Inspirational News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Inspirational News Articles in Media
It was a slow-moving Occupy Wall Street protest, but it was an effective one. A dozen senior citizens calling themselves “the wild old women” succeeded in closing a Bank of America branch in Bernal Heights Thursday. The women, aged 69 to 82, who live at the senior home up Mission street from the Bernal Heights Bank of America branch, decided to hold their own protest by doing what they called a “run on the bank.” Tita Caldwell, 80, who led the charge of women with walkers and wheelchairs, said that they’re demanding the bank lower fees, pay higher taxes, and stop foreclosing on, and evicting, homeowners. ”We’re upset about what the banks are doing, particularly in our neighborhood and neighboring areas, in evicting people and foreclosing on their homes,” said Caldwell. “We’re upset because the banks are raising their rates because it really affects seniors who are on a fixed income.” As they arrived, Bank of America closed and locked its doors, to the surprise and delight of the elderly protestors, who said that they had no intention of storming the bank. The women waved signs, but didn’t march or chant, with one woman on supplemental oxygen adding that the group was too old for that.
This is your moment of zen today. Two adventurers set out in a canoe and happened upon a [flock of] starlings (collectively known as a murmuration) doing their amazing collective dance in the sky. Watch the video. Just take it in. The starlings' coordinated movements do not seem possible, but then, there they are, doing it. Scientists have been similarly fascinated by starling movement. Those synchronized dips and waves seem to hold secrets about perception and group dynamics. Last year, Italian theoretical physicist Giorgio Parisi took on the challenge of explaining the [phenomenon]. What he found ... is that the math equations that best describe starling movement are borrowed "from the literature of 'criticality,' of crystal formation and avalanches -- systems poised on the brink, capable of near-instantaneous transformation." They call it "scale-free correlation," and it means that no matter how big the flock, "If any one bird turned and changed speed, so would all the others." It's a beautiful phenomenon to behold. And neither biologists nor anyone else can yet explain how starlings seem to process information and act on it so quickly. It's precisely the lack of lag between the birds' movements that make the flocks so astonishing.
“Democracy Now!,” the 15-year-old public radio and television program ... distinguishes itself by documenting social movements, struggles for justice and the effects of American foreign policy, along with the rest of the day’s developments. Operated as a nonprofit organization and distributed on a patchwork of stations, channels and Web sites, “Democracy Now!” is proudly independent, in that way appealing to hundreds of thousands of people who are skeptical of the news organizations that are owned by major media companies. Though it has long had a loyal audience, “Democracy Now!” has gained more attention recently for methodical coverage of two news events — the execution of the Georgia inmate Troy Davis and the occupation of Wall Street and other symbolic sites across the country. [Host Amy] Goodman broadcast live from Georgia for six hours on Sept. 21, the evening of the execution, and “Democracy Now!” reporters were fanned out in Manhattan from the first day of the protests against corporate greed. The media, Ms. Goodman said in an interview last week, can be “the greatest force for peace on earth” for “it is how we come to understand each other.” But she asserted that the views of a majority of Americans had been “silenced by the corporate media.” “Which is why we have to take it back,” she said.
Note: Up until now, there has been a virtual ban on mentioning the important work of Amy Goodman and Democracy Now. Could this be a signal of some real change?
Dr. Jim Withers has been caring exclusively for [Pittsburgh, PA's] homeless since 1992. Night after night, he and his team make their rounds at homeless camps. They treat everything, head to toe -- from mental illness to frostbitten feet. What little money Withers makes comes mostly from grants and teaching at a medical school. But he doesn't think about money. In fact, he doesn't think at all like a typical doctor. "The essence of healthcare is going to where people are. Either physically or even more importantly spiritually, emotionally," he said. "When they're shown that they matter," Withers said, ... "then hope grows. And amazing things happen. That's why we've been able to house well over 700 people. You know, if I could I'd write a prescription for a house for all the street people because it is immensely important for health." Jim Ellis, 49, was on the streets for eight years until he met Withers, who first treated his back pain and then helped cure his homelessness. Through a non-profit Withers started called Operation Safety Net, he and his staff have been remarkably successful at finding apartments for people like Jim. Over the years, Operation Safety Net has been able to help so many that today homelessness in Pittsburgh is literally half the problem it used to be - half as many people on the streets. About a dozen cites in America are now trying to copy the program, in firm belief that this doctor definitely knows best.
