Inspirational News StoriesExcerpts of Key Inspirational News Stories in Major Media
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Like all elite athletes, Julia "Hurricane" Hawkins has a ruthless streak. So, despite setting a 100m world record on Sunday at the Louisiana Senior Games, she still wants to go faster. "It was wonderful to see so many family members and friends. But I wanted to do it in less than a minute," the 105 year-old said after the race, where she recorded a time of 1:02.95, a record for women in the 105+ age category. When someone pointed out that 102 is less than her age and asked if that made her feel better, Hawkins answered: "No". The retired teacher is no stranger to athletic excellence. She started competing at the National Senior Games when she was 80, specialising in cycling time trials. She eventually ended her cycling career saying that "there wasn't anyone left my age to compete with". When she turned 100 she took up sprinting. In 2017 she set the 100m world record for women over the age of 100 with a time of 39.62. When her record was broken in September by Diane Friedman, Hawkins decided to compete in a new age category. "I love to run, and I love being an inspiration to others," Hawkins said. "I want to keep running as long as I can. My message to others is that you have to stay active if you want to be healthy and happy as you age." Several age records for the 100m have tumbled this year. In August, Hiroo Tanaka of Japan blazed home in 16.69 to set the male record in the 90 and over category. In women's competition Australia's Julie Brims broke the 55+ record in a time of 12.24.
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With close to two billion dollars devoted to renewable power in the newly passed infrastructure bill, the solar industry is poised for a win. But there have long been some tensions between renewable developers and some farmers. According to NREL, upwards of two million acres of American farmland could be converted to solar in the next decade. But what if it didn't have to be an either or proposition? What if solar panels and farming could literally co-exist, if not even help one another. That was what piqued [Byron] Kominek's interest, especially with so many family farms barely hanging on. Kominek installed the solar panels on one of his pastures. They're spaced far enough apart from one another so he could drive his tractor between them. Still, when it came time to plant earlier this year, Kominek was initially skeptical. But he soon discovered that the shade from the towering panels above the soil actually helped the plants thrive. That intermittent shade also meant a lot less evaporation of coveted irrigation water. And in turn the evaporation actually helped keep the sun-baked solar panels cooler, making them more efficient. By summer, Kominek was a believer. Walking the intricately lined rows of veggies beneath the panels, he beams pointing out where the peppers, tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, lettuces, beets, turnips, carrots were all recently harvested. The farm is still bursting with chard and kale even in November. "Oh yeah, kale never dies," Kominek says, chuckling.
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The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Charles "Chuck" Sams III as the next director of the National Park Service on Thursday. He will be the first Native American to lead the agency in its 105-year history. Sams, who is Cayuse and Walla Walla, is a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. The Oregon-based Confederated Tribes is comprised of individuals from the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla tribes. Sams told the Confederated Tribes' newspaper, the Confederated Umatilla Journal, on Friday that he's "deeply honored" to serve as the 19th director of NPS. "I am also very deeply appreciative of the support, guidance and counsel of my Tribal elders and friends throughout my professional career," Sams told the newspaper. "I look forward to carrying on the responsibility of being a good steward of our natural resources and in joining the dedicated and dynamic staff of the National Park Service." Sams' confirmation marks the first time in nearly five years that the department will have an official director. The position has been filled with various people serving as acting heads since January 2017. Sams has worked in state and tribal governments, as well as in natural resource and conservation management, for more than 25 years. In a press release on Friday, tribal leaders commended the confirmation, with Confederated Tribes trustee member Kat Brigham saying that Sams "knows the outdoors." "He understands the importance of helping families develop a relationship with the land," Brigham said.
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The sooner most cancers are discovered, the better the odds they can be successfully treated. Mayo Clinic participated in research on a test that can detect more than 50 cancers. "My dad, he was a healthy guy. He didn't have any known risk factors for cancer," Dr. Julia Feygin said. Feygin lost her 40-year-old father to pancreatic cancer when she was 13. Diagnosed at stage three, he lived for nine more months. "I strongly believe that purpose can be found in everything that happens," Feygin said. She's now part of a team at a Menlo Park, California-based company called GRAIL that's introducing the blood test, called Galleri. She says can it catch hard-to-detect, aggressive and often deadly cancers like pancreatic, ovarian and esophageal. "If cancers can be detected early, we can dramatically improve patient outcomes," Feygin said. Feygin explains that our blood contains a DNA signature. The blood test tracks the DNA a cancer cell sheds. Two tubes of blood are drawn and sent to GRAIL's lab for analysis. "We can find and sequence these tiny bits of tumor-derived DNA in the blood and, based on the patterns we see, we can reveal if there is a signal for cancer present. We can predict with very high accuracy where in the body this cancer signal is coming from," Feygin said. An interventional study that included Mayo Clinic with 6,600 participants returned 29 signals that were followed by a cancer diagnosis. Another study found a less than 1% false positive rate.
At least $1.7bn of funding will be given directly to indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) in recognition of their key role in protecting the planet's lands and forests, it will be announced at Cop26 today. The governments of the UK, US, Germany, Norway and the Netherlands are leading the $1.7bn (Ł1.25bn) funding pledge, which is being announced as part of ambitious global efforts to reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030, with campaigners cautiously hopeful that this conference of the parties (Cop) could be the first to properly champion indigenous peoples' rights. Tuntiak Katan, a leader of Ecuador's indigenous Shuar people who serves as general coordinator of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities, said: "We are happy with the financing announcement, but we will be watching for concrete measures that will reveal whether the intent is to transform a system that has directed less than 1% of climate funding to indigenous and local communities. What matters is what happens next." Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, said the aim was to give IPLCs more of a voice in policymaking and discourse. It is hoped more funding will follow. Walker said: "It's a first step, it's a down payment." The money will support IPLCs' capacity to govern themselves collectively, assist with mapping and registration work, back national land reform and help resolve conflict over territories. It will continue until 2025.
"Little Amal," a 9-year-old Syrian refugee girl, has big, expressive eyes and loves jumping in puddles as she travels on foot to the UK in search of a new home. But Amal isn't just any girl – she's a giant puppet more than 11 ft. tall. She's the centerpiece of The Walk, a traveling arts festival. It's the latest project by London-based theater company Good Chance, in collaboration with Handspring Puppet Company. For the past three months, Amal and the crew have travelled from the Syrian-Turkish border to the UK in an effort to bring hope to the plight of refugees. Today, they reached Manchester, England, completing a 5,000-mile journey through more than 65 cities, towns and villages. Through accompanying events along the route, like installations and performances, it was important that the walk recognize the range of Amal's experiences – not just one of hardship, but resilience too, Zuabi says. "I don't want anybody to feel sad for refugees. I want people to see themselves when they see a refugee. And that's why puppets are gorgeous. Because a puppet doesn't exist until you give it life. You need to go 'she is a refugee' and the minute you treat a refugee like this, you go 'he is me. They are us.'" Even Amal's size at 11 ft. – or 3.5 meters – is deliberate. To Zuabi, visibility is the first step towards empathy. He says "to see that people are moved by a small gesture she does in the middle of a street, and suddenly you look around and people are wiping their tears – that's very, very beautiful to see," Zuabi says.
For eight-year-old Toby, who is deaf, watching films or TV on streaming platforms can sometimes be a bit pointless - because so many of them don't have sign language versions. "We have captions but they don't really do anything for him because it goes quite fast. He would just watch and not get much from it," his dad Jarod Mills [said]. But now, Toby has some help thanks to an app developed by a 17-year-old A-level student. Mariella Satow, who has dual UK-US citizenship, lives in the UK but has been stuck in New York since summer 2020 because of Covid travel restrictions. In that do-something-new phase of lockdown, Mariella created a signing app called SignUp. She got the idea when she was teaching herself American Sign Language (ASL) - one of hundreds of sign languages used across the world. Mariella wanted to watch TV shows to help her learn, so was disappointed to discover how few had signed versions. It's taken a year for Mariella to develop the technology, with lots of help from ASL teachers and the deaf community. The app is available in the US as a Google Chrome extension - with an interpreter appearing in a box once the film starts playing. It only works on Disney Plus films at the moment, because that's where Mariella thought she could help the most children. Jarod, who works in Kentucky at a school for deaf children, says it was "exciting" watching Toby use Mariella's invention. "The app creates a level playing field," he says. "Kids are getting that understanding and information like any hearing child does."
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Bystanders will intervene in nine-out-of-ten public fights to help victims of aggression and violence say researchers, in the largest ever study of real-life conflicts captured by CCTV. The findings overturn the impression of the "walk on by society" where victims are ignored by bystanders. Instead, the international research team of social scientists found that at least one bystander - but typically several - did something to help. And with increasing numbers of bystanders there is a greater likelihood that at least someone will intervene to help. A team of researchers from the University of Copenhagen, the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement and Lancaster University examined unique video recordings of 219 arguments and assaults in inner cities of Amsterdam (Netherlands), Lancaster (UK) and Cape Town (South-Africa). Lead author Dr Richard Philpot ... said: "According to conventional wisdom, non-involvement is the default response of bystanders during public emergencies. Challenging this view, the current cross-national study of video data shows that intervention is the norm in actual aggressive conflicts. The fact that bystanders are much more active than we think is a positive and reassuring story for potential victims of violence and the public as a whole." The research further showed that a victim was more likely to receive help when a larger number of bystanders was present.
As the days get darker and colder in much of the northern hemisphere, it's easy to indulge in gloom. The gloom leads to a common question: What can I do to cope with the dark and cold? Changing your mindset can do more than distracting yourself from the weather. That's the takeaway from research done by Kari Leibowitz ... who spent August 2014 to June 2015 on a Fulbright scholarship in TromsĂ¸ in northern Norway. Leibowitz went to study the residents' overall mental health, because rates of seasonal depression were lower than one might expect. It turns out that in northern Norway, "people view winter as something to be enjoyed, not something to be endured," says Leibowitz, and that makes all the difference. First, Norwegians celebrate the things one can only do in winter. Norwegians also have a word, koselig, that means a sense of coziness. It's like the best parts of Christmas, without all the stress. People light candles, light fires, drink warm beverages, and sit under fuzzy blankets. There's a community aspect to it. Leibowitz reports that TromsĂ¸ had plenty of festivals and community activities creating the sense that everyone was in it together. And finally, people are enamored with the sheer beauty of the season. Leibowitz grew up near the Jersey shore, and "I just took it as a fact that everyone likes summer the best." But deep in the winter in Norway ... the sun doesn't rise above the horizon. Against the snow, "the colors are incredibly beautiful," she says.
President Biden and the other national leaders gathered for the Group of 20 summit formally endorsed a new global minimum tax on Saturday, capping months of negotiations over the groundbreaking tax accord. The new global minimum tax of 15 percent aims to reverse the decades-long decline in tax rates on corporations across the world, a trend experts say has deprived governments of revenue to fund social spending programs. The deal is a key achievement for Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who made an international floor on corporate taxes among the top priorities of her tenure and pushed forcefully for swift action on a deal. Nearly 140 countries representing more than 90 percent of total global economic output have endorsed the deal. The minimum tax will be coupled with a broader change to global taxation intended to prevent countries and companies from undercutting the new floor. Under the pact, corporations trying to evade taxation by shifting profits to low-tax countries will face a "top-up" tax, which would require them to pay the difference between the tax haven's tax rate and the 15 percent minimum tax rate of the companies where they are headquartered. Supporters of the deal are also optimistic companies will not move to relocate their headquarters abroad, in part because so much of the world has committed to the new minimum. Treasury officials have said new "enforcement provisions" will impose tax penalties based in countries refusing to join the deal.
Last year, on the roof of a parking lot at Google's headquarters, engineers from X–Alphabet's "moonshot factory"–set up a panel to begin its first tests. The design, called an atmospheric water harvester, pulls in outside air, then uses fans and heat from sunlight to create condensation, producing clean drinking water drip by drip. In a new paper published today in Nature, the team calculates how much this type of device could potentially help give more people access to water that's safe to drink. Globally, as many as one in three people still drink unsafe water that can spread diseases. The study found that 1 billion people who currently don't have safe drinking water live in places where the device would function well. Because larger water infrastructure projects, like desalination plants, take many years to plan and build, the small devices could help fill the gap in the meantime. "This can leapfrog a lot of that and go directly to the source with a small device that's solar powered," says Jackson Lord, lead author of the paper. Alphabet ... wanted to be able to produce water at a cost of just one cent per liter. The team saw a path to reach 10 cents per liter, but not as low as one cent–so X decided to stop working on the project. But because the design could have a meaningful impact even at 10 cents, it's now opening up its data, prototypes, software, and hardware documentation ... so anyone can use the intellectual property and keep moving the work forward.
Merck has granted a royalty-free license for its promising Covid-19 pill to a United Nations-backed nonprofit in a deal that would allow the drug to be manufactured and sold cheaply in the poorest nations, where vaccines for the coronavirus are in devastatingly short supply. The agreement with the Medicines Patent Pool, an organization that works to make medical treatment and technologies globally accessible, will allow companies in 105 countries, mostly in Africa and Asia, to sublicense the formulation for the antiviral pill, called molnupiravir, and begin making it. Merck reported this month that the drug halved the rate of hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk Covid patients who took it soon after infection in a large clinical trial. Affluent nations, including the United States, have rushed to negotiate deals to buy the drug, tying up large portions of the supply even before it has been approved by regulators and raising concerns that poor countries could be shut out of access to the medicine, much as they have been for vaccines. Generic drug makers in developing countries are expected to market the drug for as little as $20 per treatment (a 5-day course), compared to the $712 per course that the U.S. government has agreed to pay for its initial purchase. "The Merck license is a very good and meaningful protection for people living in countries where more than half of the world's population lives," said James Love, who leads Knowledge Ecology International, a nonprofit research organization.
City council member Ă‰lĂ©onore Laloux barely fills out her desk chair but her persona and vision outsize any of the Arras giants. "I'm a very committed and dynamic person, and I like to be out working with people," says Ms. Laloux. She's become a household name in Arras and regularly receives congratulations from locals for her dedication to her work. Ms. Laloux is the first and so far only person with Down syndrome to be elected to public office in France. Last year, she was put in charge of inclusion and happiness in Arras, bringing an effervescent energy to city decisions. Alongside Mayor FrĂ©dĂ©ric Leturque, Ms. Laloux has utilized her lived experience and innovative ideas to make sure inclusion and accessibility are a part of every city initiative – from education to transportation to tourism. Ms. Laloux is not just helping the city rethink what inclusion means, but also changing minds about what it's like to live with a disability as well as what those with cognitive disabilities are capable of. "Inclusion isn't something that we just think about; it's not a generous act. It's our duty," says Mr. Leturque, who put forward Ms. Laloux as a candidate last year. "ElĂ©onore has helped the entire town progress in terms of how we see disability." France doesn't take census-type statistics on people with disabilities, but Ms. Laloux is one of the few French people with a visible disability to hold a political position here. Her mere presence has transformed Arras into a model of accessibility and inclusion, and can have an impact on towns across France.
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Wildfires have plagued California to an unusual extent in recent years. Imagine a device that could suppress these fires before they blossomed out of control, actively fighting them and preventing them from spreading. Such a device could act as an important stopgap measure for homes and businesses and proactively address fires at their source. Enter high school student Arul Mathur, a New Jersey transplant who moved to California and witnessed firsthand the devastation of the fires, with his family nearly having to evacuate their own home in 2019. As Mathur says, that made it "personal." Inspired to come up with some sort of solution, Mather designed "F.A.C.E.," or the Fire Activated Canister Extinguisher. A new type of firefighting equipment, F.A.C.E. is a completely self-contained device; i.e. no human is necessary to operate it. It's also heat-activated, akin to a fire alarm, albeit activated with a rise in temperature instead of the presence of smoke. Think of it as a fire alarm version 2.0: easily portable, easily installable, and containing its own fire suppression materials like a super-charged sprinkler. However, it's not water that comes from F.A.C.E. when it's activated, its an eco-friendly fire retardant called Cold Fire that sprays the surrounding area (in a 5-6 foot radius) with the help of a built-in a sprinkler. The only human element involved in F.A.C.E. is its simple installation along a home or business' outdoor wall or fence, and the easy refilling of the fire retardant (if necessary).
Even as the Covid-19 pandemic forced companies around the world to reimagine the workplace, researchers in Iceland were already conducting two trials of a shorter work week that involved about 2,500 workers – more than 1% of the country's working population. They found that the experiment was an "overwhelming success" – workers were able to work less, get paid the same, while maintaining productivity and improving personal well-being. The trials also worked because both employees and employers were flexible, willing to experiment and make changes when something didn't work. In some cases, employers had to add a few hours back after cutting them too much. Participants in the Iceland study reduced their hours by three to five hours per week without losing pay. The shorter work hours have so far largely been adopted in Iceland's public sector. Those who worked in an office had shorter meetings. Fewer sick days were reported. Workers reported having more time to spend with their families and on hobbies. Many appreciated gaining an extra hour of daylight, especially during the winter. Arna HrĂ¶nn AradĂłttir, a public-health project manager in Reykjavik's suburbs, was one of the first to trial shorter hours. "I feel like I'm more focused now," said AradĂłttir. "Before the pandemic, I spent a lot of time going to a meeting by car, but now I can sit in my office and have meetings through my computer. So I have gained four hours in my work day."
When the pandemic began, Gavin, now working as a software engineer, realised, to his inexhaustible joy, that he could get away with doing less work than he had ever dreamed of, from the comfort of his home. He would start at 8.30am and clock off about 11am. To stop his laptop from going into sleep mode – lest his employers check it for activity – Gavin played a 10-hour YouTube video. "I work to pay my bills and keep a roof over my head," he says. "I don't see any value or purpose in work. Zero. None whatsoever." Gavin's job is an unfortunate expediency that facilitates his enjoyment of the one thing that does matter to him in life: his time. "Life is short," Gavin tells me. "I want to enjoy the time I have. We are not here for a long time. We are here for a good time." And for now, Gavin is living the good life. He's a time millionaire. First named by the writer Nilanjana Roy in a 2016 column in the Financial Times, time millionaires measure their worth not in terms of financial capital, but according to the seconds, minutes and hours they claw back from employment for leisure and recreation. "Wealth can bring comfort and security in its wake," says Roy. "But I wish we were taught to place as high a value on our time as we do on our bank accounts – because how you spend your hours and your days is how you spend your life." Perhaps time isn't a bank account, but a field. We can grow productive crops, or things of beauty. Or we can simply do nothing, and let the wildflowers grow. Everything is of beauty, everything is of equal value.
Fifteen years ago, when darkness used to fall in Yobe Nkosi, a remote village in northern Malawi, children did their school homework by candlelight: there was no electricity. But that started to change in 2006, when villager Colrerd Nkosi finished secondary school in Mzimba, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) away, and returned home -- and found he could no longer live without power. Aged 23 at the time, Nkosi soon figured out that a stream gushing past the house where he grew up had just enough force to push the pedals on his bicycle. He created a makeshift dynamo that brought power into his home. Word spread quickly among the cluster of brick houses and neighbours began paying regular visits to charge their mobile phones. "I started getting requests for electricity (and) decided to upgrade," said Nkosi, now 38, sawing through machinery on his veranda in blue overalls. With no prior training, he turned an old fridge compressor into a water-powered turbine and put it in a nearby river, generating electricity for six households. Today, the village is supplied by a bigger turbine, built from the motor of a disused maize sheller - a machine that skims kernels of corn off the cob. The gadget has been set up on the village outskirts. The power is carried along metal cables strung from a two-kilometre (one-mile) line of tree trunks topped with wooden planks. The users pay no fee for the power but give Nkosi some money for maintenance - slightly more than $1.00 (0.85 euros) per household per month.
After collecting hundreds of wishes the past year and a half on the trees outside her home, a La Jolla resident is sending her "wishing trees" into hibernation. Molly Bowman-Styles began her wishing trees in May 2020 as a response to the first weeks of isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. "One morning I woke up and I thought, 'This is awful," she said of the pandemic and the concurrent, unrelated illnesses of her father and dog. "I just felt so disconnected and out of sorts." Bowman-Styles said she looked for a way to "feel connected to other people but at the same time help them to express how they're feeling through all this, because I know I'm not alone." She looked through her windows at her trees and had the idea to hang colorful index cards in leftover envelopes from the branches, with markers and paper clips to enable passersby to write on the cards and rehang them. "I wrote on the envelopes, 'Make a wish for our world' and 'Share a message of hope,'" Bowman-Styles said. And many people did. "I was excited, because in the morning I'd wake up and I had more cards and I read each and every one of them," Bowman-Styles said. In the first few weeks the cards were hung, Bowman-Styles lost both her father and dog. "I cannot tell you how [the trees] helped me so much with my grief," she said. Bowman-Styles said one of her favorite cards, written by a child during the divisive 2020 presidential election, read, "I love everybody."
U.S. solar installations reached a record high in 2020 as favorable economics, supportive policies and strong demand in the second half of the year offset the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Installations grew 43% year over year, reaching a record 19.2 gigawatts of new capacity, according to a report released Tuesday from the Solar Energy Industries Association and Wood Mackenzie. In the fourth quarter alone, the U.S. added just over 8 GW of capacity – a quarterly record. That's more than the capacity added in all of 2015, which was 7.5 GW. California, Texas and Florida were the top three states for annual solar additions for the second year running. Virginia and North Carolina rounded out the top five. In the U.S., solar represented 43% of all new electricity generating capacity added in 2020, its largest ever share of new generating capacity. Solar is also the cheapest form of new power in many places. "Residential solar sales continue to exceed expectations as loan providers roll out attractive products, interest in home improvement surges, and customers suffering through power outages from extreme weather events seek energy resilience," the report said. The report also looked for the first time at growth forecasts through 2030, projecting that the U.S. solar market will quadruple from current levels by the end of the decade. The growth is expected to be spread across markets as customers, utilities, states and corporations push to decarbonize the grid.
Brittany Walters made a promise to her mother the day she passed away from cancer: Brittany and her father would go to homecoming, where the high school senior was nominated for queen. Walters, who aspires to become a nurse, didn't win homecoming queen that night, but thanks to an act of kindness that has shined a healing light on a grieving family and community, she ended the night in a crown. Senior Nyla Covington was voted homecoming queen by fellow students at a school football game in late September. But moments after being crowned, [she] felt called to crown someone else. After asking permission from school officials to do so, Covington walked over to Walters, standing beside her cowboy hat-clad father, and put the crown on her. "I just felt like it was something that was put on my heart," Covington told CNN. "It was really just for her, to bring up her day a little bit, and she'd rather have her mom than a crown... but the point was, I was telling her that she was her mom's queen and I was just letting her know that she was loved by many and especially me." "I just felt so like so much love from her, and I just felt so much love for her and the whole school," Walters said of Covington. "As soon as I got off the field, I just got hundreds of hugs from every single person in the stands." There were tears on and off the field. Forrest County AHS School's principal Will Wheat tells CNN he is proud of the young women. "That wasn't preplanned, this was all on the kids, that's the beautiful thing about it," Wheat said.
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ABB has launched the world's fastest electric car charger, the Swiss engineering company said on Thursday, to plug into the booming demand for electric cars made by Tesla, Hyundai and other automakers. The company is launching the new Terra 360 modular charger as it presses ahead with plans to float its electric vehicle (EV) charging business, which could be valued around $3 billion. The device can charge up to four vehicles at once, and can fully charge any electric car within 15 minutes, ABB said, making it attractive to customers worried about charging times which can run to several hours. "With governments around the world writing public policy that favours electric vehicles and charging networks to combat climate change, the demand for EV charging infrastructure, especially charging stations that are fast, convenient and easy to operate, is higher than ever," said Frank Muehlon, president of ABB's E-mobility Division. Globally the number of electric vehicles registered increased by 41% during 2020 to 3 million cars, despite the pandemic-related downturn in the total number of new cars sold last year. The growth trend has accelerated in 2021, with electric car sales rising by 140% in the first three months of the year. ABB's Terra 360, which can deliver a charge giving 100 kms (62 miles) of range in less than three minutes, will be available in Europe by the end of the year. The United States, Latin America and the Asia Pacific regions are due to follow in 2022.
In the last 10 years, psychedelic drugs like LSD, magic mushrooms, DMT, a host of "plant medicines" – including ayahuasca, iboga, salvia, peyote – and related compounds like MDMA and ketamine have begun to lose much of their 1960s-driven stigma. Promising clinical trials suggest that psychedelics may prove game-changing treatments for depression, PTSD and addiction. The response from the psychiatric community ... has been largely open-armed. The drugs may well mark the field's first paradigm shift since SSRIs in the 1980s. In 2017, for example, the US Food and Drug Administration designated MDMA a "breakthrough therapy", which meant it would be fast-tracked through to the second stage of Phase-3 trials. Psychedelics remain Schedule-1 drugs federally in the US and Class-A in the UK, but rules are relaxing. This wave of psychedelic enthusiasm in psychiatry isn't the first. They were originally heralded as wonder drugs in the 1950s. Across some 6,000 studies on over 40,000 patients, psychedelics were tried as experimental treatments for an extraordinary range of conditions: alcoholism, depression, schizophrenia, criminal recidivism, childhood autism. And the results were promising. From as little as a single LSD session, studies suggested that the drug relieved problem drinking for 59% of alcoholic participants. Experimenting with lower, so-called "psycholytic" doses, many therapists were amazed by LSD's power as an adjunct to talking therapy.
