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
Chocolate curbs stroke in women, study suggests
2011-10-11, CBS News
Posted: 2011-11-01 10:39:03
Chocolate seems to be good for the cardiovascular system - no secret there. Studies have tied the sweet stuff to lower blood pressure, healthier blood vessels, and reduced risk of blood clots. And now Swedish researchers have linked chocolate to a reduced risk for stroke. The scientists found that the women who ate the most chocolate - 66.5 grams a week, or about 2.4 ounces - were 20 percent less likely to have a stroke than the women who never or seldom ate chocolate. The study was published in the October 2011 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. But before you unleash your inner chocoholic, be aware that not all forms of chocolate are thought to be beneficial. Dark chocolate is best because it contains more of the antioxidant-rich cocoa and less sugar and fewer calories than milk chocolate.
Note: For key reports from reliable sources on important health issues, click here.
100-Year-Old Man Completes Marathon
2011-10-17, NBC New York (New York City NBC affiliate)
Posted: 2011-10-25 16:57:49
The most impressive performance at a Toronto marathon Sunday was turned in by the man who came in last place - and is 100 years old. Fauja Singh completed the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in approximately eight hours, making him the oldest person ever to finish one of the 26.2-mile races. It was the eighth marathon for Singh, who was born India in 1911 and did not start running marathons until he was 89, after he moved to England following the death of his wife and son. He says not smoking or drinking alcohol throughout his life, combined with a vegetarian diet and up to 10 miles of walking or running per day are the secrets to his health. The Association of Road Racing Statistician already had Singh as the oldest person to complete a marathon, for one he ran seven years ago. But the Guinness Book of World Records recognized Dimitrion Yordanidis, 98, who ran in Athens in 1976. Singh recently set eight world records for his age group in one day at a special invitational meet in Toronto. He ran the 100 meters in 23.14, 200 meters in 52.23, the 400 meters in 2:13.48, the 800 meters in 5:32.18, the 1500 meters in 11:27.81, the mile in 11:53.45, the 3000 meters in 24:52.47 and the 5000 meters in 49:57.39. "I have said it before: that I will carry on running, as it is keeping me alive," Singh told the marathon website.
Note: Does anyone still believe vegetarianism can't be healthy?
'Magic Mushrooms' Can Improve Psychological Health Long Term
2011-06-16, Time Magazine
Posted: 2011-10-18 17:08:00
The psychedelic drug in magic mushrooms may have lasting medical and spiritual benefits, according to new research from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The mushroom-derived hallucinogen, called psilocybin, is known to trigger transformative spiritual states, but at high doses it can also result in "bad trips" marked by terror and panic. "The important point here is that we found the sweet spot where we can optimize the positive persistent effects and avoid some of the fear and anxiety that can occur and can be quite disruptive," says lead author Roland Griffiths, professor of behavioral biology at Hopkins. Giffiths' study involved 18 healthy adults, average age 46. Nearly all the volunteers were college graduates and 78% participated regularly in religious activities; all were interested in spiritual experience. Fourteen months after participating in the study, 94% of those who received the drug said the experiment was one of the top five most meaningful experiences of their lives; 39% said it was the single most meaningful experience. The participants themselves were not the only ones who saw the benefit from the insights they gained: their friends, family member and colleagues also reported that the psilocybin experience had made the participants calmer, happier and kinder.
Marathon Mom: Pregnant Woman Finishes Race, Delivers Baby
2011-10-10, ABC New
Posted: 2011-10-18 17:06:23
Amber Miller accomplished two monumental feats this weekend. Days from her due date, the 27-year-old joined 45,000 other runners to participate in Sunday's Bank of America Chicago Marathon and then gave birth to a baby girl named June hours later. Miller, an avid runner, said she signed up for the 26.2-mile race before finding out she was pregnant. She said she never expected to finish the race. "I was having a conversation with my parents and said, 'You know what? I have no plans of actually finishing,'" she told reporters at Central DuPage Hospital this morning. "I was planning on running half, skipping to the end, then walking across the finish line." But Miller and her husband started running, and just kept going. They ran part of the race and walked the second half as her contractions started. It took the couple 6.5 hours to finish. She said she grabbed something to eat and the two headed to the hospital. "It was very interesting hearing people's reaction," Miller said about crowds watching an extremely pregnant woman among the runners. "I've been running up to this point anyway, so I'm used to it." At 7 pounds, 13 ounces, baby June entered the world at 10:29 p.m. Sunday, just hours after her parents crossed the finish line.
