Inspirational News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Inspirational News Articles in Media
Federal officials are preparing to enforce an 86-year-old ban on importing goods made by children or slaves under new provisions of a law signed by President Barack Obama. "This law slams shut an unconscionable and archaic loophole that forced America to accept products made by children or slave labor," said Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who worked on the legislation. The Tariff Act of 1930, which gave Customs and Border Protection the authority to seize shipments where forced labor was suspected and block further imports, was last used in 2000, and has been used only 39 times all together largely because of two words: "consumptive demand" - if there was not sufficient supply to meet domestic demand, imports were allowed regardless of how they were produced. The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act signed by Obama on Wednesday eliminated that language, allowing stiffer enforcement. To start an investigation, Customs needs to receive a petition from anyone - a business, an agency, even a non-citizen - showing "reasonably but not conclusively" that imports were made at least in part with forced labor. A Labor Department list of more than 350 goods produced by child labor or forced labor provides a detailed breakdown that human rights groups plan to use as they petition the government to take action.
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Komal Ahmad ... is the founder and CEO of Copia, an online platform that connects businesses with leftover food to local organizations that can distribute that food to people in need. While an undergraduate ... Ahmad was walking down the street when she was approached by a homeless man who asked her for money to buy food. Instead of giving him a few bucks, Ahmad decided to take him out to lunch and discovered that he was an Iraq war veteran. “That hit me like a ton of bricks,” she said, noting that she’d just gotten back from summer training for the U.S. Navy. “It was almost like a glimpse of my future. This was a perfectly educated guy, came from a good family. He was just a person who was down on his luck.” Across the street from where Ahmad and the man had eaten lunch, the university’s cafeteria was throwing out thousands of pounds of leftover food. Right then, the dual problems of hunger and food waste struck her. “Those who have and are wasting and those who need and are starving - and they’re both living quite literally right across the street from each other,” she said. “That’s just ridiculous.” Ahmad launched Feeding Forward, a local service that began ... in 2011 and has since grown into the tech startup Copia, which has now distributed some 600,000 pounds of food to 720,000 people in need. As Copia expands, Ahmad said that she hopes her phone app will set the stage for new platforms that can redistribute a wider array of necessities, like medicine and medical supplies.
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The lobby of TerraCycle’s global headquarters is far from what might be expected for a company that reported $18.7 million in revenue in 2014. the company’s core mission: reducing waste. “Everything around us will become waste,” says Tom Szaky, TerraCycle’s chief executive officer. “Our focus is on anything that you cannot recycle today, and that is 75 percent of all objects in the world.” Mr. Szaky founded TerraCycle in 2001 while a freshman at Princeton University. He and another student fed dining hall leftovers to worms and liquefied the worm compost, creating an organic and highly effective fertilizer. Lacking the money to package their product, the duo used soda bottles they retrieved from recycling bins as containers to peddle the worm poop. “That was the inspirational moment,” says Szaky, who decided to drop out of Princeton to pursue TerraCycle as a full-time endeavor. “What got me very excited was ... waste as a business idea.” Today, TerraCycle is an international leader in “recycling the unrecyclable,” building off the worm compost idea and using other waste materials to craft new products. TerraCycle runs recycling programs in more than 350,000 locations in 22 countries. [They] devise a plan to deal with each type of waste, and then process the waste through refurbishing it into something useful or through reprocessing it for recycling.
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Only a fraction of the Earth's water is drinkable - an estimate from the U.S. Geological Survey puts all of the world's freshwater at just 2.5 percent of the total global water. What if we could diversify and pull water from the air, instead? Now, a new invention does just that. Fontus is a water bottle that pulls moisture from the air, and in ideal conditions, can fills itself up in under an hour. The water bottle comes from Austrian industrial designer Kristof Retezár, who wanted to make a simple, portable tool to help people where drinkable water isn't easy to get. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs reports that 1.2 billion people, around a fifth of the world's population, live in areas where water is physically scarce. Another 1.6 live in countries where water infrastructure and storage is lacking. The Fontus uses solar energy to power a small cooler or condenser that works by the so-called Peltier effect. Air passing through the cold chamber rapidly condenses like droplets on the outside of a cold glass. In "really good" conditions, or temperatures between 86 and 104 degrees with humidity between 80 and 90 percent, the Fontus can generate half a liter of water in an hour. In the future, Retezár says the company hopes to improve that so the bottle can work in more conditions. The project was shortlisted for the 2014 James Dyson Award. Next the company hopes to launch a crowdfunding campaign and get the price of the water bottle under $100.
