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Flora and Fauna Kicking Again, A Year After Australia Wildfires

Danielle S

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Kangaroo Island’s rebirth is the anecdote everyone needs right now, following the horrific wildfires that destroyed millions of hectares of Australian forestry in 2020.

Australia was up in flames at the beginning of January, a year ago, and what seems like eons ago. Wildfires occur in the Australian bush as often as they do in the highlands of California, but something was distinct this year.

From the worst-hit area of New South Wales, where fumes traveled all the way to coastal Sydney, south to Tasmania, and through to Australia’s west side, more than forty million acres of Australian countryside went up flames.

The entire area destroyed is reportedly more than the size of England.

In the meantime, a local story made worldwide headlines: beyond the point of notice, Kangaroo Island in South Australia, compared to Noah’s Ark and Australia’s Galapagos for acting as a sanctuary for some of the most endangered creatures in the world, was burning.

So, as January came to a close, virtually half of the country had been diminished to scorched trees and dusty slopes.

Most of Flinders Chase National Park, one of the country’s treasured national parks, was burned in the southwest, giving rise to the territory of endangered dunnarts and the shiny black cockatoo impossible to thrive in.

Additionally, koalas, kangaroos, and platypuses were part of the approximately three billion killed or displaced wildlife due to the country-wide wildfires.

Fortunately, time fixes many wounds, and the renewal of Kangaroo Island is a bright spot in a year already shattered by a persistent pandemic.

The Tourism Commission of South Australia sketches a picture that gives you a profound sense of solace.

A covering of green terrain now leaves no question that the island and the slopes are ricocheting.

The beautiful sounds of birds chirping rings loudly, kangaroos and koalas have settled in nicely, flora blooms nicely, and the culture is restored.

Swooping through Flinders Chase National Park, feasting on new shoots and fresh vegetation, forms the daily routine of kangaroos and wallabies.

The birds are active again in the National Park of Flinders Chase, while Yuccas, the first plant to flower after fires, contribute an abundant source of food for birds that devour the nectar.

Among the growing vegetation are honeyeaters, wrens, magpies, and a slew of other birds.

Exceptional Kangaroo Island, after nearly all of its habitat was lost, has also been replanting trees and constructing tunnels for dunnarts, the endangered nocturnal marsupial.

The tiny mammals, similar to mice, have recently been observed by motion sensor cameras, with just about five hundred remaining.

To think that people feared the kangaroos and koalas would have been wiped out, nearly one thousand of them have already been rehabilitated.

They are being taken care of at the Kangaroo Island Koala and Wildlife Rescue Centre and showing a nearly fifty percent survival rate.

The park operators have been vigilant throughout the devastation and beyond with protecting the animals that come through the gates.

They were determined not to abandon them, and it has paid off as the flames skirted around the park, which ended up being a safe haven for them and other animals like ostriches and water buffaloes.

The park accepts donations for its rescue center, which goes straight to the continuous care of the animals.

The devastation that Australia, one of the most beautiful countries in the world underwent, will be one that’s told for many years to come.

Thankfully, people have banded together, and the recovery process has been quicker than expected.

Beautiful pictures can be seen of the lovely animals who managed to survive and are playing their part in rebuilding and reclaiming their kingdom.

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Nearly $1M Donated To Battle Racism By Elderly Asian Attack Victim

Amanda J

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Nearly one million dollars has been raised by the victim of what is deemed as a racially motivated attack in San Francisco to help combat attacks against Asian-Americans.

The funds have been pouring in from supporters not just in the United States but across the globe.

The attacks on Asians across the United States continue and are drawing the attention of activists, the media, and the government.

While several incidents have occurred over the years, the incidents have spiraled in recent months, sending shockwaves and panic into the Asian communities across the country.

Most notable is the attack on an elderly woman in San Francisco recently, not just because of her age, but the fact that she was able to stave off her attacker.

Even though she was injured, the woman gave her attacker a whooping, and her bravery has encouraged Asians and American victims as a whole to wage war against racism, using the gofundme platform.

Over $900,000 has been collected for a 75-year-old Asian woman who had been attacked viciously and without provocation last week in San Francisco.

Contributions flowed in from across the world to support Xiao Zhen Xie in her recovery. By Wednesday evening, Xie’s GoFundMe page had raised $917,000.

In the latest update to the victim’s crowdfunding website, Xie’s family stated that she plans to donate all of the funds raised to the Asian American society in order to fight racism.

“We must not [submit] to bigotry, she said and must fight to the end if possible. She also claimed numerous times that she would donate all of the funds raised from this GoFundMe to the Asian American community in order to fight racism. “John Chen, her grandson, posted an update on the fundraiser page on Monday. “She is stubborn about making this decision, arguing that the problem is bigger than [her].”

The assault left Xie with two dark eyes and a bruised thumb, as well as mental and emotional scars, according to Chen.

He says his grandma is “afraid to leave her house” and has “PTSD” as a result of the incident.

