Inspirational News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on inspiration
Evidence of our bloody history is not hard to find. Consider the genocides in the Old Testament and the crucifictions in the New, the gory mutilations in Shakespeare's tragedies and Grimm's fairy tales, the British monarchs who beheaded their relatives and the American founders who dueled with their rivals. Today, the decline in these brutal practices can be quantified. A look at the numbers shows that over the course of our history, humanity has been blessed with ... major declines of violence. The first was a process of pacification: the transition from the anarchy of the hunting, gathering, and horticultural societies in which our species spent most of its evolutionary history to the first agricultural civilizations, with cities and governments, starting about 5,000 years ago. On average, about 15% of people in prestate eras died violently, compared to about 3% of the citizens of the earliest states. Centuries ago, the great powers were almost always at war, and until quite recently. Western European countries tended to initiate two or three new wars every year. The cliche that the 20th century was "the most violent in history" ignores the second half of the century. Though it's tempting to attribute the Long Peace to nuclear deterrence, non-nuclear developed states have stopped fighting each other as well. Political scientists point instead to the growth of democracy, trade and international organizations - all of which, the statistical evidence shows, reduce the liklihood of conflict.
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Four years ago, rapper Logic released his hit song "1-800-273-8255" – a reference to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – in hopes of helping others. A new study released this week found it did just that: researchers say the song potentially helped saved hundreds of lives. The study, published Monday in the BMJ, found almost 10,000 calls went to the Lifeline – a 6.9% increase over the expected number – during 34 days in 2017 and 2018 when the song was receiving heightened public attention. And an estimated 245 fewer suicides took place in that same time period – 5.5% below the expected number. The study authors' looked at the days immediately following the song's release, Logic's performance at the 2017 MTV Awards with singers Alessia Cara and Khalid, and their act at the 2018 Grammys. According to the research, those events were also linked to a surge of activity connected to the song on Twitter. "To know that my music was actually affecting people's lives, truly, that's what inspired me to make the song," Logic said in a statement to CNN. "We did it from a really warm place in our hearts to try to help people. And the fact that it actually did, that blows my mind." The song centers around a high school student struggling with his sexuality and contemplating suicide. However, after a call to a hotline, he realizes he wants to live. The song went quintuple platinum and remained Logic's best performing song on Spotify.
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When Suzanne Simard made her extraordinary discovery – that trees could communicate and cooperate through subterranean networks of fungi – the scientific establishment underreacted. Even though her doctoral research was published in the Nature journal in 1997 ... the finding that trees are more altruistic than competitive was dismissed by many. Today, at 60, she is professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia and her research of more than three decades as a "forest detective" is recognised worldwide. In her new book, Finding the Mother Tree – a scientific memoir as gripping as any HBO drama series – she wants it understood that her work has been no brief encounter: "I want people to know that what I've discovered has been about my whole life." Would she go as far as to suggest a tree can feel pain or grief? "I don't know. Trees don't have a brain, but the network in the soil is a neural network and the chemicals that move through it are the same as our neural transmitters." She is currently collaborating on research to see whether trees can distinguish us as humans. She laments our lack of vocabulary for communication between trees and adds: "Western Canada's aboriginal people have known about the connection between trees for a long time." But she believes we can learn from the way trees interact: "Some trees have lived for thousands of years. They get along, develop sophisticated relationships and listen – they're attuned. Attunement is something we all need too."
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Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby says the city will no longer prosecute for prostitution, drug possession and other low-level offenses. Mosby made the announcement on Friday following her office's one-year experiment in not prosecuting minor offenses to decrease the spread of Covid-19 behind bars. "Today, America's war on drug users is over in the city of Baltimore. We leave behind the era of tough-on-crime prosecution and zero tolerance policing and no longer default to the status quo to criminalize mostly people of color for addiction, said Mosby. The experiment, known as The Covid Criminal Justice Policies, is an approach to crime developed with public health authorities. Instead of prosecuting people arrested for minor crimes ... the program dealt with those crimes as public health issues and work with community partners to help find solutions. The program has led to decreases in the overall incarcerated Baltimore population by 18%. Violent and property crimes are down 20% and 36% respectively. Mosby said her office will no longer prosecute the following offenses: drug and drug paraphernalia possession, prostitution, trespassing, minor traffic offense, open container violations, and urinating and defecating in public. The state's attorney's office is also working with the Baltimore Police Department and Baltimore Crisis Response Inc. (BCRI), a crisis center dealing with mental health and substance abuse issue, to offer services instead of arresting individuals.
