Inspirational News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Inspirational News Articles in Media
In February 1993, Mary's son, Laramiun Byrd, was shot to death. He was 20, and Mary's only child. The killer was a 16-year-old kid named Oshea Israel. Mary wanted justice. "He was an animal. He deserved to be caged." And he was. Tried as an adult and sentenced to 25 and a half years -- Oshea served 17 before being recently released. He now lives back in the old neighborhood - next door to Mary. How a convicted murder ended-up living a door jamb away from his victim's mother is a story, not of horrible misfortune, as you might expect - but of remarkable mercy. A few years ago Mary asked if she could meet Oshea at Minnesota's Stillwater state prison. As a devout Christian, she felt compelled to see if there was some way, if somehow, she could forgive her son's killer. Oshea says they met regularly after that. When he got out, she introduced him to her landlord - who with Mary's blessing, invited Oshea to move into the building. Today they don't just live close - they are close. Mary was able to forgive. "Unforgiveness is like cancer," Mary says. "It will eat you from the inside out. It's not about that other person, me forgiving him does not diminish what he's done. Yes, he murdered my son - but the forgiveness is for me. It's for me." For Oshea, it hasn't been that easy. "I haven't totally forgiven myself yet, I'm learning to forgive myself." To that end, Oshea is now ... singing the praises of God and forgiveness at prisons, churches - to large audiences everywhere.
Note: Watch a beautiful, moving video by the founder of StoryCorps, which led to this story.
A group of more than 200 Japanese pensioners are volunteering to tackle the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima power station. The Skilled Veterans Corps, as they call themselves, is made up of retired engineers and other professionals, all over the age of 60. They say they should be facing the dangers of radiation, not the young. It was while watching the television news that Yasuteru Yamada decided it was time for his generation to stand up. No longer could he be just an observer of the struggle to stabilise the Fukushima nuclear plant. The retired engineer is reporting back for duty at the age of 72, and he is organising a team of pensioners to go with him. For weeks now Mr Yamada has been getting back in touch with old friends, sending out e-mails and even messages on Twitter. Volunteering to take the place of younger workers at the power station is not brave, Mr Yamada says, but logical. "I am 72 and on average I probably have 13 to 15 years left to live," he says. "Even if I were exposed to radiation, cancer could take 20 or 30 years or longer to develop. Therefore us older ones have less chance of getting cancer." Mr Yamada is lobbying the government hard for his volunteers to be allowed into the power station. The government has expressed gratitude for the offer but is cautious.
For Maria Gillespie, the memories of what she endured in a prison in Uruguay, when she was only 15 years old, are almost too much to bear. She remembers being hooded, interrogated and tortured. Eventually every tooth was wrenched out of her mouth. But she also remembers - as Amnesty International marks its 50th anniversary - how much she owes to the organisation that helped end the horror and set her free. "I don't think that if I say 'thank you' it will be enough," Mrs Gillespie says of the Amnesty activists around the world who campaigned on her behalf. "I think that I do owe them my life." Amnesty was founded 12 years before she was jailed. It called for collective action on behalf of those unjustly imprisoned around the world. Maria Gillespie fell into that category after the military seized power in Uruguay in 1973, ushering in a period of severe repression. She was ... married to a trade union activist who was wanted by the authorities, and had fled the country. In his absence ... Maria was arrested. She was accused of aiding the regime's enemies, and sentenced to 75 years in prison. And so she began her solitary confinement in a windowless cell lit only by an electric bulb. She was repeatedly taken - with her head in a hood - for questioning about her husband's associates. But she knew nothing of his activities. She had no answers for her interrogators.
Note: The brutal repression of political activity in Uruguay described in this article was supervised by the CIA in its Operation Condor, a campaign of torture and killing across Latin America.
Our search to understand what makes humans happy (or happier) goes back centuries. New research takes a fresh look at this topic. Jennifer Aaker and Melanie Rudd at Stanford University, and Cassie Mogilner at the University of Pennsylvania, published “If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy, Consider Time,” in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2011. They discuss how happiness is ... a consequence of the choices people make. So what can people do to increase their happiness? Their answer is surprisingly simple: spend your time wisely. “People often make career choices based on how much money they envision they can make now or in the future. Surprisingly little thought goes into how they will be using their time — whether they can control their time, who they will spend their time with, and what activities they will spend their time on,” said Aaker. Over the years, there has been relatively little research on the relationship between the resource of time and happiness. Perhaps not surprisingly, it is another resource — money — that has been investigated much more thoroughly as a potential key to happiness. Yet, very little research corroborates the idea that more money leads to more happiness. “We know that people with meaningful social connections are happier than those without them,” said Mogilner. “The more time that individuals spend with their partners, best friends, and close friends, the happier they are.”
