Inspirational News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Inspirational News Articles in Media
In his Nashville Christian church, Timothy Kurek was taught the lesson of God's wrath in the Biblical story of "Sodom and Gomorrah," and he believed that homosexuality was a sin. But about four years ago, when a lesbian he knew from karaoke night confided to him that her parents had disowned her when she came out, Kurek felt that he failed her. He wondered what it felt like to be gay and so alone. So even though Kurek identifies as straight, he embarked on what one religious writer called "spiritual espionage." He would live like a gay man for a year. Now 26 and no longer homophobic, Kurek writes about his journey -- one that included hanging out in gay bars and facing the disappointment of his family and rejection of his friends -- in his memoir, The Cross in the Closet. Only three people knew the truth, and he needed them to carry out his audacious project: his closest friend, an aunt and Shawn, a gay friend whom Kurek also met at karaoke night. Kind-hearted Shawn, whom Kurek described as "a big black burly teddy bear," became his "pretend boyfriend." But most of all, Shawn was the "first gay person that I let into my heart," said Kurek. "He was totally there for me through emotional turmoil ... I trusted him." Rev. Connie Waters, a protestant minister and LGBT ally from Memphis ... said she was "proud" of him. "The transformation in him was life-changing," she said. "It's what you hope for -- the goal of the Christian walk of faith. It's enough for me that he transformed, but if others learn from him, what an extra blessing that is."
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For seven years now, a growing number of General Mills workers have been practising meditation, yoga and so-called “mindfulness” in the workplace. And what began as a side project by one executive has transformed the culture of a Fortune 200 multinational. “It’s about training our minds to be more focused, to see with clarity, to have spaciousness for creativity and to feel connected,” says Janice Marturano, General Mills’ deputy general counsel, who founded the programme. “That compassion to ourselves, to everyone around us – our colleagues, customers – that’s what the training of mindfulness is really about.” The General Mills initiative is at the vanguard of a movement that is quietly reshaping certain corners of the corporate world. With meditation, yoga and “mindfulness”, the foundational tenets of Buddhism, Hinduism and other pan-Asian philosophies have infiltrated the upper echelons of some of the biggest companies on earth. William George, a current Goldman Sachs board member and a former chief executive of the healthcare giant Medtronic, ... is one of the main advocates for bringing meditation into corporate life. “The main business case for meditation is that if you’re fully present on the job, you will be more effective as a leader, you will make better decisions and you will work better with other people,” he [says]. Though the combination of mysticism and capitalism may seem incongruous, this interplay has found fertile ground at some of the best-known companies in the US and Europe. It is happening at Target, Google and First Direct, among others. Today, in organisations large and small, eastern wisdom is changing western business.
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Scott Neeson's final epiphany came one day in June 2004. The high-powered Hollywood executive stood, ankle deep in trash, at the sprawling landfill of Stung Meanchey, a poor shantytown in Cambodia's capital. Neeson, a former head of 20th Century Fox International, [now] cares for more than 1,000 Cambodian children and their families. Doing the right thing meant turning his back on a successful career in the movie business, with his $1 million salary. Instead, he would dedicate himself full time to a new mission: to save hundreds of the poorest children in one of the world's poorest countries. Much to everyone's surprise, within months the Australian native, who as president of 20th Century Fox International had overseen the global success of block-busters like "Titanic," "Braveheart," and "Die Another Day," quit Hollywood. He sold his mansion in Los Angeles and held a garage sale for "all the useless stuff I owned." He sold off his Porsche and yacht, too. His sole focus would now be his charity, the Cambodian Children's Fund. "The perks in Hollywood were good – limos, private jets, gorgeous girlfriends, going to the Academy Awards," says Neeson. "You've got to take the ego out of it," he says. "One person's self-indulgence versus the needs of hundreds of children, that's the moral equation." On the walls of his office, next to movie posters signed by Hollywood stars, are before-and-after pictures of Cambodian children. Each pair tells a Cinderella story: A little ragamuffin, standing or squatting in rubbish, transforms in a later shot into a beaming, healthy child in a crisp school uniform.
