Inspirational News StoriesExcerpts of Key Inspirational News Stories in Major Media
Note: This comprehensive list of inspirational news stories is usually updated once a week. Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.
Tom Sexton leans forward into a microphone. “Coming up by request,” he says in a softened-for-radio Appalachian drawl, “going out to Sporty Black from his wife, this is Kendrick Lamar with ‘LOVE.’ ” The melodic R&B track then begins to emanate from the heart of this small eastern Kentucky town. Tonight’s shows are targeted for a very specific audience. People like “Sporty Black.” More than 5,000 men are incarcerated in the six federal and state prisons in the broadcasting range of WMMT. Every week, for almost 20 years, the station has produced a show called “Calls From Home” that broadcasts recorded messages from the inmates’ friends and family members. WMMT bills itself as “a 24 hour voice of mountain people,” and as far as the station is concerned, if the inmates can tune in, then they are mountain people too. “They’re here and part of our communities,” says Elizabeth Sanders, WMMT’s co-general manager. “Anything we can do to help make the barriers between them and their families a little bit less, then we’re fulfilling part of our mission as the radio station here,” she adds. The show has become something of a national phenomenon. Every Monday night calls flood in to the station. Some of the calls come with children discussing a report card, a “happy birthday” rendition, or more somber family news. The costs of calling prisons directly ... have been rising for years, reaching in excess of $10 a minute. “Having a toll-free number can help families keep in touch a little bit more,” says Sanders.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Things are so bad for the planet right now that it’s easy to get depressed about it, says Patagonia Inc. founder Yvon Chouinard. The cure for that depression, he says, is action. So he launched Patagonia Action Works, which ... connects individuals with opportunities to support and get involved with grassroots environmental groups. It matches people with events and volunteering opportunities in their area as well as petitions they can sign and ways to donate money. Participating organizations cover issues of land, water, climate, communities and biodiversity. The Ventura, Calif.-based outdoor clothing retailer is no stranger to activism. It has given $89 million in cash and in-kind donations to environmental groups since 1985 as part of a pledge to donate at least 1% of sales to preserve and restore nature. “Patagonia’s reason for existence is to force government and corporations to take action in solving our environmental problems,” Chouinard said in a video promoting the new program. The company made headlines recently for taking a stand against President Donald Trump’s action to reduce the size of two national monuments. Patagonia’s latest move comes as a number of other companies delve into the politically charged realm of activism, including Tiffany and Co., which urged Trump to keep the U.S. in the Paris Climate Agreement, and REI, which also spoke out against the shrinking of public lands.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Western Europe’s last naturally caused famine ended 150 years ago. In ... Finland, more than a quarter of a million people – nearly 10% of the population – starved to death. Last year ... Finland was ranked, by assorted international indices, the most stable, the safest and the best-governed country in the world. It was also the third wealthiest, the third least corrupt, the second most socially progressive and the third most socially just. Finland’s judicial system is the most independent in the world, its police the most trusted, its banks the soundest, its companies the second most ethical, its elections the second freest, and its citizens enjoy the highest levels of personal freedom, choice and wellbeing. The Nordic country’s 5.5 million inhabitants are also the third most gender-equal in the world and have the fifth lowest income inequality. Their babies are the least underweight, their kids feel the most secure, and their teens perform the second best at reading (only third at science, though). In a century and a half, they seem to have done rather well. The magic sauce ... seems based mainly on basic virtues: self-confidence, cooperation, equality, respect for education, trust. At bottom and in practice, says [Finnish journalist] Anu Partanen ... it boils down to a different quality of relationship. She calls it ... the Nordic theory of love. “In a society, it means policy choices aimed at ensuring the greatest possible degree of independence, freedom and opportunity for everyone.”
Note: Watch this 10-minute video about how Finland completely turned around it's education system to become #1 in the world, largely by cutting out homework. The above article is part of an inspiring new Guardian series investigating the things that are going right in the world.
