Inspirational News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Inspirational News Articles in Media
Trained as a lawyer, Van Ngoc Ta never imagined that he would spend his evenings posing as a gang lord in brothels. Over the past 10 years, Van Ta has played an active role in ... Blue Dragon Children's Foundation, [a charity] that rescues Vietnamese women and girls trafficked to China for the sex trade as well as victims of forced labor. Undercover operations [are] part of the job. In the past decade he has rescued more than 480 women and girls sold into prostitution or sexually abused as well as victims of forced labor working in Vietnam. Some Vietnamese women go abroad for brokered marriages, mostly to China and Malaysia, but find themselves in domestic servitude or prostitution. Others are duped in online relationships and end up in the sex trade. Others are sold to traffickers by friends or neighbors. "We put the safety and interests of the victims first. What you want to do more than anything else is to bring them home. I have to be careful as there is a lot of money involved," said Van Ta, adding that girls can earn as much as $250 a day for their pimps and traffickers. "If you think of the number of girls I have rescued, this probably means I have taken about $2-3 million of earnings from the traffickers and brothels." Van Ta ... said the rewards of the job outweighed the risks. "When you bring a victim home, there are tears of happiness, and you would accept any price to bring them home," said Van Ta. Blue Dragon ... now has 72 staff and cares for more than 1,500 children in Vietnam [in addition to] its rescue work.
The Grant Study ... is now the longest longitudinal study of biosocial human development ever undertaken, and is still on-going. The study’s goal was to identify the key factors to a happy and healthy life. In 2009, I delved into the Grant Study data to establish a Decathlon of Flourishing - a set of ten accomplishments that covered many different facets of success. Two of the items in the Decathlon had to do with economic success, four with mental and physical health, and four with social supports and relationships. Then I set out to see how these accomplishments correlated, or didn’t, with three gifts of nature and nurture - physical constitution, social and economic advantage, and a loving childhood. The results were as clear-cut as they were startling. In contrast with the weak and scattershot correlations among the biological and socioeconomic variables, a loving childhood - and other factors like empathic capacity and warm relationships as a young adult - predicted later success in all ten categories of the Decathlon. What’s more, success in relationships was very highly correlated with both economic success and strong mental and physical health. In short, it was a history of warm intimate relationships ... that predicted flourishing. The Grant Study finds that nurture trumps nature. And by far the most important influence on a flourishing life is love. Not early love exclusively, and not necessarily romantic love. But love early in life facilitates not only love later on, but also the other trappings of success, such as high income and prestige.
After decades on the fringes, impact investing is going mainstream. Though the phrase isn’t yet commonplace, the concept is familiar enough to have spawned several monikers: values-based investing, green investing, mission-driven investing, sustainable investing, socially responsible investing, principled investing. Some 3,000 investors and entrepreneurs convened at Fort Mason this week to discuss the idea at SOCAP, the leading conference for people who want to support social innovation with their money. “Social-impact investors want to make sure they are doing good in the world but as a genuine investment, not philanthropy,” said Eryc Branham, CEO of MissionHub, which produces the conference. The rapidly growing field measures returns not just in dollars and cents but in social and environmental change. On the financial side, some investors accept lower returns as a trade-off for doing good. But they don’t necessarily have to. A new report from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania found that pursuing a social agenda doesn’t come at a financial price. After studying 53 funds with 557 investments, Wharton found that their rate of return from 2000 to 2014 was in line with benchmarks like the Standard & Poor’s 500 index. While impact investing amounts are still small compared with the multitrillion-dollar financial market, the potential for making a difference is immense.
Note: Learn how the microcredit movement is providing investors with financial returns while empowering small business owners and lifting people out of poverty.
Sweden is moving to a six-hour working day in a bid to increase productivity and make people happier. Employers across the country have already made the change, according to the Science Alert website, which said the aim was to get more done in a shorter amount of time and ensure people had the energy to enjoy their private lives. Toyota centres in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, made the switch 13 years ago, with the company reporting happier staff, a lower turnover rate, and an increase in profits in that time. Filimundus, an app developer based in the capital Stockholm, introduced the six-hour day last year. “The eight-hour work day is not as effective as one would think," Linus Feldt, the company’s CEO told Fast Company. Mr Feldt has said staff members are not allowed on social media, meetings are kept to a minimum, and that other distractions during the day are eliminated - but the aim is that staff will be more motivated to work more intensely while in the office. He said the new work day would ensure people have enough energy to pursue their private lives when they leave work – something which can be difficult with eight-hour days.