For most of his adult life, Aaron Presley, age 34, felt like a husk of a person, a piece of "garbage." Then, all at once, the soul-crushing, depressive fog started to lift, and the most meaningful experience of his life began. The turning point for Presley came as he lay on a psychiatrist's couch at Johns Hopkins University. He had consumed a large dose of psilocybin, the active ingredient in what's more commonly known as magic mushrooms, and entered a state that could best be described as lucid dreaming. Visions of family and childhood triggered overwhelming and long-lost feelings of love, he says. Presley was one of 24 volunteers taking part in a small study aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of a combination of psychotherapy and this powerful mind-altering drug to treat depression–an approach that, should it win approval, could be the biggest advance in mental health since Prozac in the 1990s. Depression ... affects 320 million people around the world. Roughly one-third of those who seek treatment won't respond to verbal or conventional drug therapies. Magic-mushroom therapy is offering some hope for these hopeless cases. In the Hopkins study, published last year in JAMA Psychiatry, the therapy was four times more effective than traditional antidepressants. Two-thirds of participants showed a more-than 50-percent reduction in depression symptoms after one week; a month later, more than half were considered in remission, meaning they no longer qualified as being depressed.
[Jim] Anderson is standing in an unassuming patch of woodland in Crystal Falls, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. He is revisiting an organism living under the forest floor that he and his colleagues discovered nearly 30 years ago. This is the home of Armillaria gallica, a type of honey mushroom. When Anderson and his colleagues visited Crystal Falls in the late 1980s, they discovered that what at first appeared to be a rich community of Armillaria gallica flourishing beneath the mulch of leaf litter and top soil of the forest floor was – in fact – one giant individual specimen. They estimated it covered an area about 91 acres, weighed 100 tonnes and was at least 1,500 years old. Analysis produced [a] surprising insight, one that could help us humans in our fight against ... cancer. The Canadian researchers discovered what may be the secret behind the Armillaria gallica's extraordinary size and age. It appears the fungus has an extremely low mutation rate – meaning it avoids potentially damaging alterations to its genetic code. As organisms grow, their cells divide into two to produce new daughter cells. Over time, the DNA in the cells can become damaged leading to errors, known as mutations, creeping into the genetic code. This is thought to be one of the key mechanisms that causes aging. But it seems the Armillaria gallica in Crystal Falls might have some inbuilt resistance to this DNA damage.
Laura Beloff's plant seemed to be clicking. She had rigged its roots up to a contact microphone in order to detect faint, high-pitched clicks in the soil. With the help of software she had written for her computer, the frequency of the clicks had been lowered, making them audible to humans. Beloff first had the idea of listening to her plants' roots after reading about experiments by Monica Gagliano. Over the last decade or so, Gagliano, at the University of Western Australia, has published a series of papers that suggest plants have an ability to communicate, learn and remember. She has long argued that scientists should pay greater attention to the fact that plants can transmit and retrieve information acoustically. In a 2017 study, Gagliano and colleagues showed that plants appear to be able to sense the sound of water vibrating via their roots, which may help them to locate it underground. And Gagliano has also raised eyebrows with claims that, in non-experimental settings, she has heard plants speak to her using words. She says that this experience is "outside the strictly scientific realm" and that a third-party observer would not be able to measure the sounds she heard with laboratory instruments. But she is quite certain that she has perceived plants speaking to her on multiple occasions. "I have been in situations where not just me but several others in the same space heard the same thing," she says. But the precise mechanisms through which plants might perceive or sense sound remain mysterious.
It was six years ago when CEO Dan Price raised the salary of everyone at his Seattle-based credit card processing company Gravity Payments to at least $70,000 a year. Price slashed his own salary by $1 million to be able to give his employees a pay raise. He was hailed a hero by some and met with predictions of bankruptcy from his critics. But that has not happened; instead, the company is thriving. "So you've almost doubled the number of employees?" CBS News' Carter Evans asked. "Yeah," Price replied. He said his company has tripled and he is still paying his employees $70,000 a year. "How much do you make?" asked Evans. "I make $70,000 a year," Price replied. To pay his own bills, Price downsized his life, sold a second home he owned, and tapped into his savings. According to the Economic Policy Institute, average CEO compensation is 320 times more than the salaries of their typical workers. "This shows that isn't the only way for a company to be successful and profitable," Hafenbrack said. "Do you pay what you can get away with? Or do you pay what you think is ideal, or reasonable, or fair?" Price said despite the success his company has had with the policy, he wishes other companies would follow suit. Bigger paychecks have lead to fiercely loyal employees. "Our turnover rate was cut in half, so when you have employees staying twice as long, their knowledge of how to help our customers skyrocketed over time and that's really what paid for the raise more so than my pay cut," said Price.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared China malaria-free, after a 70-year effort to wipe it out. China used to report 30 million cases a year during the 1940s. Since then, eradication efforts have driven down case numbers. The country used various methods to break the cycle of transmission of the parasite via mosquitos. The WHO said the country had now gone four years without registering a case, giving it malaria-free certification. China's success was hard-earned, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and came only after decades of targeted and sustained action. Although preventable and mostly curable if diagnosed and treated promptly, the World Health Organization estimates there were 229 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2019 and 409,000 deaths. Around 94% of all infections were reported in Africa. China's government has brought malaria cases down by using anti-malarial drugs, spraying mosquito breeding grounds, and distributing insecticide-treated nets. Countries can apply to the WHO for certification as malaria-free after they report four consecutive years of no indigenous cases. They must then present evidence of this, and demonstration their ability to prevent any future outbreak. According to the WHO, China has become the 40th country to be declared malaria-free.
On May 28, Gloria Howard, an elder with Shiloh Temple, opened a lawn chair and sat down on one of the most dangerous street corners in North Minneapolis. Every day since, as part of the 21 Days of Peace community organizing project, she and others like her in our city have sat on street corners that are threatened by violence. Through the simple act of publicly taking a seat – staking their claim to a peaceful neighborhood by interrupting violence – they have undoubtedly saved lives. The campaign began after three children were shot in Minneapolis over a period of a few weeks: 6-year-old Aniya Allen, 9-year-old Trinity Ottoson-Smith and 10-year-old Ladavionne Garrett Jr. Aniya and Trinity died; Ladavionne was critically injured. Tragic stories such as theirs are occurring in cities across the country, as alarm bells ring in city halls and state capitols about rising violent crime. The problem is due in large part to a loss of trust between communities and law enforcement; disinvestment in neighborhoods and schools where more help, not less, is needed; and decades of failure to keep guns off the streets. What makes this simple act of sitting apparently so powerful? The people sitting on these corners in their chairs are members of the community. We know our young people, and they know us. But more important, we represent one of the strongest bastions of moral authority left in these areas: the Black church. We draw on the power of congregation – of family, of friends and of community – to try to interrupt the violence.
Pandit Tulsidas, 52, was resting under a tree by a road junction in Jaipur, Rajasthan, where he had begged for years. When an official approached him about a government scheme that would teach him job skills, he rejected the offer. "But when he told me I was guaranteed a job, I accepted," he says, fearing that otherwise: "After the training, I'd end up back on the streets, because how can I eat without an income?" Six months on and Tulsidas works at a snack stand outside a Jaipur hospital. Getting people off the streets is usually done by bundling them into a police van and hauling them away to a crowded, dirty shelter. Keeping them off the streets is a problem India has so far failed to crack. The Rajasthan Skill and Livelihood Development Corporation (RSLDC) has developed a four-month scheme for 100 men interested in developing their skills and who have families to support. After an assessment, it's established that some can cook, some know a little bookkeeping, others can bake and so on. For four months, trainers then work to build on these skills. Employers are enlisted to provide jobs and can visit the training centre. The men are given shelter and food and receive 230 rupees (Ł2.30) a day, slightly more than India's minimum wage. Without counselling, many of the men would drop out. Rakesh Jain, RSLDC's deputy general manager, believes it is a crucial aspect of rehabilitation. "The counselling is as important as the training," says Jain. It is this holistic aspect that accounts for its initial success.
Having learned from other cities' attempts to address homelessness, Albuquerque, New Mexico, has opened a village of tiny homes (THV). It hopes fostering a sense of community will prepare residents for permanent housing. But villagers aren't supposed to spend too much time in their new homes. The center of the community is the "Village House," where residents can cook, do laundry, hold meetings, go to the library, and watch television. They also do chores and help run the village. When people experiencing homelessness move off the street, "they lose [their] community," says Ilse Biel, resource manager for the THV. "It takes forever to forge a new community." "With this model we're almost trying to force the issue," she adds. The THV provides access to an occupational therapist and psychiatric nurse, as well as volunteers who help residents with computer skills, rĂ©sumĂ© building, and mock interviews. What Henry Esquivel likes most about his new house is the blast of cold air it delivers when he walks in. It's a big change from the Ford F-150 he used to sleep in. It's more spacious too, despite his new house being just one room. And it comes with neighbors – all of whom, like him, recently experienced homelessness. A few doors down is Mark Larusch. The father of three has potted plants and an Adirondack chair on his patio. A few doors further away is the woman whose large, black Labrador, Dottie, greets Mr. Esquivel excitedly every day.
Julia Davies had one only goal in mind when she sold her share of the outdoor equipment company Osprey Europe a few years ago. The entrepreneur decided she was going to spend her millions ... by returning swathes of the British farmland to wilderness. Nature is in crisis in the UK, she argues, and its threatened wildlife needs all the protection it can get. A few months ago, the first steps towards her rewilding dreams were taken with the purchase of 170 hectares of fields and meadows that surround Court Farm, near Bere Regis, Dorset. The land cost almost Ł4m but thanks to the prospect of a bridging loan from Davies, Dorset Wildlife Trust has been able to acquire ownership. Pastures where Friesian cattle once grazed and fields of wheat, maize and barley – which fed the Court Farm herd – will now be returned to nature. New woodland will spread over the pastures, wildlife and plants from hedgerows will colonise fields while a network of deep ditches which have drained the farm for decades will be filled in and blocked. Wetlands will return to the landscape – along with populations of frogs and newts. Crucially, the plan adopted by Davies – a commercial lawyer turned green activist – could serve as a template for future rewilding projects as the UK struggles to counter its mounting biodiversity crisis. "Rather than buy my own piece of land to rewild it, I decided to lend money so that conservation groups such as wildlife trusts could get control of a piece of land. Then they could pay me back."
Note: Watch a 15-minute video spotlighting this movement to rewild farms. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
More and more people are going hungry, with food bank lines stretching for blocks. One solution has been popping up in cities of all sizes: community fridges. The fridges, usually colorfully painted, can be found in public spaces like sidewalks and storefronts. Volunteers and community members keep them stocked with donated food and other supplies, and people can take what they need – no questions asked. While the pandemic and subsequent economic difficulty may have accelerated their use, community fridges aren't a unique idea; Ernst Bertone Oehninger, the co-founder of Freedge, a network that provides resources and information to community fridge operators around the world, said that he believes he first started hearing about the concept in 2012. Currently, Freedge's database lists nearly 200 fridges in the United States. When it comes to starting a community fridge, organizers described the process as surprisingly easy. The most difficult part, according to Sandra Belat, 24, who is preparing to open a fridge in Denver, Colorado, is securing a location, but the community has been eager to support the initiative. Community fridge organizers are responsible for more than just putting food in fridges: They also need to keep them clean, ensure that the items inside the fridge are safe and healthy and keep the fridges stocked. In addition to food donations, many community fridges are given supplies and financial donations, so the operators can purchase items to put in the fridges.
The world's first customer delivery of "green steel" produced without using coal is taking place in Sweden, according to its manufacturer. The Swedish venture Hybrit said it was delivering the steel to truck-maker Volvo AB as a trial run before full commercial production in 2026. Volvo has said it will start production in 2021 of prototype vehicles and components from the green steel. Steel production using coal accounts for around 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Hybrit started test operations at its pilot plant for green steel in Lulea, northern Sweden, a year ago. It aims to replace coking coal, traditionally needed for ore-based steel making, with renewable electricity and hydrogen. Hydrogen is a key part of the EU's plan to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Hybrit is owned by the steelmaker SSAB, state-owned utility Vattenfall and miner LKAB. SSAB accounts for 10% of Sweden's and 7% of Finland's carbon dioxide emissions. It said the trial delivery was an "important step towards a completely fossil-free value chain. The goal is to deliver fossil-free steel to the market and demonstrate the technology on an industrial scale as early as 2026." Another green steel venture, H2 Green Steel, is planning to build a fossil fuel-free steel plant in the north of Sweden, including a sustainable hydrogen facility, with production starting in 2024.
What Washington musician Yoko Sen describes as the "soundtrack of her life" is not one of the songs she wrote for the band Dust Galaxy, but the alarm of the heart monitor at her hospital bedside. When the U.S.-based Japanese artist fell ill in 2012 and had to spend weeks in hospitals, she found the jarring sounds there detrimental to her healing. "I thought it was torture, the cacophony of alarms, beeps, doors slamming, the squeaking of carts, people screaming." At the time, it wasn't clear if Sen would make a full recovery. She was connected to four different machines, and each emitted a different sound. Her sensitive ears were especially bothered by the constant beeping of her heart monitor. "Sound is largely ignored in healthcare even though the aesthetics of it could have a great impact on our sense of wellbeing and dignity," Sen realized. When Sen recovered, she was determined to follow her new mission: to "humanize" hospital sounds. How does healing sound? Or love? Are there tunes that foster recovery? She founded SenSound in 2015, a social enterprise to reimagine the acoustic environment in hospitals. [The] 41-year-old Sen is addressing a massive, often overlooked problem. On average, a patient endures 135 different alarms each day, hospitals are often louder than a highway during rush hour and sleep deprivation is a common complaint. Many wish for the sounds of nature, the laughter of children, or the voice of a loved one.
The nature of work has undergone a lot of changes during the coronavirus pandemic. In Congress, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) has introduced legislation to make a 32-hour workweek standard. This "great reassessment" of labor feels revolutionary. But we have been here before. In 1933, the Senate passed, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt supported, a bill to reduce the standard workweek to only 30 hours. In the 1830s, workers in manufacturing were on the job roughly 70 hours a week, often in horrendous and even deadly conditions. By the 1890s that had dropped to about 60 hours. This period also saw the rise of labor unions [and] the creation of Labor Day as a national holiday. The eight-hour day picked up in popularity in the decades preceding the Great Depression. Federal workers, railroad workers and Ford Motor employees all moved to eight-hour shifts. As soon as Roosevelt took office on March 4, 1933, he called Congress into a special session. On April 6, the Senate passed [Sen. Hugo] Black's 30-hour week bill. Meanwhile at the White House, as Roosevelt worked on a comprehensive recovery plan, he began to turn against the 30-hour week. What if, rather than sharing available work, there was just more work? As the plan for a massive public works program took shape, support for the 30-hour week collapsed. Instead, Roosevelt used the threat of it as leverage to get industry leaders to agree to ban child labor, set a modest minimum wage and limit the standard workweek at 40 hours.
The national electricity market reached a new milestone on Sunday, with solar power outstripping energy generation from coal for the first time since the market was set up two decades ago. The crossover point lasted for only a few minutes, as low demand and sunny skies on Sunday meant the contribution from coal dropped to a record low of 9,315MW just after noon, while solar provided the dominant share with 9,427MW. Dylan McConnell, a research fellow at the University of Melbourne's climate and energy college, said that for a brief moment renewable energy represented 57% of national electricity generation. "This is what I unofficially call 'record season'," McConnell said. "It's actually still pretty early in the season [to get these numbers] but in spring or the shoulder seasons you have the combination of low demand, because there's no heating or cooling, and then nice weather on the weekend. "Those factors combine, and you get these giant shares of renewable energy that generally push out coal." While McConnell said it was only "fleeting" and that "Australia was a long way from peak renewable energy", energy prices also went negative on Sunday from 8.30am through to 5pm. It means ... energy producers were paying to keep running. Unlike more nimble solar and wind producers, coal generators are particularly hurt when prices turn negative. The costs associated with shutting down and restarting coal generators are prohibitive.
During a normal summer, Glacier Bay and the surrounding area buzzes with traffic, as vessels of all sizes, from massive, 150,000-tonne cruise liners to smaller whale-watching boats, ply the waters as part of Southern Alaska's massive tourism industry. The Covid-19 pandemic brought all of that to a sudden halt. Overall marine traffic in Glacier Bay declined roughly 40%. According to research by [Christine] Gabriele and Cornell University researcher Michelle Fournet, the level of manmade sound in Glacier Bay last year dropped sharply from 2018 levels, particularly at the lower frequencies generated by the massive cruise ship engines. Peak sound levels were down nearly half. All this afforded researchers an unprecedented opportunity to study whale behaviour in the kind of quiet environment that hasn't existed in the area for more than century. Gabriele has already noted changes. She compared whale activity in pre-pandemic times to human behaviour in a crowded bar. They talk louder, they stay closer together, and they keep the conversation simple. Now, the humpbacks seem to be spreading out across larger swathes of the bay. Whales can hear each other over about 2.3km (1.4 miles), compared with pre-pandemic distances closer to 200m (650ft). That has allowed mothers to leave their calves to play while they swim out to feed. Some have been observed taking naps. And whale songs - the ghostly whoops and pops by which the creatures communicate - have become more varied.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring marine mammals news articles.
Hundreds of households in New Mexico and Arizona recently had their medical debts eliminated, thanks to St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Santa Fe. The church worked through a nonprofit organization called RIP Medical Debt that buys up medical debt and then uses donations to pay it off. "The driving force behind this was our pastor, Rev. Catherine Volland," said Peg Maish, a spokeswoman for St. Bede's. "She was really advocating for it. In all, it was about a year and a half in the making, from researching it to making a final decision." In total, 234 households in New Mexico and 548 in Arizona had their medical debt paid off. St. Bede's settled all of the New Mexico debt held by RIP Medical Debt, enabling the church to also reach out to Arizona. St. Bede's paid off medical debt in Arizona areas with a heavy Native American population. Native American areas are often poor and have many healthcare problems. St. Bede's settled all the debt for $15,000, even though the actual debt was $1,380,119. The reason is that RIP Medical Debt purchases the debt for pennies on the dollar. RIP Medical Debt was founded in 2014 by Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton, two former debt collection executives. The nonprofit organization selects families and individuals whose income is no more than twice the federal poverty level and whose debts exceed their assets. RIP sends a letter to each debtor and contacts credit agencies to inform them that the debt has been paid.
Local radio personality Ray "Ramblin' Ray" Stevens was driving when he passed 20-year-old Braxton Mayes multiple times, and noticed Mayes was walking for a long period of time. When Stevens reportedly stopped to offer him a ride, he soon learned the story of the former high school football player. Mayes told Stevens that his 2006 GMC truck recently broke down and, in the meantime, he was walking to work each day, a 12-mile journey (24 total) that took three hours each way. Mayes explained to the DJ that he would leave for work at 4 a.m. in order to arrive on time at 7 a.m. "This guy checks all the boxes," Stevens [said]. "He's a good, solid human being. People are having a hard time finding people to work and here's a guy walking three hours one way just because his truck broke down." After hearing his story, Stevens created a GoFundMe page in order to raise funds to fix Mayes' truck. The fundraiser has already earned over $8,000. According to Stevens, any additional money raised past the amount needed to repair the truck will be donated to local Chicago food banks. Mayes [said] that because he was raised with a strong work ethic, he was perfectly fine walking each day, but is grateful for the donations and support he's received. "It brought me to tears," Mayes said. "I didn't know when I would come up with the money to fix it or how many times I would have to walk." Repairs to Mayes' truck will likely be finished soon – and until then, his employer will give him a ride.
Fungi have been around for billions of years, setting the stage for humanity by supporting, carrying and converting life. But for complex political reasons, these organisms are still shrouded in mystery. One man, however, is determined to lift the veil on the magical world of mushrooms. Enter Stamets, a bespectacled author and researcher whose mission to decode nature's hidden language and explore "altered states of consciousness" is chronicled in the documentary "Fantastic Fungi," which was recently made available to stream on Netflix. While the film aims to destigmatize hallucinogenic mushrooms, it also demonstrates why we should legitimize the studies of all mushrooms. Contemporary experts in neurology, psychiatry and biology in the film show that fungal genomes can solve a host of mental, physical and environmental problems. From healing bacterial infections to cleaning petroleum spills, fungi possess unique, almost godlike properties that are otherwise unseen in nature. For instance, lion's mane, an edible white mushroom that tastes like lobster, stimulates nerves in order to grow, suggesting that it could potentially cure degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. Ultimately, when Stamets discusses altered states of consciousness, it's ... about accepting a different state of being. For some people – especially those who live in pain – the film posits that mushrooms can be the answer they've been looking for.
Eating colorful fruits and vegetables may be good for your brain. A new study, one of the largest such analyses to date, has found that flavonoids, the chemicals that give plant foods their bright colors, may help curb the frustrating forgetfulness and mild confusion that older people often complain about with advancing age, and that sometimes can precede a diagnosis of dementia. The study was observational so cannot prove cause and effect, though its large size and long duration add to growing evidence that what we eat can affect brain health. The scientists used data from two large continuing health studies that began in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in which participants periodically completed diet and health questionnaires over more than 20 years. The analysis included 49,693 women whose average age was 76, and 51,529 men whose average age was 73. The scientists calculated their intake of about two dozen commonly consumed kinds of flavonoids – which include beta carotene in carrots, flavone in strawberries, anthocyanin in apples, and other types in many other fruits and vegetables. The study appears in the journal Neurology. According to the senior author, Dr. Deborah Blacker ... these long-term findings suggest that starting early in life with a flavonoid-rich diet may be important for brain health. For young people and those in midlife, she said, "the message is that these things are good for you in general, and not just for cognition. Finding ways that you enjoy incorporating these things into your life is important."
Across the world, about 80 percent of wastewater is dumped back into the ecosystem without being treated. Untreated wastewater leads to a range of problems and contributes to faecal contamination of drinking water sources for about 1.8 billion people. Treating wastewater requires treatment plants that can be expensive. Now, a Bengaluru-based startup ECOSTP Technologies has developed a new and efficient design for sewage treatment plants that takes inspiration from the digestive system of cows. It is so efficient that it does not even need the power to run. Cows have a powerful digestive system made up of four chambers containing bacteria that do not need oxygen. As grass passes through these chambers, the bacteria break it down into smaller parts eventually converting it to gas, nutrients, water, and waste. [Bengaluru-resident Tharun] Kumar and his team developed a treatment plant to mimic this structure and used the bacteria from cow dung to break down the waste in wastewater. Their plants do not even require power. Instead, they use gravity to move wastewater across chambers. In the treatment plant, the further wastewater travels, the cleaner it gets. Eventually, the solid waste settles down, and the wastewater is converted into gas and clear water, which can be safely reused. "Since inception, we have saved 280 million litres of water and have saved 315 MW of power which is equivalent to powering 35 villages for a year," Kumar, co-founder, and CEO of ECOSTP Technologies [said].
Note: Watch a BBC News video on this amazing invention. Why isn't this getting more attention?
Martine Postma, a journalist in the Netherlands, noticed something had changed since her childhood in the 1970s. When a household item – a clock, a vacuum cleaner, a chair – broke, people used to try to fix it. Now, their first impulse was to throw it away. As a writer focused on sustainability issues, she was disturbed by that. She came up with a solution that led to a career change and inspired an international grass-roots movement: a regular gathering at which people with broken items can bring them to a place where other people can try to fix them. In 2009, she did a trial run in Amsterdam – and it drew many more people than she expected. Word spread, and soon a network of what became known as Repair CafĂ©s began to spread across the Netherlands and beyond. Turning her attention to it full time, Postma started the Repair CafĂ© International Foundation. She wrote a manual on how to organize the cafes and put together a starter kit. There are now nearly 1,700 cafes in 35 countries, including 75 in the United States, 30 in Canada and 450 in the Netherlands. The repairs do more than extend the life of the items: They also create community. "You get to know your neighbors, to see that the person you pass on the street that you never talk to has some valuable knowledge and is not just a strange old guy," Postma said. Repairers tend to skew older ... but Postma, 48, is trying to contact younger generations and has started holding demonstrations at schools.
Outside of a library in Cambridge, Massachusetts, an over-80-year-old copper beech tree is making music. As the tree photosynthesizes and absorbs and evaporates water, a solar-powered sensor attached to a leaf measures the micro voltage of all that invisible activity. Sound designer and musician Skooby Laposky assigned a key and note range to those changes in this electric activity, turning the tree's everyday biological processes into an ethereal song. That music is available on Hidden Life Radio, an art project by Laposky. Hidden Life Radio also features the musical sounds of two other Cambridge trees: a honey locust and a red oak. After he read the book The Hidden Life of Trees ... Laposky thought to tune into the music trees could be making. The name Hidden Life Radio was inspired by that book, written by German forester Peter Wohlleben, which details the social networks and "sentient" capabilities of trees. "Most people probably love trees and [still] don't consider them all the time," Laposky says, noting a condition called "plant blindness," in which people fail to notice the flora in their own environment. "In cities, the trees are there, but unless they're providing shade or you're picking apples from them, I feel like people don't necessarily consider trees and their importance." Tree canopies are crucial to cities, providing shade that can lower summer temperatures significantly, reducing air pollution, sequestering carbon, and providing a mental health benefit.
Once the site of the largest steel mill in the world, Sparrows Point in Maryland was a major player in shipbuilding and steel production, including for the girders of the Golden Gate Bridge, before it closed in 2012. Now, a portion of that former mill will get a new life as a manufacturing facility to support offshore wind energy. The United Steelworkers union; Tradepoint Atlantic, which owns the property; and US Wind, a Baltimore-based subsidiary of Italian renewable energy company Renexia SpA, announced their partnership on the project this week. Maryland's first permanent steel-and-offshore-wind fabrication facility, the Sparrows Point location will create 500 full-time union steelworker manufacturing jobs, along with about 3,500 construction jobs, and support US Wind's clean energy projects, including an 82-turbine project called Momentum Wind. It's an example of how investment in renewable energy to meet climate targets could create millions of energy jobs around the world, including in manufacturing wind- and solar-energy systems. That the new steel facility will bring some of those manufacturing jobs back to the historic site of a Maryland steel mill means a lot to the United Steelworkers specifically. "We always felt [Sparrows Point] was sacred ground," says Jim Strong, assistant to the director for United Steelworkers, who notes that the union represented workers there for over 70 years, at one time with more than 30,000 members.
