Inspirational News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Inspirational News Articles in Media
For 75 years, Finland's expectant mothers have been given a box by the state. It's like a starter kit of clothes, sheets and toys that can even be used as a bed. And some say it helped Finland achieve one of the world's lowest infant mortality rates. It's a tradition that dates back to the 1930s and it's designed to give all children in Finland, no matter what background they're from, an equal start in life. The maternity package - a gift from the government - is available to all expectant mothers. It contains bodysuits, a sleeping bag, outdoor gear, bathing products for the baby, as well as nappies, bedding and a small mattress. With the mattress in the bottom, the box becomes a baby's first bed. Many children, from all social backgrounds, have their first naps within the safety of the box's four cardboard walls. Mothers have a choice between taking the box, or a cash grant, currently set at 140 euros, but 95% opt for the box as it's worth much more. The tradition dates back to 1938. In the 1930s Finland was a poor country and infant mortality was high - 65 out of 1,000 babies died. But the figures improved rapidly in the decades that followed. Mika Gissler, a professor at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, gives several reasons for this - the maternity box and pre-natal care for all women in the 1940s, followed in the 60s by a national health insurance system and the central hospital network. At 75 years old, the box is now an established part of the Finnish rite of passage towards motherhood, uniting generations of women. For some families, the contents of the box would be unaffordable if they were not free of charge.
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A simple vinegar test slashed cervical cancer death rates by one-third in a remarkable study of 150,000 women in the slums of India, where the disease is the top cancer killer of women. Experts called the outcome "amazing" and said this quick, cheap test could save tens of thousands of lives each year in developing countries by spotting early signs of cancer, allowing treatment before it's too late. Usha Devi, one of the women in the study, says it saved her life. "Many women refused to get screened. Some of them died of cancer later," Devi said. "Now I feel everyone should get tested. I got my life back because of these tests." Pap smears and tests for HPV, a virus that causes most cervical cancers, have slashed cases and deaths in the United States. But poor countries can't afford those screening tools. This study tried a test that costs very little and can be done by local people with just two weeks of training and no fancy lab equipment. They swab the cervix with diluted vinegar, which can make abnormal cells briefly change color. This low-tech visual exam cut the cervical cancer death rate by 31 percent, the study found. It could prevent 22,000 deaths in India and 72,600 worldwide each year, researchers estimate. "That's amazing. That's remarkable. It's a very exciting result," said Dr. Ted Trimble of the National Cancer Institute in the U.S., the main sponsor of the study. India has nearly one-third of the world's cases of cervical cancer — more than 140,000 each year.
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Japanese climber Yuichiro Miura, 80, reached the top of Mount Everest [on May 23], becoming the oldest man to scale the world's highest mountain. The climb marks the third time Miura has summited Everest, a successful feat in itself, but even more remarkable considering his age and his medical history. Discussing the hurdles of climbing at such an old age, the octogenarian said, it was to challenge his "ultimate limit." "It is to honor the great Mother Nature," he said on a statement posted on his website. "Hoping to raise even an inch of human possibility." Miura didn't attempt his first climb to the top of Everest until 2003, when he was 70 years old. He made that trek with his son, a former Olympian, and set a world record as the oldest climber to successfully scale the mountain. Five years later, he returned again -- at 75 years old -- to set another record. Yuichiro Miura has spent a lifetime defying the odds. In his younger years, he skied down Mount Everest's South Col, an adventure that was documented in the 1975 Academy Award winning documentary, "The Man Who Skied Down Everest." Not satisfied, Miura summited and skied down all seven summits of the world, by his 50s. Miura has already discussed his next venture -- skiing down the Himalayan mountain of Cho Oyu, the sixth highest mountain in the world. He hopes to take on that challenge five years from now when he is 85 years old.