Plastic, long considered nonbiodegradable and one of the biggest contributors to global pollution, might have met its match: The small, brownish, squirmy mealworm. Researchers have learned that the mealworm can live on a diet of Styrofoam and other types of plastic. Inside the mealworm's gut are microorganisms that are able to biodegrade polyethylene, a common form of plastic, according to new studies published in Environmental Science and Technology. The findings could help solve the plastic pollution problem affecting the world. The research documented 100 mealworms that consumed 34 to 39 milligrams of Styrofoam, which is about the weight of a pill, every day. Scientists also paid attention to the mealworms' overall health and saw larvae that ate a diet subsisting strictly of Styrofoam were as healthy as mealworms eating a normal diet of bran, [and] transformed the plastic they ate into carbon dioxide, worm biomass and biodegradable waste. This waste seemed safe to use in soil for plants and even crops, the studies said. Being able to find insects that can safely degrade plastic is critical to potential pollution management because other insects such as cockroaches can also consume plastic, but they have not shown biodegradation.
The FBI says crime rates, including murder, were down last year. The report is in contrast to headlines this year. In 2014 the U.S. recorded the fewest murders since 2009. Most other violent crimes, such as robbery, burglary, theft and arson have declined, while aggravated assaults and rapes, which now includes a broader definition, were on the rise in 2014. The 2014 numbers do not reflect an increase this year in murders and other violent crimes reported in some cities. Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates highlighted progress made for cities compared to decades past. "We have witnessed a remarkable drop in crime since the 1980's - both violent crime and crime overall. Entire cities have been transformed, unlocking tremendous potential and releasing a wave of prosperity," Yates said, adding that "even though crime is trending downward in most places, we are seeing pockets of rising violence in various locations across the country." While the FBI has expanded the report to include new statistics such as hate crimes and human trafficking arrests, it addressed concerns of transparency in the reporting of potential violent crimes committed by law enforcement officers on civilians.
Note: This article, like almost all media articles on the topic, fails to report the incredible news that violent crime rates have dropped to 1/3 of what they were just 20 years ago. Why are they not highlighting this incredibly inspiring news? For details on this awesome development, see this excellent webpage. See also an excellent graph on this.
Libraries aren’t just for books, or even e-books, anymore. In Sacramento, where people can check out sewing machines, ukuleles, GoPro cameras and board games, the new service is called the Library of Things. Services like the Library of Things and the “Stuff-brary” in Mesa, outside Phoenix, are part of a broad cultural shift in which libraries increasingly view themselves as hands-on creative hubs, places where people can learn new crafts and experiment with technology like 3-D printers. Last year, the Free Library of Philadelphia pulled together city, state and private funds to open a teaching kitchen, which is meant to teach math and literacy through recipes and to address childhood obesity. It has a 36-seat classroom and a flat-screen TV for close-ups of chefs preparing healthy dishes. “Libraries are looking for ways to become more active places,” said Kate McCaffrey of the Northern Onondaga Public Library, outside Syracuse, which lends out its garden plots and offers classes on horticulture. “People are looking for places to learn, to do and to be with other people.” The Ann Arbor District Library has been adding to its voluminous collection of circulating science equipment. It offers telescopes, portable digital microscopes and backyard bird cameras, among other things - items that many patrons cannot afford to buy. In Sacramento, each item in the Library of Things bears a bar code, since the Dewey Decimal System was not intended for sewing machines or ukuleles.
The Dutch city of Utrecht ... has paired up with the local university to establish whether the concept of 'basic income' can work in real life, and plans to begin the experiment at the end of the summer holidays. Basic income is a universal, unconditional form of payment to individuals, which covers their living costs. The concept is to allow people to choose to work more flexible hours in a less regimented society, allowing more time for care, volunteering and study. University College Utrecht has paired with the city to place people on welfare on a living income, to see if a system of welfare without requirements will be successful. The Netherlands as a country is no stranger to less traditional work environments - it has the highest proportion of part time workers in the EU, 46.1 per cent. However, Utrecht's experiment with welfare is expected to be the first of its kind in the country. Alderman for Work and Income Victor Everhardt: "One group ... will have compensation and consideration for an allowance, another group with a basic income without rules and of course a control group which adhere to the current rules. Our data shows that less than 1.5 percent abuse the welfare. What happens if someone gets a monthly amount without rules and controls? Will someone sitting passively at home or do people develop themselves and provide a meaningful contribution to our society?"
