Inspirational News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Inspirational News Articles in Media
To foster any child takes an extraordinary amount of selfless love and devotion. But one man in Los Angeles has taken on an even more monumental role: caring for the city's dying children. Mohamed Bzeek is ... a devout Libyan-born Muslim who has spent the last 20 years giving hope and comfort to children no other person would touch - ten of whom have died. 'The key is, you have to love them like your own,' Bzeek told the Los Angeles Times. 'I know they are sick. I know they are going to die. I do my best as a human being and leave the rest to God.' Bzeek, 62, moved to the US ... in 1978. He began fostering children in 1989, and in 1991 he experienced his first death. The girl had been affected in the womb by pesticides sprayed on her farm-worker mother, and her spine was so deformed that she had to wear a full body cast. She was in his home for just a year when she passed away. Bzeek still has a photograph of the girl. Now, Bzeek is caring for a girl who was born with encephalocele, which left her mentally and physically underdeveloped. She is blind and deaf, paralyzed in her arms and legs, and suffers seizures every day. But Bzeek keeps a vigil, day and night, over her tiny body, to make sure she has as much comfort as he can give her. 'I know she can’t hear, can't see, but I always talk to her,' he said. 'I'm always holding her, playing with her, touching her. … She has feelings. She has a soul. She's a human being.' Doctors gave up hope on the girl ... when she was two years old. She is now six.
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Crowdfunding gets a lot of attention when it gives rise to oddball games. But Silicon Valley's largest startup accelerator believes the real bet is on crowdfunded healthcare. Y Combinator, the company responsible for launching Airbnb, Dropbox, and Reddit, has announced that it will invest in Watsi - a nonprofit that has brought healthcare to more than 11,000 people in 24 countries through nearly 22,000 online donations. Sam Altman, president of YC, explains that Watsi's approach to healthcare avoids a huge number of operational inefficiencies. A recent report from the World Health Organization calculated that 20-40% of all health spending worldwide gets wasted. But Watsi's crowdfunding model makes transparency a top priority - each patient's received donations and healthcare provider are logged in a master spreadsheet available on Watsi's website. "Funding individual patients encourages more people to donate, but it also results in patient-level data that makes it easier to identify fraud, evaluate the quality of care, measure health outcomes, etc.," Watsi co-founder Chase Adam [said]. When a family visits a hospital that has partnered with Watsi, but the patient can't afford to pay for the necessary care, a staff member will ask if they want to put their case on the site. If he or she agrees, the site's donors will then have the opportunity to make online donations straight to the patient. The company has also created a general fund that people ... can donate to if all patients on Watsi have already been funded.
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Activists who say too many poor people are unfairly languishing in U.S. jails because they can’t afford to post cash bail are increasingly deploying a new tactic: Bailing out strangers. Community groups are collecting donations from individuals, churches, cities and other organizations in more than a dozen cities, including New York, Chicago, Seattle and Nashville, to bail out indigent prisoners. They’ve freed several thousand people in the last few years, and the number is growing. The overwhelming majority of defendants still show up for court. Once free, the defendants are better able to fight their case, often leading to charges being dropped or reduced. “Many, many people are having their lives ruined pre-trial because they can’t afford to get out of jail,” said Max Suchan, who co-founded the Chicago Community Bond Fund, which had bailed out 50 people as of December. The bail funds are a step toward a larger goal for some legal reform activists: abolishing the cash bail system. Advocates say it creates two unequal tiers of justice: one for people who can afford bail and one for people who can’t. In Chicago the anti-cash bail movement has a seemingly unlikely ally in Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. He argues the cash system should be abolished and replaced with more thorough background checks; if a person is considered dangerous, they stay in jail and if they’re not, they go free, with access to services such as drug-addiction counseling if needed.
