Space tourism, sea-grass balls, purple island and cactus smuggler

Feb 10, 2021 Episode 33

Tourism to the cosmos takes off, Spain’s sea-grass balls eat plastic, South Korea paints an island purple and New Zealand’s cactus smuggler is caught

Episode Transcript

OPENING STING – LEELA: “New, new, newsy – Newsy Pooloozi!”




LEELA: Hello and welcome to Newsy Pooloozi – a whirlpool of news and information. What’s that you hear? Oh, the delightful sounds of India we’re back home in New Delhi! Which means, we gotta get into our high tech and quiet studio… under the bed! Ahh, isn’t this cozy?


MAMA: Sure is… Even if it’s breaking my back.


LEELA: I’m your host and studio-under-the-bed manager, Leela Sivasankar Prickitt. And…


MAMA: I’m co-host and editing-at-a-desk executive, Lyndee Prickitt.


LEELA: And since we’re back home in India…




MAMA: Chalo (“Let’s go” in Hindi)


LEELA: Let’s go indeed. Up to space, that is. Yep, tourism is entering a new orbit outer space to be exact. And it’s not just astronauts and billionaires going high in the sky everyone from reality tv stars to healthcare workers to ordinary citizens, like you and me, are getting the chance to go up, up and away.


That’s not all. Remember the news about pesky plastic polluting our oceans? Well, it’s sea-grass balls to the rescue! And if you don’t know what those are, you’d better keep listening…


And what about the clever Indian who invented a dual-purpose wind turbine that means it can create electricity AND clean water at the same time.


And finally, we have another battle of the odd balls because there are just too many crazy news stories happening this week… from the town that turned purple to attract tourists to the traveler who tried to smuggle cactus into New Zealand by wearing them!


All that and more in our whirlpool of news. First, it’s time to blast off with the…


STING: “The Big NEWS story of the week!”


MAMA: Step right up, step right up get your ticket to… space!


LEELA: Oh yeah, space tourism is here, ladies and gentlemen and, thanks to the generosity of a young American billionaire, a few ordinary citizens in other words people who aren’t astronauts or super rich! are getting the chance to go… into the cosmos.


MAMA: Jared Isaac man is the 37-year-old founder and chief executive of a company called Shift4 Payments. He’s chartering a rocket and spacecraft from SpaceX for a three to four-day trip to space and is giving one of the seats to a health worker from the St. Jude cancer hospital, which treats children for free.


LEELA: And the other ticket will be raffled off to someone at random! OMG!! So exciting…! But I bet you have to be at least 18 though…


MAMA: And a US citizen. While the fourth ticket will go to the winner of an entrepreneur competition.


LEELA: Entre-what?


MAMA: An entrepreneur is someone who creates a new business, like Jared Isaac man.  Just last week, SpaceX, which was started by entrepreneur Elon Musk, announced it would be working with Axiom, another private space firm, to take the three private citizens up for an 8-day stay on the International Space Station sometime next year.


LEELA: OMG can we go, Mama, please, please??


MAMA: Ha for billionaires only, I’m afraid, the ticket up costs a cool $55 million dollars. Round trip though. Over the last twenty years, several wealthy private citizens have flown to the space station before the first was American billionaire Dennis Tito but always on the Russian Soyuz craft because NASA didn’t allow such trips until recently.


LEELA: Well, there is another way I can get to space…


MAMA: Oh, trying to be an astronaut?


LEELA: Yes ma’am. But in the meantime, what about the “Space Hero” reality TV show?!


MAMA: Yes, right! This is in partnership with Axiom Space which is scouring the earth for contestants to take part in a reality TV show that aims to take one lucky winner into the final frontier… after extensive training and challenges to test their physical, mental and emotional strength of course.


LEELA: Again, though, I’m probably too young…


MAMA: Yes, you probably are, but it truly marks the dawn of a new era. Once upon a time, flying on an airplane was something only the super-rich could do and look now! And, by the way, Axiom also says it’s developing a space station of its own, one that NASA actually hopes may one day replace the International Space Station, which has been in space for 22 years.


LEELA: Whoa… maybe that’s the one I’ll get to visit then…!


MAMA: Ok, staying with science…


LEELA: But coming down to earth.


MAMA: You know, we hear a lot of doom and gloom when it comes to the earth how there are so many people now, resources are running out and toxins are piling up.