Lego just announced a bold 10-year plan to makes its goods more environmentally friendly. This comes after a 2013 partnership with the World Wildlife Fund to develop a plan in reducing its overall carbon emissions, as well as those of its supply chain. Lego pledged to invest $150 million to find a replacement for the plastic used in its blocks as well as to reduce the size of its packaging. A commitment for this kind of strategy includes using recycled or renewed materials and improving the recyclability of its products. Hasbro and Mattel, producers of such iconic toys as Play-Doh and Hot Wheels, respectively, have also vowed to invest in this global issue. By 2020, Hasbro plans to reduce its waste, water, energy, and greenhouse gas emissions. It is also overhauling the packaging for most of its brands. These strides have led to Hasbro being named a winner of the EPA's 2014 Climate Leadership Award. After caving to mounting pressure from Greenpeace, Mattel committed to source new materials for its packaging, setting a goal of 85 percent recycled materials by the end of 2015. "The investment announced is a testament to our continued ambition to leave a positive impact on the planet, which future generations will inherit," said Lego Group owner Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen. Words we should all try to live by.
Portugal decriminalized the use of all drugs in 2001. Weed, cocaine, heroin, you name it -- Portugal decided to treat possession and use of small quantities of these drugs as a public health issue, not a criminal one. Whenever we debate similar measures in the U.S. - marijuana decriminalization, for instance - many drug-policy makers predict dire consequences. But in Portugal, the ... prevalence of past-year and past-month drug use among young adults has fallen since 2001. Overall adult use is down slightly too. And new HIV cases among drug users are way down. Now, numbers just released from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction paint an even more vivid picture of life under decriminalization: drug overdose deaths in Portugal are the second-lowest in the European Union. Among Portuguese adults, there are 3 drug overdose deaths for every 1,000,000 citizens. Comparable numbers in other countries range from 10.2 per million in the Netherlands to 44.6 per million in the U.K., all the way up to 126.8 per million in Estonia. The E.U. average is 17.3 per million. Perhaps more significantly, the report notes that the use of ... so-called "synthetic" marijuana, "bath salts" and the like is lower in Portugal than in any of the other countries for which reliable data exists. This is arguably a positive development for public health in the sense that many of the designer drugs that people develop to skirt existing drug laws have terrible and often deadly side effects.
Note: Portugal's inspiring approach has contributed to public health outcomes that starkly contrast U.S. trends.
The number of hungry people globally has declined from about one billion 25 years ago to about 795 million today, or about one person out of every nine, despite a surge in population growth, the United Nations reported Wednesday. In developing regions, the number of hungry people has fallen to 780 million today, or 12.9 percent of the population, from 991 million 25 years ago, or 23.3 percent of the population at the time. Despite the finding that nearly 800 million people in the world remain hungry, the report described the progress made as a significant achievement. It said that 72 of the 129 nations monitored by the Food and Agriculture Organization had achieved the target under the so-called Millennium Development Goals of halving the percentages of hungry people in their populations and that developing regions had missed the target by only a small margin. The Millennium Development Goals are a set of eight international objectives, including hunger eradication, established by the United Nations in 2000. “The near-achievement of the M.D.G. hunger targets shows us that we can indeed eliminate the scourge of hunger in our lifetime,” said José Graziano da Silva, the director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization. Progress was most pronounced in East Asia, Southeast and Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. But the report also illustrated failures, especially in parts of Africa, where ... “extreme weather events, natural disasters, political instability and civil strife have all impeded progress.”
German car manufacturer Audi says it has created the "fuel of the future" made solely from water, carbon dioxide and renewable sources. The synthetic "e-diesel" was made following a commissioning phase of just four months at a plant in Dresden, Germany. Unlike regular diesel, the clear fuel does not contain any sulphur or fossil oil, while it has an overall energy efficiency of around 70%. Creation of the fuel, which Audi and Sunfire are calling blue crude, first requires heating water to 800C (1,472F) to trigger a high temperature electrolysis to break down the steam to hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen then reacts with the CO2 in synthesis reactors, again under pressure and at a high temperature. The reaction product is a ... synthetic fuel, which is free from sulphur and aromatic hydrocarbons, [that] is suitable for mixing with fossil diesel or being used as a fuel in its own right. Reiner Mangold, head of sustainable product development at Audi, said: "In developing Audi e-diesel we are promoting another fuel based on CO2 that will allow long-distance mobility with virtually no impact on the climate."
