Celebrating the start of the long holiday weekend with some tasty good news nuggets.
Charles Dickens's classic ghost story A Christmas Carol was first published 180 years ago this week. It was an "instant bestseller", said Time, and has since inspired "countless print, stage and screen productions". Perhaps the "ultimate" adaptation is The Muppet Christmas Carol, suggested Empire. Although the lively puppets and the Victorian tale weren't an "obvious match", the film has been "charming audiences and finding new champions" since its release.
The film's human star, Michael Caine, told the magazine in 2018 that "I made it for my daughter, and now my grandchildren all love it too". The song-packed production proved to be a learning experience for him as well. "I'd never sang anything before," said Caine. "It was a bit of a surprise to me. I didn't know I couldn't sing." Empire begged to differ, insisting: "Humbug, sir."
New National Park
England is getting a new national park as part of a set of 'nature pledges' to give greater access and protection to the countryside, says BBC News. Natural England will consider a list of possible sites, which could include the Chilterns, the Cotswolds and Dorset. Plus, 34 new landscape recovery projects will also be created under a farm payments scheme, which will see 200,000 hectares of land (775 square miles) managed to benefit nature and sustainable food production. There are 15 National Parks in the UK - 10 in England which cover 10 percent of the land area, three in Wales (covering 20 percent of the land area) and two in Scotland (7.3 percent).
13th Full Moon
The final full Moon of 2023 - the “Cold Moon” - is the year’s 13th and will look at its brilliant best as it rises in the east just as the sun sets in the west on Tuesday 26 December. Also sometimes called the “Long Nights Moon,” the “Moon After Yule,” the “Wolf Moon” in Celtic nations and the “Oak Moon,” December’s full moon is also notable for being the highest-hanging full moon of the year.
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An actuary from Sydney is celebrating becoming the triple world champion in data processing after he "stormed to victory" at a televised tournament in Las Vegas audience. In a night of "drama", 16 semi-finalists showed off their spreadsheet skills at the Microsoft Excel World Championship, an annual e-sport event "complete with big screens, gaming seats and two enthusiastic commentators". After battling against rivals and the clock to process reams of data in order to solve complex problems, Andrew "the Annihilator" Ngai claimed the title for a third consecutive year, along with $15,000 in prize money. Microsoft congratulated Ngai in an Instagram message: "You didn't just succeed - you Exceled."
Gender Gap Closing
An analysis of 5.8 million authors across all scientific disciplines shows that the gender gap in science is closing. Researchers found that men outnumbered women by 3.93 times among those authors who started publishing before 1992, but only 1.36 times among those authors who started publishing after 2011. Still a long way to go, especially among high-impact authors, but this is progress.
Five gray wolves have a new home in Colorado; state wildlife officials released them this week in a spectacular show of efforts to conserve the endangered species. It was a moment conservations have worked toward for years, overcoming much of the stigma that brought wolves to the brink of extinction in the first place. Colorado’s new wolves are important to the future of packs across the US. The plan is to relocate between 30 and 50 wolves to Colorado over the next five years. A similar plan reintroduced wolves to Yellowstone National Park in the 1990s, where they’ve helped stabilize elk populations, leading to healthier herds. The predators play an important role in culling sick elk and deer.
Santa Claus and his deer have been given clearance by the US Department of Agriculture to enter the US. The government department said its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service issued a transit permit "to Mr. S. Nicholas Claus of the North Pole, a distributor with Gifts and Good Cheer, Inc".
“I heard a bird sing in the dark of December. A magical thing. And sweet to remember. We are nearer to Spring than we were in September. I heard a bird sing in the dark of December.” Oliver Herford
On This Day
23 December 1913: With the signing of the Federal Reserve Act by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, the Federal Reserve System came into being.
Emilia Clarke Sings 'Last Christmas' - from the movie of the same name.