New research reveals that orcas are able to imitate human speech, in some cases at the first attempt, saying words such as “hello”, “one, two” and “bye bye”. The creatures are already known for their ability to copy the movements of other orcas, with some reports suggesting they can also mimic the sounds of bottlenose dolphins and sea lions. “We wanted to see how flexible a killer whale can be in copying sounds,” said [study co-author] Josep Call. “We thought what would be really convincing is to present them with something that is not in their repertoire – and in this case ‘hello’ [is] not what a killer whale would say.” Only a fraction of the animal kingdom can mimic human speech, with brain pathways and vocal apparatus both thought to determine whether it is possible. “That is what makes it even more impressive – even though the morphology [of orcas] is so different, they can still produce a sound that comes close to what another species, in this case us, can produce,” said Call. Wikie, a 14-year-old female orca ... had previously been trained to copy actions performed by another orca when given a human gesture. After first brushing up Wikie’s grasp of the “copy” command, she was ... exposed to five orca sounds she had never heard before. Finally, Wikie was exposed to a human making three of the orca sounds, as well as six human sounds. Wikie was often quickly able to copy the sounds, whether from an orca or a human, with all of the novel noises mimicked within 17 trials.
Note: Learn more about the amazing world of marine mammals.
Your houseplant salutes the sun each morning. At night, it returns to center. You probably don’t think much of it. But what about all the signs of plant intelligence that have been observed? Under poor soil conditions, the pea seems to be able to assess risk. The sensitive plant can make memories and learn. And plants can communicate with one another and with caterpillars. Now, a study published recently in Annals of Botany has shown that plants can be frozen in place with a range of anesthetics, including the types that are used when you undergo surgery. Insights gleaned from the study may help doctors better understand the variety of anesthetics used in surgeries. But the research also highlights that plants are ... perhaps less different from animals than is often assumed. “Plants are not just robotic, stimulus-response devices,” said [study co-author] Frantisek Baluska, a plant cell biologist. Plants ... take in information from their environment and produce their own anesthetics like menthol, ethanol and cocaine, similar to how humans release chemicals that dull pain during trauma. Our anesthetics work on plants too, the study confirmed, although what exactly they’re working on is unclear. The electrical activity that moves across neurons is thought by some scientists to contribute to human consciousness. If electrical activity is being disrupted by anesthetic in plants, too, causing them to “lose consciousness,” does that mean, in some way, that they are conscious?
Note: Don't miss a time-lapse video of a pea plant responding to an anesthetic at the link above. And check out a fascinating video of plants making music. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Iceland’s new prime minister is a 41-year-old anti-war feminist, democratic socialist, who is also an expert on crime literature. Katrin Jakobsdottir plans to make the small island nation a world-leader in fighting climate change. Her Left-Green Movement will lead a coalition government with two parties across the political spectrum in the hope it gives Iceland some ‘stability’. The country has been rocked by a cycle of scandals that have triggered three elections in the past four years. A snap election was called by former PM Bjarni Benediktsson in September over a furore caused by his father suggesting a paedophile who repeatedly raped his stepdaughter for 12 years should have his ‘honour restored’. Less than a year earlier, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson stepped aside as prime minister amid public fury over the Panama Papers revealing his family had sheltered money in offshore tax havens. In an attempt to break with the past, Jakobsdottir campaigned on a platform of restoring trust in government and leveraged a boom in tourism to increase public spending. She is now among the world’s youngest leaders. Jakobsdottir’s cabinet will be comprised of three members of her Left-Green party, five from the right-wing Independence Party and three from the Progressive Party. ‘In the new government, parties spanning the political spectrum from left to right intend to establish a new tone,’ a statement issued by the new prime minister’s office said.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Boys should not be circumcised until they are old enough to choose for themselves, doctors in Denmark have said. The Danish Medical Association said it had considered suggesting a legal ban on the procedure for children under the age of 18, because it believed circumcision should be “an informed, personal choice” that young men make for themselves. When parents have their sons circumcised, it robs boys of the ability to make decisions about their own bodies ... the organisation said. Lise Mřller, chair of the Doctors' Association Ethics Board, said it was wrong to deny an individual the right to choose whether or not they wanted to be circumcised. The organisation said that because male circumcision is not without risk it should only be performed on children when there is a documented medical need. The doctors stopped short of calling for an all-out legal ban on the procedure, which is currently allowed but remains relatively rare in Denmark, because it said the move could have too many negative consequences. “We have discussed it thoroughly, also in our ethics committee," Ms Mřller said. "We came to the conclusion that it is difficult to predict the consequences of a ban – both for the involved boys, who could for example face bullying or unauthorised procedures with complications – and for the cultural and religious groups they belong to." The Danish Health and Medicines Authority estimates that somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 circumcisions are performed in Denmark each year.
