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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Jennifer Lawrence Shines in a New Role: Philanthropist

Jennifer Lawrence has a wonderful Christmas tradition. For three years in a row, the Academy Award winner has visited Kosair Children's Hospital, in her home state of Kentucky, spreading cheer to sick kids and their families.

Now, the actress is showing her commitment to improving the lives of those children with a $2 million donation. "I'm excited to announce we will be establishing the Jennifer Lawrence Foundation Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Kosair Children's Hospital," she says in a video posted by the hospital on YouTube. Lawrence also challenged the community to match her gift by raising an additional two million dollars.

"We are thankful for the generosity shown by the Jennifer Lawrence Foundation with this gift," said Thomas D. Kmetz, division president, Women’s and Children’s Services and Kosair Children’s Hospital. "We are equally thankful that she has put her trust in the outstanding work taking place at Kosair Children’s Hospital every day by challenging the community to join her in support of our heart care program."

According to the hospital's press release, the new wing will "feature private rooms dedicated to children recovering from heart procedures, open heart surgery including heart transplant, heart failure and other conditions requiring intensive care." It will also offer 14 beds for families to stay with their children while they are receiving treatment.

Lawrence set up the foundation to support charities close to her heart and, often, close to her home, such as St. Mary's Center, which serves adults and teens with intellectual disabilities from the Louisville Metro area, and West End, a free private school for at-risk boys in Louisville. And her role as philanthropist might be even more impressive than her award-winning acting roles.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

One of the Most Beloved American Books is Coming to Broadway

To Kill a Mockingbird, which has sold more than 40 million copies since it was published in 1960 and remains one of the most beloved American novels of all time, is coming to the Great White Way.

Producer Scott Rudin, one of 16 people to have won an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) acquired the rights and hired Academy Award winner Aaron Sorkin to adapt the book.

This won't be the first time that Harper Lee's novel is brought on stage. An adaptation by Christopher Sergel is performed every spring in Lee's hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, and has been staged in regional theaters across the country.

But while Sergel remained completely faithful to the original story, Sorkin told The New York Times that he plans to take more liberties, such as adding new dialogue and a different opening. "You can't just wrap the original in Bubble Wrap and move it as gently as you can to the stage," he said. "It’s blasphemous to say it, but at some point, I have to take over."

Smoking Bans Have Saved Lives and Made Us Healthier

Since 2004, when Ireland became the first country to ban smoking in all public places, more than 30 nations have followed suit.

One of the main objectives of these laws was to protect non-smokers from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. And according to a recent study published in the Cochrane Library, the results have been what was hoped for.

"There is evidence of reduced mortality from smoking-related illnesses at a national level," wrote the researchers, who analyzed 77 studies from 21 countries: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United States and Uruguay.

They also found that, after the bans, there was a significant decrease in the levels of heart disease and fewer cases of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The reductions varied from study to study and country to country, but one fairly typical example found that smokers in Scotland were 14 percent less likely to suffer acute coronary syndrome after the ban, while people who had never smoked were 21 percent less likely.

According to Dr. Kate Frazer, the lead author of the review, the stricter a ban is, or the longer it has been in place, the more that smoking-related illnesses go down.

Photo: Pixabay

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Contaminants in Fish Are at a Four-Decade Low

Fish contain lower levels of mercury, DDT and other contaminants than at any time in the past four decades, according to scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The researchers analyzed approximately 2,700 studies of pollutants found in fish samples taken from around the world between 1969 and 2012. They saw steady and significant drops in the concentrations of contaminants—from about 50 percent for mercury to more than 90 percent for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

They attribute the progress to clean-water regulations, lawsuits and public pressure, which have led to bans or reductions in the use of contaminants that end up in our waters.

According to the study, pollutant concentrations now meet U.S. safety guidelines for fish consumption—two to three servings per week.

Photo: Pixabay

Saturday, February 6, 2016

New Academic Roles for Emma Watson and Benedict Cumberbatch

Emma Watson is going back to Oxford. The actress, who graduated from Brown University with a bachelor's degree in English, was a visiting student at Oxford's Worcester College during the 2011-2012 academic year, and has just been named a visiting fellow at Lady Margaret Hall (LMH).

The first women's college in Oxford, LMH seems like a perfect match for Watson, a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador who recently launched Our Shared Shelf, a feminist book club.

She's one of eleven fellows, who are appointed for three years and expected to "to form a bridge between our own academic community and the worlds they inhabit and represent," said Principal Alan Rusbridger. "We canvassed names from our own governing body, of people of distinction whom we admired and whom we felt could add to the intellectual and cultural life of LMH."

Lady Margaret Hall / Wikimedia Commons

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch, a graduate of the University of Manchester and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, is another of the visiting fellows.

"We hope they will occasionally come and eat at college as well as debate, perform, challenge and otherwise engage with the fellows, tutors, alumni, students and support staff," Rusbridger added. "One or two have already come up with other ideas for how they might use their relationship with LMH to develop other projects and thinking."

Whatever Hermione and Sherlock—uh, we mean Emma Watson and Benedict Cumberbatch—end up doing, it will probably make life at Oxford a lot more interesting.

Photos: Wikimedia Commons
Emma Watson: Georges Biard
Benedict Cumberbatch: Gage Skidmore

Friday, February 5, 2016

Wages Rise and Unemployment Falls

The unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent in January, its lowest level since 2008, as the U.S. economy added 151,000 jobs. The average hourly earnings rose by 0.5 percent in January, more than expected, and have increased  2.5 percent over the past twelve months.

"Positive job growth, the drop in the unemployment rate to 4.9 percent and the uptick in wages show the U.S. is heading in the right direction," Beth Ann Bovino, U.S. chief economist at Standard & Poor's, told the Associated Press.

Photo: Pixabay

Saturday, January 30, 2016

These Are the States with the Highest Well-Being

Say aloha to well-being.

For the fifth time since 2008, Hawaii took the first place in Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. To rank the states, Gallup-Healthways conducted 177,281 interviews nationwide in 2015, and measured five elements that make-up well-being: Purpose (liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals), social relationships, financial security, community (liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community) and physical health.

The organization found that "well-being in the U.S. has been bolstered by many positive trends including a decline in the national uninsured rate, a decline in the overall smoking rate, and an increase in reported exercise. Food and healthcare insecurity has also dropped to a seven-year low."

These are the ten states with the highest overall well-being.

1. Hawaii

Well-Being Index Score: 64.8

Purpose Rank: 4
Social Rank: 16
Financial  Rank: 3
Community Rank: 2
Physical Health Rank: 1

2. Alaska

Well-Being Index Score: 64.1

Purpose Rank: 5
Social Rank: 5
Financial  Rank: 1
Community Rank: 7
Physical Health Rank: 6

3. Montana

Well-Being Index Score: 63.8

Purpose Rank: 21
Social Rank: 37
Financial  Rank: 9
Community Rank: 1
Physical Health Rank: 4

4. Colorado

Well-Being Index Score: 63.6

Purpose Rank: 15
Social Rank: 21
Financial  Rank: 17
Community Rank: 6
Physical Health Rank: 2

5. Wyoming

Well-Being Index Score: 63.5

Purpose Rank: 3
Social Rank: 15
Financial  Rank: 8
Community Rank: 4

Physical Health Rank: 10

Photos: Pixabay

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