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Inspiring News Stories
Excerpts of Highly Inspiring News Stories in Major Media


Below are one-paragraph excerpts of highly inspiring news stories from the major media. Links are provided to the original stories on their media websites. If any link fails to function, click here. The inspiring news story summaries most recently posted here are listed first. You can explore the same list with the most inspiring stories listed first. See also a concise list providing headlines and links to a number of highly inspiring stories. May these articles inspire us to find ever more ways to love and support each other and all around us to be the very best we can be.


Note: This comprehensive list of inspiring news stories is usually updated once a week. See also a full index to revealing excerpts of key news articles on several dozen engaging topics.

Scientists Have Created Synthetic Sponges That Soak Up Microplastics
2023-10-05, Smithsonian Magazine
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/scientists-have-created-synthetic-s...

For millennia, humans have used dried natural sponges to clean up, to paint and as vessels to consume fluids like water or honey. Whether synthetic or natural, sponges are great at ensnaring tiny particles in their many pores. And, as scientists around the world are beginning to show, sponges' cavity-filled forms mean they could provide a solution to one of our era's biggest scourges: microplastic pollution. In August, researchers in China published a study describing their development of a synthetic sponge that makes short work of microscopic plastic debris. In tests, the researchers show that when a specially prepared plastic-filled solution is pushed through one of their sponges, the sponge can remove both microplastics and even smaller nanoplastics from the liquid. Optimal conditions allowed the researchers to remove as much as 90 percent of the microplastics. The plastic-gobbling sponges are made mostly from starch and gelatin. Looking a bit like large white marshmallows, the biodegradable sponges are so light that balancing one atop a flower leaves the plant's petals upright and unyielding, which the researchers suggest ought to make them cheap and easy to transport. The sponges, if ever produced at an industrial scale ... could be used in wastewater treatment plants to filter microplastics out of the water or in food production facilities to decontaminate water. It would also be possible to use microplastic-trapping sponges like this in washing machines.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


The EU Just Banned Microplastics. How Are Companies Replacing Them?
2023-11-16, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/microplastics-europe-ban-natural-alternatives/

Microplastics – solid plastic particles up to five millimeters in size that are not biodegradable – are pretty much everywhere. They have been detected in over 1,500 different marine animal species. They also find their way into our bodies via the water cycle and the food chain. In fact, the average person consumes up to five grams of microplastics per week. The European Union has now banned intentionally added microplastics. This applies to plastic glitter or polyethylene particles used as abrasives in scrubs, shower gel and toothpaste (these have been banned in the US since the 2015 Microbead-Free Waters Act). Under the terms of the ban, some products, such as plastic glitter found in creams or eye shadow, have been granted a transitional period to give manufacturers a chance to develop new designs. LUSH and The Body Shop are among the companies that have long been offering natural alternatives, using ground nuts, bamboo, sea salt and sugar. Beiersdorf AG ... has not used microbeads for exfoliation purposes since 2015. Instead, it has used, for example, cellulose particles or shredded apricot kernels. Since the end of 2019, all Beiersdorf wash-off products have been free of microplastics. Before the EU ban, Germany stopped providing public funding for artificial turf pitches with granules containing a high proportion of microplastic. As a result, the country already has hundreds of pitches that are filled with cork and sand instead of microplastics.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


US cancer patient's dying wish erases $16m in people's medical debt
2023-11-17, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-67459257

A New York City woman who died of ovarian cancer has raised enough money to pay off millions of dollars in other people's medical debts. In a social media post she arranged to be posted after her death, Casey McIntyre, 38, asked followers to consider donating to her cause. She said she planned to pay off other people's medical debt as a way of celebrating her life. She wrote on social media: "if you're reading this I have passed away." "I loved each and every one of you with my whole heart and I promise you, I knew how deeply I was loved... to celebrate my life, I've arranged to buy up others' medical debt and then destroy the debt." She added that she was lucky to have access to high-quality medical care while battling stage four ovarian cancer and wanted others to have the same. McIntyre and her family ... raised over $170,000 (Ł136,000) for her campaign with non-profit RIP Medical Debt. The organisation pays off a dollar of medical debt for every penny that is donated, meaning McIntyre's campaign has helped erase up to $17m in unpaid medical bills. The organisation says it buys medical debt "in bundled portfolios, millions of dollars at a time at a fraction of the original cost". "On average, whatever you donate has 100x the impact," it says on its website. In the social media post announcing her own death, McIntyre's family included a note that they would have a memorial service ... where they would celebrate her life by anonymously purchasing and forgiving other's medical debt.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Lessons from brain science – and history's peacemakers – for resolving conflicts
2023-11-04, NPR
https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2023/11/04/1209395551/argument-us-i...

Tim Phillips, a veteran conflict-resolution expert, helped negotiate some of the most fraught conflicts in modern history – ceasefires of religious clashes in Northern Ireland and the establishment of what became South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission after apartheid. Defusing an escalating situation ... first requires releasing a brain hijacked by defensive emotion. Phillips says it means saying to your opponent, for example: "I understand how important this is to you; I understand this is core to your identity and your community, and I respect your sacred values." It means reflecting your opponent's humanity back to them. A similar approach, he says, can help reduce toxic polarization. It's effective because in the heat of argument, people tend to demonize one another; counteracting that can neutralize assumptions of negative intent. Phillips says he's seen people emotionally disarm the opposition in a disagreement simply by recognizing their humanity. It can bring together fierce adversaries, and change history. Shirley Chisholm, the first Black congresswoman in the U.S., was battling for the Democratic presidential nomination with political rival ... George Wallace, a fierce segregationist. After he was shot in an attempted assassination, Chisholm visited him in the hospital and prayed at his bedside. "Wallace's daughter later said that that gesture of compassion completely changed her father," Phillips says. Wallace reportedly wept openly, and shifted his stance on racial segregation.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


How the Korean Concept of "Han" Teaches Solidarity
2022-08-04, Yes! Magazine
https://www.yesmagazine.org/opinion/2022/08/04/korean-concept-han-solidarity-...

At the heart of the Korean spirit is a concept called "Han." I define Han as "irreparable sorrow." A more accurate definition might be achieved by describing how Han expresses itself–through storytelling, song, poetry, prayer. It is the language of humanity. Suh Nam-Dong, one of the founders of Korean minjung liberation theology, described Han as "a feeling of unresolved resentment against injustices suffered, a sense of helplessness because of the overwhelming odds against one, a feeling of acute pain in one's guts and bowels, making the whole body writhe and squirm, and an obstinate urge to take revenge and to right the wrong–all these combined." What is omitted from such definitions, though, is the very quality that makes Han transcendent; that is, the poeticization of these profound feelings of grief and loss. It gives us a common song. That is why the African American tradition of blues serves as a great model for resilience–joy, even–in the face of unimaginable adversity. It is all the sorrows of the world experienced in communion with others. Communion and fellowship are what will get us through, no matter what the bastards do. I also think of my Quaker grandmother, Elinor Ashkenazy, who helped organize the peace boat, the Golden Rule, in the 1950s. The tiny ketch first set sail across the Pacific in 1958 with the intention of stopping the U.S. from dropping atomic bombs on the Marshall Islands. Its story was another kind of prayer, another kind of poetry–and the inspiration for the founding of Greenpeace and many other peace projects.

Note: This article was written by respected journalist and environmental activist Koohan Paik-Mander. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


The Theory That Men Evolved to Hunt and Women Evolved to Gather Is Wrong
2023-11-01, Scientific American
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-theory-that-men-evolved-to-hun...

The influential idea that in the past men were hunters and women were not isn't supported by the available evidence. Women are physiologically better suited than men to endurance efforts such as running marathons. This advantage bears on questions about hunting because a prominent hypothesis contends that early humans are thought to have pursued prey on foot over long distances until the animals were exhausted. Furthermore, the fossil and archaeological records, as well as ethnographic studies of modern-day hunter-gatherers, indicate that women have a long history of hunting game. Females are ... dominating ultraendurance events such as the more than 260-mile Montane Spine foot race through England and Scotland, the 21-mile swim across the English Channel and the 4,300-mile Trans Am cycling race. In 2018 English runner Sophie Power ran the 105-mile Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc race in the Alps while still breastfeeding her three-month-old at rest stations. Observations of recent and contemporary foraging societies provide direct evidence of women participating in hunting. The most cited examples come from the Agta people of the Philippines. Agta women hunt while menstruating, pregnant and breastfeeding, and they have the same hunting success as Agta men. They are hardly alone. A recent study of ethnographic data spanning the past 100 years ... found that women from a wide range of cultures hunt animals for food.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Healing Past the Trauma
2021-08-05, The Philadelphia Citizen
https://thephiladelphiacitizen.org/healing-past-the-trauma/

In October of 2020 I sat in on a Zoom call with a group of formerly incarcerated men brainstorming the causes of escalating gun violence in Philadelphia. The meeting was part of an intergenerational healing circle for formerly incarcerated men from ages 17 to 50. All of the men are trying to figure out their place in the world post-incarceration. The hope was to support them in achieving their self-determined vision of wellness, through connections to community resources and opportunities. The program was created as part of a $100,000 grant that the Philadelphia Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP) received from Impact100. The men talk about emotions in ways they probably can't in other parts of their lives, but they also talk about practical things–finding work, maintaining healthy relationships, looking for a place to live. But most importantly they are able to talk to someone else who has experienced the things they experienced. The Intergenerational Healing Circle ... had four core goals: understanding and healing from trauma; creating connectedness rooted in shared experience of incarceration and reentry; developing agency and liberation-oriented leadership; and community building. "It's this relatedness and willingness to be vulnerable in the IGHC that makes this experience rewarding and transformative," says John Pace, [a] Reentry Coordinator at the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project. "While in prison, we often had to suppress our vulnerabilities ... so this space for us is truly healing."

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


The Prison-to-Hollywood Pipeline Is the Stuff of Cinematic Dreams
2023-10-26, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/hollywood-jobs-film-tv-manifestworks/

ManifestWorks [is] a unique program that guides people from homelessness, incarceration and foster care directly into entry-level jobs in film and TV. "When I started the ManifestWorks program, it was more than just learning the steps. It was really therapeutic for me," says Leslie. "It was uplifting during a time when I was really not in a good place." By the third week of classes, Leslie had secured her first gig as a production assistant. The same person who hired her brought her back for the next two years and seeded additional relationships that led to more work. Today, Leslie works in a sound department as a union member, has consistent work at a living wage and has been able to upgrade both her housing and her car. The nonprofit ManifestWorks has more than 270 alumni currently working in the film industry, and purposely recruits its students from populations that face barriers to success. According to ManifestWorks, 25 percent of foster care youth end up incarcerated within two years of turning 18, and unemployment impacts the formerly incarcerated at a rate 12 times higher than the national average. Some 71 percent of ManifestWorks' trainees are on welfare when they start the program – after a year, that number drops to seven percent on average. And 92 percent of ManifestWorks alumni are employed full time with an average annual income of $62,000, up from the average of $12,500 when trainees first start.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Students building bridges across the American divide
2023-10-08, CBS News
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/american-exchange-project-building-bridges-acros...

This past summer more than 300 high school graduates signed up for a unique student exchange program. Unlike the well-known foreign exchange model ... this program gives students the opportunity to soak in a brand-new culture without ever leaving the country. It's called the American Exchange Project, or AEP for short, co-founded by 29-year-old David McCullough III. "We fund kids to spend a week in the summer after senior year in an American town that is politically and socio-economically and culturally very different from the one that they're growing up in," McCullough said. One student, Alex, said, "My groups of friends are not really close to each other, so I feel like I've actually bonded with you guys more than I have with my own friends." One girl from South Dakota said, "I've never been a part of a community where ... I'm not the minority, I'm not the odd one out. So, this is very much an experience that I really appreciate so much." McCullough hopes to offer the program to a million students a year by decade's end, and all free of charge, thanks to big name donors, including the likes of Steven Spielberg. "I think this all ought to be as typical to the American high school experience as the prom," McCullough said. There's that old adage about walking a mile in someone else's shoes; the problem is, you can't see the person face-to-face if you're walking away. What David McCullough is hoping is the next generation will turn around, look those they differ with in the eye, and just talk.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Building bridges in the midst of conflict: 12 organizations working for Israel-Palestine peace
2023-10-25, Optimist Daily
https://www.optimistdaily.com/2023/10/building-bridges-in-the-midst-of-confli...

While the sad reality of violence and division dominates the media, countless grassroots organizations are working tirelessly to bring peace and reconciliation to the Israel-Palestine conflict. As the region continues to be ravaged by violence, Standing Together, Israel's largest Arab-Jewish grassroots organization, brings together Jewish and Palestinian volunteers. They labor relentlessly to assist victims of continuous violence while also campaigning for peace, equality, social justice, and climate justice. Their message is clear: the future they envision is one of peace, Israeli and Palestinian independence, full equality, and environmental justice. The Parents Circle – Families Forum, which includes over 600 families who have lost loved ones in the conflict, is a symbol of reconciliation. This joint Israeli-Palestinian organization encourages conversation and reconciliation through education, public gatherings, and media participation, presenting a ray of hope for a future of coexistence. Integrated schools in Israel, where Jewish and Palestinian children attend classes together, serve as an example of a more inclusive future. Hand in Hand promotes understanding by bringing parents together for debate and shared study of Hebrew and Arabic. They are sowing seeds of oneness. Jerusalem Peacebuilders brings together Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans with the goal of developing tomorrow's leaders. Their work highlights the futility of violent war and the critical need for nonviolence.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Rojava's Women-Led Restorative Justice System Centers Mediation, Not Retribution
2023-10-20, Truthout
https://truthout.org/articles/rojavas-women-led-restorative-justice-system-ce...

A growing women-led restorative justice system ... operates within the territory of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), also known as Rojava, a revolutionary social experiment involving more than 4.5 million people. The system features a network, autonomous from the AANES, of more than 60 Mala Jin, or "women's houses," which allow people to solve disputes at the community level, instead of through courts or police, by offering reconciliation and mediation processes for domestic and family situations. Activist and independent researcher Clara Moore ... recently returned from spending two years in the region, working at both the Rojava Information Center and at Mala Jin. "Essentially, they're trying to build a system around the political philosophy of Democratic Confederalism, which was initially inspired by the ideas of [the American intellectual] Murray Bookchin and theorized by [Kurdish leader] Abdullah Ă–calan from prison in Turkey," [said Moore]. "It's based on ideas of pluralism, direct democracy, decentralization, gender equality and self-defense. In practice, this means that all communities have the ability and right to defend themselves and provide for their own needs. The idea of the justice system in Rojava, in North and East Syria in general, is that it's possible to solve a dispute without going to court. There are laws in Rojava and courts. Ideally, those only become relevant when people can't come to a resolution together outside of court."

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


California becomes the first state to ban 4 food additives linked to disease
2023-10-10, NPR
https://www.npr.org/2023/10/10/1204839281/california-ban-food-additives-red-d...

California has become the first U.S. state to outlaw the use of four potentially harmful food and drink additives that have been linked to an array of diseases, including cancer, and are already banned in dozens of countries. The California Food Safety Act prohibits the manufacturing, distribution and sale of food and beverages that contain brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben and red dye 3 – which can be found in candy, fruit juices, cookies and more. The Food and Drug Administration banned the use of red dye 3 in cosmetics in 1990 after evidence showed it caused cancer in lab animals. But the government hasn't prohibited its use in food, and it's an ingredient in candies. Brominated vegetable oil and potassium bromate have also been associated with harmful effects on the respiratory and nervous systems, while propylparaben may negatively impact reproductive health. The proposal has been the target of a false claim that California is attempting to ban Skittles. In fact, Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, has said that Skittles are sold with alternative ingredients in the European Union, where the four additives are already banned. "It's unacceptable that the U.S. is so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to food safety," Gabriel said in a statement. In addition to the EU, countries that have banned the four additives in food include the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China and Japan.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Finland is the world's happiest country, but Finns say we're confusing happiness for something else
2023-06-10, Business Insider
https://www.businessinsider.com/finland-happiest-country-in-world-happiness-r...

Finland's high levels of social trust could be one reason the country has been ranked as the world's happiest for six years in a row. As the World Happiness Report, which does the ranking, notes, most Finns expect their wallet to be returned to them if they lose it. Finns have liberated children, trust their neighbors, commune with nature, and leave work on time. But ask them what they think of the happiness report, and you'll get a surprising answer. "We're always surprised that we are still the first," Meri Larivaara, a mental-health advocate, told me in [a] Helsinki coffee shop. "Every year there is a debate like, 'How is this possible?'" In fact, locals I talked to were exasperated by the survey and even annoyed by the global perception of them as happy. Finnish people are often stereotyped as introverted and keeping to themselves. But it's also true that Finns are very content with what they have. "They call us up and just ask if we like our lives. We just say there's nothing wrong right now, maybe call back tomorrow," one local said of the survey. Maybe it's not so much that Finns are happy but that they don't have some of the intense fears you might find in other places. Finland's government sponsors one of the most robust welfare systems in the world. In 2021, the Nordic country spent 24% of its gross domestic product on social protection – the highest of any other OECD country that year. Healthcare and education are free for all residents – all the way through to the Ph.D. level.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


A surprisingly radical proposal: Make people happier – not just wealthier and healthier
2023-10-18, Vox
https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/23862090/subjective-wellbeing-wealth-philan...

Economists love things they can measure objectively, like the number of deaths in a village or the number of dollars in an account. So over the past century, they've focused on measuring health and wealth. The best policy programs for society are deemed to be the ones that save the most lives, say, or increase gross domestic product (GDP) by the widest margin. And there's a good rationale for using a metric like GDP as a shorthand for well-being: There is a very high correlation between a nation's GDP per capita and its self-reported life satisfaction. But a strong predictor is not a perfect predictor. As we've gathered more data on the happiness of different populations, it's become clear that increasing wealth and health do not always go hand in hand with increasing happiness. By the economists' objective measures, people in rich countries like the US should be doing great – and yet Americans are only becoming more miserable. A growing chorus of experts argues that helping people is ultimately about making them happier – not just wealthier or healthier – and the best way to find out how happy people are is to just ask them directly. It's a revolution in thinking that's gathering force in policy and charity circles alike, and it's starting to upend conventional wisdom about the best ways to do good. Part of the virtue of the subjective approach is that people can bring whatever matters to them into their assessments. So, how much meaning you have in your life could be an input into that.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


‘This feels more like spin-the-bottle than science': my mission to find a proper diagnosis – and treatment – for my son's psychosis
2023-02-25, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/feb/25/this-feels-more-like-spin-the...

Psychosis is often thought to be genetic, or a symptom of brain chemistry gone awry, which is what I was led to believe for much of my journey through the traditional mental health system. [My son] Zach's first diagnosis was psychosis NOS (Not Otherwise Specified). Later ... he was classified with either schizophrenia, paranoid schizophrenia, depression with psychotic symptoms or, more recently, schizoaffective disorder. I craved solutions, and the more I searched the more confused I became. First, I discovered that no disease markers show up in brain scans or blood tests for any of these so-called disorders. Nobody seems to know for sure what is really going on, which feels more like a spin-the-bottle game than science. The effects of the antipsychotic drugs were intolerable for Zach, far worse than the symptoms that they were meant to alleviate. In Finland, a more radical understanding of extreme distress led to a programme called Open Dialogue which aims to avoid hospitalisation and medication with therapy that revolves around families and other networks, and involves contact, preferably in the person's home. It has contributed to lowering the suicide rate in Finland; one of the highest in the world in the 1990s, it has dropped by 50% since Open Dialogue began. Despite a quarter of a trillion pounds spent on mental health in Britain since the 1980s, it is the only area of medicine where outcomes have stalled, and by some measures are even going backwards.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Revolutionary Civic Social Media Is On the Horizon
2023-10-10, LA Progressive
https://www.laprogressive.com/techie-tips/revolutionary-civic-social-media

Social media platforms have become an integral part of our lives, but they also pose significant challenges for our society. From spreading misinformation and hate speech to undermining democracy and privacy, social media can have negative impacts on the public good. How can we harness the power of social media for positive purposes, such as civic engagement, social justice, and education? One possible solution is to create a new kind of social media platform that is designed to serve the public interest, not the profit motive. This platform would be owned and governed by its users, who would have a say in how it operates and what content it promotes. Such a platform may sound utopian, but it is not impossible. In fact, there are already some examples of social media platforms that are trying to achieve these goals, such as Mastodon, Diaspora, and Aether. These platforms are based on the principles of decentralization, federation, and peer-to-peer communication, which allow users to have more control and autonomy over their online interactions. Civic Works ... is an emerging social networking platform that provides a more democratic, inclusive, and responsible online space for everyone. It is built on the idea that social media can be a force for good when the objective is not subverted by advertisers, marketers, or shadowy political operatives. It is a platform that inspires people to become active citizens, through civic, political, economic, and/or educational actions.

Note: The social media platform PeakD is censorship-proof and is governed by network operators who are elected by the community. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


‘People are happier in a walkable neighborhood': the US community that banned cars
2023-10-11, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2023/oct/11/culdesac-car-free-neighborhood...

If you were to imagine the first car-free neighborhood built from scratch in the modern US, it would be difficult to conceive such a thing sprouting from the environs of Phoenix, Arizona. But it is here that such a neighborhood, called Culdesac, has taken root. On a 17-acre site ... an unusual experiment has emerged that invites Americans to live in a way that is rare outside of fleeting experiences of college, Disneyland or trips to Europe: a walkable, human-scale community devoid of cars. Culdesac ushered in its first 36 residents earlier this year and will eventually house around 1,000 people. Residents are provided no parking for cars and are encouraged to get rid of them. The apartments are also mixed in with amenities, such as a grocery store, restaurant, yoga studio and bicycle shop, that are usually separated from housing by strict city zoning laws. The $170m Culdesac project shows "we can build walkable neighborhoods successfully in the US," according to Ryan Johnson, the 40-year-old who co-founded the company. "We look back nostalgically at college, because it's the only time most people have lived in a walkable neighborhood. People are happier and healthier, and even wealthier when they're living in a walkable neighborhood." Vanessa Fox, a 32-year-old who moved into Culdesac with her husky dog in May, had always wanted to live in a walkable place only to find such options unaffordable. For her, Culdesac provided a sense of community without having to rely on a car.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


The butterflies of Liberia: transforming the lives of former child soldiers
2023-10-03, Positive News
https://www.positive.news/society/the-butterflies-of-liberia-transforming-the...