A few days after registration opened at Yale for Psyc 157, Psychology and the Good Life, roughly 300 people had signed up. Within [six] more days, about 1,200 students, or nearly one-fourth of Yale undergraduates, were enrolled. The course, taught by Laurie Santos ... tries to teach students how to lead a happier, more satisfying life in twice-weekly lectures. “Students want to change, to be happier themselves, and to change the culture here on campus,” Dr. Santos said in an interview. “If we see good habits, things like students showing more gratitude, procrastinating less, increasing social connections, we’re actually seeding change in the school’s culture.” A 2013 report by the Yale College Council found that more than half of undergraduates sought mental health care from the university during their time there. “A lot of us are anxious, stressed, unhappy, numb,” said Alannah Maynez, 19, a freshman taking the course. “The fact that a class like this has such large interest speaks to how tired students are of numbing their emotions - both positive and negative - so they can focus on their work.” Psychology and the Good Life ... stands as the most popular course in Yale’s 316-year history. Dr. Santos has encouraged all students to enroll in the course on a pass-fail basis, tying into her argument that the things Yale undergraduates often connect with life satisfaction - a high grade, a prestigious internship, a good-paying job - do not increase happiness at all.
Note: Harvard, Stanford and other colleges are getting in on the action, too, as reported in this article.
Growing up in Stockton, California, a little extra money would've meant the world to Michael Tubbs' family. Tubbs' mother worked long hours ... and still had to borrow from check cashing places to get by. "If we had $300 a month, life would be less stressful," Tubbs says. Today, Tubbs is Stockton's 27-year-old mayor. Last week, he announced the launch of an experimental program that will give people like his mom about $500 a month, with no strings attached. Stockton will likely become the first city in the nation to test out a version of universal basic income, an economic system that would regularly provide all residents enough money to cover basic expenses, with no conditions or restrictions. The concept of universal basic income - or UBI - has been around for decades. Martin Luther King advocated for it in 1967 to create a minimum standard of living. Up until recently, it has mostly been a subject of discussion among academics. But universal basic income has started to gain traction as poverty has grown and fears of automation killing jobs have mounted. Large-scale trials began this year in Finland and Canada to test whether the program improves outcomes like health and employment. A ... non-profit called the Economic Security Project has committed $1 million to the Stockton effort, with funding from donors that include Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. Backers hope larger cities and states will eventually adopt universal basic income programs.
Chile has officially designated a national park network including land privately donated by a US couple. The government signed a deal with Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, who worked with late husband Doug for decades to protect areas of Patagonia. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet called the signing an "unprecedented preservation effort". Tompkins Conservation, the not-for-profit organisation set up by the couple, said the area being protected was roughly the size of Switzerland. Their donation is thought to be the largest of land by private owners to a country. The move will create five new national parks, and expand three others. In total it adds about 10 million acres of land, about one tenth of which was donated by the Tompkins. The Chilean government wants the string of national parks to span a tourist route of more than 1,500 miles (2,400km) across the country. Mrs Tompkins was formerly the CEO of outdoor brand Patagonia, and her husband was one of the founders of outdoor brands The North Face and Espirit. They relocated to Chile in 1994 to work on conservation, buying up land to ecologically preserve as wilderness. Kristine Tompkins signed an agreement with the national government in March 2017, following her husband's accidental death. Monday's designation was the latest act of natural protection by the outgoing Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. In 2017 an area off the coast of Easter Island was designated as one of the world's largest marine protection zones.
