Inspirational News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on inspiration
Zozh Is A Russian neologism, born of an acronym for a healthy lifestyle. It is part of a social transformation that has helped banish Russia’s demons. As exercise and smoothies have replaced despair and alcohol, the suicide rate in Russia has crashed. And this trend is not unique to Russia. Globally, the rate has fallen by 38% from its peak in 1994. As a result, over 4m lives have been saved—more than four times as many people as were killed in combat over the period. The decline has happened at different rates and different times in different parts of the world. America is the big exception. Until the turn of the century the rate there dropped along with those in other rich countries. But since then, it has risen by 18% to 12.8. The declines in those other big countries, however, far outweigh the rise in America. One big reason seems to be an improvement in the lot of Asian women. Among Chinese women in their 20s, the rate has dropped by nine-tenths since the mid-1990s; that group accounts for around half a million of those 4m lives saved. Greater social freedom is one of the reasons, suggests Jing Jun, a professor at Tsinghua University. There may be something similar going on in India. “Young women face particularly challenging gender norms in India,” says Vikram Patel of the Harvard Medical School. That is changing. Rates among young women have fallen faster than among any other group since 1990; Mr Patel believes they will continue to improve as social liberalisation continues.
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A gunman stormed the Tree of Life Synagogue, killing 11 people in what the ADL called the deadliest attack ever on Jews in the United States. The horrific, hate-filled minutes were a raw manifestation of anger, division and anti-Semitism. But the response has been the opposite as faiths and cultures came together in grief and solidarity. Crowdfunding campaign "Muslims Unite for Pittsburgh Synagogue" has raised more than $200,000 to help the shooting victims. "We wish to respond to evil with good, as our faith instructs us, and send a powerful message of compassion through action," the donation page says. The campaign is organized by the Muslim-American non-profits CelebrateMercy and MPower Change. It's hosted by LaunchGood, an online crowdfunding platform for the Muslim community. The campaign page invites all faiths to contribute, and the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh will work directly with the Tree of Life Synagogue to distribute the funds to the injured victims and grieving families. "The Pittsburgh community is our family; what happens to one of us, is felt by us all," The Islamic Center of Pittsburgh said in a statement. Shay Khatiri, an Iranian immigrant studying in Washington DC, was also inspired to help. He launched the Tree of Life Synagogue Victims campaign on GoFundMe on Saturday with a goal of $50,000. Khatiri has been inspired by the outpouring of support. More than 10 thousand people have donated, raising over $800,000.
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When police found the unconscious man in a Southern California Motel 6, the IDs on him said he was Michael Thomas Boatwright from Florida. But when the man awoke at Desert Regional Medical Center a few days later, he said he'd never heard of Boatwright. He didn't recall serving in the U.S. Navy. Or of being born in Florida. And he didn't speak a word of English. The man said his name was Johan Ek. And he said it in Swedish. Today, the 61-year-old man says he has come to terms with the name "Michael Boatwright," but only because doctors told him he should. He still feels like Johan Ek from Sweden. And he can't explain why. Everything Boatwright knows about his life before February 28 he knows because his social worker [Lisa Hunt-Vasquez] told him or because he read it on websites. He told CNN he learned that in 1987 he operated a consulting company called Kultur Konsult Nykoping. That is somewhat of a Swedish connection. He doesn't have any independent knowledge of his life before he woke up in the hospital. He still feels isolated in the hospital, so Hunt-Vasquez encouraged him to reach out to members of the local Swedish-American community. "They said he was getting depressed because he wasn't able to communicate," said Linda Kosvic, chairman of the Vasa Order of America chapter in San Jacinto, California. "We've been trying to provide him support and make him feel more comfortable." Members visit him in the hospital, bringing him Swedish foods.
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The turnoff to Norway’s newest prison was marked by a modest sign. There were no signs warning against picking up hitchhikers, no visible fences. Halden Fengsel ... is often called the world’s most humane maximum-security prison. To anyone familiar with the American correctional system, Halden seems alien. Its modern, cheerful and well-appointed facilities, the relative freedom of movement it offers, its quiet and peaceful atmosphere — these qualities are so out of sync with the forms of imprisonment found in the United States that you could be forgiven for doubting whether Halden is a prison at all. It is, of course, but it is also ... the physical expression of an entire national philosophy about the relative merits of punishment and forgiveness. The treatment of inmates at Halden is wholly focused on helping to prepare them for a life after they get out. Not only is there no death penalty in Norway; there are no life sentences. Norwegian Correctional Service ... works with other government agencies to secure a home, a job and access to a supportive social network for each inmate before release; Norway’s social safety net also provides health care, education and a pension to all citizens. If inmates are having problems with one another, an officer or prison chaplain brings them together for a mediation session that continues until they have agreed to maintain peace and have shaken hands. Even members of rival gangs agree not to fight inside.
