Who Projected a Smiley Face On London’s Parliament Across From A Hospital Last Night?

An image of a smiley face was projected onto the Houses of Parliament to spread an uplifting message of positivity during tough times.

Any smile—but especially one that is 27 yards wide—can go a long way to cheering people up, especially when it’s directly across the river from a hospital.

The lipstick-wearing smiley was beamed onto the famous structure last night, on the eve of World Emoji Day.

The positive image was in full view of St. Thomas’s hospital, and it stood as a reminder of how good it feels to smile. Passersby who saw the images last night said it brightened up their evening considerably.

“Seeing the smiley made me laugh,” said Dave Crawford. It’s also opposite a hospital, and you hope that people get to look out and see it.”

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Everybody knows we need more smiles right now—especially because it’s hard to know if people are smiling behind their face masks.

SWNS

Another onlooker, Kate Sandison, said the projection was a great surprise. “It looks great and makes you feel good. It made me smile.”

Commissioned by the cosmetics company Ciaté London, founder and CEO Charlotte Knight said they designed a new range of Smileys that include lashes and lipstick, created in partnership with the originators of the concept.

“Particularly at times like this it’s important to see the positives in everyday moments by sharing smiles.”

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Teachers Visit a Bridge Everyday to Create a Classroom for Children of Migrant Workers Stuck in India’s Lockdown

For months during the pandemic, the people of India woke up to news regarding the plight of migrant laborers.

Stranded on their way home due to stringent lockdown restrictions and the lack of basic amenities brought us harrowing tales of human suffering.

However, the news also spurred heroes into action.

Under the bridge in the coastal state of Kerala, a heartening sight awaits those who are passing by in Kochi.

Underneath the Bolgatty-Vallarpadam bridge, teachers can be found engrossed with students of all ages, deep in study.

Ten children of migrant laborers had been living under the bridge with their families. Now that temporary ‘home’ is doubling up as a classroom, thanks to the dedicated teachers of St. John Bosco’s UP School.

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When the government ordered schools to close, and classes began commencing online, the teachers realized that some children had no means to attend online classes, and would likely discontinue their education if the situation persisted.

Armed with laptops and drawing sets, three teachers—Shamiya Baby, Neema Thomas and Susan Mable—and the school headmistress Elizabeth Fernandez, came to the rescue. Since the beginning of June, when online classes officially began, these teachers have been downloading classes on their laptops and heading over to the bridge to teach the children.

‘They also carry masks, biscuits and sweets for the young kids every day,” reports Mathrubhumi News.

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As technology seeps into the education sector, stories like this serve to underscore the undeniable value of human teachers—and their selfless kindness… Priceless.

We applaud our health workers and doctors, but let us also spare a thought for society’s teachers who help keep the lamp of hope brightly lit within the minds and hearts of its youngest citizens.

– Edited from an original article submitted by Gayathry Rajeev in India 

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Once the Epicenters For COVID-19, New York and Italy Reach Single Digit Numbers

They were the epicenters of disease in America and Europe, but now New York and Italy have both reached single-digit daily numbers for fatalities attributed to COVID-19 and plummeting hospitalization rates after valiant efforts to stop the spread.

The Ministero della Salute in Italy reported last week transmissions of just 5.86 per 100,000 inhabitants, while some news sources place the nationwide death rate as low as 6 on June 29th, down by 22 from just the day before.

While some clusters—particularly in the north where the virus has been the worst, and the south, where many Italians go on vacation—have appeared recently, the country is still recording the lowest numbers since mid-February.

Similarly, New York has achieved a complete turnaround, recording 5 deaths last Saturday, according to AP, the lowest since March 15th—down from 13 the day before.

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“We are on the exact opposite end,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have plummeted, as well. Compared to 18,000 patients in March to under 900 last weekend.

Aljoscha Laschgari

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How a Crowded Slum of One Million People Contained the Coronavirus to Only 2,000 Cases

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, examining the spread, the rate of infections, the international response, and how these things have varied nation-to-nation has been a source of nothing less than bewilderment.

The cramped bazaars and streets of the Medinas in Morocco are relatively fine compared to some cities in the richest nations on earth.

The amount that is known and unknown has led to all kinds of approaches and guesswork, but perhaps nothing could be considered more astonishing than the containment of the now-infamous virus in one of the most crowded slums in Asia—in Dhravai, Mumbai, where one million people live in a labyrinthine-neighborhood of tightly packed shacks and one-room houses where social distancing is impossible.

The largest city in India, Mumbai is the epicenter of COVID-19 in India, and it has so far registered 500,000 cases.

But, while the city at large has seen maxed-out hospital beds, Dharavi, the setting of the Oscar-Winning film Slumdog Millionaire, has reported just 2,000 cases and 79 deaths overall, with just 274 in June.

How did they do it?

A proactive response was initiated, with 2,450 health workers assigned to Dharavi who started going door to door every morning at nine AM to test people.

After the first person tested positive in the slum—a 56-year-old garment worker who died the same day—the local and civic task forces identified the 5 highest-risk areas of the slum and started hunting the disease down, using contact tracing to find people who were at risk of being infected.