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The number of American bald eagles has quadrupled since 2009, with more than 300,000 birds soaring over the lower 48 states, government scientists said in a report Wednesday. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said bald eagles, the national symbol that once teetered on the brink of extinction, have flourished in recent years, growing to more than 71,400 nesting pairs and an estimated 316,700 individual birds. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, in her first public appearance since being sworn in last week, hailed the eagle's recovery. "The strong return of this treasured bird reminds us of our nation's shared resilience and the importance of being responsible stewards of our lands and waters that bind us together,'' said Haaland, the first Native American Cabinet secretary. Bald eagles reached an all-time low of 417 known nesting pairs in 1963 in the lower 48 states. But after decades of protection, including banning the pesticide DDT and placement of the eagle on the endangered species list in more than 40 states, the bald eagle population has continued to grow. The bald eagle was removed from the list of threatened or endangered species in 2007. The celebration of the bald eagle "is also a moment to reflect on the importance of the Endangered Species Act, a vital tool in the efforts to protect America's wildlife,'' Haaland said, calling the landmark 1973 law crucial to preventing the extinction of species such as the bald eagle or American bison.
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Standing Bear was born sometime between 1829 and 1834 in the Ponca tribe’s native lands in northern Nebraska. In 1876 ... Congress declared that the Poncas would be moved to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. More than a third of the Poncas died of starvation and disease — including Standing Bear’s sister and his beloved son. Standing Bear and his burial party evaded capture while they traveled home but were caught and detained after visiting relatives at the Omaha reservation. The man who caught them, Brig. Gen. George Crook ... was moved by Standing Bear’s reasons for leaving the Indian Territory and promised to help him. The civil rights case that resulted was called Standing Bear v. Crook. The U.S. attorney argued that Standing Bear was neither a citizen nor a person. On the second day, Chief Standing Bear was called to testify, becoming the first Native American to do so. He raised his right hand and, through an interpreter, said: “My hand is not the color of yours, but if I pierce it, I shall feel pain. If you pierce your hand, you also feel pain. The blood that will flow from mine will be the same color as yours. The same god made us both. I am a man.” The judge agreed, ruling for the first time in U.S. history that “the Indian is a ‘person’ ” and has all the rights and freedoms promised in the Constitution. The judge also ordered Crook to free Standing Bear and his people immediately. Standing Bear ... buried his son alongside his ancestors. When he died there in 1908, he was buried alongside them, too.
When Edward Martell went to court in 2005 to plead guilty to selling and manufacturing crack, he thought his life was over. However, Bruce Morrow, a Michigan judge decided to give him a second chance. Martell, then 27, had had several run-ins with the law until he was arrested in a counternarcotics operation. When he pleaded guilty to selling and manufacturing crack, he knew he could face 20 years in jail. Judge Morrow saw young Martell and understood the circumstances that had led the young man to life in crime. So he gave him a three-year probation sentence and a challenge: to return to that same court with an achievement. Last week ... Edward returned to the same courthouse as Bruce Morrow, but this time to fulfill his promise: to be sworn in as a lawyer in the same courtroom where he pleaded guilty. "It was kind of a joke, but [Edward] understood that I believed he could be whatever he wanted," Judge Morrow [said]. After his first meeting with the magistrate, Edward earned a high school degree and then a scholarship to study law. He always kept in touch with the judge who had inspired him. Martell underwent a strict background check in order to join the Michigan Bar Association, but the board determined that his past should not determine his future. That's how Martell, now 43, returned to court to become a lawyer. That is the power of mentoring.
The death rate from cancer in the United States saw the largest ever single-year decline between 2016 and 2017 since rates began declining in 1992, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society. [A] deceleration in lung cancer deaths spurred an overall drop in cancer mortality of 2.2% from 2016 to 2017, according to the report. Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer in the United States, accounting for about 27% of all cancer deaths — more than breast, prostate, colorectal, and brain cancers combined. Lung cancer is also the most common cause of death due to cancer among men age 40 and older and women age 60 and older. The decline in mortality from melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, was also dramatic. Dr. William Cance, chief medical and scientific officer for the American Cancer Society, attributed [decreased] mortality from lung cancer and melanoma to treatment advances made in the past 10 years. "They are a profound reminder of how rapidly this area of research is expanding, and now leading to real hope for cancer patients," Cance said. As of 2017, cancer deaths have dropped 29% from 1992 numbers — meaning an estimated 2,902,200 fewer cancer deaths, according to the ACS report. "This steady progress is largely due to reductions in smoking and subsequent declines in lung cancer mortality, which have accelerated in recent years," reads the report.
