By Melissa Wuske
Returning Home to Iraq
Residents of the Christian town of Keramlis, Iraq have begun to return home for the first time since ISIS took over their village two years ago, forcing people to flee rather than face “rape and murder of women and children, slaughter of the elderly,” and more, according to Yonathan Betkolia, secretary general of Assyrian Universal Alliance.
The village is badly damaged. Most homes are uninhabitable, making it nearly impossible for residents to move back permanently. “I feel great sadness. I’m not sure when or if I’ll be back. I think of my children, will they have a future here?” said Sahir Shamoun, a resident of Keramlis. The residents found the church burned and defaced, but the town was able to ring the church bell for the first time since ISIS took over. “It was amazing. I got goose bumps. The bell for us means a great deal,” said Shamoun.
Can Shrimp Aid Cancer Detection?
Researchers wonder whether better cancer detection can come from studying mantis shrimp—aggressive, lobsterlike creatures with incredible eyesight. “They have these ridiculous eyes that sense so many things at once,” said Sam Powell of Washington University in St. Louis. “It’s been very interesting figuring out what we can do with that, that helps out humans.”
The team of engineers and wildlife biologists is studying the mantis shrimp’s vision in order to create imaging technologies that can detect light in the polarized way these animals do. Scientists have found that cancer cells reflect polarized light differently than healthy cells. “The polarization structure makes the cancer apparent,” said Viktor Gruev of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Gruev is working to create cameras small enough for internal use that can detect polarization patterns. “Looking at nature can help us design better and more sensitive imaging techniques,” Gruev said.
Juvenile Offender Released from Prison After 26 Years
When Ian Manuel was 13 years old, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole for shooting a woman during a robbery. He was one of the youngest people sentenced to die in prison, and since he was a juvenile, he was placed in solitary confinement, purportedly for his own protection, for the first 20 years of his imprisonment, a situation that caused more harm than safety.
During his time in solitary confinement, Manuel reached out to the victim of the shooting, Debbie Berkovits. He asked for her forgiveness, and over time Berkovits began to lobby for a shorter sentence for Manuel. The Equal Justice Initiative, which fights extreme sentences of juvenile offenders, took on Manuel’s case, and after a decade of work they secured his release—26 years after he first went to prison. Manuel, who had dinner with Berkovits on the day of his release, said the two of them had been “waiting for the justice system to catch up to my remorse and her forgiveness.”
Snowballs on the Beach
Locals heading to the Gulf of Ob in Siberia last November were greeted by a surprising sight: thousands of naturally occurring snowballs lined the beach for miles. Some were about the size of tennis balls, but some were up to three feet across. The snowballs were the result of a rare phenomenon: pieces of ice are rolled by wind and water, forming balls. Sergei Lisenkov of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute explains, “As a rule, first there is a primary natural phenomenon—sludge ice, slob ice. Then comes a combination of the effects of the wind, the lay of the coastline, and the temperature and wind conditions.”
Melissa Wuske is a freelance editor and writer. She and her husband, Shawn, live and minister in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Find her work online (melissaannewuske.com).