Inspirational Media ArticlesExcerpts of Key Inspirational Media Articles in Major Media
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California’s booming solar industry had a record day this week when the state’s largest utilities generated more power than ever from the sun. The state’s largest power grid, the California Independent System Operator, or ISO, on Tuesday managed enough solar energy to power 2 million homes. Its 8,030 megawatts recorded at 1:06 p.m. from solar sources stood out as double the network’s best day in 2014. It also was 2,000 megawatts more than its solar peak from last year. “It’s a great milestone for California and the solar industry,” said Sean Gallagher, vice president for state policy at the Solar Energy Industries Association. He said California represents about half of the nation’s solar industry in megawatts produced. The utilities have been racing to meet the state’s increasingly stringent renewable fuels mandates, which require them to produce a third of their power from renewable sources by 2020 and half by 2030. With those goals in mind, PG&E has added over the last two years two of the largest photovoltaic solar installations in the world. The company’s Topaz Solar Farm in San Luis Obispo County, connected to the grid last year, can generate up to 300 megawatts from the sun. When it’s finished, its capacity is expected to hit 550 megawatts. Meanwhile, PG&E’s Agua Caliente solar project in Yuma County, Ariz., brings in another 300 megawatts. It was completed in 2014.
Note: California's success with solar power pales in comparison with the entire country of Germany, which produced 22 gigawatts of electricity back in 2012, nearly three times the record amount produced by California in 2016.
Companies can’t get enough organic ingredients to satisfy consumer desire for organic and nongenetically modified foods. The demand for those crops outstrips the supply, leaving farmers like [Wendell] Naraghi racing to convert their land to organic production, an arduous and expensive process. “Customers are asking for it,” said Mr. Naraghi, who is in the process of transitioning 300 of his 3,000 acres of orchards this year. “And we listen to our customers.” The clamor for organic crops is so intense that major food brands, like General Mills, Kellogg and Ardent Mills, are helping to underwrite the switch. General Mills, for instance, recently signed a deal to help convert about 3,000 acres to organic production of alfalfa and other animal feeds. Ardent offers farmers a premium for crops grown on land while a farm transitions to organic. In the most recent government tally, in 2011, organic farmland, including that used for grazing, was less than 1 percent of crop land in the United States. But the consumer demand is accelerating the conversion process. Sales of organic products grew 11 percent last year to $43.3 billion, or roughly four times the growth in sales of food products over all. Sales would have been even higher had supply, particularly in organic dairy and grains, kept up with demand. As much as 20 percent of cropland in America could be organic in the next decade or so, but land suitable for transition is getting harder to come by.
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Leave it to Germany to build a bicycle autobahn that connects 10 cities within its borders. The goal? To take some 50,000 vehicles off the actual highways and make commuting by bike a much easier - and safer - proposition. The idea was sparked six years ago when a cultural project caused the one-day closure of the road between Duisburg and Dortmund and more than three million people flooded the road on bikes, skates, and feet. Last December, Germany’s first stretch of bike highway opened for business between Mülheim an der Ruhr and Essen. Eventually, the Radschnellweg will link 10 cities and four universities with 62 miles of bike highway. The bikeways - and parallel pedestrian paths - are completely separated from the vehicle lanes, with a 13-foot width, tunnels, lights, and snow clearing because safety and accessibility issues are two of the biggest obstacles to biking. Coupled with Europe’s blossoming affection for electric bikes and Germany’s proximity between cities, the Radschnellweg stands to attract a new wave of pedal-powered commuters. Of course, the Germans are only the latest to enter the bike highway fray. The Netherlands started building its network of bikeways 10 years ago and continue to expand it, while Denmark focused its efforts on Copenhagen. Norway will soon be getting in on the action too with bikeways connecting nine cities.