Tax rich more, Patriotic Millionaires urge
2011-10-03, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Posted: 2011-10-11 10:24:34
Los Altos resident Doug Edwards asked President Obama something that many Americans would consider unthinkable: "Would you please raise my taxes?" Edwards, 53, can afford it. Retired after being amply compensated for being employee No. 59 at Google, he's part of a Bay Area-birthed organization called Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength. The Patriotic Millionaires contend that Americans with incomes over $1 million should shoulder a larger share of the tax burden to pay for Pell Grants, road improvements and training programs "that made it possible for me to get to where I am," as Edwards told Obama during the president's appearance last week at the Mountain View social networking company LinkedIn. Polls say most respondents agree that rich folks should pony up, as the effective tax rates for the wealthiest Americans - what people actually pay after deductions and exemptions - are at their lowest levels since 1960. And the income gap between the wealthiest and poorest Americans is at its widest mark since the Great Depression. Last year, Obama did not live up to his campaign promise to rescind the Bush-era tax cuts on upper-income Americans.
Note: Did you know that the marginal income tax rate on the very rich in the U.S. is the lowest it has been in more than 80 years? Under President Dwight Eisenhower ... it was 91 percent. Now it's 36 percent. For more on this, click here.
An audience with Koko the 'talking' gorilla
2011-09-17, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Posted: 2011-10-11 10:16:24
She knows more than 2,000 words, has friends in high places and loves cats and old films. But in her 40th year, Koko the ‘talking’ gorilla seeks a new challenge – a baby. Koko ... was taught American sign language when she was about a year old. Now 40, she apparently has a working vocabulary of more than 1,000 signs and understands around 2,000 words of spoken English. Forty years on, the Gorilla Foundation’s Koko project has become the longest continuous inter-species communications programme of its kind anywhere in the world. Over the years Koko has inadvertently become a poster child for the gorilla conservation movement. There are several subspecies of gorilla, and today, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, all are either endangered or critically endangered. There are thought to be more than 700 mountain gorillas left in the wild; just under 17,000 eastern lowland gorillas, 10,000 western lowland gorillas, and only 200-or-so Cross River gorillas. All are in sub-Saharan Africa and are threatened by either the illegal trade in bushmeat, loss of habitat due to logging and agricultural expansion, or disease. Some conservationists believe stories like Koko’s ... could be the answer.
Note: For an amazing video of an elephant who has been trained to be an artist, click here.
Do loved ones bid farewell from beyond the grave?
Posted: 2011-10-11 10:14:16
Nina De Santo was about to close her New Jersey hair salon one winter's night when she saw him standing outside the shop's glass front door. It was Michael. He was a soft-spoken customer who'd been going through a brutal patch in his life. She'd listened to his problems, given him pep talks, taken him out for drinks. When De Santo opened the door that Saturday night, Michael was smiling. "Nina, I can't stay long," he said, pausing in the doorway. "I just wanted to stop by and say thank you for everything." They chatted a bit more before Michael left and De Santo went home. On Sunday she received a strange call from a salon employee. Michael's body had been found the previous morning -- at least nine hours before she talked to him at her shop. He had committed suicide. If Michael was dead, who, or what, did she talk to that night? Today, De Santo has a name for what happened that night: "crisis apparition." A crisis apparition is the spirit of a recently deceased person who visits someone they had a close emotional connection with. As they chatted face to face in the doorway of her shop, De Santo said they never touched, never even shook hands. "I'm in a really good place now," she recalled him saying. And when she held the door open for him, he refused to come in. He just chatted before finally saying, "Thanks again, Nina." Michael then smiled at her, turned and walked away into the winter's night.