The number of violent crimes fell by a surprising 12 percent in the United States last year, a far bigger drop than the nation has been averaging since 2001, the Justice Department said. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported there were 3.8 million violent crimes last year, down from 4.3 million in 2009. Experts aren't sure why. The expectation had been that crime would increase in a weak economy with high unemployment like that seen in 2010. The big drop dwarfs the 3 percent yearly decline in violent crimes the nation averaged from 2001 through 2009. More than 80 percent of the decline in violent crime was attributed to a plunge in simple assaults, by 15 percent. Those assaults accounted for nearly two-thirds of all violent crimes in 2010. The combined total of property crimes and violent crimes was down 6.6 percent last year, from 20 million to 18.7 million. From 1993 through 2010, the rate of violent crime has declined by a whopping 70 percent: from 49.9 violent crimes per 1,000 persons age 12 or older to only 14.9 per 1,000 in 2010.
Note: A 70 percent drop in violent crime in the last 20 years - that's amazing! Why isn't this inspiring news making top headlines? For excellent FBI graphs and more showing this dramatic decrease in crime, click here.
Santosh Devi is [a] 19-year-old, semi-literate woman from the backwaters of Rajasthan [who] has broken through India's rigid caste system to become the country's first Dalit solar engineer. While differences of caste have begun to blur in the cities, in rural India Dalits – also known as "untouchables" – are still impoverished and widely discriminated against. Santosh trained to be a solar engineer at the Barefoot College in Tilonia, 100km from Jaipur. The college was set up in 1972 by Sanjit "Bunker" Roy to teach rural people skills with which they could transform their villages, regardless of gender, caste, ethnicity, age or schooling. The college claims to have trained 15,000 women in skills including solar engineering, healthcare and water testing. Roy, 65, says his approach – low cost, decentralised and community driven – works by "capitalising on the resources already present in the villages". The college, spread over eight acres, runs entirely on solar energy, maintained by the Barefoot solar engineers. Since the solar course was launched in 2005, more than 300 Barefoot engineers have brought power to more than 13,000 homes across India. A further 6,000 households, in more than 120 villages in 24 countries from Afghanistan to Uganda, have been powered on the same model. Only villages that are inaccessible, remote and non-electrified are considered for solar power. A drop in the ocean, perhaps – 44% of rural households in India have no electricity – but these women are making an important contribution to the nation's power needs.
Note: For a very inspiring TED talk filled with great stories by the founder of this college, click here.
The mob was already waiting for James Zwerg by the time the Greyhound bus eased into the station in Montgomery, Alabama. Looking out the window, Zwerg could see men gripping baseball bats, chains and clubs. They had sealed off the streets leading to the bus station and chased away news photographers. They didn't want anyone to witness what they were about to do. Zwerg accepted his worst fear: He was going to die today. Only the night before, Zwerg had prayed for the strength to not strike back in anger. He was among the 18 white and black college students from Nashville who had decided to take the bus trip through the segregated South in 1961. They called themselves Freedom Riders. Their goal was to desegregate public transportation. Zwerg had not planned to go, but the night before, some students had asked him to join them. To summon his courage, Zwerg stayed up late, reading Psalm 27, the scripture that the students had picked to read during a group prayer before their trip. "The Lord is my light and my salvation, of whom shall I fear?" the Psalm began. But there was another passage at the end that touched Zwerg in a place the other students didn't know about: "Though my mother and father forsake me, the Lord will receive me." Zwerg's parents had forsaken him for joining the civil rights movement.
Note: For another amazingly inspiring story of a man in the civil rights movement who faced death by hatred with compassion, click here. And for a powerfully inspiring New York Times article on the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders, click here. We have clearly come a long way in building more harmony between races.
