely wasteful — of time and peace of mind, for sure, but also of gas and therefore money. Not a ton of gas and money if we’re talking about just you and your Windstar, say, but immensely wasteful if we’re talking about more than 95,000 big square brown trucks delivering packages every day. And this realization — that when you operate a gigantic fleet of vehicles, tiny improvements in the efficiency of each one will translate to huge savings overall — is what led U.P.S. to limit further the number of left-hand turns its drivers make. (NY Times)


Once Volatile German-Polish Crossing Is Dismantled

One of the world's most tense borders, the gates between Poland and Germany, will be opened for good as Poland today joins the passport-free zone of Western Europe. (GNN)

Survey shows more Cook Inlet belugas

The number of beluga whales swimming in Cook Inlet appears to be increasing, but biologist say it's too soon to know whether the winsome white whales are finally making a comeback.

This year's increased estimate is the largest since 2001 when 386 whales were counted. (AP Wire)

Snowbound family's 'Help' sign leads to rescue

Stranded in the snowy California woods for three days after losing their way while searching for a Christmas tree, a father and his three children fashioned a "Help" sign out of twigs on a nearby unpaved road, according to the helicopter pilots who found them. (CNN)

Adopted son finds birth mom at his workplace

For years, Steve Flaig, a delivery truck driver at the Lowe's store on Plainfield Avenue, had searched for his birth mother.

He found her working the cash register at the front of the store. (Chronicle)

Ontario turns over Ipperwash park to First Nation

Ontario turned over Ipperwash Provincial Park to a First Nation on Thursday, settling a long-standing aboriginal grievance in the province. (CBC)

7 year old girl saves family from fire

Vallejo firefighters are calling a 7-year old girl a hero for saving her whole family.

A fire broke out at about 4:00 a.m. Monday morning, in a house where Tamara Groves and her three children were sleeping. The smoke finally woke 7-year-old Kelby Yelder, who was sleeping in her top bunk. She knew what to do, but it sure wasn't easy. (ABC7 News)


A very green year

"There's a clear trend here. Despite setbacks and delays, the world is now giving serious attention and political support to energy use, pollution limits and the 800-pound gorilla of climate change. Just a year ago, none of this was foreseeable." (SFGate)

India starts putting its street children in schools

Eleven-year-old Anurag never went to school because he had to scavenge through Delhi's bins, dumps and gutters in search of sellable trash each day before spending his nights sleeping on the street.

Now, thanks to India's biggest effort yet to educate every last child, he has a smart blue uniform and has started going to a mainstream state school in the Indian capital -- something he had once considered a luxury for destitute children like himself. (Reuters)

'Bubble' baby to return home for the holidays

A New Brunswick baby is coming home for the first time in 15 months after she was treated in American hospitals for a rare genetic immune deficiency syndrome.

Katlyn Demerchant was born with adenosine deaminase severe combined immunodeficiency [ADA SCID], sometimes referred to a "bubble boy" syndrome.

The 18-month-old toddler has spent much of her life in a hospital room at the National Institute of Health in Maryland undergoing gene therapy. (CBC)

U.K. Muslims Support Keeping Christ in Christmas

Muslim leaders join the U.K. Commission for Equality and Human Rights in urging Britons to enjoy Christmas, and not worry about offending non-Christians. The urging comes amid reports of schools cancelling nativity plays in order not to offend Muslims and students of other religions. (NPR)

Plans to Build a Cleaner Coal Plant Advance

Plans to create a new, more environmentally friendly coal plant are moving forward.
A consortium of coal industry players has announced that they'll build a pilot power plant in Illinois that will have zero emissions. The facility will sequester the plant's CO2 emissions deep into the ground rather than release them into the atmosphere. (NPR)


Milwaukee man, 87, completes university studies after 50 years

As the saying goes - you are never too old to learn. Just ask Clarence Garrett.

A 50-year gap in his higher education didn't stop Garrett. (CBC)

North Dakota Bank Giving Workers Money to Donate

A bank is giving its full-time employees $1,000 each and part-time employees $500 each as part of a $502,000 "Pay it Forward" initiative. There's one condition — use it for people in need. (AP)

"Last hope" donor conference raises 7.4 billion dollars

A donors' conference in Paris, which US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called 'the last hope' to avert bankruptcy, has raised 7.4 billion dollars in aid for the cash-starved Palestinians, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Monday. (Deutsche Press)

Police reward good drivers with coffee

Police are stopping law-abiding motorists and rewarding their good driving with $5 Starbucks gift cards. (AP Wire)

Mobilizing a Kingdom of Women

In a country with a shocking rate of HIV/AIDS, the women of Swaziland live a life with no rights, no say and no hope – until now. Siphiwe Hlophe is on a mission to mobilize the women of her country and give them a future. (CARP)


Internet initiatives make everyone a philanthropist: AOL founder launches two efforts to encourage online giving

The old thinking goes that to change the world, you have to give millions. But young tech-savvy philanthropists are trying to prove otherwise.

