Coronavirus Tidbits #250, June 18, 2023


First, there is now a Resources Page here for the most commonly asked questions I'm getting.

Happy to continue to answer your questions/concerns as best I can, so don't be shy about that.

Reminder, Resilience: One Family's Story... is increasingly pertinent, as some of our politicians shift rightward. All proceeds go to Holocaust education.

Available here.





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Special announcement - a GoFundMe request

Sierra Reckley is a close friend of a good friend. She has recently been diagnosed with a rare spindle cell sarcoma of her clavicle, a rare and aggressive bone cancer. She is just 30...Sierra works and supports a permaculture farm, planning and growing a community food source. She strongly believes in community and caring/supporting others.

She is in pain, unable to work now and needs help even getting to/from Johns Hopkins appointments, each one being an expensive and wearing 6-hour roundtrip drive.

Her aunt has started this GoFundMe on her behalf. Please support her if you can, if only by sharing the news of her is infuriating that we don't have universal health care and support for people in need and the weapons industry is rewarded instead of good people. Thank you.


What makes a COVID superspreader? Scientists learn more after deliberately infecting volunteers

Nature Saima Sidik  15 June 2023

A study of people who were intentionally infected with SARS-CoV-2 has provided a wealth of insights into viral transmission — showing, for example, that a select group of people are ‘supershedders’ who spew vastly more virus into the air than do others1.

The publication describes data from a controversial ‘challenge study’, in which scientists deliberately infected volunteers with the virus that causes COVID-192. Although the approach drew opposition, the work has now yielded data on questions central to public health, such as whether the severity of symptoms correlates with how contagious people are and whether home COVID-19 tests can play a part in reducing viral spread.

The results highlight how widely and unpredictably disease severity and contagiousness vary between people. ...The study, published on 9 June in Lancet Microbe, also suggests that human physiology, not the virus, is to blame for some of the inconsistency of COVID-19.

Design with benefits

Some people argue that it’s unethical to give people an infection that can cause severe illness, but the research design comes with benefits. Challenge studies can substantially speed up vaccine testing, and they’re the only way to understand certain aspects of COVID-19, such as the stage before people test positive or develop symptoms.

Researchers inoculated 34 healthy young participants by squirting a known quantity of viral particles up their noses. Eighteen developed infections and spent at least 14 days confined to hospital rooms. Each day, researchers measured viral levels in the participants’ noses and throats, in the air, and on the participants’ hands and various surfaces in the rooms.

The symptoms and severity of naturally acquired COVID-19 might vary depending on transmission route, viral strain and how much virus a person was exposed to. But in the challenge study, “we know that that was all controlled”, says infectious-disease researcher Anika Singanayagam at Imperial College London, a co-author of the paper.

Of the 18 participants who developed infections, 2 shed 86% of the airborne virus detected over the course of the entire studyeven though both had only mild symptoms. Previous research3 provided evidence for the existence of superspreaders who infect large numbers of people. But whether such people are also ‘supershedders’ who emit copious amounts of virus, or simply have many social contacts was up for debate, says disease ecologist Pablo Beldomenico at the Institute of Veterinary Sciences of the Coast in Esperanza, Argentina. This study “supports the existence of supershedders”, he says.

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Bivalent COVID vaccine protects against death for at least 6 months in older adults, study suggests

The bivalent (two-strain) COVID-19 booster provides substantial protection against death among US adults aged 65 years and older, with no significant signs of waning for up to 6 months, concludes a study published today in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention led the study and followed up on a previous report on the durability of bivalent booster protection against death among adults aged 65 and older. The team conducted the study over three periods of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant wave (BA.5 substrain, September 18 to November 5, 2022; BQ.1/BQ.1.1, November 6, 2022, to January 21, 2023; and XBB.1.5, January 22 to April 1, 2023).

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FDA panel backs monovalent XBB switch for fall COVID vaccines

Overall, data suggest waning immunity of the current bivalent (two-strain) vaccine to circulating XBB lineage strains. Also, data suggest that including the original Wuhan strain is unlikely to enhance response to the current variants....the World Health Organization recommended a shift to either XBB.1.5 or XBB.1.16.