Note: Watch a great, short video on this model prison.
The most impressive performance at a Toronto marathon Sunday was turned in by the man who came in last place - and is 100 years old. Fauja Singh completed the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in approximately eight hours, making him the oldest person ever to finish one of the 26.2-mile races. It was the eighth marathon for Singh, who was born India in 1911 and did not start running marathons until he was 89, after he moved to England following the death of his wife and son. He says not smoking or drinking alcohol throughout his life, combined with a vegetarian diet and up to 10 miles of walking or running per day are the secrets to his health. The Association of Road Racing Statistician already had Singh as the oldest person to complete a marathon, for one he ran seven years ago. But the Guinness Book of World Records recognized Dimitrion Yordanidis, 98, who ran in Athens in 1976. Singh recently set eight world records for his age group in one day at a special invitational meet in Toronto. He ran the 100 meters in 23.14, 200 meters in 52.23, the 400 meters in 2:13.48, the 800 meters in 5:32.18, the 1500 meters in 11:27.81, the mile in 11:53.45, the 3000 meters in 24:52.47 and the 5000 meters in 49:57.39. "I have said it before: that I will carry on running, as it is keeping me alive," Singh told the marathon website.
Note: Does anyone still believe vegetarianism can't be healthy?
Carly Fleischmann has severe autism and is unable to speak a word. But ... this 13-year-old has made a remarkable breakthrough. Two years ago, working with pictures and symbols on a computer keyboard, she started typing and spelling out words. The computer became her voice. "All of a sudden these words started to pour out of her, and it was an exciting moment because we didn't realize she had all these words," said speech pathologist Barbara Nash. Then Carly began opening up, describing what it was like to have autism. Carly writes about her frustrations with her siblings, how she understands their jokes and asks when can she go on a date. "We were stunned," Carly's father Arthur Fleischmann said. "We realized inside was an articulate, intelligent, emotive person that we had never met. This ... opened up a whole new way of looking at her." This is what Carly wants people to know about autism. "It is hard to be autistic because no one understands me. People look at me and assume I am dumb because I can't talk or I act differently than them. I think people get scared with things that look or seem different than them." Carly had another message for people who don't understand autism. "Autism is hard because you want to act one way, but you can't always do that. It's sad that sometimes people don't know that sometimes I can't stop myself and they get mad at me. If I could tell people one thing about autism it would be that I don't want to be this way. But I am, so don't be mad. Be understanding."
Somewhere in the vast ocean, a little boat covered in solar panels is doing something extraordinary: making its own hydrogen fuel from the seawater underneath it. The Energy Observer uses a patchwork of different cutting-edge technologies to generate enough energy to power nine homes each day. During the day, 200 square meters of solar panels charge up the boat's lithium ion batteries. Any extra energy is stored as hydrogen, thanks to a special fuel cell that goes by the name Rex H2 (short for Range Extender H2). The Rex H2 was made by Toyota, using components from Toyota's hydrogen-powered Mirai vehicle line. The fuel cell brings in seawater, removes the salt and then separates the H from the pure H20 with electricity. When the Energy Observer began its journey in 2017, it could only produce hydrogen while stopped. That changed in a big way with the addition of the Oceanwings, 12-meter sails that improved the efficiency of the Energy Observer from 18% to 42%, to the point where it can now produce hydrogen even while sailing. One of the main benefits of hydrogen is its ability to store more more electricity by weight than its lithium ion competition. This benefit is especially useful at sea. Because fossil fuels have had more than a century's head start, we now find ourselves far beyond the point of any one technology being a silver bullet for our growing energy needs. A sustainable future will require a patchwork of new technologies, like the one powering the Energy Observer.
Falling fertility rates mean nearly every country could have shrinking populations by the end of the century. And 23 nations - including Spain and Japan - are expected to see their populations halve by 2100. Countries will also age dramatically, with as many people turning 80 as there are being born. What is going on? The fertility rate - the average number of children a woman gives birth to - is falling. If the number falls below approximately 2.1, then the size of the population starts to fall. In 1950, women were having an average of 4.7 children in their lifetime. Researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation showed the global fertility rate nearly halved to 2.4 in 2017 - and their study, published in the Lancet, projects it will fall below 1.7 by 2100. As a result, the researchers expect the number of people on the planet to peak at 9.7 billion around 2064, before falling down to 8.8 billion by the end of the century. It is being driven by more women in education and work, as well as greater access to contraception, leading to women choosing to have fewer children. In many ways, falling fertility rates are a success story. A smaller population would reduce carbon emissions as well as deforestation for farmland. Says Prof [Christopher] Murray ... "It will create enormous social change."
