Inspirational News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Inspirational News Articles in Media
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.
Note: For key reports on health issues from reliable sources, click here.
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.
Nearly 21 years ago, Patty Webster landed her dream job as an adventure tour guide in the Peruvian Amazon. But as she shared the area's beauty and culture with tourists, she realized there was a darker side to the rainforest paradise. "I saw how poor they were and realized that people were dying because they didn't have medical care," Webster said. She started sharing her supplies with the locals and soon began waking up to find people waiting outside her mosquito net to ask her for medicine. At one point, Webster -- who had no medical training -- gave someone stitches, following instructions from a book. Since 1993, Webster has been bringing medical relief to some of Peru's poorest and most remote areas through her nonprofit, now known as Amazon Promise. Webster ... and her volunteers have provided free health care and education to more than 55,000 people. Today, she runs Amazon Promise from Iquitos, considered the most populous city in the world that can't be reached by road. It's in the northeastern corner of the country, in the middle of the rainforest, and is the capital of Peru's largest and most remote region. She organizes several expeditions to these underserved areas every year. Each trip is staffed by adventure-seeking medical volunteers from the West -- often from U.S. medical schools -- and Peruvian health professionals. A traditional shaman, or healer, frequently accompanies them.
Before the words "whole grain" and "organic" became part of Americans' everyday vocabulary, Bob Moore knew the importance of healthful eating. In 1978, he started Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods, as a small family-run business in Oregon selling stone mill-ground whole grains. The company has since grown into a multi-million dollar business that sells more than 400 whole grain products including flours, hot cereals, and organic and gluten-free products. Moore's work is a way of life and his employees are a second family, which is why he announced this week that he's handing over the keys to his 209 employees. Moore said he's gotten countless buy-out offers over the years, but he couldn't envision selling the business to a stranger. "It's the only business decision that I could make," he said. "I don't think there's anybody worthy to run this company but the people who built it. I have employees with me right now that have been with me for 30 years. They just were committed to staying with me now and they're going to own the company." The company will now be run by an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) -- the idea being that a company's stock is put in a retirement plan for its employees, but the stock is never held or bought directly by individuals. When a vested employee retires, he can pull out money from the trust.
Do people prefer to spread good news or bad news? Would we rather scandalize or enlighten? Which stories do social creatures want to share, and why? Now some answers are emerging thanks to a rich new source of data: you, Dear Reader. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have intensively studied the New York Times list of most-e-mailed articles, checking it every 15 minutes for more than six months, analyzing the content of thousands of articles and controlling for factors like the placement in the paper or on the Web home page. According to the Penn researchers, Jonah Berger and Katherine A. Milkman, people preferred e-mailing articles with positive rather than negative themes, and they liked to send long articles on intellectually challenging topics. Perhaps most of all, readers wanted to share articles that inspired awe, an emotion that the researchers investigated after noticing how many science articles made the list. “Science kept doing better than we expected,” said Dr. Berger, a social psychologist and a professor of marketing at Penn’s Wharton School. “We anticipated that people would share articles with practical information about health or gadgets, and they did, but they also sent articles about paleontology and cosmology."
David Docter and his neighbor on Capitol Hill share a lawn mower and a pressure washer. "Why should we have two pressure washers when I use it twice a year and he uses it twice a year?" asks Docter, who applies similar logic to the mower and to an Oregon Coast cabin he and his wife, Alicia, share with a dozen other families. Two decades ago, when they bought into the cabin, it would have been tough to afford alone. Now, each family gets to use it several weeks a year for minimal expense. These sharing arrangements are small steps. But through them, each family has lightened its footprint, freed up cash and fix-it time, and found confidence in cooperation. Which leads to a logical question: If sharing stuff is so environmentally and economically sensible, why don't more people do it? Why do so many of us have hedge trimmers languishing and taking up space in our garages? Why are huge RVs parked in driveways and boats sitting in slips for 50 weeks at a time? Because sharing is scary. Ask anybody. There's a reason why Nolo Press' recent book, The Sharing Solution: How to Save Money, Simplify Your Life & Build Community, includes "agreements and forms." Long chapters discuss such issues as responsibilities and conflict resolution.