The woman was stabbed on Market Street in San Francisco on Wednesday and bravely fought off her assailant.

Steven Jenkins, 39, was arrested in San Francisco on suspicion of assaulting Xie and a man, according to police.

In the meantime, other victims have also launched gofundme pages and are planning to join in the fight against racism.

The assault on the elderly woman was also in addition to two previous violent assaults in New York City that were caught on tape. They are the most recent in a string of attacks on Asian Americans around the world. According to a new review of police department data, anti-Asian hate crimes rose dramatically in sixteen cities across the United States last year.

The California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, located in San Bernardino, released some mind-blowing statistics on hate crimes against people of Asian descent recently.

According to the reports, hate crimes against Asian people increased by nearly one hundred and fifty percent in 2020, despite the fact that overall hate crimes decreased by seven percent.

This is one of the clearest indicators yet that sians have been targeted almost twice as much as they’ve ever been in years.

However, while some are afraid to walk the streets out of concerns they may be attacked, others have decided they will fight on behalf of the victims and to prevent the incidents from continuing.

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Meerkat Party at the Zoo

Amanda J

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Meerkats are highly social creatures absolutely tuned into their pack’s nuances and signals. However, no one expected that a pack of meerkats at a zoo would also be extremely influenced by humans watching them from afar when the zoo is open to the public.

Animals in general are extremely attentive to what’s going on around them in their environment, even if they don’t necessarily act panicked. A good amount of communication within species happens with body behavior versus the language factor that humans rely on so much instead. Meerkats, which look like over-sized slim ferrets with long fur-ringed tails and big dark eyes, practically jump as a group when one of them is spooked by something, a skill that keeps them alive in the wild where they sit at a lower rung on the food chain.

However, when COVID arrived, social distancing pretty much shut down big city zoos as they represented a primary gathering point for humans and potential infection. Given the potential impact mentally to many zoo animals, researchers decided the change gave them a good stimulus to study regarding zoo animal behavior changes. When the same zoos opened up again, it also represented another change point that could be isolated and studied, adding to the research. What was found out ended up being published in a peer-reviewed academic periodical, Applied Animal Behaviour Science. The results indicated a clear improvement positive mood change among meerkats in particular.

For zoo animals, human visitors are a clear part of their environment. Most of their cages and containment is limited and the same, so humans end up being one of the few factors that change dramatically each day. Humans show up in different shapes and sizes, make lots of noise, and become part of the pattern of daily life for the animals. So, when lockdowns occurred, the animals immediately sensed something was off. Many of the animals actually exhibited sings of missing their dedicated audience as well as clearly patterns of loneliness. For the less dangerous animals many of the zoo staff in various institutions had to engage with their tenants far more, even taking them for walks to keep them actively motivated.

The meerkats ended up being the most visible to study for researchers, clearly shifting their behavior patterns as conditions in zoos changed back to being visited again. Many returned back to their normal behavior patterns of grooming, playing and eating timely versus what the disruption triggered in their patterns. On the other hand, some animals didn’t give a darn either way, not changing a thing in their daily routine.

The conclusion of the research is likely to be added to the growing collection of studies on what the latest pandemic has changed in society, even among non-human inhabitants. And it provides an element of pandemic impact that was not recorded in previous serious virus outbreaks such as the Spanish flu a century earlier.

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Seville shows the world the “power” of orange

Amanda J

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The fragrance of Azahar, or orange blossom, fills the air in Seville during springtime, but the fruit that the city’s forty-eight thousand trees drop on the streets in the winter is a danger for pedestrians and a cleaning nightmare.

A scheme has been introduced to transform the unwanted oranges into a very distinct sort of juice: energy. The city in southern Spain has started a pilot project to produce pure current from the methane generated as the fruit gets overripe.

Emasesa, the city’s water corporation, has launched a pilot program that will use 35 tons of fruit to produce renewable energy to power one of the city’s water purification plants.

The fruits will be processed at a plant that already uses organic matter to produce electricity. The methane collected from the fermenting oranges will then be utilized to power the generator.

Benigno López, who heads the Environmental Department, anticipates a full-time recycling program shortly. He predicts that the city will be required to spend about 250 thousand Euros to accomplish this.

According to him, the juice is fructose, which consists of short carbon chains with high energetic efficiency during the fermenting phase.

It’s not all about saving money, Lopez adds. The fruits are a challenge for the area, and they add value to the waste stream.

While the immediate goal is to use the energy to power the purified-water plants, the long-term goal is to return any excess electricity to the grid.

Given a large amount of fruit that would either be dumped or utilized as fertilizer, the project’s supporters claim that the potential is enormous.

They claim that a thousand kilograms of oranges produce fifty kWh of electricity to power five homes per day which can become 73 thousand homes if they’re all recycled, and the power is returned to the grid.

Emasesa is already a role model in Spain for development and climate change, according to Seville’s mayor.

