Inspirational News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on inspiration
In Italy, where the coronavirus has shuttered more than 2 million businesses and left 1 in every 2 workers without income, some Italians are putting a new twist on an old custom to help the needy and restart the economy. In Rome, the Piazza San Giovanni della Malva used to echo with the noise of crowded cafes and restaurants. Now, the only business open is a grocery shop, Er Cimotto. It's so small that social distancing forces customers to order through the window. On a recent morning, a shopper asks that 10 euros ($10.83) be added to her bill for what's called la spesa sospesa, "suspended shopping." The concept derives from the century-old Neapolitan tradition of "suspended coffee" — when a customer in a cafe pays in advance for someone who can't afford it. Shop owner Michela Buccilli says suspended coffee has been replaced with suspended grocery shopping. "The customer who has something leaves something for those who don't," she says. The store usually doubles the amount donated and provides food that does not spoil fast — such as pasta and canned goods — to a local aid group, the Sant'Egidio Community, that distributes it to the needy. Buccilli says one customer wanted specifically to donate a kilo of oranges to a needy family, so Buccilli sent the aid group a crate of oranges. Suspended shopping is an act of charity in which the donor doesn't show off and the recipient doesn't have to show gratitude. With Italy's economy in suspension, the custom is being broadened.
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A New York City landlord is giving his 200 tenants one less thing to worry about amid the coronavirus pandemic as he waived rent for the month of April. "I want everybody to be healthy. That's the whole thing," Mario Salerno told NBC New York. Salerno, 59, owns roughly 80 apartments across Williamsburg and Greenpoint, Brooklyn. He said after some of his tenants told him that they were worried about paying rent because they lost their jobs due to the pandemic, he decided to take action. On March 30, he posted a notice on the front doors of all of his buildings announcing, "Due to the recent pandemic of Coronavirus COVID-19 affecting all of us, please note I am waiving rent for the month for April." One of his tenants said she's been out of work since she was ordered to shut down her hair salon. "He's Superman. He's a wonderful man," Kaitlyn Guteski told NBC New York. "It's a game-changer." Salerno said he knows he will take a big hit this month, but isn't worried. "For me, it was more important for people's health and worrying about who could put food on whose table," he told the outlet. "I say don't worry about paying me, worry about your neighbor and worry about your family." He said he hopes other landlords will do the same, and some have. Nathan Nichols, who owns two units in Portland, Maine, told his tenants ... that they don't have to worry about paying the rent for April. In San Diego, California, Jeff Larabee's 18 tenants were told that they would not have to pay rent for the next three months.
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Here's a list of some of the good things that happened this year. The Indian Navy welcomed its first-ever woman pilot. People around the world united to save a 2-year-old's life. Austria named its first female chancellor. The European Commission elected its first female President. Women now lead five of the major parties in Finland's parliament. For the first time, all major pageants were won by women of color. Macedonia was renamed, bringing an end to a decades-long dispute with Greece. President Donald Trump made history as the first sitting US leader to set foot in North Korea. Pope Francis became the first pontiff to visit an Arab Gulf state. The 116th Congress became the most diverse in US history. Chicago elected its first African-American female mayor. Animal cruelty is officially a federal felony. California is now the first state to offer health insurance to some undocumented immigrants. Montgomery, Alabama, elected its first black mayor in 200 years. New York banned the so-called gay and trans "panic" defense. The largest mass commutation in US history took place. The Little Shell Tribe became the newest Native American tribe to receive federal recognition. Indonesia raised [the] minimum age for brides to end child marriage. Saudi Arabian women are finally allowed to travel independently. Taiwan became the first place in Asia to pass a same-sex marriage legislation. Botswana ruled to decriminalize consensual same-sex relations. Northern Ireland legalized same-sex marriage.