We all know that physical activity is beneficial in countless ways, but even so, Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, was startled to discover that exercise kept a strain of mice from becoming gray prematurely. In heartening new research published last week ... exercise reduced or eliminated almost every detrimental effect of aging in mice that had been genetically programmed to grow old at an accelerated pace. The mice that Dr. Tarnopolsky and his colleagues used lacked the primary mitochondrial repair mechanism, so they developed malfunctioning mitochondria early in their lives, as early as 3 months of age, the human equivalent of age 20. By the time they reached 8 months, or their early 60s in human terms, the animals were extremely frail and decrepit, with spindly muscles, shrunken brains, enlarged hearts, shriveled gonads and patchy, graying fur. All were dead before reaching a year of age. Except the mice that exercised. At 8 months, when their sedentary lab mates were bald, frail and dying, the running rats remained youthful. They had full pelts of dark fur, no salt-and-pepper shadings. They also had maintained almost all of their muscle mass and brain volume. At 1 year, none of the exercising mice had died. The researchers were surprised by the magnitude of the impact that exercise had on the animals’ aging process. They had not expected that it would affect every tissue and bodily system studied. Dr. Tarnopolsky’s students were impressed. “I think they all exercise now,” he said.
Note: For a treasure trove of other inspiring articles published in the major media, click here.
Amy Stokes uses the internet to connect South African teens affected by HIV/AIDS and poverty with volunteer mentors from around the world. Stokes is the founder of Infinite Family and spoke with CNN about the importance of her group's efforts in South Africa -- where nearly two million children have been orphaned by AIDS. CNN: How does HIV/AIDS affect a South African child? Amy Stokes: They will talk about being very happy as children and growing up with two parents until they were grade school level. And then they'll lose one of their parents. They will move where they can be in a community that helps support them and then they'll lose the other parent. Then they're moved into a home where it's an auntie running the house -- and they'll lose that aunt. And then they go to live with the gogo -- or a grandmother -- and before long, they're living with 10 other children in the same 20 square foot space. That gogo is spending all of her time just trying to feed everybody, much less being able to help them prepare for their future. CNN: How widespread is the problem? Stokes: Many of these communities have lost up to 40 percent of the young adults [from HIV/AIDS]. So the children ... are losing, not only love and nurturing, but ... the education of having a parent attend to them. They lack access to everything that would teach them what is needed to be successful. However, they are the most hopeful children you will ever meet. They are resilient, resourceful; they are joyful; they are very ambitious.
Note: Want to get involved in this life-changing program? Check out the Infinite Family website at http://www.infinitefamily.org and see how to help.
Bhutan has pioneered the use of Gross National Happiness (GNH) as a measure of progress, instead of the more commonly used GNP. GNH measures not only economic activity, but also cultural, ecological, and spiritual well-being. In September 2010, Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley visited the United States to promote GNH education and economic theory. Prakash: What difference has it made to have GNH as your yardstick rather than gross domestic product? Thinley: First, we are promoting sustainable and equitable socioeconomic development which can be measured to a larger extent through conventional metrics. Second is the conservation of a fragile ecology, [using] indicators of achievement, [such] as the way the [vegetation] cover in my country has expanded over the last 25 years from below 60 to over 72 percent. The third strategy is promotion of culture, which includes preservation of the various aspects of our culture that continue to be relevant and supportive of Bhutan’s purpose as a human civilization. No Bhutanese should suffer a sense of insecurity arising from loss of their cultural identity, language, and so on, under the onslaught of modernization. Then there is the fourth strategy—good governance—on which the other three strategies or indicators depend. We know that democracy is the best form of governance.
William Swing, head of the Episcopal Church in California for 27 years - he retired in 2006 - is hardly letting up. His latest endeavor is nothing less than uniting the religions of the world. "For this, I have been called the Antichrist, New Age, nuts and an apostate," Swing said with a smile in his office in the Presidio of San Francisco. United Religions Initiative, marking its 10th anniversary this year, is in 78 countries, bringing together Christians and Jews, Hindus and Muslims, missionaries and animists, and Mormons and Mennonites. The organization has taken orphans off the streets of Pakistan, brokered peace talks in northern Uganda and integrated child soldiers back into their villages, and drawn Palestinian and Jewish women together in the Middle East. The idea for United Religions Initiative came about in 1993, when Swing was asked to host at Grace Cathedral the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. "I said, 'Sure,' and went to bed that night thinking the nations of the world have met every day for 50 years, yet the religions of the world have not spoken. So I figured if there is a United Nations, there has to be a United Religions." He and his wife set out in 1996 on a global tour to meet religious leaders of the world, including the Dalai Lama at his palace in India. It took an additional four years of planning, debating and writing the organization's charter for United Religions to be founded.