What makes a country well-run? Whether minimising corruption or spearheading educational and medical initiatives, governments around the world use different policies to facilitate a high-functioning society. To quantify the effectiveness of these policies, indexes like the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index, the World Bank’s Governance Index and the Social Progress Index survey residents, compile publicly available statistics and rank countries based on their performance across different categories. Certain patterns emerge across all three, with the same countries consistently at the top for their progressive social policies, trust in government and effective justice system. Denmark inches out its neighbours (and blows away the rest of the world) with near-perfect scores on the ‘Basic Human Needs’ ranking in the 2017 Social Progress Index, which includes meeting the nutritional and medical needs of its citizens and giving access to basic knowledge and communication. These benefits are offered to more than just native-born residents. “The general health and social system is well-developed and accessible to anyone living in Denmark, and as a student you can get financial assistance and free language classes,” explained German native Anne Steinbach. The social system also relies on a sense of trust, rather than paperwork. While life in Denmark can be expensive compared to other European countries, with the highest collective taxes in the EU to pay for these services, the benefits outweigh the costs.
What would you do if you had $86m? It’s a welcome dilemma for some of bitcoin’s early adopters thanks to the cryptocurrency’s meteoric rise. One generous bitcoiner has decided to follow the lead of Bill Gates and establish a philanthropic purse, the Pineapple Fund. The founder, known only as Pine, declared in mid December “I’m donating 5,057 BTC to charitable causes!” and since then has given away $7,550,000 in bitcoin to charities and causes around the world, with a view to dispersing the remaining bitcoin over the next several months. “I’m happy that I can help change the world for the better,” Pine says in a phone conversation on condition of anonymity. The nine recipients of the largest bitcoin charitable donations are a collection of nonprofits including medical researchers, those providing poverty-stricken communities with basic necessities, and technology-related causes. “The $1m donation will support the work we do standing up for user privacy and free expression, and defending civil rights in the digital world,” [says a spokesperson for the Electronic Frontier Foundation]. The collection of charities also includes Watsi, a platform committed to taking the US towards universal healthcare, the SENS Research Foundation that works to develop cures for degenerative diseases, and the Water Project which helps to establish safe water sources in Sub-Saharan Africa. Another $1m gift will help fund advanced clinical trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder.
For much of Silicon Valley, 2017 felt like a nonstop parade of scandal. As many of Silicon Valley’s largest companies were wreaking havoc, numerous people and organizations used technology to advance important causes and address large-scale problems. These projects do not always make headlines, but they show what’s possible when technologists use their powers for good. So I’m presenting the first-ever Actually Good Tech Awards, to highlight a handful of tech efforts that produced real societal benefits this year. ESight and Aira ... are taking advantage of recent advances in mobile and imaging technology to help visually impaired people navigate the world. These technologies do not yet allow blind people to drive vehicles or perform other complicated tasks, but they can make their everyday life much easier. Tiffani Ashley Bell ... learned that thousands of low-income residents of Detroit were having their running water shut off because of unpaid bills. So she [set up] an online platform that matched willing donors with Detroit households with unpaid water bills. In 2017, the [nonprofit organization, now known as the Human Utility] paid more than $120,000 toward water bills for nearly 300 families. Bail Bloc ... is an app that uses your computer’s spare processing power to produce a cryptocurrency called Monero, which is [then] donated to the Bronx Freedom Fund, an organization that helps pay bail fees for low-income New Yorkers who have been charged with misdemeanors, so that they can get out of jail while they await trial.