Marc Gold spends most of his time on the road. One month he may be in India or Afghanistan; the next he's in Cambodia or Vietnam, both of which he's visited numerous times. But he doesn't travel to see the sights. The retired community-college professor from San Francisco pursues his own brand of tourism: philanthropic travel. "I go where the poor people are," Mr. Gold says. Everywhere he goes, Gold performs acts of kindness, both random and preplanned. He rarely spends more than a few hundred dollars. "For people who live on a dollar or less a day, $50 can make a big difference," says Gold, who has been dubbed "the shoestring philanthropist." [Traveling to India in 1989] led to an epiphany. "I'd thought you had to be rich to do such things," he recalls. "I realized I had the power to help change people's lives." Back home, he asked a hundred friends for small donations and was soon back in India with $2,200. He then set up a nonprofit charity and called it 100 Friends. Two decades later, 100 Friends has some 4,000 members worldwide, and last year Gold raised $200,000. He continues fundraising via his portable office: a laptop, a digital camera, and a cellphone. "This is 80 percent of what I own," Gold says during a stopover in Bangkok, pointing at two duffel bags stuffed with his clothes, dog-eared paperbacks, and his large collection of wacky rubber masks. The latter he uses for clowning around with children from Tibet to Thailand. "I don't need much, and I'm free."
Before the Second World War, the Ministry of War confidently predicted what would happen when London was bombed from the air by Nazi planes. There would be, they warned, "a mass outbreak of hysterical neurosis among the civilian population". The same predictions are made about every disaster – that once the lid of a tightly policed civilization is knocked off for a second, humans will become beasts. But the opposite is the case. It sounds grotesque to say we should see reasons for hope as we watch in real time while the earth is shaken six inches on its axis, tsunamis roar, and nuclear power stations teeter on meltdown. But it is true. From this disaster, we can learn something fundamental about our species. The evidence gathered over centuries of disasters, natural and man-made, is overwhelming. The vast majority of people, when a disaster hits, behave in the aftermath as altruists. They organise spontaneously to save their fellow human beings, to share what they have, and to show kindness. They reveal themselves to be better people than they ever expected. When the social scientist Enrico Quarantelli tried to write a thesis on how people descend into chaos and panic after disasters, he concluded: "My God! I can't find any instances of it." On the contrary, he wrote, in disasters "the social order does not break down... Co-operative rather than selfish behaviour predominates".
Note: For a beautiful example of how people come together to help and support each other in the face of a major crisis, read the inspiring "Letter from Sendai" which has gone viral on the Internet at this link.
CAIRO — People here are not afraid anymore — and it just may be that a woman helped break that barrier of fear. Asmaa Mahfouz was celebrating her 26th birthday on Tuesday among tens of thousands of Egyptians as they took to the streets, parting with old fears in a bid to end President Hosni Mubarak’s three decades of authoritarian, single-party rule. “As long as you say there is no hope, then there will be no hope, but if you go down and take a stance, then there will be hope.” That was what Ms. Mahfouz had to say in a video she posted online more than two weeks ago. She spoke straight to the camera and held a sign saying she would go out and protest to try to bring down Mr. Mubarak’s regime. It was a woman who dared put a face to the message, unfazed by the possibility of arrest for her defiance. “Do not be afraid,” she said. To her surprise, dozens of other people picked up on the spirit of her message and started to post their own pictures, holding similar signs to their chests that declared their intent to take to the streets. Ms. Mahfouz is one of the founders of the April 6 Youth Movement, a group of young, Internet-savvy activists who have been credited with a leading role in organizing the mass protests. She uses Facebook and Twitter as convenient methods for organizing and disseminating messages but finds that talking to people face to face is the best way to motivate them. Although it is still overwhelmingly men demonstrating, there is a new quality to the way Egyptians walk the streets now. “Everyone used to say there is no hope, that no one will turn up on the street, that the people are passive,” Ms. Mahfouz said. “But the barrier of fear was broken!”
Note: Watch this video and learn how without this one woman, Mubarak might still be in power. One person can make a huge difference. For powerful and inspiring information on the military/industrial complex and what we can do to make a difference, click here.
