Ensuring the week gets off to a sunny start with a global round up of good news nuggets.
No Old White Men
When Nancy Pelosi announced the end of her historic tenure as the first female Speaker of the House, she set the stage for another historic shift in American politics. House Democrats have voted on the ascendancy of Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, and Pete Aguilar of California to House Democratic leader, whip, and caucus chair respectively that will revamp the face of a body that has historically been controlled by old white men. And it will mark the first time ever for either party in either chamber of Congress to have no white men in any of the top leadership positions.
Short Flight Ban
The days of short-haul flights in Europe are numbered, at least in France. The European Commission has given the go ahead for France to prevent flights between Paris Orly airport and Nantes, Lyon, and Bordeaux. If, after three years, the concept is judged successful then more flight routes will be banned. As part of the country’s Climate Law, France wants to abolish flights between cities that are linked by a train journey of less than two and a half hours. New high-speed rail lines will make many short-haul flights redundant across Europe, believe planners and politicians.
A young man who started a window cleaning business has been sprucing up road signs for free in his spare time to give back to his community. Liam Wildish started scrubbing signs in Maidstone, England this year, after launching his new window service - and he’s already become a notable local figure. “Some of the signs in Maidstone are in terrible condition so when I pass them I pull up and give them a clean. I like to think it makes a difference to the appearance of the area and hopefully also improves road safety during these long winter nights.”
Novel Wedding Venue
A couple chose to get married in the "mayonnaise aisle" at their local grocery store, Fry's Food and Drug in Casa Grande, Arizona. Why? Because last year the two were both strolling down the aisle looking for mayonnaise when their paths crossed and it was love at first sight. Denis and Brenda Delgado decided to exchange phone numbers and the rest quickly fell into place. On their wedding day last weekend, Brenda said: "We're both old. We don't have that many more years to do something dumb and stupid."
Universal Flu Jab
A universal flu vaccine - based on the same mRNA technology used in the highly successful Covid jabs - that protects against all strains of the virus could be available in the next two years, according to a leading scientist. Prof John Oxford, a virologist at Queen Mary University in London, said the vaccine developed at the University of Pennsylvania could be ready for use the winter after next. “I cannot emphasise enough what a breakthrough this paper is,” Oxford told the BBC. “The potential is huge, and I think sometimes we underestimate these big respiratory viruses.”
Starting next August, drivers of the most polluting vehicles will have to pay £12.50 ($15) per day to enter an Ultra-Low Emissions Zone expanded to include all of metropolitan London, the British capital’s mayor announced. “Cleaner air is coming to Outer London,” Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted. “Today I’m announcing that we’re expanding the ULEZ London-wide in a move that will bring cleaner air to five million more Londoners.” The new ULEZ will be 18 times larger than the current area.
A fundamental breakthrough in chemistry promises to unlock ammonia as a clean fuel, and it could help decarbonize the entire chemical industry in the process, reports New Atlas. Researchers at Rice University in Houston, Texas, have created a small, LED-powered device that converts ammonia to hydrogen on the fly. It uses a light-driven catalyst that's as efficient as expensive thermal catalysts that need thousand-degree temperatures to operate, and it's made from cheap, abundant copper and iron. And it's only the beginning of a technology that could radically reduce costs and energy use in industrial chemistry. This copper-iron photocatalyst should make it much cheaper and easier to extract hydrogen (for clean energy application) from ammonia. It has the promise of an environmentally-critical revolution in industrial chemistry.
“If there’s no baguette, you can’t have a proper meal.”
Asma Farhat, a baker in Paris, hails the French baguette, which has just been added to UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
On this Day
5 December 1848: In his annual message to Congress, U.S. President James K. Polk confirmed the discovery of gold in California, helping to spark the Gold Rush, which brought an estimated 300,000 people to the territory.
Cyd Charisse in Motion: A tribute to one of Hollywood's most beautiful and talented dancers.