Child of War Turned Peace Activist: Phan Ti Kim Phuc

It's one of the most iconic images of the 20th century: A young Vietnamese girl running from her village, naked, her clothes burned away in a napalm attack. Her mouth is wide, her face filled with terror and anguish.

Phan Ti Kim Phuc, is now a 45-year old woman. She is a wife and a mother, and is now a Canadian citizen. Most surprising of all, though, is the fact that she has devoted her life to becoming an ambassador for peace, and has established a nonprofit organization called KIM Foundation International, which is dedicated to helping children who've been traumatized by war to heal, providing both medical and social services to support their recovery. (Gimundo)

Australia readying apology to Aborigines

The Australian government will take the historic step of offering a formal apology to Aborigines "as early as possible" in the new parliament, Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said Monday.

Thousands of Aboriginal children, mostly of mixed descent, were taken from their parents over four decades up to the 1970s and adopted or put into foster care or institutions as part of an attempt to force assimilation. (AFP)

Cuba Throws Lifeline to Sea Turtles

Cuba has thrown a lifeline to the Caribbean’s endangered and critically endangered marine turtles with a government resolution ending all harvesting of marine turtles.

Such a resolution, ending Cuba’s long standing harvest of 500 critically endangered hawksbill turtles a year, has been sought by conservationists for more than a decade. It will benefit turtles hatching on beaches throughout the Caribbean and coming regularly to feed in Cuban waters. (Good News Network)

Donor Gives $130 Million to Bangladesh

An unidentified person has donated $130 million to help rebuild hundreds of schools and storm shelters destroyed by a cyclone along Bangladesh's southwest coast, the government said Wednesday.

The anonymous donation was made through the Saudi Arabia-based Islamic Development Bank, said senior finance ministry official Aminul Islam Bhuiyan, describing it as the single largest donation ever made by an individual to Bangladesh. (AP)

Glimmer of Hope for Botswana's Decimated Rhino Population

Africa's white rhinos were driven to the brink of extinction in the early 20th century as poachers hunted the animal for its horn. A breeding program launched in Botswana just over 10 years ago has been successful in bringing the white rhino back to Botswana's bush and it gives hope that black rhinos, which are still seriously endangered, may also survive.


Indiana Coach Bares Feet for Charity

A college basketball coach strode the court yesterday in bare feet to raise awareness for poor kids worldwide who have no shoes. At the last minute Converse donated 10,000 pairs of shoes pushing the total number donated to more than 100,000 for a US charity called Samaritan's Shoes.

As Living Kidney Donor, Near-Stranger Saves Man's Life

Two near strangers now have a connection for life. After two failed donor attempts last year, a woman felt a spiritual connection with a man whom she met at a Phoenix walk for PKD disease.

Rain Power: Harvesting Energy from the Sky

Researchers who study energy harvesting see energy all around us – we just need to find a way to capture that energy. One of the latest energy harvesting techniques is converting the mechanical energy from falling raindrops into electricity that can be used to power sensors and other electronics devices. (PhysOrg)

GM to Fill Historic Order for 1,700 Hybrid Buses

Major new orders from transit agencies in Washington D.C., Philadelphia and Minneapolis/St. Paul for up to 1,732 GM hybrid-powered buses will almost triple the current fleet worldwide and save an estimated 2.4 million gallons of fuel annually, enough to fill 300 tanker trucks. The delivery will include the largest single hybrid bus fleet acquisition in history – an order for 952 by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. (Good News Network)

'Black Billy Elliot' pirouettes past South African prejudices

His chosen vocation ridiculed by peers and elders alike, South African teenager Andile Ndlovu remains unwavering in his ambition to become a world-class ballet dancer. (AFP)


Bicing, Barcelona's Bike Sharing System

Renting bikes is definitely one of the most successful PSSs (Product Service Systems - access over ownership) in Europe.

