Inspirational Media ArticlesExcerpts of Key Inspirational Media Articles in Major Media
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2017 was probably the very best year in the long history of humanity. A smaller share of the world’s people were hungry, impoverished or illiterate than at any time before. A smaller proportion of children died than ever before. The proportion disfigured by leprosy, blinded by diseases like trachoma or suffering from other ailments also fell. We journalists focus on bad news - we cover planes that crash, not those that take off - but the backdrop of global progress may be the most important development in our lifetime. Every day, the number of people around the world living in extreme poverty (less than about $2 a day) goes down by 217,000, according to ... Max Roser, an Oxford University economist who runs a website called Our World in Data. Every day, 325,000 more people gain access to electricity. And 300,000 more gain access to clean drinking water. As recently as the 1960s, a majority of humans had always been illiterate and lived in extreme poverty. Now fewer than 15 percent are illiterate, and fewer than 10 percent live in extreme poverty. In another 15 years, illiteracy and extreme poverty will be mostly gone. After thousands of generations, they are pretty much disappearing on our watch. Steven Pinker, the Harvard psychology professor, explores the gains in a terrific book due out next month, “Enlightenment Now,” in which he recounts the progress across a broad array of metrics, from health to wars, the environment to happiness, equal rights to quality of life.
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New York City ended the year with the fewest murders and the lowest crime figures in decades, the mayor and the NYPD said Friday. There were 290 murders in the nation's largest city in 2017, compared to 335 killings the previous year, said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a news conference. “No one believed it was possible to get under 300 murders,” de Blasio said. The murder rate is a far cry from 1990, when 2,245 people were killed in the city. The numbers of other crimes - shootings, robberies, burglaries and grand larcenies auto - also dropped, officials said. “To see crime levels as low as we have today, you’d have to go back to 1951, when the Dodgers played in Brooklyn and a slice was 15 cents,” de Blasio added. Overall, 2017 was the fourth straight year of declines in crime in New York City. According to NYPD records there were 96,517 crimes reported last year, compared with 102,052 in 2016, a drop of 5.4 percent.
More than half of the electricity generated in the UK in 2017 came from low-carbon sources for the first time ever. Renewables and nuclear provided more electricity than all fossil fuels combined, with wind generation alone supplying twice as much energy as coal, according to analysis by Carbon Brief, a website that tracks climate change and energy policy. Wind made a greater contribution to the country’s electricity needs than coal in every month apart from January. The share from low-carbon sources doubled between 2008 and 2017, Carbon Brief said. The UK has also added wind and solar power generation rapidly, as costs have fallen. Future development will increasingly be possible without the Government subsidies that have aided the industry’s development until now. The UK also passed a series of other milestones last year, including its first day without coal power since 1882, the most electricity produced from solar power at any one moment and the most wind power produced in a day. Wind saw the biggest increase of any energy source, with supply up 31 per cent for the whole of 2017 on 2016’s level. The electricity sector has been the primary focus of renewable power generation as that power can then be used to revolutionise the other sectors, for example through the electrification of transport. Britain’s power system is the fourth cleanest in Europe and the seventh cleanest in the world.
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Iceland is the first country to make it illegal to pay men more than women. Equal pay policies is now mandatory for companies with 25 or more employees. Those that cannot show that they provide equal pay will be subject to fines. The law, which was passed last year, went into effect on Jan. 1. Iceland is already a leader in gender parity. The World Economic Forum (WEF) ranked Iceland as the top country for gender quality for the last nine years based on criteria involving economics, education, health, and politics. For example, Icelandic women make up 48% of the country’s parliament - without a quota system. Despite this, wage inequality has persisted. In 2016, thousands of women in Iceland left work at 2:38 p.m., to protest pay disparity. The time was symbolic of when woman stop receiving pay during their 9 to 5 work day compared to men. The wage gap in Iceland was 72 cents to every man’s dollar. On International Women’s Day in 2017, the country moved to change that. The tiny country, pop. 323,000, aims to completely eliminate the wage gap by 2020.