Parents want their kids and teens to care about others. The good news is that children "are sort of hard-wired" to want to help others, says Michael Ungar, author of "The We Generation: Raising Socially Responsible Kids." While adults do wonderful things to help others, even more amazing is the number of children and teens who are "making a difference". Danielle Gram spent her childhood in Maryland in the years following the 9/11 attacks. "I really didn't understand why people from different cultures wanted to kill each other," says Ms. Gram, now 21 years old and a senior at Harvard University. In 2006, together with Jill McManigal ... Gram, then 16, founded Kids for Peace, a nonprofit, child-led group that inspires kids to work together toward a more peaceful world. Today Kids for Peace has more than 75 chapters. In August, its Great Kindness Challenge, where children try to see how many acts of kindness they can perform in a single day, drew thousands of participants in 50 countries. In November, she was named a winner of the World of Children award. "The passion to create a less violent world has really followed me throughout my life," Gram says. But a family tragedy last year brought it closer to home. Her only brother was murdered while on vacation. "It's certainly been a struggle. But every single one of my immediate family members has a deeper conviction that nonviolence is the way to respond." After graduation next spring, Gram hopes to work on peace issues in Bangladesh or at a refugee camp in Africa. Either way, she'll carry on with Kids for Peace, too.
Note: For a great collection of other inspiring news articles, click here.
It would take an unusual man to decide, in a split second after witnessing a car crash, to crawl into the Subaru that had erupted into flames 8 feet high to try to save a little girl and her dad. Early Thursday evening in Ballard, that is what Kenny Johnson did. He remembers talking to himself as he went into the Subaru: "Oh, my God, this car is gonna blow up and I'm going to be in it. Well, if does blow up, I guess I'm going straight to heaven because I'm trying to save that little girl." He did save the 3-year-old, Anna Kotowicz, who suffered a broken arm and some bruising. Her dad, Andy Kotowicz, 37, who had just picked up his daughter at day care, died at Harborview Medical Center three days later. Amid the crackling and popping of the car on fire, Johnson says he heard the cries of the 3-year-old, "a beautiful princess with blonde hair and blue eyes. I go to the passenger side. I don't remember this, but people afterward told me that when I couldn't open the door, I ripped it off the hinges. I jump into the car. For a few seconds, it's like there is no sound, no smell, everything is in slow motion. I can't explain it any other way." Days passed, and Johnson went back to his routine. That is, until Tuesday morning around 6, he says. "Then there is this man standing right by the bed. He says he needs help with a few things. He says he wants me to give a message to his wife and to his daughter. He also tells me to talk to the people at Sub Pop [his workplace], he wants to let them know not to be mad at the driver that caused the accident. That's his message." Johnson says that later that day, he went to the Sub Pop website, and there it was, a memorial photo of the man who had stood by his bed: Kotowicz.
Nearly four years ago, a web-based political movement set itself the modest task of “closing the gap between the world we have and world most people everywhere want”. Calling their group Avaaz, which means “voice” in several languages, ... the movement, using 14 languages and engaged in a mind-boggling list of causes, has had some spectacular successes. Within the next few months, membership will top 6m. The number of individual actions taken (from bombarding a politician with a well-aimed message, or funding a poster campaign, to helping provide satellite phones to Burmese monks) is estimated at over 23m. Among the recent developments Avaaz claims to have influenced are a new anti-corruption law in Brazil; a move by Britain to create a marine-conservation zone in the Indian Ocean; and the spiking of a proposal to allow more hunting of whales. Avaaz’s campaign against the death sentence for adultery imposed on an Iranian woman asks members to phone Iranian embassies (and provides numbers); members are also being urged to put pressure on the leaders of Brazil and Turkey to intercede with Iran. Avaaz is collecting funds for a campaign in the Brazilian and Turkish press, too. Avaaz’s other demands range from the simple -— close Guantánamo -— to the very broad: fight climate change, avoid a clash of civilisations. Despite the risk of blurred signals, the variety of causes is also a strength.
Note: Consider signing up at Avaaz.org to join in the powerful advocacy work they are doing.