Note: For an eye-opening documentary with powerful evidence of an afterlife, click here. For lots more inspiring information on life after death, click here.
Slow Money brings slow food values to investing
2011-09-25, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Posted: 2011-10-04 09:31:09
Arno Hesse receives a check each month paying down the principal of a $5,000 loan he made to Soul Food Farm, an organic chicken farm in Vacaville. For the interest? He gets two dozen eggs. Hesse ... is part of a new national organization called Slow Money - an attempt to bring the values of the slow food, sustainable farming movement to the dollar-driven world of investment. Slow Money will hold its third annual conference next month at Fort Mason in San Francisco, where potential investors will hear from a host of environmental speakers and 27 entrepreneurs seeking funding. They'll be looking for equity or loans for [humble] projects, like a slaughterhouse for grass-fed beef or a compost business that describes itself as "purveyors of premium poop." The audience will include ... rank-and-file slow food advocates with as little as $100 or $1,000 to invest. And projects will be funded ... for their commitment to a new, local, community-based model of agriculture and food delivery. "We want to bring money down to earth," said Hesse, who is one of the coordinators of Slow Money's Northern California chapter. "In assessing our investments, we look not just at financial returns but at improving our community and producing better food."
Girl takes Ethiopian kids' 1st photos
2011-09-27, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Posted: 2011-10-04 09:29:13
Sammy Novick has a soccer picture and a class picture for every year since kindergarten, and that's not counting 10 or 15 albums of family photos or the online archive. So she was shocked to learn that that there are places where kids have no soccer picture or class picture or any other kind of picture. Aleta Wondo, Ethiopia, is one of those places. So Novick, [a 17-year-old high school senior,] appointed herself photographer, yearbook editor and oral historian for a school in this coffee bean region. Then she spent five weeks this summer living in a bamboo hut with a straw floor during the African rainy season in order to get the job done. She has two adopted siblings, Batri Novick and Eyasue Novick, who are Ethiopian and arrived with one picture taken of them together at the orphanage. Her parents, John and Tracy Novick, are both active with Common River, a humanitarian organization that built the primary school in "Wondo" as they call it. Months after her trip, she still talks about it everyday with her friends, and when she's not talking about it, she is texting about it. She may forget about her own schoolwork, but she won't forget to finish that yearbook that she promised to deliver to the school in Wondo.
US sees big drop in violence despite economic woes
2011-09-17, MSNBC/Associated Press
Posted: 2011-09-27 11:17:10
The number of violent crimes fell by a surprising 12 percent in the United States last year, a far bigger drop than the nation has been averaging since 2001, the Justice Department said. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported there were 3.8 million violent crimes last year, down from 4.3 million in 2009. Experts aren't sure why. The expectation had been that crime would increase in a weak economy with high unemployment like that seen in 2010. The big drop dwarfs the 3 percent yearly decline in violent crimes the nation averaged from 2001 through 2009. More than 80 percent of the decline in violent crime was attributed to a plunge in simple assaults, by 15 percent. Those assaults accounted for nearly two-thirds of all violent crimes in 2010. The combined total of property crimes and violent crimes was down 6.6 percent last year, from 20 million to 18.7 million. From 1993 through 2010, the rate of violent crime has declined by a whopping 70 percent: from 49.9 violent crimes per 1,000 persons age 12 or older to only 14.9 per 1,000 in 2010.
Note: A 70 percent drop in violent crime in the last 20 years - that's amazing! Why isn't this inspiring news making top headlines? For excellent FBI graphs and more showing this dramatic decrease in crime, click here.
