Inspirational News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Inspirational News Articles in Media
Just a few years ago, in the depths of its worst drought in at least 900 years, Israel was running out of water. Now it has a surplus. That remarkable turnaround was accomplished through national campaigns to conserve and reuse Israel’s meager water resources, but the biggest impact came from a new wave of desalination plants. Desal works by pushing saltwater into membranes containing microscopic pores. Breakthroughs in membrane technology ... have made desalination much more efficient. Israel now gets 55 percent of its domestic water from desalination. Water stress has been a major factor in the turmoil tearing apart the Middle East, but [Edo] Bar-Zeev [with the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research] believes that Israel’s solutions can help its parched neighbors, too - and in the process, bring together old enemies in common cause. Bar-Zeev acknowledges that water will likely be a source of conflict in the Middle East in the future. “But I believe water can be a bridge,” he says. Bar-Zeev has ambitious plans for a Water Knows No Boundaries conference in 2018, which will bring together water scientists from Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza for a meeting of the minds.
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Sister Madonna Buder stood on the shore of People’s Pond at Irene Rinehart Riverfront Park on Saturday morning. She made the sign of the cross and said a small prayer just before diving in head first. Her journey sent her through one mile of water, 24 miles on a bike and six miles on foot. But this was not new to her. The Ellensburg Olympic Triathlon was not her first race. Buder ... did not develop a passion for running until she was 48 years old. By then she was heavily involved in the Catholic church after becoming a nun at the age of 23. Since she started training, she has competed in many events including the 1982 Boston Marathon and her first triathlon in Banbridge, Ireland. In 2006 she was the oldest woman ever to complete the Hawaiian Ironman and in 2014 was inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame. Having raced more than 325 triathlons, people are still amazed at her accomplishments. “She is an extraordinary accomplished person in general fitness,” said fellow Olympic Triathlon participant Vince Nethery. “She finished and was able to take care of business.” Buder has not only seen victories but also had to climb over some obstacles during her career. Over her 39 years of competing she has fractured her pelvis, torn her meniscus and broke her femur. Buder just celebrated her birthday on Sunday, and although she completed one more triathlon, she still wonders how she is still completing triathlons. “I don’t know,” Buder said. “You’ll have to ask God.”
Dozens of American restaurant chains, supermarket chains and dining service companies have committed in the last two years to ending their use or sales of eggs laid by caged hens. On Monday, one of the world’s largest food service suppliers, Paris-based Sodexo, upped the ante, saying it would switch to cage-free eggs in all its global operations by 2025. The announcement by a major international company is a sign that the rapid shift in the United States to cage-free eggs, led by consumers but long championed by animal rights activists, is going more global. It came after talks with animal rights groups, as well as an international animal rights coalition recently formed by The Humane League, a small American farm animal rights organization that has driven several U.S. companies’ pledges to swear off eggs from caged hens. In February 2015, Sodexo became one of the first large companies to commit to a totally cage-free egg future. [The announcement] was followed by a string of other similar corporate pledges. In the United States, increasing consumer concern about how animals are raised for food has driven demand for meat and poultry that is free-range, antibiotics-free, grass-fed and otherwise perceived as healthier or more humane. Last month, Perdue, the country’s third-largest chicken producer, announced that it would change the way it raises and slaughters chickens, including by giving them more exposure to natural light, in response to customers’ animal welfare concerns.