A surfer jumping in to translate for the rival who'd just beaten him. High-jumping friends agreeing to share a gold medal rather than move to a tiebreaker. Two runners falling in a tangle of legs, then helping each other to the finish line. In an extraordinary Olympic Games where mental health has been front and center, acts of kindness are everywhere. The world's most competitive athletes have been captured showing gentleness and warmth to one another – celebrating, pep-talking, wiping away one another's tears of disappointment. Kanoa Igarashi of Japan was disappointed when he lost to Brazilian Italo Ferreira in their sport's Olympic debut. Not only did he blow his shot at gold on the beach he grew up surfing, he was also being taunted online by racist Brazilian trolls. The Japanese-American surfer could have stewed in silence, but he instead deployed his knowledge of Portuguese, helping to translate a press conference question for Ferreira on the world stage. The crowd giggled hearing the cross-rival translation and an official thanked the silver medalist for the assist. "Yes, thank you, Kanoa," said a beaming Ferreira, who is learning English. Days later, at the Olympic Stadium, Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy and Mutaz Barshim of Qatar found themselves in a situation they'd talked about but never experienced – they were tied. Both high jumpers ... could have gone to a jump-off, but instead decided to share the gold. After they decided, Tamberi slapped Barshim's hand and jumped into his arms.
Carissa Moore wore a white and yellow plumeria pinned next to her ear for her victory-lap interviews after making history as the first Olympic gold medalist at surfing's historic debut. Her mother – crowned the Honolulu Lei Queen in 2016 – had given her the flower hair clip before she left for Tokyo to remind the only Native Hawaiian Olympic surfer of where she came from. At this pinnacle point, Moore is still in disbelief when she's compared to Duke Kahanamoku, the godfather of modern surfing who is memorialized in Hawaii with a cherished monument. Moore has now become a realization of Kahanamoku's dream, at once the symbol of the sport's very best and a validating force for an Indigenous community that still struggles with its complex history. "It's a reclaiming of that sport for our native community," said KĹ«hiĹŤ Lewis, president of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, which convenes the largest annual gathering of Native Hawaiians. Lewis said all the locals he knew were texting each other during the competition, glued to the TV and elated, even relieved, by Moore's "surreal" win. He called it a "come to home moment" for a community that may never reconcile its dispossession. Hawaii was annexed by the United States in 1898. "At times, we're an invisible people. Our sport is being defined by other groups. This puts it into perspective," Lewis said. "It feels like an emerging of a people, of a native community that has been invisible to many."
It's official: in the first half of 2020, and for the first time, Europe generated more electricity from renewable sources than from fossil fuels. Not only that, but electricity is proving cheaper in countries that have more renewables. From January to June, wind, solar, hydro and bioenergy generated 40% of the electricity across the EU's 27 member states, while fossil fuels generated 34%. In the United States, by way of contrast, fossil fuels generated more than 62% of electricity last year, while renewables accounted for less than 18%. The EU figures, gathered and analyzed by U.K. climate think-tank Ember, represent a rapid acceleration in the decarbonization of the bloc's electricity supply. Just five years ago, Europe generated twice as much electricity from coal as it did from wind and solar. Now, coal makes up just 12% of the EU-27's electricity generation, while wind and solar alone provide 21%. The rosy results for green energy are in part a result of ... a reduction in activity caused by the coronavirus crisis. More broadly, the figures reflect the results of national energy policies, resulting in a 32% drop in electricity generated from coal across the EU. Austria and Sweden closed their last remaining coal-fired power plants in March, while Spain closed its coal fleet in June. Portugal's coal generation fell a whopping 95%, and Greece's dropped by a half. In Germany, Europe's most populous country, electricity from coal dropped 39%–the largest fall in absolute terms.
Facing billions of dollars in potential liability to cancer victims, Monsanto's parent company said Thursday it would stop selling the current version of Roundup, the world's most widely used herbicide, for U.S. home and garden use in 2023. The forthcoming version of the weed-killer will replace its current active ingredient, glyphosate, with "new formulations that rely on alternative active ingredients," subject to approval by the Environmental Protection Agency and state regulators, said Bayer AG, the German pharmaceutical giant that purchased Monsanto for $63 billion in 2018. The company ... will continue to market the current version of the product for farm use in the United States and for general use in other nations that permit its sale. But while the EPA has found the current version of Roundup to be safe, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, concluded in 2015 that glyphosate was a probable cause of cancer in humans. Tens of thousands of lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto and Bayer in state and federal courts. In the first case to go to trial, a San Francisco jury awarded nearly $290 million in damages in 2019 to Dewayne "Lee" Johnson of Vallejo, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer after spraying the herbicide as a groundskeeper for the Benicia Unified School District. State courts reduced the damages to $21.5 million and rejected the companies' appeal.
When classrooms in California reopen for the fall term, all 6.2 million public school students will have the option to eat school meals for free, regardless of their family's income. The undertaking ... will be the largest free student lunch program in the country. School officials, lawmakers, anti-hunger organizations and parents are applauding it as a pioneering way to prevent the stigma of accepting free lunches and feed more hungry children. "This is so historic. It's beyond life-changing," said Erin Primer, director of food services for the San Luis Coastal Unified School District on California's central coast. Several U.S. cities including New York, Boston and Chicago already offer free school meals for all. But until recently, statewide universal meal programs were considered too costly and unrealistic. California became the first state to adopt a universal program late last month, and Maine followed shortly after with a similar plan. Like school officials statewide, Primer has countless tales of children who struggled to pay for school meals or were too ashamed to eat for free. There was the child whose mother called Primer, distraught because she made a few hundred dollars too much to qualify; the father who is in the country illegally and feared that filling out the free meal application could get him deported; and constant cases of high schoolers not wanting friends to know they need free food, so they skip eating.
Every so often, Jim Williams wakes up in the middle of the night and lies awake inside his prison cell, thinking about quilt designs. As his fellow inmates at South Central Correctional Center snore and shift in their sleep, Williams mulls over the layout of cloth shapes, rearranging them in his mind. "I'm kind of a perfectionist," he said. "I'll wake up at 2:30 in the morning and think, 'That color really isn't going to work.'" It wasn't always this way. Williams had never touched a sewing machine until last year, when he was recruited to sew face masks for prison inmates and staff during the pandemic. Now he's part of a small group of volunteers at the Licking, Missouri, prison who spend their days making intricately designed quilts for charity. The quilting program offers the men a temporary "escape from the prison world" and a chance to engage with the community, said Joe Satterfield, case manager at South Central. To join the group, an inmate cannot have any recent conduct violations on his record. "You can see a change in their attitude," said Satterfield, who runs the program. "A light flips on like, 'Oh, this is a new avenue. I can actually be a part of something.'" The project hinges on the concept of restorative justice, which emphasizes community-building and rehabilitation over punitive measures. In the sewing room at South Central, members of the close-knit group are working toward a common goal: finishing more than 80 unique quilts for children in the Texas County foster care system.
A bill in Connecticut makes calls from prison free for the inmates and their families, becoming the first state to do so. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Josh Elliott and Sen. Martin M. Looney, will make all voice communication, including video and electronic mail services, free to those incarcerated and those who are receiving the communication. According to the bill, the services will also be free of charge to those in juvenile detention facilities. Inmates will get 90 minutes of phone calls at no charge and the cost will be provided by the taxpayers. Gov. Ned Lamont signed the bill into law June 16, and it will go into effect on October 22, 2022, for adult facilities and October 1, 2022, for juvenile facilities. "Today, Connecticut made history by becoming the first state to make prison calls, and all other communication, free," Bianca Tylek ... of Worth Rises, a non-profit that works for prison reform, said. "This historic legislation will change lives: It will keep food on the table for struggling families, children in contact with their parents, and our communities safer." In 2019, New York became the first major city to offer inmates free calls.
In an effort to help decrease the growing student debt nationwide, Walmart announced Tuesday that the company will begin offering free college tuition and books to its 1.5 million U.S. employees, effective Aug. 16. The retail giant said it will drop its existing $1-per-day fee for associates who participate in its Live Better U education program. As a result, approximately 1.5 million part-time and full-time Walmart and Sam's Club associates in the U.S. will be able to earn college degrees or learn trade skills without the burden of accumulating college debt. The Live Better U education program was created three years ago in order to help employees grow and advance within the company. Employees can choose from a variety of institutions, including: Johnson & Wales University, the University of Arizona, the University of Denver and Pathstream – complementing its existing "academic partners": Brandman University, Penn Foster, Purdue University Global, Southern New Hampshire University, Wilmington University and Voxy EnGen. Since the program started in 2018, more than 52,000 associates have participated in the program to date and 8,000 have already graduated, Walmart said. "As the company making one of the nation's largest investments in education for America's workforce, Walmart is setting a new standard for what it looks like to prepare workers for the jobs of the future," said Rachel Carlson, CEO & co-founder of Guild Education.
Over the course of the past five years, my nonprofit, Braver Angels, has developed several workshops and structured conversations that bring "reds" and "blues" together to help us better understand each other's perspectives, reduce stereotyped thinking and explore common ground. Out of these workshops have emerged 75 local Braver Angels Alliances of liberals and conservatives working together to drive positive change in their communities. In 2019, I conducted our first congressional workshop with the staffs of two members of Congress in my home state of Minnesota: Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips and Republican Rep. Pete Stauber. The workshop gave the two staffs the opportunity to get to know each other as human beings, not just partisan actors. It enabled them to open up about their politics and values in an honest and non-judgmental way. It planted a seed of trust. This year, we're planning to do more red/blue workshops with congressional staffs, and we're inviting members of Congress to participate in private one-on-one conversations across the divide to build relationships away from Twitter and the cameras. This is only the beginning. There is a movement growing in this country to depolarize our politics, and Congress has begun to listen. Like a couple who remain responsible for their children no matter what happens to their own relationship, reds and blues cannot simply walk away from each other. Neither side can 'divorce' and move to a different country.
One man is on a mission to become the first double amputee to sail around the world alone. Dustin Reynolds is currently docked at Bristol Marine. He refers to himself on social media as "The Single Handed Sailor," as he lost an arm and a leg in a tragic car crash in 2008. "I was trying to decide what to do next with my life," he said, "Randomly I was on the internet and I found a list of people who had set the record for sailing around the world alone. I was like, 'Well there's no double amputee on the list, I guess I'll just do that.'" And that's exactly what he's been doing for the past six years. He began his journey in June of 2014. Reynolds essentially taught himself how to sail through reading and watching videos on the internet. He mastered it single-handedly, literally, through trial and error. "Using one hand takes longer. You have to practice and sometimes use profanities. If that doesn't work you have to think of something else to do," said Reynolds. He started his circumnavigation from his home in Hawaii and so far has sailed through the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, and Africa. "It's a really meditative thing – spending that much time by yourself," he said. Reynolds actually went bankrupt trying to pay all his medical bills after the crash in 2008, so his entire adventure is funded through crowdsourcing. In each new place he stops, he tries immersing himself in the culture there, as well as shares his own story. His ultimate goal is to [complete] his circumnavigation in November of 2021.
Note: Listen to an inspiring podcast of this courageous, caring man and his intense journey through life. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring disabled persons news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Less than a decade ago, the economic malaise in Rocky Mount, N.C., was tangible. Rocky Mount Mills, a big cotton mill that had given the town its identity, had shut down in 1996, costing the area hundreds of jobs. Downtown was deserted. Nobody was hiring. Now, the mill is a bustling complex with restaurants and breweries. It has a small hotel composed of tiny houses on wheels, a wide lawn where concerts regularly take place and a Wiffle ball field. Since 2013, Rocky Mount Mills' current owner, Capitol Broadcasting Company, has redeveloped the site, giving it a dynamic atmosphere with stores and residences. Its leaders are aiming to create a sense of community that will entice out-of-town businesses and workers to settle there, raising the town's economic prospects and spurring more growth. Rocky Mount isn't the only mill town in North Carolina trying to revitalize its economy. In High Point, Greensboro and Winston-Salem, a region known as the Piedmont Triad, other large factories that once served as economic engines providing many blue-collar jobs are being turned into vibrant mixed-use complexes for work and play. The projects have been designed to connect struggling regions to a new economy based on technology, information and innovation. Christopher Chung, the chief executive of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, is optimistic. "A lot of these communities have the best chance they've had in a while," he said.
Quanesha Burks ordered medium fries with no salt and a side of sweet and sour sauce at McDonald's. She doesn't do this often, but the day after making her first Olympic team, she decided to treat herself. "I just ate it with so much gratitude in my mouth," Burks says. Before Burks was a full-time professional long jumper, her only previous job experience was working at the McDonald's in Hartselle, Ala., as a 17-year-old. The town of 14,000 people was also where she and her siblings were raised by her grandparents. She remembers the early years as a struggle, watching her family live paycheck to paycheck. While at Hartselle High School, Burks quickly took notice of her classmates using sports as a way to get college scholarships. When track season rolled around ... she finished third at the 2012 USATF National Junior Olympics. "I remember looking up the requirements to earn a full scholarship and I wrote those goals down," Burks says. "I jumped 20 feet and that's when everything changed." At Alabama, she became the first in her family to attend college and went on to have a successful career by setting school records, earning All-America honors and winning the 2015 NCAA outdoor and 2016 NCAA indoor long jump titles."It felt like all the odds were against me," Burks says. "I was facing so much, but I kept going back to when I worked at McDonald's. I had my goals set and I knew I could do it."
The way that our cities and suburbs are structured are not particularly amenable to building strong local communities; everyone has their own single-family house or isolated apartment and very little in terms of shared communal space or daily crossing of paths that might help foster these much-needed deeper social connections. But that's why it's important to see a different way of doing things can indeed work, as in the case with one recently completely cohousing project called VindmĂ¸llebakken in Stavanger, Norway. VindmĂ¸llebakken is a kind of intentional community that includes 40 co-living units, four townhouses, and 10 apartments. These are all privately owned homes with their own conventional amenities (like kitchens and bathrooms), which are clustered around 5,382 square feet of shared communal spaces for recreation, gardening, or dining. Early in the [design] process, workshops were organized that presented the concept and invited residents to influence the individual units and suggest activities for the common areas. Most importantly it was a chance to get to know each other and engage creatively in informing their future common home together. Upon moving in, residents continue to take part in self-organized groups that manage the shared facilities and tasks, like cooking, gardening, car-sharing and even curating art for the communal spaces. Many cohousing residents report better quality of life and health compared to peers of the same age.
Trials of a four-day week in Iceland were an "overwhelming success" and led to many workers moving to shorter hours, researchers have said. The trials, in which workers were paid the same amount for shorter hours, took place between 2015 and 2019. Productivity remained the same or improved in the majority of workplaces, researchers said. A number of other trials are now being run across the world. In Iceland, the trials run by ReykjavĂk City Council and the national government eventually included more than 2,500 workers, which amounts to about 1% of Iceland's working population. A range of workplaces took part, including preschools, offices, social service providers, and hospitals. Many of them moved from a 40 hour week to a 35 or 36 hour week, researchers from UK think tank Autonomy and the Association for Sustainable Democracy (Alda) in Iceland said. The trials led unions to renegotiate working patterns, and now 86% of Iceland's workforce have either moved to shorter hours for the same pay, or will gain the right to, the researchers said. Workers reported feeling less stressed and at risk of burnout, and said their health and work-life balance had improved. They also reported having more time to spend with their families, do hobbies and complete household chores. Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy, said: "This study shows that the world's largest ever trial of a shorter working week in the public sector was by all measures an overwhelming success."
Animals are to be formally recognised as sentient beings in UK law for the first time, in a victory for animal welfare campaigners, as the government set out a suite of animal welfare measures including halting most live animal exports and banning the import of hunting trophies. The reforms will be introduced through a series of bills, including an animal sentience bill, and will cover farm animals and pets in the UK, and include protections for animals abroad, through bans on ivory and shark fins, and a potential ban on foie gras. Some of the measures – including microchipping cats and stopping people keeping primates as pets – have been several years in preparation, and others – such as the restriction of live animal exports – have been the subject of decades-long campaigns. George Eustice, the environment secretary, said: "We are a nation of animal lovers and were the first country in the world to pass animal welfare laws. Our action plan for animal welfare will deliver on our manifesto commitment to ban the export of live animal exports for slaughter and fattening, prohibit keeping primates as pets, and bring in new laws to tackle puppy smuggling."
Darrell Brokenborough opened the bright yellow refrigerator that stood on the sidewalk outside a row home at 308 N. 39th St., smiled and said, "It's full." He balanced on his cane so he could take a closer look at the apples, yogurt, greens, pasta, cheese and chicken inside. On the front of the fridge was written: "Free food" and "Take what you need. Leave what you don't." Philadelphia now has more than 20 of these refrigerators sitting outside homes and restaurants, offering free food to anyone passing by. Volunteers keep the fridges clean and stocked with food donated from grocery stores, restaurants, local farmers and anyone with extra to share. The concept of the community fridge â€• sometimes called a "freedge" â€• has been around for more than a decade, but it exploded during the pandemic as hunger spiked in the United States and worldwide. There are now about 200 of these community fridges in the United States, up from about 15 before the pandemic. "What we're learning is when you do something like this, people will support it. People do have goodness and kindness, and they will bring food," said Michelle Nelson, founder of Mama-Tee.com, which now runs 18 bright yellow fridges in Philadelphia and has been inundated with requests to put more in place throughout the country. Nelson said the effort is part of the movement known as "mutual aid," where people, even those struggling, want to help one another and have a stake in the project.
Tia Wimbush and Susan Ellis have been co-workers for a decade, and while they didn't know each other well, they learned two years ago that their spouses each needed a kidney transplant. Then ... something remarkable happened. The women saw each other in a restroom at work and started chatting as they washed their hands. They had a lot in common, both working in information technology at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and dealing with the same medical stress at home. Neither was a match to be an organ donor for her own husband, and the transplant waiting lists are impossibly long. Wimbush casually asked Ellis what her husband's blood type was. He's type O, Ellis replied. Wimbush said her husband was type AB. The women paused for a moment and looked at each other. Then Wimbush realized they might have stumbled upon something that might help save both of their husbands' lives. Wimbush thought she might be a match for Ellis's husband, and – incredibly – she thought Ellis could be a match for her husband. Antibody tests revealed that each woman was an excellent match for the other's spouse. So in March, seven months after that chance conversation, Wimbush donated one of her kidneys to Lance Ellis, 41, and Susan Ellis donated one of hers to Rodney Wimbush, 45. Both transplants done at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital went so well that the men have almost fully recovered and are going on weekend hikes with friends and family, Tia Wimbush said.
Wuling Hong Guang Mini EV is a small mini electric vehicle that is giving Tesla Model 3 run for the money. This made-in-China small electric car has become the world's bestselling EV in January and February 2021, by beating the Tesla Model 3 electric sedan. The Hong Guang Mini EV sells in China at a price of 28,800 yuan, which is nearly $4,500. On the other hand, the Tesla Model 3 rear-drive Standard Range Plus variant's price starts at $38,190. Despite the small electric car lagging behind Tesla Model 3 in terms of battery capacity, range, and performance, Wuling Hong Guang Mini EV convenience and affordable pricing have made it the world's bestselling electric vehicle. According to The Verge, Wuling Hong Guang Mini EV has sold more than 36,000 units in January 2021, as compared to the Tesla Model 3 that sold around 21,500 units in the same month. In February 2021 as well, Wuling Hong Guang Mini EV sold more than 20,000 units, as compared to just 13,700 Tesla Model 3. Dimensionally, the Wuling Hong Guang Mini EV is just 115 inches long, 59 inches wide, and has a height of nearly 64 inches. The car ... weighs just 665 kg. The electric car is claimed to have a range of 170 kilometres on a single charge. In comparison, the 2021 Tesla Model weighs 1,587 kg and has a length of 185 inches. The electric sedan is 73 inches wide and 57 inches tall. The Tesla Model 3 is claimed to be capable of running 402 km on a single charge.
When Madrid's schools were closed in January due to the coldest weather in fifty years, parents living in the Entrepatios cooperative housing development already had a model that would have made many parents struggling through pandemic closures jealous. Their onsite "school" was inaugurated. "It's like a village," says Cintia DĂaz-Silveira, who moved into the new cooperative housing apartment block at the end of 2020 with her partner and two children. For DĂaz-Silveira and her fellow inaugural residents, their new living situation is their answer to the refrain "it takes a village to raise a child." "We have our own bar, our own hairdressers, our own consumer group. We don't need to go shopping because everything gets delivered," she joked of the apartment building she shares with 16 other families and 23 children. The complex is the first of its kind in Madrid, and part of a cooperative housing movement that's starting to expand in Spain and elsewhere. By "the bar," DĂaz-Silveira is referring to Friday afternoons, when fellow residents have band practice, and many more residents go up to the terrace to enjoy a beer and live music. The "hairdresser" is a neighbor who's good at cutting the children's hair. "Someone gives great massages and someone else does yoga. We share our know-how with the group, and all our needs when it comes to parenting too," she said. There's not much need to hire babysitters, either, with some parents banding together to cover child care.
Scientists have grown a tree from what may be the oldest seed ever germinated. The new sapling was sprouted from a 2,000-year-old date palm excavated in Masada, the site of a cliff-side fortress in Israel where ancient Jews are said to have killed themselves to avoid capture by Roman invaders. Dubbed the "Methuselah Tree" after the oldest person in the Bible, the new plant has been growing steadily, and after 26 months, the tree was nearly four-feet (1.2 meters) tall. The species of tree, called the Judean date, (Phoenix dactylifera L.), is now extinct in Israel, but researchers are hoping that by reviving the plant they may be able to study its medicinal uses. "The medicinal plants from this region are very important because they are historically mentioned in the Bible and the Koran," said Sarah Sallon, director of the Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine Research Center at the Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem, which initiated the experiment to grow the tree as part of its Middle East Medicinal Plant Project. Carbon dating of the seeds found at Masada revealed that they date from roughly the time of the ancient fortress' siege, in A.D. 73. The seeds were found in storage rooms, and appear to have been stockpiled for the Jews hiding out against the invading Romans. The seeds were excavated about 40 years ago, along with skeletons of those who died during the siege. Since then, the seeds had been languishing in a drawer until Sallon and her team decided to attempt to grow them anew.
Note: Watch a fascinating 8-minute video of this miraculous occurrence and the small forest of these trees that has since grown. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Last week, the European Parliament made its stance on animal welfare clear by calling for a ban on caged animal farming, after voting overwhelmingly in favor to end the practice. The non-binding resolution hopes to change animal agriculture and reinvent the food supply chain across Europe by removing cages. The Parliament vote – passed by an overwhelming majority voting in favor of the ban, with 558 members in favor to 37 votes against – sought to implement a ban on caged farming across the European Union. The vote followed a European Citizens' Initiative that started three years ago, and which gathered 1.4 million signatures in at least 18 member states in support of animal welfare. Olga Kikou, Head of Compassion in World Farming EU and one of the citizens leading the 'End the Cage Age' petition told Euronews that some animals never leave their cages during their lifetime: "We have estimated, and this is a very conservative number, that over 300 million animals, farmed animals, spend most of their life or their entire life in cages in Europe, every year." Following the committee's debate regarding the 'End the Cage Age' petition, the parliament decided in favor of the ban that aims to completely dismantle caged animal farming by 2027.
The Human Library is, in the true sense of the word, a library of people. Against the backdrop of a rise in curiosity and the thirst for authenticity, the idea of learning and being transported by a person telling their story rather than reading it from a book, is growing in popularity. The human "books" in these cases are volunteers. Those with a story to tell. And the way they are dispersed is tailored to each individual's own biases and prejudices. The original event was open eight hours a day for four days straight and featured over fifty different titles. The broad selection of books provided readers with ample choice to challenge their stereotypes. One such volunteer, Bill Carney's book title is "Black Activist". He told Forbes magazine his motivation for getting involved. "It's easy to hate a group of people, but it's harder to hate an individual, particularly if that person is trying to be friendly and open and accommodating and totally non-threatening." "I'm not pompous enough to believe that a 25-minute conversation with me is going to change anybody," he [said]. "What I am pompous enough to believe is that if I can just instill the slightest bit of cognitive dissonance, then their brain will do the rest for me. And it will at least force them to ask questions." The walk-in-someone-else's-shoes concept also has merit in social science. Such interactions have been proven to decrease prejudice and increasingly open minds.
Note: To explore how prejudice is so apparent to blacks yet so hidden from white people, don't miss the most profound "This American Life" podcast titled "Warriors in the Garden."
A flood of donations to support COVID-19 relief and racial justice efforts, coupled with stock market gains, led Americans to give a record US$471 billion to charity in 2020. The total donated to charity rose 3.8% from the prior year in inflation-adjusted terms, according to the latest annual Giving USA report from the Giving USA Foundation, released in partnership with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI. In contrast, total charitable giving only grew 2.8% in 2019 – a year of economic expansion and stock gains. As two of the lead researchers who produced this report, we observed that giving bucked historical trends in three ways. The total increased despite a recession; foundations' giving surged; and gifts to a variety of nonprofits providing social services, supporting people in need and protecting civil rights grew the most. Food banks, homeless shelters, youth programs and other organizations that meet basic needs, collectively known as human services groups, received an outpouring of support in 2020. Those donations grew 8.4%, in inflation-adjusted dollars, to $65 billion. This additional giving responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic troubles it brought about, as well as broad calls for racial justice. Giving to public-society benefit organizations grew the most, a 14.3% increase to $48 billion. This broad category includes the United Way and its local branches, which pool donations raised in workplaces, from corporations and other sources.
