Inspirational Media ArticlesExcerpts of Key Inspirational Media Articles in Major Media
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Springing up on the edge of the Sahara desert are rows of curved mirrors as far as the eye can see. They're part of what could become the biggest solar power plant in the world. Morocco is investing about $2.6 billion on the construction of the Ouarzazate complex, which forms the heart of a $9 billion strategy to harness one of the country's greatest natural resources - sunshine. When completed in 2017, it will cover an area nine times the size of New York's Central Park and generate enough electricity to power about one million households. Morocco has been developing solar and other sources of renewable power for years. It has just set itself the ambitious target of meeting just over half the nation's electricity needs from renewable power by 2030. Morocco is using solar technology that operates very differently from traditional solar panels, which use photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight directly into electricity. The Ouarzazate complex uses large curved "mirrors" that track the sun like flowers and channel radiation to generate steam inside a network of tubes. The steam drives a central turbine that generates electricity, which flows into the national grid for use by Moroccan homes and businesses. Perhaps most impressive is that the complex can continue to operate after the sun sets. Heat from the system can be stored for hours in tanks filled with molten salts. That allows steam to be generated for hours and keep turning the turbine at night.
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Yuval Roth woke at the crack of dawn to drive his large, white van from his home on Israel’s Mediterranean coast to Checkpoint 300, the main passageway leading from Palestiniancontrolled Bethlehem to Israeli-controlled Jerusalem. Over the past decade, Roth has made it his daily business to transport Palestinians needing medical treatment from army checkpoints to Israeli hospitals. “These encounters break down barriers,” Roth says. “Everything the Palestinians knew about us, and everything we knew about them, simply disintegrates.” [In 1993] Roth’s brother, Ehud, was kidnapped [and killed] by a Hamas cell in the Gaza Strip. Roth decided to mobilize his pain in the cause of education. He joined ... a nonprofit group comprising bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families. He began sharing his personal story with Israeli high school students, alongside a Palestinian counterpart. In late 2005, a Palestinian member of the group asked Roth for a favor: Could Roth drive his sick brother from a checkpoint on the Palestinian-occupied West Bank to Rambam Hospital in Haifa, Israel. Soon, another Palestinian approached Roth, requesting a ride ... for a Palestinian seeking a bone marrow transplant. “Things began to snowball,” Roth says. “I sent out a call for help online, and that’s how a group of volunteers started to form.” In late 2009, [a $10,000] donation forced Roth to register The Road to Recovery as a nonprofit group. Today it has some 400 active Israeli volunteers.
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In the mid 1970s, psychologist Merrill Elias began tracking the cognitive abilities of more than a thousand people. The goal: to observe the relationship between people's blood pressure and brain performance. There was never an inkling that his research would lead to any sort of discovery about chocolate. And yet, 40 years later, it seems to have done just that. The questionnaire gathered all sorts of information about the dietary habits of the participants, [which] revealed an interesting pattern. "We found that people who eat chocolate at least once a week tend to perform better cognitively," said Elias. "It's significant - it touches a number of cognitive domains." The findings ... come largely thanks to the interest of Georgina Crichton, a nutrition researcher. What's going on? Crichton can't say with absolute certainty. Nor can Elias, who says he expected to observe the opposite effect - that chocolate, given its sugar content, would be correlated with stunted rather than enhanced cognitive abilities. But they have a few ideas. Nutrients called cocoa flavanols, which are found naturally in cocoa, and thus chocolate, seem to have a positive effect on people's brains. Chocolate, like both coffee and tea, also has methylxanthines, plant-produced compounds that enhance various bodily functions. A lot of previous research has shown that there are, or at least could be, immediate cognitive benefits from eating chocolate. But rarely, if ever, have researchers been able to observe the impact of habitual chocolate eating on the brain.