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In total 47,500 people were tested in the opening salvo. “That gave us a head start,” Anil Pachanekar, a private doctor and head of a local physicians’ association, told the LA Times. “If [those cases] had slipped through, it would have wreaked havoc.”

Credited for insuring the low rates of infection, these Mumbai health workers endured severe heat and humidity, walking through crowded streets wearing protective plastic body suits that didn’t allow for bathroom breaks.

Along with the disease, the task force encountered the paranoia and misconceptions about it. “When we went around Dharavi, we also started educating people about it,” he said. “We told them it is not a crime to be tested positive for coronavirus.”

Fear is a killer

Alleviating the fear of COVID-19 in people, especially as it related to the fear of visiting a clinic or medical office for testing, ended up being a very effective way to treat the disease.

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By April 20th, nineteen days after exposure, the door to door testing stopped, and 350 private clinics there were allowed to reopen. By then, the education efforts had paid off, and lines of people looking to get tested were forming outside of testing centers.

Meanwhile, city officials began converting buildings like wedding halls, schools and community centers into quarantine shelters with food and healthcare provisions. People who tested positive were quarantined in their homes while volunteer “COVID warriors” ensured those who were quarantined could get the medical supplies or groceries they needed.

With less than 20 deaths recorded in the slum during June, it seems like the worst is over for the residents of Dharavi—but what is being called the “Dharavi method” stands as a model for the future.

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It demonstrates that no situation is too dire for human resolve and ingenuity, and that even people living in squalor have something to teach the world.

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In Show of Solidarity, Morocco Sends 8 Million Masks to 15 African Nations

King Mohammed VI of Morocco has sent 8 million masks and millions of other pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) to 15 different African nations.

Including almost one million facial visors, 600,000 plastic hair caps, and 60,000 gowns, the aid will be distributed between Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Comoros, Congo, Eswatini, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Mauritania, Niger, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Tanzania, Chad and Zambia, according to a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

COVID-19 has been slow to arrive in Africa, but as many European and Asian countries are beginning to reopen, the pandemic is on the move in many countries on the continent.

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Having seen successful examples of beating COVID-19 in countries like South Korea, Germany, and New Zealand, Morocco and other African nations already have case examples and best-practices to base defense strategies on—and it’s this that Morocco hopes to encourage and support in other nations.

It also came just days after Morocco showed its desire to construct the headquarters of the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the country under the auspices of the African Union.

MOREGhanaian Man Invents Solar-Powered Hand-washing Basin During Lockdown to Encourage Sanitary Habits

Registering its first case on March 2nd, Morocco has seen only 200 deaths and around 9,000 infections.

Along with making masks compulsory in public, Morocco has painted masks onto the fronts of their train cars and buses as a cute way to raise awareness.

WATCH the video from Africa News… (King of Morocco photo by MehdiBitw98, CC license)

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Startup in Uganda Recycles Plastic Bottles into PPE Face Shields For Hospitals

Killing two birds with one stone, two Ugandan entrepreneurs working to up-cycle plastic waste into building materials have altered their production to tackle the shortages of personal protective medical equipment (PPE) in hospitals dealing with the country’s COVID-19 patients.

After the government ordered all non-essential businesses closed, Peter Okwoko and his colleague Paige Balcom, co-founders of Takataka Plastics, continued working in their plastics processing facility.

But, instead of things like roof tiles, they began recycling plastic waste into face shields for medical workers.

After posting an image of their prototype on social media, the pair got a surprising call from a regional hospital asking for 10 face shields because they didn’t have enough.

Using locally-sourced moulds for molten plastic, the two finished the order and delivered them, before getting a call later in the afternoon from the very same hospital asking for more because “the first ones worked out so well for them,” Okwoko, 29, told Reuters.

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PPE and Plastic Recycling

PPE shortages have occurred world-wide, and Ugandan hospitals are are no exception, but Takataka Plastics has, so far, made 1,200 face shields. Even more inspiring, the company’s staff of 14, includes six employees who were homeless, jobless youth.

Around 500 of the shields have been sold to NGOs and privately-managed health facilities at a low cost and the other 700 were donated to public hospitals.

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Takataka hopes to build upon the success of the face shields and expand its operations into a more appropriate plastic processing and recycling facility. Currently their location can reduce around 132 pounds (60 kgs) of plastic per-day, but they are aiming to establish a monthly capacity of 9 metric tons.

Uganda sees hundreds of tons of plastic thrown away annually, and their innovative solution to the PPE crisis has pushed these entrepreneurs to dream bigger.

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New Zealand Has Eradicated COVID-19 – ‘Crushing’ the Virus to End Social Distancing

Things have gone so well in New Zealand concerning COVID-19 that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her cabinet have decided that almost all restrictions can now be removed.

After 40,000 people tested, 12 days with no one entering hospitals, 40 days since the last community transmission, and 22 days since that person finished their self-isolation, New Zealand is looking to restart its economy by lowering preventative measures to the lowest level.

