This comprehensive list of inspiring news stories is usually updated once a week
. For an index to revealing excerpts of news stories on several dozen engaging topics, click here
But Will It Make You Happy?
2010-08-08, New York Times
Posted: 2010-08-17 09:43:38
A two-bedroom apartment. Two cars. Enough wedding china to serve two dozen people. Yet Tammy Strobel wasn’t happy. Working as a project manager with an investment management firm in Davis, Calif., and making about $40,000 a year, she was, as she put it, caught in the “work-spend treadmill.” So one day she stepped off. Inspired by books and blog entries about living simply, Ms. Strobel and her husband, Logan Smith, both 31, began donating some of their belongings to charity. Emboldened by a Web site that challenges consumers to live with just 100 personal items, Ms. Strobel winnowed down her wardrobe and toiletries to precisely that number. Today, three years after Ms. Strobel and Mr. Smith began downsizing, they live in Portland, Ore., in a spare, 400-square-foot studio with a nice-sized kitchen. She owns four plates, three pairs of shoes and two pots. With Mr. Smith in his final weeks of school, Ms. Strobel’s income of about $24,000 a year covers their bills. “The idea that you need to go bigger to be happy is false,” she says. “I really believe that the acquisition of material goods doesn’t bring about happiness. Give away some of your stuff,” she advises. “See how it feels.”
Argentina legalizes gay marriage in historic vote
2010-07-15, MSNBC/Associated Press
Posted: 2010-07-27 08:07:33
Argentina legalized same-sex marriage [on July 15], becoming the first country in Latin America to declare that gays and lesbians have all the legal rights, responsibilities and protections that marriage brings to heterosexual couples. The law is sure to bring a wave of marriages by gays and lesbians who have found Buenos Aires to be a welcoming place to live. But same-sex couples from other countries shouldn't rush their Argentine wedding plans, since only citizens and residents can wed in the country, and the necessary documents can take months to obtain. While it makes some amendments to the civil code, many other aspects of family law will have to be changed. Nine gay couples had already married in Argentina after persuading judges that the constitutional mandate of equality supports their marriage rights, although their validity was later challenged by other judges. Congressional passage now removes that doubt. When the final vote came, cheers and hugs broke out among the bill's supporters. Sen. Norma Morandini ... compared the discrimination closeted gays face to the oppression imposed by Argentina's dictators decades ago. "What defines us is our humanity, and what runs against humanity is intolerance," she said.
Number of volunteers has grown despite recession, study says
2010-06-15, Washington Post
Posted: 2010-06-20 18:07:32
The number of volunteers increased last year despite the recession, the biggest one-year jump since 2003. The volunteer rate has been rising nationally for years, ... but the increase in the midst of a punishing recession surprised some experts. More than 63 million Americans volunteered last year, a bump of 1.6 million, according to the Corporation for National & Community Service, an independent federal agency that runs AmeriCorps and other programs. That's nearly 27 percent of all residents. Americans donated more than 8 billion hours of service in 2009, worth an estimated $169 billion to the economy. "Folks throughout the country are looking around their communities, seeing people in pain and turning toward the problems, not away from them," said Patrick Corvington, chief executive of CNCS. "It's an important shift: Folks want to get engaged, want to make a difference." At the same time, charitable giving dropped nearly 4 percent last year, to about $304 billion, according to a study by Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. Many experts had predicted a greater drop because of the economy.
70 years without eating? 'Starving yogi' says it's true
Posted: 2010-05-31 22:44:03
Prahlad Jani, an 82-year-old Indian yogi, is making headlines by claims that for the past 70 years he has had nothing -- not one calorie -- to eat and not one drop of liquid to drink. To test his claims, Indian military doctors put him under round-the-clock observation during a two-week hospital stay that ended last week, news reports say. During that time he didn't ingest any food or water – and remained perfectly healthy, the researchers said. But that's simply impossible, said Dr. Michael Van Rooyen, ... the director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative – which focuses on aid to displaced populations who lack food and water. Van Rooyen said he's clearly getting fluid somehow. Jani, dubbed "the starving yogi" by some, did have limited contact with water while gargling and periodically bathing, reported the news wire service AFP.
Note: Military doctors had this man under 24-hour observation for two weeks, yet doctors not involved with the investigation claim it's impossible. How sad that many scientists can't accept the possibility of miracles.