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International Conscientious Objection Day took place this week, on 15 May, and in the UK, a ceremony was held at the CO Commemorative Stone in Tavistock Square, Bloomsbury. The UK has also recently seen the opening of a new memorial to COs, at The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. The earliest recorded incidence of conscientious objection was in 296AD, when a Roman refused to serve as a soldier because of his religious beliefs; he was killed, but subsequently canonised as Saint Maximilian. The term 'conscientious objector', however, only gained currency during the First World War, following the implementation of conscription in 1916. In Britain, over 16,000 men refused to fight. While it is well known that many with strong religious beliefs objected, interestingly some war-resisters refused on socialist grounds: they would not fight brother workers, feeling that the average soldier was but a pawn of the ruling classes. Few were given total exemption. Many were forced to join the army or the Non-Combatant Corps (NCC), to serve in a supporting role to the armed forces. Many 'conchies' refused either option, and were sent to prison as a result. The abuses they suffered for their stance make for extremely grim reading, [as] told by David Boulton, in his book Objection Overruled. But word got out about such experiences – and public feeling did move towards respect. It became recognised that to stand up and be counted as someone who would not fight required its own, very high, degree of courage.
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Do you know where your money really goes? A new app aims to help consumers avoid companies and products they don't even realize they're investing in. People can create campaigns or join existing boycotts. For example, a campaign identified in the app asks consumers to avoid Koch Industries. More than 8,000 people have pledged to boycott the company, which is owned by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch. Buycott helps consumers do this by untangling a long trail of associations and relationships among companies. For example, sales of Brawny paper towels accrue to Koch Industries because Koch's subsidiary, Georgia-Pacific, produces the towels. Consumers may not be aware of those connections while casually browsing supermarket shelves. The Buycott app scans barcodes and then traces products to their parent companies. The app checks that the product doesn't already run afoul of boycott campaigns the user has joined. If someone joins the Local & Sustainable Food Initiative through Buycott, for example, they can scan barcodes at the supermarket to make sure their food really is coming from a local source. The app can even tell you if a certain food product contains GMOs. One campaign pushes buyers to boycott companies, including Monsanto, that fought against putting GMO labels on food. The app isn't perfect though. As Buycott admits, "Corporate ownership structure is always changing and can sometimes be complex." The app allows users to add their own knowledge of products not yet part of the database, making Buycott more accurate as more people download and contribute to it.
When Jacob Barnett was 2 years old, he was diagnosed with moderate to severe autism. Doctors told his parents that the boy would likely never talk or read and would probably be forever unable to independently manage basic daily activities like tying his shoe laces. But they were sorely, extraordinarily mistaken. Today, Barnett -- now 14 -- is a Master's student, on his way to earning a PhD in quantum physics. The teen, who boasts an IQ of 170, has already been tipped to one day win the Nobel Prize. Since enrolling at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) at the age of 10, Barnett has flourished -- astounding his professors, peers and family with his spectacular intelligence. The teen tutors other college students in subjects like calculus and is a published scientific researcher, with an IQ that is believed to be higher than that of Albert Einstein. In fact, according to a 2011 TIME report, Barnett, who frequently tops his college classes, has asserted that he may one day disprove Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Outside of his rigorous university commitments, Barnett, who has Asperger's Syndrome, is also an entrepreneur and aspiring author. The teen, who, with his family, runs a charity called Jacob's Place for kids on the spectrum, has used his story to raise awareness and dispel myths about autism. In April, [his mother] Kristine Barnett's memoir about her family's experience with autism, The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius, was released. A movie deal is said to be in the works.
[Solar Impulse HB-SIA, a] solar-powered aircraft making a landmark cross-country flight [piloted by Bertrand Piccard], successfully completed its first leg [on May 4], and will rest about a week in [Phoenix] Arizona before taking to the skies again. "It's a little bit like being in a dream," Piccard told the Associated Press. The aircraft, running off solar cells and electric batteries rather than fossil fuels, ... travels at a leisurely 43 mph and cruises at a maximum altitude of 28,000 feet. Spokeswoman Alenka Zibetto [said] that the exact length of the stay would depend on weather. It is proving to be a popular attraction. Online registration for the Sunday slots -- with space for 150 people per hour -- filled up within a day, Zibetto said. The solar company SunPower [manufactured] the solar cells lining the 208-foot wingspan of Solar Impulse.
