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