In Liberia, two brutal civil wars have produced a generation of traumatised young men. Anthony Kamara likes to use the analogy of a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. It's an old story, he admits, but useful in reaching through the years of compounded shame that form the exterior skin of Liberia's lost and marginalised young men. "I tell the men that their true colours are there, hidden within them," says Kamara, 32, a former street drug user and a facilitator for a radical Liberian mental health nonprofit Network for Empowerment and Programme Initiatives (Nepi). Nepi targets Liberia's most marginalised men – street dwellers, petty criminals, chronic drug users: traumatised ex-combatants and their sons with anger issues and little to live for – in an effort to ripple benefits across Liberia's population, 68% of whom are living on less than $1.90 (Ł1.60) a day. Nepi offers a tailored combination of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and cash transfers to young people who are at the highest risk for violent behaviour, in a programme called Sustainable Transformation of Youth in Liberia (Styl). Styl has since helped tens of thousands of young men in Liberia, with studies on the project finding that men receiving therapy with cash were half as likely as a control group to engage in antisocial behaviours, with beneficial impacts concentrated in the highest-risk men.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


This joint Memorial Day ceremony for fallen Israelis and Palestinians overcame hate
2023-04-28, Philadelphia Inquirer
https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/israel-memorial-day-palestinians-independenc...

Memorial Day used to be Israel's most sacred secular holiday because it honored those who died in wars or terrorist attacks. I attended one memorial service in Tel Aviv that rose above these tensions and penetrated to the heart of the issues troubling the country: a meeting of Israeli and Palestinian families who had lost relatives to the conflict and gathered together to share their grief. What was most astonishing about the event was to see the Palestinians fall into the arms of their Israeli hosts and hold on tightly. Why astonishing? Because these days, Palestinians and Israelis almost never come into contact, except at Israeli military checkpoints on the West Bank, or when violent Israeli settlers attack their fields – or when Palestinian workers come to Israel to work in construction or in agriculture. It was moving in the extreme to see Palestinians and Israelis who had experienced heartbreak at the hands of the other side embrace each other tightly and talk about family. It was also moving to watch thousands of Israelis file into the fenced-off area of the ceremony and fill endless rows of plastic chairs (the organizers say that 300,000 watched online). They listened in total silence as Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims told their personal stories on the stage. Yuval Sapir, whose sister Tamar was murdered in Tel Aviv in 1994 by a Palestinian suicide bomber ... choked out these words: "It is easy and natural to hate ... I chose to try to break the chain of revenge and hatred."

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


What survivors of trauma have taught this eminent psychiatrist about hope
2023-10-08, NPR
https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2023/10/08/1203975027/what-survivor...

In 1968, at the age of 42, psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton sat down to write Death in Life, a book about his experiences interviewing survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Over the course of his career, Lifton studied not only survivors of the atomic bombings but Auschwitz survivors, Vietnam war veterans and people who'd been subjected to repression by the Chinese government. The COVID pandemic prompted him to reflect on what he'd learned about mass trauma and resilience – that telling stories about trauma, and even trying to influence policy, can often help people recover. Now 97, Lifton has just published his 13th book, Surviving Our Catastrophes: Resilience and Renewal from Hiroshima to the Covid-19 Pandemic. "I interviewed people who had undergone the most extreme kind of trauma and victimization," [said Lifton]. "And yet some of the very same people who had so suffered from trauma have shown what I call "survivor wisdom" – they transformed themselves from helpless victims to agents of survival. If ... storytelling can include the transformation from the helpless victim to the life-enhancing survivor, then the storytelling is crucial. The storytelling we most encourage is that kind that enables the formerly helpless victim to be transformed in the story, to transform himself or herself, collectively transform themselves into life-affirming survivors. That's the key transformation, and that's the story we [listeners] seek to help them achieve."

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Can cooking and gardening at school inspire better nutrition? Ask these kids
2023-10-09, NPR
https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2023/10/09/1204077086/can-cooking-a...

After a decline in nutrition education in U.S. schools in recent decades, there's new momentum to weave food and cooking into the curriculum again. Remember the hands-on cooking in home economics class, which was a staple in U.S. schools for decades? "I'd love to see it brought back and have the science around healthy eating integrated," says Stacy Dean, deputy under secretary for food, nutrition and consumer services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dean told me she was inspired by a visit to Watkins Elementary, in Washington, D.C., where this idea is germinating. Students grow vegetables in their school garden. They also roll up their sleeves in the school's kitchen to participate in a FRESHFARM FoodPrints class, which integrates cooking and nutrition education. Evaluations show participation in FRESHFARM programs is associated with increased preference for fruits and vegetables. And, the CDC points to evidence that nutrition education may help students maintain a healthy weight and can also help students recognize the connection between food and emotional wellbeing. Given the key role diet plays in preventing chronic disease, the agency says it would be ideal to offer more nutrition education. Programs like FRESHFARM can help kids expand their palettes by introducing them to new tastes. At first, many kids are turned off by the bitter taste of greens. But through the alchemy of cooking, caramelizing the onions, and blending in fresh ginger, kids can be inspired.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


The power of contact in the rehumanization process
2023-09-12, Waging Nonviolence
https://wagingnonviolence.org/metta/podcast/the-power-of-contact-theory-rehum...

‘Contact theory' has been shown to lead to harmony and an enlarged sense of a common good, even when there are limited resources and competing interests. It's a theory that suggests that the more contact that people have, the more willing they are to rehumanize and understand each other, even across their personal differences. It originated in the 50s with the work of Gordon Allport. After World War II, he asked himself, how can we reduce conflict in society? He put forward that, under the right conditions, having positive experiences with people of another social, ethnic, cultural, religious backgrounds could improve our tolerance and reduce our prejudice against them. 50 years later, the vast majority of studies show that it does work. If you talk about moving beyond past violence and having a harmonious society, one of the biggest things that could hamper having these contact experiences [is] the homophilia principle, where you go with your own group. It's easy to avoid having experiences with other groups. But once we do, they're very beneficial. We spoke with someone named Ali Abu Awad [who] is a Palestinian activist. He said he never had contact with an Israeli ... until he was in his 30s. And they were brought together into a group. This Israeli woman was crying, and he was crying. They were both grieving the loss of family members of the conflict. That moment of contact actually changed the whole direction of his life because he realized that this Israeli woman was human like he was. He ended up becoming an activist working toward a solution that humanizes Israelis and humanizes Palestinians at the same time.

Note: This summary is a transcript of an interview with Jasper Van Assche, professor at the University of Ghent in Belgium. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


The Norwegian secret: how friluftsliv boosts health and happiness
2023-09-27, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2023/sep/27/the-norwegian-secret-how...

Friluftsliv [is] a way of being that is part of the Norwegian national identity. The term was coined by the playwright Henrik Ibsen in his 1859 poem On the Heights, although the concept is much older. Its literal translation is "free-air life", but Ibsen used it to convey a spiritual connection with nature. To modern Norwegians, it means participating in outdoor activities, but also has a deeper sense of de-stressing in nature and sharing in a common culture. An astonishingly high percentage of Norwegians report spending time outdoors. A survey in June by the market research company Kantar TNS found that 83% are interested in friluftsliv, 77% spend time in nature on a weekly basis and 25% do so most days. At many nurseries, toddlers spend 80% of their time outside; at school, there are special days throughout the year when children go out in nature and build campfires. Studies show that being in green spaces helps reduce anxiety and improve cognition. In a 2020 survey, 90% of Norwegians said they felt less stressed and in a better mood when they spent time in nature. Helga Synnevåg Løvoll, a professor of friluftsliv at Volda University College, says the five documented ways to wellbeing can be achieved through friluftsliv (they are "connect", "be active", "take notice", "keep learning" and "give"). This nature-induced wellbeing could be one reason why Norway ranks among the happiest countries in the world. It came seventh in the UN's World Happiness report in 2023.

Note: Read about the rise of "green prescription" programs in different healthcare systems around the world. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Can a map of the ocean floor be crowdsourced?
2023-10-01, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20230929-can-a-map-of-the-ocean-floor-be-c...

In 2023, Seabed 2030 announced that its latest map of the entire seafloor is nearly 25% complete. The data to make the world's first publicly available map is stored at the International Hydrography Organization (IHO)'s Data Centre for Digital Bathymetry. 17 research vessels owned by American universities ... constantly circle the globe studying the deep ocean. The ocean mappers came up with a new plan: crowdsourcing. By attaching a data logger to a boat's echosounder, any vessel can build a simple map of the seafloor. Tion Uriam, the head of the Hydrographic Unit at the Republic of Kiribati's Ministry of Communications, Transport and Tourism Development, recently received two data loggers that he's planning to install on local ferries. "It's a win to be part of that initiative," he says. "Just to put us on the map and raise our hands [to say] we want to be part of a global effort." The military or commercial value of nautical charts will always be a barrier. "Sea charts were destined to be removed from the academic realm and from general circulation," wrote the map historian Lloyd Brown. "They were much more than an aid to navigation; they were the key to empire, the way to wealth." [Marine geologist Kevin] Mackay experienced this on a scientific-mapping expedition. He received a call from a military he chooses not to name and "they said 'you need to destroy that data because there was military value ... it's a place where submarines like to hide'," he recalls. "Obviously, we ignore them because we're [mapping] for science, we don't care."

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


The Backyard Farmers Who Grow Food With Fog
2023-09-18, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/lima-fog-catchers-water-scarcity-irrigation/

At the highest point of Los Tres Miradores, a terrifyingly steep urban settlement with soaring views across Peru's capital, Lima, there is a curious set of large structures that resemble a fleet of ships in the sky. They are so-called "fog catchers." About 40 of these netted devices, made of high density Raschel polyethylene and spanning several meters wide, are lined up atop a misty mound and linked by a network of tubes that lead to storage containers. Home to a population of more than 10 million, Lima is one of the driest cities in the world. [The nonprofit] El Movimiento Peruanos sin Agua has helped install 600 fog catchers across Lima and a total of 2,000 across Peru, including in the regions of Arequipa, Iquitos and Cuzco. According to [founder Abel] Cruz, one man he supported is even able to raise 1,000 chickens thanks to fog catchers. In June, the project received a significant boost when it signed an agreement with the Mayor of Lima to install 10,000 more fog catchers in the hills surrounding the city in the next four years. The municipality ... said the project has the potential to "reforest, create ecological lungs, ecotourism and at the same time provide water for human consumption, for bio-orchards, botanical gardens, washing clothes, utensils and more." In Los Tres Miradores, the 40 fog catchers – which were installed in 2021 – provide enough water for 180 families, whether to bathe, clean, drink (after being filtered at home) or to irrigate crops on small garden patches.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Getting the Soil Right: How Carbon Farming Combats Climate Change
2023-09-15, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/carbon-farming-climate-change-regenerative-...

The solution to stopping climate change might be buried on 10 acres in the Pauma Valley of California. "The idea is not just to produce food but to improve the soil," says Alvarez, Solidarity Farm's Climate Resilience Specialist. "We stopped using the plow to turn the soil, and we do a lot of composting and mulching to improve our soil health." Solidarity Farm had used organic principles in the 10 years since its inception, but it pivoted to carbon farming after the extreme heat in the summer of 2017. Carbon farmers cultivate plants and trees in a way that maximizes carbon sequestration in the soil. Among the most important practices for carbon farmers are minimizing soil erosion by planting perennials and ground cover, which also lowers soil temperatures, and only working the land by hand or with low-tech solutions. "The soil has the capacity to store more carbon than all plants on the planet together," Alvarez says. Solidarity Farms produces a diverse range of about 60 different fruits and vegetables, at least 70 percent of them perennial crops such as plums and pomegranates. Stacks of organic chicken manure in front of the vegetable beds wait to be distributed. The farmers enrich the soil with compost and mulch, while deterring pests with diverse crop rotation. According to soil tests, the Solidarity farmers have tripled the amount of carbon in the ground since 2018. "This equates to a drawdown of nearly 600 metric tons of CO2 per year, offsetting the emissions of 80 American households," Alvarez says.

Note: Have you seen the groundbreaking and inspiring movie Kiss the Ground? In a time where we're told hopeless and divisive narratives about our current environmental challenges, people all over the world are reversing the damage from destroyed ecosystems, regenerating the world's soils, and creating abundant food supplies. Don't miss this powerful film on the growing regenerative agriculture movement and its power to revive global community and our connection to the natural world.


Navigating the Waves
2023-08-21, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/navigating-the-waves/

Natalie Small looks at the ocean. "How high are the waves today – the ones out there on the water and the emotional ones within me? These are questions she likes to ask at the start of every group therapy session on Ocean Beach in San Diego, California. Small ... is part of a burgeoning niche of psychotherapy that blends traditional therapy with a sport proven to build resilience, confidence and well-being. More than a hippie wellness novelty or New Age fad, surf therapy is being embraced by psychologists and government agencies alike as a way to increase access to mental health care while delivering evidence-based, lasting results. Kristen Walter ... received a $1 million grant from the Navy to research surf therapy for military personnel. "We see immediate benefits," Walter confirms. "Post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety decrease significantly." Walter's research has shown that the effects of surf therapy are lasting: When she randomly assigned 96 military participants with mental health diagnoses to either hiking or surf therapy, both groups spent three to four hours per week in nature. After six weeks, both groups showed improvements – 55 percent of the surfers and 46 percent of the hikers were no longer considered clinically ill. "But when we checked again three months later, the improvements in the surfer group lasted significantly longer," Walter says. "74 percent of the surfers were considered healed versus only 47 percent of the hikers."

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Psychedelic drug MDMA moves closer to US approval following success in PTSD trial
2023-09-14, Nature
https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-023-02886-x

The psychedelic drug MDMA, also known as ecstasy or molly, has passed another key hurdle on its way to regulatory approval as a treatment for mental illness. A second large clinical trial has found that the drug – in combination with psychotherapy – is effective at treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In June, Australia became the first country to allow physicians to prescribe MDMA for treating psychiatric conditions. MDMA is illegal in the United States and other countries because of the potential for its misuse. But the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) ... has long been developing a proprietary protocol for using MDMA as a treatment for PTSD and other disorders. MAPS has been campaigning for its legalization. In 2021, researchers sponsored by MAPS reported the results of a study in which 90 people received a form of psychotherapy developed by the organization alongside either MDMA or a placebo. After three treatment sessions, 67% of those who received MDMA with therapy no longer qualified for a PTSD diagnosis, compared with 32% of those who received therapy and a placebo. The results of a second trial ... were similar: 71% of people who received MDMA alongside therapy lost their PTSD diagnosis. A MAPS spokesperson says that the organization plans to seek formal FDA approval before the end of this year, and that because the agency has already designated MDMA as a ‘breakthrough therapy' ... it will be evaluated quickly.

Note: Read more about the healing potentials of mind-altering drugs. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


The History And Potential Of MDMA
2023-06-29, NPR
https://www.npr.org/2023/06/29/1185170371/the-history-and-potential-of-mdma

Stuck indoors during the peak of COVID lockdown, science journalist Rachel Nuwer found herself at a professional crossroads. She had already published a nonfiction book on the dark world of wildlife trafficking and was looking for her next subject. A moment of clarity came at a surprising time. She and her partner, at home with nothing much to do, ingested MDMA. MDMA, also known as ecstasy or molly, is illegal. It is listed as a Schedule 1 drug by the U.S. federal government (the same group as marijuana and psilocybin, or magic mushrooms). A growing body of academic research has suggested potential benefits of MDMA beyond the recreational ecstasy some partygoers are familiar with. One study found that MDMA-enhanced therapy dramatically reduced PTSD symptoms. Another showed that psychedelics like MDMA could reopen so-called critical periods of time when brains are especially impressionable and open to learning. A scientific case study profiled a former white supremacist who reformed his extremist views after taking MDMA. Nuwer experienced similar clarity while on the drug. Her new book, "I Feel Love: MDMA and the Quest for Connection in a Fractured World," is the result of her epiphany. She explores the history and potential of the so-called love drug.

Note: Read more about the healing potentials of mind-altering drugs. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Can a Tiny Restaurant Surcharge Move the Needle on Climate?
2023-09-19, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/zero-foodprint-changing-the-food-system/

When Anthony Myint and his wife Karen Leibowitz opened their San Francisco restaurant The Perennial in 2016, they had big ambitions: They wanted it to be the first carbon-neutral restaurant in the world, and they succeeded. From the recycled floor tiles and reclaimed lumber to the aquaponic herb garden and compostable paper menus, the culinary duo designed every part of the diner with the climate in mind. "We shifted the menus, reduced food waste, switched to renewable energy, started composting and bought carbon offsets," Myint says. They were motivated by the knowledge that agriculture and food systems contribute nearly a third of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The Perennial's menu championed sourdough loaves baked with perennial Kernza grains, and the chefs bought their steaks from regenerative ranches associated with the Marin Carbon Project, the country's foremost center for regenerative farming. The more Myint learned about regenerative agriculture, the more he became convinced that this was the global solution he needed to champion. "It became clear to me that this is the future of food, similar to the way renewable energy is the future of energy," he says. "The whole food system needs to gradually transition." Zero Foodprint is asking restaurant customers and other participating businesses to give one percent of their sales to a pool that funds regenerative agriculture. More than 80 businesses have signed up.

Note: We've summarized a handful of stories about the power of regenerative agriculture practices to reverse and heal global ecological destruction. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


A Canadian study gave $7,500 to homeless people. Here's how they spent it.
2023-09-02, Vox
https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/21528569/homeless-poverty-cash-transfer-ca...

Ray, a man in his 50s, used to live in an emergency homeless shelter in Vancouver, Canada. Then he participated in a study that changed his life. The newly published, peer reviewed PNAS study, conducted by the charity Foundations for Social Change in partnership with the University of British Columbia, was fairly simple. It identified 50 people in the Vancouver area who had become homeless in the past two years. In spring 2018, it gave them each one lump sum of $7,500 (in Canadian dollars). And it told them to do whatever they wanted with the cash. Over the next year, the study followed up with the recipients periodically, asking how they were spending the money and what was happening in their lives. The recipients of the cash transfers did not increase spending on drugs, tobacco, and alcohol, but did increase spending on food, clothes, and rent. What's more, they moved into stable housing faster and saved enough money to maintain financial security over the year of follow-up. "Counter to really harmful stereotypes, we saw that people made wise financial choices," Claire Williams, the CEO of Foundations for Social Change, [said]. What's more ... giving out the cash transfers in the Vancouver area actually saved the broader society money. Enabling 50 people to move into housing faster saved the shelter system $8,277 per person over the year, for a total savings of $413,850. That's more than the value of the cash transfers, which means the transfers pay for themselves.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


How rhythm shapes our lives
2023-05-26, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20230526-how-rhythm-shapes-our-lives

Why do we care about rhythm? It connects us to the world. It plays a role in listening, in language, in understanding speech in noisy places, in walking, and even in our feelings toward one another. Rhythm is much more than a component of music. We experience the rhythmic changes of the seasons. Some of us have menstrual cycles. We have circadian rhythms – daily cycles of mental and physical peaks and troughs. Tides, 17-year cicadas, lunar phases, perigees, and apogees are other naturally occurring rhythms. Human-made rhythms include the built world – street grids, traffic lights, crop fields, mowed designs in baseball diamond outfields, the backsplash behind the kitchen counter, spatial patterns in geometric visual artforms. Rhythms in the brain have been called out as a basis for consciousness itself. Even in very young children, being (literally) "in sync" with another person engenders positive feelings toward them. Music in general, and rhythm in particular, does an uncommonly good job fostering a sense of community. Indeed, music being played at negotiation sessions helps to smooth the conversations and leads to breakthroughs and compromisesMusicians Without Borders is used to form relationships in troubled regions around the world, to bring hope, comfort, and healing to diverse populations. The Resonance Project and the Jerusalem Youth Chorus, which are forming bonds between Israeli and Palestinian children, are other examples of using musical rhythm to overcome differences.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


I was every woman's worst nightmare. Restorative justice changed me.
2023-04-26, Waging Nonviolence
https://wagingnonviolence.org/2023/04/restorative-justice-changed-me-every-wo...

There are over 4,100 private companies in the U.S. profiting off of mass incarceration, which is a multi-billion-dollar business. With an incarcerated population of 2.2 million, the U.S. does not have a system premised on reform or creating model citizens. Most return to public life worse than when they began their prison sentences, only to be overshadowed by a national recidivism rate that's staggering – as high as 70 percent within the first five years out and 80 percent for prisoners with juvenile records. In the restorative justice theory of change, prisoners self-identify with new, positive identities, replacing old negative self-identities. As a result, they develop healthy social support that reinforces these new identities. The concept: If you think you are scum, you will act like scum. However, if you think you are gifted, with talents, abilities and a positive identity, that's how you will more likely act on a regular basis. Restorative justice views crime not simply as the breaking of a law, but as damage to individuals, property, relationships and the community. It represents a holistic approach to addressing criminal behavior. And it becomes a great tool toward healing the communities harmed. When we build relationships, we humanize each other and rather than simply being faceless people, we become friends, family members, students and mentors. It then becomes easier for participants to understand the harm they caused and to take responsibility. It's a chance for the offenders to examine themselves, and understand why they made the choices they did, how they harmed the victim, family and community, and what they can do differently in the future.

Note: We've summarized many articles about the power of restorative justice. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


School Diet Change Brings Improved Behavior, Healthier, More Focused Students
2020-05-05, WantToKnow.info
https://www.wanttoknow.info/050520schooldietchange

"Before the Appleton Wisconsin high school replaced their cafeteria's processed foods with wholesome, nutritious food, the school was described as out-of-control. There were weapons violations, student disruptions, and a cop on duty full-time. After the change in school meals, the students were calm, focused, and orderly. There were no more weapons violations, and no suicides, expulsions, dropouts, or drug violations. The new diet and improved behavior has lasted for seven years, and now other schools are changing their meal programs with similar results."
  ~~  Jeffrey M. Smith, Author of Seeds of Deception

The informative article below clearly demonstrates the importance of a healthy school diet for our children. Diet is being shown to clearly influence both behavior and mood. A healthy diet fosters calmer, healthier, more focused behavior. Studies like the one below demonstrate that excessive amounts of fast food can lead to severe behavior changes, and suggest that avoiding genetically modified foods may be a very healthy option. Links at the bottom of the article provide lots more information on this topic for those interested.