Crime rates down for third year, despite recession
2010-05-24, MSNBC/Associated Press
Posted: 2010-05-31 22:41:10
Crime in the United States dropped dramatically in 2009, bucking a historical trend that links rising crime rates to economic woes. Property crimes and violent offenses each declined about 5 percent, the FBI said. It was the third straight year of declines, and this year's drops were even steeper than those of 2007 and 2008, despite the recession. Last year's decline was 5.5 percent for violent crime, including 7.2 percent for murders. The rate for property crime was down 4.9 percent, the seventh consecutive drop for that category. The declines had been a more modest 1.9 percent for violent crime and 0.8 percent for property crime in 2008 and 0.7 percent and 1.4 percent respectively the previous year.
Note: What this report completely fails to mention is that government statistic show that violent crime is down over 50% since 1994! Why do the major media consistently fail to report this awesome news? For reliable, verifiable on this, click here.
Global Death Rates Drop for Children 5 or Younger
2010-05-24, New York Times
Posted: 2010-05-31 22:38:33
Death rates in children under 5 are dropping in many countries at a surprisingly fast pace, according to a new report based on data from 187 countries from 1970 to 2010.
Worldwide, 7.7 million children are expected to die this year — still an enormous number, but a vast improvement over the 1990 figure of 11.9 million. On average, death rates have dropped by about 2 percent a year from 1990 to 2010, and in many regions, even some of the poorest in Africa, the declines have started to accelerate, according to the report [in] The Lancet, a medical journal. Some parts of Latin America, north Africa and the Middle East have had declines as steep as 6 percent a year. Health experts say the figures mean that global efforts to save children’s lives have started working, better and faster than expected.
Vaccines, AIDS medicines, vitamin A supplements, better treatment of diarrhea and pneumonia, insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria and more education for women are among the factors that have helped lower death rates, said Dr. Christopher J. L. Murray, an author of the report [from] the University of Washington, in Seattle.
State first lady adds good humor to conference
2010-05-21, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Posted: 2010-05-24 20:33:45
California first lady Maria Shriver told 1,000-odd attendees at the Microfinance USA 2010 conference in San Francisco. "Maybe I need a loan, too." Actually, she admitted offstage, her 2-year-old company, Lovin' Scoopful, whose "gourmet light" ice cream is on grocery shelves in 22 states, is doing quite well. And Shriver was at the conference to give rather than receive. Not only to cheer on the burgeoning microfinance movement, but to give $300,000 from her nonprofit Women's Conference organization to various microfinance organizations, including San Francisco's Kiva.org - Shriver heads one of its "lending teams" - and San Jose's Opportunity Fund, which put on the two-day conference. But that was a small tip of the growing amount of serious money flowing into the sector. "Banks, especially since they've come under more scrutiny, realize getting involved in microfinance is good business," said Premal Shah, president of Kiva. "Bringing more people into the economic mainstream ultimately brings them more customers." But with the coming of age also come pitfalls, as Kiva and others have found. A New York Times story last month ... about the seemingly usurious rates of interest some lenders were charging created a stir in the microfinance community.
Note: To learn more about how you can help to end poverty through investing in microloans, click here.
2010-05-03, Los Angeles Times
Posted: 2010-05-10 13:45:47
Scientists are just beginning to understand the effect lifestyle choices and other environmental factors have on altering gene behavior, a rapidly emerging field called epigenetics. Your life story depends upon a combination of the DNA you're stuck with plus your environment, including all the little choices and events that happen over that lifetime. But in recent years, researchers have discovered that, while DNA lays out the options, many of those life experiences — the foods you eat, the stresses you endure, the toxins you're exposed to — physically affect the DNA and tell it more precisely what to do. The cause: a kind of secondary code carried along with the DNA. Called the "epigenome," this code is a set of chemical marks, attached to genes, that act like DNA referees. They turn off some genes and let others do their thing. And although the epigenome is pretty stable, it can change — meaning lifestyle choices such as diet and drug use could have lasting effects on how the body works. "The thing I love about epigenetics is that you have the potential to alter your destiny," says Randy Jirtle, who studies epigenetics at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. Jirtle compares the system to a computer: The DNA is the hardware — set and unchanging — and the epigenome is the software that tells it when, where and how to work.
Note: For a fascinating article by DNA researcher Bruce Lipton delving into the intriguing finding that our DNA can be altered by our life choices, click here.