Komal Ahmad was a UC Berkeley undergrad when she encountered a homeless man begging for food. Something compelled her to stop and invite him for lunch. He scarfed up the food. In between bites, he told her his story: He’d just returned from a second tour of duty in Iraq but hadn’t yet received his benefits. He had been evicted, had no money and hadn’t eaten in three days. Right across the street was the Berkeley dining hall, which she knew threw out thousands of pounds of food. “This is dumb; we can fix this,” she recalls thinking. Five years later, Ahmad, 26, is leading Copia, a company seeking to apply a Silicon Valley playbook to food recovery - retrieving surplus food for donation to nonprofits feeding the hungry. The problem is vast. About 35 million tons of food are wasted in the United States every year ... even while 1 in 6 people go hungry. Hundreds of local groups nationwide, largely run by volunteers, already pick up surplus food to feed the needy. In San Francisco, nonprofit Food Runners has been active for almost 30 years and has spawned similar efforts on the Peninsula and and elsewhere. Supporting the local efforts, Congress passed a Good Samaritan Food Donation law in 1996 to protect food donors from liability if products given in good faith cause harm. Copia is refining its approach in the Bay Area, picking up leftovers from tech companies, Super Bowl parties, Stanford Hospital and others for same-day delivery to nonprofits.
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Shortly after they got married six years ago, Tommy's wife Renee just started hanging out with the livestock. Tommy warned her ... "Renee, don't name those cows." But she didn't listen. Then she started singing to them, too. And before long, the rancher's wife had turned into a rancher's worst nightmare - a vegan, who couldn't stomach so much as living with a cattle rancher anymore. "He was just going to get out of the business or our marriage was going to be over," Renee explained. Tommy agreed. "It wasn't working. And I said, 'I'm going to sell the whole herd.' She goes, 'Well, if you're going to sell the whole herd anyway, why don't you just sell 'em to me?' What Tommy didn't know was that Renee had been secretly posting a blog called "Vegan Journal of a Rancher's Wife." She attracted thousands of followers. Through those contacts, Renee was able to raise $30,000 - enough for a hostile takeover. And here's where this story gets good. After his wife raised the money, Tommy did something rare for a rancher, or any man for that matter - he put aside his ego and reconsidered a core belief. He stopped eating meat, liked how he felt, and now works for his wife and the Rowdy Girl Vegan Farm Animal Sanctuary. As best we can tell, it's the only cattle ranch conversion in the country. So now that he's changed for Renee, is there anything Tommy would change about his wife? "I can't think of a thing," he said. And there is everything you need to know, to stay married forever.
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Just two days after Norma’s husband of 67 years passed away, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Doctors gave her the options of surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. She decided she would forgo any treatment, telling the doctors, “I’m 90 years old, I’m hitting the road.” Norma’s son, Tim, and daughter-in-law, Ramie, are full-time RVers. Since Norma couldn’t live at home alone without her husband, they invited her to join them on the road. Six months later, the three of them, along with their poodle Ringo, are enjoying the trip of a lifetime. Ramie, who spoke for the family, said that Norma is a set of fresh eyes on this indefinite road trip. “She’s very quiet and humble, and then she has this streak of adventure that surprises us.” Adventure is right. After leaving Northern Michigan in August, their first big stop was Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. From there, they traveled to Yellowstone National Park and then onto the Rocky Mountains. All the while, they've been documenting their adventure on the Driving Miss Norma Facebook page. Norma’s favorite activity was riding in a hot air balloon in Florida, a Christmas gift from Tim and Ramie. Ramie told ABC News that Norma is feeling better than ever. “She continues to surprise us on this trip," she said. "She’s getting healthier, I think, from eating well and being outside a lot. She’s breathing fresh air and getting to see new things all the time. The trio hopes that Norma’s story will help other families to start conversations about end-of-life plans.
