Inspirational News StoriesExcerpts of Key Inspirational News Stories in Major Media
Note: This comprehensive list of inspiration 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.
Media portrayals of adolescence shape how society views young people and, as positive youth development scholars note, whether they are seen as risks to be managed or resources to be developed. My own research on adolescent mindfulness and virtue inspired me to learn more about how adolescents are faring during the pandemic. Zoya Sethi is a ninth grader from Delhi, India. She and four of her friends observed that after the shutdown of industries in the cities, millions migrated hundreds of kilometers by foot back to their villages, and women had no access to feminine hygiene pads. In response, they began a campaign through Instagram (@we_standwithher). Lucas Hung is a 12th grader from Vancouver, British Columbia. He and four friends similarly used Instagram to raise funds for those in need, with the dual goal of uniting their classmates (@_viralcause_) The teens also found meaning in smaller acts of service that filled critical needs in their communities. “It was so cool to see that something as small as offering to teach a 40-minute online dance class to their kids could make parents’ lives so much better,” explained Devyn Slade, a 12th grade volunteer dance instructor. Teens also empathized with the plight of seniors in retirement communities. One group wrote letters to older adults, “trying to make them feel connected, seen, and loved during this time where they’re facing tons of isolation and fear and hard times,” said Connor Macmillan, a 12th grade water polo player.
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When Encinitas, Calif., teenager Ariella Pacheco was a little girl, her parents let her choose from a catalog the American Girl doll that most appealed to her. She picked the one with the hair color and style that matched her own. But what about children with rare medical conditions who don’t look like anyone else, including the mass-produced dolls on store shelves? Pacheco wanted to give these children the same gift she got as a child. So, over the past several months, she has designed and sewn cloth dolls for four local youth. “I really value the beauty in the little things,” Pacheco said. “Each of these kids are so unique, so special. I hope through these dolls they can see themselves in a new light and really embrace their beauty.” She ... designed her own patterns and figured out how to re-create the children’s differences. It was important to her that the children recognize themselves in the dolls but that their differences not be the most noticeable feature. “I hope they’re really excited with them,” Pacheco said. “The whole time I was trying to put as much love into it as I could and hoped they represented each child faithfully.” The inspiration for the four dolls are Felix, a 6-year-old boy with a large scar on his head from surgery for a skull fracture; Andrea, a 2-year-old with a port-wine stain birthmark on her face; Valeria, a toddler with Apert syndrome, which causes skull deformities, misshapen eyes and fused fingers; and Zulema Gillett, [who has] Goldenhar syndrome, which caused her to be born with a cleft lip, misaligned jaw, and only one ear.
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Thanks to the internet and MOOC (massive open online courses) culture, it's not hard to find courses from prestigious universities such as Yale online for free or cheap. Counter to the Ivy League's legacy of exclusivity, MOOCs are designed to remove traditional education barriers: price and location. In fact, Yale offers access to a handful of recorded in-person courses such as African American History: From Emancipation to the Present via Open Yale Courses, a platform where anyone can access the lectures. However, lecture-listeners won't earn course credit, degrees, or a certificate of completion. If you're looking for a classroom-like educational experience with more structure, feedback, and peers, you'll want to turn to Coursera. The online learning platform features more than a dozen Yale courses that range in topic from economics to parenting to happiness. Coursera classes typically include video lectures, resources, community discussions, and quizzes. They're free to enroll in, but you'll have to pay a low fee (starting at $49) for features like graded homework assignments or certificates of completion, which can be added to a LinkedIn page. Based on the most popular course in Yale's history, [The Science of Well-Being] combines positive psychology with the real-life applications of behavioral science to increase your own happiness using concrete, productive habits. Read our full review of The Science of Well-Being course here.
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Jocelynn James, a recovered drug addict ... saved the life of the police officer who put her in jail nearly a decade ago. Between 2007-2012, James was arrested 16 times for theft and drug charges. “I was just living a really bad life, doing a lot of really bad things that I shouldn’t have had no business doing,” James said. Terrell Potter, a former officer with Phil Campbell Police Department, said James was going through a difficult place in her life. “She was out running crazy, stealing and doing drugs,” Potter said. “I locked her up a couple of times.” James said she was finally able to get her life straightened out, and on Nov. 5, she will celebrate eight years out of jail and eight years sober. James said Potter saved her life by arresting her and leading her to turn her life around. Last November, Potter learned that his kidney was failing, only functioning at 5%. Doctors told Potter that he would face a seven to eight-year waiting period for a kidney. After scrolling on her phone on Facebook, James learned that Potter needed a kidney. “I just threw my phone down and the holy spirit told me right then that I had that man’s kidney.” After a series of hospital tests, James learned that they were a perfect match. “If you asked me 100 names of who may give me a kidney, her name would have not been on the list,” Potter said. On July 21, Potter received a successful kidney transplant. “All the numbers were great. It started working from the time it was put in,” Potter said. “Her giving me a kidney ... extended my life.”
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Jonah Larson taught himself how to crochet at age 5 by watching YouTube videos. Now 11, he has been described as a "crocheting prodigy." He has his own crochet business, called Jonah's Hands, based out of his home in La Crosse, Wisc. Crocheting has also made him a social media star — but he doesn't do it for the fame. Jonah has more than 46,000 followers on Instagram, where he sells his goods. Jonah regularly donates some of his goods and money to the Ethiopian orphanage from which he was adopted as an infant. His mother, Jennifer Larson, doesn't crochet, but she does run his Instagram account and has joined a few Facebook crocheting groups on his behalf. It's up to Jonah, she says, to decide what he does with the profits. "I don't buy his yarn for him. He buys his own yarn from the profits he makes from selling," she says. "He saves some money, he's investing some money and he donates as well. So those are things I think are important in life for adults to do, and I'm glad that he can learn that at an early age." "I hope people gain from seeing my work [and] it makes them happy too," Jonah says. "When I see my crochet work when it's done, it blows my mind to know that I, an 11-year-old with a tiny hook and a ball of yarn, made this amazing afghan, scarf, cowl, you name it." After an article was published about him in a local paper last month, his story went viral. Jonah now has over 2,500 orders and has temporarily stopped taking new requests.
As frugal, outdoorsy newlyweds in the 1960s, Jack and Laura Dangermond spent their honeymoon camping along California's iconic Central Coast before heading inland to Yosemite. The two grew especially fond of a stretch of coastline west of Santa Barbara, with sweeping vistas of the Pacific Ocean. Now the Dangermonds are donating $165 million to ensure that one of the last pristine stretches of California's coast that remains in private hands, just up the road from where they camped, is preserved forever. The gift to The Nature Conservancy is the largest the organization has ever received and was earmarked for the purchase the 25,000-acre Bixby Ranch, which straddles Point Conception in Santa Barbara County. The donation by the Dangermonds, the billionaire founders of Esri, the privately-held software company that essentially invented the digital map, is also the ninth largest philanthropic gift of 2017, according to a database compiled by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The ranch has been privately owned and was once considered for development. It includes 8 miles of coastline, windswept bluffs and hillsides and valleys rich with California live oaks. It is home to 39 threatened or "special status" species, including 14 that are considered endangered, as well as Chumash artifacts and dozens [of] National Historic Register sites. Sitting at the intersection of Northern and Southern California, its habitat has elements of both regions. "That's a pretty rare thing in California," Dangermond says.
Denmark, currently the second happiest country on earth, is now home to The Happiness Museum, an institution dedicated to the idea of happiness and how it has been perceived and discussed over the centuries. The Happiness Museum officially opened on July 14 in a small 240-squaremeter (2,585 square foot) space in Copenhagen. During a time when museums are getting hit hard by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, this museum feels like a shining ray of hope. “There might not be a lot of guests these days, but the world does need a little bit more happiness,” said Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute. The institute is particularly focused on studying why some societies are happier than others, with the objective to help affect political and societal change. “We thought, why don't we create a place where people can experience happiness from different perspectives and give them an exhibition where they can become a little bit wiser around some of the questions we try to solve?” said Wiking. Instead of rainbows, puppies, or things that are soft, squishy, or shiny, visitors to the museum are met with exhibits and interactive experiences to show them how different countries perceive happiness. Visitor’s reactions to interactive experiences also help the institute further its research. “We might be Danish or Mexican or American or Chinese, but we are first and foremost people,” Wiking said. “It's the same things that drive happiness no matter where we're from.”
Giving money or resources to your children or aging parents is likely to increase their life span, according to a new paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. There is a linear relationship between the amount and frequency of wealth transfers and the lengths of individuals' lives, the study results have shown. The researchers' goal was to track data on how every individual in a given society consumes and saves. Intergenerational wealth transfers can include money, but they can also include houses, benefits or time. The researchers recognized that other factors - such as country's gross domestic product (GDP) and income inequality - also affect a population's life expectancy and adjusted their models to include those factors. One likely reason, [lead study author Tobias] Vogt said, for the correlation between countries experiencing greater longevity in the presence of financial transfers was that those countries exhibited stronger social cohesion. To back that up, he cited a 2010 meta-analysis ... with an aggregate of 148 separate studies involving a total of more than 300,000 participants. It found that survival was 50% greater for those with stronger social relationships compared to those with lesser or no social bonds. Generosity and life expectancy are among the six variables scientists look at when making the World Happiness Report, which is released annually by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations.
Judith Heumann, who had polio as a baby and uses a wheelchair, started her activism early. After graduating from college, she applied for a teaching license but was rejected by the New York City board of education, which called her a fire hazard. Heumann sued for discrimination and won in a landmark case, becoming the first wheelchair user to teach in the city’s schools. That victory put Heumann in the spotlight. She founded her own disability-rights group in 1970 and became an advocate for the independent-living movement. She successfully pushed Richard Nixon to sign the first federal civil rights legislation for disabled people. But when regulations for the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 were stalled, Heumann helped organize more than 100 disabled activists to stage a sit-in, named for the law’s section on disabilities, at a San Francisco federal building in 1977. The 504 Sit-in, which lasted 28 days, challenged the perception of people with disabilities as helpless or objects of pity. In Heumann’s words: “We demonstrated to the entire nation that disabled people could take control over our own lives and take leadership in the struggle for equality.” The 504 Sit-in accomplished its goal, and those protections laid the groundwork for the Americans with Disabilities Act. Heumann, who served in the Education and State departments of the Clinton and Obama administrations, has continued to advance the rights of disabled people around the world.
Note: Listen to a BBC interview with this courageous, pioneering woman. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring disabled persons news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
A dolphin species considered regionally extinct in the Adriatic has been spotted there repeatedly off the Italian and Slovenian coast. Researchers from Morigenos Slovenian Marine Mammal Society and the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews have published a new review study on the occurrence of common dolphins in the Gulf of Trieste and the northern Adriatic Sea, published in the scientific journal Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. The dolphin (Delphinus delphis) used to be very common in the Adriatic Sea and other parts of the Mediterranean Sea. However, since the 1970s it has become so rare that the Mediterranean population is now listed as Endangered on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). During the last 30 years, this species has been considered as regionally extinct from the Adriatic Sea, likely due to intentional and systematic killing during mid-20th century. Back then, both Italy and the former Yugoslavia used to pay monetary rewards for every dolphin killed because dolphins were considered a pest that competed with fisheries. Due to their rarity, all records of common dolphins in the Adriatic and many other Mediterranean areas are important. Despite no previous records, four different animals were observed in the area over a period of four years. Some of these individual dolphins were seen repeatedly, one over the course of two months and one over the course of more than a year.
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Older Americans suffer disproportionately from chronic pain and its attendant ailments, anxiety, depression and insomnia. In the search for relief, they consume more pharmaceutical drugs than perhaps any comparable cohort on this planet. Psychedelic therapies to treat mental health conditions offer a radical departure from current pharmaceutical models. The psychedelic therapy modalities currently under investigation combine a limited number of treatment sessions with a psychedelic substance, sandwiched between intensive pre- and post-treatment therapy sessions. The ideal, and realistic, outcome from this course of treatment is not mere symptom control, but durable remission. Indeed, these studies are finding that, in clinically significant numbers, recipients of a single course of psychedelic therapy report the experience to be life-changing, and enduring over time. The positive preliminary outcomes of clinical studies by MAPS using MDMA to treat PTSD, and Compass Pathways for psilocybin therapy for treatment-resistant depression, have convinced the FDA to grant them Breakthrough Therapy Designation. In the 1960s researchers were interested in seeing if psychedelic drug treatment could alleviate existential distress in terminal cancer patients. This line of research was picked up 35 years later by Dr. Charles Grob, whose 2011 pilot study of psilocybin treatment for terminal cancer patients found significant enduring reductions in anxiety and improvement in mood at a six-month follow up.
Wind farms come with many benefits - but they can be a danger to local birds. A new study suggests a small tweak to the turbine design could make a big difference in terms of avian safety, and all it takes is a paint job. In an experiment run on the Norwegian archipelago of Smřla, changing the colour of just one of the turbine blades to black led to an average of 70 percent annual reduction in bird fatalities, as measured over three and a half years. In a linked experiment, painting part of some of the turbine towers black also resulted in fewer bird deaths. While the study only involved one wind farm and a small number of birds ... it points to a way of keeping birds from harm without major reengineering. "In this case it was resource demanding to paint the rotor blades, since the wind turbines were already installed," says conservation biologist Roel May. "If the painting is done before construction, however, both the cost and the bird mortality will be reduced." Very little data is available on just how many bird deaths are caused each year by wind turbines. Some estimates put it at the tens of thousands. Painted blades could be one solution to the problem. The researchers think it makes the turbines more visible to birds, reducing what's known as motion smear – where moving objects are more difficult to get a visual lock on. The study also looked at other possible ways of reducing bird deaths, such as covering blades with ultraviolet paint, and positioning turbines in such a way as to avoid areas of updraft that birds use to soar.
Stephen Akpabio-Klementowski, an ex-convict and lecturer, has transformed his life through education after he earned his undergraduate degree and two master’s while serving a 16-year jail sentence. Without any qualification, he managed to defy the odds and studied to earn a degree from The Open University and two master’s from Oxford Brooks. Stephen was serving a 16-year jail sentence for the importation of class A drugs. In spite of the major setbacks and bitter life experiences, Stephen managed to transform his life, and his extraordinary story has inspired many across the world. Stephen defines his decision to pursue a degree as a "seminal moment in his life". Stephen is now studying for his PhD in criminology while working part-time as the regional manager for The Open University’s Students. In 2019, 17 inmates, police officers and former convicts graduated from the Kamiti Maximum Prison in Nairobi with law degrees from the University of London. Ten of the inmates were drawn from Kenyan and Ugandan prisons, three were former convicts who enrolled for the program while still in prison while the rest were prison officers and one African Prison Project staff. John Muthuri, the legal aid manager noted there were few lawyers to serve more than 54,000 prisoners in the country and as such the project would ensure convicts behind bars got affordable legal representation. “We are creating innovative ways to ensure that everyone behind bars who can’t afford legal representation is represented,” Muthuri said.
2020 marks the 82nd year that researchers at Harvard University began following 724 college age men as part of the longest running study in history on human development. Their objective? To determine what factors lead to healthy and happy lives. Key results suggest that happiness and health do not result from fame and fortune. Instead, as the Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development Robert Waldinger put it, the clearest message to emerge is, “Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.” Close relationships ... are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes. Research from University College London found that people with a greater sense of purpose in life lived longer than those with the lowest sense of purpose. A study conducted with the elderly showed those who helped others lived longer lives. Researchers from Norway found that women who rated high for humor had a 48 percent lower risk of death from all causes. Research from University College London showed people who felt younger had a lower death rate than those who felt their own age or older. A Harvard study found the most optimistic people had a 16 percent lower risk of death from cancer, a 38 percent lower risk of death from heart disease and respiratory disease, and a 39 percent lower risk of dying from stroke. Research from UC Berkeley shows that experiencing awe can actually impact health by reducing inflammation and lowering the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.
Note: The above article contains a great list of questions designed to help improve wellbeing. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
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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When Trinity Jagdeo’s best friend was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2, a rare and serious degenerative disease, Trinity wished her friend had a hero she could relate to, someone to inspire her. She couldn’t find one. So she created one. “Seeing what my best friend was going through, I wanted to do more for others like her.” In 2014, her friend Alexus Dick was hospitalized for six months. “I took note of how drained she was. She had nobody to look up to while she was going through that battle.” Trinity’s first instinct was to reach out to Disney, asking for more characters with disabilities or special needs. “I wrote them letters, made Youtube videos. I didn’t receive a response, so I decided to create my own non-profit, and I began writing and illustrating my own books that featured local special-needs kids.” Alexus was thrilled when she saw Trinity’s comic books starring heroes with disabilities. “I was excited when I realized what she was doing. She was right, there were no characters with disabilities.” Trinity ... found an inexpensive drawing pad that connected to her computer, and she began to use Amazon’s publishing tools. “I put the entire thing together, and they’d print it out for me.” This was when Trinity was 17. Trinity has written and illustrated three books so far. “I love all of the kids I write about, and they all inspire me. I actually illustrated Alexus’s brother, who also has spinal muscular atrophy.” His book is titled “Zappy Zane.” Her other two titles are “Alice the Ace” and “The We Can Squad Saves the Day.”
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When we think about people who are behind bars for crimes simple or heinous, our minds take us to a place of judgment. We may view inmates as less than: less intelligent, less successful, less worthy of love and support. We may see them as “other.” The reality is, we may all be a few experiences away from potentially committing a crime. A video that poignantly highlights the dynamics that could lead to incarceration is called Step Inside the Circle. It begins with a group of 235 men in blue uniforms in a yard of a maximum-security prison. Barbed wire and guards surround them. They tower over a petite blond woman wearing a black and white t-shirt that says There Is No Shame. She carries a megaphone through which she invites them to step inside the circle if they have experienced verbal or physical abuse and neglect, if they lived in a home without feeling loved, if they had given up on themselves. One by one and then in multitudes, they join Fritzi Horstman as together they chant “There is no shame,” over and over. A group of them move indoors and sit in a circle of chairs with Horstman admitting her own wounds that led to criminal activity. That opened the door for the participants to describe the wounds they have carried for much of their lives. [The] men were visibly moved, some wiping their eyes, some providing brotherly support and admitted that they were breaking the code by being vulnerable. They discovered that it was a unifying experience and they felt less isolated as a result.
Days after Argentina canceled all international passenger flights to shield the country from the new coronavirus, Juan Manuel Ballestero began his journey home the only way possible: He stepped aboard his small sailboat for what turned out to be an 85-day odyssey across the Atlantic. The 47-year-old sailor could have stayed put on the tiny Portuguese island of Porto Santo. But the idea of spending what he thought could be “the end of the world” away from his family, especially his father who was soon to turn 90, was unbearable. So he said he loaded his 29-foot sailboat with canned tuna, fruit and rice and set sail in mid-March. He was no stranger to spending long stretches of time at sea, but being alone on the open ocean is daunting to even the most experienced sailor. “I wasn’t afraid, but I did have a lot of uncertainty,” he said. “It was very strange to sail in the middle of a pandemic with humanity teetering around me.” Several weeks into the trip, when his spirits were low, Mr. Ballestero said he was buoyed by wildlife sightings that felt like omens. He found solace in a pod of dolphins that swam alongside his boat, on and off, for some 2,000 miles. When he made it to his native Mar del Plata, on June 17, he was startled by the hero’s welcome he received. “Entering my port where ... all this originated, gave me the taste of a mission accomplished,” he said. While he didn’t get to celebrate his father’s 90th birthday in May, he did make it home in time for Father’s Day.
Scientists have developed new technology that can turn seawater into clean drinking water in less than 30 minutes. Researchers based in Australia used a metal-organic framework (MOF), a type of lattice-like crystal, to desalinate water. The hollow framework of pores separates the salty solute within the brackish water or even saltier seawater, in a process known as molecular sieving. Under dark conditions, the framework absorbs salts and other impurities in the water in 30 minutes. The MOF itself is then regenerated for reuse in just four minutes, using sunlight to remove the adsorbed salts. The light-responsive MOF was used to filter harmful particles from water and generate 139.5 litres of clean water per kilogram of MOF per day. Scientists say their technology is more energy-efficient than current desalination practices, including reverse osmosis, and could provide potable water for millions globally. Water scarcity is one of the largest global risks in the upcoming years, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). Thermal desalination processes by evaporation using solar energy are widely used to produce fresh water, but can be highly energy intensive. 'Sunlight is the most abundant and renewable source of energy on Earth,' said Professor Huanting Wang ... at Monash University in Australia. 'Our development of a new adsorbent-based desalination process through the use of sunlight for regeneration provides an energy-efficient and environmentally-sustainable solution for desalination.'
At only 10 years old, [Devan Watkins] went from being an energetic sports-oriented kid to one with paraplegia navigating a new way of life from a wheelchair. It wasn’t long before he learned about adaptive sports from his physical therapist who suggested he try wheelchair basketball. Devan attended his first practice in his regular wheelchair, and for the first time since his surgery, he realized he was not alone with his new disability. Trooper Johnson coached the league along with Team USA’s Paralympic wheelchair basketball superstar, Jorge Sanchez. Jorge mentored Watkins on his new journey and introduced the Watkins family to the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), the world leader in helping people with physical challenges lead active, healthy lifestyles. CAF has given over 26,000 grants to individuals with permanent physical disabilities. As a growing 12-year-old, Devan soon found it harder to fit in the borrowed basketball wheelchairs the league offered. His mom applied for a CAF grant. He was invited to attend the Golden State Warriors practice facility for a special surprise. What he didn’t know was that Jorge Sanchez and CAF had been working behind the scenes with the Warriors to orchestrate a surprise. Devan was escorted into Chase Stadium and ... Coach Steve Kerr rolled out a brand new customized PER4MAX® basketball wheelchair on behalf of CAF. “I was very shocked. This piece of equipment and all the tips from Jorge Sanchez are so helpful,” Devan said after shooting a few hoops.
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In a year of astonishing reversals, one of the biggest may turn out to be President Trump’s emergence as the unlikely savior of America’s national parks. The president tweeted that he will sign the Great American Outdoors Act, which will provide billions of dollars to repair and maintain the country’s 419 national park sites and help to protect public lands in all 50 states. Hailed as “a conservationist’s dream,” the act will be the biggest land conservation legislation in a generation. How did we get here? For the past three years, the Trump administration has been undermining safeguards for public lands. Earlier this year, Trump proposed draconian cuts to the National Parks budget and Land and Water Conservation Fund. The administration’s dramatic about-face is largely due to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. As the economy struggles in the deepest crisis since the 1930s, local communities that rely on visitors and tourism associated with national parks are desperate to protect their assets. The Great Outdoors Act is long overdue. The parks budget has been flat for two decades. The new legislation ... establishes a National Park and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund that will provide up to $9 billion to fix deferred maintenance at national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, and other federal lands. It also guarantees $900 million per year in perpetuity for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which enables state and local governments to acquire land for recreation and conservation..
Note: This bill was signed into law by President Donald Trump on August 4. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
A project to decentralize the internet that you’ve never heard of has more capacity than all other blockchain projects put together: 5-10X more, according to its founder. The project is called ThreeFold, and it’s not your typical blockchain startup. Instead, it’s a long-term project to rewire the internet in the image of its first incarnation: decentralized, unowned, accessible, free. “We have 18,000 CPU cores and 90 million gigabytes, which is a lot of capacity,” founder Kristof de Spiegeleer [said]. “Less than 20 companies actually own more than 80% of the internet capacity, which is the storage and the compute. It really needs to be something like electricity. It needs to be everywhere and everyone needs to have access to it. It needs to be cost effective, it needs to be reliable, it needs to be independent.” That would be a fundamentally different kind of internet: one we all collectively own rather than just one we all just use. It requires a lot of different technology for backups and storage, for which ThreeFold is building a variety of related technologies: peer-to-peer technology to create the grid in the first place; storage, compute, and network technologies to enable distributed applications; and a self-healing layer bridging people and applications. Oh, and yes. There is a blockchain component: smart contracts for utilizing the grid and keeping a record of activities. So ... you have people providing actual tangible services for others in exchange for some degree of cryptocurrency reward.
It started with a simple message on Facebook on April 29. George Ahearn had heard about farmers in Eastern Washington who were giving away potatoes and onions and wanted to know if someone had a truck he could borrow to haul the discarded crops to Western Washington food banks. The response was immediate and dramatic. A convoy of four trucks, including two with trailers, made the trip east, helping provide quite a bounty for local food banks. “We brought back 9.36 tons when my original goal was 2,000 pounds (one ton),” Aheard said. The effort didn’t end there. EastWest Food Rescue is now a registered nonprofit organization, having delivered more than 2.4 million pounds of crops to more than 160 food banks. Not only is it helping with food security, but the organization is paying the farmers, who saw the market for some of their crops vanish during the coronavirus pandemic. “The whole thing started because of COVID,” said Nancy Balin, who answered Ahearn’s initial request and is now one of three directors of the program. “They immediately lost all the restaurant contracts they had for these restaurant-quality potatoes and onions.” Meanwhile, unemployment was spiking everywhere, along with the need for food. “People who had never needed food before needed food banks, and these farmers have potatoes that they need to get rid of,” Balin said. The goal now is 10 million pounds of food rescued, which Balin said will take $250,000 in donations in addition to hundreds of volunteer hours.
Somewhere in the vast ocean, a little boat covered in solar panels is doing something extraordinary: making its own hydrogen fuel from the seawater underneath it. The Energy Observer uses a patchwork of different cutting-edge technologies to generate enough energy to power nine homes each day. During the day, 200 square meters of solar panels charge up the boat's lithium ion batteries. Any extra energy is stored as hydrogen, thanks to a special fuel cell that goes by the name Rex H2 (short for Range Extender H2). The Rex H2 was made by Toyota, using components from Toyota's hydrogen-powered Mirai vehicle line. The fuel cell brings in seawater, removes the salt and then separates the H from the pure H20 with electricity. When the Energy Observer began its journey in 2017, it could only produce hydrogen while stopped. That changed in a big way with the addition of the Oceanwings, 12-meter sails that improved the efficiency of the Energy Observer from 18% to 42%, to the point where it can now produce hydrogen even while sailing. One of the main benefits of hydrogen is its ability to store more more electricity by weight than its lithium ion competition. This benefit is especially useful at sea. Because fossil fuels have had more than a century's head start, we now find ourselves far beyond the point of any one technology being a silver bullet for our growing energy needs. A sustainable future will require a patchwork of new technologies, like the one powering the Energy Observer.
Research shows that acts of kindness make us feel better and healthier. Kindness is also key to how we evolved and survived as a species, scientists say. We are hard-wired to be kind. Psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky has put that concept to the test in numerous experiments over 20 years and repeatedly found that people feel better when they are kind to others, even more than when they are kind to themselves. “Acts of kindness are very powerful,” Lyubomirsky said. In one experiment, she asked subjects to do an extra three acts of kindness for other people a week and asked a different group to do three acts of self-kindness. The people who were kind to others became happier and felt more connected to the world. The same occurred with money, using it to help others versus helping yourself. Lyubomirsky said she thinks it is because people spend too much time thinking and worrying about themselves and when they think of others while doing acts of kindness, it redirects them away from their own problems. Oxford’s [Oliver] Curry analyzed peer-reviewed research like Lyubomirsky’s and found at least 27 studies showing the same thing: Being kind makes people feel better emotionally. But it’s not just emotional. It’s physical. Lyubomirsky said a study of people with multiple sclerosis ... found they felt better physically when helping others. She also found that in people doing more acts of kindness that the genes that trigger inflammation were turned down more than in people who don’t.
For Paul Stamets, the phrase “mushroom hunt” does not denote a leisurely stroll with a napkin-lined basket. This morning, a half-dozen of us are struggling to keep up with the mycologist. He points to a clutch of plump oyster mushrooms halfway up an alder trunk. “These could clean up oil spills all over the planet,” he says. He ducks beneath a rotting log, where a rare, beehive-like Agarikon dangles. “This could provide a defense against weaponized smallpox.” He plucks a tiny, gray Mycena alcalinafrom the soil and holds it under our noses. “Smell that? It seems to be outgassing chlorine.” To Stamets, that suggests it can break down toxic chlorine-based polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. Most Americans think of mushrooms as ingredients in soup or intruders on a well-tended lawn. Stamets, however, cherishes a grander vision, one trumpeted in the subtitle of his 2005 book, Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World. Mushroom-producing fungi, he believes, can serve as game changers in fields as disparate as medicine, forestry, pesticides and pollution control. He describes mycelium, the web of fibrous tissue from which mushrooms spring, as “the neurological network of nature,” a “sentient membrane” that has “the long-term health of the host environment in mind.” To some, such language seems uncomfortably metaphysical. Yet Stamets’ ideas have gained an expanding audience among mainstream scientists, environmental engineers, federal officials and Silicon Valley investors.
Note: The stunningly beautiful documentary Fantastic Fungi takes you on an amazing journey through the wild and wonderful world of mushrooms. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
When wildfires burned across Northern California in October 2017, they killed at least 43 people and displaced another 100,000. The human toll alone was dire, but the fires also left behind a toxic mess. The charred detritus of paint, pesticides, cleaning products, electronics, pressure-treated wood, and propane tanks left a range of pollutants in the soil—including arsenic, asbestos, copper, hexavalent chromium, lead, and zinc. In Sonoma County, a coalition of fire remediation experts, local businesses, and ecological activists mobilized to cleanse the foundations of burned-out buildings with mushrooms. The Fire Remediation Action Coalition placed more than 40 miles of wattles—straw-filled, snakelike tubes designed to prevent erosion—inoculated with oyster mushrooms around parking lots, along roads, and across hillsides. Their plan? The tubes would provide makeshift channels, diverting runoff from sensitive waterways. The mushrooms would do the rest. The volunteers, led by Sebastopol-based landscape professional Erik Ohlsen, are advocates for “mycoremediation,” an experimental bioremediation technique that uses mushrooms to clean up hazardous waste, harnessing their natural ability to use enzymes to break down foreign substances. Research suggests mushrooms can convert pesticides and herbicides to more innocuous compounds, remove heavy metals from brownfield sites, and break down plastic.
Note: The stunningly beautiful documentary Fantastic Fungi takes you on an amazing journey through the wild and wonderful world of mushrooms. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
As a kid growing up in 1960s Chicago, Daryl Davis was shocked when his parents explained that White children were throwing rocks at him during a Cub Scouts parade because he was Black. This ... left a burning question in Davis’ mind: “How can you hate me if you do not know me?” A blues pianist, whose energetic style led him to perform with the likes of Chuck Berry, B.B. King, and Jerry Lee Lewis, Davis would commit his life to seeking out answers to that question, often with his music and his Christian faith as equalizers. But a performance ... in 1983 would leave its mark. He had been approached, after a set, by a member of the audience who told him he had never seen a Black man who could play like Jerry Lee Lewis. That began a conversation that would reveal a surprising truth: The man making the comment was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. This revelation sparked the beginning of a 30-year journey that for Davis involved sitting down with members of the Klan and other White supremacists, attending their rallies and cross burnings—all in a search for answers. By tackling prejudices head-on, Davis believes he succeeded in persuading more than 200 KKK members and other white supremacists to disavow their allegiances. Many became friends, including Scott Shepherd, a former Grand Dragon of the KKK in Tennessee. The two regularly travel together to help shine a light on white supremacy and address the spread of racism through dialogue and education.
Note: Davis' work reforming white supremacists is the subject of an inspiring new documentary. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
More than a million people may have quit smoking in Britain during the pandemic, figures have suggested. A survey of 10,000 people indicated that across the country as many as 400,000 people aged 16 to 29 dropped their smoking habit during lockdown, and 240,000 aged over 50. It is believed another 400,000 aged 30-49 have also quit since April, according to analysis by the charity Action on Smoking and Health and University College, London. It is thought to be explained by the health threat, as Covid-19 has severe effects on the respiratory system. A public health drive is now being launched to encourage more people to give up smoking. The figures have been published to coincide with a new campaign, funded by the Department of Health and Social Care, which hopes to target smokers in areas with the highest rates of smoking, such as England's north east. Matt Hancock has set a Government target for the UK to become smoke-free by 2030. Deborah Arnott, the chief executive of ASH, said: "This campaign is designed to encourage those who have not yet succeeded in stopping to wake up, and decide that today is the day to stop smoking." Dr Ruth Sharrock, a respiratory consultant who is supporting the campaign, said: “Every day of my working life I see the terrible health problems caused by smoking. But I have also been inspired by those already suffering from smoking related diseases, who have still managed quit and get health benefits from this.”
Falling fertility rates mean nearly every country could have shrinking populations by the end of the century. And 23 nations - including Spain and Japan - are expected to see their populations halve by 2100. Countries will also age dramatically, with as many people turning 80 as there are being born. What is going on? The fertility rate - the average number of children a woman gives birth to - is falling. If the number falls below approximately 2.1, then the size of the population starts to fall. In 1950, women were having an average of 4.7 children in their lifetime. Researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation showed the global fertility rate nearly halved to 2.4 in 2017 - and their study, published in the Lancet, projects it will fall below 1.7 by 2100. As a result, the researchers expect the number of people on the planet to peak at 9.7 billion around 2064, before falling down to 8.8 billion by the end of the century. It is being driven by more women in education and work, as well as greater access to contraception, leading to women choosing to have fewer children. In many ways, falling fertility rates are a success story. A smaller population would reduce carbon emissions as well as deforestation for farmland. Says Prof [Christopher] Murray ... "It will create enormous social change."
Note: The full article at the link above largely paints decreasing population as a problem. One of the greatest fears for many years was that global overpopulation would destroy our planet. Why is the news that global population will decline being spun here as a problem? Why not celebrate this good news? Could it be that the media profits from selling fear? For more on this great shift, see this inspiring information.
Purity Amleset is feeling tense. But fear is just part of the job, she says, as she patrols her section of the 147,000-hectare (363,000-acre) community land around Kenya’s Amboseli National Park, a Unesco-designated biosphere reserve. Amleset ... is one of eight rangers in the all-female International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Team Lioness, a patrol unit among 76 rangers from the local Maa community. Their job is to protect wildlife from poaching, trafficking in bushmeat and human-wildlife conflict. “I risk my life to spare their life [wildlife],” says Amleset, who is on a regular 20km patrol to visit the local community, tracking and recording GPS coordinates of wildlife sightings, as well as threats like snares or any suspicious activity along the way. “I grew up here with wildlife as our friends. We are thriving together. The water point, we share together with wildlife. The grass we use to herd the cattle, [we] herd together with wildlife,” she says. In neighbouring Tanzania, many rangers have lost their jobs as tourism has dwindled, putting more pressure on Team Lioness and other community rangers because they are forced to patrol larger areas. There are fears that fewer rangers could prompt a spike in poaching. “For us now the job has increased,” says 20-year-old Sharon Nankinyi. “The most difficult thing is dangerous animals. If you meet them in the bush, they can attack you. But we know that without wildlife, people will not survive, and without people, wildlife will not survive.
With all the violence and conflict in the world, it's refreshing to know that people from all different demographics are able to sit down together around the world to have an open conversation. That's what Ronni Abergel, 42, has achieved since launching the Human Library in Copenhagen in 2000. Just as you would at a library, you can check out a "book" on a certain topic for an allotted period of time. The only difference is that the "book" is actually a person who you can have a conversation with — and learn from. The type of books you can borrow range from someone who is transgender, deaf, blind, obese or homeless to a person with autism or even a refugee. In the 16 years since its inception, Abergel brought the concept to more than 70 countries, including the U.S.. When the Human Library came to St. Norbert College, ... Sarah Griffiths, who works at the college's Center for International Education, brought her two sons, ages 11 and 13, to check out a book titled "International Woman, Leader of Color, Gender Justice." "When else would my sons get the opportunity to hear a woman from Ghana speak about her experiences with racism after moving to the predominantly white city of Green Bay, Wisconsin?" Griffiths [asked]. Adam Jackson, a black man adopted by a white family at 6 months old, volunteered himself as a book at that same event at St. Norbert College. "It was harder than I thought it would be to share my story," Jackson [said]. "But I'm so happy I had the opportunity to enter the conversation on diversity in a meaningful way."
Stefano Mancuso studies what was once considered laughable – the intelligence and behaviour of plants. Mancuso’s lab started work in 2005. “We were interested in problems that were, until that moment, just related to animals, like intelligence and even behaviour,” he says. At the time, it was “almost forbidden” to talk about behaviour in plants. But “we study how plants are able to solve problems, how they memorise, how they communicate, how they have their social life and things like that”. One of the most controversial aspects of Mancuso’s work is the idea of plant consciousness. “Let’s use another term,” Mancuso suggests. “Consciousness is a little bit tricky. Let’s talk about awareness. Plants are perfectly aware of themselves.” A simple example is when one plant overshadows another – the shaded plant will grow faster to reach the light. But when you look into the crown of a tree, all the shoots are heavily shaded. They do not grow fast because they know that they are shaded by part of themselves. “So they have a perfect image of themselves and of the outside,” says Mancuso. Far from being silent and passive, plants are social and communicative, above ground and beneath, through their roots and fungal networks. They are adept at detecting subtle electromagnetic fields generated by other life forms. They use chemicals and scents to warn each other of danger. When corn is nibbled by caterpillars ... the plant emits a chemical distress signal that lures parasitic wasps to exterminate the caterpillars.
A plus-size teenage ballerina has been dubbed an inspiration after a video of her practicing a stunning turn sequence took the internet by storm. Lizzy Howell, 15, from Milford, Delaware, shares plenty of photos and videos of herself dancing on her Instagram and Facebook pages, but footage of her nailing a series of fouetté turns has launched her into online stardom. Thousands of people have watched the mesmerizing clip, and many have hailed her a role model for women of all sizes because of her confidence and beauty. The video sees Lizzy wearing a maroon leotard and footless tights as she effortlessly does eleven fouettés in a row before ending the sequence with a series of pirouettes. Lizzy told Daily Mail Online that she started dancing when she was five-years-old and has been practicing ballet for the past 10 years. The ballerina, who also practices jazz and tap dancing, trains four days a week and participated in a local production of The Nutcracker last month. The sudden viral fame helped earn Lizzy more than 22,000 followers. Plenty of people took to the comments section of the post to tell Lizzy that she is 'amazing', while others were simply blown away by her skill. 'I enjoy most of the comments saying I'm an inspiration for people of all sizes,' Lizzy said. 'I really like being called an inspiration, it makes me feel better about my self and what I'm doing.' When asked what advice she would give to a young girl who has resisted pursuing her dreams because of her size, Lizzy stressed that 'stereotypes are made to be broken'.
District attorneys in Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco are teaming up on a pilot effort patterned after South Africa's post-apartheid truth and reconciliation commission to confront racism in the criminal justice system. Suffolk County DA Rachael Rollins, Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner and San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin announced the initiative Wednesday in partnership with the Grassroots Law Project, which is leading the effort. It will tackle racial inequities and police violence and misconduct. “We need to confront our ugly past to create a more just and equitable future,” said Rollins, whose jurisdiction includes Boston. Organizers said the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission will “process and address the injustices of the past that simply were not given the time, attention and dignity that they deserved.” “When marginalized people have needed to finally rely on this system for justice, it has routinely failed them in the worst ways imaginable. This isn’t a bug in the system, but a feature,” they said in a statement. In the 1990s, South Africa's own Truth and Reconciliation Commission took the nation on a painful path to air injustices perpetrated during more than 40 years of apartheid rule that included the torture, beatings and bombings of Blacks. Rather than hunt down and try people accused of atrocities, Nuremberg-style, the country's approach helped talk through grievances and heal divisions between Blacks and whites.
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."
Child sexual abuse material has exploded since the dawn of the internet era, while child sex trafficking also has increased as a result of being made easier for traffickers. The number of child sexual abuse files exchanged online grew from 450,000 in 2004 to 25 million in 2015, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore cofounded Thorn to combat this problem. The non-profit’s mission is to build technology to defend children from sexual abuse online by eliminating all child sexual abuse material from the internet. Thorn partners across the tech industry, government and NGOs and leverages technology to combat predatory behavior, rescue victims, and protect vulnerable children. The non-profit’s products are used today in 35 countries and have helped identify more than 30,000 victims of abuse, 10,000 of whom were children. Recently, Thorn was one of eight recipients to share in an over $280 million grant from The Audacious Project by TED. As CEO of Thorn, Julie Cordua manages the Thorn Technology Task Force, the largest organization of its kind, uniting technology companies committed to fighting child exploitation. “We saw how technology was being used to exploit our children through child sex trafficking, the spread of child sexual abuse material, and online grooming and coercion. Yet there was no concentrated effort to use technology to fight back and stop this abuse,” Cordua says.
When an independently-owned grocery store in Kitchener, Ont. caught someone allegedly stealing, they decided to offer help. "Just witnessed a man caught stealing at our local grocery," Twitter user Drkradersma wrote in a post on Monday evening. That grocery store turned out to be Central Fresh Market in midtown Kitchener. The Twitter user says they heard the owner say, "we will feed you," and that, five minutes later, they saw a man walking through the parking lot with a bag full of groceries. Nearly 100 people took to Twitter to find out which grocery store it was and to offer their support. Thousands more liked the post. While Central Fresh Market declined to comment, they took to the platform as well to share their side of the story. "We were simply helping someone in need, many are very fortunate NOT to worry about their next meal," the company wrote on Twitter. The tweet calls food insecurity in the community "heartbreaking." The decision to help the person in question has had a far-reaching impact on the community. Twitter user Drkradersma says their 13-year-old son was watching, too. "This made a powerful impression on him." "Just witnessed a man caught stealing at our local grocery. Watched the owner confront him and pull fruits & vegetables out of his pack. Then heard the owner say, “we will feed you.” 5 minutes later saw the man walking thru the parking lot with a bag full of groceries," [wrote Drkradersma].
Whether you are directly or indirectly affected by the COVID-19 viral disease, you may be feeling down as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic. There are many solutions out there to help lift your spirits, but not all are backed by research in behavioral science, nor specifically by evidence from the study of happiness and well-being. However, Professor Laurie Santos at Yale University has synthesized the science of well-being into a course for students at Yale, a course for students on Coursera, and has most recently transformed her work into a digital health program on Pattern Health ... that can be licensed by employers to provide to their employees. The recommendations that stem from the science of well-being are useful in normal times, but essential in coronavirus times, where the collective hit to well-being is being felt across the globe. There are 9 major insights that can be taken from Santos’ Science of Well-Being program [presented] here to help improve your quarantine well-being. They are: practice your signature strengths, savor life, be grateful, be kind, stay socially connected while physically distanced, exercise regularly, sleep well, meditate, and feel rich with time. With these nine strategies, you can successfully improve your quarantine well-being. Laurie Santos recommends daily journaling to track and raise your awareness about how each of these happiness-boosting strategies are going for you.
The Vatican urged Catholics on Thursday to disinvest from the armaments and fossil fuel industries and to closely monitor companies in sectors such as mining to check if they are damaging the environment. The calls were contained in a 225-page manual for church leaders and workers to mark the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ landmark encyclical “Laudato Si” (Praised Be) on the need to protect nature, life and defenseless people. The compendium suggests practical steps to achieve the goals of the encyclical, which strongly supported agreements to contain global warming and warned against the dangers of climate change. The manual’s section on finance said people “could favor positive changes ... by excluding from their investments companies that do not satisfy certain parameters.” It listed these as respect for human rights, bans on child labor and protection of the environment. Called ‘Journeying Towards Care For Our Common Home’, one action point called on Catholics to “shun companies that are harmful to human or social ecology”. Another section called for the “stringent monitoring” of extraction industries in areas with fragile ecosystems to prevent air, soil and water contamination. Last month, more that 40 faith organizations from around the world, more than half of them Catholic, pledged to divest from fossil fuel companies. The Vatican bank has said it does not invest in fossil fuels and many Catholic dioceses and educational institutions around the world have taken similar positions.
In April, as the coronavirus was ravaging New York, Susan Jones learned her older brother had been diagnosed with a blood cancer. His supervisor at work launched a GoFundMe page to help with costs, and Jones shared it on Facebook. What happened next stunned her. While Jones ... was confident her closest friends would help, she was stunned to see scores of colleagues — some she didn't even know that well, and didn’t even know she had a brother — donating, despite their own economic challenges. Jones found herself asking: Would the response have been the same just two months earlier, before the pandemic? She's fairly certain it wouldn't. Instead, she thinks the instinct to help shows, along with simple kindness, how people are striving to make a difference. At a time of helplessness, she says, helping others makes a mark on a world that seems to be overwhelming all of us. That helping others can feel good is not just an anecdotal truth but an idea backed by research, says Laurie Santos, psychology professor at Yale University and teacher of the school's most popular course to date: “Psychology and the Good Life." “The intuition that helping others is the key to our well-being right now fits with science,” Santos says. “There’s lots of research showing that spending our time and money on other people can often make us happier than spending that same time or money on ourselves. Taking time to do something nice for someone else ... is a powerful strategy for improving our well-being.”
In 1847, the Choctaw people collected $170 to send to people in Ireland who were starving during the potato famine. The struggles experienced by the Irish were familiar to the tribal nation: Just 16 years earlier, the Choctaw people had embarked on the Trail of Tears and lost thousands of their own to starvation and disease. Now, donations are pouring in from people across Ireland for a GoFundMe campaign set up to support the Navajo Nation and Hopi reservation during the coronavirus pandemic. "From Ireland, 170 years later, the favour is returned!" a message from one donor reads. "To our Native American brothers and sisters in your moment of hardship." The donations from Ireland seem to have started after The Irish Times journalist Naomi O'Leary shared the Navajo and Hopi fundraiser on Twitter. "Native Americans raised a huge amount in famine relief for Ireland at a time when they had very little," O'Leary wrote. Ethel Branch, the fundraiser's organizer, estimated on Tuesday that Irish people had donated about half a million dollars to the relief efforts so far, which goes toward food, water and other necessary supplies for Navajo and Hopi communities. "It's just incredible to see the solidarity and to see how much people who are so far away care about our community and have sympathy for what we're experiencing," Branch told CNN. The Navajo Nation has seen more than 2,400 confirmed Covid-19 cases and more than 70 deaths. The Hopi reservation ... has reported 52 positive cases.
With the coronavirus pandemic exacerbating the most vulnerable people’s financial struggles, the Spanish government has decided to implement what it’s calling a national minimum income, ensuring that people in the nation’s 850,000 lowest-income households receive at least roughly $500 a month in income. The plan aims to reach 2.3 million people and is expected to cost the government about €3 billion a year. Spain’s government first floated the idea of a version of a universal basic income back in December ... in a deal that the country’s Socialist Party and left-wing Unidas Podemos agreed on to create “a general mechanism to guarantee earnings for families with no or low income.” The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated that plan. People between 23 and 65 years old with “assets of less than 16,614 euros,” not including house and discounted loans, will be eligible for the basic income plan, according to Reuters, and will include incentives for finding “a formal job”. Though the minimum amount the government is guaranteeing is €462 a month, that amount will increase with the number of family members. A family is defined as “vulnerable” and eligible for the plan if its monthly income is €10 or more below the minimum income. At the point, the government will give them enough cash to meet the thresholds. Spain has a “considerable” gap between its richest and poorest, with the top 20% of the population earning nearly seven times as much as the bottom 20%.
Liam Elkind's big heart and his break from college was a highlight of 83-year-old Carol Sterling's week. The retired arts administrator has been sheltering at home during the coronavirus outbreak, unable to shop for herself. Yearning for some fresh food, she found the 20-year-old through their synagogue, and soon he showed up at her door with a bag full of salad fixings and oranges. Elkind, a junior at Yale, and a friend, Simone Policano, amassed 1,300 volunteers in 72 hours to deliver groceries and medicine to older New Yorkers and other vulnerable people. They call themselves Invisible Hands, and they do something else in the process — provide human contact and comfort, at a safe distance, of course. Elkind and his fellow volunteers take the name of their project from their vigilance in maintaining social distance from the people they serve, and their meticulous care while shopping and delivering. Grocery and pharmacy orders are placed on the Invisible Hands website. “It's gone from extremely casual to extremely operational very quickly,” Elkind said. “This is one of those times when I remember that New York is such a small town, and people are willing to look out for one another and have each other's back.” Now, Elkind said, volunteers have offered to extend Invisible Hands to Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington and London. “It's been really exciting just to see that amount of interest and how many people there are in this world who want to do good and are looking for ways to do that," he said.
As scientists specializing in ecology and the environment, we’re studying how milk – an essential yet suffering industry – has been affected by COVID-19. We have documented one solution to the milk distribution crisis: innovative small farmers of New Jersey. Dairy producers are dumping thousands of gallons of milk every day. In Wisconsin, 50% of the state’s dairy products have nowhere to go while typical buyers such as schools and restaurants remain shut down and unable to purchase milk and cheese. In Pennsylvania, where schools buy up to 40% of dairy sales by volume, the pandemic has beleaguered an already-stressed industry that lost 470 farms in 2019. In New Jersey, farms are the fourth-smallest in the United States, averaging 76 acres. The Garden State’s dairy sector is particularly small, comprising only 50 farms and ranking 44th of 50 states in total milk production. But despite their small operations, we see New Jersey’s local entrepreneurial farmers as models of a game-changing strategy. Rather than selling their milk to large dairy processing companies, these vertically structured local farms raise cows, process milk and other foods and sell them directly to consumers at farm-operated markets and restaurants. Unsold items return to farms as feed or fertilizer. This system is highly efficient, even during the current pandemic, because farmers and their customers represent the entire supply chain. These farmers don’t operate alone. They band together in cooperatives, sharing resources for the benefit of all.
The coronavirus pandemic has inspired a grassroots movement that is connecting people who need help with donors who can offer financial assistance. So far, contributors have passed $13 million through more than 100,000 matches. Shelly Tygielski came up with the idea that she named Pandemic of Love. The mindfulness teacher in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was looking for simple ways people in her community could take care of each other. "I posted the original video and the two links to signup forms on my social media feeds on March 14 and woke up the next morning and there were already 400 requests to get help and 500 to give help," Tygielski said. Tygielski shares her Pandemic of Love organization model with volunteers in other cities. These volunteers build teams to match applicants in their community and reach out to other communities when they need assistance. Maurico Martinez ... filled out the form to get help and received a text from an unknown number from California. "I got a text message from a lady named Simone in San Francisco, and she was willing to help me out, and 'what did I need, groceries, gasoline?' and could she send me some money?" Martinez told CNN. "She sent me a couple hundred dollars and I was so thankful and I wanted to pay her back. She said, 'No, this was Pandemic of Love,' and so then we started talking," Martinez recalled. "We started becoming friends ... and it was wonderful."