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It took a bloody Civil War and the passage of a Constitutional amendment to eliminate slavery in the United States. Today, the tools to combat slavery have become decidedly more high-tech (and nonviolent). Made in a Free World in San Francisco, for example, has developed software that helps companies determine whether products they sell or make depend on global slave labor. At least 20 million people across the world are being forced to work for no pay. These workers are either directly or indirectly producing the goods sold by major corporations and small businesses alike, including those in the United States. “At the level of global brands, forced labor and human trafficking can often be hidden from view, the result of complex and frequently outsourced recruitment and hiring practices,” according to a United Nations report. Made in a Free World is a nonprofit that grew out of work that founder and CEO Justin Dillon did for the State Department in 2011. Dillon helped create an algorithm that allows consumers to determine the probability that companies were using slave labor, especially in raw material production, to make 400 popular products like beds, cars and cell phones. “We wanted to start a conversation,” Dillon told me. “No one wants to go out and buy things from slavery.” But Dillon realized that consumers were just one half the equation. To create real change, Made in a Free World needed to help companies - not just shame them - to rid slave labor from supply chains.
President Obama on Monday announced a ban on solitary confinement for juvenile offenders in the federal prison system, saying the practice is overused and has the potential for devastating psychological consequences. In an op-ed that appears in Tuesday editions of The Washington Post, the president outlines a series of executive actions that also prohibit federal corrections officials from punishing prisoners who commit “low-level infractions” with solitary confinement. The new rules also dictate that the longest a prisoner can be punished with solitary confinement for a first offense is 60 days, rather than the current maximum of 365 days. The president’s reforms apply broadly to the roughly 10,000 federal inmates serving time in solitary confinement. The reforms come six months after Obama, as part of a broader criminal-justice reform push, ordered the Justice Department to study how solitary confinement was being used by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. “How can we subject prisoners to unnecessary solitary confinement, knowing its effects, and then expect them to return to our communities as whole people?” Obama wrote in his op-ed. He said he hoped his reforms at the federal level will serve as a model for states to rethink their rules on the issue.
What if helping others is an innate part of being human? What if it just makes us feel good to give? Those questions have inspired a series of ground-breaking neuroscience studies ... by researchers Jamil Zaki, an assistant professor of psychology at Stanford University, and Jason Mitchell, an associate professor of the social sciences at Harvard University. Zaki and Mitchell’s research has gone head-to-head with standard economic models of decision making, which assume that when people exhibit kind, helpful (or “pro-social”) behavior, they are doing so to protect their reputation, avoid retribution, or benefit when their kindness is reciprocated. But in a study published in 2011 in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Zaki and Mitchell tested an alternate theory: that we feel good when helping others ... because behaviors like fairness, cooperation, and reciprocity are intrinsically rewarding. They found that acting equitably ... is rewarding, even when it means putting someone else’s interests before our own. On the other hand, making inequitable choices activated ... a brain area that has been associated with negative emotional states like pain and disgust. “Our model flips the traditional model on its head,” says Zaki. “Instead of people wanting to be selfish and then forcing themselves through control to be generous, we’re getting a picture where people enjoy being generous.”