Maintaining strict border controls to keep people from bringing the virus into the country, all restrictions on people and businesses within the country were lifted June 7. Officials only ask that citizens keep track of where they’ve been and who they have been in contact with for contact tracing purposes should another outbreak occur.

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“We united in unprecedented ways to crush the virus,” Ardern said at a press conference in Wellington. “Our goal was to move out the other side as quickly and as safely as we could. We now have a head-start on our economic recovery.”

Furthermore, while some domestic sports leagues have resumed around the world, like the German Bundesliga—albeit without crowds, the rugby-obsessed Pacific nation will be the first country that has dealt with its burden of infection to welcome spectators back into professional sports stadiums.

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With a small and often localized population, New Zealand was able to enforce even stricter lockdown measures than in other parts of the world—stalling the disease after 1,500 confirmed cases and 22 deaths. They’ve achieved eradication of the virus and are the first country to do so.

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Principal Rallies His Community to Serve 10,000 Cooked Meals to Seniors During 40 Days of COVID Crisis in India

A union territory in India with lovely beaches and serene streets is one of the most attractive weekend destinations for busy folks in Southern India. While normally offering a mélange of culture and heritage, Puducherry’s currently-deserted beaches are sufficient to indicate the magnitude of the COVID-19 crisis here.

But, one man has taken to heart the idea that ‘a crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things we could not do before.’

“This phrase has proved absolutely true for me,” said Sasi Kanta Dash, PhD, who has recently completed 40 days of food distribution to the elderly.

Principal of Tagore Government Arts and Science College in Pondicherry, he has been serving hot meals to those confined in their homes during the local lockdowns which started in March.

“It had been my dream to give back to society and the nation. My soul guided me to take the first step. I took the initiative of channelizing the positive energy of the local people and started with feeding 250 people on day one,” Dash told GNN.

“We didn’t know the extent of the lockdown when it was announced for the first time on March 24th,” Dr. Dash continued. “But the immense satisfaction at the end of the first day catalyzed the actions for the future.”

A volunteer visits with food and supplies

Starting with a WhatsApp group of senior citizens who were unable to visit a pharmacy for medicine due to closures in public transit, Dash began to deliver prescriptions to those self-quarantining.

For about 15 days after that he took to bringing families packets of essential cooking supplies like rice, sugar, salt, oil, assorted vegetables and dal (a dish of lentils and beans).

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Gradually the word spread and a few local organizations came forward to support the efforts. A helpline number was set up to receive the calls requesting help.

Along with elderly and daily-wage earners who are unable to eat if they don’t work, Dr. Dash’s charitable mind turned also to the “section of our population dependent on the alms offered by places of worship and other commercial and public places,” after which his operation expanded to those villagers within a 10 kilometer radius of the beach town.

The kitchen in his campus of Tagore Government Arts and Science College is one of the kitchens being used to cook food for people, and his team currently provides groceries for 600-700 families, as well as catering for 250 people of 14-15 different villages.

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“Today, June 3rd, we have entered the 40th day of food distribution and more than 10,000 meals have been served. The food is prepared under the supervision of volunteers to ensure quality, hygiene and nutrition content, and we have a group of 20 volunteers who have come forward to extend their support.”

Dash family photos

An advocate of a clean and green economy and environment, Dr. Dash also works as an organizer and member of numerous planting and cleaning drives in Puducherry.

For readers familiar with Indian cuisine, Dash’s delivery and catering are certainly fortunate in that they get to enjoy dishes like mushroom pulav, egg biryani, karakkuzhambu, groundnut rice, veg pulav & biryani, laddu, and bananas.

THIS Man’s Generosity Can Feed the World (With Inspiration)—SHARE on Social Media…

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Millions of COVID Cases and Deaths Averted Thanks to Lockdowns: ‘One of Humanity’s Greatest Achievements’

Despite the novel coronavirus outbreaks delivering countless blows to global economies, two different teams of researchers have published studies praising international and local governments for preventing additional infections and millions of deaths.

This week, scientists from Imperial College London and University of California–Berkeley both published studies on the impact of emergency health measures across 17 different countries.

Although the teams used different methods of calculation for their research, they both came to similar conclusions: millions of lives have been saved thanks to large-scale interventions during the pandemic.

According to the Imperial study, European lockdowns helped to prevent more than 3.1 million deaths. The Berkeley study—which examined infection rates and lockdown measures in China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, France, and the US—found that local and national interventions prevented more than 530 million cases. Both of these studies were published in Nature.

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Furthermore, continuation of these policies beyond the study period have likely avoided many millions more infections, says Solomon Hsiang, director of Berkeley’s Global Policy Laboratory and lead author of the Berkeley study.

“The last several months have been extraordinarily difficult, but through our individual sacrifices, people everywhere have each contributed to one of humanity’s greatest collective achievements,” Hsiang said. “I don’t think any human endeavor has ever saved so many lives in such a short period of time. There have been huge personal costs to staying home and canceling events, but the data show that each day made a profound difference. By using science and cooperating, we changed the course of history.”