Federal officials are preparing to enforce an 86-year-old ban on importing goods made by children or slaves under new provisions of a law signed by President Barack Obama. "This law slams shut an unconscionable and archaic loophole that forced America to accept products made by children or slave labor," said Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who worked on the legislation. The Tariff Act of 1930, which gave Customs and Border Protection the authority to seize shipments where forced labor was suspected and block further imports, was last used in 2000, and has been used only 39 times all together largely because of two words: "consumptive demand" - if there was not sufficient supply to meet domestic demand, imports were allowed regardless of how they were produced. The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act signed by Obama on Wednesday eliminated that language, allowing stiffer enforcement. To start an investigation, Customs needs to receive a petition from anyone - a business, an agency, even a non-citizen - showing "reasonably but not conclusively" that imports were made at least in part with forced labor. A Labor Department list of more than 350 goods produced by child labor or forced labor provides a detailed breakdown that human rights groups plan to use as they petition the government to take action.
Do you think a 13-year-old could change the world? Max Loughan could be the one to do it. When we interviewed him, Max was wearing his lab coat ... in his parent's old boiler room, which has been converted into a lab. He ponders the future often. "The future that I imagine is the future, frankly we all imagine." He wants to make the world a better place, and to do that, Max believes you need one single thing: "If you got energy, you have power, you have everything." So to solve this problem, a few months ago, Max took the matter into his own hands. He created an electromagnetic harvester out of a coffee can, some wire, two coils, and a spoon. "This cost me 14 bucks," Max said. The harvester conducts radio waves, thermal, and static energy, and turns it into electricity. "This wire takes energy from the air." And the inside the coffee can, "We turn it from AC to DC." We took the device outside, and wrapped Max's twin brother, Jack, in a string of L.E.D. lights. Max connects the lights to the harvester, and sure enough, they turned on. His device clearly works. A $14.00 invention was able to do that. So imagine this same harvester on a scale 20 times larger. "As cheesy as this sounds, from day one, on this planet that I knew I was put here for a reason," said Max. "And that reason is to invent, to bring the future."
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A section of the Mic Mac Mall was transformed into a bright anti-bullying statement Wednesday, as the Pink Shirt Promise anti-bullying campaign officially kicked off. The campaign will go for the next eight days, ending just in time for national Pink Shirt day, which was started in Nova Scotia eight years ago by Travis Price. Wearing pink has become an international symbol for the Anti-Bullying Movement. “It was a simple act of kindness, one act, just stand up for him. Show him that he wasn’t alone,” Price said at the opening for the campaign. The boy he’s referring to is a fellow student who wore a pink shirt to school on the first day of classes. He was teased and bullied for wearing the shirt. After seeing the bullying, Price decided to stand up and take action, encouraging other students to wear pink shirts in support of their fellow student and as a way to stand up to bullies. “We didn’t know at the time that Pink Shirt Day would turn into the movement that it has today. It was simply to try and show this student that he wasn’t alone. Now, this simple act of kindness has grown into something that simply blows my mind, that I can say is now in over 27 countries around the world,” [said Price]. The idea behind Pink Shirt Promise is simple: by making a personal pledge to end bullying and spread positivity, you could change someone’s life. Price says it only takes a few seconds for a bystander to intervene.
Note: Watch a great five-minute video on the origins of this inspiring movement.
Komal Ahmad ... is the founder and CEO of Copia, an online platform that connects businesses with leftover food to local organizations that can distribute that food to people in need. While an undergraduate ... Ahmad was walking down the street when she was approached by a homeless man who asked her for money to buy food. Instead of giving him a few bucks, Ahmad decided to take him out to lunch and discovered that he was an Iraq war veteran. “That hit me like a ton of bricks,” she said, noting that she’d just gotten back from summer training for the U.S. Navy. “It was almost like a glimpse of my future. This was a perfectly educated guy, came from a good family. He was just a person who was down on his luck.” Across the street from where Ahmad and the man had eaten lunch, the university’s cafeteria was throwing out thousands of pounds of leftover food. Right then, the dual problems of hunger and food waste struck her. “Those who have and are wasting and those who need and are starving - and they’re both living quite literally right across the street from each other,” she said. “That’s just ridiculous.” Ahmad launched Feeding Forward, a local service that began ... in 2011 and has since grown into the tech startup Copia, which has now distributed some 600,000 pounds of food to 720,000 people in need. As Copia expands, Ahmad said that she hopes her phone app will set the stage for new platforms that can redistribute a wider array of necessities, like medicine and medical supplies.
