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Montgomery County Maryland Teenagers Volunteer to Become Vaccine Hunters

Liz L

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Two juniors at Sherwood High School in Montgomery County, Maryland volunteered to help their Spanish teacher, Tanya Aguilar, find COVID-19 vaccination appointments for members of their community who were struggling to get the shot. Many of them are older and do not have access to computers, while others do not speak or read English well enough to schedule an appointment for themselves. Kashmira Heaton- Vakharia, who is sixteen years old, and Fernando Johnson, who is seventeen years old, started volunteering as “vaccine hunters” along with a group of students and teachers in Montgomery County, Maryland community.

The teenage volunteers use their internet skills to navigate through dozens of websites to locate available appointments. Once the appointments are located, they carefully fill in the needed information to secure the appointment. The appointments were made for members of Takoma Park Seventh Day Adventist church, which included the pastor, Daniel Xisto. Sixty church members who were identified as at risk of contracting the incredibly contagious virus were able to take advantage of the volunteer’s computer skills to book their COVID-19 vaccines. People are considered at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 for a number of reasons. One of the leading factors that place certain people at greater risk is simply their age. Anyone who is sixty-five years old or older is typically considered at high risk for contracting the COVID-19 virus if they are not vaccinated. Others may be considered at high risk because they have underlying health conditions including, but not limited to, diabetes, asthma, or heart problems. These chronic illnesses could make it difficult for the patient’s body to successfully fight off COVID-19 because the immune system is busy with other pre-existing illnesses. It was important for members of the Takoma Park Seventh Day Adventist church to know the risk factors so they could make use of the volunteers and get their vaccinations scheduled.

When asked about the experience, Fernando Johnson replied, “ It is an incredibly liberating feeling every time [ a vaccine is successfully scheduled.]” Johnson and Heaton-Vakharia have been able to utilize their computer skills and their time in order to schedule two hundred and fifteen COVID-19 vaccination appointments for members of their community. The teenage and adult volunteers are careful to fill in all the vaccine registration information correctly. Having the wrong information at the time of the appointment can cause delays and slow the process at the vaccination site.

The work of these teenage vaccine hunters did not go unrecognized. Pater Daniel Xisto made sure to get a picture of himself getting his vaccine. He wanted to show his congregation it was not a difficult thing to do. The pastor also wanted to publicly thank Johnson and Heaton-Vakharia and let them know what a wonderful service they provided to his congregation. He wants to invite them to services when his church is able to reopen. The vaccine hunters replied that it would be cool to sit down and talk to the pastor and congregation.

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Fox Rescued from Fence Gap in Essex

Jolie

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In Essex, England, a fox found herself in a precarious situation when her head became wedged in a gap in a fence. The fox’s feet were barely touching the ground, and she was stuck, hanging helplessly. Fortunately, the South Essex Wildlife Hospital staff came to her rescue.

The fox had misjudged the leap between two fence panels, sliding further and further down the gap until she was firmly wedged. Time was quickly running out, as her legs could barely touch the ground. The hospital staff sprang into action, gently wiggling her neck and supporting her back end to free her from the fence.

Despite the initial worries about potential injuries from the ordeal, the fox miraculously escaped unharmed. There were no signs of constriction injuries or friction damage. After her ordeal, the fox was released back into the wild, much to the relief of the hospital staff.

The South Essex Wildlife Hospital praised the fox’s resilience and expressed their gratitude that she had escaped without any harm. The story serves as a reminder of the importance of wildlife conservation and the need to protect animals like this fox, who may occasionally find themselves in need of a helping hand.

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New Cancer Drug Offers Hope: A Gentler Treatment Journey for Arthur

Amanda J

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In the realm of medical breakthroughs, a new cancer drug has emerged as a beacon of hope for patients like 11-year-old Arthur, who battled blood cancer. Arthur’s journey with cancer led him to become one of the first children to try this innovative therapy, which his family fondly calls “a little bit of sunshine.”