Before Alex Taguchi proposed to high school flame Jenny Lee, the 26-year-old decided to liquidate about $11,000 in credit card debt, provided he could find a payment plan affordable on his salary as a software support specialist. His bank offered him a debt consolidation loan at 16.5 percent, but the Mountain View man decided to get a quote from a new online financial service that matches borrowers with lenders to give each better deals than are otherwise generally available. Today Taguchi is paying $380 a month on a three-year, 13.88 percent note issued through Lending Club.com, one of two Bay Area firms pioneering a new industry called peer-to-peer lending. The other is Prosper.com. Lending Club of Redwood City and Prosper of San Francisco have figured out how to perform [the] two-fisted function, of taking money in the one hand and lending it with the other, in a way that allows aspiring borrowers to specify how much they want, and for what purpose, and also gives them an overall risk profile - comparable, say, to a search engine ranking. These two online lending rivals then give potential investors the option to fund some of these loans at fixed rates and fixed terms - and interest levels designed to compete with bonds, stocks and other financial instruments.
Note: This exciting development may eventually change the face of banking, allowing us to lend to and borrow from each other directly without the need of intermediary bankers.
It’s striking that the most innovative activists aren’t necessarily the ones with the most resources, or the best tools. Maggie Doyne epitomizes this truth, for she began her philanthropic work as an 19-year-old financed by her baby-sitting savings. Yet she has somehow figured out how to run a sophisticated aid project in a remote area of Nepal. She took a “gap year” after high-school graduation and ended up in northern India, working with needy children. “The first little girl I met was Hema,” Doyne remembers. Then 6 or 7 years old (few children know their precise age), Hema spent her time breaking rocks and scavenging garbage and had no chance to go to school. Doyne, who decided to take Hema under her wing and pay for her education: “I knew I couldn’t do anything about a million orphans, but what if I started with this girl?” So she took Hema to school and paid $7 for the girl’s school fees and another $8 for a uniform so that she could enter kindergarten. “It became addictive,” Doyne said. “I said, if I can help one girl, why not 5? Why not 10? And along with scholarships, they needed the most basic things: food, shelter, clothing.” Doyne ... telephoned her parents with a strange and urgent request: Can you wire me the money in my savings account? Doyne returned to New Jersey and began to take odd jobs and proselytize for her shelter. People in her hometown thought that she was nuts, but in a benign way — and they wrote checks. After a few months, when Doyne had raised $25,000, she moved back to Nepal to oversee construction of the shelter, called the Kopila Valley Children’s Home.
The White House is going solar after all - a home improvement that carries modest energy benefits but much larger symbolic importance. It isn't the first time the White House has used solar energy. President Jimmy Carter put 32 solar panels on the roof in the late 1970s, but President Ronald Reagan removed them in 1986. Two grass-roots campaigns have recently been lobbying President Obama to restore them as a sign of his commitment to renewable energy. The roof of the White House residence will get solar panels and a solar water heater, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and the White House Council on Environmental Quality's chair, Nancy Sutley. A campaign launched by Oakland, Calif.-based Sungevity called Solar on the White House and another by 350.org founder Bill McKibben tried to get Obama to reinstall solar panels. "The White House did the right thing, and for the right reasons: They listened to the Americans who asked for solar on their roof, and they listened to the scientists and engineers who told them this is the path to the future," McKibben said in a statement. "If it has anything like the effect of the White House garden, it could be a trigger for a wave of solar installations across the country and around the world," he said.
Violent crime declined 5.3 percent last year, the third straight annual fall, the FBI reported [on September 13]. The drop was accompanied by a 4.6 percent drop in property crime, marking the seventh consecutive year that nonviolent crime has dropped. The figures challenge theories among some criminal analysts that crime tends to rise in times of uncertain economies. In the 1970s and early 1980s, when the economy went south, crime rates went up. Inflation was high then, which could account for the different reaction. James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University, said that although the downward trend is encouraging, the economy “could come back to haunt us’’ because of a nearly 10 percent drop per capita in police budgets in the past few years. “There is a connection between the economy and crime rates, but it’s not that when the economy is bad, people go out and commit crime,’’ said Fox. “When the economy is bad,’’ he said, “there are budget cuts. Less is spent on youth crime prevention and crime control on the street.’’