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Antong Lucky and Def D had nearly identical childhoods: both were raised in underprivileged neighborhoods in Dallas, both experienced gang violence at an early age, and both had family members who were in gangs. There was, however, one notable difference: they were raised one mile apart, in different neighborhoods. This mile meant the difference between friend and foe: Antong was in the Bloods’ territory, and Def D was in the Crips’. In prison, both came to recognize the devastation that gang violence was wreaking on young people and their families. After both men were released from prison, the former enemies met together to create OGU (Original Gangsters United), an organization that tries to help young people in Dallas from falling into the same cycle of gang violence that Antong and Def D experienced growing up. OGU, which now has more mentors than the original duo, spend their days hanging out with Dallas youth, looking for kids at risk of gang violence — or, rather, those most in need of a positive relationship in their lives. Just this year, OGU mentors have reached 470 youth. There are many organizations that try to help at-risk teenagers escape gang violence, but what makes OGU so unique is the relationship that Antong and Def D share. They’re a real-life example of how two people from different neighborhoods can forge a meaningful relationship and use their common experiences to do good for others.
Four times a year, Northview Church asks its members to chip in to a Dollar Club as an object lesson in the power of community. This weekend the Dollar Club also delivered a lesson in the wacky world of medical billing. Using an organization called RIP Medical Debt, the church was able to leverage $20,000 in donations to wipe out $2 million of unpaid medical bills for 2,500 Hoosier families. Founded five years ago, the New York-based organization has eliminated more than $675 million in medical debt for more than 200,000 people. RIP Medical Debt targets families most in need, those who are twice the federal poverty level or who carry debts that are 5% or more of their annual income. The process works in large part because of the structure of medical debt, experts say. “Medical debt has fairly low recovery rates and the amount of money that collectors are willing to sell this debt for is pennies on the dollar,” said Neale Mahoney, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago. The high cost of health care has led to rampant medical debt. About 43 million Americans owe about $75 billion in medical debt, according to RIP Medical Debt, and medical debt plays a role in more than 60 percent of all bankruptcies. As a member of Northview Church, Lisa Sole has been on both the giving and receiving side of the Dollar Club. Sole, now 53, never hesitated to donate when asked. Having gone through a medical crisis herself, Sole said she can only imagine what erasing someone’s medical debt could mean.
Heart attack prevention and outcomes have dramatically improved for American adults in the past two decades, according to a Yale study in JAMA Network Open. Compared to the mid-1990s, Americans today are less likely to have heart attacks and also less likely to die from them, said the researchers. Tracking more than four million Medicare patients between 1995 and 2014, this is the largest and most comprehensive study of heart attacks in the United States to date. Its two key findings are that hospitalizations for heart attacks have declined by 38%, and the 30-day mortality rate for heart attacks is at an all-time low of 12%, down by more than a third since 1995. In the words of Dr. Harlan Krumholz, lead author and Yale cardiologist, these gains are “remarkable.” The Yale cardiologist also believes these gains are no accident. Krumholz explained that the last 20 years have been marked by national efforts to prevent heart attacks and improve care for those who suffer them. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the American College of Cardiology, and the American Heart Association — along with other organizations and “legions of researchers and clinicians and public health experts” — have focused on reducing risk by promoting healthy lifestyles, addressing risk factors, and improving the quality of care, the researchers noted.
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The number of girls undergoing female genital mutilation has fallen dramatically in east Africa over the past two decades, according to a study published in BMJ Global Health. The study, which looked at rates of FGM among girls aged 14 and under, suggests that prevalence in east Africa has dropped from 71.4% in 1995, to 8% in 2016. The reported falls in the rates of FGM are far greater than previous studies have suggested. The rates of FGM practised on children have fallen in north Africa, from 57.7% in 1990 to 14.1% in 2015. In west Africa, prevalence is also reported to have decreased from 73.6% in 1996 to 25.4% in 2017. The study aimed to assess if FGM awareness campaigns targeted at mothers had been successful. Unlike many other studies, older teenagers and adult women – who tend to have higher rates of FGM – were not included. The research developed estimates by pooling and comparing FGM data by proportion across countries and regions. The report did not examine the reasons why FGM rates had fallen, but said it was likely to have been driven by policy changes, national and international investment. National laws banning FGM have been introduced in 22 out of 28 practising African countries, according to the campaign group 28 Too Many. The report concluded that if the goal of eliminating FGM was to be reached, further efforts were urgently needed, including working with religious and community leaders, youth and health workers.