Note: The full article at the link above largely paints decreasing population as a problem. One of the greatest fears for many years was that global overpopulation would destroy our planet. Why is the news that global population will decline being spun here as a problem? Why not celebrate this good news? Could it be that the media profits from selling fear? For more on this great shift, see this inspiring information.
In the depths of the ocean, and out of sight for most of us, there's a quiet miracle happening. Many humpback whale populations, previously devastated by commercial whaling, are making a comeback. A recent study on humpbacks that breed off the coast of Brazil and call Antarctic waters home during the summer has shown that these whales can now be found in the sort of numbers seen before the days of whaling. Records suggest that in the 1830s there were around 27,000 whales but, after heavy hunting, by the mid-1950s only 450 remained. It is reassuring to see what happens when we leave nature to follow its course. The ban of commercial whaling in 1986 led to a strong recovery and now this population is thought to be around 93% of its original size. By taking away the threat of hunting, and having safe spaces to survive and thrive, humpback numbers in many areas have recovered. This is great news for the whales, of course, but also for the climate. Keeping carbon out of the atmosphere is key to tackling the climate crisis and the contribution that a single whale can make is something we need to take seriously. On average a single whale stores around 33 tonnes of CO2. If we consider only the Antarctic humpback whales that breed in Brazil, protecting this population alone has resulted in 813,780 tonnes of CO2 being stored in the deep sea. That's around twice the yearly CO2 emissions of a small country like Bermuda or Belize, according to 2018 emissions data.
Coronavirus has hit companies hard and fast over the past several weeks — prompting calls for industry bailouts and dramatic measures to cut costs. Among the steps some major corporations are taking to mitigate the consequences of the outbreak are pay cuts to CEOs and other top executives. Executive pay cuts alone aren't likely to have a significant impact on companies' bottom lines or provide a boost to lower-paid employees further down the org chart. But they send an important message. Airlines and travel companies, one of the industries hit hardest by the outbreak early on, were among the first to take such a step, including Delta (DAL), Alaska (ALK), United Airlines (UAL) and others, which all announced CEO pay cuts, and other executive compensation reductions. Marriott (MAR), the world's largest hotel chain, said last week that CEO Arne Sorenson will not take home any salary for the rest of the year, and the rest of the executive team will take a 50% pay cut. The announcement came at the same time that the company said it would begin furloughing what could be tens of thousands of hotel workers, from housekeepers to general managers. On Wednesday, Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS) also announced its CEO Ed Stack and President Lauren Hobart will forgo their salaries, except for an amount covering company-provided benefits. The company's other named executive officers will take a 50% reduction in base salary. Other companies, including Ford (F), GE (GESLX) and Lyft (LYFT) have taken similar steps.
While the ozone hole over Antarctica typically grows in September and October, scientists observed the smallest ozone hole since they first began observing it in 1982, according to a joint release by NASA and NOAA. Unusual weather patterns in the upper atmosphere limited depletion of ozone, the layer in our atmosphere that acts like sunscreen and protects us from ultraviolet radiation. On September 8, the ozone hole reached a peak of 6.3 million square miles and then shrank to less than 3.9 million square miles, according to the report. Usually, the hole would grow to reach 8 million square miles. The annual ozone hole forms when rays from the sun interact with the ozone and man-made compounds such as chlorine and bromine to deplete the ozone. This occurs during late winter in the Southern Hemisphere. Cloud particles in the cold stratosphere lead to reactions that destroy ozone molecules, which are made of three oxygen atoms. But when temperatures are warmer, these clouds don't form, which limits ozone destruction. This is only the third time in 40 years when warm temperatures caused by weather systems have actually helped limit the ozone hole. This also occurred in 1988 and 2002. But the scientists say there is no connection they've identified to link the patterns with climate change. The ozone layer over the Antarctic is expected to recover by 2070 as compounds used as coolants, called chlorofluorocarbons, decline. They were regulated 32 years ago by the Montreal Protocol.