There was barely any time to pause. Avraham Mintz and Zoher Abu Jama just finished responding to a call regarding a 41-year-old woman having respiratory problems in the southern Israeli city of Be'er Sheva. There would be more calls ahead. Mintz and Abu Jama realized it may be their only break of the shift. The two members of Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel's emergency response service, paused to pray. Mintz, a religious Jew, stood facing Jerusalem, his white and black prayer shawl hanging off his shoulders. Abu Jama, an observant Muslim, knelt facing Mecca, his maroon and white prayer rug unfurled underneath him. For the two paramedics, who routinely work together two or three times a week, the joint prayer was nothing new. For so many others, it was an inspiring image in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic. A picture of the two men snapped by a co-worker quickly went viral, garnering thousands of likes on social media and appearing in international media coverage. If Mintz and Abu Jama see themselves as heroes, they certainly didn't let it show. They know their job, and they know their faith. "Everyone is afraid of the virus," said Mintz. "So are we, but we have the belief that everything is under the control of God, blessed be He. We both believe this." Abu Jama echoes his partner. "I believe that God will help us and we will get through this. We should all pray to God to get us through this, and we will get through this world crisis." The two prayed for about 15 minutes. Then it was back into the ambulance.
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Fear of catching coronavirus on public transport has helped lead to a boom in cycle-to-work schemes. The schemes saw a 200% increase in bicycle orders from people working for emergency services. Demand for more mobility and exercise amid lifestyle changes imposed by the lockdown has also boosted bike sales across the UK. Some bike stores are battling to meet demand. Broadribb Cycles in Bicester normally despatches 20-30 bikes a week, but manager Stuart Taylor says the shop is currently selling 50 bikes every day. Rusty cyclists may be nervous on busy roads, so the pressure group Cycling UK has commissioned research showing how 100 "pop-up" lanes in 10 English cities could make cycling and walking easier. It maps UK cities which have created extra cycle lines during the crisis, in many cases taking over one car lane on a dual carriageway. The Cycling UK research from Leeds looks at English cities with a high cycling potential and has identified 99.2 miles of streets and roads ... which could benefit from temporary walking and cycling infrastructure. Cities round the world have been freeing space for people on foot and bikes, in response to the coronavirus lockdown. In Germany, expanded cycle lanes have been marked by removable tape and mobile signs. Paris is rolling out 650 kilometres of cycleways, including a number of pop-up "corona cycleways". Some cities, like Milan, are making the changes permanent.
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.
A Michigan sheriff joined protesters in Flint Township on Saturday, putting down his weapon and saying, "I want to make this a parade, not a protest." Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson spoke with demonstrators who were met by police officers in riot gear. "The only reason we're here is to make sure that you got a voice - that's it," Swanson said. "These cops love you - that cop over there hugs people," he said, pointing to an officer. He was speaking to the crowd protesting police brutality and the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. He smiled and high-fived people in the crowd, who responded by chanting, "walk with us!" So, he did. "Let's go, let's go," Swanson said as he and the cheering crowd proceeded. "Where do you want to walk? We'll walk all night." Flint has drawn national attention for its water crisis, which began in 2014, when city and state officials switched the city's water supply to save money. It exposed residents to dangerously high levels of lead and resulted in more than a dozen lawsuits. But Saturday's event offered a welcome contrast to violent confrontations in cities across the country. On Friday Swanson addressed George Floyd's death via a Facebook post. "I join with the chorus of citizens and law enforcement officials alike, calling for the swift arrest and prosecution of each police officer involved in this appalling crime," he wrote. "The actions we witnessed on that video destroy countless efforts to bolster community policing efforts across our nation, and erode trust that is painstakingly built."
The U.S. consumed more energy from renewable sources last year than from coal, the first time that’s happened since the late 1800s when it replaced wood for powering steamships and trains. Coal accounted for 11.3 quadrillion British thermal units of energy in 2019, a 15% decline from the prior year, a drop driven mainly by utilities turning away from the dirtiest fossil fuel. Renewables recorded 11.5 quadrillion Btu, up 1.4%, according to a statement Thursday from the the U.S. Energy Information Administration. While coal has been gradually replaced in transportation and heating, it remained the biggest source of U.S. electricity until it was surpassed by natural gas in 2016. In a significant milestone, power generated by burning coal was expected to be overtaken by renewable electricity this year, but the consumption figures show that the green transition is already happening. “This shows us the trend toward renewables is clearly well underway,” said Dennis Wamsted, an analyst for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. “We see it speeding up.”
An inspiring discussion about racism between a white woman and black man ... has captured the attention of [millions]. Caroline Brock and Ernest Skelton share a special relationship. It all started with Skelton coming over to fix one of her appliances. “People judge me before I even come in the door, so that’s the reason why I ask, ‘Is it OK for me to come in?’” said Skelton. The question caught Brock completely off guard. Over the weekend, Skelton went back over to Brock’s home for second appliance repair appointment. That’s when Brock asked him a question that was a little more personal. “How are you doing right now given the current climate?” Brock wanted to know what the day-to-day life of a black man is like. Skelton opened up and told her some stories about how racism has affected him. He gets pulled over in his work vehicle at least half a dozen times a year. “I don’t even remember the last time I was pulled over,” Brock said. “Sometimes I have customers that need me after 5 o’clock and I have to reschedule for another day. I’m afraid that I’ll wind up getting pulled over, and this time, I won’t make it home," Skelton said. Brock asked Ernest if she could post their interaction on Facebook. He thought it would be a great idea. A few days later, they had more than 100,000 shares. “In the comments ... a lot of white people say, ‘I’d love to have these conversations, but I’m scared ... I’m going to offend someone,’" Brock explained. But Skelton said he wasn’t offended. “If we want to change the world and make our country stronger, we have to be willing to step into the uncomfortableness," Brock said. The two hope that their interaction can inspire others to open up the conversation.
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Indonesia's Government has rolled out what it calls rice ATMs across Jakarta to assist the needy, as the coronavirus pandemic takes a heavy toll on South-East Asia's largest economy. Authorities have so far rolled out 10 machines across greater Jakarta — home to more than 30 million people — to dispense 1.5 kilograms of rice to the poor, as millions have found themselves out of work due to coronavirus social distancing measures. Jakarta resident Agus, who goes by one name, lost his job as a labourer in early March. It is estimated up to 70 per cent of Indonesia's labour force works informally, meaning the impact of enforced business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders have been particularly severe. Agus and his family are one of hundreds who have already registered for rice assistance in his district — a requirement to be eligible to access the rice ATM. Officials say the machines can distribute up to 1.5 tonnes of rice per day to 1,000 people. Indonesia's Ministry of Agriculture said that the rice ATMs will operate for at least the next two months and Agus hopes that the government will consider extending the program. "There's no guarantee that me and other people will get a job next month, of course, it'd be better if we can keep the assistance until we earn money again," he said. "The free rice has greatly helped my family to reduce our monthly spending." A rice ATM has also reportedly been installed at Diponegoro University in the city of Semarang, allowing hungry students to access 2kg of rice per week.
Although the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow globally, there are places that have managed to successfully control COVID-19. Perhaps the greatest success story is New Zealand, which has stopped local transmission and has a plan to completely eliminate the virus from its territory. "The lesson is that it can be done," says Siouxsie Wiles. Wiles heads up the Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab at the University of Auckland. Much of her work focuses on antibiotic resistance and infectious diseases. When the coronavirus hit, she got involved in communication efforts in New Zealand to help explain the virus, including by using a popular cartoon. But it wasn't just scientists who led the charge. Wiles — and many other New Zealanders — give much of the credit for their country's success to the swift and decisive leadership of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Wiles ... says that the prime minister did something quite interesting, "which was that unlike many other countries, she never put us on a war footing." So Ardern's speeches weren't about attacking an invisible enemy — as many world leaders would say. Instead she called on New Zealanders to confront this crisis by protecting their fellow citizens. "She talked over and over about us being a team of 5 million and that we all do our part to break these chains of transmission and to eliminate the virus," Wiles says. "I think that has been one of the really crucial things — everybody ... behaving for the good of everybody."
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the future of the Cannard Family Farm—whose organic vegetables supplied a single Berkeley restaurant—was looking stark. Bob Cannard built his 30-year career by rejecting organic certification in favor of his own “better than organic” breed of “natural process agriculture,” enriching the soil on his Green String Farm with crushed rock and compost. He and his son have long sold the fruits of their labor to the famous restaurant Chez Panisse. But in March, the stay-at-home order hit, and the restaurant closed. [Chef Alice] Waters was worried about the vulnerable situation her workers and producers were finding themselves in. She rushed to establish a subscription CSA, which stands for community supported agriculture, offering weekly food boxes that could be picked up at the shuttered restaurant, filled with goodies from her regular producers like Cannard. “I’m trying to connect our network with the people who would like to have that food in their home,” she said. “Farmers are always in an uphill battle, especially ecological farmers,” says Wiig of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers. “We’ve been able to keep farm markets open as essential businesses, but crowds have decreased with people afraid to go out, and sales are down.” Community Alliance was quick to jump in, becoming a “matchmaker” for producers and buyers on its website. They’re also providing all kinds of information for farmers about how to start and run a CSA.
At Princeton University, portraits of blue-collar campus workers are now taking center stage. A new set of paintings are offering a fresh perspective on the working class, racial struggle and empowerment at the Ivy league school. Mario Moore, the artist behind the paintings, views his artwork as more than just decoration. By showcasing the university's workers, he wants to pay tribute to them and "put them in positions of power," he told CNN. Moore painted 10 workers at Princeton, including people in facilities, dining, grounds maintenance and security. He focused on African-Americans as his subjects and says he was inspired by the plight of migrant black families who have struggled for job opportunities and equal pay. Growing up in Detroit, he remembers his own father working blue-collar jobs to provide for him. "Mario's portraits capture beautifully the character and contributions of valued members of our campus community and bolster our broader efforts to ensure Princeton's portraiture and iconography reflect the University's values and diversity," said university spokesman Ben Chang. "We are excited to acquire some of Mario's works so they become a permanent part of the University's collection and can be appreciated by future generations." Moore, 32, was one of five Hodder Fellows at Princeton. After he completed the program in June, his paintings were displayed at the school's exhibition. The Princeton University Art Museum ... subsequently purchased a lot of his work.
In the depths of the ocean, and out of sight for most of us, there’s a quiet miracle happening. Many humpback whale populations, previously devastated by commercial whaling, are making a comeback. A recent study on humpbacks that breed off the coast of Brazil and call Antarctic waters home during the summer has shown that these whales can now be found in the sort of numbers seen before the days of whaling. In the 1830s there were around 27,000 whales but, after heavy hunting, by the mid-1950s only 450 remained. It is reassuring to see what happens when we leave nature to follow its course. The ban of commercial whaling in 1986 led to a strong recovery and now this population is thought to be around 93% of its original size. By taking away the threat of hunting, and having safe spaces to survive and thrive, humpback numbers in many areas have recovered. This is great news for the whales, of course, but also for the climate. Keeping carbon out of the atmosphere is key to tackling the climate crisis and the contribution that a single whale can make is something we need to take seriously. A single whale stores around 33 tonnes of CO2. If we consider only the Antarctic humpback whales that breed in Brazil, protecting this population alone has resulted in 813,780 tonnes of CO2 being stored in the deep sea. That’s around twice the yearly CO2 emissions of a small country. When a whale dies naturally, it exports carbon stored in its gigantic body to the deep sea, keeping it locked up for centuries.
California-based Geoship has raised almost $400,000 from 583 investors in a crowdfunding campaign to create a new kind of housing: affordable, resilient, modular, green, and long-lasting. The inspiration is from Buckminster Fuller, architect and futurist who popularized the geodesic dome. The invention enabling it? Bioceramic, the same material used to coat hip and knee joint replacements. “When Buckminster Fuller was building domes in the sixties and seventies,” CEO Morgan Bierschenk [said], “he kind of guessed that it would be fifty to a hundred years until the right material sciences arrived to really produce geodesic domes.” Bierschenk thinks bioceramic is the right material. It’s a new type of chemically-bonded ceramic that forms strong molecular bonds like a polymer. Crucially, bioceramic has the same property that makes cement so useful: the ability to mix it into a slurry and pour it into a mold without using high heat. That makes it cheap (and green) to manufacture, while enabling it to be much stronger than concrete. The company’s first project is a permanent geodesic village for the homeless in Las Vegas. “The embodied energy calculations of conventional construction is ... somewhere between 80 and 300 tons of embodied CO2 in a typical wood house,” Bierschenk [said]. “ The embodied CO2 in a bioceramic dome is somewhere in the three to 10 ton range.” That’s around 30 times less carbon. The expected lifespan of the building [is] 500 years.
By 11 a.m. on a Wednesday in Antioch, California, hundreds of cars are lined up at the Palabra de Dios Community Church. The cars fill the church’s ample parking lot and snake up the neighboring service street ... waiting for food. Most weekdays since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a box truck delivers groceries here: bags of fresh kale, lettuce, and radishes; boxes of apples, limes, and tomatoes; canned beans, pastas, and gallons and gallons of milk and juice. As volunteers from the church unload the truck, others quickly sort the food into single-family grocery boxes to put into each car. “Our intention here is to provide food to those who truly need it,” says Ruben Herrera, pastor of Palabra de Dios. Herrera and his congregation don’t regularly operate a food drive out of the parking lot of their church, but for many churches, nonprofits, and social service providers, the COVID-19 crisis has prompted a rapid reconfiguration of resources and efforts to address the needs of their communities. The truckload of food comes from White Pony Express, a nonprofit aimed at alleviating hunger in Contra Costa County. Over the past six years, the staff members at White Pony Express have built and coordinated a growing food redistribution network, in which they “rescue” food with approaching sell-by dates from grocery stores, restaurants, and farmers markets, and redistribute that food to the county’s low-income residents via food pantries, schools, and community centers.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a novel aid program Friday that aims to get restaurants rehiring workers right away while also feeding needy seniors and generating sales tax revenue for city governments. California will team up with the federal government to pay restaurants to provide three meals a day to needy seniors. The partnership between the Federal Emergency Management Agency, state and local governments will provide eligible seniors with 21 meals a week, Newsom said. FEMA will cover 75% of the costs of the meals. The state will cover most of the remaining costs. According to Newsom, the program is a first of its kind in the nation. "This partnership will allow for the ability for restaurants to start rehiring people or keep people currently employed and start preparing meals, three meals a day, seven days a week, and have those meals delivered to our seniors all throughout the state of California," Newsom said. "We will provide an unlimited number of meals, no cap in terms of that support." The governor said the program will also have nutrition guidelines for the meals. "We want to make sure we are focused on locally produced produce," he said. "We want to connect our farms to this effort. We want to focus our values throughout the state of California to get a lot of independent restaurants up and running again as well. And make sure what we are sending to our seniors is low sodium, not high fructose drinks or sugary drinks and the like, so there's guidelines that we're putting out."
Dr Abhay Bang does not look like a pioneer. And yet ... this is the man who has revolutionised healthcare for the poorest people in India and who has overseen a programme that has sent infant mortality rates plummeting in one of the most poverty-stricken areas of the world. Medical experts now believe that Dr Bang's radical beliefs hold the key to tackling the myriad endemic health problems that blight the developing word. Instead of accepting the traditional hospital-based treatment model, Dr Bang has spent the last 26 years training up local volunteers in Gadchiroli, one of the most deprived districts in the Indian state of Maharashtra, to treat simple maladies at home. The World Health Organisation and Unicef have recently endorsed his approach to treating newborn babies and the programme is currently being rolled out to parts of Africa. In 1988, 121 newborn babies were dying out of every 1,000 births in the area. The newborn death rate in Gadchiroli has now fallen to 30 per 1,000 live births. Dr Bang's solution was simple: he trained a group of local women in the basics of neonatal care. They were taught how to diagnose pneumonia (using an abacus to count breaths), how to resuscitate children and how to administer some basic antibiotics. Instead of villagers having to walk for miles to get to the nearest hospital, these health visitors (called arogyadoots, which means "health messengers") went to where they were most needed.
Warring gangs in South Africa are working together in an unprecedented truce to deliver much-needed food to people under lockdown. The country has seen a 75% decrease in violent crime since it imposed strict restrictions over the coronavirus pandemic, and normally dangerous streets in Cape Town now see sworn enemies meeting up to collect essential goods to distribute throughout hungry communities. "What we're seeing happen here is literally a miracle," Pastor Andie Steele-Smith said. Steel-Smith works with gang members in his community, many of whom are convicted killers. "They are the best distributors in the country," he said. "They are used to distributing other white powders, but still they are distributing things and then, they know everybody." Preston Jacobs, a member of the "Americans" gang, told CBS News' Debora Patta it "feels nice" to take on a new role and communicate with those in need. "Now I see there are nice people also, and people want to love what we're doing now," Jacobs said. Sansi Hassan of the "Clever Kids" gang expressed hope that this current ceasefire in gang violence could be permanent in the post-lockdown future. "If it can stay like this, then there will be no gang fight," he said. "And every gang will agree with us." Pastor Steel-Smith remains optimistic for his community. "I am proud of you guys," he said to two gang members working to distribute essential goods. "If I died today and went to heaven, I would die a happy man."
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.
Gatherings around the world have been postponed amidst the coronavirus outbreak and social distancing protocols meant to combat the illness. But people everywhere are making efforts to remind others that kindness isn’t canceled during this critical time. In fact, joy and compassion have been encouraged to help everybody get through. A grocery store worker in Vancouver, Wash. is doing much more than stocking shelves while working through the coronavirus quarantine — he’s inspiring people to consider the communication obstacles that the deaf community is facing as people wear masks. Matthew Simmons is deaf and relies on his lip reading skills to communicate with verbal coworkers and customers who don’t use American Sign Language (ASL). But when people began wearing masks, as enforced by the FDA, Simmons was anxious about how he would communicate, so he customized his work shirt to inform people that he reads lips and was provided white boards in order to communicate nonverbally with customers. A family in California is sharing the story of their grandmother’s “hero” nurse, after the healthcare worker went above and beyond her duties to get the elderly woman at risk of dying from the coronavirus on a video call with her son, daughter-in-law and grandkids. “I believe that our communication ... inspired her to persevere in her fight with COVID-19 to stay alive,” Will Wagner [said].
In Europe, nearly 39 million people are being paid by governments to work part time or not at all, a record level of support that will shape the region's ability to claw its way out of the deep recession triggered by the coronavirus. Like never before, European countries are relying on programs that encourage struggling companies to retain employees but reduce their working hours. The state then subsidizes a portion of their pay, in some countries paying as much as 80% of average wages. Unlike the system widely used in the United States, where employers lay off workers who then need to apply for government benefits, programs such as Germany's "Kurzarbeit," which translates to "short-time work," maintain the relationship between employers and their employees, helping work resume quickly once business picks back up. Kurzarbeit is credited with helping prevent mass layoffs in Germany following the 2008 global financial crisis. But present uptake is unprecedented. In Germany, as many as one in four employees may be on short-time work programs. In France and Italy, the number rises to as many as one in three workers or more. This could give Europe a leg up in its recovery, allowing economies in the region to restart quickly and efficiently as demand rebounds. A survey by the Ifo Institute in Germany this week found that 99% of restaurants and 97% of hotels in the country are making use of the Kurzarbeit program, as well as 94% of companies in the auto sector. The average across industries is 50%. [In contrast,] just 62,300 Americans received work-sharing benefits for the week ending April 11, according to the most recent data from the US Department of Labor.
Farmers around the country have been forced to dump milk and waste fresh produce as schools, restaurants and other institutions remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. In response, supermarket chain Publix launched a new initiative Wednesday to help struggling farmers — and get the food to Americans who need it most. The company's press release said it will purchase fresh produce and milk from farmers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and donate the goods directly to Feeding America food banks that are in its "operating area." During the first week of the initiative alone, some 150,000 pounds of produce and 43,500 gallons of milk is expected to be donated, the company said. "As a food retailer, we have the unique opportunity to bridge the gap between the needs of families and farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic," said Todd Jones, Publix CEO. "In addition to providing much needed produce and milk to food banks, this initiative provides financial support to farmers during this challenging time." In addition to the new initiative, Publix Super Markets Charities recently made donations which totaled $2 million to help Feeding America's member food banks amid the crisis. Feeding America, which is the largest hunger-relief organization in the U.S., said that before the coronavirus crisis there were 37 million people in the nation who did not have enough food. The number is now expected to increase by an additional 17 million.
In this time of social distancing and high anxiety, it can help to step back and remind ourselves of the myriad ways people are still being positive. We asked several of our reporters to share something they saw this week that is helping them remain upbeat. Inside Chicago’s once-bustling Shedd Aquarium, there wasn’t a soul in sight — except for a penguin waddling past the glass tanks. With the facility closed to the public, staff at the aquarium saw an opportunity for a field trip. They started Sunday with a penguin named Wellington, who peered into one of the giant fish tanks. The next day was mated pair Edward and Annie’s turn. Video of the sightseeing trips was shared online thousands of times. Like many nursing homes across the country, Sterling Village in Massachusetts has severely restricted its visitation policy. But resident Millie Erickson’s family still wanted to celebrate her 100th birthday with her, so they and the facility found a creative solution. About a dozen of her family members and nursing-home staff gathered outside her window to sing “Happy Birthday” as she waved along with the music and teared up — and it was all caught on video. I was heartened that this family found an outside-the-box way to make their loved one feel embraced and valued during this isolating time. We may currently need to keep our physical distance from older family members, but that doesn’t mean we can’t facilitate togetherness. Those human connections are what will get us through this crisis.
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Yanira Soriano met her newborn son for the first time Wednesday after spending nearly two weeks in a medically induced coma. She was eight months pregnant when she showed coronavirus symptoms, tested positive and was quickly intubated, her husband, Walter Sanchez, told CBS News. At that point, Walter said, the doctors conducted an emergency cesarean section while Yanira was on the ventilator. Hospitals across New York are preparing for similar situations. "We really advocate for assessment on a case-by-case basis," said Dr. Dena Goffman, with the Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Goffman co-authored a new study that tested more than 200 pregnant women admitted for delivery in two New York City hospitals for coronavirus whether they showed symptoms or not. Thirty-three women tested positive, but 29 of them showed no symptoms, according to the results published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine. CBS News correspondent Nikki Battiste, who is 37 weeks pregnant, said she was told she'll have to wear a mask when she goes in to deliver, and she'll be tested as soon as she arrives at the hospital. If she tests positive, she'll be isolated as staff take special precautions. Battiste asked Goffman if she would recommend separating her newborn from her if she tests positive for the virus. "For a mom who's asymptomatic and feeling well, we think there are ways to ... potentially keep them together to allow for some of the bonding," Goffman said.
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A group of senators is pushing to include a paycheck guarantee for laid off or furloughed workers in the next coronavirus relief package. Under the senators’ proposal, businesses that see at least a 20% month-over-month drop in revenues could receive grants to help cover workers’ payroll and benefits for at least six months. The grants would cover benefits and up to $90,000 in wages for each furloughed or laid off employee. The grants also include up to 20% of revenue to pay rent, utilities insurance policies and maintenance. The Paycheck Security proposal would allow businesses of all sizes to receive the grants if they prove revenue losses, unless they hold more than 18 months of average payroll in cash or cash equivalents. More than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits over the past six weeks, as the coronavirus wreaks havoc on the U.S. economy. The senators argue their program would be more effective than the current coronavirus response efforts. Congress has already approved more than $2.5 trillion in coronavirus relief. As state unemployment systems strain to keep up with jobless claims and the Paycheck Protection Program has struggled with technical problems and backlash over big businesses accepting the loans. According to reports, the Justice Department has found possible fraud among businesses seeking relief in a preliminary investigation of money disbursed through PPP.) Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) has introduced a similar measure in the house, which would cover up to $100,000 in workers’ wages. Some Republicans have also warmed to the idea of covering company payrolls.
The statewide order to shelter in place that went into effect on March 20 had a beneficial side-effect: Accidents, injuries and fatalities on California roadways were cut in half, saving the state and residents of California $1 billion, according to a UC Davis study. In the 22 days after the shelter-in-place order (March 21-April 11), there was an average of 450 vehicle collisions per day throughout the state, according to the study conducted by the Road Ecology Center at UC Davis. During the same period in 2019, there were 1,128 collisions per day. In the 22 days prior to sheltering in place, there were 1,056 accidents per day. “The reduction in traffic crashes, injuries and fatalities is a bit of a silver lining for people who are staying at home and who are impacted by the pandemic,” said ... project lead author Fraser Shilling. "The reduction in numbers of all collisions, injury, and fatal collision was equivalent to a $40 million/day savings in costs and about $1 billion in savings since the Governor’s order went into effect," the study concluded. The figures were calculated using Federal Highway Administration data, which includes savings from "property damage, treatment of injuries, lost time at work, emergency responses, insurance claims, and the equivalent cost of a life." Not surprisingly, the study found that traffic volume decreased 20% to as much as 55%. "There is no equivalent in our recent transportation history to such large changes in vehicle movement on our state and local roads," the study said.
After four Louisville, Kentucky, coal-fired power plants either retired coal as their energy source or installed stricter emission controls, local residents’ asthma symptoms and asthma-related hospitalizations and emergency room visits dropped dramatically, according to research published today in Nature Energy. Coal-fired power plants are known to emit pollutants associated with adverse health effects, including increased asthma attacks, asthma-related ED visits and hospitalizations. In 2014, coal-fired power plants accounted for 63% of economy-wide emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO 2) in the U.S.. Historically, Kentucky has ranked among the top five states in the U.S. for emissions from power generation. Starting with a pilot in 2012, the city of Louisville embarked on a project called AIR Louisville, which aimed to use data from Propeller Health’s digital inhaler sensors to gain insights into the impact of local air quality on the burden of respiratory disease in the community. Between 2013 and 2016, one coal-fired power plant in the Louisville area retired coal as an energy source, and three others installed stricter emission controls. The researchers found that energy transitions in the spring of 2015 resulted in three fewer hospitalizations and ED visits per ZIP code per quarter in the following year. This translates into nearly 400 avoided hospitalizations and ED visits each year across Jefferson County.
The retreat of a Norwegian mountain ice patch, which is melting because of climate change, has revealed a lost Viking-era mountain pass scattered with “spectacular” and perfectly preserved artefacts. The pass, at Lendbreen in Norway’s mountainous central region, first came to the attention of local archaeologists in 2011, after a woollen tunic was discovered that was later dated to the third or fourth century AD. The ice has retreated significantly in the years since, exposing a wealth of artefacts including knitted mittens, leather shoes and arrows still with their feathers attached. Carbon dating of the finds reveals the pass was in use by farmers and travellers for a thousand years, from the Nordic iron age, around AD200-300, until it fell out of use after the Black Death in the 14th century. The bulk of the finds date from the period around AD1000, during the Viking era, when trade and mobility in the region were at their zenith. Of the hundreds of discoveries exposed by the retreating ice, some are structural, such as ... the remains of a small shelter. Other finds are products that were being transported by ... traders potentially carrying them much further afield, including reindeer pelts and antlers. Among them are delicate wooden items such as a small, wood-turned bit for a lamb or goat and a carved distaff for spinning wool - even a Bronze Age ski. Last summer’s melt exposed an item that archaeologists have identified as a snowshoe for horses - “a quite remarkable object in its own right”.
Note: It's interesting to note that this area was warm enough back then that the glacier receded enough to make that pass usable. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
New Zealand’s prime minister has said she and other ministers will take a 20% pay cut lasting six months to show solidarity with those affected by the coronavirus outbreak, as the death toll continues to rise. Jacinda Ardern said it was important the government’s most highly paid politicians show “leadership and solidarity” with workers on the frontline and those who had lost their livelihoods. Ardern, government ministers and public service chief executives will take the cut for six months, effective immediately. The pay cut will reduce Ardern’s salary by $47,104. Cabinet ministers would take a cut of NZ$26,900 each, while deputy prime minister Winston Peters’ salary would be cut by $33,473. Dr Ashley Bloomfield, the director-general of health who has led the elimination response to the crisis, confirmed he would “definitely” take a pay cut too, as would opposition leader Simon Bridges. Ardern said: “If there was ever a time to close the gap between groups of people across New Zealand in different positions, it is now. I am responsible for the executive branch and this is where we can take action … it is about showing solidarity in New Zealand’s time of need.” The International Monetary Fund is forecasting that the New Zealand economy will shrink by 7.2% this year. In its World Economic Outlook, it says New Zealand will see the biggest economic contraction outside Europe, except for Venezuela.
Afroz Shah, a lawyer in Mumbai, hasn't had a weekend off in four years. But he hasn't spent this time writing briefs or preparing for court. His mission? Saving the world's oceans from plastic pollution. It's a calling he found in 2015 after moving to a community in Mumbai called Versova Beach. "The whole beach was like a carpet of plastic," he said. "It repulsed me." The unsightly mess Shah had stumbled upon is part of a global environmental crisis. More than 8 million tons of plastic ends up in the world's oceans each year - the equivalent of a garbage truck dumped every minute. It's predicted that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. The results are devastating. More than 1 million seabirds, 100,000 sea mammals and countless fish die from plastic pollution each year. In October 2015, Shah began picking up trash from the beach every Sunday morning. At first, it was just him and a neighbor, and then he began recruiting others to join in. Word spread and ... more volunteers got involved. Shah hasn't stopped since. He's now spent 209 weekends dedicated to this mission, inspiring more than 200,000 volunteers to join him in what's been called the world's biggest beach cleanup. By October 2018, Versova Beach was finally clean and Shah's cleanups expanded to another beach as well as a stretch of the Mithi River and other regions of India. All told, the movement has cleared more than 60 million pounds of garbage - mostly plastic waste - from Mumbai's beaches and waterways.
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.
The ozone layer is continuing to heal and has the potential to fully recover, according to a new study. A scientific paper, published in Nature, heralds a rare success in the reversal of environmental damage and shows that orchestrated global action can make a difference. The ozone layer is a protective shield in the Earth’s stratosphere which absorbs most of the ultraviolet radiation reaching us from the sun. Antara Banerjee ... is lead author of the study. She told The Independent: “We found signs of climate changes in the southern hemisphere, specifically in the air circulation patterns. The challenge was showing that these changing air circulation patterns were due to the shrinking ozone hole following the implementation of the Montreal Protocol. The jet stream in the southern hemisphere was gradually shifting towards the south pole in the last decades of the 20th century due to ozone depletion. Our study found that movement has stopped since 2000 and might even be reversing. The pause in movement began around the same time that the ozone hole started to recover. The emissions of ozone-depleting substances that were responsible for the ozone hole - the CFCs from spray cans and refrigerants – started to decline around 2000, thanks to the Montreal Protocol.” Overall, it is good news for the fight against climate change. She added: “It shows that this international treaty has worked and we can reverse the damage that we’ve already done to our planet. That’s a lesson to us all.”
I am writing to you from Italy, which means I am writing from your future. We are now where you will be in a few days. As we watch you from here, from your future, we know that many of you, as you were told to lock yourselves up into your homes, quoted Orwell, some even Hobbes. But soon you’ll be too busy for that. First of all, you’ll eat. Not just because it will be one of the few last things that you can still do. Old resentments and falling-outs will seem irrelevant. You will call people you had sworn never to talk to ever again, so as to ask them: “How are you doing?” You’ll laugh. You’ll laugh a lot. You’ll flaunt a gallows humour you never had before. Even people who’ve always taken everything dead seriously will contemplate the absurdity of life, of the universe and of it all. You will count all the things you do not need. The true nature of the people around you will be revealed with total clarity. You will have confirmations and surprises. Those who invite you to see all this mess as an opportunity for planetary renewal will help you to put things in a larger perspective. You will also find them terribly annoying: nice, the planet is breathing better because of the halved CO2 emissions, but how will you pay your bills next month? You will not understand if witnessing the birth of a new world is more a grandiose or a miserable affair. You will play music from your windows and lawns. When you saw us singing opera from our balconies, you thought “ah, those Italians”. But we know you will sing uplifting songs to each other too.
Note: The above was written by acclaimed Italian novelist Francesca Melandri. Note that the number of people dying from the coronavirus in Italy has been gradually decreasing since it peaked on March 26th. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
An international poll of thousands of doctors rated the Trump-touted anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine the best treatment for the novel coronavirus. Of the 2,171 physicians surveyed, 37 percent rated hydroxychloroquine the “most effective therapy” for combating the potentially deadly illness. The survey, conducted by the global health care polling company Sermo, also found that 23 percent of medical professionals had prescribed the drug in the US — far less than other countries. “Outside the US, hydroxychloroquine was equally used for diagnosed patients with mild to severe symptoms whereas in the US it was most commonly used for high risk diagnosed patients,” the survey found. The medicine was most widely used in Spain, where 72 percent of physicians said they had prescribed it. Of the 2,171 doctors asked which drug is most effective, 37 said hydroxychloroquine. By contrast, 32 percent answered “nothing.” To date, “there is no evidence” that any medicine “can prevent or cure the disease,” according to the World Health Organization. But Sermo CEO Peter Kirk called the polling results a “treasure trove of global insights for policymakers.” “Physicians should have more of a voice in how we deal with this pandemic and be able to quickly share information with one another and the world,” he said in a press release. The 30 countries where doctors were surveyed included Europe, South America and Australia — and no incentives were provided to participate, the company said.
Note: How interesting that very few major media reported on this. Could it be because this drug is inexpensive and big Pharma, which hugely sponsors the major media, won't make big profits? Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
With Maryland schools and some places of work closed amid the coronavirus pandemic, parents are looking for creative new ways to educate their children at home. One expert in homeschooling says a coronavirus-related quarantine situation should not be mistaken for a traditional educational setting. And parents should not lose sleep over whether their children are getting enough learning materials during such uncertain times. “We’re dealing with a global pandemic ... we need to worry about how we’re helping our children to cope with the stress," said Alessa Giampaolo Keener, an educational consultant. One of the best ways to help students stay mentally engaged in the coming weeks is by finding a routine that works for them without caving to the pressure [to] interrupt play or set elaborate schedules for children. Older children may respond well to being given a list of chores or assignments to complete by a set deadline, which allows them the autonomy to budget their own time throughout the day. The Khan Academy is a nonprofit that offers online educational resources for students, teachers and parents. Families can find day-by-day projects on Scholastic’s Learn at Home webpage to keep kids thinking during a quarantine. Projects are available for levels Pre-K through 9th grade. Some kids may miss recess and gym class just as much as academics. Families can find yoga, mindfulness and relaxation exercises on the Cosmic Kids Yoga Channel on YouTube.
Note: You can find more useful homeschooling resources on this webpage and this one and this one. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Coronavirus has hit companies hard and fast over the past several weeks — prompting calls for industry bailouts and dramatic measures to cut costs. Among the steps some major corporations are taking to mitigate the consequences of the outbreak are pay cuts to CEOs and other top executives. Executive pay cuts alone aren't likely to have a significant impact on companies' bottom lines or provide a boost to lower-paid employees further down the org chart. But they send an important message. Airlines and travel companies, one of the industries hit hardest by the outbreak early on, were among the first to take such a step, including Delta (DAL), Alaska (ALK), United Airlines (UAL) and others, which all announced CEO pay cuts, and other executive compensation reductions. Marriott (MAR), the world's largest hotel chain, said last week that CEO Arne Sorenson will not take home any salary for the rest of the year, and the rest of the executive team will take a 50% pay cut. The announcement came at the same time that the company said it would begin furloughing what could be tens of thousands of hotel workers, from housekeepers to general managers. On Wednesday, Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS) also announced its CEO Ed Stack and President Lauren Hobart will forgo their salaries, except for an amount covering company-provided benefits. The company's other named executive officers will take a 50% reduction in base salary. Other companies, including Ford (F), GE (GESLX) and Lyft (LYFT) have taken similar steps.
As countries around the world grapple with the coronavirus, Taiwan may offer valuable lessons on how to curb its spread. The island is just 81 miles and a short flight away from mainland China, where COVID-19 is believed to have originated in the city of Wuhan. And yet, Taiwan has had only 50 cases of COVID-19 and one death. Of the 100-plus countries and territories affected, Taiwan has the lowest incidence rate per capita — around 1 in every 500,000 people. What lessons can Taiwan teach the world so other countries can stem the spread of the virus? On Dec. 31, the same day China notified the World Health Organization that it had several cases of an unknown pneumonia, Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control immediately ordered inspections of passengers arriving on flights from Wuhan. Taiwan began requiring hospitals to test for and report cases. That helped the government identify those infected, trace their contacts and isolate everyone involved. Equally important, Taiwan's CDC activated the Central Epidemic Command Center relatively early on Jan. 20 and that allowed it to quickly roll out a series of epidemic control measures. The country’s health insurance system, which covers 99 percent of the population, has been crucial. “You can get a free test, and if you’re forced to be isolated, during the 14 days, we pay for your food, lodging and medical care,” [government spokesperson Kolas Yotaka] said. “So no one would avoid seeing the doctor because they can’t pay for health care.”
Note: This wired.com article further shows how Singapore is doing well with the pandemic. Another article shows why several countries have had success in this. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Today, the UN issued its annual World Happiness Report, which ranks 156 countries around the world. For the third year in a row, Finland was named the happiest country in the world. So what makes the Finns so happy—and what can we learn from them during this time of global turmoil caused by an outbreak of coronavirus? The first thing to know is that 70% of Finland is covered by forest and the air is clean and serene. “Nature is our secret,” says [Heli] Jimenez. “We Finns like to put on a pair of rubber boots, head to the woods to slow down and calm our mind.” But even if you can’t get out of the house, you can replicate the experience at home and listen to the relaxing sounds of Finnish Lapland. Finns love swimming in the winter in a lake or the sea. The easiest way to do this at home is with a quick, ice-cold shower. Another hallmark of Finland is its rich art scene, which ranges from experimental artist-run initiatives to commercial galleries to flagship art institutions. The country is home to more than 55 art museums, and much of the art in the country is inspired by the Finns’ close relationship with nature. The Finns also use art to “calm the mind and transport their thoughts to stress-free, comforting places.” says Jimenez. Her advice: “Why not take a virtual trip from your own sofa to the Finnish museums to understand how art is a tool for happiness.” Take a virtual tour of the Ateneum, and you’ll be feeling the calm Finnish vibes in no time flat.
People around the world are learning to cope with quarantines in an attempt to stop the further spread of the new coronavirus. As city lockdowns force people to self-quarantine, everyone is searching for ways to keep busy — and Yale University has a solution. "Psychology and the Good Life," a course first introduced by Professor Laurie Santos in spring 2018, teaches stressed-out students how to be happier. The university said it quickly became the most popular course in the school's 317-year history. Given its success, Yale decided to release the course online with the title, "The Science of Well Being." It features lectures by Santos "on things people think will make them happy but don't — and, more importantly, things that do bring lasting life satisfaction." Anyone with an internet connection can sign up for the class for free. The course involves a series of challenges "designed to increase your own happiness and build more productive habits." The course is fully online and takes about 20 hours to complete. It includes videos, readings, quizzes and "retirement" activities to build happier habits. "The Science of Well Being" isn't the only course that could keep you busy during the coronavirus outbreak. Coursera offers other free courses from the nation's top schools, including "Greek and Roman Mythology" from the University of Pennsylvania, "Imagining other Earths" from Princeton, and "Child Nutrition and Cooking" from Stanford.
Note: Don't miss the incredibly popular course (4.9 stars out of 5) offered free on this webpage. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Amid a novel coronavirus pandemic, some of us have defied public health officials’ exhortations and headed to bars to be with other members of our species. More of us have stared into the weeks to come and wondered how we will cope without basketball games, book groups, worship services, yoga classes and dinners with friends. Humans are social animals, even what some call “ultra-social.” For millennia, survival has depended on being part of a group. If distancing seems hard, it’s not just you: It’s human nature. “We are the most extreme example of a species that’s decided that collaborating with others is going to be my entire strategy,” said Steve Cole, a professor ... at the University of California. These social skills helped our ancestors fend off predators and more efficiently gather and hunt food and raise offspring. Our emotional dependence on each other can make keeping our distance, even for the public health benefit of “flattening the curve,” feel crummy. Most who are reducing physical contact, of course, are not locking themselves into isolation chambers. They’ve got a few relatives or friends around. Technology and social media ... should now be viewed as a lifeline. “People are going to feel isolated and lonely unless they make an effort to reach out to each other, so what we have to do is make sure that we call people on the phone and Skype with them and send them texts and emails, especially the people who are least proficient on the Internet,” [psychological anthropologist Alan] Fiske said.
Scientists in Australia are making some astonishing claims about a new nuclear reactor technology. Startup HB11, which spun out of the University of New South Wales, has applied for and received patents in the U.S., Japan, and China so far. The company's technology uses lasers to trigger a nuclear fusion reaction in hydrogen and boron—purportedly with no radioactive fuel required. The laser doesn’t heat the materials. Instead, it speeds up the hydrogen to the point where it (hopefully) collides with the boron to begin a reaction. “You could say we're using the hydrogen as a dart, and hoping to hit a boron, and if we hit one, we can start a fusion reaction,” managing director Warren McKenzie [said]. He says HB11's approach is “more precise” than designs that use heat to approach fusion because in those reactors, everything is heated in the hope that something will collide. When the lucky hydrogen does fuse with a boron particle, the reaction throws off helium atoms whose lack of electrons means they’re positively charged. It’s this charge that the device gathers as electricity. The overall idea was developed by UNSW emeritus professor Heinrich Hora. Hora’s design seeks to not just compete with, but replace entirely the extremely high-temperature current technologies to achieve fusion. These include fussy and volatile designs like the tokamak or stellarator, which can take months to get up to functionality and still spin out of working order in a matter of microseconds.
A man from London has become the second person in the world to be cured of HIV, doctors say. Adam Castillejo is still free of the virus more than 30 months after stopping anti-retroviral therapy. He was not cured by the HIV drugs, however, but by a stem-cell treatment he received for a cancer he also had, the Lancet HIV journal reports. The donors of those stem cells have an uncommon gene that gives them, and now Mr Castillejo, protection against HIV. In 2011, Timothy Brown, the "Berlin Patient" became the first person reported as cured of HIV, three and half years after having similar treatment. Stem-cell transplants appear to stop the virus being able to replicate inside the body by replacing the patient's own immune cells with donor ones that resist HIV infection. Adam Castillejo - the now 40-year-old "London Patient" who has decided to go public with his identity - has no detectable active HIV infection in his blood, semen or tissues, his doctors say. It is now a year after they first announced he was clear of the virus and he still remains free of HIV. Lead researcher Prof Ravindra Kumar Gupta, from the University of Cambridge, told BBC News: "This represents HIV cure with almost certainty. "We have now had two and a half years with anti-retroviral-free remission. "Our findings show that the success of stem-cell transplantation as a cure for HIV, first reported nine years ago in the Berlin Patient, can be replicated."
Humans and rodents have similar brain structures that regulate empathy, suggesting the behavior is deeply rooted in mammal evolution. Previous research has shown the much-maligned rodents assist comrades in need, as well as remember individual rats that have helped them—and return the favor. Now, a new study builds on this evidence of empathy, revealing that domestic rats will avoid harming other rats. In the study, published ... in the journal Current Biology, rats were trained to pull levers to get a tasty sugar pellet. If the lever delivered a mild shock to a neighbor, several of the rats stopped pulling that lever and switched to another. Harm aversion, as it's known, is a well-known human trait regulated by a part of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Further experiments showed the ACC controls this behavior in rats, too. This is the first time scientists have found the ACC is necessary for harm aversion in a non-human species. The finding could have a real impact on people suffering from psychiatric disorders such as psychopathy and sociopathy, whose anterior cingulate cortexes are impaired. “We currently have no effective drugs to reduce violence in antisocial populations,” [study co-author Christian] Keysers says, and figuring out how to increase such patients’ aversion to hurting others could be a powerful tool. Whatever the motivation ... it’s fascinating that the impulse to avoid hurting others is at least 93 million years old, which is when humans and rats diverged on the evolutionary tree.
Carbon emissions from the global electricity system fell by 2% last year, the biggest drop in almost 30 years, as countries began to turn their backs on coal-fired power plants. A new report on the world’s electricity generation revealed the steepest cut in carbon emissions since 1990 as the US and the EU turned to cleaner energy sources. Overall, power from coal plants fell by 3% last year, even as China’s reliance on coal plants climbed for another year to make up half the world’s coal generation for the first time. Coal generation in the US and Europe has halved since 2007, and last year collapsed by almost a quarter in the EU and by 16% in the US. The report from climate thinktank Ember ... warned that the dent in the world’s coal-fired electricity generation relied on many one-off factors, including milder winters across many countries. Dave Jones, the lead author of the report, said governments must dramatically accelerate the electricity transition so that global coal generation collapses throughout the 2020s. “The cheapest and quickest way to end coal generation is through a rapid rollout of wind and solar,” he said. The report revealed that renewable wind and solar power rose by 15% in 2019 to make up 8% of the world’s electricity. In the EU, wind and solar power made up almost a fifth of the electricity generated last year, ahead of the US which relied on these renewable sources for 11% of its electricity. In China and India, renewable energy made up 8% and 9% of the electricity system, respectively.
A waitress at a Denny's restaurant in Galveston, Texas, has a lot to be thankful for. Almost every day, Adrianna Edwards walks over four hours to and from work. "I have bills to pay," Edwards [said]. "I've got to eat. You've got to do what you've got to do." But her walking days are finally over. A couple she served at the restaurant on Tuesday bought her a new car - just hours after they'd met. Edwards can now start college earlier than she thought. The couple, who wanted to remain anonymous, were at Denny's for breakfast when they found out that Edwards was walking 14 miles just to get to her job and go back home. The waitress, who was saving up money to buy a car to free herself from the long trek, gave the woman extra ice cream. But what she got in return was much sweeter. The Texas couple finished their meal, left the restaurant, and came back with a 2011 Nissan Sentra and handed Edwards the keys. This car will turn what was a five hour walk into a 30 minute commute. "She teared up, which made me happy that she was so moved by that," the woman who bought Edwards the car [said]. All the couple asked in return for the car was for Edwards to simply pay the good deed forward. And that's exactly what she aims to do. "I still feel like I'm dreaming. Every two hours, I come look out my window and see if there's still a car there. When I see somebody in need, I'll probably be more likely to help them out (and) to do everything that I can to help them out," Edwards said.
There is something different, and a little special, about Universo Santi, a restaurant in the southern Spanish city of Jerez. “People don’t come here because the staff are disabled but because it’s the best restaurant in the area. Whatever reason they came for, the talking is about the food,” says Antonio Vila. Vila is the president of the Fundación Universo Accesible, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to helping people with disabilities join the mainstream workforce. He has also been the driving force behind Universo Santi, the haute cuisine restaurant whose 20 employees all have some form of disability. “I always wanted to show what people with disabilities, given the right training, were capable of,” says Vila. “I feel really lucky to be part of this,” says Gloria Bazán, head of human resources, who has cerebral palsy. “It’s difficult to work when society just sees you as someone with a handicap. This has given me the opportunity to be independent and to participate like any other human being.” Alejandro Giménez, 23, has Down’s syndrome and is a commis chef. “It’s given me the chance to become independent doing something I’ve loved since I was a kid,” says Giménez, who lived with his mother until he was recruited. “Working here has transformed my life. So many things I used to ask my mother to do, I do myself. I didn’t even know how to take a train by myself because I’d just miss my stop.” Since it opened in October 2017, Universo Santi continues to win plaudits for its cuisine.
Technology promised to connect us but divided us instead. As people worry about smartphone addiction and vow to spend less time on their laptops, social media companies are scrambling to placate a world that has caught on to their products’ ability to turn us against one another, tip elections and even incite violence. The growing anxiety about technology has prompted a “humane technology” movement among former Silicon Valley insiders disquieted by what their industry has wrought. But there’s another group, utterly unconnected to Google or Facebook or Apple, that has been practicing humane technology for generations: the Amish. Each church community of about 30 families ... has latitude in setting its technology boundaries. When a church member asks to use a new technology, the families discuss the idea and vote to accept or reject. The conversation centers on how a device will strengthen or weaken relationships within the community and within families. Imagine if the United States had conducted a similar discussion when social media platforms were developing algorithms designed to amplify differences and then pit us against one another, because anger drives traffic and traffic drives profits. Americans will never abandon technology for a horse-and-buggy life, but millions of us have begun weighing the costs of constant connectivity. When pondering how to strike the right balance, we might do well at least to pause and consider taking a personal version of the Amish approach.
As doctors in London performed surgery on Dagmar Turner's brain, the sound of a violin filled the operating room. The music came from the patient on the operating table. In a video from the surgery, the violinist moves her bow up and down as surgeons behind a plastic sheet work to remove her brain tumor. The King's College Hospital surgeons woke her up in the middle of the operation in order to ensure they did not compromise parts of the brain necessary for playing the violin, such as parts that control precise hand movements and coordination. "We knew how important the violin is to Dagmar, so it was vital that we preserved function in the delicate areas of her brain that allowed her to play," Keyoumars Ashkan, a neurosurgeon at King's College Hospital, said in a press release. Prior to Dagmar's operation they spent two hours carefully mapping her brain to identify areas that were active when she played the violin and those responsible for controlling language and movement. Waking her up during surgery then allowed doctors to monitor whether those parts were sustaining damage. "The violin is my passion; I've been playing since I was 10 years old," Turner said in the hospital press release. "The thought of losing my ability to play was heart-breaking but, being a musician himself, Prof. Ashkan understood my concerns." The surgery was a success, Ashkan said: "We managed to remove over 90 percent of the tumour ... while retaining full function of her left hand."
When Kwane Stewart first decided to become a veterinarian, he had no idea his job would become less about the animals he treats and more about the humans who own them. The 49-year-old animal lover spends his free time driving around California and spotting homeless people with animals. His goal [is] to treat them, for no cost at all. Before taking on his role as "The Street Vet," Stewart grew up in New Mexico ... dreaming about trading in deserts for beaches. This dream eventually led him to practice veterinary medicine in California, where he ran an animal hospital before becoming the county veterinarian for Stanislaus County. As the Great Recession drove California's homeless populations higher year after year, so too did it increase the number of animals on the street. So one day in 2011, "on a whim," Stewart set up a table at a soup kitchen with his son and girlfriend. Anytime he spotted someone with an animal, he called them over and offered to give their pet a checkup. "Before I knew it, I had a whole line," Stewart said. "There was something about it that I loved. I decided to just take it to the street and walk to homeless people instead of waiting for them to walk up to me." For animals who need vaccinations, medicine, or food, Stewart pays for the costs out of pocket. However, he often runs into animals with severe issues ... that need treatment at a veterinary hospital. For these cases, Stewart uses his GoFundMe to cover surgeries and invasive procedures.
