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An Italian Town is Selling its Historic Homes For $1.25

Maybe you’ve fantasized about living out your days in a Mediterranean villa. You might have even gone so far as to check listings before the reality of prices forced you to give up on the dream. Now, one town on the Italian island of Sardinia is offering the real estate deal of a lifetime, as long as you’re willing to stick around for the long haul.

In Ollolai, one of several hundred historic homes could be yours for just $1.25 (€1). Yes, really. To do that, mayor Efisio Arbau successfully petitioned local residents to turn over their abandoned homes to the town, which then put them on the market for that attention-grabbing low price.

The aggressive real estate blitz is an effort to prevent a town known for its successful resistance to the Roman empire from fading into obscurity. The village’s population has shrunk from 2,250 to 1,300 over the years, and the migration of its younger people to larger cities has led to a declining birthrate. "My crusade is to rescue our unique traditions from falling into oblivion,” Arbau told CNN. "We've always been tough people and won't allow our town to die."
Those expecting to find their slice of paradise among Ollolai’s fresh air and mural-lined piazzas should know that there’s a catch. Many of its unoccupied homes are in a state of disrepair. Any buyer will have to commit to extensive refurbishments projected to cost between $25,000 and $37,500 (€20,000 and €30,000) in order to return these ancestral dwellings (“made with Sardinia’s typical gray granite rock that grows on mountain peaks and shores,” Arbau notes) to their former glory. Several have already made the $1.25 down payment, however, and the town’s received over 100 purchase requests from such far-flung corners of the world as Russia and Australia. Vito Casula, a retired builder who recently renovated his new home with more sustainable materials, describes Ollalai’s appeal perfectly: "This quiet town is frozen in time. It offers a peaceful, healthy life, the fresh air, zero smog, and great views have a healing power."

When put that way, even 30,000 euros sounds like a steal. And of course, the chance to help preserve the history of a proud town and its traditional way of life is priceless.

Architectural Digest

Ecologist

Finally, an Excuse to Cancel All Your Plans: Staying in is Good For the Environment

More people are working remotely, saving energy in the process.

Ellen Crupi lives in Bethesda, Maryland, but works for a startup company in Minnesota. She does everything online from sales pitches to video conferences. Working at home means she doesn’t have to dress up, wear makeup, buy new work clothes or go out to lunch. When she’s not working, she also shops online and streams movies and concerts. “Not having to drive or get on an airplane saves me über amounts of time, and that lets me spend it doing more important things,” she said.

Crupi, 52, is one of a growing number of Americans embracing the great indoors. While the rise of streaming video services and online shopping is driving down movie theater attendance and hurting retail stores, there is an upside: America’s couch potatoes are putting a serious dent in energy use outside the home.

“We had no idea that the energy savings were going to be so enormous,” said Ashok Sekar, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas at Austin and lead author of a new paper that looks at the link between staying home and energy use outside the home. “It shows the profound influence that technology has had on our lifestyles and how environmental good can come out it.” The authors, including Eric Williams and Roger Chen, sustainability researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology, published their findings in the journal Joule.

At a time when climate change demands societies use less energy, “the notion of spending more time at home never before really entered the conversation, but I think now it will assume more importance as we recognize the impact it has on energy savings,” Sekar said. “However, we also will need to practice more energy efficiency in the home.”

Energy efficiency has become an important player in the fight against climate change. For decades, people have burned fossil fuels to generate power, pumping millions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, heating the Earth while wreaking havoc on nature and threatening human health. Measures to slow these damaging effects include energy conservation and the increasing use of clean renewable energy, such as wind and solar.

Researchers analyzed a decade of American Time Use Surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor and found that Americans spent about eight extra days at home in 2012, compared to 2003, including one day less in travel and one week less in an outside office or another non-home setting.

Less travel, along with less time in the office, prompted a net 1,700 trillion British thermal unit (BTU) in energy savings for the United States in 2012, a figure that represents 1.8 percent of the national total, according to the study. The breakdown includes 1,000 trillion BTU and 1,200 trillion BTU decreases in non-residential and transportation energy use, respectively.

Home energy use has increased as a result — by 480 trillion BTU — although it was dwarfed by the savings. “It’s important that consumers also reduce energy consumption at home,” Sekar said, for example, “getting a home energy audit [or] upgrading their old appliances, recycle the old freezer in the basement, and better insulate their homes.”

Williams agreed, saying, “Networked thermostats are a standout example. We turn off our heating or A/C when going on a trip and turn it on remotely a few hours before we arrive back. IT also gives us tools to reduce energy use, but we need to buy and use them to get the benefits.”

Online shopping made up only a small portion of the stay-at-home analysis and did not take into account the energy involved in producing and shipping products, only the energy used by brick-and-mortar shops and then energy shoppers used to get to the store. Sekar, however, believes that online shopping is less energy- and carbon-intensive than “people driving to the store to get the same product.”

However, Anne Goodchild, director of the Supply Chain Transportation and Logistics Center at the University of Washington, who was not involved in the study, said that a head-to-head comparison of online versus brick-and-mortar shopping is difficult to do. “It’s complicated,” she said. “If the goods still have to get from where they were made to you, it’s still making the trip. But [it is more environmentally friendly] if there are a lot of shipments in one truck making the trip. The more carpooling, the less impact and the more energy conservation.”

In a way, the carbon footprint really depends on the nature of the service, she said. If you order food delivered from a restaurant, “you’re just paying someone to bring dinner to your house, and trading one trip for another,” she said. But streaming is another thing. “In the old days, you would have to go to the video store,” she said. “Now you still get to watch the movie, but you don’t have to drive to get there.”