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A federal appeals court ruled Friday that the U.S. Navy was wrongly allowed to use sonar that could harm whales and other marine life. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision upholding approval granted in 2012 for the Navy to use low-frequency sonar for training, testing and routine operations. The five-year approval covered peacetime operations in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea. Sonar, used to detect submarines, can injure whales, seals, dolphins and walruses and disrupt their feeding and mating. The 2012 rules adopted by the National Marine Fisheries Service permitted Navy sonar use to affect about 30 whales and two dozen pinnipeds, marine mammals with front and rear flippers such as seals and sea lions, each year. The Navy was required to shut down or delay sonar use if a marine mammal was detected near the ship. Loud sonar pulses also were banned near coastlines and in certain protected waters. Environmental groups, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, filed a lawsuit in San Francisco in 2012, arguing that the approval violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The appellate court ruled 3-0 that the approval rules failed to meet a section of the protection act requiring peacetime oceanic programs to have "the least practicable adverse impact on marine mammals." The panel concluded that the fisheries service "did not give adequate protection to ... the world's oceans."
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There's increasing evidence to show that trees are able to communicate with each other. More than that, trees can learn. When you discover how trees talk to each other, feel pain, nurture each other, even care for their close relatives and organise themselves into communities, it's hard to be sceptical. The support they give each other is not random. Research by Professor Massimo Maffei at the University of Turin shows trees can distinguish the roots of their own species from other plants, and even pick out their own relations from other trees. Some are so tightly connected at the roots that they even die together, like a devoted married couple. Diseased or hungry individuals can be identified, supported and nourished until they recover. They can also send warnings using chemical signals and electrical impulses through the fungal networks that stretch under the soil between sets of roots. These fungi operate like fibre-optic internet cables. Their thin filaments penetrate the earth, weaving through it in almost unbelievable density. One teaspoon of forest soil contains many miles of these tendrils. Over centuries, if left undisturbed, a single fungus can cover many square miles and create a network throughout an entire forest. Through these links, trees can send signals about insects, drought and other dangers. News bulletins are transmitted by chemical compounds and also by electricity. Most of us see trees as practically inanimate. But the truth is very different. They are just as intensely alive as we are ... and for much, much longer.
Note: The above article was adapted from Peter Wohlleben's book, "The Hidden Life Of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate - Discoveries From A Secret World." Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Companies can’t get enough organic ingredients to satisfy consumer desire for organic and nongenetically modified foods. The demand for those crops outstrips the supply, leaving farmers like [Wendell] Naraghi racing to convert their land to organic production, an arduous and expensive process. “Customers are asking for it,” said Mr. Naraghi, who is in the process of transitioning 300 of his 3,000 acres of orchards this year. “And we listen to our customers.” The clamor for organic crops is so intense that major food brands, like General Mills, Kellogg and Ardent Mills, are helping to underwrite the switch. General Mills, for instance, recently signed a deal to help convert about 3,000 acres to organic production of alfalfa and other animal feeds. Ardent offers farmers a premium for crops grown on land while a farm transitions to organic. In the most recent government tally, in 2011, organic farmland, including that used for grazing, was less than 1 percent of crop land in the United States. But the consumer demand is accelerating the conversion process. Sales of organic products grew 11 percent last year to $43.3 billion, or roughly four times the growth in sales of food products over all. Sales would have been even higher had supply, particularly in organic dairy and grains, kept up with demand. As much as 20 percent of cropland in America could be organic in the next decade or so, but land suitable for transition is getting harder to come by.
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Sex trafficking wasn't a major concern in the early 1980s, when Beth Jacobs was a teenager. If you were a prostitute, the thinking went, it was your choice. Jacobs thought that too ... until [a] violent pimp forced [her] to work as a sex slave. The awareness of sex trafficking has changed a lot since then. Just last year, an old motor home parked at a truck stop caught the eye of trucker Kevin Kimmel. "I saw a guy go in it," Kimmel says. "And then I saw what I thought was a young girl peek out and be abruptly pulled back from the window." Kimmel called the police - and ended weeks of ... forced prostitution for the victim. Kylla Lanier says that Kimmel's actions "epitomizes the mission" of her group, Truckers Against Trafficking. She founded the group with her mother and three sisters a few years ago. "Trafficking happens everywhere," Lanier says. "It's happening in homes, in conference centers, at schools, casinos, truck stops, hotels, motels, everywhere. You know, it's an everywhere problem, but truckers happen to be everywhere." And these days TAT stickers, wallet cards and posters - showing a phone number for a sex trafficking hotline - are becoming ubiquitous in the trucking industry. TAT teaches drivers to try to spot sullen, hopeless-looking children, teens and young adults. Jacobs managed to escape her life of forced prostitution. Now she counsels other survivors and works with TAT. Calls to the hotline [promoted by TAT] have freed hundreds of trafficking victims.