A young Dutch fashion designer just out of school in 2014, [Bas] Timmer was embarking on a promising direction as a cold weather-gear specialist when he stumbled over a homeless man one cold night. He thought about giving the man one of his signature fashion hoodies, butĂ˘â‚Źâ€ťto his lasting shameĂ˘â‚Źâ€ťpaused for fear of diminishing his brand. A few months later a friendĂ˘â‚Źâ„˘s father, also homeless, died of hypothermia. Ă˘â‚ŹĹ’I felt guilty,Ă˘â‚ŹĹĄ says Timmer. Ă˘â‚ŹĹ’I had the opportunity to help, and I did nothing.Ă˘â‚ŹĹĄ To make up for it, he dedicated his brand to helping others. He designed around the requirements for life on the streets: waterproof, warm, portable and good for sleeping. Part tent and part parka, TimmerĂ˘â‚Źâ„˘s Ă˘â‚ŹĹ’sheltersuitĂ˘â‚ŹĹĄ featured a detachable sleeping bag that could be zipped off and easily stored during the day. He presented his mashup to a local homeless man, who was enchanted. Ă˘â‚ŹĹ’He said, Ă˘â‚ŹÂI have two friends, can I share my jacket with them?Ă˘â‚Źâ„˘ And I said Ă˘â‚ŹÂno, this one is yours. Let me see if I can make two more.Ă˘â‚Źâ„˘ And thatĂ˘â‚Źâ„˘s when the whole Sheltersuit idea started.Ă˘â‚ŹĹĄ Six years later, Timmer, 30, is still handing out Sheltersuits. So far he has distributed 12,500 to homeless people in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, the U.S. and to refugees in Greece. He has inserted Velcro closures at the foot of the sleeping bags so that wearers have more freedom for their feet. The suits are made out of donated and upcycled materials. Manufacturing costs are covered by donations.
Air pollution in London has plunged since Sadiq Khan became mayor, with a 94% reduction in the number of people living in areas with illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide. The number of schools in such areas has fallen by 97%, from 455 in 2016 to 14 in 2019. Experts described the reductions as dramatic and said they showed the air pollution crisis was not intractable. More than 9,000 people in the capital were dying early each year due to dirty air in 2015. The report from the mayor of London, reviewed by scientists, shows that more than 2 million people in the capital lived with polluted air in 2016, but this fell to 119,000 in 2019. The report, which does not include the further falls in pollution seen after the Covid-19 lockdown began in March, shows levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) by roads in central London fell by 44% between early 2017 and early 2020. The pollution cuts have been achieved by charges that have deterred dirty vehicles from entering the city centre and have driven up the use of cleaner vehicles. Putting low-emission buses on the dirtiest routes, ending the licensing of new diesel taxis and extending the amount of protected space for cycling have also contributed. Prof Stephen Holgate, a special adviser on air quality to the Royal College of Physicians, said: “Air pollution is a scourge on society. What the mayor of London has shown in his first term is that major reductions in toxic pollutants can be achieved and that businesses and the public are willing to make the necessary changes to deliver this.”
Harriette Thompson, the irrepressible nonagenarian who in 2015 became the oldest woman to finish a marathon, died Monday in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was 94. A two-time cancer survivor, Thompson was a regular at the San Diego Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon, running with Team in Training for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She started running the marathon in San Diego in 1999, and ran the race every year through 2015, except for 2003, when she was undergoing treatment for cancer. She raised more than $115,000 for cancer research through her efforts. In 2015, at 92 years and 93 days, she finished the marathon in 7:24:36, breaking the record for oldest woman to run a marathon previously held by Gladys Burrill, who at 92 years and 19 days ran 9:53 at the Honolulu Marathon in 2010. Thompson was slowed by many admirers who sought pictures with her during races. “Since I’m so old, everybody wants to have their picture taken with me,” Thompson told Runner’s World in 2015. “Brenny says, ‘Don’t stop her, just take a selfie,’ rather than stop and take pictures all the time, because I’d never get to the end. But it’s funny, all you need to do is get to be 90-something and you get lots of attention.” In June, at age 94, Thompson completed the half marathon at San Diego in 3:42:56, also a record for oldest woman to complete the 13.1-mile distance. “I never thought of myself as an athlete, but I feel like running is just something we all do naturally,” Thompson said.