The practice of spending more time at home cut across all age groups, except among those older than 65, according to the study. But the most striking change occurred among young people ages 18-24. They spent 70 percent more time at home compared to the general population. “Younger people are more technology savvy, and it’s natural for them because they grew up in the world of technology,” Sekar said.

Williams agreed, adding that young people these days “tend to prefer socializing online more — that is, texting, Snapchat, etc. — at the expense of getting out and meeting face-to-face,” he said. “Also, I think there are a lot of younger people who really, really like video games and spend hours a day at home playing them.”

Those older than 65 were the only group who spent more time outside the home than they did in 2003, according to the study. “We speculate the retirement age is slowly increasing, and better health care is enabling them to travel more,” Sekar said.

To be sure, technology may be good for the environment, but will it ultimately be bad for the waistline? And for local businesses? Will encouraging people to stay home create a nation of couch potatoes? Williams doesn’t think so. “Your couch is a major energy saver, and not just for you,” he said. “It encourages you not to drive. Tragic empty malls and movie theaters do have an upside — less energy use.”

Crupi isn’t worried either. She’s found a way to stay home and stay fit at the same time. “I stream video workouts,” she said.

Marlene Cimons writes for Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, policy, art, and culture.

Good News Network


Stowaway Galah

Stowaway Galah given private cabin on cruise ship

A companion bird who flew the coop in Brisbane has been discovered as a stowaway on a cruise ship bound for New Zealand and quarantined in its own private cabin.

Harri the Australian Galah was found on board The Sea Princess by staff last Thursday, four days into a 14-day cruise.

It’s believed the pet bird left the family home and landed on the ship when it was docked in Brisbane on January 21.

New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said the only way for the cruise ship to enter the country was for Harri to either be euthanased or secured and bonded to the vessel. So staff put Harri in an empty cabin. Thankfully the cockatoo was microchipped, which eventually led authorities back to his owners in Brisbane. Harri’s veterinarian, Adrian Gallagher of Brisbane Bird Vet, said Harri had been missing for two weeks before being found.

“This is so lucky. They [Department of Agriculture] said they’ve never seen a story like this,” Dr. Gallagher said.

“From the owner’s place to the wharf is probably not that far for a galah. That’s my thought, he’s escaped and landed on the boat.

“He’s got a lot of character this bird. He’s pretty ingenious.

“Apparently he’s keeping everyone entertained on the cruise ship.”

Dr. Gallagher said Harri was due to be returned to Australia this Sunday.

“He’s been microchipped for years, he’s had all his health checks, and we’ve got his blood tests to say he’s free of disease,” he said.

“I think that helped the situation with getting him back to Australia. I think technically he shouldn’t have been allowed back in.”

Dr. Gallagher said he had been in contact with Harri’s family via email.

“He’s booked in here next week for a checkup with everything that’s happened to him. That’s got to be reasonably traumatic for him,” he said.

Dr. Gallagher said Harri’s odyssey was an important lesson for all bird owners to make sure their pets were microchipped.

“We see stacks of lost birds. You’ve only got to go on RSPCA website to see how many there are. And one galah looks the same as the next galah,” he said.

“These guys fly up to 60 kilometers per hour … so for him to go from Chermside to Hamilton he could be there in five minutes.”

Harri is quarantined in his cabin until The Sea Princess returns to Australia. There are strict conditions surrounding the remainder of Harri’s high-seas adventure.

“The bird could have been carrying avian diseases with the potential to harm New Zealand’s native bird population,” MPI’s border clearance services manager Andrew Spelman said.

“There was also a requirement for MPI officers to check on the bird and its containment facilities at every new port visit in New Zealand.”

Mr. Spelman said MPI needed photographic evidence of Harri’s containment and the name of the officer looking after the bird.

“The vessel operators have been very particular in following our directive, so we’re satisfied any biosecurity risk has been mitigated,” he said.

Harri’s journey was reminiscent of another recent animal adventure.

Rusty the dog, from Goondiwindi in Queensland, ended up 1500 kilometers away in Snowtown, South Australia, after hitching a ride on a truck.

ABC News


Adelaide doctor plans to sail to Pacific Islands to perform eye surgery

A Sydney to Hobart sailor plans to take his yacht further afield, to the Pacific Islands, to assess hundreds of patients and perform eye surgery in Tonga and Tuvalu.

Adelaide ophthalmologist John Willoughby is the founder of Vision of Islands, one of several health charities operating across the region.

He is also the skipper of Sydney to Hobart yacht Enchantress, and plans to sail to the Pacific Islands as a way to use his surgical expertise in more remote areas than his team has previously reached.

Dr Willoughby said the procedures could be life-changing for people suffering serious eye problems, citing the reaction of a patient who had been treated.

"When we do an operation, the next day we take the eye patch off and a lady who has had to be led around suddenly jumps to her feet," he said.

"She pushes them away and does a little hula dance — it certainly is very moving to see that sort of thing."

Dr Willoughby has done some of his work in the islands since the 1960s, saying the only alternative for locals needing treatment was to try to find the money to travel to places such as Malaysia.

"The pathology we see is extreme, so we're talking serious illnesses, yet in Australia we're producing doctors that sometimes can't get jobs," he said.

ABC News

NOTE: The articles on these pages are mostly nonsense. For God’s sake, do not believe or attempt any of them! They are here as a testament to the stupidity and gullibility of humans, and proof that snake oil salesmen are still alive and prospering in the 21st century