New Sun Newsbriefs

Ingmar Bergman's Peaceful Passing and Wise Words

On July 30, the Swedish 89-year-old self-taught director and screenwriter, Ingmar Bergman, "died peacefully in his sleep with no pain," according to his son-in-law Henning Mankell. "I think he died a death that many people would envy."

Bergman admitted that his personal demons both tormented and inspired him throughout his life. "The demons are innumberable, appear at the most inconvenient times and create panic and terror," he said. "But I have learned that if I can master the negative forces and harness them to my chariot, then they can work to my advangtage."

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Richard Branson's Eco-friendly Adventures

Virgin "everything" czar Richard Branson went public on his birthday (7/18) about forming a Council of Elders with world leaders, to hopefully come up with workable solutions to the world's problems.

Branson, eager to mend his fossil fuel polluting ways, is offering 25 million dollars for an invention, and 3 billion for development, of a green alternative.

He is planning to fuel all his airplanes and trains in an earth-friendly way – including the yet to be launched Virgin America fleet, whose maiden flight is scheduled out of San Francisco International Airport for August 8.

The billionaire is also adding eco-tourism to his long list of ventures by building a resort on a privately owned part of the Virgin Islands.

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Two-Year-Old From England Scores Genius Level IQ

Georgia Brown has become the youngest female member of Mensa after scoring a genius-rated IQ of 152. To the amazement of the family, who live in Aldershot, Hampshire, her test scores put her in the top 0.2 per cent of the population. Those with an average IQ would score around 100 points in the same test.

This puts her in the same intellectual league, proportionate to her age, as physicist Stephen Hawking. According to an expert in gifted children, Georgia is the brightest two-year-old she has ever met. Parents Martin and Lucy Brown have always regarded their youngest child as a remarkably quick learner.

She was crawling at five months and walking at nine months. By 14 months, she was getting herself dressed.

"She spoke really early - by 18 months she was having proper conversations," her mother, Mrs. Brown said. "She would say, 'Hello I'm Georgia, I'm one.' She was also putting her shoes on and putting them on the right feet."

Georgia was so perceptive that after one outing to the theatre to see Beauty and the Beast she solemnly informed her parents: "I didn't like Gaston (the villain). He was mean and arrogant."

She was invited to join Mensa, the High IQ society whose members have IQs in the top 2 per cent of the population. Little Miss Brown is one of only 30 Mensa members under the age of ten.

Her mother, chief executive of a charity, believes Georgia has benefited by growing up as the youngest of five children. She has been absorbing information from her older brothers and sisters and father, a self-employed carpenter, while not receiving any special treatment.

"She doesn't think she's better and cleverer than everyone else. She is a very kind and loving child."

Georgia, who has a "wicked sense of humor" is as busy as any toddler, enjoying a schedule of ballet classes, listening to stories, dancing, singing, sport and even watching the TV.

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Hero Waitress Pulls Woman from Potomac River

Last June, Leah Sargent was arriving at work at her job at Nick's Riverside Grill in Washington, D.C.'s Georgetwon neighborhood when she came upon a commotion at the edge of the Potomac.

A woman was floating face-up in the murky water. Without thinking, the 19-year-old college student jumped into the water and pulled the woman to safety. Authorities said later that the woman Leah rescued had jumped into the river deliberately. Authorities don't recommend that passersby attempt river rescues, but Leah didn't know that. She just acted.

"She could be a mother...she could have children," she said, saying she did "what I would do for my parents if anything happened. First reaction, you jump in and help save someone."

A patron at the restaurant was so impressed, he gave Leah a $100 tip.

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Hertz Offers Rent-a-Hybrid

At the Museum of Natural History, Mark Frissora, Chairman and CEO of Hertz Global Holdings announced that Hertz is expanding its "Green Collection" of cars by adding 3,400 Toyota Prius hybrid vehicles for the public to rent — 100 of which will go to its Manhattan fleet.

Mr. Frissora also announced the donation of $1 million to the National Park Foundation, and $250,000 to The Mayor's Fund for the Advancement of New York City.

A smiling Mayor Bloomberg said, "I think Hertz really is setting a great example by dramatically increasing this stock of hybrid rental cars, here and across the nation. New York City government is also doing our part with our PlaNYC initiative.

"...One of our strategies is promoting hybrid and other clean fuel vehicles. We took a great step in that direction last month when we announced the plan to turn 13,000 yellow cabs from yellow to green. We're not going to paint them. We're just going to make sure they don't pollute. And by doing that it will be the equivalent of taking 30,000 cars off the city streets. So it really is a very big deal. Within 5 years every single yellow cab in the city will be a hybrid."

Interestingly, according to UK's The Times: "John D. Hertz started the Yellow Cab Company in 1915 and painted them yellow because a study showed it to be the most visible colour over long distances. And in 1967, New York City ordered that all 'medallion' taxis be painted yellow."

So now yellow cabs, started by Hertz so long ago, will become green — and share the road with equally green rental cars from Hertz.