Leveraging new technologies and the growth of social-networking websites, several online-giving pioneers are trying to expand the pool of potential donors by democratizing philanthropy and making it more transparent. (CS Monitor)

Hair and mushrooms create a recipe for cleaning up oily beaches

A group of guerrilla volunteers is cleaning oil from San Francisco's beaches using an unorthodox, albeit totally organic, method: human hair and mushrooms.

While the mats may not be the obvious choice among hazardous waste experts, they hit San Francisco's green chord: More than 700 volunteers have tried them in recent days. Organizers hope their success will inspire more ecological responses to toxic waste removal. (SF Gate)

A Kenyan's Path to Manchester

Sammy Gitau grew up in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. As a teenager, he joined a gang, and became a drug addict. But a pamphlet in a dust bin helped turn his life around. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Gitau, now a graduate of Manchester University. (NPR)

A Wealth of Kindness Among Somalia's Poorest: Clan Ties Open Doors for Refugees From Capital

In the absence of more robust international aid, Somalis are mostly relying on such kindnesses and on money from relatives abroad, as well as the clan structures that have so often been blamed for undermining attempts to form a viable central government. (Washington Post)

Breast cancer patients can skip chemo, opt for lighter treatment: studies

Thousands of breast cancer patients each year could be spared chemotherapy or get gentler versions of it without harming their odds of beating the disease, new research suggests. (CBC)


Ultralight Pilots Needed: Quicker, More Economic Disaster Relief

Disaster rescue and relief is expensive work. Remote areas often lack landing strips for large supply craft, and helicopters are incredibly expensive to own, operate, and maintain.

"(Bill) Lishman is on to a new project - a tiny, skeletal aircraft he hopes will revolutionize the business of disaster relief. Mr. Lishman wants to pack more than a dozen of the little planes into a container that can be flown to areas such as Sudan's Darfur region, where they could be deployed like mechanized hornets, buzzing to hard-hit sites with loads of food and medical supplies." (Al Fin)

Muslim helps Jews attacked on New York subway

A Muslim man jumped to the aid of three Jewish subway riders after they were attacked by a group of young people who objected to one of the Jews saying "Happy Hanukkah." (CNN)

Santas at the double in Birmingham to raise money for the Acorns hospice

IT was a sight destined to send youngsters wild with excitement but these Santas weren't delivering presents to Birmingham early this year.

Instead, 300 kind-hearted fund-raisers dressed up as Father, and Mother, Christmas to bring some festive cheer to sick children.

And they helped raise more than £20,000 that will spread joy to youngsters being treated by Acorns Children's Hospice. (Birmingham Mail)

Dentist tends the homeless

What started as one man's attempt to involve his family in some community service has mushroomed into full-blown charity. (News & Observer)

Mystery 'Santa' delivers surprise

An anonymous "Santa Claus" is making the rounds around this city this week, offering unexpected gifts of cash to surprised shoppers. (Times Argus)


Starbucks Drive-Through Spews Goodwill (Video)

At a Starbucks in Greensburg, Pennsylvania yesterday, someone paid for her coffee at the drivethru and also paid for the car behind her. It led to a chain reaction of goodwill and good cheer over two hours and one hundred cars. (ABC Video).

A Young Tinkerer Builds a Windmill, Electrifying a Nation

On a continent woefully short of electricity, 20-year-old William Kamkwamba has a dream: to power up his country one windmill at a time.

So far, he has built three windmills in his yard here, using blue-gum trees and bicycle parts, the first when he was just 14. His tallest, at 39 feet, towers over this windswept village, clattering away as it powers his family's few electrical appliances: 10 six-watt light bulbs, a TV set and a radio. The machine draws in visitors from miles around. (Wall Street Journal)

Water-conserving mayor hopes to keep Sask. town flush with cash

The mayor of Battleford, Sask., wants to go with the low-flow and have residents switch to water-stingy toilets.

According to Mayor Chris Odishaw, the roughly 1,500 households in the town each use 75 litres of water every day.

He wants to reduce that figure by replacing every toilet, shower head and bathroom tap aerator in Battleford with water-saving units. (CBC)

Mystery Santa decking New Jersey's Garden State Parkway with Xmas ornaments

Someone is hanging Christmas ornaments with care, not by the chimney but on trees along New Jersey's Garden State Parkway. (CBC)

Study: Co-operative Fisheries Make Cash

At a time when a quarter of the world's fisheries are considered depleted, can commercial fishermen make more money by fishing less? A study published in the Friday edition of the journal Science says they can — with one condition.

