Monday, June 30, 2008

Smoking Ban for the Netherlands

A tobacco smoking ban takes affect in the Netherlands this Tuesday. The ban prevents smoking in cafes, bars, and restaurants. Similar bans have become increasingly popular across Europe. The Dutch ban still allows people to smoke marijuana in cannabis clubs, however tobacco can't be mixed with the marijuana. 

The ban is good news for public health in general and non-smokers who don't enjoy smelling like ashtrays. Of course smokers won't consider the ban a positive thing, but in the end it might save them money because they'll smoke less. That's something to rejoice in. 

(Original reporting by the BBC.)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Iowa Pets Reunited with Owners

Almost a hundred Iowan pets were reunited with their owners after a raging flood separated them.  The pets were held in makeshift shelters while they waited for their owners to reclaim them. Rescue workers from animal-rights agencies swept Cedar Rapids, one the areas affect the worst by the flood, looking for lost and abandoned pets. Over 24,000 people were evacuated from Cedar Rapids. Now that people are coming back, they are reclaiming their pets and trying to start over. 

(Original reporting done by National Geographic.)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Soil on Mars Could Support Life

NASA scientists reported that Martian soil could support life. The preliminary analysis of the soil showed it has sufficient nutrients, such as magnesium, sodium, and potassium, which could support life. The soil was less acidic than expected. Scientists were surprised to learn the soil is far from toxic. 

Now that we know about Mars's fertility we can plan ahead. In the event we ruin the Earth there's always Mars to immigrate to. Maybe President Bush's Mars ambitions weren't so ridiculous. Regardless, it's just cool Mars's soil could support life. 

(Original reporting done by the BBC.)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Jolie-Pitt Foundation Donates $1 Million to Iraqi Children

Superstars Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt donated $1 million to the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict. The organization will distribute the money between four organizations that help children who have lost parents, homes, and schools in Iraq. The four organizations, Armed Services YMCA Operation Hero Program, Women for Women International, International Rescue Committee, and, aid children through educational efforts such as rebuilding schools and providing counseling, educational support, books, school uniforms, and learning materials.  

It's nice to know mega-stars are concerned with more than losing weight, their next role, or doing copious amounts of drugs. Celebrity coverage should go beyond what they are wearing or who they are dating and highlight their charitable efforts. That would be more inspiring to the general public and make us feel better, not worse about ourselves and the world. 

(Original reporting done by the Associated Press.) 

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tourists Welcome in Tibet Again

China reopened Tibet to tourism after not allowing foreigners into the country for three months. The Chinese government closed Tibet to tourism after violent anti-China protests and riots took place in March. China's state media said the region is now "safe" and reopened the boarders to visitors. Foreign journalists are still not welcome and have a hard time entering the country.

Regardless of where you stand on the Tibet vs. China issue, the reopening the country is a good thing for the world and Tibetan citizens. People should be able to see the wonders the country offers and be able to experience its culture.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Florida to Restore Everglades

The nation's largest sugarcane producer, United States Sugar, agreed to sell 187,000 acres of land to the state of Florida, which plans to add the land to the Everglades Nation Park. In the proposal the state agreed to pay $1.75 for the property and United States Sugar can farm the land for six more years. Along with the land, the state would get 2 sugar refineries and 200 miles of railroad infrastructure, among other assets. Environmentalists are thrilled at the prospect of restoring the Everglades. Reestablishing the land means the return of natural water flow that would prevent wild fires and protect wildlife. It would also simply the watershed, eliminating the need for complicated plumbing.  

United State Sugar plans to shut down its operations, and while this leaves 1,900 jobs in question, the company had already been in trouble due to debt from building a new sugar mill and a lawsuit over employee retirement pay. In the end, the money from the purchase may bail out share holders. 

The money Florida plans to spend will directly improve the environment. It will also create another national park on par with Yellowstone. This is good news in the flight against global warming and our depleted earth. 