The Berkeley study evaluated 1,717 policies implemented across the 6 countries during the period extending from the emergence of the virus in January to April. The analysis was carried out by Hsiang and an international, multi-disciplinary team at the Global Policy Laboratory, all working under shelter-in-place restrictions.

Photo by UC Berkeley / Global Policy Lab and Hulda Nelson

Recognizing the historic challenge and potential impact of the pandemic, “everyone on our team dropped everything they were doing to work on this around the clock,” said Hsiang.

Today, global cases are nearing 7 million—but the UC Berkeley research suggests that the toll would have been vastly worse without policy interventions.

“So many have suffered tragic losses already. And yet, April and May would have been even more devastating if we had done nothing, with a toll we probably can’t imagine,” Hsiang said. “It’s as if the roof was about to fall in, but we caught it before it crushed everyone. It was difficult and exhausting, and we are still holding it up. But by coming together, we did something as a society that nobody could have done alone and which has never been done before.”

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Meanwhile in London, the Imperial team examined COVID-19 death rates across a dozen European countries after various stay-at-home orders, social restrictions, and shutdowns were implemented back in March.

Measuring the effectiveness of these interventions is important, given their economic and social impacts, and may indicate which courses of action are needed in future to maintain control. Estimating the reproduction number—the average number of cases an infected person is likely to cause while they are infectious—is a particularly useful measure.

“Using a model based on data from the number of deaths in 11 European countries, it is clear to us that non-pharmaceutical interventions– such as lockdown and school closures, have saved about 3.1 million lives in these countries,” said Dr. Seth Flaxman, study author from the Department of Mathematics, Imperial College London. “Our model suggests that the measures put in place in these countries in March 2020 were successful in controlling the epidemic by driving down the reproduction number and significantly reducing the number of people who would have been infected by the virus SARS-CoV-2.”

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Additionally, the team calculated that the reproduction number has dropped to below one as a result of the interventions, decreasing by an average of 82%, although the values vary from country to country.

“This data suggests that without any interventions, such as lockdown and school closures, there could have been many more deaths from COVID-19,” said Dr. Samir Bhatt, study author from the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London. “The rate of transmission has declined from high levels to ones under control in all European countries we study. Our analysis also suggests far more infections in these European countries than previously estimated. Careful consideration should now be given to the continued measures that are needed to keep SARS-CoV-2 transmission under control.”

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During Lockdown a Ghanaian Shoemaker Invented a Solar-Powered Hand-washing Basin to Encourage Sanitary Habits

Ghana, a country the size of Utah but with 31 million inhabitants, is benefitting from good old-fashion ingenuity in its fight against COVID-19.

In Kumasi, the cultural capital of the country located in the Ashanti region, a 2-week lockdown to control the spread inspired a man to a wonderful invention.

In less than 48 hours, 32-year old shoemaker Richard Kwarteng and his brother Jude Osei managed to gather all the necessary supplies to turn an old recycled metal barrel into a solar-powered hand-washing basin to encourage sanitation habits among the neighborhood.

Set to run on a 25-second timer, in correspondence with the CDC guidelines for handwashing duration, it would need not only elements of plumbing, but also electrical engineering like sensors, alarms, and a motherboard, yet be able to work like a normal hands-free sink.

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Fortunately the street markets of Ghanaian cities carry every component under the sun, and with the help of a friend who worked as an electrician and was able to handle the computer element, Kwarteng finished his invention in just five days.

Osei recorded a video of Kwarteng demonstrating how to use the device and posted it on social media. It immediately went viral. “It was amazing to see the shares and likes,” Kwarteng told CNN. “We started getting calls left and right. We were so proud of ourselves,” he added.

Just two days after the video went viral, Ghanaian government workers contacted the brothers to see if more machines could be constructed for placement around cities throughout the country.

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“I pray this pandemic will go away and there are better days ahead,” he said. “We hope this will help people to practice normal hand-washing etiquette and we are very grateful for everyone’s support.”

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Employer Welcomes Back 14 Workers With Surprise $1,000 Bonuses – to Spend on Local Businesses

When New Zealanders were given the all-clear and Kiwis began returning to work after the Covid-19 lockdown, some employees were nervous about the state of businesses.

Jenny Beck, an attorney who runs a law office in Dunedin, had heard many small businesses were in dire straits because they depended on tourism—and she got an idea.

At the first staff meeting with everyone back from lockdown, “the mood was anxious,” according to the Otago Daily Times, New Zealand’s oldest daily newspaper.

But, instead of pink slips or salary cuts, the law firm owner gave each of her 14 employees $1000 in cash.

“I told them, and just about everyone cried—and I felt like crying myself,” she told reporter John Lewis.

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The shocked workers were also given a caveat regarding what they could do with the money—paying it forward.

Jenny gave them “stern words” to spend the cash on small businesses, suggesting they take a long weekend, paying for accommodation, food at local restaurants, and tourist attractions, to help get the local economies rolling again.

‘‘I also thought it would be fun, in that my staff would be able to report back on their breaks, and give everyone a boost.’’

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The office really got into the spirit, and began planning trips to a National Park, their favorite restaurants, and kayak rental places.