What started as a small gesture, of feeding underprivileged children, by 31-year-old Darshan and his friends has turned into a full-blown movement. An email he shot off to a restaurant, after being deeply disappointed with the service he got there, just changed the course of Darshan’s life. When the restaurant management apologised for the poor service and offered to give him free food, Darshan refused the offer and asked them to feed underprivileged children instead. The restaurant went ahead with his suggestion, and after feeding the children, sent pictures to Darshan. “This is the moment that changed me forever. The smile on the faces of those children left me touched. And that is when I decided to do something about it,” he says. Thus, the BhookMitao campaign was born. On June 7, 2015, Darshan and his friends went and fed a couple of children in a slum in Vadodara, Gujarat. Today, the BhookMitao movement provides nutritious lunch to as many as 1,200 children in Vadodara. As the volunteer network grows, Darshan has divided it into groups. Each group takes up a particular spot in the city. They coordinate with those who want to donate, procure the raw materials, and cook the meals in their own kitchens. The programme usually begins ... with some fun activities for the kids. They screen movies on education or make them do some craft work etc., and then ... volunteers and children eat the same food together. The movement ... has spread, [and] the number of volunteers has grown from six to over 600.
France has become the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food, forcing them instead to donate it to charities and food banks. Under a law passed unanimously by the French senate, as of Wednesday large shops will no longer bin good quality food approaching its best-before date. Charities will be able to give out millions more free meals each year to people struggling to afford to eat. The law follows a grassroots campaign in France by shoppers, anti-poverty campaigners and those opposed to food waste. Campaigners now hope to persuade the EU to adopt similar legislation across member states. Supermarkets will also be barred from deliberately spoiling food in order to stop it being eaten by people foraging in stores’ bins. In recent years, growing numbers of families, students, unemployed and homeless people in France have been foraging in supermarket bins at night to feed themselves. People have been finding edible products thrown out just as their best-before dates approached. Some supermarkets doused binned food in bleach, [or] deliberately binned food in locked warehouses for collection by refuse trucks. Now bosses of supermarkets with a footprint of 400 sq metres (4,305 sq ft) or more will have to sign donation contracts with charities or face a penalty of €3,750 (Ł2,900).
The lobby of TerraCycle’s global headquarters is far from what might be expected for a company that reported $18.7 million in revenue in 2014. the company’s core mission: reducing waste. “Everything around us will become waste,” says Tom Szaky, TerraCycle’s chief executive officer. “Our focus is on anything that you cannot recycle today, and that is 75 percent of all objects in the world.” Mr. Szaky founded TerraCycle in 2001 while a freshman at Princeton University. He and another student fed dining hall leftovers to worms and liquefied the worm compost, creating an organic and highly effective fertilizer. Lacking the money to package their product, the duo used soda bottles they retrieved from recycling bins as containers to peddle the worm poop. “That was the inspirational moment,” says Szaky, who decided to drop out of Princeton to pursue TerraCycle as a full-time endeavor. “What got me very excited was ... waste as a business idea.” Today, TerraCycle is an international leader in “recycling the unrecyclable,” building off the worm compost idea and using other waste materials to craft new products. TerraCycle runs recycling programs in more than 350,000 locations in 22 countries. [They] devise a plan to deal with each type of waste, and then process the waste through refurbishing it into something useful or through reprocessing it for recycling.