LEELA: So, it’s super-duper to hear a story like this.


MAMA: About mother nature helping humans clean up our act. Our plastic problem, to be EXACT.


LEELA: Sea grass to the rescue!


MAMA: Sea grass balls in fact.


LEELA: Yeah, they’re like little hairy eco warriors of the sea.


MAMA: What are sea grass balls, you may be wondering?


LEELA: Well, our Barcelona correspondent, Nina Grañena, is gonna tell us all!


NINA: Sea grass. It’s pretty straight forward. It’s grass that grows in the sea. And here in Spain, the sea grass is pretty special. Besides doing a bunch of other great things for the environment, scientists here discovered it also helps clean up the ocean!


This is how it works… When the sea grass grows, it gets rid of its dead, ol’ brown sea grass leaves to make room for the new ones. Those dead sea grass leaves get all tangled -up together and make these round, hairy things. But as the dead leaves are getting all tangled up, they are also locking in bits of plastic.


The plastic gets wrapped up in those balls, which later wash to shore. Scientists say the sea grass balls might be helping collect about 900 million bits of plastic every year! Another example of mother nature getting the job done…. From Barcelona this is Nina Grañena for Newsy Pooloozi. Back to you, Leela.


WORLD WRAP STING: “What’s that? I’ll tell you what. That’s the halftime bell! Which means… it’s time to hear what’s making news around the rest of the world. Hold on tight, it’s around the world in 80 seconds.”


MAMA: Former US president Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial begins in the US Senate.  He faces a single charge of “incitement of insurrection” – that means he’s being blamed for encouraging a violent uprising against the government. This is the first time a president has gone on trial after leaving office.


In the south Asian country of Myanmar thousands took to the streets, despite a ban on protests, in defiance of the military which recently overthrew its government. The army has declared a year-long state of emergency and claimed, without evidence, that an earlier election was fraudulent.


In India rescue workers are looking for survivors after part of a Himalayan glacier fell into a river. As it went down the mountain gorge it caused a devastating avalanche of water, dust before crashing through a dam.


The “healthiest coral reefs in the world” just got more protection as the U.S. government formally approved the expansion of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. This now triples the size of the sanctuary off the Gulf of Mexico.


And finally, happy Chinese New Year when over a billion people in China and millions around the world will celebrate the Year of the Ox. In Chinese astrology the Ox is seen as hardworking, positive and honest. Phew, we could use a bit of that this year.


LEELA: Thank you kindly for that whiz around the world of top news… Now we have some…


TECH STING: “It’s time for…. Technology News, technology news, tech news!”


MAMA: Well, when we say tech, we don’t mean high tech…


LEELA: As in computers or electronics.


MAMA: This is what we might call clever tech. Clever engineering on a budget. Have you ever heard of the expression “necessity is the mother of invention?”


LEELA: Uhhhhh…


MAMA: In other words, if you need something badly enough – like clean water and electricity – you’ll create or invent something that will give you what you need.


LEELA: Oh, I get it. So, your need gives “birth” to AN invention.


MAMA: Exactly. To tell us more about this is our South Indian reporter…


LEELA: (pronounced: Sad-anna Nag ‘raj) Sadhana Nagaraj.


SAADHANA: Thanks, you guys. This is the story of Madhu Vajrakarur. He’s a farmer’s son, who grew up in a small village in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Like millions of people in India – and billions all over the world – he knows what it’s like not to have easy access to water.


Never mind electricity! For years he dreamed of building something to solve this problem. But it wasn’t until he a 23-year-old electrical engineering student that solution came to him. In just a few weeks and with very little money, he built a fifteen-foot wind turbine behind his house.


It generates electricity to power fans, lights and a few plug points in his home. AND the wind turbine provides clean drinking water. How does it work? First, it absorbs the moisture from the atmosphere, which is condensed in a water compressor. Then it’s cleaned through a three-stage water filter and can provide 80-100 liters of water for his family AND his neighbors. How cool is that?!


Madhu is hoping to commercialize his design to help others set up this dual-purpose wind turbine in areas all over India where water is scarce. In Bangalore, I’m Sadhana Nagaraj, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!