Magawa the rat is retiring. And while most rats step away from their active careers with little to no fanfare, this rodent is a bit different: he's directly responsible for saving the lives of untold numbers of men, women, and children. Magawa - who spent five years (2016-2021) sniffing out hazardous, unexploded weapons of war dotting the Cambodian countryside - is credited with leading his handlers to more than 100 buried explosive devices. This hero is a Gambian pouched rat. Like many rodents, Gambian rats have poor eyesight, but make up for it with an exceptional sense of smell. Magawa's trainers at the Belgian nonprofit APOPO taught him to sniff out military-grade explosives. The rat is essentially a living sensor, capable of detecting land mines, bombs, and other explosives. Minefields have proven especially deadly in postwar Cambodia. Experts believe that military forces left behind somewhere between 4 and 6 million idle land mines at the close of the Cambodian Civil War. Between 1979 and 2020, abandoned mines and other explosive devices killed 19,789 Cambodians and injured or maimed 45,102 others. Magawa completed his training in Africa, and then traveled to Cambodia, where he spent five years searching for whiffs of explosives. In his half-decade career, the big rat "helped clear over 225,000 square metres of land," according to APOPO. All in all, he led his handlers to 71 land mines and 38 other items of unexploded ordinance.
Note: Along with sniffing out land mines, rats have also been trained to detect tuberculosis. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
A Jewish man who was badly injured when he was beaten by an Arab mob has told of his joy at reuniting with the Arab nurse who saved him. Fadi Kasem, a nurse at the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, went to a riot scene in Acre two weeks ago, during a spike in Arab-Jewish violence, accompanying a sheikh who was appealing for calm. An 11-day conflict between Israel and terror groups in the Gaza Strip, which ended Friday, sparked violent riots in Jewish-Arab cities within Israel, including communities long seen as models of coexistence. When Kasem arrived at the scene in Acre he was shocked to see a Jewish man lying on the ground after he had been surrounded in his car and then attacked outside the vehicle by a mob wielding stones, sticks and knives. "I was scared he was going to die," said Kasem. "There was lots of blood and a head injury." Kasem administered first aid to the victim, Mor Janashvili, 29, and saw him taken to the hospital. Janashvili ... is back home in Haifa, still in a wheelchair and in significant pain, but recovering and convinced that Kasem's intervention made all the difference. Just before Janashvili was discharged from the hospital, Kasem paid a visit to his room. Janashvili said to him: "You saved my life. I don't know what I would have done without you." Kasem replied modestly: "I did what had to be done." "It was a very moving meeting," Janashvili recalled. "After all, in a place where people weren't showing humanity, he showed such great humanity."
People recovering from a stroke will soon have access to a device that can help restore a disabled hand. The Food And Drug Administration has authorized a device called IpsiHand, which uses signals from the uninjured side of a patient's brain to help rewire circuits controlling the hand, wrist and arm. NeuroLutions ... was founded by Dr. Eric Leuthardt. Leuthardt had been puzzled by something he often heard from patients who'd lost the use of hand after a stroke. "If you talk to a stroke patient, they can imagine moving their hand," he says. "They can try to move their hand. But they just can't actually move it." So Leuthardt had been looking for the source of those thoughts. Usually ... the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body. But ... control signals [are] also present on the ipsilateral side – the same side of the brain as the limb being controlled. Leuthardt's team built a system that could detect and decode those ipsilateral signals. Then they connected it to a device that would open and close a patient's disabled hand for them when they imagined the action. But a mechanical hand wasn't Leuthardt's ultimate goal. He wanted to help his patients regain the ability to move their hand without assistance. And that meant answering a question: "Can we use this device that controls their affected limb to essentially encourage the brain to rewire?" Early experiments suggested the approach worked. NeuroLutions tested the device on 40 patients for 12 weeks. All of them got better.
Saudi Arabia will allow women to live alone without permission from a male "guardian", bringing an end to a rule that attracted condemnation from human rights campaigners internationally. According to The Gulf News, single, divorced or widowed women are now able to live independently without permission from a male guardian. The development comes after the Kingdom introduced a legal amendment to grant women the right to live in separate accommodation, the newspaper reported. Judicial authorities have replaced a legal statute stipulating that a male guardian has authority over a woman's living circumstances with a new text stating: "An adult woman has the right to choose where to live. A woman's guardian can report her only if he has evidence proving she committed a crime." The development follows a 2019 decree allowing women to travel abroad without approval from a guardian, following a series of attempts by women in the Kingdom to escape their guardians. Under the kingdom's guardianship system, women are considered to be legal minors, giving their male guardians authority over their decisions. Often a woman's male guardian is her father or husband and in some cases a woman's own son. Under the 2019 reforms, a Saudi passport should be issued to any citizen who applies for it and that any person above the age of 21 does not need permission to travel. The amendments also granted women the right to register child birth, marriage or divorce.
Yeva Klingbeil, a senior at Shenendehowa High School who was diagnosed with cancer in November 2019, had help from a few of her teammates in crossing the finish line at a meet on Monday. "What a great moment to see Senior Yeva Klingbeil at today's girls track & field meet," the school's athletic department wrote, posting the video on Twitter. "Yeva's teammates help her across the line in the 4X1 relay," the post continued. "Yeva continues her fight with cancer and we continue to be amazed by her spirit!!" The video has been viewed more than 180,000 times and counting, showing Klingbeil walk arm-in-arm with three of her teammates as they helped her finish the race. The rest of the team and runners from other schools rushed to congratulate her after, chanting her name in unison. Klingbeil was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that affects muscle tissue, mostly in adolescents. She began chemotherapy in 2019 for a cancerous mass around her jaw, followed by radiation treatments, which damaged her brainstem. After weeks in the ICU and work with several specialists, she's regained some of her function, and the tumor has shrunk to half of its original size. "Yeva and her family pray her brain will continue healing and she'll be able to breathe, walk, and eat once again," her coach Rob Cloutier [said]. "While Yeva has gone through all of this and more, she has never stopped caring about her friends and family and has never given up hope of recovery."
Tasmanian devils have been born in the wild in mainland Australia, more than 3,000 years after they died out in the country. Seven baby Tasmanian devils - known as joeys - were born at the 988-acre Barrington Wildlife Sanctuary in New South Wales, Australian NGO Aussie Ark said. Tasmanian devils died out on the mainland after the arrival of dingoes - a species of wild dog - and were restricted to the island of Tasmania. However, their numbers suffered another blow from a contagious form of cancer known as Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD), which has killed around 90% of the population since it was discovered in 1996. Last September, Aussie Ark introduced 11 of the creatures back into the wild in mainland Australia, following an earlier trial involving 15 of the marsupials, bringing the total of Tasmanian devils on the mainland to 26. And now, just months after their release, the creatures have successfully reproduced - and conservationists have identified the tiny marsupials, which they say are the size of shelled peanuts, inside the pouches of the mothers. Female Tasmanian devils give birth to between 20 and 40 joeys at once, according to Tourism Australia. The joeys race to the mother's pouch, which only has four teats. Those that make it to the pouch carry on living there for around three months. Tasmanian devils are the world's largest carnivorous marsupials. Their reintroduction will help control populations of feral cats and foxes that hunt other endangered species.
Earlier this month, U.N. Secretary-General AntĂłnio Guterres joined virtual visitors to Berlin at the 12th Annual Petersberg Climate Dialogue, where the German government hoped to further negotiate technical details of the Paris Agreement. During the event, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged governments to continue investing into our shared climate despite budgetary shortfalls related to the COVID-19 crisis. Germany has walked that walk. Over the past two decades, it has embarked on a remarkable, expensive transition from coal and nuclear energy, to renewable energy sources. The set of policies to encourage this rise of green energy is known as energiewende–or "energy transition." Energiewende has its roots in the foundation of Germany's Green Party in the late 1970s and early 1980s and enjoys broad public support. It is one of the most ambitious green energy proposals in the global North, and represents a fundamental paradigm shift from the fossil fuel-obsessed status quo. Massive fossil fuel subsidies and planned expansions of natural gas means the United States has failed to embrace the same spirit of energiewende. But that doesn't mean it never can. One good way to start would be with a central component of German energiewende: a feed-in-tariff to promote less developed renewable technologies. It works through phase-out subsidies that provide a fixed price for every kilowatt hour for a specific period following a renewable plant's construction.
At 106, Eileen Kramer seems more productive than ever. She writes a story a day from her Sydney aged-care facility, publishes books and has entered Australia's most prestigious painting competition. After decades living abroad, Ms Kramer returned to her home city of Sydney aged 99. Since then, she's collaborated with artists to create several videos that showcase her primary talent and lifelong passion: dancing. Ms Kramer still dances - graceful, dramatic movements mostly using the top half of her body. She has also choreographed. "Since returning to Sydney I've ... performed three big dance pieces at NIDA [the National Institute for Dramatic Art] and independent theatres. "I've participated in two big dance festivals ... I've been in a film, given many smaller performances, written three books, and today I'm having a free day!" she says. Something she often gets asked is where all her energy comes from - and whether there's a secret to dancing into old age. Her response is that she banishes the words "old" and "age" from her vocabulary. "I say: I'm not old, I've just been here a long time. I don't feel how people say you should feel when you're old. My attitude to creating things is identical to when I was a child." Ms Kramer trained as a dancer then toured Australia with the Bodenwieser Ballet for a decade. She travelled to India, and later settled in Paris and then New York - where she lived until she was 99. Her dance career spans four continents and one century, and it has always been her first love.
A teenager who attached uplifting messages to a bridge to help people facing a mental health crisis has helped save six lives, police said. Paige Hunter, 18, tied more than 40 notes to Sunderland's Wearmouth Bridge. One note says: "Even though things are difficult, your life matters; you're a shining light in a dark world, so just hold on." Northumbria Police Ch Supt Sarah Pitt said it was an "innovative way to reach out to those in a dark place". She said it was important to encourage people to speak out about mental health problems, adding: "Paige has shown an incredible understanding of vulnerable people in need of support. "For somebody so young, Paige has shown a real maturity and we thought it would only be right to thank her personally. She should be very proud of herself." The East Durham College student, who also works at Poundworld, was given a commendation certificate from the force. Paige said: "Since I put the messages up I've had a lot of comments from people. They've said it's been really inspiring. "It's just amazing, the response it has had. I wasn't doing this for an award; it was just something that I wanted to do." Since 2013, Northumbria Police's Street Triage service has seen a team of dedicated officers and mental health nurses work alongside each other to respond to people experiencing a mental health crisis.
When Edward Martell went to court in 2005 to plead guilty to selling and manufacturing crack, he thought his life was over. However, Bruce Morrow, a Michigan judge decided to give him a second chance. Martell, then 27, had had several run-ins with the law until he was arrested in a counternarcotics operation. When he pleaded guilty to selling and manufacturing crack, he knew he could face 20 years in jail. Judge Morrow saw young Martell and understood the circumstances that had led the young man to life in crime. So he gave him a three-year probation sentence and a challenge: to return to that same court with an achievement. Last week ... Edward returned to the same courthouse as Bruce Morrow, but this time to fulfill his promise: to be sworn in as a lawyer in the same courtroom where he pleaded guilty. "It was kind of a joke, but [Edward] understood that I believed he could be whatever he wanted," Judge Morrow [said]. After his first meeting with the magistrate, Edward earned a high school degree and then a scholarship to study law. He always kept in touch with the judge who had inspired him. Martell underwent a strict background check in order to join the Michigan Bar Association, but the board determined that his past should not determine his future. That's how Martell, now 43, returned to court to become a lawyer. That is the power of mentoring.
Once upon a time a 7-year-old refugee living in a homeless shelter sat down at a chess board. Tanitoluwa Adewumi – better known as Tani – enjoyed chess as an escape from the chaos of the homeless shelter, and his skills progressed in stunning fashion. After little more than a year, at age 8, he won the New York State chess championship for his age group. I wrote a couple of columns about Tani at that time, and readers responded by donating more than $250,000 to a GoFundMe campaign for Tani's family, along with a year of free housing. This month, as a fifth grader, Tani ... emerged with a chess rating of 2223, making him a national master. When Tani won the state championship, several private schools offered him places, but the family decided to keep him in the public school that had nurtured him. The Adewumis also used the $250,000 contributed by readers to start a foundation that helps other homeless people and refugees. The larger lesson of Tani's story is simple: Talent is universal, while opportunity is not. In Tani's case, everything came together. His homeless shelter was in a school district that had a chess club, the school waived fees, he had devoted parents who took him to every practice, he won the state tournament (by a hair) and readers responded with extraordinary generosity. My challenge as a columnist is that readers often want to help extraordinary individuals like Tani whom I write about, but we need to support all children – including those who aren't chess prodigies.
Researchers achieved a breakthrough in brain-computer interface (BCI) technology. As outlined in a statement by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and published in a Nature journal article, scientists state that they have created a system to translate mental thoughts of handwriting into real-time text. HHMI investigator ... Krishna Shenoy is hopeful that this technology can, "with further development, let people with paralysis rapidly type without using their hands." If scientists can indeed innovate a way where thoughts and imagination alone could be used to effectively communicate, this would be [an] unparalleled resource to millions of individuals facing paralysis or a wide variety of other neurological conditions which may cause loss of speech or movement. Brain-computer/machine interface technology is potentially a significant boon for patients affected by neurological conditions. For many, it may become a source of improved mobility, communication, or expression. Although much work still remains to be done in this industry, if innovators are indeed able to create this technology in a scalable manner that prioritizes patient safety, it may potentially provide much-needed respite for millions of people.
Note: The Howard Hughes Medical Institute published a video outlining this experiment. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
A collection of 50 "tiny" homes will begin sheltering some of St. Louis' homeless population as soon as next month, Mayor Lyda Krewson announced. The city plans a 29-month lease of property for the new community at 900 N. Jefferson Avenue on the edge of Downtown West. There the rows of colorful, simple homes ranging from 80 to 96 square feet will serve as transitional housing for residents for about four to five months while case workers try to find them permanent shelter. "Tiny houses are a lot safer, more secure and comfortable than living in a tent," Krewson said ... adding that the homes will create a "stronger foundation" for homeless people to rebuild their lives. The mayor will request $600,000 to fund the construction of the homes and the first year of the land lease from the approximately $35 million in federal coronavirus relief funding St. Louis received this spring to address the impact of COVID-19. "Folks are much more vulnerable to COVID if they're living on the street, if they are living in a group setting," Krewson said. "So this is assistance to prevent COVID transmission." Krewson's chief of staff, Steve Conway, said the city is also concerned that there may be an increase in the homeless population caused by the economic fallout from the pandemic. With the tiny homes included, the city has created 385 new beds to house the homeless population since the start of the pandemic. Each [tiny home] will have a bed, desk, chair, shelving unit, heat and air conditioning, and a charging unit for electronics.
As people across the globe grappled with higher levels of stress, depression and anxiety this past year, many turned to their favorite comfort foods. But ... the sugar-laden and high-fat foods we often crave when we are stressed or depressed, as comforting as they may seem, are the least likely to benefit our mental health. Instead, whole foods such as vegetables, fruit, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes and fermented foods like yogurt may be a better bet. Historically, nutrition research has focused largely on how the foods we eat affect our physical health, rather than our mental health. But ... a growing body of research has provided intriguing hints about the ways in which foods may affect our moods. A healthy diet promotes a healthy gut, which communicates with the brain through what is known as the gut-brain axis. Microbes in the gut produce neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which regulate our mood and emotions, and the gut microbiome has been implicated in mental health outcomes. "The gut microbiome plays a shaping role in a variety of psychiatric disorders, including major depressive disorder," a team of scientists wrote in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry. "Mental health is complex," said Dr. Jacka ... at Deakin University in Australia. "Eating a salad is not going to cure depression. But there's a lot you can do to lift your mood and improve your mental health, and it can be as simple as increasing your intake of plants and healthy foods."
Range anxiety, recycling and fast-charging fears could all be consigned to electric-vehicle history with a nanotech-driven Australian battery invention. The graphene aluminum-ion battery cells from the Brisbane-based Graphene Manufacturing Group (GMG) are claimed to charge up to 60 times faster than the best lithium-ion cells and hold three times the energy of the best aluminum-based cells. They are also safer, with no upper Ampere limit to cause spontaneous overheating, more sustainable and easier to recycle, thanks to their stable base materials. Testing also shows the coin-cell validation batteries also last three times longer than lithium-ion versions. GMG plans to bring graphene aluminum-ion coin cells to market late this year or early next year. Based on breakthrough technology from the University of Queensland's (UQ) Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, the battery cells use nanotechnology to insert aluminum atoms inside tiny perforations in graphene planes. GMG Managing Director Craig Nicol insisted that while his company's cells were not the only graphene aluminum-ion cells under development, they were easily the strongest, most reliable and fastest charging. "It charges so fast it's basically a super capacitor," Nicol claimed. "It charges a coin cell in less than 10 seconds." The new battery cells are claimed to deliver far more power density than current lithium-ion batteries, without the cooling, heating or rare-earth problems they face.
When Bunny, TikTok's beloved talking Sheepadoodle, stared at herself in a mirror and asked "who this?" using her augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device's buttons, many believed she was having an existential crisis. Since then, the Internet-famous dog has seemingly only become more interested in her own – dare we say – sense of self. The canine Bunny, who has 6.5 million followers on TikTok, is one of nearly 2,600 dogs and 300 cats enrolled in a project called "They Can Talk." The study's aim is to understand if animals can communicate with humans through AAC systems. AAC systems, such as Bunny's giant labeled buttons that speak a single word when pressed, were originally designed to help humans with communication disorders. Yet they have been adapted to be used in language experiments with animals, such as the study Bunny is enrolled in, which is led by Federico Rossano, director of the Comparative Cognition Lab at the University of California–San Diego. In Rossano's study, participants receive instructions on how to set up their AAC buttons for their pets; generally, pets begin with easy words like "outside" and "play." Pet parents set up cameras to constantly monitor the animals when they are in front of their boards, data which is sent to the lab so that researchers examine what they say. Now, Bunny's followers have become obsessed with the notion that her language-learning is making her develop some kind of self-awareness.
This past year, most management advice has focused on how to sustain productivity during the pandemic, yet the power of kindness has been largely overlooked. Practicing kindness by giving compliments and recognition has the power to transform our remote workplace. A commitment to be kind can bring many important benefits. First, and perhaps most obviously, practicing kindness will be immensely helpful to our colleagues. Being recognized at work helps reduce employee burnout and absenteeism, and improves employee well-being, Gallup finds year after year. Second, practicing kindness helps life feel more meaningful. For example, spending money on others and volunteering our time improves wellbeing, bringing happiness and a sense of meaning to life. Third, as we found in a new set of studies, giving compliments can make us even happier than receiving them. We paired up participants and asked them to write about themselves and then talk about themselves with each other. Next, we asked one of them to give an honest compliment about something they liked or respected about the other participant after listening to them. Consistently, we found that giving compliments actually made people happier than receiving them. When people receive an act of kindness, they pay it back, research shows – and not just to the same person, but often to someone entirely new. This leads to a culture of generosity. Simply knowing that one is appreciated can trigger the psychological benefits of kindness.
The world's biggest commercial rooftop greenhouse sits atop a former Sears warehouse in a semi-industrial northwestern quarter of Montreal. Early every morning, staff pick fresh vegetables, then bring them downstairs, where they get packed into heavy-duty plastic totes along with the rest of the day's grocery orders. Whatever Lufa doesn't grow in its four greenhouses comes from local farms and producers, mostly from within 100 miles. This is a modern foodie's dream: a tech-forward online shop full of locally grown, pesticide-free, ethically-sourced products at reasonable price points, delivered once a week to either your doorstep or a local pickup point in your neighborhood. Customers - Lufavores, as the company calls them - typically place their orders a few days before delivery through the online store, dubbed "the Marketplace," which Lufa built from scratch in 2012. That's how Lufa's suppliers know how much product to provide: They get forecasts first, then final order numbers, through their Lufa software. Technology is the underpinning of Lufa's success, and the owners know it. "We see ourselves as a technology company, in the sense that we solve with software," [cofounder Lauren] Rathmell, 32, says. "Nothing off-the-shelf can be applied to what we do, because it's so complex. We harvest food ourselves; we gather from farmers and food makers throughout the province; most of it's arriving just in time throughout the night to be packed in baskets for that day, and every order is fully unique."
In the year 2000, the International Energy Agency made a prediction that would come back to haunt it: by 2020, the world would have installed a grand total of 18 gigawatts of photovoltaic solar capacity. Seven years later, the forecast would be proven spectacularly wrong when roughly 18 gigawatts of solar capacity were installed in a single year alone. Ever since the agency was founded in 1974 to measure the world's energy systems and anticipate changes, the yearly World Energy Outlook has been a must-read document for policymakers the world over. Over the last two decades, however, the IEA has consistently failed to see the massive growth in renewable energy coming. Not only has the organization underestimated the take-up of solar and wind, but it has massively overstated the demand for coal and oil. Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at BloombergNEF, says that, in fairness to the IEA, it wasn't alone. "When I got this job in 2005, I thought maybe one day solar will supply 1% of the world's electricity. Now it's 3%. Our official forecast is that it will be 23% by 2050, but that's completely underestimated," Chase says. "I see it as the limits of modelling. Most energy system models are, or were, set up to model minor changes to an energy system that is run on fossil fuel or nuclear. Every time you double producing capacity, you reduce the cost of PV solar by 28%. We've got to the point where solar is the cheapest source of energy in the world in most places."
Note: The complete article contains a fascinating history of the development of solar panels. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Optimism is essentially hopefulness about the future, a general belief that things will work out in your favor. A new study provides evidence that cultivating optimism might be worthwhile. According to the paper, which was published last month in the journal Emotion, optimism appears to be particularly useful when tackling challenges or approaching situations that could elicit high levels of stress. Researchers Heather Lench and Zari Carpenter explored the benefits of optimism. Over a thousand undergraduates completed a survey two weeks before taking their first psychology exam, which assessed their anticipated grade and their emotions about the exam. One day before the exam, participants were surveyed again about their expected grade and their study habits leading up to the exam. Two days after taking the exam, participants reported on the actual grade they received, as well as their emotional response. Indeed, they found that there is a likely connection between optimism and effort. Greater optimism two weeks prior to the exam predicted more study hours, greater overall satisfaction with the quality of their studying, and a better grade on the exam. If students lowered their expectations the day before the exam, they'd study less and get a worse grade. It's not just optimism that drives effort and results, but unflappable optimism that holds steady over a period of time. Optimism appears to fuel our efforts in achieving personal goals, and also improves the overall quality of our experiences while doing so.
A Georgia restaurant owner is making waves for choosing kindness after his popular establishment was the target of vandalism. After discovering Diablo's Southwest Grill had been broken into on Saturday, owner Carl Wallace took to Facebook with an unusual proposal; rather than calling the police, he extended an offer of employment to the unknown vandal. "To the would-be robber who is clearly struggling with life decisions or having money issues... please swing by for a job application," Wallace wrote. "There are better opportunities out there than this path you've chosen." In a report from WFLA, a man was caught on security footage throwing a brick through the glass door and entering the establishment. Once inside, he shook the cash register, but according to Wallace, he ran off when he realized the register was empty. The viral Facebook post has touched the hearts of viewers. "As a 30-year government/law enforcement retiree I want to say, Thank you!," wrote another. "I've always said...' you're only one bad decision away from a totally different life.' This morning you made me think that sometimes....'you're only one GOOD decision away from a totally different life.'" Wallace said he did not expect his post to go viral the way it did. "It was just a little bit different approach to, you know, a bad situation," he [said]. "Putting this person through incarceration to then get out to make it harder to find a good-paying job. It only makes it worse."
When Suzanne Simard made her extraordinary discovery – that trees could communicate and cooperate through subterranean networks of fungi – the scientific establishment underreacted. Even though her doctoral research was published in the Nature journal in 1997 ... the finding that trees are more altruistic than competitive was dismissed by many. Today, at 60, she is professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia and her research of more than three decades as a "forest detective" is recognised worldwide. In her new book, Finding the Mother Tree – a scientific memoir as gripping as any HBO drama series – she wants it understood that her work has been no brief encounter: "I want people to know that what I've discovered has been about my whole life." Would she go as far as to suggest a tree can feel pain or grief? "I don't know. Trees don't have a brain, but the network in the soil is a neural network and the chemicals that move through it are the same as our neural transmitters." She is currently collaborating on research to see whether trees can distinguish us as humans. She laments our lack of vocabulary for communication between trees and adds: "Western Canada's aboriginal people have known about the connection between trees for a long time." But she believes we can learn from the way trees interact: "Some trees have lived for thousands of years. They get along, develop sophisticated relationships and listen – they're attuned. Attunement is something we all need too."
Finland has been named the happiest place in the world for a fourth year running, in an annual UN-sponsored report. The World Happiness Report saw Denmark in second place, then Switzerland, Iceland and the Netherlands. New Zealand was again the only non-European nation in the top 10. Data from analytics researcher Gallup asked people in 149 countries to rate their own happiness. Measures including social support, personal freedom, gross domestic product (GDP) and levels of corruption were also factored in. The country deemed the most unhappy in the world was Afghanistan, followed by Lesotho, Botswana, Rwanda and Zimbabwe. There was a "significantly higher frequency of negative emotions" in just over a third of the countries, the report authors said, likely pointing to the effects of the pandemic. However, things got better for 22 countries. Several Asian countries fared better than they had in last year's rankings, while China moved to 84th place from 94th "Surprisingly there was not, on average, a decline in well-being when measured by people's own evaluation of their lives," John Helliwell, one of the report's authors, said in a statement. "One possible explanation is that people see Covid-19 as a common, outside threat affecting everybody and that this has generated a greater sense of solidarity and fellow-feeling." Finland "ranked very high on the measures of mutual trust that have helped to protect lives and livelihoods during the pandemic", the authors said.