According to FDA estimates, the United States wastes 30 to 40% of its food. That's hard to swallow when you consider that one in 10 US households faced food insecurity in 2018. That means roughly 14 million families are struggling to put meals on the table while approximately 30 million tons of food are trashed. For 29 years Forgotten Harvest, a nonprofit in Detroit, has been rescuing food destined for landfills and redirecting it to the hungry. Forgotten Harvest CEO Kirk Mayes says it's taken that long to develop the logistics for his program, which now rescues and delivers 130,000 pounds of food a day. "This operation is set up so that our fleet of about 27 trucks and our drivers can leave our warehouse in the morning and go to about 12 to 14 different stops ... for our donations." Mayes says. Drivers collect food from local bakers and butchers and national chains, he says. "And then these drivers redistribute the food to three to four community partners on a daily basis." A rotating army of 16,000 volunteers makes this daily event happen. "At our warehouse, our volunteers are working with commodities that are coming off of our farm and from other commodity partners like the food manufacturers and other farms and donations," Mayes says. "All this (food) is inspected, sorted and set to go out." The result? Last year Forgotten Harvest redistributed 41 million pounds of food, Mayes says. That's 41 million pounds that filled stomachs instead of landfills.
Child sexual abuse material has exploded since the dawn of the internet era, while child sex trafficking also has increased as a result of being made easier for traffickers. The number of child sexual abuse files exchanged online grew from 450,000 in 2004 to 25 million in 2015, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore cofounded Thorn to combat this problem. The non-profit’s mission is to build technology to defend children from sexual abuse online by eliminating all child sexual abuse material from the internet. Thorn partners across the tech industry, government and NGOs and leverages technology to combat predatory behavior, rescue victims, and protect vulnerable children. The non-profit’s products are used today in 35 countries and have helped identify more than 30,000 victims of abuse, 10,000 of whom were children. Recently, Thorn was one of eight recipients to share in an over $280 million grant from The Audacious Project by TED. As CEO of Thorn, Julie Cordua manages the Thorn Technology Task Force, the largest organization of its kind, uniting technology companies committed to fighting child exploitation. “We saw how technology was being used to exploit our children through child sex trafficking, the spread of child sexual abuse material, and online grooming and coercion. Yet there was no concentrated effort to use technology to fight back and stop this abuse,” Cordua says.
19-year-old Gabe Adams was born with Hanhart syndrome, a rare medical condition characterised by underdeveloped limbs, mouth and jaw. In Gabe’s case, none of his limbs grew at all. At school Gabe tried out for the dance team as a way of making friends – discovering he could use his limbless body to his advantage in the art of break dancing. After graduating from high school he has continued to prove his independence, moving out of the family home and embarking on a career as a motivational speaker. From a young age Gabe started using a wheelchair but his parents were determined that their son would be as independent as possible. At school Gabe would wedge a pencil or pen between his shoulder and cheek to write in class. ‘The day of the dance tryouts they called us all in a line and they said, “okay dancer remember to full out extensions and point your toes”. What am I gonna point? My nose!? ‘I am just standing there in front of the judges and then I see girls do the spins and I am like, “I can do that”, so I do the spins. ‘The next day at school and I hear two girls talking behind me and they say: “They are only gonna put him on the stage because he is handicapped’”and that crushed me. ‘I ran to the dance coach and I said “please do not put me on the team because you feel sorry for me”, and she said: “I would not put you or anybody else on the team because I felt sorry for them, you get a spot on this team because you deserved it”. ‘And that was just a huge opening moment for me.’
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One day, during her usual chat with her eight-year-old son about school, Tracey Cooney got an answer she didn't expect. "There was nobody to play with. Everyone was playing in their own little groups," he confided. She was surprised because he was usually outgoing and confident. Cooney felt a little upset, but remembered something she had seen on social media and wondered if it could help children in his situation. It's called a Buddy Bench. The idea is simple - if a child feels lonely, they can go to the bench as a signal that they need someone to play with. Another child will see them, go and talk to them and include them in their games. So Cooney asked other parents and the head teacher at Castlemartyr National School in Cork, Ireland, whether they would be interested in getting one - their answer was, "Yes." "We use the bench as a reminder for children of things like communication, mutual support and opening up about feelings," says Judith Ashton, a psychotherapist and co-founder of ... Buddy Bench Ireland. Apart from reducing social isolation and improving mental wellbeing, the hope is that the benches can tackle another problem: bullying. But do children actually use the bench? "They don't see it as stigmatised," says Sinead McGilloway ... who led a study of 117 pupils at three schools which have benches. Forty per cent of the children she questioned said they had used the bench, and 90% said if they saw someone else sitting on it they would talk to them.
