Good News This Week: October 28, 2023 - Phones, Soaps, & Shelters

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Every day the Good Good Good team collects the best good news in the world and shares it with our community. Here are the highlights for this week!

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The Best Positive News We’re Celebrating This Week —

The city of Columbus, Ohio just canceled $335 million in medical debt for its residents

Joining faith organizations, online communities, and other local governments in the movement to forgive medical debt, the Columbus City Council in Ohio just voted to cancel $335 million in medical debt for thousands of residents.

The decision will impact about 334,000 — about one in three — Columbus residents who have medical debt from treatment received at any of the four area hospital systems between 2015 and 2020. It will cost the city around $500,000 to accomplish.

Unlike other groups that have utilized the services of the nonprofit RIP Medical Debt, local health providers decided to forgive the medical debt directly, rather than going through a third party. This option offers another pathway for cities looking to provide debt relief for residents.

Why is this good news? According to a KFF poll, more than half of U.S. adults say they’ve gone into debt in the past five years because of medical or dental bills. Cities stepping up to help residents avoid financial catastrophe due to unforeseen medical bills is not only an investment in the health (physical, mental, and financial) of those individuals — but in the community overall.

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New Orleans has seen a 24% drop in homicides so far this year compared to this time last year — nearly twice the average of 150 other cities

Last month, New Orleans achieved a milestone worth celebrating: for the first time since October 2019, the city went 12 days without a homicide. The New Orleans Police Department also reported that from September 1 to 12, there were “hardly any” nonfatal shootings.

New Orleans saw a devastating spike in gun violence in 2020 that continued through 2022, when it had one of the highest homicide rates from firearms in the country. But now, like the rest of the country, it’s seeing that gun violence rate decline — particularly dramatically, and it’s not just over 12 days.

So far this year, New Orleans has seen a 24% decline in homicides — nearly double the average among 150 other cities, which have also seen a (still encouraging) 12% decline. And even better: between July and September there were 36% fewer homicides compared to the same period last year, and the fewest since October 2019.

While the cause of this encouraging progress is not immediately clear, city leaders point to an expanded summer work program for young people, pandemic recovery, and more as potential contributors.

And the city is already making plans to ensure this trend is long-term and sustainable by investing in public health and community-driven approaches to violence reduction.

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A ‘groundbreaking’ bionic arm that fuses bone and nerves could transform amputee treatment options

The Bionics Institute of Australia and Center for Bionics and Pain Research have partnered to create a new technique aimed at improving the lives of amputees.

The novel technology fuses the bionic arm to the user’s skeleton and nervous system by implanting electrodes into their nerves and muscles. The implant acts as a permanent anchor for the prosthetic, which can then be easily attached and removed.

The outcomes are remarkable: decreased pain and better control of the prosthetic. Amazingly, it can allow users to carry out about 80% of their daily activities.

The first person to receive the prosthetic, a woman who lost her arm to a farming accident more than 20 years ago, said the bionic arm has reduced her pain and transformed her life. After her accident, she experienced high levels of phantom limb pain and relied on various painkillers. She’s now been able to use the new prosthetic comfortably and effectively for years, her pain has decreased, and she needs much less medication.

Why is this good news? Traditional prosthetic limbs present discomfort or challenges for users, including issues with attachment and unreliable control. This new advanced technology can be used reliably in daily life and reduce pain — a game-changer for individuals experiencing limb loss.

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A new ‘real estate agency’ in Los Angeles is helping thousands of people experiencing homelessness get into homes faster

A nonprofit partnering with Los Angeles County’s Department of Health Services is helping people find housing in a city that’s known for a tight and expensive real estate market.

The organization, Brilliant Corners, scouts vacant units and lobbies landlords. Their strategy is to have a stock of move-in ready apartments so that as soon as clients receive their housing vouchers and have their documents ready, they can move in immediately.

The nonprofit works with landlords to negotiate rent, and what gives the program an edge is that the organization can begin paying rent immediately — making landlords keen to participate. The program can also pay for move-in costs, offers funding for unexpected needs — like if electricity rates go up or if a one-time expense makes it hard to pay rent one month.

On average, Brilliant Corners places 192 people into permanent housing every month, and it's helped more than 12,000 people since it launched nearly a decade ago.

Why is this good news? Unhoused community members usually face a lengthy and complicated process to get permanent housing, but Brilliant Corners’ model is a coordinated and streamlined strategy for locating, securing, and funding housing. By coordinating the major aspects of the housing process, Brilliant Corners can speed housing times considerably, eliminate piecemeal administrative processes, and readily match people to a home — creating a seamless experience for the tenants.

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A nonprofit provides free cleaning for recovering cancer patients across the U.S. and Canada

Nonprofit Cleaning for a Reason is providing free home cleanings to cancer patients so they can focus on rest and recovery — not household chores. Founder Debbie Sardone said the service comes with “no strings attached.”

“We have over 1,200 cleaning services throughout the entire United States and Canada, giving back to their community by serving families who are battling cancer with the gift of free cleaning,” Sardone said.

Since it was founded in 2006, Cleaning for a Reason has partnered with 1,300 cleaning companies, served over 50,000 patients, and donated about $15 million in services. They also partner with a cleaning company to use non-toxic and refillable cleaning supplies that are better for people and the environment.