Portland joined Philadelphia and Amsterdam as the first cities to pilot the Thriving Cities Initiative. The Initiative is a collaboration between C40, the Amsterdam-based Circle Economy, which seeks to create zero-waste urban economies that support their residents, and the Doughnut Economics Action Lab, an organization mostly comprising volunteers working to implement systemic, society-wide economic change. At its most basic level, doughnut economics is a way of describing an economic system that extends beyond strictly financial measures, like gross domestic product, to include environmental sustainability and healthy, thriving communities. The Thriving Cities Initiative's model - and the expertise and resources it provided - dovetailed with Portland's existing momentum in tracking and reducing emissions that accounted for spending by government, businesses, and households. The model also pointed to ways to address the city's social issues, including more than 4,000 people in the metro area without stable housing. The pandemic ... forced Portland to scale back its Thriving Cities program. A five-year program that could have formed the basis for city council action was scaled back to a two-year in-house plan that the city's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability could follow on its own. Still, some existing programs already were in line with the goals of the Thriving Cities Initiative. In Amsterdam, the Doughnut Coalition and the city government are already looking toward next steps.
Whether you took up gardening during the pandemic or have been a lifelong cultivator, we have good news for you – a recent study found that the outdoor hobby may do wonders for your wellbeing, mental health, and overall life satisfaction. According to the study, conducted by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), people who garden daily have wellbeing scores 6.6 percent higher and stress levels 4.2 percent lower than those who do not garden at all. It takes only two to three gardening sessions per week to reap these healthy benefits. "This is the first time the 'dose response' to gardening has been tested and the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the more frequently you garden – the greater the health benefits," said study lead author Dr. Lauriane Chalmin-Pui. "In fact gardening every day has the same positive impact on wellbeing than undertaking regular, vigorous exercise like cycling or running." As part of the study, the scientists researched why residents engaged in gardening. They monitored 5,766 gardeners and 259 non-gardeners through an electronic survey distributed within the UK. The results revealed that six in ten people garden because of the pleasure and enjoyment they get from it. Just under a third of the participants claimed they garden for the health benefits. The findings also indicated that gardening may boost mental health, with those with health issues stating that the outdoor hobby reduced feelings of depression, boosted energy levels, and reduced stress.
Gabriel Baron first heard about Crisis Kitchen through a call for support he saw on Facebook. The mutual aid group was providing free meals around Portland, Oregon, to combat food insecurity exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. "I'm a believer in local communities supporting local communities," Baron says. So he volunteered to deliver meals for the kitchen. As he did so, he started having conversations with folks in the organization. Baron, a filmmaker, decided to bring his camera to the Crisis Kitchen. He said he was interested in demystifying mutual aid for viewers. It's not an unwieldy and hierarchical institution. It was as simple as laid-off restaurant employees asking to use the kitchen to prepare food for people in their community. And the effort has snowballed from there. The group now delivers about 1,000 free, restaurant-quality meals around the city every week. Crisis Kitchen is one of a network of mutual aid groups in Portland working to build a more supportive and just community. In the film, Adrian Garcia Groenendyk, the co-founder of Crisis Kitchen, says mutual aid demonstrates what can be done to meet people's needs and help them thrive in our society. Long-term, he says this critical work shouldn't be dependent on community donations. The goal should be to take money out of institutions of violence and put it into institutions of care, like Crisis Kitchen. Baron continues to deliver meals for Crisis Kitchen every week.
For decades, Nepal's endangered rhino population has dwindled to near extinction. But recently, thanks in part to travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, the population has soared. The nation's count of endangered one-horned rhinoceros has increased by more than 100 over the past six years. Officials are hailing the rise a "conservation milestone." The rhino population across four national parks in the southern plains rose to 752 – up from 645 in 2015, according to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation. That's the highest it's been in decades. The area was once dominated by thousands of one-horned rhinos, but rampant poaching and habitat loss reduced their numbers. In the 1960s, there were only about 100 left. Nepal has conducted a rhino census every five years since 1994 in an effort to conserve the species after it was listed as vulnerable. That year, the Himalayan nation recorded 466 rhinos. Ever since, the government has stepped up its anti-poaching and conservation initiatives. But this year, the lack of tourists in the country left the habitats undisturbed, allowing for even more growth. "Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the tourist pressure was reduced drastically that resulted in the undisturbed habitat of rhinos," [information officer Haribhadra] Acharya told CBS News. "In that scenario, the wildlife recovery might have taken momentum." Last month, hundreds of enumerators, soldiers and veterinarians worked for about three weeks to count this year's rhino population.
The discovery of a newborn blue whale on West Australia's south coast is a "game changer", according to scientists studying the ocean giants, who say the species has no known breeding grounds in Australian waters. The juvenile was spotted with its mother just a few hundred metres off the coast near Bremer Bay, about 500 kilometres south-east of Perth, at the weekend. It may be the first blue whale born in Australian waters. Marine biologist Brodee Elsdon said the subspecies pygmy blue whales were often spotted migrating along the west coast, but rarely during this time of year, so close to shore or with a recently born calf. Pia Markovich, who was on board the vessel which spotted the pair, said the calf appeared to be very young. "Seeing a blue whale is one thing, but to have a mother and calf [is] next level," she said. "And for the calf to be so small, well that's like winning the wildlife lotto. "At first glance, puzzled passengers looked to the crew to understand the significance of this encounter. "Our faces would have said it all, jaws dropped and minds blown." Ms Elsdon said the sighting could help develop scientists' understanding of blue whale migration and breeding. There are no known breeding grounds for these giants in Australian waters. "We predict the breeding grounds for pygmy blue whale are all the way in Indonesia waters, so to have one born this early and in the Southern Ocean, changes everything we know," she said.
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Sitting in a barrel chest-high in ice cubes seems more like torture than a birthday treat. But not for Wim Hof. His techniques, combining hypoxic breathing with ice baths and cold showers, have been adopted by a cult following. Scientists are studying his almost superhuman ability to eliminate fear and control his immune response. Now, a lot of regular people are taking his advice. Amanda Henry, a mother and sixth-grade teacher ... says the stress of distance learning pushed her into 5 a.m. cold showers and Wim Hof breathing. She says the practice helps her to keep her patience. For years, the Iceman, as Mr. Hof is called, gained publicity–and some ridicule–for daredevil feats such as sitting for hours on bare ice. In 2013, researchers ... found that 12 people trained by Mr. Hof and then injected with E. coli had milder flulike symptoms than an untrained control group. In 2019, tests indicated a significant decrease in inflammation in 13 people suffering spinal arthritis over eight weeks of training in breathing, meditation and cold exposure. Mr. Hof's career was born out of tragedy. He was in the Pyrenees working as a mountain guide when his wife died by suicide in 1995. "That's the way it actually began–the real trial of my life," he says. "We were left behind with broken hearts, four kids and no money." Swimming in icy cold water had for years been a pastime. Now, he found it stopped the rumination and pain. Cold water causes you to be in the moment, he says. "Going into the cold brought ... stillness in my mind."
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A pilot project in a California town is paying homeless residents to tidy up their living areas, and it's changing the culture of the city. The idea stemmed from a conversation with one of the city's police sergeants, said Sarah Bontrager, the housing and public services manager for Elk Grove, a city of 174,000 people located 15 miles south of Sacramento. "We got together to talk about homelessness, and from my prospective I wanted to build better relationships with people who were experiencing homelessness, and he wanted to address some of the complaints that come to his officers," Bontrager told CNN. The number one complaint surrounding homelessness was the amount of trash. "Our public works staff were previously doing cleanups out at encampment sites ... and just spending a lot of time and money doing it. We also wanted a way to reduce interactions at the early stages of Covid," she said. So they came up with the idea to offer an incentive to those who live in the homeless encampments to clean up their area. "We distribute trash bags, and we go out every two weeks to pick up the trash, and if they have it bagged, they are eligible for up to $20 in gift cards to a grocery store," Bontrager said. The recipients can use the gift cards on anything but cigarettes and alcohol. Bontrager said that they usually use them for food or hygiene items. Many of the homeless residents have expressed how thankful they are to be able to go pick out items themselves instead of relying on shelters.
Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby says the city will no longer prosecute for prostitution, drug possession and other low-level offenses. Mosby made the announcement on Friday following her office's one-year experiment in not prosecuting minor offenses to decrease the spread of Covid-19 behind bars. "Today, America's war on drug users is over in the city of Baltimore. We leave behind the era of tough-on-crime prosecution and zero tolerance policing and no longer default to the status quo to criminalize mostly people of color for addiction, said Mosby. The experiment, known as The Covid Criminal Justice Policies, is an approach to crime developed with public health authorities. Instead of prosecuting people arrested for minor crimes ... the program dealt with those crimes as public health issues and work with community partners to help find solutions. The program has led to decreases in the overall incarcerated Baltimore population by 18%. Violent and property crimes are down 20% and 36% respectively. Mosby said her office will no longer prosecute the following offenses: drug and drug paraphernalia possession, prostitution, trespassing, minor traffic offense, open container violations, and urinating and defecating in public. The state's attorney's office is also working with the Baltimore Police Department and Baltimore Crisis Response Inc. (BCRI), a crisis center dealing with mental health and substance abuse issue, to offer services instead of arresting individuals.
The number of American bald eagles has quadrupled since 2009, with more than 300,000 birds soaring over the lower 48 states, government scientists said in a report Wednesday. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said bald eagles, the national symbol that once teetered on the brink of extinction, have flourished in recent years, growing to more than 71,400 nesting pairs and an estimated 316,700 individual birds. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, in her first public appearance since being sworn in last week, hailed the eagle's recovery. "The strong return of this treasured bird reminds us of our nation's shared resilience and the importance of being responsible stewards of our lands and waters that bind us together,'' said Haaland, the first Native American Cabinet secretary. Bald eagles reached an all-time low of 417 known nesting pairs in 1963 in the lower 48 states. But after decades of protection, including banning the pesticide DDT and placement of the eagle on the endangered species list in more than 40 states, the bald eagle population has continued to grow. The bald eagle was removed from the list of threatened or endangered species in 2007. The celebration of the bald eagle "is also a moment to reflect on the importance of the Endangered Species Act, a vital tool in the efforts to protect America's wildlife,'' Haaland said, calling the landmark 1973 law crucial to preventing the extinction of species such as the bald eagle or American bison.
A new documentary called Writing With Fire ... profiles Khabar Lahariya (Waves of News), India's only major news outlet run by women from marginalized communities. It focuses on rural reporting through a feminist lens and is led by chief reporter Meera Devi. Khabar Lahariya began as a small Hindi language newspaper in 2002 in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Many of its reporters are Dalits, formally called "untouchables" – people at the very bottom of India's ancient 4-level caste system, that are considered by higher castes to be so impure, they should not be touched. The Indian constitution bans discrimination on the basis of caste but it still persists. Two-thirds of rural women and about half of rural men practice untouchability. That could mean they refuse to eat with lower caste people or don't let them enter their kitchen. Untouchability is more common in rural India, where Meera and her colleagues live and report. The documentary ... follows Meera and two other colleagues as they find workarounds to challenges like power outages while reporting, interviewing unyielding, patronizing elected officials. And all the while, many of the reporters' families are pressuring them to marry because that is what is expected for many women in India. Meera says, "When future generations ask us, 'What were you doing when the country was changing and the media was being silenced?' Khabar Lahariya will be able to say proudly that we were holding the powerful to account."
We all have things we don't need. For Canberra resident Zoe Bowman, it is melon ballers. "Someone asked for a melon baller to make some melon balls for a kid's party, and I looked in the drawer and I had three," she says. "I don't need three melon ballers!" The request was made on a Facebook page that she manages, one of the thousands of local pages that make up the "buy nothing" movement. Part zero-waste movement, part community-building project, "buy nothing" has taken off in Australia's affluent inner-city suburbs as a way to rehome unwanted goods and avoid unnecessary purchases – like a third melon baller. The "buy nothing" project began in the United States as an attempt at creating a cashless economy. The aim was that communities would distribute goods according to need, which meant group members had to explain why they needed a particular item in order to receive it. It was a slightly problematic beginning, says Bowman, and the secret Facebook group where "buy nothing" page admins gather has since gone through a decolonisation and anti-racism process that led to it losing some of its original fans. In Australia the tone is lighter but the rules remain. Giving an item away to the first person who replies, like you would on a buy/swap/sell page, is far too transactional for the "buy nothing" community. "The whole aim of the thing is actually community building, not getting rid of stuff," Bowman says.
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About fifty years ago, Dr. Bruce Greyson was eating pasta in the hospital cafeteria when his beeper went off. Greyson, a psychiatrist, was urgently needed in the ER to treat a college student who had overdosed. He called her name – "Holly" – and tried to rouse her. But she didn't stir. The next morning, Greyson returned to work at the hospital. Holly stirred. "I remember you from last night," she mumbled. "I saw you talking with Susan, sitting on the couch." Suddenly Holly opened her eyes, looked Greyson in the face and added, "You were wearing a striped tie that had a red stain on it." Greyson began studying these so-called near-death experiences (NDEs) from a scientific standpoint, collecting hundreds of stories from those who've had them. He discovered that ... many people who survive the jaws of death report strange out-of-body experiences. Since meeting Holly, Greyson has published hundreds of academic papers. His search for answers is chronicled in his new book "After: A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about Life and Beyond." Near-death experiences are fairly common. Some 10 percent to 20 percent of people who come close to death report them – about 5 percent of the population. So what is going on? Greyson, who grew up in a scientific household and is not religious, says he doesn't know. "But I think the evidence overwhelmingly points to the physical body not being all that we are," he says. "There seems to be something that is able to continue after the body dies."
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Two Maryland police officers are being credited for helping calm down a man having a behavioral health crisis. Hyattsville police received a call Saturday about an agitated, angry man inside the convenience store at a Sunoco gas station. Officers Edgar Andrickson-Franco and Mancini Gaskill responded. "When we first arrived, he appeared to be incoherent," Andrickson-Franco said. "He wasn't making much sense." "We engaged in conversation with him and we didn't want to be too overbearing," Gaskill said. Andrickson-Franco sat down on the floor with the man. He said at times the man became verbally abusive, but he refused to react. "Me reacting the way he was reacting wasn't going to get us anywhere," Andrickson-Franco said. "If anything, it would have worsened the situation." The officers were understanding, built trust, and the man calmed down. He eventually handed over his phone. The officers called his relatives, and they picked him up at the gas station. The encounter is an example of what the Hyattsville Police Department is teaching in their new pilot program called Mental Health and Wellness Program. "It feels really good to know that they were able to deescalate that situation," said Hyattsville police spokesperson Adrienne Augustus, a manager of the program. "Not everyday situation you have to arrest somebody, right?" said. "That's not our job. Our job is to help." Next month the department will have a Mental Health and Wellness Day focusing on mental health and domestic abuse training.
A team of scientists led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has developed a device that can deliver electrical signals to and from plants, opening the door to new technologies that make use of plants. The NTU team developed their plant 'communication' device by attaching a conformable electrode (a piece of conductive material) on the surface of a Venus flytrap plant using a soft and sticky adhesive known as hydrogel. With the electrode attached to the surface of the flytrap, researchers can achieve two things: pick up electrical signals to monitor how the plant responds to its environment, and transmit electrical signals to the plant, to cause it to close its leaves. Scientists have known for decades that plants emit electrical signals to sense and respond to their environment. The NTU research team believe that developing the ability to measure the electrical signals of plants could create opportunities for a range of useful applications, such as plant-based robots that can help to pick up fragile objects, or to help enhance food security by detecting diseases in crops early. Lead author of the study, Chen Xiaodong ... said: "Climate change is threatening food security around the world. By monitoring the plants' electrical signals, we may be able to detect possible distress signals and abnormalities. When used for agriculture purpose, farmers may find out when a disease is in progress, even before full blown symptoms appear on the crops."
Note: The pioneering Italian spiritual community Damanhur has been conducting sophisticated experiments on plant communication for decades with amazing results. Watch this amazing video showing how they have enabled plants to create music. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire yo to make a difference.
By his own assessment, Dick Hoyt wasn't in racing shape the first time his teenage son Rick, a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, asked if they could participate in a 5-mile fund-raising race – father pushing son in a wheelchair. "I said, 'Yeah, let's go down there and try it.' I had no idea what would happen, and nobody else did, either," Mr. Hoyt later recalled. "Most people expected us to go down to the corner and come back, but we ended up doing the whole thing." From those first racing steps, the two became legends in running circles and inspirational worldwide as they participated in more than 1,000 competitions, including dozens of marathons and multiple triathlons. Mr. Hoyt ... was 80 when he died of heart failure Wednesday. Though Mr. Hoyt and Rick posted a best time of 2:40:47 in the Marine Corps Marathon – a pace many marathoners will never touch running alone – the teaming of father and son was, for both, more important than all else. "When we're out there," Mr. Hoyt told the Globe in 1990, "there's nothing I feel I can't do with Rick." "Dick started this whole movement of duos, and Team Hoyt inspired thousands of people around the world," said longtime Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray. "He helped open the door to people believing in themselves, and the walls of intimidation crumbled." Most runners would be too intimidated to even try what Mr. Hoyt did over and over again – push a wheelchair carrying a boy, who became a grown man, up and down hills for 26.2 miles.
Note: Don't miss the profoundly inspiring and beautiful story and video of this dynamic duo available on this webpage. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring disabled persons news articles.
Aki Ra thinks the bomb could have been lying in rural Siem Reap, Cambodia, for 40 years. If it hadn't been found, it may have added another death to the approximately 20,000 people killed by explosives laid in the country from the late 1960s to the 1990s. Ra, founder of Cambodian Self Help Demining (CSHD), and his team have found about 100 explosives in the two months they've been sweeping this 23-acre (9.5-hectare) site in Chi Kraeng district. Despite handling the devices every day since 2008, when the CSHD was formed, none of its workers have been injured by them. Ra's mine-clearing team offers basic medical help to poor villagers they work near, as an extra service to those who can't afford to travel to hospitals or buy medical equipment and medicine. With 40 employees working across 10 provinces, the CSHD, which says it has cleared 175 minefields in the country since forming in 2008, targets villages overlooked by larger NGOs and the government's Cambodian Mine Action Authority. "Another village needs us soon," says Ra, as his team breaks for a quick meal of rice and fish. "If we stay too long, other villagers aren't happy. So we have to move." Ra cleared mines with the UN when it sent peacekeeping forces to Cambodia in the early 1990s. "The UN showed me that the outside world has schools, hospitals, food. Then I understood. I threw out the bad things of the past. I wanted to make my country safe." With funding from US charity Landmine Relief Fund, Ra founded the CSHD.
To curb our climate crisis, we need to end our dependence on fossil fuels and power the world with renewables. That may have seemed far-fetched a decade ago given the cost of installing wind and solar at the time, but the price of renewables has been falling fast. In 10 years, the price of solar electricity dropped 89%, and the price of onshore wind dropped 70%. Clean energy has already passed its economic tipping point. A 2019 report from the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute found that it was cheaper to build and use a combination of renewables like wind and solar than to build new natural gas plants. A 2020 report from Carbon Tracker found that in every single one of the world's energy markets, it's cheaper to invest in renewables than in coal. And now, graphs recently published on Our World in Data, an online science publication, in partnership with Oxford University, starkly visualize that decline. Comparing the price of electricity from new power plants in 2009 and 2019, one graph shows how the price of solar photovoltaic power (from solar panels) plummets from $359 per megawatt hour to $40, the cheapest of any of the power options on the chart and an 89% decrease. In 2009, building a new solar farm was 223% more expensive than building a new coal plant. Now, it's flipped: Electricity from a new coal plant is 177% more expensive than electricity from new solar panels. What caused the switch? Huge leaps in technological advancement.
Linda Tutt High School in Sanger opened up a grocery store inside the school. It's meant to help put extra food on the table for students and their families. But the store doesn't accept money, just good deeds. "How often can a school say they have a grocery store inside their walls?" said principal Anthony Love. With the help of local partners like Texas Health, Albertsons and First Refuge Ministries, the school was able to complete the grocery store in an extra room. Students can shop using a point system. "A lot of our students, they come from low socioeconomic families." Love said. "It's a way for students to earn the ability to shop for their families. Through hard work you can earn points for positive office referrals. You can earn points for doing chores around the building or helping to clean." Paul Juarez, the Executive Director of First Refuge Ministries said he hopes the idea is implemented in other rural areas. "These points were actually given by the students, so we walked through here and decided that a can of green beans was one point," said Juarez. "It gives us a picture of what can be. So if we can do this inside other schools it will do a whole lot to help other small towns." Students will learn about having sales when they have too much product, and of course, what to expect in their own first jobs. The store will also hold food drives weekly for the community and act as a supplement to other food insecurity programs in the area.
About 30 kilometers from Denmark's capital of Copenhagen, lies a small, but significant district called Musicon. Sit on a bench in Musicon, and you'll likely be sitting on slabs of concrete salvaged and repurposed from a demolition site nearby. Or bring your kids to the skatepark, and they'll be riding their scooters on concrete that used to be a basin and canals for collection of rainwater. Musicon was founded in 2007 on the premise that the old concrete factory that occupied the site should ... become the foundation for the new district's development. This meant that new construction projects would have to reimagine the old factory buildings in creative ways to create structures for living and working. This is one example of what is called a circular economy. To become fully circular means to avoid as much waste as possible, and to preserve as much value in what does go to waste. City planners have been cozying up to the idea of circularity in recent years, typically with the hope of combating climate change and resource scarcity, and many have begun embracing the approach. The CityLoops experiment ... aims to create sustainable city planning solutions based on the premise of circular economy. In several participant cities, including in Musicon, the circular economy takes the form of "banks" or "marketplaces," digital and physical, where salvaged materials are stored and offered up for use in other projects in the area, including anything from a birdhouse to an apartment block.
Five former Japanese prime ministers issued declarations that Japan should break with nuclear power generation on March 11, the 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that triggered a nuclear disaster in Fukushima Prefecture. The "3.11 Declarations" were issued at the "Global Conference for a Nuclear Free, Renewable Energy Future: 10 Years Since Fukushima" held by the Federation of Promotion of Zero-Nuclear Power and Renewable Energy. Former prime ministers Morihiro Hosokawa, Tomiichi Murayama, Junichiro Koizumi, Yukio Hatoyama and Naoto Kan signed and released their declarations during the conference. In his declaration titled "Don't hold back on reversing a mistake: A zero-carbon emission society can be achieved without nuclear power plants," Koizumi said, "When it comes to the nuclear power plant issue, there is no ruling party or opposition party. Nuclear power plants expose many people's lives to danger, bring financial ruin, and cause impossible-to-solve nuclear waste problems. We have no choice but to abolish them." Before issuing his declaration, Koizumi reflected on his days as prime minister in a keynote speech, and said: "Japanese nuclear plants are safe and on budget; they offer clean energy that doesn't emit CO2, and are necessary for economic development. I was told all of this, and I believed it. But as I've gone about reading books on nuclear plants, I've realized I was wrong."
When a dormant pecan farm in the neighborhoods of south Atlanta closed, the land was soon rezoned and earmarked to become townhouses. But when the townhouses never came to fruition and with the lot remaining in foreclosure, the Conservation Fund bought it in 2016 to develop an unexpected project: the nation's largest free food forest. Thanks to a US Forest Service grant and a partnership between the city of Atlanta, the Conservation Fund, and Trees Atlanta, you'll find 7.1 acres of land ripe with 2,500 pesticide-free edible and medicinal plants only 10 minutes from Atlanta's airport. The forest is in the Browns Mill neighborhood of southeast Atlanta, where the closest grocery store is a 30-minute bus ride away. "Access to green space and healthy foods is very important. And that's a part of our mission," says Michael McCord, a certified arborist and expert edible landscaper who helps manage the forest. The forest is part of the city of Atlanta's larger mission to bring healthy food within half a mile of 85% of Atlanta's 500,000 residents by 2022, though as recently as 2014, it was illegal to grow food on residential lots in the city. Resources like the food forest are a rarity and necessity in Atlanta as 1 in 6 Georgians face food insecurity, 1 in 3 Browns Mill residents live below the poverty line, and 1 in 4 Atlantans live in food deserts. The forest is now owned by the parks department and more than 1,000 volunteers and neighbors are helping to plant, water and maintain the forest.
At 70 years of age, Wisdom the Laysan albatross has hatched another chick. Regarded as "oldest known wild bird in history", Wisdom has outlived previous mating partners as well as the biologist Chandler Robbins, who first banded her in 1956. Wisdom hatched the chick on 1 February in the Midway Atoll national wildlife refuge in the North Pacific, where more than a million albatross return to nest each year. Wisdom's long-term mate, Akeakamai, who she has been with since 2010 according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), fathered the chick. The USFWS also stated that albatross find their mates through "dance parties". "We believe Wisdom has had other mates," US Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Dr Beth Flint said. "Though albatross mate for life, they may find new partners if necessary – for example if they outlive their first mate." USFWS estimated Wisdom has hatched more than 30 chicks over the course of her lifetime. Sean Dooley, national public affairs manager for BirdLife Australia, was excited about the news of Wisdom's latest chick. "Because she only nests every two years, the international bird community looks forward to see if she's been able to come back and nest," Dooley said. "The odds are stacked against them so much, whenever it happens it's always a cause for celebration."