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Something strange is going on in medicine. Major diseases, like colon cancer, dementia and heart disease, are waning in wealthy countries, and improved diagnosis and treatment cannot fully explain it. Scientists marvel at this good news, a medical mystery of the best sort. The leading killers are still the leading killers - cancer, heart disease, stroke - but they are occurring later in life, and people in general are living longer in good health. Colon cancer is the latest conundrum. While the overall cancer death rate has been declining since the early 1990s, the plunge in colon cancer deaths is especially perplexing: The rate has fallen by nearly 50 percent since its peak in the 1980s. [Dr. Steven R. Cummings of the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute], intrigued by the waning of disease, has a provocative idea for further investigation. He starts with two observations: Rates of disease after disease are dropping. Even the rate of “all-cause mortality,” which lumps together chronic diseases, is falling. And every one of those diseases at issue is linked to aging. Perhaps, he said, all these degenerative diseases share something in common, something inside aging cells themselves. The cellular process of aging may be changing, in humans’ favor. For too long, he said, researchers have looked under the lamppost at things they can measure. “I want to look inside cells,” Dr. Cummings said. Inside, there could be more clues to this happy mystery.
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Cats, dogs and pigs will no longer be guinea pigs. Late last month, the last medical school in the U.S. and Canada to use live animals to teach surgical skills to students - the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Chattanooga - announced it would cease the practice. In an email sent to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which has fought the practice for years, Robert C. Fore, the interim dean for the medical school at UT, wrote that “effective immediately” the college will no longer use live pigs to teach surgical skills to students. Instead they will use simulators of human bodies that can bleed, breathe, blink and have lifelike organs and skin. “It’s a watershed moment,” John Pippin, a retired cardiologist and director of academic affairs for PCRM, told Washington Post. “For anyone who went to medical school in years past it was a rite of passage, often a disturbing rite of passage to use a dog or cat or another animal in medical courses.” Students were instructed to use the animals to practice surgical procedures or inject them with various drugs to monitor responses. After being used for such training procedures, the animals were killed. UT’s ban of using live animals follows Johns Hopkins’ May 18 announcement that they would stop the practice because “almost all medical schools have stopped using live animals” and “that the experience is not essential.”
As a physician, I have encountered many people who believe that heart disease, which is the single biggest cause of death among Americans, is largely controllable. After all, if people ate better, were physically active and stopped smoking, then lots of them would get better. This ignores the fact that people can’t change many risk factors of heart disease like age, race and family genetics. People don’t often seem to feel the same way about cancer. They think it’s out of their control. A ... recent study published in Nature argues that there is a lot we can do. Many studies have shown that environmental risk factors and exposures contribute greatly to many cancers. Diet is related to colorectal cancer. Alcohol and tobacco are related to esophageal cancer. HPV is related to cervical cancer, and hepatitis C is related to liver cancer. And you’d have to be living under a rock not to know that smoking causes lung cancer and that too much sun can lead to skin cancer. Using sophisticated modeling techniques, the researchers argued that less than 30 percent of the lifetime risk of getting many common cancers was because of intrinsic risk factors, or the “bad luck.” The rest were things you can change. [More] recently, in JAMA Oncology, researchers sought to quantify how a healthful lifestyle might actually alter the risk of cancer. They [found that] about 25 percent of cancer in women and 33 percent in men was potentially preventable.
AeroFarms has built what it says is the world's largest indoor vertical farm, without the use of soil or sunlight. Its ambitious goal is to grow high-yielding crops via economical methods to provide locally sourced food to the community, protect the environment and ultimately even combat hunger worldwide. “We use about 95 percent less water to grow the plants, about 50 percent less fertiliser as nutrients and zero pesticides, herbicide, fungicides,” said David Rosenberg, co-founder and chief executive officer of AeroFarms. “We're helping create jobs as well as create a good story to inspire the community and inspire other businesses.” Inside the 2,800 square metre warehouse, farmers tend the short-stemmed plants, which are illuminated by rows of light emitting diode, or LED, lamps and planted in white fabric made from recycled water bottles. Co-founder ... Marc Oshima said that by producing indoors, AeroFarms can grow plants within 12 to 16 days, compared with 30 to 45 days outdoors. A year-round grow cycle protected from the changeable climate means that indoor farms can be 75 times more productive, he said. The company plans to move its operation this year to a new facility in Newark, [New Jersey] with 6,503 square metres of growing space. Most green, leafy plants thrive during the spring and fall in sunnier states such as California and Arizona. Setting up indoor farms in New Jersey eliminates the environmental costs of transporting those crops to consumers in the Northeast.