Two excellent, humorous videos also reveal important health-related information. First, "Store Wars" is hilarious! This incredibly well done, five-minute spoof on the movie Star Wars is available here. Have fun watching Cuke Skywalker battle Darth Tater and lots more. A second fun one is a spoof on the Matrix called "The Meatrix," available here. A little humor goes a long way in delivering a great message. Spread the humor and spread the news by forwarding this great information to your friends and family. Have a great day, and may the force be with you!

Why Schools Should Remove GE-Tainted Foods from Their Cafeterias

Institute for Responsible Technology
Newsletter on GM Foods, Spilling the Beans
By Jeffrey M. Smith, author of Seeds of Deception

Before the Appleton Wisconsin high school replaced their cafeteria's processed foods with wholesome, nutritious food, the school was described as out-of-control. There were weapons violations, student disruptions, and a cop on duty full-time. After the change in school meals, the students were calm, focused, and orderly. There were no more weapons violations, and no suicides, expulsions, dropouts, or drug violations. The new diet and improved behavior has lasted for seven years, and now other schools are changing their meal programs with similar results.

Years ago, a science class at Appleton found support for their new diet by conducting a cruel and unusual experiment with three mice. They fed them the junk food that kids in other high schools eat everyday. The mice freaked out. Their behavior was totally different than the three mice in the neighboring cage. The neighboring mice had good karma; they were fed nutritious whole foods and behaved like mice. They slept during the day inside their cardboard tube, played with each other, and acted very mouse-like.

The junk food mice, on the other hand, destroyed their cardboard tube, were no longer nocturnal, stopped playing with each other, fought often, and two mice eventually killed the third and ate it. After the three month experiment, the students rehabilitated the two surviving junk food mice with a diet of whole foods. After about three weeks, the mice came around.

Sister Luigi Frigo repeats this experiment every year in her second grade class in Cudahy, Wisconsin, but mercifully, for only four days. Even on the first day of junk food, the mice's behavior "changes drastically." They become lazy, antisocial, and nervous. And it still takes the mice about two to three weeks on unprocessed foods to return to normal. One year, the second graders tried to do the experiment again a few months later with the same mice, but this time the animals refused to eat the junk food.

Across the ocean in Holland, a student fed one group of mice genetically modified (GM) corn and soy, and another group the non-GM variety. The GM mice stopped playing with each other and withdrew into their own parts of the cage. When the student tried to pick them up, unlike their well-behaved neighbors, the GM mice scampered around in apparent fear and tried to climb the walls. One mouse in the GM group was found dead at the end of the experiment.

It's interesting to note that the junk food fed to the mice in the Wisconsin experiments also contained genetically modified ingredients. And although the Appleton school lunch program did not specifically attempt to remove GM foods, it happened anyway. That's because GM foods such as soy and corn and their derivatives are largely found in processed foods. So when the school switched to unprocessed alternatives, almost all ingredients derived from GM crops were taken out automatically.

Does this mean that GM foods negatively affect the behavior of humans or animals? It would certainly be irresponsible to say so on the basis of a single student mice experiment and the results at Appleton. On the other hand, it is equally irresponsible to say that it doesn't.

We are just beginning to understand the influence of food on behavior. A study in Science in December 2002 concluded that "food molecules act like hormones, regulating body functioning and triggering cell division. The molecules can cause mental imbalances ranging from attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder to serious mental illness." The problem is we do not know which food molecules have what effect.

The bigger problem is that the composition of GM foods can change radically without our knowledge. Genetically modified foods have genes inserted into their DNA. But genes are not Legos; they don't just snap into place. Gene insertion creates unpredicted, irreversible changes. In one study, for example, a gene chip monitored the DNA before and after a single foreign gene was inserted. As much as 5 percent of the DNA's genes changed the amount of protein they were producing. Not only is that huge in itself, but these changes can multiply through complex interactions down the line.

In spite of the potential for dramatic changes in the composition of GM foods, they are typically measured for only a small number of known nutrient levels. But even if we could identify all the changed compounds, at this point we wouldnąt know which might be responsible for the antisocial nature of mice or humans. Likewise, we are only beginning to identify the medicinal compounds in food. We now know, for example, that the pigment in blueberries may revive the brainąs neural communication system, and the antioxidant found in grape skins may fight cancer and reduce heart disease. But what about other valuable compounds we donąt know about that might change or disappear in GM varieties?

Consider GM soy. In July 1999, years after it was on the market, independent researchers published a study showing that it contains 12-14 percent less cancer-fighting phytoestrogens. What else has changed that we donąt know about? [Monsanto responded with its own study, which concluded that soyąs phytoestrogen levels vary too much to even carry out a statistical analysis. They failed to disclose, however, that the laboratory that conducted Monsantoąs experiment had been instructed to use an obsolete method to detect phytoestrogens results.]

In 1996, Monsanto published a paper in the Journal of Nutrition that concluded in the title, "The composition of glyphosate-tolerant soybean seeds is equivalent to that of conventional soybeans." The study only compared a small number of nutrients and a close look at their charts revealed significant differences in the fat, ash, and carbohydrate content. In addition, GM soy meal contained 27 percent more trypsin inhibitor, a well-known soy allergen. The study also used questionable methods. Nutrient comparisons are routinely conducted on plants grown in identical conditions so that variables such as weather and soil can be ruled out. Otherwise, differences in plant composition could be easily missed. In Monsanto's study, soybeans were planted in widely varying climates and geography.

Although one of their trials was a side-by-side comparison between GM and non-GM soy, for some reason the results were left out of the paper altogether. Years later, a medical writer found the missing data in the archives of the Journal of Nutrition and made them public. No wonder the scientists left them out. The GM soy showed significantly lower levels of protein, a fatty acid, and phenylalanine, an essential amino acid. Also, toasted GM soy meal contained nearly twice the amount of a lectin that may block the body's ability to assimilate other nutrients. Furthermore, the toasted GM soy contained as much as seven times the amount of trypsin inhibitor, indicating that the allergen may survive cooking more in the GM variety. (This might explain the 50 percent jump in soy allergies in the UK, just after GM soy was introduced.)

We don't know all the changes that occur with genetic engineering, but certainly GM crops are not the same. Ask the animals. Eyewitness reports from all over North America describe how several types of animals, when given a choice, avoided eating GM food. These included cows, pigs, elk, deer, raccoons, squirrels, rats, and mice. In fact, the Dutch student mentioned above first determined that his mice had a two-to-one preference for non-GM before forcing half of them to eat only the engineered variety.

Differences in GM food will likely have a much larger impact on children. They are three to four times more susceptible to allergies. Also, they convert more of the food into body-building material. Altered nutrients or added toxins can result in developmental problems. For this reason, animal nutrition studies are typically conducted on young, developing animals. After the feeding trial, organs are weighed and often studied under magnification. If scientists used mature animals instead of young ones, even severe nutritional problems might not be detected. The Monsanto study used mature animals instead of young ones.

They also diluted their GM soy with non-GM protein ten- or twelve-fold before feeding the animals. And they never weighed the organs or examined them under a microscope. The study, which is the only major animal feeding study on GM soy ever published, is dismissed by critics as rigged to avoid finding problems.

Unfortunately, there is a much bigger experiment going on one which we are all a part of. We're being fed GM foods daily, without knowing the impact of these foods on our health, our behavior, or our children. Thousands of schools around the world, particularly in Europe, have decided not to let their kids be used as guinea pigs. They have banned GM foods.

The impact of changes in the composition of GM foods is only one of several reasons why these foods may be dangerous. Other reasons may be far worse (see http://www.seedsofdeception.com).

With the epidemic of obesity and diabetes and with the results in Appleton, parents and schools are waking up to the critical role that diet plays. When making changes in what kids eat, removing GM foods should be a priority.


Note: For an inspiring video showing the dramatic results from a change in school diet, click here.


The above article about genetically modified foods was written by Jeffrey Smith. Individuals may subscribing to his excellent, free newsletter. For a powerful, engaging, ten-page summary of Jeffrey's book on GM foods, Seeds of Deception, click here. For more, see our information-packed Health Information Center.


Study finds yet another potential use for aloe plants–Natural insecticide
2023-08-24, Optimist Daily
https://www.optimistdaily.com/2023/08/study-finds-yet-another-potential-use-f...

Aloe vera unveiled a new weapon in its arsenal: its discarded peels. Previously discarded as agricultural trash, these peels are now set to become nature's response to crop-munching pests. Scientists at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley developed a mechanism for converting this underutilized resource into a powerful natural insecticide, presenting a novel approach to pest management. Humans have already used aloe vera for a plethora of reasons. However, none of these applications takes advantage of the peel. "Millions of tons of aloe peels are likely discarded globally each year," the driving force behind this botanical discovery, Dr. Debasish Bandyopadhyay, stated. The idea came to Bandyopadhyay after he noticed bugs biting plants at an aloe manufacturing center but leaving the aloe vera leaves alone. Based on this discovery, the team embarked on an adventure to unearth the hidden potential of aloe peels. Bandyopadhyay emphasizes the dual benefit of inventing a pesticide that avoids dangerous synthetic chemicals, which not only maintains agricultural output but also saves public health. The researchers ... extracted a number of compounds, each with its own set of properties. Octacosane stood out among these for its ability to repel mosquitos. In terms of insecticidal activity, DCM, a separate molecule, outperformed hexane extract. During this procedure, more than 20 compounds were isolated from aloe vera peels, six showing considerable insecticidal activity.

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Microplastic pollution: Plants could be the answer
2023-08-16, University of British Columbia
https://news.ubc.ca/2023/08/16/microplastic-pollution-plants-could-be-the-ans...

Could plants be the answer to the looming threat of microplastic pollution? Scientists at UBC's BioProducts Institute found that if you add tannins–natural plant compounds that make your mouth pucker if you bite into an unripe fruit–to a layer of wood dust, you can create a filter that traps virtually all microplastic particles present in water. While the experiment remains a lab set-up at this stage, the team is convinced that the solution can be scaled up easily and inexpensively. For their study, the team analyzed microparticles released from popular tea bags made of polypropylene. They found that their method (they're calling it "bioCap") trapped from 95.2 per cent to as much as 99.9 per cent of plastic particles in a column of water, depending on plastic type. When tested in mouse models, the process was proved to prevent the accumulation of microplastics in the organs. Dr. Rojas, a professor in the departments of wood science, chemical and biological engineering, and chemistry at UBC, adds that it's difficult to capture all the different kinds of microplastics in a solution, as they come in different sizes, shapes and electrical charges. "There are microfibres from clothing, microbeads from cleansers and soaps, and foams and pellets from utensils, containers and packaging. By taking advantage of the different molecular interactions around tannic acids, our bioCap solution was able to remove virtually all of these different microplastic types."

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How gardens enable refugees and immigrants to put down roots in new communities
2023-09-06, PBS News
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/arts/how-gardens-enable-refugees-and-immigrants-...

Gardening and community gardens can be ways for immigrant and refugee communities to supplement their pantries by growing their own food, especially culturally appropriate food that is not readily found in grocery stores. It also helps people send literal roots down into a new place while maintaining a connection with their homeland. The Arab American National Museum (AANM) has created a new heritage garden on its roof with donated seeds, cuttings, and plants from local Arab American community members around Dearborn, Michigan. These include plants with a connection to the Arab world, but also plants from Michigan that have become meaningful to the Arab American community here. Accompanying the plants in the garden are oral histories of those community members about what gardening means to them, collected by the museum's community historian. In Ann Arbor, Michigan, Phimmasone Kym Owens ... said, ‘Why don't I create a garden for refugees?'" In 2021, Owens reached out to Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County. They formed a partnership to create an innovative refugee-to-refugee community garden program ... and to work with refugees and grow culturally appropriate vegetables. "What sold this as being different is giving autonomy to the clients," Owens said. "So we had a vote. They voted [for] Freedom Garden. And that's a name that says it all. The fact that they chose Freedom Garden says exactly what you know, being a refugee, what you want."

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How worker ownership builds community wealth and a more just society
2023-02-03, Waging Nonviolence
https://wagingnonviolence.org/2023/02/how-worker-ownership-builds-community-w...

Community wealth building initiatives are taking hold in cities across the world, strengthening worker pay, local economies and democracy. A recent help-wanted ad for a laundry worker in Cleveland contained some unusual language, asking prospective candidates: "Have you ever wanted to work for a company that is 90 percent employee-owned?" The ad went on to identify Evergreen Cooperative Laundry as the only employee-owned commercial laundry firm in the country, citing a commitment to building the wealth and careers of its employees. The cooperative movement in the Rust Belt city of Cleveland has deep roots in community struggle for shared wealth. Its earliest origins are in the Mondragon co-op movement of the Basque Country in northern Spain, where tens of thousands of workers are organized into a vast co-op network that has flourished since the 1950s. Here in the U.S., when steel companies were closing down throughout the Ohio Valley in the 1970s ... a small band of activists promoted the idea of worker ownership. The model is a simple one: First, identify anchor institutions – hospitals, universities, seats of government – that are not going to relocate in search of higher profits and incentivize them to do their procurement of supplies and services locally, so that those dollars stay at home. Then, make regulatory, financing and policy changes that support the growth of cooperatives to supply their needs, so that the business profits stay with the workers.

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Beyond Banking Scandals: The Blockchain Promise of Transparency and Trust
2023-08-10, The Street
https://www.thestreet.com/cryptocurrency/beyond-banking-scandals-the-blockcha...

In a recent discussion on the implications of blockchain technology and its democratization of finance, Roundtable anchor, Rob Nelson and Jordan Fried, CEO of Immutable Holdings explored the depth and magnitude of the possible changes ahead. Jordan Fried ... discussed the roots of Bitcoin, stating it was a direct protest against institutions like BlackRock and the financial systems that seemed to work only for the wealthy. Recalling the 2008 financial crisis, Fried expressed the sentiments of many who wondered why banks were bailed out while average individuals suffered. Bitcoin arose from this frustration, offering a transparent financial system unlike anything before. Expanding on this, Fried emphasized the transparency of Bitcoin in comparison to traditional currencies. In Bitcoin's blockchain, every transaction is traceable, unlike the ambiguous dealings within the current banking system. Contrary to common misconceptions ... only a fraction of crime occurs in crypto, as compared to the US dollar. Most financial crimes, including money laundering, are committed in US dollars. Rob Nelson humorously highlighted the recurring financial scandals of banks like Wells Fargo, suggesting that these financial giants often factor in their fines as just another "cost of doing business." In this evolving era of blockchain and cryptocurrency, one thing is clear: the potential impact on the financial world is vast. The very essence of how we view and interact with money is on the cusp of profound change.

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Private Banks Are In Crisis. What If They Were Public Banks?
2023-03-20, Vice
https://www.vice.com/en/article/3akzbb/private-banks-are-in-crisis-what-if-th...

Public banks are typically operated by government or tribal authorities and, in theory, would be chartered to achieve social good and invest in communities. Only two public banks currently operate in the United States: the Bank of North Dakota, founded in 1919, and the Territorial Bank of American Samoa, founded in 2018. Organizations pushing for a public banking option exist in 37 states, according to the Public Banking Institute. In contrast to private banks, which are responsible to their shareholders, public banks are responsible to their boards and are chartered to invest in public needs. The Bank of North Dakota, for instance, is chartered to offer a "revolving loan fund" to farmers, and profits from loans are directed back into the fund to keep interest rates low. The modern movement to invest in public banks grew out of the 2008 financial crisis and was galvanized during the pandemic, fueled by a populist distrust of the banking and finance sectors. In October 2020, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib introduced the federal Public Banking Act, which would allow state and local governments across the country to create public banks. In the first two months of 2021 there were sixteen bills across the country designed to pave the way for public banks. Supporters of public banks are hoping that any deposits from state and local governments can be used to fund community-based projects that have trouble getting funded by private banks.

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Japan can teach the world a better way to age
2023-08-15, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/08/15/japan-elderly-care-dignity...

If you want a glimpse of the future, go to Japan. What lies ahead for many other countries, including the United States, is in rural areas and regional cities outside greater Tokyo: lots of people aging and dying, and relatively few giving birth and raising kids. In today's Japan, the young and middle-aged are consumed by caring for the old, and small-town resources are overstretched. Japanese innovators are already demonstrating what's possible – and, in many cases, not with high-tech fixes but by showcasing design thinking, dignity and respect. Instead, they would be invited to share their wisdom and skills to help them stay active, sharp and socially engaged. Old people at the center cook for one another and teach young people how to grow vegetables and make art. The city [of Toyama] repurposed old train and tram lines into a sleek light-rail system, with platforms placed at the level of the train cars so that people would not need to climb or descend stairs. Public transit ridership among people in their 60s and 70s has since more than tripled, and this has helped seniors maintain active and social lifestyles. Other social entrepreneurs in Japan have focused on food – for instance, bringing children and the elderly together in cafeterias that serve traditional dishes. One Tokyo pop-up eatery, dubbed the Restaurant of Mistaken Orders, has employed people with dementia as its waitstaff. [Japanese innovators have] yielded ideas that prioritize helping old people flourish, not just managing their illnesses, disabilities and deaths.

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What does cancer smell like? These animals can sniff it out
2023-02-27, National Geographic
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/these-animals-detect-disea...

Next time you're irritated that ants have gotten into your kitchen, you might take a moment to consider their extraordinary powers of perception. These tiny animals can detect markers of illness, such as cancer. In fact, ants are just one of many creatures whose senses can register signs of human disease: dogs, rats, bees, and even tiny worms can as well. The silky ant, Formica fusca, a common species found throughout Europe, can be taught to identify the scent of breast cancer in urine. Research from the University Sorbonne Paris Nord in France published this year in Proceedings of the Royal Society B shows ants can learn to distinguish between the scent of urine derived from mice carrying human breast cancer tumors from that of healthy mice. Ants and other animals pick up signs of disease by perceiving various volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. These chemicals are produced in a variety of ways and can be found in exhaled breath, and in sweat, urine, and blood. Diseases can change the VOCs we emit, resulting in giving off a different odor. By placing a sugar reward near the cancer sample the ants learned to seek out that scent, a process called operant conditioning. Dogs can be trained to smell several types of cancers, including melanoma, breast and gastrointestinal cancers and some infectious diseases in humans, including malaria and Parkinson's disease. They can also smell infectious disease in other animals, including chronic wasting disease, which affects the brains of deer and can be fatal.

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‘This way of farming is really sexy': the rise of regenerative agriculture
2023-08-14, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/aug/14/this-way-of-farming-is-re...

Hollie Fallick looks over Brading on the Isle of Wight, at a patchwork of fields bordered by ancient oaks. She farms with her best friend, Francesca Cooper. The friends ... are part of a growing global movement practising regenerative agriculture – or regen ag for short. "Regenerative agriculture is nature-friendly farming," says Fallick. "It's thinking about the health of soil, animals, humans and how they all link together." On Nunwell home farm, which sits alongside land the pair manage for the Wildlife Trust and produces meat and eggs for their direct-to-consumer business, chickens peck away alongside belted Galloway cows, nomadic pigs graze on grass as well as kale and bean "cover crops" sown to boost nutrients in the soil. The idea is that by following the basic principles of regen ag – not disturbing the soil, keeping it covered, maintaining living roots, growing a diverse range of crops and the use of grazing animals – they can regenerate tired and depleted soil and produce nutritious food.  The work, they argue, is urgent. Up to 40% of the world's land is now degraded by industrial and harmful farming methods, according to the UN. Barnes Edwards, co-director of the Garlic Farm ... argues that regen ag farmers recognise the "hideously negative impact" of badly managed livestock farming. But they also argue "it's the how, not the cow", and say that cows pooing and trampling in diversely planted fields boosts soil health, micronutrients and attracts insects, birds and butterflies.

Note: Don't miss Kiss the Ground, a powerful documentary on the growing regenerative agriculture movement and its power to build global community, reverse the many environmental crises we face, and revive our connection to the natural world. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Dead flies could be used to make biodegradable plastic, scientists say
2023-08-14, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/aug/14/dead-flies-biodegradable-...

Dead flies could be turned into biodegradable plastic, researchers have said. The finding, presented at the autumn meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), could be useful as it is difficult to find sources for biodegradable polymers that do not have other competing uses. "For 20 years, my group has been developing methods to transform natural products – such as glucose obtained from sugar cane or trees – into degradable, digestible polymers that don't persist in the environment," said the principal investigator, Karen Wooley. A colleague suggested she could use waste products left over from farming black soldier flies. The larvae of the flies contain proteins and other nutritious compounds so are being raised for animal feed. However, adult flies are less useful and are discarded. Wooley's team has been trying to use these carcasses to make useful materials from a waste product. The researchers found that chitin, a sugar-based polymer, is a major component of the flies and it strengthens the shell, or exoskeleton, of insects and crustaceans. From the fly products, the team created a hydrogel that can absorb 47 times its weight in water in just one minute. This product could be used in cropland soil to capture flood water and then slowly release moisture during droughts. The scientists hope they will soon be able to create bioplastics such as polycarbonates or polyurethanes, which are traditionally made from petrochemicals, from the flies. These plastics will not contribute to the plastic pollution problem.

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We need regenerative farming, not geoengineering
2015-03-09, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/mar/09/we-need-regenera...