(Original reporting by The New York Times.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Chickens Have Secrets to Allergies

A team of researches at King's College London found a "fossilized" version of the molecule responsible for human allergies in chickens. By studying the birds and this molecule, the researches hope to understand why some people develop server allergies and how to stop the body's reactions.

In birds, the molecule is called IgY and is a predecessor to the human version called IgE, which factors into the immune system overreacting during anaphylactic shock and asthma attacks. By understanding why IgY doesn't cause problems in birds, researchers can pinpoint why IgE does cause problems in humans. 

More research has to be done, but asthma sufferers and those with debilitating allergies may have a solution due to chickens and their ancient molecule.   

(Original reporting done by the BBC.)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Nigerian Militants Announce Ceasefire

The Nigerian militant group known as the Emancipation of the Niger Delta has agreed to a ceasefire to start on Tuesday, June 24. The group is responsible for some of the worst attacks on Nigeria's oil infrastructure, as well as kidnapping oil workers. The group announced the ceasefire after receiving pleas from elders in the region. The militants said they would give peace talks another chance. 

Militant groups like Emancipation of the Niger Delta contribute to rising oil prices by disrupting oil production. A ceasefire by such groups is unlikely to greatly benefit the consumer, however a stable Nigeria would mean less conflict over oil. It also means peace for Nigerians, who have seen years of violence. 

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Barack Obama Declines Public Funding for Campaign

Watch Barack Obama's speech about declining public funding for his campaign. 

It is not my intention for Cheerful Scoop to be highly political, nor do I plan to discuss or endorse political figures here. With that said, I think it's wonderful Obama has chosen the higher path for his campaign and declined public funding. The system needs reform and Obama's actions speak loader than his words, which is usual for a politician. Cheers to you Barack! 

Friday, June 20, 2008

Businesses Ask for Carbon Curbs

It's rare that businesses ask for regulations, but 99 companies are doing just that - demanding environmental regulations . A coalition of companies from across the world are asking political leaders to develop targets for reducing greenhouse gases and establishing a global carbon market. The coalition met in anticipation of next month's G8 meeting. Members of the group hope that their ideas discussed in the G8 meeting will carry over to the UN climate change meetings.

Companies like British Airways, Shell, and Vattanfall have participated. Companies from all business sectors have joined the coalition lead by Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.

The coalition represents a turning point and shows the world is ready to make changes when it comes to environmental practices. It's amazing international businesses have joined the cry for change because only through their efforts will the world move toward better environmental practices.

(Original reporting done by the BBC.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Alzheimer's Drug Shows Promise

Wyeth and Elan Corporation, a pharmaceutical company, reported their experimental Alzheimer's treatment drug helped certain patients participating in their clinical trials. People without the gene ApoE4 showed increased cognitive ability after the drug, bapineuzumab, was administered. Of Alzheimer suffers, 70 percent don't have the gene, meaning the drug may benefit them. Unfortunately, no clinical benefits were reported for people who do have the gene.

Bapineuzumab, a man-made antibody, removes protein deposits in the brain. If the drug makes it through more clinical trials and is approved for use, it could earn Wyeth and Elan Corp. $6.5 billion. Not too bad for ridding the world of a terrible disease that affects 5.2 million Americans. This number will only increase as Baby Boomers age.

Of course, it's in the company's interest to say the drug improves cognitive ability and get it approved and into the market, yet how can you fault a drug company for trying to develop and market a product that would help so many?

(Original reporting done by

Saturday, June 14, 2008

House Passes Unemployment Aid Extension

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to extend unemployment benefits an extra 13 weeks past the standard 26 weeks in a 274 to 137 vote. The minimum number of in-favor votes was attained just a day after the measure was rejected. The measure was approved despite the White House threatening a veto.  The measure extends an estimated 4 million American's benefits, which provides $300 to each unemployed individual a week. 

The measure will cost the government $10 billion, but considering the positive impact it will have on unemployed people's lives, the money will be well spent. Is it not a government's responsibility to assist its citizen and help them improve their lives?  