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When Encinitas, Calif., teenager Ariella Pacheco was a little girl, her parents let her choose from a catalog the American Girl doll that most appealed to her. She picked the one with the hair color and style that matched her own. But what about children with rare medical conditions who don’t look like anyone else, including the mass-produced dolls on store shelves? Pacheco wanted to give these children the same gift she got as a child. So, over the past several months, she has designed and sewn cloth dolls for four local youth. “I really value the beauty in the little things,” Pacheco said. “Each of these kids are so unique, so special. I hope through these dolls they can see themselves in a new light and really embrace their beauty.” She ... designed her own patterns and figured out how to re-create the children’s differences. It was important to her that the children recognize themselves in the dolls but that their differences not be the most noticeable feature. “I hope they’re really excited with them,” Pacheco said. “The whole time I was trying to put as much love into it as I could and hoped they represented each child faithfully.” The inspiration for the four dolls are Felix, a 6-year-old boy with a large scar on his head from surgery for a skull fracture; Andrea, a 2-year-old with a port-wine stain birthmark on her face; Valeria, a toddler with Apert syndrome, which causes skull deformities, misshapen eyes and fused fingers; and Zulema Gillett, [who has] Goldenhar syndrome, which caused her to be born with a cleft lip, misaligned jaw, and only one ear.
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Farmers around the country have been forced to dump milk and waste fresh produce as schools, restaurants and other institutions remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. In response, supermarket chain Publix launched a new initiative Wednesday to help struggling farmers — and get the food to Americans who need it most. The company's press release said it will purchase fresh produce and milk from farmers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and donate the goods directly to Feeding America food banks that are in its "operating area." During the first week of the initiative alone, some 150,000 pounds of produce and 43,500 gallons of milk is expected to be donated, the company said. "As a food retailer, we have the unique opportunity to bridge the gap between the needs of families and farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic," said Todd Jones, Publix CEO. "In addition to providing much needed produce and milk to food banks, this initiative provides financial support to farmers during this challenging time." In addition to the new initiative, Publix Super Markets Charities recently made donations which totaled $2 million to help Feeding America's member food banks amid the crisis. Feeding America, which is the largest hunger-relief organization in the U.S., said that before the coronavirus crisis there were 37 million people in the nation who did not have enough food. The number is now expected to increase by an additional 17 million.
With Maryland schools and some places of work closed amid the coronavirus pandemic, parents are looking for creative new ways to educate their children at home. One expert in homeschooling says a coronavirus-related quarantine situation should not be mistaken for a traditional educational setting. And parents should not lose sleep over whether their children are getting enough learning materials during such uncertain times. “We’re dealing with a global pandemic ... we need to worry about how we’re helping our children to cope with the stress," said Alessa Giampaolo Keener, an educational consultant. One of the best ways to help students stay mentally engaged in the coming weeks is by finding a routine that works for them without caving to the pressure [to] interrupt play or set elaborate schedules for children. Older children may respond well to being given a list of chores or assignments to complete by a set deadline, which allows them the autonomy to budget their own time throughout the day. The Khan Academy is a nonprofit that offers online educational resources for students, teachers and parents. Families can find day-by-day projects on Scholastic’s Learn at Home webpage to keep kids thinking during a quarantine. Projects are available for levels Pre-K through 9th grade. Some kids may miss recess and gym class just as much as academics. Families can find yoga, mindfulness and relaxation exercises on the Cosmic Kids Yoga Channel on YouTube.
