Inspirational News StoriesExcerpts of Key Inspirational News Stories in Major Media
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U.S. solar installations reached a record high in 2020 as favorable economics, supportive policies and strong demand in the second half of the year offset the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Installations grew 43% year over year, reaching a record 19.2 gigawatts of new capacity, according to a report released Tuesday from the Solar Energy Industries Association and Wood Mackenzie. In the fourth quarter alone, the U.S. added just over 8 GW of capacity – a quarterly record. That's more than the capacity added in all of 2015, which was 7.5 GW. California, Texas and Florida were the top three states for annual solar additions for the second year running. Virginia and North Carolina rounded out the top five. In the U.S., solar represented 43% of all new electricity generating capacity added in 2020, its largest ever share of new generating capacity. Solar is also the cheapest form of new power in many places. "Residential solar sales continue to exceed expectations as loan providers roll out attractive products, interest in home improvement surges, and customers suffering through power outages from extreme weather events seek energy resilience," the report said. The report also looked for the first time at growth forecasts through 2030, projecting that the U.S. solar market will quadruple from current levels by the end of the decade. The growth is expected to be spread across markets as customers, utilities, states and corporations push to decarbonize the grid.
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Brittany Walters made a promise to her mother the day she passed away from cancer: Brittany and her father would go to homecoming, where the high school senior was nominated for queen. Walters, who aspires to become a nurse, didn't win homecoming queen that night, but thanks to an act of kindness that has shined a healing light on a grieving family and community, she ended the night in a crown. Senior Nyla Covington was voted homecoming queen by fellow students at a school football game in late September. But moments after being crowned, [she] felt called to crown someone else. After asking permission from school officials to do so, Covington walked over to Walters, standing beside her cowboy hat-clad father, and put the crown on her. "I just felt like it was something that was put on my heart," Covington told CNN. "It was really just for her, to bring up her day a little bit, and she'd rather have her mom than a crown... but the point was, I was telling her that she was her mom's queen and I was just letting her know that she was loved by many and especially me." "I just felt so like so much love from her, and I just felt so much love for her and the whole school," Walters said of Covington. "As soon as I got off the field, I just got hundreds of hugs from every single person in the stands." There were tears on and off the field. Forrest County AHS School's principal Will Wheat tells CNN he is proud of the young women. "That wasn't preplanned, this was all on the kids, that's the beautiful thing about it," Wheat said.
Note: Watch a short video on this beautiful act of compassion that also crossed races as Covington is black and Walters is white. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
ABB has launched the world's fastest electric car charger, the Swiss engineering company said on Thursday, to plug into the booming demand for electric cars made by Tesla, Hyundai and other automakers. The company is launching the new Terra 360 modular charger as it presses ahead with plans to float its electric vehicle (EV) charging business, which could be valued around $3 billion. The device can charge up to four vehicles at once, and can fully charge any electric car within 15 minutes, ABB said, making it attractive to customers worried about charging times which can run to several hours. "With governments around the world writing public policy that favours electric vehicles and charging networks to combat climate change, the demand for EV charging infrastructure, especially charging stations that are fast, convenient and easy to operate, is higher than ever," said Frank Muehlon, president of ABB's E-mobility Division. Globally the number of electric vehicles registered increased by 41% during 2020 to 3 million cars, despite the pandemic-related downturn in the total number of new cars sold last year. The growth trend has accelerated in 2021, with electric car sales rising by 140% in the first three months of the year. ABB's Terra 360, which can deliver a charge giving 100 kms (62 miles) of range in less than three minutes, will be available in Europe by the end of the year. The United States, Latin America and the Asia Pacific regions are due to follow in 2022.
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In the last 10 years, psychedelic drugs like LSD, magic mushrooms, DMT, a host of "plant medicines" – including ayahuasca, iboga, salvia, peyote – and related compounds like MDMA and ketamine have begun to lose much of their 1960s-driven stigma. Promising clinical trials suggest that psychedelics may prove game-changing treatments for depression, PTSD and addiction. The response from the psychiatric community ... has been largely open-armed. The drugs may well mark the field's first paradigm shift since SSRIs in the 1980s. In 2017, for example, the US Food and Drug Administration designated MDMA a "breakthrough therapy", which meant it would be fast-tracked through to the second stage of Phase-3 trials. Psychedelics remain Schedule-1 drugs federally in the US and Class-A in the UK, but rules are relaxing. This wave of psychedelic enthusiasm in psychiatry isn't the first. They were originally heralded as wonder drugs in the 1950s. Across some 6,000 studies on over 40,000 patients, psychedelics were tried as experimental treatments for an extraordinary range of conditions: alcoholism, depression, schizophrenia, criminal recidivism, childhood autism. And the results were promising. From as little as a single LSD session, studies suggested that the drug relieved problem drinking for 59% of alcoholic participants. Experimenting with lower, so-called "psycholytic" doses, many therapists were amazed by LSD's power as an adjunct to talking therapy.
