Random Acts of Kindness

Kindness at the Bank
On Aug. 21, at about 11 a.m., Martin Staniland went to the a bank branch in Pennsylvania to take out some cash and to make a change to the automatic debits from his family account.

When he had apparently finished with the ATM, he went into the bank, where to his horror and embarrassment he suddenly realized that he had left his $60 cash in the ATM.

Going back to the ATM, Staniland found the waiting notes already had disappeared. Resigned to the loss, he went back into the bank, mentioning the loss to the staff member on duty near the door. He immediately said that a very honest customer had handed the cash in and the bank staff, including the manager, very promptly and cheerfully returned my money.

Staniland asked if the customer responsible was still on the premises, but the staff replied that the customer apparently already had left the bank. Staniland salutes his my anonymous benefactor for a very thoughtful and public-spirited act of kindness to a complete stranger, as well as the bank staff for its efficient and considerate response.

Yes, this wasn’t a huge amount of money, but that makes its return all the more remarkable and touching. Chalk up one more for the decency of Pittsburghers to complete strangers on the street.

Three Cheers for Home Depot
Several weeks ago, Eileen Connelly went with her daughter and granddaughters, who were visiting from New Jersey, to visit her 94-year-old aunt.

She says Aunt Dorothy was excited to show the visitors her new porch blinds that had been put up recently. Although she lives alone, her small house is always kept neat and clean. She spends many hours sitting on her porch. Apparently she wasn’t satisfied anymore with the very old blinds and called The Home Depot and wanted to purchase new ones.

Aunt Dorothy almost never leaves her home and was concerned about how to select and measure for the new ones. Almost immediately, Telia, operations manager at the store, had new blinds installed at no cost. Aunt Dorothy could hardly stop talking about Telia and will cherish the lovely card and note from her while she enjoys sitting on her porch and the beautiful new blinds from Home Depot.

Telia actually came to the house, helped install the blinds and spent time talking to Aunt Dorothy. Eileen wonders if this special young lady knows how happy she made my sweet 94-year-old aunt feel.

Thanks to a Good Samaritan
Lois Ferrie relates that she and her husband, Ron, recently drove to a GetGo gas station to get air in their tires. As they drove up, a gentleman was just finishing doing the same and getting in his car.

Ron Ferrie had heart surgery three weeks prior, and he struggled to get out of our car. The gentleman jumped out of his car and said, “I’ll do that for you.” He then put air in all four of the Ferrie’s tires.
Mrs. Ferrie thanked him but didn’t get his name. The Ferries are very grateful for his kindness.

Thanks to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for sharing these acts of kindness.

Medical Innovations by Women

Women have made great strides in many fields that previously – and to some degree still – were considered the domain of men, such as law and medicine.

There are scores of accomplished women who have not been acknowledged for their achievements in a variety of fields. Culture, gender bias and stereotyping play into this lack of recognition. Here’s a look at some of the women who have made outstanding contributions in medicine.

Barbara S. Askins
• Year of birth: 1939
• Birthplace: Belfast, Tennessee
• Occupation: Chemist
• Invention: Used radioactive material to enhance images from space
Barbara Askins is a NASA scientist. She is best known for inventing in the 1970s a method to enhance photographs taken from space. Prior to Askins’ inventions, these photographs were often blurred or lacked definition. By exposing negatives to radiation Askins was able to produce images with greater density and contrast. Her invention had applications outside space exploration. It was used to improve the clarity of X-rays – which meant getting readable X-rays while exposing patients to less radiation – and to restore old photographs.

Patricia Bath
• Year of birth: 1942
• Birthplace: New York City, New York
• Occupation: Ophthalmologist/inventor
• Invention: Laser tool to treat cataracts
Patricia Bath is best known as the inventor of the Laserphaco Probe, a device that uses laser technology to treat cataracts. Bath is a pioneer in other regards as well. She was the first African American to complete a residency in ophthalmology, the first female faculty member in the Department of Ophthalmology at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute and the first African American female doctor to receive a patent. She is an advocate for the use of telemedicine to bring medical services to remote areas. In 2007, the Daily Telegraph named her one of the top 100 living geniuses.

Ruane Sharon Jeter
• Year of birth: 1959
• Birthplace: Los Angeles, California
• Occupation: Inventor
• Invention: Invented toaster with a digital timer
Ruane Jeter is nothing if not versatile — she has several patents for medical devices, including a disposable scalpel, a drug cartridge and a self-injection device. She also invented a toaster with a digital timer that allows users to choose how well they want their bread toasted. She collaborated with her sister, Sheila, to develop a multi-functional machine that included a stapler, staple remover, pencil sharpener and other features.