Scientists say they have seen a remarkable collection of blue whales in the coastal waters around the UK sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia. Their 23-day survey counted 55 animals - a total that is unprecedented in the decades since commercial whaling ended. To witness 55 of them now return to what was once a pre-eminent feeding ground for the population has been described as "truly, truly amazing" by cetacean specialist Dr Trevor Branch. "To think that in a period of 40 or 50 years, I only had records for two sightings of blue whales around South Georgia. So to go from basically nothing to 55 in one year is astonishing," he told BBC News. Blue whales are the most massive creatures ever to roam the Earth, and the Antarctic sub-species contained the very biggest of the big at over 30m. This population was also the most numerous of the 10 or so discrete populations across the globe, carrying perhaps 239,000 individuals prior to the onset of industrial exploitation. But the marine mammals' physical size made them a profitable catch, and around South Georgia more than 33,000 Antarctic blues were documented to have been caught and butchered, most of them between 1904 and 1925. By the time a ban was introduced in 1966, a sighting anywhere in Southern Ocean waters would have been extremely rare indeed. The last official estimate of abundance was made in 1997 and suggested Antarctic blues could have recovered to about 2,280 individuals.
When police found the unconscious man in a Southern California Motel 6, the IDs on him said he was Michael Thomas Boatwright from Florida. But when the man awoke at Desert Regional Medical Center a few days later, he said he'd never heard of Boatwright. He didn't recall serving in the U.S. Navy. Or of being born in Florida. And he didn't speak a word of English. The man said his name was Johan Ek. And he said it in Swedish. Today, the 61-year-old man says he has come to terms with the name "Michael Boatwright," but only because doctors told him he should. He still feels like Johan Ek from Sweden. And he can't explain why. Everything Boatwright knows about his life before February 28 he knows because his social worker [Lisa Hunt-Vasquez] told him or because he read it on websites. He told CNN he learned that in 1987 he operated a consulting company called Kultur Konsult Nykoping. That is somewhat of a Swedish connection. He doesn't have any independent knowledge of his life before he woke up in the hospital. He still feels isolated in the hospital, so Hunt-Vasquez encouraged him to reach out to members of the local Swedish-American community. "They said he was getting depressed because he wasn't able to communicate," said Linda Kosvic, chairman of the Vasa Order of America chapter in San Jacinto, California. "We've been trying to provide him support and make him feel more comfortable." Members visit him in the hospital, bringing him Swedish foods.
When the icy wind blows off the Spokane River, the temperature can routinely plunge below zero. Trying to survive without shelter out here is almost impossible. By luck, [Mariah] Hodges was connected by a volunteer to a warming center, where she's now staying. It's one of three new makeshift emergency facilities that the city of Spokane, Wash., has paid to open up this winter. Hodges' boyfriend also stays in the shelter. He is addicted to meth, and Hodges is struggling with alcoholism. "Most of the people in this building ... have issues that need to be addressed at a different level," says Julia Garcia, founder of Jewels Helping Hands, a nonprofit contracted to run the warming center that Hodges is staying in. "But ... they are sleeping outside, they don't know how to get out of that." The more traditional approach to dealing with homelessness is tougher enforcement: ticketing people for panhandling or sleeping in doorways. Spokane is trying something different. This was on display in a big way one chilly weekday morning at the city's downtown convention center. Where you might expect to see a trade show or convention ... today it's a "Homeless Connect." Hundreds of the city's most vulnerable are carrying tote bags stuffed with donated food, jackets and health and housing brochures. But this is about more than just giving out free clothes or hepatitis C tests. It's part of a delicate, more long-term plan to build trust in the system and convince people that if they get help, their lives might improve.
Walking into charity: water's Manhattan headquarters is unlike walking into many other nonprofit offices. Outside Founder and CEO Scott Harrison's office is a monitor displaying real-time updates of projects all around the world. Since 2006, the organization has funded 30,000 projects serving an estimated 8.5 million people around the world. "Clean water is life’s most basic need," [said Harrison]. "And yet, 663 million people still live without it. The good news is that it’s a problem we know how to solve. Unlike [many] pressing challenges humans face, when it comes to ending the water crisis, we have the knowledge and the technology to make it a reality. It’s just a matter of getting the right resources to the right people. Charity: water does this by raising awareness, and inspiring a global community of generous supporters to join us in funding sustainable, community-owned water projects around the world. We then work with teams of local partners on the ground to implement the projects, making sure they are culturally relevant and sustainable. We’ve funded more than 30,000 water projects to bring clean water to 8.5 million people in 26 countries so far, and are now changing over 4,000 new lives each day with the gift of clean water. With ... remote sensors, we’re able to monitor hourly flow rates across thousands of communities via data that’s being transmitted from our wells to the cloud, and quickly dispatch mechanics if we spot problems. We’ve installed over 3,000 sensors on wells in Ethiopia already."
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Cars and motorbikes running on petrol or diesel will be banned from driving in Amsterdam from 2030. The city’s council plans to phase in the change as part of a drive to clean up air pollution, which the authorities blame for shortening the life expectancy of Amsterdammers by a year. “Pollution often is a silent killer and is one of the greatest health hazards in Amsterdam,” said the councillor responsible for the city’s traffic, Sharon Dijksma, announcing the municipality’s decision. From next year, diesel cars that are 15 years or older will be banned from going within the A10 ring road around the Dutch capital. Public buses and coaches that emit exhaust fumes will no longer enter the city centre from 2022. By 2025, the ban will be extended to pleasure crafts on its waters, mopeds and light mopeds. All traffic within the built-up area must be emission-free by 2030 under the Clean Air Action plan. The city plans to encourage its residents to switch to electric and hydrogen cars by offering charging stations to every buyer of such a vehicle. It is hoped that the second-hand electric car market will blossom in the coming years. There will need to be 16,000 to 23,000 charging stations by 2025 to make the project viable – up from the current 3,000 in the city. In January 2018, the Dutch health council called on the government to devise an ambitious strategy to improve air quality in the Netherlands, warning that the “blanket of pollution” would cause major health problems in the country.
Carpenter Dale Schroeder ... was a frugal man who, over a lifetime without a family of his own, put together a $3 million scholarship fund that has made it possible for 33 people to attend college. "He was that kind of a blue-collar, lunch pail kind of a guy. Went to work every day, worked really hard, was frugal like a lot of Iowans," Steve Nielsen, Schroeder's lawyer who helped arrange the scholarships, told CNN. "I never got the opportunity to go to college and so I'd like to help kids go to college," Schroeder told Nielsen 14 years ago, the lawyer said. "I kinda was curious, I said 'how much are we talking about Dale?' And he said, 'Oh just shy of $3 million' and I nearly fell out of my chair," Nielsen said. Schroeder died in 2005, but he left behind two pairs of jeans, a rusty truck and instructions to allocate the funds to small-town Iowa kids, CNN reported. "I grew up in a single-parent household and I had three older sisters so paying for all four of us was never an option," Kira Conrad, the last of the 33 to have their college tuition paid in full by Schroder's fund, told CNN. "For a man that would never meet me, to give me basically a full ride to college, that's incredible. That doesn't happen." The 33 Iowans Schroeder put through college recently gathered around his old lunch box. They dubbed themselves "Dale's kids." It was a group of doctors, teachers and therapists with no college debt. With Schroeder gone, there's no paying it back. His only wish was they pay it forward.
Completing two marathons on crutches while partially paralyzed is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Three years after a spinal cord injury that left her without full mobility of her lower body, Hannah Gavios completed her second New York City Marathon - crossing the finish line on crutches in just over 11 hours, 18 minutes faster than last year. The sun had gone down by the time she reached the end of the 26.2-mile course. But achieving that milestone yet another time was a powerful reminder of everything she had overcome. In 2016, Gavios took a vacation to Thailand from her job teaching English in Vietnam. On her way back to her hotel one night, she feared she had gotten lost and asked for directions. But the person who had been guiding her ended up leading her to a dark, wooded area and attacked her, Gavios told CNN. While running away from her attacker, she fell off a cliff, tumbling 150 feet. The fall left her with a spinal cord injury that has affected muscles in her lower body. But it hasn't stopped her from living her life to the fullest. "I always knew I was a strong person," the 26-year-old Queens, New York, resident said. "But I didn't know I was that strong. I also didn't realize how much of a fighter I was." Then she learned about Amanda Sullivan, who had been completing marathons on crutches after an auto accident left her disabled. If someone with a similar condition could finish a marathon, Gavios thought to herself, then she could, too.
Nearly 70 years ago, a young Russ Gremel decided to buy about $1,000 worth of stock in a Chicago-based pharmacy chain. As Gremel grew older, that pharmacy chain, Walgreens, grew exponentially. By the time Gremel hit his late 90s, the stock was worth more than $2 million. Still, he didn't cash out. Instead, the now 98-year-old Chicagoan donated the stock to the Illinois Audubon Society, which is using it to help establish a nearly 400-acre wildlife refuge. Though he never discussed his wealth, those who know Gremel say his donation isn't surprising. He's a man with a "big, open heart," said Jack Henehan, one of the many men who was a Boy Scout during Gremel's more than 60 years as a scoutmaster. Another former Scout turned lifelong friend, Dr. Steven Bujewski, 57, said the stock donation is nice, but not as impressive as the time Gremel spent leading his Boy Scouts. "The gift that he has given to thousands of kids through Scouting and the influence it's had on their lives, I think that's 100 times more valuable," Bujewski said. Though Scouting was a big part of his life, Gremel said he chose to donate to the Illinois Audubon Society because of its relatively low administrative overhead and his love of nature. The society had been keeping an eye on a 395-acre property near Amboy and Dixon for some time, and Gremel said he wanted the money to be used to help people enjoy nature. It proved to be a good fit.
A beluga whale has been filmed passing a rugby ball back and forth with crew on a passing boat. The whale was filmed approaching the South African Gemini Craft boat in the Arctic Ocean near the North Pole. A member of the boat's crew threw a rugby ball out the to the whale. The animal grabbed the ball in its mouth before swimming back to the boat. The video has been viewed more than one million times since it was uploaded to Facebook and the footage has spread like wildfire across numerous sites such as Reddit. A number of amazed people have left comments in disbelief of the beluga whale's skills. 'I can't believe what I'm seeing,' one person said. Another one commented: 'How many people can say they've played fetch with a beluga?' The Gemini Crew had earlier been sailing near the Norwegian town of Hammer fest, which recently gained media attention about a possible Russian spy whale swimming in its waters. Russia is understood to have moved a pod of beluga whales to a secret Arctic base before one of the sea creatures reportedly swam to Norway. A beluga was found wearing a harness marked 'equipment of St Petersburg' around the area in April. The sea creature, which had the harness for a camera, was hanging around the port performing tricks for locals in return for food, with many residents joking he had 'defected'. Russia has dismissed claims its 'spy whale' was caught snooping on the fishing vessels of a NATO country.
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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.
The city of Amsterdam is taking over the debts of its young adults as part of a drive to liberate people who are struggling to get into work or education. A growth in borrowing among young Dutch adults – a trend echoed elsewhere in Europe, including the UK – is said to be standing in the way of them joining the marketplace or completing higher education courses. Under the city’s trial project, a municipal credit bank will negotiate with creditors to buy out the debts. Those on the scheme will then be issued with a loan to repay according to their means. The creditors will be given €750 as an incentive to pass the debt on to the municipality’s bank. The young people will have more of the debt cancelled if they successfully engage in training or an educational programme. “Debts cause a lot of stress. And in the case of young people, debts often determine their future,” said Amsterdam’s deputy mayor, Marjolein Moorman. “The majority of these young people started out in arrears and, due to bad luck or ignorance, found themselves in a situation where they could not get out without help. That is why we are now going to help them so that they can make a new start.” The debt-transfer project will start in February. Each person on the scheme will be given a coach with whom they will prepare a “guidance plan”. More than a third (34%) of Amsterdammers aged between 18 and 34 have debts, according to the official figures.
Dr. Olawale Sulaiman, 49, is a professor of neurosurgery and spinal surgery and chairman for the neurosurgery department and back and spine center at the Ochsner Neuroscience Institute in New Orleans. He lives in Louisiana, but splits his time between the US and Nigeria, spending up to 12 days each month providing healthcare in the country of his birth - sometimes for free. Born in Lagos Island, Lagos, Sulaiman says his motivation comes from growing up in a relatively poor region. "I am one of 10 children born into a polygamous family. My siblings and I shared one room where we often found ourselves sleeping on a mat on the floor," he told CNN. According to a report by the Global Health Workforce Alliance, Nigeria's healthcare system does not have enough personnel to effectively deliver essential health services to the country's large population. Sulaiman says he wants to use his knowledge to improve the healthcare system. In 2010, Sulaiman established RNZ Global, a healthcare development company with his wife, Patricia. The company provides medical services including neuro and spinal surgery, and offers health courses like first aid CPR in Nigeria and the US. RNZ Global has treated more than 500 patients and provided preventative medicine to up to 5,000 people in the US and Nigeria. RNZ Global also has a not-for-profit arm called RNZ foundation. The foundation, registered in 2019, focuses on managing patients with neurological diseases for free.
People who engage in arts-related cultural activities such as going to museums or musical concerts may have a lower risk of dying prematurely, according to a new study by researchers from University College London (UCL). The UCL researchers found a substantial reduction in early mortality among older adults who engaged in cultural activities. After a variety of confounding factors (e.g., socioeconomics, occupational status) were taken into account, those who participated in cultural activities "every few months or more" had a 31 percent lower risk of premature death. This "arts engagement and mortality" analysis spanned 14 years and involved nearly 7,000 older adults. Study participants self-reported the frequency of their arts engagement and cultural activities such as going to museums, art galleries, concerts, and the theater. Daisy Fancourt and Andrew Steptoe co-authored this paper. Part of the link between longevity and arts engagement is attributable to the socioeconomic advantages of those who have the leisure time and financial resources to engage in cultural activities regularly. That said, Fancourt and Steptoe report that arts engagement may have a protective association with longevity that transcends socioeconomics or occupational status. According to the authors, "This association might be partly explained by differences in cognition, mental health, and physical activity among those who do and do not engage in the arts, but remains even when the model is adjusted for these factors."
Virtual reality can help act as a do-it-yourself therapist, helping people overcome their fear of heights without a professional at their side, British researchers reported. A half dozen virtual reality sessions over two weeks significantly reduced the fear of heights for more than two-thirds of people who tried it, the team at the University of Oxford reported. Some even ventured onto rope bridges and mountainsides. “The outcome results are brilliant. They are better than I expected,” [said] Daniel Freeman, the University of Oxford clinical psychologist who led the study team. The team tested 100 volunteers, 49 of whom were given six virtual reality sessions over two weeks. The rest got no treatment. On average, the volunteers had been afraid of heights for 30 years. After six weeks, those who got no treatment remained just as afraid of heights as they had always been. But 34 of the 49 volunteers who did the virtual reality found they were no longer afraid of heights. Real-life exposure to heights has verified this. “Afterwards, people even found they could go to places that they wouldn’t have imagined possible, such as walk up a steep mountain, go with their children on a rope bridge, or simply use an escalator in a shopping center without fear,” [Freeman said]. The software can be whimsical, offering scenarios from walking across a virtual rope bridge to rescuing a cat from a limb. Freeman said the experiences are meant to strongly immerse people in a sensation of height and then encourage them to challenge their reluctance to take part.
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The German government has announced plans to convert 62 disused military bases just west of the Iron Curtain into nature reserves for eagles, woodpeckers, bats, and beetles. Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said: "We are seizing a historic opportunity with this conversion — many areas that were once no-go zones are no longer needed for military purposes. “We are fortunate that we can now give these places back to nature." Together the bases are 31,000 hectares — that's equivalent to 40,000 football pitches. The conversion will see Germany's total area of protected wildlife increase by a quarter. After toying with the idea of selling the land off as real estate, the government opted instead to make a grand environmental gesture. It will become another addition to what is now known as the European Green Belt. A spokesperson from The European Green Belt told The Independent: "In the remoteness of the inhuman border fortifications of the Iron Curtain nature was able to develop nearly undisturbed. "Today the European Green Belt is an ecological network and memorial landscape running from the Barents to the Black Sea."
Emerging from Helsinki's grandiose central railway station on a bitterly cold evening, it does not take long before you notice something unusual. There are no rough sleepers and no-one is begging. For the past 30 years, tackling homelessness has been a focus for successive governments in Finland. In 1987, there were more than 18,000 homeless people there. The latest figures from the end of 2017 show there were about 6,600 people classified as without a home. The vast majority are living with friends or family, or are housed in temporary accommodation. So how have the Finns managed it? Since 2007, their government has built homeless policies on the foundations of the "Housing First" principle. Put simply, it gives rough sleepers or people who become homeless a stable and permanent home of their own as soon as possible. It then provides them with the help and support they need. That may be supporting someone trying to tackle an addiction, assisting them to learn new skills, or helping them get into training, education or work. Under Housing First, the offer of a home is unconditional. Even if someone is still taking drugs or abusing alcohol they still get to stay in the house or flat, so long as they are interacting with support workers. In Helsinki, deputy mayor Ms Vesikansa believes tackling homelessness and ending rough sleeping is not only a moral obligation but may also save money in the long-run. "We know already that it pays back because we have expenses elsewhere if people are homeless," [she said].
When Charles King went blind at 39, he gave up — on life, on his pregnant girlfriend, and on himself. “I said ‘OK God, that’s it. I quit.’ I literally quit and just went out on the streets and joined the homeless,” he said. “I hoped that because I was blind, someone on the streets would kill me.” But going blind and becoming homeless wasn’t the toughest battle King would have to face. In 2000, after he got clean and was reunited with his family, King’s 14-year-old daughter died. Five years after that, he was diagnosed with cancer. And yet, somehow he’s lifted himself up — both mentally and physically. Today, the 69-year-old Philadelphian is one of the oldest blind powerlifters in the world, having finished first in his weight and age class last month at the United States Association of Blind Athletes National Powerlifting Championships in Colorado Springs, Colo., with a 248-pound squat, a 236-pound bench press, and a 341-pound dead lift. Now, King is inspiring other blind senior citizens. These days, when King feels the depression kicking in, he goes to the gym. Recently ... a student approached and asked if he could join him. After their workout was over, the young man confessed that he’d seen King around campus before but for some reason, was moved to approach him that day. “He says, ‘Mr. Charles, I thank God for meeting you today because I was ready to give up on my classes and goals because it’s too hard, but after watching you, I’m regenerated,’” King recalled. “I said, ‘Son, God blessed both of us today.’ ”
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A 5-year-old student at an elementary school in Vista, California, collected enough money to pay off the negative lunch balances of 123 students at her school. Katelynn Hardee, a kindergartner at Breeze Hill Elementary School, overheard a parent say she was having difficulty paying for an after school program. So Katelynn decided to set up a stand on December 8, spending her Sunday selling hot cocoa, cider, and cookies. Katelynn and her mom donated the $80 collected, which went towards paying off the negative lunch balances of over 100 students at her elementary school. By doing this, the youngster hopes that other students "can have a snack and lunch. If they don't, their tummies grumble," Katelynn said. Katelynn's next goal is to raise enough money to pay off not only all the negative lunch balances at Breeze Hill, but the "thousands of negative accounts" at schools in the Vista Unified School District, Hardee said. To help in her new mission, which she calls #KikisKindnessProject, other students and staff at Breeze Hill will host a hot cocoa and baked goods stand on Saturday to raise more money to pay off negative school lunch accounts at the school. After all the accounts in the entire district have been paid off, Katelynn will then use the money raised to help support school programs which will be removed due to budget cuts. "It's all about kindness. With everything that's going on in the world, we just need a little bit more kindness out there," Hardee said.
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.
As he accepted the coveted Heisman trophy, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow addressed the children in his hometown of Athens, Ohio, where thousands of residents live in poverty. Burrow struggled to speak, holding back tears as he spoke about the children in his community who go hungry. "Coming from southeast Ohio, it's a very impoverished area and the poverty rate is almost two times the national average," he said in his acceptance speech. "There's so many people there that don't have a lot. And I'm up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County that go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school." In a matter of hours, the unassuming Appalachian town ... was launched to national attention, inspiring Athens resident Will Drabold to create a fundraiser for the thousands of residents living under the poverty line. In just a day, the fundraiser was inundated with donations and quickly shot past its original $50,000 goal. The organizer later updated the goal to $100,000, which was met within hours. The goal had reached $400,000 by Tuesday afternoon. The donations will go to the Athens County Food Pantry, which says it serves over 3,400 meals a week to residents in need. The pantry also gives bags and boxes of food to Athens families, including non-perishables such as pasta, beans, and canned vegetables, and it hands out fresh produce when it can. About 30% of the county's population lives below the poverty line, according to an Ohio poverty report released in February.
Swiss tennis player Roger Federer has been involved with numerous philanthropic efforts since forming his foundation in 2004. His primary focus with the foundation is to improve education for children, especially in places where they have extremely limited access. In the past 15 years, Federer has opened schools all over the world. In Malawi, in Southern Africa, Federer has already built over 50 preschools. In 2015, the Roger Federer Foundation said that they hoped to be feeding and teaching one million kids by 2018. The goal seemed incredible, but the foundation was able to make it happen by the time that they promised. In a statement after the goal was completed, Roger Federer Foundation CEO Janine Händel said that it took a lot of hard work to see their task through. “There are one million children which benefits from the major quality of education in the school, pre-school, kindergarten. One million children have now a better chance to make their way in life, to get a job, to exit from poverty... Roger believes in the empowerment of the people and their potential. That’s a fundamental value in our every-day work. We strongly believe early education is one of the most powerful weapons to empower children exiting from poverty. It’s actually proven that education makes people better citizen, be more prepared when it comes to dealing with issues, and they have more instruments to manage their life,” Händel said.
In 1986, millions of Filipinos took to the streets of Manila in peaceful protest and prayer in the People Power movement. The Marcos regime folded on the fourth day. In 2003, the people of Georgia ousted Eduard Shevardnadze through the bloodless Rose Revolution, in which protestors stormed the parliament building holding the flowers in their hands. Earlier this year, the presidents of Sudan and Algeria both announced they would step aside after decades in office, thanks to peaceful campaigns of resistance. In each case, civil resistance by ordinary members of the public trumped the political elite to achieve radical change. There are, of course, many ethical reasons to use nonviolent strategies. But compelling research by Erica Chenoweth, a political scientist at Harvard University, confirms that civil disobedience is not only the moral choice; it is also the most powerful way of shaping world politics. Looking at hundreds of campaigns over the last century, Chenoweth found that ... it takes around 3.5% of the population actively participating in the protests to ensure serious political change. Overall, nonviolent campaigns were twice as likely to succeed as violent campaigns: they led to political change 53% of the time compared to 26% for the violent protests. Of the 25 largest campaigns that they studied, 20 were nonviolent, and 14 of these were outright successes. Overall, the nonviolent campaigns attracted around four times as many participants (200,000) as the average violent campaign (50,000).
If you’re depressed by the state of the world, let me toss out an idea: In the long arc of human history, 2019 has been the best year ever. The bad things that you fret about are true. But it’s also true that since modern humans emerged about 200,000 years ago, 2019 was probably the year in which children were least likely to die, adults were least likely to be illiterate and people were least likely to suffer excruciating and disfiguring diseases. Perhaps the greatest calamity for anyone is to lose a child. That used to be common: Historically, almost half of all humans died in childhood. As recently as 1950, 27 percent of all children still died by age 15. Now that figure has dropped to about 4 percent. The news media and the humanitarian world focus so relentlessly on the bad news that we leave the public believing that every trend is going in the wrong direction. A majority of Americans say in polls that the share of the world population living in poverty is increasing — yet one of the trends of the last 50 years has been a huge reduction in global poverty. The proportion of the world’s population subsisting on about $2 a day or less has dropped by more than 75 percent in less than four decades. Every day for a decade, newspapers could have carried the headline “Another 170,000 Moved Out of Extreme Poverty Yesterday.” Or if one uses a higher threshold, the headline could have been: “The Number of People Living on More Than $10 a Day Increased by 245,000 Yesterday.”
After being almost wiped out by whaling in the 20th century, a humpback whale population off the coast of South America has come back from the brink of extinction. In the late 1950s there were only 440 western South Atlantic humpbacks left. Protections were put in place in the 1960s. At first they didn't seem to be rebounding, but a study published Wednesday finds that to the surprise of scientists the population is now up to an estimated 25,000 whales. That's almost as many as researchers estimate there were before whaling began in the 1700s. Scientists were thrilled to realize how fast and how well the population has recovered after whaling finally stopped for good in the 1970s. “This is a clear example that if we do the right thing then the population will recover,” said Alexandre Zerbini, a whale expert with the Seattle Marine Mammal Laboratory of the National Marine Fisheries Service. The scientists estimate the humpbacks are at about 93% of their pre-whaling population. The research was published Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science, a peer-reviewed scientific journal. There are 16 populations of humpbacks around the world. Four of them are considered endangered and one is threatened. The global population has been rebounding since whaling was banned in the 1970s. It's estimated there are currently between 120,000 and 150,000 humpbacks.
Decades ago when Mike Esmond was raising his young family, they struggled to pay their heating bill. Decades later, he was reminded of that very cold Christmas as he opened his gas and water bill earlier this month. He noticed the due date was Dec. 26. “That made something pop into my mind, that people have to pay these bills by Dec. 26,” he said. “If they don’t pay them, they’re going to be disconnected, and they’re not going have gas or water for the holidays.” As that realization dawned on him, Esmond decided to take action. Now a 73-year-old successful business owner, he was in a comfortable position to help. He went to the city of Gulf Breeze, Florida — where he lives — and asked them to put together a list of all the people that were slated to have their gas and water shut off by that Dec. 26 date. Esmond said they told him a total of 36 families needed his help, so he decided to pay off their bills for around $4,600. “When I did this, I didn’t even know that the city was going to do what they did!” he laughed. “The ladies in the billing department actually used their computers to make up a Christmas card and they sent it out to all the people that were expecting their gas to be disconnected.” The card wished folks a “happy holidays” on the front in cheerful red and green, but it was the note on the inside that has struck a chord: “It is our honor and privilege to inform you that your past due utility bill has been paid by Gulf Breeze Pools & Spas. You can rest easier this holiday season knowing you have one less bill to pay.”
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.
While the ozone hole over Antarctica typically grows in September and October, scientists observed the smallest ozone hole since they first began observing it in 1982, according to a joint release by NASA and NOAA. Unusual weather patterns in the upper atmosphere limited depletion of ozone, the layer in our atmosphere that acts like sunscreen and protects us from ultraviolet radiation. On September 8, the ozone hole reached a peak of 6.3 million square miles and then shrank to less than 3.9 million square miles, according to the report. Usually, the hole would grow to reach 8 million square miles. The annual ozone hole forms when rays from the sun interact with the ozone and man-made compounds such as chlorine and bromine to deplete the ozone. This occurs during late winter in the Southern Hemisphere. Cloud particles in the cold stratosphere lead to reactions that destroy ozone molecules, which are made of three oxygen atoms. But when temperatures are warmer, these clouds don't form, which limits ozone destruction. This is only the third time in 40 years when warm temperatures caused by weather systems have actually helped limit the ozone hole. This also occurred in 1988 and 2002. But the scientists say there is no connection they've identified to link the patterns with climate change. The ozone layer over the Antarctic is expected to recover by 2070 as compounds used as coolants, called chlorofluorocarbons, decline. They were regulated 32 years ago by the Montreal Protocol.
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.
Diplomats at the United Nations got a dose of data-driven positivity this week from Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker, who delivered a history lesson to prove the human condition is actually more peaceful and more prosperous than ever before. The world, Pinker told the gathering of officials ... is a better place than ever, but our perspective - and the way the news media convey events - needs to change. Pinker's most recent book, "Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress," presents facts that demonstrate how life around the globe, statistically, is improving. The psychologist measures a range of qualities to define progress; life, health, sustenance, prosperity, peace, freedom, safety, knowledge, leisure, happiness. As those have increased over time on aggregate, Pinker argues, humanity is making progress. His data paint a clear picture, over the course of centuries, of life expectancy increasing, deaths by famine falling, the world's gross earnings rising and extreme poverty falling. Pinker said the world has become freer, too, with dictatorships and autocracies decreasing in number. Pinker concluded in his remarks that we are collectively depressing ourselves for lack of a complete, fact-based view with full appreciation for what came before. He said the media and intelligentsia have been complicit in the depiction of modern Western nations as unjust and dysfunctional.
Renewable power capacity is forecast to increase by 50% between 2019 and 2024, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said. According to its “Renewables 2019” market report, the increase will amount to 1,200 gigawatts (GW) and be driven by drops in cost and what the IEA described as “concerted government policy efforts.” Capacity refers to the maximum amount that installations can produce, not what they are currently generating. In 2018, renewable capacity hit just over 2,500 GW. If the IEA’s forecast plays out, it would bring total renewable capacity to approximately 3,700 GW by 2024. Solar photovoltaics (PV) are due to make up nearly 60% of the expected rise, with the onshore wind sector accounting for 25% and offshore wind responsible for 4%. Photovoltaic refers to a way of directly converting light from the sun into electricity. The IEA said that distributed solar PV – systems installed on commercial buildings, homes and in industry – would make up nearly half of the increase in the solar PV market. Overall, renewables’ share in worldwide power generation is seen growing from 26% now to 30% in 2024. For 2019, renewable power capacity additions are seen increasing by 12% following a stall last year. Growth this year is being driven by solar PV, which has benefited from “rapid expansion in the European Union”, a stronger Indian market and an “installation boom” in Vietnam. Growth in the onshore wind sector is also cited as a contributing factor.
Kansas City, Missouri city council members voted unanimously to abolish bus fares Thursday. Residents will soon be able to ride buses in the city for free, in a move that will cost around $8 million per year. Lawmakers expect the change will improve the lives of residents and believe it is well worth the cost. The vote makes Kansas City the first major U.S. to offer free public transportation. Fare-free travel was already available on the city's light rail. The change to buses will require the city manager to allocate funds to the project, which is expected to be implemented in 2020. While arguments against free public transportation often cite the potentially large costs involved, advocates insist the practice has a multitude of benefits for society at large. One advantage is claimed to be a positive impact on the environment. Encouraging people to travel in buses or trains instead of cars could result in cities substantially reducing their carbon footprint. Proponents also say that quality of life for individuals could be improved by eliminating fares on public transportation. A 2018 report in the journal Metropolitics studied the free system in Dunkirk, France and noted the benefits of increased mobility for young and elderly people, who may feel an improved sense of freedom and autonomy as a result. In addition to Kansas City, a number of other U.S. cities are said to be considering making the move to free public transportation.
With the world’s population at 7 billion and still growing we often look at the future with dread. In Don’t Panic - The Truth About Population, world famous Swedish statistical showman Professor Hans Rosling presents a different view. We face huge challenges in terms of food, resources and climate change but at the heart of Rosling’s statistical tour-de-force is the message that the world of tomorrow is a much better place than we might imagine. Professor Rosling reveals that the global challenge of rapid population growth, the so-called population explosion, has already been overcome. In just 50 years the average number of children born per woman has plummeted from 5 to just 2.5 and is still falling fast. This means that in a few generations’ time, world population growth will level off completely. In Bangladesh ... families of two children are now the norm. We meet Taslima Khan who travels through rural villages dispensing contraceptives and advice on how to deal with difficult husbands. Deep in rural Mozambique – one of the poorest countries in the world – we meet subsistence farmers Andre and Olivia who’ve been saving for two years to buy a piece of life-transforming technology – a bicycle. Even in these countries, economic growth, investment in healthcare and infrastructure are paving the way to huge improvements in living standards. Globally, the proportion of people in extreme poverty is at its lowest ever, and now the United Nations is setting itself the goal of eradicating extreme poverty completely.
Professor Hans Rosling, the statistician and epidemiologist who brought dramatic flair to animated visualizations of dry public health data, has died. For much of the public not steeped in the arcana of epidemiological data sets or data visualization techniques (a.k.a. normal people), Rosling burst onto the scene in 2010 as part of the BBC special “The Joy of Stats.” “Hans Rosling's famous lectures combine enormous quantities of public data with a sport's commentator's style to reveal the story of the world's past, present and future development,” the BBC wrote at the time. Rosling's work was a driver of some of the explosion of interest in data visualization in the news and nonprofit sectors starting in the early 2000s. His BBC special and TED Talks sparked an interest in “storytelling with data,” rather than just with words. Not every data set tells as clear or compelling a story as Rosling's wealth and life expectancy numbers. Rosling's genius wasn't just in the flashy presentations he gave. It also derived from knowing exactly what type of data would lend itself to such flair. The other thing Rosling's moving chart did incredibly well was to allow viewers to grapple with multiple dimensions simultaneously, with ease. The loss of Rosling hurts especially in this moment, as politicians and media outlets wrestle over what's fake and what's real. Above all Rosling was an advocate for a “fact-based worldview,” one which his family says they'll carry on at the foundation he started.
Pedestrians in 10 cities worldwide this holiday season have a chance to give in a whole new way, thanks to a set of innovative “Giving Machines” placed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The rollout of the machines has been staggered since mid-November, with the final two machines set to be revealed today in New York City (Manhattan New York Temple) and London (Hyde Park Visitors’ Center). ‘Items’ in the machine range from $2 to $320, and include food, clothing, medicine, hygiene supplies, sporting equipment and livestock. According to a press release from the church, items will be supplied through partner charities such as UNICEF, Church World Service, WaterAid, Water For People, and International Medical Corps. This is the third year for the giving machines; in 2018, they raised more than $2.3 million for local and global charities. The church’s website includes a live running total of donations, which have already exceeded $650,000 at press time. The machines are the focus of the church’s #LightTheWorld social media campaign, “encouraging people to perform instant acts of service that make a difference in others’ lives.” The machines do not take any fees—all donations go directly to partner charities for the purchased item, or for items or services of greater need based on their discretion. “These Giving Machines are an example of the big things that can happen when many people give just a little,” [said] Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women general president.
While it is easy to be aware of all the bad things happening in the world, it’s harder to know about the good things. The silent miracle of human progress is too slow and too fragmented to ever qualify as news. Over the past 20 years, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has almost halved. But in online polls, in most countries, fewer than 10% of people knew this. Our instinct to notice the bad more than the good is related to three things: the misremembering of the past; selective reporting by journalists and activists; and the feeling that as long as things are bad, it’s heartless to say they are getting better. Stories about gradual improvements rarely make the front page even when they occur on a dramatic scale and affect millions of people. And thanks to increasing press freedom and improving technology, we hear about more disasters than ever before. This improved reporting is itself a sign of human progress, but it creates the impression of the exact opposite. How can we help our brains to realise that things are getting better? Think of the world as a very sick premature baby in an incubator. After a week, she is improving, but ... her health is still critical. Does it make sense to say that the infant’s situation is improving? Yes. Does it make sense to say it is bad? Yes, absolutely. Does saying “things are improving” imply that everything is fine, and we should all not worry? Not at all: it’s both bad and better. That is how we must think about the current state of the world.
There is a natural human bias toward bad news. The title of a 1998 article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology sums it up: “Negative Information Weighs More Heavily on the Brain.” Negative stimuli get our attention much more than positive stimuli — which makes evolutionary sense for survival. Nice things are enjoyable; bad things can be deadly, so focus on them. And given that, in the news media, attention equals money, we can see the commercial reason for a lack of headlines such as “Millions not going to bed hungry tonight.” Frequently, however, the bad-news bias gives us a highly inaccurate picture of the world. For example, according to a 2013 survey, 67% of Americans think global poverty is on the rise, and 68% believe it is impossible to solve extreme poverty in the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, starvation-level poverty has decreased by 80% since 1970, according to economists at Columbia University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The truth is that while there is plenty to worry about on any given day, the world is generally getting better. Fresh, comprehensive evidence of progress comes in the new Legatum Prosperity Index, based on data from 167 countries ... on 300 social and economic indicators of well-being. Across those dimensions, from 2009 to 2019, 148 of the 167 countries have seen net progress — much of it dramatic, and especially so among the poorest countries in the world.
Doctors have used ultrasound to successfully treat prostate cancer in a new study promising a new alternative to surgery. Prostate is the second most deadly type of cancer in men, with lung cancer the only variant to claim more lives. Treatment is challenging because surgery and radiation can leave men incontinent or impotent. However, a pioneering new technique avoids the risks by using a rod-shaped device inserted into the urethra while guided by magnetic resonance to administer precise bursts of ultrasound. The sound waves heat and destroy the tumour, leaving surrounding areas unharmed. The new study was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America and involved 115 men with localised prostate cancer. After treatment with ultrasound, clinically significant cancer was eliminated in 80 per cent of the group, with 65 per cent having no signs of cancer after one year. Most of the men also saw reduced blood-antigen markers for prostate cancer, and overall no bowel complications were reported. Study co-author Steven Raman, professor of radiology and urology at the University of California at Los Angeles, said: “It’s an outpatient procedure with minimal recovery time. “We saw very good results in the patients, with a dramatic reduction of over 90 per cent in prostate volume and low rates of impotence with almost no incontinence.” The process, called Tulsa-Pro, has been approved for clinical use in Europe.
Note: Why isn't this exciting new development approved or even reported in the US? And learn about a man who developed a similar treatment almost a century ago only to have it quashed by the medical establishment.
Greg Smith and Kouhyar Mostashfi are perhaps two of the strangest political bedfellows imaginable. Smith, a retired police chief and construction worker from rural southwest Ohio, is a devout evangelical Christian and ardent Trump supporter. Mostashfi, on the other hand, is an Iranian immigrant who works as a computer engineer in suburban Dayton and is an active member of the local Democratic Party. And yet, these two men with seemingly irreconcilable differences became friends through a group called Better Angels, which brings Republicans, Democrats and independents together with the goal of depolarizing America. The group got its name from President Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address. Delivered in the middle of the Civil War, Lincoln told his fellow Americans: "We are not enemies but friends" and appealed to the "better angels of our nature." That appeal for national unity resonated with Smith and Mostashfi when they met at their first Better Angels gathering. "When you get past the stereotype part of everything, you've got it beat," Smith said. "It was nice to also see this other side [and] that he wants to listen to me and learn about my background," Mostashfi said. The founder of Better Angels said the group was growing faster than he'd anticipated. In the 18 months since it started, the group says it has 3,100 members nationwide and is adding more.
Better Angels is a citizens' organization that aims to unite red and blue Americans in a working alliance to depolarize America. We try to understand the other side's point of view, even if we don't agree with it. We engage those we disagree with, looking for common ground and ways to work together. We support principles that bring us together rather than divide us. Meetings frequently include five to eight Republican-leaning citizens ("Reds") and five to eight Democratic-leaning citizens ("Blues") who gather together for a half-day or full-day of structured conversations. Independents are also welcome to attend. We only ask that for the purposes of the workshop they identify as leaning either Red or Blue or attend as observers. There are two types of Red/Blue workshops: three-hour workshops that cover two exercises, and six-hour plus lunch workshops that cover all four exercises. Two moderators, trained by Better Angels, lead the workshop, ensuring that ground rules are followed and that everyone is treated respectfully. The stereotypes exercise has red and blue groups generate, discuss, and report back on the most common false stereotypes or misconceptions of their side, why these stereotypes are wrong, what is true instead, and whether there is a kernel of truth in the stereotype. Red/Blue workshops [are held] so that citizens of different political beliefs and different backgrounds can get to know each other as individuals and begin to heal the divisions that are endangering our country.
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.
Note: The WSJ requires a subscription to read this article. You can find it free on the website of the author, Steven Pinker. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
The Better Angels of Our Nature takes a thesis I would love to believe; indeed, have casually believed for most of my life. It is that humans have grown less horrible with time. The 20th century, the century of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, of Mao in China and Mobutu in the Congo, was appalling, but the number of deaths by violence as a proportion of the total population remained modest compared with the ferocious cruelties of the wars of religion in the 17th century. The modern nation state – the Leviathan of the philosopher Hobbes – has had a civilising effect almost everywhere. Education has helped, as has the empowerment of women, and the idea, too, of human rights. Within the epic sweep of history from ice age hunter gatherers to modern suburban householders, [author Steven] Pinker examines both the big picture and the fine detail, with surprises on every page. Overall ... he finds examples of falling murder rates everywhere (including among male English aristocrats 1330-1829). Murder rates as a percentage of population were far higher among the supposedly peace-loving and cooperative hunter-gatherer communities – the Inuit of the Arctic, for instance, the !Kung of the Kalahari and the Semai of Malaysia – than in the trigger-happy US in its most violent decade. Unexpectedly, deaths in warfare, once again as a percentage of total population, were far higher among the Gran Valley Dani of New Guinea, or in Fiji in the 1860s, than in Germany in the whole of the 20th century.
When four Republicans and five Democrats got together at a high-end condominium complex to talk for seven hours in San Francisco this fall it was such a curiosity that a crowd of more than a dozen gathered just to watch. The host was a nonprofit called Better Angels, which is putting on half a dozen events around the country every week through the election. The polarized were at a square table supervised by two moderators, a therapist and a retired psychiatrist. They were mostly in their 50s and 60s, and wore red and blue name tags to correspond with their political leanings. The moderators referred to them as the reds and the blues. The conservatives were surprised the liberals thought at all about religion. The liberals were surprised the conservatives were so anxious about being seen as racist. Over a lunch break ... the two groups stayed largely separate. Many of the blue side said they came just for the opportunity to meet and question someone who disagreed with them politically. “Outside of this group, I’ve got no Republican friends,” said Monty Worth. People on the red side said they came to the workshop to be in a safe space where they could be open about their politics and argue their case. After the 2016 election, [David Blankenhorn] and two friends got together and led the first Better Angels workshop in Ohio. Now more than 15,000 people have gone through one of their programs (8,000 have joined as dues-paying members), and the group has trained more than 620 volunteer workshop moderators.
When Stephanie Walsh and her husband were looking to buy a home in Atlanta, GA, they had a pretty unusual set of qualifications for their new home: They wanted to have access to local, organic produce (and not just from the grocery store); they wanted a neighborhood that was easily walkable; and they wanted to be true friends — not just smile and nod acquaintances — with their neighbors. On a whim, she searched the internet for “ecofriendly neighborhoods near Atlanta” and happened upon the website for Serenbe, a community of 270 “green” homes and 30 retailers planned around a 25-acre organic working farm and 15 miles of trails. “I fell in love immediately,” she says. They’ve now lived in Serenbe for over four years, and Walsh says they hardly ever leave. Serenbe is what’s known as an “agrihood,” a community that is usually planned around a farm and offers access to unblemished landscapes, locally grown food, and homes built to environmentally friendly standards. The planning of agrihoods is done in a way that fosters community and interaction between the people who live there. In Arizona’s Agritopia, fences aren’t any higher than 5 feet, making it very easy to have a conversation with the family next door when you see them in their backyard. “Every house has a front porch, and the houses are closer to the street,” says resident Katie Critchley. “You can be sitting on your porch and be able to have a normal-decibel-level conversation with someone walking their dog. It forces you to say hello.”
Another trend has entered the urban agricultural scene: agrihoods, short for agricultural neighborhoods. The Urban Land Institute defines agrihoods as master-planned housing communities with working farms as their focus. Overwhelmingly, they have large swaths of green space, orchards, hoop houses and greenhouses, and some with barns, outdoor community kitchens, and environmentally sustainable homes decked with solar panels and composting. Agrihoods, which number about 90 nationwide, are typically in rural and suburban areas. Within the city of Detroit, home to nearly 1,400 community gardens and farms, there is one officially designated agrihood, Michigan Urban Farming Initiative. The Michigan initiative is a 3-acre farm focusing on food insecurity in one of Detroit’s historic communities that was once home to a thriving Black middle class. Now the median home value is under $25,000, and about 35% of the residents are homeowners. The Detroit agrihood model plans to provide a Community Resource Center with educational programs and meeting space across from the garden, a café, and two commercial kitchens. “For us, food insecurity is the biggest issue,” says, Quan Blunt, the Michigan initiative’s farm manager. “The closest [fresh] produce store to this neighborhood is Whole Foods [4 miles away in Midtown], and you know how expensive they can be.” At MUFI, produce is free to all. The farm is open for harvesting on Saturday mornings.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that feeding the homeless is “expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment.” The decision revives a challenge brought by a local chapter of Food Not Bombs, which sued Fort Lauderdale, Florida for requiring a permit to share food in public parks. Originally started in the early 1980s by anti-nuclear activists in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Food Not Bombs protests war and poverty. Today, this network of social justice pacifists claims over 5,000 chapters worldwide. Writing for the court, Judge Adalberto Jordan explained that for the Fort Lauderdale chapter, “providing food in a visible public space” is “an act of political solidarity meant to convey the organization’s message.” But in October 2014, Fort Lauderdale enacted an ordinance that bans sharing food in public parks, unless the hosts obtain a “conditional use permit” from the city. In February 2015, Food Not Bombs sued the city. Having ruled that Food Not Bombs does have a First Amendment right to share food, the 11th Circuit sent the case back down to the lower court. “The court’s opinion recognized sharing food with another human being is one of the oldest forms of human expression,” said Kirsten Anderson, litigation director at the Southern Legal Counsel and lead attorney on the case. “This decision strengthens our message to cities across the country that they need to invest in constructive solutions to homelessness instead of ... punishing people who seek to offer aid.”
Many dog parents already know their pets communicate with them, but what EXACTLY are they trying to say? A speech-language pathologist with an 18-month-old dog is working to find out, and she’s already discovered that her dog Stella can literally tell her things — like she’s tired after playing and now would like a nap, or that instead of playing at this moment she would prefer to eat, and that she would like to go outside, specifically to the park. It’s all possible through the use of an adaptive device Christina Hunger, 26, devised to help Stella communicate not only words but her thoughts and feelings too. When the Catahoula/Blue Heeler mix wants to “talk,” she steps on buttons corresponding with words Hunger recorded and programmed into the device. And Stella is already putting her language skills to work. One day, the pup was whining at the front door and started pacing back and forth. Hunger assumed that she needed to go outside. Instead, Stella walked to her device and tapped out, “Want,” “Jake” “Come” then stood in front of the door until Hunger’s fiancé, Jake, came home a few minutes later and then Stella immediately pressed “Happy” and rolled over for a belly rub. Hunger, who works in San Diego with 1- and 2-year-old children, many of whom also use adaptive devices that help them communicate, began teaching Stella words when the canine was about 8 weeks old. The 50-pound dog now knows at least 29 words and can combine up to five words to make a phrase or sentence.
Note: Watch a video of this amazing feat at the link above and an CNN interview with the owner.
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.
With 17 million residents and 23 million bicycles, the Netherlands already has more bikes than people. Now, it wants to get even more cyclists on the roads - and will pay people to do it. The Dutch government recently announced that it will invest $390 million (€345 million) in cycling infrastructure to get 200,000 more people commuting by bike in three years' time. Fifteen routes will be developed into "cyclist freeways" (highways that cater to those on bikes), 25,000 bike parking spaces will be created and more than 60 bike storage facilities will be upgraded, according to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. "My ambition is to ensure that people can easily get to work or school, or visit family and friends," says Stientje van Veldhoven, state secretary for that department, who is spearheading the project. To get people to ditch their cars, money is being laid on the table. The Netherlands currently rewards commuting cyclists with tax credits of $0.22 (€0.19) per kilometer. Companies and employees would agree on the distance of a person's cycling route. However, this is currently a little-known benefit not supported by many employers, according to the infrastructure ministry. That's something the government is hoping to change by better promoting the scheme and getting more companies on board. There are already 11 major employers in the Netherlands committing to measures such as financing employees' bikes.
Jacinda Ardern’s sudden, spectacular rise to the position of New Zealand’s prime minister in 2017 propelled her into headlines around the world. Deservedly so. In an era defined by the emergence of populist leaders who are often authoritarian, reactionary, and male, Ardern stands out as progressive, collaborative, and female. In New Zealand, Ardern’s commitment to fighting child poverty and homelessness has come as a relief after years of relentless increases in both. Whereas the world’s right-wing populists stigmatize and stereotype marginalized people, Ardern has established kindness as a key principle for government policy and has worked to promote inclusion and social cohesion. A family tax package that took effect last July is forecast to reduce the number of children living in poverty by 41 percent by 2021. She has extended her values-based approach to foreign policy as well—most dramatically by offering New Zealand as a home for 150 of the refugees currently stranded in camps run by Australia in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Ardern has also identified climate change as the defining issue for her generation. On April 12, a little more than five months into her term, her government declared an end to new permits for oil and gas exploration in New Zealand’s waters, making it clear that the country was prepared to lead the way in this critical struggle.
When 6-year-old Eddie Writes decided the world needed a little more kindness, he did the only thing he thought would work ― he wrote to his city’s mayor and asked for help putting on an annual “Kindness Day.” Much to Eddie’s surprise, Wellington Mayor Justin Lester wrote back. On Nov. 16, New Zealand’s capital city will be holding its first Manaaki Day (manaaki being the Maori word for kindness), taking Eddie’s ideas of how to encourage and celebrate charitable acts ― “We can buy toys for children that don’t have any,” for example ― to improve the social well-being of citizens. The mayor’s support for the new holiday is part of a new wave of progressive, child-centred politics sweeping New Zealand, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, herself a new parent. Ardern was met with thunderous applause at the United Nations last month for her speech calling for kindness and cooperation from world leaders. Watched by her partner and their then 4-month-old daughter, Ardern pledged New Zealand would be “a kind and equitable nation where children thrive, and success is measured not only by the nation’s GDP but by better lives lived by its people.” Ardern also has her sights on New Zealand’s growing housing affordability problems. The country’s housing market is heated, with home prices rising more than 60 percent in a decade. Ardern blamed speculation from overseas buyers. The government responded with a law that took effect Monday banning foreign buyers from purchasing existing properties.
A growing number of smaller companies are adopting a four-day workweek. Now the results of a recent trial at Microsoft (MSFT) suggest it could work even for the biggest businesses. The company introduced a program this summer in Japan called the "Work Life Choice Challenge," which shut down its offices every Friday in August and gave all employees an extra day off each week. The results were promising: While the amount of time spent at work was cut dramatically, productivity — measured by sales per employee — went up by almost 40% compared to the same period the previous year, the company said in a statement. In addition to reducing working hours, managers urged staff to cut down on the time they spent in meetings and responding to emails. They suggested that meetings should last no longer than 30 minutes. Employees were also encouraged to cut down on meetings altogether by using an online messaging app. The effects were widespread. More than 90% of Microsoft's 2,280 employees in Japan later said they were impacted by the new measures, according to the company. By shutting down earlier each week, the company was also able to save on other resources, such as electricity. Microsoft ... says it will conduct another experiment in Japan later this year. It plans to ask employees to come up with new measures to improve work-life balance and efficiency, and will also ask other companies to join the initiative.
