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