It played like a scene from a holiday movie – a mystery couple, who didn’t leave their names or numbers, walked into a restaurant, finished their meal and then set off a chain reaction of generosity that lasted for hours. That’s just what employees at the Aramingo Diner in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia said a man and a woman did during their breakfast shift Saturday morning. “It was magical. I had tears in my eyes because it never happened before. I’ve been here for 10 years, and I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Lynn Willard, a waitress. “I could not believe it. And it continued and continued,” said Willard. “They asked us not to say anything until they left, [and only then to] say, ‘Merry Christmas, that person picked up your check.’” For the next five hours, dozens of patrons got into that same holiday spirit and paid the favor forward. The diner’s manager said not one person was concerned about price of the check – which ran between $12 and $30. “It was a surprise to all of us,” said the diner's manager. “Those who took the check also tipped the waitress. So nobody had to do anything other than pass it on, and that’s what they did. They just passed it forward.” It’s a true holiday story that proves how a small gesture of kindness can create some magic.
In many ways, nothing has changed at the SAME Café in mid-town Denver. A week ago, we brought in the NBC News camera and recorded a typical Friday lunch rush. We were there because a viewer had e-mailed Brian Williams [about] the couple who run the café. Brad and Libby Birky serve great food, but accept in return only what the customer can afford. Some pay nothing, while others, who still have jobs and paychecks pay something, sometimes double or even triple what the meal would cost anywhere else in town. A week after we visited the SAME Café, some things have changed. Within 24 hours, the café's web-site -- www.soallmayeat.org -- was hit with over 4000 e-mails. The messages came from Maine, Alaska, California, and all points in between. They were overwhelmingly warm and supportive. Contributions poured in. So far, the figure is about $13,000. The money is coming in small amounts, primarily from people who will never taste the pizza at the SAME cafe. Brad says they are "flooded" with offers from people from the Denver area to help prepare, cook, and clean up the café. More volunteers than could fit in the café. Brad isn’t turning anyone away, "We'll just schedule them in a few weeks down the road, when the rush is over." After more than two years running the café, Brad knows "the rush" will slow down.
Note: Founded in October 2006, this incredibly inspiring cafe has not gotten nearly the press coverage that it deserves, though you can find a couple major media articles at this link and this one. For a great, five-minute video on this most inspiring cafe, click here.
A grateful shoplifter has returned the favor to a New York convenience store owner who showed him compassion during an attempted robbery earlier this year. It all started in May when Mohammad Sohail was closing his Shirley Express convenience store, about 65 miles east of New York City. A man wielding a baseball bat came barging into the store and demanded money. Sohail had a rifle and quickly pointed it at the robber's face, forcing the man to drop the bat and fall to the ground. What the robber didn't know is that the gun was not loaded. Sohail says the man started to plead with him tearfully saying, "I'm sorry, I have no food. I have no money. My whole family is hungry. Don't call the police. Don't shoot me." The store owner felt bad for the man and gave him $40 and a loaf of bread. He went to get the man some milk but when he returned, Sohail says, the would-be-robber had already fled with the money and food. On Wednesday, the shoplifter made amends with a $50 bill and a thank you letter for saving him from a life of crime. In the letter, the man apologizes for his actions in May and said it was out of desperation to provide for his family. The man, whose identity remains unknown, also said his life has changed drastically and that Sohail's acts inspired him to become a "True Muslim."
Note: To watch a video of this most unusual act of compassion, click here.