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Nearly five years ago, Charles F. Feeney sat in a cushy armchair in an apartment on the east side of Manhattan, grandchildren’s artwork taped to the walls, and said that by the end of 2016, he was going to hand out the last of a great fortune that he had made. It was a race: Mr. Feeney was then 81, and Atlantic Philanthropies, a collection of private foundations he had started and funded, still had about $1.5 billion left. Writing checks willy-nilly was not Mr. Feeney’s way. Last month, Mr. Feeney and Atlantic completed the sprint and made a final grant, $7 million to Cornell University, to support students doing community service work. He had officially emptied his pockets, meeting his aspiration of “giving while living.” Altogether, he had contributed $8 billion to his philanthropies, which have supported higher education, public health, human rights and scientific research. None of the major American philanthropists have given away a greater proportion of their wealth, and starting in 1982, Mr. Feeney did most of this in complete secrecy, leading Forbes magazine to call him the “James Bond of philanthropy.” For years, Atlantic’s support came with a requirement that the beneficiaries not publicize its involvement. Beyond Mr. Feeney’s reticence about blowing his own horn, “it was also a way to leverage more donations - some other individual might contribute to get the naming rights,” said Christopher G. Oechsli, the president and chief executive officer of Atlantic.
Solar energy is now cheaper than traditional fossil fuels. Solar and wind is now either the same price or cheaper than new fossil fuel capacity in more than 30 countries, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum. The influential foundation has described the change as a "tipping point" that could make fighting climate change into a profitable form of business for energy companies. But investors and energy firms are still failing to put money into such green solutions despite the fact that they are cheaper than more traditional forms of electricity generation. “Renewable energy has reached a tipping point – it now constitutes the best chance to reverse global warming,” said Michael Drexler, Head of Long Term Investing, Infrastructure and Development at the World Economic Forum. Just ten years ago, generating electricity through solar cost about $600 per MWh, and it cost only $100 to generate the same amount of power through coal and natural gas. But ... today it only costs around $100 the generate the same amount of electricity through solar and $50 through wind. The cheap price of solar and wind energy is already encouraging companies to build more plants to harvest it. The US is adding about 125 solar panels every minute ... and investment in renewables in 2015 rose to $286 billion, up 5 per cent from the year before. Even despite that cheap price ... the worldwide investment is only 25 per cent of the $1 trillion goal set in the landmark Paris climate change accord.
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Almost all Costa Rica's electricity was produced by renewable energy in 2016. The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) said that around 98.1 per cent of the country’s electricity came from green sources. These included large hydropower facilities, fed by a myriad of rivers and heavy seasonal rains, geothermal plants, wind turbines, solar panels and biomass plants. The country used carbon-free electricity for more than 250 days last year with a continuous 110-day stretch from 17 June until 6 October. Science and environment journalist Maria Gallucci described the tropical country as "a verdant gem amid a pile of black coal rocks". In comparison, less than 15 per cent of the US electricity supply for January to October 2016 was renewable. Coal and natural gas together made up nearly two-thirds of the US electricity generation over that period and nuclear power provided the remaining 19 per cent. ICE president Carlos Manuel Obregón said he expected renewable power generation to stay “stable” in Costa Rica in 2017. The country, which hosts more than five per cent of the world’s species biodiversity despite a landmass that covers 0.03 per cent of the planet, has recently set up four new wind farms. Costa Rican clean development adviser Dr Monica Araya has said the extent of Costa Rica's renewable electricity generation is a “fantastic achievement".
Since the tender age of 7, Will has been focused on feeding the hungry. It all started when he saw a man on a street corner begging for food, and he decided he wanted to do something about it. With the help of his parents – Julie, a teacher, and Bill, a financial adviser – he established the charity Friends Reaching Our Goals, or FROGs. He named the organization himself ... and designed FROGs with a dual purpose: to inspire youths to carry out service work in their communities and to feed those at risk of going hungry. That was October 2010. Since then, he has helped provide more than 500,000 meals to those in need. He raises funds, he plans, he ropes in friends, and more. Tonight he is serving Asian-themed dishes as part of the monthly FROGs Dinner Club, a central event. Each time, Will and his fellow volunteers aim to serve a free, fresh meal with the twist that the recipients be introduced to new foods and healthier options. This go-round, honey-seared chicken is dished up with brown or white rice alongside Vietnamese chicken salad rolls. And edamame. “When I was 7, I was riding home from a Little League baseball game when I saw a man on a street corner who held a sign that said, ‘Need Meal,’ ” Will elaborates. “And it made me sad to realize that there are people in my community who didn’t have enough food to eat. So I started FROGs. Our motto is to have fun while helping others.” Will’s efforts have helped amass $852,000 worth of food items for hunger-fighting charities.