Note: Robbery and violent crime rates have dropped over 50% since 1994. Take a look at the graphs on the US Department of Justice website available here. Why isn't this highly inspiring news given top headlines?
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, a heart-broken couple in Australia cradles the body of their newborn baby. The doctor declared the little boy dead saying that he had no vital signs. But then something remarkable happened: a twitch, a blink and what some people are now calling a miracle. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) This is Jamie Ogg, a tiny little boy born at just 27 weeks, weighing just one kilo; a little boy who has defied all medical odds, whose survival can only be described as miracle. He should be dead. In fact, the doctor who delivered him pronounced him dead. Overwhelmed with grief, Kate and David were given Jamie for a cuddle; to hold and say good-bye to the son they believed it was dead. It's normal practice, but what happened was far, far from normal. Although Jamie had no visible signs of life, he was occasionally gasping for air, a reflex the doctor had told the new parents to suspect. The couple did everything they could to soothe Jamie in his last minutes. This video taken by a midwife clearly shows Jamie's movements, but, still, there were doubts. So in one last ditch attempt, Kate gave Baby Jamie some breast milk on her finger. To her amazement, he took it.
Note: To watch a video of this highly inspiring story, click here.
Let's say you were at Trader Joe's Menlo Park, Calif., and you saw a woman standing at the checkout counter who couldn't find her wallet. Would you pick up the tab? Well, that's what Carolee Hazard did last summer. When she saw that Jenni Ware wasn't able to pay the bill because her wallet was missing, a knee-jerk reaction inspired her to hand over $207, the exact amount Ware needed for her groceries. The next day, Hazard received a check for $300 in the mail and a thank you card from Ware suggesting that she use the extra $93 dollars to get a massage. Uncomfortable with keeping the money, Hazard asked her Facebook friends what they'd do. Several suggested giving it to charity, which Carolee liked a lot, and she decided to match the money with $93 of her own. Again, she turned to her Facebook friends asking to whom should she donate the $186. Given the food connection, she decided to donate the money to her local Second Harvest Food Bank. To her great surprise, a friend added another $93. So did another and another and another! Soon the story was being posted and reposted on Facebook, inspiring others to donated as well. Thus was born the 93 Dollar Club. In just one year, the 93 Dollar Club has raised a whopping $100,000 for Second Harvest.
Note: For lots more highly inspiring articles from the major media, click here.
Many of our leaders have a tendency to see the Islamic world as a single, terrifying monolith. Feisal Abdul Rauf of the Cordoba Initiative is one of America’s leading thinkers of Sufism, the mystical form of Islam, which in terms of goals and outlook couldn’t be farther from the violent Wahhabism of the jihadists. His videos and sermons preach love, the remembrance of God (or “zikr”) and reconciliation. His slightly New Agey rhetoric makes him sound, for better or worse, like a Muslim Deepak Chopra. Such moderate, pluralistic Sufi imams are the front line against the most violent forms of Islam. In the most radical parts of the Muslim world, Sufi leaders risk their lives for their tolerant beliefs, every bit as bravely as American troops on the ground in Baghdad and Kabul do. Sufism is the most pluralistic incarnation of Islam — accessible to the learned and the ignorant, the faithful and nonbelievers — and is thus a uniquely valuable bridge between East and West. The great Sufi saints like the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi held that all existence and all religions were one, all manifestations of the same divine reality. What was important was not the empty ritual of the mosque, church, synagogue or temple, but the striving to understand that divinity can best be reached through the gateway of the human heart: that we all can find paradise within us, if we know where to look. In some ways Sufism, with its emphasis on love rather than judgment, represents the New Testament of Islam.
Death rates in children under 5 are dropping in many countries at a surprisingly fast pace, according to a new report based on data from 187 countries from 1970 to 2010. Worldwide, 7.7 million children are expected to die this year — still an enormous number, but a vast improvement over the 1990 figure of 11.9 million. On average, death rates have dropped by about 2 percent a year from 1990 to 2010, and in many regions, even some of the poorest in Africa, the declines have started to accelerate, according to the report [in] The Lancet, a medical journal. Some parts of Latin America, north Africa and the Middle East have had declines as steep as 6 percent a year. Health experts say the figures mean that global efforts to save children’s lives have started working, better and faster than expected. Vaccines, AIDS medicines, vitamin A supplements, better treatment of diarrhea and pneumonia, insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria and more education for women are among the factors that have helped lower death rates, said Dr. Christopher J. L. Murray, an author of the report [from] the University of Washington, in Seattle.