(Article originally published by The New York Times.)

Friday, June 13, 2008

World Hasn't Written United States Off for Mistakes

A poll of two dozen countries revealed that most foreigners believe the next president of the United States will improve foreign policy. The pole also revealed the global opinion of the United States has improved or stayed the same compared to last year. This is the first time in a decade the United States has seen an improvement in its global image. 

The poll was conducted by the Pew Research Center between March 17 and April 21. The margins of sampling error were plus or minus 3 percentage points. 

(Article first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News.)

R. Kelly Acquitted on All Charges of Child Pornography

If you're an R. Kelly fan you'll be thrilled (if not, don't read any further) - a jury acquitted him of all child pornography charges. The six-year drama surrounding allegations that the R&B star had sex with a 13-year-old girl and filmed the act came to a close when a Chicago jury read the not guilty verdict today. If he had been found guilty, R. Kelly would have served at least 15 years in prison. 

With his newfound freedom perhaps the singer will produce another R&B opera. If that happens don't expect its release to be reported on this blog.   

(Originally reported by Daily News.)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Terrorist Suspect Can Appeal to Civil Courts

The United States Supreme Court ruled that terrorist suspects being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have the right to appeal to civil courts to contest their detention. The justices' 5 to 4 decision marks progress toward the humane treatment of detainees. The decision comes into direct conflict with the Bush administration's position that the detainees had adequate rights Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the US Constitution need not apply to their cases. As Justice Kennedy stated in his opinion, “The costs of delay can no longer be borne by those who are held in custody.”

The court's ruling demonstrates the Unites State's commitment to individual and human rights, which is at the heart of American values. The world needs the United States to lead human rights efforts and this decision moves us in the right direction.

(Original article published by The New York Times.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Florida Students Improve Test Scores

Florida students have improved their Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores in math, reading, and science. According to the state, more students preformed at or above grade-level expectation in these key learning areas.

Science still remains a problem area for the states' students and reading scores for high school students indicate only 42 percent read at or above grade level. Yet, since 2001 reading scores have gone up.

Even if standardized testing is flawed and a poor indicator of students' educational achievements, one can still find a little hope in this report published in The Tampa Tribune. Keep hitting the book Florida.

Same-Sex Marrige May Boost California's Economy

When California's Supreme Court overturned the state's ban on gay marriage many same-sex couples rejoiced. Now California as whole has a reason to rejoice; same-sex marriages may stimulate the economy by adding hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars.

A study done by William Institute at the University of California, Los Angles Law School, projected that gay couples would spend $684 million dollars on wedding services in the next three years. The study also projected that 100,000 in-state couples and 68,000 out-of-state couples would get married in this three-year period. All of these marriages mean a tax revenue of $64 million and $9 million in marriage licence fees.

Social conservatives can say what they want about the morality of same-sex marriage, but they can't deny the economic benefits of allowing these unions. Imagine, hundreds of millions of dollars generated out of people's happiness - that's a wonderful thing for the state of California.

(Article originally published in Business Week.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

High Oil Prices Pay for Venezuelans' Food

Despite high inflation rates and rising grain prices that have ravaged countries across the world, poor Venezuelans have access to discounted food provided by the socialist government. The discounted food is paid for by recent oil revenues. The food is distributed at centers across the country.

This news makes putting the extra money into the fuel tank feel a little better. It also reflects positively on Venezuela's controversial government.

To get more details visit this article from National Geographic.

Dog Swallows PoisonToad and Lives

In more animal-related good news, a bull Arab hound swallowed a poisonous cane toad and lived after being given vomit-inducing drugs. The story gets better - the toad also lived after being inside the dog for 40 minutes. Normally the poison from a cane toad would kill a dog of that size in about 20 minutes, however the dog never bit the toad. Both the dog and the toad have made full recoveries.