Geoengineering is a technological fix that leaves the economic and industrial system causing climate change untouched. The mindset behind geoengineering stands in sharp contrast to an emerging ecological, systems approach taking shape in the form of regenerative agriculture. More than a mere alternative strategy, regenerative agriculture represents a fundamental shift in our culture's relationship to nature. Regenerative agriculture comprises an array of techniques that rebuild soil and, in the process, sequester carbon. Typically, it uses cover crops and perennials so that bare soil is never exposed, and grazes animals in ways that mimic animals in nature. It also offers ecological benefits far beyond carbon storage: it stops soil erosion, remineralises soil, protects the purity of groundwater and reduces damaging pesticide and fertiliser runoff. Yields from regenerative methods often exceed conventional yields. Likewise, since these methods build soil, crowd out weeds and retain moisture, fertiliser and herbicide inputs can be reduced or eliminated entirely, resulting in higher profits for farmers. No-till methods can sequester as much as a ton of carbon per acre annually. In the US alone, that could amount to nearly a quarter of current emissions. Ultimately, climate change challenges us to rethink our long-standing separation from nature. It is time to fall in love with the land, the soil, and the trees, to halt their destruction and to serve their restoration.

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‘Common Ground': Tribeca Film Connects Regenerative Farming, Politics And Public Health
2023-06-20, Forbes
https://www.forbes.com/sites/lipiroy/2023/06/20/common-ground-tribeca-film-co...

Healthy soil makes healthy food which makes healthy people. That's one of the key premises behind the documentary, Common Ground, which premiered at the Tribeca Festival. The documentary explores the connection between farming, public policy and disease, and aims to spark a cultural and political movement rooted in the practice of regenerative agriculture. The film hopes to rally for the transition of 100 million more acres of U.S. land to regenerative by tripling the reach and impact of the filmmakers' 2020 film, Kiss the Ground. Common Ground's core message about soil, climate and human health is endorsed by star-studded narration from actor-activists Laura Dern, Jason Momoa, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Rosario Dawson and Ian Somerhalder as well as New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. Regenerative agriculture [is] a philosophy and approach to land management that nourishes people and the earth. The holistic principles of regenerative farming aim to restore soil and ecosystem health, address inequity and leave our land, waters and climate in better shape for future generations. According to North Dakota farmer ... Gabe Brown, "Regenerative agriculture is a renewal of a food and farming system that focuses on the whole chain, from soil to plant health to animal and human health. The nutrient density of the foods we produce is directly related to the health of the soil." The current model doesn't pay farmers who make nutrient-dense products. Regenerative agriculture is changing that.

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Psychedelics as Antidepressants
2021-01-30, Scientific American
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/psychedelics-as-antidepressants/

As of 2018, nearly one in eight Americans use antidepressants. Unfortunately, more than a third of patients are resistant to the mood-improving benefits of medicine's best antidepressant drugs. These people are not completely out of options. There are chemicals already out there that can restore their mood balance, and in some cases, even save their lives. Chemicals such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and dimethyltryptamine (DMT) are more accurately called "serotonergic psychedelics" among the neuroscience community. At the correct doses, psychedelics are well tolerated, producing only minor side effects such as transient fear, perception of illusions, nausea/vomiting or headaches. These fleeting side effects pale in comparison to the severity of commonly prescribed antidepressants, which include dangerous changes in heart rate and blood pressure, paradoxical increases in suicidality, and withdrawal symptoms. As far as outcomes go, psychedelics in combination with psychotherapy are remarkably efficient at treating depression. Compared to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, the current gold standard in antidepressant medication, psychedelics have a faster effect on patients, sometimes effective with only a single therapy session. Psychedelics also have a longer-lasting effect than an SSRI regimen. A 2015 study ... demonstrated that past history of psychedelic use decreases the odds of suicidal thoughts or actions over the course of a lifetime.

Note: Read more about the healing potentials of psychedelic medicine. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Mangrove forest thrives around what was once Latin America's largest landfill
2023-07-26, CBS/Associated Press
https://www.cbs42.com/news/international/ap-mangrove-forest-thrives-around-wh...

It was once Latin America's largest landfill. Now, a decade after Rio de Janeiro shut it down and redoubled efforts to recover the surrounding expanse of highly polluted swamp, crabs, snails, fish and birds are once again populating the mangrove forest. "If we didn't say this used to be a landfill, people would think it's a farm. The only thing missing is cattle," jokes Elias Gouveia, an engineer with Comlurb, the city's garbage collection agency that is shepherding the plantation project. "This is an environmental lesson that we must learn from: nature is remarkable. If we don't pollute nature, it heals itself." The former landfill is located right by the 148 square miles (383 square kilometers) Guanabara Bay. Between the landfill's inauguration in 1968 and 1996, some 80 million tons of garbage were dumped in the area, polluting the bay and surrounding rivers with trash and runoff. In 1996, the city began implementing measures to limit the levels of pollution in the landfill, starting with treating some of the leachate, the toxic byproduct of mountains of rotting trash. But garbage continued to pile up until 2012, when the city finally shut it down. Mangroves are of particular interest for environmental restoration for their capacity to capture and store large amounts of planet-warming carbon dioxide, Gouveia explained. Experts say mangroves can bury even more carbon in the sediment than a tropical rainforest, making it a great tool to fight climate change. Comlurb and its private partner, Statled Brasil, have successfully recovered some 60 hectares.

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'It's a beautiful thing': how one Paris district rediscovered conviviality
2022-07-14, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jul/14/its-a-beautiful-thing-how-one-p...

A 215-metre-long banquet table, lined with 648 chairs and laden with a home cooked produce, was set up along the Rue de l'Aude and those in attendance were urged to openly utter the most subversive of words: bonjour. For some, that greeting led to the first meaningful exchange between neighbours. "I'd never seen anything like it before," says Benjamin Zhong who runs a cafe in the area. "It felt like the street belonged to me, to all of us." The revolutionaries pledged their allegiance that September day in 2017 to the self-styled R©publique des Hyper Voisins, or Republic of Super Neighbours, a stretch of the 14th arrondissement on the Left Bank, encompassing roughly 50 streets and 15,000 residents. In the five years since, the republic – a "laboratory for social experimentation" – has attempted to address the shortcomings of modern city living, which can be transactional, fast-paced, and lonely. The experiment encourages people ... to interact daily through mutual aid schemes, voluntary skills-sharing and organised meet ups. A recent event at the Place des Droits de l'Enfant allowed neighbours to celebrate reclaiming the public space. A lifeless road junction ... no longer performed its role as an "urban square" – a place for life, interaction and meetings. But after residents were consulted about what they thought the square should become, it was cleaned, pedestrianised, planted and had street clutter removed with a grant of nearly 200,000 euros from the City of Paris.

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From Bayanihan to Talkoot: Communal work practices from around the world
2021-05-18, Shareable
https://www.shareable.net/from-bayanihan-to-talkoot-communal-work-practices-f...

Communal work refers to a collaborative effort where members of a community come together to achieve a common goal or objective. Different cultures have different names for it, such as Talkoot (Finland), Gotong-royong (Indonesia), Nachbarschaftshilfe (Germany), and Bayanihan in the Philippines. During the eruption of the Taal volcano in the Philippines, the traditional support networks known as Bayanihan came into effect not as a temporary solution to the disaster but as an innate response that Filipinos have in both good times and bad. A response that may have its root in their concept of the "shared self" or Kapwa. Unlike the English word ‘Other', Kapwa is not used in opposition to the self and does not recognize the self as a separate identity. Rather, Kapwa is the unity of self and others and hence implies a shared identity or inner self. From this arises the sense of fellow being that underlies Filipino social interaction. Not only is it socially beneficial, but also the act of completing the task with others is infinitely rewarding. In the book "Shop Class as Soulcraft," Matthew Crawford writes: "The satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy. They seem to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth. He can simply point: the building stands, the car now runs, the lights are on."

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Why a game in which you look for a real, live pink elephant could help save the world
2023-07-09, NPR
https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2023/07/09/1185014763/why-a-game-in...

Edgard Gouveia Jr., 58, says the key to solving the world's problems is games. "I use games and narrative to mobilize crowds," says the Brazilian game inventor and co-founder of Livelab. He's worked with schools, companies, government offices and slums. "Games that can make a whole town, a whole city or even a whole country play together." And now he's developing a global game called "Jornada X" whose goal is to get kids and teenagers to save nothing less than all life on the planet. Through games and playful activities, we create a field of trust. When you create abundance of connection, abundance of possibility, people sense it right away. It doesn't matter if for 30 or 40 years they were living in scarcity. By belonging to a group that we love and that's doing good in the world – these are ways of energizing our collective power, our collective meaning. When you do some good, you feel like you have an identity. [Jornada X] starts with young people. They receive a call that's like a Matrix video that says, "Humanity isn't doing well. Society is violent and nature is dying. But you are one of a group of special kids with superpowers – things like love, helping others, strength, and friendship. As soon as they sign up, the team starts to receive missions. We might say, "Look at your neighborhood. What's wrong?" By the end of seven weeks, they have to find a solution ... Kids play war games all the time. They collaborate to kill people. It's not that they like death, but they want to have this kind of adrenaline. What could be more exciting? My answer is saving the planet in a way that adults haven't been able to."

Note: The latest US Air Force recruitment tool is a video game that allows players to receive in-game medals and achievements for drone bombing Iraqis and Afghans. What world do we want our youth to live in? Explore more positive stories like this in our inspiring news articles archive, which aims to inspire each of us to make a difference.


'It Affects All of Us': Free Financial Counseling Helps Tulsans Thrive
2023-07-13, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/tulsa-financial-empowerment-center-stability/

In 2021, Latoya Tart found herself deep in debt. She had taken out several loans, and struggled to pay them off while still paying for other necessities, including rent and groceries. Then Tart ... learned about a program offering financial counseling free of charge to any resident of Tulsa, Oklahoma. She started seeing a financial counselor at The Financial Empowerment Center in September 2021. The Center is a partnership between the City of Tulsa and Goodwill Industries. "We are really building capacity at the city level, to support and grow and build collaboration among the providers in town who are working to move the needle on financial stability, financial resiliency for Tulsans," says Janae Bradford, director of the City of Tulsa's Office for Financial Empowerment and Community Wealth. During the first session with each new client, a counselor conducts a financial health assessment. "That's where the counselor and the client just go through the financial situation," she says. "How much are you making from your job? What money is coming in? What money's going out? And it's a completely non-judgmental, just comfortable, conversation about what are the facts." Then the counselor and client decide on their main focus area and set a goal. Since the Center opened in December 2020, the FEC has worked with more than 1,300 clients, and counselors have completed more than 2,000 sessions. There are currently 639 active clients working with counselors on their financial goals.

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This Brazilian activist stared down mining giants to protect the rainforest she loves
2023-06-11, NPR
https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2023/06/11/1181172630/this-brazilia...

Destruction in the Amazon is, once again, approaching an all-time high. Some 335 square miles of rainforest were felled in the first three months of 2023 alone, the second worst quarter in the last 16 years. In 2015, the Munduruku [Indigenous people] had long been fighting the extractive industries encroaching on their land. But this was the first time Korap Munduruku, a 38-year-old teacher and mother of two whose face and body are often painted with traditional geometric designs of her people, decided to take a stand and join them. "So our rights are being violated. Everything going on here is wrong," she recalls saying at the meeting. "We need to do something about it. We can't just sit here and do nothing." The next meeting was with her chief and other leaders from the wider community – there are more than 13,000 Munduruku in Brazil. She eventually left the classroom to take up the fight for land rights full-time. Before long she learned that Anglo American, one of the world's largest mining companies, had applied to extract copper on Sawr© Muybu, a Munduruku territory next to her own. That information and the fight that she would lead against the developers led Korap Munduruku to become one of six recipients of the prestigious 2023 Goldman Environmental Prize, which honors grassroots environmental activists. She built a coalition of other Munduruku and, along with 45 chiefs and 200 other participants, published a declaration in December 2020 opposing mining and deforestation in the Amazon.

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Still nurturing love and vines: the centenarian who built Barcelona's first roof garden
2023-06-26, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jun/26/barcelona-centenarian-org...

When Joan Carulla Figueres turned the roof terrace of his Barcelona apartment into a garden, it was out of nostalgia for his rural origins. Sixty-five years later, the ecological concepts he has long followed have become commonplace, and he is acclaimed as a pioneer of organic farming. Carulla, who celebrated his 100th birthday this year, is credited with creating the city's first roof garden. However, his "allotment in the sky" boasts far more than the usual tomato plants and pots of geraniums. It is home to more than 40 fruit trees, vines that produce 100kg (220lbs) of grapes a year, olives, peaches, figs, garlic, aubergines and even potatoes. He is passionate about potatoes. His approach to agriculture is what today we call organic, but Carulla insists he is not doing anything new and that poor farmers have always practised organic farming out of necessity. "My grandparents had little land and no money for fertiliser," he says. "They used animal and vegetable waste and straw. We lived a frugal life. We didn't go hungry, we just lived." Like his forebears, Carulla makes compost from everything, including old magazines and thin wooden fruit boxes. "There's almost nothing we don't use, everything decomposes eventually." If the war made him a vegetarian, it also made him a pacifist. He was 15 when Juneda was bombed and strafed by fascist warplanes. Carulla speaks with sorrow of the 117 people killed in the village and how the reprisals carried out by both sides at the end of the war broke his father's spirit and drove his mother to an early grave. "She was one of the war's silent victims," he says. "I think she died from pain and suffering." He also talks about how at the age of 10 he had an epiphany when he vowed to become un generador de amor (someone who generates love). "I don't know where this phrase came from, but I decided that what I had to do was to create love in everyone, universal love."

Note: Don't miss a great video on Figueres and his garden. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Walking and yoga 'can cut risk of cancer spreading or returning'
2023-06-06, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/jun/06/walking-and-yoga-can-cut-risk...

Walking for 30 minutes a day and practising yoga can help reduce fatigue in cancer patients and cut the risk of the disease spreading, coming back or resulting in death, research suggests. Globally, more than 18 million people develop cancer every year. It is well known that being inactive raises your risk of various forms of the disease. For decades, many oncologists and health professionals have remained reluctant to push patients to exercise in the wake of sometimes gruelling treatment regimes. But the tide appears to be turning. Three studies presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the world's largest cancer conference, add weight to growing evidence that physical activity can help, not hinder, patients. The first study [examined] the impact of yoga's effect on inflammation. The research ... found those who took up yoga had "significantly lower levels of pro-inflammatory markers" compared with patients in the other group. In the second study, [participants] attended 75-minute yoga or health education classes twice a week for four weeks. Yoga was found to be better at helping relieve fatigue and maintain quality of life, the research found. A third study found cancer patients who are active can reduce their risk of dying by almost a fifth. Patients were ranked by their activity levels, with "active" classed as going for at least one 30-minute walk five days a week. After 180 days, 90% of people in the active group were still alive, compared with 74% in the sedentary group.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


How social media platforms can reduce polarization
2022-12-21, Brookings Institute
https://www.brookings.edu/articles/how-social-media-platforms-can-reduce-pola...

Polarization is widely recognized as one of the most pressing issues now facing the United States. Even as polarization has increased in recent years, survey research has consistently shown that many Americans think the nation is more divided than it truly is. Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans think they dislike each other more than they actually do. Social media companies are often blamed for driving greater polarization by virtue of the way they segment political audiences and personalize recommendations in line with their users' existing beliefs and preferences. Given their scale and reach, however, they are also uniquely positioned to help reduce polarization. Jamie Settle's work demonstrates, through a combination of surveys and experiments, that affective polarization is likely to rise when social media users encounter content with partisan cues, even if the content is not explicitly political. A 2020 study by Hunt Allcott and colleagues echoes these concerns. The authors asked some participants to refrain from using Facebook for four weeks. Afterward, these participants reported holding less polarized political views than those who had not been asked to refrain from using Facebook. Deactivating Facebook also made people less hostile toward "the other party." When people interact with someone from their social "outgroup," they often come to view that outgroup in a more favorable light. Spreading more examples of positive intergroup contact ... could go a long way.

Note: Read the full article to explore what social media platforms can do to reduce polarization. For more, read how the people of Taiwan created an online space for debate where politicians can interact with citizens in ways that foreground consensus, and not division.


Calling In: Loretta J. Ross's Antidote to Cancel Culture
2022-10-24, Atmos
https://atmos.earth/calling-in-macarthur-fellow-loretta-j-ross-cancel-culture/

What does it take to have a challenging conversation in the era of cancel culture? For MacArthur Fellow Loretta J. Ross, the answer lies in calling in: a communicative strategy rooted in compassion, accountability, and restorative justice. Cancel culture [is] a phenomenon whereby people deemed to be moral transgressors are publicly discredited on social media platforms, and in some instances, punished through cultural, social, and professional ostracism. Professor Ross thinks this readiness to cancel a person on the basis of their beliefs is toxic. Instead, she espouses empathy and stresses the importance of context in challenging conversations. Calling in is not what you do for other people–it's what you do for yourself. It gives you a chance to offer love, grace, and respect, and to showcase one's own integrity and one's own ability to hold nuance and depth. People mistakenly think that you're doing it because you're trying to change somebody else. That's not possible. And since we don't have the power to control and change others, the only power we're left with is self-empowerment. In this sense, calling in is a conscious decision to not make the world crueler than it needs to be. We're all capable of using a technique I call "the mental parking lot" where you temporarily put aside any visceral reactions you have to what others are saying. It's a technique that requires you not to pay attention to your reaction but rather to devote your focus and respect to the person you're talking to.

Note: Smith College Professor and civil rights activist Loretta Ross worked with Ku Klux Klan members and practiced restorative justice with incarcerated men convicted or raping and murdering women. Watch Loretta Ross's powerful Ted Talk on simple tools to help shift our culture from fighting each other to working together in the face of polarizing social issues.


Brain Waves Synchronize when People Interact
2023-07-01, Scientific American
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/brain-waves-synchronize-when-peopl...

Collective neuroscience, as some practitioners call it, is a rapidly growing field of research. An early, consistent finding is that when people converse or share an experience, their brain waves synchronize. Neurons in corresponding locations of the different brains fire at the same time, creating matching patterns, like dancers moving together. Auditory and visual areas respond to shape, sound and movement in similar ways, whereas higher-order brain areas seem to behave similarly during more challenging tasks such as making meaning out of something seen or heard. The experience of "being on the same wavelength" as another person is real, and it is visible in the activity of the brain. Interbrain synchrony prepares people for interaction and beginning to understand it as a marker of relationships. Given that synchronized experiences are often enjoyable, researchers suspect this phenomenon is beneficial: it helps us interact and may have facilitated the evolution of sociality. This new kind of brain research might also illuminate why we don't always "click" with someone or why social isolation is so harmful to physical and mental health. Preliminary evidence ... shows synchrony between interacting brains and, more intriguingly, that correlations in some brain regions are greater between people while they are telling a joint story than during the independent stories, particularly in the parietal cortex. "That area is active for memory and narrative construction," [neuroscientist Thalia] Wheatley says. "It seems to fit."

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Faced with a violent killing, a family chooses forgiveness over prison
2023-06-26, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/jun/26/restorative-justice-murder-ch...

Alex Fields had not spoken to his nephew in four years. Not since the killing. But when his nephew Donald Fields Jr finally appeared over Zoom from the county jail, Alex Fields was consumed by the moment. Don Jr was charged with the murder of his father, Donald Fields Sr, in 2016. Today was the first step in a long journey that would see a tragedy transformed into a pioneering case of compassion in America's punitive criminal justice system. It marked the first time that restorative justice – the act of resolving crimes through community reconciliation and accountability over traditional punishment – had been used in a homicide case in the state of North Carolina. And probably the first case of its kind in the US. The DA's office forged a new plea deal, which offered Don Jr the opportunity to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter, which could see him sentenced to "time served". The family worked on a new repair agreement, which was 13 points long and had conditions facilitating Don Jr's release. There is increasing evidence that use of restorative justice lowers rates of recidivism. Those who are victims of violence are far more likely to become perpetrators of violent acts later on. "Just as we cannot incarcerate our way out of violence, we cannot reform our way out of mass incarceration without taking on the question of violence," [Danielle Sered] writes. "The context in which violence happens matters, as do the identities and experiences of those involved."

Note: Danielle Sered is the founder of a Brooklyn-based restorative justice organization Common Justice, which is the first alternative-to-incarceration and victim-service program in the United States that focuses on violent felonies in the adult courts. For further reading, explore her book, Until We Reckon: Violence, Mass Incarceration, and a Road to Repair.


Strangers became roommates through a program that connects formerly incarcerated with safe places to live:
2023-02-03, CBS News
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/homecoming-project-formerly-incarcerated-matched...

Last year, when Tyler Jenk was looking for a roommate to share his house in Oakland, California, he met man named Askari Johnson who was looking for a fresh start. Johnson had recently been released from San Quentin State Prison after more than 20 years. The pair ended up forming a symbiotic relationship as roommates, despite coming from different walks of life. While in prison, Johnson had several goals for his new life. One of them was to live independently. His lawyer told him about The Homecoming Project. "The Homecoming Project is a program to place formerly incarcerated people into homes that are potentially a better situation than halfway houses," Jenk explained. "The program pays their rent and gives them a laptop and a cellphone and guidance to help get started back in society." The program is run by Impact Justice and funded by Wells Fargo. Impact Justice says formerly incarcerated people are almost 10 times more likely to become homeless than the general population. And without the right support and resources, more than two-thirds of prisoners are rearrested within three years of their release. Johnson landed a job as a contractor within two months of joining the homecoming project. After six months, he moved out of Jenk's place and was looking for a home of his own. Since it started in August 2022, 100% of The Homecoming Project's more than 80 participants have successfully returned to their community and began rebuilding their lives, the organization said.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


'Impactful and beautiful': how US homeless shelters are getting a radical redesign
2023-06-26, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/jun/26/us-homeless-shelters-redesign

Family Village is not what many people may think of when they envision a homeless shelter: crowded, dingy, maybe dangerous. There are natural bamboo wood floors and walls painted in hues inspired by the ocean – seafoam green, gray and turquoise. Clients can use spacious, multipurpose rooms as they wish, and glass doors allow people to make an informed choice about whether they want to enter that space. The walls are curved, and there's a garden with vegetables and flowers. Severe stress can literally change the brain, affecting memory, coping skills and abilities to regulate emotions. Aware of just how much the physical environment can shape people's lives, more architects are starting to rethink how they design homeless shelters. The goal of trauma-informed design is to help people quiet the part of the brain that stays in survival mode when in a traditional shelter setting. Instead of feeling fearful and on high alert, they can focus on actions like applying for jobs and getting their children to school. The shelter can be what it's suited for: a short-term stopover where people can get back on their feet. A room constructed for family visits can reinforce a sense of community; a personal reading light can promote a sense of autonomy. Some of these discoveries come from ... people who have been residents of shelters. Facilitating effective design requires bringing people who have experienced homelessness and housing instability into the design conversation.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Revolutionary Music Therapy Helps Paralyzed Man Walk and Talk Again – It 'Unlocked the Brain'
2023-04-30, Good News Network
https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/music-therapy-helps-paralyzed-man-walk-and-ta...