They must be in a cooperative fishery, like those operating in New Zealand and Australia, where individual fishermen own a share of the total harvest rather than the competitive fisheries more common in the United States, where it's a race to catch the most fish. (Yahoo)


Danielle Babin creates a future for street kids in Africa

Like a lot of twenty-somethings, Danielle Babin loves to travel. But unlike most of her generation, you won’t find Danielle sipping on martinis at an all-inclusive. After visiting more than 20 countries, Danielle’s passport credentials would make most parents cringe.

At the tender age of 17, Danielle journeyed to Haiti in order to volunteer on a humanitarian project. “I wanted to do something good and so my first mission in Haiti taught me a lot.”

She adds, “I always thought travelling was my passion, but a priest made me notice that it’s not the case. I love helping people. I don’t like resorts or cruises or modern countries. I need to get out there and help others.” Since then, Danielle has been a part of over 18 different international development projects in over 22 different countries. (here nb)

Twin sisters receive kidneys from same donor

Chicago-area trauma victim gives gift of life to 10-year-old girls

It had been snowing in Chicago when the call came from the hospital telling Rachel Dalomba that transplant teams had acquired two kidneys from a trauma victim -- one for each of her twin, 10-year-old daughters. “The snow and everything this time of year -- it really felt like we were getting a great Christmas gift.” (story and video at MSN Today)

Argentina Gets Female President

Cristina Fernandez was sworn in Monday as Argentina's first elected female president, completing a rare husband-wife transfer of power that the nation hopes will ensure continued recovery from an economic meltdown.

Fernandez, whose husband Nestor Kirchner is credited with leading Argentina out of its 2001-2002 economic meltdown, vowed to increase his center-left economic programs, create jobs and reduce high poverty levels. (Guardian)

Childhood Cancer Death Rates Down

Cancer deaths among kids and teens in the U.S. have become rarer in recent years, according to a new CDC study.

Childhood cancer isn't rarer than it used to be. Cases of childhood cancer rose by less than 1% per year from 1990 to 2004.

The CDC today reported that the nation's childhood cancer death rate -- which includes kids and adolescents -- decreased by 1.7% per year from 1990 to 2004, thanks to advances in treatment. (Web MD)

Group Touts Seaweed As Warming Weapon

Slimy, green and unsightly, seaweed and algae are among the humblest plants on earth. A group of scientists at a climate conference in Bali say they could also be a potent weapon against global warming, capable of sucking damaging carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere at rates comparable to the mightiest rain forests. (Wired)


Autism Study Lends Credence to "Fever Effect"

Parents of children with autism sometimes say they know things about the disorder that doctors don't. For decades, some parents have been saying that symptoms of autism diminish when their child has a high fever.

Now a team from the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore has done a study that suggests the fever effect is real. The findings might lead to a treatment that could mimic the beneficial effects of fever without actually making a child sick. (story and audio at NPR)

African School Succeeds Against the Odds

Here at the Chiseka school on the rural outskirts of town, many children attend class outside, sitting among weeds in the shade of a towering blue gum tree. There are 1,531 students, six classrooms, no running water and no light bulbs.

Yet Chiseka has the best academic record in its district by far. Last year all 40 students in the eighth grade passed their exams. And 30 did well enough to qualify for secondary school -- a significant achievement in a country where less than 30 percent of students finish primary school. (ABC)

AquaMaker creates water from thin air

In Israel, where water is scarce, a new device allows people to generate water from air.

Aquamaker converts the humidity in the regular everyday air we breathe into water, and it will work practically anywhere in the world, even the desert. The system filters out the pollutants and because it doesn't come from the ground it isn't full of harsh minerals. (Jerusalem Post via Good News Network)

Supporting ex-offenders helps build safer communities

Forward Step supports ex-offenders through “being a sounding boarding, advocating on their behalf and reducing stress in the lives,” said Helmut Isaac, an MCC worker who supports ex-offenders through the Forward Step and the Person to Person programs.

“It is all about safety in the community,” said Isaac. “Whenever there is too much stress in their lives that’s when things go sideways. It’s about friendship—it is not rocket science—it is just being a friend.” (MCC)

Charitable Gift-Giving Growing in Popularity

Toronto resident Ellen Reid is giving symbolic acres of land as gifts to 20 people in her life this holiday season because she says her family and friends already have everything they need.