MIT researchers have developed a portable desalination unit, weighing less than 10 kilograms, that can remove particles and salts to generate drinking water. The suitcase-sized device, which requires less power to operate than a cell phone charger, can also be driven by a small, portable solar panel, which can be purchased online for around $50. It automatically generates drinking water that exceeds World Health Organization quality standards. The technology is packaged into a user-friendly device that runs with the push of one button. Unlike other portable desalination units that require water to pass through filters, this device utilizes electrical power to remove particles from drinking water. Eliminating the need for replacement filters greatly reduces the long-term maintenance requirements. This could enable the unit to be deployed in remote and severely resource-limited areas, such as communities on small islands or aboard seafaring cargo ships. It could also be used to aid refugees fleeing natural disasters or by soldiers carrying out long-term military operations. "This is really the culmination of a 10-year journey that I and my group have been on. We worked for years on the physics behind individual desalination processes, but pushing all those advances into a box, building a system, and demonstrating it in the ocean, that was a really meaningful and rewarding experience for me," says senior author Jongyoon Han, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science and of biological engineering.
For most of his adult life, Aaron Presley, age 34, felt like a husk of a person, a piece of "garbage." Then, all at once, the soul-crushing, depressive fog started to lift, and the most meaningful experience of his life began. The turning point for Presley came as he lay on a psychiatrist's couch at Johns Hopkins University. He had consumed a large dose of psilocybin, the active ingredient in what's more commonly known as magic mushrooms, and entered a state that could best be described as lucid dreaming. Visions of family and childhood triggered overwhelming and long-lost feelings of love, he says. Presley was one of 24 volunteers taking part in a small study aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of a combination of psychotherapy and this powerful mind-altering drug to treat depression–an approach that, should it win approval, could be the biggest advance in mental health since Prozac in the 1990s. Depression ... affects 320 million people around the world. Roughly one-third of those who seek treatment won't respond to verbal or conventional drug therapies. Magic-mushroom therapy is offering some hope for these hopeless cases. In the Hopkins study, published last year in JAMA Psychiatry, the therapy was four times more effective than traditional antidepressants. Two-thirds of participants showed a more-than 50-percent reduction in depression symptoms after one week; a month later, more than half were considered in remission, meaning they no longer qualified as being depressed.
A surfer jumping in to translate for the rival who'd just beaten him. High-jumping friends agreeing to share a gold medal rather than move to a tiebreaker. Two runners falling in a tangle of legs, then helping each other to the finish line. In an extraordinary Olympic Games where mental health has been front and center, acts of kindness are everywhere. The world's most competitive athletes have been captured showing gentleness and warmth to one another – celebrating, pep-talking, wiping away one another's tears of disappointment. Kanoa Igarashi of Japan was disappointed when he lost to Brazilian Italo Ferreira in their sport's Olympic debut. Not only did he blow his shot at gold on the beach he grew up surfing, he was also being taunted online by racist Brazilian trolls. The Japanese-American surfer could have stewed in silence, but he instead deployed his knowledge of Portuguese, helping to translate a press conference question for Ferreira on the world stage. The crowd giggled hearing the cross-rival translation and an official thanked the silver medalist for the assist. "Yes, thank you, Kanoa," said a beaming Ferreira, who is learning English. Days later, at the Olympic Stadium, Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy and Mutaz Barshim of Qatar found themselves in a situation they'd talked about but never experienced – they were tied. Both high jumpers ... could have gone to a jump-off, but instead decided to share the gold. After they decided, Tamberi slapped Barshim's hand and jumped into his arms.
Tia Wimbush and Susan Ellis have been co-workers for a decade, and while they didn't know each other well, they learned two years ago that their spouses each needed a kidney transplant. Then ... something remarkable happened. The women saw each other in a restroom at work and started chatting as they washed their hands. They had a lot in common, both working in information technology at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and dealing with the same medical stress at home. Neither was a match to be an organ donor for her own husband, and the transplant waiting lists are impossibly long. Wimbush casually asked Ellis what her husband's blood type was. He's type O, Ellis replied. Wimbush said her husband was type AB. The women paused for a moment and looked at each other. Then Wimbush realized they might have stumbled upon something that might help save both of their husbands' lives. Wimbush thought she might be a match for Ellis's husband, and – incredibly – she thought Ellis could be a match for her husband. Antibody tests revealed that each woman was an excellent match for the other's spouse. So in March, seven months after that chance conversation, Wimbush donated one of her kidneys to Lance Ellis, 41, and Susan Ellis donated one of hers to Rodney Wimbush, 45. Both transplants done at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital went so well that the men have almost fully recovered and are going on weekend hikes with friends and family, Tia Wimbush said.