‘‘I’m really pleased that they’ve picked it up and run with it,” said Jenny. “It’s given a real boost to team morale.’’

WATCH the interviews below… (Video screen grab courtesy of Otago Daily Times)

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South Korea Sends 10K Masks to Navajo Nation to Honor Their Service as ‘Code Talkers’ During Korean War

Navajo code talker Thomas Begay-2017-JASON JIMENEZ/U.S. MARINE CORPS

When the South Korean government realized that the Navajo Nation had been suffered infection rates of COVID-19 rivaling that of New York City, it shipped them 10,000 masks and other PPE to honor their service seven decades years ago to the East-Asian nation.

During the Korean War around 800 members of the Navajo Nation used their native language as an unbreakable code for radio messages, ensuring complete secrecy around any military movements by the United States, an ally to South Korea.

While this little-known story in the famous ‘police action’ that was the Korean War often goes untold, the South Koreans have never forgotten the Native American contributions.

According to the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs in South Korea, around 130 of these “Code Talkers” are still alive today.

“We hope our small gifts will console the veterans in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis,” said committee co-chairman Kim Eun-gi.

“The government remembers those who made a noble sacrifice to defend a strange country 70 years ago, and we hope they will proudly tell their posterity about the choice they made so many years ago.”

South Korea, which has so far handled the COVID-19 pandemic quite well by essentially testing anyone and everyone, has sent masks all over the world—including one half million to the Department of Veterans Affairs in honor of American soldiers who fought and died on the Korean peninsula, and those who serve their country today.

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Maasai Nature Conservancy Asks For Help To Fight Pandemic—And 100,000 People Answer

The rolling plains of the Maasai Mara in Kenya are home to the famous red-cloaked Maasai people as well as some of the most charismatic animals on earth.

When it became clear COVID-19 would destroy the tourism industry of the Maasai living in the breathtaking Nashulai Nature Conservancy, the tribe petitioned Avaaz, a website connecting local people-powered movements, to try and organize a response call for help.

As a result, 100,000 people raised money to help pay the rangers’ salaries, ensuring that the critical Nashulai elephant migration corridor remained safe from poachers. The money was also enough to secure sanitation and medical supplies and food for the Maasai community there, so they could survive the COVID-19 storm.

About 3,000 people live inside the boundaries of the 6,000-acre conservancy, with another 5,000 living in surrounding communities in traditional Maasai villages where they rely mostly on their cattle for food and money.

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In 2016, Nelson Ole Reiyia and Margaret Koshal Reiyia placed a project on Avaaz to turn their home into a Nature Conservancy. “Avaazers” around the world chipped in with hearts and wallets to launch the Nashulai Maasai Conservancy, an innovative way to help the Maasai maintain their traditional way of live in a harmonious way with the land.

The Conservancy created a way to bring outside capital into the community through offering safaris and camping, as well as cultural homestays and other events.

Nashulai Conservancy – nashulai.com

These community programs brought increasing opportunities for education, established greater food and market security, and needed sanitation facilities.

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The Maasai are famous warriors, and the conservancy established a mighty force against poachers. Professional rangers and young warriors called “moran” who are trained in bush practices, now serves as “The Warriors for Wildlife Protection”, monitoring the animal populations and protecting against poaching.

The Modern Maasai Facing COVID-19

COVID-19 has put much of this in danger. The tourist infrastructure, which 90% of all the Nashulai Maasai depend on for income, has completely collapsed.

The community library has been repurposed as a storehouse for medical equipment—and rationing of food supplies like cornmeal and cooking oil has begun.

With help from Avaaz they’ve been able to pay the rangers’ salaries, and import much needed medical and sanitary supplies.

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“We’ve worked hard to create this unique conservancy, and we want it to be there for the people in their deepest moment of need,” writes Nelson Ole Reiyia on the Nashulai website.

Generous persons can still donate to their COVID-combating activities directly on the website, which are tax deductible contributions for the U.S. and Canada.

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Canadian Government Buys Hotels to House Homeless People—And Also Rehire Workers

The British Columbian government has managed to provide housing for more than 200 homeless Canadians while simultaneously bringing economic support to struggling hotels during the COVID-19 crisis.

This week, provincial legislators purchased the Comfort Inn Hotel in Victoria for $18.5 million as a means of sheltering homeless people living in street encampments amidst the pandemic.

In addition to the hotel being equipped with 65 rooms for temporary accommodations, the province is also rehiring laid-off hotel workers to help manage the facility

“Often people experiencing homelessness are not able to access the support and services they need,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “The purchase of the Comfort Inn, combined with medical and social supports, will help people make the transition from the street to permanent housing.”

LOOK: People Are Installing Portable Hand-Washing Sinks for the Homeless in Cities Across the US

This is not the first facility that the province has purchased to accommodate homeless people. In the city of Prince Rupert, the province purchased the former Raffles Inn motel in order to convert it it into a permanent supportive housing building with up to 48 units, each with private washrooms, showers and mini kitchens. Once complete, the building will have the capacity for a 35-space temporary shelter or an extreme weather response shelter by 2021.