Teenagers in Kenya and Mexico are more optimistic about their future than those in France and Sweden, according to polling across 15 countries, which found young people in developing nations have more positive outlooks. The survey, conducted by Ipsos ... found young people across all countries were more optimistic than adults, though there was widespread dissatisfaction with politicians. More than nine in 10 teenagers in Kenya, Mexico, China, Nigeria and India reported feeling positive about their future. Their responses contrasted with those of young people in France and Sweden, the most pessimistic of countries surveyed. Dr Alex Awiti, from Aga Khan University, who has researched youth attitudes across east Africa, said young people in the region are optimistic because they know that their voices count. “If young people want to mobilise, all the governments in east Africa could be toppled within a matter of days,” he said. “What is impressive is young people across east Africa really know what they want.” Awiti pointed to the large numbers of youth-led organisations in countries such as Kenya, where under-35s make up about 80% of the population. Young people are still, however, under-represented in politics.
New research shows the meditative exercise improves mental health, reduces stress and can prevent reoffending. The power of yoga to change [a prisoner's] life is backed by two Swedish studies that found it may reduce reoffending. The new study, led by Professor Nóra Kerekes at University West, Trollhätten, in Sweden, and published last week in Frontiers in Psychiatry, found that 10 weeks of regular yoga can lead to a significant reduction in obsessive-compulsive and paranoid thinking, which in turn, say researchers, can make reoffending less likely. This effect is specific to yoga, and not to exercise in general, they found. It can also lead to a decrease in “somaticisation” (mental distress leading to physical symptoms such as breathing problems, heart pains and stomach upsets). The study of 152 volunteers in nine medium- and high-security prisons in Sweden builds on a 2017 study of the same volunteers that showed that yoga improved stress levels, concentration, sleep quality, psychological and emotional wellbeing, as well as reducing aggression and antisocial behaviour. A Prison Service spokeswoman says: “Research shows activities like this can make prisoners less likely to reoffend, keeping the public safer.” She was unable to explain why, given this evidence, it wasn’t government policy to make yoga available to all prisoners, but said it was up to individual prison governors to decide which activities to offer.
What’s good news for those concerned with climate change, and bad news for electric utilities? That’s grid parity. It exists when an alternative energy source generates electricity at a cost matching the price of power from the electric grid. As grid parity becomes increasingly common, renewable energy could transform our world and slow the effects of climate change. Advances in solar panels and battery storage will make it more realistic for consumers to dump their electric utility, and power their homes through solar energy. A 2013 Deutsche Bank report said that 10 states are currently at grid parity: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Vermont. Germany, Spain, Portugal and Australia have reached grid parity. This shift has benefited from a dramatic drop in the price of solar panels, which dropped 97.2 percent from 1975 to 2012. As solar energy gets cheaper, traditional electric utilities are doing the opposite. The cost of maintaining the electric grid has gotten more expensive, but reliability hasn’t improved. If customers leave electric utilities, it starts a downward spiral. Fewer customers will mean higher rates, which encourages remaining customers to jump ship for a solar-battery system. Energy upstarts are led by forward thinkers with disruptive track records and eyes on society’s big problems.
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Gymnast Johanna Quaas, 86, displays a grace and agility that belies her years as she takes to the parallel bars in a pre-Olympics German gymnastics event. Quaas performed an impressive parallel bar and floor demonstration after finals concluded at Germany's Cottbus Challenger Cup. Displaying balance, strength and flexibility that would be the envy of someone a quarter her age, Quaas's floor routine included a handstand forward roll, cartwheel, backward roll and headstand while on the bars she performed a full planche, holding her body taught and parallel to the ground. A multiple time senior champion of artistic gymnastics in Germany, Quaas, from Halle in Saxony only took up gymnastics when she was 30, putting paid to the belief that the sport is the preserve of the young.
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The Better Angels of Our Nature takes a thesis I would love to believe; indeed, have casually believed for most of my life. It is that humans have grown less horrible with time. The 20th century, the century of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, of Mao in China and Mobutu in the Congo, was appalling, but the number of deaths by violence as a proportion of the total population remained modest compared with the ferocious cruelties of the wars of religion in the 17th century. The modern nation state – the Leviathan of the philosopher Hobbes – has had a civilising effect almost everywhere. Education has helped, as has the empowerment of women, and the idea, too, of human rights. Within the epic sweep of history from ice age hunter gatherers to modern suburban householders, [author Steven] Pinker examines both the big picture and the fine detail, with surprises on every page. Overall ... he finds examples of falling murder rates everywhere (including among male English aristocrats 1330-1829). Murder rates as a percentage of population were far higher among the supposedly peace-loving and cooperative hunter-gatherer communities – the Inuit of the Arctic, for instance, the !Kung of the Kalahari and the Semai of Malaysia – than in the trigger-happy US in its most violent decade. Unexpectedly, deaths in warfare, once again as a percentage of total population, were far higher among the Gran Valley Dani of New Guinea, or in Fiji in the 1860s, than in Germany in the whole of the 20th century.
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