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Exams, woolly rhinos, and a bag of chips

The first week of August brought eastern North Carolina a hurricane and western North Carolina an earthquake. Mother Nature has apparently decided to give us a little taste of everything this month. (I hope it doesn’t decide to snow early!)

While the news in North Carolina is as busy as ever covering everything that’s going on (including natural disasters, crime stories, back-to-school stories, the ongoing work towards racial justice, and more), I thought it’d be a good time to check in on the rest of the world. I do this occasionally because there are billions of people across the globe just making their way through life like the rest of us, and it’s good to know what’s happening out there too. So here are some interesting stories which caught my eye, all taken from WRAL’s world news section of their website:

Speaking of earthquakes, southern Greece also recently had one which struck off their coast about 75 miles south of Athens. Coincidentally, like the one which rocked Sparta, NC not too long ago, this earthquake also clocked in at a 5.1 magnitude. Thankfully, no injuries and damage were reported.

It’s back-to-school time and if you’re stressed about it, take some small comfort that at least you didn’t screw up exam results for an entire country. In the UK, end of year exams—which are used as a factor in acceptance to universities—were canceled due to the pandemic. The solution? Regulators decided to use an algorithm to determine the results. The problem? More than 200,000 results were downgraded from what they were supposed to be, so thousands of students lost their spots at the colleges they were expecting to attend. After the outcry, the test regulators announced they’d award the grades based on what teachers had submitted instead. What a headache for everyone involved!

Back in 2011, paleontologists in Siberia excavated a preserved puppy dating back to the Ice Age about 14,000 years ago. Scientists in Sweden went to work studying the animal and just recently determined through DNA analysis that the puppy’s last meal was a woolly rhino. Woolly rhinos, which were apparently about the size of today’s white rhinos, went extinct around the same time, so that puppy may have been munching on one of the last of them. Scientists can’t determine, however, how the puppy got its paws on such a large meal. That’ll remain a 14,000-year-old mystery.

In more modern animal news, the Somali sengi (also known as the Somali elephant shrew) was documented by scientists in the Horn of Africa for the first time in 50 years. If you read the word “elephant” and thought that described the size, I’m sorry to inform you that the sengi is actually mouse-sized. It gets the elephant name from its similar-shaped trunk. The research team actually started looking for the tiny mammal in 2019 in the country of Djibouti. They successfully used live-traps with bait of peanut butter, oatmeal, and yeast, all of which sounds like a nice treat compared to their usual diet of ants and termites. Researchers will continue to study the Somali sengi next year, but there’s nothing stopping anyone from Googling a picture of the creature right now. It’s absolutely adorable!

Over in Kenya, a teenager has been gaining some fame on social media like Instagram and Twitter for some funny monologues she’s been sharing since the pandemic lockdowns began. Elsa Majimbo first got attention for a simple video in March making jokes about living in isolation while she eats potato chips. That video got more than a quarter of a million views. She’s made several popular videos since, still continuing to eat chips in between her different commentaries. It’s nice to know that it’s the simple things, like a bag of chips and a few laughs, that can help get us through this year.

Lastly, a happy (but also soggy) ending in Ireland. A pair of paddleboarders who went missing off the west coast of Ireland were found 15 hours later by a fisherman and his son. The paddleboarders had been accidentally swept out to sea by a strong wind and several search teams had gone out looking for them. The fisherman and his son joined the search early that next morning and found the lost people about 20 miles from where they’d started, clinging to a lobster pot. They’re expected to make a full recovery.

I always think it’s a good idea to know what’s going on with our neighbors all around the world. There are plenty of terrible tragedies out there, but there are also some positive stories out there too. If you take the time to look hard enough.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.