Note: Watch this inspiring video on vertical farming.
The Chicago-based program Becoming A Man is the type that allows rival gang members to sit together, just days after one group killed a member of the other, and calmly talk about their issues, according to John Wolf, senior manager of the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab. “They were talking through ways of finding peace and ways of making sure it didn’t escalate further,” [Wolf said]. For the past few years, Wolf and his colleagues have been studying the impact of the Becoming A Man program, which targets at-risk male students in Chicago public schools. The program, run by the non-profit organization Youth Guidance, allows students to participate in weekly group sessions that teach them how to be more conscious of their decision-making processes. A recent two-year evaluation of the program showed that between 2013 and 2015, there was a 50 percent decline in violent crime arrests for the 2,000 participants as compared to a control group. The program does not tell students how to behave, or instruct them as to the “right” thing to do, instead [emphasizing] only that the students carefully consider their decisions instead of rushing to act. BAM says its approach is cost-effective: Every dollar invested in the program is projected to return up to $30 in societal gains as a result of crime reduction. Also, because the program increases graduation rates of participants by 19 percent, it will likely produce additional long-term economic gains.
Pope Francis said on Sunday that Christians and the Roman Catholic Church should seek forgiveness from gays for the way they had treated them. Francis was asked by a reporter if he agreed with recent comments by a Roman Catholic cardinal from Germany that the church should apologize to gays and if an apology was made more urgent by the killing of 49 people at a gay club in Florida this month. Francis, looking sad, recalled church teachings that homosexuals “should not be discriminated against. They should be respected, accompanied pastorally,” he said. Then he added that he thought the church should apologize not only to gay people it had offended, but also to the poor, to women who have been exploited, and to children who have been exploited by being forced to work. “It must apologize for having blessed so many weapons,” Francis added. The pope repeated a slightly modified version of the now-famous “Who am I to judge?” comment he made about gays on the first foreign trip after his election in 2013. “The questions is: If a person who has that condition, who has good will, and who looks for God, who are we to judge?” he said.
New research links county-level economic health to agriculture, and finds that organic food and crop production, along with the business activities accompanying organic agriculture, creates real and long-lasting regional economic opportunities. The recently completed White Paper, U.S. Organic Hotspots and their Benefit to Local Economies ... finds organic hotspots - counties with high levels of organic agricultural activity whose neighboring counties also have high organic activity - boost median household incomes by an average of $2,000 and reduce poverty levels by an average of 1.3 percentage points. It identifies 225 counties across the United States as organic hotspots, then looks at how these organic hotspots impact two key county-level economic indicators: the county poverty rate and median household income. Organic activity was found to have a greater beneficial economic effect than that of general agriculture activity, such as chemically-intensive, conventional agriculture, and even more of a positive impact than some major anti-poverty programs at the county level. Interest in organic at the production level has grown as the demand for organic has risen. Organic food is not only better for the economy, but for human health and the environment. A comprehensive review of 97 published studies comparing the nutritional quality of organic and conventional foods show that organic plant-based foods contain higher levels of eight of 11 nutrients. Organic foods have [also] been shown to reduce dietary pesticide exposure.