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.
[Jim] Anderson is standing in an unassuming patch of woodland in Crystal Falls, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. He is revisiting an organism living under the forest floor that he and his colleagues discovered nearly 30 years ago. This is the home of Armillaria gallica, a type of honey mushroom. When Anderson and his colleagues visited Crystal Falls in the late 1980s, they discovered that what at first appeared to be a rich community of Armillaria gallica flourishing beneath the mulch of leaf litter and top soil of the forest floor was – in fact – one giant individual specimen. They estimated it covered an area about 91 acres, weighed 100 tonnes and was at least 1,500 years old. Analysis produced [a] surprising insight, one that could help us humans in our fight against ... cancer. The Canadian researchers discovered what may be the secret behind the Armillaria gallica's extraordinary size and age. It appears the fungus has an extremely low mutation rate – meaning it avoids potentially damaging alterations to its genetic code. As organisms grow, their cells divide into two to produce new daughter cells. Over time, the DNA in the cells can become damaged leading to errors, known as mutations, creeping into the genetic code. This is thought to be one of the key mechanisms that causes aging. But it seems the Armillaria gallica in Crystal Falls might have some inbuilt resistance to this DNA damage.
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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.
It was six years ago when CEO Dan Price raised the salary of everyone at his Seattle-based credit card processing company Gravity Payments to at least $70,000 a year. Price slashed his own salary by $1 million to be able to give his employees a pay raise. He was hailed a hero by some and met with predictions of bankruptcy from his critics. But that has not happened; instead, the company is thriving. "So you've almost doubled the number of employees?" CBS News' Carter Evans asked. "Yeah," Price replied. He said his company has tripled and he is still paying his employees $70,000 a year. "How much do you make?" asked Evans. "I make $70,000 a year," Price replied. To pay his own bills, Price downsized his life, sold a second home he owned, and tapped into his savings. According to the Economic Policy Institute, average CEO compensation is 320 times more than the salaries of their typical workers. "This shows that isn't the only way for a company to be successful and profitable," Hafenbrack said. "Do you pay what you can get away with? Or do you pay what you think is ideal, or reasonable, or fair?" Price said despite the success his company has had with the policy, he wishes other companies would follow suit. Bigger paychecks have lead to fiercely loyal employees. "Our turnover rate was cut in half, so when you have employees staying twice as long, their knowledge of how to help our customers skyrocketed over time and that's really what paid for the raise more so than my pay cut," said Price.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared China malaria-free, after a 70-year effort to wipe it out. China used to report 30 million cases a year during the 1940s. Since then, eradication efforts have driven down case numbers. The country used various methods to break the cycle of transmission of the parasite via mosquitos. The WHO said the country had now gone four years without registering a case, giving it malaria-free certification. China's success was hard-earned, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and came only after decades of targeted and sustained action. Although preventable and mostly curable if diagnosed and treated promptly, the World Health Organization estimates there were 229 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2019 and 409,000 deaths. Around 94% of all infections were reported in Africa. China's government has brought malaria cases down by using anti-malarial drugs, spraying mosquito breeding grounds, and distributing insecticide-treated nets. Countries can apply to the WHO for certification as malaria-free after they report four consecutive years of no indigenous cases. They must then present evidence of this, and demonstration their ability to prevent any future outbreak. According to the WHO, China has become the 40th country to be declared malaria-free.
