This 15-Year-Old School Girl Created Bio-Plastic From Prawn Shells
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This 15-Year-Old School Girl Created Bio-Plastic From Prawn Shells

When 15-year-old Angelina Arora saw the huge number of plastic bags being carried out of a Sydney supermarket, the first thing that came to her mind was the immense environmental damage caused by these one-use conveniences. A student of Sydney Girls High School, the Australia-based budding scientist decided to look for biodegradable alternatives. Experimenting with compounds made from everyday household items (such as glycerin, corn starch, potato starch and vinegar), Angelina created six bioplastics and put them through five tests, including testing for clarity, endurance and decomposition. These experiments led to Angelina picking up the first prize in chemistry in her age bracket at the STANSW Young Scientist Awards 2016, for designing a different plastic made out of corn starch (though biodegradable, it dissolved on contact with water, making it impractical for everyday use). As a result, Angelina was introduced to top scientists at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) who are now mentoring her through her current project — turning discarded prawn shells into bio-plastic! The young student was at her local fish and chip shop, looking at all the discarded seafood waste  (piles of crab and prawn shells, all destined for the bin), when she was struck by the though that there had to be a better, more sustainable way of disposing them. So she took a few kilograms of discarded prawn shells to her school science lab and got to work. Her consistent and well-researched experiments soon yielded result when she succeeded in using shrimp shells to create a strong, light and biodegradable plastic. Prawn shells consist of a hard yet flexible protein called chitosan, a version of chitin — the second most abundant organic material on the planet, that is found in fungal cells, insect exoskeletons, spider webs and crustacean shells.
  With help from her mentors’ guidance and a litre of hydrochloric acid, Angelina managed to extract this versatile protein from the prawn shells and combined it with fibroin, a extremely sticky protein that she extracted from the silk of silkworms.
“It is the same protein that spiders use to make webs. It’s very sticky. When you mix it with chitin, it produces a fabric that is flexible, strong and exhibits all the properties you want in plastic. In short, the final material has the strength of a prawn’s shell and the flexibility of a spider’s web. The plastic also degrades completely with nothing harmful left behind”, Angelina explained, adding that while the shells needed a lot of preparation before being used, it was a lot less than what conventional plastics needed.
Encouraged by her parents, Nitin and Aashima Arora, Angelina put together a detailed report (accompanied by pictures of the remarkably malleable and sturdy bioplastic she had made) of her innovative work. This led to her being recently awarded the second prize in chemistry at 2017’s STANSW Young Scientist Awards. The enterprising youngster now hopes that biodegradable alternatives like hers will contribute towards phasing out planet-clogging plastics and cleaning up the environment. Especially in the world’s oceans — a cause close to Angelina’s heart ever since she found thousands of tiny plastic fragments in the gut of the fish bought from local fishmongers. This significant global problem is illustrated by fact that the infamous Pacific trash vortex ( the large area of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean) is primarily made up of plastic debris that fish keep getting entangled in and dying, wreaking havoc on the region’s ecological balance. Interestingly, a similar project is under way in Egypt’s Nile University in which prawn shells are cleaned, dried, chemically treated, ground and dissolved into a solution that dries into thin films of plastic.
“If commercialized, this could really help us decrease our waste. And it could help us improve our food exports because the plastic has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties,” says Irene Samy, a professor overseeing the project said.
In India, a country with an extremely long coast-line, fishermen and seafood vendors are always looking for economically viable ways to dispose of discard prawn shells. In fact, they often have to pay to get it cleared away.
 Instead of throwing these readily available shells away, they can be used to make fully compostable plastic bags. Not only is it more sustainable in the long run, it can also reduce the amount of food waste produced in the country.
Researchers at at Harvard’s Wyss Institute also say that there is plenty of room for growth. Literally, in fact: the nutrients in this bio-inspired plastic makes an excellent fertilizer after its broken down. Working towards fine-tuning its commercial manufacturing, they have been able to already make fully biodegradable products such as egg cartons, chess pieces and even cell phones.
