There were two thoughts pushing Kolt Codner forward in his first marathon race: his 4-year-old son Andrew's fight against cancer and the hospital that provides him care.
Codner, of Poland, Ohio, ran 26.2 miles around Akron Children's Hospital on Oct. 17 to raise money for the hospital treating his son, who has 26 months left in his treatment.
In early May, Codner and his wife Tristan received a phone call that Andrew had a bed waiting for him in the hematology and oncology unit of the hospital.
A day that began as a visit to the pediatrician for Andrew's swollen face had resulted in a diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a common childhood cancer.
Codner's run served to show his appreciation to the hospital staff that has turned a traumatic experience like cancer treatment into one his young son faces bravely, Codner says.
"The folks at Akron Children's have taken something that should be scary and terrifying and made it this amazing badge of honor to recognize the superhero that he is," Codner told CNN. "We couldn't think of a better thing to contribute to and spend time trying to help raise funds to ensure that all kids have access to the same amazing experience as Andrew has had at Akron Children's."
Codner participated in the race as part of the virtual FirstEnergy Akron Marathon, Half Marathon & Team Relay, which replaced the hospital's yearly marathon due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the virtual marathon guidelines, runners can race at any location or pace, and Codner decided to run his marathon around the hospital to spotlight their work.
On the day of the race, Codner wrote Andrew's name on the top of his running shoes to keep him motivated. Friends and family were stationed outside the hospital to cheer him on, in a course that took 5 hours and 35 laps to complete. His son was even able to run with him across the finish line and award him a medal.
"To see him running and doing that last lap with me was just incredible," Codner said.
By the end of the run, Codner had raised 10 times more than his initial goal of $1,000, according to a hospital press release. The fund has reached over $13,000 in donations and has expanded its window until November 30.
Dr. Megan Sampson, a pediatric oncologist who has treated Andrew at the hospital, praises the Codner family.
"It just amazed me that during this scary time that he was thinking about doing this," said Sampson, referring to Codner's run and the attention he has drawn to the hospital's work.
Andrew's prognosis is good and he's responding well to the treatment he has received, but he still has a long way to go, Sampson says.
Watch another act of kindness here:
Some news of the weird this past week
Florida's falling lizards are getting used to cold winter temperatures
During a cold snap in southern Florida in January, residents were warned to watch out for paralyzed lizards falling from trees.
The lowest temperatures in a decade stunned and immobilized the lizards, causing them to lose their grip from their usually safe perches in trees.
Comatose lizards littering the sidewalk might have been annoying for residents. For scientists, however, it was a unique opportunity to understand how the lizards, many of which aren't native to the region, are affected by extreme climate events. It turns out these reptiles are more adaptable to extreme temperatures than the researchers had thought, they said.
"When air temperatures drop below a critical limit, lizards lose the ability to move. Most commonly, the lowest daily temperatures occur at night while many diurnal (day-active) lizards are asleep," lead study author and biologist James Stroud, a postdoctoral research associate at Washington University in St. Louis, told CNN.
"As many diurnal lizards typically sleep above the ground, perched safely in and among leaves and branches, they may lose their grip if temperatures drop below this critical functioning limit."
The January cold snap wasn't the first time Floridians have faced lizards dropping out of trees. It can happen anytime the temperature gets below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
Stroud and his collaborators in late January and early February collected 63 lizards from six different species around Miami, five of which were tropical species and not native to southern Florida.
The researchers took the lizards back to the lab at the University of Miami and individually cooled the animals until each one was too cold to respond to a gentle prod on its back limb.
"At this point, the lizard was removed from the cooler and the internal body temperature of the lizard was recorded as its lower temperature limit," Stroud said.
"Lizards were then allowed to return to room temperature; every single lizard in this study recovered back to full health after just a few minutes."
The team repeated this 10 weeks later to rule out a very quick, individual-level response.
The scientists were then able to compare the temperatures to earlier data they had gathered in 2016 for a study that forecasted how far north the non-native lizards could potentially disperse to from where they were first introduced in Miami, south Florida.
The lizard community, the researchers discovered, had responded in an unexpected way to the cold snap: All of them could withstand cold temperatures down to about 42 degrees Fahrenheit, regardless of their previous ability to tolerate cold.