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China is suspending the production of more than 500 car models and model versions that do not meet its fuel economy standards, several automakers confirmed Tuesday, the latest move by Beijing to reduce emissions in the world’s largest auto market and take the lead in battling climate change. The suspension, effective Jan. 1, would affect both domestic carmakers and foreign joint ventures ... in China, where 28 million vehicles were produced in 2016. China has dozens of small-scale automakers - some producing just a few hundred cars a year. Cui Dongshu, the secretary general of the China Passenger Car Association, said that the ban would affect at most 1 percent of the Chinese market. But the government’s decision to cite fuel economy in the deregistration of so many versions at the same time is nonetheless a signal of the government’s commitment to fuel economy. The country, which for years prioritized economic growth over environmental protection ... has emerged as an unlikely bastion of climate action. “They’re sending a signal to everybody,” said Michael Dunne, president of ... a Hong Kong-based consultancy on China’s clean car market. “This shows their emissions standards have teeth.” The Chinese government has already become the world’s biggest supporter of electric cars, offering automakers numerous incentives for producing so-called new energy vehicles. Those incentives are set to decrease by 2020, to be replaced by quotas for the number of clean cars automakers must sell.
Nearly two years after a smattering of tiny homes popped up in the Bay Area as a peculiar new way of housing homeless people, the technique is exploding from one end of the region to the other. Nearly 1,000 tiny homes or their close cousins - stackable modular housing units, typically with less than 200 square feet of living space - are being planned in San Francisco, San Jose, Richmond, Berkeley, Oakland and Santa Rosa. Tiny units can be built in a fraction of the time it takes to construct typical affordable housing, at a sliver of the cost, and that means a lot of homeless people can be housed quickly. In one of the most expensive housing markets in the nation, with tent-camp problems everywhere, that prospect sounds like a game-changer to officials. Contra Costa has a $750,000 federal homelessness grant to pay for 50 stackable micro-units of supportive housing, and Richmond Mayor Tom Butt would like to see them in his city. Developer Patrick Kennedy brought a prototype of his MicroPad unit to Richmond in November, and county and city leaders say they are leaning toward choosing it. Tiny homes have also caught on in San Jose, where the City Council this month approved plans for a village of 40 of them for homeless people. “You really have two options,” said [city Councilman Raul] Peralez, who said he wants the village in his downtown district. “You can allow the homeless to live on the streets, or you can provide ... shelter [and] services. In my mind, that’s a way better option for managing this community in an organized way.”
Germany has spent $200 billion over the past two decades to promote cleaner sources of electricity. That enormous investment is now having an unexpected impact - consumers are now actually paid to use power on occasion, as was the case over the weekend. Power prices plunged below zero for much of Sunday and the early hours of Christmas Day on ... a large European power trading exchange, the result of low demand, unseasonably warm weather and strong breezes that provided an abundance of wind power on the grid. Such “negative prices” are not the norm in Germany, but they are far from rare, thanks to the country’s effort to encourage investment in greener forms of power generation. Prices for electricity in Germany have dipped below zero ... more than 100 times this year alone. Several countries in Europe have experienced negative power prices, including Belgium, Britain, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland. But Germany’s forays into negative pricing are the most frequent. At times, Germany is able to export its surplus electricity to its neighbors, helping to balance the market. Still, its experiences of negative prices are often longer, and deeper, than they are in other countries. In one recent example, power prices spent 31 hours below zero during the last weekend of October. At one point, they dipped as low as minus €83, or minus $98, per megawatt-hour, a wholesale measure. Anyone who was able to hook up for a large blast of electricity at that time was paid €83 per unit for the trouble.
On Star Trek: Discovery, the character Lieutenant Paul Stamets is an "astromycologist" - a mushroom expert in outer space who is passionate about the power of fungi. Stamets is actually named after a real U.S. scientist who ... looks nothing like his blond-haired TV counterpart, but he's just as enamoured with fungi. Over 40 years, Stamets has pioneered methods for using mushrooms to do everything from clean up oil spills to save disappearing bees by boosting their immune systems. But he's just as excited about Star Trek's potential to inspire people to create some of the science they see presented in screen - even if it does seem a bit fantastic. So were flip phones when people first saw Spock's, he said. "What I love about Star Trek is that we can actually set the stage for science fact," said Stamets. In a 2008 TED Talk, Stamets explained how fungi can be used to "save the world" by cleaning polluted soil, replacing toxic insecticides and even treating viruses. "I'm just a messenger for the mycelium," he said, referring to the network of fungal filaments under the soil that form the largest organism on earth. Mycelium can be found in every forest, but the biggest one he knows of is a massive, 970-hectare mass - bigger than 1,600 football fields - in an Oregon forest. Stamets believes this network "communicates," not unlike a fungal internet. The filaments transfer nutrients and information, and even sabotage unwelcome plants by spreading toxins.