With 1500 bicycles and 100 stations, connecting other public transport stations such as metro, train, buses and major car parks, the red and white bikes are to be seen all over town.
30 000 people subscribed to the service online in the first 2 months. (Treehugger)

4 year-old boy beats deadly disease three times

Four-year-old Bailey Smillie has confounded all expert opinion which says a person should only be able to contract meningococcal septicaemia once. More incredibly still, Bailey has beaten each bout of the illness – any of which could have killed him. (Good News Blog)

Muslim Conscientious Objector Allowed to Stay in Canada

Can a Muslim be a conscientious objector? Erkan (his first name) says yes. And in mid December he learned that his application for permission to stay in Canada, on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, was approved. (MCC)

How High Gas Prices Are Making Us Safer. Seriously.

Gas prices, thanks to the Global War on Terror and Hurricane Katrina, are now the highest in the nation's history. Gas easily tops $3 per gallon in San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, and other cities across the nation, making driving an expensive way to get around. For reference, gas prices have increased roughly 100% since 9/11.

What's the upside? That ridiculously expensive petroleum is prompting people to drive more slowly on highways, drive less often, buy more fuel-efficient cars, and take mass transit more often. (Mother Jones)

Cell Phone Can Read Documents for Blind

Chris Danielsen fidgets with the cell phone, holding it over a $20 bill. ''Detecting orientation, processing U.S. currency image,'' the phone says in a flat monotone before Danielsen snaps a photo. A few seconds later, the phone says, ''Twenty dollars.''

Danielsen, a spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind, is holding the next generation of computerized aids for the blind and visually impaired.

The Nokia cell phone is loaded with software that turns text on photographed documents into speech. In addition to telling whether a bill is worth $1, $5, $10 or $20, it also allows users to read anything that is photographed, whether it's a restaurant menu, a phone book or a fax. (AP)


From fighters to friends, Vick's pit bulls learn new life

His back resting comfortably against her chest, Hector nestles his massive canine head into Leslie Nuccio's shoulder. The big dog -- 52 pounds -- is social, people-focused, happy now, it seems, wearing a rhinestone collar in his new home in sunny California. But as Hector sits up, deep scars stand out on his chest, and his eyes are imploring.

Hector ought to be dead, Nuccio knows -- killed in a staged fight, executed for not winning or euthanized by those who see pit bulls seized in busts as "kennel trash," unsuited to any kind of normal life. Instead, Hector is learning how to be a pet. (CNN)

Inspirational Basketball Player Defies Disability

Dax Crum plays division 1 basketball, averaging 18.6 points per game, even though he was born without a right hand. His coach says, "They ought to build a monument of him, all about defying the odds and playing for the right reasons." (FOX Sports)

NHLers to help ice global warming

NHL hockey is going green.

In a first for a major North American professional sports league, the National Hockey League Players Association is teaming up with the David Suzuki Foundation to promote action on climate change. And players are taking the lead by buying carbon credits to offset the environmental impact of their extensive travel during season play. (Toronto Star)

Dolls for World Peace

Elderly women in an assisted living center are recapturing life by making dolls for children in Darfur. Two thousand dolls have been made, each one soft and cuddly to serve the smallest child, and the project has grown. Dolls for World Peace has become "an intergenerational effort as disabled adults, girl scouts and people from the homeless shelter have joined them in making dolls." (Good News Network)

Woman Searching for Father Discovers She's Been Working In His Home

A Vietnamese woman searching for her father worked at his home in Taiwan for seven months without realising who he was. (AP)


Simon Cowell to Leave His Millions to Charity

Music mogul Simon Cowell has vowed to leave the majority of his $200 million fortune to a variety of children's and animals charities upon his death, writing it into his will. (Good News Network)

Mexico City Rolls Out Women-Only Buses

Groping and verbal harassment is an exasperating reality for women using public transportation in this sprawling capital, where 22 million passengers cram onto subways and buses each day. Some men treat women so badly that the subway system has long had ladies-only cars during rush hour, with police segregating the sexes on the platforms.

