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.
The "Temple of Man" [is] a five-story underground warren of vast, ornately decorated chambers, with towering pillars, 40-foot-high gold-leaf ceilings, giant frescoes and bronze statues, all linked by narrow passages and concealed stone doors that spring open and shut by electrical command. Begun more than 20 years ago in total secrecy, [the temple] is the spiritual core of Damanhur, a 23-year-old New Age commune nestled ... in the foothills of the Alps. Members [describe] their commune as a nation, one that aims at total self-sufficiency and boasts its own currency, schools, federal and local government, newspapers, Web site and tax code. It has melded California-style New Age spirituality with the customs and mores of northern Italy. It also claims to have its own unique transportation system: time travel. When its 500 full-time residents are not experimenting with time travel and "Selfic" healing, they are industriously churning out luxury items for export. One Damanhur workshop makes Tiffany-style glass products. Another business ... makes silk and cashmere fabrics on 18th-century wooden looms for ... top Italian fashion houses. "We were never hippies," Damanhur's founder, Oberto Airaudi ... explained. "We believed in hard work, personal responsibility and bank loans." Damanhur ... also shares the Italian aversion to ironclad rules and has only one: no smoking. Everything else is pretty much permitted, including long lunches that include wine, pasta and meat, which may help explain why the community has remained intact for more than two decades.
Note: For more on this magical community, see photos of their mind-boggling underground temples and the deeper story of its founding and development on this webpage. Their website is www.damanhur.org.
Pools and streams and springs course and seep and drip. The waters sparkle with clarity and are achingly cold. Moisture glazes the rocks with an ineffable shine. The air is scented with wet, the tread underfoot softened with it. The tiered branches and filtered light create a realm of soft sounds and the feeling of a living dream of green, blue and brown, one ridge and hill of forest easing to the next. There are trees from sprouts to the ancients that have gained a look attained only at great age. Their bark flakes and shreds, and trunks soar to an apse raised over centuries. The soil is darker than coffee grounds, inky, sweet and redolent of fructifying forest funk. "This is the gold," [forest ecology professor Suzanne] Simard said, as she crumbled the soil in her hands, and teased apart filaments within it, finer than a human hair. These are fungal threads. Simard discovered in pioneering research they wind through these soils in a web of connections from tree to tree, sharing nutrients and water. Simard and others have revealed that trees also can recognize their own kin in seedlings they preferentially shuttle nutrients to, through the fungal network. In research published in the New Phytologist in 2016, Simard and her collaborators demonstrated carbon transfer – crucial food – was three to four times greater in kin than in nonkin pairings of Douglas fir seedlings. Kinship increased both the likelihood of establishment of a symbiotic relationship between kin linked by a fungal network, and its robustness.
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What is it, exactly, that makes us kind? Why are some of us kinder than others – and what stops us from being kinder? The Kindness Test, a major new study involving more than 60,000 people from 144 different countries, has been looking into these and other questions. It is believed to be the largest public study of kindness ever carried out in the world. The results, which are currently the subject of a three-part Radio 4 documentary The Anatomy of Kindness, suggest that people who receive, give or even just notice more acts of kindness tend to experience higher levels of wellbeing and life satisfaction. Other encouraging findings are that as many as two-thirds of people think the pandemic has made people kinder and nearly 60% of participants in the study claimed to have received an act of kindness in the previous 24 hours. Luke Cameron, dubbed the "nicest man in Britain", once spent a year doing a good deed every day. It taught him that sometimes offering some help, reassurance or a kind word can make a huge difference. "It's made me more aware of things that happen in front of me. If someone falls over in the street, there's always going to be people who go and help and others who stand back. It's made me one of those people who go and help. Consciously, I now just do it." He became that person, he says, after a "mindset shift" where he realised: "Actually, if it was me, I'd want somebody to help me. That makes you think differently about how you are with people."