Citi has just named solar photovoltaics, which convert solar radiation into electric currents via semiconductors, to its list of 10 world-disrupting technologies. In a note this week in advance of the disruption report, Citi's Jason Channell said that in many cases, renewables are already at cost parity with established forms of electricity sources. The biggest surprise in recent years has been the speed at which the price of solar panels has reduced, resulting in cost parity being achieved in certain areas much more quickly than was ever expected; these fast ‘learning rates’ are likely to continue, meaning that the technology just keeps getting cheaper. At peak solar exposure, parts of the southwest U.S. are now already capable of meeting their electricity needs via solar panels. The rapidly expanding parity provides enormous scope for growth in the solar industry, driven by standalone economics as opposed to subsidies, which are becoming ever scarcer in an austerity-driven world. Gas isn't going away, but renewables are coming on strong.
Note: It's rather strange that most mainstream media have hardly reported on this most awesome news at all. For another article showing that solar energy cost is already near parity with other energy sources, click here. For a treasure trove of great news articles on exciting new energy technologies, click here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Can food be free, fresh and easily accessible? That’s the bold question that the city of Seattle is hoping to answer with a new experimental farm not far from the city’s downtown that will have fruits and vegetables for anyone to harvest this fall. On Beacon Hill, just south of central Seattle, landscape developers and a few affordable-food advocates are building an edible food forest. Everything grown in the area, from the tree canopies to the roots, will be edible. And it’ll be open around the clock to anyone who wants to come and pick some fresh blueberries or pears. In its first phase, the farm will be 1.5 acres. But if it’s successful, the public land it’ll sit on—currently owned by Seattle Public Utilities—will be able to accommodate 5.5 more acres of growth. One thing that’s striking about the idea (other than the idea in itself to have essentially a public farm that anyone can use—or abuse) is how the [crop] selection came together. Many are expected: apples, berries, row vegetables like lettuce or tomatoes. But others are pretty far out. A large Asian community in the area suggested things like Asian pears and honeyberries. A European influence led to the planting of medlar trees. The concept is modeled on permaculture, a design system and school of thought aimed at returning some land to its own devices. Offering people free, fresh food is one motivation, but making the land useful and ecologically enriched is the larger goal.
If your hospital is in Belgium, Dr. Steven Laureys may pay you a visit, interested to hear what you remember from your NDE, or near-death experience. Laureys heads the Coma Science Group at the university hospital in the city of Liege. NDEs feel "even more real than real," Laureys said. Laureys and his team studied the near-death memories of people who survived -- in particular those of coma patients -- with the help of a psychological examination. The Memory Characteristics Questionnaire tests for sensory and emotional details of recollections and how people relive them in space and time. In other words, it gauges how present, intense and real a memory is. They compared NDEs with other memories of intense real-life events like marriages and births, but also with memories of dreams and thoughts. Memories of important real-life events are more intense than those of dreams or thoughts, Laureys said. "If you use this questionnaire ... if the memory is real, it's richer, and if the memory is recent, it's richer," he said. "To our surprise, NDEs were much richer than any imagined event or any real event of these coma survivors," Laureys reported. The memories of these experiences beat all other memories, hands down, for their vivid sense of reality. "The difference was so vast," he said with a sense of astonishment. Even if the patient had the experience a long time ago, its memory was as rich "as though it was yesterday," Laureys said. "Sometimes, it is hard for them (the patients) to find words to explain it."