Lual Mayen sits in a modern office space, set in a trendy Washington, D.C., neighborhood. As a newborn in his parents’ arms, Mayen endured a 225-mile trek from his war-torn home in South Sudan to a refugee camp in Northern Uganda. Mayen was born into war, but his mission is peace. Now 24 years old, he is a video game developer residing in the United States, leading his own company and using the experiences from his past to inform his products: games aimed at peace-building and conflict resolution. He created the first version of Salaam, which means “peace” in Arabic, while still living as a refugee. In the game’s new version, players adopt the role of a refugee who must flee falling bombs, find water and gain energy points to ensure the character’s survival as the player’s country journeys from a war-torn present into a peaceful existence. If the player’s character runs out of energy, the player is prompted to purchase more food, water, and medicine for their character with real-world money. The funds go beyond the game to benefit a living refugee through Junub’s partnerships with various NGOs. Mayen is aiming to have Salaam ready to launch in December, determined to grow the category of social impact gaming to give back to his community. “Peace is something that is built over time,” Mayen said. “It’s not about people coming together and signing cease-fires and so on. It’s a generation of change. It’s a change of mindset. It’s a change of attitude toward each other."
Chung Sun-hee finely crushes eggshells, dries and saves her coffee grounds, and separates large vegetable offcuts into smaller pieces. Later, the 55-year-old professional translator will bury them in her backyard, in rotating plots. Chung is one of a growing number of city dwellers who are getting into urban farming, not just to grow their own vegetables, but also as an exercise in waste reduction. Her new habits reflect a larger change underway in South Korea’s densely populated capital. Once a city where unsightly and foul-smelling landfills loomed over entire neighborhoods, Seoul now operates one of the most rigorous food waste recycling programs in the world. The South Korean government banned sending food to landfills in 2005 and, in 2013, also prohibited the dumping of garbage juice (leftover water squeezed from food waste) into the sea. Today, a staggering 95 percent of food waste is recycled ― a remarkable leap from less than 2 percent in 1995. On Chung’s street, residents emerge at dusk to deposit small yellow bags into designated waste collection buckets. Since 2013, South Koreans have been required by law to discard food waste in these biodegradable bags, priced according to volume and costing the average four-person family about $6 a month. This tax pays for roughly 60 percent of the cost of collecting and processing the city’s food waste, according to government data.
The pioneering conservationist behind the world’s most ambitious rewilding project has revealed “game-changing” plans that could transform tourism in Chilean Patagonia. After 25 years of strategic land acquisition by Kristine Tompkins and her late husband Douglas – which led to the creation last year of five new national parks in southern Chile – Tompkins said the next challenge was to encourage 60 communities across the region to develop tourism ventures that will help protect the biodiversity on their doorstep. Speaking in London at the European launch of the 1,700-mile Route of Parks, a marketing initiative encompassing 17 national parks throughout Patagonia, Tompkins said: “We want local people to have a sense of ownership and pride. They will become the first line of defence in conservation.” The launch of the route ... follows the creation of five new national parks and the expansion of three others, all in Chilean Patagonia after the Tompkins Foundation handed over a million acres to the Chilean state – the largest private donation of land ever. The handover was ... aimed at returning farmed land to its natural state and creating wildlife corridors. The Foundation also owns land in Argentina, where its flagship rewilding project is seeing species being reintroduced to the newly created Iberá national park in the north-west. In total the Tompkins’ philanthropic work amounts to $345m. To date the Foundation has helped protect 5.75 million hectares across Chile and Argentina.
A typical American funeral usually involves a few hallmarks we’ve come to expect: an expensive coffin, lots of flowers, an embalming for the deceased and a number of other add-ons. But how necessary are those embellishments? Enter the “green burial.” The specifics of a green burial vary widely, but typically they require far fewer resources for the care of the body and skip a number of the traditional steps, making them better for the environment. Plus, they can save families on funeral costs. Interest in these pared-down, eco-friendly options has grown as people look for ways to cut their carbon footprint. 72 percent of cemeteries are reporting an increased demand. The Green Burial Council’s steps for minimizing negative environmental effects include forgoing embalming, skipping concrete vaults, rethinking burial containers and maintaining and protecting natural habitat. Choices can be made at each step of the death care process to limit waste, reduce the carbon footprint and even nourish the local ecosystem. Embalming, vaults and coffins can be expensive. Replacing them with other options or scrapping them altogether can save money as well as the environment. The extent of how “green” a burial can be is up to the individual; the service can be as simple as wrapping the deceased in a cotton shroud before lowering them into the ground. The services can also [involve] a memorial ceremony and burial in a conservation park like Washington’s Greenacres.
Each year, the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) compiles a World Giving Index, and the 2017 rankings list Kenya as the third most generous nation behind Myanmar and Indonesia. The rankings are based on three data points from Gallup's World Poll: the percent of respondents who have donated, volunteered and helped a stranger in the previous month. Overall, the survey found that global giving was down, led by a decline in developed countries. The United States dropped from 2nd to 5th but still gives the largest percentage of its gross domestic product — 2.1 percent. But as reflected by Kenya's rise from 40th five years ago to number 3, there is a bright spot in the new rankings. And it's not just a Kenyan trend. "The big story this year is the amazing rise in giving across Africa," says Sir John Low, CAF's chief executive. Kenyan Caroline Teti is the external relations director of GiveDirectly, which gives direct cash transfers in impoverished communities in Kenya. There's only one word on the Kenyan coat of arms — "harambee" — she says. It's Swahili, meaning: "all pull together." "I think the harambee spirit has inculcated in Kenyans a strong sense of giving," Teti wrote by email, "[P]eople traditionally view individual pressure as a matter that should concern the whole community. In many communities in Kenya, people gave materially to other community members under distress. This took [on] a totally new dimension as people looked to improve the education of their clansmen and the larger community."
As nationwide interest in outdoor preschool programs increases, Washington is now the first state in the nation to officially license them. Washington's Department of Children, Youth and Families began to establish the pilot licensing standards in 2017 for outdoor preschools, nature-based early learning and child care programs. Outdoor preschools have been around for decades in places like Germany, Norway and Denmark. These programs were designed as a response to the trend of children spending very little time outdoors. "There's a beauty in being able to see kids run outdoors and look at slugs and take care of plants and animals," Hannah Kinney, outdoor preschool educator, told The Seattle Times. "You do see students that need that space to move their bodies and feel like they have that choice and ownership of their learning." Most outdoor preschool children spend the majority of their time outside, though many of the schools have an indoor option for a place to convene or emergencies. The children are outfitted at the beginning of the year with appropriate gear for every kind of weather. Activities can include daily hikes, identifying plants and animals, exploration and community-building. "They are learning all kinds of valuable principles about gravity, and texture, and shapes and colors and all the things you might expect to see in a preschool curriculum," the late Erin Kenny, founder of Cedarsong Nature School, [said]. "They are just doing it outdoors and at their own pace."
Banks with more than $47 trillion in assets, or a third of the global industry, adopted new U.N.-backed “responsible banking” principles to fight climate change on Sunday that would shift their loan books away from fossil fuels. Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, and Barclays were among 130 banks to join the new framework on the eve of a United Nations summit in New York aimed at pushing companies and governments to act quickly to avert catastrophic global warming. “These principles mean banks have to consider the impact of their loans on society not just on their portfolio,” Simone Dettling, banking team lead for the Geneva-based United Nations Environment Finance Initiative, told Reuters. Financing for oil, gas and coal projects has come under particular scrutiny as climate scientists step up calls to change the global economy’s deep reliance on fossil-fuels. The principles, drawn up jointly by U.N. officials and banks, require lenders to: Align their strategies with the 2015 Paris Agreement to curb global warming and U.N.-backed targets to fight poverty called the Sustainable Development Goals, set targets to increase “positive impacts” and reduce “negative impacts” on people and the environment, work with clients and customers to encourage sustainable practices, [and] be transparent and accountable about their progress. The principles’ main backers say the norms will encourage banks to pivot their loan portfolios away from carbon-intensive assets and redirect capital to greener industries.
Ingka Group, which owns most IKEA stores, will by year’s end exceed its 2020 target to produce as much renewable energy as the energy it consumes, Ingka Chief Executive Jesper Brodin said. Ingka Group has spent 2.5 billion euros ($2.8 bln) over the past decade on wind farms, rooftop solar panels on its stores and warehouses and, most recently, on its first-ever off-site solar parks. It announced this week the acquisition of a 49% stake in two U.S. solar parks due to come into operation in coming months. Ikea is the world’s biggest furniture group; Ingka Group owns most of its retail operations. Brodin told Reuters that Ingka plans to go on investing in wind farms and solar parks. “Being climate smart is not an added cost. It’s actually smart business and what the business model of the future will look like ... Everything around fossil fuels and daft use of resources will be expensive,” he said. Brodin urged companies and government leaders at Monday’s United Nations-hosted Climate Action Summit in New York to commit to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit), as called for by scientists. More than 400 firms including IKEA, H & M, Coca-Cola and Sony have committed to a U.N.-backed initiative to help limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius. Ingka said its renewable energy power now equals more than 1.7 gigawatts (GW)of power - spread over 920,000 solar modules on its sites, 534 wind turbines in 14 countries and the 700,000 solar panels under construction in the United States.
Patagonia has long been at the forefront of what is now emerging as an increasingly popular new flavor of capitalism. Today’s customers want their dollars to go to companies that will use their money to make the world a better place. Patagonia donates 1 percent of sales to environmental nonprofits, and in 2016 gave 100 percent of Black Friday sales—about $10 million—to environmental groups. Late last year, it changed its mission statement to “We’re in business to save our home planet.” And on Sept. 20, Patagonia shut down its stores and offices so that employees ... could strike alongside youth climate activists. Environmental activism has been part of Patagonia’s DNA since it was founded. It has donated $100 million since 1985 to environmental groups, including the Conservation Alliance, which it helped found in 1989 and which works to protect nature in America. It has been repairing customer’s clothes since the 1970s, and it operates one of the largest apparel repair centers in North America. In 2013, it launched a venture capital fund that invests in start-ups that work on environmental issues, such as Wild Idea Buffalo, which raises buffalo while restoring grasslands to the Great Plains, and Bureo, which converts discarded fishing nets into consumer products like sunglasses. Patagonia “really walks the walk and talks the talk,” said Richard Jaffe, an independent retail consultant. “They invest a lot of time and energy into being a catalyst for change.”
Youth crime continues to plummet across the country, with arrests of people under age 18 falling for the 13th straight year and reaching lows not seen in at least six decades, new FBI figures show. The number of juveniles arrested nationwide declined 11% from 2017 to 2018 alone, compared to a 2% drop for adults. Arrests of young people for violent crimes — rape, robbery, assault and murder — fell 5%, while they actually increased slightly for those 18 and older. The 2018 arrest rate among juveniles — 21.3 per 1,000 youths — is half of what it was in the 1960s and less than one-quarter of what it was in the mid-1990s, at the peak of a youth crime spike, according to an analysis of the FBI data provided to The Chronicle by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in San Francisco. “It’s not just historic lows, it’s a historic chasm,” said Mike Males, a senior research fellow with the center. “It’s not even leveling out.” The data show that the trend of juveniles committing less crime has crept up into young adults, with arrests among those 18 to 24 also declining significantly in recent years. The changes could have profound implications on communities and the criminal justice system in years ahead. “That may be the result of the low-crime juvenile generation aging into their 20s,” Males said. “Hopefully this generation is beginning to impact older generations.” The plunge in teen crime extended to urban, suburban and rural counties, according to the FBI statistics.
Note: Sadly, this inspiring news has gotten very little media coverage other than in San Francisco. Why won't the media report this incredibly encouraging trend? Read more on this very hopeful trend on this webpage filled with hopeful and inspiring news.
The Standing Rock movement in 2016 brought together Indigenous activists from across the nation to fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. One of the demands of this movement included divestment from Wells Fargo, a bank that was funding development of the pipeline. This brought into the spotlight ... big for-profit banks that the government uses to invest public money into Wall Street, rather than local communities. Some of those investments include the fossil fuel industry, private prisons, immigrant detention centers, and more. The divestment movement is mostly about getting those government investments ... out of the big banks. The question then becomes where to put them. Some ... say the answer is public banking. In September, the California State Legislature passed Assembly Bill 857, a law that would allow a regulatory framework for public banking in the state. This would allow the establishment of banks that hold the government’s money and include socially responsible charters. Debbie Notkin, who works with the California Public Banking Alliance, says that by law, all corporations, which includes private banks, are legally obligated to maximize profit. Public banks are not held to this expectation, however, and are instead mandated to serve their communities. Community investments have unlimited possibilities, including affordable housing, saving people from foreclosure, making student loans more affordable, and creating more infrastructure to defend against the effects of climate change.
Note: Ellen Brown is a dedicated researcher who has promoted public banks for years. Check out her excellent work on her website at https://ellenbrown.com. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
According to FDA estimates, the United States wastes 30 to 40% of its food. That's hard to swallow when you consider that one in 10 US households faced food insecurity in 2018. That means roughly 14 million families are struggling to put meals on the table while approximately 30 million tons of food are trashed. For 29 years Forgotten Harvest, a nonprofit in Detroit, has been rescuing food destined for landfills and redirecting it to the hungry. Forgotten Harvest CEO Kirk Mayes says it's taken that long to develop the logistics for his program, which now rescues and delivers 130,000 pounds of food a day. "This operation is set up so that our fleet of about 27 trucks and our drivers can leave our warehouse in the morning and go to about 12 to 14 different stops ... for our donations." Mayes says. Drivers collect food from local bakers and butchers and national chains, he says. "And then these drivers redistribute the food to three to four community partners on a daily basis." A rotating army of 16,000 volunteers makes this daily event happen. "At our warehouse, our volunteers are working with commodities that are coming off of our farm and from other commodity partners like the food manufacturers and other farms and donations," Mayes says. "All this (food) is inspected, sorted and set to go out." The result? Last year Forgotten Harvest redistributed 41 million pounds of food, Mayes says. That's 41 million pounds that filled stomachs instead of landfills.
A friendly smile. A food pantry donation. Such acts of kindness have a self-serving upside ... as science has conclusively shown they also make you healthier. UCLA is poised to advance that science with the ... launch of the world’s first interdisciplinary research institute on kindness, which will explore, for instance, how and why being nice to others reduces depression and the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Research by UCLA scientists already has shown that mindfulness and kindness actually alter the behavior of genes, turning down those that promote inflammation, which can lead to heart disease or certain cancers, and turning up the activity of genes that protect against infections. But the ultimate goal of the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute is to spread kindness and promote a more humane world. It will develop training tools to help practice kindness and spread them through online programs, public lectures, media outreach and a free app called UCLA Mindful. When it comes to kindness, the intention, rather than the outcome, is key. In other words, it’s the thought that counts, as the adage goes. “Cultivating kind thoughts increases the frequency of kind actions, and both the thoughts and the experience of engaging in the actions have positive effects on the well-being of the individual,” said Daniel Fessler ... the institute’s inaugural director. The institute’s work ... will focus on three themes: the roots of kindness, how to promote it, and how to use it as a therapeutic intervention to improve mental and physical health.
The University of California is dumping fossil fuel investments from its nearly $84 billion pension and endowment funds because they are a financial risk, its top financial officers announced. “Our job is to make money for the University of California, and we’re betting we can do that without fossil fuels investments,” said an opinion article in the Los Angeles Times written by Jagdeep Singh Bachher, UC’s chief investment officer and treasurer, and Richard Sherman, chair of the Board of Regents Investments Committee. UC’s $13.4 billion endowment fund will be “fossil free” by the end of the month and its $70 billion pension fund “will soon be that way,” the article said. The article appeared the same day that UC announced its president and chancellors had signed a letter declaring a “climate emergency,” joining more than 7,000 colleges and universities around the world. The UC leaders agreed to increase climate research and environmental education and to achieve climate neutrality by 2025. “We have a moral responsibility to take swift action on climate change,” UC President Janet Napolitano said. The 10-campus system has been shedding fossil fuel investments for several years. It previously dumped several hundred million dollars’ worth of investments in coal, tar sands and companies building a Dakota-to-Illinois oil pipeline.
The first gas station in the U.S. that has been completely transitioned from a petroleum station to exclusively charging EVs opened Thursday in Takoma Park, Maryland. RS Automotives, the local gas station, has been around since 1958. Depeswar Doley, owner of the station since 1997, said he was already unhappy with the way oil and gasoline companies structure contracts — such as limiting the use of multiple suppliers, including clauses that extend contracts when a certain volume of sales is not met and limiting maintenance support. These business factors already were pushing him to consider other options. A nudge from his daughter was the final step in convincing Doley to make the switch to EV charging. “My daughter, who is 17, she is the one who convinced me after I told her that I was going to talk to the [Electric Vehicle Institute] guys,” Doley said. There are more than 20,700 registered EVs in Maryland, and the area also has an electric taxi service in need of more chargers for their business. The gas station conversion was jointly funded by the Electric Vehicle Institute and the Maryland Energy Administration, which provided a grant of $786,000. The station will feature four dispensers that connect to a high-powered, 200kW system. The system will allow four vehicles to charge simultaneously and reach 80% battery charge in 20 to 30 minutes. Drivers can go inside and sit in an automated convenience store with screens that allow drivers to track their vehicle’s charging progress.
Najah Bazzy can pinpoint the moment her life changed. In 1996, she was working as a nurse when she visited an Iraqi refugee family to help care for their dying infant. She knew the situation would be difficult, but she wasn't prepared for what she encountered. "There, at the house, I got my first glimpse of poverty," she said. That day, Bazzy and her family gathered all the furniture and household items that they could - including a crib - and delivered everything to the family. She hasn't stopped since. For years, Bazzy ran her goodwill effort from her home, transporting donated goods in her family's minivan. Eventually, her efforts grew into Zaman International, a nonprofit that now supports impoverished women and children of all backgrounds in the Detroit area. The group has helped more than 250,000 people. Today, Zaman operates from a 40,000-square-foot facility in the suburb of Inkster. The group's warehouse offers aisles of food, rows of clothes and vast arrays of furniture free to those in need. The group's case managers help clients access housing and other services. "We work to stabilize them as quickly as we can," Bazzy said. "Women walk in and they are in desperate need, and they walk out with their basic needs met." The group's donated clothing and furniture are also available to the public through its Good Deeds Resale Shop. "Our mothers are able to come. They get a voucher and have the same dignified shopping experience as somebody else, but (do) not have to pay for it," she said.
Tanyaradzwa 'Tanya' Muzinda is not your average teenager. At 15, she is already one of Zimbabwe's Motocross champions. Held on off-road circuits, Motocross is a form of motorbike racing that is dangerous, expensive and requires a lot of training. But these challenges have not stopped Tanya from competing. She came in third place at the 2017 HL Racing British Master Kids Championships at the Motoland track in England, which she says is still her most memorable race. In 2018, Muzinda was named Junior Sportswoman of the year in South Africa by the Africa Union Sports Council Region Five Annual Sports Awards. Her father, Tawanda Muzinda, says his daughter faces substantial challenges in her chosen field because it is an expensive sport. Muzinda often misses championships because of a lack of funds. The financial difficulties she faces [have] not stopped Muzinda from giving back to people in her community. In August, she paid tuition for 45 students to attend school in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, and hopes to pay for at least 500 more students by the end of 2020. "There have been many times I didn't race for months because of financial difficulties. I thought of the children who also don't have a chance to go to school because of money and decided to do something about it," she said. Muzinda uses donations and her Motocross prize money to support children from poorer families, especially girls who are often kept home from school. Muzinda also helps fundraise for an orphanage.
Billionaire Robert Smith is extending his goodwill months after he pledged to erase college loan debt for Morehouse College's 2019 graduating class. The technology investor and philanthropist is also paying off loan debt amassed by parents to send their children to the college, the school said on Friday. Morehouse College announced ... that Smith and his family donated $34 million to a fund that wipes away student debt for parents whose children attend the university. "This liberation gift from Robert Smith — the first of its kind to be announced at a graduation in higher education — will be life-changing for our new Morehouse Men and their families," said Morehouse College president David A. Thomas. Known as the Morehouse Student Success Program, the initiative was established as a national investment strategy to curb student loan debt and help graduates prosper faster, according to the release. Under the new plan, Morehouse will solicit and accept donations made specifically to reduce or eliminate the loan debt of students and their parents or guardians. More than 400 students, parents and guardians of the Class of 2019 will receive the inaugural gift under the initiative. The fund will cover education loan balances as of August 28. According to the release, six types of loans will be repaid: federal subsidized loans, federal unsubsidized loans, Georgia Student Access Loans, Perkins Loans, Parent Plus Loans and certain private student loans processed through Morehouse College.
“Happy hour” at the S-market store in the working-class neighborhood of Vallila happens far from the liquor aisles and isn’t exactly convivial. Nobody is here for drinks or a good time. They’re looking for a steep discount on a slab of pork. Or a chicken, or a salmon fillet, or any of a few hundred items that are hours from their midnight expiration date. Food that is nearly unsellable goes on sale at every one of S-market’s 900 stores in Finland, with prices that are already reduced by 30 percent slashed to 60 percent off at exactly 9 p.m. It’s part of a two-year campaign to reduce food waste that company executives in this famously bibulous country decided to call “happy hour” in the hopes of drawing in regulars, like any decent bar. About one-third of the food produced and packaged for human consumption is lost or wasted, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. That equals 1.3 billion tons a year, worth nearly $680 billion. The figures represent more than just a disastrous misallocation of need and want, given that 10 percent of people in the world are chronically undernourished. All that excess food, scientists say, contributes to climate change. Mika Lyytikainen, an S-market vice president, explained that the program simply reduces its losses. “When we sell at 60 percent off, we don’t earn any money, but we earn more than if the food was given to charity,” he said. “On the other hand, it’s now possible for every Finn to buy very cheap food in our stores.”
There’s a factory in Asia that uses only a single litre of water to make a pair of jeans. That’s 346 litres less than Levi-Strauss estimated it took to make a pair of its jeans in 2015. The manufacturer in question does not want to tell anyone about its groundbreaking water-conserving techniques – not even the companies it supplies. It is one of many practicing “secret sustainability”, whereby innovations are silently enacted and kept from the rest of the industry. This phenomenon is not limited to the clothing industry. Why would firms spearheading sustainable practices not publicise their good work? It’s a question that puzzles Professor Steve Evans ... at Cambridge University’s Institute for Manufacturing, who suggests that such examples are widespread. He believes this stems from a common perception that there must be some kind of downside to the introduction of sustainable practices: either a reduction in product quality, or an increase in the price of manufacturing, or both. Companies and consumers seem unable to accept that sustainability does not have to cost more to create an equally good product. This is despite an increase in evidence that actively investing in sustainable practices helps business thrive. An example is provided by the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices, a series of benchmarks assessing the sustainability of companies around the world. Research has repeatedly shown that those at the top end of the benchmark outperform those at the bottom.
The private prison industry is set to be upended after California lawmakers passed a bill on Wednesday banning the facilities from operating in the state. The move will probably also close down four large immigration detention facilities that can hold up to 4,500 people at a time. The legislation is being hailed as a major victory for criminal justice reform because it removes the profit motive from incarceration. It also marks a dramatic departure from California’s past, when private prisons were relied on to reduce crowding in state-run facilities. Private prison companies used to view California as one of their fastest-growing markets. As recently as 2016, private prisons locked up approximately 7,000 Californians, about 5% of the state’s total prison population, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. But in recent years, thousands of inmates have been transferred from private prisons back into state-run facilities. As of June, private prisons held 2,222 of California’s total inmate population. The state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, must still sign AB32, but last year he signaled support for the ban and said during his inaugural speech in January that the state should “end the outrage of private prisons once and for all”. The bill’s author, the assemblymember Rob Bonta, originally wrote it only to apply to contracts between the state’s prison authority and private, for-profit prison companies. But in June, Bonta amended the bill to apply to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s four major California detention centers.
Jahiem Morgan knew he was too young to be living on his own at 15 years old, but he didn't have much of a choice. Morgan found himself among the nearly 1.3 million young people across the United States who are classified as "unaccompanied youths" and can't get foster care because they chose to leave a situation rather than be removed by social services. Some of these young people are runaways; others leave abusive homes; and many identify as LGBTQ. They're out on their own, and many end up in dangerous situations -- living on the streets or in abandoned buildings. "Most people don't even know these kids exist," said Vicki Sokolik, who helps these teens in Tampa, Florida. Sokolik was first introduced to this population in 2006, when her then-teenage son told her about a classmate who was in danger of becoming homeless. Sokolik helped the girl, securing her a place to live and providing the resources she needed. The experience inspired Sokolik to do more. In 2007, she founded "Starting Right, Now," a nonprofit that helps unaccompanied youth ages 15 to 19 get permanent housing, graduate from high school and move on to their next goal. At-risk students in two Florida counties are referred to the program by their school guidance counselors. The program provides two homes where the students can live until they go to college or start their career. They also have access to tutoring, therapy and life skills classes. The organization has helped more than 200 young people, and 97% have graduated high school.
Global investment in new renewable energy capacity over this decade — 2010 to 2019 inclusive — is on course to hit USD 2.6 trillion, with more gigawatts of solar power capacity installed than any other generation technology. This investment is set to have roughly quadrupled renewable energy capacity (excluding large hydro) from 414 GW at the end of 2009 to just over 1,650 GW when the decade closes at the end of this year. Solar power will have drawn half — USD 1.3 trillion — of the USD 2.6 trillion in renewable energy capacity investments made over the decade. Solar alone will have grown from 25 GW at the beginning of 2010 to an expected 663 GW by the close of 2019 — enough to produce all the electricity needed each year by about 100 million average homes in the USA. The global share of electricity generation accounted for by renewables reached 12.9 per cent, in 2018, up from 11.6 per cent in 2017. This avoided an estimated 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions last year alone — a substantial saving given global power sector emissions of 13.7 billion tonnes in 2018. Including all major generating technologies (fossil and zero-carbon), the decade is set to see a net 2,366 GW of power capacity installed, with solar accounting for the largest single share (638 GW), coal second (529 GW), and wind and gas in third and fourth places (487 GW and 438 GW respectively).
The following achievements stand as examples for what humanity is capable of when the end result benefits both the self and the other. In other words, they are examples of when nations decided to cooperate with each other for self-interested reasons, yet still produced results that benefited the rest of humanity. In 1985, a group of British scientists warned the world that the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) was wreaking havoc on the ozone layer. A treaty known as the Montreal Protocol was drawn up, and for the first time in history, it was universally ratified (197 countries have signed on to date). As a result, the world successfully phased out 99% of ozone-depleting chemicals. If this hadn’t been created, the Earth’s ozone layer would have collapsed by 2050. The Human Genome Project was an international effort to map out the DNA sequence of the entire human genome. The knowledge gained from the project has led to better treatment, detection and prevention of human disease. It has opened doors to a greater understanding of the code that determines so much of our lives, and has provided key clues for further unraveling the human mystery. The International Space Station is, of course, a classic example of global collaboration in pursuit of knowledge and discovery. Research at the ISS has resulted in everything from the creation of advanced water filtration systems, to developing drugs for muscular dystrophy, to robotics used in surgery, to the development of better vaccines.
New research finds that individuals with higher optimism tend to live longer and also have greater odds of living 85 years and more. A recent PNAS paper describes how the researchers assessed the link between higher optimism and longer lifespan, with a particular focus on the chances of reaching "exceptional longevity." The team carried out the study because most research on exceptional longevity has tended to focus on the effect of "biomedical factors." More recently, however, scientists have become interested in the role of nonbiological factors. "While research has identified many risk factors for diseases and premature death," says first and corresponding author Lewina O. Lee, Ph.D., "we know relatively less about positive psychosocial factors that can promote healthy aging." She and her colleagues defined optimism as the "general expectation that good things will happen or the belief that the future will be favorable because one can control important outcomes." For the analysis, the team brought together data on 69,744 females ... and 1,429 males. The questionnaires that they completed ... included items on optimism. When the researchers analyzed the data, they found that the females and males with the highest levels of optimism ... lived on average 11–15% longer than those with the lowest levels of optimism. In addition, [those] with the highest levels of optimism had a 50–70% greater likelihood of living until their 85th birthday and beyond.
Among the heavily trafficked streets of Atlanta, a massive urban food forest is growing to provide fresh produce for the public. But what exactly is a food forest? In the fight against food deserts - low income areas that lack access to fresh, whole foods - a food forest is a public space in the city where fresh produce will grow in trees, bushes, plants, and community garden beds for the community to enjoy. And at 7.1 acres, the site in Atlanta will become the city's first and the nation's largest. In the Lakewood-Browns Mill community, which will house the Urban Food Forest, more than a third of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the USDA, who has assisted in the project. "Residents still talk about the land's former owners, who left excess produce from their farm on fence posts for neighbors to claim and enjoy," the USDA said. "Now this land will celebrate that history and make new memories for the community." A city ordinance passed in the beginning of the month grants money for the city to purchase the plot from the Conservation Fund, which currently owns and has helped develop the land. In addition to community outreach and education, the forest is meant to make strides in the city's goal of putting 85% of residents within a half mile of fresh food by 2021.
Two complementary studies recently found that noninvasive and extremely mild brain stimulation could be used to improve episodic and working memory in older adults. "We can make these 60 and 70-year-olds look strikingly like our 20-year-old participants," researcher Robert Reinhart [said]. The first study used a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to induce mild neural firing in the brain. The research team stimulated the participants' brains for half an hour a day for five days. They then measured the adults' memory ability 24 hours after the final day of stimulation and found their recall ability on a memory test had improved 31 per cent. The second study, led by Robert Reinhart from ... Boston University, used a different technology, and stimulated different regions of the brain. Using electroencephalography, or EEG, which records the electrical activity of the brain, Reinhart found evidence that older adults' brain waves were out-of-sync in critical brain regions used by working memory or short-term memory. Reinhart then tried to ameliorate the problem by using a precise and customizable electrical stimulation technology called "high definition transcranial alternating current stimulation," or HD-tACS for short. The team applied current for 25 minutes to 42 older participants' brains, and saw improvements during this time on a memory test that they did before they received stimulation. As in Voss' study, the subjects' performance increased to the point that it was equal to that of 20-year-olds.
Monica Gagliano says that she has received Yoda-like advice from trees and shrubbery. She recalls being rocked like a baby by the spirit of a fern. She has ridden on the back of an invisible bear conjured by an osha root. These interactions have taken place in dreams, visions, songs and telekinetic interactions, sometimes with the help of shamans or ayahuasca. Dr. Gagliano’s scientific research ... has broken boundaries in the field of plant behavior and signaling. Currently at the University of Sydney in Australia, she has published a number of studies that support the view that plants are, to some extent, intelligent. Her experiments suggest that they can learn behaviors and remember them. Her work also suggests that plants can “hear” running water and even produce clicking noises, perhaps to communicate. She believes, like many scientists and environmentalists do, that in order to save the planet we have to understand ourselves as part of the natural world. It’s just that she also believes the plants themselves can speak to this point. “I want people to realize that the world is full of magic, but not as something only some people can do, or something that is outside of this world,” she said. “No, it’s all here.” At the [world science] festival, a young woman asked Dr. Gagliano how her scientific work had changed her understanding of the world. “The main difference is that I used to live in a world of objects, and now I live in a world of subjects,” she said. There were murmurs of approval. “And so, I am never alone.”
Women are making major gains in enrollment in engineering and computer science at some of the nation’s most prominent colleges and universities. While men still far outnumber women nationally — 4 to 1 in engineering, 5 to 1 in computer science — female students are gaining ground slowly at many schools and rapidly at others. The federal government and industry leaders acknowledge that more should be done to bring women into science, technology, engineering and math, known as the STEM fields, and they have pushed programs such as Girls Who Code to boost interest among girls at a young age. Samantha Horry, 18, from the suburbs of Philadelphia, is one of 80 young women among 165 new computer science students this fall at Carnegie Mellon. She fell for the subject in high school, taking eight classes. Almost always, she was the only girl. “Just me and some guys,” she recalled. That didn’t deter her from winning admission to one of the country’s most prestigious programs to pursue her interests in machine learning and artificial intelligence. Now Horry is startled at how many young women on campus are following her path in a field where the stereotype of the male teenage computer geek, obsessed with gaming and programming, looms large. She looks around in class and sees, for the first time, gender balance. “It’s crazy and awesome,” Horry said. “I don’t feel out of place.”
While electric vehicles are quickly proliferating throughout the world, most electric engines are still relegated to smaller vehicles. But then there's the Elekto Dumper - the world's largest EV - which flouts the rule that EVs can't handle serious work. The truck is used to haul lime and marlstone, which contains clay and silt, from the sides of mountains in Switzerland. Then, the material is transported directly to a cement factory. But here's the really impressive piece of engineering—this heavy dump truck never needs to be charged. Here's how it works: The dump truck, itself, weighs 45 tons and ascends a hill at a 13 percent grade, in one scenario. On the way back down, it's more than twice as heavy, carrying 65 tons of ore. To rectify that scenario, the truck's "regenerative braking system" actually recaptures the energy created by going downhill, refilling the battery's charge for the next time the truck travels uphill. The dump truck is officially called the Elektro Dumper, but the German manufacturer, Kuhn Schweitz, made life a lot easier by naming it eDumper for short. The eDumper was modeled on a Komatsu HB 605-7, a massive dump truck: It's 30 feet long, 14 feet wide, and 14 feet tall. Kuhn Schweitz said that making the trip from quarry to cement factory 20 times in one day produces a surplus of 200 kilowatt-hours of energy (or 77 megawatt-hours per year). Your average dump truck, by contrast, uses between 11,000 and 22,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year.
[Rodney] Robinson, who teaches at Virgie Binford Education Center, a school inside the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center in Virginia, was just named the National Teacher of the Year by the Council of Chief State School Officers. "He creates a positive school culture by empowering his students - many of whom have experienced trauma - to become civically minded social advocates who use their skills and voices to affect physical and policy changes at their school and in their communities," the council said in a statement. After seeing his mom "transform" while pursuing her GED, Robinson decided to become a history and social studies teacher. He has been teaching for 19 years. In 2015, Robinson moved to teaching at the juvenile detention center because he wanted to understand the school-to-prison pipeline, which refers to strict school policies that can push students from disadvantaged backgrounds to leave school and become incarcerated. Many of the students at Virgie Binford come from impoverished backgrounds, live in high-crime areas and have had negative contact with schools and the judicial system, Principal Ta'Neisha Ford said. The educators' goal is to help these students fall back in love with school. "(Robinson) allows students to really shine and he gives them the tools to succeed," Ford said. Robinson said he's honored to have won the teacher of the year title. He is working on programs to lower high school dropout rates.
Twice a week, before the sun comes up, Judge Craig Mitchell runs the mile from his office at the county courthouse to The Midnight Mission, a social services organization centered in Downtown's Skid Row - the notorious area where the city's largest homeless population resides. At the mission, he meets a group of 30 to 40 people, and together they run through East L.A. The group includes runners from all walks of life and all levels of athleticism. Some members are homeless or in recovery, and others are lawyers, social workers, students or off-duty LAPD officers. Mitchell developed the program in 2012 after a man he'd once sentenced to prison returned to thank him. "He was paroled to The Midnight Mission and decided to come back and say, 'Thank you, Judge Mitchell, for treating me like a human being.' "The president of the mission at the time asked me if there was something that I could do to contribute to the mission's program, and I thought of starting a running club. That was the inception," Mitchell said. Between 300 and 500 people have since run with the group, now an official nonprofit. Every year, Mitchell takes his most dedicated Skid Row runners on a free trip to participate in an international marathon. In recent years, Mitchell and club members have participated in marathons in Ghana, Rome, Vietnam and Jerusalem. Mitchell says he's seen participants turn their lives around, attending college, securing full-time employment and maintaining sobriety.
The chain of command at PV Squared, a solar panel installation company in Massachusetts’s Pioneer Valley, is admittedly convoluted. “Technically, I’m Kim’s boss,” says general manager Jonathan Gregory of bookkeeper Kim Pinkham. But “Kim’s on the board, and the board oversees my position, so technically she’s my boss.” As members of a worker-owned cooperative, the 40-plus employees elect their own board of directors and make decisions based not on majority rule, but by consensus. When they’re not holding the microphone, members at meetings express themselves with hand signals: a flat palm for a question or statement, a raised index finger for direct response, and a hand cupped in a “C” for a clarification. Currently, worker-owned entities employ about 17 million people, or 12% of the U.S. workforce. Such business can take a variety of forms, from equity-sharing plans like those found at Publix super markets, Land O’Lakes, and King Arthur Flour, to more radical models, like at PV Squared. By far the most common are employee stock ownership plans, or ESOPs. On the other end of the spectrum are workers collectives ... where there is no hierarchy. Collective Copies, a copy shop with 11 workers and locations in Amherst and Florence, Massachusetts, operates according to this model. After a trial period of six months, new hires are invited to become owners. “Everyone’s on the board of directors,” says Matt Grillo, a worker-owner who has been with Collective Copies for 20 years.
A Danish bank has launched the world’s first negative interest rate mortgage – handing out loans to homeowners where the charge is minus 0.5% a year. Negative interest rates effectively mean that a bank pays a borrower to take money off their hands, so they pay back less than they have been loaned. Jyske Bank, Denmark’s third largest, has begun offering borrowers a 10-year deal at -0.5%, while another Danish bank, Nordea, says it will begin offering 20-year fixed-rate deals at 0% and a 30-year mortgage at 0.5%. Under its negative mortgage, Jyske said borrowers will make a monthly repayment as usual – but the amount still outstanding will be reduced each month by more than the borrower has paid. The mortgage is possible because Denmark, as well as Sweden and Switzerland, has seen rates in money markets drop to levels that turn banking upside-down. Hřegh said Jyske Bank is able to go into money markets and borrow from institutional investors at a negative rate, and is simply passing this on to its customers. In Denmark, interest rates on savings deposited in Jyske ... have already fallen to zero. In reality, the Jyske mortgage borrower in Denmark is likely to end up paying back a little more than they borrowed, as there are still fees and charges to pay to compensate the bank for arranging the deal, even when the nominal rate is negative.
Amazon is threatening third-party sellers with fines for using excessive packaging for large items, in an effort to reduce waste, minimize shipping costs and ensure that customers can open boxes more easily. Third-party sellers who violate the rules can be fined $1.99 per order. The new fines, announced in a letter to sellers in September, were supposed to take effect on Aug. 1, giving sellers nearly one year to become compliant. However, Amazon is delaying implementing the rules until Sept. 3 because some sellers want Amazon to first certify their packaging as being acceptable. In the ramp up to the new rules, Amazon has been giving sellers a $1 per order credit to get them on board with the new shipping guidelines. The new rules in September only apply to items that are larger than 18 x 14 x 8 inches, or over 20 pounds. It's all part of Amazon's broader environmental push. Amazon revamped its own packaging in 2010 with its so-called Frustration-Free Packaging initiative, which aims to cut down on waste and ensure that customers can open packages without box cutters and scissors. It has also cleared some products to be shipped without extra packaging. Also as part of its environmental efforts, Amazon says it has avoided using 244,000 tons of packing materials over the past decade, or as many as 500 million boxes.
When Ronald Braunstein conducts an orchestra, there’s no sign of his bipolar disorder. He’s confident and happy. Music isn’t his only medicine, but its healing power is potent. Scientific research has shown that music helps fight depression, lower blood pressure and reduce pain. The National Institutes of Health has a partnership with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts called Sound Health: Music and the Mind, to expand on the links between music and mental health. It explores how listening to, performing or creating music involves brain circuitry that can be harnessed to improve health and well-being. Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said: “We’re bringing neuroscientists together with musicians to speak each other’s language. Mental health conditions are among those areas we’d like to see studied.” Mr. Braunstein, 63, has experienced the benefits of music for his own mental health and set out to bring them to others. Mr. Braunstein reached out to [Caroline Whiddon] about creating an orchestra that welcomed musicians with mental illnesses and family members and friends who support them. Mr. Braunstein called his new venture the Me2/Orchestra, because when he told other musicians about his mental health diagnosis, they’d often respond, “Me too.” In 2014, a second orchestra, Me2/Boston, was created. At each performance, a few musicians briefly talk about their mental illnesses and take questions from the audience.
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.
On a recent chilly night in Wisconsin, a Milwaukee bus driver extended an act of kindness to a homeless rider. Natalie Barnes was driving her usual route when a man named Richard ... got on and told her that he had just lost his home. Natalie offered to buy him dinner, but when the proud man refused, she pivoted — offering, instead, a place where Richard could stay safe and warm for the night. "Well, I'm on this bus 'til 2:44," she [said]. "You want to stay with me then?" "OK," he responds. So, for hours, as she drove and picked up passengers throughout the city, Richard sat quietly in the first row. And finally, when it was time for Natalie's break, the two spent some time talking. Then he let the kind bus driver buy him dinner. She also reached out to a community organization that was able to help Richard find temporary housing and supportive services. "The community really needs to help with the homeless people that are outside," Natalie Barnes later said. "There are a lot of people who are looking in garbages for food. They're underdressed. They don't have anywhere to go... They still should have basic necessities, like food and like clothing, just to survive." So, on that chilly night in October, that's what she gave a man in need. And since then, she's given him something even better — a friend. "Richard has become a friend of mine," she said, breaking into a huge smile. "We talk every couple of days. And he thanks me every time he talks to me for helping him. He calls me his little guardian angel."
Social trends among California youth have been spectacular. Over the last generation, rates of arrests of Californians under age 20 have fallen by 80 percent, murder arrest by 85 percent, gun killings by 75 percent, imprisonments by 88 percent, births by teen mothers by 75 percent, and school dropout by more than half while college enrollments have risen 45 percent. Back in 1980, teenagers comprised 27 percent of California’s criminal arrests. Today, 9 percent. Anecdotes of kids gone wrong remain, but they’re rarer than ever. Modern youth trends challenge traditional theories of what makes teenagers act better. Family stability and adult behaviors have not improved; in fact, epidemics of drug abuse, criminal arrest, and incarceration plague middle ages (the parents of adolescents). High levels of poverty among youth remain. Recurring panics over video games, smartphones, and other made-up teenage dangers need to yield to efforts to improve education and reduce poverty. Today’s more education-oriented, activist youth deserve to contribute to political decisions and leadership. By their behavior changes and survey evidence, young people are better adapted to today’s rapidly changing world than their elders.
Agri-tech start-up, Perfect Day, released a line of real ice cream made with lab-grown dairy that costs $20 a pint on Thursday — and it sold out in hours. Perfect Day’s cultured dairy is created by taking cow’s milk DNA and adding it to a micro-organism like yeast to create dairy proteins, whey and casein, via fermentation. Those dairy proteins are then combined with water and plant-based ingredients to create a dairy substitute that can be used to make ice cream, cheese, yogurt and a slew of other dairy products. [Co-founder Perumal] Gandhi ... says the dairy substitute is nutritionally identical to cow’s milk and tastes just like it. In fact, while Perfect Day Foods at least considers its product “vegan” and lactose-free (since lactose is a sugar found only in mammals’ milk), federal law actually requires them to put “contains milk” on any labeling because its protein is identical to cow’s milk on a molecular level and could cause allergies. Co-founder Rayan Pandya, 27, says the process to make the dairy is similar to what plant-based “meat” start-up Impossible Foods is doing using heme, a molecule in soy plants that’s identical to the heme molecule found in meat. Using heme, Impossible Foods is able to make its vegetarian meat substitute taste and feel like beef without using animals. The limited edition run of 1,000 three-packs of Perfect Day ice cream ... was the first and only product released by Perfect Day Foods (which has been working with the Food and Drug Administration since 2014) to drum up buzz.
Sound is so elemental to life and survival that it prompted Tel Aviv University researcher Lilach Hadany to ask: What if it wasn’t just animals that could sense sound - what if plants could, too? The first experiments to test this hypothesis ... suggest that in at least one case, plants can hear, and it confers a real evolutionary advantage. Hadany’s team looked at evening primroses (Oenothera drummondii) and found that within minutes of sensing vibrations from pollinators’ wings, the plants temporarily increased the concentration of sugar in their flowers’ nectar. In effect, the flowers themselves served as ears, picking up the specific frequencies of bees’ wings while tuning out irrelevant sounds like wind. A sweeter treat for pollinators, their theory goes, may draw in more insects, potentially increasing the chances of successful cross-pollination. Indeed, in field observations, researchers found that pollinators were more than nine times more common around plants another pollinator had visited within the previous six minutes. As the team thought about how sound works, via the transmission and interpretation of vibrations, the role of the flowers became even more intriguing. Though blossoms vary widely in shape and size, a good many are concave or bowl-shaped. This makes them perfect for receiving and amplifying sound waves, much like a satellite dish. This single study has cracked open an entirely new field of scientific research, which Hadany calls phytoacoustics.
In 1965, Poppy Northcutt was the only female engineer at NASA’s Houston Mission Control. As she gazed at the men around her she thought to herself, I’m as smart as they are. Although she belonged among them, it was undeniably difficult to be the only woman in what sometimes felt like the domain of men. As isolated as Northcutt felt in the historic control center, she was one of thousands of women who began their careers at NASA as computers. It was a job created before the advent of electronic machines, when human aptitude was required to perform all the mathematical calculations needed for experiments. Women have historically filled these positions, as exemplified by the groups of female computers who worked at the Harvard Observatory and the Royal Observatory Greenwich in the late 1800s. At NASA, these women came from all over the world, working at centers across the United States, and comprising a diverse and potent force in space exploration. Their calculations would ultimately be responsible for sending astronauts to the moon. Unlike Northcutt, Sue Finley noticed the ubiquitous presence of female employees when she started work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. Not only was her supervisor a woman, but all of her coworkers in the computing section were as well. Finley, who started in 1958, before NASA’s formation, is still working for the space agency today. At age 83 and with a career spanning six decades, she is NASA’s longest serving female employee.
Wind turbines in Scotland generated 9,831,320 megawatt hours between January and June 2019, WWF Scotland said Monday. The numbers, which were supplied by WeatherEnergy, mean that Scottish wind generated enough electricity to power the equivalent of 4.47 million homes for six months. That is almost double the number of homes in Scotland. “Up and down the country, we are all benefiting from cleaner energy and so is the climate,” Robin Parker, climate and energy policy manager at WWF Scotland, said in a statement Monday. “These figures show harnessing Scotland’s plentiful onshore wind potential can provide clean, green electricity for millions of homes across not only Scotland, but England as well,” Parker added. By 2030, the Scottish government says it wants to produce half of the country’s energy consumption from renewables. It is also targeting an “almost completely” decarbonized energy system by 2050. As a whole, Europe is home to some of the world’s most ambitious wind energy projects. September 2018 saw the official opening of the Walney Extension Offshore Wind Farm in the Irish Sea. With a total capacity of 659 MW, it’s currently the world’s largest operational offshore wind farm and capable of powering nearly 600,000 homes in the U.K..
Using the power of ocean waves, innovators from Boston, U.S., have developed a technology that can produce fresh water off-grid and without the costly infrastructure of desalination plants. This invention could help many of the 2.1 billion people around the world who struggle to access safe drinking water, most of those in low-income countries. The technology, Wave2O, was developed by start-up company Resolute Marine Energy. Chief Operating Officer Olivier Ceberio says it “targets ‘off-grid’ coastal communities in developing nations where a solution to persistent water shortages is urgently needed”. Importantly, it fills a gaping hole between industrial-scale utilities that are costly and time-consuming to build, and micro-scale solutions for individual households. The only technology currently offered in between involves diesel-powered desalination systems. And Wave2O can be delivered competitively because it uses “free energy from a consistent and inexhaustible renewable energy resource: ocean waves,” says Ceberio. By eliminating the need for diesel generators, the invention not only saves money but reduces carbon dioxide emissions. “Each 4,000 [cubic meter per] day plant that displaces an equivalently sized diesel-powered plant will cut CO2 emissions by 4,300 tons per year,” explains Ceberio, “the equivalent of taking 936 cars off the road or of the carbon sequestered by 2,070 hectares of forest.”
The revolution in renewable power hit a new milestone in April. Last week the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released it's latest Energy Infrastructure Update (EIU), with data through April 2019. According to ... the non-profit SUN DAY Campaign, which analyzed the data, "that was enough to push renewable energy's share of total available installed U.S. generating capacity up to 21.56%. By comparison, coal's share dropped to 21.55% (down from 23.04% a year ago)." Of course it's important to note that capacity doesn't equal generation. Coal still generates more electricity than renewables. But, the trends indicate it's just a matter of time before that picture changes as well. But it is natural gas that is still the king of generation. Although renewable capacity additions are forecast to be well ahead of natural gas additions through 2022, it is likely that natural gas will continue to be the top source of U.S. power for quite some time. The EIU indicates that natural gas now represents 44.44% of total installed capacity. Because of the higher capacity factors for natural gas-fired generation, Energy Information Administration data show that natural gas provided 36% of U.S. power over the past 12 months, well ahead of coal's 27%. Further, the share for natural gas has grown in recent years, while that of coal continues to decline. But given the current trends, it won't be long before renewables supply the largest share of U.S. power.
Go to your happy place. Take a deep breath and hold it in your mind's eye for a long, joyful moment. My happy place looks and feels ... like a cabin in the woods. Family and friends are there. I have everything I need to be fully connected. The kind of experience I'm describing is something of a national pastime in Norway. They even have a word that snugly wraps all these ideas up: "koselig." You could roughly translate koselig (pronounced "koosh-lee"), as "coziness," but that leaves out crucial components of it, like enjoying the company of others and a connection with nature. There's no direct English translation, but there are regional equivalents such as the Swedish "mys," the Dutch "gezelligheid" and the most well-known of these, the Danish "hygge." Hygge (pronounced "hoo-gah") [is] defined as "a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being." It's that well-being part that gives us reason to replicate koselig ... even as the research slowly confirms what those cold, northern happiest countries have known for a long time: Darkness and isolation can be celebrated because they provide the need for their relief. The act of creating our own light and warmth produces peace and contentment. The case for koselig as a health practice seems obvious. You already know how it feels to be cozy, or in nature, or with friends. Social connections give our life purpose, and ... anything that decrease stress ... has numerous mental and physical health benefits.
An 8-year-old living in a homeless shelter has won the New York State chess championship for his age bracket. “I want to be the youngest grandmaster,” Tanitoluwa Adewumi, a Nigerian refugee who goes by Tani, [said]. Tanitoluwa placed first in the New York State Scholastic Championships tournament for kindergarten through third grade — a remarkable win for anyone. “It’s unheard of for any kid, let alone one in a homeless shelter,” [said] Russell Makofsky, who oversees Manhattan's P.S. 116 chess program. Tanitoluwa hasn't had an easy life. His family left northern Nigeria in 2017 fearing attacks on Christians, The New York Times reports, and moved to New York City over a year ago where the boy learned how to play chess at school. He and his family live in a homeless shelter. School chess coach Shawn Martinez saw Tanitoluwa's potential after observing him excel in the game a few weeks after first learning it early last year. He reached out to Tanitoluwa's family about joining the school's chess program, and learned they were unable to pay costs associated with membership. Makofsky decided to waive Tanitoluwa's fees, which can easily exceed thousands with travel and chess camp admissions. Seven trophies later, the elementary school boy is one of the top players in the country for his age group. Makofsky, who set up a GoFundMe for Tanitoluwa, said the family has received offers for a car, legal services, jobs and even housing.