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There was barely any time to pause. Avraham Mintz and Zoher Abu Jama just finished responding to a call regarding a 41-year-old woman having respiratory problems in the southern Israeli city of Be'er Sheva. There would be more calls ahead. Mintz and Abu Jama realized it may be their only break of the shift. The two members of Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel's emergency response service, paused to pray. Mintz, a religious Jew, stood facing Jerusalem, his white and black prayer shawl hanging off his shoulders. Abu Jama, an observant Muslim, knelt facing Mecca, his maroon and white prayer rug unfurled underneath him. For the two paramedics, who routinely work together two or three times a week, the joint prayer was nothing new. For so many others, it was an inspiring image in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic. A picture of the two men snapped by a co-worker quickly went viral, garnering thousands of likes on social media and appearing in international media coverage. If Mintz and Abu Jama see themselves as heroes, they certainly didn't let it show. They know their job, and they know their faith. "Everyone is afraid of the virus," said Mintz. "So are we, but we have the belief that everything is under the control of God, blessed be He. We both believe this." Abu Jama echoes his partner. "I believe that God will help us and we will get through this. We should all pray to God to get us through this, and we will get through this world crisis." The two prayed for about 15 minutes. Then it was back into the ambulance.
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As countries around the world grapple with the coronavirus, Taiwan may offer valuable lessons on how to curb its spread. The island is just 81 miles and a short flight away from mainland China, where COVID-19 is believed to have originated in the city of Wuhan. And yet, Taiwan has had only 50 cases of COVID-19 and one death. Of the 100-plus countries and territories affected, Taiwan has the lowest incidence rate per capita — around 1 in every 500,000 people. What lessons can Taiwan teach the world so other countries can stem the spread of the virus? On Dec. 31, the same day China notified the World Health Organization that it had several cases of an unknown pneumonia, Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control immediately ordered inspections of passengers arriving on flights from Wuhan. Taiwan began requiring hospitals to test for and report cases. That helped the government identify those infected, trace their contacts and isolate everyone involved. Equally important, Taiwan's CDC activated the Central Epidemic Command Center relatively early on Jan. 20 and that allowed it to quickly roll out a series of epidemic control measures. The country’s health insurance system, which covers 99 percent of the population, has been crucial. “You can get a free test, and if you’re forced to be isolated, during the 14 days, we pay for your food, lodging and medical care,” [government spokesperson Kolas Yotaka] said. “So no one would avoid seeing the doctor because they can’t pay for health care.”
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If you’re depressed by the state of the world, let me toss out an idea: In the long arc of human history, 2019 has been the best year ever. The bad things that you fret about are true. But it’s also true that since modern humans emerged about 200,000 years ago, 2019 was probably the year in which children were least likely to die, adults were least likely to be illiterate and people were least likely to suffer excruciating and disfiguring diseases. Perhaps the greatest calamity for anyone is to lose a child. That used to be common: Historically, almost half of all humans died in childhood. As recently as 1950, 27 percent of all children still died by age 15. Now that figure has dropped to about 4 percent. The news media and the humanitarian world focus so relentlessly on the bad news that we leave the public believing that every trend is going in the wrong direction. A majority of Americans say in polls that the share of the world population living in poverty is increasing — yet one of the trends of the last 50 years has been a huge reduction in global poverty. The proportion of the world’s population subsisting on about $2 a day or less has dropped by more than 75 percent in less than four decades. Every day for a decade, newspapers could have carried the headline “Another 170,000 Moved Out of Extreme Poverty Yesterday.” Or if one uses a higher threshold, the headline could have been: “The Number of People Living on More Than $10 a Day Increased by 245,000 Yesterday.”
Kansas City, Missouri city council members voted unanimously to abolish bus fares Thursday. Residents will soon be able to ride buses in the city for free, in a move that will cost around $8 million per year. Lawmakers expect the change will improve the lives of residents and believe it is well worth the cost. The vote makes Kansas City the first major U.S. to offer free public transportation. Fare-free travel was already available on the city's light rail. The change to buses will require the city manager to allocate funds to the project, which is expected to be implemented in 2020. While arguments against free public transportation often cite the potentially large costs involved, advocates insist the practice has a multitude of benefits for society at large. One advantage is claimed to be a positive impact on the environment. Encouraging people to travel in buses or trains instead of cars could result in cities substantially reducing their carbon footprint. Proponents also say that quality of life for individuals could be improved by eliminating fares on public transportation. A 2018 report in the journal Metropolitics studied the free system in Dunkirk, France and noted the benefits of increased mobility for young and elderly people, who may feel an improved sense of freedom and autonomy as a result. In addition to Kansas City, a number of other U.S. cities are said to be considering making the move to free public transportation.