In the past two months, relations between the three main Christian churches have moved in more promising directions than perhaps during the past 50 years of uninspiring liberal dialogue. By opening a new chapter of theological engagement and concrete co-operation with Orthodoxy and Anglicanism, Pope Benedict XVI is changing the terms of debate about church reunification. In time, we might witness the end of the Great Schism between east and west and a union of the main episcopally-based churches. Indeed, when Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope in 2005, one of his first acts was to drop the title of patriarch of the west. Closer church ties will be greatly helped by concrete co-operation. Last week's Rome visit by the Archbishop of Canterbury has advanced Catholic-Anglican relations. Benedict emphasised the importance of Anglicanism in promoting the unity of all episcopally-based Christian churches. Significant was the fact both the pope and the archbishop spoke in favour of a different model of socio-economic development that does not rely exclusively on the state or the market. Rather, it accentuates mutualist principles of reciprocity and gift-exchange and the absolute sanctity of human and natural life which is relational, not individualist or collectivist. This shared social teaching is key in further developing concrete links and bonds of trust among Christians of different traditions. Moves towards church reunification are signs of a revivified Christian Europe, one which can use its shared faith to transform the continent and the whole world.
Note: In other inspiring religious news, a Protestant church in New York City held a "healing ceremony" with Native Americans to apologize for their decimation and dislocation centuries ago. For a USA Today story on this landmark news, click here.
Scientists have now levitated mice using magnetic fields. Scientists working on behalf of NASA built a device to simulate variable levels of gravity. It consists of a superconducting magnet that generates a field powerful enough to levitate the water inside living animals, with a space inside warm enough at room temperature and large enough at 2.6 inches wide (6.6 cm) for tiny creatures to float comfortably in during experiments. Repeated levitation tests showed the mice, even when not sedated, could quickly acclimate to levitation inside the cage. The strong magnetic fields did not seem to have any negative impacts on the mice in the short term, and past studies have shown that rats did not suffer from adverse effects after 10 weeks of strong, non-levitating magnetic fields. The researchers also levitated water drops up to 2 inches wide (5 cm). This suggests the variable gravity simulator could be used to study how liquids behave under reduced gravity, such as how heat is transferred or how bubbles behave.
Note: Remember that secret government research projects are generally at least 10 years ahead of any public research.
By virtue of the foresight, humanity and sheer bloody-mindedness of a young British stockbroking clerk called Nicholas Winton, 669 Jewish children were saved from the clutches of the Nazis. On Friday, 22 of them were reunited with their 100-year-old saviour – now Sir Nicholas – who has come to be known as the 'British Schindler'. Between March and August 1939 eight trains carried 669 children to Britain, who otherwise would probably have perished in the death camps. Fifteen thousand Czechoslovakian children died in the war. The ninth train, containing 250 children, was due to leave Prague on 3 September 1939, the day Britain declared war. The Germans never let it leave the station, and most of the children never lived to see 1945. Almost as remarkable as the scheme itself, and a mark of Sir Nicholas's modesty, was that he chose to conceal his achievements for decades. It was only when he wife Greta unearthed a briefcase in the attic contained lists of the children he saved and letters to the parents did he admit his part. He said in 1999: "My wife didn't know about it for 40 years after our marriage, but there are all kinds of things you don't talk about even with your family. "Everything that happened before the war actually didn't feel important in the light of the war itself." He also rejected the comparison with Oskar Schindler, who saved about 1,200 Jews in the war, saying unlike the German his actions never put him in danger.
Known as the 'Crocodile Man', Costa Rican animal lover Chito swims, plays and even feeds Pocho the giant crocodile in what is one of the world's most unlikely friendships. 'This is a very dangerous routine but Pocho is my friend and we have a good relationship,' says 52-year-old Chito. 'He will look me in the eye and he does not attack me. It is too dangerous for anyone else to come in the water. It is only ever the two of us.' The bizarre friendship began nearly 20 years ago when Chito rescued the 980-pound crocodile after finding him close to death ... shot in the left eye by a cattle farmer after preying on a herd of cows. Chito enlisted the help of several friends to load the massive reptile into his boat. Naming him 'Pocho' (meaning strength), the fisherman says he healed the reptile with medicine, food, and, more importantly, lots of care and attention. 'When I found him in the river after he was dying so I put him in my boat and I brought him into my house,' recalls Chito. 'He was very skinny, weighing only around 150 pounds, so I gave him chicken and fish and medicine for six months to help him recover.' During the recovery process, Chito stayed by Pocho's side, even sleeping with him at night. 'I just wanted him to feel that someone loved him, that not all humans are bad,' Chito says.