Nearly 50 Bay Area executives and professionals packed into a gymnasium last week at the state prison in Solano County and lined up, toe to toe, with a row of convicted criminals. For most entrepreneurs, it was a ... a place they had never been. But it was all too familiar for Kenyatta Leal, [who] left San Quentin in 2013 after 19 years behind bars. He was among the first to graduate from the Last Mile Program - a prison initiative [run by Defy Ventures, which is] intended to turn offenders into entrepreneurs. In one exercise, inmates and volunteers were given a prompt and told to step forward or backward depending on whether it applied to them. “I have been incarcerated,” read Brian Moll, Defy Ventures’ executive director for the Bay Area. Every inmate stepped forward. So did a handful of entrepreneurs. One by one, the professionals fell back - all but Leal, who stood alone in his beige suit. “No. No way,” said Oakland native Leonard Halfin, 46, who has been incarcerated for 25 years on a second-degree-murder charge. “I can’t believe that. I would have never thought he was one of us.” This, said Defy founder and chief executive Catherine Hoke, is the most important takeaway: It allows felons to realize that they have potential. Hoke’s hope is that participating in programs like Defy’s will help inmates formulate plans and sharpen professional skills that can help them become successful.
Abdel Gawad Ellabbad knows exactly how he was infected with hepatitis C. As a schoolboy in this Nile Delta rice-farming village, his class marched to the local clinic every month for injections against schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease spread by water snails. Six million Egyptians were infected with hepatitis C by unsterile needles during the country’s decades-long fight against schistosomiasis. The virus spread insidiously; today, at least 10 percent of Egyptians, nearly nine million people, are chronically infected, the highest rate in the world. But a grand experiment unfolding across the country may change all that. Pharmaceutical companies are testing ... a complicated deal to sell hepatitis drugs at a fraction of their usual cost. If [successful] the arrangement in Egypt may serve as a blueprint not just for curing hepatitis around the world, but also for providing other cutting-edge medicines to citizens in poor countries who could never afford them. The experiment here is about a year old and, while still fragile, appears to be headed for success. Mr. Ellabbad, for one, was finally cured of hepatitis this spring. An air-conditioning repairman, he took a three-month regimen that included sofosbuvir, first of the new generation of miracle drugs. The pills would have cost more than $84,000 in the United States. He got them free from the Egyptian government, which paid about $900. “Before, I felt like I was dying,” he said. “Now I feel like I’ve never felt before. Like I’m 35 again.”
With more than 1 million apps in the Apple and Android stores, it would be easy to assume we are nearing the limit of developers to come up with new creations. That would be a mistake. The latest example: Apps aimed at fighting human trafficking. Yes, they exist and more are emerging as social entrepreneurs attempt to use technology to battle what they see as the forces of evil. A group of government agencies and private foundations calling themselves Partnership for Freedom has set up a competition with the not-so-catchy name “Rethink Supply Chains” challenge. What is grabbing attention is $500,000 in prize money that will be awarded for the best technology solutions to combat the use of slave labor. Rising awareness among global companies of labor abuses and new laws requiring steps to ensure fair labor practices across supply chains are spurring a new industry for technologies that help them enforce supplier rules. Existing apps already help consumers get an idea of the scope of human trafficking. Made in a Free World, for example, created the Slavery Footprint app that generates estimates of an individual’s reliance on slave labor from data on trafficked humans and labor-abuse rates at manufacturers and suppliers. Justin Dillon, chief executive officer of Made in a Free World, is not shy about telling people that for all his efforts, his lifestyle still requires 47 slave laborers - a number he’s determined to get to zero. “That’s what drives me,” he says.