But that hasn't helped women forced to rely on packed buses, by far the city's most-used form of public transportation — until this week.

Acting on complaints from women's groups, the city rolled out "ladies only" buses, complete with pink signs in the windshields to wave off the men. (AP)

New Jersey scraps plan to buy Amazon rainforest timber

The city council of Ocean City in New Jersey voted 6-0 last Thursday to cancel a $1.1 million purchase of ipĂȘ timber originating in the Amazon rainforest. The move came after a campaign by environmental groups, including Ecological Internet, which runs Forests.org, a forest news web site. (Mongabay.com)

Huge kite helps container ship across Atlantic

Inventor expects major drop in fuel costs and warming emissions

Oil at more than $90 a barrel is concentrating minds in the shipping industry. Higher fuel costs and mounting pressure to curb emissions are leading modern merchant fleets to rediscover the ancient power of the sail. (Reuters)

Brazil to crack down on deforestation

Brazil will combat rising deforestation in the Amazon by sending extra federal police and environmental agents to areas where illegal clearing of the rain forest jumped dramatically last year, officials said Thursday. (AP)


In Papua New Guinea, mothers take charge

In a simple but striking example of grass roots development, a group of villagers on a remote island some 30 kilometers off Papua New Guinea’s northern coast have funded and built their own medical aid station. (One Country via Great News Network)

Customer Leaves $400 Tip For Waitress

It's well-known how important tips are for waiters and waitresses, but one local waitress got a tip this week that changed her life. (KMBC-TV)

Update: Bin Laden's Son Wants to be Peace Ambassador

Iraqi Boy Sends Messages of Peace in a Bottle

An Iraqi teenager who has endured tremendous loss hopes to end the hatred with a unique message. He and his friends are working towards peace by sending messages of hope and unity in bottles down the Euphrates River. The 14 year-old says he loves all the people of Iraq and hopes to encourage brotherhood among the sects with the peace messages. (CNNVideo)

Observant Teacher Likely Saves Student's Life

A Florida kindergarten teacher is credited with saving a student's life after she noticed the 5-year-old girl wasn't making eye contact and walked with a wobble. The teacher suggested the girl see a neurologist, who found a golf-ball sized tumor at the base of Sophie's brain.


Street kids get lessons in life at surf school

South African surfer Gary Kleynhans started free surfing classes for the street kids in his beach town. "Seven years later, he can boast of a generation of black, underprivileged kids who have not only learned to ride waves, but also picked up some important life skills – discipline, respect, and punctuality – along the way." (CS Monitor)

Progress being made on many fronts, says UN health agency chief

Progress in many areas of public health are a cause for optimism, the head of the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) told the agency’s Executive Board in Geneva today.

Assessing the events of the past year, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan pointed to three particularly encouraging trends: an increased willingness to invest in health systems; recognition of the reality of climate change by world leaders; and the resurgence of interest in primary health care. (UN News Centre)

Major corporations to invest in UN-backed fight against AIDS, TB, malaria

The United Nations-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria today announced the launch of the Corporate Champions programme, an innovative way for multinational companies to significantly invest in the fight against the three diseases. (UN News Centre)

Blind seal at LA zoo ready to meet visitors

Visitors can now see the Los Angeles Zoo's newest attraction but he can't see them.

A blind harbour seal named Alfred, which made its debut Friday, was rescued off the coast of New Jersey nearly a year ago and after a long search by the Marine Mammal Stranding Center the LA Zoo took him in October. (CBC)

US Farmers Show Grass Makes Better Ethanol than Corn

Farmers in Nebraska and the Dakotas have worked with the USDA to plant switchgrass and measure the native plant's ability to deliver Ethanol more efficiently than corn. The results are dramatic. Switchgrass delivers 540 percent of the energy used to produce it, compared with just roughly 25 percent returned by traditional corn-based ethanol.