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One Million New Trees To Be Planted in New York City

One million new trees will join the urban landscape of New York City by the year 2017 to reduce air pollution, cool temperatures and help improve the city's long term sustainability.

The tree program will begin in July, 2007.

For the next 10 years, the city will plant 23,000 trees each year along city streets, to reach a goal of having a tree in "every single place where it is possible to plant a street tree," Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff said.

The remaining will be planted in parks and public lots, while the private sector will also be encouraged to plant trees on their properties as well.

The Bloomberg administration will commit another $37.5 million annually to forestry programs, up from $11 million currently, officials said.

New York City now has 5.2 million trees, or 24 percent canopy cover. By comparison, Chicago's canopy cover is 11 percent and the rate for Atlanta is 37 percent.

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Actress Gets Discovered in Her 90s

Think it's too late to start a new career? Mae Laborde got her Screen Actors Guild card when she was in her mid-90s.

Ms. Laborde wasn't trying to get "discovered." She was just living in her little Santa Monica, California cottage, cooking, raising tomatoes, painting, and generally minding her own business. She was well-known in her neighborhood as the little old lady (she's 4-feet-10) who cruised fearlessly up and down the streets in her gigantic 1977 Oldsmobile Delta 88.

In 2002, Steve Lopez, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and Mae's former neighbor, interviewed her for a lighthearted story about driving. The story attracted the attention of Sherrie Spillane, a longtime L.A. talent agent and the ex-wife of the late crime novelist Mickey Spillane. The two met, and before she knew it, Sherrie had a new client.

Mae, now 97 years old, has been doing commercial and T.V. work ever since. She played Vanna White 40 years in the future on a recent episode of "MADtv." She has appeared on "Real Time With Bill Maher" and ESPN and done commercials for Lexus and J.P. Morgan.

The secret to her success? "I'm just a natural," she says. She advises those who want to live a long life and never retire.

Next for Mae is a small role in a Ben Stiller movie. "I don't know anyone else her age who could keep up with her," Sherrie Spillane says. "But then, I don't know anyone else her age."


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Polish Man Wakes Up From 19-year Coma

WARSAW - A railway worker who emerged from a 19-year coma now sees a radically altered Poland and thinks "the world is prettier now" than it was under communism, his wife said.

Gertruda Grzebska, 63, said her husband, Jan Grzebski, 65, was still digesting all the changes that had occurred since 1988, when he lapsed into a coma after suffering head injuries on the job.

"He was so amazed to see the colorful streets, the goods," she said.

His rehabilitation specialist, Wojciech Pstragowski, agreed; his newly awakened patient was particularly struck by the changes in Polish stores: "He remembered shelves filled with mustard and vinegar only."

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SAN DIEGO - Caleb Shikles was possessed with an optimism so relentless you had no choice but to surrender to it. The ex-Baptist minister with a shock of white hair died in late March just a week shy of his 95th birthday; but not before leaving a unique legacy online--a weekly, worldwide, virtual hug via

Hug Nation was the brainchild of Caleb's grandson, John Styn. In 2001, John was living in an experimental "webcam house" in San Diego where dozens of cameras recorded occupants' every move. "Thanksgiving Day we invited a bunch of people who didn't have anyone to hang out with into this chat room; and if you had a webcam, turn it on yourself," says John. "As people were going around the table sharing what they were thankful for, it felt like we were together. It felt like we were sharing. People were crying."

Not long after that virtual grace, Caleb's wife died, and John started to spend more time with his grandfather. He realized that Caleb still had an immense amount of love and optimism to offer a troubled and lonely world. John recalls it this way: "I was like, wow, Grandpa, you always help me see the glass as half-full. And he just leaned back and he says, 'It's a beautiful glass.'"

John has continued Hug Nation since Caleb's death, and his spirit remains on the site, and in videos shot by John during Caleb's last weeks. "Suffering is the only form of education," Caleb said from a hospital during his final weeks. "Life is wonderful. I have no regrets."

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Man Saves Stranger from Boston Trolley Tracks

On a rainy morning in June of 2006, Jonathan Burbea watched as a stranger darted across the trolley tracks and slipped on the wet rails as a train bound for Boston came screeching into the station. As other commuters screamed in horror, the 33-year-old Brookline, Mass., man dashed onto the tracks and pulled 62-year-old Lawrence Spiegel to safety. "For some reason, I thought the train would come to a halt," said Burbea of his snap decision to rush to Spiegel's aid.

It didn't. Less than a second after the Pittsburgh native pulled Spiegel to safety, the Green Line trolley whizzed by, clipping the back of Burbea's leg.

"It was like miraculous intervention," a grateful Spiegel told his rescuer moments after they were both nearly killed by the oncoming train. "You were a messenger from God, my guardian angel."

"I didn't plan to put myself in danger, but had I not done anything, the guy clearly would have died," Burbea said.

In June, 2007, a year after that near-fatal encounter, Burbea will receive the prestigious Carnegie Medal for Heroism for his actions. He will be among 19 heroes, including three who died while trying to save others, to receive the bronze medal along with a $5,000 check from the Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Hero Fund Commission.


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