Inspirational News StoriesExcerpts of Key Inspirational News Stories in Major Media
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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."
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