0 0 4 16 December, 2017 Alternative, Positive more
Saudi Arabia would soon have the first movie theatre
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Saudi Arabia would soon have the first movie theatre

Saudi Arabia on Monday lifted a decades-long ban on cinemas, part of a series of social reforms by the powerful crown prince that are shaking up the ultra-conservative kingdom. The government said it would begin licensing cinemas immediately and the first movie theatres are expected to open next March, in a decision that could boost the kingdom's nascent film industry. Reviving cinemas would represent a paradigm shift in the kingdom, which is promoting entertainment as part of a sweeping reform plan for a post-oil era, despite opposition from conservatives who have long vilified movie theatres as vulgar and sinful. "Commercial cinemas will be allowed to operate in the Kingdom as of early 2018, for the first time in more than 35 years," the culture and information ministry said in a statement. "This marks a watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy in the kingdom," the statement quoted Information Minister Awwad Alawwad as saying. Like most public spaces in the kingdom, cinema halls are expected to be segregated by gender or have a separate section for families. Hardliners, who see cinemas as a threat to cultural and religious identity, were instrumental in shutting them down in the 1980s. Saudi Arabia's highest-ranking cleric warned in January of the "depravity" of cinemas, saying they would corrupt morals. But authorities appear to be shrugging off the threat, with some comparing Saudi Arabia's reform drive to a fast-moving bus -- either people get on board or risk being left behind. Saudi Arabia in recent months has organised music concerts, a Comic-Con pop culture festival and a mixed-gender national day celebration that saw people dancing in the streets to thumping electronic music for the first time. Saudis themselves appear quietly astounded by the torrid pace of change -- including the historic decision allowing women to drive from next June. The social transformation chimes with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's recent pledge to return Saudi Arabia to an "open, moderate Islam" and destroy extremist ideologies. Saudi filmmakers have long argued that a ban on cinemas does not make sense in the age of YouTube. Saudi films have been making waves abroad, using the internet to circumvent distribution channels and sometimes the stern gaze of state censors. "It is a beautiful day in #SaudiArabia! Saudi Arabia says cinemas to get licenses in early 2018," Saudi female director Haifaa al-Mansour wrote on Twitter. Her film "Wadjda" made history in 2013 after it became Saudi Arabia's first Academy Award entry. The film depicts the dream of a 10-year-old girl to get a bicycle just like the boys in her conservative neighbourhood. This year, the country is again vying for an Oscar with the film "Barakah Meets Barakah", the kingdom's first romantic comedy which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival. "Now our young men and women will show the world possibilities and stories worth seeing," Saudi filmmaker Aymen Tarek Jamal said on Twitter. "Congratulations to the 2030 Generation."
0 0 6 15 December, 2017 Alternative, Positive more
Is It Your Hair That Makes You Look Beautiful ? No, Its Not !
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Is It Your Hair That Makes You Look Beautiful ? No, Its Not !

Makenzee Meaux has spent years hiding her alopecia by wearing a wig. But now, she’s inspiring millions of other people by embracing her condition and showing that “hair is not what makes you beautiful.” In a breathtaking engagement photoshoot that has gone viral, Meaux can be seen posing with her fiancé Bryan Ballard; except halfway through the shoot, the bride-to-be whips off her wig and shows off her natural beauty – alopecia and all.   The 21-year-old college student from Crosby, Texas was first diagnosed with alopecia when she was 8 years old. Meaux says: “It is a disease where all of your hair follicles suddenly stop growing and the doctors can not figure out why or what will bring it back. They call it the mystery disease. Nothing else is wrong with the body other than hair will not grow, which – as you can imagine for a young girl – is a huge confidence killer.” “I experienced lots of bullying in the early years and along the way I lost all hope that I could ever feel beautiful again.”   Meaux says that she was so self-conscious about her condition, it took her two and a half months to tell Ballard about her baldness. But after they got engaged five and half years later in May, Meaux says that she has never felt more confident than when she is supported by Ballard. “He has helped me be brave and realize that hair is not what makes you beautiful and is not what makes people love you, it is truly all about what’s on the inside,” writes Meaux. “He has shown me that the people who love you do not care whether or not you have hair and the ones who do are not worth your time or your love. So this is me, the true me.”   The photoshoot, which was captured by The Frost Collective, has spurred dozens of other people with alopecia to reach out to Meaux and express their gratitude over her courageous statement. Meaux even met up with a 3-year-old girl with alopecia in her city because she was so inspired by the college student’s photos. “I never expected it to grow this large,” Meaux said. “It’s been amazing.”  