A breakthrough can come from the least expected - perhaps like an 81-year-old eccentric from Massachusetts who toiled in isolation with no financial support for more than a decade. His focus? A challenge that has stumped scientists for many years: how to transform inedible plant life into environmentally friendly transportation fuels in a clean and cost-effective way. 25 years ago, [Marshall Medoff] became obsessed with the environment and decided to abandon his business career and become an amateur scientist. "What I thought was, the reason people were failing is they were trying to overcome nature instead of working with it," [said Medoff]. He knew that there's a lot of energy in plant life. It's in the form of sugar molecules that once accessed can be converted into transportation fuel. The key word is "access." This sugar is nearly impossible to extract cheaply and cleanly since it is locked tightly inside the plant's cellulose. What's so tantalizing is that sugar-rich cellulose is the most abundant biological material on earth. Medoff's novel idea [was to use] machines called electron accelerators to break apart nature's chokehold on the valuable sugars inside plant life - or biomass. Machines like these are typically used to strengthen materials. Medoff's invention was to use the accelerator the opposite way - to break biomass apart. This process, Medoff's remarkable invention, releases plant sugars that he's now using to make products he claims will solve some of the world's most intractable problems.
Three New York City police officers were working on the Fourth of July when they decided to stop by a Manhattan Whole Foods supermarket. The cops — now identified as Lt. Louis Sojo and Officers Esnaidy Cuevas and Michael Rivera — were on the way to grab a snack and cold drink in the store when security guards told them a woman was stealing food. The cops approached her to assess the situation. "I asked her, 'What's going on?' She told me she was hungry," said Sojo."So, I looked in her bag. I decided — we decided — to say 'We'll pay for her food.'" Sojo said the security guard was shocked by the kind response, but brought the officers over to the cashier to pay for the woman's food. "At that moment, she was extremely emotional," said Sojo. "She did thank us, but she was pretty much speechless at what happened." Sojo said the officers did not expect the good deed to receive so much positive attention and that they were "extremely humbled" by the response. He added that it isn't uncommon for officers to pay for someone's food. "You know, I've been doing this for 22 years. This is not the first time I've paid for food. This is not the first time they've paid for someone's food," he said referring to the two other cops."We don't go out and do it all the time, but, you know, when you look at someone's face and you notice that they need you, and they're actually hungry. It's pretty difficult as a human being to walk away from something like that. We weren't raised like that. So, it's the right thing to do."
The Monroe Institute [is] a cluster of buildings perched on more than 300 acres in the Virginia foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The institute uses audio technology to help induce different states of consciousness. The technology is touted as creating optimal conditions for the brain, leading to “peak human performance.” A successful radio-broadcasting executive whose company produced 28 shows a month, [founder Robert] Monroe dedicated an arm of his firm to research and development. Monroe and his team ultimately developed Hemi-Sync, an audio technology based on the premise that certain tones can encourage the two hemispheres of the brain to synchronize and move into different states of consciousness. Monroe made numerous recordings that, when used with headphones, send slightly different tones through each ear, helping the brain to create a third “binaural” beat. The result: a collection of compact discs that purportedly can be used for everything from inducing sleep to increasing memory retention to, as the institute entices on its Web site, reaching “extraordinary” states. Over the years, Hemi-Sync has garnered three patents and been the subject of research both at the institute and by independent medical professionals, scientists and academics. University studies have discovered that the audio technology can improve the focus of children with developmental disabilities. By the institute’s estimates, 30,000 people from around the world have attended its programs, and millions have purchased Hemi-Sync compact discs. For many, the experience is “life changing."
Note: Founder Robert Monroe wrote two fascinating, popular books, “Far Journeys” and “Ultimate Journey,” which describe his amazing journeys out of body. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
A Louisiana woman was brought to tears after her father captured a heartwarming moment between a store employee and her little brother while shopping at a Rouse's grocery store. In a video post shared to Facebook, Delaney Alwosaibi says her father was at a Baton Rouge area Rouses with family when her little brother, Jack Ryan Edwards, 17, who she affectionately calls Ziggy, expressed an interest in stocking the shelves. Jack, who is on the autism spectrum, was aided by a store employee, who helped him stock shelves for over 30 minutes, encouraging him as he finished each task. Within hours, the Facebook post was shared over 1,500 times and had amassed nearly 4,000 likes. Alwosaibi says she's overwhelmed by the response. "I've just been crying happy tears for hours and I'm in shock at the response the video has gotten. There's so much ugly in this world we live in, but today gave me a swift kick and reminder that there are still great people out there. Humble people, kind people, patient people, accepting people." In the video, the employee, Jordan Taylor, 20, can be heard discussing plans to re-enroll in school. An outpouring of support from Facebook users wishing to support Taylor both emotionally and financially continues to grow. After the incredible encounter, Alwosaibi started a GoFundMe to help send Jordan to school after he expressed interest in doing so. In the first nine hours, the community raised more than $6,000 [over $100,000 as of July 2019].
Note: See the beautiful video of this encounter at the link above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
According to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), unsubsidized renewable energy is now most frequently the cheapest source of energy generation. The report finds that the cost of installation and maintenance of renewables, which was an important stumbling block to mass adoption, continues on a downward trajectory. These new statistics demonstrate that using renewable energy is increasingly cost-effective compared to other sources, even when renewables must compete with the heavily-subsidized fossil fuel industry. These lower costs are expected to propel the mass adoption of renewables even further. Among other findings the IRENA report highlights that: Onshore wind and solar PV [photovoltaic] power are now, frequently, less expensive than any fossil-fuel option, without financial assistance. New solar and wind installations will increasingly undercut even the operating-only costs of existing coal-fired plants. Cost forecasts for solar PV and onshore wind continue to be revised as new data emerges, with renewables consistently beating earlier expectations. Further data from REN21's Renewable Global Status Report show that over one fifth of global electrical power production is now generated from renewables. Promising signs in the IRENA report show that ... an increasing number of corporates are entering the renewable energy industry ... meanwhile more than 10 million people are now employed in the global renewable energy industry.
One day, during her usual chat with her eight-year-old son about school, Tracey Cooney got an answer she didn't expect. "There was nobody to play with. Everyone was playing in their own little groups," he confided. She was surprised because he was usually outgoing and confident. Cooney felt a little upset, but remembered something she had seen on social media and wondered if it could help children in his situation. It's called a Buddy Bench. The idea is simple - if a child feels lonely, they can go to the bench as a signal that they need someone to play with. Another child will see them, go and talk to them and include them in their games. So Cooney asked other parents and the head teacher at Castlemartyr National School in Cork, Ireland, whether they would be interested in getting one - their answer was, "Yes." "We use the bench as a reminder for children of things like communication, mutual support and opening up about feelings," says Judith Ashton, a psychotherapist and co-founder of ... Buddy Bench Ireland. Apart from reducing social isolation and improving mental wellbeing, the hope is that the benches can tackle another problem: bullying. But do children actually use the bench? "They don't see it as stigmatised," says Sinead McGilloway ... who led a study of 117 pupils at three schools which have benches. Forty per cent of the children she questioned said they had used the bench, and 90% said if they saw someone else sitting on it they would talk to them.
We all know how good being in nature can make us feel. In Japan, we practice something called forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku. Shinrin in Japanese means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses. This is not exercise, or hiking, or jogging. It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world. Numerous studies I’ve conducted have shown that shinrin-yoku has real health benefits. So how does one go about forest bathing? First, find a spot. Make sure you have left your phone and camera behind. You are going to be walking aimlessly and slowly. You don’t need any devices. Let your body be your guide. Listen to where it wants to take you. The key to unlocking the power of the forest is in the five senses. Let nature enter through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands and feet. Listen to the birds singing and the breeze rustling in the leaves of the trees. Look at the different greens of the trees and the sunlight filtering through the branches. Smell the fragrance of the forest. Taste the freshness of the air as you take deep breaths. You can forest-bathe anywhere in the world – wherever there are trees ... in rain, sunshine or snow. You don’t even need a forest. Once you have learned how to do it, you can do shinrin-yoku anywhere – in a nearby park or in your garden.
Note: The above is excerpted from the book "Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness" by Dr. Qing Li. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Each year, beginning in the fall, a group of third-year architecture students from Auburn University take up residence in a small rural Alabama town to begin building a house. In the winter, when a new semester begins, they are replaced at the Newbern, Alabama, project site by another cohort of 16 students who finish up the job and prepare the house for its new occupants. The 20K Home Project began 13 years ago as a challenge to architecture students at Auburn to build a $20,000 house, with $12,000 in material and $8,000 for labor. The idea was to create “the perfect house” for needy families in rural areas where dwellings are often substandard and where affordable building can be a logistical challenge. To date, the student-led project has designed and built homes for nearly 30 households as part of Auburn’s Rural Studio, an off-campus, hands-on architecture program that has also constructed community centers, a library and other projects around Hale County, where Newbern is located. Created in 1993, Rural Studio partners with local nonprofits and uses cash and in-kind donations to cover the cost of the homes. It then makes a gift of the finished houses to low-income Newbern residents. Over the years, Rural Studio has developed design criteria for the homes, which are typically one- or two-bedroom single-family dwellings. In Newbern, a community of just under 200 people in the west-central part of Alabama, the median price of a home is about $65,000.
[Otto] Baxter, 31, is part of an art collective called Culture Device — a group of approximately 12 performers that experiment with contemporary dance and theater, pushing the boundaries of the cultural arena by changing perceptions of what it means to be an artist today. This is because of the sheer talent radiating from the small troupe’s repertoire, one that has tackled the likes of haute couture photography and stage classics such as "Waiting for Godot," but also on account that all the performers share the genetic condition Down syndrome. “The starting point is the art,” Daniel Vais, Culture Device’s creative director and choreographer, told NBC News. “Before Down’s syndrome, before extra chromosome, before disability, before anything.” Culture Device has slowly built up a reputation for its high-quality work in a sector not known for its inclusivity. A 2018 report by Arts Council England, for instance, found that most art forms and institutions generally had less than 5 percent of disabled persons working in them. “I didn’t plan to work with artists with Down’s syndrome,” said Vais. “It found me.” While considered a disability that has varying levels of severity, Vais dismisses what he calls a bias-ridden label, preferring to uphold the notion that individuals with Down syndrome have a mindset akin to what’s needed for outstanding artistic creation. “I use improvisation in all of my choreography,” he said, “and artists with Down syndrome are the masters of improvisation.”
On Sunday night, Ali Stroker became the first person who uses a wheelchair to win a Tony Award. “This award is for every kid who is watching tonight who has a disability, who has a limitation or a challenge, who has been waiting to see themselves represented in this arena — you are,” Ms. Stroker said while accepting her statuette for her role as Ado Annie in the Broadway revival of the musical “Oklahoma!.” Ms. Stroker, a 31-year-old New Jersey native who lost the use of her legs in a car accident when she was 2 years old, also thanked her parents “for teaching me to use my gifts to help people.” Ms. Stroker accepted the award, for best featured actress, shortly after dazzling the audience with her saucy performance of the “Oklahoma!” song “I Cain’t Say No.” “I find it to be fascinating that often people don’t think I can dance,” she said. “Who says that dance isn’t turning on wheels? Who says dancing isn’t throwing your arms up in the air and grabbing someone else’s arms to be propelled across the stage?” She also spoke about what it is like to aspire to succeed in an industry where people with disabilities are not represented. “I’m very aware that when I was a little girl I wasn’t seeing anybody like me, and on days when I’m exhausted or discouraged about something, that lights a fire,” she said. “I hope that for young people in chairs who feel that this is too hard, that they see that being in a chair is like getting a secret key to an unknown door — that they ... are reassured that anything is possible.”
Costa Rica, population 5 million, wants to wean itself from fossil fuels by 2050, and the chief evangelist of the idea is a 38-year-old urban planner named Claudia Dobles who also happens to be the first lady. Every country will have to aspire to something similar, scientists say, if the world is to avert the most dire consequences of global warming. And while Costa Rica’s carbon footprint is tiny compared to other countries, Ms. Dobles has a higher goal in mind: Getting rid of fossil fuels would show the world that a small country can be a leader on an awesome problem and improve the health and well-being of its citizens in the bargain. Costa Rica’s green bid, though fraught with challenges, has a head start. Electricity comes largely from renewable sources already — chiefly hydropower, but also wind, solar and geothermal energy. The country has doubled its forest cover in the last 30 years, after decades of deforestation. Now, if its decarbonization strategy succeeds, it could provide a road map to others, especially developing countries. For Ms. Dobles, the top priority is fixing transportation. It is the largest single source of Costa Rica’s greenhouse gas emissions. The National Decarbonization Plan, as it’s called, envisions electric passenger and freight trains in service by 2022. Under the plan, nearly a third of all buses would be electric by 2035, dozens of charging stations would be built, and nearly all cars and buses on the roads would be electric by 2050.
Increasingly, scientists are finding that having a sense of purpose, whatever yours may be, is key to well-being. Now, a study published on May 24 in JAMA Current Open adds to the growing body of knowledge on the link between health and a driving force, finding that purposefulness is tied to longer lives. Researchers ... analyzed data from nearly 7,000 individuals over 50 years old and concluded that “stronger purpose in life was associated with decreased mortality.” They believe that “purposeful living may have health benefits.” The new analysis found that those whose psychological questionnaires reflected a lack of purpose were more likely to die than those who had “a self-organizing life aim that stimulates goals.” In fact, people without a purpose were more than twice as likely to die than those with an aim and goals. Purpose proved to be more indicative of longevity than gender, race, or education levels, and more important for decreasing risk of death than drinking, smoking, or exercising regularly. Notably, the research indicates that any purpose is better than none, as the reason people felt purposeful didn’t figure into the analysis. So it doesn’t seem to matter what it is that drives an individual, whether it’s a passion for growing peonies, say, or wanting to see their children develop, or loving the work they do. The important thing is simply having something that makes them excited about life and drives them. But those who feel no sense of purpose now shouldn’t despair because that drive can be cultivated.
Note: Read an excellent, short essay on how to find and develop your life purpose. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Imagine that, when you were 12 years old, your family moved to the other side of the country. In your new school, you were bullied for the first time. When you reflect upon this period of your life today, do you see this as just one of many episodes in which things were going great, and then turned sour? Or do you see it as another example of a tough experience that had a happy ending? It may not seem as if the way you tell this story, even just to yourself, would shape who you are. But it turns out that how you interpret your life, and tell its story, has profound effects on what kind of person you become. If you’re the kind of person who would remember the positives that came out of that (hypothetical) bullying episode at your new school, it’s also more likely that you enjoy a greater sense of wellbeing and satisfaction in life. Moreover, this raises the tantalising possibility that changing your self-authoring style and focus could be beneficial – indeed, helping people to re-interpret their personal stories in a more constructive light is the basis of what’s known as “narrative therapy”. Modify your story as you tell it, and perhaps you can change the kind of person you are. As philosophers have long argued, there is a sense in which we construct our own realities. Usually this liberating perspective is applied by psychotherapists to help people deal with specific fears and anxieties. Life story research suggests a similar principle may be applicable at a grander level, in the very way that we author our own lives, therefore shaping who we are.
Note: Check out a highly inspiring online lesson which beautifully shows that what happens to you is not nearly as important as how you interpret what happens.
Pope Francis on Sunday asked forgiveness in the name of the Catholic Church for the mistreatment of the Roma people. Francis made the comment during a meeting with Roma people at the last event of his three day trip to Romania, saying his heart was made “heavy” by the meeting. “It is weighed down by the many experiences of discrimination, segregation and mistreatment experienced by your communities. History tells us that Christians too, including Catholics, are not strangers to such evil,” he said. With an estimated population of 10-12 million, approximately six million of whom live in the European Union, Roma people are the biggest ethnic minority in Europe and rights groups say they are often the victims of prejudice and social exclusion. A Roma youth, Razaila Vasile Dorin, told reporters: “It’s an honor that a person like the pope comes to our community. We are proud. It’s important that the pope is asking forgiveness. There is racism in every country. When we go out everyone looks at us and we don’t like that. I am proud to be a gypsy.” Earlier on Sunday, the pope said a Mass for some 100,000 people during which he beatified seven Communist-era bishops of the Eastern Rite Catholic Church who died in prison or as a result of their harsh treatment during Romania’s communist era. “(The bishops) endured suffering and gave their lives to oppose an illiberal ideological system that oppressed the fundamental rights of the human person,” Francis said.
The 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, guaranteeing American women the right to vote, celebrates a big birthday on Tuesday, as it was passed by both chambers of Congress 100 years ago on June 4, 1919. According to the National Archives, the House of Representatives first passed the amendment on May 21, 1919, and two weeks later, on June 4, the Senate followed with a vote of 56 to 25. The next year, following approval by three-fourths of state legislatures, the amendment was ratified into the Constitution. The opening of the Amendment's text reads, "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." Since the 19th Amendment's passage, women have helped inaugurate a new era of American politics. In fact, many historians can point a clear line from the passage of the 19th amendment to the passage of Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s and the current movements seeking to offer greater federal protections for gay and transgender Americans. The 19th Amendment emerged out of the Progressive Era in American politics, a period of increased social activism and economic reform during the first two decades of the 20th century. Suffragists like Jeannette Rankin, the first female member of the House of Representatives, brought greater attention to the rights of women. Certain states like California, Washington and Arizona passed their own legislation granting women either full or partial suffrage in the early 1910s. Wyoming was the first to do so in 1869, when it was still a territory.
It’s being called the next big move by a New Zealand government seen by progressives around the world as a beacon in increasingly populist times: a national budget whose spending is dictated by what best encourages the “well-being” of citizens. That means that as the center-left government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sets its priorities in the budget that will be unveiled on May 30, it is moving away from more traditional bottom-line measures like productivity and economic growth and instead focusing on goals like community and cultural connection and equity in well-being across generations. “This budget is a game-changing event,” said Richard Layard, a professor at the London School of Economics. As a major example of what that new framework will produce, Ms. Ardern unveiled on Sunday the biggest spending proposal to date in her coming budget: more than $200 million to bolster services for victims of domestic and sexual violence. It is “the biggest single investment ever” by a New Zealand government on the issue, Ms. Ardern said at an event showcasing the initiative, and will tackle one of the nation’s “most disturbing, most shameful” problems. Under New Zealand’s revised policy, all new spending must advance one of five government priorities: improving mental health, reducing child poverty, addressing the inequalities faced by indigenous Maori and Pacific islands people, thriving in a digital age, and transitioning to a low-emission, sustainable economy.
The Environmental Protection Agency is pulling from the market a dozen products containing pesticides known to be toxic to a linchpin of the U.S. food system — the honeybee. The agency announced Monday it has canceled the registrations of 12 pest-killing products with compounds belonging to a class of chemicals known as neonicotinoids, as part of a legal settlement. For years, beekeepers and wildlife conversationalists alike have voiced concern that the widespread use of neonics, as the chemicals are commonly called, is imperiling wild and domesticated bees crucial to pollinating commercial fruit, nut and vegetable crops. The decision follows five years of litigation in which the beekeepers and environmentalists pressed the agency to mount a response to the use of neonics as regulators in Europe and Canada have taken steps toward banning the chemicals. Finally, at the end of 2018, three agribusinesses - Bayer, Syngenta and Valent - agreed to let the EPA pull from shelves the 12 pesticide products used by growers ranging from large-scale agricultural businesses to home gardeners. The legal settlement also compels the EPA to analyze the impacts of the entire neonic class on endangered species. Rebecca Riley, legal director of the nature program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that the agency has failed often in the past to adequately consider the potential impact of its pesticide approvals on endangered animals — something every federal agency is supposed to do.
Eman El-Husseini and Jess Salomon have a few people to thank for their marriage, including a drunk Italian guy at a comedy club and Saddam Hussein. Salomon is a Jew from Canada, El-Husseini from a Palestinian family that fled Kuwait in 1991, after the Iraqi invasion. Not many two-person comedy acts can credibly say they are a lesbian Palestinian-Jewish married couple. “It’s the only conflict you can bring up where everyone knows the reference,” Salomon said. “Even if you’re in the middle of nowhere America, if I say I’m Jewish and my wife is Palestinian, people are like ‘Ooooh.’” The couple took different paths to comedy and have different styles: El-Husseini is louder, Salomon drier. But they are parlaying their marriage into a joint career. They have appeared together several times and are collaborating on a webcomic about their relationship. In one cartoon, El-Husseini encounters Christian missionaries and scares them away just by describing herself: “I’m Muslim ... and gay ... and my wife is Jewish,” she says. “Have a nice day,” the missionaries respond. Stand-up was a natural fit for El-Husseini, who lived in Canada from 1991 until 2015. She was never interested in school, and couldn’t sing or dance, but could tell jokes. She sees comedy as a great way to give Palestinian and Muslim women more representation. Salomon began her career as a lawyer at the Canadian Justice Ministry. She decided to take off a couple years and return to Montreal for a shot at stand-up. That was nearly a decade ago.
As the clock ticks for the world’s coral reefs, Belize offers a compelling example both of how a grassroots environmental movement can spur governments to enact tougher environmental laws and regulations and how, when properly applied, restorative processes can help coral recover from even the most severe damage. In Belize, reefs were being rapidly degraded by both changing environmental factors and human development. The devastation that Ms. Carne witnessed sparked an idea. What if she could help the reef recover by reseeding and replanting coral beds the same way landscapers replenish flower beds? She eventually founded Fragments of Hope to ... develop and maintain coral nurseries. These nurseries are in situ marine laboratories containing submerged grids of rebar (called tables) as well as rope lines that foster young coral until they are big and healthy enough to be transplanted onto coral reefs in need of restoration or replenishment. By 2012 environmental organizations had helped mount a public referendum in which 96% of voters supported the restoration and protection of reef systems. The government [developed] a plan to tighten regulations, preserve mangrove habitats, and enact more oversight of reef systems. In 2015 Belize’s government began to implement a long-term conservation plan, and in 2017 the government took the step, virtually unprecedented around the world, of putting a moratorium on all oil exploration.
Being able to drink the waters of the ocean could solve countless problems across the globe. The only problem? Desalination has a dark side known as brine, an environmentally harmful byproduct. A new approach from Columbia University, however, could radically change the limits of desalination. They call it Temperature Swing Solvent Extraction (TSSE). TSSE can desalinate extremely salty brine up to seven times as salty as the ocean. For comparison, the current methods can only handle brine twice as salty. The TSSE solvent isn't dependent on the evaporation of water, meaning it doesn't need high temperatures to work. It can be activated by low-grade heat (less than 70 degrees celsius) that is easy to attain, sometimes to the point of it being natural. In a study, TSSE removed up to 98.4 percent of the salt in brine. “We think TSSE will be transformational for the water industry. It can displace the prevailing practice of costly distillation for desalination of high-salinity brines and tackle higher salinities that RO cannot handle,” [said Ngai Yin Yip, assistant professor of earth and environmental engineering at Columbia]. “This will radically improve the sustainability in the treatment of produced water, inland desalination concentrate, landfill leachate, and other hypersaline streams of emerging importance. We can eliminate the pollution problems from these brines and create cleaner, more useable water for our planet.”
Harriet Nabukwasi is saving up. So far, she’s saved up enough to pay surveyors 100,000 Uganda shillings (Ł21) “to continue the process of registering my land”, she says. “Now, I even pay school fees for my children. I am happy now.” Nabukwasi is able to save for her goal because of her work with Solar Sister, a not-for-profit social enterprise that has created a network of female entrepreneurs. The organisation recruits women (and some men) in the most impoverished and remote areas of Uganda to sell affordable solar lamps, mobile phone chargers and fuel-efficient stoves. As well as earning money, Nabukwasi now lights her house with a solar lamp, cooks on energy saving stoves, charges her mobile phone from home, and her children no longer have to rush to finish their homework before dusk. “Solar Sister has been a game changer,” she says. At least 877 Solar Sister entrepreneurs now work in Uganda, more than three-quarters of whom are female. The organisation has attracted more than 2,000 entrepreneurs in Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria since 2010. In Uganda, only 20% of the population has access to electricity while more than 50% of rural households rely on open kerosene lamps. But such lanterns are fire hazards, emit toxic fumes and strain family budgets. An entrepreneur needs initial capital of at least 200,000 shillings (Ł42) to become a Solar Sister. “We want [the entrepreneurs] to take this as their business,” says [Solar Sister Uganda country manager Clare] Achola.
An Indian woman coming of age in 1960 would have had, typically, six children, according to United Nations data. Today, Indian women have just over two children on average. It’s a shift with profound implications, and one that doesn’t fit most people’s expectations. The U.N. Population Division predicts that 11.2 billion people will burden the Earth at the end of the century. If it happens, it would trigger an overpopulation crisis. But a growing number of demographers and other authorities are beginning to doubt those predictions. They believe the future will be defined not by a population bomb, but by a population bust. To research the planet’s population future, we talked about family size with people on six continents — academics and statisticians and government officials, but also young women and men who agreed to sit down for a chat about their futures. In addition, Ipsos Public Affairs polled people in 26 countries — developed and developing — asking how many children they wanted. What we discovered is that almost everywhere women and men want about two children on average, a birth rate that will stabilize global population and may mean it will drop, rather than explode. Rapid urbanization appears to be what’s driving the trend. Fifty-five percent of the people on the globe now live in cities. As people in developing companies leave the countryside, women gain access to media, to education, to information from other urbanized women, and they choose to have small families.
Note: Explore an abundance of solid evidence suggesting world population will be declining by the end of the decade. Read a BBC News article titled "'Remarkable' decline in fertility rates" for more on this emerging trend. For more, see this summary.
Ashley Jost and her friends had just made a pledge to read more books. The 27-year-old bought the book, "Girl, Stop Apologizing," and began reading it when she got home. There was a surprise waiting for her inside. Five dollars fell out on the floor. She knew the cash wasn't hers because she doesn't carry any, she said. When the college administrator started thumbing through the pages, she found a neon pink Post-it note stuck inside with a handwritten message. The note read: "I was having a tough day. I thought maybe I could brighten someone else's with this little surprise. Go buy a coffee, a donut or a face mask. Practice some self-care today. Remember that you are loved. You are amazing. You are strong. Love, Lisa." Jost was deeply moved. She felt obligated to share the note. So she took a picture and posted it on her Twitter account. "It sort of caught fire," she said. A few of her friends shared it - and the local paper picked it up. Even the book's author, Rachel Hollis, encouraged her followers to pay it forward in their own ways. Jost's tweet has been liked more than 3,000 times and shared around the world after the BBC got wind of the story. People are pledging their own random acts of kindness -- including her. Once a day for a week, Jost hid surprise love notes and "lots of Starbucks gift cards" totaling five dollars a day in coffee shops, restaurants and libraries. Jost says she plans to do at least one kind thing every week from now on.
Jason Cohen has had a lot of practice trying to be as unobtrusive and emotionally impervious as possible during sensitive conversations and events in strangers’ lives. “I’d be lying if I told you that we weren’t huddled behind the monitors with tears in our eyes during this project,” Cohen, 47, said on a recent morning at his office in Berkeley’s Saul Zaentz Media Center. Cohen was discussing his gripping new CNN limited series, “The Redemption Project with Van Jones.” Filmed over the last 18 months in towns and prisons in California and four other states, the [show takes] viewers inside the powerful, yet little understood, restorative justice process. Each week, victims of a life-altering crime (or their surviving family members) are connected in person with their offender for a bracingly honest conversation, in the hope of taking steps toward healing on both sides. “There was a box of Kleenex at our video village where we watch, and Van had one as well,” Cohen said. He’s been friends with Jones - the superstar CNN commentator, former Obama adviser and criminal-justice-reform advocate - for almost 20 years. Jones has spent 25 years working in criminal justice and is well versed in the ways restorative justice techniques promote real accountability. Jones says what’s surprised him most working on “Redemption Project” is “how simple the questions asked by survivors are. We spend $80 billion a year on the incarceration industry and sometimes ... our system still hasn’t given people basic answers. There’s still so much healing to do.
Note: Don't miss this most profound series, which shows what true rehabilitation can look like. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
The “holy grail” of plastic – a material that can be repeatedly recycled without any loss of quality – has been created by scientists. Placed in an acid bath, it can be fully broken down into its component parts. Like lego, these monomers can then be reassembled into different shapes, colours and textures, according to the scientists at California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who created it. Currently, less than a third of recyclable plastic is re-purposed to create new materials, leaving the majority of it to end up in landfill or the ocean. The new material called poly (diketoenamine) or PDK can, unlike normal plastics, have its monomers separated by dunking the material in a highly acidic solution. The acid breaks the bonds between monomers and separates them from additives that give the plastic its distinctive look and feel. These monomers can be recovered for reuse for as long as possible, or “upcycled” to make another product. “We’re interested in the chemistry that redirects plastic lifecycles from linear to circular. We see an opportunity to make a difference for where there are no recycling options,” said Brett Helms, a staff scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry. Dr Helms added: “With PDKs, the immutable bonds of conventional plastics are replaced with reversible bonds that allow the plastic to be recycled more effectively.” The research team believe their recyclable plastic could be an alternative to non-recyclable plastics in use today.
Dogs have such exquisitely sensitive noses that they can detect bombs, drugs, citrus and other contraband in luggage or pockets. Is it possible that they can sniff out even malaria? And when might that be useful? A small pilot study has shown that dogs can accurately identify socks worn overnight by children infected with malaria parasites — even when the children had cases so mild that they were not feverish. In itself, such canine prowess is not surprising. Since 2004, dogs have shown that they can detect bladder cancer in urine samples, lung cancer in breath samples and ovarian cancer in blood samples. Trained dogs now warn owners with diabetes when their blood sugar has dropped dangerously low and owners with epilepsy when they are on the verge of a seizure. Other dogs are being taught to detect Parkinson’s disease years before symptoms appear. The new study ... does not mean that dogs will replace laboratories. But for sorting through crowds, malaria-sniffing dogs could potentially be very useful. Some countries and regions that have eliminated the disease share heavily trafficked borders with others that have not. For example, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the island of Zanzibar have no cases but get streams of visitors from Mozambique, India and mainland Tanzania. And when a region is close to eliminating malaria, dogs could sweep through villages, nosing out silent carriers — people who are not ill but have parasites in their blood that mosquitoes could pass on to others.
Israel may be known as the Start-up Nation, famed for its tech start-ups that are supported by one of the largest venture-capital industries per capita in the world. But Israeli-Palestinian relations have been relentlessly grim. Initiatives like Tech2Peace are trying to bridge divides between the two communities. The student and volunteer-led programme brings Israeli and Palestinian youths together to learn tech skills - 3D and graphic design, website creation, app development - and to engage in conflict resolution dialogue. [Participant Zada] Haj says she had "zero knowledge" of animation or 3D modelling before, but by the end of the session she was able to turn her ideas into creation and develop skills that would help her get a job. Palestinian entrepreneur Adnan Awni Jaber also says Tech2Peace was the gateway for him to make Jewish friends in Israel. "I believe that technology can break walls between any two sides of the conflict because it's borderless," he tells the BBC. When [Tomer Cohen] and his Israeli and Palestinian co-founders were thinking of ways they could foster long-term partnerships between youngsters, they came up with the idea of giving them life skills that could enable them to continue working together. "We thought, OK, let's do this with technology and programming," says Mr Cohen. "When young people come to our seminar, they're not thinking, 'OK, you're Palestinian and I'm Israeli,' they're thinking, 'I want to improve my life and you want to, as well. We have something in common'."
In Canada, more than 500 doctors and residents, as well as over 150 medical students, have signed a public letter protesting their own pay raises. "We, Quebec doctors who believe in a strong public system, oppose the recent salary increases negotiated by our medical federations," the letter says. The group say they are offended that they would receive raises when nurses and patients are struggling. "These increases are all the more shocking because our nurses, clerks and other professionals face very difficult working conditions, while our patients live with the lack of access to required services because of the drastic cuts in recent years and the centralization of power in the Ministry of Health," reads the letter. Canada has a public health system which provides “universal coverage for medically necessary health care services provided on the basis of need, rather than the ability to pay,” the government’s website says. The 213 general practitioners, 184 specialists, 149 resident medical doctors and 162 medical students want the money used for their raises to be returned to the system instead. "We believe that there is a way to redistribute the resources of the Quebec health system to promote the health of the population and meet the needs of patients without pushing workers to the end," the letter says. "We, Quebec doctors, are asking that the salary increases granted to physicians be canceled and that the resources of the system be better distributed for the good of the health care workers and to provide health services."
Caged for a murder he didn't commit, Valentino Dixon sought solace in art. He loved to draw as a child, and took up sketching again to escape the harsh realities of prison after being handed 39 years to life for the fatal shooting of a man in downtown Buffalo in 1991. Art became Dixon's salvation, and he drew for up to 10 hours a day. His reputation as an artist led the warden at the tough Attica Correctional Facility ... to ask him to draw Augusta National's famous 12th hole from a picture in Golf Digest. In 2012, he sent some of his art work to Golf Digest's editorial director Max Adler. Along with the pictures, he included details of his case. Adler was intrigued and dug deeper. Golf Channel got involved, too. Meanwhile, several appeals against his conviction had failed. But then in January 2018 three undergraduate students and their professors from Georgetown University thoroughly researched Dixon's case as part of their studies. The students re-interviewed witnesses and officials and unearthed new evidence. Another man, LaMarr Scott - already serving a life sentence for his part in an armed robbery in 1993 - confessed again to shooting Jackson, just as he had on the night it happened. Through the work of Adler, the students, his daughter Valentina ... and attorney Donald Thompson, paid for by Dixon's wife Louise - whom he married while in prison - the fresh evidence was presented to the new district attorney of Erie County, John Flynn. Dixon was exonerated on September 19, 2018.
Two pedals, one leg - the bicycle and Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah weren’t exactly made for each other. He got on one anyway, and it changed his life. Changed other people’s lives, too. Now the San Diegan wants to do it all again. Yeboah, 38, was born in Ghana without a shinbone in his right leg. The deformity set him up for life as an outcast. His mother believed he could be more than that. Her dream became his dream. After she died, he decided to honor her hopes for him by cycling one-legged across Ghana. He wanted to raise awareness for the plight of the disabled while setting an example for what was possible. He rode a mountain bike almost 400 miles in 10 days, clad in a T-shirt with “The Pozo” - disabled person - printed on the front. “Pozo! Pozo!” people yelled as he rode by, but they weren’t making fun of him. They were cheering. By the time he was done, he’d gone from curiosity to national hero. Government officials, their eyes opened, eventually passed legislation giving the disabled greater rights. In 2005, he was the subject of a documentary, “Emmanuel’s Gift,” narrated by Oprah Winfrey. And then the public’s attention moved on, as it always does, to other dreams, to other dreamers. Except Yeboah isn’t finished with his. He wants to build a school in Ghana for the disabled. So he’s formed a nonprofit organization, Emmanuel’s Dream. But he also knows what got him noticed in the first place. He’s getting back on the bike. The plan is to ride from San Diego to Oregon, 1,082 miles in 21 days.
Note: Watch a great documentary on this most inspiring man. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring disabled persons news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
The Library of Congress has unveiled its new National Screening Room, a free collection of digitized historical films, commercials, newsreels and other clips. According to the library, most of the movies are in the public domain and are available for downloading; others are only available to stream. The National Screening Room is something of a time capsule: The videos cover the period from 1890 through 1999, capturing a broad range of American life. Notable films include home movies by the songwriters George and Ira Gershwin; issues of the “All-American News,” a newsreel intended for black audiences in the mid-20th century; and a selection of instructional films about mental health from the 1950s. New Yorkers might get a kick out of a short silent film shot in 1905 that shows a new subway chugging along from 14th Street to 42nd Street, months after the underground line had opened. And before the Stonewall riots shook Manhattan, protesters in Philadelphia were filmed during “Reminder Day Picket,” one of the earliest Gay Pride demonstrations. The project is meant to “enrich education, scholarship and lifelong learning,” said Mike Mashon, a curator who leads the library’s moving image section. The library says it has the largest archive of moving images in the world, amounting to more than 1.6 million materials. Nearly 300 videos are online, and new content will be added to the website on a monthly basis.
The world looks a little brighter from the front porch of your own home. It's a sight more than 200 formerly homeless people are waking up to each morning at the Community First! Village in Austin, Texas. And they can take their time getting used to it; residents are invited to stay for the rest of their lives. Community First! Village is built and run by the nonprofit Mobile Loaves & Fishes to lift the most chronically homeless off the streets and into a place they can call home. They live in about 100 RVs and 125 micro homes arranged on streets with names like "Peaceful Path" and "Goodness Way." Heavy machinery has broken ground on the neighboring 24 acres to add another 310 housing units. When complete, Mobile Loaves and Fishes believes it will be able to provide permanent homes for approximately 40% of the chronically homeless in Austin. The 51-acre planned village was designed to create a sense of community. The homes are "micro" on purpose, providing just enough comfort and privacy but small enough to encourage the owners to step outside. There they find front porches dotted along stone-paved paths that lead to community kitchens, laundry and wash rooms, meeting halls, playgrounds, a dog park, a barber shop, an outdoor movie theater, a medical facility and a community market. New residents might initially keep to themselves, but it is hard to resist the smell of Texas barbecue on the grill, or the sight of fresh vegetables grown on site and being sliced for the community potluck dinner.
All of us have had the experience of wandering through a lush garden or a timeless desert, walking by a river or an ocean, or climbing a mountain and finding ourselves simultaneously calmed and reinvigorated. The importance of these physiological states on individual and community health is fundamental and wide-ranging. In 40 years of medical practice, I have found only two types of non-pharmaceutical “therapy” to be vitally important for patients with chronic neurological diseases: music and gardens. I cannot say exactly how nature exerts its calming and organizing effects on our brains, but I have seen in my patients the restorative and healing powers of nature and gardens, even for those who are deeply disabled neurologically. In many cases, gardens and nature are more powerful than any medication. My friend Lowell has moderately severe Tourette’s syndrome. In his usual busy, city environment, he has hundreds of tics and verbal ejaculations each day - grunting, jumping, touching things compulsively. I was therefore amazed one day when we were hiking in a desert to realize that his tics had completely disappeared. The remoteness and uncrowdedness of the scene, combined with some ineffable calming effect of nature, served to defuse his ticcing, to “normalize” his neurological state. The effects of nature’s qualities on health are not only spiritual and emotional but physical and neurological. I have no doubt that they reflect deep changes in the brain’s physiology, and perhaps even its structure.
Note: The above is excerpted from “Everything in Its Place,” a posthumous collection of writings by Dr. Oliver Sacks. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
You have to keep your eyes peeled for the bus at the station in Shenzhen’s Futian central business district these days. The diesel behemoths that once signalled their arrival with a piercing hiss, a rattle of engine and a plume of fumes are no more, replaced with the world’s first and largest 100% electric bus fleet. Shenzhen now has 16,000 electric buses in total and is noticeably quieter for it. “We find that the buses are so quiet that people might not hear them coming,” says Joseph Ma, deputy general manager at Shenzhen Bus Group, the largest of the three main bus companies in the city. The benefits from the switch from diesel buses to electric are not confined to less noise pollution: this fast-growing megacity of 12 million... is also expected to achieve an estimated reduction in CO2 emissions of 48% and cuts in pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, non-methane hydrocarbons and particulate matter. Shenzhen Bus Group estimates it has been able to conserve 160,000 tonnes of coal per year and reduce annual CO2 emissions by 440,000 tonnes. Its fuel bill has halved. China’s drive to reduce the choking smog that envelops many of its major cities has propelled a huge investment in electric transport. Although it remains expensive for cities to introduce electric buses – one bus costs around 1.8 million yuan (Ł208,000) – Shenzhen was able to go all-electric thanks to generous subsidies from both central and local government. Typically, more than half of the cost of the bus is subsidised by government,” says Ma.
The Music Memory Box was created as a means of using photographs, objects, and music to help people with dementia to remember their past. The box is programmed to play certain songs that are associated with the various possessions and photos. When one of the objects is placed in the center of the box, a sensor triggers box’s speakers so that it plays the song that corresponds with the object. 28-year-old designer Chloe Meineck says that her great-grandmother’s experience with dementia served as the inspiration for the box. Whenever Meineck when to visit the senior at her nursing home, the woman always failed to recognize her. Upon hearing certain songs, however, Meineck’s great-grandmother would suddenly begin to recall heartfelt stories from her past. 74-year-old Monica Garrity [said] she and her husband Steve, who has dementia, began using the box in 2017 as a means of helping him to remember events from their marriage – and they’ve been regularly using the box ever since. “We have been able to connect again, it is wonderful,” says Monica. “He doesn’t usually communicate with me but when the music plays, he hums along and even holds out his hand to grab mine. It takes us back to when we got married.” In addition to receiving dozens of awards for her design, Meineck recently held a Kickstarter campaign in order to fund the manufacturing of the first batch of Music Memory Boxes. Within two weeks, she was able to raise the necessary funds.
Note: Don't miss a video of the Music Memory Box in action at the link above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
The turnoff to Norway’s newest prison was marked by a modest sign. There were no signs warning against picking up hitchhikers, no visible fences. Halden Fengsel ... is often called the world’s most humane maximum-security prison. To anyone familiar with the American correctional system, Halden seems alien. Its modern, cheerful and well-appointed facilities, the relative freedom of movement it offers, its quiet and peaceful atmosphere — these qualities are so out of sync with the forms of imprisonment found in the United States that you could be forgiven for doubting whether Halden is a prison at all. It is, of course, but it is also ... the physical expression of an entire national philosophy about the relative merits of punishment and forgiveness. The treatment of inmates at Halden is wholly focused on helping to prepare them for a life after they get out. Not only is there no death penalty in Norway; there are no life sentences. Norwegian Correctional Service ... works with other government agencies to secure a home, a job and access to a supportive social network for each inmate before release; Norway’s social safety net also provides health care, education and a pension to all citizens. If inmates are having problems with one another, an officer or prison chaplain brings them together for a mediation session that continues until they have agreed to maintain peace and have shaken hands. Even members of rival gangs agree not to fight inside.
Note: Watch a great, short video on this model prison.
When the U.N.’s 2019 World Happiness Report came out last month, Finland ranked on top for the second year in a row. Small Finland — about 75% the size of California with just 5.5 million people — consistently trounces the United States and other developed nations on ratings of life satisfaction, health, safety, governance, community and social progress. The underlying reason Finns are faring so well is because we have a different mindset about success — one that’s based on equity and community. In the United States, happiness and success are perceived as individual pursuits, indeed, even competitive ones. In Finland, success is a team sport. While Finland is by no means struggling financially, its GDP per capita is lower than those of its neighboring Nordic countries, and much lower than that of the U.S. The difference is, in the words of Meik Wiking of the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark, “the Finns are good at converting wealth into well-being.” The more equal a society is, the happier its citizens are. Finland is ranked among the most equal of all the 36 OECD countries. This ... helps support overall high levels of trust. Finns trust one another and, perhaps more impressively, they trust their government. And although Finns pay some of the highest taxes worldwide, there is a transparency to the Finnish system that many other countries lack. Every year the government makes public the tax data of all its citizens and corporations on what has come to be called National Envy Day.
Students in England already learn about mathematics, science and history, but hundreds of schools are preparing to expand the traditional curriculum with a new subject: mindfulness. In up to 370 English schools, students will start to practice mindfulness as part of a study to improve youth mental health. They will work with mental health experts to learn relaxation techniques, breathing exercises and other methods to “help them regulate their emotions,” the government said. The study, which will run until 2021, is one of the largest of its kind in the world. “As a society, we are much more open about our mental health than ever before, but the modern world has brought new pressures for children,” Damian Hinds, the British education secretary, said. “Children will start to be introduced gradually to issues around mental health, well-being and happiness right from the start of primary school,” he added. The initiative comes months after a survey commissioned by the National Health Service found that one in eight children in England between the ages of 5 and 19 suffered from at least one mental disorder at the time of their assessment in 2017. Dr. Jessica Deighton ... who is leading the government trials, said that the new initiative was intended to offer more than quick fixes. “There is a tendency to think that the solution is mental health intervention,” she said. “We will try to reduce the stigma against mental health problems, by making the school environment literate in mental health.”
One-third of the world's installed electricity generation capacity is from renewable sources, according to the latest industry statistics. The data compiled by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) shows that two-thirds of the power capacity added around the world in 2018 was from renewables. Wind and solar accounted for 84% of that total. 2018 was characterized by a spate of solar and wind pricing breakthroughs. Falling interest rates for investors, ongoing technology improvements and regulatory frameworks that encourage competition among would-be developers have all played a part. The geographical distribution of the new plants includes developing and developed economies but it is the former leading the way. The three fastest growing regions were Oceania, Asia and Africa. Asia also became the first terrawatt region, just, with IRENA’s figures putting installed renewable capacity at 1,024GW. More than two-thirds of that is in China. Offshore wind capacity has doubled since 2015 but only represented around 4.4GW of the 171GW of renewable power plant deployed in 2018. The concentration of offshore wind remains firmly in Europe (~80%). Solar was the runaway leader of the pack adding 94GW in 2018 to 49GW of wind, on- and offshore. Half of the world’s total installed capacity is currently hydropower but China was the only nation to make substantial hydro additions last year. Bioenergy [added] 6GW.
Toyota Motor Corp plans to offer royalty-free access to its hybrid-vehicle technology patents as early as this year, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. Toyota, which holds roughly 20,000 active patents in the field, is expected to make accessible most of the latest ones covering motors, power converters and batteries. Since pioneering the Prius, the world’s first mass-produced hybrid car, in 1997, Toyota has sold more than 12 million cars featuring the technology, which twins a conventional gasoline engine and electric motor, saving fuel by capturing energy during coasting and breaking and using it to power the motor. Hybrid vehicles account for around 3 percent of all vehicles sold globally, eclipsing the roughly 1 percent share of all-battery EVs. Toyota vehicles account for more than 80 percent of the hybrid vehicle market. Global automakers have pledged to electrify their vehicle offerings in the coming years amid tightening global emissions regulations, but many acknowledge that shifting to all-battery EVs will take time due to the high cost of the required batteries. Toyota has long held to its belief that its hybrids, whose fuel efficiency is roughly double that of gasoline cars, are a cost-effective alternative to all-battery EVs, due to their lower cost, lack of need for charging infrastructure, and because they operate more or less like gasoline cars.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi wants consumers to ask more questions. Satyarthi stars in the new documentary, "The Price of Free," in which he rescues child slaves in India who work in factories, some of which supply U.S. stores. He told CBS News, "For every product, consumers can ask this question to the brand or shopkeepers, 'How can you guarantee that they are truly made without child labor?' That can be the starting point ... When consumers star asking questions, then [stores] have to find answers." Satyarthi said consumers have the power to hold businesses accountable for their practices. "It would not be too difficult to write to president of a company and ask, 'How will you ensure that your products are made without child labor?'" he said. "This is their moral and legal responsibility to ensure that no child exploit or labor is engaged. Brands cannot just escape." Satyarthi began his work freeing child slaves in India in 1981 and says he has saved more than 85,000 children since then. He has expanded his work to reach children around the world who are touched by not just slavery, but also trafficking, sexual abuse and other types of violence. The children come from poor families who are told they will be paid and taken care of; instead, they become enslaved under poor working conditions. He said that beyond the rescues, his organizations make sure the children have the social and educational support they need through government services before they are released.
Note: Why have so few ever heard of this most amazing, courageous man who has risked his life countless times to rescue tens of thousands of children from slave labor? After surviving numerous beatings and the murder of two of his colleagues, Satyarthi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for creating a global network focused on fighting for the rights of over 100 million child workers worldwide and rescuing the many millions still held as slave labor in almost every country in the world. Don't miss the moving documentary on Sartyarthi and his work titled "The Price of Free."
Ryan Stevens sat on the edge of a concrete balustrade in Central Park after finishing three laps around the reservoir. She and her fellow runners [are] from Odyssey House, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. Ms. Stevens, who is 36 and lives in the Morris Park neighborhood of the Bronx, was prepping for Sunday’s New York City Marathon — her fourth, she said — as a member of a unique group of competitors: former drug users who turned to running as part of their recovery from opioid addiction. Ms. Stevens said she grew up in Rhode Island and became addicted to her mother’s prescription opioids at 22. That opened the door to ecstasy, cocaine and crystal meth. She completed an inpatient residential program at Odyssey House in June. Running, she said, has been central to her recovery. The 45 runners on the Odyssey House team who are planning to run New York’s 26.2-mile trek include 19 current clients. The rest are supporters and alumni. John Tavolacci, Odyssey House’s chief operating officer, said he has run 22 marathons. He started the running group in 2001 as a supplement to treatment, based on a strong belief that running can be effective in helping overcome addiction. He has watched the Odyssey House team build self-esteem among participants, create a cooperative environment, and fill time for runners that otherwise might have been spent on negative pursuits.
Exempting battery engines from taxes imposed on diesel and petrol cars has upended Norway’s auto market, elevating brands like Tesla and Nissan, with its Leaf model, while hurting sales of Toyota, Daimler and others. In 2018, Norway’s fully electric car sales rose to a record 31.2 percent market share from 20.8 percent in 2017, far ahead of any other nation, and buyers had to wait as producers struggled to keep up with demand. The sales figures consolidate Norway’s global lead in electric car sales per capita, part of an attempt by Western Europe’s biggest producer of oil and gas to transform to a greener economy. The International Energy Agency (IEA), which includes plug-in hybrids when calculating electric car sales, measured Norway’s share of such cars at 39 percent in 2017, far ahead of second-placed Iceland on 12 percent and Sweden on 6 percent. In China, the market share was 2.2 percent in 2017, and in the United States just 1.2 percent, IEA data show. While the numbers will vary from month to month, half of all cars sold in 2019 in Norway will probably be fully electric, the head of the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association (NEV) said. “We are pretty sure we are going to reach 50 percent market share in total this year. Maybe even pass it, which is pretty amazing,” NEV Secretary General Christina Bu told Reuters. Cars that rely solely on internal combustion engines with no hybrid electric unit had a market share of only 22.7 percent in March, the lowest on record.
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.