Only a fraction of the Earth's water is drinkable - an estimate from the U.S. Geological Survey puts all of the world's freshwater at just 2.5 percent of the total global water. What if we could diversify and pull water from the air, instead? Now, a new invention does just that. Fontus is a water bottle that pulls moisture from the air, and in ideal conditions, can fills itself up in under an hour. The water bottle comes from Austrian industrial designer Kristof Retezár, who wanted to make a simple, portable tool to help people where drinkable water isn't easy to get. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs reports that 1.2 billion people, around a fifth of the world's population, live in areas where water is physically scarce. Another 1.6 live in countries where water infrastructure and storage is lacking. The Fontus uses solar energy to power a small cooler or condenser that works by the so-called Peltier effect. Air passing through the cold chamber rapidly condenses like droplets on the outside of a cold glass. In "really good" conditions, or temperatures between 86 and 104 degrees with humidity between 80 and 90 percent, the Fontus can generate half a liter of water in an hour. In the future, Retezár says the company hopes to improve that so the bottle can work in more conditions. The project was shortlisted for the 2014 James Dyson Award. Next the company hopes to launch a crowdfunding campaign and get the price of the water bottle under $100.
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Every school teaches math and reading, but what about mindfulness and kindness? Twice a week for 20 minutes, pre-kindergarten kids were introduced to stories and practices for paying attention, regulating their emotions, and cultivating kindness. The initial results of our research ... suggest that this program can improve kids’ grades, cognitive abilities, and relationship skills. Having classrooms full of mindful, kind kids completely changes the school environment. Imagine entire schools - entire districts - where kindness is emphasized. That would be truly powerful. Teaching kindness is a way to bubble up widespread transformation that doesn’t require big policy changes or extensive administrative involvement. If you had visited one of our classrooms during the 12-week program, you might have seen a poster on the wall called “Kindness Garden.” When kids performed an act of kindness or benefitted from one, they added a sticker to the poster. The idea is that friendship is like a seed - it needs to be nurtured and taken care of in order to grow. Through that exercise, we got students talking about ... how we might grow more friendship in the classroom. Students who went through the curriculum showed more empathy and kindness and a greater ability to calm themselves down when they felt upset, according to teachers’ ratings. They earned higher grades at the end of the year in certain areas (notably for social and emotional development), and they showed improvement in the ability to think flexibly and delay gratification, skills that have been linked to health and success later in life.
It took a bloody Civil War and the passage of a Constitutional amendment to eliminate slavery in the United States. Today, the tools to combat slavery have become decidedly more high-tech (and nonviolent). Made in a Free World in San Francisco, for example, has developed software that helps companies determine whether products they sell or make depend on global slave labor. At least 20 million people across the world are being forced to work for no pay. These workers are either directly or indirectly producing the goods sold by major corporations and small businesses alike, including those in the United States. “At the level of global brands, forced labor and human trafficking can often be hidden from view, the result of complex and frequently outsourced recruitment and hiring practices,” according to a United Nations report. Made in a Free World is a nonprofit that grew out of work that founder and CEO Justin Dillon did for the State Department in 2011. Dillon helped create an algorithm that allows consumers to determine the probability that companies were using slave labor, especially in raw material production, to make 400 popular products like beds, cars and cell phones. “We wanted to start a conversation,” Dillon told me. “No one wants to go out and buy things from slavery.” But Dillon realized that consumers were just one half the equation. To create real change, Made in a Free World needed to help companies - not just shame them - to rid slave labor from supply chains.
Located in northeast Portland, Dignity Village is a self-governed gated community, which currently serves 60 people on any given night - the city limits the number - and provides shelter in the form of tiny houses built mainly from donated and recycled materials. The village emerged in the winter of 2000 as a tent city called Camp Dignity. Now officially a nonprofit, Dignity Village is governed by a democratically elected council of nine residents, who are responsible for day-to-day decisions; all residents can vote on big decisions, like whether to remove a resident or enter into contracts with service providers, in town-hall-style meetings. On a typical night, it provides food, housing, bathrooms, and a mailing address for nearly 60 adults, who pay $35 a month in rent and would otherwise be taking their chances alone sleeping on park benches or city streets. Community may be Dignity Village’s most essential offering. “It’s really what sets people apart from other homeless shelters and encampments, above all else,” says Katie Mays, who works as a social worker at Dignity Village three days a week. Elsewhere, cities are trying out the model. In Eugene, Oregon, Opportunity Village has lifted the concept wholesale. Dignity Village’s influence also has spread to Nashville, where a micro-housing community called Sanctuary has cropped up. What the residents of these communities hold in common are the bonds forged from shared experience - of finally finding a welcome environment after being discarded and stigmatized by larger society.