0 0 5 15 December, 2017 Alternative, Positive more
Homeless in London will be given Christmas party thanks to few rail workers
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Homeless in London will be given Christmas party thanks to few rail workers

Over 200 homeless people in London will be treated to an extravagant holiday party thanks to some rail workers at the Euston Train station. 30 volunteers from Britain’s transit company, Network Rail, will be working alongside charity staff in order to throw a Christmas bash complete with decorations, lunch, and dinner on December 25th. The rail workers will reportedly be serving up the meals, chatting up the homeless visitors throughout the celebration, supervising the event, and cleaning up afterwards. St Mungos and Streets Kitchen, the two charities that are helping to coordinate the event, say that they have already distributed invitations to individuals sleeping on the streets. Steve Naybour, head of transformation in Network Rail’s track team, said: “Using a station to give homeless people a Christmas dinner and some festive cheer is a great thing to do. “Thousands and thousands of my colleagues will already be working on Christmas Day to improve the railway for passengers. Working on Christmas Day is pretty much par for the course for many of us who work for Network Rail, but this year – because I wasn’t scheduled to work – myself and a handful of colleagues came up with this plan to feed some of London’s homeless instead.” “Everything, including people’s time, has been donated. And I can’t think of a better way to spend my Christmas Day – it even beats working on the railway!”
0 0 8 15 December, 2017 Alternative, Positive more
Now You Can Use Amazon Prime to Instantly Help the Homeless
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Now You Can Use Amazon Prime to Instantly Help the Homeless

If you need a break from buying holiday gifts for your friends, you can now get on your phone and instantly buy gifts for the homeless instead. YouTube user Rob Bliss recently published a video on how he used Amazon Prime Now’s 2-hour shipping to deliver gifts and essentials to homeless people. The video, which he called “How to Hijack Amazon Prime Now for Good”, shows Bliss asking homeless people if they need anything. Some people told him that they needed warm clothing for the winter – others asked for sleeping bags. Using the special shipping service, Bliss ordered the gifts, entered the street address, and described exactly who the couriers should deliver the packages too. True to the company’s word, the Amazon workers hand-delivered the packages to the proper recipients within two hours. “Note: this video is NOT SPONSORED OR AFFILIATED WITH AMAZON. I’m sure this technique could be used with Postmates or whoever else too,” says Bliss. “I simply wanted to demonstrate how easy and convenient it can be to bring a person in need, what they need, and to encourage that behavior.” “My hope is that [people] see this and realize their potential to help enable giving. Special thanks to Amazon’s couriers, all of whom delivered their package with humanity and grace.”