Both of these purchases are part of a province-wide mission to build roughly 3,300 new affordable housing units for seniors, Indigenous people, low-income families, women and children escaping abuse, students, and people experiencing—or at risk of—homelessness.

According to the BC Housing Twitter page, 289 rough sleepers have already been moved into temporary housing for the duration of the pandemic.

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“This is a substantial investment in our community and will provide housing for those who need it most,” says Lisa Helps, mayor of the city of Victoria. “This site has significant redevelopment potential to provide a range of affordable housing in the long term. I look forward to working with the community and with BC Housing to determine the long-term use of this site.”

People will have access to services such as meals, health-care services, addictions treatment and harm reduction, storage for personal belongings and other supports, including 24/7 staffing to provide security to residents of the building and the surrounding neighborhood.

Need more positive stories and updates coming out of the COVID-19 challenge? For more uplifting coverage, click here.

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Hundreds of Cities Worldwide Make Streets into Cycling and Pedestrian Walkways—With Plans to Stay That Way

With greenhouse gas emissions set to decline a record-breaking 8% this year, a happy accident of the novel coronavirus pandemic has been its positive impact on cities.

The World Health Organization says walking and cycling are considered the safest means of transport to reduce exposure to COVID-19. So cities around the world have been building new cycling paths and scaling up their car-free street initiatives.

Now, it looks like many of these environmentally-friendly changes will be permanent

Bogotá, Colombia had a head start when the virus began to spread in the city in mid-March. The city had an existing tradition, called la Ciclovía, where it closed its main roads to cars every Sunday. Mayor Claudia López decided to scale the program up, and according to one report, “within days, Bogotá opened nearly 47 miles of new temporary bike routes, adding to 340 miles of paved protected paths, and converted almost 17 miles of automobile lanes to bike routes overnight.”

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For years, Paris has been a leader in the car-free streets movement. Now the capital city is building 650 kilometers (about 400 miles) of new “corona cycleways.” Mayor Ann Hidalgo has said many of these will be made permanent as part of the city’s larger mobility plan. Among other initiatives, the city has accelerated construction of dedicated cycle highways in response to the pandemic, according to the BBC.

In Italy, the city of Milan has announced that over 20 miles of newly installed cycling infrastructure will be kept in place after the quarantine has been lifted. Former New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Saik-Kahn, who is working with the Italian city on the transition, told the British news outlet, “The pandemic challenges us, but it also offers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to change course and repair the damage from a century of car-focused streets.”

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The city of Budapest, Hungary has also constructed temporary cycle lanes. Though they are currently due to last until September, the city has signaled a preference to leave them in place. “We are constantly monitoring the use of the temporary bike lanes, and we are hoping that a good many of them could remain in place,” the mayor’s chief of staff Samu Balogh added. “In the long term, we are working towards implementing traffic-calming measures and new bike lanes so we can create a more inviting environment for cycling and walking.”

In France, it’s not just Paris that is focusing on two wheels. The country’s Minister of Ecological Transition also announced a $22 million plan to support cyclists nationwide. Under the plan, all French citizens will be entitled to 50 euros ($55) in free bicycle repairs, paid for by the government. The program will also fund plans by cities to build more permanent bike racks, bike lanes, and cycling classes.

These initiatives, and many more eco-silver linings, have given hope to those who have seen the pandemic as an opportunity to make lasting changes to the way humans relate to the natural environment.

“We must act decisively to protect our planet from both the coronavirus and the existential threat of climate disruption,” UN Secretary General António Guterres said on Earth Day. “We need to turn the recovery into a real opportunity to do things right for the future,” noting that—like the coronavirus—climate change knows no national borders.

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Need more positive stories and updates coming out of the COVID-19 challenge? For more uplifting coverage, click here.

India’s Annual Carbon Emissions Fall for the First Time in Four Decades

With a population of 1.2 billion people, any news of renewable energy success in India is a cause for celebration. One would undoubtedly expect to see decreasing carbon emissions due to widespread travel reductions due to COVID-19 prevention measures, but a further analysis shows us that coronavirus doesn’t get to take all the credit, and the unholy trinity of oil, coal and gas seems to be on the downward slide.

In a report from carbonbrief.org, daily statistics on energy consumption and power plant activities demonstrate that India’s total year–over–year emissions has, for the first time in 4 decades, fallen.

The country’s CO2 emissions fell by 15% in March, and 30% in April, in what could primarily be attributed to COVID-19 measures. However for 12 months, the rate at which Indians were demanding more power slowed drastically, and it was the March shutdowns that capped the new growth of power generation from oil, coal and gas below zero for the first 12-month period in 30 years (falling 1%).

Moreover, in March, when coal-fired power generation fell by 15% it was married with a 6.7% increase in use of renewable energy. These were also joined by a year-by-year fall in total coal deliveries, both imported and domestic—the first of such demand drops in 20 years.

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This was despite the fact that more coal was mined in India this fiscal year than last year, indicating that the slowdown is not due to limited supply but a milder demand for coal as an energy source.