At the urging of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, forty of the world's richest families have promised to give at least half of their fortunes to philanthropy. By taking the "Giving Pledge," the forty families or individuals, most of whom are billionaires, are promising a collective sum of at least $125 billion to charitable causes, based on Forbes' current estimates of their net worth and other data sources. According to the pledge, the giving can occur either during donors' lifetimes or after their passing. Each has committed at least 50 percent of their net worth, but many have committed to larger percentages, Buffett said. The men and women taking the pledge are free to direct their money to causes of their choice, and the organization is not pooling any money or dictating areas of need. In fact, the pledge is non-binding, though the organizers say the billionaires are making a "moral commitment," publicly signing their names to letters posted on a website, GivingPledge.org. Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates reached out to some 80 members of the Forbes billionaires list, asking them to sign on. Buffett wrote that by spending any more than one percent of his fortune on his own family, "neither our happiness nor our well-being would be enhanced. In contrast, that remaining 99 percent can have a huge effect on the health and welfare of others."
Note: For one of the great organizations behind this cause, click here.
Ten years and 1.5 billion Norwegian kroner ($252 million) in the making, [Halden Fengsel, Norway's newest prison,] is spread over 75 acres (30 hectares) of gently sloping forest in southeastern Norway. The facility boasts amenities like a sound studio, jogging trails and a freestanding two-bedroom house where inmates can host their families during overnight visits. The scent of orange sorbet emanates from the "kitchen laboratory" where inmates take cooking courses. "In the Norwegian prison system, there's a focus on human rights and respect," says Are Hoidal, the prison's governor. "We don't see any of this as unusual." Halden ... embodies the guiding principles of the country's penal system: that repressive prisons do not work and that treating prisoners humanely boosts their chances of reintegrating into society. "When they arrive, many of them are in bad shape," Hoidal says, noting that Halden houses drug dealers, murderers and rapists, among others. "We want to build them up, give them confidence through education and work and have them leave as better people." Within two years of their release, 20% of Norway's prisoners end up back in jail. In the U.K. and the U.S., the figure hovers between 50% and 60%.
Scientists are just beginning to understand the effect lifestyle choices and other environmental factors have on altering gene behavior, a rapidly emerging field called epigenetics. Your life story depends upon a combination of the DNA you're stuck with plus your environment, including all the little choices and events that happen over that lifetime. But in recent years, researchers have discovered that, while DNA lays out the options, many of those life experiences — the foods you eat, the stresses you endure, the toxins you're exposed to — physically affect the DNA and tell it more precisely what to do. The cause: a kind of secondary code carried along with the DNA. Called the "epigenome," this code is a set of chemical marks, attached to genes, that act like DNA referees. They turn off some genes and let others do their thing. And although the epigenome is pretty stable, it can change — meaning lifestyle choices such as diet and drug use could have lasting effects on how the body works. "The thing I love about epigenetics is that you have the potential to alter your destiny," says Randy Jirtle, who studies epigenetics at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. Jirtle compares the system to a computer: The DNA is the hardware — set and unchanging — and the epigenome is the software that tells it when, where and how to work.
Note: For a fascinating article by DNA researcher Bruce Lipton delving into the intriguing finding that our DNA can be altered by our life choices, click here.
Narayanan Krishnan was a bright, young, award-winning chef with a five-star hotel group, short-listed for an elite job in Switzerland. But a quick family visit home [to the south Indian city of Madurai] before heading to Europe changed everything. "I saw a very old man eating his own human waste for food," Krishnan said. "After that, I started feeding that man and decided this is what I should do the rest of my lifetime." Krishnan quit his job within the week and returned home for good, convinced of his new destiny. "That spark and that inspiration is a driving force still inside me as a flame -- to serve all the mentally ill destitutes and people who cannot take care of themselves." Krishnan founded his nonprofit Akshaya Trust in 2003. Now 29, he has served more than 1.2 million meals -- breakfast, lunch and dinner -- to India's homeless and destitute, mostly elderly people abandoned by their families and often abused. The hot meals he delivers are simple, tasty vegetarian fare he personally prepares, packs and often hand-feeds to nearly 400 clients each day. The group's operations cost about $327 a day, but sponsored donations only cover 22 days a month. Krishnan subsidizes the shortfall with $88 he receives in monthly rent from a home his grandfather gave him. Krishnan sleeps in Akshaya's modest kitchen with his few co-workers.