To watch a video clip about this crazy story check out National Geographic's website.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Kitten Saved by Vacuum Cleaner

A fire crew in Dunbar, East Lothian, rescued a kitten using a vacuum cleaner. The six-hour-old kitten was trapped in a drain. To get the kitten out, the fire crew used a vibrascope camera to locate the kitten then attached a sock to the end of a vacuum cleaner hose in order to extract the animal.

Props to the BBC for reporting this little gem of a story. No one wants to read about cute, fuzzy animals dying in drains on a Monday morning.

P.S. Personally this is delightful news considering my own vacuum owes of the weekend. In desperate need of a vacuum, but unwilling to pay $600 for one, I exchanged a pan of brownies for an old vacuum that belonged to an acquaintance. The vacuum did NOT work even after I tried to fix it. I am glad that somewhere in the world there is working vacuum being put to good use.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

AIDS Infections and Deaths on the Decline

According to a UN report, the number of AIDS infections and deaths are declining. There hasn't been a decline in the infection or death rate since AIDS was identified in the 1980's. Although there are an estimated 32.2 million people living with HIV, the annual rate of infection is decreasing. The decrease may be a result of better education programs throughout the world.   

For more details give this article from eFluxMedia a read. 

Patrick Swayze Returns

FOXNews reports that Patrick Swayze will return to work despite battling pancreatic cancer. The actor has signed on to do a television show for A&E called The Beast. The show is about a veteran FBI agent, played by Swayze, teaching his rookie partner the do's and don'ts of law enforcement.

Cancer can't stop Swayze, which means Dirty Dancing fans everywhere will be thrilled. If you're not a Swayze fan this may not good news, but I figured anyone persevering despite having cancer is positive news.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Thong Bandits Caught

The two men who wore women's thong underwear over their faces while robbing a store in Colorado have been caught. Video taped with skimpy panties covering half of their faces, the two men turned themselves in to police after the tape was aired across the United States. 

Check out the article found on BBC's website. The picture is amusing to say the least! 

Lost Divers Found

For two days three British divers exploring Indonesia waters were missing. The divers had been swept twenty miles from where they were initially diving and were adrift for nine hours. They ended up on a remote island, where the divers were discovered. Their families were overjoyed to learn the worst had not transpired and their love ones were alive, although dehydrated and exhausted. 

Reported by the BBC.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Radiohead Offers Music on iTunes

Finally, Radiohead has decided to offer it's catalog on Apple's iTunes. Aside from the Beatles, Radiohead was the most popular band to not offer their music on the Apple platform - no more. The iTunes revolution continues and music lovers rejoice.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Cheers - Red Wine Slows Aging

According to a New York Times article, red wine may slow aging and extent human longevity. This is fabulous news for those who enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. The study, cited within the article, gave resveratrol, a chemical found in red wine, to mice. These mice became super athletes, running on tread mills for twice as long as previously recorded. The increased longevity seen in mice may translate to humans - more studies to follow.

In the mean time - bottoms up!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hope in Hip Hop

Hip Hop is often criticized for portraying women in a negative light, perpetuating the gangster life style among African-American youth, and promoting consumerism. However, positive hip hop exists and Laura Hall found it when she had to quit school and begin working in a textile factory to support her family. Hall had hated hip hop, but now finds inspiration in artist like Mos Def and Jurassic Five. Check out her essay for NPR's This I Believe.

The Future Doesn't Look so Bad

Science often predicts and describes a gloomy future for humanity. Global warming will be we our end and bring about another ice age or Bird Flu will kill millions - these are just a few examples. However, scientists shouldn't be written off as pessimists. In an address to the World Science Festival last week, futurist Dr. Kurzeil delivered hopeful news about the future. 

Dr. Kurzeil predicts that solar power will replace fossil flues in the next 20 years and life expectancies will increase faster than we age. These are just some of his good tidings. To read more about Dr. Kurzeil and his finds check out the New York Times article, The Future is Now? Pretty Soon, at Least, that inspired this post.