Note: Don't miss the complete list of "Actually Good Tech Awards" recipients at the link above.
One-time Wall Street financier Phil Murphy became New Jersey’s 56th governor in a ceremony at the Trenton War Memorial, complete with a traditional 21-gun salute. The new governor wasted little time in getting to work. Murphy’s first act? Signing an executive order promoting equal pay for women. It’s just part of the change Murphy promised to the people of the state. “They voted to build a stronger and fairer New Jersey that works for every New Jersey family,” the governor said, “and they elected a governor and a lieutenant governor and a legislature with a duty to carry out this promise.” Murphy’s half-hour address hit on all the major themes of the campaign that led him to this moment, providing a better break for all of New Jersey’s 9 million people. That includes everything from requiring the wealthy to pay more in taxes to improving jobs and education, and, yes, legalizing marijuana for recreational use. The governor also noted the diversity of his administration, from the first black woman to serve as lieutenant governor in Sheila Oliver to the first Sikh to be appointed attorney general anywhere in America.
Norway said that electric or hybrid cars represented half of new registrations in the country so far in 2017, as Norway continues its trend towards becoming one of the most ecologically progressive countries in the world. According to figures from the Road Traffic Information Council (OFV) ... sales of electric cars accounted for 17.6 per cent of new vehicle registrations in January and hybrid cars accounted for 33.8 per cent, for a combined 51.4 per cent. Norway already has the highest per capita number of all-electric cars in the world. The milestone is also particularly significant as a large proportion of Norway’s funds rely on the country’s petroleum industry. "This is a milestone on Norway's road to an electric car fleet," Climate and Environment minister Vidar Helgesen [said]. “The transport sector is the biggest challenge for climate policy in the decade ahead. We need to reduce (CO2) emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030," he added. Last year, the government agreed on a proposal to ban the sale of new gasoline and diesel-powered car starting in 2025. It also aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions of new cars to 85 grams per kilometre by 2020 - a goal it has almost achieved: : the figure stood at 88 grams in February compared to 133 grams when the decision was taken five years ago. In December, Norway registered its 100,000th electric car. Norway has also become the first country in the world to commit to zero deforestation.
European Union regulators declared a new policy agenda Tuesday starting with the goal that all plastic packaging on the EU market will be recyclable or reusable by 2030. The European Commission appears to be scrambling to curb plastic usage and increase recycling after China announced it would no longer accept imports of “foreign garbage” starting in 2018. The urgent goal is part of a plan to develop a new, sustainable “plastic economy,” which could potentially involve levying taxes and modernizing plastics production to kickstart a behavior change, the European Commission said. Europeans produce 25 million tons of plastic waste annually, but less than 30% of it is currently recycled. “If we don’t do anything about this, 50 years down the road we will have more plastic than fish in the oceans” Frans Timmermans, vice-president of the European Commission responsible for sustainable development, said. Brussels is zeroing in on single-use plastics in particular, hoping to reduce if not eliminate items like straws, bottles that do not degrade, coffee cups, lids and stirrers, cutlery and takeaway containers. “Single-use plastics ... take five seconds to produce, you use it for five minutes and it takes 500 years to break down again,” Timmermans said. In addition to promoting consumer education, the commission said it will facilitate easy access to tap water throughout Europe in order to reduce the demand for bottled water.