Note: Read exciting news from major media sources on other amazing new energy breakthroughs. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Exercise has had a Goldilocks problem, with experts debating just how much exercise is too little, too much or just the right amount to improve health and longevity. Two new, impressively large-scale studies provide some clarity. In the broader of the two studies, researchers ... found that, unsurprisingly, the people who did not exercise at all were at the highest risk of early death. But those who exercised a little, not meeting the recommendations but doing something, lowered their risk of premature death by 20 percent. The sweet spot for exercise benefits, however, came among those who tripled the recommended level of exercise, working out moderately, mostly by walking, for 450 minutes per week, or a little more than an hour per day. Those people were 39 percent less likely to die prematurely than people who never exercised. At that point, the benefits plateaued, the researchers found, but they never significantly declined. The other new study of exercise and mortality reached a somewhat similar conclusion, [and found that] if someone engaged in even occasional vigorous exercise, he or she gained a small but not unimportant additional reduction in mortality.
Note: For some great ideas on healthy exercises, see this article by WantToKnow.info founder Fred Burks.
Math and history are just some of the subjects at the Ron Clark Academy. The Atlanta middle school teaches everything from eye contact to the value of friendly competition - a method that makes kids want to attend class. "It is a place that's about passion, energy," co-founder Ron Clark said. "I wanted to create a school where you could feel the spirit, wanted kids to walk into this school and say, 'I love coming here.'" The building is a 50,000 square foot warehouse ... transformed into the sort of place J.K. Rowling dreamed up for "Harry Potter." Every classroom has an elaborate theme - there's a dragon and a two-story bungee jump and all 112 kids have to be "slide-certified" - a symbol they've signed on for something different. "I love Hogwarts and 'Harry Potter' and the kids do too and so we wanted to bring that book to life and that feeling to life for these kids," Clark said. But there's a rigor to the magic, a drive to thrive. Clark has 55 rules, a code of conduct that covers shaking hands, maintaining eye contact and answering questions in complete sentences. Clark sets the bar high and holds his kids accountable. For Clark, his aim is for his students to walk into the world without any sense of fear. "I want them to go out into this world and to know, 'I am confident because I have the ability, I can achieve this.' I want kids to leave here and go for it and make an impact," he said. At the Ron Clark Academy, they go for it every day, like no other school in America.
Note: Watch this amazing clip of this most untraditional, yet successful school.
In neurosurgical training ... six years passed in a flash. Then, heading into chief residency, I developed a classic constellation of symptoms — weight loss, fevers, night sweats, unremitting back pain, cough — indicating a diagnosis quickly confirmed: metastatic lung cancer. The gears of time ground down. Now unable to work, I was left at home to convalesce. A full day’s activity might be a medical appointment, or a visit from a friend. The rest of the time was rest. Yet there is dynamism in our house. Our daughter was born days after I was released from the hospital. Week to week, she blossoms: a first grasp, a first smile, a first laugh. My daughter, Cady. I hope I’ll live long enough that she has some memory of me. Words have a longevity I do not. I had thought I could leave her a series of letters — but what would they really say? I don’t know what this girl will be like when she is 15; I don’t even know if she’ll take to the nickname we’ve given her. There is perhaps only one thing to say to this infant, who is all future, overlapping briefly with me, whose life, barring the improbable, is all but past. That message is simple: When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.
When he took office in January of 2011, Minnesota governor Mark Dayton inherited a $6.2 billion budget deficit and a 7 percent unemployment rate from his predecessor, Tim Pawlenty. During his first four years in office, Gov. Dayton raised the state income tax from 7.85 to 9.85 percent on individuals earning over $150,000, and on couples earning over $250,000 when filing jointly - a tax increase of $2.1 billion. He's also agreed to raise Minnesota's minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2018, and passed a state law guaranteeing equal pay for women. Between 2011 and 2015, Gov. Dayton added 172,000 new jobs to Minnesota's economy - that's 165,800 more jobs in Dayton's first term than Pawlenty added in both of his terms combined. Even though Minnesota's top income tax rate is the fourth highest in the country, it has the fifth lowest unemployment rate in the country at 3.6 percent. As of January 2015, Minnesota has a $1 billion budget surplus, and Gov. Dayton has pledged to reinvest more than one third of that money into public schools. The reason Gov. Dayton was able to radically transform Minnesota's economy into one of the best in the nation is simple arithmetic. Raising taxes on those who can afford to pay more will turn a deficit into a surplus. Raising the minimum wage will increase the median income. And in a state where education is a budget priority and economic growth is one of the highest in the nation, it only makes sense that more businesses would stay.