No food fit for human consumption will be wasted by Tesco's UK stores by the end of February, the retail giant says. Chief executive Dave Lewis told the Daily Telegraph food waste had been "talked about for years" as he unveiled the plans for all 2,654 stores. Urging other chains to follow suit, he said edible food should be used for people, not go to waste. Tesco, with all major UK supermarkets, has signed a commitment to cut food waste by one-fifth within a decade. The voluntary agreement is known as the Courtauld Commitment 2025. Mr Lewis ... said the contrast between the amount of wasted food in the UK and the situation in countries suffering food shortages was "really stark". He said: "Last year we sold 10 million tons [10.2 million tonnes] of food to the British public. But even if our waste is just 0.7% of the food, that's still 70,000 tons [71,100 tonnes] of food. Tesco says it cuts waste by selling surplus groceries with "reduced to clear" stickers and [by using] an app, FoodCloud, to scan and upload surplus food that stores have at the end of the day, which is shared with registered charities that collect the food. "That goes a long way in reducing charities' bill burdens, so they can spend the money on ... providing much more needed services," Mr Lewis said. "Food waste has been talked about for years but if Tesco can make this work, with all of our different stores across the country, then why can't everybody," he added.
Even after two terror attacks and a driver's deadly rampage through Times Square, New York City is on track to smash its modern-era low for homicides in a year. Through Dec. 17, the city of 8.5 million people, once America's murder capital, had recorded 278 killings. That puts it on pace to end this year with killings down 14 percent from last year, and well below the 333 in 2014, which was the year with the fewest homicides since the city began keeping accurate crime statistics. Those numbers mean a person's odds of getting killed by homicide in tightly packed, diverse New York City this year were about the same as they were last year in Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota. Crime has been dropping for many years in New York, but 2017 saw substantial drops even in places like Brooklyn's 75th Police Precinct, once among the nation's most violent places. There were 126 killings in the precinct in 1993. This year ... there have been 11. A move away from heavy-handed policing may have helped drive crime lower. Arrests are down about 7 percent this year. Chief of Patrol Terence Monahan said there were other tactical changes. The department ditched specialized units within precincts and made most officers general assignment. "We're not going to arrest our way out of the problems here," said Sgt. Timothy Cecchini on a recent patrol through the 75th Precinct. "But now, we are getting the space to think about how to do our jobs and really address issues for people and talk to them."
Companies that enforce employee-centric and customer-centric cultures are likely to see better financial gains than their competitors, Just Capital's Dan Hesse told CNBC on Wednesday. "What we've seen from a financial performance point of view is that you have [a] higher return on equity of these companies that do good things," Hesse, the former CEO of Sprint, told "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer. Just Capital, a private, non-profit research firm, recently conducted a survey of 72,000 individuals across the United States. On Tuesday, Just Capital and Forbes released a ranking of the top 100 most "just" U.S. companies based on the results. Many leading technology companies landed high in the ranks, with Intel, Texas Instruments and Nvidia taking the top three spots. But one of the most sweeping commonalities was how consumers felt about tax reform, Hesse said. While investors might get excited about the potential for share buybacks and dividend increases if corporate tax reform is passed, consumers couldn't be less thrilled about it, Hesse said. "If there's one overall theme in the data, it's that they believe companies are focused too much on just shareholders versus all the other stakeholders," he told Cramer. "They'll say shareholders, yes, important, but your employees are No. 1 and your customers are No. 2," Hesse continued. "So are the communities, the environment, a lot of other stakeholders. So they will want to see companies take this money and invest in their employees and in some of these other areas."
One of the world’s most important financial and development institutions, the World Bank Group (WBG), is to stop financing oil and gas exploration, in a bid to help combat climate change. After 2019, the WBG – which includes the World Bank and three other institutions – will stop investing in upstream oil and gas, it announced at the One Planet Summit in Paris on Wednesday. The summit was hosted by French president Emmanuel Macron, with 164 world leaders, government members, business leaders and prominent figures joining him. This move marks a major change in strategy for the the WBG, which has historically sought to support extraction of natural resources. The World Bank currently holds $961m (Ł722m) of guarantee operations, set up to support private sector investments in gas and oil explorations. Upstream oil and gas constitute 2pc of the WBG portfolio. Across the World Bank Group institutions, the total portfolio is worth around $280bn. This comes as the WBG signed a $1.15bn loan with the Government of Egypt aimed at reducing fossil fuel subsidies and encouraging low-carbon energy investment. “Everyday, climate change becomes a more urgent economic, social, and existential threat to all countries and all people,” WBG president, Jim Yong Kim, said. This change in approach was to ensure “alignment of our support to countries to meet their Paris goals,” he added.