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The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan drew international attention a few years back for saying gross national happiness should trump gross domestic product when measuring a nation's progress. But Bhutan, which has only 700,000 people — most of whom are farmers — has another shot at international fame if it can make good on a recent pledge to become the first country in the world to convert to a 100 percent organic agricultural system. [In June] at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley said his government is developing a National Organic Policy because the country's farmers are increasingly convinced that "by working in harmony with nature, they can help sustain the flow of nature's bounties." Andre Leu, an Australian adviser to the Bhutanese government and the president of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, says it's very doable. "I don't think it's going to be that difficult given that the majority of the agricultural land is already organic by default," Leu [said]. The Ministry of Agriculture says the organic program, launched in 2007, is not just about protecting the environment. It will also train farmers in new methods that will help them grow more food and move the country closer to self-sufficiency. The ministry is now training extension workers in organic methods and giving farmers who go organic priority for government assistance.
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A 14-year-old Maine girl named Julia Bluhm [has] mobilized more than 80,000 supporters to lobby Seventeen [magazine] to commit to [a] modest goal: printing one photo spread per issue without an unaltered image. Bluhm’s efforts are part of Sexualization Protest: Action, Resistance, Knowledge or SPARK, a girl-fueled activist movement that is demanding an end to the sexualization of women and girls in media. In the magazine’s August issue, Seventeen editor Ann Shoket responded to the campaign with a carefully worded statement that vowed that the magazine will “never change girls’ body or face shapes” and will publish only images of “real girls and models who are healthy.” [This] represents a meaningful victory for young women seeking reality-based images in a seemingly unwinnable war against big publishing, big advertising and big fashion. Images of blemish-free cover models displaying skeletal arms, enhanced chests and disappearing waistlines are a time-honored magazine tradition. The breakthrough success of Bluhm’s campaign represents ... the beginning of a new era of female empowerment. Bluhm started her movement on the online organizing site Change.org, which allows users to share electronic petitions with their social networks. When petitions like Bluhm’s rally significant support, the site offers the additional assistance of its expert organizing staff and broad activist network. Now, with the momentum of a successful campaign, Bluhm and her peers have turned their attention to transforming the policies of other magazines, including Teen Vogue and Cosmo Girl.
Note: For a treasure trove of inspirational reports from major media sources, click here.
India has put in place a $5.4 billion policy to provide free medicine to its people, a decision that could change the lives of hundreds of millions, but a ban on branded drugs stands to cut Big Pharma out of the windfall. From city hospitals to tiny rural clinics, India's public doctors will soon be able to prescribe free generic drugs to all comers, vastly expanding access to medicine in a country where public spending on health was just $4.50 per person last year. Under the plan, doctors will be limited to a generics-only drug list and face punishment for prescribing branded medicines, a major disadvantage for pharmaceutical giants in one of the world's fastest-growing drug markets. The initiative would overhaul a system where healthcare is often a luxury and private clinics account for four times as much spending as state hospitals, despite 40 percent of the people living below the poverty line, or $1.25 a day or less. Within five years, up to half of India's 1.2 billion people are likely to take advantage of the scheme, the government says. "The policy of the government is to promote greater and rational use of generic medicines that are of standard quality," said L.C. Goyal, additional secretary at India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and a key proponent of the policy. "They are much, much cheaper than the branded ones."