India's two political giants were defeated Tuesday by an anti-corruption party led by a former tax inspector. Arvind Kejriwal, a youthful-looking former tax inspector and winner of Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize, has pulled off a stunning near-sweep in New Delhi's local elections on Tuesday. The Aam Aadmi, or "Common Man," party won 67 of 70 seats in New Delhi, the largest single victory ever in India's capital. The party's victory also marks the first major loss for the Hindu nationalist BJP party since its own sweep of India last spring, [and] the first time that Congress, the venerable party associated with the liberation movement of Mohandas Gandhi, failed to win a single seat in Delhi. The success of the Common Man party stems from its sustained campaign against corruption combined with a dedicated army of volunteers. Analysts say Kejriwal also benefited from the perceived arrogance or overconfidence of the BJP. Kejriwal existed for years under the political radar in India, surfacing from time to time to take up “transparency” issues like clarifying the Right to Information Act. He was born in 1968 in a middle class family from Haryana state in the north and graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology with a degree in mechanical engineering, moving then to work for the Tata group and then the Indian public tax service. Kejriwal entered politics in 2012 and championed transparency and anti-corruption. He launched a party that brought together activists, youth, and poor people, and his anti-graft ideas caused a stir nationwide. His party’s symbol is a broom, a reference to its origins as an anti-graft campaign group.
At Rosa's Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia, the shop is adorned with Post-it notes and letters. The messages are from customers who gave $1 so homeless members in the community could get a slice, which costs $1. The pay-it-forward pizza program started about a year ago, [owner Mason] Wartman says, when one paying customer asked if he could buy a slice for a homeless person. "I said, 'Sure.' I took his dollar and ran out and got some Post-it notes and put one up to signify that a slice was purchased," he recalls. Pay-it-forward pizza was born. Over the past nine months, Wartman says, clients have bought 8,400 slices of pizza for their homeless neighbors. He kept track of the prepaid slices with Post-it notes on the walls until he hit about 500 free slices. He now keeps track at the register. Wartman says the customer who started it all was inspired by a practice in Italy called "suspended coffee" where customers purchase an extra cup for someone who can't afford it. Pay-it-forward generosity isn't limited to Italian cafes or one Philly pizza shop. Even mega-chains, including the bakery and sandwich chain Panera, have gotten into the giving act. Other chains' pay-it-forward systems have grown organically. Starbucks Coffee Co. spokeswoman Sanja Gould says some people just offer to pay for the person behind them in line, while others "might load a certain dollar amount onto a Starbucks card and the store partners have it on hand and they keep adding to it as the line goes on." Wartman says ... people want to help but aren't sure what to do. "This is a super-easy way, a super-efficient way and a super-transparent way to help the homeless."
Note: Watch a great video on this inspiring pizza shop.
In Mandy Len Catron’s Modern Love essay, “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This,” she refers to a study by the psychologist Arthur Aron (and others) that explores whether intimacy between two strangers can be accelerated by having them ask each other a specific series of personal questions. The 36 questions in the study are broken up into three sets, with each set intended to be more probing than the previous one. The idea is that mutual vulnerability fosters closeness. To quote the study’s authors, “One key pattern associated with the development of a close relationship among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personal self-disclosure.” 1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest? 2. Would you like to be famous? In what way? 3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why? 10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be? 14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it? 17. What is your most treasured memory? 18. What is your most terrible memory? 31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already. 32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about? 36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it.
Note: Read all the questions from this fun and revealing exercise at the link above. And you can find there a free app to download these great questions for your cell phone, too.
15-year-old Patrick Otema, from Kampala in Uganda, found his voice for the very first time. Patrick, who was born deaf, was unable to even express himself to his family and, had things not changed, would have been condemned to a life of silence. But thanks to a pioneering new programme, he has finally been taught to communicate using sign language. But Patrick has been lucky. His teacher is Raymond Okkelo who is deaf himself - and who is one of the few Ugandans to use sign language. 'In the past I was also like him,' he explains. 'I couldn’t use sign language, the only thing I could do was hide in fear.' Raymond became deaf as a child after a bout of malaria. Six months ago, he travelled to the Ugandan capital Kampala for intensive training in sign language. Now able to communicate with the outside world, Raymond is determined to change the lives deaf people in sub-Saharan Africa, many of whom have never been taught sign language. Raymond ... has also opened the very first sign language school in the country - which Patrick now attends. But nothing is as heart-warming as the moment that Patrick finally realises he can communicate, with joy spreading across his face as he grasps the significance of what he has learned. Patrick's transformation is nothing short of breathtaking. But Patrick won't be the only deaf child to benefit. Buoyed by the success of his first cohort of students, Raymond hopes to take his school on tour and help many more children on the way.
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