On May 28, Gloria Howard, an elder with Shiloh Temple, opened a lawn chair and sat down on one of the most dangerous street corners in North Minneapolis. Every day since, as part of the 21 Days of Peace community organizing project, she and others like her in our city have sat on street corners that are threatened by violence. Through the simple act of publicly taking a seat – staking their claim to a peaceful neighborhood by interrupting violence – they have undoubtedly saved lives. The campaign began after three children were shot in Minneapolis over a period of a few weeks: 6-year-old Aniya Allen, 9-year-old Trinity Ottoson-Smith and 10-year-old Ladavionne Garrett Jr. Aniya and Trinity died; Ladavionne was critically injured. Tragic stories such as theirs are occurring in cities across the country, as alarm bells ring in city halls and state capitols about rising violent crime. The problem is due in large part to a loss of trust between communities and law enforcement; disinvestment in neighborhoods and schools where more help, not less, is needed; and decades of failure to keep guns off the streets. What makes this simple act of sitting apparently so powerful? The people sitting on these corners in their chairs are members of the community. We know our young people, and they know us. But more important, we represent one of the strongest bastions of moral authority left in these areas: the Black church. We draw on the power of congregation – of family, of friends and of community – to try to interrupt the violence.
Pandit Tulsidas, 52, was resting under a tree by a road junction in Jaipur, Rajasthan, where he had begged for years. When an official approached him about a government scheme that would teach him job skills, he rejected the offer. "But when he told me I was guaranteed a job, I accepted," he says, fearing that otherwise: "After the training, I'd end up back on the streets, because how can I eat without an income?" Six months on and Tulsidas works at a snack stand outside a Jaipur hospital. Getting people off the streets is usually done by bundling them into a police van and hauling them away to a crowded, dirty shelter. Keeping them off the streets is a problem India has so far failed to crack. The Rajasthan Skill and Livelihood Development Corporation (RSLDC) has developed a four-month scheme for 100 men interested in developing their skills and who have families to support. After an assessment, it's established that some can cook, some know a little bookkeeping, others can bake and so on. For four months, trainers then work to build on these skills. Employers are enlisted to provide jobs and can visit the training centre. The men are given shelter and food and receive 230 rupees (Ł2.30) a day, slightly more than India's minimum wage. Without counselling, many of the men would drop out. Rakesh Jain, RSLDC's deputy general manager, believes it is a crucial aspect of rehabilitation. "The counselling is as important as the training," says Jain. It is this holistic aspect that accounts for its initial success.
Having learned from other cities' attempts to address homelessness, Albuquerque, New Mexico, has opened a village of tiny homes (THV). It hopes fostering a sense of community will prepare residents for permanent housing. But villagers aren't supposed to spend too much time in their new homes. The center of the community is the "Village House," where residents can cook, do laundry, hold meetings, go to the library, and watch television. They also do chores and help run the village. When people experiencing homelessness move off the street, "they lose [their] community," says Ilse Biel, resource manager for the THV. "It takes forever to forge a new community." "With this model we're almost trying to force the issue," she adds. The THV provides access to an occupational therapist and psychiatric nurse, as well as volunteers who help residents with computer skills, rĂ©sumĂ© building, and mock interviews. What Henry Esquivel likes most about his new house is the blast of cold air it delivers when he walks in. It's a big change from the Ford F-150 he used to sleep in. It's more spacious too, despite his new house being just one room. And it comes with neighbors – all of whom, like him, recently experienced homelessness. A few doors down is Mark Larusch. The father of three has potted plants and an Adirondack chair on his patio. A few doors further away is the woman whose large, black Labrador, Dottie, greets Mr. Esquivel excitedly every day.
Julia Davies had one only goal in mind when she sold her share of the outdoor equipment company Osprey Europe a few years ago. The entrepreneur decided she was going to spend her millions ... by returning swathes of the British farmland to wilderness. Nature is in crisis in the UK, she argues, and its threatened wildlife needs all the protection it can get. A few months ago, the first steps towards her rewilding dreams were taken with the purchase of 170 hectares of fields and meadows that surround Court Farm, near Bere Regis, Dorset. The land cost almost Ł4m but thanks to the prospect of a bridging loan from Davies, Dorset Wildlife Trust has been able to acquire ownership. Pastures where Friesian cattle once grazed and fields of wheat, maize and barley – which fed the Court Farm herd – will now be returned to nature. New woodland will spread over the pastures, wildlife and plants from hedgerows will colonise fields while a network of deep ditches which have drained the farm for decades will be filled in and blocked. Wetlands will return to the landscape – along with populations of frogs and newts. Crucially, the plan adopted by Davies – a commercial lawyer turned green activist – could serve as a template for future rewilding projects as the UK struggles to counter its mounting biodiversity crisis. "Rather than buy my own piece of land to rewild it, I decided to lend money so that conservation groups such as wildlife trusts could get control of a piece of land. Then they could pay me back."