Until recently, 8-year-old Arkinya Graham had never met her father. While they have grown close talking over the phone for the past six months, her father Johnny "Trey" Williams is serving 23 years in a Michigan prison for second-degree murder. ABC News' "Nightline" was given access to go behind prison walls ... as Arkinya met her dad for the first time. Their special visit is part of a prison ministry program called "One Day with God" that is designed to help children reconcile with their parents behind bars. The two-day program is part family reunion, part intervention. On the first day, the dads get a seminar on the importance of fatherhood. On the second day, they get to ... spend a rare day doing various activities with their kids. "Children are the silent victims," said One Day with God founder Scottie Barnes. "[There is an] importance of these boys and girls having relationships with their mothers and fathers who are incarcerated across America." Barnes says her own father ... spent most of her childhood behind bars. "I never had a hug. I never even been told 'I love you' by my dad," Barnes said. "The little children ... want to be loved. They want to be somebody proud of them." Children of incarcerated parents are six times more likely to end up incarcerated themselves. One Day with God is working to end the cycle of reincarceration. At a time when family programs are being cut in prison systems, this program is operating in seven states, [and] expanding to five other prisons in Michigan alone.
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On a snowy afternoon in February 2004, an FBI agent came to Nick Merrill’s door, bearing a letter that would change his life. At the time, Merrill was running a small internet service provider. The envelope that the agent carried contained what is known as a “national security letter”, or NSL. It demanded details on one of his company’s clients; including cellphone tower location data, email details and screen-names. It also imposed a non-disclosure agreement which was only lifted this week, when – after an 11-year legal battle by Merrill and the American Civil Liberties Union, he was finally allowed to reveal the contents of the letter to the world. The NSL which Merrill was given was a new use for what was a relatively old tool. The FBI had long – if sparingly – used them, [but] the Patriot Act vastly expanded the scope of what an NSL could be applied to. The FBI greatly increased the number issued; according to a 2007 inspector general’s report, the NSL that Merrill was handed by the agent was one of nearly 57,000 issued that year. All of those thousands of NSLs were accompanied by a non-disclosure agreement, or “gag order” – which barred recipients were ever disclosing that they had received an NSL – even to the person whose records were being sought. With the ACLU, Merrill went to court to challenge the constitutionality of the letter, especially of the gag order. In 2014, Merrill sued again, helped by ... the Yale Law Clinic. Finally, [a] judge ... ruled that the gag order be completely lifted. It had taken Merrill almost 12 years.
Note: A 2007 Washington Post article summary sheds more light on Merrill's long struggle.
842 megawatts is ... more than enough to power all the homes in the Denver metro area. It’s also enough to keep about 15 percent of Google’s data centers humming. On Thursday, Google announced that it had finalized contracts to buy 842 megawatts of wind and solar energy from plants in the US, Chile, and Sweden, nearly doubling the company's total clean energy capacity. The contracts ... help to give the energy companies financial stability to be able to build additional clean energy facilities. Renewable energy now provides about 37 percent of the total energy consumed by Google’s data centers worldwide. This purchase is the largest of its kind ever made by a non-utility company, but Google isn’t the only tech giant shifting over to clean energy. One of Facebook’s five data centers is powered entirely by a nearby wind farm, and the company says it plans to get 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2018. Amazon’s cloud computing division announced last year that its operations would eventually be powered completely by clean energy. And in 2014, Apple announced that all of its offices, stores, and data centers in the US were being powered ... renewable sources. Google was one of 13 large companies that collectively invested more than $140 billion in new clean energy projects in July as part of the American Business Act on Climate Pledge. Apple and Microsoft were also part of the pledge; both companies said their operations would eventually be 100 percent powered by renewable energy.
Scott Macaulay ... fixes vacuum cleaners for a living. This is the 28th year that Macaulay, 52, is hosting Thanksgiving at a Baptist Church in Melrose for people who have no other place to go. They might be widows, or new arrivals to this country, or poor. Some are simply lonely, like the elderly woman with Parkinson’s who arrived one year in an ambulance from a nursing home. Every year, Macaulay fashions a living room-dining room tableau inside the First Baptist Church fellowship hall. Except for the occasional small donation, Macaulay finances this all himself, and even though he’s frugal, it still costs him more than $1,000. As soon as one Thanksgiving dinner is over, he starts saving for the next, despite his own financial struggles. Still, he’s never skipped a dinner, not the year with the ice storm, not the year he passed out while driving, had a car accident, and was rushed to the hospital, where he got a pacemaker. He didn’t even cancel it this year, after getting word last Friday that the church ovens were broken and wouldn’t be fixed on time. He simply arranged a late switch to the Green Street Baptist Church. The largest crowd he’s had was 89 people. He’s refined and expanded the menu over the years; it now includes frozen meatballs as the hors d’oeuvres and canned fruit cocktail with a daub of pink sherbet. “It’s fabulous,” said an 88-year-woman, a widow “many, many, many years,” who ... goes to Macaulay’s meal every year.
