Inspirational Media ArticlesExcerpts of Key Inspirational Media Articles in Major Media
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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.
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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.
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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!”
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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.
Four Australian Catholic organisations have announced they are completely divesting from coal, oil and gas in what they say is the first joint Catholic divestment anywhere in the world. The move comes as prominent Jewish rabbis, Muslim clerics, Anglican bishops and other religious leaders call on the Australian government to protect the Great Barrier Reef, stop approving coalmines and remove subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, in an open letter published by the Guardian. The divestment announcement ... and letter were coordinated by the multi-faith group the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, in partnership with the environmental group 350.org. It comes a year after Pope Francis, in his second encyclical, Laudato Si’, called on all people – not just Catholics – to take “swift and unified global action” to protect the environment and stop global warming. At the time the papal intervention was labelled “explosive” and “the most astonishing and perhaps the most ambitious papal document of the past 100 years”. The multi-faith open letter ... reads: “So far, the election debates have failed to assign due priority to global warming. Neither of the major parties currently plan to wind back coal and gas mining.”
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.
Costco and organics seem increasingly intertwined these days. The Issaquah-based warehouse giant in recent years has become a dominant seller of organic produce. And now Costco’s co-founder and a top executive are investing in a planned restaurant chain ... that bills itself as the first fast-food restaurant to qualify as Certified Organic under U.S. Department of Agriculture rules. Costco co-founder and former CEO Jim Sinegal, along with Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti, are among the investors in The Organic Coup, which opened its first restaurant in November and has two locations in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Organic Coup ... was founded by former Costco execs Erica Welton and Dennis Hoover. The investment, as noted by Business Insider, will allow the chain to expand. Hoover said the plan is to open up to 10 locations this year, then decide how many to open next year. A location in the Seattle area is “on our target,” he said. The USDA itself does not certify restaurants as organic. But restaurants may apply to private or public certification agents to become USDA Organic-certified “handlers,” as Organic Coup is. Such handler certification means products sold as organic must have at least 95 percent certified organic content, and that the restaurant must prevent the mingling of organic with nonorganic products, and protect organic products from contact with prohibited substances.
As more states legalize the use of marijuana, the number of teens with cannabis-related problems is declining, new research suggests. Published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, the study revealed a 24% decline in marijuana-related problems—such as becoming dependent on the drug or having trouble in school and in relationships—among teenagers. The researchers additionally found an association between drops in problems related to cannabis and reductions in behavioral issues, such as fighting, property crimes and selling drugs. The report also showed that marijuana use rates in young people have been dropping over the years. When asked whether they had used marijuana in the previous 12 months, study participants reported fewer instances of pot use in 2013 than their peers had reported in 2002, a 10% decline overall. Additional research on how the decrease in rates of conduct problems relates to other behaviors is needed. “For example, adolescent crime rates have been declining for about 20 years. Teenage pregnancy rates are at an all time low. Binge drinking among high school students is dropping. (Though you wouldn’t know any of this from news coverage),” [study author Richard A. Grucza] said. “I think it is likely that all of these changes are connected to each other, and to the drop in marijuana use disorder. It’s really important to figure out why this is happening so that we can extend these trends into the future.”
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At his graduation from medical school, Kevin Morton Jr. sat beside the woman who saved his life. It was nearly a decade since he was shot in an Arby’s parking lot, sustaining injuries so severe that the early prognosis gave him only a 10 percent chance of survival. But Dr. Dharti Sheth-Zelmanski, the surgeon on call in the trauma unit that night, didn’t let that happen. The care he received over many surgeries and his long recovery inspired Morton to evaluate what he would do with his second chance. The answer came naturally: He’d pay it forward by becoming a doctor himself. In 2012, he ... was accepted to Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. He chose to specialize in general surgery, the same as Sheth-Zelmanski. He did his student rotations at St. John’s Hospital in Detroit ... where he was once a patient. He’ll start his residency there in July — almost nine years to the day he was brought there as a shooting victim. On his graduation day earlier this month, Morton asked Sheth-Zelmanski to hood him, an honor given to a close family member or mentor when receiving an advanced degree. “There’s no greater joy than to realize what I do on a day-to-day basis can create such a change in somebody for the better,” she said. “I feel like I know that if anything is ever wrong with me, I know where I can go.” And that’s Morton’s goal: to be the kind of compassionate and engaged doctor that she was for him.