Check out the Scientific American article that discusses the work of plant scientists and farmers that show that "switchgrass will store enough carbon in its relatively permanent root system to offset 94 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted both to cultivate it and from the derived ethanol burned by vehicles." (Good News Network)


An Astronomy Book the Blind Can Appreciate

Telescopes have captured astonishing images of far-away galaxies and other cosmic mysteries. Now, a new book called Touch the Invisible Sky is helping everyone appreciate those pictures, even people who can't see. (NPR)

11-Year-Old's Idea May Become Law

Boy's Initiative May Be Passed as Law to Help Feed Homeless

Adults usually initiate the laws, but there's no law that says kids can't too.

"I thought it pretty disturbing to see pounds, pretty much, of food being thrown away every single day," the 11-year-old said.

Jack Davis is only 11, but he had a pretty grown-up idea: He was disturbed to learn that Florida restaurants throw out food that could be given to the hungry and the homeless -- because the restaurant owners could be sued if anyone who ate the food became ill or developed food poisoning.

Jack had visited a homeless shelter on school field trips and he worried about people going hungry. "I realized that I could make a difference by trying to change the law," Davis said.

"If you think there's a problem in the world, you don't wait for other people to fix it. You have to try to fix it yourself." (ABC)

UAE About to Start Building Green City in Desert

The United Arab Emirates plans to start building a multi-billion-dollar green city in the desert in the first quarter of this year, as the oil producer looks to become a pioneer of alternative energy. The zero-carbon, zero waste city -- actually a town of up to 15,000 residents -- is being steered by Masdar, an initiative set up by the Abu Dhabi government to develop sustainable and clean energy. (Planet Ark)

Carbon-Neutral City in San Francisco Mayor's Environmental Plan

Inefficient fluorescent bulbs were the first targets Tuesday of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's newly unveiled environmental agenda.

Newsom's SForward program, announced in his inaugural address last week, seeks to lower the city's carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2010, and to make city government carbon neutral by 2020. (ABC News10)

New York City Council says big stores must recycle plastic bags

Large stores throughout the New York City must provide bins for recycling plastic bags under a bill passed Wednesday by the City Council. (Newsday)


Singapore Opens "Green" Airport Terminal

Singapore opened a new "green" airport terminal on Wednesday, boasting energy-saving skylights, a butterfly garden and over 200 species of foliage spread over enough floor space to cover 50 soccer fields.

The terminal is designed to run on lower energy costs compared to the older terminals, mainly via natural lighting from the 919 skylights and by positioning air-conditioners nearer to floor-level. (Reuters)

Japan police receive 400th secret pledge to poor after 33 years

A Japanese police station Wednesday paid tribute to an anonymous donor who has handed in envelopes full of cash to give to the needy every month for more than 33 years.

The police station in Tochigi prefecture, north of Tokyo, received the first envelope in August 1974, which contained 1,000 yen, or nine dollars at the current rate.

It did not bear a sender's name but enclosed a piece of paper only saying: "Please use this for the unprivileged people." (AFP)

Uzbekistan abolishes the death penalty

The trend towards total abolition of the death penalty has continued with Uzbekistan becoming the latest country to put an end to executions.

From 1 January 2008, it becomes the 135th country in the world to abolish the death penalty in law or practice. Capital punishment has now been replaced with life or long-term imprisonment. (Amnesty)

A river runs through it, again

Legal action resulted in the revival of a stream that had become little more than sand and rocks

What Los Angeles took a century ago -- a 100km stretch of river in the parched Owens Valley -- it is now giving back.

One of the largest river restoration projects in the country has sent a gentle current of water meandering through what just a year ago was largely a sandy, rocky bed best used as a horse trail and barely distinguishable from the surrounding high desert scrub. (NY Times article)

Bin Laden's son aspires to be peace activist

Omar Osama bin Laden bears a striking resemblance to his notorious father — except for the dreadlocks that dangle halfway down his back. Then there's the black leather biker jacket.

