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When northern Ontario's Timothy Joseph Elzinga woke up at one thirty in the morning to soothe his young son, he got much more than just a crying baby. What he got was to experience a very rare phenomenon: "light pillars." Light pillars occur when either natural or artificial light bounces off ice crystals floating close to the ground. In Elzinga's case, the air was so cold that ice crystals were forming in the air, reflecting the city's street and business lights. Joked Elzinga about witnessing such an amazing sight, "We can blame the two year old."

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Saltwater Brewery in Delray Beach, Florida has created biodegradable (and edible) six-pack rings for their beer cans. The rings are made of barley and wheat ribbons used in the brewing process, materials that can safely be consumed by sea animals. “It’s a big investment for a small brewery created by fisherman, surfers and people that love the sea,” said Peter Agardy of Saltwater Brewery. “We hope to influence the big guys and hopefully inspire them to get on board.” Thanks to @tech for letting us share!

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In a move expected to be opposed by the dominant Roman Catholic church, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered government agencies to ensure free access to contraceptives for 6 million women who cannot obtain them. The decision to make birth control more available is important in helping reduce the Phillippine's poverty rate, which stands at almost 22 percent (as of 2015 statistics). According to the U.N. Population Fund, the Philippines is the only Asia-Pacific country where the rate of teen pregnancies rose over the last two decades, with eleven Filipino women dying each day from complications due to pregnancy and/or delivery.

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On Wednesday, January 18, Alison Mariella Désir and three other women will embark on a 240-mile relay run from New York City to Washington D.C. It is their goal that they will finish their run ― the equivalent of more than nine marathons ― on Saturday, January 21, just in time to join the Women’s March On Washington. Désir has also set up a GoFundMe campaign, with the goal of raising $44,000 for Planned Parenthood. (As of this writing they have raised over $52,000.) “This is us using our bodies and powering our way to D.C.,” Désir declared. “It’s making running a political act.”

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The Atrium Mall in Istanbul, Turkey has recently opened its doors to allow homeless dogs in so that they wouldn't have to spend the night outside in the bitter cold. Volunteers even feed the dogs and gave them blankets as well! Said one volunteer, "Street animals need help all over the world."

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Opened in 2013, Edwin's on the east side of Cleveland, Ohio is a tradtional French restaurant where most of its staff is made up of ex-cons who are getting a second chance at life. Owner Brandon Chrostowski provides 40 to 50 hours of culinary training to the ex-cons for six months, which is fully paid and also includes donations left by cutomers in lieu of tips. So far, over 90 percent of the formerly incarcerated have gone on to permanent employment, and out of the over 200 students who have gone through the program, not one has re-offended. Said Chrostowski on his reasons for his unique program, "I was a reckless teenager, and one night, I was arrested and thrown in jail. Fortunately, I had a judge who gave me a break instead of 10 years in prison. While I was on probation, I met a chef who mentored me. Once I was in that kitchen, I knew that's where I belonged for the rest of my life."

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With the help of a 3D-printer, a group of high-school students was able to build a fully-functional prosthetic arm for an eight-year-old-girl named Hope. Better yet, the prosthetic arm only cost $30 to create and will be pink, purple and white, because those are Hope’s favorite colors. Said Hope's mother, Kelley, "The more that she has it and works with it she'll figure out what she can do, or what it will help her be able to do.” Thanks to @tech for letting us share!

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A six-month-old elephant lost part of her foot three months ago when she stepped into a trap laid by farmers to protect their crops in Thailand. She was found alone and hobbling after having been separated from her mother. Named "Clear Sky," the baby elephant was taken to a animal hospital in Chonburi province (just outside of Bangkok) where she not only received surgery on her foot, but has also undergone hydrotherapy sessions to help improve the strength in her weakened leg. Clear Sky will be in therapy for the next several months and, according to veterinarian Padet Siridumrong, “By her fourth or fifth sessions she will enjoy swimming more.”

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For the past seven years, Bob Rutherford of Saskatoon, Canada has been knitting socks using a knitting machine that he created himself. "When my wife passed away in 2010, I felt the loss that everybody feels and had nothing to do," said Rutherford. "[My son] said to me, 'If you want to help yourself, help somebody else.'" So he stared knitting every week, making socks that he then donates to shelters all over Canada. Rutherford calls his operation "Socks by Bob," and with the help of his son and a few friends, gets the material he needs by raising money as well as through wool donations. Stated Rutherford, "There's a lot of us, as we grow older, we sit at home and look at the wall with nothing to do. And Socks by Bob has given me that something to do."
Photo: CBS news

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Three or four times a week Rakesh Shukla, the founder of a software company in India, spends his free time taking care of his 735 dogs. Most of the canine are strays, while others have simply been abandoned by their owners. The farm employs about 10 people (including trained veterinary assistants) to look after the dogs, cook for them and feed them. It costs roughly 45,000 to 50,000 rupees ($663 to $737) a day to keep up the farm, with Shukla providing 93 percent of the operating funds himself. Though there have been complaints and even demands that he shut down the farm, Shhukla refuses, saying, "I've made a pact with my dogs. We will part only when one of us kicks the bucket."