Questions about messaging

VRBPAC members today also raised concerns about vaccine messaging, especially to specific groups, amid changes to the vaccine.

efforts are under way to transition to uniform age cutoffs and dose number recommendations. He also said the agency continues to review the need for more frequent doses for other populations. "It's a work in progress," he said.

Though the vote on the switch to a monovalent vaccine was unanimous, the group grappled with several uncertainties, such as whether a focus on a fall vaccine sends unclear messages about SARS-CoV-2 seasonality and similarities to flu. Some members also worried that a strain selection focusing on fall would preclude more frequent updates to the vaccine if there are major changes to the virus. FDA officials noted practical considerations for vaccine production as one of the reasons for a seasonal vaccine update.

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Fungal Infections More Deadly When COVID's Involved

From 2020 to 2021, the mortality rate for in-hospital COVID-associated fungal infections was 48.5% compared with 12.3% for non-COVID-associated fungal infections (P<0.01). the highest mortality rates involved aspergillosis (57.6%), invasive candidiasis (55.4%), mucormycosis (44.7%), and unspecified mycoses (59.0%), they noted in Emerging Infectious Diseases

“COVID-19 is a substantial risk factor for certain fungal infections, particularly those caused by invasive molds, likely because of COVID-19-related immune system dysregulation and immunosuppressive therapies, such as corticosteroids or other immunomodulatory medications."

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Mild SARS-CoV-2 infection results in long-lasting microbiota instability in non-hospitalized patients, potentially linked to #LongCovid. The results were replicated in mouse models infected with different variants. Omicron preserved capacity to damage
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C. auris tied to 34% death rate: CDC

In a new report, the CDC analyzed 192 hospitalizations associated with Candida auris and found an estimated crude mortality rate of 34 percent.

The death rate estimates follow reports from earlier this year that found clinical cases of the drug-resistant fungus grew 95 percent from 2020 to 2021.

For the study, published June 8, CDC researchers reviewed 192 C. auris-related hospitalizations from 2017 to 2022, including 38 bloodstream infections. Hospitalizations primarily occurred among older adults, with a median age of 68. There was a high prevalence of underlying conditions and complications for patients with bloodstream and nonbloodstream C. auris, including sepsis (64 percent), diabetes (55 percent), chronic kidney disease (44 percent) and pneumonia (43 percent).

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Donated kidneys from deceased COVID-19 patients are safe to transplant, according to study

Kidneys from organ donors who were diagnosed with COVID-19 are safe to transplant and don't transmit the virus to people who receive those organs, according to a new study led by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Of the many thousands of kidneys transplanted since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been no reported infections after transplant surgery related to kidneys donated by people who died and had tested positive for the virus. Most donors died of causes other than COVID-19, but even in those who had tested positive for the virus within a week of their deaths, there was no effect on the success of the transplants.

The findings are published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

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Millions of patients do not have full recovery of smell or taste senses after COVID infection, study finds

about 60 percent of surveyed participants infected with COVID experienced a loss of smell and about 58 percent experienced loss of taste. Additionally, not all the patients experienced a full recovery of their senses once they recovered from their infection.

The study found that around 72 percent of patients fully recovered their sense of smell, but 24 percent only had a partial recovery and over 3 percent had no recovery of their sense of smell at all. Similarly, of those who experienced a loss of taste due to COVID, about 76 percent fully recovered the sense, while 20 percent only partially recovered and over 2 percent did not recover at all. That amounted to almost 28 million Americans potentially left with a decreased sense of smell after COVID infection.

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New onset of hypertension

was detected in 32.3% of patients(30-74y) at one-year follow-up post-COVID-19 disease recovery. Furthermore severe inflammation at admission and severe CT severity score were positively associated with the development of this new onset of hypertension on follow-up(Single center retro prospective observational study) “Incidence and predictors of development of new onset hypertension post COVID-19 disease”

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Candida auris

Candida auris (C auris), which is spreading at an alarming rate in health care facilities and is now considered an “urgent antimicrobial resistance threat.”1

...NYC healthcare facilities:  6.9% of new patients tested were positive for C auris.colonization5  ...Risk factors for C auris infection include recent surgery, obesity, immunosuppression, diabetes, use of broad-spectrum antibiotics and antifungals, presence of tracheostomies, PEG tubes, and ventilators.6,7,8 Long-term usage of broad-spectrum antibiotics can also be a risk factor for acquiring C auris infection.6,7 Recent studies illustrate that the 30-day mortality of infected patients in an ICU was 31%.8