Another trend has entered the urban agricultural scene: agrihoods, short for agricultural neighborhoods. The Urban Land Institute defines agrihoods as master-planned housing communities with working farms as their focus. Overwhelmingly, they have large swaths of green space, orchards, hoop houses and greenhouses, and some with barns, outdoor community kitchens, and environmentally sustainable homes decked with solar panels and composting. Agrihoods, which number about 90 nationwide, are typically in rural and suburban areas. Within the city of Detroit, home to nearly 1,400 community gardens and farms, there is one officially designated agrihood, Michigan Urban Farming Initiative. The Michigan initiative is a 3-acre farm focusing on food insecurity in one of Detroit’s historic communities that was once home to a thriving Black middle class. Now the median home value is under $25,000, and about 35% of the residents are homeowners. The Detroit agrihood model plans to provide a Community Resource Center with educational programs and meeting space across from the garden, a café, and two commercial kitchens. “For us, food insecurity is the biggest issue,” says, Quan Blunt, the Michigan initiative’s farm manager. “The closest [fresh] produce store to this neighborhood is Whole Foods [4 miles away in Midtown], and you know how expensive they can be.” At MUFI, produce is free to all. The farm is open for harvesting on Saturday mornings.
Three New York City police officers were working on the Fourth of July when they decided to stop by a Manhattan Whole Foods supermarket. The cops — now identified as Lt. Louis Sojo and Officers Esnaidy Cuevas and Michael Rivera — were on the way to grab a snack and cold drink in the store when security guards told them a woman was stealing food. The cops approached her to assess the situation. "I asked her, 'What's going on?' She told me she was hungry," said Sojo."So, I looked in her bag. I decided — we decided — to say 'We'll pay for her food.'" Sojo said the security guard was shocked by the kind response, but brought the officers over to the cashier to pay for the woman's food. "At that moment, she was extremely emotional," said Sojo. "She did thank us, but she was pretty much speechless at what happened." Sojo said the officers did not expect the good deed to receive so much positive attention and that they were "extremely humbled" by the response. He added that it isn't uncommon for officers to pay for someone's food. "You know, I've been doing this for 22 years. This is not the first time I've paid for food. This is not the first time they've paid for someone's food," he said referring to the two other cops."We don't go out and do it all the time, but, you know, when you look at someone's face and you notice that they need you, and they're actually hungry. It's pretty difficult as a human being to walk away from something like that. We weren't raised like that. So, it's the right thing to do."
Two complementary studies recently found that noninvasive and extremely mild brain stimulation could be used to improve episodic and working memory in older adults. "We can make these 60 and 70-year-olds look strikingly like our 20-year-old participants," researcher Robert Reinhart [said]. The first study used a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to induce mild neural firing in the brain. The research team stimulated the participants' brains for half an hour a day for five days. They then measured the adults' memory ability 24 hours after the final day of stimulation and found their recall ability on a memory test had improved 31 per cent. The second study, led by Robert Reinhart from ... Boston University, used a different technology, and stimulated different regions of the brain. Using electroencephalography, or EEG, which records the electrical activity of the brain, Reinhart found evidence that older adults' brain waves were out-of-sync in critical brain regions used by working memory or short-term memory. Reinhart then tried to ameliorate the problem by using a precise and customizable electrical stimulation technology called "high definition transcranial alternating current stimulation," or HD-tACS for short. The team applied current for 25 minutes to 42 older participants' brains, and saw improvements during this time on a memory test that they did before they received stimulation. As in Voss' study, the subjects' performance increased to the point that it was equal to that of 20-year-olds.
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