Inspirational News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Inspirational News Articles in Media
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.
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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.”
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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.”
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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.
Note: Don't miss the beautiful video of these special father-child reunions. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
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.
Sugata Mitra’s “Hole in the Wall” experiment has garnered a lot of attention since it first begun in 1999 and won a TED prize in 2013. It demonstrated that a group of students working together, motivated by a deep question and with access to a computer, could produce amazing results. Cleveland is a world away from Delhi, but Dora Bechtel says many of her students at Campus International School remind her of the Indian children she observed in videos about the Hole in the Wall experiment. Recently, Bechtel has been experimenting with Self-Organized Learning Environments, or SOLEs, in her elementary school classes. In a classroom SOLE, Bechtel asks her students a “messy question,” something that doesn’t have just one right answer, then sets them loose to research the question in small groups. Students choose who they work with, find their own information, draw their own conclusions and present their findings to the whole class. It can be a bit chaotic, but Bechtel says that’s often good. The method has students asking questions and taking ownership in a whole new way. As any teacher knows, finding challenging work for such a varied class of learners is extremely difficult. But because the SOLE is so open-ended, more advanced students are helping struggling students and kids access information in whatever way they can. The SOLE Cleveland website ... has question suggestions for teachers just getting started, arranged by grade level and subject.
The man who created the 5-hour Energy drink says he has more money than he needs - about $4 billion more. So he’s giving it away, spending his fortune on a quest to fix the world's biggest problems, including energy. Manoj Bhargava has built a stationary bike to power the millions of homes worldwide that have little or zero electricity. Early next year in India, he plans to distribute 10,000 of his Free Electric battery-equipped bikes, which he says will keep lights and basic appliances going for an entire day with one hour of pedaling. He’s [also] working on ways to make saltwater drinkable, enhance circulation in the body, and secure limitless amounts of clean geothermal energy - via a graphene cord. “If you have wealth, it’s a duty to help those who don’t,” says Michigan resident Bhargava, 62, in a documentary released Monday, Billions in Change, about his Stage 2 Innovations lab. “Make a difference in people’s lives,” he says, “Don’t just talk about it.” Could his bike really work? The first 50 ... will be tested in 15 or 20 small villages in the northern state of Uttarakhand before a major rollout. He says it could provide electricity for the developing world and offer post-storm backup power in wealthier countries. [He] says he doesn’t see altruism in his philanthropy. “I like work,” he says. “It’s not giving back. It’s what else am I going to do?”
Note: Don't miss the inspiring 3-minute video of Manoj and his intriguing inventions which has 28 million views and counting.
Sixteen countries have alerted the European Union that they want to opt out of E.U.-approved GM crops. Members of the economic bloc have until Oct. 3 to let the E.U. know if they were requesting to opt out of growing GMO produce from major companies like Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta and Pioneer, and according to the Food Navigator, a food trade publication, countries including Germany, Italy, Denmark, Bulgaria and Cyprus recently filed their requests and applications, increasing the number to 16. In August, Scotland publicly said it would prohibit GMO crops out of concern that they could damage the country’s “clean and green” brand. “Scotland is known around the world for our beautiful natural environment – and banning growing genetically modified crops will protect and further enhance our clean, green status,” Rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said in a statement at the time. “A growing number of governments are rejecting the commission’s drive for GM crop approvals,” Greenpeace’s E.U. food policy director Franziska Achterberg told the Guardian. “They don’t trust the E.U. safety assessments and are rightly taking action to protect their agriculture and food. The only way to restore trust in the E.U. system now is for the commission to hit the pause button on GM crop approvals and to urgently reform safety testing and the approval system.”
Note: Read also an article on how the American Academy of Pediatrics has cut ties with Monsanto. To understand the serious risks and dangers of GMOs, see this excellent summary of the acclaimed book "Seeds of Deception."
Everybody knows about the spread of war, the rise of AIDS and other diseases, the hopeless intractability of poverty. One survey found that two-thirds of Americans believed that the proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty has almost doubled over the last 20 years. Another 29 percent believed that the proportion had remained roughly the same. That’s 95 percent of Americans — who are utterly wrong. In fact, the proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty hasn’t doubled or remained the same. It has fallen by more than half, from 35 percent in 1993 to 14 percent in 2011 (the most recent year for which figures are available from the World Bank). The world’s best-kept secret is that we live at a historic inflection point when extreme poverty is retreating. United Nations members have just adopted 17 new Global Goals, of which the centerpiece is the elimination of extreme poverty by 2030. Their goals are historic. There will still be poor people, of course, but very few who are too poor to eat or to send children to school. Inequality [remains] a huge challenge in the U.S. But globally, inequality is diminishing, because of the rise of poor countries. The challenge now is to ensure that rich donor nations are generous in supporting the Global Goals — but also that developing countries do their part, rather than succumbing to corruption and inefficiency. So let’s get down to work and, on our watch, defeat extreme poverty worldwide. We know that the challenges are surmountable — because we’ve already turned the tide of history.
Kanya Sesser, 23, skateboards, models lingerie and surfs – and she does it all without lower limbs. Sesser, who was born without legs, was adopted from an orphanage in Thailand before moving to Portland, Oregon, with her new family. Now, she earns more than $1,000 a day working as a model. "I enjoy making money from it and I love showing people what beauty can look like," Sesser told the Daily News. "These images show my strength." The 23-year-old, who uses a skateboard instead of a wheelchair, began modeling for sports brands when she was 15. The Huffington Post UK reports that the Los Angeles-based model has reportedly posed for brands like Billabong, Rip Curl Girl and Nike. "I was mainly doing athletics shoots then as I got older I got into lingerie modeling," Sesser told the Daily News. "It's something fun and it shows my story – I'm different and that is sexy, I don't need legs to feel sexy." Now, the model hopes to compete in the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, as a mono-skier.
Note: Don't miss this inspiring seven-minute video of Kanya's courage and fascinating life.
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