We recently pointed out that the news media has a filtering process that only lets the bad stuff through. When they do break up the monotony with something lighthearted, it's always something pointless and inconsequential, like that thing last week with the monkey that learned to fly a helicopter.
But there actually is good news out there -- on some of the big issues of the day, no less. For instance, did you know ...
#7. The Gulf of Mexico Is Almost at Its Pre-Spill Health Levels
The Deepwater Spill was bad, obviously. Only a puddin'-headed crapwad or Fox News environmental news correspondent would tell you otherwise. But as bad as it was, as horrifically terrible as it was, the spill could have been much, much worse. For example, had the spill occurred in April 2011 rather than April 2010, a change in ocean currents would have carried the oil to the Florida Keys within a week and East Coast girls would be making politically charged statement jewelry out of their oil blob souvenirs as we speak.
The Good News
The Gulf is recovering way faster than anyone thought it would. Like, Blanche Devereaux fast, if you know what we mean.
And the better news is that what could have happened with the Gulf oil spill didn't.
Now, before anyone has a finger equivalent of a heart attack while pounding out comments below, we're not saying the Gulf of Mexico is in fantastic shape. Please, do not try to raise your children or grow organic food in the Gulf of Mexico. It's just not ready yet. What we are saying is that the Gulf, which was not in fighting shape to begin with, is almost back to where it was before the spill. And nobody, not even the BP guys who caused the spill in the first place, thought it would get there so fast.
First, let's recap: the spill occurred on April 20, 2010. By the time the gusher was capped on July 15, 2010, 205 million gallons of oil were emancipated from their well hole, making this the largest oil spill (that wasn't intentionally caused by Iraqi military forces) in history.
"STILL #1! STILL #1!"
One year after the disaster, over three dozen scientists took a big-picture assessment of the Gulf. They surveyed everything from the sea floor to different categories of wildlife to the beaches themselves, and the grade they ended up with was a 68 out of 100. So, a "D," which isn't anything to write home about. Unless the grade right before the spill was only a 71, which it was.
It turns out the Gulf wasn't doing spectacularly to begin with, thanks to overfishing, oil drilling, hurricanes and toxic runoff from the Mississippi, but we're not going to talk about that, because this article is only about good news. We're also not going to talk about dead dolphins or the tar balls that are still popping up, because, seriously. Not today.
"I wuv you!"
What we will talk about is how no one expected fish, crab and shrimp catches to be average compared to past years or that oil chomping microbes would go to town feeding on our disaster. And more importantly, the Loop Current that was on track to carry the oil to the Florida Keys just broke. As in, it broke off into a big swirly hilariously named Franklin Eddy, which unexpectedly contained the oil in a tidy circle of cool. We'd like to think of Franklin as a bongo-playing beat poet who doesn't have to play by your current rules, maaan.
Had it not been for Franklin, the oil would have hit the Keys and made its way up the East Coast, and there wouldn't have been a whole lot we could have done to stop it. Thanks to Franklin, which no longer exists, much of the Florida coast was spared from the oil altogether. Here is an artist's rendition of Franklin Eddy doing his thing, made in July 2010:
"Be boop skish be dooooo."
#6. The Good News About AIDS
Most of us can remember when getting HIV was an automatic death sentence. No matter how much money you had, no matter where you lived, no matter what treatments you could get your hands on -- it didn't matter. If your mom, boyfriend, blood transfusion or heroin needle gave you HIV, that was it. Not only were you on your way to an early grave, but also the rest of your short life was pretty much going to be the plot of a horror movie.
The Good News
Today's HIV patients can expect to live decades past their diagnoses thanks to antiretroviral drugs, and contracting HIV, though a bitch, is not the death sentence it once was. Even more important, the global rate of new HIV infections has declined by 25 percent since 2001.
In the United States, antiretroviral drugs have reduced the number of mother-to-child transmissions dramatically: according to the CDC, there were only 13 AIDS diagnoses among children in 2009, compared to 195 in 1999 and 896 in 1992. The best news of all is that these strides aren't limited to the Western world -- not by a long shot. South Africa, for example, just announced that they've had a 96.5 percent success rate in preventing the transmission of HIV from infected mothers to their babies. In India, the rate of new HIV infections fell by 50 percent over the last 10 years. The AIDS mortality rate in China has diminished by 64 percent, even though this is a country where discussing HIV is about as acceptable as discussing sexing your sister. Overall, the U.N. says that between 2001 and 2010, the number of low- and middle-income patients with access to antiretroviral drugs has increased 22-fold.