‘Where Children Sleep’
2011-08-04, New York Times
Posted: 2011-09-27 10:43:19
It was a small room, at the top of the house. For a time, it was home to tropical fish. Later, two pet mice slept there, in a home made of fruit crates. The walls of the room were covered with posters of Madonna and Duran Duran. Then it was the Rolling Stones. Then Jimi Hendrix. This was the childhood bedroom in Oxford, England, of James Mollison, 37, a documentary photographer. He had the luxury as a boy of adapting his bedroom to reflect his changing interests. Mr. Mollison’s new book, Where Children Sleep, had its origins in a project undertaken for a children’s charity several years ago. As he considered how to represent needy children around the world, he wanted to avoid the common devices: pleading eyes, toothless smiles. His subjects came from Boy Scout troops and sumo wrestling clubs. They were introduced through friends of friends. Mr. Mollison posed his young subjects — more than 200 of them — in front of blank white backgrounds for their portraits, leaving their bedrooms to do the talking. More than 50 pairings are in the book, which has a glow-in-the-dark cover (a nod to the glow-in-the-dark stars on so many childhood ceilings). As much as the project is about the quirkiness of childhood, it is, more strikingly, a commentary on class and on poverty. But the diversity also provides a sense of togetherness. Everybody sleeps. And eventually, everybody grows up.
Note: Don't miss the moving photo essay at this link. It will only take you a minute or two, yet is quite moving. And for other highly inspiring news articles, click here.
Former Homeless Man's Videos Profile Life On Street
Posted: 2011-09-27 10:28:47
Most people have never walked down the street and looked for homeless people — most look the other way. But not Mark Horvath. A former Hollywood insider, Horvath has been a drug addict, con artist and, for a brief period, homeless. He says he's left that life behind, and these days, he's drawing on his dark past to inspire his Web site — Invisiblepeople.tv. The site is a collection of YouTube-length video profiles of homeless people he's met across the country, and it's become a surprise hit in social media circles. Horvath's style is simple and effective: Let people talk. It's personal for Horvath. Fifteen years ago, he was homeless. He had been fired from a six-figure salary job at a television syndication distribution company. He dabbled in drug dealing and credit card fraud, but neither venture paid very well. He found help, and God, at a faith-based shelter. He cleaned up, moved to the Midwest, and worked for a televangelist. Horvath insists all the money raised goes right back into the Web site. Chris Brogan is the author of Trust Agents, a New York Times bestseller about social media. He says Invisiblepeople.tv marks a new way of supporting a social cause — not through some big non-profit, but directly through one person doing one good thing.
Mary's Meals: feeding the world from a garden shed
2009-01-21, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Posted: 2011-09-20 09:51:06
To Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, his father's shed in Dalmally, Argyll, has acquired a talismanic significance. It's where he stockpiled food and clothes for Bosnian refugees in the 1990s – an amateurish humanitarian mission that eventually led him to sell his house, give up his job and concentrate on the much bigger project of feeding poor children in Third World countries. Mary's Meals ... now provides a daily school meal for 350,000 children across Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe. In Malawi, it feeds 10 per cent of the primary-school population. That one meal – provided for as little as £8.50 a year – is a passport to education and a way out of poverty. The idea of providing school-age children with one good meal a day sprang from the simple wish of a 14-year-old boy in Malawi. Edward was one of five children whose mother was dying of Aids. He told MacFarlane-Barrow that his twin ambitions were to have enough to eat and to go to school. The Scotsman grasped immediately that if the promise of a meal could lure a child to school, then education could offer an escape from dependence. "It is ridiculous", he says, "that people are hungry when you can feed them for so little. There are dangers to growing, but we wouldn't want to put a limit on it, because there is such a momentum. There are millions of children out there who need this desperately. I don't think we could stop it now, even if we wanted to."