About 20 companies including Unilever, EDF and Iberdrola joined an international alliance of 26 nations on Tuesday pledging to phase out coal to combat global warming. At a climate summit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, new members of the "Powering Past Coal Alliance" agreed that traditional coal power should be phased out by 2030 in rich nations and by 2050 in other parts of the world. Nations including Sweden, Ethiopia and Latvia, as well as the U.S. state of California, also joined the alliance as part of commitments under the 195-nation Paris climate agreement reached on December 12 two years ago. The coal phase-out plan, launched last month by about 20 governments, widened on Tuesday to companies also including BT, Engie, Kering, Diageo, Marks & Spencer, Orsted, Storebrand and Virgin Group. The companies committed to setting targets to end the use of traditional coal from the power sector, both for consumption and in generating electricity. Founder members of the alliance, launched at U.N. climate negotiations in Germany, include Britain, France, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Costa Rica and the Marshall Islands. A declaration said that coal-fired power plants produce almost 40 percent of global electricity. Most of the countries in the alliance are already cutting their use of coal.
Cruise ships have a bad rap with environmentalists. One cruise operator is hoping to change that. Peace Boat, a Japanese non-governmental organization ... is working on an ambitious project to build the most sustainable vessel in the booming industry. Now in the last stages of planning, the "Ecoship" will be built by Finland's Arctech. It will cost about $500 million, financed in part by impact investors - funds, rich families and individuals who want to use their cash to improve the world as well as make a profit. A conventional cruise ship can burn hundreds of tons of heavy fuel oil a day and emit as much particulate matter as a million cars. The "Ecoship" will be fueled by a much cleaner combination of solar panels, wind power and liquid natural gas, and should produce 40% less carbon dioxide than a traditional cruise ship. "We will have 10 sails, so it will use the wind like traditional sailing ships," [Peace Boat founder Yoshioka] Tatsuya explained. The "Ecoship" is designed to mimic the shape of a whale. While smaller than many cruise ships currently being built, it will accommodate 2,000 passengers, and host conferences and events while docked. Peace Boat hopes it will set sail on its maiden voyage in 2020, and that it will quickly become a showcase for the future of the industry. "There's potential with a very green cruise ship to get a lot of attention at each port of call and that can make an impact," Tatsuya said. And he doesn't plan to stop at one ship. Demand for cruises, and green tourism is booming.
When Beatrice Fihn received a call on Oct. 6 informing the 35-year-old Swede that her group, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, she suspected a possible prank. Not that you should blame her - ICAN is just 10 years old, and the group’s aims can seem positively fanciful: the complete elimination of the world’s roughly 15,000 nuclear warheads. But that call from the Norwegian Nobel Committee was real, and so is Fihn’s goal. ICAN, a global coalition of 440 partner organizations in 98 countries, was honored for its efforts to advance the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was successfully finalized by two-thirds of the United Nations’ 192 members this summer. The treaty—which would outlaw nuclear weapons’ use, production and possession—is now open for ratification, and will become international law after 50 countries sign on. Those countries almost certainly won’t include the members of the nuclear club: The U.S., Russia, China, Great Britain, France, Pakistan, India and North Korea. Fihn is realistic that nuclear weapons won’t be abolished overnight. But just as earlier treaties banning biological weapons and land mines eventually led to such munitions being phased out, she believes a nuclear arms ban could help turn the public against these truly horrific weapons of mass destruction.
Quebecers who have a severely limited capacity to work will gradually be able to access a guaranteed minimum income beginning next year, Premier Philippe Couillard's government announced. The measure is part of a $3-billion action plan to fight poverty and promote "economic inclusion," but falls short of offering a basic income for all Quebecers, a demand of many anti-poverty groups. An estimated 84,000 Quebecers would qualify for the minimum income measure, largely those with physical and intellectual disabilities. Of the 84,000, the vast majority are single people, long a neglected demographic when it comes to poverty reduction programs in Quebec. By next year, they will see their government assistance increased by at least $73 per month. That figure will reach $440 per month by 2023, bringing their annual guaranteed minimum to $18,029. Many of the measures announced Sunday either encourage low-income Quebecers to enter the job market or help them stay employed. This includes $1.8 million in funding to improve the digital skills of those living in poverty and nearly $34 million for Quebecers who receive social assistance and want to learn more skills. The measures also come one year after the Couillard government introduced controversial new rules that penalized social assistance recipients who failed to take steps to find a job. The $3 billion in spending will be spread out over several years, with the goal of helping 100,000 Quebecers out of poverty by 2023.