Iceland has become the first major retailer to commit to eliminating plastic packaging for all its own brand products. The retailer said it would be replacing plastic with packaging including paper and pulp trays and paper bags. Iceland said it ... aimed to complete the move by the end of 2023. It has already removed plastic disposable straws from its own label range and new food ranges set to hit the shelves in early 2018 will use paper-based rather than plastic food trays. A survey for Iceland revealed overwhelming public support for a shift away from plastic by retailers, with 80% of 5,000 people polled saying they would endorse a supermarket's move to go plastic-free. Iceland managing director, Richard Walker, said: "The world has woken up to the scourge of plastics. "A truckload is entering our oceans every minute causing untold damage to our marine environment and ultimately humanity - since we all depend on the oceans for our survival. The onus is on retailers, as leading contributors to plastic packaging pollution and waste, to take a stand and deliver meaningful change." As it was technologically and practically possible to create less environmentally harmful alternatives, "there really is no excuse any more for excessive packaging that creates needless waste and damages our environment", he added. Last week, Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste within 25 years as part of the government's environmental strategy, with calls for supermarkets to introduce "plastic-free" aisles.
Every once in awhile, as we Earthlings strive to explore the cosmos, we’re reminded that bits of the cosmos occasionally visit Earth, too. One such reminder came in the form of a blazing green fireball streaking across the predawn New Jersey sky earlier this month. Police dashcam footage ... shows a meteor plunging into the Earth's atmosphere and exploding in a brilliant flash. On Nov. 9 ... an asteroid designated 2017 VL2 came within 75,000 miles of Earth. Despite news reports that the asteroid ... carried enough energy to obliterate New York City, the asteroid – the 48th known one to pass within the moon's orbit this year so far – would have actually burned up in the atmosphere, causing little, if any, damage. “The most important message to get across is that asteroid impacts are extremely unlikely,” Paul Chodas, manager for the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. In 1998, Congress mandated that NASA find 90 percent of asteroids more than 1 kilometer wide. NASA met this goal in 2011, but in the meantime, Congress expanded its mission to include include 90 percent of asteroids 450 feet or larger. Scientists say they have detected about a third of these so far. The bigger the asteroid, the lower the chance of impact: The odds of an asteroid 1 kilometer wide hitting Earth in any given year are 1 in about 500,000, and even an object 450 feet wide has just a 1-in-30,000 chance of impact.
New York City ended the year with the fewest murders and the lowest crime figures in decades, the mayor and the NYPD said Friday. There were 290 murders in the nation's largest city in 2017, compared to 335 killings the previous year, said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a news conference. “No one believed it was possible to get under 300 murders,” de Blasio said. The murder rate is a far cry from 1990, when 2,245 people were killed in the city. The numbers of other crimes - shootings, robberies, burglaries and grand larcenies auto - also dropped, officials said. “To see crime levels as low as we have today, you’d have to go back to 1951, when the Dodgers played in Brooklyn and a slice was 15 cents,” de Blasio added. Overall, 2017 was the fourth straight year of declines in crime in New York City. According to NYPD records there were 96,517 crimes reported last year, compared with 102,052 in 2016, a drop of 5.4 percent.
2017 was probably the very best year in the long history of humanity. A smaller share of the world’s people were hungry, impoverished or illiterate than at any time before. A smaller proportion of children died than ever before. The proportion disfigured by leprosy, blinded by diseases like trachoma or suffering from other ailments also fell. We journalists focus on bad news - we cover planes that crash, not those that take off - but the backdrop of global progress may be the most important development in our lifetime. Every day, the number of people around the world living in extreme poverty (less than about $2 a day) goes down by 217,000, according to ... Max Roser, an Oxford University economist who runs a website called Our World in Data. Every day, 325,000 more people gain access to electricity. And 300,000 more gain access to clean drinking water. As recently as the 1960s, a majority of humans had always been illiterate and lived in extreme poverty. Now fewer than 15 percent are illiterate, and fewer than 10 percent live in extreme poverty. In another 15 years, illiteracy and extreme poverty will be mostly gone. After thousands of generations, they are pretty much disappearing on our watch. Steven Pinker, the Harvard psychology professor, explores the gains in a terrific book due out next month, “Enlightenment Now,” in which he recounts the progress across a broad array of metrics, from health to wars, the environment to happiness, equal rights to quality of life.
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.