Some might call Neil Grimmer and his wife Tana Johnson picky eaters. For more than a decade, Grimmer, a triathlete, didn't eat meat or dairy while Johnson followed a macrobiotic diet, made up mostly of whole grains and vegetables. So when the couple became parents about nine years ago, they sought to feed their children healthy foods. Trouble was, they couldn't find snacks that were healthy, yet easy to pack and appealing to their kids. That's how the Nest Collective, now known as Plum Organics, was born. [The] startup makes baby food and toddler and kids' snacks such as pouches of pureed blueberry oats and quinoa for babies and squeezable oatmeal for older children. Plum Organics is also addressing increasing concerns about childhood obesity and parents looking for alternative, easy-to-pack snacks. In what turned out to be a momentous decision, the company moved away from the traditional plastic or glass jar and began offering baby food in the form of the squeezable pouch already popular with older children. The company took off from there. The benefit of the pouch is that it allows the food to be cooked more gently so that the flavors are richer, said Grimmer. The packaging also takes up less space in landfills and is easier to transport.
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi declared Saturday that the Nobel Peace Prize she won while under house arrest 21 years ago helped to shatter her sense of isolation and ensured that the world would demand democracy in her military-controlled homeland. Suu Kyi received two standing ovations inside Oslo’s city hall as she gave her long-delayed acceptance speech to the Norwegian Nobel Committee. The 66-year-old champion of political freedom praised the power of her 1991 Nobel honor both for saving her from the depths of personal despair and shining an enduring spotlight on injustices in distant Myanmar. “Often during my days of house arrest, it felt as though I were no longer a part of the real world,” she said. “What the Nobel Peace Prize did was to draw me once again into the world of other human beings, outside the isolated area in which I lived, to restore a sense of reality to me. ... And what was more important, the Nobel Prize had drawn the attention of the world to the struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma." Suu Kyi, who since winning freedom in 2010 has led her National League for Democracy party into opposition in Myanmar’s parliament, offered cautious support for the first tentative steps toward democratic reform in her country. But she said progress depended on continued foreign pressure on the army-backed government.
Note: It is inspiring to see the positive effect that the Nobel Peace Prize may have on the state of the world. Unfortunately it does not always do so, as is evident with the prizes given to strategists of global war such as Henry Kissinger.
Dominique Moceanu was the youngest member of the celebrated "Magnificent 7" gymnasts who won team gold at the 1996 Olympic Games. But behind the broad smile and shining medals she hid heartache and pain inflicted by some of the people she trusted the most. Moceanu would ultimately file for emancipation from her parents when she was 17, and got a restraining order against her father. After an injury quashed her bid for the 2000 Olympics, she went to college and was married in 2006 to a fellow gymnast named Mike Canales. She became pregnant with her first child soon after her marriage to Canales. But two weeks before giving birth, Moceanu learned some shocking news. She received a package containing a letter and photos of a young woman who looked surprisingly similar to her younger sister Christina. Reading the letter, she learned that the 20-year-old woman, named Jen Bricker, had been adopted and had recently learned that her birth name was Moceanu. "It was the biggest bombshell of my life," Dominique Moceanu remembered. "I had this sister that was born who was given up for adoption, and I never knew it." When Moceanu reached out to her new sister, Bricker [told her] "Oh by the way. I have no legs. But people forget that within minutes of meeting me." Five years later, they have met many times and have developed a friendship and bond that only sisters could have. They're athletic, do gymnastics -- Bricker even competed in the Junior Olympics -- and have discovered other striking similarities.
Note: For a touching video on this showing the amazing gymnastic abilities and inspiring can-do attitude of this woman with no legs, click here.
How aware are plants? This is the central question behind a fascinating new book, What a Plant Knows, by Daniel Chamovitz, director of the Manna Center for Plant Biosciences at Tel Aviv University. Chamovitz unveils the surprising world of plants that see, feel, smell—and remember. Just because we don’t see plants moving doesn’t mean that there’s not a very rich and dynamic world going on inside the plant. People have to realize that plants are complex organisms that live rich, sensual lives. Plants had to develop incredibly sensitive and complex sensory mechanisms that would let them survive in ever changing environments. [A plant] can mount a defense when under siege, and warn its neighbors of trouble on the way. A plant can even be said to have a memory. If a maple tree is attacked by bugs, it releases a pheromone into the air that is picked up by the neighboring trees. This induces the receiving trees to start making chemicals that will help it fight off the impending bug attack. So on the face of it, this is definitely communication.