"A major unexpected result of this study was that all species converged on the same new, lower level of thermal tolerance," Stroud said.
"While there was great variation in temperature tolerance before the cold event -- some, like the large-bodied brown basilisk, were very intolerant of low temperatures, while others like the Puerto Rican crested anole were more robust -- we observed that all species could now tolerate, on average, the same lowest temperature."
Stroud said from this study, which published Tuesday in the journal Biology Letters, it wasn't clear whether the lizards were adapting to the lower temperatures in a way that could be inherited by their offspring or whether it was a temporary adjustment to their physiological limits -- acclimation.
"If the changes in temperature tolerance that we observed are the result of adaptation, then it provides a fascinating insight into how evolution may need to be better incorporated into understanding species distributions," Stroud told CNN.
Florida officials say several people charged in flying squirrel trafficking operation
At least seven people have been arrested and charged in an "elaborate organized enterprise" to smuggle Florida's flying squirrels -- protected wildlife in the state -- and sell them, investigators announced Monday.
Up to 10,000 traps were set up to capture the flying squirrels and as many as 3,600 of the animals were shipped overseas within three years "to be sold as exotic pets for hundreds of thousands of dollars," the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) said in a news release.
The investigation started last year after the commission received an anonymous tip about people illegally trapping flying squirrels in one county, the release said. The animals were captured by poachers across several counties and sold to a dealer.
The animals were then laundered through the business of the dealer, "who claimed they were captive bred," the commission said.
Officials said buyers would travel from South Korea to purchase the flying squirrels from the dealer, and the animals would then be driven to other parts of the country before being exported to Asia.
Investigators also learned the Florida suspects trafficked other animals as well, including protected freshwater turtles and alligators, the commission said.
"Wildlife conservation laws protect Florida's precious natural resources from abuse. The concerned citizen who initially reported this activity started an investigation that uncovered a major smuggling operation," Maj. Grant Burton, FWC Investigation's section leader, said in a statement.
"These poachers could have severely damaged Florida's wildlife populations."
More arrests are expected, officials said.
Japanese craft breweries are turning unsold beer into gin
This was going to be a big year for Japan. With the Summer Olympics due to be hosted in Tokyo, the island nation expected 40 million tourists to grace its shores.
That's a big problem for small beer breweries, says Isamu Yoneda, head distiller at artisanal drinks maker Kiuchi Brewery. With few customers in its brewpubs, and export orders canceled, Kiuchi Brewery was left with a stockpile of spoiling beer.
The company had to come up with a solution — and decided to turn the unsold beer into a different alcoholic beverage.
In April, Kiuchi Brewery launched the "Save Beer Spirits" campaign at its Tokyo distillery, offering local bars and breweries the chance to turn unused beer, a product with a four to six-month shelf life, into gin — a product without an expiration date.
A mission to save beer
In 1994, Japan relaxed its strict laws around microbrewing, sparking a boom in craft beer.
While overall beer sales in Japan have stagnated for the last decade, craft beer has been on the rise: its 0.5% share of the total beer market in 2007 had more than tripled by 2016.
Kiuchi Brewery — which began as a sake producer in 1823 — is one of many drinks producers that branched into craft beer when microbrewing laws changed. It has been making its signature Hitachino Nest craft beer for 24 years.
Yoneda says that turning beer into spirits isn't a new innovation. Kiuchi Brewery has been using beer to make plum wine liqueur for years, and has experimented with gin liqueurs in the past.
Most gins are made with a base of grains like barley, rye or wheat, which are fermented into a mash, then distilled into a high-proof "neutral" spirit. The spirit is then distilled a second time with juniper berries and other botanicals, which add flavor.
The beer replaces this neutral spirit, skipping the mash and fermentation process, and jumping straight to distillation.
Kiuchi Brewery asked participating bars to send in a minimum of 20 liters of unused beer, which would be sent back as gin, says Yoneda. Kiuchi can produce eight liters of gin from every 100 liters of beer. It then sends back the gin as a standard 750ml bottle of gin or as a sparkling gin cocktail, either in cans or in a keg for bars to use in their taps.