LEELA: Thanks, a lot, Sadhana! That’s definitely a cool dual-contraption! And speaking of doubling up on things…


STING: Step right up, step right up… Have a go at the lucky dip machine… What’s it gonna be today, eh? And odd ball, no doubt!

LEELA: Two oddballs, in fact.


MAMA: Because we just couldn’t decide which story was the oddest. Mine…


LEELA: Or mine!


MAMA: Humph! So, first is a tiny island in South Korea acting like a teenager seeking attention.




MAMA: Yep, some teenagers or even adults dye their hair all sorts of bright, unusual colors to get noticed and that’s just what the island of Banwol is doing.




That is the sound of paint, purple paint to be exact. And it’s been applied to 400 roofs, several front doors, telephone boxes and even a bridge. And the makeover didn’t stop there 40,000 lavender plants and 30,000 New England asters or purple daisies, if you like were also grown to go with the purple bellflowers aka campanula that are native to the area and provided the color inspiration.


That’s not all. farmers have even begun growing fields and fields of beets and the purple vegetable kohlrabi.


LEELA: That’s a lot of purple… Imagine the photos you’d get there!


MAMA: and that’s the whole idea to bring in the tourists.


LEELA: Why do they want tourist?


MAMA: Because tourists spend money… on hotels, on cafes, renting bicycles, eating ice-cream.


LEELA: So not that odd after all.


MAMA: Well, if you think a purple island isn’t odd, then I’d like to know where you spend your time.


LEELA: India! We have the blue city of Jodhpur, after all. Blue roofs, blue doors, blue views.


MAMA: OK, ok. You’re right. There are a few places like that in the world but nowhere purple and with flowers and foliage to match. And, hey, it’s working their tourism is up by 20 percent.


LEELA: Result! Unlike the unlucky smuggler of my story…


MAMA: Do tell!


LEELA: Well, you might think she was a very “prickly” woman… as she tried to smuggle into New Zealand nearly a 1000 cacti and small succulents those are basically fleshy plants. How, you might ask? Well, stuffed in stockings and strapped… to her body! As you do. But before you wince at the thought of what an uncomfortable flight she must have had, none of the cacti were of the prickly variety. But they were precious worth $10,000, in fact! Including some endangered varieties. But what should arrive…


SFX – barking


Yep, a sniffer dog.


SFX – sniffing


who thought she smelt a bit funny…? So, she ran into the bathroom, hoping to dispose of her leafy loot, but she was caught before she could…


SFX – toilet flush


LEELA: That’s what happens when you break bio-security laws.


MAMA: Bio-what?


LEELA: Regulations to try and stop harmful organisms being transferred from one country to another. In other words you can’t travel with plants!


MAMA: Right!


LEELA: Well, that story really “leaf’s” me wanting more, get it?


STING: “And it’s time to wrap up the podcast with the top… five fab facts heard today. Here goes”



MAMA: Space tourism has been around for twenty years thanks to which American billionaire and which Russian space craft?

American billionaire Dennis Tito was the first private citizen to head to space in 2001 thanks the Russian Soyuz craft, because NASA didn’t allow such trips to the International Space Station until recently.



LEELA: The private space company Axiom says it’s developing a space station of its own, which NASA hopes may one day replace the International Space Station, which has been in space for how long?

The international space station has been up in space, orbiting the earth, for 22 years.



MAMA: Sea-grass-balls are Mother Nature’s way of helping clean up plastic from our oceans. But what are they?

When grass that grows under sea water sheds its old, brown leaves and becomes tangled-up it forms round, hairy-looking balls.



LEELA: How do sea grass balls clean up the plastic in our oceans?

Plastic that’s floating past the sea-grass-balls gets tangled up in the balls, which eventually wash ashore, helping environmentalists collect about 900 million bits of plastic every year!



MAMA: A woman was stopped entering New Zealand with almost 1000 cacti and succulent plants strapped to her body because she was breaking bio-security laws. What are those?

Bio-security laws are regulations to try and stop harmful organisms being transferred from one country to another. In other words, you can’t travel abroad with plants!


LEELA: And that brings us to the end of this episode of Newsy Pooloozi!!!!! If you enjoyed this dip in the whirlpool of news and information…


MAMA: Then do subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Alexa or wherever you get your podcasts.


While you’re at it, give us a good rating. Or better still, leave us a review.


See you next week in the Newsy Pooloozi!