Narayanan Krishnan was a bright, young, award-winning chef with a five-star hotel group, short-listed for an elite job in Switzerland. But a quick family visit home before heading to Europe changed everything. "I saw a very old man eating his own human waste for food," Krishnan said. "It really hurt me so much. I was literally shocked. After that, I started feeding that man and decided this is what I should do the rest of my lifetime." Haunted by the image, Krishnan quit his job within the week and returned home for good, convinced of his new destiny. "That spark and that inspiration is a driving force still inside me as a flame -- to serve all the mentally ill destitutes and people who cannot take care of themselves," Krishnan said. Krishnan founded his nonprofit Akshaya Trust in 2003. Now 29, he has served more than 1.2 million meals -- breakfast, lunch and dinner -- to India's homeless and destitute, mostly elderly people abandoned by their families and often abused. Krishnan said the name Akshaya is Sanskrit for "undecaying" or "imperishable," and was chosen "to signify [that] human compassion should never decay or perish. The spirit of helping others must prevail for ever." He seeks out the homeless under bridges and in the nooks and crannies between the city's temples. The hot meals he delivers are simple, tasty vegetarian fare he personally prepares, packs and often hand-feeds to nearly 400 clients each day. Krishnan carries a comb, scissors and razor and is trained in eight haircut styles that, along with a fresh shave, provide extra dignity to those he serves.
Note: For other inspiring stories of everyday heroes like this, click here.
For nearly a year, cataracts have clouded out all sight from the 70-year-old grandmother's world. With no money, she assumed she'd die alone in darkness. But now she waits quietly outside the operating room for her turn to meet Nepal's God of Sight. More than 500 others — most of whom have never seen a doctor before — have traveled for days by bicycle, motorbike, bus and even on their relatives' backs to reach Dr. Sanduk Ruit's mobile eye camp. Each hopes for the miracle promised in radio ads by the Nepalese master surgeon: He is able to poke, slice and pull the grape-like jelly masses out of an eye, then refill it with a tiny artificial lens, in about five minutes. It's an assembly-line approach to curing blindness that's possible thanks to a simple surgical technique Ruit pioneered, allowing cataracts to be removed safely without stitches through two small incisions. Once condemned by the international medical community as unthinkable and reckless, this mass surgery "in the bush" started spreading from Nepal to poor countries worldwide nearly two decades ago. Thousands of doctors — from North Korea to Nicaragua to Nigeria — have since been trained to train others, with the hope of slowly lessening the leading cause of blindness that affects 18 million people worldwide. No one pays for anything, and the entire cost is about $25 per surgery. That's $12,750 for all 510 patients, equal to only about three or four surgeries in the U.S.
A clinical psychologist, [Mary Jo] Rapini had long worked with terminal cancer patients. When they told her of their near-death experiences, she would often chalk their stories up as a reaction to their pain medication. But in April 2003, she faced her own mortality. She suffered an aneurysm while working out [in] a gym and was rushed to the hospital. She was in an intensive care unit for three days when she took a turn for the worse. “All of a sudden [doctors] were rushing around me and inserting things into me, and they called my husband,” she [said]. “I looked up and I saw this light; it wasn’t a normal light, it was different. It was luminescent. And it grew. I kept looking at it like, ‘What is that?’ Then it grew large and I went into it. I went into this tunnel, and I came into this room that was just beautiful. God held me, he called me by name, and he told me, ‘Mary Jo, you can’t stay.’ And he said, ‘Let me ask you one thing — have you ever loved another the way you’ve been loved here?’ And I said, ‘No, it’s impossible. I’m a human.’ And then he just held me and said, ‘You can do better.’ ” While Rapini’s account may seem far-fetched, [Dr. Jeffrey] Long [in his book Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences] says her recollections mirror nearly all stories of near-death experiences.
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.