Daily #SARSCoV2 Nasal Antigen Tests Miss Infected and Presumably Infectious People Due to Viral Load Differences among Specimen Types

| Microbiology Spectrum

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Drugs and Vaccines:

Next COVID Vaccine Should Only Target XBB Strains, FDA Staff Says

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Pfizer projects Bicillin L-A and Bicillin C-R shortages, PLUS

At least 20 chemotherapy drugs in short supply

Supplies of at least 20 chemotherapy drugs and adjuvants (drugs given to augment primary treatment or prevent adverse effects) are limited, including amifostine, capecitabine, carboplatin, cisplatin, dacarbazine, dexamethasone, docetaxel, fludarabine, fluorouracil, hydrocortisone injection, leucovorin, methotrexate, octreotide, ondansetron, paclitaxel, palifermin, and streptozocin, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), and azacytidine, cytarabine, lutetium lu 177 vipivotide tetraxetan, per the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Devices and Ventilation:

A century ago, a well-ventilated building was considered good medicine. But by the time Covid-19 arrived, our buildings could barely breathe. How did that happen? And how do we let the fresh air back in?

by Emily Anthes

Gift link for you

Epidemiology/Infection control:

Tips, general reading for public:







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Confidence in the scientific community declined among U.S. adults in 2022, Overall, 39% of U.S. adults said they had "a great deal of confidence" in the scientific community, down from 48% in 2018 and 2021. That's according to the General Social Survey, a long-running poll conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. An additional 48% of adults in the latest survey reported "only some" confidence, while 13% reported "hardly any,"...

Between surveys in 2018 and 2021, as the pandemic took hold, the major parties' trust levels headed in opposite directions. Democrats reported a growing level of confidence in science in 2021—perhaps as a "rallying effect" around things like COVID-19 vaccines and prevention measures, Benz said. At the same time, Republicans saw their confidence start to plummet.

In the 2022 survey, Democrats' confidence fell back to around pre-pandemic levels, with 53% reporting a great deal of confidence compared with 55% in 2018. But Republicans' confidence continued its downward trend, dropping to 22% from 45% in 2018...

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Mandy Cohen has been appointed to be CDC's next director.

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@CIDRAP   Jun 14
Survey finds 8% #Omicron-positivity rate after medical meeting Previous infection was significantly associated with testing negative for #COVID19, while private lodging in Berlin was tied to a higher infection rate than a hotel stay
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Daniel Ellsworth died...

What a great thing Dan did. Showed the world the lies behind Vietnam. And his leak led to Watergate, which showed the world how crooked and corrupt Nixon and his gang were. RIP, Dan. And thank you for the bright light you cast.

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Physician crisis in rural America is about to get worse:

An overwhelming majority (82%) of respondents reported that they preferred to work or train in states with preserved access to abortion. Seventy-five percent of both physician and trainee respondents report that they would not even apply for a job in a state that imposed legal consequences for providing abortion care.

OB-GYN residencies:  applicants across all states declined by 5%; in states with abortion bans, the decrease was 10%.

Emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, primary care, and many other types of physicians provide emergency and routine reproductive health care to patients. Criminalizing or restricting the care that these physicians can provide will have an immediate and chilling effect on physicians’ desire to practice in those states.

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@Laurie_Garrett   Jun 16
This is the first campaign ad I've seen that is openly, strongly running for high office on a women's rights, access to #abortion plank. Take a look. Rachel Hunt, running for Lt. Gov. of NC.
Note: Twitter has blocked her ad for her support for abortion rights
You can see the ad here:
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Book bans:

