Inspirational News StoriesExcerpts of Key Inspirational News Stories in Major Media
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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."
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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].
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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."
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.