For more than 10 years, I spent hours at a time ... looking for the inner light. This meditation was how I opened myself to the divine within me. Then, one day, my brother Billy, a troubled soul and sometime drug addict, changed all that by telling me an important secret. "Being in an earthly body limits the way you perceive light. Your eyes can't see the light directly, only the things it shines upon, so the light remains invisible, just like the soul does. The light of the higher worlds makes visible what is invisible on earth: the divine nature of all things. God, or Spirit, or whatever you choose to call it, is undeniable where I am. The light rays that sparkle all around me ... erase any harm I suffered in my entire lifetime." Had Billy said these words when he was still alive, I might have thought he was experiencing drug-induced euphoria. But quite miraculously, my brother shared this with me months after he died. To sync with Billy [I tried] to emulate what he's doing up there down here. Put On Your "Divine-Colored" Glasses: 1. Close your eyes and imagine rays of light beaming into you from higher, kinder, more beautiful worlds. 2. Take a few deep breaths and with each inhalation, imagine you are breathing this divine presence filled with understanding and healing deep into your core. 3. Rest in this space for a while; float in it like a warm, soothing pool. Everything in existence, what you can and even what you can't see, is sending you light. As you practice this, over time ... you'll feel nurtured and protected. Your mind may ease up on focusing on what is "wrong" and become more attuned to the simple beauty of being alive.
Note: The author of this article wrote the popular book "The Afterlife of Billy Fingers." Explore lots of incredibly inspiring information on near-death experiences. And don't miss a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
I live in a 420-square-foot studio. I sleep in a bed that folds down from the wall. I have six dress shirts. I have 10 shallow bowls that I use for salads and main dishes. When people come over for dinner, I pull out my extendable dining room table. I don’t have a single CD or DVD and I have 10 percent of the books I once did. I have come a long way from the life I had in the late ’90s, when ... I had a giant house crammed with stuff — electronics and cars and appliances and gadgets. Somehow this stuff ended up running my life, or a lot of it; the things I consumed ended up consuming me. We live in a world of surfeit stuff. There isn’t any indication that any of these things makes anyone any happier; in fact it seems the reverse may be true. In a study published last year titled “Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century,” researchers at U.C.L.A. observed 32 middle-class Los Angeles families and found that all of the mothers’ stress hormones spiked during the time they spent dealing with their belongings. Our fondness for stuff affects almost every aspect of our lives. Housing size, for example, has ballooned in the last 60 years. The average size of a new American home in 1950 was 983 square feet; by 2011, the average new home was 2,480 square feet. And those figures don’t provide a full picture. In 1950, an average of 3.37 people lived in each American home; in 2011, that number had shrunk to 2.6 people. This means that we take up more than three times the amount of space per capita than we did 60 years ago. Intuitively, we know that the best stuff in life isn’t stuff at all, and that relationships, experiences and meaningful work are the staples of a happy life.
After doctors told cancer patient Zach Sobiech, 17, he only had a year to live, the Minnesota high school senior turned to music – and inspired millions. His emotional farewell song, "Clouds" was posted on YouTube ... and went viral with over [nine] million views and climbing, [and] created interest from music industry insiders. "I didn't make 'Clouds' to get famous," says Zach, who now has a songwriting contract from BMI, performed two concerts and just completed a new album titled Fix Me Up with his duo group A Firm Handshake, with singer and best friend Sammy Brown. "It's pretty crazy now … but it's worth it." Back in 2009, then-14-year-old Zach, the third of four children, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a kind of bone cancer. Despite countless surgeries and rounds of radiation, the cancer continued to spread. Last May, doctors gave a grim prognosis: Zach had up to a year to live. "We're approaching that year mark," says Zach, whose high school class graduates in June. "It's scary to think about, but the key is to not feel bad for yourself." Zach is using his remaining time and newfound fame to raise awareness and money for kids suffering from his rare form of cancer, teaming with the Children's Cancer Research Fund to launch the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund. He's already raised almost $80,000 to help fund research into a cure. "My [type of] cancer hardly gets any funding," says Zach. "Our goal is to give other kids with osteosarcoma a chance." Though Zach has good days and bad, his mother says he's doing his best to live each day to its fullest.