A transformation is happening in global energy markets that’s worth noting as 2016 comes to an end: Solar power, for the first time, is becoming the cheapest form of new electricity. This has happened in isolated projects in the past. But now unsubsidized solar is beginning to outcompete coal and natural gas on a larger scale, and notably, new solar projects in emerging markets are costing less to build than wind projects. While solar was bound to fall below wind eventually, given its steeper price declines, few predicted it would happen this soon. “Solar investment has gone from nothing ... five years ago to quite a lot,” said Ethan Zindler, head of U.S. policy analysis at BNEF. “A huge part of this story is China, which has been rapidly deploying solar” and helping other countries finance their own projects. The world recently passed a turning point and is adding more capacity for clean energy each year than for coal and natural gas combined. Peak fossil-fuel use for electricity may be reached within the next decade. Thursday’s BNEF report, called Climatescope, ranks and profiles emerging markets for their ability to attract capital for low-carbon energy projects. The top-scoring markets were China, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, South Africa, and India. For populations still relying on expensive kerosene generators, or who have no electricity at all, and for those living in the dangerous smog of thickly populated cities, the shift to renewables and increasingly to solar can’t come soon enough.
Native Americans conducted a forgiveness ceremony with U.S. veterans at the Standing Rock casino, giving the veterans an opportunity to atone for military actions conducted against Natives throughout history. In celebration of Standing Rock protesters’ victory [towards] halting construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, Leonard Crow Dog formally forgave Wes Clark Jr., the son of retired U.S. Army general and former supreme commander at NATO, Wesley Clark Sr.. Salon published Clark’s apology to the Natives, which read as follows: "Many of us, me particularly, are from the units that have hurt you over the many years. We came. We fought you. We took your land. We signed treaties that we broke. We stole minerals from your sacred hills. We blasted the faces of our presidents onto your sacred mountain. When we took still more land and then we took your children and then we tried to make your language and we tried to eliminate your language that God gave you, and the Creator gave you. We didn’t respect you, we polluted your Earth, we’ve hurt you in so many ways but we’ve come to say that we are sorry. We are at your service and we beg for your forgiveness." This was a historically symbolic gesture forgiving centuries of oppression against Natives and honoring their partnership in defending the land from the Dakota Access Pipeline. Chief Leonard Crow Dog offered forgiveness and urged for world peace, responding that “we do not own the land, the land owns us.”
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On Saturday, a white-bearded man in a cowboy hat held a sign outside of a Texas mosque. His sign read "You belong. Stay strong. Be blessed. We are one America" and he - as well as his message - quickly went viral. America, meet Justin Normand. He reveals that he had the sign made in the sign shop he manages and stood outside of the [Irving, Texas] mosque as a practice of his own Presbyterian religion. "This was about binding up the wounded. About showing compassion and empathy for the hurting and fearful among us," Normand writes. "Or, in some Christian traditions, this was about washing my brother's feet." He continues to write, while citing scriptures from the Bible, about the human call to be generous and kind to our neighbors - no matter their background. "Lastly, it worked. I felt better for the impact it had on my neighbors. They genuinely needed this encouragement," Normand concludes [in a] Facebook post. "They need us. They need all of us. They need you. We ARE one America." Normand's actions come at a crucial time as hate crimes against Muslims have spiked in America by 67 percent from 2014 to 2015 and 6 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to the New York Times. The Islamic Center of Irving is where a group of armed protesters gathered outside last year in order to "Stop the Islamization of America," according to the Dallas Morning News.