The 26-year-old does not renounce his father, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, but in an interview with the Associated Press, he said there is better way to defend Islam than militancy: Omar wants to be an "ambassador for peace" between Muslims and the West. (USA Today)


New Tree Species Found in Madagascar

A self-destructing palm tree that flowers once every 100 years and then dies has been discovered on the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar, botanists said Thursday.

The name of the giant palm and its remarkable life cycle will be detailed in a study by Kew Gardens scientists in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society published Thursday. (AP)

Saint John hotels offer beds free to stranded school groups

Two hotels in Saint John are offering school groups free accommodations if the roads are too dangerous to travel.

The management of the Fort Howe Hotel and Courtenay Bay Hotel made the decision on Monday following a weekend accident that killed seven Bathurst High School basketball players and a teacher.

The idea to open the hotels' doors to schools that need a place to bed down during a storm was the owner's idea, Lombard Lloyd said, and it is hoped other hotels will follow suit. (CBC)

Arab Sitcom Becomes Surprise Hit in Israel

Every week in Israel, thousands of Jewish families open up their homes to an Arab family. The latter are only fictional characters — from the hit Israeli sitcom Arab Work — but still, many say this is a critical marker in (pop culture) history. (NPR)

First Snow for 100 Years Falls on Baghdad

The people in Baghdad delightedly woke up early on Friday morning to watch the extraordinary snowfall on their neighborhoods for the first time in memory. Jubilant children and elderly gathered in the yards and on the roofs and some in the streets dancing. (GNN)

With Diet, Exercise and Friendship, Man Loses 400 Pounds

In a courageous journey of personal transformation, fueled by friendship and the ability to trust after so many years, a man is able to lose 400 pounds. He is now best friends with his trainer, fitness correspondent for Good Morning Arizona, Chris Powell. (ABC)


Israeli pianist Barenboim takes Palestinian passport

Daniel Barenboim, the world renowned Israeli pianist and conductor, has taken Palestinian citizenship and said he believed his rare new [dual-citizen] status could serve a model for peace between the two peoples. (Reuters)

Fostering Success After Foster Care: Boy Turns Bad Experience into Inspiring Program

For youth “aging out” of the foster care system at age 18, thrust out on their own, homelessness or crime can be a consequence of efforts to support themselves. Now, a service in Milwaukee gives young adults the guidance, financial assistance, and occasional “kick in the butt” needed to move their lives forward in a positive direction. (Good News Network)

India to provide subsidy for solar power plants

India will subsidize the running of solar power plants to help develop a renewable energy infrastructure, where high costs can be prohibitive, the minister for renewable energy said on Wednesday. (Reuters)

GM to make biofuel out of garbage

General Motors is planning on making biofuel with garbage at a cost of less than a dollar a gallon, the company's chief has said.

The US automaker has entered into a partnership with Illinois-based company Coskata which has developed a way to make ethanol from practically any renewable source, including old tires and plant waste.

The process is a significant improvement over corn-base ethanol because it uses far less water and energy and does not divert food into fuel. (AFP)

Beijing to switch to cleaner fuel: report

China will phase in cleaner motor fuel in Beijing in the next two months while keeping pump prices unchanged, a local newspaper said on Tuesday, in a move to clean the capital's smoggy skies ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games.

Oil product wholesalers and retailers will be required to start supplying gasoline and diesel fuel conforming to the cleaner Euro IV standard from January 1, and complete a replenishing of their tanks with the new fuel by the end of February, the Beijing News said. (Reuters)


FARC Frees Hostages in Deal Brokered by Chavez

Two female hostages held in the jungle by Colombian rebels for more than five years were released Thursday in a deal brokered by the president of Venezuela.

Rojas and Gonzalez smiled broadly as they spoke by satellite phone with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who negotiated their release.

"A thousand times thank you," Rojas said. "We are being reborn!" (NPR)

Dog's bite saves boy and pals from house fire

A black Labrador that bit a 13-year-old boy's foot repeatedly, waking him up, is being credited with saving the boy and two of his friends from a house fire. (AP)

French use happiness as economic measure

What price happiness?