Note: This article only touches the surface of a rich world of research suggesting that plant life is much more complex and miraculous than we might imagine. For more, explore the landmark book The Secret Life of Plants or the work of researcher Cleve Backster.
In the next few weeks, half a dozen US states are expected to pass legislation that will for the first time protect companies which value their social impact as much as the bottom line. Whether it's buying locally, protecting the environment or launching community projects, the new "benefit corporations" have a common mission - to do well by doing good. "It's becoming a national movement," says Penny Jones-Napier, owner of the Big Bad Woof pet store in Hyattsville, Maryland, the first business in the US to adopt the new benefit corporation designation. "What started with small businesses is moving into the mainstream." As a benefit corporation, Big Bad Woof is protected from legal action if it makes decisions that aren't in the financial interests of its shareholders. The company can support local suppliers for instance, even though that might not be the cheapest option and could reduce the profit margin. Seven states, including New York and California, have already adopted the new business class. These seven states combined produce a third of America's annual economic output, which makes their support for benefit corporations significant.
Note: Many are not aware that corporations legally are not allowed to do make socially responsible choices if those choices don't benefit shareholders. Isn't it time to put more pressure on companies to make socially responsible choices more important than big profits?
"I want people to understand that we are creating this world. That we are creating our own lives. That our realities and experiences are not accidents.” At the end of a long conversation about cell membranes, evolution and (sub)consciousness, I ask Bruce Lipton what his most important message is. Bruce Lipton is a stem-cell biologist who ... performed pioneering research at Stanford University before writing his bestselling book, The Biology of Belief, in 2005. His message does not come from quick pop interpretations of quantum mechanics but from work with cell cultures in a lab. These experiments showed that environments and circumstances, not genetic makeup, dictate how cells behave. Despite all the pharmaceutical claims of individually based genetic medicine, genetic determinism may have had its day. Lipton’s research shows a different perspective. Identical cells developed in different directions when the environment was changed. Different information led genes to evolve in different ways. So genes don’t control life; they respond to information. “It’s the environment, stupid.” Lipton’s discoveries are part of an emerging new biological paradigm that presents a radically different view of the evolution of life: epigenetics. The implications are profound. Change your environment, and you can change how you think. “We are not locked into our fate, because we have the freedom to change the way we respond to the world,” he explains.
Highway deaths declined again last year, reaching their lowest rate when compared to miles driven since such record-keeping began in 1921. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's early estimate of 2011 traffic fatalities ... said there were 32,310 deaths in motor vehicle crashes last year, a drop of 1.7 percent from the previous year. That's the lowest number of deaths in more than 60 years. Safety experts have attributed the historic decline to a variety of factors, including less driving due to a weak economy, more people wearing seat belts, better safety equipment in cars and efforts to curb drunken driving. The number of miles driven on America's roadways declined last year by 35.7 billion miles, or 1.2 percent, the safety administration said. There were 1.09 deaths per 100 million miles traveled, down slightly from 1.11 deaths in 2010. That's the lowest rate on record, NHTSA says. Overall, traffic fatalities have plummeted 26 percent since 2005. There were significant regional differences in the fatality reductions last year, with the sharpest drop -- 7.2 percent -- in the six New England states.
Recent studies at Harvard, U.C.L.A. [and] John Hopkins have now made it plain that doctors should [soon] be free to offer illicit drugs to patients who are terminally ill, in order to ease their emotional suffering. At Harvard, Dr. John Halpern ... tested MDMA (the street drug Ecstasy) to determine if it would ease the anxieties in two patients with terminal cancer. At U.C.L.A. and Hopkins, Drs. Charles Grob and Roland Griffiths used psilocybin (the active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms) to help cancer patients past their paralyzing, debilitating fears. The results are reportedly consistently good. In many cases, patients are able to cope with their physical pain and psychological turmoil better than before. Some, no doubt, feel the drugs opened doors of perception previously closed to them, allowing them to make peace with their lives and the impending end of their lives. Recent data also show that low doses of the street drug Special K (ketamine), when slowly infused via IV, can instantly [relieve] major depression ... in many patients. And opiates like oxycodone ... are also extremely useful for those patients who ... suffer with unwieldy anxiety that cannot be addressed ... in any other way.