One of the world’s oldest female body builders, Ernestine Shepherd, just gained another year in what she’s called her “long happy journey” of life. Now 80, the fitness trainer, model, competitive body builder, and new author celebrated her June 16 birthday with a Facebook post declaring her continued determination, dedication, and discipline. “I am 80 years young today and I thank God for bringing me this far. I’m still determined, I’m still dedicated and I’m still disciplined to be fit!” Shepherd wrote. After being named the oldest female body builder by the Guinness Book of World Records in both 2010 and 2011, Shepherd began to publicly share the story of how she came to live a life of tenacity and perseverance beginning at the age of 56. What started as a modest curiosity about working out turned into a life-changing route to happiness once her sister died suddenly from a brain aneurysm. In an attempt to fulfill the fitness goals Shepherd had created with her late sister, she developed a following and a legacy admired by people of all ages. Shepherd celebrated her current success with the release of her book The “Ageless” Journey of Ernestine Shepherd in which she writes about the secrets to her health and well-being. The book ... details the keys to her motivation, including: “Age is nothing but a number.” In addition to her mantra, “Determined, dedicated, disciplined to be fit,” Shepherd believes that “being out of shape as we age truly is merely an option – NOT a mandate!”
In the wake of [the] massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., a man drove 1,200 miles from his Chicago home to deliver 49 wooden crosses to Orlando Regional Medical Center in honor of each of the mass shooting victims. “My message today is love your brother, love your neighbor,” Greg Zanis told reporters Thursday as he was unloading them. “Don’t judge them.” The 65-year-old carpenter used donated lumber to create the three-foot-tall crosses - each bearing a victim’s name and emblazoned with a red heart - in his garage workshop, then made the 17-hour trek from Illinois to central Florida to set up the makeshift memorial. “I’m doing this for their families,” Zanis [said]. “This individualizes it.” He also brought markers so mourners could write messages on them. Zanis’ crosses have become a familiar sight in communities reeling from tragedy - in 2012, he delivered them to Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., following those mass shootings, and to Boston after the 2013 marathon bombings. But the tribute in Orlando is Zanis’ biggest memorial to date. “When you see all these lined up, it will be like ‘Oh my God,’ and they will see the severity of what happened,” Zanis told the paper. Forty-nine people were killed and 53 others wounded in the June 12 attack at Pulse nightclub - the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. “It is an act of Christian love,” Zanis said. “Even though some of these people might not be Christians, I have never been turned back.”
Friends tease James Brady about his devotion to urban farming, calling him a veggielante and a veggie preacher, but that doesn’t stop his proselytizing. Brady and his business partners create microscale systems that allow schoolchildren and others to grow produce in small or nontraditional spaces. They recently sold nine of their “adaptive growing modules” to Sacramento-area schools. The modules consist of raised storage bins hooked up to a recirculating water system and filled with a composted growing medium. “Part of your next meal should come from no (more) than 10-15 feet from your kitchen table,” Brady said, “so that means if you’re in an apartment building, you can put a bin like this on your patio [and] get food to feed your family, lower your carbon footprint and hopefully contribute to making your family healthier.” The growing modules from Con10u2Farm.com will show students they don’t necessarily need land to grow produce or to create a crop-based business. Reggie Brown, the principal for John Still’s elementary and middle school campuses, said his campus lies within a food desert, an urban area where it’s difficult for families to buy fresh, affordable, high-quality food. Consequently, the campus worked ... to teach children how to plant and tend gardens and why fresh produce is good for nutrition. “We’re excited because we have our kitchen right there,” said Brown, pointing to a door less than 10 feet from the school’s adaptive growing module.