The Power Pallet ... generates electricity from corn cobs, wood chips, coconut shells and other kinds of cheap, dense biomass. Although it costs $24,000 to $34,000, the Pallet can churn out electricity for less money than the diesel generators that power businesses across the developing world, while coughing up less pollution. And when used properly, the Pallet is “carbon negative,” pulling more heat-trapping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere than it pumps back in. Its very existence is almost an accident. Years ago, the tinkerers who would eventually found All Power were ... building flame-throwing robots for Burning Man. Berkeley officials objected and convinced Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to cut the power [to their property]. As a result, Jim Mason, All Power’s CEO, developed a keen interest in generating electricity off the grid. “We got shut off and decided to hack climate change,” Price said. Now All Power has morphed into one of the Bay Area’s unlikeliest exporters, installing 700 machines in more than 30 countries worldwide. Its 30 employees assemble one or two Pallets each week, all in Berkeley. And All Power is one of a handful of American companies displaying their products at this week’s international climate conference in Paris. The Pallet uses gasification, a process more than a century old, that subjects carbon-rich organic material to high heat. What’s left of the original material becomes biochar, which can be mixed into soil as fertilizer. That waste product - biochar - is how the Pallet achieves carbon-negative status.
A Georgia State Patrol Trooper went above and beyond the call of duty after a Halloween tragedy. Four Morgan County children lost both of their parents as they were getting ready to trick-or-treat Saturday. Donald and Crystal Howard ... were killed instantly when their SUV flew off the road and hit a tree. Trooper Nathan Bradley arrived at the home to break the news of the tragedy. “Unfortunately, I was greeted by four children in full costumes,” Bradley said. With their grandmother’s permission, Bradley didn’t tell the children, who ranged in age from 6 to 13, that their parents had died. “The first thing I said was, ‘Hey lets go get something to eat,’” Bradley said. “They said, ‘My parents will be here soon.’ I said, ‘Your Grandma wants you to hang out with me till she gets here." Bradley treated Justin, Amaya, Damien and Travion to dinner, movies and Halloween candy at the Monroe State Patrol post followed by a sleepover. “The whole purpose was to preserve their Halloween,” said Bradley. They weren't told about their parents’ accident until the next morning when their grandmother arrived. Bradley also started a GoFundMe page for funeral expenses so that Crystal and Donald can be buried in Florida, where the children are moving in with grandparents. All the kindness came from a young state trooper who didn't want to ruin Halloween for his four new friends. “It’s the first time in the line of duty I told someone I loved them and I do love them,” Bradley said. “I care about them a lot.”
Note: Through gofundme, over $450,000 was raised to support this grieving family. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Cochin International Airport in southern India’s Kerala state may be best known as the gateway to the tourist beaches and houseboats of the region’s famous backwaters. Now it has a new claim to fame: The world’s first solar airport. Since August, the airport has used 46,000 solar panels laid across 45 acres to power all its electricity needs, and sell excess power to the government-run grid. At night, when the sun doesn’t shine, it pulls some of that power back from the grid, making the airport effectively “carbon neutral.” Over the next 25 years, the project is expected to reduce carbon emissions by the equivalent of planting 3 million trees. The move to solar power is also expected to help cut pollution in Kochi, an industrial city ranked the 24th most polluted in India. Based on the results at Kochi, India’s government has directed 125 airports run by the Airport Authority of India to generate at least 1 megawatt of solar power each by March 2016. If a medium-sized airport such as Kochi, with just 1,300 acres of land, can produce sufficient electrical power for its operations, larger airports such as Delhi, with 5,000 acres, and Bangalore, with 3,000 acres, should be able to meet some of their power demand too, said Kurian, the Kochi airport’s managing director. “We are expecting not only other Indian airports, but airports in other countries, also to follow suit,” he said. “Every day we are being asked for expert advice and are answering queries from across the world.”