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is seeking an answer to the eternal question - so happiness can be included in measurements of French economic growth. (AP)

Australian gov't aims to ditch plastic bags by year end

Australia's government said Thursday it hoped to phase out the use of plastic bags from the nation's shopping centres by the end of the year.

The initiative comes after China this week announced that later this year shoppers would have to pay for plastic bags while the manufacture of ultra-fine bags would be banned outright. (AFP)

Ultra-Cheap 'Nano' Car Debuts in India

India's Tata Motors has unveiled what is being billed as the world's cheapest car — the $2,500 Nano. At the 9th Auto Expo in New Delhi on Thursday, Company Chairman Ratan N. Tata said the four-person sedan, also called the People's Car, is an all-weather alternative to the motor scooter.

It meets all safety and environmental requirements, Tata said. And, in these days of escalating gas prices, it gets a respectable 50 mpg and has lower emissions levels than the scooters now produced in India. (NPR)


Hungary to introduce protocol for rape victims and survivors

Representatives of the Government of Hungary met with non-governmental organizations, including Amnesty International, on 5 December 2007 to discuss the introduction of a protocol for survivors of sexual violence in the home. (Amnesty)

Calf survives marathon swim down flooded Australian river

A calf was rescued after being carried 70 kilometres down a raging river during flooding in eastern Australia, officials said Wednesday. (CBC)

4 healthy habits can increase lifespan by 14 years, study suggests

People who fill up on fruits and veggies, exercise regularly, limit alcohol consumption and don't smoke live an average of 14 years longer than those who don't abide by these healthy habits, according to a new U.K. study.

"The four health behaviours were within the usual range found in a free-living population," the study said. "Though relatively modest and achievable, their combined impact was associated with an estimated four-fold difference in mortality risk, equivalent to 14 years in chronological age." (CBC)

Swedes to use body heat to warm offices

A Swedish company plans to harness the body heat generated by thousands of commuters scrambling to catch their trains at Stockholm's main railway station and use it for heating a nearby office building.

Real estate firm Jernhusen AB believes the system can provide about 15 percent of the heating needed for a 13-storey building being built next to the Central Station in the Swedish capital. (AP)

GM to unveil hydrogen-electric Cadillac model

General Motors Corp. will unveil a hydrogen fuel-cell-powered Cadillac crossover concept vehicle at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

GM envisions the five-passenger Provoq going 300 miles on a single fill-up of hydrogen, getting 280 miles from hydrogen power and 20 miles from batteries. (AP)


NYC's taxi fleet will be green by 2012

The city's yellow taxi fleet will go entirely hybrid within five years, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Tuesday.

Nearly 400 fuel-efficient hybrids have been tested in the city's taxi fleet over the past 18 months, with models including the Toyota Prius, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, the Lexus RX 400h and the Ford Escape.

Under Bloomberg's plan, that number will increase to 1,000 by October 2008, then will grow by about 20% each year until 2012, when every yellow cab — currently numbering 13,000 — will be a hybrid. (USA Today)

Florida manatee deaths decreased in 2007

The number of endangered manatees that died in Florida waters last year dropped by 24 percent, according to preliminary report on Monday from the state's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The commission, which in December postponed a decision on whether to remove the manatee from the state's endangered species list, said 317 manatees died in 2007 compared to 417 in 2006, the highest death toll on record. (Reuters)

A restaurant with no checks

At the Karma Kitchen in Berkeley, Calif., customers pay what they want – including nothing – for a meal.