There's a new "village" in Los Angeles – and it's filled with tiny homes. Earlier this month, nonprofit Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission opened its first "Tiny Home Village," to help combat homelessness. The first village ... has 40 tiny homes and 75 beds that Hope of the Valley will be offering to people who are trying to find permanent housing. Each of the tiny homes is 64 square feet and has two beds, heating, air conditioning, windows, a small desk and a front door that locks, according to the website and a video tour of the village led by Hope of the Valley founder and CEO Ken Craft. Residents will also have access to a hygiene trailer, with five showers, five toilets and five sinks and a laundry facility, which has five washers and dryers. Residents will also be given three meals a day and some of the tiny homes are even wheelchair accessible. The village is also pet-friendly and has a dedicated dog run, according to Craft's video tour. Support services such as case management, housing navigation, mental health help, job training and placement will be provided to residents onsite. "This is an incredible community where people will live together, but they all have something in common: they're trying to exit homelessness," Craft said during the tour. "They're trying to overcome the obstacles and barriers that are keeping them unhoused." The Chandler Boulevard village is the first of its kind in the Los Angeles area. However, Hope of the Valley is planning to open another village in April.
For Eric Nshimiyimanain, who owns two small electronic repair shops in Kigali, Rwanda, the startup chime of an old Windows laptop is the sound of a business opportunity. He refurbishes broken PCs, laptops, phones and secondhand gadgets classified as electronic waste, or "e-waste" that would otherwise end up as trash in Nduba, Rwanda's only open-air dump. "Sometimes we even use computer screens as TVs," Nshimiyimanain says. Converting those screens to televisions then becomes a cheaper option, he adds, for "citizens who have low incomes and cannot afford buying a brand-new TV." According to the UN-affiliated Global E-Waste Monitor report, nearly 54 million metric tons of e-waste was generated around the world in 2019. It includes everything from phones and computer monitors to larger appliances like refrigerators. Rwanda is one of only 13 countries in Africa that have passed national legislation regarding e-waste regulation, according to the report. And it has led to the first official recycling and refurbishing facility in the country. Operational since early last year, this public-private partnership between the government and Dubai-based Enviroserve became a source of pride for Rwanda. The state-of-the-art plant near Kigali can process up to 10,000 metric tons of e-waste per year. Enviroserve has already repaired and refurbished more than 5,000 computers, which were sold to public schools. To date, it has processed more than 4,000 tons of e-waste and created more than 600 jobs.
Nzambi Matee hurls a brick hard against a school footpath constructed from bricks made of recycled plastic that her factory turns out in the Kenyan capital. It makes a loud bang, but does not crack. "Our product is almost five to seven times stronger than concrete," said Matee, the founder of Nairobi-based Gjenge Makers, which transforms plastic waste into durable building materials. "There is that waste they cannot process anymore; they cannot recycle. That is what we get," Matee said, strolling past sacks of plastic waste. Matee gets the waste from packaging factories for free, although she pays for the plastic she gets from other recyclers. Her factory produces 1,500 bricks each day, made from a mix of different kinds of plastic. These are high density polyethylene, used in milk and shampoo bottles; low density polyethylene, often used for bags for cereals or sandwiches; and polypropylene, used for ropes, flip-top lids and buckets. The plastic waste is mixed with sand, heated and then compressed into bricks, which are sold at varying prices, depending on thickness and colour. Their common grey bricks cost 850 Kenyan shillings ($7.70) per square metre, for example. Matee, a materials engineer who designed her own machines, said her factory has recycled 20 tonnes of waste plastic since ... 2017. Matee set up her factory after she ran out of patience waiting for the government to solve the problem of plastic pollution. "I was tired of being on the sidelines," she said.
Jennifer Drouin, 30, headed out to buy groceries in central Amsterdam. Once inside, she noticed new price tags. The label by the zucchini said they cost a little more than normal: 6˘ extra per kilo for their carbon footprint, 5˘ for the toll the farming takes on the land, and 4˘ to fairly pay workers. The so-called true-price initiative, operating in the store since late 2020, is one of dozens of schemes that Amsterdammers have introduced in recent months as they reassess the impact of the existing economic system. In April 2020, during the first wave of COVID-19, Amsterdam's city government announced it would recover from the crisis, and avoid future ones, by embracing the theory of "doughnut economics." The theory argues that 20th century economic thinking is not equipped to deal with the 21st century reality of a planet teetering on the edge of climate breakdown. Instead of equating a growing GDP with a successful society, our goal should be to fit all of human life into what Raworth calls the "sweet spot" between the "social foundation," where everyone has what they need to live a good life, and the "environmental ceiling." By and large, people in rich countries are living above the environmental ceiling. Those in poorer countries often fall below the social foundation. The space in between: that's the doughnut. Amsterdam's ambition is to bring all 872,000 residents inside the doughnut, ensuring everyone has access to a good quality of life, but without putting more pressure on the planet than is sustainable.
The idea came to Cai Yinzhou in 2013 after he played a game of badminton with a group of foreign workers at a back alley behind his house. One of them told Cai that he had not gone for a haircut in six months as he could not afford it. His father had an accident and he had to send money home to pay for medical bills. The worker's moving account inspired Cai to give free haircuts to those who could not afford them. A year later, Cai and two other volunteers started running Backalley Barbers out of a small alley behind Yong He Eating House in Geylang. The initiative was cut out for success – it has grown to a roster of 25 barbers, in their twenties to fifties, including students, a housewife, a musician, and a property agent. To date, Cai, now 29, along with his roving team, has given close to 1,700 free haircuts over 97 sessions, not just in the back alley in Geylang but also in nursing homes and migrant worker shelters. For their efforts, Backalley Barbers under Geylang Adventures was one of 14 ground-up movements and individuals to be inducted into the Singapore Kindness Movement's Kindred Spirit Circle in May last year. And 2019 will mark another major milestone for the initiative. A "convertible" barbershop-office, to open in March, will give the team a permanent space to provide free haircuts daily. "We also hope to train people from different backgrounds, including ex-convicts, those with disabilities or at-risk youthsâ€¦to be barbers to volunteer with us as well as to work full-time as a barber," said Cai.
A train driver in the Netherlands has had a lucky escape thanks to a fortuitously placed art installation. A metro train in Spijkenisse, near the city of Rotterdam, crashed through a barrier at the end of the tracks shortly before midnight on Sunday. But rather than plummeting 10m (32ft) into the water below, the train was left suspended dramatically in the air. It ended up being delicately balanced on the large sculpture of a whale's tail at the De Akkers metro station. "We are trying to decide how we can bring the train down in a careful and controlled manner," one official [said]. The driver, who has not been named, was able to leave the empty train by himself. He was taken to hospital for a check-up and is not believed to have suffered any injuries. The sculpture, titled Whale Tails, is the work of the architect and artist Maarten Struijs, and was erected in the water at the end of the tracks in 2002. Mr Struijs told NOS that he was surprised the structure did not break. "It has been there for almost 20 years and... you actually expect the plastic to pulverise a bit, but that is apparently not the case," he said. "I'll make sure that I get a few photos," he added. "I could never have imagined it that way."
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Kamal Singh did not even know what ballet was when he turned up nervously at the Imperial Fernando Ballet School, in Delhi, during the summer of 2016. But the 17-year-old, known as Noddy, whose father was a rickshaw driver in the west of the city, had been transfixed by ballet dancers in a Bollywood film, and wanted to try it for himself. Four years on Singh is now one of the first Indian students to be admitted to the English National Ballet school. He started this week. The school fees and London living expenses totalling about Ł20,000 were far beyond the reach of Singh's family, but a crowdfunding campaign, backed by some of Bollywood's biggest names, managed to raise all the funds needed in less than two weeks. "I cannot explain how it feels, it is all my dreams come true" said Singh, 21. "It's amazing, I'm enjoying every day. My family do not know much about ballet but they are very happy and very proud that I am at the English National Ballet. I am the first in my family to come to London." Viviana Durante, artistic director of the English National Ballet School, said the year-long programme would provide Singh with "intense training in classical and contemporary techniques", and he would be taught how to adapt to a dance world drastically altered by Covid-19. "Talk about passion, optimism and education. That's what you need in these times and the students have it, including Kamal," she said. He is one of only ten male dancers and ten female dancers who were selected this year.
Linda Herring always wanted a big family. But she never imagined that she would foster more than 600 children and turn her home into a safe haven where every child was given shelter, food, clothing, and most importantly, endless amounts of love. Now 75 years old, Herring has been fostering children for nearly five decades in Johnson County, Iowa. "My best friend was doing foster care for teenage girls and I thought, 'Well, that would be nice to do the same,' but I wanted little kids," Herring told CNN. "So, I talked to the Department of Human Services and agreed to take kids with medical needs." Herring is not just a foster mom. For her eight children, three of which were foster children she and Bob adopted, she was just "Mom." One of those children is 39-year-old Anthony Herring. He was 6 months old when he was placed in the Herring household. When he was 3 years old, the Herring family officially adopted him. "I appreciate being adopted even more today as a parent then I did when I was a child," Anthony Herring told CNN. "I'm forever grateful for the life I was given. She and Dad have both taught me that family isn't determined by blood, it's who you have in your life to love." He said that his mom taught him how to appreciate and understand children with special needs. When it comes to Herring's inspiration to foster children, she had one explanation: love. "I would just love (my foster kids) just like they were my own, probably more than I should," Herring said.
Growing rapidly within the socially responsible investing landscape is the world of so-called impact investing, which deploys your money more directly toward solving societal problems. Largely executed through direct investing platforms, this approach addresses specific problems, such as alleviating poverty in certain communities or reducing pollution. These investments are designed to generate specific, positive and measurable environmental, social and/or good governance outcomes, oftentimes with market-rate financial returns, said Michael Kramer, managing partner of Natural Investments in Kona, Hawaii. Furthermore, outcomes can have a local or a societal focus. "It's very solution focused, very proactive – often investing in innovations, and supporting social entrepreneurs and socially focused start-ups," he said. Retail investors do have some opportunities to participate in impact investing, along with their accredited counterparts. Two of the most accessible, according to Kramer, are direct debt – i.e., investing in certificates of deposit and other loan instruments sponsored by socially focused lending institutions, such as community development financial institutions (privately owned banks that invest in struggling communities) – and peer-to-peer micro-lending platforms such as Kiva, which enable individuals to invest directly in small businesses worldwide. Another option for the retail market is to use Calvert Impact Capital's Community Investment Notes instead of traditional CDs.
The hole in the Earth's ozone layer is expected to fully heal within 50 years, climate change experts predict in a new UN report. A fragile shield of gas around the planet, the ozone layer protects animal and plant life from the powerful ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. When the ozone layer is weakened, more UV rays can get through, making humans more prone to skin cancer, cataracts and other diseases. Scientists discovered huge damage to the layer in the 1980s and identified chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, as the main culprit. CFCs used to be common in refrigerators, aerosol cans and dry-cleaning chemicals, but they were banned globally under the Montreal Protocol of 1987. The decline in CFCs in our atmosphere as a result of those measures now mean the ozone layer is expected to have fully recovered sometime in the 2060s, according to the report by the UN Environment Programme, World Meteorological Organization, European Commission and other bodies. In parts of the stratosphere, where most of the ozone is found, the layer has recovered at a rate of 1-3% per decade since 2000, the authors state. At the recovery rates projected by the UN report, the northern hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone is scheduled to heal completely by the 2030s, followed by the southern hemisphere in the 2050s and polar regions by 2060. Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, described the Montreal Protocol as "one of the most successful multilateral agreements in history."
Genius" dogs learn new words after hearing them just four times, a study has found - making them as quick as three year olds. Dogs which have a special talent for remembering verbal cues can rapidly expand their vocabulary simply by playing with their owners, according to the research. Whisky, a four-year-old female Border Collie from Norway, and Vicky Nina, a nine-year-old female Yorkshire terrier from Brazil, were able to fetch the correct toy after being exposed to the object and its name just four times, despite not receiving any formal training. Scientists say these highly intuitive dogs are therefore able to learn new words at the same speed as toddlers aged two and three. To test whether most dogs would be as successful as Whisky and Vicky Nina at learning new words, 20 others were tested in the same way - but none showed any evidence of understanding the new toy names. This confirms that only very few dogs which are especially gifted are able to learn words quickly in the absence of formal training, the scientists concluded. However, the study did reveal that Whisky and Vicky Nina's memory of the new toy names decayed over time due to them only hearing the names a few times.
A grandfather has become the oldest person to row 3,000 miles solo and unassisted across the Atlantic Ocean, raising more than Ĺ640,000 for dementia research. Frank Rothwell, 70, from Oldham, set off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on 12 December and crossed the finish line in Antigua in the Caribbean on Saturday – reuniting with Judith, his wife of 50 years, in good time for Valentine's Day. He said crossing the finish line was a "completely euphoric moment" as he raised more than Ĺ648,000 for Alzheimer's Research UK in tribute to his brother-in-law Roger, who died with Alzheimer's aged 62 during his journey. Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation has pledged to double the first Ĺ500,000 of donations. Rothwell went on: "I felt quite emotional approaching the finish. It took six long weeks to row the Atlantic, but the challenge itself has taken over 18 months of training and preparation, so I'm very proud of what I've achieved and the unbelievable journey I've been on. The adventurer has previously spent five weeks on a deserted island for a Bear Grylls TV programme, and rowed in a boat nicknamed Never Too Old. Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "We're incredibly moved by Frank's determination to raise Ĺ1m for dementia research. He has helped to spread awareness and inspired people of all ages to take on their own challenges. Fundraising efforts from ordinary people like Frank and his supporters provide a crucial lifeline to the progression of our research."
Batteries capable of fully charging in five minutes have been produced in a factory for the first time, marking a significant step towards electric cars becoming as fast to charge as filling up petrol or diesel vehicles. Electric vehicles are a vital part of action to tackle the climate crisis but running out of charge during a journey is a worry for drivers. The new lithium-ion batteries were developed by the Israeli company StoreDot and manufactured by Eve Energy in China on standard production lines. StoreDot has already demonstrated its "extreme fast-charging" battery in phones, drones and scooters and the 1,000 batteries it has now produced are to showcase its technology to carmakers and other companies. Daimler, BP, Samsung and TDK have all invested in StoreDot, which has raised $130m to date. "The number one barrier to the adoption of electric vehicles is no longer cost, it is range anxiety," said Doron Myersdorf, CEO of StoreDot. "You're either afraid that you're going to get stuck on the highway or you're going to need to sit in a charging station for two hours. But if the experience of the driver is exactly like fuelling [a petrol car], this whole anxiety goes away." "A five-minute charging lithium-ion battery was considered to be impossible," he said. "But we are not releasing a lab prototype, we are releasing engineering samples from a mass production line. This demonstrates it is feasible and it's commercially ready."
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. Records suggest that 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. On average 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 like Bermuda or Belize, according to 2018 emissions data.
Lots of homeless people may end up having to sleep on the streets and Winter time can be particularly tough. A German-based team is trying to tackle this head on. It's installed sleeping pods across the German city of Ulm to provide the homeless with emergency shelter at night. The team ... consists of six business people from Ulm with expert knowledge in designing and developing products. The pods, which are known as Ulster Nests, are made from wood and steel and are both windproof and waterproof. They're designed to keep up to two people protected from the elements, including rain, frost and humidity. However, the creators have stressed that the capsules aren't an alternative to staying in proper overnight accommodation, especially as the city of Ulm can reach very low temperatures. The sleep pods have also been fitted with solar panels and they even come complete with enough room to house users' belongings. They've been fitted with sensors which can monitor temperature, humidity, smoke and carbon dioxide levels and an electronic verification system so those using it can lock the capsule from the inside. They also have lighting, an alarm signal buzzer and a ventilation system. There are no cameras in the pods to protect people's privacy. However, when the doors are opened, this triggers a motion sensor which lets social workers who check the pods know they've been used so they can get them cleaned, and so they can also provide help to those who might need it.
The first-ever treaty to ban nuclear weapons entered into force on Friday, hailed as a historic step to rid the world of its deadliest weapons but strongly opposed by the world's nuclear-armed nations. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is now part of international law, culminating a decades-long campaign aimed at preventing a repetition of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. But getting all nations to ratify the treaty requiring them to never own such weapons seems daunting, if not impossible, in the current global climate. When the treaty was approved by the U.N. General Assembly in July 2017, more than 120 approved it. But none of the nine countries known or believed to possess nuclear weapons – the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel – supported it and neither did the 30-nation NATO alliance. Nonetheless, Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning coalition whose work helped spearhead the treaty, called it "a really big day for international law, for the United Nations and for survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki." As of Thursday, Fihn told The Associated Press that 61 countries had ratified the treaty ... and "from Friday, nuclear weapons will be banned by international law" in all those countries.
Electric cars are, in just about every quantifiable way, superior to gasoline vehicles. They accelerate with the speed of exotic supercars. They can run off clean, green power. And with fewer moving parts, electric cars are remarkably durable, with low maintenance costs. However, you still have to charge them. But what if you didn't need to plug in at all? That's the promise of the Aptera EV. It's a three-wheeled, two-passenger "Never Charge Vehicle" priced from $25,900 to $46,000. The car is available to preorder now for $100 down and is expected to ship in 2021. Instead of relying on electricity to charge, the vehicle can get substantial power via solar panels. And thanks to an extremely aerodynamic shape built out of strong, lightweight materials including carbon, Kevlar, and hemp, it needs less energy than competitors to drive, so the solar panels can generate meaningful miles on the road, whereas they barely move the needle on most electric cars. Aptera's newest vehicle can soak up 5 miles of charge every hour it's in bright sun, or about 40 miles of free range per day. With extra panels that can be attached to the hood and hatch during charging, that figure bumps to a full 64 miles of range per day. Given that the average person drives around 15 miles to work, the Aptera EV could be a viable commuter car for the week. The Aptera EV has some impressive overall performance stats, zooming from 0 to 60 in as few as 3.5 seconds, and featuring a fully charged range of up to 1,000 miles.
President Joe Biden ordered his Department of Justice on Tuesday to phase out its contracts with private prisons, one of multiple new planks of Biden's broad-focused racial justice agenda. Biden signed four additional executive actions after laying out his racial equity plan at the White House. The actions are aimed at combating discriminatory housing practices, reforming the prison system, respecting sovereignty of Tribal governments and fighting xenophobia against Asian Americans, especially in light of the Covid pandemic. "I ran for president because I believe we're in a battle for the soul of this nation," Biden said before signing the actions. "And the simple truth is, our soul will be troubled as long as systemic racism is allowed to persist." "For too many American families, systemic racism and inequality in our economy, laws and institutions, still put the American dream far out of reach," domestic policy advisor Susan Rice said at a press briefing preceding Biden's speech and signings. "These are desperate times for so many Americans, and all Americans need urgent federal action to meet this moment," Rice said. "Building a more equitable economy is essential if Americans are going to compete and thrive in the 21st century." Rice noted in the briefing that Biden's order to the DOJ does not apply to private-prison contracts with other agencies, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That order is "silent on what may or may not transpire with ICE facilities," she said.
The automotive industry is set for yet another big leap next year, as Toyota is reportedly on the verge of rolling out its "game-changing" solid-state battery. The Japanese carmaker plans to be the first to sell solid-state battery-powered EVs this decade, and that it will be unveiling a prototype in 2021. Toyota promises that the new battery will "be a game-changer not just for electric vehicles, but for an entire industry." Solid-state batteries are expected to become a viable alternative to the usual lithium-ion units that we see in most electric vehicles today. These new power packs offer greater energy density as well as lower risks of fire. Toyota claims that its newly developed batteries can also enable a maximum EV range of 500km in one full charge and a zero to 100% charging time of just 10 minutes, "all with minimal safety concerns." The carmaker adds that with these new batteries, its EVs will boast a maximum range that's double of what it would have been able to achieve with a traditional lithium-ion battery–and this is achieved without legroom being compromised to accommodate a larger battery pack. Toyota has yet to specify when exactly we'll be seeing the new battery ... in action. Other automotive manufacturers that are looking to use solid-state battery technology include Nissan and Volkswagen.
As a child, Suzanne Simard often roamed Canada's old-growth forests. Simard noticed that up to 10 percent of newly planted Douglas fir were likely to get sick and die whenever nearby aspen, paper birch and cottonwood were removed. The reasons were unclear. The planted saplings had plenty of space, and they received more light and water than trees in old, dense forests. So why were they so frail? Simard suspected that the answer was buried in the soil. Underground, trees and fungi form partnerships known as mycorrhizas: Threadlike fungi envelop and fuse with tree roots, helping them extract water and nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen in exchange for some of the carbon-rich sugars the trees make through photosynthesis. Research had demonstrated that mycorrhizas also connected plants to one another and that these associations might be ecologically important. By analyzing the DNA in root tips and tracing the movement of molecules through underground conduits, Simard has discovered that fungal threads link nearly every tree in a forest – even trees of different species. Carbon, water, nutrients, alarm signals and hormones can pass from tree to tree through these subterranean circuits. Before Simard and other ecologists revealed the extent and significance of mycorrhizal networks, foresters typically regarded trees as solitary individuals that competed for space and resources. This framework is far too simplistic. An old-growth forest is ... a vast, ancient and intricate society.
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Nearly two years ago, researchers from X, the experimental "moonshot factory" at Alphabet, sat down with the head of a food bank in Arizona to begin to better understand one of the conundrums of hunger in the U.S.: As much as 40% of the food supply is wasted, but millions of Americans don't have enough to eat. "We probably have two to four times as much food as we need in the world, but we're not doing a very good job of distributing it to people who really need it," says Emily Ma, the leader of the X team, called Project Delta, which announced today that two early tools it developed will be moving to Google to be fully built. The X team built a prototype of a new matching platform that could automatically consider ... the shelf life of donated food, how it's packaged, what transportation is available, and where it's needed and wanted. Another tool uses computer vision and machine learning to identify food as it's being thrown out so that a restaurant or supermarket deli can better plan future buying decisions to reduce waste: If you're throwing out a lot of onions every week, the software will alert you so you can stop buying as many. Eventually, similar technology could also be used to identify surplus food available for donations, so that information doesn't have to entered manually. "What we're looking to do is, in the automating of this, actually make food much more accessible to everyone," says Ma. "I believe that in the next 10 to 30 years, it is possible to actually almost perfectly match supply and demand," she says.
Eighteen astronauts – nine men and nine women – have been selected to begin training for upcoming Artemis missions to the moon, NASA announced Wednesday. The list includes the as-yet-unnamed next man and first woman who will set foot on the lunar surface later this decade. The announcement came at the end of a meeting of the National Space Council, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. After reading off the names and welcoming five of the Artemis cadre who were present at the space center for the announcement, Pence said it "really is amazing to think that the next man and the first woman on the moon are among the names that we just read, and they may be standing in the room with us right now." NASA has been working toward a schedule imposed by the Trump administration calling for astronauts to return to the moon by the end of 2024 using the SLS, an Orion capsule and a commercially developed lunar lander that has not yet been built. The 18 astronauts named Wednesday are among the most diverse groups NASA has ever put together: nine men, including four with space flight experience, and nine women, including five space veterans. Nine of the 18 have not yet flown in space. Two astronauts on the list – Kate Rubins and Victor Glover – are currently aboard the International Space Station.
A few months ago, 7-year-old Madison Wilson was watching the Disney movie "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" at her home in Solvang, Calif., when her mother heard her say, "Finally, there's a brown person!" Madison was talking about the character Conall ... whose skin color is similar to her own. It was a contrast to most movies she sees where "there are only peach people," Madison told her mother, Vashti Wilson. Madison said she was also frustrated that there wasn't a brown color in her crayon box that properly represented the color of her skin when she drew pictures of herself. Wilson wanted her daughter to feel empowered, so she asked her, "Do you have some ideas?" Madison did, in fact. Madison had learned that Crayola was planning to release a new box of Colors of the World skin-tone crayons this summer. According to the Crayola website, "Crayola Colors of the World Crayons contain 24 specially formulated colors representing people of the world." Madison wanted to get some for her school, and also books that include characters of color. "But then we learned that due to covid-19, every child would have to have their own box of crayons," Wilson said. "So a few weeks ago, we decided to start a fundraiser." When word got out about Madison's cause, donations began to pour in. Since June 19, more than $23,000 has been raised – enough to buy books, crayons and construction paper in a variety of multicultural hues for ... nearly 500 children.
Jordan Reeves is just an ordinary 14-year-old girl who has inspired millions of people with her extraordinary "superpower." The young inventor from Columbia, Missouri was born with a left arm that stopped developing beyond the elbow. Although some people would look at her under-developed limb as just a disability, Jordan used her condition to launch her superhero alter ego. When she was 10 years old, Jordan attended a STEM workshop that encouraged kids with disabilities to think creatively about their condition - so with a 3D-printer at her disposal, she designed her own prosthetic arm that could shoot glitter from the tip. Jordan's invention was so dazzlingly successful, she went on to talk about her horn-shaped "Project Unicorn" prosthetic design on the TEDx stage, Shark Tank, and even The Rachel Ray Show. With each appearance, she hoped that Project Unicorn would encourage other kids to view disabilities as gifts rather than hindrances. As Project Unicorn gained more traction, Jordan and her mother turned their labor of love into the Born Just Right nonprofit so they could continue advocating for inclusivity. In addition to publishing a book about her experiences in 2019, Jordan and her prosthetic were featured on Episode One of Marvel's Superhero Project - and earlier this week, she was featured on a new LEGO documentary miniseries that interviews young change-makers from across North America. More than 430 children from 30 different countries contributed.