In recent years, cuddling - billed as therapeutic, nonsexual touch on sites like the Snuggle Buddies and Cuddlist - has become the latest thing in wellness, beyond yoga and meditation. A quasi movement that dates back more than a decade thanks to snuggle mixers sponsored by the nonprofit group Cuddle Party has morphed into a cuddle-for-hire industry of one-on-one sessions. Pro cuddlers promise a physical and psychic salve through spooning, arm tickling and deep embraces. One such practitioner, at $80 an hour, is Brianna Quijada. A manager at a vegan restaurant on the Upper East Side by day, she recently discussed her second career on the Cuddlist network, plying the world’s newest profession by night. What drew you to cuddling? "I just wanted touch. It seemed like a safe way to explore that," [said Quijada]. "It seems weird to think that if I wasn’t in a monogamous relationship and wasn’t having sex, I wasn’t getting that kind of touch." What is the value of touch? "When I experience consensual touch, I am more in my body, I’m more comfortable. It’s like a feeling of being understood. It raises your oxytocin, it calms the fight-or-flight response. At the same time, there’s a feeling of vulnerability, so it’s a really interesting way to connect." What do private clients ask for? "It could be hand holding, synchronized breathing, eye-gazing. I’ve done cuddling while sitting, whether it’s an embrace, holding hands, or their head in my lap, or standing and holding each other. They come to me for relaxation."
On the Monday following the Orlando massacre, 12 golden retrievers arrived in the Florida city. They had come to offer comfort to some of the victims of the attack, the families of those killed and the emergency medical workers. The animals are part of the K-9 Comfort Dogs team, a program run by the Lutheran Church Charities. Founded in 2008, the team has comforted victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting. Tim Hetzner, the president of the charity, said that the dogs in Orlando were helping to provide a feeling of safety, allowing those in distress to relax their guard and express their vulnerability during a difficult time. “We’ve had a lot of people here that start petting the dog, and they break out crying,” he said. The dogs and their 20 handlers have visited hospitals and churches, and attended vigils and memorial services. On Wednesday, they visited some of the hospitalized victims. “People couldn’t get out of their bed, so we had to bring the dog up so they could pet the dog while laying down,” Mr. Hetzner said. “They start smiling, and in a couple cases, they started talking as much as they could.” Comfort dogs ... are often employed by therapists and medical doctors to help soothe patients. Studies have shown that they can help to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression as well as the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. There are more than 120 dogs in the K-9 Comfort Dog unit, in 23 states. All of them have received extensive training similar to that of a service dog.
North Dakotans on Tuesday soundly rejected a law enacted last year that changed decades of family-farming rules in the state by allowing corporations to own and operate dairy and hog farms. Some 75 percent of North Dakotans who went to the ballot box voted to repeal Senate Bill 2351. The law ... exempted dairy and swine production from the state's Depression-era corporate farming prohibition. The North Dakota Farmers Union and other groups that collected signatures to put the referendum on the ballot said family farmers cannot compete with large agricultural firms with no ties to the communities where they operate. Corporate and foreign control of U.S. farmland has been a hot-button issue in several major agricultural states in recent years. State laws prohibiting corporations and foreign entities from owning U.S. farmland complicated a $4.7 billion acquisition in 2013 of U.S. pork producer Smithfield Foods by China's Shuanghui International. The deal ultimately closed. This February, a U.S. district judge issued an injunction barring Nebraska officials from enforcing the state's ban on farmland ownership by corporations. North Dakota, with about 740,000 residents, has a heavily agricultural economy. It is one of nine states that have laws limiting corporate farming, according to the National Agricultural Law Center. The North Dakota law says farming or ranching companies must have no more than 15 shareholders or members who must belong to the same family, to a distance of first cousins.