Patrons of Karma Kitchen don't need to fight for the check at the end of a meal. There isn't one. Instead, the "guests" of this restaurant are handed a gold envelope with a handwritten note on the outside that says, "Have a lovely evening." Inside a bookmarker-sized card states: "In the spirit of generosity, someone who came before you made a gift of this meal. We hope you will continue the circle of giving in your own way!" (CS Monitor)

New National Park for Russian Tigers

Endangered northern Amur (Siberian) tigers have received a boost to their protection through the creation of a new national park in the Russian Far East. The Russian Government signed a decree declaring the new Aniyuiskii national park in December, making it the third established in the Khabarovsk province this year, lessening the extreme pressures on the tigers from uncontrolled logging, construction and wildfires. (Good News Network)

Maldives president saved by Boy Scout

Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom escaped a stabbing attack Tuesday, thanks to a Boy Scout who reportedly pinned down the attacker. (United Press International)


New car runs on air

A French engineer, with backing from an Indian firm, has developed a car that runs on compressed air. (BBC video via Great News Network)

Japan Suspends Humpback Whale Hunt

After negotiations with the chairman of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), Japan has agreed not to target humpback whales during its annual whale hunt that is underway in the seas off Antarctica. While whaling for scientific research is legally allowed under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, Japan's program is highly controversial worldwide. (Wildlife Extra)

11 rescued 3 months after Russian shipwreck

Rescuers have reached 11 people who survived a shipwreck and then were stranded in the Russian wilderness for almost three months, Russian media reported Saturday.

The castaways — eight men and three women — were picked up Friday and appeared to be in good health. (CBC)

China bans plastic shopping bags

China launched a surprise crackdown on plastic bags on Tuesday, banning production of ultra-thin bags and forbidding its supermarkets and shops from handing out free carriers from June 1.

China uses too many of the bags and fails to dispose of them properly, wasting valuable oil and littering the country, China's cabinet, the State Council, said in a notice.

"Our country consumes huge amounts of plastic bags every year. While providing convenience to consumers, they have also caused serious pollution, and waste of energy and resources, because of excessive use and inadequate recycling," it said. (Toronto Star)

For Iraqi Refugees, Art May Be Avenue to New Life

Many of the more than 2 million Iraqi refugees now in Jordan and Syria are hoping to build new lives elsewhere. For young artists forced to flee Iraq, talent is one way out. Invitations from Europe are the prize: an opportunity to perform and, hopefully, find a new life. (NPR)


TV Show Saves Boy's Life

An 11-year-old boy survived an avalanche after having been completely buried under the sliding snow for 33 minutes. When Max Zilvitis of Park City, Utah, was found, he had no pulse and wasn't breathing.

Max's father, Brian Zilvitis, made a frantic 911 call just moments after digging himself out from beneath the sudden avalanche, only to discover that Max was buried alive — somewhere underneath as much as a five-foot blanket of snow. (Gimundo)

New Jersey abolishes death penalty

The US state of New Jersey has joined the global trend towards ending capital punishment. The state’s governor, Jon Corzine, signed a bill to abolish the death penalty on Monday.

The state’s assembly voted to replace execution with life imprisonment without parole on 14 December. Forty-four voted in favour of the bill, 36 against.

Amnesty International hopes and believes that the passing of this bill marks a turning point in the use of the death penalty in the US. New Jersey is the first US state to abolish capital punishment under law in the modern death penalty era, commencing in 1972. (Amnesty)

Free days offered at French national museums

Many national museums in France, including the venerable Louvre in Paris, will be offering free admission in the coming months. 18 museums will be participating in an experiment to get the public to experience high culture, the country's Culture Ministry announced. (CBC)

Kid-friendly Sweden aims to better record with parenting classes

Already considered one of the best countries for raising children, Sweden aims to better its record by offering even more classes to help mums and dads improve their parenting skills.

The Scandinavian country now gives all parents of newborns the opportunity to attend classes and discussion groups to ease them into their new role. But the state is bent on expanding its free-for-all education to parents of older children as well. (AFP)

DNA evidence frees Texas man jailed 26 years for rape

A Texas man who spent 26 years in jail for raping his neighbour was released from a Dallas prison on Thursday after a DNA test cleared his name.