Man claims to have had no food or drink for 70 years
2010-04-28, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Posted: 2010-05-10 13:43:21
Indian military scientists are studying an 82-year-old who claims he has not had any food or drink for 70 years. Prahlad Jani is being held in isolation in a hospital in Ahmedabad, Gurjarat, where he is being closely monitored by India's defence research organization, who believe he may have a genuine quality which could help save lives. He has now spent six days without food or water under strict observation and doctors say his body has not yet shown any adverse effects from hunger or dehydration. Mr Jani ... is regarded as a 'breatharian' who can live on a 'spiritual life-force' alone. He believes he is sustained by a goddess who pours an 'elixir' through a hole in his palate. His claims have been supported by an Indian doctor who specializes in studies of people who claim supernatural abilities. So far, Mr Prahlad appears to be standing up to scrutiny. He has not eaten or drunk any fluids in six days, and similarly has not passed urine or a stool in that time. He remains fit and healthy and shows no sign of lethargy. According to Dr Sudhir Shah, who examined him in 2003, he went without food or water for ten days in which urine appeared to be reabsorbed by his body after forming in his bladder. Doubts were expressed about his claim after his weight fell slightly at the end of the trial.
Note: To read an intriguing BBC News article about the 2003 study of this remarkable man, click here.
Norway Builds the World's Most Humane Prison
2010-05-10, Time magazine
Posted: 2010-05-10 13:40:05
Ten years and 1.5 billion Norwegian kroner ($252 million) in the making, [Halden Fengsel, Norway's newest prison,] is spread over 75 acres (30 hectares) of gently sloping forest in southeastern Norway. The facility boasts amenities like a sound studio, jogging trails and a freestanding two-bedroom house where inmates can host their families during overnight visits. The scent of orange sorbet emanates from the "kitchen laboratory" where inmates take cooking courses. "In the Norwegian prison system, there's a focus on human rights and respect," says Are Hoidal, the prison's governor. "We don't see any of this as unusual." Halden ... embodies the guiding principles of the country's penal system: that repressive prisons do not work and that treating prisoners humanely boosts their chances of reintegrating into society. "When they arrive, many of them are in bad shape," Hoidal says, noting that Halden houses drug dealers, murderers and rapists, among others. "We want to build them up, give them confidence through education and work and have them leave as better people." Within two years of their release, 20% of Norway's prisoners end up back in jail. In the U.K. and the U.S., the figure hovers between 50% and 60%.
Green MBA degrees sprout up on campuses
2010-04-21, San Francisco Chronicle
Posted: 2010-04-25 21:36:33
"Green" no longer just symbolizes money at business schools. So-called green MBAs - master of business administration programs that focus on sustainability - are a fast-growing part of the academic landscape, incorporating sustainability into all coursework.
The [San Francisco] Bay Area is home to two pioneering programs that grant green MBAs - the Presidio Graduate School (www.presidioedu.org) with a campus in San Francisco's Presidio, and the Green MBA program (www.greenmba.com) at Dominican University in San Rafael. Other local MBA programs increasingly are going green, too. Stanford ranks No. 4, and UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business No. 6 in "Beyond Grey Pinstripes," a biannual ranking that spotlights MBA programs that integrate social, environmental and ethical issues. Green MBA programs say they teach students to pay attention to the triple bottom line - people, profits and planet. Graduates of local green MBA programs [are] trying to use their degrees as a force for positive change.
Note: Click on the Chronicle link above to read the interviews with successful "Green MBAs".
'Life's Purpose' author Eckhart Tolle is serene, critics less so
2010-04-15, USA Today
Posted: 2010-04-25 21:32:56
Are you weighted down by your past? Anxious about tomorrow? Stewing over how to face today? Stop. Drop those thoughts. Breathe. Be still. Just be. Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle will tell you this is the ultimate path to inner peace, available to you any time. All you have to do is let go of all your thoughts. Of course, that's a lot trickier than it sounds. Hence, Tolle's soaring popularity as a guide to living in the present un-tense. His most recent book, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose, a sequel to his earlier best seller, The Power of Now, has sold 6 million copies. When Oprah Winfrey read it, she was so inspired that she invited him to co-host a 10-week set of Internet seminars on how to simply be. So far, 35 million people worldwide have viewed these "webinars." In July, he launched Tolle TV, an Internet channel featuring his videotaped teachings and meditations. Subscriptions to Tolle TV, at $14.95 to $19.95 a month, cost less than a movie and popcorn, and a growing amount of the content — his lectures, teachings and meditations — is free. Most of the proceeds of his books and teaching tours are plowed back into Tolle TV's elaborate professional productions, or the overhead for lecture halls.