Ann A. Kiessling
• Year of birth: 1942
• Birthplace: Baker City, Oregon
• Occupation: Reproductive biologist
• Invention: Groundbreaking work in stem research, in vitro fertilization
Ann Kiessling discovered reverse transcriptase – converting RNA to DNA – in normal human cells in 1979. Prior to this, it was assumed that reverse transcriptase was an enzyme found only in retroviruses such as HIV. Her research into eggs and embryos led to advances in Human In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).

Hayat Sindi
• Year of birth: 1967
• Birthplace: Mecca, Saudi Arabia
• Occupation: Biochemist
• Invention: Penny-size paper detects disease by analyzing bodily fluids
Hayat Sindi was born in Saudi Arabia, a country where women until last year could not even drive and where they have limited choices in education and career. Sindi persuaded her family to let her go to school in the United Kingdom. She studied pharmacology at King’s College London and biotechnology at the University of Cambridge. She holds patents for a simple, low-tech diagnostic tool that could significantly change medical treatment in poor countries. The small, paper-like device detects disease by analyzing bodily fluids such as saliva, urine, or blood.

Esther Sans Takeuchi
• Year of birth: 1953
• Birthplace: Kansas City, Missouri
• Occupation: Chemical engineer
• Invention: Developed Li/SVO batteries
In 1987, materials scientist and chemical engineer Esther Sans Takeuchi developed lithium/silver vanadium oxide (Li/SVO) batteries for implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs). These were much smaller than the previously used batteries and lasted up to five times as long, making ICDs easier to implant and reducing the need for replacement surgery. Takeuchi, a distinguished professor in the chemistry department at Stony Brook University and a chief scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, holds almost 150 patents.

Ann Tsukamoto
• Year of birth: 1952
• Birthplace: California
• Occupation: Scientist
• Invention: Invented process to isolate human stem cells
Ann Tsukamoto played a key role in the development of a method to isolate human stem cells. Stem cells are unspecialized cells capable of renewing themselves through division. Under certain conditions, they can be induced to become tissue or organ-specific cells with special functions, thus serving as an internal repair system. Tsukamoto’s work has led to great advances in stem cell research and could further advance cancer and other diseases research.

Laura van ‘t Veer
• Year of birth: 1957
• Birthplace: The Netherlands
• Occupation: Molecular biologist
• Invention: Gene-based tissue test for breast cancer
Laura van ‘t Veer invented a gene-based tissue test that enables targeted treatment of breast cancer. By providing a more reliable prognosis, patients and doctors are better able to decide whether chemotherapy is necessary.

Flossie Wong-Staal
• Year of birth: 1947
• Birthplace: China
• Occupation: Molecular biologist
• Invention: Helped genetic mapping of HIV virus
Molecular biologist Flossie Wong-Staal was born in China and came to the United States by way of Hong Kong. After attending the University of California in Los Angeles, she began working at the National Cancer Institute. In 1983, Wong-Staal and her colleagues, simultaneously with French researchers, discovered the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. Wong-Staal was the first person to clone HIV. This led to a genetic map of the virus and ultimately to a blood test for it. She later co-founded itherX Pharmaceuticals Inc. and serves as chief scientific officer and executive vice president of research and development. The Institute for Scientific Information named Wong-Staal the top woman scientist of the 1980s. In 2007, the Daily Telegraph named her one of the top 100 living geniuses.

Rachel Zimmerman
• Year of birth: 1972
• Birthplace: Ontario, Canada
• Occupation: Inventor
• Invention: Blissymbol Printer
When she was only 12, Rachel Zimmerman invented the Blissymbol Printer as part of a project for a school science fair. The device enables disabled people to communicate using a computer. The software program translates Blissymbols – a picture language developed by Charles Bliss to help those with cerebral palsy communicate – into printed language on a computer screen. This allows physically challenged people to communicate with others. Zimmerman now works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.


World’s Most Democratic Countries

The Democracy Index, released by the Economist Intelligence Unit, helps capture the state of democracy in 165 independent nation`s and two territories. The list tries to understand how democratic a country really is, based on five parameters: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, functioning of government, political participation and political culture.

Here are the top 10 nations:

1. Norway – 9.87
2. Iceland – 9.58
3. Sweden – 9.39
4. New Zealand – 9.26
5. Denmark – 9.22
6. (Tie) Canada – 9.15
6. (Tie) Ireland – 9.15
8. Australia – 9.09
9. (Tie) Finland – 9.03
9. (Tie) Switzerland – 9.03

The United States and Italy tied for 21st place  at 7.98.


Earth Landscape Heads for Major Transformation

Within the next 100 years, Earth as we know it could be transformed into an unrecognizable, alien world, with ecosystems around the globe falling apart. After looking at over 500 ancient climate records, scientists have said current climate change is comparable to what the planet went through when it came out of the last ice age – and the seismic shift in biodiversity that took place then will likely happen again.