President Obama on Monday announced a ban on solitary confinement for juvenile offenders in the federal prison system, saying the practice is overused and has the potential for devastating psychological consequences. In an op-ed that appears in Tuesday editions of The Washington Post, the president outlines a series of executive actions that also prohibit federal corrections officials from punishing prisoners who commit “low-level infractions” with solitary confinement. The new rules also dictate that the longest a prisoner can be punished with solitary confinement for a first offense is 60 days, rather than the current maximum of 365 days. The president’s reforms apply broadly to the roughly 10,000 federal inmates serving time in solitary confinement. The reforms come six months after Obama, as part of a broader criminal-justice reform push, ordered the Justice Department to study how solitary confinement was being used by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. “How can we subject prisoners to unnecessary solitary confinement, knowing its effects, and then expect them to return to our communities as whole people?” Obama wrote in his op-ed. He said he hoped his reforms at the federal level will serve as a model for states to rethink their rules on the issue.
An autistic teenager has become an online sensation after a video demonstrating his unique technique as a barista - which involves plenty of dancing - went viral. Sam was filmed making a cup of coffee for a customer while working alongside his boss Chris at the Starbucks restaurant, believed to be in North America. The clip shows the teenager smiling and dancing while heating the milk and later pouring it into the cup of coffee, before adding whipped cream and sprinkles. Carly Fleischmann, who lives in Toronto, Canada, posted the video to YouTube and Facebook alongside a caption introducing Sam. Carly explained that when Sam was offered a position at Starbucks he told his parents that for the first time in his life he felt like he had real meaning. She added: 'Sam was diagnosed with autism and like some people with autism Sam has a movement disorder. Sam has a hard time keeping his body still. 'Sam never thought that he would be able to work behind the bar because of his sudden movements but his manager Chris believed in him and got Sam to channel his movements into dance.' The partnership was not an overnight success however and it has taken Sam and Chris many shifts and hours to get to the level demonstrated in the video. Sam is now known as the 'dancing barista' and Carly noted that if it was not for Chris believing in the ability of his employee then he would not have had the confidence to believe in himself.
Note: Don't miss the inspiring six-minute video of Sam and Chris on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Robina Gul has swapped her needle for a trowel. Gul is growing some 25,000 saplings of 13 different species crammed into the small courtyard of her two-room house in Najaf Pur, a village of around 8,000 people. "It gives me immense pleasure to look after the saplings as this has changed my whole life," said Gul, 35. She set up the nursery at her home in March last year under an agreement with the provincial forest department, [which] provides around a quarter of the start-up cost for poor households to set up a tree nursery, with a subsidy amounting to 150,000 rupees ($1,429.93) each over a year. "I am now getting over 12,000 rupees per month (from the subsidy), just by looking after the saplings in my home," Gul said. "I have also acquired the skills I need to grow different seedlings, and this will help me earn enough even after the project is wound up." The provincial government is planning to spend 21 billion rupees ... on a project called the "Billion Tree Tsunami." The goal is to plant 1 billion trees in degraded forest areas and on private land. The initiative aims to boost local economic development in a way that uses natural resources sustainably. Outsourcing nurseries to the private sector, including widows, poor women, and young people ... provides the government with saplings to plant, as well as green jobs. At the same time, illegal logging has been almost eliminated in the province following strict disciplinary action against some officials who were involved.
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