Hallucinogens Have Doctors Tuning In Again
2010-04-11, New York Times
Posted: 2010-04-19 00:10:41
Scientists are taking a new look at hallucinogens, which became taboo among regulators after enthusiasts like Timothy Leary promoted them in the 1960s with the slogan ï¿½Turn on, tune in, drop out.ï¿½ Now, using rigorous protocols and safeguards, scientists have won permission to study once again the drugsï¿½ potential for treating mental problems and illuminating the nature of consciousness. Researchers from around the world are gathering this week in San Jose, Calif., for the largest conference on psychedelic science held in the United States in four decades. They plan to discuss studies of psilocybin and other psychedelics for treating depression in cancer patients, obsessive-compulsive disorder, end-of-life anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction to drugs or alcohol. Scientists are especially intrigued by the similarities between hallucinogenic experiences and the life-changing revelations reported throughout history by religious mystics and those who meditate. These similarities have been identified in neural imaging studies conducted by Swiss researchers and in experiments led by Roland Griffiths, a professor of behavioral biology at Johns Hopkins. In one of Dr. Griffithsï¿½s first studies, involving 36 people with no serious physical or emotional problems, he and colleagues found that psilocybin could induce what the experimental subjects described as a profound spiritual experience with lasting positive effects for most of them.
Note: For key reports on health issues from reliable sources, click here.
Croatian teenager wakes from coma speaking fluent German
2010-04-12, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Posted: 2010-04-18 23:56:20
A 13-year-old Croatian girl who fell into a coma woke up speaking fluent German. The girl, from the southern town of Knin, had only just started studying German at school and had been reading German books and watching German TV to become better, but was by no means fluent, according to her parents. Since waking up from her 24-hour coma however, she has been unable to speak Croatian, but is able to communicate perfectly in German. Doctors at Split's KB Hospital claim that the case is so unusual, various experts have examined the girl as they try to find out what triggered the change. Hospital director Dujomir Marasovic said: "You never know when recovering from such a trauma how the brain will react." Psychiatric expert Dr Mijo Milas added: "In earlier times this would have been referred to as a miracle, we prefer to think that there must be a logical explanation – its just that we haven't found it yet. There are references to cases where people who have been seriously ill and perhaps in a coma have woken up being able to speak other languages – sometimes even the Biblical languages such as that spoken in old Babylon or Egypt – at the moment though any speculation would remain just that – speculation – so it's better to continue tests until we actually know something."
Nepalese doc is ‘God of Sight’ to nation’s poor
2010-03-21, MSNBC/Associated Press
Posted: 2010-04-04 23:41:59
For nearly a year, cataracts have clouded out all sight from the 70-year-old grandmother's world. With no money, she assumed she'd die alone in darkness. But now she waits quietly outside the operating room for her turn to meet Nepal's God of Sight. More than 500 others — most of whom have never seen a doctor before — have traveled for days by bicycle, motorbike, bus and even on their relatives' backs to reach Dr. Sanduk Ruit's mobile eye camp. Each hopes for the miracle promised in radio ads by the Nepalese master surgeon: He is able to poke, slice and pull the grape-like jelly masses out of an eye, then refill it with a tiny artificial lens, in about five minutes. It's an assembly-line approach to curing blindness that's possible thanks to a simple surgical technique Ruit pioneered, allowing cataracts to be removed safely without stitches through two small incisions. Once condemned by the international medical community as unthinkable and reckless, this mass surgery "in the bush" started spreading from Nepal to poor countries worldwide nearly two decades ago. Thousands of doctors — from North Korea to Nicaragua to Nigeria — have since been trained to train others, with the hope of slowly lessening the leading cause of blindness that affects 18 million people worldwide. No one pays for anything, and the entire cost is about $25 per surgery. That's $12,750 for all 510 patients, equal to only about three or four surgeries in the U.S.
Meet the girl with half a brain
Posted: 2010-03-28 19:58:28
For three years, little Cameron Mott’s life was a nightmarish succession of violent seizures that consumed her days and threatened her life. Finally, doctors told her parents there was a way to stop them: All they had to do was remove half of Cameron’s brain. “It was very scary, because you just can’t imagine what your child will be like after such a dramatic brain surgery,” Shelly Mott, [Cameron's mother, said.] Doctors put a name on [Cameron's] condition: Rasmussen’s syndrome, a condition that causes the destruction of one side of the brain. The solution was radical. It’s called a hemispherectomy, which means the removal of half of the brain. Since the left side of the body is controlled by the right side of the brain, doctors knew that Cameron would be paralyzed on her left side when she awoke. But they also knew that the brains of children have amazing abilities to rewire themselves. Cameron was immobilized for the first two days after the surgery to allow her brain to stabilize. Then she went into an intensive physical therapy program. Four weeks after the surgery, she walked out of the hospital. The agonizing decision the Motts had had to make turned out to be right. Cameron was able to return to school, where she is now in the second grade and a good student. Her physical therapy sessions have just recently ended, and she can run and play. “I want to be a ballerina when I grow up,” Cameron said.