Crowdfunding has been used to finance films, board games, classical music, scientific research and infertility treatments. Add this to the list of things bought with collective purchasing power: A chateau in the French countryside, complete with moat. The platform used to raise the funds announced on Friday that the castle had been purchased by milliers d'internautes – that is, thousands of Internet users, who each paid at least 50 euros (about $60) to "adopt" the chateau and help restore it. In just 40 days, the site raised the 500,000 euros it needed to buy it. "It's done, it's historic!" [the announcement] said. "The Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers now belongs to thousands of Internet users. Through this collective purchase, we believe in the preservation and development of the heritage of tomorrow and prove that civic strength is always the greatest." The chateau dates to the 13th century, and it was looted and abandoned during the French Revolution. In 1809, a rich Parisian entrepreneur bought and restored it. In March 1932, a fire broke out, destroying the roof and causing the chateau to be abandoned once more. Sadly, a suite at the castle is not part of the deal for the thousands of donors, though a gift of at least 60 euros (about $71) gives each patron a membership card and "access to part of the castle." The real gift, the campaign explains, is that patrons can become investors in a company that will own the castle, and "collectively decide its future."
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China has been busy creating a cashless society, where people can pay for so many things now with just a swipe of their cellphones - including donations to beggars - or even buy stuff at vending machines with just facial recognition, and India is trying to follow suit. These are big trends, and in a world where data is the new oil, China and India are each creating giant pools of digitized data that their innovators are using to write all kinds of interoperable applications — for cheap new forms of education, medical insurance, entertainment, banking and finance. “It’s transforming the lives of ordinary people,” explained Alok Kshirsagar, a McKinsey partner based in Mumbai. Now any Indian farmer can just go to one of 250,000 government community centers - each with a computer, Wi-Fi and a local entrepreneur who manages it - log into a government digital services website with the farmer’s unique ID and instantly print out a birth certificate or land records needed for transactions. Similar innovations are going on in energy, explained Mahesh Kolli, president of Greenko, India’s largest renewable power provider. Greenko just built the largest solar project in the world - a 3,000-acre field of Chinese-made solar panels generating 800 megawatts powering over 600,000 homes in Andhra Pradesh. Two more such fields are on the way up. “No new coal or gas power plants are being built in India today,” he added, “not because of regulations, but because solar, wind, hydro are all now able to compete with coal plants without subsidies.”
When the lunch bell rings at Boca Raton High School in Florida, 3,400 kids spill into the courtyard and split into their social groups. But not everyone gets included. Someone always sits alone. "It's not a good feeling, like you're by yourself. And that's something that I don't want anybody to go through," said Denis Estimon. Denis is a Haitian immigrant. When he came here in first grade, he says he felt isolated - especially at lunch. So with some friends, Denis started a club called "We Dine Together." Their mission is to go into the courtyard at lunchtime to make sure no one is starving for company. For new kids especially, the club is a godsend. Since it started last year, hundreds of friendships have formed - some very unlikely. Jean Max Meradieu said he met kids he would never "ever" meet on the football team. Jean actually quit the football team - gave up all perks that come with it - just so he could spend more time with this club. "I don't mind not getting a football scholarship," Jean said. "This is what I really want to do." Just imagine how different your teenage years would have been, if the coolest kids in school all of a sudden decided you mattered. Since we first told this story, Denis has graduated from high school - but not from this mission. He's now travelling the country, opening "We Dine Together" chapters at other schools - 15 so far, with more than 100 slated for the new year. And if we're lucky, when he's done showing kids how to make outsiders feel accepted, he can teach the rest of us.
Thursday 16th November marked the 7th Annual Lovie Awards. This year, Livia Firth was the winner of the Emerging Entrepreneur Award for her fight for sustainable fashion as the founder and creative director of Eco-Age. Livia founded Eco-Age in 2009 as a brand consultancy providing sustainability strategies and communication tools to fashion brands. Their modus operandi is to demystify the supply chain so that brands can be sure they are working with suppliers and manufacturers that guarantee responsible sourcing and production of materials and ethical labour practices. She and her team work with several brands to help them become sustainable and conscious as part of their core operations and values – not as a token ‘project’ seeking to gain sustainability credentials. Livia points to a tactic of some large, fast-fashion brands, of producing a product or small number of products ‘sustainably’, that are then heavily promoted in an attempt to create a cleaner, greener brand image, which she dismisses as “bullshit green-washing”, to divert attention from the dirty fashion practices continuing throughout the supply chain in those brands. Eco-Age refuses to conduct business with fast-fashion businesses due to the ethical crimes being committed and their failure to provide a living wage. She comments that being awarded a Lovie is recognition of her engagement with the public ... to inform, educate and enlighten consumers.
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news articles on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.