0 0 4 15 December, 2017 Alternative, Positive more
Police Officer Adopts Homeless Heroin Addict’s Baby
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Police Officer Adopts Homeless Heroin Addict’s Baby

Albuquerque Police Officer Ryan Holets has adopted a baby from a homeless heroin addict after a chance encounter. On September 23, Holets responded to a possible theft at a nearby convenience store. As he left the store, he noticed out of the corner of his eye a couple sitting in the grass. The man and woman were shooting up heroin in broad daylight. Then he noticed that the woman was pregnant. "You're going to kill your baby," Holets is heard saying on the bodycam footage. "Why do you have to be doing that stuff?" It's going to ruin your baby." In the video, the woman is seen breaking down in tears after hearing this. In the course of the conversation, she emotionally told Holets that she desperately hoped someone would adopt her baby. He made the call to not charge the couple with drug possession but he couldn't shake the voice in his mind telling him that this was his chance to help and truly make a difference. Holets, who's married with four children, decided in that moment to adopt her baby. "I was led by God to take the chance," he said. "God brought us all together. I really don't have any other way to explain it." Holets and his wife, Rebecca, were at the University of New Mexico Hospital when the woman gave birth to a baby girl on Oct. 12. The Holets family named her Hope. police officer adopts baby from homeless heroin addicts Doctors needed to treat Hope to help her through withdrawals — "It was very difficult to watch," Holets said but she was able to leave the hospital after a week and a half. "She's gaining weight, eating well, sleeping well,” Holets said of Hope. "We're just praying and hoping for the best for her." In addition to giving Hope a life she deserves, Holets hasn't given up on helping her birth parents get clean. police officer adopts baby from homeless heroin addicts Holets has been quietly helping them find the right rehabilitation center and gave them a tablet computer so they can receive photos of Hope over email. He said that the couple is "willing to talk and interested" in meeting representatives from a rehab center. Holets is hopeful that it will happen.
0 0 13 12 December, 2017 Alternative, Positive more
Bengaluru’s Transgender Festival ! It Is Definitely a Must Visit!
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Bengaluru’s Transgender Festival ! It Is Definitely a Must Visit!

Over the past two days, hundreds of individuals, transgender activists, political leaders, entrepreneurs and the LGBT community have come together for the ongoing international transgender festival, Trans Diamond, currently happening in Bengaluru. Being held from December 6 to December 10, the festival has been organised by ‘Make Room’, which is an Indian-European social change ecosystem, in collaboration with various national and international organisations from across Asia and Europe. Miks Celmiņš, co-founder of Make Room,said that most transgender events that have been previously organised in India have been all about discussing issues but with a limited audience in attendance and with transgender individuals already working within the space. He says that there was a need to establish a sort of forum that could generate opportunities as well.
 “We were looking at an ecosystem, where we could gather like-minded people to create a tangible outcome even after the festival is over,” he said.
The 5-day long festival will have ​building​ ​workshops,​ ​a social beauty​ ​pageant,​ ​inspirational​ ​talks,​ open​ ​forum​ ​and​ film​ ​screenings. It will also have 25 carefully chosen changemakers consisting of young LGBT individuals, allies and other stakeholders identify current challenges of the community and undergo an intense training program to co-create contextual solutions. The International Transgender Social Beauty pageant at the festival will have participants from Asia and Europe, who will meet the local community leaders, undergo personality enhancing coaching program to be confident individuals, set career goals and be positive role models for the transgender community. Miks adds that a lot of people were against the idea of organising beauty pageants within the transgender community.
“But after discussions, we all agreed that if we want to create a platform, we can’t pick and choose what’s wrong and what’s right. We should just facilitate a dialogue and let people decide what they want to do,” he says. In the next few days, you will witness an open space art project, panel sessions, an inspirational talk by Gauri Sawant, film screenings, cultural performance and after parties as well. Through the festival, the organizers want to identify leaders within the community, build capacities to be able to create solutions for the gravest issues and be the platform to showcase the artistic talents of the community.  
0 0 7 11 December, 2017 Alternative, Positive more
Aldi makes sure the ‘Less Fortunate Individuals’ won’t stay hungry on Christmas Eve
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Aldi makes sure the ‘Less Fortunate Individuals’ won’t stay hungry on Christmas Eve

In celebration of the holiday season, grocery store chain Aldi is being lauded for announcing a plan to donate all unsold fresh food to various nonprofits and charitable organizations on the afternoon before Christmas. The company first published news of their philanthropic endeavour on social media and called for their fellow corporations to follow suit. “Aldi is offering local organisations the opportunity to receive surplus food from their stores on the afternoon of Christmas Eve,” said the company in a statement. “As Aldi stores will shut at 4pm on Christmas Eve until December 27, they will have a variety of good quality surplus food products that they will wish to redistribute in support of less fortunate individuals and to prevent food going to waste.” Aldi, a global discount supermarket chain with over 10,000 stores in 18 countries, is unable to deliver so organizations would have to collect the bounty themselves. They will expect the level of food available to vary. However, estimates of around 20 to 30 crates will be expected from each store.