Two weeks ago, a small group of Israeli women set off on a protest march to Jerusalem from northern Israel to demand that the Israeli government restart a peace process with the Palestinians. After reaching the Palestinian city of Jericho ... the core group of 20 women were joined by more than 3,000 others, including about 1,000 Palestinian women. Although most of the Palestinians could not proceed beyond the barrier that separates the West Bank from Israel, the Israeli women headed for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s formal residence, where they held an emotional rally. The group, which calls itself Women Wage Peace, is made up of women from across the political spectrum and the religious divide. At the rally, many held banners reading, “Right, Center and Left are all calling for an agreement, Women Wage Peace.” The movement was founded two years ago after the Gaza war, when many Israeli mothers had to send their sons to fight. More than 10,000 women have registered with the group. “I came because I want to see a peace agreement with the Palestinians,” said Tanya Harkavi ... a mother and a grandmother. [Harkavi] said that women are better positioned to solve disputes because of their roles within the family and that it was time they become involved in the dispute with the Palestinians, too. “Two years ago, my son was in the army; he fought in the Gaza war. I decided then that I did not want to launder army uniforms anymore. I want peace,” said [group member] Miki Rom.
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Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a Department of Energy lab in Tennessee, have discovered a mechanism for converting carbon dioxide into ethanol. Their method takes advantage of nanotechnology, creating a catalyst that produces ethanol from a solution of carbon dioxide in water. “We discovered somewhat by accident that this material worked,” said Adam Rondinone, the lead author of a new study in the journal ChemistrySelect. “We were trying to study the first step of a proposed reaction when we realized that the catalyst was doing the entire reaction on its own.” The discovery may change the way we think about carbon dioxide. If it could be captured and turned into a fuel, then carbon dioxide – the earth-polluting byproduct of global dependence on fossil fuels – could help high-energy societies work toward energy independence. Repurposing carbon dioxide could be invaluable for the environment, the researchers say. Converting it into ethanol can turn a greenhouse gas into a gasoline-like fuel source. Ethanol contains one-third less energy than gasoline but produces far fewer byproducts when burned in engines, which can limit further carbon emissions. “Closing the carbon cycle by utilizing CO2 as a feedstock for currently used commodities, in order to displace a fossil feedstock, is an appropriate intermediate step towards a carbon-free future,” the researchers wrote in the study.
The president of America’s largest police management organization on Monday issued a formal apology to the nation’s minority population “for the actions of the past and the role that our profession has played in society’s historical mistreatment of communities of color.” Terrence M. Cunningham, the chief of police in Wellesley, Mass., delivered his remarks at the convention in San Diego of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, whose membership includes 23,000 police officials in the United States. The statement ... comes as police executives continue to grapple with tense relationships between officers and minority groups in the wake of high-profile civilian deaths in New York, South Carolina, Minnesota and elsewhere, the sometimes violent citizen protests which have ensued as well as the ambush killings of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. Cunningham continued, “While we obviously cannot change the past, it is clear that we must change the future ... For our part, the first step is for law enforcement and the IACP to acknowledge and apologize for the actions of the past and the role that our profession has played in society’s historical mistreatment of communities of color.” He concluded, “It is my hope that, by working together, we can break this historic cycle of mistrust and build a better and safer future for us all.” Jeffery Robinson, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, applauded Cunningham’s statement. “It seems to me that this is a very significant admission,” Robinson said.