Production for other fossil fuel energy sources is also falling, with fiscal year 2019-20 seeing a drop in crude oil production of 5.9% and natural gas of 5.2%.

Twilight of Indian Coal?

Good News Network has reported extensively already this year about such market forces pushing coal use, and in some cases oil use, to the point of complete and total unprofitability—not just in countries like Sweden, but in the U.S. India, and China.

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Coal is becoming less and less profitable in India, and a recent energy contract auction—used by public sector planners to encourage private energy development, investment, and production—secured 2,000 megawatts per hour of solar energy at a price of $34 per hour. In contrast, oil over the same time period, when the contract was awarded, was costing $45 per hour.

According to a report from Carbon Tracker entitled “How to Waste Half a Trillion Dollars” economists warn that half a trillion in coal-plant investments around the world are at risk of becoming so unprofitable in the future as to totally impair the repayment of any investment dollars, as it is already 50% more expensive to operate an Indian coal-fired power plant than renewable sources. This number will rise to 100% by 2030.

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India recently began setting records for cleaner air, and now it seems the country is leaping on the opportunity to keep it going.

This is just one of many inspiring stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

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Rival Gangs in Cape Town Agreed to An Unprecedented Truce—and Together Bring Food to the Poor

South Africa has seen a 75% drop in violent crime during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, rival gang members in Cape Town are teaming up to collect and distribute food and essential goods to those in need.

“What we’re seeing happen here is literally a miracle,” Andie Steele-Smith, a pastor who works with gang members in the community, told BBC News.

Before the pandemic, South Africa had some of the highest violent crime rates on the continent. But now, new circumstances have created changes that are leading to a silver lining.

The government has imposed some of the toughest quarantine rules in the world, including banning alcohol and cigarette sales. The economy has taken a beating—and the gang members were feeling the effects as much as anybody else.

“I got a phone call from two gang leaders, both saying ‘Andie, I’ve never asked you for anything but we are starving’,” the Australian-born pastor told BBC News. “And I just thought if these guys are starving—they are at the top of the food-chain—the rest of the community is going to be in serious, serious strife.”

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Andie hatched a plan that would not only meet the needs of the community in the moment, but also show these young people a new sense of purpose in the world. He asked members who would normally be trying to kill each other to work together toward a common goal: providing food and vital supplies, such as soap, to those in need.

Preston Jacobs, a member of the “Americans” gang, told the BBC it “feels nice” to be doing something positive for the community. “Now I see there are nice people also, and people want to love what we’re doing now.”

Andie Steele-Smith

Sansi Hassan of the “Clever Kids” gang expressed hope that the truce would become permanent, saying: “If it can stay like this, then there will be no gang fight,” he said. “And every gang will agree with us.”

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Andie, a former banker who moved from Sydney to South Africa to become a pastor five years ago, expressed pride in what these young men are doing. “I’m proud of you guys. Literally, if I died today and went to heaven I would die a happy man.”

(WATCH the BBC video below)

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From Hong Kong to New Zealand, Hawaii and Montana, Officials Celebrate No New Cases of COVID-19

Across the world, many countries are seeing the number of new cases of COVID-19 wind down into single digits over the last week. Four places—including a huge city like Hong Kong that was hit hard by the pandemic—are even celebrating zero new cases.

One of the most densely populated cities on earth, Hong Kong has now gone 22 days as of Monday without re-circulation of the virus within the country. The last new case was reported April 20th.

Medical experts have warned that people should keep their guard up, as hiking trails, restaurants, beaches, and parks open with fewer restrictions.

After easing restrictions in February, Hong Kong experienced a surge in new cases, suffering from the often-warned of  “second wave” but has contained the virus very well since then.

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Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam is in talks about freeing citizens from quarantine and travel restrictions between Macau and the Chinese Province of Guangdong according to South China Morning Post.

No COVID for Kiwis

Another nation that will likely soon declare mission accomplished against COVID-19 is New Zealand, which has ended stringent lockdown procedures less than a week ago after Monday passed without any new cases of the virus.

Arriving in mid-March, the coronavirus was responsible for 20 deaths in the Pacific island nation, and although lockdown restrictions are eased, many restaurants remain closed and social distancing is still encouraged.

However the director-general of health, Ashley Bloomfield says the milestone of no new cases is a cause for celebration and is “symbolic of the effort everyone has put in.”

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New Zealand currently has a little over 1,000 cases confirmed in the country, and her westerly neighbor Australia is likewise carrying a light viral burden of 6,800 cases and 94 deaths according to Al Jazeera. Talks between the two nations may result soon, according to the New Zealand foreign minister Winston Peters in a trans-Tasman travel arrangement, whereby visitors of one country can visit the other freely, saying such an arrangement could work “seriously well.”

No New Cases in Montana or Hawaii

The islands of Hawai’i as recently as May 8th reported no new cases of the novel coronavirus. It’s the first time in two months the spread has halted completely.

Beginning May 18, governors will allow residents to seek reimbursement for expenses if people were impacted by official shutdown measures, which include rent and child care. These orders are beginning to be lifted, with low-risk business reopening.