Inspiration on wheels: Disabled dogs visit rehab patients
Posted: 2011-09-13 09:24:05
Cruising in their custom wheelchairs, Chili and Arlo are the center of attention wherever they go. But for patients at the Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation in Dallas, these two canine caregivers are also an inspiration. “Many of the patients are new to wheelchairs,” Linda Marler, the program’s director [said]. “When they see Chili and Arlo, they say, ‘If those dogs can do it, so can I.’ ” Chili and Arlo are the only dogs with disabilities among the 90 specially trained therapy dogs that participate in Baylor’s Animal Assisted Therapy program. The canine volunteers make weekly visits to lift the spirits of patients who have suffered traumatic injuries or a stroke. “We use the dogs to create more of a home atmosphere and also to get a response,” Marler said. She’s found that animals will often elicit a reaction when every other method has failed. “For head injury patients, a dog has been the first thing they respond to when emerging from a coma,” Marler said. “For others, being with a dog is what motivates them to speak or throw a ball.” Or use a wheelchair. Marler says some of the patients who had been reluctant to use one are willing to give it a shot after spending time with Arlo and Chili.
Schools chief forgoes $800k in pay
2011-08-29, Boston Globe/Associated Press
Posted: 2011-09-07 10:09:21
Some people give a bit back to their community. Then there’s Fresno County School Superintendent Larry Powell, who is giving back $800,000, his compensation for the next three years. Until his term expires in 2015, Powell will run 325 schools and 35 school districts with 195,000 students, all for less than a starting California teacher earns. “How much do we need to keep accumulating?’’ asks Powell, 63. “There’s no reason for me to keep stockpiling money.’’ Powell’s generosity is more than just a gesture in a region with some of the nation’s highest rates of unemployment. As he prepares for retirement, he wants to ensure that his pet projects survive California budget cuts. And the man who started his career as a high school civics teacher, who has made antibullying his mission, hopes his act of generosity will help restore faith in the government he once taught students to respect. Powell’s answer? Ask his board to allow him to return $288,241 in salary and benefits for the next three and a half years of his term. He technically retired, then agreed to be hired back to work for $31,000 a year - $10,000 less than a first-year teacher - with no benefits.
Tech-savvy Iceland goes online for new constitution
2011-06-12, USA Today/Associated Press
Posted: 2011-08-30 10:57:16
How do you write a new constitution in the 21st century? You go where the people are — online. That was the decision of tiny but tech-savvy Iceland, which is overhauling its constitution in the wake of an economic catastrophe, and has turned to the Internet to get input from citizens. The 25-member council drafting the new constitution is reaching out to Icelanders online, especially through social media sites Facebook and Twitter, video-sharing site YouTube and photo site Flickr. Iceland's population of 320,000 is among the world's most computer-literate. Two-thirds of Icelanders are on Facebook, so the constitutional council's weekly meetings are broadcast live on the social networking site as well as on the council's website. "To me, it has long been clear that a comprehensive review of the constitution would only be carried out with the direct participation of the Icelandic people," said Iceland's Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, one of the champions of the constitutional review since taking office in 2009. The 25 members of the constitutional council were elected by popular vote from a field of 522 candidates aged 18 and over. The council is basing its work on a 700-page report prepared by a committee that took into account the findings of 950 randomly selected Icelanders — the National Forum — who met for a day to discuss the division of powers, conservation and protection, foreign relations and more.
Note: The media has given little coverage to how Iceland's public has repeatedly rejected strong pressure from international banks to buckle to their demands. For a great article going into this, click here.
Extreme do-gooders – what makes them tick?
2009-09-07, Christian Science Monitor
Posted: 2011-08-23 14:35:22
Most people in the world, it's fair to say, want to do a little good. At the very least, we try to follow a kind of secular golden rule: Try to do no harm. But in our communities and around the world, there's a kind of person who takes all this further – to an extreme, even. They're called, most often, "social entrepreneurs," and some of them have become famous, at least in certain circles: Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is revered in do-good financial circles for pioneering microfinance, a lending system for the very poor. From protecting our natural environment to improving our children's education to combating global poverty and disease, we've come to rely on extreme do-gooders to tackle the world's toughest problems. And they're happy to do so, even though their dedication will cost them in the long run. What makes these people tick, and how do they sustain a lifetime of commitment to a change that might take generations to see? Social entrepreneurs seem to think in terms of everything except sacrifice. "I've interviewed several hundred social entrepreneurs over the last 15 years," says David Bornstein, author of How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, "and the thing that struck me is how little they think about sacrifice, ... and how much their lives are about really doing something that gives them extraordinary joy and satisfaction when they're successful."