Israeli researchers have taught goldfish to drive, according to a study that offers new insights into animals' ability to navigate – even when they're literally fish out of water. For the study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Behavioural Brain Research, the goldfish were trained to use a wheeled platform, dubbed a Fish Operated Vehicle. The FOV could be driven and have its course changed in reaction to the fish's movements inside a water tank mounted on the platform. Their task was to "drive" the robotic vehicle toward a target that could be observed through the walls of the fish tank. The vehicle was fitted with lidar, short for light detection and ranging, a remote sensing technology that uses lasers to collect data on its ground location and the fish's location within the tank. The researchers, from Ben-Gurion University, found the fish were able to move the FOV around unfamiliar environments while reaching the target "regardless of their starting point, all while avoiding dead-ends and correcting location inaccuracies." The goldfish in the tank were placed in a test arena and tasked with driving toward a target. Upon successfully hitting the target, they received a food pellet reward. After a few days of training, the fish were able to navigate past obstacles such as walls, while eluding efforts to trick them with false targets. "The study hints that navigational ability is universal rather than specific to the environment," said Shachar Givon, one of the study's authors.
Brenda Thomas's heart became a shell when her 21-year-old son died in a motorcycle accident. But she has found something that helps her grief: She keeps folded pieces of paper, tucked in her purse at all times. They are "acts of kindness" cards. Whenever she does a good deed for a stranger – which is about once a week – she passes along a card with a message: "If you receive this card, then you must be a recipient of a random act of kindness." At the top of each note is her son's name, Trevor Paul Thomas. He died in September 2019. His most standout quality was his compassion for others, no matter who they were or how well he knew them. "He was always kind to everyone," said Thomas. "That's just who he was." Trevor regularly shoveled snow off the driveways of older neighbors, delivered hot meals to those in need and befriended classmates who struggled to fit in, she said. The Thomas family decided to create cards and distribute them around their community, in the hope that it would encourage people to do a good deed as part of Trevor's legacy. The goal, they said, was to launch an ongoing chain of kindness. "We not only want people to understand that they're a recipient of an act of kindness, but we also want them to pay it forward," said Whitney Thomas. On each card they wrote the hashtag #liveliketrev23, and urged recipients to consider sharing their experience on social media so that the family could read about the heartwarming gestures.
After more than a year of lockdowns, with limited access to nature, Magdalena Begh was delighted when her six-year-old daughter came home from forest school and informed her she had found three rat skeletons. Since Alia and her sister Hana, nine, started going to the Urban Outdoors Adventures in Nature after-school club in north London in June, they have used clay, learned about insects and made campfires, marmalade and bows and arrows. They are part of a wave of children across the UK who have joined forest schools since the start of the pandemic. Of more than 200 forest schools surveyed by the Forest School Association (FSA), about two-thirds said demand for their services had increased since March 2020. Among the reasons cited were increased awareness of the benefits of the outdoors, especially in relation to stress and anxiety, Covid safety, and dissatisfaction with the school syllabus after months of pandemic homeschooling. Forest schools, which centre around unstructured play, exploration and intrinsic motivation, arrived in the UK in 1993. Inspired by the outdoors culture – or friluftsliv – of Scandinavia, sessions are usually held either entirely or mostly outdoors and are intended to supplement, rather than replace, traditional education. State schools are increasingly putting on forest school sessions for pupils within the school day because they are considered to be beneficial to mental and physical health, behaviour and academic attainment – as well as being relatively "Covid-proof".
Finland has been named the happiest place in the world for a fourth year running, in an annual UN-sponsored report. The World Happiness Report saw Denmark in second place, then Switzerland, Iceland and the Netherlands. New Zealand was again the only non-European nation in the top 10. Data from analytics researcher Gallup asked people in 149 countries to rate their own happiness. Measures including social support, personal freedom, gross domestic product (GDP) and levels of corruption were also factored in. The country deemed the most unhappy in the world was Afghanistan, followed by Lesotho, Botswana, Rwanda and Zimbabwe. There was a "significantly higher frequency of negative emotions" in just over a third of the countries, the report authors said, likely pointing to the effects of the pandemic. However, things got better for 22 countries. Several Asian countries fared better than they had in last year's rankings, while China moved to 84th place from 94th "Surprisingly there was not, on average, a decline in well-being when measured by people's own evaluation of their lives," John Helliwell, one of the report's authors, said in a statement. "One possible explanation is that people see Covid-19 as a common, outside threat affecting everybody and that this has generated a greater sense of solidarity and fellow-feeling." Finland "ranked very high on the measures of mutual trust that have helped to protect lives and livelihoods during the pandemic", the authors said.