On the downside, we have no treatment for this.
Certainly, AIDS is still not a disease that anybody is clamoring to get, and without medication it will kill you in less time that it takes to live down the stigma of making an AIDS joke. Yet right now, at this very moment, there are young adults walking around, getting jobs, going to school, starting families, totally healthy(ish), who have had HIV their entire lives.
Even more amazing, there are a few people who got their HIV diagnosis back before it was even called HIV, and are still kicking it today. David Patient, for example, was diagnosed with HIV back in 1983, and was given six months to live. Today you book him to berate you for complaining about your allergies and carpal tunnel syndrome.
And then he does yoga at you until you black out.
#5. The Antarctic Ozone Hole Is Shrinking
For over 20 years now, we've heard nothing but despair and horror about the chasm at the bottom of the Earth. Since its discovery in 1985, we've been so worried about ozone depletion letting in cancer rays that in 1987 we actually collaborated with our MORTAL ENEMIES to figure out what to do about the thing. And guess what? All that fear mongering and unprecedented levels of international cooperation worked.
Ronald Reagan, moments before receiving his Russian bride, as per tradition.
The Good News
Just like our reserve of gaping-hole jokes that don't involve yo' mama, the hole in the ozone layer is steadily shrinking every year.
You remember the hole in the ozone layer, right? It's not so much a "hole" as it is a thinning. Imagine the Earth was wrapped in a 15-mile-thick Snuggie, and every spring the Snuggie got dangerously sparse on the butt of the planet, exposing said butt and therefore the rest of the Earth to danger rays. Also, imagine that it was our own fault that the Snuggie was thinning, like we were deliberately shaving off layers of flannel goodness so we could have refrigerators and ACs.
The thing about what we will now call the holezone (for brevity) is that it fluctuates wildly every year, so until recently scientists have had a difficult time keeping tabs on it. In 2006, for example, the holezone was fat-twins-on-motorcyles huge:
... while the holezone recorded in 2007 was the skinny version of John Goodman in comparison:
Via Science Daily
And like a cancer-causing Baby Bear, 2008's was somewhere in the middle:
Via Science Daily
So, even though the production of ozone-depleting CFCs was globally phased out, the ozone hole is still shrinking and expanding like a fat, killer Slinky. Now for the good news: Australian scientists have accounted for the numbers behind the fluctuations, which are apparently all about a natural weather phenomenon called dynamical forcing. Take away the weather-driven ozone swings and you still have a hole in the ozone layer, but one that has shrunk by 15 percent since its peak in the '90s.
Even better, the hole has shrunk consistently every year, which hopefully means the ozone will be back to its pre-1980 conditions sooner than 2060, as previously predicted. So, good news for the planet. Bad news for all you heartless sunscreen moguls out there.
"What? Why are you all looking at me?"
#4. Traffic Fatalities Are Insanely Low Now
If you count yourself among the tens of people who still catch the nightly news, you are no doubt hyperaware of what a death wish driving can be. In the absence of homicide, white women getting kidnapped or squirrels caught water-skiing, local newscasters automatically default to the traffic death of the day to fill airtime.
"Now, Jan, I can see from your expression that there were fatalities ... Jan?"
Once you throw in the dangers of texting, cellphones, the army of Alzheimery elderly drivers hitting the road and goobers employing sex toys while driving, some of us are probably better off just hitching up the ol' horse and buggy that's been sitting in the garage for, oh, 100 years now.
The Good News
Despite everything we've heard about how cars are suicidemobiles, traffic fatalities are actually at the lowest they've been since 1949.
Back when cars were designed specifically for murder.
But don't be too quick to pat yourself on the back, Speedy Wrongzalez. It's not our too-good-to-be-true driving skills that are keeping us alive, it's the safer cars that are doing the job. And it doesn't hurt that drunk drivers are now the moral equivalents of Nazi war criminals and people who go without seat belts are the sympathizing Brazilians who willingly harbored them. As for driving texters, they might as well kill themselves with a machete slice to the gut, as far as the court of public opinion is concerned. So, yeah, you might say that this is one case where stupid PSAs have done the exact job they were meant to do.
Either way, it's been 60 years since we've had it so good on the road. Suck on that, 1950s.
Speaking of nowadays ripping old times a new one ...