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Cats, dogs and pigs will no longer be guinea pigs. Late last month, the last medical school in the U.S. and Canada to use live animals to teach surgical skills to students - the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Chattanooga - announced it would cease the practice. In an email sent to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which has fought the practice for years, Robert C. Fore, the interim dean for the medical school at UT, wrote that “effective immediately” the college will no longer use live pigs to teach surgical skills to students. Instead they will use simulators of human bodies that can bleed, breathe, blink and have lifelike organs and skin. “It’s a watershed moment,” John Pippin, a retired cardiologist and director of academic affairs for PCRM, told Washington Post. “For anyone who went to medical school in years past it was a rite of passage, often a disturbing rite of passage to use a dog or cat or another animal in medical courses.” Students were instructed to use the animals to practice surgical procedures or inject them with various drugs to monitor responses. After being used for such training procedures, the animals were killed. UT’s ban of using live animals follows Johns Hopkins’ May 18 announcement that they would stop the practice because “almost all medical schools have stopped using live animals” and “that the experience is not essential.”
As a physician, I have encountered many people who believe that heart disease, which is the single biggest cause of death among Americans, is largely controllable. After all, if people ate better, were physically active and stopped smoking, then lots of them would get better. This ignores the fact that people can’t change many risk factors of heart disease like age, race and family genetics. People don’t often seem to feel the same way about cancer. They think it’s out of their control. A ... recent study published in Nature argues that there is a lot we can do. Many studies have shown that environmental risk factors and exposures contribute greatly to many cancers. Diet is related to colorectal cancer. Alcohol and tobacco are related to esophageal cancer. HPV is related to cervical cancer, and hepatitis C is related to liver cancer. And you’d have to be living under a rock not to know that smoking causes lung cancer and that too much sun can lead to skin cancer. Using sophisticated modeling techniques, the researchers argued that less than 30 percent of the lifetime risk of getting many common cancers was because of intrinsic risk factors, or the “bad luck.” The rest were things you can change. [More] recently, in JAMA Oncology, researchers sought to quantify how a healthful lifestyle might actually alter the risk of cancer. They [found that] about 25 percent of cancer in women and 33 percent in men was potentially preventable.
New research links county-level economic health to agriculture, and finds that organic food and crop production, along with the business activities accompanying organic agriculture, creates real and long-lasting regional economic opportunities. The recently completed White Paper, U.S. Organic Hotspots and their Benefit to Local Economies ... finds organic hotspots - counties with high levels of organic agricultural activity whose neighboring counties also have high organic activity - boost median household incomes by an average of $2,000 and reduce poverty levels by an average of 1.3 percentage points. It identifies 225 counties across the United States as organic hotspots, then looks at how these organic hotspots impact two key county-level economic indicators: the county poverty rate and median household income. Organic activity was found to have a greater beneficial economic effect than that of general agriculture activity, such as chemically-intensive, conventional agriculture, and even more of a positive impact than some major anti-poverty programs at the county level. Interest in organic at the production level has grown as the demand for organic has risen. Organic food is not only better for the economy, but for human health and the environment. A comprehensive review of 97 published studies comparing the nutritional quality of organic and conventional foods show that organic plant-based foods contain higher levels of eight of 11 nutrients. Organic foods have [also] been shown to reduce dietary pesticide exposure.