Note: For a most beautiful and touching 22 minute video showing how Zach Sobiech faced his impending death by living life to its absolute fullest, click here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
An episode of CBS’ “Undercover Boss” that turned out to be a life-changing experience for sporting goods mogul Mitchell Modell first aired last November. Mitchell Modell, the CEO of the 153-store chain Modell’s, shaved his head, donned an oversized walrus mustache and transformed into “Joey Glick,” a worker inside the company’s warehouse and at Modell’s Sporting Goods locations in Washington, D.C., and Connecticut. In disguise, he drove forklifts in the warehouse, ran a cash register, and was a stock boy, sales associate and shipping clerk. The eye-opening experience of working on the front lines alongside some of his lowest paid associates changed the chain - and Modell himself - forever. “As CEO, one of the things you always wonder about is what your associates (employees) are really thinking and what their days are like. It was a great education,” he said. Among the episode’s most moving moments is when he gifted one of his associates with a $250,000 check when he learned she had been living in a homeless shelter with her two kids. He also suffered greatly from the physicality of the job and vowed to lose weight. On the professional side he adjusted the company’s entire approach to customer service and implemented dozens of changes to increase profitability and cut red tape. “I tell everybody if you’re fortunate enough to be on ‘Undercover Boss’ to do it in a heartbeat,” he said. “If you’re not fortunate enough, then go work on the front lines. It’s an eye-opening experience.”
Note: Watch the inspiring video of how Modell gives one employee a huge, unexpected gift.
Jessica Cox was born without arms as a result of a rare birth defect. That has not stopped her from living her life to the fullest. In fact, Ms Cox has experienced and achieved more than most people do in a lifetime. She can drive a car, fly a plane and play piano - all with her feet. In 2012 she married Patrick, her former Taekwondo instructor (she has two black belts). They live in Tucson, Arizona. Ms Cox, 30, travels around the world as a motivational speaker, using her own life as an example of what one can achieve if one wants it enough. This month she visits Ethiopia to help promote disability rights.
Note: Don't miss the inspiring video on the BBC webpage. And for another incredibly inspiring man born without arms or feet, learn about Nick Vujicic at this link.
Sumant Kumar was overjoyed when he harvested his rice last year. Every stalk he cut on his paddy field near the bank of the Sakri river seemed to weigh heavier than usual, every grain of rice was bigger and when his crop was weighed on the old village scales, even Kumar was shocked. A shy young farmer in Nalanda district of India's poorest state Bihar, [Kumar] had – using only farmyard manure and without any herbicides – grown an astonishing 22.4 tonnes of rice on one hectare of land. This was a world record and with rice the staple food of more than half the world's population of seven billion, big news. It beat not just the 19.4 tonnes achieved by the "father of rice", the Chinese agricultural scientist Yuan Longping, but the World Bank-funded scientists at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, and anything achieved by the biggest European and American seed and GM companies. And it was not just Sumant Kumar. Krishna, Nitish, Sanjay and Bijay, his friends and rivals in Darveshpura, all recorded over 17 tonnes, and many others in the villages around claimed to have more than doubled their usual yields. But the Bihar state agricultural universities didn't believe them at first, while India's leading rice scientists muttered about freak results. The Nalanda farmers were accused of cheating. Only when the state's head of agriculture, a rice farmer himself, came to the village with his own men and personally verified Sumant's crop, was the record confirmed.
On Valentine’s Day in Delhi, the pink band was ubiquitous, tied around arms, on wrists and foreheads, around necks and backpacks. Printed on it were the words “Enough! No More Violence Against Women.” 'On Thursday evening, as many set out for the customary Valentine’s Day dinner in the nation’s capital, several hundred men, women and children gathered at Parliament Street for an unorthodox celebration: a movement using music and dance to oppose violence against women. “We don’t want violence; we want love,” said Kamla Bhasin, the movement’s South Asia coordinator, to a cheering crowd of about 500 people. “We want a just love, a love based on equality.” In nearly 200 countries around the world, people took to the streets Thursday with a carnival spirit as part of One Billion Rising, a campaign initiated by Eve Ensler, the author of The Vagina Monologues, to highlight violence against women. In India, the message mirrored widespread public sentiment that has swelled after the gang rape and death of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in Delhi in December, bringing women’s rights and safety to the center stage of civic and political discourse. The campaign Thursday was a continuation of that fight. In recent months, young Indians have poured out in angry protests, condemning a police force that often exists for the preservation of power rather than the protection of people, and a political class that has routinely displayed apathy.