At the end of the Last Glacial Maximum, when ice sheets covered most of North America, Asia and northern Europe, the planet warmed up by between four and seven degrees Celsius. Over the course of 10,000 years, the ice melted and entirely new ecosystems emerged, eventually developing into what we see today.

Climate scientists are currently predicting that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate (the so-called “business as usual” scenario) then the planet will have warmed around four degrees Celsius by 2100.

In a study published in Science, an international team of researchers looked at hundreds of paleontological records, examining how terrestrial ecosystems responded to climate change 20,000 years ago in a bid to establish how the planet might adjust to similar warming in the next 100 to 150 years. They looked at potential changes using different climate scenarios – from warming being limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius through to business-as-usual.

Findings showed that unless there are huge reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, terrestrial ecosystems around the world are at risk of “major transformation,” with most of these changes taking place over the next 100 years.

“Terrestrial vegetation over the entire planet is at substantial risk of major compositional and structural changes in the absence of markedly reduced [greenhouse gas] emissions,” they wrote. “Much of this change could occur during the 21st century, especially where vegetation disturbance is accelerated or amplified by human impacts. Many emerging ecosystems will be novel in composition, structure and function, and many will be ephemeral under sustained climate change; equilibrium states may not be attained until the 22nd century or beyond.”

Study co-author Jonathan Overpeck, from the University of Michigan, said there will be a huge ricochet effect that will eventually threaten water and food security. “If we allow climate change to go unchecked, the vegetation of this planet is going to look completely different than it does today, and that means a huge risk to the diversity of the planet,” he said in a statement.

“We’re talking about global landscape change that is ubiquitous and dramatic, and we’re already starting to see it in the United States, as well as around the globe. Our study provides yet another wake-up call that we need to act now to move rapidly towards an emission-free global economy.”


A Big Day in Canada, USA

An observance dating back to the late 19th century is celebrated on the first Monday in September in both the United States and Canada. Labor Day in the USA, Labour Day in Canada.

In the States, the day honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws and well-being of the country. It is considered the unofficial end of summer in the United States and it is recognized as a federal holiday.

Canada’s Labour Day is a celebration of Canadian workers’ social and economic achievements. Until 1892, unions were illegal in Canada’s archaic British law system, making it incredibly difficult for workers to strike and demand better working conditions. The foundation for Labour Day were laid in March of 1872 when the Toronto Typographical Union demanded a 9-hour work day. When its demands weren’t met, the employees went on strike and were subsequently arrested according to the law.

As trade union and labor movements grew in the States in the late 19th century, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor. “Labor Day” was promoted by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor, which organized the first parade in New York City. In 1887, Oregon was the first state of the United States to make it an official public holiday. By the time it became an official federal holiday in 1894, 30 states in the United States officially celebrated Labor Day.

More than 80 countries celebrate International Workers’ Day on May 1 – the ancient European holiday of May Day – and several countries have chosen their own dates for Labour Day.

May Day emerged in the States in 1886 as an alternative holiday for the celebration of labor, later becoming known as International Workers’ Day. The date had its origins at the 1885 convention of the American Federation of Labor, which passed a resolution calling for adoption of the eight-hour day effective May 1, 1886.

While negotiation was envisioned for achievement of the shortened work day, use of the strike to enforce this demand was recognized, with May 1 advocated as a date for coordinated strike action. The proximity of the date to the bloody Haymarket Riot of May 4, 1886, further accentuated May First’s radical reputation.

There was disagreement among labor unions at this time about when a holiday celebrating workers should be, with some advocating for continued emphasis of the September march-and-picnic date while others sought the designation of the more politically-charged date of May 1.

Conservative Democratic President Grover Cleveland was one of those concerned that a labor holiday on May 1 would tend to become a commemoration of the Haymarket affair and would strengthen socialist and anarchist movements that backed the May 1 commemoration around the globe. In 1887, he publicly supported the September Labor Day holiday as a less inflammatory alternative. The date was formally adopted as a United States federal holiday in 1894.

In big cities, people try to go outside and enjoy beaches and barbecues over the Labor Day Weekend. There are also numerous events and activities organized in the cities. For example, New York offers Labor Day Carnival, fireworks over Coney Island, happy hours in restaurants, 12-hour dance parties and many other activities. In Washington, one popular event is the Labor Day Concert at the U.S. Capitol featuring the National Symphony Orchestra with free attendance.

On April 18, 1872, Canadian Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald introduced the Trade Union Act, which legalized and protected unions in Canada. Since then, Labour Day has served as a yearly celebration of the achievements made to improving working conditions and employment benefits for all Canadians.

In both countries, Labor Day weekend marks the start of the fall football season, both at the professional and college levels. There are parades and picnics across both lands. In Canada, there are many fireworks displays, including those put on by many individuals who buy their own fireworks.

Enjoy the end of summer and have a great Labor, or Labour, Day!