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Paul Rice spent more than a decade in Nicaragua before returning to the United States to start Fair Trade USA in late 1998. Then known as TransFair, the Oakland nonprofit began to push businesses to practice fair trade. Today, the group works with more than 800 brands, including Peet's Coffee & Tea, Numi Tea and Ben & Jerry's, which have adopted fair-trade practices and carry its fair-trade label on certain products. [Rice:] The way it works is farmers organize themselves into marketing cooperatives and sell direct. When they sell direct to Starbucks, Peet's, Ben and Jerry's, or any number of the 800 brands we work with today, they're able to get a much higher price for their harvest. It's like a farmers' market gone global. Fair Trade USA plays three critical roles in the fair-trade movement. The first role - and defining function - is to certify fair-trade products. We certify 90 percent of fair-trade products in the U.S. That label gives consumers the assurance that the product came from a sustainable farm and farmers received a fair price for their products. We have auditors around the world that audit and inspect farms. We also have a supply-chain audit. It tracks the product from the farm to the grocery store shelves. We also have two other functions, consumer education and farmer support. With consumer education, our goal is to develop programs that raise awareness among consumers in the U.S. We (also) run training programs for farmers all over the world, to help them improve the quality of their products, develop strong business skills and to help them get access to capital.
More than 30 years ago, a teenager named Jadav "Molai" Payeng began planting seeds along a barren sandbar near his birthplace in India's Assam region. It was 1979 and floods had washed a great number of snakes onto the sandbar. When Payeng -- then only 16 -- found them, they had all died. "The snakes died in the heat, without any tree cover. I sat down and wept over their lifeless forms," Payeng told the Times Of India. "It was carnage. I alerted the forest department and asked them if they could grow trees there. They said nothing would grow there. It was painful, but I did it. There was nobody to help me." Now that once-barren sandbar is a sprawling 1,360 acre forest, home to [many] varieties of trees and an astounding diversity of wildlife -- including birds, deer, apes, rhino, elephants and even tigers. The forest, aptly called the "Molai woods" after its creator's nickname, was single-handedly planted and cultivated by one man -- Payeng, who is now 47. Payeng has dedicated his life to the upkeep and growth of the forest. Accepting a life of isolation, he started living alone on the sandbar as a teenager -- spending his days tending the burgeoning plants. Today, Payeng still lives in the forest. He shares a small hut with his wife and three children and makes a living selling cow and buffalo milk. According to the Assistant Conservator of Forests, Gunin Saikia, it is perhaps the world’s biggest forest in the middle of a river. "[Locals] wanted to cut down the forest, but Payeng dared them to kill him instead. He treats the trees and animals like his own children. Seeing this, we, too, decided to pitch in," Saikia said.
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17-year-old Marian Bechtel might live in Pennsylvania, where land mines are not a common occurrence, but she has still managed to invent the prototype for a brand-new minesweeper. The device, [with a] cost far lower than current technology, uses sound waves to figure out where the deadly devices are. The combination of sensitive microphones and a seismic vibrator connected to a standard metal detector was tested, successfully, on mock plastic and metal land mines. It was a finalist in the recently concluded 2012 Intel Science Talent Search. The project was inspired by family connections and a lucky flash of inspiration. "My parents are both geologists," she says. "Years ago they got connected with an international group of scientists working on a project called RASCAN, developing a holographic radar device for detecting land mines. During the summer before eighth grade, I met all of these scientists and talked with them about their work and the land mine issue. I was really touched and inspired by what they had to say, and wanted to get involved in science and possibly land mine detection. I noticed that when I played certain chords or notes on the piano, the strings on a nearby banjo would resonate," says Bechtel. "I heard this, and it was almost like the story of the apple falling on Newton’s head -- I thought that maybe I could use the same principle to find landmines. So, I began doing research and talking with scientists in humanitarian de-mining and acoustics; three years later I had built a prototype."