Unlike traditional chemotherapy, which can often leave patients feeling severely ill, this new drug, blinatumomab or “blina,” offers a gentler alternative. For Arthur, whose previous chemotherapy had left him weak and still battling cancer, blina proved to be a ray of hope.

Blina works as an immunotherapy, harnessing the body’s own immune system to seek out and destroy cancer cells while leaving healthy cells untouched. This targeted approach means fewer side effects and less harm to the body. Administered through a thin plastic tube inserted into a vein, blina can be carried in a portable backpack-sized device, allowing patients like Arthur to receive treatment on the go.

Arthur’s mother, Sandrine, described the profound impact of blina on their lives. Unlike the intensive chemotherapy regimen, blina allowed Arthur to spend more time at home with his family, engaging in activities he loved, like playing at the park. Sandrine expressed relief that blina didn’t make Arthur too weak to enjoy life, unlike chemotherapy, which had left him feeling worse while attempting to cure him.

The convenience of blina also meant that Arthur could take on some responsibility for his treatment, empowering him in his journey to recovery. Sandrine highlighted Arthur’s joy in being able to manage the treatment himself, a stark contrast to feeling helpless during chemotherapy sessions.

Thanks to blina, Arthur’s cancer journey took a positive turn. After undergoing treatment at home and regular hospital visits for blina top-ups, Arthur received the news that his cancer was gone. Sandrine described the momentous occasion as a double celebration, marking both the New Year and the successful outcome of blina therapy.

Medical professionals are optimistic about the potential of blina to replace significant portions of chemotherapy, offering a kinder and gentler treatment option for cancer patients. Chief investigator and consultant pediatric hematologist, Prof. Ajay Vora, emphasized the toxic nature of chemotherapy and the gentler approach of blina, which spares healthy cells from damage.

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Denver Rings in the New Year with Homes for the Homeless

Sarrah M

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As the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, Denver, Colorado, celebrated the arrival of 2024 with not just fireworks and champagne, but also with the opening of a unique solution to a widespread problem: homelessness.

Life on the Streets: A Growing Challenge

With rising living costs and limited affordable housing options, many cities across the United States grapple with the issue of homelessness. People struggling to make ends meet often find themselves living on the streets, facing harsh weather conditions, lack of privacy, and limited access to basic necessities.

Tiny Homes, Big Hope

In an effort to tackle this challenge, Denver took a bold step by opening its first micro-community for the homeless. This innovative project features several dozen tiny homes, each offering a safe and secure haven for individuals in need.

A Home, Not Just a Shelter

These tiny houses are no ordinary shelters. Each unit is compact yet equipped with everything a person needs to feel comfortable and cared for. They include storage shelves, a bed, a desk, and a heating system. Residents also have access to shared facilities like laundry rooms, bathrooms, and a communal kitchen.

Quick Build, Big Impact

The Denver micro-community was built in record time, taking just 88 days to complete. The tiny houses themselves are designed for rapid deployment and can be installed in as little as an hour. This flexibility allows the city to easily scale up the project and provide temporary housing to more people in need.

A Symbol of Hope

The opening of the Denver micro-community marks a significant milestone in the fight against homelessness. It represents a shift towards creative and compassionate solutions that prioritize the dignity and well-being of individuals living on the streets.

A Step in the Right Direction

While the Denver micro-community is just one step in the right direction, it offers a glimmer of hope for those struggling with homelessness. By providing safe, secure, and comfortable housing, this project empowers individuals to rebuild their lives and work towards brighter futures.

The success of the Denver micro-community could inspire other cities to explore similar solutions and implement innovative approaches to addressing the complex issue of homelessness. With creativity, compassion, and collaboration, we can work towards a future where everyone has access to a safe and dignified place to call home.

Let’s work together to ensure that everyone has a roof over their head and a chance to thrive in the new year and beyond.