@GovPritzker  Jun 12
Today, Illinois makes history as the first state in our nation to officially end book bans once and for all. We’re showing everyone what it looks like to stand up for liberty. As simple as that.
This is the Land of Lincoln. I refuse to let a dangerous strain of white nationalism determine whose histories are told in Illinois. Because what these book bans in libraries really are about is censorship — marginalizing people, ideas, and facts.
I want our children to learn our history, warts and all. Read as much as you can. Read different perspectives. Read challenging ideas. And may one of Illinois' very own pick up a pen to tell their story, so we may find it at our local library right here in our state.
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@PENamerica   Jun 14
As more schools target ‘Maus,’ Art Spiegelman’s fears are deepening, reports @ThePlumLineGS Read free: #BannedBooks #Censorship
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Fire Facts from a Boreal Ecologist to help you understand what is really going on in Canada. Fire Fact 1: The term “forest fire” is misleading in boreal regions. Also burning are peatlands and permafrost ecosystems, which store LOTS of ancient carbon. 1/
Fire Fact 2: We tend to picture crown fires, with flames leaping up into tall trees. However, the majority of what burns and fuels boreal fires is ON THE GROUND. More than 80% of what burns and emits greenhouse gas is moss, peat, and litter. 2/
Fire Fact 3: Fire connects the world in complex ways. Smoke is transported globally and affects lung health for millions. Smoke and soot travel to the Arctic, speeding up ice melt. Arctic melt created the conditions for extreme burning in Canada and widespread smoke plumes. Wow. 3/
Fire Fact 5: There are three main types of fire ignitions in the boreal region. 1) Lightning 2) People 3) Zombie (overwintering) fires. Guess what? They are ALL on the rise.
Fire Fact 6: There is a lot of permafrost (frozen ground) in Canada. It is thawing because of climate change. Wildfire is like adding salt to the wound, and will cause more rapid thaw and ground instability like sink holes and landslides. 6/
Fire Fact 7: Fire & permafrost are locked in an intimate dance of feedbacks. Permafrost promotes ground fuel buildup but limits depth of ground fuel burning. Fire opens up the canopy, changing soil temps & snow depth. It’s difficult for me to think about one w/out the other. 7/
Final Fire Fact is more of a story. Fire and black spruce also share an intimate dance together. Fire began to shape forest succession in Canada and Alaska 1000s of yrs ago, when climate was cool and wet. 8/
Fire spread because of black spruce. One species affecting a massive disturbance regime- amazing! This speaks to a bigger issue. If you come across anyone saying that human ignited fires are not being influenced by climate change, they do not understand fuel.
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Dale Ho To Be A Federal Judge. Ho, one of the nation’s leading #votingrights attorneys, squeaked through without any GOP support.
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Fox displayed a chryon on Tuesday labeling Joe Biden a “wannabe dictator” who "speaks at the White House after having his political rival arrested."

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@joncoopertweets  Jun12
Whistleblower Reality Winner was denied bail after she was arraigned for releasing to the media ONE intelligence report about Russian interference in the 2016 elections. In contrast, Trump will be freed on bail and allowed to host the first fundraiser for his 2024 campaign just hours after he’s arraigned on Tuesday in a Miami courtroom. Two systems of justice — one for regular folks and another for the rich and powerful.
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Needs to be noted that Reality Winner printed and mailed one classified document and didn't spend a day out of custody for 4 years from her arrest in early June 2017. She doesn't even own a private plane and has never fomented the bloody sacking of a US govt building.
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@JoePerticone   Jun 12
Chuck Grassley tells me he hasn’t read the indictment because he’s “not a legal analyst” (he previously chaired the judiciary committee)
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@JDVance1   Jun 13
Until Merrick Garland stops using his agency to harass Joe Biden’s political opponents, I will hold all DoJ nominees.
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@tribelaw   Jun 14
“Trump actually wants to break our system, because he and people like him only thrive in a broken system. So he keeps pushing and pushing our system to its breaking point — where rules are for suckers, norms are for fools, basic truths are malleable.”
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@jennycohn1   Jun18
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@Esqueer_   Jun 12
Women outnumber men in college and the gap is growing. This means younger women are mostly college educated and liberal while younger men are more conservative and lack college education. This growing divide creates a risk for political instability.
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@atrupar   Jun 13
serious Fox News reporter Hillary Vaughn to Katie Porter: "[Biden] had to take off work for a root canal. Do you think he has the stamina for a second term?"
Porter: "Have you ever had a root canal?"
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Republicans Declare Banning Universal Free School Meals a 2024 Priority

As states across the country move to make sure students are well fed, Republicans have announced their intention to fight back.

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Warren, Jayapal Want to Crack Down on Supreme Court Justices’ Gifts and Travel

Their new bill would place a cap on the value of gifts that Supreme Court justices are allowed to receive.