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A few relatively short bursts of intense exercise, amounting to only a few minutes a week, can deliver many of the health and fitness benefits of hours of conventional exercise, according to new research. This apparently outrageous claim is supported by many years of research done in a number of different countries. [Welcome to] the world of High Intensity Training (HIT). By doing just three minutes of HIT a week for four weeks, [you can] expect to see significant changes in a number of important health indices. But how much benefit you get ... may well depend on your genes. The fact is that people respond to exercise in very different ways. In one international study 1,000 people were asked to exercise four hours a week for 20 weeks. The results were striking. Although 15% of people made huge strides ... 20% showed no real improvement at all. The exercise they were doing was not making them any aerobically fitter. [HIT is] actually very simple. You get on an exercise bike, warm up by doing gentle cycling for a couple of minutes, then go flat out for 20 seconds. A couple of minutes to catch your breath, then another 20 seconds at full throttle. Another couple of minutes gentle cycling, then a final 20 seconds going hell for leather. And that's it. Active exercise ... seems to be needed to break down the body's stores of glucose, deposited in your muscles as a substance called glycogen. Smash up these glycogen stores and you create room for more glucose to be sucked out of the blood and stored. Like any new exercise regime if you have a pre-existing medical condition you should consult your doctor before trying it.
Note: For lots more on this, see the excellent article on mercola.com at this link. And for two amazing one-minute videos of a highly inspiring gymnast who is 86-years-old doing her routines, click here.
Seven sloping acres at the southwest edge of Jefferson Park [are] being transformed into an edible landscape and community park that will be known [as] the Beacon Food Forest, the largest of its kind in the nation. One full acre will be devoted to large chestnuts and walnuts in the overstory. There'll be full-sized fruit trees in the understory, and berry shrubs, climbing vines, herbaceous plants, and vegetables closer to the ground. The entire project will be built around the concept of permaculture -- an ecological design system, philosophy, and set of ethics and principles used to create perennial, self-sustaining landscapes. Friends of the Food Forest undertook heroic outreach efforts to secure neighborhood support. The team mailed over 6,000 postcards in five different languages, tabled at events and fairs, and posted fliers. And Seattle residents responded. The first meeting, especially, drew permaculturalists and other intrigued parties from all around the city. More than 70 people, mostly from Beacon Hill, attended the second meeting in mid-July, where proposed designs were laid out on giant sheets paper with markers strewn about so the community could scribble their ideas and feedback directly onto the plans.
Every few years, parents find new reasons to worry about their teenagers. And while there is no question that some kids continue to experiment with sex and substance abuse, the latest data point to something perhaps more surprising: the current generation is, well, a bit boring when it comes to bad behavior. While marijuana use has recently had an uptick, teenagers are smoking far less pot than their parents did at the same age. In 1980, about 60 percent of high-school seniors had tried marijuana and 9 percent smoked it daily. Among seniors today, according to the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey, which has tracked teenage risk behaviors since 1975, 45.5 percent have tried the drug and 6.6 percent are smoking it frequently. Adolescent use of alcohol, tobacco and most illegal drugs is also far lower than it was 30 years ago. Today’s teenagers are also far less likely to have sex or get pregnant compared with their parent’s generation. In 1988, half of boys 15 to 17 had experienced sex; by 2010 that number fell to just 28 percent. The percentage of teenage girls having sex dropped to 27 percent from 37.2 percent, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What about TV shows like “Teen Mom” and “Gossip Girl” that suggest adolescence is dominated by sex and booze? “There is a lot more media hype around the kids who are raising hell,” says Dr. John Santelli, president-elect for the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. “There are a lot of kids who are pretty responsible.”
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