Note: It's interesting how little reporting this wonderful news has received in the press. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
A science teacher from rural Kenya who donates most of his salary to help poorer students has been crowned the world’s best teacher and awarded a $1m prize, beating 10,000 nominations from 179 countries. Peter Tabichi, 36, a maths and physics teacher at Keriko secondary school in Pwani Village, in a remote part of Kenya’s Rift Valley, has won the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2019. Tabichi, a member of the Franciscan religious order, received his prize at a ceremony in Dubai. Tabichi gives away 80% of his income to help the poorest students at the poorly-equipped and overcrowded school who could not otherwise not afford uniforms and books. More than 90% of his pupils are from poor families and almost a third are orphans or have only one parent. Despite only having one computer, a poor internet connection and a student-teacher ratio of 58:1, Tabichi started a “talent nurturing club” and expanded the school’s science club, helping pupils design research projects of such quality that many now qualify for national competitions. His students have taken part in international science competitions and won an award from the Royal Society of Chemistry after harnessing local plant life to generate electricity. Tabichi and four colleagues also give struggling pupils one-to-one tuition in maths and science, visiting students’ homes and meeting their families to identify the challenges they face. Enrollment at the school has doubled to 400 over three years. Girls’ achievement in particular has been boosted.
Traditional Inuit parenting is incredibly nurturing and tender. The culture views scolding - or even speaking to children in an angry voice - as inappropriate, says Lisa Ipeelie, a radio producer and mom who grew up with 12 siblings. "When they're little, it doesn't help to raise your voice," she says. Even if the child hits you or bites you, there's no raising your voice? "No," Ipeelie says with a giggle that seems to emphasize how silly my question is. "With little kids, you often think they're pushing your buttons, but that's not what's going on. They're upset about something, and you have to figure out what it is." Traditionally, the Inuit saw yelling at a small child as demeaning. It's as if the adult is having a tantrum; it's basically stooping to the level of the child. But if you don't scold or talk in an angry tone, how do you discipline? For thousands of years, the Inuit have relied on an ancient tool with an ingenious twist: "We use storytelling to discipline," [parenting teacher Goota] Jaw says. For example, how do you teach kids to stay away from the ocean, where they could easily drown? Instead of yelling, "Don't go near the water!" Jaw says Inuit parents take a pre-emptive approach and tell kids a special story about what's inside the water. "It's the sea monster," Jaw says, with a giant pouch on its back just for little kids. "If a child walks too close to the water, the monster will ... drag you down to the ocean and adopt you out to another family," Jaw says. "Then we don't need to yell at a child," Jaw says, "because she is already getting the message."
The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, which manages $1tn (Ł770bn) of Norway’s assets, is to dump investments in firms that explore for oil and gas, but will still hold stakes in firms such as BP and Shell that have renewable energy divisions. The Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), whose assets exceed those of rival sovereign wealth funds ... said it would phase out oil exploration from its “investment universe”. “The objective is to reduce the vulnerability of our common wealth to a permanent oil price decline,” said Norway’s finance minister, Siv Jensen. “Hence, it is more accurate to sell companies which explore and produce oil and gas, rather than selling a broadly diversified energy sector.” Greenpeace UK’s oil campaigner, Charlie Kronick, said: “This partial divestment from oil and gas [sends] a clear signal that companies betting on the expansion of their oil and gas businesses present an unacceptable risk, not only to the climate but also to investors. “While BP and Shell are excluded from the current divestment proposal, they must now recognise that if they continue to spend billions chasing new fossil fuels, they are doomed.” Tom Sanzillo, director of finance for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said: “These are very important statements from a big fund. They’re doing it because fossil fuel stocks are not producing the value that they have historically. He said GPFG’s investment strategy also “underscores that the fracking business model is unsustainable”.
Dick Burgess [was on] a trip in search of qi, or as it's sometimes spelled in the West, chi - the invisible life force that, according to traditional Chinese medicine, flows through our bodies and through the universe. According to this belief, a person can learn to control his own qi energy to promote his health and the health of others. Burgess [drove] to visit a man named Arn, a kung fu master. Burgess is a neurophysiologist at the University of Utah. He is also president of the Society for Integrated Health, a group ... interested in what is usually loosely referred to as "holistic medicine." A dozen or so members of the group journeyed to Vernal that day. We watched Arn bring some of us to our knees by pressing lightly on our hands. When we were ready to leave, he "poured his qi" from his hands to ours and some of the people in our group said it felt like a waterfall. Later, on the way back from Vernal, Burgess was happy to see we were as perplexed as he was. He talked about the experiment he had conducted a few years before. He had Arn come to his laboratory at the U., where Arn directed his qi at bacteria growing in test tubes. Those bacteria that received qi grew at a greater rate than those bacteria not in the path's of Arn's qi. More than 100 [studies] published in China in the past decade that seem to prove that external qi can produce measurable results, says Burgess. Others, for example, show that qi transmitted from 1,000 kilometers away can change a substance's rate of radioactive decay. But for qi to be believed by Western scientists, he says, it would help if Western scientists conducted their own experiments.
Manufacturers could be legally required to repair certain goods when they break down under new laws under consideration in Europe and in some US states. The measures are intended to reduce volumes of waste and push manufacturers to make dependable products that are easier to maintain. They would also have to offer replacement parts, and in some cases repair the goods when they go wrong. Proposals under consideration by the European Union will examine electronics including televisions. In America, California has become the 18th state to propose what has become known as the “right to repair” law, which would require electronics companies like Apple to make their devices easier for users to repair ... when they break or go wrong. The move comes amid a growing backlash against impervious products, some of which are glued together and which cannot be accessed. As a result, innumerable products end up on the scrapheap for want of a simple repair. The plans for European law, under the ecodesign and energy labelling directive, note the “world-wide demand for more efficient products to reduce energy and resource consumption”. The British government is supporting the plans. Environment Minister Therese Coffey told The Independent: “We want manufacturers and producers to make products easier to reuse and repair, to make them last longer. We will consider mandatory extended warranties and clearer product labelling if necessary to achieve this.”
A majority of U.S. asset managers are now practicing sustainable investing. In a new survey entitled Sustainable Signals: Growth and Opportunity in Asset Management, from the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing and Bloomberg, 75% of respondents reported that their firms have adopted sustainable investing, up from 65% in 2016. “The survey results demonstrate that sustainable investment strategies are now a strategic imperative,” said Matthew Slovik, Head of Global Sustainable Finance at Morgan Stanley. “It is clear that asset managers will continue to invest new resources and expand their product portfolios in the coming years.” Respondents cited several key drivers of success in sustainable investing, including increased investment stability, high client satisfaction, product popularity and possible high financial returns. Despite the recognition of the strategy as a business imperative, almost all asset managers highlighted the need for increased expertise, better data and impact reporting to drive future success in the space. The survey polled 300 respondents at U.S. asset management firms with at least $50 million in client assets. Nearly all (89%) respondents report their firms will devote more resources to sustainable investing in the next two years.
As people become more conscious about reducing their plastic consumption, Trader Joe's was facing mounting criticism for an "overuse of packaging." The retailer said it's been listening to customers' feedback on the issue, and in response, has stopped offering single-use plastic carryout bags in stores nationwide (already banned in all large stores in California). In addition to that, Trader Joe's officials said it has replaced plastic produce bags with biodegradable and compostable options, which we've noticed recently at San Francisco and Oakland stores. Officials added the retailer has also replaced Styrofoam trays that used to be used in produce packaging with compostable trays. Other changes Trader Joe's is phasing in include: Selling more produce as loose items, instead of bagged in plastic; Eliminating plastic sleeves on greeting cards and replacing them with a compostable material; Eliminating plastic wrappers for flower bouquets and replacing them with a renewable material. Since China drastically cut the amount of American recycling waste it was purchasing, there has been an added emphasis on the "reduce" part of "reduce, reuse, recycle" when it comes to plastic. Much of the world's plastic waste never ends up getting recycled, instead finding its way to landfills or the ocean. San Francisco's "Zero Waste" initiative leads the country in this regard — the city diverts more than 80 percent of its waste away from landfills.
Volunteers in India planted more than 66 million trees in just 12 hours in a record-breaking environmental drive. About 1.5 million people were involved in the huge plantation campaign, in which saplings were placed along the Narmada river in the state of Madhya Pradesh. India committed under the Paris Agreement to increasing its forests by five million hectares before 2030 to combat climate change. Last year volunteers in Uttar Pradesh state set a world record by planting more than 50 million trees in one day. Observers from Guinness World Records also monitored Sunday’s plantation and are expected to confirm in the coming weeks that the effort set a new high. The campaign was organised by the Madhya Pradesh government, with 24 distracts of the Narmada river basin chosen as planting sites to increase the saplings’ chances of survival. Volunteers planted more than 20 different species of trees. Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the state’s chief minister, described the efforts as a “historic day”. He said volunteers including children and the elderly had planted 66.3 million saplings between 7am and 7pm, adding in a tweet: “By planting trees we are not only serving Madhya Pradesh but the world at large.” India is the world’s third largest generator of carbon emissions. Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the Paris climate accord after the US withdrew from the deal.
Since 1980, [former engineer Kailash Satyarthi] has spent his life campaigning against child labor, ultimately winning the Nobel Peace Prize ... in 2014. Satyarthi launched the 100 Million campaign in late 2016. The initiative ... seeks to engage 100 million young people around the world to speak out for the world's more than 100 million child workers. The International Labor Organization charts the total of child laborers globally at 152 million, with 73 million of those in hazardous labor conditions. 10 million children are victims of abject slavery. The number of children working has fallen sharply in the last two decades, from as many as 246 million in the year 2000. With more global awareness and effort, it could fall further. Satyarthi's organization and Participant Media collaborated on a letter-writing campaign, in which ... people wrote letters to the top 100 US retailers asking them to take steps to ensure the products they sell are not connected with child labor. So far more than a million letters have been sent. "The world is capable to end child labor," Satyarthi said. "We have the technology. We have the resources. We have laws and international treaties. We have everything. The only thing is that we have to feel compassion for others. "My struggle is for the globalization of compassion." Satyarthi's ambitions have long been focused on global policy, but the root of it all still remains back home in India. The original organization he founded [has] directly rescued more than 88,000 children.
Note: Why have so few ever heard of this most amazing, courageous man who has risked his life countless times to rescue tens of thousands of children from slave labor? After surviving numerous beatings and the murder of two of his colleagues, Satyarthi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for creating a global network focused on fighting for the rights of over 100 million child workers worldwide and rescuing the many millions still held as slave labor in almost every country in the world. Don't miss the moving documentary on Satyarthi and his work titled "The Price of Free."
One woman established a new law to prevent child marriage, and is enforcing it with serious gusto. Theresa Kachindamoto, senior chief in the Dedza District in Central Malawi, was tired of seeing 12-year-old girls walking around with babies on their hips. She decided to take a stand and made 50 of her sub-chiefs sign an agreement to end child marriage in her area of authority. “I told them: ‘Whether you like it or not, I want these marriages to be terminated,’” Kachindamoto [said]. But she didn’t stop there: She made the leaders annul any existing underage unions, and send all of the children involved back to school. While marrying under age 18 in Malawi has been illegal since early 2015, children can still be married under so-called “customary law,” meaning with parental consent and overseen by traditional leaders. When four male chiefs continued to approve underage marriages, Kachindamoto suspended them as a warning to others, only hiring them back once they confirmed they had annulled the unions. “First it was difficult, but now people are understanding,” she said to the outlet. To ensure children are not being pulled out of school, Kachindamoto operates a secret network of parents to keep an eye on others. And when parents can’t afford to pay school fees, she’ll pay them herself or find someone else who can. In June alone, she annulled more than 300 child marriages, according to the organization. And over the past three years, the figure reaches close to 850.
A high school class in Hightstown, New Jersey, has found an impressive way to shed light on unsolved civil rights crimes from the 1950s and '60s. The AP class, studying US government, drafted a bill that would create a board to review, declassify, and release documents related to such cases. The students ... went to Washington, walked the halls of Senate office buildings and passed out folders with policy research and information about their bill, said former student Joshua Fayer. Their efforts caught the attention of Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois, who introduced the bill - modeled after the JFK Assassination Records Act - in March 2017. Later Sens. Doug Jones of Alabama and Ted Cruz of Texas signed on. The House and Senate versions ... passed late last year, and President Trump signed the bill into law on January 8. Former student Jay Vainganker said the class was initially trying to solve unresolved hate crimes from the [civil rights] era. They filed public records requests for information from the FBI and Department of Justice, and they got back redacted responses from the government. In some cases, entire pages were redacted. That's when their focus changed, Vaingankar said. They decided to draft a bill that would make the government "a little bit more transparent." The Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act creates "a board that would be authorized to look at these documents and see what should be redacted, what isn't relevant, what should be released," he said.
Having a doctor who is warm and reassuring actually improves your health. The simple things a doctor says and does to connect with patients can make a difference for health outcomes. Even a brief reassurance to a patient from a doctor might relieve the patient’s symptoms faster. In a recent study ... our research group recruited 76 participants to receive a skin prick test, a common procedure used in assessing allergies. The provider in this study pricked participants’ forearms with histamine, which makes skin itchy and red. Then, the doctor examined the allergic reactions. For some patients, the doctor examined them without saying much. But for other patients, the doctor had some words of encouragement. He told them: “From this point forward, your allergic reaction will start to diminish, and your rash and irritation will go away.” It turns out that this one sentence of assurance from a provider led patients to report that their reactions were less itchy — even though the doctor didn’t give any medication or treatment along with his words. We often think the only parts of medical care that really matter are the “active” ingredients of medicine: the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment. But focusing only on these ingredients leaves important components of care underappreciated and underutilized. To really help people flourish, health care works better when it includes caring.
Note: The above was written by Stanford University psychologists Lauren Howe and Kari Leibowitz. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
At Sanganer prison, in the Indian city of Jaipur, inmates get a roof over their head, but no money and no food. This prison has no bars or walls, no security guards at the gate, and prisoners are allowed - even encouraged - to go out into the city and work every day. This prison, which has been open since the 1950s, is home to 450 prisoners and is one of about 30 such institutions in the state of Rajasthan. I go to Sanganer with Smita Chakraburtty, the woman behind a campaign to make open prisons the norm across India. "The criminal justice system addresses an incident ... and doesn't know what to do with an individual," Chakraburtty argues. Her cause is gaining momentum: four other states in India established new open prisons last year. I sit on the floor in a children's nursery at the front of the prison grounds and talk with a group of men and women who are inmates. When I ask them why they're in prison, many simply say, "302," referring to Section 302 in India's Penal Code which dictates the punishment for murder. To get to Sanganer, they all have to have served at least two-thirds of their sentences in closed prisons. Every day, most of them leave the prison grounds to earn a living: men convicted of murder work as security guards, factory workers and daily labourers. I even meet one inmate who's a yoga instructor and another who's a supervisor in a nearby school. The only real rule, I'm told, is that prisoners must make roll call every evening.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, is not what you’d call a “woo woo” gathering. It convenes chief executives from over 1,000 member-companies ... to discuss the big social, economic, and political issues of the day. We had accepted the invitation to present at WEF with some reservations - would all these businesspeople welcome the [Greater Good Science Center]’s science-backed insights for a more meaningful life? WEF has begun to incorporate well-being into their programs and outcomes over the last few years, and we were part of that objective. Providing accessible tools that people can use to cultivate skills of inner happiness is core to the GGSC’s mission. Many of these - like letting go of that searing inner critic or learning to watch what is happening in your own body - are ... adapted from the canon of traditional contemplative practices, and now validated by science. It turns out, plenty of people were looking for strategies for inner happiness at Davos. Participants were curious about how emotions fuel or fizzle stress and how to adopt a “challenge” mentality - the attitude of I can face this! - rather than a “threat” mentality that just makes you want to fight or run away. We suggested simple practices like supportively rooting for ourselves as we might encourage a friend, or adopting a different perspective during difficult times. Will global leaders’ ... moments of mindfulness, compassion, and gratitude trickle down for the benefit of entire workforces? We certainly hope so.
A new peer-reviewed study shows that eating a completely organic diet - even for just one week - can dramatically reduce the presence of pesticide levels in people, a finding that was characterized as "groundbreaking" by critics of an industrial food system that relies heavily on synthetic toxins and chemicals to grow crops and raise livestock. The study ... found that switching to an organic diet significantly reduced the levels of synthetic pesticides found in all participants. "This study shows that organic works," said study co-author Kendra Klein, PhD. The study tested the urine of four diverse American families ... after eating their typical diet of conventional food for six days and then after a controlled diet of all organic food for six days. The pesticide and pesticide metabolite levels detected in participants dropped by an average 60.5 percent after just six days of eating the all-organic diet. Specifically, the testing showed significant reductions in pesticides associated in the past with increased risk of autism, cancers, autoimmune disorders, infertility, hormone disruption, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's disease. "This important study shows how quickly we can rid our bodies of toxic pesticides by choosing organic," said [study co-author] Sharyle Patton. "Congratulations to the families who participated in the study and their willingness to tell their stories in support of creating a food system where organic is available to all."
Note: Watch an engaging video on this study at the link above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
India and China are leading the global greening effort, which is quite contrary to the general perception worldwide, a latest NASA study said Monday, observing that the world is a greener place than it was 20 years ago. "China and India account for one-third of the greening but contain only 9 per cent of the planet's land area covered in vegetation," said lead author Chi Chen of Boston University. "That is a surprising finding, considering the general notion of land degradation in populous countries from over exploitation," he said. The study published ... in the journal Nature Sustainability said that recent satellite data reveal a greening pattern that is strikingly prominent in China and India and overlaps with croplands world-wide. China alone accounts for 25 per cent of the global net increase in leaf area with only 6.6 percent of global vegetated area. The greening in China is from forests (42 percent) and croplands (32 percent), but in India it is mostly from croplands (82 percent) with minor contribution from forests (4.4 per cent), the NASA study said. When the greening of the Earth was first observed, we thought it was due to a warmer, wetter climate and fertilization from the added carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, said Rama Nemani, a research scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center and a co-author of the study. Now with the (new satellite) data, we see that humans are also contributing, she said.
Madeleine Gavin’s documentary City of Joy, about a community built around women who have survived horrific violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), gives us a glimpse at both an incredible injustice still occurring today, and how Congolese women are combating it with their own grassroots movement. The documentary follows the beginnings of City of Joy, a center established in 2011 in the eastern region of the DRC to help women who have been victimized by the ongoing mining conflicts in the area. “Everything is about love at City of Joy,” [said center co-founder] Schuler Deschryver. She described how many of the women who first arrive at City of Joy associate being touched only with violence. “So when you hug her and tell her she’s beautiful, that you love her, that you will fight for her, suddenly she’s like: ‘Oh my God, I exist. I’m a human being.’ You see the joy that [the women] have and know what they’ve passed through. I think that’s one of the reasons I wake up every morning.” A large, gated community ... City of Joy serves as a type of boarding school: the women stay there for six months, and during that time they focus entirely on healing. Since its inception in 2011, City of Joy has graduated 1,117 women. “When women arrive ... many of them have been exiled because they’ve been raped,” said [co-founder Eve] Ensler. “And when you see them six months later you can’t even believe it’s the same people. They’re just these radiant, gorgeous flowers that have blossomed and who are secure and competent.”
19-year-old Gabe Adams was born with Hanhart syndrome, a rare medical condition characterised by underdeveloped limbs, mouth and jaw. In Gabe’s case, none of his limbs grew at all. At school Gabe tried out for the dance team as a way of making friends – discovering he could use his limbless body to his advantage in the art of break dancing. After graduating from high school he has continued to prove his independence, moving out of the family home and embarking on a career as a motivational speaker. From a young age Gabe started using a wheelchair but his parents were determined that their son would be as independent as possible. At school Gabe would wedge a pencil or pen between his shoulder and cheek to write in class. ‘The day of the dance tryouts they called us all in a line and they said, “okay dancer remember to full out extensions and point your toes”. What am I gonna point? My nose!? ‘I am just standing there in front of the judges and then I see girls do the spins and I am like, “I can do that”, so I do the spins. ‘The next day at school and I hear two girls talking behind me and they say: “They are only gonna put him on the stage because he is handicapped’”and that crushed me. ‘I ran to the dance coach and I said “please do not put me on the team because you feel sorry for me”, and she said: “I would not put you or anybody else on the team because I felt sorry for them, you get a spot on this team because you deserved it”. ‘And that was just a huge opening moment for me.’
Note: Don't miss the incredibly inspiring video at the link above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring disabled persons news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
You've heard of the Rockettes, but have you heard of the Rollettes – a dance troupe of women in wheelchairs? The Los Angeles-based group was founded by Chelsie Hill, who always wanted to be a dancer, and wasn't going to let her paralysis stop her. "In high school, I got into a car with a friend who was drinking and we ended up hitting a tree head-on," Hill [said]. She decided that despite the tragedy, she was going to continue doing what she loved. She danced with her high school team in her wheelchair, and when she graduated, she was inspired to show other girls with disabilities they could dance, too. "I found this group of girls on social media who all had spinal cord injuries and I invited them to my hometown to dance with me. It was such an amazing experience," she said. The group put on a show in Monterey, California, where Hill grew up, and the Rollettes were born. Right now, there are six dancers on the team who perform competitively together. Not only does Hill coordinate this small group of dancers, but every year she holds a dance camp for women around the world. Girls of all ages attend the camp and learn how to dance in their chairs. For Hill, it's not just about teaching others the art of dance, it's about giving them a space where they feel like they belong. "I had a girl say it was the most empowering thing that she rolled into a room and everyone was at eye-level. I want people to come into that room feeling so normal, so empowered so that they can go out in the world and conquer anything," Hill said.
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To casual observers of either military service or the practice of yoga, the path from Oorah to Om may not seem obvious. But the intersection of yogi and veteran is natural if unexpected. Many members of the military now often include yoga ... as an element of their workout routine, and veterans turn to the practice for therapeutic applications. The Department of Veterans Affairs has successfully used yoga to help treat opioid addiction and post-traumatic stress. “A lot of vets have post-traumatic stress,” said Thierry Chiapello, who served in the Marines and now teaches yoga at the National Defense University in Washington. “By lengthening the exhalation of breath, this gets people out of those fight-or-flight instincts that drain you,” he continued, putting them in a mode of “rest and recovery that definitely is associated with less aggressive behaviors.” Christian Allaire experiences the service-driven life of yoga through his work for the Veterans Yoga Project, which provides yoga to roughly 1,000 veterans and their families per week as well as trains prospective teachers. “We will have four or five people in a conference room at a V.A.,” he said. “There might be an Iraq war vet in his 20s, a Korean War vet in his 80s, some can barely move, some may be missing limbs and the teacher’s job is to create space. Maybe all they can do is raise their hands above their heads, but we are creating a ritual.”
When a fire forced dozens of homeless people to leave their tents in Chicago's South Loop neighborhood, Jackie Rachev at the local Salvation Army was ready to welcome them. Little did she know a Good Samaritan was paying to put them up in hotel rooms. It's been brutally cold in Chicago, with temperatures of 20-25 below zero on Wednesday. The homeless encampment near the Dan Ryan Expressway was heated by 150 to 200 portable propane tanks -- many of them donated by generous citizens. Shortly after noon, one of the tanks in the tent city exploded because it was too close to a space heater. That left city officials with no option but to close the encampment. Rachev said she received a call from the city asking her to help provide shelter for around 70 people. But later she got another call saying it was no longer necessary -- because a Good Samaritan had offered to pay for hotel rooms. "The Salvation Army was prepared to welcome approximately 70 individuals who were affected by the explosion, but was notified those services were not necessary as the individuals were already being taken of," Rachev told CNN. "We are thrilled that they are safe and warm." Rachev said she did not know the identity of the Good Samaritan or which hotel the homeless people were booked in.
Finland’s much-lauded “housing first” approach ... has been in place for more than a decade. The idea is simple. To solve homelessness you start by giving someone a home, a permanent one with no strings attached. If they want to drink, they can; if they want to take drugs, that’s fine too. Support services are made available to treat addiction, mental health and other problems, and to help people get back on their feet, from assisting with welfare paperwork to securing a job. The housing in Finland is a mix of designated standard apartments sprinkled through the community, and supported housing: apartment blocks with on-site services, built or renovated specifically for chronically homeless people. Formerly homeless residents ... pay rent from their own pockets or through the benefits afforded by Finland’s relatively generous welfare state. The approach is working. As homelessness rises across Europe, Finland’s numbers are falling. In 1987, there were around 18,000 homeless people. In 2017, there were 7,112 homeless people, of which only 415 were living on the streets or in emergency shelters. The vast majority (84 percent) were staying temporarily with friends or relatives. Between 2008 and 2015, the number of people experiencing long-term homelessness dropped by 35 percent. While it’s expensive to build, buy and rent housing for homeless people, as well as provide the vital support services, the architects of the policy say it pays for itself. Studies have found housing one long-term homeless person saves society around €15,000 ($17,000) a year ... due to a reduction in their use of services such as hospital emergency rooms, police and the criminal justice system.
Europe wants to lead the fight against plastic pollution. On January 18th EU member states confirmed the provisional agreement reached between the presidency of the Council and the European Parliament on a new directive to introduce restrictions on certain single-use plastic products. In 2021 European citizens will say goodbye to plastic cutlery, plastic plates and plastic straws among other products. The aim of the directive ... is to protect the environment and reduce marine litter by avoiding the emission of 3.4 million tonnes of CO2. The measures discussed are closely related to the latest estimates on marine litter. According to the European Commission, plastics make up 85% of beach litter, which is causing catastrophic consequences on the environment. The new rules aim to stop the use of throwaway plastic products and packaging for which alternatives exist and is focused on the most frequently found items polluting European seas: plastic cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, and chopsticks), plastic plates, plastic straws, cotton bud sticks made of plastic, beverage and food containers made of expanded polystyrene (such as fast food and takeaway boxes), and products made from oxo-degradable plastic, which contributes to microplastic pollution. According to the European Commission, together these products constitute 70% of all marine litter items.
It takes discipline in the current media environment to find good news. But in the midst of government shutdowns, injustice at the border, and continuing climate chaos, quite a few victories for goodness and progress occurred. 1. The hole in the ozone layer could be fully closed over the Arctic by 2030 and the rest of the world by 2060. 2. Niger reported that, in the last three decades, it has seen the growth of 200 million trees, setting the record for the largest positive impact on the environment in African history. 3. Canada signed a treaty with the Tall Cree First Nation to create the largest protected coniferous forest in the world. 4. China, likely the world’s largest ivory consumer, banned ivory trade in 2017. 5. New York and Virginia became the first two U.S. states to enact laws requiring mental health education in schools. 6. South Africa, the country with the world’s largest population of people living with AIDS, announced a 44 percent decline in new HIV infections since 2012. 7. Paraguay has eliminated malaria, becoming the first country in the Americas to do so since Cuba in 1973. 8. Morocco passed landmark legislation criminalizing violence against women. 9. Tunisia passed a bill to give men and women equal inheritance rights. It’s the first Arab nation to take such a step. 10. The majority of humanity is no longer poor or vulnerable to poverty. September marked a tipping point, where half the world can be classified as middle class.
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Cancer is the second-leading cause of death among Americans, behind only heart disease. But there’s good news: the cancer death rate has drastically declined over the past 25 years, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society (ACS). Overall, the cancer death rate dropped by 27% between 1991 and 2016, according to the report’s data, which came from the National Center for Health Statistics. Steadily declining cancer mortality rates saved about 2.6 million lives between 1991 and 2016. Significant reductions in lung cancer mortality explain a large part of the overall trend. Smoking rates have fallen dramatically in recent years, corresponding to a significant dip in lung cancer deaths. And since smoking rates have traditionally been higher among men than women, male death rates have fallen especially far: by 48% between 1990 and 2016, compared to a 23% drop among women between 2002 and 2016. Racial gaps in cancer mortality are narrowing. But black Americans were still about 14% more likely to die from cancer than white Americans in 2016. That’s a sizable drop from 25 years ago, when the difference was 33%, but it still reflects the “inequalities in wealth that lead to differences in risk factor exposures and barriers to high-quality cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment,” the authors write.
At the end of 2017, U.S. corporations were sitting on a historic amount of cash: $2.1 trillion in total liquid assets ... up over 150% from a decade earlier. What are businesses doing with their new-found wealth? Many are buying back shares or snapping up other companies. And then there is Patagonia. Last month, Patagonia announced that they would donate the $10 million they are saving from a reduced tax obligation to grassroots environmental organizations protecting our natural resources and finding solutions to the climate crisis. “In this season of giving, we are giving away this tax cut to the planet, our only home, which needs it now more than ever,” CEO Rose Marcario wrote in a blog. Patagonia’s donation aligns with their unique activist ethos, but a growing number of corporations are joining them in recognizing that businesses not only can be part of the solution to challenges facing our planet, but that they must be; that their responsibilities extend beyond shareholders, to the environment and the communities they serve. Patagonia’s decision ... is a powerful statement and a demonstration of how to consider all a company’s assets in pursuit of better long-term business outcomes. Investing cash responsibly is not the solution to all of our problems. For starters, there’s a much larger conversation that needs to be had about the inability of companies to invest for long-term value creation. But for companies who are new to using their assets for impact while still achieving their corporate purpose, investing liquid assets is a good way to begin, and do so quickly. Don’t let your cash sit there; put it to work.
Walter Carr sent his friends a flurry of increasingly pleading text messages. The college student’s car had broken down, and he was supposed to begin his new job as a mover the next morning — at a home 20 miles from his apartment near Birmingham, Ala. He struck out finding a ride, but he wasn’t about to miss his first day of work. Carr, 20, needed the work. He ... concluded there was only one option: He would walk it. As a former high school cross-country runner, he knew he could do it. When his legs began to burn, he stayed focused on his goal. Around 4 a.m. ... he still had hours more to walk to get to the house. He sat down in a bank parking lot. A police car pulled up and ... asked if Carr was all right. Carr said yes, and explained what he was doing. [Officer] Knighten offered to take him to get something [to eat] “I said, ‘I just paid my rent. I have no cash on me at all,’ ” Carr recalled. Knighten told him to get in the car, the meal was on him. At 6:30 a.m., [another officer] explained to homeowner Jenny Lamey what had happened. “The officer told me, ‘I’ve got this nice kid in my car. He’s been walking all night to get to your house,’ ” Lamey said. “That’s when the tears started coming.” Lamey offered him a bed to take a nap, and some food. Carr replied, “ ‘No, I’d rather get started,’ ” The following day, Lamey called Carr’s supervisor, and the two cried together on the phone about what Carr had done. Lamey posted the story on Facebook, and it took off. On Sunday, Carr’s boss, Bellhops chief executive Luke Marklin, called to thank him. When they met, Marklin gave him his own car, a 2014 Ford Escape. He said it would be in better hands with Carr than with him.
A silent revolution has transformed driving in Norway. Some 30 percent of all new cars sport plug-in cables rather than gasoline tanks, compared with 2 percent across Europe overall and 1-2 percent in the U.S. As countries around the world — including China, the world’s biggest auto market — try to encourage more people to buy electric cars to fight climate change, Norway’s success has one key driver: the government. It offered big subsidies and perks that it is now due to phase out, but only so long as electric cars remain attractive to buy compared with traditional ones. “It should always be cheaper to have a zero emissions car than a regular car,” says Climate and Environment Minister Ola Elvestuen, who helped push through a commitment to have only sell zero-emissions cars sold in Norway by 2025. To help sales, the Norwegian government waived hefty vehicle import duties and registration and sales taxes. Owners don’t have to pay road tolls, and get free use of ferries and bus lanes in congested city centers. These perks, which are costing the government almost $1 billion this year, are being phased out in 2021, though any road tolls and fees would be limited to half of what gasoline car owners must pay. Gradually, subsidies for electric cars will be replaced by higher taxes on traditional cars. Some 36 percent of all new cars sold are SUVs, which provide safety in the country’s tough winters. Tesla’s SUV, the Model X - the motor of choice for well-to-do environmentally-minded Norwegians.
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There has been a remarkable global decline in the number of children women are having, say researchers. Their report found fertility rate falls meant nearly half of countries were now facing a "baby bust" - meaning there are insufficient children to maintain their population size. The researchers said ... there would be profound consequences for societies with "more grandparents than grandchildren". The study, published in the Lancet, followed trends in every country from 1950 to 2017. In 1950, women were having an average of 4.7 children in their lifetime. The fertility rate all but halved to 2.4 children per woman by last year. But that masks huge variation between nations. The fertility rate in Niger, west Africa, is 7.1, but in the Mediterranean island of Cyprus women are having one child, on average. In the UK, the rate is 1.7, similar to most Western European countries. The total fertility rate is the average number of children a woman gives birth to in their lifetime. It's different to the birth rate which is the number of children born per thousand people each year. Whenever a country's rate drops below approximately 2.1 then populations will eventually start to shrink. At the start of the study, in 1950, there were zero nations in this position.
Note: World overpopulation is no longer considered a serious threat. For more on this and other inspiring stats, see this summary. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Teenagers in Kenya and Mexico are more optimistic about their future than those in France and Sweden, according to polling across 15 countries, which found young people in developing nations have more positive outlooks. The survey, conducted by Ipsos ... found young people across all countries were more optimistic than adults, though there was widespread dissatisfaction with politicians. More than nine in 10 teenagers in Kenya, Mexico, China, Nigeria and India reported feeling positive about their future. Their responses contrasted with those of young people in France and Sweden, the most pessimistic of countries surveyed. Dr Alex Awiti, from Aga Khan University, who has researched youth attitudes across east Africa, said young people in the region are optimistic because they know that their voices count. “If young people want to mobilise, all the governments in east Africa could be toppled within a matter of days,” he said. “What is impressive is young people across east Africa really know what they want.” Awiti pointed to the large numbers of youth-led organisations in countries such as Kenya, where under-35s make up about 80% of the population. Young people are still, however, under-represented in politics.
New research shows the meditative exercise improves mental health, reduces stress and can prevent reoffending. The power of yoga to change [a prisoner's] life is backed by two Swedish studies that found it may reduce reoffending. The new study, led by Professor Nóra Kerekes at University West, Trollhätten, in Sweden, and published last week in Frontiers in Psychiatry, found that 10 weeks of regular yoga can lead to a significant reduction in obsessive-compulsive and paranoid thinking, which in turn, say researchers, can make reoffending less likely. This effect is specific to yoga, and not to exercise in general, they found. It can also lead to a decrease in “somaticisation” (mental distress leading to physical symptoms such as breathing problems, heart pains and stomach upsets). The study of 152 volunteers in nine medium- and high-security prisons in Sweden builds on a 2017 study of the same volunteers that showed that yoga improved stress levels, concentration, sleep quality, psychological and emotional wellbeing, as well as reducing aggression and antisocial behaviour. A Prison Service spokeswoman says: “Research shows activities like this can make prisoners less likely to reoffend, keeping the public safer.” She was unable to explain why, given this evidence, it wasn’t government policy to make yoga available to all prisoners, but said it was up to individual prison governors to decide which activities to offer.
More than half the world’s population is for the first time living in households earning enough to be considered middle or upper class, with five people joining their ranks every second. The rapid growth of the middle class, most of which is taking place in Asia, will have significant economic and political effects, as people become more demanding of businesses and governments, said Kristofer Hamel, chief operating officer of World Data Lab, the non-profit organisation that compiled the figures. “The milestone is important because the middle class is the engine of modern economies,” Mr Hamel said, adding that about half of global economic demand is generated by household consumption, with half of this coming from the middle class. The World Data Lab defines middle class as someone earning between $11 and $110 per day, on a 2011 purchasing power parity basis, a benchmark used by many organisations and governments, including India and Mexico. It concluded earlier this month that 3.59bn people make up the global middle class, and forecast that the group would grow to 5.3bn by 2030. Almost 90 per cent of the new middle class is expected to be found in Asia. By 2030, the spending power of the American middle class will remain the greatest in the world — at about $16tn on a 2011 PPP basis — with China ($14tn) and India ($12tn) not far behind.
Zozh Is A Russian neologism, born of an acronym for a healthy lifestyle. It is part of a social transformation that has helped banish Russia’s demons. As exercise and smoothies have replaced despair and alcohol, the suicide rate in Russia has crashed. And this trend is not unique to Russia. Globally, the rate has fallen by 38% from its peak in 1994. As a result, over 4m lives have been saved—more than four times as many people as were killed in combat over the period. The decline has happened at different rates and different times in different parts of the world. America is the big exception. Until the turn of the century the rate there dropped along with those in other rich countries. But since then, it has risen by 18% to 12.8. The declines in those other big countries, however, far outweigh the rise in America. One big reason seems to be an improvement in the lot of Asian women. Among Chinese women in their 20s, the rate has dropped by nine-tenths since the mid-1990s; that group accounts for around half a million of those 4m lives saved. Greater social freedom is one of the reasons, suggests Jing Jun, a professor at Tsinghua University. There may be something similar going on in India. “Young women face particularly challenging gender norms in India,” says Vikram Patel of the Harvard Medical School. That is changing. Rates among young women have fallen faster than among any other group since 1990; Mr Patel believes they will continue to improve as social liberalisation continues.
A DNA test has helped reunite a mother and daughter after nearly 70 years by uncovering a startling secret: A baby girl long thought to be dead was alive, and had been covertly adopted by a family in Southern California that lied about her origins. The girl, Connie Moultroup, who is now 69, met her birth mother for the first time this month. “I was absolutely floored,” she said, upon discovering that her mother, Genevieve Purinton, 88, was living in Tampa, Fla. Ms. Purinton was similarly shocked. After giving birth in 1949, she said, she was told her newborn had died. CeCe Moore, a genetic genealogist and founder of The DNA Detectives, said the two women are “far from alone.” Ms. Purinton said she was alone when she gave birth on May 12, 1949. She never saw the baby. “I was told it was a girl, but she died,” Ms. Purinton said. The adoption documents, which Ms. Moultroup retrieved from the adoptions and abandonment unit at the Edmund D. Edelman Children’s Court in Los Angeles County, showed that a doctor at the hospital had arranged for the adoption. Within the paperwork she found her mother’s signature. Ms. Purinton said that she recalled having signed papers at the hospital, but that she assumed they were meant to provide a directive in the event that she died or could no longer care for her daughter. “I had no idea what I signed,” she said. Before being reunited with her daughter, Ms. Purinton thought she was the last surviving member of her immediate family.
Luxembourg is a small country with big traffic jams. When Prime Minister Xavier Bettel was sworn in for a second term ... his governing coalition promised free mass transit for all, which would make the country the first to offer such a benefit. Luxembourg is barely larger than a city-state, with a population of about 560,000. But more than 180,000 workers commute across the border from Belgium, France and Germany. Luxembourg already has the highest number of cars for its population in the European Union: 662 for 1,000 people, bringing it closest in the region to the United States, a world leader with more than 800 cars per 1,000 people. The number of international commuters has doubled in the past two decades, rising more quickly than the country anticipated. This has caused the kind of congestion that is familiar to those who commute into many big cities. Luxembourg’s highways are packed with cars, and overcrowded trains often suffer delays. Some cities in Europe and elsewhere already offer free mass transit at certain times and to people like retirees or the unemployed. Others are considering widening the circle to all users. This year, Luxembourg budgeted nearly €900 million in public money for its mass transit system. Free mass transit will be available from the beginning of 2020, said Dany Frank, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Mobility.
If a slim, yellow envelope with a Rye, N.Y., return address lands in your mailbox this holiday season, don’t throw it out. It’s not junk. Some 1,300 such envelopes have been sent to New Yorkers around the state, containing the good news that R.I.P. Medical Debt, a New York-based nonprofit organization, has purchased their medical debt — and forgiven it. Last spring, Judith Jones and Carolyn Kenyon, both of Ithaca, N.Y., heard about R.I.P. Medical Debt, which purchases bundles of past-due medical bills and forgives them to help those in need. So the women decided to start a fund-raising campaign of their own to assist people with medical debt in New York. The women raised $12,500 and sent it to the debt-forgiveness charity, which then purchased a portfolio of $1.5 million of medical debts on their behalf, for about half a penny on the dollar. Many people take on extra jobs or hours to afford health care, and 11 percent of Americans have turned to charity for relief from medical debts, according to a 2016 poll. It has become increasingly easy for regular citizens to purchase bundles of past-due medical bills and forgive them because of the efforts of the debt-relief charity, which was founded in 2014 by two former debt collection industry executives, Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton. After realizing the crushing impact medical debts were having on millions of Americans, the men decided to flip their mind-set. They began purchasing portfolios of old debts to clear them as a public service, rather than try to hound the debtors.
The benefits coral reefs provide are endless. Not only are they the home of up to 9 million species but are a source of food, medicine, cosmetics and tourism. Unfortunately, coral reefs around the world are declining at a rapid rate due to ... human-related factors. In some areas of Florida and the Caribbean, coral cover has declined by 50–80 per cent in just the last three decades. Coral scientists are working hard to restore corals as fast as possible. At the Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration they have managed to develop a micro-fragmentation and fusion method to speed the growth of ... important reef-building species [of coral], known for their slow growth in the wild. The fragmentation technique consists of breaking the corals into smaller pieces of 1 to 5 polyps, using a specialised saw. This stimulates the coral tissue to grow ... at 25 to 50 times the normal growth rate. The fragments are then placed in their shallow water tanks. Algal growth and debris are removed regularly. Clone fragments recognise each other so instead of fighting each other for resources [they] fuse together to form larger colonies. After 4- 12 months the fully grown corals are now ready to be planted back into the ocean or fragmented to restart the process. Labs are able to fragment, grow and recombine corals in under 2 years to a size which would normally take 100 years. They have now successfully planted more than 20,000 corals onto depleted reefs in the Florida Keys.
Note: Watch an inspiring three-minute video on this process.
Warrick Dunn has been retired for nine years. It’s interesting that, even though he is one of 31 men to rush for more than 10,000 yards in NFL history. We remember him—at least I do—more for giving away houses than for running for touchdown, in part because he’s still doing it. Even in retirement, Dunn and his Warrick Dunn Charities are still partnering with Habitat for Humanity to build homes for disadvantaged families across the United States. In December, Dunn and Habitat combined to build homes number 158 (in Detroit) and 159 (in Atlanta) and place two families in them before the holidays. Furnished, as Dunn like to say, “all the way down to the toothbrushes in the bathroom.” Recently I was with Dunn when he surprised Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson with a visit, a reminder that Dunn’s generosity made it possible for Watson and his single mom and family to move into a Habitat for Humanity home in Gainesville, Ga., 11 years ago. Watson made it clear that the home meant a new life and a shot at the American dream for his family. “I’ll never be able to thank him, and Habitat, and everyone who made it possible, enough,” Watson said. “I grew up in a situation where we needed a lot of support,” [said Dunn]. “I lost my mom at 18. Single mom, six kids, and a Baton Rouge police officer. She was gunned down by armed robbers at a bank. When she lost her life, the city of Baton Rouge started a fund for us. And that’s how we were able to survive. That really helped me understand what it means to care about your neighbor.”
“Have you experienced being the target of intolerance? What causes you to be intolerant?” Sitting in his book-filled Berkeley living room, Lewis Brown Griggs chewed over those questions and others with six other people via the Zoom conferencing app last month. Ranging in age from early 20s to early 70s, and hailing from Colorado, Virginia, Utah, Maryland and California, the group was brought together by Mismatch.org, a site that aims to “mismatch” people who are politically and geographically diverse for group chats with others of varying viewpoints. It’s like a non-romantic dating service for civil discourse. “Our nation has so many problems with division,” said John Gable, Mismatch co-founder. “We need to learn how to talk to people who are different than we are, how to listen to them and understand them as people.” In an increasingly polarized country, Mismatch aims to help people across the political spectrum find common ground via structured conversations on topics like immigration, tax reform and climate change. Mismatch grew out of Living Room Conversations, another trans-partisan project that brings together folks of varying views to engage in discourse. But while Living Room Conversations hosts in-person groups ... Mismatch casts a wider net by seeking people nationwide to meet up via videoconferencing. “It is about understanding each other as humans,” [Gable] said. “We may or may not find common ground, but we always find common humanity.”
Dozens of high schoolers and their teachers are flowing into the University of Southern California’s Galen Center, dressed in their debating best and bantering in various languages. All of these students are members of the Junior State of America (JSA), and they’re used to spirited exchanges about government. But they’re here today to practice a different diplomatic skill: having thoughtful conversations across political boundaries. “People say, ‘When I try to have these kinds of conversations, they go really badly,’” [workshop leader Brooke] Deterline says. Such verbal blowouts often breed simmering resentment and fracture relationships. Deterline wants to teach people how to cultivate compassion for others even when they don’t agree with them, which she sees as necessary for a divided country to find a shared vision for its future. From the start, Deterline makes clear that what she’s about to teach is the conversational equivalent of t’ai chi—a philosophy focused on holding back, not charging forward. “I used to think courage was giving somebody a piece of my mind,” she tells the students. “It’s acting with an open heart in the face of conflict. It is a choice, and it also is a muscle.” What often shuts down conversations across the political aisle, she explains, is when our brains go into what she calls “the red zone.” “When we’re stressed, our natural compassion is cut off,” she says. Deterline’s core message is that when you notice your brain heading into the “red zone,” you can take steps to divert its course.
Wilma Rudolph outran poverty, polio, scarlet fever and the limits placed on black women by societal convention to win three gold medals in sprint events at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. By the time brain cancer caught Rudolph, leading to her death Saturday at age 54, she had achieved a stature that made her legend and her sport greater in the long run. The 20th of 22 children of a porter and a cleaning lady, Rudolph lost the use of her left leg after contracting polio and scarlet fever at age 4. Doctors told her parents she never would walk again without braces, but she refused to accept that prognosis and began to walk unassisted at age 9. It wasn't long before she was outrunning all the girls and boys in her neighborhood. At 16, already under the tutelage of Tennessee State University coach Ed Temple, Rudolph won a bronze medal on the 4 x 100-meter relay at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. Four years later, when she was the mother of a 2-year-old, Rudolph won the three golds despite running all three events with a sprained ankle. After being voted Associated Press female athlete of the year in 1960 and 1961 and the Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur athlete in 1961, Rudolph retired at 21, a decision that reflects an era in which lack of financial incentives kept most Olympic careers short. She turned to a variety of humanitarian projects, including goodwill ambassador to West Africa, coaching at DePauw University and working for underprivileged children through the Wilma Rudolph Foundation.
Note: The remarkable woman once commented, "My doctors told me I would never walk again. My mother told me I would. I believed my mother."
Responsible investing is widely understood as the integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into investment processes and decision-making. ESG factors cover a wide spectrum of issues that traditionally are not part of financial analysis, yet may have financial relevance. This might include how corporations respond to climate change, how good they are with water management, how effective their health and safety policies are ... how they manage their supply chains, [and] how they treat their workers. The term ESG was first coined in 2005 in a landmark study entitled “Who Cares Wins.” Today, ESG investing is estimated at over $20 trillion in AUM or around a quarter of all professionally managed assets around the world, and its rapid growth builds on the Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) movement that has been around much longer. Cynics may argue that responsible investing is just a fad. But a closer look at the forces that have driven the movement over the past 15 years suggests otherwise. The big challenge for most corporations is to adapt to a new environment that favors smarter, cleaner and healthier products and services, and to leave behind the dogmas of the industrial era when pollution was free, labor was just a cost factor and scale and scope was the dominant strategy. Today, ESG investing has matured to the point where it can greatly accelerate market transformation for the better.
Steven Pinker, a cognitive psychologist at Harvard, has been known to take provocative positions. He has argued that women are intrinsically different from men, that we are more driven by our genes than academics like to acknowledge, and that society is getting less violent over time — despite the mass shootings and other atrocities we hear about daily. The thesis of his latest book, “Enlightenment Now,” is that life on Earth is improving. By every major measure of human well-being, from personal safety to longevity to economic security to happiness, people everywhere are far better off today than they were before the start of the Enlightenment in the 17th century. "I stumbled across data showing that violence had declined over the course of history. The homicide rate in England was 50 times higher in the 14th century than it is today," [said Pinker]. "Like any other news reader, I just assumed that there was as much mayhem as ever. It’s only when you plot it over time ... that you can see the trends. It’s not just in violence that one sees progress, but in poverty, in illiteracy, in access to small luxuries. The percentage of the world getting an education, in gender parity in education - girls are going to school all over the world. Even in ... the world’s most retrograde countries, the rate of female education has increased. It was an epiphany from seeing graphs of human improvement that changed my view of the overall course of history: that progress is a demonstrable fact.
The rule of thumb for folks walking around Boston is to not look anyone in the eyes. The World’s Biggest Eye Contact Experiment held on Saturday challenged people in the city and across the world to break down their walls and to actually make full eye contact with another human being for a full minute. It was a sunny day ... as participants invited others to have meaningful staring sessions. Sixty full seconds looking into a stranger’s eyes without conversation or facial expressions to hide behind. It sounds easy enough, but silently sharing eye contact with a stranger can be a foreign feeling for many people more used to being connected to technology than humans. Deborah Knight, who organized Boston’s event, said that eye contact is actually more important than most people think. When you actually look at someone’s eyes, you actually bypass everything and you get into their soul. It is an unspoken language of love. The global social experiment is organized each year by The Liberators International, an Australian-based group that aims to empower people with love and compassion through events and media. Boston was just one of the hundreds of locations participating this year. Dozens of people just sitting silently and staring, but most would talk and laugh right after the exercise. “People are really hesitant,” [said one participant]. “Maybe thirty seconds into it, people relax and their eyes just open up.”
For a long time entrepreneurs, investors and advocates of sustainable investing have spoken longingly about the $2 trillion of institutional investor dollars that have been reputed to be sitting skeptically on the sidelines, teasing everyone with the prospect of finally putting their sizeable investment muscle to work to scale the sector. Throughout this period, institutional investors have argued that they have withheld their dollars over sound investment concerns with the sector. For a number of years, innovative entrepreneurs in growth sectors like food, energy, water and waster have been doing the heavy lifting to demonstrate that some of these smaller-scale projects can provide attractive investment returns for those investors willing to step in and pioneer these structures. Institutional investors are taking notice. Now a new investor survey and report issued by Bright Harbor Advisors, a private fund advisor, provides some compelling evidence that institutional investors are warming to sustainable investing. 81% now have some type of sustainability, impact, or ESG [Environment, Social, and Governance] mandate as part of their formal investment policy. And an increasing number are allocating internal resources to implement these policies. About a third of respondents have someone on their team dedicated to the space and nearly 20% have sustainable private fund managers in a dedicated investment bucket.