Some 9,000 people stuck with delinquent medical bills had their debts forgiven courtesy of HBO host John Oliver. Oliver, on his "Last Week Tonight" program Sunday, took the action to illustrate a story about the practices of companies that purchase the records of debtors and attempt to collect on them. The show set up its own company to acquire $15 million worth of debt owed to hospitals in Texas, paying $60,000. Oliver said it was "disturbingly easy" for his show to set up a company, which it called Central Asset Recovery Professionals, and incorporate it in Mississippi to make the purchase. Oliver's show engages in a form of investigative comedy, this week examining [how] institutions often sell their debt for pennies on the dollar to companies who then attempt to collect on the bills. These companies operate with little regulation, and sometimes employ shady and abusive collectors who try to intimidate people into paying, he said. RIPMedicaldebt.org, a nonprofit that raises money to buy debt and forgive the bills owed by people who can least afford to pay them, welcomed the attention. "It's absolutely fabulous," said Craig Antico, CEO of RIPMedicaldebt.org. "It puts a light on a problem that few people know exists. If people paid attention to (Oliver's show) and it got them upset, they should realize that we can eradicate much of this debt if we all banded together to help each other," Antico said. "People can make a donation of $50 and wipe out a $10,000 debt."
At his graduation from medical school, Kevin Morton Jr. sat beside the woman who saved his life. It was nearly a decade since he was shot in an Arby’s parking lot, sustaining injuries so severe that the early prognosis gave him only a 10 percent chance of survival. But Dr. Dharti Sheth-Zelmanski, the surgeon on call in the trauma unit that night, didn’t let that happen. The care he received over many surgeries and his long recovery inspired Morton to evaluate what he would do with his second chance. The answer came naturally: He’d pay it forward by becoming a doctor himself. In 2012, he ... was accepted to Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. He chose to specialize in general surgery, the same as Sheth-Zelmanski. He did his student rotations at St. John’s Hospital in Detroit ... where he was once a patient. He’ll start his residency there in July — almost nine years to the day he was brought there as a shooting victim. On his graduation day earlier this month, Morton asked Sheth-Zelmanski to hood him, an honor given to a close family member or mentor when receiving an advanced degree. “There’s no greater joy than to realize what I do on a day-to-day basis can create such a change in somebody for the better,” she said. “I feel like I know that if anything is ever wrong with me, I know where I can go.” And that’s Morton’s goal: to be the kind of compassionate and engaged doctor that she was for him.
The worst drought in three decades has left almost 20 million Ethiopians - one-fifth of the population - desperately short of food. And yet the country’s mortality rate isn’t expected to increase: In other words, Ethiopians aren’t starving to death. I’ve studied famine and humanitarian relief for more than 30 years, and I wasn’t prepared for what I saw during a visit to Ethiopia last month. I saw imported wheat being brought to the smallest and most remote villages. Water was delivered to places where wells had run dry. Malnourished children were being treated in properly staffed clinics. Compare that to the aftermath of the 1984 drought, which killed at least 600,000 people, [and] caused the economy to shrink by nearly 14 percent. How did Ethiopia go from being the world’s symbol of mass famines to fending off starvation? Peace, greater transparency and prudent planning. Ethiopia’s success in averting another disaster is confirmation that famine is elective because, at its core, it is an artifact and a tool of political repression. After countries have passed a certain threshold of prosperity and development, peace, political liberalization and greater government accountability are the best safeguards against famine. So is the era of great famines finally over? Let’s just say it could be. Famine isn’t caused by overpopulation, and as Ethiopia’s experience shows, it’s not a necessary consequence of drought. Politics creates famine, and politics can stop it.
