Welcome to another round of the good news roundup, our weekly selection of news to send you off to the weekend with a smile.
Here are this week’s positive news stories:
- A miracle drug that eradicated cancer in every trial patient.
- The EU has seen a record drop in carbon emissions.
- A new EU rule will see universal chargers used for all phones, tablets and laptops.
- New research shows that music with a groove is good for brain function.
- Numbers of an endangered rhino are on the increase.
- A new law in Spain seeks to do away with food waste.
Watch the video above for more on each story, or read on below.
Here are this week’s positive news stories:
1. A miracle drug trial that eradicated cancer in every patient.
A major breakthrough in cancer treatment could be just around the corner, after more than a dozen US rectal cancer patients saw their tumours vanish after taking a new drug.
The patients were part of a small clinical trial led by researchers from New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, who gave them an experimental drug called dostarlimab.
Participants received a dose of dostarlimab every three weeks for six months, and the idea was they would also need to undergo standard treatments of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery following the immunotherapy treatment.
But to their surprise, researchers found that in every single case, the cancer was wiped out with the experimental treatment alone.
The trial has been hailed as a first in cancer treatment.
One of the paper’s authors, Dr Luis Diaz Jr of Memorial Sloan Kettering, told the New York Times that he knew of no other study in which a treatment completely obliterated cancer in every patient.
2. The EU has seen a record drop in carbon emissions
Greenhouse gas emissions in the bloc are at their lowest level since records began in the ‘90s, according to the latest official data published today by the European Environment Agency.
The overall reduction in emissions between 1990 and 2020 was 34 per cent, or 1.94 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases. That’s the equivalent of driving around the earth 1.94 billion times in an average-sized car.
Almost every EU member state had lower emissions than in 1990, but the UK, which was still part of the bloc in 2020, and Germany deserve special mention, as they accounted for 47 per cent of the total net reduction over the past 30 years.
3. A new EU rule will see universal chargers used for all phones, tablets and laptops.
Thanks to a recently agreed deal, that nest of cables in your suitcase might soon be reduced to a single charger. European officials have agreed on a deal to impose a one-type-fits-all standard port for smartphones, tablets and laptops sold in the bloc.
It’s a win-win for reducing both frustration and e-waste, electronic waste, which is the fastest-growing source of waste in the developed world.
EU member states and MEPs believe a standard USB-C port for all devices will have a major environmental benefit.
The USB-C rule will also cover digital cameras, headphones, headsets, portable speakers and e-readers, said the MEPs.
For most devices the requirement for charging via a USB-C port will come into effect from late 2024, while laptops will be given more time.
Resistance to the idea has mostly been from Apple, who are most affected by the move. The company argues that a uniform charger would stifle innovation.
"Now it's mandatory if any company is willing to benefit from the biggest digital market in the free world (...) they will have to apply to our rules,” said Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for Internal Market.
The European Commission made a voluntary agreement with the device industry in 2009, and this saw a major reduction in cables, but Apple later went ahead with its own lightning connector. Once this new law is formally ratified by the European Parliament and among EU member states, they will no longer have a choice.
“In two years' time, if Apple wants to market their products, sell their products within our internal market, they have to abide by our rules and their respective devices have to be USB-C,” said Alex Agius Saliba, Member of the European Parliament.
4. New research shows that music with a groove is good for brain function
We knew it was good for the body, but researchers have found that getting your groove on is also beneficial to the brain.
The discovery, by researchers from the University of Tsukuba in Japan, is mainly about music, specifically music with a groove – a rhythm that makes you want to dance.
The study looks at how this kind of music elicits feelings of pleasure and arousal in people, and how it stimulates the prefrontal cortex to enhance the executive function of the brain, the cognitive skills that include working memory, flexible thinking and self-control.
The benefits were only apparent in participants who said music elicited a strong groove sensation. In other words, it’s a very individual response and only works on those who respond to the beat of the music. For some, their prefrontal cortex will respond to salsa, and for others, to techno.
5. Numbers of an endangered rhino are on the increase
Assam, the Indian province best known for its tea plantations, is enjoying a rhino baby boom.
Assam is home to 70 per cent of the world’s greater one-horned rhino population, and carries out a rhino census every two years. Since the last count, rhino numbers have gone up by 274 – which is partly explained by the peace and quiet during the pandemic, when many protected areas were closed to visitors.
For a species that was once perilously close to extinction, numbering fewer than 100 individuals, the recovery is truly remarkable.
The current census of the one-horned rhino in India and Nepal, the only other country with greater one-horned rhinos, revealed that the total population has risen to 4,014.
The governments of India and Nepal have allocated more land in which the rhinos can breed while also creating new strategies to prevent poaching deaths.
6. A new law in Spain seeks to do away with food waste
Taking your leftovers home with you is commonplace in the USA, but raises a few eyebrows in most parts of Europe.
The Spanish government wants to break that taboo, and has approved a bill to oblige restaurants to provide free containers to customers who wish to take their leftovers home.
The bill, which still needs to be approved by parliament, will oblige larger bars, restaurants and supermarkets to submit plans to prevent food waste, such as working with NGOs.
The priority must be human consumption through donations to entities such as food banks, but if this is not possible, leftover food can be transformed into other products such as juices or jams, or used for animal feed.
And if none of these is suitable, waste food can be processed for industrial by-products or recycled for compost or fuel.
Companies that produce and supply food will have to report annually on how much they waste, and must provide incentives with lower prices for the sale of products close to the expiry date.
For serious infringements, they will face penalties of up to €60,000 – with fines of up to half a million euros for repeat offenders.
"It is a pioneering legal instrument to prevent inefficiency in the food chain, which has economic consequences, due to the loss of what is produced and not used; social, because of what represents an unmet need from the food point of view; environmental, for the use of natural resources; and ethical, in a world where unfortunately there is still hunger," said Luis Planas, Spain’s Minister of Agriculture.
This law seeks to comply with one of the sustainable development goals of the UN Agenda 2030: which is to halve food waste worldwide.
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