Charles Chatman, 47, was released on his own recognizance after a judge recommended at a court hearing on Thursday morning that his 1981 conviction be overturned. (CBC)


Americans opt for healthy eating, not diets

Dieting has fallen out of favor while trying to eat more healthfully is in, a marketing research firm that tracks what Americans consume said on Friday.

Twenty-nine percent of women and 19 percent of men are on diets, based on the responses of 26,000 American adults, compared to 10 years ago when 35 percent of women and 23 percent of men said they were dieting, according to Port Washington, New York-based NPD Group Inc. (Reuters)

Wii used as part of rehab

Heidi Mackenzie may look like she's just having a bit of competitive fun, but she and her boxing partner are engaged in a serious form of rehab.

Last summer, Heidi was in a car accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down. She broke her arm and could barely move it, but after sessions with Wii, she has regained strength in her shoulder. (CNN)

Happiness may be good for your health

A happy heart just might be a healthier one as well, new research suggests.

In a study of nearly 3,000 healthy British adults, lead by Dr. Andrew Steptoe of University College London, found that those who reported upbeat moods had lower levels of cortisol -- a "stress" hormone that, when chronically elevated, may contribute to high blood pressure, abdominal obesity and dampened immune function, among other problems. (Reuters)

Homeless World Cup film to premiere at Sundance

KICKING IT, directed by Susan Koch and produced by Ted Leonsis, AOL vice chairman emeritus, is an intimate look at homeless athletes who find a greater goal on the football field as they journey with 48 nations to the Cape Town 2006 Homeless World Cup.

The film chronicles the lives of seven players taking a once in a lifetime opportunity to represent their country while overcoming poverty and addiction. The players come from war torn Afghanistan, the slums of Kenya, the drug rehab clinics of Dublin, Ireland, the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina, the overflowing public shelters of Madrid, Spain, and the shadow culture of the illegal rural immigrants to the big city of St. Petersburg, Russia. (press release at homelessworldcup.org)

New York City window washer who fell 47 floors is awake and talking to family

Doctors say they have never seen anything like it.

A window washer who fell 47 stories from the roof of a Manhattan skyscraper is now awake, talking to his family and expected to walk again. (CBC)


Junk food ad ban comes into force

A total ban on adverts for unhealthy food and drink products around TV programmes for under-16s has come into force. It extends similar restrictions already in place for shows aimed at children under 10 years old.

The new curbs affect commercials for food and drink products high in fat, salt and sugar.

Adverts around youth-oriented and adult programmes which attract a significantly higher than average proportion of viewers under-16 will also be affected, Ofcom said. (Guardian)

New Fuel Standards for Beijing in Drive for Cleaner Olympics

Beijing introduced new vehicle fuel standards on Tuesday for gasoline and diesel, in another bid to ensure the "green Olympics" China envisioned. Also this week, the city registered its 246th "blue sky day" on Monday, beating by one its goal for the year, to reduce the familiar smoggy haze in time remains a key concern for next year's Olympic Games. (GNN)

Fast-food worker returns $185,000 check

McDonald's employee returns check to bank after finding it on sidewalk

Reggie Damone just wanted to jot down a phone number when he picked up what he thought was litter on a sidewalk this week. But what he found was an envelope containing a $185,000 check. (Associated Press)

Thousands of Quebec travellers win free vacation contest to begin New Year

Thousands of Quebec travellers have won a free vacation contest to ring in the New Year.

The "Let It Snow promotion" by itravel2000.com, Canada's largest online travel retailer, offered holidayers who booked through the company a chance to win their vacation package, flight or hotel if five inches (12.7 centimetres) of snow fell at one of four airports nearest them - specifically Montreal, Toronto, Halifax and Calgary - on New Year's Day. (CBC)

2007 had fewest plane crashes since 1963: report

2007 was one of the safest years in modern aviation history, with the lowest number of crashes worldwide in 44 years, an airline watchdog said on Wednesday. (CBC)