Plastic six-pack rings are the bane of conservationists - images of sea birds and turtles entangled in them serve as constant reminders that consumer culture and the environment don’t get along. But thanks to an innovation from a Florida-based brewery, we can feel a little better about enjoying a six-pack. Saltwater Brewery has partnered with the ad agency We Believers to create what they say is the first fully edible beer can packaging. Made from byproducts of the brewing process such as wheat and barley, their six-pack holders are fully biodegradable and completely digestible. Rather than ensnaring curious animals in a corset of litter, the company’s six-pack rings could serve as a satisfying snack. And if nothing is biting, the rings quickly decompose. Plus, the drink holders are just as strong as the plastic variety, which should keep those Screamin’ Reels safe, as well. The company 3-D printed a test batch of 500 holders in April, according to AdvertisingAge, and it plans to scale up production to meet its current output of 400,000 cans of beer a month. While the edible holders are more expensive to make, Saltwater Brewery wants set an example for other beer producers and encourage them to adopt the idea. They say if their edible holders become commonplace, they could potentially be as cheap as the regular plastic rings.
A solar project funded and operated by both Jews and Muslims is shining some light on Auja, a small Palestinian town located in one of the most controversial territories on Earth. The $100,000 project is harnessing solar energy to power the drawing of water from deep underground to irrigate a grove of palms growing the prized Medjool dates. It is the first large project to be funded by both Jews and Muslims in the United States – including former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg – and to be operated by Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims on the ground. The solar array is providing an economic boost to 45 farming families in this town of 5,000 Palestinians on the eastern flank of the West Bank who struggle with scarce water and unreliable and expensive electricity. Ben Jablonski ... is leading the project through a nonprofit he founded called Build Israel Palestine. Mr. Jablonski, who is Jewish, started the organization in 2014 with Tarek Elgawhary, an Egyptian Muslim religious scholar in Washington, D.C. who also runs Coexist, an educational nonprofit. Jablonski gave up his board seat with the Jewish National Fund, a nonprofit infrastructure developer that has limited but controversial involvement in West Bank settlements, in order to meet the demands from the Auja community, which insisted that donors and engineers involved in the project have no connections to Israeli settlements. Build Israel Palestine’s work focuses on providing Palestinians access to water, and doing so by bringing Muslims and Jews together.
Chris Castro has an obsession - turning the perfectly manicured lawns in his Orlando neighborhood into mini-farms. "The amount of interest in Orlando is incredibly surprising," Castro says. Surprising because he's asking Floridians to hand over a good chunk of their precious yards to volunteers who plant gardens full of produce. His program is called Fleet Farming, and it's starting off small, with 10 of these yard farms. Most of them sit smack in the middle of the front yard. Lawns are a thing here. Urban farms? Not so much. But so far, no neighbors have complained. Castro makes sure every garden is meticulously maintained - including homeowner Gary Henderson's. "I just think that the whole idea of lawns, especially in a place like Florida, is absurd," says Henderson, standing amid rows of tomatoes, sweet lettuce, carrots and arugula growing smack in the middle of his front yard. All of Fleet Farming's volunteers only ride bikes, going from garden to garden to harvest the produce. Because the program is bike-powered, Castro keeps the yard gardens within a mile of the local farmers market, where Fleet Farming sells most of the produce. Henderson offers this advice to anyone thinking about replacing their lawn with a garden: "Give it a try ... and once you get to the point where you realize that you can eat your lawn, I think it makes a whole lot of sense." And so do 300 other residents of central Florida. That's how many people are on Fleet Farming's waiting list, ready to eat their lawns instead of having to mow them.
A shorter work day increases productivity and makes people happier. The Svartedalens retirement home in Gothenburg, Sweden's second largest city, conducted an experiment to determine whether cutting hours improved patient care and boosted employees' morale. Nurses who worked six-hour days for the past year were found to be 20 per cent happier and had more energy at work and in their spare time. The 68 nurses also took half as much sick time as those in the control group and were able to do 64 per cent more activities with elderly residents. They were also 2.8 times less likely to take any time off work in a two-week period, Bengt Lorentzon, a researcher on the project, told Bloomberg. "If the nurses are at work more time and are more healthy, this means that the continuity at the residence has increased," Mr Lorentzon said. "That means higher quality [care]." Sweden made headlines in 2015 when it was reported the country was moving towards a six-hour work day. A Toyota centre in Gothenburg, Sweden's second largest city, implemented shorter working hours over a decade ago, with the company reporting happier staff, a lower turnover rate and an increase in profits. Their results prompted a number of other Swedish companies to trial shorter hours. Longer working hours have been linked with heart disease and stroke, according to a medical study published in The Lancet.
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.