Sunshine and seawater. That’s all a new, futuristic-looking greenhouse needs to produce 15,000 tonnes of tomatoes per year in the South Australian desert. It’s the first agricultural system of its kind in the world and uses no soil, pesticides, fossil fuels or groundwater. As the demand for fresh water and energy continues to rise, this might be the face of farming in the future. An international team of scientists have spent the last six years fine-tuning the design – first with a pilot greenhouse built in 2010; then with a commercial-scale facility that began construction in 2014 and was officially launched today. Seawater is piped ... to Sundrop Farm. A solar-powered desalination plant removes the salt, creating enough fresh water to irrigate 180,000 tomato plants inside the greenhouse. Scorching summer temperatures and dry conditions make the region unsuitable for conventional farming, but the greenhouse is lined with seawater-soaked cardboard to keep the plants cool enough to stay healthy. In winter, solar heating keeps the greenhouse warm. There is no need for pesticides as seawater cleans and sterilises the air, and plants grow in coconut husks instead of soil. The farm’s solar power is generated by 23,000 mirrors that reflect sunlight towards a 127-metre high receiver tower. On a sunny day, up to 39 megawatts of energy can be produced – enough to power the desalination plant and supply the greenhouse’s electricity needs. Tomatoes produced by the greenhouse have already started being sold in Australian supermarkets.
As the Syrian peace accord has crumbled - even threatening to reignite the Cold War - and barrel bombs continue to fall on the rebel-held city of Aleppo, many are fleeing the death and destruction. But one group of residents has vowed to stay behind and help. They are the "White Helmets," a volunteer team of first responders who plunge head-first into crumbling buildings to save civilians trapped in the rubble of Syria's brutal civil war. Named after their iconic protective headgear, the group of about 3,000 rescue workers have reportedly saved more than 60,000 lives since the civil war began. In August, their courage garnered international attention when they rescued 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh, the stunned little boy covered in dust and blood whose photo shocked the world. They have since been nominated for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize. The heroism of these ordinary citizens - former doctors, shopkeepers, and teachers - is profiled in a 40-minute Netflix documentary. "These are very normal, ordinary people who now do one of the most extraordinary jobs on this planet," said the film's director, Orlando von Einsiedel. "They represent the best of what humanity can be," he said. "It has given us faith in humanity and has made us want to be better people."
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Thinking about aging conjures unpleasant imagery of becoming weak and frail, losing our autonomy, and being placed in a nursing home to live out the remainder of our days alone. Self-described “Nursing Home Abolitionist” Dr. Bill Thomas has been working on changing that, and his ideas and philosophy are reforming the traditional long-term care model. After graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1986, Dr. Thomas worked in emergency care. He went on to become the medical director of [a] nursing home in upstate New York. The institutionalized and depressing atmosphere of the facility prompted him to take action. Even though animals in nursing homes were illegal at the time, Dr. Thomas brought in two dogs, four cats, hens, rabbits, 100 parakeets, a multitude of plants, a flower garden, and vegetable patch. The Washington Post reported that the illegal act was a resounding success. There was a 50% drop in medical prescriptions along with a dramatic decrease in death rates – but most importantly, the residents were simply happier. It inspired Dr. Thomas to create The Green House Project, a national non-profit organization that creates alternative living environments to traditional nursing home care facilities. Traditional nursing homes are torn down and replaced with small, home-like environments where people can live a full and interactive life. In 2005, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation awarded ... a five-year $10 million grant to help the organization create Green House projects in all fifty states.
Andrew Short lives with spastic cerebral palsy, which he contracted during birth. Cerebral palsy is a disorder that effects muscle tone, movement and motor skills, but despite impaired speech Andrew’s disability doesn’t impair his mind, and he learned to read early. “I speak three languages,” said Andy. “English, German, and spastic. Spastic is my mother tongue." Andrew is currently completing a Masters Degree in Disability Studies, but his most impressive achievement has been walking the Kokoda Trail, which he describes as “the toughest physical challenge of [his] life”. In Andy’s late twenties, his motor function appeared to begin deteriorating. “We were told to accept that that's what it would be,” said [Andrew's father] David. Instead, David and Andrew began researching the emerging field of neuroplasticity ... inspired by the seminal [book], “The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science”. Andrew’s physical condition is due in part to his trainer, Lee Campbell, a former army trainer and Sydney Swans team member. The two have been training together for five and a half years, and in that time Lee estimates that his physical condition has risen from 2.5 to a 7 or 8. “You watch Andy pull a sled with 20 or 30 kilos of weights in it, he stands up, his posture is corrected,” said Lee. “His finer motor skills now are getting refined. He can hold things, he can cook, he can do his buttons up.” Right now, they’re training together for Andy’s next endeavour, walking the Great Wall of China.