When Bunny, TikTok's beloved talking Sheepadoodle, stared at herself in a mirror and asked "who this?" using her augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device's buttons, many believed she was having an existential crisis. Since then, the Internet-famous dog has seemingly only become more interested in her own – dare we say – sense of self. The canine Bunny, who has 6.5 million followers on TikTok, is one of nearly 2,600 dogs and 300 cats enrolled in a project called "They Can Talk." The study's aim is to understand if animals can communicate with humans through AAC systems. AAC systems, such as Bunny's giant labeled buttons that speak a single word when pressed, were originally designed to help humans with communication disorders. Yet they have been adapted to be used in language experiments with animals, such as the study Bunny is enrolled in, which is led by Federico Rossano, director of the Comparative Cognition Lab at the University of California–San Diego. In Rossano's study, participants receive instructions on how to set up their AAC buttons for their pets; generally, pets begin with easy words like "outside" and "play." Pet parents set up cameras to constantly monitor the animals when they are in front of their boards, data which is sent to the lab so that researchers examine what they say. Now, Bunny's followers have become obsessed with the notion that her language-learning is making her develop some kind of self-awareness.
This past year, most management advice has focused on how to sustain productivity during the pandemic, yet the power of kindness has been largely overlooked. Practicing kindness by giving compliments and recognition has the power to transform our remote workplace. A commitment to be kind can bring many important benefits. First, and perhaps most obviously, practicing kindness will be immensely helpful to our colleagues. Being recognized at work helps reduce employee burnout and absenteeism, and improves employee well-being, Gallup finds year after year. Second, practicing kindness helps life feel more meaningful. For example, spending money on others and volunteering our time improves wellbeing, bringing happiness and a sense of meaning to life. Third, as we found in a new set of studies, giving compliments can make us even happier than receiving them. We paired up participants and asked them to write about themselves and then talk about themselves with each other. Next, we asked one of them to give an honest compliment about something they liked or respected about the other participant after listening to them. Consistently, we found that giving compliments actually made people happier than receiving them. When people receive an act of kindness, they pay it back, research shows – and not just to the same person, but often to someone entirely new. This leads to a culture of generosity. Simply knowing that one is appreciated can trigger the psychological benefits of kindness.
As people across the globe grappled with higher levels of stress, depression and anxiety this past year, many turned to their favorite comfort foods. But ... the sugar-laden and high-fat foods we often crave when we are stressed or depressed, as comforting as they may seem, are the least likely to benefit our mental health. Instead, whole foods such as vegetables, fruit, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes and fermented foods like yogurt may be a better bet. Historically, nutrition research has focused largely on how the foods we eat affect our physical health, rather than our mental health. But ... a growing body of research has provided intriguing hints about the ways in which foods may affect our moods. A healthy diet promotes a healthy gut, which communicates with the brain through what is known as the gut-brain axis. Microbes in the gut produce neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which regulate our mood and emotions, and the gut microbiome has been implicated in mental health outcomes. "The gut microbiome plays a shaping role in a variety of psychiatric disorders, including major depressive disorder," a team of scientists wrote in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry. "Mental health is complex," said Dr. Jacka ... at Deakin University in Australia. "Eating a salad is not going to cure depression. But there's a lot you can do to lift your mood and improve your mental health, and it can be as simple as increasing your intake of plants and healthy foods."
About fifty years ago, Dr. Bruce Greyson was eating pasta in the hospital cafeteria when his beeper went off. Greyson, a psychiatrist, was urgently needed in the ER to treat a college student who had overdosed. He called her name – "Holly" – and tried to rouse her. But she didn't stir. The next morning, Greyson returned to work at the hospital. Holly stirred. "I remember you from last night," she mumbled. "I saw you talking with Susan, sitting on the couch." Suddenly Holly opened her eyes, looked Greyson in the face and added, "You were wearing a striped tie that had a red stain on it." Greyson began studying these so-called near-death experiences (NDEs) from a scientific standpoint, collecting hundreds of stories from those who've had them. He discovered that ... many people who survive the jaws of death report strange out-of-body experiences. Since meeting Holly, Greyson has published hundreds of academic papers. His search for answers is chronicled in his new book "After: A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about Life and Beyond." Near-death experiences are fairly common. Some 10 percent to 20 percent of people who come close to death report them – about 5 percent of the population. So what is going on? Greyson, who grew up in a scientific household and is not religious, says he doesn't know. "But I think the evidence overwhelmingly points to the physical body not being all that we are," he says. "There seems to be something that is able to continue after the body dies."