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More and more people are going hungry, with food bank lines stretching for blocks. One solution has been popping up in cities of all sizes: community fridges. The fridges, usually colorfully painted, can be found in public spaces like sidewalks and storefronts. Volunteers and community members keep them stocked with donated food and other supplies, and people can take what they need – no questions asked. While the pandemic and subsequent economic difficulty may have accelerated their use, community fridges aren't a unique idea; Ernst Bertone Oehninger, the co-founder of Freedge, a network that provides resources and information to community fridge operators around the world, said that he believes he first started hearing about the concept in 2012. Currently, Freedge's database lists nearly 200 fridges in the United States. When it comes to starting a community fridge, organizers described the process as surprisingly easy. The most difficult part, according to Sandra Belat, 24, who is preparing to open a fridge in Denver, Colorado, is securing a location, but the community has been eager to support the initiative. Community fridge organizers are responsible for more than just putting food in fridges: They also need to keep them clean, ensure that the items inside the fridge are safe and healthy and keep the fridges stocked. In addition to food donations, many community fridges are given supplies and financial donations, so the operators can purchase items to put in the fridges.
The world's first customer delivery of "green steel" produced without using coal is taking place in Sweden, according to its manufacturer. The Swedish venture Hybrit said it was delivering the steel to truck-maker Volvo AB as a trial run before full commercial production in 2026. Volvo has said it will start production in 2021 of prototype vehicles and components from the green steel. Steel production using coal accounts for around 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Hybrit started test operations at its pilot plant for green steel in Lulea, northern Sweden, a year ago. It aims to replace coking coal, traditionally needed for ore-based steel making, with renewable electricity and hydrogen. Hydrogen is a key part of the EU's plan to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Hybrit is owned by the steelmaker SSAB, state-owned utility Vattenfall and miner LKAB. SSAB accounts for 10% of Sweden's and 7% of Finland's carbon dioxide emissions. It said the trial delivery was an "important step towards a completely fossil-free value chain. The goal is to deliver fossil-free steel to the market and demonstrate the technology on an industrial scale as early as 2026." Another green steel venture, H2 Green Steel, is planning to build a fossil fuel-free steel plant in the north of Sweden, including a sustainable hydrogen facility, with production starting in 2024.
What Washington musician Yoko Sen describes as the "soundtrack of her life" is not one of the songs she wrote for the band Dust Galaxy, but the alarm of the heart monitor at her hospital bedside. When the U.S.-based Japanese artist fell ill in 2012 and had to spend weeks in hospitals, she found the jarring sounds there detrimental to her healing. "I thought it was torture, the cacophony of alarms, beeps, doors slamming, the squeaking of carts, people screaming." At the time, it wasn't clear if Sen would make a full recovery. She was connected to four different machines, and each emitted a different sound. Her sensitive ears were especially bothered by the constant beeping of her heart monitor. "Sound is largely ignored in healthcare even though the aesthetics of it could have a great impact on our sense of wellbeing and dignity," Sen realized. When Sen recovered, she was determined to follow her new mission: to "humanize" hospital sounds. How does healing sound? Or love? Are there tunes that foster recovery? She founded SenSound in 2015, a social enterprise to reimagine the acoustic environment in hospitals. [The] 41-year-old Sen is addressing a massive, often overlooked problem. On average, a patient endures 135 different alarms each day, hospitals are often louder than a highway during rush hour and sleep deprivation is a common complaint. Many wish for the sounds of nature, the laughter of children, or the voice of a loved one.