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For the second year in a row, Natural Resources Defense Council and several other organizations rated the 25 largest American fast-food and fast-casual restaurants on their policies toward antibiotics use. While the majority got failing grades in the “Chain Reaction” report, many chain restaurants have made progress, especially when sourcing antibiotic-free chicken - though Chipotle, Panera and now Subway also have strong policies on beef and pork. “We were really encouraged to see that twice as many restaurant chains had adopted new policies,” said Kari Hamerschlag ... one of the report’s authors. An estimated 70 percent of medically important antibiotics are used in livestock production, often given routinely to healthy animals to prevent illness or stimulate growth rather than to cure disease. Between 2009 and 2014, livestock and poultry farms increased their use of these antimicrobial drugs by 23 percent, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA discourages producers from using antibiotics routinely in feed to promote growth, but does not prohibit the practice. McDonald’s grade improved from a C last year to a C-plus because it announced it had fully switched over to antibiotic-free chicken in its U.S. stores. Subway, based in Milford, Conn., which leapt from an "F" grade last year to a "B" grade this year, was listed as the only chain to adopt policies that apply to all types of meat sold. The report said now roughly 67 percent of its chicken is now raised without antibiotics, with turkey to follow.
A recent report by the communities and local government committee on homelessness pointed out that the “housing first” model “appears to have had a positive impact in Finland”. The ... model is quite simple: when people are homeless, you give them housing. The idea stems from the belief that people who are homeless need a home, and other issues that may cause them to be at risk of homelessness can be addressed once they are in stable housing. Homeless people aren’t told they must conquer their addictions or secure a job before being given a home: instead it is accepted that having a home can make solving health and social problems much easier. Finland is the only European country where homelessness has decreased in recent years. At the end of 2015 the number of single homeless people was for the first time under 7,000 and this number includes people living temporarily with friends and relatives, who constitute 80% of all homeless people. This development is mainly due to a national programme to reduce long-term homelessness. The main explanation for this success is quite simple: when the national programme started housing first was adopted as a mainstream national homelessness policy. This costs money, but there is ample evidence from many countries that shows it is always more cost-effective to aim to end homelessness instead of simply trying to manage it. Investment in ending homelessness always pays back, to say nothing of the human and ethical reasons.
Nico is one of 11 puppies in the Leader Dogs for the Blind Prison Puppies program, trained by 23 inmates at the Macomb Correctional Facility in New Haven. At the ... all-male prison, it’s common to see inmates toting puppies on leashes through the grounds, eating in the Chow Hall with a lab or golden retriever by their side and passing time with a four-legged cellmate, who takes up a share of the 8-foot-by-11-foot space. “He’s with us 24/7,” said [Mario] Carines, who’s raising Nico with teammate James Fuson. “The puppy is a blessing,” he said, explaining that since the dogs arrived last summer, the morale of both the inmates and staff has improved. “Seeing animals around when the program first began, guys couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t seen a dog in 22 years,” he said. Prison Puppies started in 2002. Leader Dog coordinators noticed a difference in the success rate. Up to 60 percent of puppies raised in prisons become leader dogs, assisting the blind or deaf; the graduation rate of puppies outside prisons is about 45 percent. “Many of our dogs raised in correctional facilities go on to ... have long-term successful working careers as guide dogs,” said [program coordinator] Melissa Spooner. Prison Puppies is a “win-win-win,” Spooner said, since it benefits the recipient, Leader Dog and 108 inmates in the voluntary year-long program. In fact, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found only 17 percent of inmates in Prison Puppies return to prison after being released. The national recidivism rate is about 50 percent.
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