Note: See this Forbes article for more on these inspiring shifts in investing. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
France has opened what it claims to be the world’s first solar panel road, in a Normandy village. A 1km (0.6-mile) route in the small village of Tourouvre-au-Perche covered with 2,800 sq m of electricity-generating panels, was inaugurated on Thursday by the ecology minister, Ségolčne Royal. It cost €5m (Ł4.2m) to construct and will be used by about 2,000 motorists a day during a two-year test period to establish if it can generate enough energy to power street lighting in the village of 3,400 residents. In 2014, a solar-powered cycle path opened in Krommenie in the Netherlands and ... has generated 3,000kWh of energy – enough to power an average family home for a year. The cost of building the cycle path, however, could have paid for 520,000kWh. Before the solar-powered road – called Wattway – was opened on the RD5 road, the panels were tested at four car parks across France. Normandy is not known for its surfeit of sunshine: Caen, the region’s political capital, enjoys just 44 days of strong sunshine a year compared with 170 in Marseilles. Royal has said she would like to see solar panels installed on one in every 1,000km of French highway – France has a total of 1m km of roads – but panels laid on flat surfaces have been found to be less efficient than those installed on sloping areas such as roofs. The company says it hopes to reduce the costs of producing the solar panels and has about 100 other projects for solar-panelled roads – half in France and half abroad.
Some scientists, including the Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson, have concluded that at least half the planet needs to be protected to save a large majority of plant and wildlife species from extinction. Indeed, the food, clean water and air we need to survive and prosper depends on our ability to protect the planet’s biological diversity. In other words, we have to protect half to save the whole. Every one of us - citizens, philanthropists, business and government leaders - should be troubled by the enormous gap between how little of our natural world is currently protected and how much should be protected. For my part, I have decided to donate $1 billion over the next decade to help accelerate land and ocean conservation efforts around the world, with the goal of protecting 30 percent of the planet’s surface by 2030. This money will support locally led conservation efforts around the world, push for increased global targets for land and ocean protection, seek to raise public awareness about the importance of this effort, and fund scientific studies to identify the best strategies to reach our target. I believe this ambitious goal is achievable because I’ve seen what can be accomplished. Indigenous peoples, local leaders and conservation groups around the world are already busy setting aside protected areas that reflect the conservation, economic and cultural values of nearby communities. Financial support from philanthropists and governments is critical to helping these leaders conserve places like the coral reefs of the Caribbean, the glaciers of Argentina and what is known as the “place of many elephants” in Zimbabwe.
Every month, a new cycle of training begins with yet another class of veterans in a program run by the northern Florida K9s for Warriors. The seven-year-old nonprofit is one of dozens of private organizations that offer “psychiatric service” dogs to address the military's mental health crisis. “The numbers are startling on veteran suicides, and this is working,” said Rory Diamond, a former federal prosecutor who quit to become chief executive of K9s for Warriors. A recent [Purdue University] study ... used standard questionnaires to assess PTSD symptoms and other aspects of mental health among 141 K9s for Warriors applicants, half teamed with a service dog and half on a wait list. Those with dogs showed significantly lower levels of post-traumatic stress, depression and social isolation, with higher levels of psychological well-being. Dogs have provided services to humans for millennia, often as hunting and herding partners. But not until World War I were they systematically trained to assist people with disabilities, as guides for the blind. Service dogs now prompt deaf people when a doorbell rings, retrieve pills for people in wheelchairs and alert people with diabetes to blood sugar spikes. Psychiatric service dogs [blend the missions of] of task-oriented service canines and animals seen as providing emotional support. While the dogs paired with veterans with PTSD are commonly trained to wake them from nightmares ... advocates also laud their ability to soothe a panicking vet and provide companionship.
Psychologists at the University of Sussex, after analyzing the brain scans of over 1000 people who made kind decisions, are now able to say for sure that the warm glow of kindness is real. In fact, it exists in a particular place within your brain. For the first time, researchers were able to bring together previous studies that suggested generosity activates the brain's reward network. These scientists were able to differentiate between two types of kindness: altruistic (when there is nothing to be gained from being kind) and strategic (when an act of kindness can lead to something gained). The study's findings revealed ... something unique about altruistic acts of kindness. Being kind with no intent of personal gain not only activates the brain's reward areas, it also activates other brain regions (in the subgenal anterior cingulate cortex) as well. This means that when you act kind with no hope of gaining something in return, your brain will activate more and in different ways than when you are strategically kind. Acting strategically kind can even make you feel worse, and diminish your glow. Co-author of the study and PhD student Jo Cutler explains, "...if after a long day helping a friend move house, they hand you a fiver, you could end up feeling undervalued and less likely to help again. A hug and kind words however might spark a warm glow and make you feel appreciated." Ultimately, it does matter what the intent is behind kindness.
If you’ve ever felt that your green credentials have gone unrewarded, it might be worth considering a move to the Italian city of Bologna. For six months a year, an initiative called Bella Mossa (“Good Job”) operates within the city, which rewards users of sustainable forms of transport with free beer, ice cream or film tickets. The programme ... aims to reduce pollution and offers residents and visitors an incentive to walk, cycle or take public transport, rather than travel by car. Participants simply download the Better Points app on their phone, where they can log up to four journeys per day. Over 100 businesses in Bologna have signed up to the scheme to offer benefits for points accrued. Points are awarded for the number of trips taken, rather than the distance covered. Whether you travel one kilometre or 10, the points will remain the same. To avoid any abuse of the system, a GPS tracker makes sure people are being honest about the journeys they log and the method of transport used. The app also tells users how much CO2 was saved on each journey. Urban planner Marco Amdori devised the scheme in 2017; it’s funded by the EU and Bologna’s local government. Last year, [Bella Mossa] recorded 3.7 million kilometres of sustainable journeys in the city. This isn’t the first time Bologna has led the way when it comes ethical living. In 2008, the Festival of Responsible Travel was established in the city and has continued to run annually ever since.
There were historic firsts across the country on Tuesday night, as voters chose from a set of candidates that was among the most diverse ever to run in the United States. Native American, Muslim and African-American women, and L.G.B.T. candidates, were among those who broke barriers. In next year’s session of Congress, there will be at least 100 women in the House for the first time in history. Sharice Davids [is] the first lesbian Native American to be elected to the House and part of “a rainbow wave” of L.G.B.T. candidates in this year’s election. She has criticized the Republican tax bill and called for “a true tax cut for the middle class.” Ilhan Omar, a Democratic state legislator in Minnesota, and Rashida Tlaib, a Democratic former state legislator in Michigan, became the first Muslim women elected to Congress after winning their House races. Ms. Omar will also be the first Somali-American to serve in Congress. Ms. Tlaib, a Palestinian-American attorney, has championed Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage and abolishing the federal agency Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Ayanna Pressley will become the first African-American woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress. She beat a 10-term incumbent in the Democratic primary and vowed to pursue “activist leadership” to advance a progressive agenda. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29, became the youngest woman elected to Congress. Like Ms. Pressley, she defeated a white male incumbent who had served 10 terms in a Democratic primary.
Yoga and meditation have increased in use among both U.S. adults and children in recent years, two new reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show, with the number of adults who had recently practiced yoga soaring by nearly 60 percent. In 2017, an estimated 35.2 million adults had put themselves in a downward-facing dog, lotus pose or other yoga position in the past 12 months, accounting for a 14.3 percent population share and up from 22.4 million (9.5 percent) in 2012. Women and adults between 18 and 44 were most likely to have recently practiced yoga in 2017. Meanwhile, a separate CDC report showed that the shares of children ages 4 to 17 who had practiced yoga or meditation each increased substantially. In 2012, an estimated 3.1 percent of children had done yoga in the past 12 months, compared with 8.4 percent in 2017. The estimated share of kids who had meditated recently increased nearly tenfold during that time frame, from 0.6 percent to 5.4 percent. "An increase in promoting yoga or promoting meditation in studios, gyms, et cetera, could play a role in ... more people using these approaches," says Tainya Clarke, an epidemiologist with the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. Outpacing meditation and use of a chiropractor, yoga remained the most commonly used of the three "complementary health approaches" that were assessed. Still, the share who had meditated in the last year more than tripled between 2012 and 2017, from 4.1 percent to 14.2 percent.
The capacity of renewable energy has overtaken that of fossil fuels in the UK for the first time, in a milestone that experts said would have been unthinkable a few years ago. In the past five years, the amount of renewable capacity has tripled while fossil fuels’ has fallen by one-third, as power stations reached the end of their life or became uneconomic. The result is that between July and September, the capacity of wind, solar, biomass and hydropower reached 41.9 gigawatts, exceeding the 41.2GW capacity of coal, gas and oil-fired power plants. Imperial College London, which compiled the figures, said the rate at which renewables had been built in the past few years was greater than the “dash for gas” in the 1990s. Dr Iain Staffell, who undertook the research, said: “Britain’s power system is slowly but surely walking away from fossil fuels, and this quarter saw a major milestone on the journey.” In terms of installed capacity, wind is the biggest source of renewables at more than 20GW, followed by solar spread across nearly 1m rooftops and in fields. Biomass is third. In the past year, coal capacity has fallen by one-quarter, and there are only six coal-fired plants left in the UK. Coal operators have been affected by the UK’s carbon tax on electricity generation, as well as competition from gas.
Plants take in carbon dioxide, water, and sunshine to create a sugary fuel. Now researchers have done the same, but even better. A recent study in Science describes the system, named Bionic Leaf 2.0. In the “leaf,” solar energy splits up a water molecule, and bacteria turn hydrogen and carbon dioxide into liquid fuel, mainly isopropanol. The fuel could possibly be used to power a car's engine or motor in the future. The researchers, led by Daniel Nocera and Pamela Silver from Harvard University, have made advancements on their original Bionic Leaf, released last year. The system had some problems, mainly with the metal catalyst that helped the reaction. In the first edition, the catalyst also set off a reaction that attacked the bacteria’s DNA. The new system has a new catalyst made of cobalt and phosphorus. This solves the bacteria-attacking problem and also increases the efficiency of the reaction to 10 percent efficiency. Normal photosynthesis in plants is one percent efficient at converting solar energy to biomass. This technology has the potential to bring another type of solar energy to users. Nocera said in a press release that they are continuing their research, chiefly on bringing this technology to the developing world.
In Lamoille County, Vermont ... everywhere you look, bursts of Lucy Rogers green, and Zac Mayo red, white and blue. "We don't need as much government," Zac said. He's the Republican. She's the Democrat. "I'm pretty centrally focused on healthcare," Lucy said. They're aggressively competing for a state House seat. Both have visited, or plan to visit, every single home in the district — all 2,000 plus. The locals say they've never seen anything like it. But this highly competitive race took a dramatic turn recently. During their debate ... the candidates asked for a few extra minutes at the end. They stood up from their tables and began moving the furniture. No one knew what was coming. Indeed, what happened at the local library that night was totally unexpected and unprecedented in modern American politics. Political rivals Lucy Rogers and Zac Mayo shocked voters by coming together for a duet." Because we asked them if we could have a few minutes at the end to play a duet," Lucy said. "It strikes a chord," Zac said. "To say to the world that this is a better way." With that, the Democrat and the Republican united in perfect harmony. There weren't enough tissues to go around. "It marked a turning point for us," one person said. "It gave me a lot of hope," said another. The song they played that night -- and for us after -- is about longing for a less competitive society. Their rendition so resonated with folks in northern Vermont, CBS News actually saw houses that had signs for both candidates -- a clear indication that the winner of this race has already been decided: A landslide victory for civility.
Note: The Washington Post also carried a touching article on this inspiring event. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
When the man charged with killing 11 people Saturday at a Pittsburgh synagogue arrived with injuries at Allegheny General Hospital, the staff - some of whom are Jewish - stepped up and did their jobs, even as he continued to spew hate, their boss said. "Isn't it ironic that somebody who's yelling in the ambulance and the hospital, 'I want to kill all the Jews,' is taken care of by a Jewish nurse," Dr. Jeffrey Cohen, the facility's top administrator, told CNN's Alex Marquardt a day after the massacre. Cohen is a member of the Tree of Life synagogue, where the shooting unfolded. He lives nearby and even heard the shootout between police and Robert Bowers. When Bowers arrived at the hospital to be treated for multiple gunshot wounds, he was still screaming that he wanted to kill Jews, Cohen [said]. "And the first three people who are taking care of him are Jewish," Cohen said. "I said, 'Well yeah, ain't that a kick in the pants?'" Cohen ... checked on Bowers like he might any other patient, he said. "I asked him, 'How are you feeling?' And he was sort of groggy. He said, 'I'm feeling OK.' And I introduced myself as Dr. Cohen, the president of Allegheny General. And I left," Cohen said. "The FBI agent in charge looked at me and says, 'I don't know how you did that 'cause I'm not sure I could have,'" Cohen recalled. Cohen acknowledged that some on his staff had "conflicting emotions" about Bowers but said ultimately Allegheny General has one mission: to take care of sick people, regardless of who they are or their circumstances.
Note: Read a USA Today article where Jeff Cohen states about the the shooter "He's some mother's son." May this kind of compassion spread far and wide in our world.
Todd Bol was simply paying homage to his mother, a schoolteacher and lover of books. He built a doll-sized schoolhouse, filled it with his mother’s books and put it out for his neighbors in Hudson, Wis., as a book exchange. Today, just nine years later, more than 75,000 such “Little Free Libraries” dot the globe, from San Diego to Minneapolis, and from Australia to Siberia. Why did they catch on? For starters, they promote a friendly, sharing economy. No one tracks who took what. There’s no due date. No fines. You might never return a book. You might leave another instead. And, they are inherently cute. As Mr. Bol recalled, his neighbors “talked to it like it was a little puppy.” This week, many bore a white ribbon in tribute to Mr. Bol, who died Oct. 18, in Minnesota at the age of 62.
Note: A photo-essay of “Little Free Libraries” is available at the link above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
The stand-up comedian Maysoon Zayid likes to joke that if there were a competition called the Oppression Olympics, she would win gold. “I’m Palestinian, Muslim, I’m a woman of color, I’m disabled,” Zayid, who has cerebral palsy, tells audiences, before pausing a beat to hang her head, her long dark hair curtaining her face, “and I live in New Jersey.” The joke lands laughs whether Zayid tells it in red states or blue. She told it near the beginning of her 2014 TED Talk, which drew nearly 15 million views. She now has a development deal with ABC to create a ... sitcom called “Can-Can,” starring her. If “Can-Can” makes it ... it may push two populations, one widely ignored, the other demonized, from the country’s margins into the mainstream. People with disabilities make up nearly 20 percent of the population yet account for about 2 percent of onscreen characters, some 95 percent of which are played by able-bodied stars. And it is hard to imagine a group more vilified in the United States than Muslims or Middle Easterners. Zayid is a vociferous part of a small, dedicated movement calling attention to disability rights in entertainment, which are consistently overlooked in the quote-unquote diversity conversation. Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, a philanthropic and advocacy organization for disability rights ... said Zayid’s show could crush enduring stigmas disabled people face.
A gunman stormed the Tree of Life Synagogue, killing 11 people in what the ADL called the deadliest attack ever on Jews in the United States. The horrific, hate-filled minutes were a raw manifestation of anger, division and anti-Semitism. But the response has been the opposite as faiths and cultures came together in grief and solidarity. Crowdfunding campaign "Muslims Unite for Pittsburgh Synagogue" has raised more than $200,000 to help the shooting victims. "We wish to respond to evil with good, as our faith instructs us, and send a powerful message of compassion through action," the donation page says. The campaign is organized by the Muslim-American non-profits CelebrateMercy and MPower Change. It's hosted by LaunchGood, an online crowdfunding platform for the Muslim community. The campaign page invites all faiths to contribute, and the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh will work directly with the Tree of Life Synagogue to distribute the funds to the injured victims and grieving families. "The Pittsburgh community is our family; what happens to one of us, is felt by us all," The Islamic Center of Pittsburgh said in a statement. Shay Khatiri, an Iranian immigrant studying in Washington DC, was also inspired to help. He launched the Tree of Life Synagogue Victims campaign on GoFundMe on Saturday with a goal of $50,000. Khatiri has been inspired by the outpouring of support. More than 10 thousand people have donated, raising over $800,000.
Ten years ago, with her high school diploma and a backpack, Maggie Doyne left her New Jersey hometown. She ... went to India and worked with Nepalese refugees. There, she met a young girl who wanted to find her family in Nepal. Doyne went with her. That's when Doyne's life took an unexpected turn. A decade-long civil war had just ended in the country, and Doyne witnessed its effects firsthand. "It changed me," said Doyne. "There were children with mallets that would go into the riverbed, pick up a big stone and break it into little, little pieces (to sell). And they were doing that all day, every day." Doyne called her parents and asked them to wire her the $5,000 she had earned babysitting. In 2006, she purchased land in Surkhet, a district in western Nepal. She worked for two years with the local community to build the Kopila Valley Children's Home. Today, Kopila - which means "flower bud" in Nepali - is home to about 50 children, from infants to teenagers. Doyne started the BlinkNow Foundation to support and grow her efforts. In 2010, the group opened its Kopila Valley School, which today educates more than 350 students. "Every single year we'll get from 1,000 to 1,500 applicants. And we choose the ones who are the most needful and really won't be in school without us," [said Doyne]. "Most of them live in one room, a mud hut. A lot of them are just in survival mode. We try to relieve the burden from the family, so that the child has food, medical care, books, zero fees for education."
Note: Watch an inspiring five-minute video of this amazing woman.
Reaching the summit of Mount Everest is a triumph for any climber, but for Erik Weihenmayer, the accomplishment is even more impressive. That’s because he is blind. Born with a rare eye disease, Mr. Weihenmayer lost his sight at age 13 and later discovered a sense of freedom through climbing. Over the years, the 50-year-old has reached the highest peaks on seven continents and also kayaked the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. A former schoolteacher, Mr. Weihenmayer co-founded No Barriers, a nonprofit organization that teaches outdoor skills to those with physical challenges. "Growing up in Connecticut, my Dad would drive me three hours to Massachusetts once a month to this adventure program for the blind, [said Mr. Weihenmayer]. "They took us to New Hampshire and we rock climbed on these beautiful granite rock faces. It was very tactile. That’s what I really loved about it. You can feel all these little knobs and cracks and fissures and little dishes in the rock. So you’re problem-solving with your hands and feet as your eyes. You had to put your body in all these cool, acrobatic positions to get yourself from point A to point B and you’re trying to solve this puzzle that’s embedded in the rock. I loved the great adventure. I got to the top and I could hear the valley below me. I could hear the wind blowing through the trees. And I thought this is so stunning. This is what I want out of my life."
Machines designed by a California-based team can produce, in some cases, up to 300 gallons of fresh drinking water a day by pulling it straight from the air. And the team just won a $1.5 million prize for it. Skywater machines, housed in big metal boxes, are atmospheric water generators that condense water vapor from the atmosphere and turn it into drinking water. The machines can be powered by solar energy or the burning of biofuels. They can be used for households, for farming or for emergency relief efforts. The prize, called the Water Abundance XPRIZE, was awarded Saturday by XPRIZE, a California nonprofit ... aimed at creating solutions for the world's problems. The Water Abundance XPRIZE was a two-year competition that sought to find answers to the global water crisis by facilitating the development of new technologies. David Hertz, one of leaders of the Skysource/Skywater Alliance, says he's excited about what the Skywater machines could do for people living in parts of the world where water is becoming more scarce. "I've just been very, very interested in ... the importance of fresh water to mankind," Hertz [said]. "And in being in California, the issues are fast approaching crisis proportions." Hertz says there's more than enough water vapor in the air from which the machines can extract to produce gallons of water every day. Hertz estimates there's about "37.5 million billion gallons of water" in the atmosphere at any given time, which Skysource says is more fresh water than in all the rivers on Earth.
A 2015 study published in The Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that pursuing your passion both lowers stress and contributes to greater happiness over all. Researchers found that participants who engaged in hobbies were 34 percent less stressed and 18 percent less sad during the activities, as well as for some time after. Laura Vanderkam, a productivity expert, advocates finding time for yourself as a means to greater happiness over all. “Life just feels better when you have things in your hours that you want to do,” Ms. Vanderkam said. “There’s moments where time almost has no meaning because we’re so happy about what we’re doing. The more time you can spend in that zone, the better life feels.” We’re all busy. Most of us feel as if we can’t cram anything more into our schedules. But Ms. Vanderkam wants to dispel that idea. “When you say you don’t have time, what you’re really saying is, it’s not a priority,” she said. To figure out where extra time lives in your schedule, she recommends thinking of time in weeks, rather than days. A week “is really the cycle of life as people actually live it,” she said. If you’re prone to procrastination, start small and specific. Procrastination often happens when we get overwhelmed and stall before we even start. “Taking very small steps is key,” Ms. Vanderkam said. “If you take small steps repeatedly, they really do add up. Say, I’m going to do just three things today. That’s 15 things per workweek; that’s 750 things in a year. If you do 750 important things in a year, that’s a pretty good year.”
For most Americans, these feel like bleak times. But ... under the radar, some aspects of life on Earth are getting dramatically better. Extreme poverty has fallen by half since 1990, and life expectancy is increasing in poor countries — and there are many more indices of improvement like that everywhere you turn. But many of us aren’t aware of ways the world is getting better because the press — and humans in general — have a strong negativity bias. Bad economic news gets more coverage than good news. Negative experiences affect people more, and for longer, than positive ones. Survey evidence consistently indicates that few people in rich countries have any clue that the world has taken a happier turn in recent decades — one poll in 2016 found that only 8 percent of US residents knew that global poverty had fallen since 1996. It’s worth paying some attention to this huge progress. Nothing’s permanent, and big challenges ... remain, but the world is getting much, much better on a variety of important, underappreciated dimensions. Probably the most important [is] a huge decline in the share of the world population living on less than $1.90 a day, from nearly 35 percent in 1987 to under 11 percent in 2013.
Note: Don't miss all the great graphics at the link above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Danone is banking on its expansion into the lucrative healthy eating business to produce sales growth that will beat the French food company's rivals over the coming decade. The world's biggest yoghurt maker told an Investor Seminar in London on Monday that it was relying on its fast-growing food categories such as probiotics, organic food and water to deliver "superior sustainable profitable growth" by 2030. As more consumers opt for healthier diets they are prepared to pay a premium for trying to pursue a more socially responsible lifestyle. Danone - along with rivals such as Nestle - has been seeking to rebuild consumers' trust in big food companies. Last year, for example, Danone bought U.S. organic food producer WhiteWave in a $12.5 billion deal, to boost growth and bring the company closer to current healthier eating trends. Francisco Camacho, executive vice president for Danone's 'Essential Dairy and Plant Based' business told the investor meeting he expected to triple the size of the plant-based business to 5 billion euros ($5.75 billion) by 2025 from 1.7 billion euros in 2018. Danone has been stepping up efforts to attract young consumers with products featuring probiotics, protein and plant-based ingredients, all fast-growing product categories.
Anthony Mancinelli shook out a barber towel and welcomed the next customer to his chair in Fantastic Cuts, a cheery hair salon in a nondescript strip mall. “Hey, paisan - same as usual,” said John O’Rourke to Mr. Mancinelli, who began layering Mr. O’Rourke’s hair with his steady, snipping scissors. “I don’t let anyone else touch my hair,” said Mr. O’Rourke. “The guy’s been cutting hair for a century.” Mr. Mancinelli is 107 and still working full time, cutting hair five days a week from noon to 8 p.m. He has been working in barbershops since he was 11. In 2007, at a mere 96 years old, he was recognized by Guinness World Records as the oldest working barber. Since then, the commendations have rolled in - from local civic groups, elected officials and barbering companies - all congratulating him: 100 years, 101, 102, and so on. Mr. Mancinelli just keeps outdating the awards. As hairstyles have changed over the decades, Mr. Mancinelli has adapted. “I cut them all,” he said, “long hair, short hair, whatever was in style - the shag, the Buster Brown, straight bangs, permanents.” Some customers have been coming to him for well over 50 years, having gotten hundreds of haircuts. “I have some customers, I cut their father, grandfather and great-grandfather - four generations,” said Mr. Mancinelli, who has six great-great-grandchildren. His son, Bob Mancinelli, said: “Some of his older customers, he helps them. He’ll say to an 80-year-old guy, ‘Listen, when you get to be my age. ...’ They love hearing that.”
Note: Explore a collection of concise summaries of news articles on amazing seniors.
Denmark has consistently ranked high on Forbes’ and other lists of Best Countries for Business. Entrepreneurship may not seem obvious in a society with a generous social welfare system and one which places a high value on the notion of equality, and a single, rather than upper or lower class, but there are valuable lessons to be learned from Denmark’s work culture which can be applied ... anywhere. Danish work culture focuses on teamwork, rather than pitting employees against each other. Competition is not institutionalized in the same way it is in other countries. The absence of this cutthroat environment creates a less stressful workplace and more opportunities for collaboration. Management in Denmark often eat alongside teams, which is an extension of ... open plan office design. Open plan removes the hierarchy and that environment, naturally, makes the flow of information from top to bottom much more organic. Independent thinking and autonomy are just as highly valued in Danish business culture as teamwork. And yes, the two can co-exist. Rather than discouraging staff from identifying problems outside their area of expertise ... Danish businesses encourage employees to spot problems or ways the company can work better and provide solutions whether relevant to their direct tasks or not. This kind of inclusion makes every employee a stakeholder and essentially instills a sense that everyone’s voice is heard and is working for the good of the company.
The average American employee only takes advantage of half of their earned vacation days, and 61 percent of workers admit to working during their supposed time off. However, science shows that taking a true vacation ... not only allows the body to physically repair itself, but can also leave you feeling inspired when you return. Designer Stefan Sagmeister embraced the necessity of time off and has come to rely on it to help produce his most meaningful artwork. Combining his passions for art and music, he is responsible for famous album covers for Lou Reed, The Rolling Stones and Aerosmith, to name a few. He also co-founded Sagmeister & Walsh, Inc. with Jessica Walsh, where he now works as a graphic designer and typographer. And every seven years, he shuts down their New York City studio for a full year while he travels to a faraway place to rest, explore and seek inspiration. “Right now we spend the first 25 years of our lives learning, then there’s another 40 years that’s really reserved for working, and then tacked on at the end of it are about 15 years for retirement,” said Sagmeister. “And I thought it might be helpful to basically cut off five of those retirement years and intersperse them between those working years. The work that comes out of these years flows back into the company and into society at large rather than just benefiting a grandchild or two.”
Note: Watch Stefan Sagmeister's TED Talk “The Power Of Time Off” for more on the value of vacationing. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
When Rob Scheer was 12 years old, he ended up in foster care after a childhood filled with violence and abuse. As he moved through the system, he carried his limited belongings in a trash bag. Yet he was determined to overcome the obstacles. He went on to join the US Navy and launch a successful corporate career, and he always knew he wanted to be a father. In 2008, Scheer and his husband, Reece Scheer, decided they would adopt children out of foster care. All the children showed up with their belongings in trash bags. "I couldn't believe it. The trash bag that I had carried so many years prior to that had found its way back into my life," Rob Scheer said. "It's just not acceptable that any child should carry their belongings in something that we all throw our trash in." The couple adopted the four children, and as a family, the Scheers began compiling supplies to donate to local foster children. Their nonprofit, Comfort Cases, was born. "We started building cases for kids that came into foster care, making sure that they had the basics," Scheer said. The backpacks are loaded with necessities like soap and toothbrushes, along with a book, journal, blanket, stuffed animal and other items. Since 2013, the group has assembled more than 20,000 Comfort Cases for children in foster care all over the country. "We want to make them feel loved," Scheer said. "I want them to know that even though they started their life in the system, the system still is not defining them. They deserve more."
In the short time that I’ve gotten to know Paula Hickey, I’ve found her to be a revelation. Listening to her bright, cheerful voice and her words of optimism and wisdom, it seems impossible that she is speaking to me from a hospice bed. And I found myself wondering...how is it that a woman facing death seems so much more present, more alive, than many of the healthy, able-bodied people I’ve met over the years? While the other kids her age were busy with school, playdates, and after-school sports, Paula was forced to spend her childhood in and out of hospitals. And after a traumatic brain aneurysm burst in her head at age nineteen, Paula’s go-to joke became, “I need that like I need a hole in my head!” Instead of feeling sorry for herself, or self-conscious in front of her classmates, Paula took the remarkable approach of looking at life as a comedy. She was nobody’s victim; she was like the star of her own quirky sitcom. And that’s what drew people toward her. Paula made it to college—and when everyone doubted that she would graduate after her brain hemorrhage at age nineteen, which caused her to lose her math skills and regressed her reading level to that of a fifth grader, Paula was resolute in her desire to not be a statistic. “I was determined to make something of my life, so I picked myself up and graduated college within three-and-a-half years... I’ve never given up. I’ve always kicked my own butt.”
The first time Simmaco Perillo arrived in the Italian hamlet of Maiano di Sessa Aurunca, everything around him was abandoned. It was 2005, and nobody wanted to cultivate former Mafia land. “We wanted to make a farm for the reintegration of disadvantaged people,” says Mr. Perillo. Today, the social cooperative Al di lŕ dei sogni, or Beyond the Dreams, is making pasta and growing organic vegetables on land that once belonged to the powerful Camorra Mafia. The cooperative [works] with ... those recovering from addiction, former prisoners, and people who were released from public mental hospitals, to provide sustainable livelihoods and combat the influence of the Mafia. Perillo and others in the cooperative ... were able to [acquire the land] thanks to national law 109/96, passed in 1996, which permits the social reuse of property confiscated from the criminal organizations. The cooperative was granted the land, but threats and attacks were not long in coming. “After the keys were handed to us, they [Mafia gangsters] arrived at night. They pulled down walls, broke through the windows, severed the electrical system, destroyed the plumbing. So we decided to sleep inside” to guard the property, Perillo recalls with a proud smile. Despite the setting of several intimidating fires, among other tactics, the cooperative was able to set up a sustainable business. Today 32 people are members of the cooperative, and more than half are disadvantaged people.
On a cross-country drive from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., our quest was to find out how activism has evolved in the past 50 years. Hours of interviews with former and current activists showed us that while the blueprints for battle have changed, the issues many people are fighting for have not. In 1968, the goal was to raise public awareness about the struggle of marginalized communities. Activists then used music, art, and writing as well as protests to bring that struggle forward. “What drove those movements was a rather wild hope that it was time for the country to repair what had been broken in American history,” says sociologist Todd Gitlin, author of “The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage.” Across the country, we saw people waking up to causes – conservative and liberal – they can support and finding a way to fight for them, just as activists did in 1968. Back then it might have meant wearing a brown beret or a black jacket, taking photos for a magazine, or writing a song with a person whose skin was a different color. Today it would look more like donning a pink hat or waving a rainbow flag or running for office when everyone says you can’t or shouldn’t. “I’ve become more aware at all levels,” says Ms. Oakes, [an] English teacher in West Virginia [who helped organize a successful strike]. “We have a platform to build on that I don’t think we had a year ago. And it’s been inspiring to see how we’ve started something.”
Jeanne Daprano wants the world to know something: She's not leaving anything behind. No regrets, no fear. At 81 years old, she's still pushing her body to the limit. She's still running competitive races, breaking world records and taking on new challenges. "The thing I'm learning about aging is, it's inevitable," Daprano said. "I'm not going to escape it. There are two ways to go: You can either press on or give up. Do I want to go back to 50, 40? No. Because I think the best is yet to come." As an elementary school teacher, she began running in order to keep up with her students. "I was known as the running teacher," she said. It might have started there, but Daprano's life as a runner took off in ways she never could have predicted. She began running competitively with 5K and 10K road races before moving to the track. She is now the world record holder in the women's 70-year-old age group mile and the women's 75-year-old age group 400 meters and 800 meters. And she's not done. In February, Daprano took on a new challenge: her first indoor rowing competition. In classic fashion, she broke the world record in the 80-to-84 age group, rowing 2,000 meters in 9:23.7. For those hoping to either start getting in shape or stay in shape for a long time, she offers this advice: "Listen to your body. What are you passionate about? Don't look ahead or compare yourself to somebody else. I'm still doing it, and I probably have a greater passion now than ever, because I'm understanding who I am."
There were dozens of witnesses when a gunfight broke out on a street corner in Buffalo on Aug. 10, 1991. Torriano Jackson, 17, was killed. Valentino Dixon, then 21, was at the scene. Hours later, he was arrested. And in 1992, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to almost 40 years to life in prison. For years, Mr. Dixon fought that conviction from behind bars, insisting on his innocence. No physical evidence had ever connected him to the murder, and another man had confessed to it more than once. His murder conviction was vacated on Wednesday, and Mr. Dixon, 48, walked free. As he struggled to get his conviction overturned, Mr. Dixon got help from ... Martin Tankleff, who was imprisoned for 17 years after being wrongly convicted of murdering his parents. In prison, [Dixon] liked to draw detailed landscapes in colored pencil. Golf courses were a frequent subject. That caught the interest of journalists at Golf Digest, and the magazine profiled Mr. Dixon. In 2017, a new district attorney, John Flynn, took office in Erie County. And in 2018, a course called the Prison Reform Project was offered for the first time at Georgetown University ... with Mr. Tankleff [serving] as an adjunct professor. Three students chose Mr. Dixon’s case and gathered evidence. Their work helped Donald M. Thompson, a lawyer for Mr. Dixon, make his case to the district attorney’s office. Mr. Flynn, the district attorney, said the newly discovered evidence from various witnesses attesting to Mr. Dixon’s innocence was deemed credible.
Note: Read the Golf Digest profile featuring Mr. Dixon's artwork which brought much-needed attention to his wrongful incarceration. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
In the world of social enterprise and impact investing, perhaps the most universally accepted guide is the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals [SDG]. Introduced in 2015, the 17 inter-connected goals now form an organizing principle for many entrepreneurs, as well as investors. To monitor and track how successful all that activity is, you ... need consistent benchmarks for measuring and comparing just how all those companies are doing. That’s where the World Benchmarking Alliance comes in. Recently announced at the United Nations General Assembly, it will develop free, publicly available benchmarks which will rank companies on their contributions to achieving the SDGs. With that in hand, everyone from consumers and investors to governments will have a comprehensive tool for deciding where to spend their money. Ultimately, the goal is to clarify what society expects from business. Some examples of factors in various benchmarks: For the SDG category of food and agriculture, they would include whether companies are producing food in an environmentally friendly way and ensuring acceptable livelihoods for farmers. For climate and energy, they would show to what extent companies in high carbon-emitting industries are contributing to the Paris Agreement. The aim is to develop all the benchmarks by 2023 to assess the world’s largest 2,000 companies. The first crop, due to be published in 2020, will address food and agriculture, climate and energy digital inclusion and gender equality and empowerment.
Two tiny robots have landed safely on an asteroid after a Japanese spacecraft dropped them there on Friday. The scientists behind the historic mission expressed their delight as the rovers sent back the first images from the surface of the space rock Ryugu. Dubbed MINERVA-II1, the robotic explorers are the first of their kind to be successfully landed on an asteroid. The Japanese space agency JAXA announced that both units were operational after a period of silence between the unmanned spacecraft Hayabusa-2 depositing them and connection being established with the team on Earth. “I cannot find words to express how happy I am that we were able to realise mobile exploration on the surface of an asteroid,” said Hayabusa-2 project manager Dr Yuichi Tsuda. The rovers will use the low gravity conditions on Ryugu to hop across the asteroid’s surface, measuring temperatures and sending images back to Earth via Hayabusa-2. “I was so moved to see these small rovers successfully explore an asteroid surface because we could not achieve this at the time of Hayabusa, 13 years ago,” said project mission manager Dr Makoto Yoshikawa. The small rovers are the first component of Hayabusa-2’s mission to Ryugu. Next month the spacecraft will deploy an explosive device to blast a hole in the asteroid, allowing rock samples to be taken from its depths. Following that it will release a French-German landing vehicle known as the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) to explore the surface in greater detail.
Note: Check out the fascinating photos of an actual asteroid at the link above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Derek Black was the heir apparent to America’s white nationalist movement. He was the son of Don Black, the founder of the hate site Stormfront and the godson of David Duke, a former grand wizard of the KKK. The kingdom was Derek Black’s for the taking. One day, seemingly out of nowhere, he walked away from it all. In the new book “Rising Out of Hatred” by Washington Post investigative reporter Eli Saslow, the story of how Black came to leave it all behind is told. Saslow dives deep into Black’s transformation, which took place at a small liberal arts college. When members of the student body discovered a white nationalist living in their midst, many of them publicly shamed him. But a handful of students did the opposite, practicing a form of extreme acceptance. "When I first found [Derek Black], he was unequivocal that he did not want to be written about," [said Saslow]. "He naively thought he could leave it all behind. Meanwhile, white nationalism was seeing a rise in the political space. There were ... phrases he had helped popularize becoming mainstream. Derek felt increasingly culpable. He was haunted by it. That’s when he decided he needed to start talking about it more openly." Derek was on a campus that was ... social justice minded. Students were smart enough to be able to explain concepts like systematic oppression and privilege. But coming from people he respected, those ideas suddenly had real merit to him. He took time to engage and really think about it."
The psychoactive drug known as ecstasy can make people feel extra loving toward others. A study published Thursday suggests it has the same effect on octopuses. Octopuses are almost entirely antisocial, except when they're mating. Scientists who study them have to house them separately so they don't kill or eat each other. However, octopuses given the drug known as MDMA (or ecstasy, E, Molly or a number of other slang terms) wanted to spend more time close to other octopuses and even hugged them. Octopuses' ... brains have a host of strange structures that evolved on a completely different trajectory from the human path. "They have this huge complex brain that ... has absolutely no business acting like ours does — but here they show that it does," says [neuroscientist Judit] Pungor. "This ... gentle, cuddly behavior is really pretty fascinating." The idea to test the drug's effect in octopuses came from Gul Dolen, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University. "My lab has been studying MDMA for a long time, she says, "and we have worked out a lot of neural mechanisms that enable MDMA to have ... pro-social effects." Dolen got interested in octopuses a few years ago, when scientists sequenced the full genetic code of a ... California two-spot octopus. It turns out that octopuses and people have almost identical genes for a protein that binds the signaling molecule serotonin to brain cells. This protein is also the target of MDMA, so Dolen wondered how the drug would affect this usually unfriendly animal.
Indoor vertical farming startup Bowery is in the process of building a second facility which it claims will be the most technologically sophisticated indoor farm in the world. The operation will be in Kearny, N.J., and grow 30 times more produce than its current indoor farm that’s located nearby, and supply 100 types of leafy greens and herbs. Bowery is applying robotics, machine learning, and predictive analytics to the agriculture sector, a segment of the economy that has been slow to adopt technology and digital advancements. “Software is the brains of the farm,” says Bowery CEO and founder Irving Fain. Small adjustments—water flow, light intensity, temperature, humidity—can then be made in response to data inputs to impact outcomes like taste and flavor, such as growing a mustard green that’s got a spicier pick. “These changes get pushed out automatically into our system,” says Fain. “The precision and level of control is unparalleled.” Fain says that Bowery is more than 100 times more efficient than a square foot of farmland, in large part because the startup can grow 365 days a year. Bowery doesn’t use any pesticides or agri-chemicals. Normally out in a field that would lead to reduction in yield, but Bowery has more crop cycles per year, grows twice as fast as a field, and has higher yield per crop cycle, says Fain. “It’s a better product for us and better way of growing and less destructive to the earth,” says Fain. “We’re using technology to grow the purest food possible.”
Boyan Slat spends a lot of time thinking about the ocean. The Dutch inventor has designed the world’s first ocean plastic cleanup system. After five and a half years of hard work, the 23-year-old Slat will watch from dry land as System 001 — a floating barrier nearly 2,000ft long — snakes its way out under the Golden Gate Bridge into the Pacific. Its destination is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a gyre of plastic waste twice the size of Texas held in position by ocean currents between California and Hawaii. If all goes to plan ... an array of 60 systems could reduce the amount of plastic there by half by 2025. “I hope that this will be a turning point for the plastic pollution problem,” Slat [said]. “For sixty years it has only gotten worse and worse. Now hopefully we’re turning the tide.” The eradication of the garbage patch, and more broadly the salvation of our oceans, has been Slat’s single-minded goal ever since he was 16 years old, when a diving trip to Greece yielded more plastic bag sightings than fish. Struck by the idea for a floating barrier that could collect plastic using the power of ocean currents alone, he founded his company, The Ocean Cleanup, aged just 18. Because the system is solid rather than a net, Slat says sea life will be protected from becoming ensnared. The hope is that plastic will accumulate as if on a seashore, ready to be collected by boats and taken for recycling.
I was born in a small town in British India. One of the bloodiest partitions in the history of the world took place in my country. In 1947, the British had finally left India, which led to a division of the country into India and Pakistan. There were riots everywhere, and, when I was 5, we had to flee in the middle of the night to the coastal town of Karachi. It wasn’t until I was 13 that I even heard the word engineer. The Prime Minister of India [Jawaharlal Nehru] visited my small city. He said, “after 200 years of British rule, India has no industry and that we need engineers. I was the first woman admitted to the engineering college that I attended in India. There wasn’t even a ladies’ room on the campus. At 19, I came across a biography of Henry Ford, and I started dreaming about one day working for the company he had built. After finishing college in India, my parents gave me their lifetime savings to help me fulfill my dream. I arrived in the Motor City, Detroit, Mich., in January of 1967 without snow boots, a warm jacket, or a car. The first time I applied to Ford, I wasn’t hired, but I didn’t give up. When I tried again a few months later, the HR person was confused. He looked at my resume and said, “You’re applying for an engineering job, but we have no females here.” I told him, “I’m here, and unless you hire me, you’ll never have any.” It worked. I became the first female with a Masters in Engineering ever hired by the Ford Motor Company.
After the deadly attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the first person Rabbi Ted Falcon called was his friend, Jamal Rahman, a Sufi imam. On the following Sabbath, the rabbi invited the imam to his Seattle synagogue to speak to the congregation. Soon after, the two spiritual leaders, along with Pastor Don Mackenzie, commenced a series of frank conversations about their beliefs. The talks eventually inspired a radio show, a pair of books, and worldwide speaking tours. The men’s willingness to ask and answer tough questions about faith in the wake of 9/11 had clearly struck a nerve with many Americans. Over the past 10 years, the percentage of US congregations involved in interfaith worship has doubled – from 7 to 14 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of congregations performing interfaith community service nearly tripled – from 8 to almost 21 percent – according to a new survey by Hartford Seminary’s Institute for Religion Research. In doing so, these congregations have joined the colorful, decades-old American interfaith movement. Since 9/11, the movement has gained new momentum and, more than ever before, has drawn Muslims into its ranks. “To think about 9/11 without thinking about the interfaith movement would almost be a travesty,” says Maureen Fiedler, host of “Interfaith Voices,” a ... radio program that was created in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks. “Islam was so misunderstood and so vilified by those events,” says Ms. Fiedler, “that a real interfaith understanding has to be brought to bear on the issue.”
As part of the Interfaith Youth Core, students and educators from colleges around the nation are coming together to find common ground while respecting differences. The nonprofit was founded on the notion that ... a 21st century democracy can thrive only if its citizens have the skills to successfully navigate divides of all kinds. Eboo Patel is the founder and president of the organization, the largest of its kind in North America. Patel is Muslim, born in Mumbai, India, and raised in middle-class suburban Chicago. There are chapters on nearly 500 campuses now, focusing on service in the community, pressing issues on campus, and making meaningful cooperation with others a normal part of the college experience in and outside the classroom. "I was a big part of both the diversity and the service learning movements in college," [said Patel]. "And part of the intersection of that movement was the idea that you bring people from different racial and class and geographic backgrounds together to do service. That doesn't mean we're going to agree on every election. That doesn't mean we're going to agree on economic policy, but we can start a baseball league together. We can help make the school play successful. We can participate in disaster relief efforts together. If we're not willing to do the work of citizens with other citizens, you can't have a healthy, diverse democracy."
Note: Eboo Patel recently released a book titled "Out of Many Faiths: Religious Diversity and the American Promise." Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Glenn Cunningham, a former world-record holder in the mile run who in 1979 was named the greatest track performer in the history of Madison Square Garden, died yesterday. He was 78 years old. That Mr. Cunningham could win 21 of 31 mile races on the indoor track at the Garden during his prime in the 1930's was impressive. More significantly, he did it after suffering life-threatening burns on both legs as a 7-year-old when a stove in a school classroom in Everetts, Kan., exploded, killing his older brother Floyd. After being told there was a strong possibility he would never walk again, he spent seven months in bed, and then received daily massages from his mother, who kneaded his damaged muscles and sped his way to walking, and then running. In high school, he played baseball and football and boxed and wrestled. At 13, he entered his first high school mile race and won easily. Using running as therapy for the burn injuries, he found that middle distances suited him. At a sophomore at the University of Kansas, Mr. Cunningham set an American record for the mile with a time of 4 minutes 11.1 seconds. He was selected as a member of the United States team for the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and finished fourth in the 1,500-meter run. In 1933 he won the Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur athlete. In his competitions at Madison Square Garden, Mr. Cunningham set six world records in the mile and the 1,500 meters and another at 1,000 yards.
Note: For more on the incredibly inspiring story of this great man, read this engaging article. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of news articles on incredibly inspiring disabled persons.
Global demand for fossil fuels will peak in 2023, an influential thinktank has predicted. Explosive growth in wind and solar will combine with action on climate change and slowing growth in energy needs to ensure that fossil fuel demand peaks in the 2020s, Carbon Tracker predicted. The projection is much more bullish than estimates by the global energy watchdog and oil and gas companies, which mostly expect demand to peak in the mid-2030s. Coal reached its peak in 2014. The group, which popularised the notion of a carbon bubble – where fossil fuel assets lose their value in the switch to a low-carbon economy – said the findings spelled disruption for energy firms. The Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, has already warned that markets face a “huge hit” from the transition. The Carbon Tracker report warned incumbency and size would be no protection, and compared the fate of fossil fuel firms to the horse and cart at the start of the 20th century. “Demand for incumbents peaks early, and investors in incumbents lose money early,” it said. The first two decades of this century were the innovation period for renewables, the authors said, while the “endgame” for fossil fuels – when renewables overtake them – would come from 2050 onwards. Falling wind and solar costs would lead to some emerging countries “leapfrogging” fossil fuels and opting for renewables to meet most of their growing energy needs, the thinktank said.
Note: Ireland recently became the first country to fully divest from fossil fuels. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Imagine a new, potent generation of solar panels capable of producing unlimited amounts of energy, using only sunshine and algae. This could be possible, thanks to a breakthrough made by researchers from the University of Cambridge, documented in a Nature Energy 2018 article. They were able to split water into its components, oxygen and hydrogen, using what is known as semi-artificial photosynthesis. The procedure has ... never been used to generate large amounts of energy due to expensive and toxic catalysts necessary for the reaction. Photosynthesis [is] the process plants use to convert sunlight into energy. Oxygen is a byproduct of photosynthesis when water absorbed by plants is “split.” Most of the oxygen on Earth is here because of this photochemical reaction. Hydrogen ... is also produced this way. Now, by combining algae and man-made components, researchers have been able to bypass both natural inefficiency and the use of toxic reactants. This was achieved by enabling a dormant process in algae that uses a special enzyme (hydrogenase) to reduce water into hydrogen and oxygen. Katarzyna Sokol, a researcher on the project ... explains: "Hydrogenase is an enzyme present in algae that is capable of reducing protons into hydrogen. During evolution, this process has been deactivated because it wasn’t necessary for survival, but we successfully managed to bypass the inactivity to [split] water into hydrogen and oxygen."
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.
Note: Explore a collection of concise summaries of news articles on amazing seniors.
When retired American couple, Dr. Whitman Jones and his wife Paula created The Center for Emerging Futures, a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing some of the most difficult situations that humans face, they didn’t realize they would also be launching an innovative fashion brand soon thereafter. After visiting Israel and seeing the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians firsthand, Jones began looking for ways to facilitate peaceful connections that could transcend the conflict. Given the skill sets of women in the region, Jones had the idea to bring Israeli seamstresses and designers together with Palestinian embroiderers to create a high-end fashion collection that could create jobs and highlight talents from both sides of the conflict. The result, Two Neighbors ... is dedicated to bringing today’s opposing cultures in Israel and Palestine together by providing jobs for women and a pathway to collaboration and peace in a very broken society. Many of the women producing the goods, both Palestinian and Israeli, are often undereducated, so the Two Neighbors team equips the women with the tools and training needed to make the business run efficiently. The ultimate goal is for the US partners to exit the company. At the end of the day, Two Neighbors is about creating peace at the ground level through individuals. Their mission is creating beautiful products through a shared humanity and their most significant achievement is the partnership created among team members in Israel and Palestine.
Britain's’s oldest tandem riders are still pedalling their “bicycle made for two” even though they have a combined age of 177. Betty Cox, 91, and husband Graham, 86, have been riding together ever since they met 70 years ago. The cycling-mad duo have travelled in Scotland, Norway and even completed a 400 mile round trip to Cornwall in just one week. Now fitness fanatic Mrs Cox from South Wales is encouraging others to get active. She said: “We've always loved cycling - and we are always out together. “I've been cycling for 69 years and my husband for 76 years. We started on the tandem soon after we met and have loved it ever since. “In 1949 we cycled from our home to Cornwall and back in a week. We also got to Scotland in a few days. “Graham tends to go on the front and me on the back. We love going on it.” The couple have reached 1,000 miles on their new tandem - after only riding it for six months. Mr Cox said: “We were quite surprised at it. We've never really thought of how many miles we do. I suppose not many people manage to reach that amount at our age. We go out on the tandem four days a week and we must do a lot of miles. Regular exercise, like we do on the tandem, is the key to a long and happy life. Just look at us. By looking at our ages is proof that exercise really does benefit you in the long run.“
Utilities around the world are supersizing their solar farms. Nowhere is that more apparent than in southern Egypt, where what will be the world’s largest solar farm — a vast collection of more than 5 million photovoltaic panels — is now taking shape. When it’s completed next year, the $4 billion Benban solar park near Aswan will cover an area 10 times bigger than New York’s Central Park and generate up to 1.8 gigawatts of electricity. But Benban probably won’t hold on to its title for long. China is planning to build a two-gigawatt solar farm in the northwestern province of Ningxia, and the state of Gujarat in western India recently gave the go-ahead for a five-gigawatt facility. Japan is even talking about putting a large-scale solar farm in space. “There are huge savings for larger projects,” says Benjamin Attia, a solar analyst. A 2017 report from the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that the cost of photovoltaic systems shrank by a factor of five from 2010 to 2017. Even the punitive tariffs on Chinese solar panels enacted earlier this year by the Trump administration are unlikely to slow the spread of large-scale solar, which in the U.S. is already cheaper and much cleaner than coal. “Governments have wised up,” says Attia. “They just want the cheapest, fastest way to add new electricity supplies. For nuclear, procurement can take a decade. For gas, it’s up to four years. If you’re talking solar and things go smoothly, you can build a reasonably large project in 18 months.”
