The week's good news: Dec. 7, 2023

It wasn't all bad!

A gold wedding band on a wooden table
After Joseph Novetske lost his wedding ring, a group of strangers rallied to help him find it
(Image credit: Ben Hasty / MediaNews Group / Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

Strangers come together to help man find missing wedding ring

Joseph Novetske briefly lost his wedding ring, but permanently found community. While raking leaves in his Charlotte, Michigan, backyard last month, Joseph realized his gold wedding band had fallen off. When he married his wife Mary Ann 42 years ago, they designed the band together with meaningful symbols, including a cross and grapevines. They searched everywhere for the ring but couldn't find it, and "I was feeling pretty desperate," Mary Ann told The Washington Post. She is a member of the "What's happening in Charlotte, Michigan, now" Facebook group, and posted about the ring, asking if anyone had a metal detector. Dozens of people responded, and a few hours later, eight people had joined the Novetskes in their yard. Some had metal detectors, and they all worked together scouring the land. Four hours later, Joseph spotted the ring when the band reflected a ray of sunlight. Everyone was excited, but no one more than Joseph and Mary Ann, who was moved by the turnout. "They didn't know us, but here they were, willing to help," she said. "It was exciting to see so many people care about this."

Mole believed to be extinct found in South Africa

Using environmental DNA samples found in sand dunes, scientists in South Africa have confirmed that the De Winton's golden mole is not extinct. The animal was last spotted in 1936, and is hard to track due to its small stature — it's about the size of a hamster — and coat that lets it blend into sand. A team of researchers with the Endangered Wildlife Trust and University of Pretoria spent two years searching for the De Winton's golden mole in sand dunes across northwestern South Africa. With the help of a dog trained to sniff out the golden mole's scent, they were able to extract from the soil environmental DNA that had been shed by different species of golden moles. At the start, they only had one DNA reference available for the De Winton's golden mole, but after a second gene sequence was made available by a museum, researchers found they were both a match for environmental DNA found in the sand dunes. The team "left no sandhill unturned and now it's possible to protect the areas where these threatened and rare moles live," Christina Biggs, manager for the Search for Lost Species, said in a statement. 

Study: Pets keep your brain sharp

Having a dog or cat appears to slow cognitive decline in older people, according to a new study from the University of Maryland. Nearly 650 people 50 and over and in good health at the start participated in the study, with about a third owning a pet. They were given cognitive tests at intervals over 13 years, and while all experienced some degree of mental decline, the deterioration was generally slower in those who had pets. Researchers noted that pet ownership has already been associated with lower levels of stress, heart disease and, in the case of dogs, increased physical activity; it may also combat social isolation and loneliness, which have both been linked to cognitive decline. Their findings, the researchers said, suggest that efforts should be made to ensure older people are able to live with pets.

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After learning about her struggles, principal adopts student

When Raven Whitaker-Smith was in the sixth grade, she was suspended for throwing yogurt at lunch, an action that changed the course of her life. Her principal, Jason Smith, asked if she would ever do that in a restaurant, and Raven responded that she'd never been to one before. She had spent years in different foster homes and now lived in a group home, Raven explained, and "at that point, I felt like she just needed a hand, needed help," Smith told Good Morning America. He and his wife Marybeth spoke with Raven's case worker, and decided to foster her. The first week "they made made feel extremely welcome, like I was already in the family," Raven said, and after some pushback, she settled in. Raven worked hard to learn new routines and get her reading to grade level, and in 2017, after two years with the Smiths, she was adopted. Now at the University of Kentucky studying social work, she shared her story in November to celebrate National Adoption Month, and her family hopes this encourages others to become foster or adoptive parents. 

Flight powered by sustainable aviation fuels successfully completes transatlantic crossing

A Virgin Atlantic flight from London to New York City in late November made history as the first commercial jet to make a transatlantic crossing using just sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Only a few people were on board, including Virgin founder Richard Branson, and the goal of the flight was to show the importance of using and investing in low-carbon fuel. "It's going to take a while before we can get enough fuel where everybody's going to be able to fly," Branson said. "But you've got to start somewhere." SAF can be made using household and crop production waste and cooking oils, and currently accounts for less than 0.1% of worldwide jet fuel use, Reuters reported. SAF is "not the only solution," Mark Harper, Britain's transportation minister, told reporters. However, in tandem with other technology, it's a "really important step ... to make sure we can carry on flying and protect the environment."

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