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Reader's Digest International - - My Life - BY TIM HULSE

“It’s pretty in­ter­est­ing to turn a dead town into a liv­ing one.”

Vi­cente Gon­za­lvo of the Ce­paim Foun­da­tion’s New Paths pro­gram, which helps bring im­mi­grants to de­pop­u­lated ru­ral ar­eas of Spain.

Help­ing trees grow

EN­VI­RON­MENT Dutch en­gi­neer Jur­ri­aan Ruys has in­vented an in­ge­nious way of restor­ing veg­e­ta­tion to arid re­gions of the world. His cheap and sim­ple ‘co­coon’ al­lows young trees to sur­vive long enough in dry con­di­tions to es­tab­lish root sys­tems. And it’s prov­ing ex­tremely suc­cess­ful.

Just three years af­ter he com­pleted the first pro­to­type, his in­ven­tion has been adopted in 20 coun­tries around the world, with 250,000 trees planted.

The co­coon is shaped like a dough­nut and made from biodegrad­able waxed paper. Each sapling is planted in a holder through the cen­ter, with enough wa­ter to sus­tain it in its first months. The wa­ter is fed to the tree via a wick, but only in small amounts, so the tree is en­cour­aged to put down roots. “We know if we can get them through the first one or two years, they will sur­vive,” says Ruys.

In a re­cent project in the desert re­gions of Spain, where other at­tempts to grow trees had man­aged a suc­cess rate of only 10 to 20 per­cent, the co­coon pro­vided a 95 per­cent sur­vival rate.

Gay con­vic­tions over­turned

SO­CI­ETY The Ger­man par­lia­ment has voted to quash the con­vic­tions of 50,000 men who were sen­tenced for ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity un­der a 19th cen­tury law that was rig­or­ously en­forced dur­ing the Nazi era—and which con­tin­ued af­ter World War II.

“Back then, you lived with one foot in prison,” re­mem­bers 74-year-old Fritz Sch­mehling, who was con­victed un­der the law as a teenager. He is one of around 5,000 men who fell vic­tim to the statute who are still alive. All will now re­ceive a lump sum of 3,000 euros, as well as 1,500 euros for each year they spent in prison.

The change comes af­ter decades of lob­by­ing by vic­tims and ac­tivists. Reg­is­tered part­ner­ships be­tween same-sex cou­ples were le­gal­ized in 2001 in Ger­many, but the coun­try has yet to grant the full mar­riage rights found in many EU states.

Com­bat­ing ur­ban poverty

WEL­FARE Barcelona, Utrecht and Helsinki are tak­ing part in a novel so­cial ex­per­i­ment aimed at al­le­vi­at­ing ur­ban poverty. The poor­est res­i­dents will be given grants in dif­fer­ent forms by the EU for two years to lift them above the bread­line.

The idea is to find out what dif­fer­ence is made to a house­hold once the ba­sic costs of liv­ing are cov­ered, with the ul­ti­mate goal of de­vel­op­ing more ef­fi­cient wel­fare ser­vices.

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