Homelessness isn’t backpacking. It’s not military marching. But there are aspects of those things that can make a big difference to a penniless drifter. [Philanthropist Ron Kaplan] had a backpack designed specifically for the homeless. He brought 400 of them to hand out for free in San Francisco ... at the the city's one-stop-aid Navigation Center on Mission Street. Earlier in the week they handed out 600 backpacks in Hayward, Oakland and Berkeley. This was the 44th city they’ve come to since the pack - called Citypak - was invented with High Sierra Sport Co. in 2012. This sturdy, waterproof, multi-pocketed and security-conscious contraption is ... dignity, acknowledgment, freedom and engagement all rolled into one black bag. “I had found that every shelter in America gives out food, clothing, toiletries and the rest, but then homeless people put them in big black trash bags and say goodbye,” Kaplan said. “So I thought, why not create something that gives them more dignity, that helps them as they try to get their lives together?” Fitting tight to the back, with well-padded straps, the pack is made for hours of comfortable carrying. In a bottom pocket is a waterproof, military-style poncho that covers the entire person and backpack. “We’re always getting suggestions to make adjustments, so it’s changed as we go,” Kaplan said. “When I first started doing this, I thought I would just make about 200 and walk around Chicago handing them out,” he said. “Now, by the end of this year we will have given out 22,500 all over the country.”
In the classroom, subjects are often presented as settled and complete. But our collective understanding of any given subject is never complete, according to Jamie Holmes, who has just written a book on the hidden benefits of uncertainty. In “Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing,” Holmes explores how the discomforting notions of ambiguity and uncertainty affect the way we think and behave. Confronting what we don’t know sometimes triggers curiosity. Teachers who hope to inspire curiosity in their students, and to encourage tolerance for ambiguity, can take steps to introduce uncertainty into the classroom. “The emotions of learning are surprise, awe, interest and confusion,” Holmes said. But because confusion provokes discomfort, it should be discussed by teachers to help students handle the inevitable disquiet. “The best assignments should make students make mistakes, be confused and feel uncertain,” he said. Teachers who instruct with a sense of humanity, curiosity and an appreciation for mystery are more apt to engage students in learning, Holmes explained. “Those with an outlook of authority and certainty don’t invite students in,” he said. Also, when teachers present themselves as experts imparting wisdom, students get the mistaken idea that subjects are closed. “Teachers should help students find ways to think and learn,” he said. “The best teachers are in awe of their subjects.” The process of discovery is often messy and non-linear.
Last July, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced the launch of a bold $100 million project "to reinvigorate the search for life in the universe." The amplified SETI initiative is "the most powerful, comprehensive and intensive scientific search ever undertaken for signs of intelligent life beyond Earth," according to the project's website. Now, for the first time, a new group of scientists and other professionals [has] formed a non-profit ... called UFO Detection and TrAcking (UFODATA for short), which includes an international team of scientists and engineers with an interest in UFOs. The organization has one goal and one goal only: to design, build and deploy a global network of automated surveillance stations that will monitor the skies full time looking for UFOs. UFODATA has no interest in alleged government conspiracies or adding more witness reports or FOIA documents to the thousands already on file. The idea here is that only a complete change of methodology toward a purely scientific approach to the UFO issue will enable us to move forward. The monitoring stations ... will record numerous physical characteristics of any UFOs that appear in their range. They will all send their data back to a central location. Current projections are that the stations will cost about $10-20,000 each, thanks to the unprecedented convergence of high resolution digital camera technologies, off-the shelf scientific instrumentation, powerful low-cost computing platforms and far-reaching high-speed internet access.
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