Why is this good news? After leaving exhausting hospital care, chemotherapy, or surgery, the last thing anyone wants (or is even able!) to do is clean their house. Cleaning for a Reason helps alleviate the burden of household chores so that patients can focus on rest and recovery.

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A group of activists and legislators are putting an end to prison phone fees

A group of advocates, legislators, and community members challenged a multibillion-dollar company and achieved a groundbreaking victory. Following a lengthy campaign, in 2021 Connecticut became the first state to abolish prison phone fees, allowing inmates to make free calls and saving their families about $10 million annually.

The campaign, spearheaded by criminal justice reformer Bianca Tylek and her nonprofit Worth Rises, took a multifaceted approach, combining lobbying, community engagement, and financial pressure on private equity firms that generate major profits from the prison telecommunications industry.

The achievement in Connecticut has inspired other states to consider eliminating prison phone fees, offering hope for ending this exploitative practice, which disproportionately affects low-income communities and perpetuates financial hardship.

Why is this good news? Prison phone calls play a crucial role, enabling people in incarceration to coordinate housing and employment upon re-entry and maintain vital connections to the outside world, reducing recidivism. The success in Connecticut showcases the potential for change in the prison telecommunications industry, shedding light on the path to ending exploitative prison phone fees for families and reducing the cycle of poverty within low-income communities.

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A teen invented a soap that treats skin cancer

A 14-year-old student in Virginia, Heman Bekele, has invented an affordable and safe-to-use soap using cancer-fighting chemicals to treat Melanoma and was named “America's Top Young Scientist” in an annual nationwide competition.

The soap helps protect skin and enhances the body’s immune response by reviving cancer-destroyed cells, which are then able to fight against the cancer cells.

Earlier this month, Heman gave his final presentation at the 3M Young Scientist Challenge, an annual competition that invites students in grades five through eight to “change their world for the better with a single innovative idea.”

After competing against nine other finalists in the challenge, he won the title of America’s Top Young Scientist.

Heman told the judges he hoped the soap would be a “symbol of hope, accessibility, and a world where skin cancer treatment is within reach for all.”

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More good news of the week —

According to a new world ranking, Colombia and Mali are leading the world in improving air quality. In fact, countries from the global south have the most ambitious strategies to address air pollution and its health impacts, while wealthier countries lag behind.

Robert Irwin just announced the successful breeding of the endangered turtle species named after his late father. Steve Irwin discovered the Elseya irwini turtle — a freshwater species also known as “Irwin’s turtle” — on a boating trip with his own dad.

The Biden-Harris administration announced plans to invest $7 billion to build seven “hydrogen hubs” across the U.S. Widely seen as a promising tool to fight climate change, hydrogen is a clean-burning fuel with the potential to power ships or factories without producing any planet-warming emissions.

To help make the process more affordable, the IRS is testing a new, free, electronic tax filing program in 13 states. Currently, people in the U.S. spend about $11 billion each year on services such as tax preparation services and accountants to help them fill out their returns.

Residents of a New York City condo building are pushing for more bird-friendly glass to prevent deadly collisions. Audubon NYC put Circa Central Park in the top three for bird-killing buildings last year, and residents want to install a bird-deterring window film that could save hundreds, even thousands of birds.

Thanks to a new law, California will now guarantee time off work following a miscarriage or other reproductive loss, including failed adoption, in-vitro fertilization, or surrogacy. This new law ensures leave for grieving and recovering would-be parents and was passed with largely bipartisan support.

A new sustainable tech partnership in Jamaica aimed at cleaning the Kingston Harbour could become a global model for tackling ocean pollution. The pilot project recruits community members as crew and staff and offers training on the importance of the environment and waste management.

Solar panels orbiting Earth could become the planet's cheapest and most widespread form of green energy. Traditional solar panels (like the ones on rooftops) are in the dark or under clouds for a huge portion of time, but solar panels on satellites would rarely leave sunlight.

An old church is being turned into a greenhouse aimed at fighting food insecurity. The volunteer-run nonprofit, which grows food and collects vegetables from local farms that would otherwise go to waste, purchased the building for just $1 thanks to parishioners who wanted to support the organization’s mission.

After decades of being unused, Britain’s abandoned coal mines have gradually flooded and are now being used to heat homes. The water is directed through heat pumps and offers a carbon-neutral method to heating the buildings above the mines.

A city in Japan is piloting a way to wirelessly charge electric vehicles at stoplights. The city aims to make it easier for EV drivers to drive locally without having to stop to charge as often.

After a woman petitioned a 2004 law, Japan’s top court just ruled it unconstitutional to require citizens to be sterilized before they can officially change genders. Human Rights Watch called the ruling a "important victory for transgender rights in Japan.”

A growing number of startups are taking on the climate impact of cement-making, a process that contributes to about 8% of human-caused CO2 emissions yearly. Startups and manufacturers are working to develop new methods and formulas for making carbon-free cement.

A franchise of sensory gyms is creating inclusive activity spaces catered to the needs of neurodivergent children. “We Rock the Spectrum” also provides volunteering and employment opportunities for neurodivergent individuals, helping them gain valuable skills and prepare for the workforce.

A new recycling method can recover 98% of lithium from electric vehicle batteries. The process aims to tackle waste and solve bottlenecks in EV battery recycling — a key factor in their sustainability.

Article Details

October 28, 2023 5:00 AM
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