'I feel like I've saved a life': the women clearing Lebanon of cluster bombs
2011-08-12, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Posted: 2011-08-16 10:42:33
Only up close does it become clear that some of the bulky figures in armoured vests scouring the fields of southern Lebanon for unexploded cluster bombs are wearing hijabs under their protective helmets. Once local teachers, nurses and housewives, this group of women are now fully trained to search for mines and make up the only all-female clearance team in Lebanon, combing the undergrowth inch by inch for the remnants of one of the most indiscriminate weapons of modern warfare. Leading the women in the field is Lamis Zein, a 33-year-old divorced mother of two and the team's supervisor. She was one of the first recruits for the team, which was set up by the de-mining NGO Norwegian People's Aid. "We are good at what we do and we are showing that women can do any kind of job," [said Zein]. Their painstaking task became necessary five years ago this week, after Israel rained cluster munitions on southern Lebanon to a degree the UN condemned as a "flagrant violation of international law". The women's team works in tandem with other teams of searchers, all co-ordinated by the Lebanese army, to clear up the unexploded ordnance that still litters the countryside. "Women are more patient than men," said Zein. "That is why we are good at this job. We work more slowly – and maybe we are a little more afraid than men."
ABC: What it's like to experience a brush with death
2011-08-03, ABC15 (Phoenix ABC affiliate)
Posted: 2011-08-16 10:36:18
ABC’s Bob Woodruff probed the mysteries of near death experiences – including his own – in a special “Primetime Nightline.” ABC15 spoke with Woodruff. He told us so many people he interviewed for the story had an out-of-body experience, similar to his own when his group was hit by an IED 5 years ago while covering the war in Iraq. He told us when he woke up 36 days later he remembered seeing his body floating below him. Woodruff says others he spoke with describe experiences like his, but the thing he found interesting was, all of them say they weren’t scared. “Everyone said it was comfort, there was a lack of fear, and certainly no pain. All of them share that, no matter who they are that’s gone through this and it’s very, very interesting.” Woodruff also spoke with several doctors and scientists, who don’t necessarily reject these out-of-body experiences, but they’re just looking for answers. ABC15 wanted to know, how the people he interviewed felt about coming back to this world. Woodruff says, “Almost everybody said not only that they thought about staying, but generally wanted to stay. I, in some ways, was fine with staying.”
Washington Boy Says He Spoke to God After Flesh-Eating Bacteria Threatened Life
2011-08-02, ABC News Nightline
Posted: 2011-08-10 09:37:46
For a parent, it was unthinkable and terrifying -- a simple split lip that suddenly erupted into a disfiguring, life-threatening infection in a sweet-faced 5-year-old boy. But while Jake Finkbonner's mother and father spent days fearing their son would die, Jake at one point found himself experiencing something he said was beautiful. "I was in heaven and I spoke to God," the boy, now 11, said. Doctors determined that Jake had been infected with a rare, flesh-eating bacteria -- necrotizing fasciitis -- that had entered the cut on Jake's face and spread like wildfire, literally eating away at his face. Jake said that, at one point, his body felt so light that he could almost "lift off." It was then, he said, that he had a vision. "I was able to look down at the hospital. I saw my family. And then I went back to the house where I saw my family," he said. "The only thing is, I didn't see myself." Jake said he spoke to God, who sat in a high chair and was very tall. "He wasn't the size of a normal person," he said. He said he was enjoying himself so much that he asked God if he could stay, "but he said that my family needed me ... and he sent me back down." Jake said that these days, he sometimes finds himself thinking about heaven before he goes to bed. He has advice for others facing life-threatening illnesses. "Don't be scared at all," he said. "Either way, it will be a good way. If you go to heaven, you'll be in a better place -- if you live, you'll be back with your family."