0 0 9 10 December, 2017 Alternative, Positive more
These Small Changes Would Make Gender Equality a Reality in India
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These Small Changes Would Make Gender Equality a Reality in India

Sumitra is the mother of Reena, a student of Class 8 in Dudri, Murhu block, Khunti district of Jharkhand. She says, “The moment Reena was born, my concern was for her safety. How would I ensure she was alright when each day was a struggle for me to protect my dignity, safety and respect at the hands of an abusive, drunken husband and a sexually pervasive brother-in-law whose advances I was expected to tolerate in silence?” Such fears, and their solutions come under the UN’s fifth Sustainable Development Goal of Gender Equality. Going beyond just slogans or ‘we are all equal’ posters, the attainment of this goal hopes for a future India in which no girl or woman has to suppress her dreams, simply because she was born female. And this has real-world consequences as well. As per the McKinsey Global Institute report ‘The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in India’, we could “boost GDP by $0.7 trillion in 2025. This translates into 1.4 per cent per year of incremental GDP growth for India,” This translates into some 70 million jobs for women over the next ten years. For Reena, relief came one day in the form of a new subject in school, called Gender Equity Movement in Schools (GEMS), they were being sensitised to different aspects of violence, identifying these and seeking ways to safeguard themselves. That day, Sumitra felt relieved, as if she had found a comrade in arms. For till then, it had been a lonely fight for the mother and daughter, always in the grip of paranoia, fear and nervous anticipation. As the GEMS sessions rolled out, a change was seen in Reena as she began to shed her fears and become more outspoken, confident and assertive. Within weeks, the conversations around violent behaviours, discriminating social norms and corporal punishment at school began to get challenged, with others in the village talking more openly about their experiences. Spontaneously, groups got formed to investigate cases and instances where young girls were subjected to abuse, discrimination and emotional or physical violence. Village leaders were drawn in and made to counsel families and even reprimand and threaten some to leave the community. Cases of violence came down, school enrolments of girls went up, the number of dropouts was reduced, and even a few girl child marriages were stopped.
The GEMS classes succeeded in bringing a marked shift in attitudes and mindsets, of not just girls but also the boys in school, siblings at home and parents, teachers and neighbours in the community. Things that were so far considered taboo were now being practised. Boys and girls began sitting together on the same bench, playing games in the sports grounds and fields without being segregated by gender, families mustering the courage to say no to dowry and boys helping with household chores. Sangeeta Gupta, a GEMS teacher/facilitator at the Subodh Monda School, says, “GEMS has become an organic part of our curriculum. Just the way we have Maths and Science, there is GEMS.” This is indeed a significant achievement. By going through the school route, gender equity has got integrated into the government school system through a systematic and intentional engagement with principals and teachers who are its champions and agents of change.
Sumitra was happy to see these winds of change, but her concerns as a mother now extended beyond the present. Physical safety and a rights-based approach at home and school definitely augured well for her daughter while she was a child, but what about her adolescent and adult years? How would Sumitra be able to ward off the pressure of marrying her off in a community where child marriage was still the norm, and no one ever challenged it, least of all women? Even if marriage could be stalled, what about the years ahead? How would the girl support herself, give wings to her dreams of becoming a software engineer, going to university and earning enough to pull out her mother from the repressive environment she had been part of all these years? While she is still grappling for answers, elsewhere in Delhi, another forward-looking programme, also by ICRW, called Plan-It Girls has just been launched. According to Prerna Kumar, Senior Technical Specialist, ICRW, Plan-It Girls is an amalgam of all that has been learnt over the years. She explains how, when looking to set the scope and range of the initiative in 2013, they discovered many missing elements from programmes for adolescent girls’. One of its major findings was that most programmes – even if they demonstrated success – were narrow. By focusing on a single aspect, say menstrual health, girl child education, dowry prevention or nutrition, they did not address the needs and aspirations of girls.