A patient who was left almost completely paralyzed from a rare disease is now walking and talking again, after a music therapist prescribed mindful listening to his favorite song every night–in this case, a tune by The Carpenters. 71 year-old Ian Palmer was struck down with Guillain-Barr© syndrome last June, forcing him to spend seven months in a hospital where he was unable to walk or speak properly. The rare condition happens when a person's own immune system attacks their body's motor nerves, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. But when Ian was transferred to Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre, a state-of-the-art care unit in Lancashire, England, clinicians used music therapy techniques to overcome 'near total paralysis of his body'. His specialist, Clare, taught him mindfulness techniques using his favorite records–and he began listening to The Carpenters each night. Ian was admittedly skeptical, but he can now walk 2 miles a day (3k) and have conversations with his family after the exercises "opened up" his brain. He's never been very musical, so when Sue Ryder first suggested music therapy he said, 'What good is that going to do?' "I'm a typical Northern man, and I thought, 'What's a girl with a guitar going to do for me–get me to the gym.'" "But it really worked. Clare sat me down and explained the process. I learned that music is very unlike other therapies, as it opens up all of the brain."

Note: Watch a profoundly touching documentary about a man who takes on the broken healthcare system to demonstrate music's ability to heal, combat memory loss, and awaken the soul and the deepest parts of humanity. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


How a dose of MDMA transformed a white supremacist
2023-06-14, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20230614-how-a-dose-of-mdma-transformed-a-...

Harriet de Wit, a professor of psychiatry and behavioural science at the University of Chicago, was running an experiment on whether the drug MDMA increased the pleasantness of social touch in healthy volunteers. Mike Bremmer, de Wit's research assistant, appeared at her office door with a concerned look on his face. A man named Brendan had filled out a standard questionnaire at the end. Strangely, at the very bottom of the form, Brendan had written in bold letters: "This experience has helped me sort out a debilitating personal issue. Google my name. I now know what I need to do." Brendan had been the leader of ... a notorious white nationalist group. "Go ask him what he means by 'I now know what I need to do,'" [de Wit] instructed Bremmer. As he clarified to Bremmer, love is what he had just realised he had to do. "Love is the most important thing," he told the baffled research assistant. "I conceived of my relationships with other people not as distinct boundaries with distinct entities, but more as we-are-all-one. I realised I'd been fixated on stuff that doesn't really matter. There are moments when I have racist or antisemitic thoughts ... But now I can recognise that those kinds of thought patterns are harming me more than anyone else." While MDMA cannot fix societal-level drivers of prejudice and disconnection, on an individual basis it can make a difference. In certain cases, the drug may even be able to help people see through the fog of discrimination and fear that divides so many of us.

Note: A case study about Brendan was published in the journal Biological Psychiatry. Read more on the healing potentials of psychedelic medicine, including science journalist Rachel Nuwer's new book, I Feel Love: MDMA and the Quest for Connection in a Fractured World. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Scientists Detect Brain Activity in Dying People Linked to Dreams, Hallucinations
2023-05-01, Vice
https://www.vice.com/en/article/dy3p3w/scientists-detect-brain-activity-in-dy...

Scientists have observed a surge of energetic activity in the brains of dying patients, a discovery that reveals that our brains can be active even as our hearts stop beating, reports a new study. The results challenge a longstanding assumption that brains become nonfunctional as they lose oxygen during cardiac arrest, and could eventually open a new window into the weird phenomena associated with near-death experiences (NDE). Jimo Borjigin, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Michigan, has been interested in these questions since she first observed surges of activity in the brains of dying rats. The surges consisted of gamma waves, the fastest oscillations in the brain, which are associated with conscious perceptions, lucid dreams, and hallucinations. Now, Borjigin and her colleagues have discovered similar gamma activity in the brains of patients who died in the hospital while they were monitored by electroencephalogram (EEG) sensors, which record neural activity. The findings could ... help explain near-death experiences, which the study described as "a biological paradox that challenges our fundamental understanding of the dying brain, which is widely believed to be nonfunctioning" during death. "The dying brain was thought to be inactive; our study showed otherwise," said Borjigin, the senior author of the study. "As far as I am concerned, our study may be as good as it will ever get for finding neural signatures of near-death consciousness."

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles on near-death experiences.


Woodworking and Hugs: Inside the Mental Health Movement for Men
2023-06-12, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/mens-sheds-mental-health-woodworking-therapy/

In 2002, Chris Morgan lost his wife to cancer. A British army veteran who had put in 24 years of service as a gunner in the Royal Artillery, he was already struggling with PTSD when she passed away, and the grief from the loss triggered a breakdown. In despair, Morgan contemplated taking his own life. Instead, Morgan retreated to his shed. "It was my woodworking shed that was my safe place. And although I may not have done too much woodworking, it was just being in there that I knew helped," Morgan shared. "In fact, it saved my life." In 2008, he held an impromptu spoon carving class for a group of visiting wounded soldiers. The spontaneous seminar became a weekly workshop, and ultimately evolved into a dedicated permanent woodworking seminar that has been known as Veterans Woodcraft since 2016. Veterans Woodcraft is one of 3,000 so-called Men's Sheds scattered across the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, the US, Kenya and South Africa. The concept began in Australia in the 1990s to help tackle isolation and loneliness in predominantly older men. Men's Sheds UK chief officer Charlie Bethel ... says that of all the impacts he's seen from Men's Sheds in his five-year tenure, suicide prevention is the one that stands out the most. In a recent survey of 178 of the UK's 600 Men's Sheds, 25 percent of respondents said they had definitely saved a member's life, and 14 percent felt confident they had. Bethel hopes to set up a further 1,900 Men's Sheds across the UK over the next 10 years.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Trafficking Victims Are Becoming Anti-Trafficking Warriors
2023-04-06, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/human-trafficking-victims-become-attorneys/

School for Justice empowers girls who have been victims of child trafficking by helping them attain degrees and jobs through which they can defend other trafficking victims. The school collaborates with local NGOs to identify trafficking survivors and helps them gain admission to universities to pursue law, social work and journalism degrees. Along the way, School for Justice provides the girls with an array of supports, and after completion of their studies, assists them in obtaining internships and jobs at law firms. "All the girls are very eager to pursue their education, especially law, and we give them all kinds of support for pursuing their studies and further internships and jobs," says Rishi Kant, one of the founders of Shaktivahini, the Delhi-based NGO that runs the program. Some become attorneys or paralegals, while others train to become police officers or journalists focused on human trafficking. Along the way, School for Justice helps them cover expenses for hostels, food, medical needs, traveling, internet charges and English communication classes. The program also runs trainings and workshops. Even as it works with trafficking victims specifically, the School for Justice is striving to ignite a broader conversation about the realities of child prostitution. "We should create awareness [among] not only girls, but also adolescent boys, about sex being a part of their life and to not treat it as a commodity available in the market," says Tapoti Bhowmick, senior program coordinator at the anti-trafficking NGO Sanlaap.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


‘Collective strength': the LRA captive restoring dignity to survivors in Uganda
2021-08-03, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/aug/03/collective-strengt...

When Victoria Nyanjura was abducted from her Catholic boarding school in northern Uganda by members of the Lord's Resistance Army, she prayed to God asking to die. She was 14 when she was taken, along with 29 others, in the middle of the night. During the next eight years in captivity she was subjected to beatings, starvation, rape and other horrors. Nyanjura gave birth to two children. After a dramatic escape one rainy night, Nyanjura was able to return to her family with her children, go back into education and start the process of healing. Now, her work has helped push through a major law reform in Uganda. She coordinated the Women's Advocacy Network, made up of more than 900 women who were also survivors of the war in northern Uganda. Together they launched a petition in 2014 asking the Ugandan parliament to address the challenges they faced as they tried to rebuild their lives. The petition asked for free healthcare and better access to services, funding to support children born in captivity, training for teachers on how to work with trauma and a review of laws that require information on paternity, among other things. Officials listened to their accounts and demands for change, and in 2019 the government passed a transitional justice policy to remedy the plight of survivors. "I need to tell the story of change," [Nyanjura] says. "I want to make people smile, and use my voice to see global change in stopping violence."

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


With Green Prescriptions, Getting Healthier Is a Walk in the Park
2023-05-29, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/green-prescriptions-health-nature-parks/

Scientific research has long established the healing powers of the outdoors, but now programs promoting regular visits to nature – known as green or nature prescriptions – are nourishing the health of people and parks across the globe. Green prescriptions were pioneered decades ago. In 1982, doctors in Japan began encouraging therapeutic so-called "forest bathing," or Shinrin-yoku, which is now available in 62 certified forest-therapy bases. In New Zealand, green prescriptions ... have become a formal part of the health care system. Canada last year launched its first nationwide green prescription program. Today, 4,000 green prescriptions have been written by over 10,000 physicians ... in all 10 provinces. The benefits of spending time in nature are as established as a centuries-old oak trunk, and include reduced stress and improved sleep, happiness, attention, memory and creativity. In one 2015 study, researchers in Canada found that adding 10 more trees to a city block improved perceived health and well-being as much as increasing people's income by $10,000 or making them seven years younger. Time in nature even impacts the very functioning of our bodies: a study by a professor at University College London found that contact with microbes in the environment strengthens our immune systems, improving the resilience of our skin, airways and guts. 

Note: Read more about the fascinating "hope molecules" that get released when we exercise, which can act as a powerful antidepressant for improved mental health.


New research illuminates how the human brain creates its own psychedelic drugs
2023-02-20, Salon
https://www.salon.com/2023/02/20/new-research-illuminates-how-the-human-brain...

The World Health Organization estimates that ... depression and anxiety rose by more than 25 percent in the first year of the COVID pandemic, adding to the nearly one billion people who were already living with a mental disorder. One of the principal ways mental health disorders are thought to manifest is through severed connections between neurons – the winding, spindly cells in our brain and throughout our body essential for interpreting info from the external environment. Certain antidepressant drugs seem to work by increasing serotonin levels, an important neurotransmitter that the brain uses to send signals between neurons. They can help regrow neuronal connections ... only the effect seems to be slower, less dramatic [and] can come with significant drawbacks. In contrast, psychedelics can promote this kind of regrowth in as little as 24 hours, often less. Many experts believe psychedelic drugs ... act like Miracle Grow for neurons, helping them flourish like a dense forest. Pretty much the only reason drugs have a psychoactive effect on us at all is because they closely resemble chemicals our body already produces. Most psychedelic drugs like LSD, DMT and psilocybin are structurally similar to serotonin, so they can act on serotonin receptors, but in a slightly different way. You can think of it like clumsily-made lockpicks that still work in a lock designed for a specific key. But even the slight differences can have profound effects, specifically, altered perception of time and space and intensified colors and sounds.

Note: Read more on the healing potentials of psychedelic medicine. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


'Everything is natural and tastes so good': microfarms push back against 'food apartheid'
2023-06-10, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jun/10/local-food-microfarms-equity

In South Los Angeles, Crop Swap LA volunteers and staffers harvested bags of freshly picked produce from the front yard of a residence. "Everything we're growing is nutrient-dense and the food remains in the neighborhood," says Jamiah Hargins, who founded Crop Swap LA in 2018 as a small monthly swap of surplus produce. After spending years in finance and consulting, Hargins decided to create a local food distribution system to address the fact that his neighborhood was a food desert, meaning most residents have little access to healthy food. It's now one of many Bipoc-led groups across the US that are reclaiming their agricultural heritage and redefining the local food movement by growing on traditional farms and unconventional spaces such as yards, medians and vacant lots as a way to increase food security and health in their own communities. There are similar groups run by communities of color across the US. After the Chicora-Cherokee community in North Charleston, South Carolina, was left without a grocery store for more than 10 years, Fresh Future Farm stepped in. Founded in 2014, the non-profit transformed a vacant lot into a flourishing urban farm that grows bananas, sugarcane, meyer lemons, satsuma oranges, collard greens, okra and tomatoes, among other crops. Two years later, it opened a sliding scale grocery store on the same property – the first one in the area in 11 years. The non-profit also teaches home gardening classes, which is inspiring a new crop of home growers.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Scientists Discover Microbes That Could Revolutionize Plastic Recycling
2023-05-26, Smithsonian Magazine
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/scientists-discover-microbes-that-c...

High in the Swiss Alps and the Arctic, scientists have discovered microbes that can digest plastics–importantly, without the need to apply excess heat. Their findings, published this month in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, could one day improve plastic recycling. It's no secret that plastic pollution is a big, global issue. Since its production exploded during and after World War II, humans have created more than 9.1 billion tons of plastic–and researchers estimate that less than one tenth of the resulting waste has been recycled. To make matters worse, the most common recycling option–when plastic is washed, processed and turned into new products–doesn't actually reduce waste: The recycled materials are often lower quality and might later end up in a landfill all the same. Researchers are looking for solutions to the plastics problem. One process they've experimented with is breaking down plastics using microorganisms. Enzymes from the microorganisms found in the Arctic and Swiss Alps ... were able to break down biodegradable plastics at 59 degrees Fahrenheit. "These organisms could help to reduce the costs and environmental burden of an enzymatic recycling process for plastic," co-author Joel RĂ„thi [said]. Of the total 34 types of microbes examined, 19 were successfully able to break down a form of plastic called polyester-polyurethane, and 17 could break down two types of biodegradable plastic mixtures.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


More than 5,000 new species discovered in Pacific deep-sea mining hotspot
2023-05-25, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/may/25/more-than-5000-new-specie...

Scientists have discovered more than 5,000 new species living on the seabed in an untouched area of the Pacific Ocean that has been identified as a future hotspot for deep-sea mining, according to a review of the environmental surveys done in the area. It is the first time the previously unknown biodiversity of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), a mineral-rich area of the ocean floor that spans 1.7m sq miles between Hawaii and Mexico in the Pacific, has been comprehensively documented. The research will be critical to assessing the risk of extinction of the species, given contracts for deep-sea mining in the near-pristine area appear imminent. Most of the animals identified by researchers exploring the zone are new to science, and almost all are unique to the region: only six, including a carnivorous sponge and a sea cucumber, have been seen elsewhere. One of the deep-sea animals discovered was nicknamed the "gummy squirrel", because of its huge tail and jelly-like appearance, he said. There are also glass sponges, some of which look like vases. The most common categories of creatures in the CCZ are arthropods, worms, members of the spider family and echinoderms, which include spiny invertebrates such as sea urchins, and sponges. "Our role as scientists ... is to provide the data," [biologist Dr. Adrian Glover] said. "Everyone who lives on this planet should be concerned about using it in a sustainable way. I see it as very positive that we can come up with a regulatory structure before mining takes place."

Note: Don't miss the incredible photos of these newly discovered deep-sea species, from the 'gummy squirrel' to deep-sea cucumbers. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Dogs Do It, Birds Do It, and Dolphins Do It, Too. Here Are 65 Animals That Laugh, According to Science
2021-05-19, Smithsonian Magazine
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/study-finds-65-animals-laugh-180977...

People seem to love nothing more than anthropomorphizing our non-human counterparts in nature. These videos might make us giggle, but what about the creatures that star in them, can they laugh? The answer, according to a new paper studying animals at play, may be yes–to the tune of some 65 species that researchers pegged as "laughing" during bouts of playful activity, reports Mindy Weisberger for Live Science. "This work lays out nicely how a phenomenon once thought to be particularly human turns out to be closely tied to behavior shared with species separated from humans by tens of millions of years," says Greg Bryant, a cognitive scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles and co-author of the study. Most of the 65 species identified by the study, which was published last month in the journal Bioacoustics, were mammals, such as primates, foxes, killer whales and seals, but three bird species also made the list. For animals, the researchers suggest, a laughing noise may help signal that roughhousing, or other behavior that might seem threatening, is all in good fun. "[Some actions] could be interpreted as aggression. The vocalization kind of helps to signal during that interaction that 'I'm not actually going to bite you in the neck. This is just going to be a mock bite,'" [said] Sarah Winkler ... the paper's lead author. "It helps the interaction not escalate into real aggression." Many of the animal laughs identified by the study sound nothing like a human chuckle. For example, Rocky Mountain elk emit a kind of squeal.

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After The Genocide, Author Witnessed How Rwandans Defined Forgiveness
2019-04-09, NPR
https://www.npr.org/2019/04/09/711314421/after-the-genocide-author-witnessed-...

It happened 25 years ago - up to 800,000 people in Rwanda killed - mostly from the minority Tutsi community, all of that over the course of just a hundred days. Today the hundreds of thousands of people who carried out those killings live among their victims. Journalist and author Philip Gourevitch has witnessed the unique way Rwandans have defined and navigated forgiveness after the massacre. In order to navigate the aftermath of the genocide, the Rwandan government set up this nationwide reconciliation process. So they set up a system of community courts - without lawyers - to sort of repurpose a system that really had only been used for small claims mitigation in traditional Rwanda, called gacaca, and have open, communal - what we might call a town hall - format for trials. And then the idea was to hold people accountable and have a system of punishment. And this system banked very heavily on encouraging confession and rewarding it. But the confessions were supposed to be also verified by the community. The motto of the gacaca courts was, truth heals. Forgiveness doesn't require trust. Forgiveness simply means letting go of the idea of getting even, forgoing the idea of revenge. Right? Now, even that's a big ask. But it means accepting coexistence. There's never been as comprehensive a reckoning with such communal violence or mass atrocity. It was an ongoing, multi-year confrontation with the past in the communities.

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A man spent 29 years in prison for a rape he didn't commit. The survivor just helped free him
2023-05-16, CNN News
https://edition.cnn.com/2023/05/09/us/patrick-brown-wrongful-conviction-vacat...

After spending 29 years in prison for the rape of his stepdaughter, a New Orleans man is free thanks to the help of the local district attorney's office and testimony from the victim herself, who has insisted for 20 years that he is not the man who raped her. Patrick Brown was convicted of raping his 6-year-old stepdaughter in 1994 after pleading not guilty in a trial in which the victim did not testify. Since 2002, the stepdaughter had repeatedly asked the DA's office under former administrations to review the case and prosecute the actual perpetrator, the release said. The office's civil rights division opened an investigation into the victim's case, found that the evidence corroborated her account and asked the court to rectify the case. "The attorneys in the Civil Rights Division in Orleans Parish are the only prosecutors I have ever worked with in Louisiana who truly take the admonition to ‘do Justice' seriously – as evidenced by the fact that they listened to the victim in this case the first time she reached out, instead of ignoring her like their predecessors did for more than 20 years," Kelly Orians told CNN. "The State is actively reviewing the viability (of) charges against the actual perpetrator," Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams told CNN. Williams launched the civil rights division in part to "review cases of wrongful convictions and excessive sentences." The division has intervened in 284 cases since 2021, boasting an estimated $266 million in taxpayer savings on lifetime incarceration.

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The Lullaby Project helps incarcerated mothers connect with their kids through music
2023-04-16, NPR
https://www.npr.org/2023/04/16/1170315860/the-lullaby-project-helps-incarcera...

When someone is pregnant and they're incarcerated, separation after they give birth is almost immediate. At a women's prison outside Columbia, S.C., a project is underway to help reconnect a few mothers with their children through the creation of lullabies. Ashley [is] incarcerated at the Graham Camille Griffin Correctional Institution, and she's taking part in the prison's pilot songwriting program, working with graduate students from the University of South Carolina School of Music. Together, the grad students and the mothers chart out lyrics, workshop the melodies and collaborate on the layers of musicality needed to get the lullabies just right for a vocalist with the university. Ashley has five children, including her most recent. She says the hardest part of this is being away from them as she counts down the days till her parole or release. And she says the good graces of the students is not lost on those serving out their sentences. "It's - yeah, they could be volunteering anywhere else, like an elementary or something," [said Ashley]. "But they took their time to come to a prison. And even though we are here for crimes and we are sitting here being punished and everything, we're still human, and we still have families that care about us. And everybody makes mistakes, and we're here paying for our mistakes. So any mother out there that has kids, and they're your world, let them know it."

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The Library Where the ‘Books' Are Human Beings
2021-11-29, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/human-library-borrow-person-locations/

"Don't judge a book by its cover" is the kind of advice most people forget when they meet Joel Hartgrove. Maori tattoos cover his neck, ears and his shaved skull. Hartgrove is an open book. You can borrow him for 20 minutes, talk to him about his time in the Australian army, his Indigenous roots, his tattoos, anything you'd like. You'll find you're speaking with a deep thinker who answers nosy questions with humor and heart – a common trait among the "books" available for loan in Ronni Abergel's library. "They are stigmatized," Abergel says of his collection, "maybe because of their weight, their looks, their profession, their religious, sexual or political orientation, or because they survived abuse and traumas. We can't just judge someone on face value." Abergel, 48, is the director of the biggest and most beautiful library in the world: the Human Library, where you borrow people instead of books and speak with them about their lives. His library rules are simple: Treat the books respectfully; bring them back on time and in the same shape you borrowed them; don't take them home. "They will answer any question you have the courage to ask," Abergel promises. The Human Library is now active in 80 countries, with branches in Texas and Tokyo, Bangladesh and Berlin. Every reader who visits, virtually or in-person, chooses two or three topics that interest them: rugby, depression, refugees, sex work, cancer, grief. "There is a great book hidden in all of us, and most of us would be bestsellers," Abergel believes.

Note: Don't miss a deeply moving series called HUMAN by filmmaker Yann Arthus-Bertrand, who spent three years collecting real-life stories from thousands of people in 60 countries. Their stories, although unique to them, speak to the human condition and the parts of life that unite us all: love, happiness, poverty, war, and the future of our planet.