ZubaBox is a shipping container converted into a solar-powered internet café or classroom for people in need living in remote areas - including refugee camps. The interior of the box can accommodate up to 11 individuals at a time and gives people in traditionally marginalized communities a sense of inclusion while widening their opportunities. “The ZubaBox ... gives [people] a space that they deserve to improve their learning experience and achieve their goals,” Rajeh Shaikh, marketing and PC donations manager at Computer Aid International - the nonprofit organization that created and builds the boxes - told The Huffington Post. “We also enable educators to provide valuable 21st century digital skills.” The refurbished PCs located inside of a Zubabox are powered by solar panels located on the shipping container’s roof. Since 2010, 11 Zubaboxes have been placed in neighborhoods throughout Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Togo, Zambia and Zimbabwe. On May 26, Computer Aid built its 12th Zubabox ... in Cazuca, a suburb of Bogota, Colombia, where many displaced people settle. Since the Lab arrived in the South American neighborhood, the little box has had a huge impact. “The younger generation has naturally been curious and excited. But the emotion that this [Lab] has stirred in the elders has been really moving,” [said] William Jimenez, a native to Cazucá and regional coordinator at Tiempo de Juego, a nonprofit that works to provide the youth of Colombia with more constructive uses for their free time.
The “bunker” houses the Torolab project known as La Granja Transfronteriza, or La Granja (The Farm) for short – a place brimming with the arts and more that draws community members of all ages. As Tijuana garnered a reputation as one of the most violent places in the world, Camino Verde held the inglorious title of the most dangerous neighborhood in the city. But today, Camino Verde’s story is changing. And La Granja, founded in 2010, has been no small factor. On weekday afternoons, the bunker is bustling with young kids screeching out notes on their violins under the guidance of instructors. Families gather on the weekend to grow vegetables in the nascent community garden. There’s a computer lab upstairs, and parents can pursue their GED certificates. Most strikingly, however, violence in Camino Verde has plunged, falling by 85 percent since 2010. “This was one of the most violent places in the world, where you weren’t expected to make it out,” [Torolab founder Raúl] Cárdenas says. “Now it’s common to see governments and arts schools from around the globe coming to the neighborhood to learn.” When, in 2010, a group of local leaders came together to talk about what they could do to change Tijuana’s violent trajectory, Cárdenas took charge of pinpointing where they could make the biggest difference. “What people want and what people need is to have a livable space,” he says. Already, the project has received multiple prizes and global recognition.
Some 9,000 people stuck with delinquent medical bills had their debts forgiven courtesy of HBO host John Oliver. Oliver, on his "Last Week Tonight" program Sunday, took the action to illustrate a story about the practices of companies that purchase the records of debtors and attempt to collect on them. The show set up its own company to acquire $15 million worth of debt owed to hospitals in Texas, paying $60,000. Oliver said it was "disturbingly easy" for his show to set up a company, which it called Central Asset Recovery Professionals, and incorporate it in Mississippi to make the purchase. Oliver's show engages in a form of investigative comedy, this week examining [how] institutions often sell their debt for pennies on the dollar to companies who then attempt to collect on the bills. These companies operate with little regulation, and sometimes employ shady and abusive collectors who try to intimidate people into paying, he said. RIPMedicaldebt.org, a nonprofit that raises money to buy debt and forgive the bills owed by people who can least afford to pay them, welcomed the attention. "It's absolutely fabulous," said Craig Antico, CEO of RIPMedicaldebt.org. "It puts a light on a problem that few people know exists. If people paid attention to (Oliver's show) and it got them upset, they should realize that we can eradicate much of this debt if we all banded together to help each other," Antico said. "People can make a donation of $50 and wipe out a $10,000 debt."
Teen pregnancies fell again last year, to another historic low, a government report shows. “The continued decline is really quite amazing,” said Brady Hamilton, the lead author of the new report released Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last year, the birth rate for U.S. teens dropped 8 percent. Rates have been falling since 1991, and this marks yet another new low. Experts cite a range of factors, including less sex, positive peer influence, and more consistent use of birth control. “The credit here goes to the teens themselves,” said Bill Albert, spokesman for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. The new report is based on a review of most of the birth certificates filed last year. There were nearly 4 million births. That’s down slightly from the 2014 total, by about 4,300. Other key figures from the CDC report [include that] the birth rate was 22 live births per 1,000 females ages 15 through 19, [whereas] the rate was 24 per 1,000 the year before. Unmarried moms accounted for about 40 percent of births.
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news articles on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.