Note: Don't miss the great photos at the article link above.
Berkeley's Mike Hannigan gives most of his money away. It started in 1991. He had about $20,000 in his bank account and thought about all the good it could do in the world. With partner Sean Marx, he started Give Something Back Inc., an office supply firm that now gives away up to 80 percent of its profit. The company has given away about $4 million to community charities over the last 18 years. That puts Hannigan in a small circle of individuals who are recognized for giving away at least half their income, profit or personal wealth. This so-called "50 percent league" is the brainchild of a national nonprofit organization called Bolder Giving, which has highlighted these givers since its inception in 2007 in the hope that others will take a closer look at how much they give and how much more they could afford to contribute. Every year, the average U.S. household donates about 3 percent of its income. Yet deep in the heart of this recession there is a growing group giving away at least half of what they've got. Currently, 125 individuals or families are on the 50 percent club list and Bolder Giving, based in Arlington, Mass., is looking for more members. At Hannigan's Oakland-based company, the vast majority of the profits go to charities selected by customers and employees. Food banks and education-related organizations are among the most frequent recipients, Hannigan said. It's a way "to use the business as a mechanism to circulate wealth throughout the community," he said. The 59-year-old businessman doesn't consider himself a philanthropist, but an activist who lives a comfortable life.
Religion and spirituality blogs today are buzzing about the "inspirational" performance of Susan Boyle, an ordinary-looking 47-year-old Scottish woman whose anything-but-ordinary voice stopped would-be snarky commenters in their tracks on the reality TV show Britain's Got Talent. In Beliefnet's religion and pop culture blog, Douglas Howe comments on the transformation of the skeptical audience the moment Boyle opened her mouth and began to sing: They loved her! They were touched by her raw talent, her beautiful voice. The part about each of us that is quick to judge is also quick to respond to excellence and beauty. We should be quicker to look for the beauty in people, and I'm not sure our media-driven culture trains us to do that. Rev. James Martin in America magazine's blog In All Things finds a homily here: The world generally looks askance at people like Susan Boyle, if it sees them at all. Without classic good looks, without work, without a spouse, living in a small town, people like Susan Boyle may not seem particularly "important." But God sees the real person, and understands the value of each individual's gifts: rich or poor, young or old, single or married, matron or movie star, lucky or unlucky in life. God knows us. And loves us.
Note: For an engaging article with the highly inspiring performance of Susan Boyle, click here.
A small but growing number of cash-strapped communities are printing their own money. Borrowing from a Depression-era idea, they are aiming to help consumers make ends meet and support struggling local businesses. Businesses and individuals form a network to print currency. Shoppers buy it at a discount — say, 95 cents for $1 value — and spend the full value at stores that accept the currency. Workers with dwindling wages are paying for groceries, yoga classes and fuel with Detroit Cheers, Ithaca Hours in New York, Plenty in North Carolina or BerkShares in Massachusetts. Ed Collom, a University of Southern Maine sociologist who has studied local currencies, says they encourage people to buy locally. Merchants, hurting because customers have cut back on spending, benefit as consumers spend the local cash. Jackie Smith of South Bend, Ind., who is working to launch a local currency, [said] "It reinforces the message that having more control of the economy in local hands can help you cushion yourself from the blows of the marketplace." During the Depression, local governments, businesses and individuals issued currency, known as scrip, to keep commerce flowing when bank closings led to a cash shortage. Pittsboro, N.C., is reviving the Plenty, a defunct local currency created in 2002. It is being printed in denominations of $1, $5, $20 and $50. A local bank will exchange $9 for $10 worth of Plenty. "We're a wiped-out small town in America," says Lyle Estill, president of Piedmont Biofuels, which accepts the Plenty. "This will strengthen the local economy. ... The nice thing about the Plenty is that it can't leave here."
Note: For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
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