A floating tidal stream turbine off the coast of Orkney has produced more green energy in a year than Scotland’s entire wave and tidal sector produced in the 12 years before it came online. In 12 months of full-time operation, the SR2000 turbine supplied the equivalent annual power demand of about 830 households. It produced 3GWh of renewable electricity during its first year of testing. Over the 12 years before its launch ... wave and tidal energies across Scotland had collectively produced 2.983GWh. Andrew Scott, chief executive officer of developers Scotrenewables Tidal Power, said: “The SR2000’s phenomenal performance has set a new benchmark for the tidal industry. “Its first year of testing has delivered a performance level approaching that of widely deployed mature renewable technologies.” He added: “The ability to easily access the SR2000 for routine maintenance has been a significant factor in our ability to generate electricity at such levels over the past 12 months, including over winter.” The team ... said their success – combined with Meygen’s generation of more than 8GWh over the past year from four tidal turbines deployed in the Pentland Firth – is evidence that tidal power generation could be rolled out more widely.
Christian Picciolini was 14 years old when he attended the first gathering of what would become the Hammerskin Nation, a violent, white-power skinhead group. Picciolini embraced the white supremacist message he heard ... and went on to front a white-power punk band, White American Youth. But after eight years as a neo-Nazi, Picciolini began to question the hateful ideology he espoused. He remembers a specific incident in which he was beating a young black man. His eyes locked with his victim, and he felt a surprising empathy. It was a turning point. He withdrew from the movement and in 2011 co-founded Life After Hate, a nonprofit that counsels members of hate groups and helps them disengage. "Over the last 14 years I have actually helped over 100 people disengage from the same movement that I was a part of," he says. "[Neo-Nazis] know that I'm a danger to them because I understand what they understand — but I also understand the truth." Picciolini's new memoir is called White American Youth. "I started one of America's first white-power bands to both recruit young people, encourage them into acts of violence and speak to the vulnerabilities and the grievances they were feeling so that I could draw them in with promises of paradise," [said Picciolini]. "It brings back a lot of shame, because I know that I put words out into the world that still today are affecting people and hurting people."
Many people worry that they’ll end up slowing down as they get older. But that doesn’t seem to be concern for 84-year-old Flo Meiler. In fact, this grandmother is just hitting her stride. Meiler, of Shelburne, Vermont, is a regular at the state’s senior games each year. There, she competes in all of the events, from the hurdles to the pole vaulting. Meiler was a late bloomer to track and field. A sales rep for 30 years, she hit the track for the first time at age 60. Five years later, she tried pole vaulting. Why? It simply seemed like fun, she believed. So she bought herself a “How to pole vault” video and essentially taught herself the skills she needed to compete. With roughly 750 medals under her belt so far for her age group and senior games victories, Meiler has no plans of stopping. She wants to continue going after records, many of which she already owns. One notable one is her six-foot pole vaulting clearance when she was 80, a world record. So if you’re ever feeling insecure about your ability to start something new or reach a goal, just think about Meiler: That 84-year-old is still pole vaulting in Vermont. What’s your excuse?
Former Uruguayan leader José Mujica, who was dubbed "the world's poorest president" for his modest lifestyle, says he does not want any pension from his time as a senator. Mr Mujica resigned on Tuesday from the post of senator, which he had held since 2015, when his five-year-term as president had ended. He said he would not serve out his term until 2020. The ex-president made his resignation official in a letter to the head of the Senate, Lucía Topolansky, who is also Uruguay's vice-president and Mr Mujica's wife of 13 years. In it he said "the motives [for resigning] are personal, I would call them 'tiredness after a long journey'." His down-to-earth lifestyle and refusal to live in the presidential palace during his time in office [made him] famous. Then and now, he and his wife, who was his life partner and fellow guerrilla fighter long before they married in 2005, live on a modest flower farm on the outskirts of Montevideo. He donated most of his salary as president to charity and the only possession he had when he took office in 2010 was his 1987 Volkswagen Beetle. The light-blue, beat-up Beetle became so famous he was offered $1m (Ł780,000) for it in 2014, but turned the offer down because he said he would have no way of transporting his three-legged dog without it.
Amid growing urbanisation, deforestation and agricultural expansion, it’s long been thought the number of trees across the planet is being reduced. However, that belief is probably wrong, according to new figures. The biggest ever analysis of global land change has discovered there are more trees across the earth today than there were 36 years ago. The study, published in the journal Nature this month, shows trees now cover 7 per cent more of the earth’s surface – roughly 2.24 million square kilometres – than they did in 1982. “This overall net gain is the result of a net loss in the tropics being outweighed by a net gain in the extratropics,” the report states. The study, led by scientists from the University of Maryland, in the US, analysed 35 years’ worth of satellite data to provide the most comprehensive picture ever made of the changing use of land. Tree loss in the tropics is caused by agricultural expansion, while the new growth areas [are] in regions which were previously too cold to support such flourishing life, suggesting global warming is causing previously unidentified changes to the planet’s landscapes. The study ... states that 60 per cent of all change appears to be directly driven by human activity. Of the remaining 40 per cent, the study suggests, most of the change can be attributed to indirect results of human actions.
Larry Lewis began his 105th year Wednesday with his usual morning regimen — a 6.7 mile run through [San Francisco's] Golden Gate Park. Then he ran an extra mile to the St. Francis Hotel, where he works as a waiter, for celebrating birthday No. 104. Lewis was followed by puffing newsmen, soma a quarter his age, as he trotted the last mile to show them "how to do it." Lewis, a waiter at the St. Francis for 24 years, was reared on the Navajo indian reservation. He said he joined the P.T. Barnum circus at 15, was an assistant to magician Harry Houdini for 33 years, and charged up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War — ahead of Theodore Roosevelt. Lewis, who doesn't have an ounce of fat in the 136 pounds he carries on his 5-foot-9 frame, still works up to 13 hours a day at the hotel. He is considered a medical miracle by this doctor – who pays Lewis to let him examine him. "He has more kinetic energy than most of us have ever known," the doctor said. "Larry did a lot of it himself," the physician said, "but he does not abuse his body by smoking, drinking, or keeping late and irregular hours. [He also] eats the right foods – foods low in low in fat, lots of fruit, and abstained from dessert." Lewis' wife of 19 years Bessie, 73, attended the party that featured what Lewis calls his "fountain of youth," an elixir of fresh mountain valley water. "I drink three gallons of it a day, he said." In addition to his daily runs through Golden Gate Park, Lewis said he also keeps fit with "a little boxing at the Olympic club and some hand ball."
The real-life story of Dr. Charles Mully is beyond inspirational. This remarkable story unfolds on the big screen. It all happens in the East African country of Kenya. Mully was 6 when he was abandoned by his family. After somehow surviving into young adulthood, he finds his way to Nairobi and a job there. He finds remarkable success. Mully is set for a life of abundance. But he became somehow troubled that such was not his life’s purpose. After leaving his successful company behind, he moves his family back to the place from whence he came. They ... begin rescuing a few of the orphans who, like his own beginnings, spent their days drifting the dirt streets and trying to survive. Soon those few grew to more. When the confines of the villages limited the ongoing expansion of his mission, he moved into the wide-open spaces of the dry and barren East African tundra. There they built their own village but its future was limited by the lack of a water supply. While unable to sleep, Mully gets out of bed in the middle of the night and tells his wife that God is going to show him where water can be found. They proceed down a pathway then veer off ... and put a stake in the ground. Workers in the family start digging with shovels and picks and soon there is water so abundant a bridge is needed to cross the stream that results from the flow. Today they are growing crops in the desert and supplying food enough for the 10,000 members of the world’s largest family and beyond.
Note: Watch the inspiring trailer to the film on this great man.
The Los Angeles City Council is preparing to ask voters if they want to create a publicly owned bank, something no city or state in the United States has done in nearly a century. Council members voted Tuesday to start the process of putting a measure on the Nov. 6 ballot that would allow for the creation of such a bank by amending the city charter. The move is an early step in council President Herb Wesson’s plan to create a public bank, which he said could offer accounts to scores of city cannabis businesses that are shunned by commercial banks because of federal drug laws. It also could help finance affordable housing, he said. David Jette, legislative director of advocacy group Public Bank L.A., said putting the issue to a citywide vote could be a make-or-break moment for public banking, an idea that has gained steam since the financial crisis and lately seen an influx of support from the cannabis industry. Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco and the state of California are all in the process of studying whether they can or should start public banks, in part to serve cannabis businesses. For now, though, the U.S. has just one public bank: the Bank of North Dakota, established in 1919. “We’re cautiously ecstatic,” Jette said after Tuesday’s vote. “This will be a referendum on the idea of public banking. I think this is an existential vote for our entire national movement.”
Note: The measure was approved and will be on the November ballot for LA voters. For more, see this excellent webpage. Read a revealing article on how the Bank of North Dakota allowed the state to sail through the 2008 financial crisis while all other 49 states suffered. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Chinese researchers have taken what they say is a major step forward for the development of a new generation of solar cells. Manufacturers have long used silicon to make solar panels because the material was the most efficient at converting sunlight into electricity. But organic photovoltaics, made from carbon and plastic, promise a cheaper way of generating electricity. This new study shows that organics can now be just as efficient as silicon. Organic photovoltaics (OPV) can be made of compounds that are dissolved in ink so they can be printed on thin rolls of plastic, they can bend or curve around structures or even be incorporated into clothing. Commercial solar photovoltaics usually covert 15-22% of sunlight, with a world record for a silicon cell of 27.3% reached in this summer in the UK. Organics have long lingered at around half this rate. In April researchers were able to reach 15% in tests. Now this new study pushes that beyond 17% with the authors saying that up to 25% is possible. This is important because according to estimates, with a 15% efficiency and a 20 year lifetime, organic solar cells could produce electricity at a cost of less than 7 cents per kilowatt-hour. In 2017, the average cost of electricity in the US was 10.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Flexible, printed solar cells offer a wide range of possibilities. They can work indoors and they can be made semi-transparent, so they could be incorporated into windows and generate power during daylight.
Most synthetic polymers - Greek for “many parts,” because they are long chains of many identical molecules - were not designed to disintegrate. They were meant to last as long as possible. But synthetic polymers became so popular [that] they’re at the root of the global burden of billions of tons of plastic waste. The environmental effects of plastic buildup and the declining popularity of plastics have helped to spur chemists on a quest to make new materials with two conflicting requirements: They must be durable, but degradable on command. In short, scientists are in search of polymers or plastics with a built-in self-destruct mechanism. The starting point requires picking polymers that are inherently unstable. Dismantling these polymers is sometimes called unzipping them, because once the polymers encounter a trigger ... their units fall off one after another until the polymers have completely switched back to small molecules. “We can have a big change in properties or complete degradation of the polymer just from one event,” says Elizabeth Gillies, a polymer chemist. On-demand, rapid disintegration gives unzipping polymers an edge ... she says, as biodegradation is often slow and difficult to control. These next-generation polymers could help mitigate pollution problems associated with plastic products. If the units were collected after unzipping to make new polymers, that would lead to chemical recycling. Most recycling done today simply involves melting the plastic and remolding it.
The sprawling, gated campus of the Energy Research Center of the Netherlands (ECN) sits on a spit of land about an hour north of Amsterdam. In a nearby control room, engineers ... were working on one of clean energy’s intransigent problems: how to turn waste into electricity without producing more waste. Decades ago, scientists discovered that when heated to extreme temperatures, wood and agricultural leftovers, as well as plastic and textile waste, turn into a gas composed of underlying chemical components. The resulting synthetic gas, or “syngas,” can be harnessed as a power source, generating heat or electricity. But gasified waste has serious shortcomings: it contains tars, which clog engines and disrupt catalysts, breaking machinery, and in turn, lowering efficiency and raising costs. This is what the Dutch technology is designed to fix. The MILENA-OLGA system, as they call it, is a revolutionary carbon-neutral energy plant that turns waste into electricity with little or no harmful byproducts. The MILENA-OLGA process ... is 11 percent more efficient than most existing energy-from-waste plants and over 50 percent more efficient than incinerators of a comparable scale. The process also emits zero wastewater and produces no particulates or other pollutants. Just 4 percent of the original material is left over as inert white ash, which can be used to make cement.
Note: A similar technology was developed and implemented over 10 years ago, as detailed in this Popular Science article. Why wasn't this amazing invention widely reported and used? Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
In New Prague, Minn., population around 7,600, Kendra and Paul Rasmusson [opened a grocery] store that is largely unstaffed. The couple’s young daughter has epilepsy, and they discovered early on that a healthy diet could help her feel better. They couldn’t find enough local, organic items at the big-box store close to town. So ... they opened Farmhouse Market. The numbers wouldn’t work if they were to run it in a traditional way. Inspired by a nearby 24-hour fitness center, they had an idea: Why not create a store that didn’t need staff, for shoppers who wanted organic [food] from local farmers? Members pay $99 a year and use a key card to open the door. They can shop anytime they want. Local farmers, beekeepers and other suppliers have cards, too, so they can restock their supplies at midnight if they want. In Baltimore, the Salvation Army market is tackling an urban version of the grocery-store drought. The DMG Foods was built in the front of a Salvation Army distribution center in a neighborhood where families in public housing mix with Johns Hopkins students and older people who grew up there. The cheery store, whose name is an abbreviation of the organization’s motto, Doing the Most Good, feels a little bit like what Amazon would ship if you typed “grocery store” into the search bar. And in a way, that’s what [founder Maj. Gene]. Hogg did. “We didn’t do this to make money selling groceries,” Mr. Hogg said. “We did this so people could have a neighborhood grocery store with fresh food.”
This week, two of the biggest economies in Europe set new records for clean energy. The UK’s electrical grid has not burned any coal for about 1,000 hours so far this year. Though it’s just a symbolic achievement, the pace at which the UK is reaching such figures shows the pace of the energy transition. In 2016 and 2017, the comparable figures for the full year stood at 210 hours and 624 hours, respectively. There are two reasons for the shift: a carbon tax on coal has made cleaner natural gas more attractive, and subsidies for solar and wind power have ensured wider deployment of new clean-energy technologies. Germany’s case has been slightly different. Though it began pushing for renewable energy much earlier than the UK, its gains have been slower. The coal lobby in Germany is a lot stronger than in the UK. But as the costs of renewable energy have come down, change is finally showing. In 2018 so far, coal generated about 35.1% of the country’s electricity. In comparison, renewable sources, such as solar, wind, and biomass, generated about 36.5%. At the half-year mark, it’s the first time in Germany’s history that renewables sources have generated more electricity than coal. Such records and falling renewable costs have made it easier for the EU to set more ambitious clean-energy goals. Last month, the bloc’s member nations agreed that each country must get 32% of all its energy from renewable sources by 2030.
While most countries are struggling to reach their renewable energy targets, others are breezing past them. Thanks to both its geography and impactful policies, Sweden is set to achieve its 2030 goals in mere months. In 2012, years before the Paris Agreement, Norway and Sweden signed a joint agreement to increase production of electricity from renewables by 28.4 terawatt hours within eight years. It only took a few years for Sweden to realize it was ahead of schedule, and in 2017, it increased its target, aiming to add another 18 TWh by 2030. Lo and behold, once more, Sweden is moving much faster than anticipated and now there’s a good chance it will reach the 2030 goal in mere months — maybe even by the end of the year. Wind energy is one of the main drivers propelling Sweden’s renewable targets forward. According to the World Economic Forum ... there will be 3,681 turbines functioning in the country by the end of the year. But this is only the start of the road for Sweden. Sweden already has a cross-party agreement to achieve 100% renewable energy production by 2040, and the figure is already hovering around 57%. The country has also set a target of net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2045. According to the Paris Agreement, all EU countries have agreed to achieve 20% final energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020.
Mitochondria are tiny organelles that fuel the operation of the cell. A series of experiments has found that fresh mitochondria can revive flagging cells and enable them to quickly recover. In animal studies ... mitochondrial transplants revived heart muscle that was stunned from a heart attack. Infusions of mitochondria also prolonged the time organs could be stored before they were used for transplants, and even ameliorated brain damage that occurred soon after a stroke. In ... human tests, mitochondrial transplants appear to revive and restore heart muscle in infants that was injured in operations to repair congenital heart defects. The idea for mitochondrial transplants was born of serendipity. Dr. Emani is a pediatric surgeon. Dr. McCully is a scientist who studies adult hearts. Both were wrestling with ... how to fix hearts that had been deprived of oxygen during surgery or a heart attack. One day, [Dr. McCully] decided simply to pull some mitochondria from healthy [pig] cells and inject them into the injured cells. To his surprise, the mitochondria moved like magnets to the proper places in the cells and began supplying energy. The pig hearts recovered. Meanwhile, Dr. Emani was struggling with the same heart injuries in his work with babies. [When] the two researchers met, “it was almost an ‘aha’ moment,” Dr. Emani said. The scientists have now treated 11 babies with mitochondria. All of the more recent patients survived and are doing well.
A New Zealand firm that let its employees work four days a week while being paid for five says the experiment was so successful that it hoped to make the change permanent. The firm, Perpetual Guardian, which manages trusts, wills and estates, found the change actually boosted productivity among its 240 employees, who said they spent more time with their families, exercising, cooking, and working in their gardens. Similar experiments in other countries have tested the concept of reducing work hours as a way of improving individual productivity. In Sweden, a trial in the city of Gothenburg mandated a six-hour day, and officials found employees completed the same amount of work or even more. In Perpetual Guardian’s case, workers said the change motivated them to find ways of increasing their productivity while in the office. Meetings were reduced from two hours to 30 minutes, and employees created signals for their colleagues that they needed time to work without distraction. “They worked out where they were wasting time and worked smarter,” [Jarrod Haar, a human resources professor] said. Andrew Barnes, the company’s founder ... said he came up with the idea for a four-day workweek after reading a report that suggested people spent less than three hours of their work day productively employed, and another that said distractions at work could have effects on staff akin to losing a night’s sleep.
Of all the measures of the continent’s poverty, few are starker than that about two-thirds of its people have no access to reliable electricity. But thanks to a happy combination of innovation and falling costs for renewable energy, Africa may now be able to leapfrog ahead not once but twice, skipping both polluting fossil fuels and, often, the electricity grid itself. This is partly due to falling costs: the price of solar panels has come down by more than 80% since 2010, and that of wind turbines is also dropping fast. Yet generating power is useful only if it can be sent to where it is needed, and in many parts of Africa electricity grids seldom stretch beyond big cities. [A] set of innovations is offering to sidestep this problem with mini rooftop solar installations that can power a home, or slightly larger “micro-grids” that can light up a village. Rooftop solar systems usually consist of a small solar panel and a small rechargeable battery and controller which typically powers ... lights, a radio and a phone charger. Most systems have a built-in connection to the mobile-phone network that allows the provider to switch it on or off remotely. Instead of shelling out $250 or so upfront for an entire system, customers can buy electricity for the equivalent of 50 cents a day using mobile money. Thanks to this new “paygo” model, venture capital is pouring into an industry that now has at least half a dozen significant firms. The largest of them, M-Kopa, has electrified more than 500,000 homes and is adding almost 200,000 more a year.
When Andrew Parker’s grandfather began suffering from dementia three years ago, his grandmother had to start taking care of the house and caring for him. It was hard work, and one day, Parker got the idea to hire a college student to help out. His grandfather loved it. So did his grandmother. For a few hours, he said, “She got to go do her own thing.” It got Parker thinking. “There’s so many seniors and so many college students out there.” So in January, [he] launched a business called Papa, after his name for his grandfather. It connects students with seniors for light housekeeping or driving chores, but the company’s real goal is in its slogan: “Grandkids on-Demand.” “We are specifically a service that links two generations,” Parker said. “Our emphasis is this is a really fun day for a senior. Someone who might say, ‘I don’t want to bother my daughter or son but I want someone who can be with me for a day so I don’t have to annoy my kids.’” To date, the company has around 250 members who pay a monthly fee of $15 to $30 to belong, and then pay $15 per hour for visits by students, or Papa Pals. Pals must be enrolled in a 4-year college, or be working on a masters degree, a social work degree, or a nursing or medical degree. They must have a four-door car and pass a background check. “The biggest thing we’re focusing on is curing loneliness,” Parker said. The ... nature of the relationship – and the relative youth of the Pals – can also make them easier to work with than more traditional aides.
An African American family of six sits inside the Nissan Quest in this first-ring suburb of St. Paul. The car tells a story of poverty: Plastic covers a broken window; rust lines the wheel wells. Officer Erin Reski pulled the vehicle over for a burned-out taillight, a problem similar to the one that led an officer to stop Philando Castile in the Twin Cities two years ago. That incident ... ended with Castile fatally shot. This situation ends very differently. Reski walks back to the minivan ... hands over a sheet of paper and offers a brief explanation. The response is swift and emphatic. “Oh, thank you!” the driver says. Scenes like this have been taking place across the Twin Cities thanks to the Lights On program, believed to be the first of its kind in the country. Instead of writing tickets for minor equipment problems, police officers are authorized to issue $50 coupons so motorists can have those problems fixed at area auto shops. Twenty participating police departments have given out approximately 660 coupons in a little more than a year. For motorists such as Sandy Patterson, another African American resident who was pulled over for a burned-out headlight in January, the small gesture of being offered a coupon makes a big difference. “I was relieved that I was getting a voucher to purchase a service that could’ve been quite expensive,” she said. “I had an overwhelming feeling of decreased anxiety because of the whole way the communication went, with somebody helping out versus giving a ticket.”
New York City is the safest big city in the nation. The city is betting it can [get even safer]. The Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety is being employed in 15 of the most dangerous public housing complexes in the city. The idea is to lower crime by making these neighborhoods better - places where residents live in well-maintained buildings, have necessary services, are engaged in civic life and can collaborate to solve problems. Working elevators, summer jobs for teenagers, community centers open till midnight, residents who know what to do when the trash piles up - no one would doubt that these are good things. But it seems a stretch to call them crime prevention measures. Will people really commit fewer robberies and shootings if the trash gets picked up? Crime has dropped more in the 15 complexes involved in the plan than in other public housing. Why? It might be this: Crime is in part a function of trust. “Trust is the heartbeat of civic life,” said Elizabeth Glazer, head of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. “These neighborhoods feel completely estranged.” Perhaps more important ... is what social scientists call “collective efficacy” - achieved when neighbors feel that they can trust and rely on one another and work together to get things done. Collective efficacy is so important that the lack of it - common in disadvantaged neighborhoods - is most of the reason poor communities have more crime. When they build collective efficacy, even without other changes, crime drops.
Two prominent California doctors, with bestselling books, insist we have the power to heal our own brains from diseases. They say it should start when we're young and begin with a look at the way we eat. Two women we spoke with who followed that advice say ... they reversed their early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease by making food and lifestyle changes based on research by neuroscientist Dr. Dale Bredesen. He wrote a book called "The End of Alzheimer's." "Two years ago, I scored mildly cognitively impaired on a cognitive assessment test," said Dr. Sally Weinrich. "Most recently, I scored perfect!" Weinrich, a former cancer researcher and grandmother, followed the Bredesen protocol for several months and is able to cook once again for her large family, pick up the grandkids from school and she's learning Spanish. Deborah, a very active mother of four and a lawyer, says, "Over a period of four to six months, the symptoms I was experiencing all reversed and I returned to my cognitive functioning that had been my norm when I was younger." She was able to recover her ability to sight-read notes when she plays the piano. Adda, an active 51-year-old grandmother, [said] that she improved her ability to think clearly and she lost almost 80 pounds after making dramatic food and lifestyle changes ... after she started working for cardiologist Dr. Steven Gundry nearly six years ago. He wrote a book called "The Plant Paradox."
China has reportedly reassigned over 60,000 soldiers to plant trees in a bid to combat pollution by increasing the country's forest coverage. A large regiment from the People's Liberation Army, along with some of the nation's armed police force, have been withdrawn from their posts on the northern border to work on non-military tasks inland. The majority will be dispatched to Hebei province, which encircles Beijing, according to the Asia Times. The area is known to be a major culprit for producing the notorious smog which blankets the capital city. The idea is believed to be popular among members of online military forums as long as they can keep their ranks and entitlements. It comes as part of China's plan to plant at least 84,000 square kilometres (32,400 square miles) of trees by the end of the year, which is roughly equivalent to the size of Ireland. The aim is to increase the country's forest coverage from 21 per cent of its total landmass to 23 per cent by 2020. Zhang Jianlong, head of China's State Forestry Administration, said by 2035 the figure could reach as high as 26 per cent."
Homegirl Cafe, a Los Angeles breakfast and lunch spot with a Latino twist, offers a unique dining experience prepared by former gang members. The popular cafe in the city's Chinatown allows visitors to relish carefully crafted meals while getting inspired by former inmates who willingly retell their stories about seeking a better life. The cafe is an offshoot of the Homeboy Industries social enterprises founded by Jesuit priest Greg Boyle to give former gang members job training and social services. Trainees learn all aspects of culinary arts while developing new social prowess that gives visitors a tender encounter. Plates like chilaquiles — fresh crisp tortilla chips tossed with warm tomatillo salsa, egg, crema fresca, and queso cotija — are made from ingredients that come straight from urban farms.
Note: Read more about Homeboy Industries' success in providing former gang members with a path to a better life. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Campbell Remess is not like most 12-year-olds. For the last three years, Campbell has spent all of his free time sewing teddy bears for charity. "I do comfort bears, which are for parents if their kids are in hospital having a hard time," he said. "I do overseas bears, like for terrorists attacks. I sent one over to Paris when the people got hurt, and I'm sending some over to Brussels too." This charitable obsession started when Campbell decided he wanted to give Christmas presents to children in hospital. "He asked if we could buy presents for children in hospital and I said 'No way, dude'," Sonya Whittaker, Campbell's mum, said. She told Campbell that with nine children of their own, buying presents for sick kids would just cost too much. "He said 'No worries, I'll make them then'," she said. "He came down with this funky looking teddy bear that he'd made ... it was incredible," Ms Whittaker said. "He's just sewn and sewn since then." Campbell has pushed himself for the past two years to create a teddy bear a day. Ms Whittaker has since set up a Facebook group called Project 365 by Campbell to track her son's progress. One of the group's members, Kat, was recently inspired to help Campbell. "I sent his mum a message one night to ask if he needed fabric," Kat said. "She came back with a definite no, but [said] what he did need was storage space. "I set up a [online fundraiser, and] we reached $1,000 in 36 hours." Kat used the money to buy Campbell a work bench and storage space to hold all the donated fabric he has.
Across the world, almost half as many people are creating ventures with a primarily social or environmental purpose as those with a solely commercial aim, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. The movement is driven mainly by younger entrepreneurs and its growth has taken place against a backdrop of corporate scandals in mainstream businesses ... that have brought capitalism’s values into question. “Social entrepreneurship has gone mainstream and global,” argues Peter Drobac, a doctor who created healthcare ventures in Rwanda. Dr Drobac ... was inspired to get into the field 20 years ago when HIV infection was running unchecked. “Younger generations in my experience are much more deeply connected to the world and to societal challenges. They want careers that allow them to create positive change,” he says. Other factors, Dr Drobac adds, include the changing nature of work, “which means that the prospect of spending one’s entire career in the same company is becoming vanishingly small”. At the same time, technology is creating opportunities for disruptive innovation in sectors such as education and healthcare. While research suggests the majority of social entrepreneurs worldwide are young, the movement has been inspired by figures such as Muhammad Yunus. The septuagenarian Bangladeshi founder of Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for pioneering microcredit — loans for entrepreneurs too poor to get traditional bank loans, many of them women.
Note: Read more about the microcredit movement mentioned in the article above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Ireland will become the first country in the world to fully divest from fossil fuels after politicians voted to withdraw all public funds from oil and gas companies. In an effort to meet the country's climate change commitments, as embodied in the Paris agreement, the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill will probably be brought into force after parliament's summer recess. First introduced by independent MP Thomas Pringle in 2016, the bill has since been backed by all opposition parties. Taking inspiration from universities and cities around the world that have withdrawn financial support from the fossil fuel industry, Mr Pringle began working on the idea after meeting Irish international development charity Trocaire. The passing of the bill will compel the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund to sell off its fossil fuel investments, which stand at more than €300m (Ł265m) across 150 companies worldwide. Mr Pringle said the withdrawal of this money will not only remove funds from some of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters, it will act as a gesture of Ireland’s commitment to tackling climate change. Eamonn Meehan, executive director of Trocaire, agreed that the bill made a “powerful statement” that would serve to improve the nation’s reputation as a “climate laggard”.
While many people wring their hands over the amount of plastic waste, Miranda Wang aims to reduce the mess. Ms. Wang, 24, is a co-founder and chief executive of BioCellection, a start-up that is tackling hard-to-recycle plastic packaging, focusing initially on plastic-film waste. Using a novel reaction system that employs a liquid chemical catalyst, BioCellection turns unrecyclable, contaminated film waste into chemicals that can be used by consumers and industry. Later this year, BioCellection will start a pilot program in the San Francisco Bay Area to build its first commercial machine, which can process five metric tons of waste a day. Many borrowers with poor credit scores ... can’t qualify for an affordable small loan. Jeff Zhou is offering an answer, in the form of Fig Loans. The lender’s goal is to offer an alternative to pricey payday loans that strapped consumers turn to when they have an unexpected financial emergency and have no other option. “We want to offer socially responsible financial products for people who are under banked,” he said. Customers can apply online for a loan from Fig, which makes lending decisions based on bank statements, taking into account expenses like rent, utilities and spending, Mr. Zhou said. Loans are $300 to $500 and, depending on the state, are repaid in four or six equal monthly installments — unlike payday loans, which typically must be repaid in two weeks.
Note: Read about more inventive solutions to common problems at the link above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
A record-breaking fundraiser started by Dave and Charlotte Willner to help families separated at the border continues exceeding all expectations. While President Trump signed an executive order to halt his policy of breaking up families, the Willners said some of the $16 million raised will help a nonprofit to return children to their families. The additional money raised by the Willners will help Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) provide lawyers to immigrants as well as reunite families. The Willners said RAICES has unified three families already. The fundraiser first started after the Willners saw the photo of a 2-year-old Honduran girl crying at the border and they thought immediately of their own 2-year-old daughter. They felt they had to act so they started a fundraiser on Facebook, hoping to raise $1,500 for RAICES. It soon became clear this was no ordinary fundraiser. At one point, people were donating between $2,000 and $4,000 a minute, the family shared. The average donation is $38. As the fundraiser neared $5 million dollars, Facebook updated its platform so that the family could continue raising money. The Willners were among Facebook's first employees, and now both work at different tech companies in Silicon Valley. They raised more than $16 million in five days for the RAICES, and the Willners reset their goal to $20 million.
Note: The donations continue to pour in and now exceed $20 million. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
One single-use plastic bag takes at least 450 years to degrade. Give Miranda Wang three hours and she can reduce ten of them into liquid. Recycling plastic today is a mechanical process ... limited to only certain types of plastics: PET, used in water bottles, and HDPE, used in milk jugs. The five other types of commonly used plastics ... cannot be recycled. Adding to this is that most plastics thrown away are covered in food and grease and so are automatically rejected by markets with strict quality standards. These are the plastics Wang has her sights on. “Our technology can turn these dirty films that have food or dirt or any kind of grime or any kind of contamination on it and we turn this material into a combination of four different kinds of chemicals, called organic acids,” says Wang. One of these chemicals is adipic acid, a precursor for materials like nylon and polyamines used in fashion, for electronic parts and in the automotive industry for car parts. “Our vision is to transform a polyethylene, which right now does not have any downstream market value once its consumed and is used for one life cycle, and we turn it into a chemical that is of the same quality as what is immediately made from petroleum - adipic acid,” says Wang. “This first helps us not allow film plastics from becoming pollution and second ... displaces petroleum from being needed to be extracted to make new materials.”
Google has more clean power than it needs. The Alphabet Inc. unit used about 7 terawatt-hours of electricity to run all of its global operations last year, and it sourced even more than that, according to Neha Palmer, its head of energy strategy. Corporate buyers are major purchasers of wind and solar power. While part of the motivation is to advance sustainability goals, they’re also finding that clean energy is often the cheapest electricity available. Big technology companies have been leading this trend, and Google has been the biggest of them all. “Our electric consumption is the largest part of our carbon footprint,” Palmer said in a phone interview. “The renewable-energy program we have is the best way to mitigate our carbon impact.” Companies signed long-term agreements for a record 5.4 gigawatts of clean capacity globally last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, up from 4.3 gigawatts in 2016. That’s enough to displace at least 10 coal-fired power plants. Google signed its first clean power-purchase agreement in 2010, and since then it’s arranged about 25 more, prompting more than $3 billion in new clean-power plants. Google has agreed to buy ... more than double that of Amazon.com Inc., the next biggest green consumer. “It’s a significant investment, leading to lots of new renewables projects,” Kyle Harrison, a New York-based analyst ... said. “It’s a long-term bet on clean energy, a hedge against wholesale prices.”
In southeast Georgia, in an area filled with farms, construction will soon begin on a sprawling new 120-megawatt solar plant. It will be the first solar facility in the county, and it will exist in part because Google - which has a large data center in Georgia - is working to bring renewable electricity to every region in which it operates. The solar farm is one of two new projects in Georgia that will sell energy to Google via the local utility, and is also the latest example of the company’s work to open energy markets to corporations that want to support new sources of renewable electricity. The company pioneered the practice in 2010; now, companies from Nike to Starbucks and AT&T are doing the same thing. Traditionally, wind farms and solar farms sold wholesale power only to utilities, and regulations made it impossible for companies to buy that clean energy. But the company realized that it could apply to the federal government for the right to buy and sell wholesale power itself, and then create long-term contracts - called power purchase agreements - with the developers of renewable projects. The first project was a wind farm in Iowa. By 2017, with around 20 similar projects, Google met a longstanding goal to buy as much renewable energy as it uses globally, sourced from new wind and solar plants. Ultimately, the company wants to use clean energy everywhere it works, all the time. The next step in that process is to buy renewable energy on every local grid where Google works.
Over the past three years, nine communities in the United States have reached a rigorous standard known as “functional zero” for either veteran or chronic homelessness - a standard that indicates that homelessness is rare and much briefer than in the past for their populations - and 37 others have accomplished measurable reductions toward that goal. What’s illuminating is how they’re doing it: by making whole systems smarter. They are linking in a national network ... to improve their performance. Rockford, Ill., was the first community in the United States to reach the functional zero level for veterans. “We get everybody in our community who works on the issue ... and we bring them into a room,” [said Jennifer Jaeger, the city’s community services director]. “So if we’re working on veterans, we’ll have the V.A., the local veteran agencies, mental health agencies and substance abuse agencies. We’ll sit down with the list and say: ‘O.K., John Smith is No. 1. Who’s working with him? How do we get him housed as fast as we can?’ And we go literally name by name. It makes a huge difference because they stop being ‘the homeless’ and become people we all know. And we become very vested in making sure John Smith is housed and safe and has the services he needs.” Successes get turned into mini case studies and are logged in Built for Zero’s menu of strategies. So if a community partner wants to know how to do effective street outreach or improve housing retention ... there’s an inventory of proven ideas to draw from.
Charitable giving surged to a record high in 2017 as Americans gave more than $400 billion for the first time ever to a wide variety of organizations. Giving jumped 5.2% from last year to an estimated $410.02 billion in 2017, according to Giving USA 2018, the Giving USA Foundation’s annual report on philanthropy. The report, researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, found that giving from all sources grew in 2017. Three of the four sources posted gains of more than 5%: Giving by corporations increased 8%, foundations 6% and individuals 5%. "The increase in giving in 2017 was generated in part by increases in the stock markets, as evidenced by the nearly 20% growth in the S&P 500," said Amir Pasic, dean of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Gifts to foundations saw the biggest increase in 2017, rising 15.5%, as large investment returns were the basis for several large gifts given by individual philanthropists to their foundations. The second-largest increase was an 8.7% jump in gifts to the arts, culture and humanities. Religious organizations, however, continue to receive the most charitable support, with contributions rising 2.9% to $127.37 billion. While the overall amount of giving by Americans has risen ... The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that from 2000 to 2014, the share of Americans donating to charity fell from 66.2% to 55.5%. Many nonprofits have turned their focus to attracting more big gifts.
Koko, the gorilla who mastered sign language and showed the world what great apes can do, has died. She died Tuesday in her sleep at age 46. "Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication and empathy," the [The Gorilla Foundation] said. The western lowland gorilla was born at the San Francisco Zoo in 1971 and began to learn sign language early in life. Researchers moved her to Stanford in 1974 and established The Gorilla Foundation, a non-profit organization that works to preserve and protect gorillas. Koko and The Gorilla Foundation later moved to the Santa Cruz Mountains. She liked to read and be read to. She purred at parts of books she particularly enjoyed. She was very maternal toward kittens, and has had several throughout her lifetime. Her "tenderness" showed people how loving a gorilla can be, the foundation said. Koko made famous friends like Fred Rogers, who appeared on TV as Mr. Rogers, and Robin Williams. She used her sign language skills to communicate with them. She was said to have understood some 2,000 words of spoken English, and could usually keep up with conversations. Koko appeared in several documentaries and twice on the cover of National Geographic. The first cover featured a photo she'd taken of herself in a mirror. The foundation will continue its work on conservation and preservation of gorillas with continued projects, including a sign language application featuring Koko.
Note: Don't miss touching video of Koko the gorilla available at the link above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
If you follow the news regularly - even if the stories you see are factual - you’re likely to overestimate the amount of violence in the world, underrate the performance of the government, and develop an unduly low opinion of the average American. For every problem you see reported in the news, there are almost always people responding - and some are doing pretty smart things. One encouraging pattern visible across the country is a gradual shift from reflexive punishment, which is usually counterproductive ... to harm reduction and treatment. This theme is explored in “Chasing Heroin,” a two-hour PBS Frontline documentary ... which illuminates the country’s heroin crisis. The film explains the public policies that shaped the crisis and reports on some alternatives to punishment, including drug courts, and a promising initiative in Seattle, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, which ... has been shown to markedly reduce criminality among addicts. The shift away from punishment can also be seen in schools, as they reduce the use of suspensions as the go-to discipline option, and turn to “restorative justice” practices, which have been shown to improve school cultures and improve graduation rates. The shift from punishment to treatment is supported by emerging insights from psychology, neuroscience and epigenetics. “The Crisis Within,” a four-part series ... explain how such “toxic stress” harms children, and explore ways that parents, educators and others can protect them.
Strange thing happens when you write about something going right. People take notice. They read to the end. They share it with their friends. They write to thank you. Eighteen months ago, the Guardian launched a pilot project to see how readers would respond if we deliberately sought out the good things happening in the world. More than 150 pieces of journalism later – in which we have examined the relative merits of everything from dog turds to ketamine, the blockchain to microhouses, and gardening to exoskeletons – we have proof of concept. Reader numbers for this kind of journalism have proven remarkably robust throughout the project. While audiences have always been riveted by bad news (it serves as both an early warning system and a reassurance about the comfort of their own lives), they are tired of the avalanche of awfulness. They are switching off. If people just shrug at news because they feel there is little they can do, nothing will change. Journalists in the US, Europe and the UK are waking up to this by publishing what is variously described as constructive journalism, solutions journalism or, somewhat misleadingly, positive news. Now the Guardian is deepening its commitment to this type of work. Our new series, The Upside, launched this week with [a] determination to show readers all of humanity, not just the bad bits. As our editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner, promised in a speech ... recently, “we will develop ideas that help improve the world, not just critique it.”
Salesforce may not be a household name like Facebook or Twitter, but the software company and its chief executive, Marc Benioff, are hugely influential. Salesforce is worth roughly $100 billion, and Mr. Benioff is a billionaire many times over. Success has emboldened him. A fan of Buddhism, Mr. Benioff has installed meditation rooms throughout Salesforce offices and emerged as an outspoken voice on social issues including L.G.B.T.Q. rights, the gender pay gap and the deleterious effects of social media. "There’s a shift going on," [said Benioff]. "When I went to U.S.C., it was all about maximizing value for shareholders. But we’re moving into a world of stakeholders. It’s not just about shareholders. Your employees are stakeholders, so are your customers, your partners, the communities that you’re in, the homeless that are nearby, your public schools. A company like ours can’t be successful in an unsuccessful economy or in an unsuccessful environment or where the school system doesn’t work. We have to take responsibility for all of those things." This idea that somebody put into our heads — that companies are somehow these kind of individuated units that are separate from society and don’t have to be paying attention to the communities they’re in — that is incorrect. We need to have a more enlightened view about the role of companies. This company is not somehow separate from everything else. Are we not all connected? Are we not all one? Isn’t that the point?"
Coca-Cola said in January that by 2030, it will collect and recycle one bottle or can for each one it sells. Dunkin' Donuts said it will try to stop using foam cups by 2020. Several others, including McDonald's and Procter & Gamble, have made their own ambitious commitments to use sustainable packaging. Recycling can give companies better control over their supply chains, explained Bridget Croke, who leads external affairs for Closed Loop Partners, which invests in recycling technologies. Recycled materials aren't always cheaper than raw materials, she said, but their prices are consistent. There are other advantages to going green. Kevin Wilhelm, who runs a sustainability consulting firm, said that companies typically make recycling pledges because they've found that waste hurts their bottom line. The Closed Loop Fund and the Recycling Partnership, [a nonprofit group], count several major corporations as their funding partners, including Amazon, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Starbucks, Target, Walmart (WMT) and others. Croke said that at this stage, companies are better served by joining forces than by trying to work separately. "Smart companies," she said, are trying to figure out, "'What are the disruptive collective actions we can take to make the most out of our resources?'" Working together, companies can pour significant funds into development projects and create collective demand for sustainable products, like recyclable, compostable paper cups.
McDonald's has joined the fight against plastic pollution by switching to paper straws at its restaurants in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The change, which will begin to take effect in September, follows trials of paper straws at select locations. The US fast food chain said a majority of its customers supported the move away from plastic. McDonald's ... uses 1.8 million straws each day at its 1,361 restaurants in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The company said the changeover would be complete in 2019. Plastic straws are the sixth most common type of litter globally. Only 1% are recycled. According to the UK government, 1 million birds and more than 100,000 sea mammals die every year from eating or getting tangled in plastic waste. And research shows there will be more plastic than fish by weight in the world's oceans by 2050. UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove called on other companies to follow the example of McDonald's. "McDonald's has made a significant investment in UK manufacturing to produce an alternative to plastic, showing British businesses are taking a global lead," he said in a statement. The flurry of commitments comes as efforts to eliminate single-use plastic intensify. The European Union moved last month to ban 10 items - including plastic cutlery, straws and cotton swabs - by 2030 in a bid to clean up the oceans.
Tao Porchon-Lynch is 99 years old, and she’s still practices – and teaches! – yoga regularly. So what’s her secret to staying happy and active? “Every morning I wake up and say this is going to be the best day of my life – and it is,” Porchon-Lynch tells Well and Good. “My life is my meditation.” Porchon-Lynch abides by three simple tips to stay upbeat. The first is to not get fixated on bad things that may or may not happen. “Your mind gets in the way. It plagues you with all of the things that can go wrong,” she says. “I don’t let it get in my way.” Secondly, she says to stop judging others. “Don’t look down on anyone,” she says. “Know that you can learn from everyone.” Finally, Porchon-Lynch says to begin each day feeling happy. “Wake up with a smile on your face!” Porchon-Lynch has been practicing yoga for over 70 years, and has been teaching it for 45. She encourages people of all ages to try yoga, and says it’s never too late to start. “Don’t give up and think, ‘I’ve done it. Now I can sit back,’ ” she [said]. “You haven’t seen enough of this earth and there is a lot more to see that is beautiful.“
Note: For more on this amazing woman, see this Newsweek article.
Would it sound weird if we told you that Shell (yes, the petrochemical company) is building a starship? Probably. It would probably be less weird if we said that the Starship was actually a hyper-efficient bespoke semi truck that just did a coast-to-coast run from San Diego, California, to Jacksonville, Florida. To build the Starship, Shell teamed up with the AirFlow truck company to ruthlessly apply all of the best aerodynamic tricks and materials science hacks to the design of the truck in search of something more important to big trucks than simple miles-per-gallon: ton-miles per gallon. A truck's ton-miles per gallon figure compares the vehicle's fuel efficiency with the amount of cargo being carried since that dramatically affects how hard a diesel engine has to work. A typical long-haul diesel truck will weigh around 57,000 pounds, including a cargo load of 22,500 pounds. The Starship gross vehicle weight was right around 73,000 pounds, 39,900 pounds of which was cargo, despite that, the Starship averaged 8.94 miles per gallon versus a typical truck's average of 6.4 miles per gallon. The Starship's best mileage was just over 10 miles per gallon. Over the course of a million miles, the Starship would save over 44,000 gallons of diesel fuel versus a standard truck. That's a little more than 4,000 barrels of oil or 168,000 gallons of crude saved by one truck.
Ali Banat, an Australian based charity worker, social activist, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and founder of the MATW (Muslims Around The World) Project passed away on Tuesday, May 30, 2018. His story resonated with the millions of people who came to know of him after his ‘Gifted With Cancer’ video went viral. His diagnosis of fourth stage Testicular cancer ... completely changed his life, and he decided to donate all his wealth in charity to Muslims Around the World. As he showed off, in the viral video, his huge bedroom lined with Louis Vuitton shoes ... along with a bracelet that cost him $60,000, with one of his cars which included a Ferrari Spider worth $600,000, one could see that ever since he got sick, none of it meant anything to him. Banat was told by the doctors that he had seven months to live, but instead, he lived for another blessed three years. In all this time, he was only dedicated to doing good as he donated his wealth and money to thousands of people across a number of countries including Togo, Ghana, and Burkina Faso. To make sure that his organisation, MATW, was run in good hands, Ali visited ... to see that 100% of the donations would go into the project and not be divided with administrative fees. With the money collected, MATW aimed at building villages for over 200 widows, a mosque, a school that would house 600 orphans, a mini-hospital/medical centre, as well as businesses to support the local community.
Note: Watch a moving interview at the link above showing how his life was totally changed in a positive way by cancer. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Josefina Monasterio, 71, is glad she didn't think about her age when she took up bodybuilding at age 59. "I would have missed out on the past 12 years of fun and success,” said the former educator, competitive athlete and author, who recently returned from the NPC Southern States Championships in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “I took second place this year, and I´m not used to that. I'm used to winning!” said Monasterio, whose enthusiasm is contagious. Dr. Josefina, as she likes to be called, was inducted in the NPC Southern States Hall of Fame in 2005 and then [won] for three years in a row starting in 2014. The Vero Beach, Florida resident recently published a book, Vibrant at Any Age, based on her lifelong journey of self-improvement. She hopes to inspire people to achieve their goals just as she has. “I reinvent myself every ten years, and so I started my 60s as a bodybuilder and now I begin my 70s as a writer,” she said. “I don´t impose limitations on myself. People limit themselves by age, nationality, gender, it's very frustrating. Age is a mindset.” Dr. Josefina´s war on ageism has rubbed off on her two daughters, both in their early thirties. “They both take care of their bodies and minds. They´re very proud of me now and brag about me. If you give them a good foundation as a parent, know that they will always come back to their roots.”
Google will not seek to extend its contract next year with the Defense Department for artificial intelligence used to analyze drone video, squashing a controversial alliance that had raised alarms over the technological buildup between Silicon Valley and the military. Google ... has faced widespread public backlash and employee resignations for helping develop technological tools that could aid in warfighting. Google will soon release new company principles related to the ethical uses of AI. Thousands of Google employees wrote chief executive Sundar Pichai an open letter urging the company to cancel the contract, and many others signed a petition saying the company’s assistance in developing combat-zone technology directly countered the company’s famous “Don’t be evil” motto. Several Google AI employees had told The Post they believed they wielded a powerful influence over the company’s decision-making. The advanced technology’s top researchers and developers are in heavy demand, and many had organized resistance campaigns or threatened to leave. The sudden announcement Friday was welcomed by several high-profile employees. Meredith Whittaker, an AI researcher and the founder of Google’s Open Research group, tweeted Friday: “I am incredibly happy about this decision, and have a deep respect for the many people who worked and risked to make it happen. Google should not be in the business of war.”
Michael Tubbs, the 27-year-old mayor of Stockton, California, has a radical plan to combat poverty in his cash-strapped city: a "no strings" guaranteed basic income of $500 a month for its residents. Starting in early 2019, Tubbs plans to provide the monthly stipend to a select group of residents as part of a privately funded 18-month experiment to assess how people use the money. "And then, maybe, in two or three years, we can have a much more informed discussion about the social safety net, the income floor people deserve and the best way to do it, because we'll have more data and research," Tubbs told Reuters. The idea of governments providing a universal basic income to their citizens has been gaining traction globally. The Finnish government is running a two-year trial to provide 2,000 unemployed people with monthly payments of approximately $660. In Alaska, each resident has long received an annual dividend check from oil revenues from the Alaska Permanent Fund, which Tubbs said is a model for his approach. For 31-year-old Shay Holliman ... an extra $500 a month would just allow her to make ends meet. She ... works a 9-5 job at a local nonprofit then drives for Uber and Lyft in the evenings and at weekends. "I still can't pay all my bills," she said. Tubbs says he "felt almost a moral responsibility" to do something "a little bit out the box" for his city. "And I know, for me, I want to live in a community where people's basic needs are met," he said.
A microbrewery in Delray Beach, Florida has devised a crafty solution to plastic six-pack rings that often wreak havoc on marine wildlife. After years of research and development, Saltwater Brewery has introduced six-pack rings made of wheat and barley. The brewery developed the rings with a start-up company called E6PR. Whereas plastic rings can become tangled in the wings of sea birds, warp the shells of growing sea turtles and choke seals, Saltwater Brewery's new rings are not only biodegradable but also perfectly edible. "E6PR hopes other breweries - both small and large - will buy into the new rings and help bring costs down," Nola.com reports. The Louisiana State University (LSU) reports that the Gulf of Mexico has one of the highest concentrations of marine plastic in the world. Every net that LSU dipped into the Gulf's water came up with some form of plastic. "We found it every time," LSU's Mark Benfield [said]. E6PR is testing the edible rings with "a select group of craft breweries," but the company is not yet ready to discuss specifics.
A debate over plant consciousness and intelligence has raged in scientific circles for well over a century - at least since Charles Darwin observed in 1880 that stressed-out flora can’t rest. Biologists believe that plants communicate with one another, fungi, and animals by releasing chemicals via their roots, branches, and leaves. Plants also send seeds that supply information, working as data packets. They even sustain weak members of their own species by providing nutrients to their peers. They also have memories, and can learn from experience. But does any of this qualify as consciousness? The answer to that question seems to depend largely on ... how humans choose to define our conceptions of the self and intelligence. We believe that our experience of life is what defines consciousness. But there is some evidence that other modes of existence are equally complex, which suggests that other living things h