Geeta was 9 when she began wearing makeup, staying up until 2 a.m. and having sex with as many as 60 men a day. The daughter of Nepalese peasant farmers, Geeta -- now 26 -- had been sold to a brothel in India by a member of her extended family. It was not until Geeta was 14 that a police officer rescued her and brought her to a safe house compound run by Anuradha Koirala. The 61-year-old woman and her group, Maiti Nepal, have been fighting for more than 16 years to rescue and rehabilitate thousands of Nepal's sex trafficking victims. By raiding brothels, patrolling the India-Nepal border and providing safe shelter and support services, Koirala and Maiti Nepal have helped rescue and rehabilitate more than 12,000 Nepali women and girls since 1993. According to the U.S. State Department, some 10,000 to 15,000 women and girls from Nepal are trafficked to India and then sexually exploited each year. The group has facilities throughout Nepal and India, but most of the rehabilitation work takes place at its main campus in Kathmandu, Nepal. Koirala said girls from the brothels arrive empty-handed, sick, in many cases pregnant or with small children, and "psychologically broken." "When the girl first comes to Maiti Nepal, we never, never ask them a question. We just let them [be] for as long as they need. We let them play, dance, walk, talk to a friend," Koirala said. "They are afraid at first, but eventually they will talk to us on their own." The group also takes in rape and domestic violence survivors, as well as abandoned children. "I cannot say no to anybody," Koirala said. "Everybody comes to Maiti Nepal."
Note: For lots more on the work of this brave and caring woman to stop sex slavery and support the victims, click here.
"Green" no longer just symbolizes money at business schools. So-called green MBAs - master of business administration programs that focus on sustainability - are a fast-growing part of the academic landscape, incorporating sustainability into all coursework. The [San Francisco] Bay Area is home to two pioneering programs that grant green MBAs - the Presidio Graduate School (www.presidioedu.org) with a campus in San Francisco's Presidio, and the Green MBA program (www.greenmba.com) at Dominican University in San Rafael. Other local MBA programs increasingly are going green, too. Stanford ranks No. 4, and UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business No. 6 in "Beyond Grey Pinstripes," a biannual ranking that spotlights MBA programs that integrate social, environmental and ethical issues. Green MBA programs say they teach students to pay attention to the triple bottom line - people, profits and planet. Graduates of local green MBA programs [are] trying to use their degrees as a force for positive change.
Note: Click on the Chronicle link above to read the interviews with successful "Green MBAs".
Scientists are taking a new look at hallucinogens, which became taboo among regulators after enthusiasts like Timothy Leary promoted them in the 1960s with the slogan ďż˝Turn on, tune in, drop out.ďż˝ Now, using rigorous protocols and safeguards, scientists have won permission to study once again the drugsďż˝ potential for treating mental problems and illuminating the nature of consciousness. Researchers from around the world are gathering this week in San Jose, Calif., for the largest conference on psychedelic science held in the United States in four decades. They plan to discuss studies of psilocybin and other psychedelics for treating depression in cancer patients, obsessive-compulsive disorder, end-of-life anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction to drugs or alcohol. Scientists are especially intrigued by the similarities between hallucinogenic experiences and the life-changing revelations reported throughout history by religious mystics and those who meditate. These similarities have been identified in neural imaging studies conducted by Swiss researchers and in experiments led by Roland Griffiths, a professor of behavioral biology at Johns Hopkins. In one of Dr. Griffithsďż˝s first studies, involving 36 people with no serious physical or emotional problems, he and colleagues found that psilocybin could induce what the experimental subjects described as a profound spiritual experience with lasting positive effects for most of them.
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For three years, little Cameron Mott’s life was a nightmarish succession of violent seizures that consumed her days and threatened her life. Finally, doctors told her parents there was a way to stop them: All they had to do was remove half of Cameron’s brain. “It was very scary, because you just can’t imagine what your child will be like after such a dramatic brain surgery,” Shelly Mott, [Cameron's mother, said.] Doctors put a name on [Cameron's] condition: Rasmussen’s syndrome, a condition that causes the destruction of one side of the brain. The solution was radical. It’s called a hemispherectomy, which means the removal of half of the brain. Since the left side of the body is controlled by the right side of the brain, doctors knew that Cameron would be paralyzed on her left side when she awoke. But they also knew that the brains of children have amazing abilities to rewire themselves. Cameron was immobilized for the first two days after the surgery to allow her brain to stabilize. Then she went into an intensive physical therapy program. Four weeks after the surgery, she walked out of the hospital. The agonizing decision the Motts had had to make turned out to be right. Cameron was able to return to school, where she is now in the second grade and a good student. Her physical therapy sessions have just recently ended, and she can run and play. “I want to be a ballerina when I grow up,” Cameron said.
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