Ian McKenna was in third grade when he learned that nearly a quarter of the kids at his Austin school weren't getting enough to eat at home. He wanted to help, but local volunteer organizations turned him away, saying he was too young. So he decided to find his own solution. For years, he had been gardening with his mother, and they often distributed their extra vegetables to the neighbors. Why not give the produce to a soup kitchen? "Then I thought, I'm good at gardening," says McKenna, now 16. "Maybe I could try to start a garden that's meant solely to help feed these people who are in need." Better yet, he thought, why not plant a garden at school, so that kids in need could take food home? McKenna persuaded his school to set aside space for a garden, then he asked the community for donations of seeds and equipment. Other students donated their time. Within months, McKenna's garden was producing lettuces, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers and squash for students and their families. Now, seven years later, McKenna's Giving Garden project has expanded to five area schools in addition to his own backyard garden, and he has provided more than 20,000 lb. of organic produce (enough for 25,000 meals) to Austin families and food pantries. When COVID-19 hit the U.S., McKenna redoubled his efforts, cooking up to 100 meals out of his home to distribute to the hungry on the weekends. When social distancing meant that volunteers couldn't work on community garden plots, he started offering online tutorials.
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One of the world's largest collections of prehistoric rock art has been discovered in the Amazonian rainforest. Hailed as "the Sistine Chapel of the ancients", archaeologists have found tens of thousands of paintings of animals and humans created up to 12,500 years ago across cliff faces that stretch across nearly eight miles in Colombia. Their date is based partly on their depictions of now-extinct ice age animals, such as the mastodon, a prehistoric relative of the elephant that hasn't roamed South America for at least 12,000 years. There are also images of the palaeolama, an extinct camelid, as well as giant sloths and ice age horses. These animals were all seen and painted by some of the very first humans ever to reach the Amazon. Their pictures give a glimpse into a lost, ancient civilisation. Such is the sheer scale of paintings that they will take generations to study. The discovery was made by a British-Colombian team, funded by the European Research Council. Its leader is JosĂ© Iriarte, professor of archaeology at Exeter University and a leading expert on the Amazon and pre-Columbian history. He said: "When you're there, your emotions flow â€¦ We're talking about several tens of thousands of paintings. It's going to take generations to record them â€¦ Every turn you do, it's a new wall of paintings. "We started seeing animals that are now extinct. The pictures are so natural and so well made that we have few doubts that you're looking at a horse, for example. It's fascinating."
An art exhibit is now open at the Beverly Center titled, "Heirs to the Throne." Among the well-known artists is newcomer Tyler Gordon who's blowing up social media with his recent works. "I just really love art, and I've always wanted to do art my whole life," said Tyler, 14. But it wasn't until he turned 10 that Tyler started painting. "He wakes me up at 3 in the morning, telling me he had a dream that God told him he could paint and he's going to be a painter," said Tyler's mom, Nicole. "And I told him, 'Go back to bed.'" His mom Nicole Kindle, an artist herself, gave him the supplies he needed, essentially launching his career as a portrait artist. His recent portrait of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris went viral just before Thanksgiving, with more than 1.5 million views. That led to a call from Harris herself, commending his work. "She broke through tons of barriers herself," Tyler explained. "And me myself, I broke through tons of barriers, with my stutter, me being deaf until I was 6, and me being in a wheelchair for 2 years." Tyler was also inspired to paint President-Elect Joe Biden. "He also stutters as well, and even though he stutters, he's still not afraid to do public speeches and use his voice," Tyler said. "So I feel like he really inspires me." Tyler showed NBCLA some of the works on display in his exhibit, including portraits of Brionna Taylor and George Floyd. "I painted him to let him and the world know that he would not be forgotten," said Tyler.
Twelve years after being sentenced to life for selling $20 worth of marijuana to an undercover cop, Fate Vincent Winslow will walk out of Louisiana State Penitentiary on Wednesday a free man. "Today is a day of redemption," the 53-year-old wrote to Yahoo News following his resentencing hearing on Tuesday. "I get my freedom back, I get my life back. There are no words that can really explain my feelings right now." Winslow's release comes through the work of the Innocence Project New Orleans (IPNO) and specifically Jee Park, its executive director, who felt confident that there was a path to freedom for Winslow as soon as she found his case. "You read the transcript of his trial and you're just horrified about what happened," Park told Yahoo News. "[His attorney] doesn't object when he gets sentenced to life. He doesn't file a motion to reconsider â€¦ he doesn't do anything. He just says, 'Sorry, you got a guilty verdict, you're going to prison for the rest of your life.'" Winslow said he's thanking God for his newfound freedom, and looking forward to reuniting with his daughter Faith, who has set up a GoFundMe to help get him back on his feet. In a statement provided to IPNO, Faith expressed optimism about the future. "My dad and I got closer while he was imprisoned. Even though he was locked up, he was there for me when I needed him," she said. "He deserves a second chance and I am so glad he is getting one."
In Togo ... 55% of the population lives on less than $1.90 a day. The economic effects of COVID-19 have drastically driven up the world's extreme poverty level. The World Bank estimates that the number of people living on less than $1.90 per day will reach 150 million by 2021. GiveDirectly, a charity that has focused for just under a decade on direct cash transfers to people in poverty around the world, particularly in Africa, has been escalating its pandemic relief efforts–and continually innovating with partners to find groundbreaking ways to target the most in need of money. The charity's latest innovation is harnessing an algorithm, designed by UC Berkeley, that uses artificial intelligence to identify the poorest individuals in the poorest areas, and transfer cash relief directly to them. The algorithm works in two stages. First, it finds the poorest neighborhoods or villages in a certain region, by analyzing high-resolution satellite imagery. The second stage is finding the poorest individuals within those areas, by analyzing their mobile phone data, provided by Togo's two principal carriers, Togocel and Moov. After the poorest individuals are identified, they will be prompted to enroll via mobile phone, and then instantly paid. Approximately $5 million will be delivered in total, sending cash every month for five months, in the sum of $15 for women and $13 for men per month, which they've calculated as the figure to cover their "minimum basket of goods" to survive. So far, 30,000 Togolese have been paid, out of a goal of 58,000.
In November, Dorri McWhorter, the chief executive of the Y.W.C.A. Metropolitan Chicago, got a phone call from a representative of the billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. The news was almost too good to be true: Her group would be receiving a $9 million gift. Ms. McWhorter shed tears of joy on the call. Similar scenes were playing out at charities nationwide. Ms. Scott's team recently sent out hundreds of out-of-the-blue emails to charities, notifying them of an incoming gift. Many of the gifts were the largest the charities had ever received. Ms. McWhorter was not the only recipient who cried. All told, Ms. Scott – whose fortune comes from shares of Amazon that she got after her divorce last year from Jeff Bezos, the company's founder – had given more than $4 billion to 384 groups, including 59 other Y.W.C.A. chapters. In the course of a few months, Ms. Scott has turned traditional philanthropy on its head. Whereas multibillion foundations like Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have fancy headquarters, Ms. Scott's operation has no known address – or even website. By disbursing her money quickly and without much hoopla, Ms. Scott has pushed the focus away from the giver and onto the nonprofits she is trying to help. They are the types of organizations – historically Black colleges and universities, community colleges and groups that hand out food and pay off medical debts – that often fly beneath the radar.
While serving a 90-year prison sentence for selling marijuana, Richard DeLisi's wife died, as did his 23-year-old son and both his parents. Yet, 71-year-old DeLisi walked out of a Florida prison Tuesday morning grateful and unresentful as he hugged his tearful family. After serving 31 years, he said he's just eager to restore the lost time. DeLisi was believed to be the longest-serving nonviolent cannabis prisoner, according to the The Last Prisoner Project which championed his release. DeLisi was sentenced to 90 years for marijuana trafficking in 1989 at the age of 40 even though the typical sentence was only 12 to 17 years. Now, he wants "to make the best of every bit of my time" fighting for the release of other inmates through his organization FreeDeLisi.com. "The system needs to change and I'm going to try my best to be an activist," he said. Chiara Juster, a former Florida prosecutor who handled the case pro bono for the The Last Prisoner Project, criticized DeLisi's lengthy sentence as "a sick indictment of our nation." The family has spent over $250,000 on attorneys' fees and over $80,000 on long-distance international collect calls over the past few decades. Rick DeLisi was only 11-years-old when he sat in the courtroom and said goodbye to his father. Now, he's a successful business owner with a wife and three children living in Amsterdam. "I can't believe they did this to my father," the grieving son said. His voice cracks and his eyes well up with tears as he talks about how grateful he is to finally see his dad.
Incarcerated men at California Rehabilitation Center (CRC) in Norco, CA, can now earn a bachelor's of arts degree from one of the country's top liberal arts colleges. Pitzer College, a member of The Claremont Colleges, is the first university or college in the country to develop a bachelor's degree program for the incarcerated based on a sustainable inside-out curriculum. The inaugural cohort of eight incarcerated students in the Pitzer Inside-Out Pathway-to-BA are expected to graduate by the end of 2021. Pitzer Inside-Out Pathway-to-BA is the country's first degree-seeking prison education program whereby incarcerated "inside" students and "outside" students from The Claremont Colleges attend classes together in prison and are working toward earning bachelor's degrees. The Pathway is part of the intercollegiate Justice Education Initiative (JEI) program. The Claremont JEI model consists of an equal number of inside and outside students in each course. All inside students earn college credit, whether they are degree-seeking or not. The model allows Claremont College professors to teach their regular curriculum. The only difference is that the classes are held inside a prison (via online video-conferencing during COVID). Following their release, 86% of prisoners will be rearrested in three years. A RAND Corporation study found that correctional education programs reduce the inmates' chances of returning to prison, and those who participate had 43% lower odds of recidivating.
What is the very best way for people with more money than they need to quickly hand it over to those in need, so they can use it for food, shelter and other necessities? Sites and services like GoFundMe can connect donors with real people, but they may lack vetting of recipients, their back stories or their plans. Donors with large amounts to give may want to use tax deductions to increase what they can afford to donate, but may not be able to get them through one-off cash transfers. The elusiveness of perfect solutions has inspired a variety of social entrepreneurs to pursue various forms of direct giving. Two existing organizations and one new entrant are offering some of the most satisfying ways of providing few-strings-attached assistance. Modest Needs Foundation and GiveDirectly, both nonprofit organizations, are using years of experience to pay people's bills or hand them money to pay for things themselves. And the 1K Project is facilitating money transfers, although without the tax deductions the other two can offer donors. So far, GiveDirectly has sent $1,000 each to about 82,000 people. Its goal is to reach 100,000, though it is likely to continue the efforts if donations keep coming in. Modest Needs, a nonprofit organization, operates on a smaller scale, with a slightly different model. Recipients need to find their way to the group and apply for help paying particular bills. It requires documentation of the need and pays bills directly, without giving money to the applicant.
Note: For other exciting new ways to directly help the poorest of the poor, read this NPR article. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
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. 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. "That's a pretty big thing; most of the world is transitioning into natural population decline," researcher Prof Christopher Murray told the BBC. "I think it's incredibly hard to think this through and recognise how big a thing this is; it's extraordinary, we'll have to reorganise societies." 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.
Palma School, a prep school for boys in Salinas, California, created a partnership with the Correctional Training Facility (CTF) at Soledad State Prison to form a reading group for inmates and high school students - bringing the two groups together to learn and develop greater understanding of one another. But the reading group has developed into much more than an exchange of knowledge and empathy. When one Palma student was struggling to pay the $1,200 monthly tuition after both his parents suffered medical emergencies, the inmates already had a plan to help. "I didn't believe it at first," said English and Theology teacher Jim Michelleti, who created the reading program. "They said, 'We value you guys coming in. We'd like to do something for your school ... can you find us a student on campus who needs some money to attend Palma?" The inmates, who the program calls "brothers in blue," raised more than $30,000 from inside the prison to create a scholarship for student Sy Green - helping him graduate this year and attend college at The Academy of Art University in San Francisco. "Regardless of the poor choices that people make, most people want to take part in something good," said Jason Bryant, a former inmate who was instrumental in launching the scholarship. "Guys were eager to do it." Considering that minimum wage in prison can be as low as 8 cents an hour, raising $30,000 is an astonishing feat. It can take a full day of hard labor to make a dollar inside prison.
Note: For mind-blowing and heart-opening documentaries on prison programs which are transforming the decrepit, damaging culture of prisons, see the moving seven-minute video "Step Inside the Circle" and the profoundly inspiring one hour 40 minute documentary "The Work." Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Few world leaders talk about morals and ethics as much as Mexican President AndrÄ‚©s Manuel LÄ‚Ĺ‚pez Obrador. On Thursday he presented an "Ethical Guide for the Transformation of Mexico." LÄ‚Ĺ‚pez Obrador took office two years ago pledging government austerity and an end to corruption. Much like the president himself, the text presented Thursday is socially conservative, and is definitely not a traditional leftist tract. It calls the family "the basic building block of society." The 20-point pamphlet is a compendium of vaguely social-democratic pontifications on work, fairness, forgiveness, justice and responsibility. It marks quite a divergence for Mexico's once rigidly anti-clerical government, which was long loathe to even talk about morality. But LÄ‚Ĺ‚pez Obrador often uses vaguely religious language and calls himself a Christian "in the broadest sense of the term." He has long said he wants a "moral constitution" and a "loving republic" for Mexico. The government aims to print and distribute 10 million copies for free. "Inequality in any area is the product of injustice and creates suffering," the pamphlet says. "Like power, work gains its full meaning when it is done for others." "It is not a crime to accumulate and increase material wealth," reads another section. "Whoever earns a reasonable profit, using their creativity and taking risks to create jobs, that person will be recognized by society as a responsible businessperson with social sense."
Note: Read an English translation of Mexico's inspiring new "Ethical Guide for the Transformation of Mexico." Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Hundreds of homes in Scotland will soon become the first in the world to use 100% green hydrogen to heat their properties and cook their meals as part of a new trial that could help households across the country replace fossil fuel gas. Some 300 homes in Fife will be fitted with free hydrogen boilers, heaters and cooking appliances to be used for more than four years in the largest test of whether zero carbon hydrogen, made using renewable energy and water, could help meet Britain's climate goals. They will begin to receive green gas from the end of 2022, at no extra charge, and up to 1,000 homes could be included if the first phase of the trial is completed successfully. Green hydrogen is a central part of the government's plan to wean Britain off fossil fuels because it can be used in the same ways as fossil fuel gas but produces no carbon emissions. This is particularly important for central heating, which makes up almost a third of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions because 85% of homes use a gas boiler. Antony Green, the head of National Grid's hydrogen project, said: "If we truly want to reach a net zero decarbonised future, we need to replace methane with green alternatives like hydrogen."
In 2019, Oslo, Norway recorded zero pedestrian or cyclist deaths. There was only a single traffic fatality, which involved someone driving into a fence. (For comparison, preliminary figures in London show 73 pedestrian and six cyclist fatalities in 2019; New York recorded 218 total traffic fatalities, including 121 pedestrian and 28 cyclist deaths.) Oslo's achievement means that it is just one step away from "Vision Zero", an undertaking to eliminate all deaths on public roads. The foundation for reaching Vision Zero is to significantly reduce the number of cars on the road. Oslo officials have removed more than a thousand street-side central parking spots, encouraging people to lean on an affordable and flexible public transport network, and added more bike lanes and footpaths. Significant areas are closed off to cars entirely, including "heart zones" around primary schools. "The wish to pedestrianise the city isn't a new policy, but it has accelerated now," Rune GjĂ¸s, a director at Oslo's Department of Mobility, says. "The city centre is now a thriving area and all the top-brand shops want to establish themselves on the car-free streets," GjĂ¸s says. "This shows that consumers find these streets attractive, and they're leaving as much money behind as if they were coming by car." Demand for residential real estate has also increased, thanks to lower levels of traffic and pollution.
Note: This Guardian article shows that FInland's capital of Helsinki also reached zero pedestrian deaths. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
The coronavirus might be new, but nature long ago gave humans the tools to recognize it, at least on a microscopic scale: antibodies, Y-shaped immune proteins that can latch onto pathogens and block them from infiltrating cells. Millions of years of evolution have honed these proteins into the disease-fighting weapons they are today. But in a span of just months, a combination of human and machine intelligence may have beaten Mother Nature at her own game. Using computational tools, a team of researchers at the University of Washington designed and built from scratch a molecule that, when pitted against the coronavirus in the lab, can attack and sequester it at least as well as an antibody does. This molecule, called a mini-binder for its ability to glom onto the coronavirus, is petite and stable enough to be shipped en masse in a freeze-dried state. Bacteria can also be engineered to churn out these mini-binders, potentially making them not only effective but also cheap and convenient. Eventually, healthy people might be able to self-administer the mini-binders as a nasal spray, and potentially keep any inbound coronavirus particles at bay. Mini-binders are not antibodies, but they thwart the virus in broadly similar ways. The coronavirus enters a cell using a kind of lock-and-key interaction, fitting a protein called a spike – the key – into a molecular lock called ACE-2, which adorns the outsides of certain human cells. Antibodies made by the human immune system can interfere with this process.
Like many weddings this year, Emily Bugg and Billy Lewis' nuptials didn't go as planned. Because of coronavirus restrictions, the couple decided to get married at City Hall in Chicago instead of having a big ceremony. And instead of taking the deposits for their reception back, they decided to repurpose them. The couple put their $5,000 worth of reception food to a good use on Thanksgiving, according to a local charity. Bugg and Lewis donated the 200 meals to Thresholds, an organization that provides services and resources for people with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders in Illinois. Thresholds usually holds a communal Thanksgiving dinner for clients, but it was canceled due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions. Instead, Bugg and Lewis' wedding caterer, Big Delicious Planet, put the couple's $5,000 deposit to use to prepare special Thanksgiving meals for delivery. The caterers worked alongside Threshold staff members to box individual meals, which where then delivered to the client's homes. Big Delicious Planet cooked turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans and other Thanksgiving staples. "Canceling a big wedding isn't the worst thing that could happen," Bugg said. "We're happy to be married, and we're so happy that we could help Thresholds' clients ... as a result of the wedding cancellation." Thresholds CEO Mark Ishaug said the couple's donation is "an incredible example of the generosity and creativity that the pandemic has inspired in so many."
We've all heard the stories about near-death experiences: the tunnel, the white light, the encounter with long-dead relatives. Now some researchers are giving a closer neurological look at near-death experiences and asking: Can your mind operate when your brain has stopped? Pam ... Reynolds' journey began one hot August day in 1991. An MRI revealed an aneurysm on her brain stem. "The aneurysm was very large, which meant the risk of rupture was also very large," [Dr. Robert] Spetzler says. "And it was in a location where the only way to really give her the very best odds of fixing it required what we call 'cardiac standstill.'" "I was lying there on the gurney ... unconscious," Reynolds recalls. "I don't know how to explain this ... I popped up out the top of my head." She found herself looking down at the operating table. She could see 20 people around the table and hear what sounded like a dentist's drill. Soon after, the surgeons began to lower her body temperature to 60 degrees. It was about that time that Reynolds believes she noticed a tunnel and bright light. She eventually flat-lined completely, and the surgeons drained the blood out of her head. During her near-death experience, she says she chatted with her dead grandmother and uncle, who escorted her back to the operating room. As they looked down on her body, she could hear the Eagles' song "Hotel California" playing. A year later, she mentioned the details to her neurosurgeon. Spetzler says her account matched his memory.
Note: Read the entire fascinating story at the link above to learn more about this woman who had to die in order to live. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles on near-death experiences.
At a time when the nation feels more divided than ever, one unlikely group in Omaha, Nebraska, is trying to bring people together. The Tri-Faith Initiative is a unique experiment in unity, sprawling across 38 acres on the edge of the city, almost smack in the center of America. There's a synagogue, a mosque and a church – and on Saturday, Tri-Faith introduced a new interfaith center, the final piece of a plan that was years in the making. "Sometimes people assume that the fact that we've come together and that we're so connected means that we're trying to create a blended, homogeneous faith, and that is absolutely not what Tri-Faith is about," said Rabbi A. Brian Stoller. "It's like a neighborhood. And each neighborhood lives in its own house and has its own values and belief system." Their goal? To learn about the "religious other," and in turn, become more tolerant and less fearful. It's also not lost on ... any of the faith leaders that the opening of their interfaith center coincides with a time in history marked by shocking division. "What I perceive as an inability to see others' world views and respect their way of thinking and believing is a crisis in America, and reflects a spiritual illness in our society," Stoller said, adding that he thinks what he and the other faith leaders are doing is part of the "antidote to that illness." That mutual respect, they believe, begins with relationship building. "It is friendship, what we created here," said Imam Mohamad Jamal Daoudi.
While I was in anesthesia residency at the University of Southern California Hospital's Department of Anesthesiology from 2006 to 2009, I learned how to put people under for surgery using an anesthetic called ketamine. Afterwards, as I began work as an anesthesiologist at a hospital, I began hearing interesting things about the anesthetic. Researchers had begun testing it as a treatment for mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and PTSD – and with encouraging results. It also has psychedelic properties, so people can gain insight into their lives and even have mystical experiences on it. One study found that it reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety in patients with severe depression, both immediately after it was administered and as well as a month down the line. Another found that it even provided relief from chronic pain that lasted for up to two weeks after treatment. In 2014, inspired by findings like these and conversations with psychiatrists who were beginning to incorporate ketamine into their practices, I founded the Ketamine Healing Clinic of Los Angeles. Over time, I've seen people undergo big changes in their lives because of their work with ketamine, including a few who left abusive relationships, grew their businesses, or pursued totally new ventures. Overall ... people typically come out of their infusions with a newfound will to live and increased clarity about their future. Some patients who came in with suicidal thoughts no longer have them at all.
Nestled on a wide plateau surrounded by the Espinhaco Mountains in southeastern Brazil is the city of Belo Horizonte. The city of 2.5 million is an industrial and technological hub, which had historically led to stark socioeconomic divisions, including high rates of poverty. But while other similarly situated cities around the globe struggle to meet the basic needs of their residents, Belo Horizonte pioneered a food security system that has effectively eliminated hunger in the city. The entire program requires less than 2% of the city's annual budget. Building off Brazil's grassroots Movement for Ethics in Politics, in 1993 Belo Horizonte enacted a municipal law that established a citizen's right to food. Today, Belo Horizonte's food security system comprises 20 interconnected programs that approach food security in sustainable ways. When the novel coronavirus pandemic hit Brazil in February, Belo Horizonte was well-positioned to address at least one attendant issue of the pandemic: The city already had a substantial infrastructure for distributing fresh, healthy food at low or no-cost to the vast majority of its residents. As Brazil's COVID-19 cases skyrocketed and the need became greater, businesses, nonprofits, and individuals offered financial and distribution support to expand the existing food security network, including increasing the number of open-air markets and restaurants available to distribute food to those in need.
Note: Why hasn't this most inspiring news been reported widely in the major media? Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Special Olympics athlete Chris Nikic crossed the finish line on Saturday to become the first person with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman triathlon. Guiness World Records recognized Nikic's achievement after he finished a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-marathon run at the Ironman Florida competition in Panama City Beach. "Ironman. Goal set and achieve," said Nikic in a post to Instagram. "Time to set a new and Bigger Goal for 2021." Nikic completed the race in 16 hours 46 minutes and 9 seconds - 14 minutes under the 17-hour cutoff time. Nikic fell off his bike and was attacked by ants at a nutrition stop, but he pushed on to finish the competition. "We are beyond inspired, and your accomplishment is a defining moment in Ironman history that can never be taken away from you," the Ironman Triathlon organization said. Nikic and his father Nik developed the "1 percent better challenge" to stay motivated during training. The idea is to promote Down syndrome awareness while achieving 1% improvement each day, according to Nikic's website. "To Chris, this race was more than just a finish line and celebration of victory," Nik Nikic said. "Ironman has served as his platform to become one step closer to his goal of living a life of inclusion and leadership." Nikic's accomplishment earned him congratulatory messages from celebrities, such as tennis great Billie Jean King and runner Kara Goucher, and people around the world, including 33,000 new followers on social media
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring disabled persons news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
The government illegally approved a breed of genetically engineered salmon without assessing the harm the fish might cause if they escaped their confines and interbred with other salmon species, a federal judge ruled. The Food and Drug Administration agreed in 2015, under President Barack Obama's administration, to allow AquaBounty Technologies to produce the fish, which is an Atlantic salmon that has been infused with a growth hormone gene from Pacific salmon, also known as chinook, and DNA from a slithery creature known as an eelpout. But U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria of San Francisco said the FDA had failed to consider or study what would happen if the genetically engineered salmon slipped out and reached waters inhabited by other salmon. "They may directly interact with wild salmon, such as by mating or simply by competing for resources," Chhabria said in a ruling on a lawsuit by environmental, consumer and fishing organizations. "Even if this scenario was unlikely, the FDA was still required to assess the consequences," especially since the agency knew AquaBounty's facilities were likely to grow, he said. "Before starting the country down a road that could well lead to commercial production of genetically engineered fish on a large scale, the FDA should have developed a full understanding – and provided a full explanation – of the potential environmental consequences," Chhabria said. The FDA did not say whether it would appeal the ruling.
