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Ruth Bader Ginsburg Writes Thank You Note to 8-Year-Old Girl

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Between serving as a Supreme Court Justice, moonlighting as an actor, and collecting jabots (a.k.a. the fancy collars judges wear), Ruth Bader Ginsburg has a pretty busy schedule. But as The Huffington Post reports, The Notorious RBG still managed to find the time to write a personalized letter to an 8-year-old girl in the Washington, D.C. area, who dressed up like her for her school’s “Superhero Day.”

Inspired by I Dissent, an illustrated children’s book chronicling Ginsburg’s life and career, Michele Threefoot donned a judicial-inspired getup and a pair of large-framed glasses last December to pay homage to the Supreme Court’s second female justice. Her mother, Krista Wujek Threefoot, posted a picture of Michele’s ensemble in Pantsuit Nation, the pro-Hillary Clinton Facebook group, and added text to the picture: “Yes, world. Girls who read are dangerous” (inspired by the quote “A well-read woman is a dangerous creature,” coined by author Lisa Kleypas).

The picture went viral, and Ginsburg herself caught wind of Michele’s unconventional superhero costume. RBG’s assistant contacted Threefoot, asking for her address, and shortly after, the Supreme Court justice’s mini doppelgänger received a handwritten note from her hero.

It read: “Dear Michele: You look just like me! May you continue to thrive on reading and learning. Every good wish, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”

According to Threefoot, Michele was “super duper excited!” to hear from RBG herself. “When I read it, I felt really happy because she said I looked just like her. It was really special because she wrote it by hand,” Michele told her mom (as quoted by HuffPost).

To inspire Michele to keep reading, the letter also contained the following quote: “Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true.”

Michele plans to write a thank-you note to Ginsburg. She also took her prized piece of correspondence to school—and now, several of her classmates reportedly want to dress up like real-life inspirational figures next year, including Bill Gates and Hillary Clinton.

[h/t The Huffington Post]

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Aflac's Robotic Duck Comforts Kids with Cancer
Aflac
Aflac

Every year, close to 16,000 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with cancer. That news can be the beginning of a long and draining battle that forces kids and their parents to spend large amounts of time with medical providers, enduring long and sometimes painful treatments. As The Verge reports, a bit of emotional support during that process might soon come from an unlikely source: the Alfac duck.

The supplemental insurance company announced at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that it has partnered with the medical robotics company Sproutel to design and manufacture My Special Aflac Duck, a responsive and emotive sim-bird intended exclusively for children undergoing cancer treatment.

When a child cuddles the fuzzy robotic duck, it can cuddle back. It reacts to being cradled and stroked by quacking or moving its head. Kids can also touch special RFID chips emblazoned with emoji on the duck's chest to tell it how they’re feeling, and the device will mimic those emotions.

But the duck isn’t solely for cuddling. In “IV Mode,” which can be switched on while a child is undergoing IV therapy, the duck can help the user relax by guiding them through breathing exercises. Accessories included with the toy also allow children to "draw blood" from the duck as well as administer medication, a kind of role-playing that may help patients feel more comfortable with their own treatments.

Aflac approached Sproutel with the idea after seeing Sproutel’s Jerry the Bear, a social companion robot intended to support kids with diabetes. Other robotic companions—like the Japanese-made seal Paro and Hasbro's Joy for All companion pets for seniors—have hinted at a new market for robotics that prioritize comfort over entertainment or play.

My Special Aflac Duck isn’t a commercial product and won’t be available for retail sale. Aflac intends to offer it as a gift directly to patients, with the first rollout expected at its own cancer treatment center in Atlanta, Georgia. Mass distribution is planned for later this year.

[h/t The Verge]

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Want to Recycle Your Christmas Tree? Feed It to an Elephant
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

When the holiday season finally comes to a close, people get creative with the surplus of dead Christmas trees. One San Francisco-based artist transformed brittle shrubs into hanging installation pieces. Others use pine needles for mulch, or repurpose trees into bird sanctuaries. For the average person, sticking it into a wood chipper or "treecycling" it as part of a community program are all eco-friendly ways to say goodbye to this year's Douglas fir. None of these solutions, however, are as cute as the waste-cutting strategy employed by some zoos around the world: giving them to elephants.

Each year, zookeepers at Tierpark Berlin—a facility that bills itself as “Europe’s largest adventure animal park”—feed the elephants unsold pine trees. The plants are reportedly pesticide-free, and they serve as a good (albeit prickly) supplement to the pachyderms' usual winter diets.

A bit closer to home, the residents of The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee rely on local residents to take part in their annual Christmas Tree Drive. In addition to being nutrient-rich, the tree's needles are said to help aid in an elephant's digestion. But beyond all that, it's pretty adorable to watch.

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