He goes on to say that new investment will be focused on water purification plants, which consume nearly a dirty percent of the energy required to furnish the city with drinkable water and sanitation.

He stressed that this project would assist them in meeting their carbon reduction, energy self-sufficiency, and circular economy goals.

When the oranges fall from the tree and are squashed under the wheels of passing cars, the streets are a sticky haven for flies. Around 200 people are employed by the city council to harvest the fruit.

Arabs brought the bitter oranges, which are native to Asia, to Seville a thousand years ago and have thrived in the warm climate of southern Spain.

They’ve taken root in the city, are pollution-resistant, and have adapted well to the area, according to Fernando Mora Figueroa, the city’s parks director. Seville is said to have the world’s biggest orange orchard.

The area generates about fifteen thousand tons of oranges, but the Spanish don’t eat them, so the majority of the fruit is shipped to the United Kingdom, where it is turned into marmalade. Cointreau and Grand Marnier also use Seville oranges as the main ingredient.

The origins of marmalade are shrouded in folklore and myths. However, a handwritten marmalade recipe dating from 1683 was discovered in Dunrobin Castle in Sutherland, Scotland.

According to legend, a ship carrying oranges from Spain sailed into Dundee Harbour, and local confectionery maker James Keiller initiated its use as an edible fruit. While this is a legend, Keiller did make the original marmalade advertisement in 1797.

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Long-Lost Friends Reunited 82 Years After Fleeing Nazi Germany

Jolie

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When Stephen King wrote Stand by Me, he did so with a flourish, underscoring how important and powerful childhood friendship can be. For Betty Grebenschikoff and Anne Marie Wahrenberg, powerful childhood friendship was splintered in a way that far too many people can understand — by war, by bloodshed, and by the hatred of Nazi Germany.

Yet despite their fractured friendship, broken at the height of previously unimagined horror, life would go on, both children would miraculously make it through the war, and more than 82-years-later they would come together once more again as friends.

Let’s explore this human, devastating, and truly touching story.

Nazi Germany and the Spring of 1939

When Betty was a child in the spring of 1939, she couldn’t have known what was going on — at least not fully. At the time, Betty and her family were primed to flee Nazi Germany as dozens of family members, countless friends, and even more relations were pulled from their homes, stuffed into train cars, and eventually murdered in brutal extermination camps.

Betty Grebenschikoff says of loss during the occupation of Nazi Germany, “I have never counted how many… I would say two dozen.”

Grebenschikoff was just a nine-year-old girl at the time, living in the city of Berlin. Her best friend was young Anne Marie Wahrenberg and they were together at all times, in all ways, doing all things alongside one another. From going to synagogue to taking notes in close all the way to playing together after school — Betty and Anne were inseparable.

When the day came to flee the country, Betty’s father let the two friends meet one last time in a nearby schoolyard. Betty described how they cried and promised to always write letters and to find one another. Grebenschikoff sadly continued, “But we lost touch — totally.”

Picking Up the Pieces — An Unlikely Reunion

After the two girls and their families separated, they would quickly lose touch. Betty and her family would head to Shanghai, China, as a destination that would take in Jews without any visas. More than 20,000 paperless Jews fleeing persecution would take up residence in the port city, though life was never easy.

Eventually, Grebenschikoff would marry her husband and relocate to Australia. A hop and a skip later and Betty would find herself in New Jersey with her husband and their five children. As her life progressed, Betty would often look back on her friendship with Anne to think about what would happen.

Eventually, Grebenschikoff would get interviewed by the USC Shoah Foundation, and it was there that she would touch on difficult memories in her past. Betty would ask to mention her long-lost friend by name saying, “I’m always wondering what happened to her… maybe she’s somewhere and can see this.”

Grebenschikoff would continue to ply databases looking for any hint of her long-lost friend. Betty’s daughter, Julia, would describe how Betty had always brought up Anne when talking to friends and family members about home.

In an unlikely turn of events, Betty would find a woman named Ana Maria Wahrenberg- Gordon in the database for the Shoah Foundation. Betty said, “That’s when I froze.”

As Betty explored the information, she would learn that Anne Marie and her family had fled to Chile months later where they had learned Spanish and changed her name to Ana Maria. Betty wasn’t just shocked, she was thrilled — and she was quick to reach out to her long-lost best friend.

The two friends would reunite over a Zoom Meeting. Immediately upon seeing one another for the first time in 80+ years, the two would escape into a 50-minute conversation in German, touching upon what must have been only a fraction of the memories that they wanted to share.

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Man Follows His Spirit and Excavates Mind-blowing Treasure

Liz L

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Many people have hobbies, but only a handful of them dream that it could lead to a life-changing experience. In the case of Mike Smith, who explored fields close to his community as a youth to the point that he invested in a metal detector, not in his wildest dreams did he ever think that he would make one of the most important discoveries in this or any other lifetime.

Here is Mike’s mind-blowing story!

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