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At a time when the nation feels more divided than ever, one unlikely group in Omaha, Nebraska, is trying to bring people together. The Tri-Faith Initiative is a unique experiment in unity, sprawling across 38 acres on the edge of the city, almost smack in the center of America. There's a synagogue, a mosque and a church – and on Saturday, Tri-Faith introduced a new interfaith center, the final piece of a plan that was years in the making. "Sometimes people assume that the fact that we've come together and that we're so connected means that we're trying to create a blended, homogeneous faith, and that is absolutely not what Tri-Faith is about," said Rabbi A. Brian Stoller. "It's like a neighborhood. And each neighborhood lives in its own house and has its own values and belief system." Their goal? To learn about the "religious other," and in turn, become more tolerant and less fearful. It's also not lost on ... any of the faith leaders that the opening of their interfaith center coincides with a time in history marked by shocking division. "What I perceive as an inability to see others' world views and respect their way of thinking and believing is a crisis in America, and reflects a spiritual illness in our society," Stoller said, adding that he thinks what he and the other faith leaders are doing is part of the "antidote to that illness." That mutual respect, they believe, begins with relationship building. "It is friendship, what we created here," said Imam Mohamad Jamal Daoudi.
Just because someone has limited mobility, does that mean they should be limited to traversing smooth pavement? Not according to husband-and-wife team Zack and Cambry Nelson, who are now marketing their off-road motorized "wheelchair." Known as The Rig and made mainly from bicycle parts, the vehicle was initially developed by Zack to help Cambry take part in their outdoor adventures. It features an aluminum frame with detachable bumpers, a padded adjustable seat, a 1,000-watt ebike motor linked to the rear axle by a chain drive, dual steering handles, front hydraulic disc brakes, plus 4-inch-wide fatbike tires on each of its four wheels. Front and rear independent suspension is an optional extra, as is a second lithium battery for added range. The whole thing measures 5 ft long by 32 inches wide by 41 in tall (1,524 by 812 by 1,041 mm), and tips the scales at a claimed 120 lb (54 kg) – that's with the suspension package, and a single battery. One charge of that battery should reportedly be good for a range of 10 to 20 miles (16 to 32 km), depending on usage and rider weight. And while it can't accommodate a second passenger in the back, it does have a cargo-mounting system that allows gear such as camping supplies, a cooler or a conventional wheelchair to be brought along for the ride. The Rig is now available for pre-order in a choice of seven frame colors, with prices starting at US$4,750. For reference, some other electric off-road wheelchairs we've seen are priced at $10,000 or more.
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You call 911, you generally get the police. It's a one-size-fits-all solution to a broad spectrum of problems from homelessness to mental illness to addiction. Protesters are urging cities to redirect some of their police budget to groups that specialize in treating those kinds of problems. Now we're going to look at one model that's been around for more than 30 years. In Eugene, Ore., a program called CAHOOTS is a collaboration between local police and a community service called the White Bird Clinic. Ben Brubaker is the clinic coordinator, and Ebony Morgan is a crisis worker. "The calls that come in to the police non-emergency number and/or through the 911 system, if they have a strong behavioral health component, if there are calls that do not seem to require law enforcement because they don't involve a legal issue or some kind of extreme threat of violence or risk to the person, the individual or others, then they will route those to our team - comprised of a medic and a crisis worker - that can go out and respond to the call," [said Brubaker]. "I think policing may have a place within this system, but I also think that it's over-utilized as an immediate response because it just comes with a risk," [said Morgan]. "It's a risk that crisis response teams that are unarmed don't come with. In 30 years, we've never had a serious injury or a death that our team was responsible for. Models like this can help people have support in their community and feel safer within their community."
As images of police officers in riot gear clashing with protesters in response to the death of George Floyd proliferated from across the country, a very different theme emerged from several cities. Instead of lining up in opposition to the protesters, some police officers joined them. "I never thought of anything else, to be honest," Camden County Police Chief Joseph Wysocki told ABC News. For Camden, New Jersey, a city that had long been known for high crime rates, the police demonstrating alongside protesters in an ultimately peaceful event was not just a one-day phenomenon, but the continuation of years of efforts to bridge ties with residents since 2013, when the county police department took over public safety from the city's police agency. "We were basically able to start a new beginning," Dan Keashen, communications director for Camden County, told ABC News. That new beginning included an emphasis on everyday community policing. "It's a community, and we're part of the community. It's not us policing the city; it's us, together," Wysocki said. When officials in Camden learned plans for a demonstration were coming together, the police were able to get involved and join in because of the community ties they had made. Following the protests on Saturday, images of Wysocki walking with demonstrators, holding a banner reading, "standing in solidarity," spread across social media. So, too, did images of police officers in Santa Cruz, California, Norfolk, Virginia, and other cities.
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