The teenage birth rate in the United States has hit an all-time low, according to a report this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says during the last 25 years, the teen birth rate has fallen from 62 births for every 1,000 teenage women to 24 per 1,000. The drop is steepest among minorities in the past decade, with pregnancies down 44 percent for black teens and down 51 percent among Hispanics. Dr. Wanda Barfield, the CDC’s director of the Division of Reproductive Health [explains this dramatic] decrease: "What we’re seeing is that community-based interventions appear to be effective in preventing teen births. We’re seeing declines in sexual activity among teens, as well as increases in the use of the most effective contraceptive methods available. Sexual health education plays an important role in the prevention of teen pregnancy. Even states that may have low rates of teen pregnancy may have areas where we’re seeing high rates of teen pregnancy within specific communities. So, as a result, it’s really important that we look locally, that we engage communities in teen pregnancy prevention."
48.1 million Americans have insecure access to food, including 32.8 million adults and 15.3 million children. Several restaurants ... are trying to win the war against hunger. For example, Rosa’s Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia, has a “pay-it-forward” concept allowing customers to feed local homeless people a slice of pizza for one dollar. Even Stevens, a new restaurant based in Salt Lake City, gives a sandwich to a local hungry person with every sandwich sold. According to their website, Even Stevens has donated 444,022 sandwiches so far. The founder of Even Stevens, Steve Down, is a serial entrepreneur. As the father of millennials who care deeply about social consciousness and giving, Down saw the opportunity to use his skills ... to turn the food service industry into a force for social good. The result is “a sandwich shop with a cause.” Even Stevens is growing rapidly, with ... seven current locations since the first opened in Salt Lake City in June, 2014. Down plans to have 20+ locations open by the end of 2016. The 10 year plan is to have 4,000 locations feeding over 1,000,000 people per day. To put these numbers in perspective, Subway has approximately 34,000 locations and Chipotle has approximately 2,000. Anyone inside the restaurant industry would consider the objectives of Even Stevens to be ludicrous. Yet, Down ... believes the results of Even Stevens speak for themselves, with each location currently opened achieving profitability within the first 30-60 days.
Back in 2005, Jameel McGee says he was minding his own business when a police officer accused him of - and arrested him for - dealing drugs. "It was all made up," said McGee. Of course, a lot of accused men make that claim, but not many arresting officers agree. "I falsified the report," former Benton Harbor police officer Andrew Collins admitted. "Basically, at the start of that day, I was going to make sure I had another drug arrest." And in the end, he put an innocent guy in jail. "I lost everything," McGee said. "My only goal was to seek him when I got home and to hurt him." Eventually, that crooked cop was caught, and served a year and a half for falsifying many police reports, planting drugs and stealing. Of course McGee was exonerated, but he still spent four years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. Today both men are back in Benton Harbor, which is a small town. Last year, by sheer coincidence, they both ended up at faith-based employment agency Mosaic, where they now work side by side in the same café. And it was in those cramped quarters that the bad cop and the wrongfully accused had no choice but to have it out." I said, 'Honestly, I have no explanation, all I can do is say I'm sorry,'" Collins explained. McGee says that was all it took. "That was pretty much what I needed to hear." Today they're not only cordial, they're friends. Such close friends, not long ago McGee actually told Collins he loved him. "And I just started weeping because he doesn't owe me that. I don't deserve that," Collins said.
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Scanning a prison menu is a bleak task. Common food items range from nutraloaf - a mishmash of ingredients baked into a tasteless beige block - to, rumor has it, road kill. The substandard quality of food at some correctional facilities has led to protests and hunger strikes. But some states, along with correctional authorities and prison activists, are discovering the value of feeding prisoners nutrient-rich food grown with their own hands. Prison vegetable gardens, where inmates plant and harvest fresh produce to feed the larger prison population, are on the rise in correctional facilities from New York to Oregon. In addition to being a cost-effective food source, the gardens are seen as a way to save money on healthcare for prisoners struggling with diabetes, hypertension, and other ailments. But the gardening itself provides opportunities for personal growth, as inmates learn how to plant, raise, and harvest crops. It also functions as a method of rehabilitation in what is often a deeply stressful environment. “Inmates are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment,” says Tonya Gushard, public information officer for the Oregon State Correctional Institution (OSCI) in Salem. The OSCI has run a garden program at its facility since 2008. Between 2012 and 2015, Oregon state prisoner-gardeners raised more than 600,000 pounds of produce for nearly 14,000 inmates. The potential savings for taxpayers in health costs from providing inmates with high-quality food cannot be overstated.