Yoneda says the beer base makes the gin bitter, but in addition to juniper berries, Kiuchi uses sansho peppers, lemons and mikan (Japanese oranges), which helps to "balance out the bitterness" with "citrusy notes."
The bars only have to shoulder the cost of delivery, with Kiuchi Brewery offering its distillation service free of charge. "In these troublesome times, it is our responsibility to offer this service to everyone," says Yoneda. "Most importantly, we want to keep the breweries and bar community alive."
A sustainable spirit
Kiuchi isn't the only brewery using beer to make gin.
The Ethical Spirits & Co was founded in February 2020 to help sake distillers turn leftover sake lees into new spirits, says co-founder Chikara Ono. When the pandemic hit and beer sales plummeted, Ono says the company began exploring new recipes to make gin from beer.
In May, they received a donation of 20,000 liters of expiring Budweiser from drinks giant AB InBev, who had a surplus of stock due to a drop in beer sales. The startup used the beer to create 4,500 bottles of gin.
"We had a problem of excess inventory and Ethical Spirits had the knowledge and the right ethos to create a product that we mutually thought would be a positive impact," says Takahiro Shimada, head of marketing for AB InBev Japan, adding that the company wanted to support local businesses.
The Ethical Spirits & Co is still in the process of building its own distillery in Tokyo, scheduled to open in December, so they collaborated with Gekkeikan sake distillery to distil the Budweiser.
The beer-based gin initiatives are tapping into a rapidly emerging market.
Japan's first dedicated gin distillery opened just four years ago in Kyoto, but the gin market is already estimated to be worth $209 million and is anticipated to grow by 4.4% annually over the next three years. Large drinks companies, including Japanese whisky giants Suntory and Nikka, have helped launch Japanese craft gin onto the international stage.
"If you can essentially use unused or remaining ingredients to create something special and something premium, that's great. It follows with our vision of trying to achieve a sustainable, circular economy," says Ono.
Owner reunited with lost cat 5 months after house fire
PITTSBURGH, PA (KDKA) -- Never give up hope.
You know the old saying, but for a local pet owner, it has never been more true.
Hope, the gray tabby cat, went missing back in April when her owner’s Rankin home was destroyed in a fire.
Wanda Humphries, Hope’s owner, not only lost her house, but also her dog and another cat in the blaze. With no sign of Hope either, Humphries began to think the young cat died in the fire as well.
However, last Wednesday, Oct. 14, Pittsburgh Animal Care and Control officers brought a stray cat to Humane Animal Rescue. After scanning for and finding a microchip, the staff discovered that this cat was indeed Hope. Not only had she survived, but she had grown up too.
Humphries adopted Hope from Humane Animal Rescue in January of 2019. The rescue had given Hope the microchip.
When staff members at the rescue called Humphries, “she was amazed.”
Humphries came right away to the shelter to be reunited with Hope. It was a reunion five months in the making.
The 'Caspian Sea Monster' rises from the grave
Beached on the western shores of the Caspian Sea, it looks like a colossal aquatic beast -- a bizarre creation more at home in the deep than above the waves. It certainly doesn't look like something that could ever fly.
But fly it did -- albeit a long time ago.
After lying dormant for more than three decades, the Caspian Sea Monster has been on the move again. One of the most eye-catching flying machines ever built, it's completing what could be its final journey.
In July of this year after 14 hours at sea, a flotilla of three tugs and two escort vessels maneuvered slowly along the shores of the Caspian Sea to deliver their bulky special cargo to its destination, a stretch of coast near Russia's southernmost point.
It's here, next to the ancient city of Derbent, in Russia's republic of Dagestan, that the 380-ton "Lun-class Ekranoplan" has found its new, and most likely definitive, home.
The last of its breed to sail the waters of the Caspian, "Lun" was abandoned after the 1990s collapse of the Soviet Union, condemned to rust away at Kaspiysk naval base, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) up the coast from Derbent.
But before it could fade into oblivion, it's been rescued thanks to plans to make it a tourist attraction right at a time when this unusual travel concept could be poised to make a comeback.
Speed and stealth
Ground Effect Vehicles, also known as "ekranoplans," are a sort of hybrid between airplanes and ships. They move over water without actually touching it.