Honolulu’s Director of Community Services Pamela Witty-Oakland says the capital is working with nonprofit groups like Aloha United Way, Helping Hands Hawaiʻi, and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement to provide financial support to the most vulnerable communities.

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“These organizations will work with the families, and those affected. [They] will collect receipts and provide reimbursement of eligible household expenses of up to $1,000 a month, and eligible child care expenses of up to $500 a month,” she said.

Also free of new cases is Montana. The Big Sky State reports no new reports of patients with the virus. COVID-19’s effect in Montana has been so limited, that on May 7th schools were given the option of resuming normal operations.

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This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

29-Nation Poll Shows a Huge Majority Are As Concerned About the Climate Crisis As They Are About COVID-19

Would you agree or disagree with this statement: Climate change in the long term is as serious a crisis as the current COVID-19 pandemic? If you agreed, you answered the same as 71% of participants in a recent 29-nation survey from public opinion research firm Ipsos.

The Earth Day 2020 survey measured public opinion from many of the world’s principle producers, buyers, and populations, and almost all metrics suggest that a large majority of the world’s citizens consider climate change an important aspect of moving forward after the coronavirus pandemic.

Chinese participants registered 87% agreement with the above statement—the most of any country—while 59% of Americans and Australians agreed, tallying the smallest majority, with only 38% disagreeing.

65% of those surveyed worldwide want governments to prioritize a green economic recovery, as their lockdown measures from coronavirus are lifted. Respondents from India, China, and Mexico were emphatic about this directive, with 80% insisting on sustainable, clean measures.

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Slightly more people, 48% to 44%, said that economic recovery from the pandemic should not supersede environmental regulations, and any recovery should be environmentally responsible.

The survey didn’t include only COVID-19-related questions, but a variety of others involving what people’s habits might be in the face of climate change and whether theywould be willing to alter them. Overall, consumer or lifestyle behavior did not change from the last Ipsos survey in 2014, but in certain categories there were major fluctuations.

In Great Britain for example, 70% of those surveyed said the government would be failing them if it didn’t take action now to try and prevent the worst effects of climate change— with 59% saying they would consider not voting for a political candidate who didn’t pledge to take sufficient action to mitigate climate change.

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57% of total participants surveyed would avoid buying a product with too much plastic packaging, with a whopping 80% of the hyper-techno denizens of South Korea strongly agreeing, and 71% of Chinese.

South Korea came in first in another category, with 70% of the East Asians agreeing to the idea of avoiding buying new goods by mending what you have, or buying used products instead, as a way to prevent excess waste.

Even as COVID-19 news saturates the media, occupies every headline, and is the first topic on the lips of every journalist, this survey suggests people aren’t short sighted, and a large portion of the world’s population are keen to prevent irreversible damage to the environment both with their dollar, their ballot, and their conscience.

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Harpoons Are Silenced: Iceland’s Whaling Boats Spend Second-Straight Season Tied Up in Port

For the second straight year, there will be no whale hunting season in Iceland, and conservation groups are celebrating.

After the international moratorium against whaling began in 1986, two Icelandic companies, Hvalur and IP-Utgerd, carried on hunting fin whales and minke whales.

This year, IP-Utgerd cited financial difficulties involving the increased number of no-fishing zones off Iceland’s coast, while Hvalur reported stiff competition from Japanese whaling companies which the Japanese government subsidizes.

Its CEO, Kristján Loftsson, said that Japan has created stricter measures for imported Icelandic whale meat, and the COVID-19 outbreak would make the close quarters work involved in whaling difficult and unsafe, with social distancing guidelines being hard to observe.

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“This is indeed terrific news that for a second straight year, vulnerable fin whales will get a reprieve from Hvalur hf.’s harpoons, the sole fin whaling company,” Fabienne McLellan, co-director of international relations at Ocean Care, told Mongabay.

According to Hard to Port, a German organization working to end whaling in Iceland, Loftsson will want to keep Hvalur—a family business—operational, despite pressure from conservation groups.

Whales, as GNN has reported, represent a keystone species in global oceanic ecosystems, as well as a significant ally in the fight against climate change.

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For conservationists in Europe who are concerned with whaling, Iceland’s industry, which has ignored the international moratorium for almost 40 years, could be ended by increasing financial pressure from Japan.

In 2018, Japan exited the International Whaling Commission, and still subsidizes the industry to the tune of $10 million a year, according to Whales US. But as reported by Science, it is a niche profession feeding an ever-shrinking niche market. Japan decided “to stop large-scale whaling” on the high seas in 2018, and will only hunt in Japanese coastal waters, given the declining demand.

Japanese whale meat consumption dropped from 203,000 tons in 1965 to just 4000 tons in 2015. Reduced demand has resulted in a 2019 catch during whaling season of 2000 tons.

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With only 3% of Icelandic citizens saying they eat minke meat, there’s only so much time Hvalur and IP-Utgerd’s boats can remain stationary through the summer before market forces take their toll, and whaling is consigned to history.

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