Socially responsible gifts are growing in popularity in Canada as people turn to charities and aid groups for what are sometimes called gifts that give twice.

The polling firm Ipsos Reid, which surveyed 1,429 Canadians on behalf of World Vision Canada, found that 77 per cent of those surveyed said they didn't need anything this year, while only 36 per cent felt there was something in particular they wanted.

A full 84 per cent said they would prefer to have a gift given on their behalf to help someone else instead of receiving a sweater or a pair of socks. The survey results were released in November. (CBC)


In US classrooms, 'tech sherpas' assist teachers with computers

In a role reversal, students provide the tech support, creating a 'culture of respect' between teachers and teens.

Doran Smestad walks through the empty gym to the office in the back corner. The high school sophomore's mission: to recover an important file that physical education teacher Jim DiFrederico can't seem to open on his new Macintosh laptop. Doran's long fingers cover the keyboard as he taps at it with cool concentration. (CS Monitor)

US Adds Produce and Whole Grains to Food Assistance Menu

A popular program that provides food assistance to low-income women and their children received its first overhaul in more than 30 years Thursday with the addition of fruits, vegetables and whole grains to the list of grocery items covered by the U.S. government.

Created in 1972, the WIC program supplements the diet of 8.5 million low-income pregnant women, new mothers and young children annually.

Recipients will be allowed to substitute items -- such as replacing whole wheat bread with soft corn tortillas, or canned, frozen and dried fruits and vegetables in place of their fresh counterparts -- in order to reflect cultural differences and make it easier for people to participate. (Reuters)

China Fires up Eight Biomass Plants

China has launched eight biomass plants in five leading grain-producing provinces to cut carbon dioxide emissions in electricity generation amid growing global concerns over greenhouse gas and climate change. (Good News Network)

Britain to Invest $300M For Homelessness

The British government announced Wednesday that it is to provide 150 million pounds (about 306 million U.S. dollars) over the next three years, the biggest ever cash injection, to local authorities to tackle homelessness in their areas. (Good News Network)

Teen Pens Book of Hope

For Estar Hester, suffering from life-threatening illnesses hasn’t stopped the 15-year-old McKinney North High School student from enjoying the greater pleasures in life.

“I like drawing, animation, like anime,” Hester said. “I’m really into the computer. I like taking pictures of people.”

Hester suffers from chronic lung disease, scoliosis and an immune system problem, hypogammaglobulinemia. Despite these illnesses, Hester said she has lived a pretty good life.

“Pretty normal, the only thing I can’t do is physical activity,” Hester said. “It’s been OK.”

Last Tuesday, “Tomorrow Will Be a Better Day - Lessons from a Wish Child” was released in e-book form. The book, written by Hester, talks about life’s struggles and what you can do to stay strong. (Star Community Newspapers via Happy News)

Man who greened Seoul now sets sights on all South Korea

As mayor of Seoul, Lee Myung-Bak transformed one of Asia's grimmest urban centres by opening up a waterway through the heart of the city. Now he plans to do the same for the entire country.

Lee's achievements in greening the congested capital of 10 million people made him one of Time magazine's "heroes of the environment" in October. (AFP)


5 Million Free Children’s Books Now on Grocery Shelves

For the sixth year in a row, Cheerios is putting five million children's books free inside boxes of Cheerios cereal.

In addition, Cheerios is again working with First Book, an award-winning children's literacy nonprofit, to give a year's worth of children's books to 50 reading programs serving disadvantaged children across the country. Over the past six years, Cheerios has donated more than $2.5 million to support First Book and its mission: to help get brand new books to children from low-income families. (Literacy News)

Moncton hospital looks at ways to share its isotopes

A hospital in Moncton, N.B., is fielding calls from other medical institutions after it secured one of the final batches of radioactive isotopes from a U.S. supplier amid a worldwide shortage.

The George Dumont Hospital is looking at ways to share the isotopes it has, Colosimo said, especially for children who may need emergency procedures. (CBC)

Cheer restored after grinch's cookie theft

Two Whos have restored some holiday cheer in Saint John after a grinch stole Christmas treats.

Over the weekend, more than 2,000 cookies and other goodies were stolen from Simply Good Catering, a company that provides jobs for people with mental illness in the southern New Brunswick city.

After CBC News broke the story of the holiday theft, two donors, who asked to remain nameless, stepped forward to help the non-profit group. (CBC)

Australian golfer plays 650 holes over 40 hours for charity

After playing 650 holes of golf over 40 hours, Adam Engel didn't expect his marathon charity round to end with a bang: a chip-in birdie from about 45 yards.