The scientists coaxing back nature with sound
2023-05-19, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20230519-the-sound-recordings-used-to-coax...

Beyond human hearing, a cacophony of natural clicks, whistles and hums pass all around us, linking billions of living beings in networks of sound. Mother whales whisper to their young so predators can't hear them. Bees emit unique buzzing signals to distinguish threats from specific predators. Turtle embryos synchronise their collective moment of birth by making sounds through their shells. And unknown fish species buzz to one another in the depths – their very identities one of nature's countless sonic mysteries. What if tapping into these sounds could allow us to not only to learn more about the natural world, but actually help to begin healing it? An emerging appreciation for the biological importance of sound has led to new strategies for environmental conservation. From microscopic larvae lost at sea to birds that travel hundreds of miles from home, conservationists are now starting to use the sounds of nature to guide them back to where they belong. "Sound is so important," says Cheryl Tipp, curator of wildlife and environmental sound at the British Library. "In the natural world, it's used in mating displays, in territorial disputes, as alarm signals." For humans trying to support nature, meanwhile, sound can be used to identify new species, monitor populations and assess the health of ecosystems, she says. There is now a growing interest in the use of sound to accelerate habitat restoration itself, by coaxing certain species to certain locations using their very own sounds.

Note: Listen to a fascinating interview with biologist and innovation consultant Janine Benyus, who explores the power of biomimicry, a practice that learns from and mimics the strategies used by natural systems and species alive today. Benyus proposes that biomimicry can solve some of the gravest of societal and environmental problems by discovering how nature has already solved some of these challenges.


A Biodiversity Hotspot Flourishes as Costa Rica Puts Nature on the Payroll
2023-05-15, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/costa-rica-paying-locals-protect-wildlife-b...

The Osa Peninsula on Costa Rica's west coast occupies just 0.001 percent of the planet's surface area, yet is home to an estimated 2.5 percent of all the biodiversity in the world. Inhabited by jaguar, tapir and close to 400 species of birds, the forests here – and others like them around the world – combat biodiversity loss and play a key role in capturing carbon and fighting climate change. "For us it has been important because before, we protected [the forests], we looked after them, but we didn't receive anything for it," says Lineth Picado Mena, a rural farmer living on the peninsula and participant in the government's Payments for Environmental Services (PES) program. "Now we can support ourselves with what we have." By paying landowners for ecosystem services, the government incentivizes them to conserve the environment. That counteracts the market forces that put pressure on landowners to convert tropical forests to farmland or other land uses. In Costa Rica, the PES program's annual budget is between $20 million and $25 million, of which 92 percent is funded from a sales tax on fossil fuels, while nearly six percent comes from water usage fees. This allocation is fixed and provides assurance that funds will be available each year. The remaining amount is collected through various government initiatives, such as carbon credits and public-private partnerships. The program ... is credited with turning Costa Rica's deforestation rate from one of the highest in the world to a net reforestation.

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The secret to why exercise is so good for mental health? 'Hope molecules'
2023-05-04, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/may/04/exercise-mental-health-...

One of the most interesting health research projects of the past decade or so has looked at how exactly exercise makes us feel good. Research shows that there appears to be a clear scientific reason, that we can see at a cellular level. When muscles contract, they secrete chemicals into the bloodstream. Among these chemicals are myokines, which have been referred to as "hope molecules". These small proteins travel to the brain, cross the blood-brain barrier, and act as an antidepressant. They do this by improving our mood, our ability to learn, our capacity for locomotor activity, and protect the brain from the negative effects of ageing. This has been referred to as "muscle-brain cross-talk". They're also responsible for improved metabolism, reduced inflammation, and increased muscle strength. Myokines are not solely responsible for feeling good: exercise also releases neurotransmitters such as dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin that have a positive impact on our brains. So when you're feeling low, it's tempting to do a Netflix binge, or spend hours scrolling on social media comparing others' lives to yours, and feeling increasingly sad. This is especially true for teenagers. The antidote we know clearly from epidemiology and biology is to just get moving: whether it's joining a team, going for a long walk, or finding a community gym or yoga class. You'll certainly feel more hopeful afterwards.

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Inside Too Good To Go's Mission To Make Unused Food Accessible To All
2023-04-21, Forbes
https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevenaquino/2023/04/21/inside-too-good-to-gos-m...

Food costs, especially in times of inflation, can be exorbitant. Likewise, getting to a brick-and-mortar grocery store may well be logistically impossible due to health and/or mobility concerns. It's also true having limited access to food may be detrimental not merely because a person lacks basic sustenance, but also because certain medications work only when taken with food. Without it, those drugs may cease to work as effectively, if at all. Founded in 2016 in Copenhagen by five entrepreneurs, the team at Too Good To Go is trying to curb food insecurity around the globe by fighting food waste. On its website, Too Good To Go (TGTG) reports 2.8 billion tons of food is wasted every year. The app, available on iOS and Android, features a number of partner businesses–bakeries, supermarkets, and restaurants–nearest a user's location that are giving away so-called "Surprise Bags" of unsold food. Rather than perfectly good food wasting away in a waste basket somewhere, TGTG users can stop by said businesses and pick up the food for themselves. The app's UI is similar to those of on-demand food delivery services like ... DoorDash, UberEats, and Postmates. Users are able to see which places are available, what they may get, and then sign up to pick up the items at a designated time. To date, TGTG boasts 4.2 million users and 9,790 businesses on its platform. Earlier this month, the company ... announced they are carbon neutral and have saved 100 million bags in the last seven years.

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The Surprising Role of Blind Women in India's Health Care System
2023-05-18, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/blind-women-detect-breast-cancer-india/

On a sunny March morning in Bengaluru, Ayesha Banu and Noorunnisa walk up to the stage of Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology. Their white canes folded and held aside, they speak to a packed hall of students and teachers about their work as Medical Tactile Examiners (MTEs). "We assist doctors in detecting the early signs of breast cancer in women," Banu speaks into the mic. "Using the first two fingers of both hands, we examine women's breasts for abnormalities." She explains that blind women like herself and Noorunnisa are especially well-suited to this profession because of the "high tactile sense in our fingertips, which helps us find tiny lumps in the breast." Tactile breast examinations, or TBEs, are clinical breast examinations specially designed for blind women trained as MTEs. Employing MTEs for routine breast cancer screening – and reaching women in their communities and workplaces – could help in the early detection of cancer and save lives, says Dr. Poovamma CU, the breast specialist under whom Banu and Noorunnisa work. Studies prove that in the absence of sight, blind people's brains can develop a heightened sense of touch, as well as hearing. Through the MTE training, a woman with vision impairment is able to empower another woman, by offering her preventive health care. In a recent Indian study where two MTEs conducted TBEs on 1,338 women, their success rate of detecting malignant cancers was over 78 percent, and the miss rate, only one percent.

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Local communities are buying medical debt for pennies on the dollar–and freeing American families from the threat of bankruptcy
2023-03-10, Fortune
https://fortune.com/2023/03/10/local-communities-are-buying-medical-debt-for-...

No one chooses medical debt. Many Americans who fall ill have no choice but to rack up debt in order to stay healthy or, in some cases, stay alive. For the underinsured and uninsured, incurring debt is inevitable. In a June 2022 survey, 40% percent of adults said they were burdened with medical debt. But progress on this issue is already underway. A recent report found that medical debt has fallen by almost 18% since 2020. This change is no coincidence, rather it points to the real impact that relief programs ... have had on everyday Americans. One such program comes out of my city of Toledo, Ohio. In November, Toledo City Council passed a community-scale medical debt relief initiative in partnership with Lucas County. We partnered with the national charity RIP Medical Debt and devoted $800,000 of Toledo's ARPA funds (and $800,000 of the matched commitment from Lucas county) to medical debt relief. The way it works is simple: RIP Medical Debt purchases debt for pennies on the dollar and then relieves the debt. Our groundbreaking program will wipe out as much as $240 million in medical debt for as many as 41,000 people at a cost of only $1.6 million. There are no administrative hurdles for community members to overcome. Instead, relief recipients are simply sent a letter informing them their debt has been canceled. Two-thirds of Americans (67%) would support the Toledo model for medical debt relief being adopted in their community, including strong majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. 

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Minnesota's Prison-to-Grilled-Cheese Pipeline Is Changing Lives
2023-04-27, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/minnesota-all-square-prison-entrepreneurs/

All Square in Minneapolis, Minnesota ... with its bright pink neon sign buzzing in the window on Minnehaha Avenue, is serving up much more than gooey sandwiches. Launched in September 2018 by a civil rights lawyer, All Square is a social enterprise that uses its restaurant (and a food truck) to right the wrongs of the American criminal justice system. The staff of All Square "fellows" is a rotating cohort of formerly incarcerated people. During the nine-month fellowship, employees receive not only a living wage, but also wraparound services like therapy sessions, professional development support and access to funding opportunities. To date, All Square has provided 48 fellowships, $2.8 million in wages ($1.6 million of which has gone directly to formerly incarcerated Minnesotans), 400 therapy sessions, and more than $60,000 in micro-grants for seed capital and debt alleviation. The overarching goal of All Square is to offer a true second chance at life post-incarceration that is otherwise systematically denied through near insurmountable restrictions to necessities like housing and jobs. Leveraging entrepreneurship to sidestep the inability to access traditional employment is just what Onika Goodluck, one of the original 14 fellows, did. Turned onto the program by her probation officer, Goodluck applied and after two interviews, landed the gig. After 10 years of on-and-off incarceration ... she says that therapy has made the biggest difference.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Pope Francis gives women right to vote in bishops' meeting for first time
2023-04-26, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/apr/27/pope-francis-gives-women-right-...

Pope Francis has decided to give women the right to vote at an upcoming meeting of bishops, an unprecedented change that reflects his hopes to give women greater decision-making responsibilities. Francis approved changes to the norms governing the Synod of Bishops, a Vatican body that gathers the world's bishops together for periodic meetings, following decades of demands by women to have the right to vote. The Vatican on Wednesday published the modifications he approved, which emphasise his vision for the lay faithful taking on a greater role in church affairs that have long been left to clerics, bishops and cardinals. Ever since the Second Vatican Council, the 1960s meetings that modernized the church, popes have summoned the world's bishops to Rome for a few weeks at a time to debate particular topics. At the end of the meetings, the bishops vote on specific proposals and put them to the pope, who then produces a document taking their views into account. Until now, the only people who could vote were men. But under the new changes, five religious sisters will join five priests as voting representatives for religious orders. In addition, Francis has decided to appoint 70 non-bishop members of the synod and has asked that half of them be women. They too will have a vote. The aim is also to include young people among these 70 non-bishop members, who will be proposed to the pope by regional blocs, with Francis making a final decision.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Researchers Use Algae to Power a Computer for Months
2022-05-17, Smithsonian Magazine
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/researchers-use-algae-to-power-comp...

Researchers have discovered how to use cyanobacteria–commonly called blue-green algae–to continuously power a microprocessor for a span of more than six months. The system, which uses inexpensive and largely recyclable materials, contains a type of non-toxic photosynthetic algae called Synechocystis, per a statement. The research was published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science. "We were impressed by how consistently the system worked over a long period of time–we thought it might stop after a few weeks but it just kept going," says Paolo Bombelli, a researcher from the University of Cambridge's Department of Biochemistry and lead author of the paper. The scientists created an enclosure out of aluminum and clear plastic and put the bacteria inside it. The device, which is about the size of a AA battery, was placed on a windowsill in Bombelli's home during Covid-19 lockdown in 2021 and remained there from February to August. The bacteria powered an Arm Cortex M0+ processor–a microprocessor widely used in the network of appliances connected to the internet, also called the Internet of Things (IoT). The cyanobacteria produced energy even without light, perhaps because they process some of their food in the dark, which generates an electrical current. Several billion IoT devices already exist, and that number is expected to rise to one trillion by 2035. Powering all those devices would require 109,000 tons of lithium, which is three times more than what the world produced in 2017.

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Seal's mystery ability to tolerate toxic metal could aid medical research, say scientists
2023-04-29, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/apr/29/seals-mystery-ability-to-...

One of the world's most isolated aquatic mammals, Arctocephalus philippii, can tolerate high levels of cadmium, as well as other metallic pollutants, without suffering ill effects. A. philippii is the second smallest species of fur seal and lives only on the Juan Fernández archipelago and one or two nearby islands in the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of miles off the coast of Chile. By the 19th century, the species had disappeared and was believed to be extinct until, in the 1960s, a small colony was found in a cave on the island. Since then, the Juan Fernández seal, which has become a protected species, has slowly recovered and has a population of around 80,000. "We collected samples of their faeces and found they contained extremely high levels of cadmium and other elements such as mercury," said Constanza Toro-Valdivieso of Cambridge University's conservation research institute. "The discovery was very surprising," she said. "Cadmium is poisonous to mammals but somehow these seals were processing it and passing it through their digestive systems and seem to be suffering little harm in the process." High levels were found not only in its faeces but in the bones of seals that had died of natural causes. The researchers also found high levels of silicon in their bones, which may be offsetting the impact of cadmium, they suggest. "The discovery that these animals appear to tolerate high levels of cadmium in their bodies has important medical implications," said Toro-Valdivieso. "These animals have a lot to tell us."

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Botanist Stefano Mancuso: ‘You can anaesthetise all plants. This is extremely fascinating'
2023-04-15, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/apr/15/scientist-stefano-mancuso...

Stefano Mancuso is a pioneer in the plant neurobiology movement, which seeks to understand "how plants perceive their circumstances and respond to environmental input in an integrated fashion". Mancuso teaches at the University of Florence, his alma mater, where he runs the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology. He has written five bestselling books on plants. "Communication means you are able to emit a message and there is something able to receive it, and in this sense plants are great communicators. If you are unable to move, if you are rooted, it's of paramount importance for you to communicate a lot," [said Mancuso]. "Plants are obliged to communicate a lot, and they use different systems. The most important is through volatiles, or chemicals that are emitted in the atmosphere and received by other plants. It's an extremely sophisticated form of communication, a kind of vocabulary. Every single molecule means something, and they mix very different molecules to send a specific message. My approach to studying consciousness in plants ... started by seeing if they were sensitive to anaesthetics and found that you can anaesthetise all plants by using the same anaesthetics that work in humans. This is extremely fascinating. We were thinking that consciousness was something related to the brain, but I think that both consciousness and intelligence are more embodied, relating to the entire body."

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'Bees are sentient': inside the stunning brains of nature's hardest workers
2023-04-02, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/apr/02/bees-intelligence-minds-p...

When Stephen Buchmann finds a wayward bee on a window inside his Tucson, Arizona, home, he goes to great lengths to capture and release it unharmed. This March, Buchmann released a book that unpacks just how varied and powerful a bee's mind really is. The book, What a Bee Knows: Exploring the Thoughts, Memories and Personalities of Bees, draws from his own research and dozens of other studies to paint a remarkable picture of bee behavior and psychology. It argues that bees can demonstrate sophisticated emotions resembling optimism, frustration, playfulness and fear, traits more commonly associated with mammals. Experiments have shown bees can experience PTSD-like symptoms, recognize different human faces, process long-term memories while sleeping, and maybe even dream. Approximately one-third of the American diet, including many fruits, vegetables and nuts, relies on bees for pollination. In the past, bee research has focused on their role in crop pollination, but the work being pioneered by Buchmann and his contemporaries could force an ethical reckoning with how the animals are treated. Can large-scale agriculture and scientific research continue without causing bees to suffer, and is the dominant western culture even capable of accepting that the tiniest of creatures have feelings, too? Buchmann hopes an ethical shift will happen as details about the emotional lives of invertebrates – especially bees – are shared with the public.

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Magnetic Crystals, Guides for Animals, Found in Humans
1992-05-12, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/1992/05/12/science/magnetic-crystals-guides-for-anima...

An intriguing claim that human brain cells possess crystals of a highly magnetic mineral known as magnetite was described today by Dr. Joseph Kirschvink, a professor at the California Institute of Technology. The 38-year-old geobiologist said he believed that magnetite crystals enabled animals from bees to whales to navigate by using the earth's magnetic field. He said he doubted that they supported any sensory capability in humans, although he suspected that they might account for the possible influence of strong electromagnetic fields on human health. That magnetite, one of the hardest metals on earth, is synthesized by the human brain "is sure to astound most scientists," Dr. Kirschvink said, but what it is doing there is a "total mystery." It might be a vestige from evolution and serve no purpose, he said. Or it could play a role in biology, explaining why electromagnetic fields have been associated with brain cancer and leukemia and why certain odd blips, called spin echoes, show up on magnetic resonance images of the brain. Each human brain on average contains seven billion particles of magnetite, weighing a total of one-millionth of an ounce. Magnetite interacts over a million times more strongly with external magnetic fields than any other biological material, Dr. Kirschvink said, including the iron in red blood cells. If only one cell in a million contains magnetite, he said, magnetic fields could exert an effect on the tissue.

Note: Robert O. Becker's classic book "The Body Electric" presents amazing scientific experiments showing the importance of electrical fields and magnetic crystals in the human body. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Mushrooms communicate with each other using up to 50 ‘words', scientist claims
2022-04-05, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2022/apr/06/fungi-electrical-impulses-hum...

Mathematical analysis of the electrical signals fungi seemingly send to one another has identified patterns that bear a striking structural similarity to human speech. Previous research has suggested that fungi conduct electrical impulses through long, underground filamentous structures called hyphae – similar to how nerve cells transmit information in humans. It has even shown that the firing rate of these impulses increases when the hyphae of wood-digesting fungi come into contact with wooden blocks, raising the possibility that fungi use this electrical "language" to share information about food or injury with distant parts of themselves, or with hyphae-connected partners such as trees. Prof Andrew Adamatzky at the University of the West of England's unconventional computing laboratory in Bristol analysed the patterns of electrical spikes generated by four species of fungi – enoki, split gill, ghost and caterpillar fungi. The research, published in Royal Society Open Science, found that these spikes often clustered into trains of activity, resembling vocabularies of up to 50 words, and that the distribution of these "fungal word lengths" closely matched those of human languages. The most likely reasons for these waves of electrical activity are to maintain the fungi's integrity – analogous to wolves howling to maintain the integrity of the pack – or to report newly discovered sources of attractants and repellants to other parts of their mycelia, Adamtzky suggested.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Norway helped remake a US prison. Here's what happened.
2022-11-02, Freethink
https://www.freethink.com/society/norway-helped-remake-a-us-prison-heres-what...

Correctional systems throughout much of Scandinavia are guided by a general set of philosophical principles. In Norway, core values of safety, transparency and innovation are considered fundamental to the idea of creating normality in prison, the feeling that life as part of a community continues. Incarcerated people can wear their own clothes, work in jobs that prepare them for employment and cook their own meals. Cells in Norway are also for a single person – not multiple people, as in most cases in the U.S. Importantly, correctional officers have at least a two-year, university-level education and are directly involved in rehabilitation and planning for the incarcerated person's re-entry into the world outside of prison. In the U.S., most officers receive just a few weeks of training. Recidivism rates in Scandinavia are low. In Norway ... less than half of people released from prison are rearrested after three years. In Pennsylvania, that figure is closer to 70%. In State Correctional Institution Chester, known as SCI Chester, a medium-security prison located just outside of Philadelphia, a correctional officer-guided team has worked since 2018 to incorporate Scandinavian penal principles into its own institution. Six men in SCI Chester – each sentenced to life in prison – were selected to participate. They then moved on to the new housing unit, which had come to be known as "Little Scandinavia." SCI Chester shows that it is, in fact, possible to adapt Scandinavian-style penal philosophies.

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Inside the Prisoner-led Struggle to Win Education for All
2023-04-06, ScheerPost
https://scheerpost.com/2023/04/06/inside-the-prisoner-led-struggle-to-win-edu...

Washington State prisoners were recently forced to gather in a janitor's closet to organize and facilitate college education for people incarcerated in several prisons across the state. New official restrictions are jeopardizing a liberating, prisoner-led program known as Taking Education And Creating History, or TEACH. TEACH's goal is to democratize education for people with long sentences. Between community support and financial backing outside the correctional system, TEACH successfully circumvented the Department of Corrections, or DOC, policy of excluding long-term prisoners from education. Since 2013, over 300 incarcerated individuals across three state prisons have become college students. Progressively, TEACH began breaking down barriers between various racial and cultural groups – contradicting administrative beliefs that the Black Prisoners Caucus would further racial tension. Prisoners who would've never interacted with one another were now sitting at tables thumbing through books, while preparing for exams. When asked how TEACH has impacted the prison environment, Darrell Jackson, co-chair of the TEACH program at Washington Correction Center, said, "It has reduced the violence in prison, while creating a positive educational community for everyone – regardless of one's crime, race or affiliation." He added, "Those with lengthy sentences were given a sense of purpose, something that many are stripped of when they enter into prison."

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Recovery high schools help kids heal from an addiction and build a future
2023-04-04, NPR
https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2023/04/04/1167856499/recovery-high...

Every weekday at 5280 High School in Denver starts the same way. Students in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction gather on the steps of the school's indoor auditorium to discuss a topic chosen by staff members. One recent morning, they talked about mental health and sobriety. The students attend Colorado's only recovery high school – one of 43 nationwide. These schools are designed for students who are recovering from substance use disorder and might also be dealing with related mental health disorders. Compared with their peers at regular schools who have gone through treatment, recovery high school students have better attendance and are more likely to stay sober, and their graduation rate is at least 21% higher, according to one study. Recovery high schools often weave components of treatment into the school day – activities like 5280's daily recovery program meeting. In the afternoon, the school offers wellness electives such as spiritual principles and journaling. The school also employs a director of recovery and recovery coach to work with and counsel the students individually. "The No. 1 step is just letting them know out of the gate, no matter what's going on, that we love them," said Brittany Kitchens, the school's recovery coach. "We are here for them." Kitchens teaches students how to navigate recovery and regulate their emotions. She likens herself to a hall monitor, constantly checking in with students and looking for changes in behavior.

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The trauma doctor: Gabor Maté on happiness, hope and how to heal our deepest wounds
2023-04-12, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2023/apr/12/the-trauma-doctor-gabor-...