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The Remarkable Memory of Reefs in Warming Waters

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Coral Reef at Reef Building Coral at Bunaken National Marine Park Bunaken North Sulawesi Indonesia Asia

In the vast underwater world of our oceans, coral reefs stand as vibrant ecosystems teeming with life. However, these essential habitats face a growing threat from climate change, putting their survival at risk. Recent research from Oregon State University brings a glimmer of hope, revealing how some corals possess a unique ability to “remember” heat waves, offering a potential strategy for their survival in warming waters.

The study, led by doctoral student Alex Vompe and overseen by microbiology professor Rebecca Vega Thurber, explores the concept of ecological memory within certain coral species. Ecological memory refers to the ability of these corals to withstand and adapt to marine heat waves by drawing on their past experiences. This fascinating phenomenon is intricately linked to the microbial communities that coexist within the coral structures.

“Coral reefs are vital to our planet’s ecosystem, but they face significant threats from various human-induced pressures, including climate change,” notes Vompe, the study’s lead author. As the Earth’s climate continues to warm, coral reefs are increasingly vulnerable to mass bleaching events, where corals expel the symbiotic algae that provide them with nutrients and color. Such events can lead to coral death and the subsequent decline of entire reef ecosystems.

Vompe emphasizes the importance of recognizing the role microbes play in the adaptation of corals to changing environmental conditions. This understanding could have significant implications for coral conservation efforts, such as coral gardening and planting initiatives. By harnessing the knowledge of microbial processes and the organisms responsible for ecological memory, researchers may develop strategies like probiotics or monitoring protocols to enhance coral health and resilience.

The study specifically highlights the resilience of Acropora retusa, a prevalent coral species in the Mo’orean coral reef. According to Vompe, this species displays a powerful ecological memory response to heat waves, suggesting a greater potential for resilience to climate change than previously thought.

While these findings offer a glimmer of hope, the broader issue of climate change remains a pressing threat to coral reefs worldwide. Rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification, and extreme weather events pose severe risks to these delicate ecosystems. Urgent global efforts are needed to address and mitigate climate change, preserving the beauty and biodiversity of coral reefs for future generations.

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Rediscovering the De Winton Golden Mole: A Blind Marvel of Nature

Jolie

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In the vast sand dunes of South Africa, a fascinating creature has emerged from the shadows after being presumed extinct for nearly nine decades. Meet the De Winton golden mole, a blind and elusive species that captivates scientists and conservationists alike. In a thrilling rediscovery, a dedicated team of researchers from the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and the University of Pretoria successfully located this remarkable golden mole, shedding light on its mysterious existence.

The De Winton golden mole, named after its discoverer Harold De Winton, is a unique and rare mammal characterized by its small size and distinctive golden fur. What makes this creature even more intriguing is its blindness, relying on other heightened senses to navigate its underground world. Though small in stature, the golden mole plays a vital role in maintaining a balanced ecosystem.

Scientists had believed the De Winton golden mole to be extinct since 1936, making its recent rediscovery a momentous occasion. The journey to find this elusive creature spanned two years and involved a combination of innovative techniques, including DNA extraction from soil samples and the keen nose of a specially trained sniffer dog. The successful location of the golden mole in the northwest of South Africa has sparked excitement and renewed hope for its conservation.

Samantha Mynhardt, a conservation geneticist with the Endangered Wildlife Trust and Stellenbosch University, explained the challenges of extracting DNA from soil. Despite these obstacles, the team’s dedication, honed skills, and refined techniques paved the way for success. The ability to find and sequence the DNA of the De Winton golden mole was a crucial step in confirming its existence and understanding its habitat.

The rediscovery of De Winton’s golden mole not only thrilled the scientific community but also proved the resilience of this species. Cobus Theron, senior conservation manager for EWT and a member of the search team, expressed his unwavering faith in the species’ survival. Despite skepticism from some quarters, Theron’s optimism was rewarded as the team celebrated the confirmation that the De Winton golden mole still roams the South African sand dunes.

While the rediscovery is a cause for celebration, conservationists emphasize the importance of continued efforts to protect and preserve the habitat of the De Winton golden mole. As an endangered species, it requires ongoing attention and conservation initiatives to ensure its long-term survival in the ever-changing landscape of South Africa.

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