Engel said he was inspired to take on the challenge to raise money for the Leukemia Foundation after his best friend, Shane Burn, was stricken with the disease. (CBC)

Scientists hope new materials will give oil spills the slip

U.S. scientists have designed a process to create a material capable of strongly repelling oils, one they said could have applications in hazardous waste cleanup. (CBC)


Miss Landmine Angola 2008

Miss Landmine Angola, a project backed by the Angolan government, hopes to raise awareness of the continuing suffering caused by landmines in the country. The culmination of the project will be a beauty pageant starring women injured by landmines. (audio interview at BBC)

Soy Provides Opportunity, Challenges for Paraguay

The global production of soybeans is on the rise, thanks to increasing demand. The fastest growing soy producer in the world is Paraguay, the landlocked country in South America still recovering from years of dictatorship and corruption. (NPR)

Congo Creates Massive Reserve to Protect Close Human Cousin

Congo has announced the establishment of a rain-forest preserve intended to shield the bonobo, one of human beings’ two closest ape relations, from wildlife poachers and deforestation.

The Sankuru Nature Reserve — at 11,803 square miles, it is larger than the state of Massachusetts — is being created through a partnership involving American and Congolese conservation groups and government agencies. (NY Times)

China Surges Ahead In Renewable Energy

The Worldwatch Institute reports that ambitious Chinese energy targets, supported by strong government policies and manufacturing prowess, may enable China to leapfrog the rest of the industrialized world in renewable technology in the near future. (Mother Jones)

UN climate change conference hails Australia Kyoto signing

More than 10,000 scientists, bureaucrats and politicians from 186 countries have gathered Monday on the Indonesian island of Bali for the beginning of what is perhaps the world's largest-ever conference on climate change.

Monday's session opened with delegates giving a standing ovation for Australia as the country's delegate, Howard Bamsey, announced Canberra was ratifying the Kyoto accord.

The move ends more than a decade of resistance to the environmental pact and leaves the United States as the sole developed nation that has not recognized the accord. (CBC)


India Offers to Help Rebuild Bangladesh

India waived a ban on rice exports to Bangladesh and offered to help rebuild 10 villages worst hit by a recent cyclone that devastated crops and property, Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said Saturday during a visit to the country.

India has already pledged millions of dollars in aid for the cyclone-hit nation.

Mukherjee said India was willing to "adopt" 10 coastal villages for rehabilitation and would allow the sale of an additional 500,000 tons of rice to Bangladesh. (Guardian)

Measles deaths in Africa plummet by 91 per cent – UN

Deaths from measles in Africa have dropped by 91 per cent – or from an estimated 396,000 to 36,000 – between 2000 and 2006, thus achieving the United Nations goal to cut measles deaths by 90 per cent four years early, it was announced today.

The extraordinary successes in Africa are thanks to national governments' firm commitment to fully implement the measles reduction strategy, including vaccinating all children before their first birthday and providing a second opportunity to be vaccinated through mass campaigns, the Initiative said. (UN News Centre)

Finally, something not caused by global warming

While we should in no way downplay the environmental challenges we face today, we should also make sure that we recognize good news. In one case, clean air laws helped reduce pollution and acid rain, but they also created dissolved organic carbon, which was a situation that looked like more bad news at first, but turned out to be a small flame of hope. (David Suzuki Foundation)

Cancer Victim Invents Possible Chemo Alternative

John Kanzius made his fortune owning radio stations in Pennsylvania, then retired with his wife to Florida. Five years ago, he was diagnosed with leukemia.

While he was undergoing chemotherapy he decided there has to be a better way to fight this illness. And even though he wasn't a doctor, he figured he could figure it out himself.

Kanzius said he was inspired to invent his cancer-fighting machine after seeing the children who were getting chemotherapy at the same time he was. "I noticed young kids losing their smiles, losing their hair. And I said to myself, 'Today's chemotherapy is cruel. There's gotta be a better way to cure cancer,'" Kanzius told ABC News. (ABC)

The Street Samaritans: Post-Katrina volunteer medics on bicycles created a new model of community health care in New Orleans

In the days after Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans, the city’s Algiers neighborhood was one of the few that stayed dry. Still, Algiers was left without electric power or running water for many days, and the invasion of the city by thousands of soldiers, federal police officers and private paramilitary personnel created an atmosphere of tension and trepidation.

Then one morning four days into the storm, something happened that melted the fear and eased the tension.

Green Jobs Growing

Clean energy, already a job-creation engine, will soon rev even higher. (Mother Jones)


Education campaigns mark World AIDS Day

Afghanistan, India and Thailand were among countries that stepped up public awareness campaigns Saturday against the spread of HIV/AIDS as part of international efforts to mark World AIDS Day. (CBC)