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Dr. Jim Withers used to dress like a homeless person. On purpose. Two to three nights a week, he rubbed dirt in his hair and muddied up his jeans and shirt before walking the dark streets of Pittsburgh. Withers wanted to connect with those who had been excluded from his care. "I was actually really shocked how ill people were on the street," he said. "Young, old, people with mental illness, runaway kids, women (who) fled domestic violence, veterans. And they all have their own story." Homelessness costs the medical system a lot of money. Individuals often end up in emergency rooms, and stay there longer, because their illnesses go untreated and can lead to complications. For 23 years, Withers has been treating the homeless - under bridges, in alleys and along riverbanks. "We realized that ... we could make 'house calls,'" he said. It's something that Withers' father, a rural doctor, often did. Withers' one-man mission became a citywide program called Operation Safety Net. Since 1992, the group has reached more than 10,000 individuals and helped more than 1,200 of them transition into housing. In addition to street rounds, the program has a mobile van, drop-in centers and a primary health clinic, all where the homeless can access medical care. In the way I'd like to see things, every person who is still on the streets will have medical care that comes directly to them and says, "You matter." Having street medicine in [the] community transforms us. We begin to see that we're all in this together.
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Sweden is so good at recycling that, for several years, it has imported rubbish from other countries to keep its recycling plants going. Less than 1 per cent of Swedish household waste was sent to landfill last year or any year since 2011. Sweden was one of the first countries to implement a heavy tax on fossil fuels in 1991 and now sources almost half its electricity from renewables. Over time, Sweden has implemented a cohesive national recycling policy so that even though private companies undertake most of the business of importing and burning waste, the energy goes into a national heating network to heat homes through the freezing Swedish winter. “That’s a key reason that we have this district network, so we can make use of the heating from the waste plants. We use [the waste] as a substitute for fossil fuel,” ... says Anna-Carin Gripwall, director of communications for the Swedish Waste Management’s recycling association. The aim in Sweden is still to stop people sending waste to recycling in the first place. A national campaign ... has for several years promoted the notion that there is much to be gained through repairing, sharing and reusing. She describes Sweden’s policy of importing waste to recycle from other countries as a temporary situation. “There’s a ban on landfill in EU countries, so instead of paying the fine they send it to us as a service. They should and will build their own plants, to reduce their own waste, as we are working hard to do in Sweden,” Ms Gripwall says.
What started as a small gesture, of feeding underprivileged children, by 31-year-old Darshan and his friends has turned into a full-blown movement. An email he shot off to a restaurant, after being deeply disappointed with the service he got there, just changed the course of Darshan’s life. When the restaurant management apologised for the poor service and offered to give him free food, Darshan refused the offer and asked them to feed underprivileged children instead. The restaurant went ahead with his suggestion, and after feeding the children, sent pictures to Darshan. “This is the moment that changed me forever. The smile on the faces of those children left me touched. And that is when I decided to do something about it,” he says. Thus, the BhookMitao campaign was born. On June 7, 2015, Darshan and his friends went and fed a couple of children in a slum in Vadodara, Gujarat. Today, the BhookMitao movement provides nutritious lunch to as many as 1,200 children in Vadodara. As the volunteer network grows, Darshan has divided it into groups. Each group takes up a particular spot in the city. They coordinate with those who want to donate, procure the raw materials, and cook the meals in their own kitchens. The programme usually begins ... with some fun activities for the kids. They screen movies on education or make them do some craft work etc., and then ... volunteers and children eat the same food together. The movement ... has spread, [and] the number of volunteers has grown from six to over 600.
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