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‚Ź"to his lasting shameĂ˘â‚Ź"paused 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‚ŹI have two friends, can I share my jacket with them?Ă˘â‚Źâ„˘ And I said Ă˘â‚Źno, 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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Henry Dryer sits slumped over the tray attached to his wheelchair. He doesn't speak, and rarely moves, until a nursing home worker puts his headphones on. Then Dryer's feet start to shuffle, his folded arms rock back and forth, and he sings out loud in perfect sync with his favorite songs. "I feel a band of love, dreams," said Dryer, 92, who has dementia. "It gives me the feeling of love, romance!" Henry is one of seven patients profiled in the documentary "Alive Inside," a heartwarming look at the power of music to help those in nursing homes. "There are a million and a half people in nursing homes in this country," director Michael Rossato-Bennett told ABC News. "When I saw what happened to Henry, whenever you see a human being awaken like that, it touches something deep inside you." Rossato-Bennett said he took on the documentary project to promote Music & Memory, a nonprofit organization that brings iPods with personalized music to dementia patients in nursing home care. "When I end up in a nursing home, I'll want to have my music with me," said Dan Cohen, executive director of Music & Memory. "There aren't many things in nursing homes that are personally meaningful activities. Here's the one easy thing that has a significant impact." Cohen said the personalized playlists, chosen by loved ones, make patients light up. "They're more alert, more attentive, more cooperative, more engaged," he said. "Even if they can't recognize loved ones and they've stopped speaking, they hear music and they come alive."
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2022 is set to be a record year in terms of the scale at which the switchover from fossil fuels to renewable sources will take place. It's also a year in which we will see new and exotic sources of energy emerge from laboratory and pilot projects. Artificial intelligence (AI) is having transformative effects across energy and utilities. It is used to forecast demand and manage the distribution of resources, to ensure that power is available at the time and place it's needed with a minimum of waste. Hydrogen is the most abundant material in the universe and produces close to zero greenhouse gas emissions when burnt. Green [hydrogen] is created by a process involving electrolysis and water, and generating the required electricity from renewable sources like wind or solar power effectively makes the process carbon-free. This year, a number of major European energy companies, including Shell and RWE, committed to creating the first major green hydrogen pipeline from offshore wind plants in the North Sea throughout Europe. In solar, companies including Dutch startup Lusoco are finding new ways to engineer photovoltaic panels using different reflecting and refracting materials – including fluorescent ink - to concentrate light onto the solar cells, leading to more efficient harvesting of energy. This results in panels that are lighter as well as cheaper, and less energy-intensive to produce and install. New materials are also being developed that convert energy more effectively.
Laura Beloff's plant seemed to be clicking. She had rigged its roots up to a contact microphone in order to detect faint, high-pitched clicks in the soil. With the help of software she had written for her computer, the frequency of the clicks had been lowered, making them audible to humans. Beloff first had the idea of listening to her plants' roots after reading about experiments by Monica Gagliano. Over the last decade or so, Gagliano, at the University of Western Australia, has published a series of papers that suggest plants have an ability to communicate, learn and remember. She has long argued that scientists should pay greater attention to the fact that plants can transmit and retrieve information acoustically. In a 2017 study, Gagliano and colleagues showed that plants appear to be able to sense the sound of water vibrating via their roots, which may help them to locate it underground. And Gagliano has also raised eyebrows with claims that, in non-experimental settings, she has heard plants speak to her using words. She says that this experience is "outside the strictly scientific realm" and that a third-party observer would not be able to measure the sounds she heard with laboratory instruments. But she is quite certain that she has perceived plants speaking to her on multiple occasions. "I have been in situations where not just me but several others in the same space heard the same thing," she says. But the precise mechanisms through which plants might perceive or sense sound remain mysterious.
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