There is also a need for community and parent engagement to create a supportive environment. Since the girl’s social ecology did not change, she was left to fight for everything at every stage. To overcome some of these inherent challenges in adolescent girl programming, Plan-It Girls is reaching out to 10,000 girls in Delhi and rural Jharkhand. Launched in 20 schools in Delhi (ten government girls schools in the morning shift and ten government boys schools in the evening shift) it works with students of grade 9 and 11. The programme focuses on gender-integrated life skills and employability skills. It draws in parents, teachers, boys, community members, business leaders and policymakers to ensure that an ecosystem gets created wherein girls can thrive and realise their aspirations. What makes Plan-It Girls different is that after opening up the minds of the girls to the possibilities that exist, they are provided with knowledge and skills to navigate challenges in their lives while staying focused on the end goal – reaching the desired economic level through the job that they have aspired for. Ravi Verma, Regional Director, ICRW, Asia says, “We believe that girls can be truly empowered only when they begin to aspire in unconventional ways, moving away from prevailing gender stereotypes and with necessary abilities and support, to realise their dreams”. Programmes like GEMS and Plan-It Girls are committed to UN’s fifth Sustainable Development Goal of Gender Equality and to continue producing evidence to support the fulfilment of this goal. As Reena discovered in rural Jharkhand, a small change through teaching and attitudes can cascade to a radically different, and much more equal world, shortly.
0 0 10 09 December, 2017 Alternative, Positive more
10-Year-Old Tennis Star Will Train at a Global Academy in US
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10-Year-Old Tennis Star Will Train at a Global Academy in US

Move over Sania Mirza, Leander Paes, and Mahesh Bhupathi! Mustafa M Raja from Mysuru is emerging as an extraordinary tennis player who is making a phenomenal mark on a global front with his prodigious skills. Besides winning a record number of All India Tennis Association (AITA) titles in just two years, the ten-year-old has managed to wow the sports fraternity to the extent that he has been offered a scholarship by the US-based Rick Macci Tennis Academy in Florida. A student of Class 5 at Excel Public School in the city, Mustafa is the first ever tennis player from Karnataka to be selected by the prestigious institute. The young lad had begun playing the sport at the age of four when his father Murtuza K Raja built a mini tennis court at their house in Rajeevnagar. “It was my dream that my child plays tennis and win the Wimbledon and other Grand Slams and Olympic medals for India. The day Mustafa was born on January 20, 2007, I made him hold a tiny crystal tennis racquet, which was gifted to me by my friend. He has been holding a proper tennis racquet since he was six months old,” Murtuza said. Joining Nagaraj Tennis Centre at five, Mustafa started training professionally and soon began playing club-level non-AITA tournaments by the time he was six. He went on to bag his first AITA national U-10 tournament when he was only eight. There has been no looking back since then. Despite taking on much older and seasoned players, Mustafa has only gotten better and dexterous with each passing tournament. Till date, he has won 21 AITA titles (16 winning and five runners-up titles). In fact, he has also set an extraordinary record with 10 U-10 titles to his credit. In the U-12 section, Mustafa has already won three singles and doubles and is emerging as a fierce competitor for even U-14 players after winning the runner-up title in an AITA U-14 event.
Mustafa’s moment of fame came when he won AITA U-12 doubles Super Series held at Guwahati, Assam in July 2017. Besides, he has won a grand double in Bengaluru by winning both singles and doubles title at the AITA Championship Series U-12 Tournament last month. The young ace is one of few kids from across the world to be selected by Rick Macci Tennis Academy, where he will be part of a month-long training.
0 0 10 09 December, 2017 Alternative, Positive more