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Effective this past January 1, every citizen in France has automatically become an organ donor. Keeping in line with such countries as Spain and Austria, there is now “presumed consent” in France, which means anyone can become a donor of organs and tissues when they die unless they specifically choose not to. Those who choose not to become donors will have to sign up on a new National Rejection Register. So what do you think? Should we have something like this in the United States?

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Lamar Austin from New Hampshire was fired from his security job (via text, no less) when he chose between work and witnessing the birth of his newborn son. When the local newspaper reported of Austin’s job loss, paid family leave advocate Sara Persechino launched a GoFundMe campaign for the family. In addition to the public support, Austin said he has received three new job offers as well. And Austin's response to choosing family over work and getting fired? "Sometimes you lose something and you get something even better," he said.

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Just this past month, China's State Council announced a ban on all ivory trading and all ivory-processing activities.The sale of ivory will stop by March 31, and all registered traders will then be phased out, bringing a full stop to the market by the end of this year. With nearly 70 percent of the world's trade ending up there, China is considered to have largest ivory market in the world. Carter Roberts, president of the World Wildlife Fund, stated, “China’s announcement is a game changer for elephant conservation. The large-scale trade of ivory now faces its twilight years, and the future is brighter for wild elephants.”

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When the owners of Montreal's Marché Restaurant Ferdous noticed homeless people in the area asking for money, they decided to do something about it. But rather than give out some spare change, co-owners Yahya Hashemi and Ala Amiry decided to do one better: to offer up free food from their restaurant. The two put up a sign last month offering anyone in need a warm, Middle Eastern meal, no questions asked. Said chef Abdelkader Bejaoui: “It doesn't matter, because at night if you still have leftover food you end up throwing it out, so why not give to those in need? It's not a big deal."

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When Hannah Simpson was 11-years-old she was told she couldn't have a horse due to the cost. So the farm worker from New Zealand decided to hop on the next best thing instead - her dairy cow. Simpson, now 18, and her seven-year-old cow, Leila, have become a regular sight on their daily rides. "I have always loved jumping, I always wanted to do show-jumping on a horse," said Simpson. "And Leila was always jumping out of the cow shed when she was young so I think she likes it, too. We started her off with stepping over logs and it just got bigger and bigger." No doubt this is a very special girl and a very special cow.

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A fast food spot, Feeley's, in Belfast, Northern Ireland received a hilarious request on a takeout order.
The order read, "Will you please stop in spar on the way and get me benylin cold and flu tablets and I'll give you the money, only ordering food so I can get the tablets Im dying sick xx." Amazingly, Feeley's did deliver the medicine and stated that they felt obligated to help out a customer in need. Not only that, but they also offered the customer a free meal once she recovers. Now that's customer service.

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On the first day of 2017, air pollution climbed as high as 24 times the level recommended by the World Health Organization in Beijing. Air pollution was so heavy that dozens of flights and forms of public transportation were canceled. Across northern China 24 cities issued red alerts on Friday and Saturday, while orange alerts persisted in 21 cities through the New Year holiday. Greenpeace's team in East Asia estimated that around 460 million people in China were affected by hazardous air pollution in 2016.
Photo: Kevin Frayer

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"Hollyweed" prankster changed the sign last night in a New Years Eve stunt. It mimics an identical stunt pulled 41 years ago by Danny Finegood. Police say the incident was captured by local surveillance cameras and is being investigated. Happy 2017.

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Josh Katrick found out he had won a years worth of pizza from his favorite restaurant, Mario's Pizza, as he was finishing up his eighth round of Chemo. ​But, instead of keeping the prize for himself he decided to donate his winnings to a local food bank. "I've been getting so much from family, friends, people I don't even know well, the last few months," Josh said. "Getting so much love and support… I just wanted to give back to people that could use it more than I could." The pizzeria was touched by Josh's kindness and decided to give both the food bank and Josh free pizza for the year. "It took me a couple steps back when he said he wanted to give it away," said Frank Grigoli, the shop owner's son. "When he told me the food bank, he broke my heart in a good way. He is such a genuine guy."

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After Karen Klein's family's car fell into a ditch off a secluded road in the Grand Canyon, she was determined to get help. Karen decided she would venture off to find assistance for her husband and 10-year-old son due to zero cell service and no signs of civilization nearby. She was previously a triathlete and had wilderness survival training. However, after 24 hours and no sign of his wife, Eric Klein hiked to higher ground to find cell service and call for help. Searchers found her in a guard shack fighting to stay alive after hiking 26 miles for 30 straight hours in freezing temperatures. When Karen ran out of food and water she ate pine twigs and drank her own urine - she knew that eating snow would bring on hypothermia quicker. What kept her going? She didn't want her son to be without a mother.
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