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@AlannaVagianos   Jun 15
Twitter blocked promotion of a Democrat’s campaign video because it expressed support for abortion rights. “The mention of abortion advocacy is the issue here,” a Twitter employee told North Carolina candidate Rachel Hunt.
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@BrennanCenter   Jun 14
The latest Voting Laws Roundup is here: at least 11 states enacted 13 laws to restrict the vote, at least 4 states enacted 5 election interference laws, & at least 13 states enacted 19 laws to expand the vote.
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Divided San Diego City Council passes controversial #homeless encampment ban

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Homeless woman arrested for being unhoused because a shelter was full

San Diego’s approach to criminalizing homelessness. The city’s strategy involves arresting and penalizing individuals for basic life-sustaining activities, such as sleeping, sitting, or eating in public spaces, when they have nowhere else to go. As a result, Rachel and many others are constantly pushed from one block to another, with their belongings confiscated and thrown away by San Diego Police and Environmental Services.

Rachel shares that homelessness is the hardest job she has ever had, with only two 24/7 bathrooms downtown and no 24/7 showers. There are no days off. No sick days. A homeless person has to walk often miles for water and food every day. Although it is somewhat easy to find a job, maintaining one while living outside homeless is nearly impossible, as shared by Dullanni in his interview from San Diego, Rachel herself was arrested and spent seven days in jail for being without adequate housing after a homeless shelter ran out of beds.

This punitive approach to homelessness has not only failed to address the root causes of the issue but has also made it worse, resulting in a vicious cycle of arrests, fines, and incarceration.

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DeSantis vetoes $$ for public broadcasting stations

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@Phil_Lewis_   Jun 11
Denée Benton at the #TonyAwards on Ron DeSantis: "While I’m certain that the current Grand Wizard ... I’m sorry. Excuse me, governor of my home state of Florida..."
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@lesleyabravanel   Jun 14
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Evicts a 70-Year-Old Sarasota Car Museum:
Out in 30 Days. The museum is on property owned by New College. That’s the liberal arts college DeSantis has aimed his anti-woke ire at. #DeSantisDestroysFlorida
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@fawfulfan   Jun 15
This article has some stunning figures. Inflation is 9% in Miami — almost 2x the national figure — after DeSantis passed $1B in tax cuts to corporate donors and sales tax holidays... and this is before his immigration bill is set to kill over 100,000 jobs.
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@NoLieWithBTC   Jun 12
New: The Georgia Republican Party has elected Bryan Pritchard to be its first vice-chair. He claims the 2020 election was “stolen” from Trump— while he is currently under criminal investigation for voting illegally 9 times while serving a felony sentence.
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North Carolina:
Rachel Hunt is running for Lt. Gov. of NC. on a pro-abortion plank.
Note: Twitter has blocked her ad for her support for abortion rights
You can see the ad here:
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@aterkel   Jun 15
NEW -- Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson, the 2 Democratic state lawmakers in Tennessee who were expelled by Republicans for their gun protests, won primaries for their old seats tonight by @abedelman
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@hbottemiller   Jun 14
Big news: Vermont becomes 6th state to adopt universal free school meals permanently. Gov. Phil Scott opposed the bill, but the said this week it was clear that lawmakers would override a veto so he allowed the measure to become law w/o his signature
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@Taniel   Jun 16
NEW: A huge voting rights rollback took place in March in Virginia: Governor Youngkin announced he'd no longer automatically restore voting rights. Here are the people who are blocked from voting as a result in this Tuesday's elections in the state:

Feel good du jour:

Sometimes a crisis hits so hard that a country needs help from others to overcome it. That’s not one-way humanitarian saviourism, it’s international solidarity. 200 South African firefighters land in Edmonton, Canada to help fight the wildfire.
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His dog ran off after his wife died. A remarkable rescue ensued.

Five weeks after Riley ran away, a hiker found him in the mountains and carried the dog for hours down the rocky terrain, including through a knee-deep river

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He plays the trumpet nightly since his wife died, and has raised $15K for charity

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Anthaea-Grace Patricia Dennis just became the youngest Canadian to graduate from university.
She has a degree in biomedical science.
She's 12.


Bits of beauty:


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