[Gabor] Maté was born in January 1944; in May of that year, the deportation of Hungary's Jews to Auschwitz began. By the end of the Holocaust, 565,000 Hungarian Jews had been murdered, Maté's maternal grandparents among them. When he was 11 months old, his mother sent him with a stranger to be cared for by his aunt. Maté says trauma, from the Greek for "wound", "is not what happens to you; it is what happens inside you as a result of what happens to you. It is not the blow on the head, but the concussion I get." That, he says, is the good news. "If my trauma was that my mother gave me to a stranger ... that will never not have happened. But if the wound was that I decided as a result that I wasn't worthwhile as a human being, I wasn't lovable, that's a wound that can heal at any time." There can be two types of wound, he says. "There's the capital-T traumatic events," which include things like being abused as a child and the loss of a parent. Then there are "small-T traumas". "You can wound a kid not only by doing bad things to them, but by also not meeting their needs," he says. Maté has a heightened level of compassion. For him, the real villain is our culture. Many of the plights of modern society are, he says, natural responses to an unhealthy culture. Take addiction. His view is that there is no such thing as an "addictive personality". Nor is addiction a disease. His mantra is: "Don't ask why the addiction, ask why the pain. Addiction is a normal response to trauma."

Note: The Wisdom of Trauma is a powerful film that travels alongside Dr. Gabor MatĂ© in his quest to discover the connection between illness, addiction, trauma, and society. Deeply touching and captivating in its diverse portrayal of real human stories, the film also provides a new vision of a trauma-informed society that seeks to "understand the sources from which troubling behaviors and diseases spring in the wounded human soul." Anyone can watch this donation-optional film at the above link.


What Everyone Should Know About the Brain's Ability to Heal
2022-10-25, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/25/opinion/brain-stroke-recovery-fetterman.html

Our brains are made up of billions of cells that work together to create our every ability. Wipe out those cells, through a stroke or other brain trauma, and you may no longer be able to read, but you might still be able to speak, sing or write. It's all about where the brain is damaged – which systems of cells are traumatized and which are not. The three-pound mass of neurological tissue that we call the brain has the power not only to create every ability we have but also to manifest our perception of reality. Our brains have a two-pronged defense mechanism that kicks in when brain trauma occurs. Not only are we able to grow some new neurons – a process called neurogenesis – especially in the sites where physical trauma has occurred, our brain cells are capable of neuroplasticity, which means they can rearrange which other neurons they are in communication with. That's why, whenever I meet someone who has experienced a brain trauma of any sort, I don't focus on what abilities that person has lost, but rather I marvel at what insights that person might have gained because of the experience. Few things have greater impact on how people choose to live their lives than neurological trauma or near-death experiences. And when we find ourselves to be neurologically impaired, we become vulnerable and need others to support us rather than criticize or judge us. I became a much more compassionate and empathetic person following my stroke and recovery. Perhaps I am not the only one.

Note: The above was written by Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroscientist and the author of "My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey." Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Mindfulness better than CBT for treating depression, study finds
2023-03-27, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/mar/27/mindfulness-better-than-cbt-f...

Practising mindfulness is much better than taking part in talking therapies at helping people recover from depression, a British study has found. People who used a mindfulness self-help book for eight weeks and had six sessions with a counsellor experienced a 17.5% greater improvement in recovery from depressive symptoms than those who underwent cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) while being supported by a mental health practitioner. Their results have been published in JAMA Psychiatry. The NHS says mindfulness involves people paying attention to "what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment" and "the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment" as well as being aware of their thoughts and feelings as they happen. People using mindfulness in the LIGHTMind 2 trial spent eight weeks following the advice in The Mindful Way Workbook, which helps them build up their mindfulness skills by guiding them on what they should do every day in order to be aware of their thoughts, feelings and physical sensations in a non-judgmental way. Doing that helps people address some of the behaviours that can maintain feelings of depression. They also had six one-to-one half-hour "support sessions" on the telephone with a therapist discussing their progress, experience of practising mindfulness and asking questions. Mindfulness-based treatment is also a cheaper way of tackling depression because people using it needed on average Ł526 less of subsequent treatment.

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How Nelson Mandela's former prison guard is keeping his legacy alive
2023-01-22, The Independent (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/nelson-mandela-christo-brand-...

"Nelson Mandela – I'd never heard the name before in my life," a former prison guard to the South African icon recalls. Christo Brand casts his mind back to 1978, and his first night guarding one of the most influential people of the past century. He was just 19 years old. A sergeant informed him the ageing man sleeping uncomfortably on the floor of the Robben Island jail cell was "a terrorist trying to overthrow your country". Mr Brand ... soon became close with Mandela. He began to spend days and nights with Mandela, who he says remained charming even after some 16 years as prisoner 466/64. In time he saw virtue in the older man's crimes. Reflecting after years at Mandela's side, years in which he saw his friend slowly but surely topple the old order, Mr Brand says: "Mandela was fighting for the freedom of the country, he was prepared to go to the gallows for freedom for his people". "When Mandela was in prison," Mr Brand says, "he studied Martin Luther King and Gandhi, he tried to follow their footsteps and try to bring a change." In his memoir Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela hints at why he kept his prison officer at his side even after being freed. Mr Brand, he writes, "reinforced my belief in the essential humanity even of those who had kept me behind bars". Mandela emerged from prison in 1990 already negotiating with South Africa's leadership for the changes that would see the country's first democratic election a few years later.

Note: Read more on Nelson Mandela's powerful capacity for empathy, and how he served as a striking role model for addressing the hearts, not minds, of people we deem as opponents or oppressors.


How Peace Activists Are Beating the U.S. Military at its Own (Video) Game
2022-09-10, The Progressive
https://progressive.org/latest/peace-video-games-military-recruitment-gallagh...

In 2018, the military, struggling to meet enlistment goals, began invading gaming communities as part of a larger, digital-first strategy. Recruiters who had once stalked school assemblies and shopping malls began streaming games on social media and competing in tournaments to court new enlistees online. Since then, the military's online recruiting strategy has expanded to the Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch, which attracts 140 million active users per month. The Army, Navy, and Air Force churn out hours of Twitch content per week, including streams of popular first-person-shooter games. The Armed Forces claim their gamers ... aren't technically recruiters. But anti-war advocates say they might as well be. To counter this, [Marine veteran Chris] Velazquez became a community developer for Gamers for Peace (GFP), the first peace organization formed to mirror the military's online recruiting practices: While streaming popular games like Halo and Rocket League, its members–many of them veterans–offer career advice and mentorship to teens, talk politics, and discuss the realities of war. They also share information about online military recruitment tactics at in-person gaming conventions such as PAX Unplugged. These initiatives, members say, give prospective recruits the tools and knowledge to see other options and reconsider enlisting. The group has already accrued nearly 600 Twitch followers as well as 400 members on the popular messaging service Discord.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


New Mobile Phone Service Shows We Can Have Both Privacy and Nice Things
2023-02-15, ACLU
https://wp.api.aclu.org/news/privacy-technology/new-mobile-phone-service-show...

The recent launch of a new mobile phone service introduced significant new privacy protections into the mobile phone system. This exciting new approach highlights the failure of the existing mobile phone infrastructure to protect privacy, and points the way forward for a wide variety of technologies. Today's cellphones are generally a privacy disaster. Partly that's the result of the two companies that control the operating system software on the vast majority of the world's pocket computers. In order for your carrier to route calls and data to your phone, the network needs to constantly know which cell tower your phone is near. And when you make a call or use data, the provider can see where that traffic is going. Cell carriers track and store this accidental byproduct of the technology in order to record people's location history and network activity for marketing purposes and, in certain circumstances, for sharing with law enforcement. The new phone service, called Pretty Good Phone Privacy (PGPP), uses encryption techniques to deliberately blind itself so that it can't know that the user of a mobile device is you, or what data you are sending from that phone. You connect to the PGPP service for payment, and that's all. With PGPP's approach, the carrier simply does not have the data to turn over to anyone. It cannot be sold, leaked, or hacked, let alone offered to overreaching law enforcement agencies. Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and their smaller competitors could be offering such a privacy-protecting service, but don't want to.

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Meet the 'glass-half-full girl' whose brain rewired after losing a hemisphere
2023-03-22, NPR
https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2023/03/22/1165131907/neuroplastici...

In most people, speech and language live in the brain's left hemisphere. Mora Leeb is not most people. When she was 9 months old, surgeons removed the left side of her brain. Yet at 15, Mora plays soccer, tells jokes, gets her nails done, and, in many ways, lives the life of a typical teenager. "I can be described as a glass-half-full girl," she says, pronouncing each word carefully and without inflection. Her slow, cadence-free speech is one sign of a brain that has had to reorganize its language circuits. Yet to a remarkable degree, Mora's right hemisphere has taken on jobs usually done on the left side. It's an extreme version of brain plasticity, the process that allows a brain to modify its connections to adapt to new circumstances. People like Mora represent the upper bounds of human brain plasticity because their brains were radically altered very early in life – a period when the wiring is still a work in progress. During an interview with Mora, both her abilities and deficits were apparent. So was her outgoing personality and curiosity about the world. Mora began by telling me a joke: "How do you make a hot dog stand?" she asks. "You take away its chair." What scientists still want to know is precisely what allowed Mora's brain to rewire so extensively. One thing is clear: Understanding the basis of this sort of extreme plasticity, they say, could help millions of people whose brains are still trying to recover from a stroke, tumor, or traumatic injury. And Mora is helping scientists deepen their understanding, simply by being herself.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring disabled persons news articles.


A fish can sense another's fear, a study shows
2023-03-03, Associated Press
https://apnews.com/article/empathy-zebrafish-oxytocin-origins-800d30fd9058df8...

Our capacity to care about others may have very, very ancient origins, a new study suggests. It might have been deep-rooted in prehistoric animals that lived millions of years ago, before fish and mammals like us diverged on the tree of life, according to researchers who published their study Thursday in the journal Science. Scientists are usually reluctant to attribute humanlike feelings to animals. But it's generally accepted that many animals have moods, including fish. The new study shows that fish can detect fear in other fish, and then become afraid too – and that this ability is regulated by oxytocin, the same brain chemical that underlies the capacity for empathy in humans. The researchers demonstrated this by deleting genes linked to producing and absorbing oxytocin in the brains of zebrafish. Those fish were then essentially antisocial – they failed to detect or change their behavior when other fish were anxious. But when some of the altered fish received oxytocin injections, their ability to sense and mirror the feelings of other fish was restored – what scientists call "emotional contagion." "They respond to other individuals being frightened. In that regard, they behave just like us," said ... neuroscientist Ibukun Akinrinade, a co-author of the study. The study also showed that zebrafish will pay more attention to fish that have previously been stressed out – a behavior the researchers likened to consoling them. Previous research has shown that oxytocin plays a similar role in transmitting fear in mice.

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Psychedelic brew ayahuasca's profound impact revealed in brain scans
2023-03-20, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2023/mar/20/psychedelic-brew-ayahuasca-pr...

The brew is so potent that practitioners report not only powerful hallucinations, but near-death experiences, contact with higher-dimensional beings, and life-transforming voyages through alternative realities. Often before throwing up, or having trouble at the other end. Now, scientists have gleaned deep insights of their own by monitoring the brain on DMT, or dimethyltryptamine, the psychedelic compound found in Psychotria viridis, the flowering shrub that is mashed up and boiled in the Amazonian drink, ayahuasca. The recordings reveal a profound impact across the brain, particularly in areas that are highly evolved in humans and instrumental in planning, language, memory, complex decision-making and imagination. The regions from which we conjure reality become hyperconnected, with communication more chaotic, fluid and flexible. "It is incredibly potent," said Robin Carhart-Harris, a professor of neurology and psychiatry. "People describe leaving this world and breaking through into another that is incredibly immersive and richly complex, sometimes being populated by other beings that they feel might hold special power over them, like gods." He added: "DMT breaks down the basic networks of the brain, causing them to become less distinct from each other. The major rhythms of the brain – that serve a largely inhibitory, constraining function – break down, and in concert, brain activity becomes more entropic or information-rich."

Note: Read more about the healing potentials of mind-altering drugs. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


How mud boosts your immune system
2022-10-10, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20220929-how-outdoor-play-boosts-kids-immu...

"Don't get dirty!" was once a constant family refrain, as parents despairingly watched their children spoil their best clothes. Today, many parents may secretly wish their children had the chance to pick up a bit of grime. According to recent research, the dirt outside is teaming with friendly microorganisms that can train the immune system and build resilience to a range of illnesses, including allergies, asthma and even depression and anxiety. Certain natural materials, such as soil and mud ... contain surprisingly powerful microorganisms whose positive impact on children's health we are only beginning to fully understand. Our brains evolved in natural landscapes, and our perceptual systems are particularly well suited to wild outdoor spaces. Supporting this theory, one study from 2009 found that children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were better able to concentrate following a 20-minute walk in the park, compared to a 20-minute walk on the streets of a well-kept urban area. People who grow up on farms are generally less likely to develop asthma, allergies, or auto-immune disorders like Crohn's disease [due to] their childhood exposure to a more diverse range of organisms in the rural environment. Michele Antonelli, a doctor from Italy ... has researched the ways that mud therapies can influence health. People with [skin] disorders ... seem to have an impoverished community of organisms. "These microorganisms can play a major role in many major chronic diseases," he says.

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Your Brain Could Be Controlling How Sick You Get–And How You Recover
2023-02-27, Scientific American
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/your-brain-could-be-controlling-ho...

Mental states can have a profound impact on how ill we get – and how well we recover. Understanding this could help to boost the placebo effect, destroy cancers, enhance responses to vaccination and even re-evaluate illnesses that, for centuries, have been dismissed as being psychologically driven. Neuroscientist Catherine Dulac and her team at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have pinpointed neurons in an area called the hypothalamus that control symptoms including fever, warmth-seeking and loss of appetite in response to infection. "Most people probably assume that when you feel sick, it's because the bacteria or viruses are messing up your body," she says. But her team demonstrated that activating these neurons could generate symptoms of sickness even in the absence of a pathogen. An open question, Dulac adds, is whether these hypothalamic neurons can be activated by triggers other than pathogens, such as chronic inflammation. The insula ... is involved in processing emotion and bodily sensations. A 2021 study ... found that neurons in the insula store memories of past bouts of gut inflammation – and that stimulating those brain cells reactivated the immune response. Such a reaction might prime the body to fight potential threats. But these reactions could also backfire. This could be the case for certain conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, that can be exacerbated by negative psychological states.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Europe's unique trials in food 'social security'
2023-03-21, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20230321-cost-of-living-europes-trials-in-...

As food prices rise around the world and access to healthy nutrition falls, trials in France and Belgium are experimenting with a unique "social security" for food. The affordability of food is a growing concern for increasing numbers of households worldwide as people struggle to cope with the greatest cost of living crisis in a generation. With some forced to cut back on food to meet other essential expenses, food insecurity is on the rise around the world. The idea of social security for food might sound far-fetched. But through recently launched projects in Montpellier in France and Brussels in Belgium, burgeoning collectives of NGOs, farmers, researchers and citizens are experimenting with the idea that quality, nutritious and organic food should be accessible to everyone – regardless of income. "Eating healthy and having access to quality food is expensive and only a minority of the population can afford to do so," says Margherita Via, project manager at BEES Coop. Inspired by universal healthcare systems such as those in France and Belgium, civil society groups have proposed establishing a new branch of social security, under which each citizen would receive a monthly allowance enabling them to buy food meeting certain environmental and ethical criteria. At its heart, the idea is about moving away from food as a commodity. "A total overhaul of [the agro-industrial food] system based on the right to food is necessary," says agronomist Mathieu Dalmais, who has led the movement since its inception.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


‘Dead' Electric Car Batteries Find a Second Life Powering Cities
2023-03-13, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/electric-vehicle-batteries-reused-power-sta...

Last month, a small warehouse in the English city of Nottingham received the crucial final components for a project that leverages the power of used EV batteries to create a new kind of circular economy. Inside, city authorities have installed 40 two-way electric vehicle chargers that are connected to solar panels and a pioneering battery energy storage system, which will together power a number of on-site facilities and a fleet of 200 municipal vehicles. Each day Nottingham will send a combination of solar-generated energy – and whatever is left in the vehicles after the day's use – from its storage devices into the national grid. What makes the project truly circular is the battery technology itself. Funded by the European Union's Interreg North-West Europe Programme, the energy storage system, E-STOR, is made out of used EV batteries by the British company Connected Energy. After around a decade, an EV battery no longer provides sufficient performance for car journeys. However, they still can retain up to 80 percent of their original capacity, and with this great remaining power comes great reusability. "As the batteries degrade, they lose their usefulness for vehicles," says Matthew Lumsden, chairman of Connected Energy. "But batteries can be used for so many other things, and to not do so results in waste and more mining of natural resources." One study ... calculated that a second life battery system saved 450 tons of CO2 per MWh over its lifetime.

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Could bartering become the new buying in a changed world?
2020-08-26, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200821-the-rise-of-bartering-in-a-chan...

Around the world, people have been turning to swapping, trading and bartering during the coronavirus pandemic, whether to do their bit for the local community, save money or simply source hard-to-find baking ingredients. With economic uncertainty looming and anxiety levels soaring, barter is becoming an emerging alternative solution to getting by – and staying busy. The increase in bartering is nowhere better exemplified than in Fiji. The country has a long tradition of barter, known as ‘veisa' ... and Fijians have harnessed modern technology to connect even more people. "I knew that money would be tight to stretch out and even harder to come by. I asked myself what happens when there's no more money? Barter was a natural solution to that," says Marlene Dutta, who started the Barter for a Better Fiji group on 21 April. Its membership is just under 190,000 – more than 20% of Fiji's population. Items changing hands have run the gamut – pigs for kayaks, a violin for a leather satchel and doughnuts for building bricks – but the most commonly requested items have been groceries and food. Bartering isn't just for individuals looking for baking items or help with grocery shopping, however. Businesses are increasingly interested in joining barter exchanges, which have "doctors, lawyers, service companies, retailers – you name it", says Ron Whitney, President of the US-based International Reciprocal Trade Association, a non-profit organisation founded in 1979 that promotes and advances modern trade and barter systems.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Swarming honeybees can produce as much electricity as a thunderstorm, study shows
2022-10-26, CNN News
https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/26/world/bees-swarms-produce-electricity-scn-scli...

Swarms of honeybees can generate as much electrical charge as a thunderstorm, new research shows. In a study published in the journal iScience on Monday, researchers from the University of Bristol ... discovered this phenomenon by chance. Biologist Ellard Hunting [said] that the Bristol team was studying how different organisms use the static electric fields that are everywhere in the environment. Atmospheric electricity has a variety of functions, mainly in shaping weather events and helping organisms, for example in finding food. "Flowers have an electric field and bees can sense these fields. And these electric fields of flowers can change when it has been visited by a bee, and other bees can use that information to see whether a flower has been visited," Hunting explained. Having set up equipment to measure atmospheric electric fields at the university's field station, which features several honeybee hives, Hunting and his team noticed that whenever the bees swarmed, there was "a profound effect on atmospheric electric fields," even though the weather hadn't changed. All insects create a charge during flight as a result of friction in the air, with the size of the charge varying between species. Individual bees carry a charge that is small enough to be overlooked by researchers, so "this effect (in swarming bees) came as a surprise," Hunting said. They found that, depending on the swarm density, the atmospheric charge could be similar to that of a storm cloud, thunderstorm or electrified dust storm.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


If we can farm metal from plants, what else can we learn from life on Earth?
2022-04-15, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/apr/15/farm-metal-from-plants-...

For the past couple of years, I've been working with researchers in northern Greece who are farming metal. They are experimenting with a trio of shrubs known to scientists as "hyperaccumulators": plants which have evolved the capacity to thrive in naturally metal-rich soils that are toxic to most other kinds of life. They do this by drawing the metal out of the ground and storing it in their leaves and stems, where it can be harvested like any other crop. As well as providing a source for rare metals – in this case nickel, although hyperaccumulators have been found for zinc, aluminium, cadmium and many other metals, including gold – these plants actively benefit the earth by remediating the soil, making it suitable for growing other crops, and by sequestering carbon in their roots. Hyperaccumulators are far from being the only non-humans that we might learn from. Physarum polycephalum, a particularly lively slime mould, can solve the "travelling salesman" problem – a test for finding the shortest route between multiple cities – faster and more efficiently than any supercomputer humans have devised. Spiders store information in their webs, using them as a kind of extended cognition: a mind outside the body entirely. A new conception of intelligence is emerging from scientific research: rather than human intelligence being unique or the peak of some graduated curve, there appear to be many different kinds of intelligence with their own strengths, competencies and suitabilities.

Note: This was written by James Bridle, an artist and technologist who was able to paralyze a self-driving car using salt and road markers. For more on his work, check out his fascinating perspective on how artificial intelligence technologies could be designed based on cooperation and relationships naturally reflected in living systems, as opposed to competition and domination.


Rats with backpacks could help rescue earthquake survivors
2022-10-24, CNN News
https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/24/world/search-and-rescue-rats-apopo-hnk-spc-int...

Natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes can level entire towns, and for the search and rescue teams trying to find survivors, it's a painstaking task. But an unlikely savior is being trained up to help out: rats. The project, conceived of by Belgian non-profit APOPO, is kitting out rodents with tiny, high-tech backpacks to help first responders search for survivors among rubble in disaster zones. "Rats are typically quite curious and like to explore – and that is key for search and rescue," says Donna Kean, a behavioral research scientist and leader of the project. In addition to their adventurous spirit, their small size and excellent sense of smell make rats perfect for locating things in tight spaces, says Kean. The rats are currently being trained to find survivors in a simulated disaster zone. They must first locate the target person in an empty room, pull a switch on their vest that triggers a beeper, and then return to base, where they are rewarded with a treat. While the rodents are still in the early stages of training, APOPO is collaborating with the Eindhoven University of Technology to develop a backpack, which is equipped with a video camera, two-way microphone, and location transmitter to help first responders communicate with survivors. APOPO has been training dogs and rats at its base in Tanzania in the scent detection of landmines and tuberculosis for over a decade. Its programs use African Giant Pouched Rats, which have a longer lifespan in captivity of around eight years.