Math Wiz Adds Web Tools to Take Education to New Limits
2010-02-22, PBS Newshour
Posted: 2010-03-15 22:32:41
Thirty-three-year-old Salman Khan recently quit his job as a hedge fund analyst to devote himself to an unpaid job teaching math on the Internet. He has posted 1,200 lessons on YouTube, which appear on an electronic blackboard, and range in subject from basic addition and advanced calculus to science and finance. And they are free. Khan lives in California's Silicon Valley with his wife, a rheumatologist in training at Stanford, and their new baby. He got the idea for Khan Academy four years ago, when he taught a young cousin how to convert kilograms to grams. Many American students have trouble with math, and studies show they lag behind their counterparts in Asia and Europe in both math and science. With Khan's help, his cousin got good at math, and he eventually had a new career tapping into anxieties around the world. Now he records his lessons from a converted closet in the back of his bedroom. Internet instruction, be it the Khan Academy or taped university lectures, could revolutionize education in remote Third World locations, where access to high-quality instruction is frequently unavailable.
Note: To visit the Khan Academy website, click here.
Norway conquers infections by cutting use of antibiotics
2010-01-11, Miami Herald/Associated Press
Posted: 2010-03-08 04:31:32
At a microscopic level [Aker University Hospital] is pristine. There is no sign of a dangerous and contagious staph infection that killed tens of thousands of patients in the most sophisticated hospitals of Europe, North America and Asia last year, soaring virtually unchecked. The reason: Norwegians stopped taking so many drugs. Twenty-five years ago, Norwegians were also losing their lives to this bacteria. But Norway's public health system fought back with an aggressive program that made it the most infection-free country in the world. A key part of that program was cutting back severely on the use of antibiotics. Now a spate of new studies from around the world prove that Norway's model can be replicated with extraordinary success, and public health experts are saying these deaths -- 19,000 in the U.S. each year alone, more than from AIDS -- are unnecessary. The World Health Organization says antibiotic resistance is one of the leading public health threats on the planet. A six-month investigation by The Associated Press found overuse and misuse of medicines has led to mutations in once curable diseases like tuberculosis and malaria, making them harder and in some cases impossible to treat. Now, in Norway's simple solution, there's a glimmer of hope.'
Note: For many key reports from reliable sources on important health issues, click here.
The commons don't have to be a tragedy
2009-10-12, Forbes magazine
Posted: 2010-03-08 04:26:24
While many economists [have long assumed] that collective action [doesn't] work, several decades ago the Indiana University ... political scientist [Elinor Ostrom] began to study when and why it did work. [Now,] her efforts [have] won her the 2009 Nobel economics prize. "What Ostrom showed was that a lot of ordinary ... people who'd never read about free rider problems basically developed institutional arrangements," says Nancy Folbre, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Groups of fishermen figured out how to limit their catch, while farmers collaborated on irrigation problems. "Sure there's a free-rider problem, but people turn around and find ways to solve it," Folbre says. Ostrom ... looked at other institutional successes, studying group-run fisheries, pastures, woods and lakes, to conclude that "outcomes are, more often than not, better than predicted by standard theories." She "challenged the conventional wisdom that common property is poorly managed and should be either regulated by central authorities or privatized," the Nobel committee said. Why did other economists miss this part of the picture? "Economists didn't pay attention to ethnography," Folbre says--that is, they didn't observe actual people at work. "Why go out in the field when you have a nice theory?"
Note: Elinor Ostrom was also the first woman to win the Nobel in economics, as described in this CNN article.
Owner of Multi-Million Dollar Company Hands Over Business to Employees
2010-02-18, ABC News
Posted: 2010-03-03 22:22:53
Before the words "whole grain" and "organic" became part of Americans' everyday vocabulary, Bob Moore knew the importance of healthful eating. In 1978, he started Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods, as a small family-run business in Oregon selling stone mill-ground whole grains. The company has since grown into a multi-million dollar business that sells more than 400 whole grain products including flours, hot cereals, and organic and gluten-free products. Moore's work is a way of life and his employees are a second family, which is why he announced this week that he's handing over the keys to his 209 employees. Moore said he's gotten countless buy-out offers over the years, but he couldn't envision selling the business to a stranger. "It's the only business decision that I could make," he said. "I don't think there's anybody worthy to run this company but the people who built it. I have employees with me right now that have been with me for 30 years. They just were committed to staying with me now and they're going to own the company." The company will now be run by an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) -- the idea being that a company's stock is put in a retirement plan for its employees, but the stock is never held or bought directly by individuals. When a vested employee retires, he can pull out money from the trust.