The nature of work has undergone a lot of changes during the coronavirus pandemic. In Congress, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) has introduced legislation to make a 32-hour workweek standard. This "great reassessment" of labor feels revolutionary. But we have been here before. In 1933, the Senate passed, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt supported, a bill to reduce the standard workweek to only 30 hours. In the 1830s, workers in manufacturing were on the job roughly 70 hours a week, often in horrendous and even deadly conditions. By the 1890s that had dropped to about 60 hours. This period also saw the rise of labor unions [and] the creation of Labor Day as a national holiday. The eight-hour day picked up in popularity in the decades preceding the Great Depression. Federal workers, railroad workers and Ford Motor employees all moved to eight-hour shifts. As soon as Roosevelt took office on March 4, 1933, he called Congress into a special session. On April 6, the Senate passed [Sen. Hugo] Black's 30-hour week bill. Meanwhile at the White House, as Roosevelt worked on a comprehensive recovery plan, he began to turn against the 30-hour week. What if, rather than sharing available work, there was just more work? As the plan for a massive public works program took shape, support for the 30-hour week collapsed. Instead, Roosevelt used the threat of it as leverage to get industry leaders to agree to ban child labor, set a modest minimum wage and limit the standard workweek at 40 hours.
The national electricity market reached a new milestone on Sunday, with solar power outstripping energy generation from coal for the first time since the market was set up two decades ago. The crossover point lasted for only a few minutes, as low demand and sunny skies on Sunday meant the contribution from coal dropped to a record low of 9,315MW just after noon, while solar provided the dominant share with 9,427MW. Dylan McConnell, a research fellow at the University of Melbourne's climate and energy college, said that for a brief moment renewable energy represented 57% of national electricity generation. "This is what I unofficially call 'record season'," McConnell said. "It's actually still pretty early in the season [to get these numbers] but in spring or the shoulder seasons you have the combination of low demand, because there's no heating or cooling, and then nice weather on the weekend. "Those factors combine, and you get these giant shares of renewable energy that generally push out coal." While McConnell said it was only "fleeting" and that "Australia was a long way from peak renewable energy", energy prices also went negative on Sunday from 8.30am through to 5pm. It means ... energy producers were paying to keep running. Unlike more nimble solar and wind producers, coal generators are particularly hurt when prices turn negative. The costs associated with shutting down and restarting coal generators are prohibitive.
During a normal summer, Glacier Bay and the surrounding area buzzes with traffic, as vessels of all sizes, from massive, 150,000-tonne cruise liners to smaller whale-watching boats, ply the waters as part of Southern Alaska's massive tourism industry. The Covid-19 pandemic brought all of that to a sudden halt. Overall marine traffic in Glacier Bay declined roughly 40%. According to research by [Christine] Gabriele and Cornell University researcher Michelle Fournet, the level of manmade sound in Glacier Bay last year dropped sharply from 2018 levels, particularly at the lower frequencies generated by the massive cruise ship engines. Peak sound levels were down nearly half. All this afforded researchers an unprecedented opportunity to study whale behaviour in the kind of quiet environment that hasn't existed in the area for more than century. Gabriele has already noted changes. She compared whale activity in pre-pandemic times to human behaviour in a crowded bar. They talk louder, they stay closer together, and they keep the conversation simple. Now, the humpbacks seem to be spreading out across larger swathes of the bay. Whales can hear each other over about 2.3km (1.4 miles), compared with pre-pandemic distances closer to 200m (650ft). That has allowed mothers to leave their calves to play while they swim out to feed. Some have been observed taking naps. And whale songs - the ghostly whoops and pops by which the creatures communicate - have become more varied.
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Hundreds of households in New Mexico and Arizona recently had their medical debts eliminated, thanks to St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Santa Fe. The church worked through a nonprofit organization called RIP Medical Debt that buys up medical debt and then uses donations to pay it off. "The driving force behind this was our pastor, Rev. Catherine Volland," said Peg Maish, a spokeswoman for St. Bede's. "She was really advocating for it. In all, it was about a year and a half in the making, from researching it to making a final decision." In total, 234 households in New Mexico and 548 in Arizona had their medical debt paid off. St. Bede's settled all of the New Mexico debt held by RIP Medical Debt, enabling the church to also reach out to Arizona. St. Bede's paid off medical debt in Arizona areas with a heavy Native American population. Native American areas are often poor and have many healthcare problems. St. Bede's settled all the debt for $15,000, even though the actual debt was $1,380,119. The reason is that RIP Medical Debt purchases the debt for pennies on the dollar. RIP Medical Debt was founded in 2014 by Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton, two former debt collection executives. The nonprofit organization selects families and individuals whose income is no more than twice the federal poverty level and whose debts exceed their assets. RIP sends a letter to each debtor and contacts credit agencies to inform them that the debt has been paid.
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