The International Maritime Organization classifies them as ships, but, in fact, they derive their unique high-speed capabilities from the fact that they skim the surface of the water at a height of between one and five meters (three to 16 feet).
They take advantage of an aerodynamic principle called "ground effect."
This combination of speed and stealth -- their proximity to the surface while flying makes them difficult to detect by radar -- got the attention of the Soviet military, which experimented with several variants of the concept during the Cold War.
Their deployment on the vast inland body of water between the Soviet Union and Iran led to them acquiring the nickname "Caspian Sea Monster."
The "Lun" ekranoplan was one of the last designs to come out of the Soviet ground effect vehicle program. Longer than an Airbus A380 superjumbo and almost as tall, despite its size and weight, the Lun was capable of reaching speeds of up to 550 kilometers per hour (340 mph) thanks to eight powerful turbofans located on its stubby wings.
This formidable machine was even able to take off and land in stormy conditions, with waves of up to two and a half meters. Its intended mission was to conduct lightning sea-borne attacks with the six anti-ship missiles it carried in launch tubes placed at the top of its hull.
The ekranoplan that has been moved to Derbent is the only one of its class ever completed and entered service in 1987.
A second Lun, unarmed and assigned to rescue and supply missions, was at an advanced state of completion when, in the early 1990s, the whole program was canceled and the existing Lun withdrawn from service.
After 30-plus years of inaction, getting this sea beast back on the move was no easy task, requiring the assistance of rubber pontoons and a carefully coordinated choreography involving several vessels.
"Lun" will be the star of Derbent's planned Patriot Park, a military museum and theme park that will display different sorts of Soviet and Russian military equipment.
Construction of the park is expected to start later in 2020. For the time being, Lun will sit alone on the beach.
It looks set to become a new highlight for visitors to Derbent. The city claims to be the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in Russian territory. Its citadel and historical center have been designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.
"Lun" will add to the attractions of a region that, up until the coronavirus pandemic, had seen a number of initiatives to open it up to tourism, including the launch of cruise itineraries in the Caspian Sea.
When it opens, Derbent's Patriot Park won't be the only Russian museum exhibiting an ekranoplan. A much smaller Orlyonok-class ekranoplan can be found at the Russian Navy Museum in Moscow.
While ground effect vehicles fell out of favor in the past few decades, the concept has been experiencing a resurgence of late
Developers in Singapore, the United States, China and Russia are working on different projects that aim to bring ekranoplans back to life, although with rather more peaceful purposes.
One of them is Singapore-based Wigetworks, whose AirFish 8 prototype builds upon groundwork done by German engineers Hanno Fischer and Alexander Lippisch during the Cold War.
Wigetworks acquired the patents and intellectual property rights and have set about trying to improve and update those earlier designs to create a modern ground effect vehicle.
Also in Asia, Chinese ekranoplan Xiangzhou 1 flew for the first time in 2017, although little is known about this project.
In the United States, The Flying Ship Company, a startup backed by private investors, is working on an unmanned ground effect vehicle to move cargo at high speed. Think unmanned delivery drones but over water.
The project is at its early stages, although founder and CEO Bill Peterson tells CNN his team is planning to bring this project to fruition within a seven-year timeframe.
And Russia, home of the ekranoplan, hasn't given up on the concept.
Several projects have been touted during the past few years, although none has managed to make it past the design stage yet.
Beriev, a maker of jet-powered amphibious aircraft, came up with the Be-2500 concept, and, more recently, it has been reported by Russian media that a new-generation military ekranoplan, tentatively named "Orlan," was under consideration.
Another, privately funded, project has sprung out of Nizhny Novgorod, an industrial city on the banks of the Volga River closely connected with the origins of ekranoplan technology. RDC Aqualines, which has also offices in Singapore, is developing its own line of commercial ekranoplans able to carry three, eight and 12 passengers, and might possibly expand to more.
Its designs have caught the eye of a group of entrepreneurs which aims to establish a fast link across the Gulf of Finland, connecting Helsinki to the Estonian capital, Tallinn, in about 30 minutes.
It might be that soon you won't need to visit a museum to spot an ekranoplan, after all.
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