Organizers say [there are] thousands of events taking place in 205 countries [on Valentine's Day] as part of One Billion Rising, an international call led by Eve Ensler's V-Day organization to end violence against women and girls. Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, announced the campaign last year, urging women and men around the world to walk out of work or school on Feb. 14, 2013, and dance to raise awareness of the troubling U.N. statistic that one in three women worldwide will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. "It's happening, and what we're seeing is really huge uprisings," Ensler said ... in a telephone interview from Congo. "It's amazing because it goes from huge events like in Collins Square in London to six girls in a living room in Iran. That's what's so beautiful about it, like the whole world's doing it in the way they can do it." "The UN has officially endorsed it, and I think unprecedentedly they, at 12:30 today, stopped their work and had a rising at the UN," Ensler said. "The pressure of One Billion Rising is forcing these people to have to say they're going to do something about it," she said. Scheduled stateside events included flash mobs in San Francisco, a Zumba dance party with Jane Fonda in Los Angeles, a special program at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom featuring Rosario Dawson and Glenn Close, and a rally led by Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter Bernice A. King on the sunny streets of Atlanta. The outpouring of participation surpassed even Ensler's hopeful dreams.
Bhutan plans to become the first country in the world to turn its agriculture completely organic, banning the sales of pesticides and herbicides and relying on its own animals and farm waste for fertilisers. But rather than accept that this will mean farmers of the small Himalayan kingdom of around 1.2m people ... will be able to grow less food, the government expects them to be able to grow more – and to export increasing amounts of high quality niche foods to neighbouring India, China and other countries. The decision to go organic was both practical and philosophical, said [Pema Gyamtsho, Bhutan's minister of agriculture and forests]. "Ours is a mountainous terrain. When we use chemicals they don't stay where we use them, they impact the water and plants. We say that we need to consider all the environment. Most of our farm practices are traditional farming, so we are largely organic anyway. But we are Buddhists, too, and we believe in living in harmony with nature. Animals have the right to live, we like to to see plants happy and insects happy," he said. Gyamtsho, like most members of the cabinet, is a farmer himself, coming from Bumthang in central Bhutan but studying western farming methods in New Zealand and Switzerland. "Going organic will take time," he said. "We have set no deadline. We cannot do it tomorrow. Instead we will achieve it region by region and crop by crop." Gyamtsho [says] Bhutan's future depends largely on how it responds to interlinked development challenges like climate change, and food and energy security.
Note: Bhutan is also the country which has pioneered Gross National Happiness (GNH) as a more appropriate measure of economic growth than GNP. For more on this, click here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
The European Parliament has voted for sweeping reforms of the controversial EU Common Fisheries Policy [CFP]. The package includes measures to protect endangered stocks and end discards - the practice of throwing unwanted dead fish into the sea. Wasteful discards are reckoned to account for a quarter of total catches under the current quota system. With an estimated 75% of Europe’s stocks overfished, there has been enormous public and media pressure over this latest attempt to shake up the CFP. The BBC's environment analyst Roger Harrabin says the vote is something of a victory for citizen power, following organised lobbying of MEPs by ordinary people, as well as by high-profile celebrity chefs and environmentalists. The reform package was presented to the full parliament in Strasbourg by the German Social Democrat MEP Ulrike Rodust. She said the reforms “will bring an end to the December ritual of fisheries ministers negotiating until 4am, neglecting scientific advice and setting too high fishing quotas. “As of 2015, the principle of maximum sustainable yield shall apply, which means that each year we do not harvest more fish than a stock can reproduce. Our objective is that depleted fish stocks recover by 2020. Not only nature will benefit, but also fishermen: bigger stocks produce higher yields.” MEPs have made some tough choices. For instance, they had an option to vote for maximum sustainable yield - that is taking as much fish as the sea can reproduce annually. They demanded instead that fisheries should be allowed to grow, rather than to stay at their current depleted level.
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