Cats are unable to distinguish between street clothes and prison uniforms – and that's exactly what makes the relationship between the men at Pendleton Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison outside of Indianapolis, and the cats that live there, so special. For six hours a day, seven days a week, a handful of men receive unqualified love from the more than 20 cats that live in the prison as part of the FORWARD program, or Felines and Offenders Rehabilitation with Affection, Reformation and Dedication. In exchange for care and a place to stay before being adopted, the cats at Pendleton offer inmates untampered, non-judgemental affection. Through the 5-year-old program, a select few incarcerated men are paid 20 cents an hour to spend their days caring for abandoned and abused cats, preparing them for adoption. Or, as some inmates will say, for a reason to get up in the morning. In partnership with the Animal Protection League of Indiana, the program removes cats from a traditional shelter and places them in the prison's "cat sanctuary," a wide-open room with scratching posts, climbing structures and nooks to hide in. The program houses them with incarcerated caregivers, who, incidentally, gain skills such as empathy, responsibility and self-esteem. The caregivers spend their days cleaning the cat sanctuary, changing litter boxes, and feeding and giving water to the cats. Everything but medical care is under the inmates' purview. The work, albeit behind prison walls, is a full-time job.
Norway's ability to preserve the fiscal and physical well-being of its residents during the COVID-19 pandemic is just one small example of a decades-long effort to create an equitable economy. What began as a result of the labor and feminist movements in the 1970s now suffuses most parts of society, including how the country responded to the outbreak. On March 12, Norway began its nationwide lockdown, and by April 7, Parliament had adopted a package that Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, a member of Parliament and the leader of the Center Party, told Norwegian Broadcasting was "the largest [monetary] commitment the parliament has ever made." The roughly $480 million relief package included tax relief for businesses experiencing losses, a reduction in the European Economic Community Value Added Tax, and tax deferrals for self-employed individuals such as freelance writers and artists. The package helped maintain stability in the economy while Norwegians did their part to slow the spread of the virus. Norwegian workers pay a roughly 25% income tax rate. That's on par with what the average American family pays in income tax, but in Norway, those taxes pay for generous social welfare programs for almost all Norwegian residents. Norwegian social welfare encompasses comprehensive unemployment benefits, retirement pay, and health care coverage that covers just about everything, from mental health care to ambulance and emergency services to clinical care for transgender residents.
Suicides are on the rise among Japanese teens and that worries 21-year-old Koki Ozora, who grew up depressed and lonely. His nonprofit "Anata no Ibasho," or "A Place for You," is run entirely by volunteers. It offers a 24-hour text-messaging service for those seeking a sympathetic ear, promising to answer every request – within five seconds for urgent ones. The online Japanese-language chat service has grown since March to 500 volunteers, many living abroad in different time zones to provide counseling during those hours when the need for suicide prevention runs highest, between 10 p.m. and the break of dawn. The site setup ... allows more experienced staff to supervise the counseling. Anonymity is protected. Anata no Ibasho has received more than 15,000 online messages asking for help, or about 130 a day. The most common ones are about suicide, at about 32%, while 12% deal with stress over raising children. The goal is to offer a solution within 40 minutes, including referrals to shelters and police. Contrary to the stereotype of Japan as harmonious, families are increasingly splintered. A recent OECD study found Japan ranks among the highest in the world in suffering isolation. Counseling through online chats can be a challenge, because all you have are words, said Sumie Uehara, a counselor who volunteers at Anata no Ibasho. "You don't ever negate their feelings or try to solve everything in a hurry. You're just there to listen, and understand," she said.
America's imprisonment rate has dropped to its lowest level since 1995, led by a dive in the percentage of blacks and Hispanics sent to jail during the Trump administration, according to a new Justice tally. For minorities, the focus of President Trump's First Step Act prison and criminal reform plan, the rate is the lowest in years. For blacks, the imprisonment rate in state and federal prisons is the lowest in 31 years and for Hispanics it is down 24%. "Across the decade from 2009 to 2019, the imprisonment rate fell 29% among black residents, 24% among Hispanic residents and 12% among white residents. In 2019, the imprisonment rate of black residents was the lowest it has been in 30 years, since 1989," said the report. Explaining the rate, Justice said, "At year-end 2019, there were 1,096 sentenced black prisoners per 100,000 black residents, 525 sentenced Hispanic prisoners per 100,000 Hispanic residents and 214 sentenced white prisoners per 100,000 white residents in the U.S. Among sentenced state prisoners at year-end 2018 (the most recent data available), a larger percentage of black (62%) and Hispanic (62%) prisoners than white prisoners (48%) were serving time for a violent offense." For its report, Justice counts those in prison for more than a year. The report did not cite any reasons for the drop. Trump recently led a bipartisan coalition to push through criminal reforms with the First Step Act that have helped to cut prison terms for some.
Note: See the official Bureau of Justice statistics at https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/p19_pr.pdf. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Earl Moore remembers the day his father walked out. Moore discovered the power of opioids to take that pain away while attending college at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Moore's addiction lasted more than 15 years - before he finally found the help he needed. It was a nightmare odyssey that led him to steal his grandmother's cancer pain medication and his police officer brother's ATM card to pay for pills. Not until Moore says he found a 12-step program and a mentor who showed him the art of building stringed instruments - did he find the self-love and confidence that turned his life around for good. Moore was trying to get clean yet again in 2012 when he heard a master luthier - an expert stringed-instrument maker - was coming to his hometown of Hindman, a tiny hamlet nestled in the lush mountains of Eastern Kentucky. Moore had been doing carpentry, building cabinets and had a love for guitars. Moore found himself in Naselroad's wood shop nearly every day learning how to craft guitars from Appalachian native hardwoods in a town where the mountain dulcimer was first made in the late 1800s. "Music has always been a part of this community ever since pioneer days," said Naselroad. What started out as a one-year apprenticeship became a six-year journey that brought Moore back to life. Since he began, Moore has made more than 70 instruments. He's sold many of them and kept others. Moore's success inspired the creation of the "Culture of Recovery" arts program at The Appalachian Artisan Center.
A 5th grader in the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw Independent School District has a habit of setting very lofty goals for himself... he also has a habit of exceeding them. So, it isn't surprising that Orion Jean wants to continue his mission to do good for others into the holiday season. Earlier this fall, the Chisholm Ridge Elementary student collected and donated hundreds of toys to hospitalized children in Dallas through his Race to 500 Toys drive. Now, he's started another drive with the goal of donating thousands of meals to people in need by Thanksgiving. In addition to the work Orion is doing on his own, the Race to 100,000 Meals food drive will be be accepting food donations from the public. "I'm asking everyone to join me in a race to kindness," Orion said. "This has been a rough year for everybody, and now it's more important than ever to show support and love to anyone who needs it." Orion began collecting donations earlier this week and has already received nearly 4,000 meals. Over the summer, Orion won the Think Kindness National Speech contest, where he urged others to show compassion through action. As champion, he was given $500 to start his own kindness project where he went on to collect toys for hospitalized children.
The "Temple of Man" [is] a five-story underground warren of vast, ornately decorated chambers, with towering pillars, 40-foot-high gold-leaf ceilings, giant frescoes and bronze statues, all linked by narrow passages and concealed stone doors that spring open and shut by electrical command. Begun more than 20 years ago in total secrecy, [the temple] is the spiritual core of Damanhur, a 23-year-old New Age commune nestled ... in the foothills of the Alps. Members [describe] their commune as a nation, one that aims at total self-sufficiency and boasts its own currency, schools, federal and local government, newspapers, Web site and tax code. It has melded California-style New Age spirituality with the customs and mores of northern Italy. It also claims to have its own unique transportation system: time travel. When its 500 full-time residents are not experimenting with time travel and "Selfic" healing, they are industriously churning out luxury items for export. One Damanhur workshop makes Tiffany-style glass products. Another business ... makes silk and cashmere fabrics on 18th-century wooden looms for ... top Italian fashion houses. "We were never hippies," Damanhur's founder, Oberto Airaudi ... explained. "We believed in hard work, personal responsibility and bank loans." Damanhur ... also shares the Italian aversion to ironclad rules and has only one: no smoking. Everything else is pretty much permitted, including long lunches that include wine, pasta and meat, which may help explain why the community has remained intact for more than two decades.
Note: For more on this magical community, see photos of their mind-boggling underground temples and the deeper story of its founding and development on this webpage. Their website is www.damanhur.org.
For Alaskans, summertime means cruise ships. Lots of cruise ships. The 2020 season was expected to commence with a record-breaking deluge of 1.4 million tourists and glacier gazers that would effectively triple the state's scant population of 730,000. Once the pandemic hit, that number effectively dropped to zero. Although the economy is being decimated by the reduction in tourist vessels, the state's humpback whales are some of the few locals actually enjoying the silence. Dr Michelle Fournet, director of the Sound Science Research Collective and research fellow at Cornell University, has been listening in on whale conversations for 10 years, but never before has she seen a summer like this. "The last time researchers were able to listen to humpbacks in a quiet ocean in Alaska was in 1976," when commercial whale watching began, said Fournet, and their population was much lower as humpback whaling was banned only a decade earlier. Since that time, recording technology has come a long way and whale populations have seen a huge resurgence, with several thousand summering in south-east Alaska alone. Fournet was ecstatic after listening to her first hydrophone recordings of the year two weeks ago. "It's really, really quiet. [On] my very first pass of listening, I randomly picked a file, and I immediately heard a whale instead of a boat." The state may be facing a big economic downturn, but this is at least one fact to take comfort in, she said. "Even though we are not on the ocean right now, the whales are still there," said Fournet.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles on marine mammals.
For many of the nearly 2.3 million incarcerated Americans, keeping in touch with people on the outside isn't easy. Though prisons and jails generally do allow inmates to call, email, or video chat with their loved ones, they also often charge exorbitant rates, which leaves physical mail as the best (and sometimes, only) option for people behind bars. Even then, inmates still sometimes don't receive the letters and cards sent by their loved ones because they violate the facility's mail rules, which vary from place to place and can dictate everything from acceptable paper sizes to writing implements. Now, a "robot lawyer" is making it easier for people to send letters to inmates by automating much of the process – just write your message, and it takes care of the rest. The robot lawyer is actually an AI-powered app called DoNotPay, and it's the brainchild of British-American entrepreneur Josh Browder. The robot lawyer ... can now help people dispute evictions, cancel subscriptions, and navigate small-claims court, all for a $3 monthly fee. On October 15, Browder unveiled DoNotPay's new prison mail feature. A user starts by entering the name of the person they want contact in the app's search tool. The robot lawyer then scans the roster of inmates in federal, state, county, or ICE detention centers, all at once. The user then chooses the design they want for the letter and writes their message. DoNotPay then prints the letter, following the facility's specifications, and mails it to the inmate along with the postage they need to send a letter back.
Something as simple as saying hello to a stranger can enhance your happiness and feelings of well-being in these troubled times, two new studies show. In one survey, a sampling of 856 commuters who initiated "positive social interactions" with their bus or shuttle drivers had greater levels of being satisfied with themselves and their lives. In the other, a group of 265 travelers were split into two groups. Half were told to strike up a positive interaction with their driver by saying "have a nice day" or "thank you" upon leaving the bus, in a warm and sincere way. They were also told to make eye contact. The other half of participants was told not to speak to their driver. The commuters were surveyed after they got off their buses. The first group reported more positive feelings and well-being than the travelers who didn't talk to their drivers. Both studies were recently published as a paper titled "Minimal Social Interactions with Strangers Predict Greater Subjective Well-Being," in the Journal of Happiness Studies. "Simply taking a moment to greet, express good wishes, or say thank you to strangers is linked with greater happiness in everyday life," the authors wrote. So if the coronavirus pandemic is on your last nerve, try a simple hello to the person behind the wheel on your next bus ride.
In a new report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says solar is now the cheapest form of electricity for utility companies to build. That's thanks to risk-reducing financial policies around the world, the agency says, and it applies to locations with both the most favorable policies and the easiest access to financing. The report underlines how important these policies are to encouraging development of renewables and other environmentally forward technologies. Carbon Brief (CB) summarizes the annual report with a lot of key details. The World Energy Outlook 2020 "offers four 'pathways' to 2040, all of which see a major rise in renewables," CB says. "The IEA's main scenario has 43 [percent] more solar output by 2040 than it expected in 2018, partly due to detailed new analysis showing that solar power is 20 [to] 50 [percent] cheaper than thought." The calculation depends on financing figures compared with the amount of output for solar projects. That means that at the same time panel technology gets more efficient and prices for basic panels continue to fall, investors are getting better and better financing deals. So the statistic "20 to 50 percent cheaper" is based on a calculus of companies building solar projects, not something that has throughput for consumers or even solar homeowners. But it's still a big deal, because the cost to build power plants is a major part of why so much of the world has stuck with coal and gas power.
Houseplant sales were skyrocketing among US millennials even before the pandemic, with a nearly 50% rise in sales between 2017 and 2019, according to the National Gardening Association. Now, many like [travel writer MaSovaida] Morgan see them as a necessary tool in fostering optimal work-from-home conditions. Experts say this desire to fill indoor environments with objects from the outdoors ties in to the growing movement toward 'biophilic design', which is a concept used to increase wellbeing through both direct and indirect exposure to nature. Biophilic design was a major office trend in the years leading up to 2020, when Amazon introduced spherical conservatories to its Seattle headquarters; Microsoft debuted treehouse conference room in nearby Redmond, Washington; and Facebook created a 3.6-acre rooftop garden at its Silicon Valley hub. Thanks to the pandemic, millions of [remote workers] now have the chance to create a work environment with their own wellbeing in mind. An increasing body of evidence shows that incorporating nature can help with things like decreasing stress and increasing productivity, creativity and attention span. Beyond adding greenery ... there are several other simple additions for optimising a home office, including light and colour. Natural light supports the circadian rhythms of the body, which regulate our sleep-wake cycle, as well as hormones. Those working in a ... dark environment can typically mimic natural light by incorporate a variety of lighting levels throughout the workday.
A young Dutch fashion designer just out of school in 2014, [Bas] Timmer was embarking on a promising direction as a cold weather-gear specialist when he stumbled over a homeless man one cold night. He thought about giving the man one of his signature fashion hoodies, butĂ˘â‚Ź"to his lasting shameĂ˘â‚Ź"paused for fear of diminishing his brand. A few months later a friendĂ˘â‚Źâ„˘s father, also homeless, died of hypothermia. Ă˘â‚ŹĹ’I felt guilty,Ă˘â‚ŹĹĄ says Timmer. Ă˘â‚ŹĹ’I had the opportunity to help, and I did nothing.Ă˘â‚ŹĹĄ To make up for it, he dedicated his brand to helping others. He designed around the requirements for life on the streets: waterproof, warm, portable and good for sleeping. Part tent and part parka, TimmerĂ˘â‚Źâ„˘s Ă˘â‚ŹĹ’sheltersuitĂ˘â‚ŹĹĄ featured a detachable sleeping bag that could be zipped off and easily stored during the day. He presented his mashup to a local homeless man, who was enchanted. Ă˘â‚ŹĹ’He said, Ă˘â‚ŹI have two friends, can I share my jacket with them?Ă˘â‚Źâ„˘ And I said Ă˘â‚Źno, this one is yours. Let me see if I can make two more.Ă˘â‚Źâ„˘ And thatĂ˘â‚Źâ„˘s when the whole Sheltersuit idea started.Ă˘â‚ŹĹĄ Six years later, Timmer, 30, is still handing out Sheltersuits. So far he has distributed 12,500 to homeless people in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, the U.S. and to refugees in Greece. He has inserted Velcro closures at the foot of the sleeping bags so that wearers have more freedom for their feet. The suits are made out of donated and upcycled materials. Manufacturing costs are covered by donations.
The New Leaf project is a joint study started in 2018 by Foundations for Social Change, a Vancouver-based charitable organization, and the University of British Columbia. After giving homeless Lower Mainland residents cash payments of $7,500, researchers checked on them over a year to see how they were faring. All 115 participants, ranging in age between 19 and 64, had been homeless for at least six months. Of those, 50 people were chosen at random to be given the cash, while the others formed a control group that did not receive any money. "I had no expectations and really high hopes," said Claire Williams, CEO of Foundations for Social Change. What researchers found after 12 months, she said, was "beautifully surprising." Not only did those who received the money spend fewer days homeless than those in the control group, they had also moved into stable housing after an average of three months. On average, cash recipients spent 52 per cent of their money on food and rent, 15 per cent on other items such as medications and bills, and 16 per cent on clothes and transportation. In comparison, spending on alcohol, cigarettes and drugs went down, on average, by 39 per cent. [Williams] said it costs, on average, $55,000 annually for social and health services for one homeless individual. According to study data, the project saved the shelter system approximately $8,100 per person for a total of roughly $405,000 over one year for all 50.
A song from South Africa that has gone around the world and been endorsed by presidents and priests has become the sound of the pandemic for millions across southern Africa. Last week the Jerusalema dance challenge was endorsed by President Cyril Ramaphosa. The simple dance routine to the 2019 hit Jerusalema by Master KG and Nomcebo Zikode has provided an uplifting soundtrack for difficult times. In February, as lockdowns began to seem like a possibility, it was a group of friends in Angola who shot a video dancing to the song that sparked the global trend. In the video, over lunch, a group of young men holding plates of food start to demonstrate the dance routine to their female counterparts who then join in. It was followed by another video from Portugal, setting the tone for how international the #JerusalemaDanceChallenge would prove to be. “It is a dance that was done by people from Angola, then Portugal followed and it just went viral from that point,” Master KG said. Clips of dancers across the globe now include nuns, construction workers, police officers, waiters and fuel attendants. Emotional videos of healthcare workers in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Italy, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the US, Australia and Puerto Rico have become an uplifting source of hope for patients fighting Covid-19. Not to be outdone are newly married couples who have used the dance to celebrate their love while the sight of Catholic priests dancing to Jerusalema raised eyebrows among spectators.
Finland has deployed coronavirus-sniffing dogs at the Nordic country’s main international airport in a four-month trial of an alternative testing method that could become a cost-friendly and quick way to identify infected travelers. Four dogs of different breeds trained by Finland’s Smell Detection Association started working Wednesday at the Helsinki Airport as part of the government-financed trial. “It’s a very promising method,” Anna Hielm-Bjorkman, a University of Helsinki ... said. “If it works, it will be a good (coronavirus) screening method at any other places,” she said, listing hospitals, ports, elderly people’s homes, sports venues and cultural events among the possible locations where trained dogs could put their snouts to work. Finland is the second country after the United Arab Emirates - and the first in Europe - to assign dogs to sniff out the coronavirus. Passengers who agree to take a free test under the voluntary program in Helsinki do not have direct physical contact with a dog. They are asked to swipe their skin with a wipe which is then put into a jar and given to a dog waiting in a separate booth. The participating animals - ET, Kossi, Miina and Valo - previously underwent training to detect cancer, diabetes or other diseases. It takes the dog a mere 10 seconds to sniff the virus samples before it gives the test result by scratching a paw, laying down, barking or otherwise making its conclusion known. The process should be completed within one minute, according to Hielm-Bjorkman.
Air pollution in London has plunged since Sadiq Khan became mayor, with a 94% reduction in the number of people living in areas with illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide. The number of schools in such areas has fallen by 97%, from 455 in 2016 to 14 in 2019. Experts described the reductions as dramatic and said they showed the air pollution crisis was not intractable. More than 9,000 people in the capital were dying early each year due to dirty air in 2015. The report from the mayor of London, reviewed by scientists, shows that more than 2 million people in the capital lived with polluted air in 2016, but this fell to 119,000 in 2019. The report, which does not include the further falls in pollution seen after the Covid-19 lockdown began in March, shows levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) by roads in central London fell by 44% between early 2017 and early 2020. The pollution cuts have been achieved by charges that have deterred dirty vehicles from entering the city centre and have driven up the use of cleaner vehicles. Putting low-emission buses on the dirtiest routes, ending the licensing of new diesel taxis and extending the amount of protected space for cycling have also contributed. Prof Stephen Holgate, a special adviser on air quality to the Royal College of Physicians, said: “Air pollution is a scourge on society. What the mayor of London has shown in his first term is that major reductions in toxic pollutants can be achieved and that businesses and the public are willing to make the necessary changes to deliver this.”
Prescription drug prices in the U.S. are expensive. One vial of insulin can cost as much as $450, while the same amount goes for about $30 in Canada. Now, California could make its own generic insulin - and other prescription drugs - through a new law passed this week that aims to increase access to affordable medications. California governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation this week that allows the California Health and Human Services Agency to partner with drug manufacturers in order to make or distribute generic prescription drugs. The bill builds on a plan Newsom first announced in January to increase generic drug manufacturing, which would lower prescription drug costs through a state-sponsored prescription drug label called Cal Rx. Cal Rx wouldn’t be developing new drugs ... just attempting to make cheaper versions of generic drugs, or drugs that aren’t currently covered by a patent. The bill does not specify what prescription drugs the state’s health agency would create or distribute through such partnerships - officials are in the process of identifying potential medications - but it does require a partnership for “at least one form of insulin, provided that a viable pathway for manufacturing a more affordable form of insulin exists at a price that results in savings.” Current U.S. laws allow pharmaceutical manufacturers to set their own prices, which isn’t common practice in other countries. In England ... a government agency negotiates directly with pharmaceutical companies.
In a cavernous room filled with garbage, a giant mechanical claw reaches down and grabs five tons of trash. As a technician in a control room maneuvers the spiderlike crane, the claw drops its moldering harvest down a 10-story shaft into a boiler that is hotter than 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The process continues 24 hours a day to help fuel this power plant run by Tekniska Verken, a municipal government company in LinkĂ¶ping, a city 125 miles south of Stockholm. It is one of Sweden's 34 "waste-to-energy" power plants. Instead of burning coal or gas, this power plant burns trash. Sweden is known for strikingly reducing the trash sent to its landfills. Less than 1 percent of household waste in this Scandinavian country finds it way to landfills, according to Avfall Sverige, the Swedish Waste Management and Recycling association. Trash accounts for a small portion of Sweden's overall power supply; hydro and nuclear energy generate about 83 percent of Sweden's electricity, and wind generates another 7 percent. But garbage supplies much of the heat during cold months for the country's nearly 10 million residents. Energy from trash equals the heating demand of 1.25 million apartments and electricity for 680,000 homes, according to Avfall Sverige. Along with heat and electricity, Tekniska Verken produces methane biogas from 100,000 tons of food and organic waste each year. This biogas runs more than 200 city buses in the county, as well as fleets of garbage collection trucks, and some taxis and private cars.
Note: Why aren't other countries racing to embrace this amazing technology which remediates the huge trash problem? Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
California plans to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars statewide by 2035, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday, in a sweeping move aimed at accelerating the state’s efforts to combat global warming amid a deadly and record-breaking wildfire season. In an executive order, Governor Newsom directed California’s regulators to develop a plan that would require automakers to sell steadily more zero-emissions passenger vehicles in the state, such as battery-powered or hydrogen-powered cars and pickup trucks, until they make up 100 percent of new auto sales in just 15 years. The plan would also set a goal for all heavy-duty trucks on the road in California to be zero emissions by 2045 where possible. And the order directs the state’s transportation agencies to look for near-term actions to reduce Californian’s reliance on driving by, for example, expanding access to mass transit and biking. “This is the next big global industry,” Governor Newsom said at a news conference on Wednesday, referring to clean-energy technologies such as electric vehicles. “And California wants to dominate it.” California has long cast itself as a global leader on climate-change policy, having already passed a law to get 100 percent of its electricity from wind, solar and other sources that don’t produce carbon dioxide by 2045.
When the Main Street Phoenix Project buys a distressed restaurant, it will turn the workers into owners, making the industry more equitable. “The hypothesis was that we needed to accelerate, streamline, and simplify the process of converting to employee ownership,” says Jason Wiener, a partner in the new venture. “This was about taking a traditional, tried-and-true business strategy - the private equity firm - and using the tools of concentration and capital efficiency and deploying it not for the benefit of investors, rather, for the benefit of workers.” As an attorney, Wiener has spent years helping small businesses convert to employee ownership, a process that can raise both profits and worker compensation. But the work was slow, and he realized that the response to the pandemic needed to happen much faster. He was particularly concerned about workers at restaurants, who are often women, people of color, or undocumented, with little savings to survive on if they lose their job. “By bringing new capital to the table, from mission-aligned, patient investors, we could buy businesses at significant value, we can hire their workers back, put them into ownership position, and lock in all of that improved cash flow and all that gain in value for the benefit of workers,” he says. After developing the financial model, the partners are now beginning to raise capital and expect to acquire the first restaurant by the end of the year, with plans to acquire around 25 over the next two years.
New data from Strava, the fitness tracking app used by 68 million global users, shows that several U.S. cities saw significant year-over-year growth in both bike trips and cyclists in much of 2020. Among the six U.S. cities for which Strava provided data, Houston and Los Angeles, two sprawling metropolises where just .5% and 1% of the respective populations biked to work in pre-pandemic times, stand out. In Houston, the total volume of cycling trips ... was 138% higher in May 2020 than in May 2019. In Los Angeles, the jump was 93%. Unlike their peers, these two places also saw cycling increases in April, the first full month of widespread stay-at-home order and economic shutdowns. Yet other major cities saw more people pedaling this spring and summer. After a drop in trips in April, New York City saw a steady rise in cycling in the ensuing months, with nearly 80% year-over-year growth in trips for July. Chicago saw significant, though more modest, increases, with a 34% bump that same month. Research by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control comparing Strava users who track their bike and walking commutes on the app to U.S. Census Bureau commute data has found that Strava is a reliable indicator of how the broader population moves. On Wednesday, the company announced that a web platform that aggregates, de-identifies and analyzes Strava trips on foot or bike is now free for use by urban planners, city governments and street safety advocates who apply.
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.
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.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring disabled persons news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
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.
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.”
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.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles on marine mammals.
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.
Note: Watch a fun and inspiring video of this awesome invention. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring disabled persons news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
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.”
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.
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.
Note: See the beautiful photo at the link above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
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.
Note: Numerous studies are coming out showing that half or more of those who test positive show no symptoms at all, even in a homeless shelter. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
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.”