Note: Don't miss the images of these adorable and heroic rats at the link above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Mobilising Assam's ‘hargila army': how 10,000 women saved India's rarest stork
2023-02-09, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2023/feb/09/assam-hargila-army...

Some of the women are wearing papier-mache headdresses shaped like long-necked birds. As they sing, one of them gets to her feet and starts dancing. They are part of the "hargila army", a group of rural women in the Indian state of Assam who work to protect one of the world's rarest storks: the greater adjutant (Leptoptilos dubius) – or hargila (meaning "bone swallower" in Assamese) as the scavenger bird is known locally. They are celebrating the recent UN Environment Programme's Champions of the Earth award, conferred on the group's biologist founder, Dr Purnima Devi Barman. Barman won the award for her achievement in mobilising more than 10,000 women to help save the stork. "They are the protectors of the birds and of their nesting trees," says Barman. The birds were not just reviled, they were seen as a bad omen and carriers of disease. Villagers attacked them with stones, cut down trees where they roosted communally and burned their nests. Today the greater adjutant is endangered, with fewer than 1,200 adult birds in its last strongholds. Most of the global population is found in Assam, making Barman and the hargila army's work critical to its survival. Today, the once-maligned bird is now a cultural symbol, appearing on everything from towels to road-safety campaigns. In the villages of Dadara, Pacharia and Singimari (all in Kamrup district), greater adjutants' nests have increased from 28 in 2010 to more than 250 according to Barman's last count, making the area the world's largest breeding colony.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


This Minecraft library is making censored journalism accessible all over the world
2020-03-18, The Verge
https://www.theverge.com/2020/3/18/21184041/minecraft-library-censored-journa...

Minecraft has established itself as a cultural phenomenon for many reasons: it's creative, collaborative, and sufficiently facile as to be considered accessible to almost anybody. These benefits ... form the perfect vehicle for Reporters Without Borders' Uncensored Library, a virtual hub housing a collection of otherwise inaccessible journalism from all over the world, with specific sections devoted to Russia, Egypt, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam. "In Egypt there's no free information," Reporters Without Borders media and public relations officer Kristin Bässe tells me. Mexico is the country where journalists are most at risk, she adds, with governmental and cartel interference often culminating in the death of those voices deemed dissident. "It's a different form of censorship," Bässe explains. "People don't want to publish because they're scared." "In the Mexico room we built memorials to 12 Mexican journalists who have been murdered," [said Blockworks managing director James] Delaney. Delaney tells me that the forms of censorship in Egypt are more blatant. "The articles you see in this room are actually banned," he explains. "If you live in Egypt you're unable to access them unless you come to our Minecraft server." This is the case for the Russian, Vietnamese, and Saudi Arabian sections, too. "The content you find in these rooms is illegal, but we can see from the server logins that we've already had people from all five of these countries join and read up on this information," he says.

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How to Fix Twitter–And All of Social Media
2022-05-26, The Atlantic
https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2022/05/how-to-fix-twitter-soc...

Those debating the future of Twitter and other social-media platforms have largely fallen into two opposing camps. One supports individuals' absolute freedom of speech; the other holds that speech must be modulated through content moderation, and by tweaking the ways in which information spreads. Both sides are peddling an equally dismal vision. My purpose here is to point out a logical third option. In this approach, a platform would require users to form groups through free association, and then to post only through those groups. This simple, powerful notion could help us escape the dilemma of supporting online speech. Platforms like Facebook and Reddit have similar structures–groups and subreddits–but those are for people who share notifications and invitations to view and post in certain places. The groups I'm talking about, sometimes called "mediators of individual data" or "data trusts," are different: Members would share both good and bad consequences with one another, just like a group shares the benefits and responsibilities of a loan in microlending. This mechanism has emerged naturally ... on the software-development platform GitHub. Whatever its size, each group will be self-governing. Some will have a process in place for reviewing items before they are posted. Others will let members post as they see fit. It will be a repeat of the old story of people building societal institutions and dealing with unavoidable trade-offs, but people will be doing this on their own terms.

Note: This was written by Jaron Lanier, who is widely considered to be the "Father of Virtual Reality." Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Can We Build Less Biased Medical Bots?
2022-04-11, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/can-we-build-less-biased-medical-bots/

Avery Smith ... and LaToya, a podiatrist, tied the knot in 2008. A year and a half into their marriage ... she was diagnosed with Stage 2A Melanoma. A minor surgical procedure is usually enough to cure it. But the following 18 months were revealing for Smith; on December 9th, 2011, LaToya died. He was left scarred by the experience: "I learned about going through illness while being Black," he says. Today, over a decade later, Smith is putting his skills as a software developer to work in an effort to end the racial bias and inequity in skin care that contributed to his wife's death. In 2021, he launched Melalogic, a Baltimore-based startup that provides skin health resources to people with dark skin. A 2016 study shows that the five-year survival rate of Black people with skin cancer is 65 percent, compared to 92 percent for white people. The problem is rooted in racial inequities and biases in medical research and technology. In skin cancers, for instance, AI systems have been used to drastically improve diagnosis. However, these are mostly helpful to white people because diagnostic AI datasets are trained with images of white skin. Smith teamed up with dermatologist Dr. Adewole Adamson to conduct a research project, endorsed by the American Medical Association, on machine learning and health care disparities in dermatology. It was from the research's findings that Smith conceived Melalogic, an app ... dedicated to providing Black people with skin health resources.

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Plastic-Eating Mushrooms: Species, Benefits, Impact
2022-12-14, Treehugger
https://www.treehugger.com/mushroom-that-eats-plastic-5121023

Certain mushroom species have the ability to consume polyurethane, one of the main ingredients in plastic products. Some scientists believe that these natural composters could be the key to cleaning up our planet. Mycoremediation is the natural process that fungi use to degrade or isolate contaminants in the environment. A 2020 study published in Biotechnology Reports found that mycoremediation applied to agricultural wastes like pesticides, herbicides, and cyanotoxins is more cost-effective, eco-friendly, and effective. A project using the mycelium (the vegetative part of the mushroom similar to a plant's root system) of two common mushrooms made headlines in 2014. Using Pleurotus ostreatus, also known as the oyster mushroom, and Schizophyllum commune, aka the split gill mushroom, the team was able to turn plastic into human-grade food. The mushrooms were cultivated on circular pods made of seaweed-derived gelatin filled with UV-treated plastics. As the fungus digests the plastic, it grows around the edible base pods to create a mycelium-rich snack after just a few months. According to a study by the University of Rajasthan in India, plastic-eating mushrooms can sometimes absorb too much of the pollutant in their mycelium, and therefore cannot be consumed. If more research is performed regarding the safety aspects, however, mycoremediation through mushroom cultivation could perhaps address two of the world's greatest problems: waste and food scarcity.

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How to fight microplastic pollution with magnets
2021-08-25, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210825-how-to-fight-microplastic-polluti...

Huge amounts of plastic ends up rivers and oceans every year, harming the environment and potentially also human health. But what if we could pull it out of water with the power of magnets? [Chemistry student] Ferreira became determined to find a solution to remove microplastics from water. He started by designing his own spectrometer, a scientific instrument that uses ultraviolet light to measure the density of microplastics in solutions. "I could see there were a lot of microplastics in the water and they weren't just coming from big plastic breaking down in the sea," he says. It was on his local beach that Ferreira came up with a solution that could extract microplastics from water. "I found some oil spill residue with loads of plastic attached to it," he says. "I realised that oil could be used to attract plastic." Ferreira mixed vegetable oil with iron oxide powder to create a magnetic liquid, also known as ferrofluid. He then blended in microplastics from a wide range of everyday items, including plastic bottles, paint and car tyres, and water from the washing machine. After the microplastics attached themselves to the ferrofluid, Ferreira used a magnet to remove the solution and leave behind only water. Following 5,000 tests, Ferreira's method was 87% effective at extracting microplastics from water. Ferreira is currently in the process of designing a device which uses the magnetic extraction method to capture microplastics as water flows past it. The device will be small enough to fit inside waterpipes to continuously extract plastic fragments.

Note: Researchers from Australia are also finding innovative ways to rapidly remove hazardous microplastics from water using magnets. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


‘Filling in the gaps' for food access: women-run farms rethink California agriculture
2023-02-15, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2023/feb/15/california-women-led-farms-food-...

At Radical Family Farms, Leslie Wiser recently planted bitter melons, what she refers to as "one of our most beloved crops", a staple in many types of Asian cuisine that grows on a vine and is related to zucchini, squash and cucumber. Women like Wiser are increasingly the face of farming in California, and nationally as well. Experts say the growing presence of women in agriculture is having an impact on how the industry operates, especially in the face of generational challenges like pandemics and climate change, with research showing that women-led businesses are more likely to take a community-minded approach to how they operate and fill in gaps during crises. During the pandemic, for example ... women farmers filled the gaps in local communities for food access. Radical Family Farm stepped in to feed food-insecure seniors throughout the Bay Area when it was not safe for them to go to the grocery store or farmers' market. "A lot of this was driven by the attacks on our Asian elders during the pandemic," Wiser said. "It's still happening, with seniors afraid to walk on the streets." Her long-term goal is to dedicate one-third of the produce from her farm to seniors in the Bay Area. "It is part of my cultural heritage to honor our elders," she said, adding that her grandparents on both sides took care of her growing up, so delivering "culturally relevant produce" to seniors is meaningful. "Instead of getting bags of potatoes, they can get vegetables, produce and herbs that are familiar to them."

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Want Safer Streets? Cover Them in Art
2022-08-22, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/safer-streets-painted-intersections-crosswa...

Crosswalks don't work. According to various studies, only between five and fifteen percent of drivers slow down at pedestrian crossings. The vast majority of drivers simply don't pay attention to them. America's deadly streetscape is the subject of The Street Project, a new PBS documentary about citizen-led efforts to make streets safer. When filmmaker Jennifer Boyd started making it, she assumed distracted driving must be behind the alarming rise in pedestrian deaths. But as she soon learned, digital screens are less of a culprit than most people realize. "Less than one percent of pedestrian deaths involved portable electronic devices," she found. Instead, she discovered that two of the biggest factors are speeding and bigger cars. If speeding and visibility are the problem and crosswalks can't stop it, color might. The Asphalt Art Initiative, a program funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, provides grants to create art to modify dangerous streets. One of these projects is in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where artists and residents transformed a high-traffic commercial thoroughfare with a block-long asphalt mural, while students marked safe walking paths in the area with stencils and wheat paste. Overall, according to the Initiative, "the data showed a 50 percent drop in crashes involving pedestrians or cyclists and a 37 percent drop in crashes leading to injuries. Intersections with asphalt art saw a 17 percent reduction in total accidents."

Note: Don't miss the great pictures and video of public art available at the link above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Syrian veterinarians save pets, farm animals who lost their humans in earthquake
2023-02-11, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/02/11/syria-earthquake-animal-rescu...

An animal sanctuary in rebel-held Syria rescued a cat trapped inside its human's shop for three days, a chicken stuck in the middle of a flooding river and a dog bleeding profusely from its leg. But it couldn't save them all. "Just like humans, we had to do triage," said Mohamad Youssef, one of two veterinarians with Ernesto's Sanctuary for Cats in Syria. "But we saved a lot, and we are still searching." As hopes for rescuing earthquake survivors in northwest Syria dwindled, roughly a dozen of Ernesto's workers continued pulling out dogs, cats, goats and chickens from underneath the rubble. In a region devastated by tragedy upon tragedy, returning lost pets to owners can bring emotional comfort, and gathering up displaced farm animals ensures a steady source of food for a people largely cut off from international trade. "Humans cannot exist without dogs, without cats, without goats, without chickens," Youssef said in Arabic. "They are part of our families, like a mom or a dad. They give us food, they give us happiness, they give us comfort. We would not be without them." After a traumatic event such as an earthquake, Youssef added, pets provide a love that few humans can match, a psychological support that can be a lifeline following so much loss. They ... now have roughly 2,000 cats, 30 dogs, five monkeys, three donkeys, a horse, a fox, a chicken and a goat. Ernesto's hopes to change the culture of violence toward animals that roam the region in part by going out to villages to sterilize ownerless dogs.

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These Black and White churches began worshiping together during the pandemic and haven't stopped
2023-02-11, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2023/02/11/maryland-deal-island-churc...

Since 2020, three pastors who lead a combined seven churches on the Deal Island Peninsula have been worshiping together at a small beach on Maryland's lower Eastern Shore. The pastors, two White and one Black, are part of the United Methodist Church. A spur-of-the-moment idea to bring the faithful together during the pandemic has become a once-a-month gathering where hundreds of worshipers honk along to a boisterous service that offers a mix of polemics, politics and preaching. "There isn't a better church than this one right here," said Cathy Sikos, a retired Walmart worker who lives in nearby Dames Quarter. "It's a true depiction of what a church should be. No fancy building. Just pure worship. It's God's place. I wouldn't want to go anywhere else." Martin Luther King Jr. famously called 11 o'clock on Sunday morning "America's most segregated hour." In many places, it still is. The three Church by the Bay pastors say they never set out to be an example of integration. They simply wanted to offer Communion to parishioners starved of that opportunity. After three months of virtual worships, the trio decided to offer a joint Communion at the beach for 30 minutes. The joint worship has introduced the parishioners to different styles and messages. The three pastors have no plans to stop the once-a-month service, showing unity even as the United Methodist Church is splitting over the national organization's decision to allow same-sex marriages and ordain gay and lesbian clergy.

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How giant African rats are helping uncover deadly land mines in Cambodia
2019-09-10, PBS
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/how-giant-african-rats-are-helping-uncover-...

How giant African rats are helping uncover deadly land mines in Cambodia
September 10, 2019, PBS
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/how-giant-african-rats-are-helping-uncover...

From Angola to the former Yugoslavia, land mines are a lethal legacy of wars over long ago. Cambodia is among the most affected countries, with millions of buried explosives that kill and maim people each year. Now, an organization is deploying an unexpected ally to find mines: the giant pouch rat, whose sharp sense of smell can detect explosives. Mark Shukuru is head rat trainer in Cambodia for the Belgian non-profit APOPO. He is from Tanzania, where this species is also native, and he learned early that they have some of the most sensitive noses in the animal kingdom. Each comes out of a rigorous program in Tanzania that trains them to distinguish explosives from other scents. Each time they sniff out TNT buried in this test field, a trainer uses a clicker to make a distinct sound, and they get a treat. Since 2016, APOPO's hero rats have found roughly 500 anti-personnel mines and more than 350 unexploded bombs in Cambodia. They're the second animal to be deployed in mine clearance. Dogs were first. Animals can work much faster than humans, although, when the land is densely mined, metal detectors are considered more efficient. APOPO plans to bring in some 40 more rats to expand the force and replace retirees. Each animal works about eight years, and then lives out the rest of its days alongside fellow heroes, all working toward the day when they can broadcast to the world that Cambodia has destroyed the last unexploded bomb.

Note: Don't miss the cute video of these hero rats at work, available at the link above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


3 innovative ways former inmates are getting help to restart their lives
2019-07-22, PBS
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/agents-for-change/3-innovative-ways-former...

The odds are against former prisoners in the U.S. when it comes to staying out of incarceration. About eight in 10 who were released from prison in 2005 were arrested again at least once by 2014, according to the most recent study by the U.S. Department of Justice. And the risk of former prisoners recidivism is highest the first year after release – about 44 percent of state prisoners were arrested again within a year of release. Formerly incarcerated people are nearly 10 times as likely to be homeless as the average American. Weld Seattle, a nonprofit based in Washington state, aims to reduce homelessness by using vacant buildings as temporary housing until development officially begins. In total, Weld Seattle has housed 125 people and has seen 43 residents move on to independent permanent housing. In 2018, formerly incarcerated people faced an unemployment rate of 27 percent. That's higher than the unemployment rate was for all Americans during the peak of the Great Depression. Having proper business attire may not solve the unemployment problem, but it can help former inmates get a foot in the door with potential employers. The New York nonprofit 100 Suits for 100 Men is committed to giving recently released men, women and gender non-conforming people a "boutique experience." Founded by Kevin Livingston, the organization has given out more than 13,200 suits since 2011, and more than 800 since the start of this year.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Ants can be better than pesticides for growing healthy crops, study finds
2022-08-17, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/aug/17/ants-can-beat-pesticides-...

Ants can be more effective than pesticides at helping farmers produce food, according to new research. They are better at killing pests, reducing plant damage and increasing crop yields, according to the first systematic review of ants' contributions to crop production. Ants are generalist predators and hunt pests that damage fruits, seeds and leaves, leading to a drop in crop yields. A greater diversity of ants generally provides more protection against a wider range of pests, the study found. The analysis looked at 17 crops, including citrus, mango, apple and soya bean in countries including the US, Australia, the UK and Brazil. "In general, with proper management, ants can be useful pest controls and increase crop yield over time. Some ant species have similar or higher efficacy than pesticides, at lower costs," researchers wrote in the paper published in Proceedings of Royal Society B. There are more ants than any other insect, making up half of the planet's insect biomass. There are at least 14,000 known species of ant, with many more likely to remain unknown. Citrus growers in China have used ants in farming for centuries, and the insects have also been used to help control forest pests in Canada, cocoa pests in Ghana and crop pests in Nigeria. Dr Patrick Milligan, from the University of Nevada Pringle Lab ... said the findings were "both heartening and not at all surprising". He added: "They offer a neat and tidy description of ant-derived benefits that are ubiquitous across ecological and agricultural systems.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


This optometrist-on-wheels helps kids see clearly for the first time
2019-10-10, PBS
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/this-optometrist-on-wheels-helps-kids-see...

Schools and nonprofits are trying to address what they see as a growing problem, as more children need eyeglasses but can't afford them. "Kids are getting nearsighted from close work and machines, electronic devices," [Dr. Robert Abel] said. The American Academy of Ophthalmology estimates half of the world's population will be nearsighted, or myopic, by 2049, with children being the most at risk. In Maryland's Kent County Public Schools, a mobile vision clinic has helped to ensure more children have access to free eye exams, glasses. The national organization works with local funding partners, states and ophthalmologists to offer free eye care to school children in need. Last November, the nonprofit Vision to Learn made a stop at Galena Elementary. One by one, students boarded a converted 151-square-foot Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, where an optometrist and optician conducted eye exams inside. Children who needed glasses then selected from a choice of 30 frames. A few weeks later, the Vision to Learn van returned to hand out the glasses at a school assembly. The glasses were given out like awards. That way, educators and health providers hoped to combat any stigma of wearing glasses. Vision to Learn has expanded to 14 states, each with their own corresponding mobile clinic van. Other organizations, like OnSight's "Vision Van" in New York and VSP Global's "Eyes of Hope" mobile clinic, headquartered in California, have taken up the same cause in an effort to improve student outcomes.

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Clearing a Path from Prison to the Bar Exam
2021-06-21, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/formerly-incarcerated-people-pass-bar-exam/

As a teenager, Phil Miller dreamt of becoming a CIA field officer. But incarceration derailed that dream. Miller became a jailhouse lawyer – an incarcerated person who informally helps others challenge their convictions while in prison. This year, he's finishing his first year of law school at the City University of New York. But, he says, he wouldn't be where he is without support: at CUNY Law that came from the Formerly Incarcerated Law Students Advocacy Association (FILSAA). FILSAA is part of a growing movement of organizations working to change the overwhelming scrutiny that discourages – and often disqualifies – people with records from pursuing a law degree. The National Inventory of Collateral Consequences of Conviction catalogues around 40,000 official restrictions limiting or excluding people with convictions from accessing employment, education and more in the United States. While other organizations work to tackle the barriers to the Bar on a political level, FILSAA works on a deceptively simple level, offering free LSAT training, mentorship and a needed supportive space at school for people with records. FILSAA's impact has been small in numbers but deep in value. Thanks to what Williams calls "mythbusting" YouTube videos, they've heard this year from 12 currently or formerly incarcerated people expressing interest. "Hope is a necessity. It's like food and air," [Miller] says. "Finding out there's something that other people value you for, that can help you take yourself seriously."

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


A post-capitalist guide to the future: crypto-commoners only want the earth
2018-05-23, Shareable
https://www.shareable.net/blockchain-as-a-force-for-good-how-this-technology-...

Just as we don't pay much attention to the critical infrastructure that powers our digital world and exists just out of sight – from the Automated Clearing House (ACH), which undergirds our financial system, to the undersea cables that enable the Internet to be globally useful, blockchain is likely to change our lives in ways that will eventually be invisible. In the sharing economy, we have traditionally just used existing infrastructure and built platforms and services on top of it. Considering that those undersea cables are owned by private companies with their own motives and that the locations of ACH data centers are heavily classified, there is a lot to be desired in terms of transparency, resilience, and independence from self-interested third parties. That's where open-source, decentralized infrastructure of the blockchain for the sharing economy offers much promise and potential. Origin ... is working to reduce the cost, difficulty, and barriers to entry for building marketplaces, enabling people to build truly peer-to-peer marketplaces on the blockchain. In creating this kind of decentralized underpinning, blockchains offer communities alternatives to one-size-fits all solutions and economies of scale. Another crucial part of the sharing economy infrastructure is financial infrastructure. Consider the two billion unbanked and underbanked adults around the world. Can blockchain benefit them as well? WeTrust is one of the blockchain startups working to do this, and has already put out a lending circle product.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


School lunch goes farm-to-table for some California students
2023-01-24, PBS
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/school-lunch-goes-farm-to-table-for-so...

The food served at the suburban San Francisco school system, Mount Diablo Unified, reflects a trend away from mass-produced, reheated meals. Its lunch menus are filled with California-grown fruits and vegetables, grass-fed meats and recipes that defy the stereotype of inedible school food. Among American schoolchildren, these students are in the lucky minority. Making fresh meals requires significant investment and, in many areas, an overhaul of how school kitchens have operated for decades. What's more, federal money to boost lunch budgets has declined. The government last year ended a pandemic-era program offering free school meals to everyone. A few states, such as California, have been paying to keep meals free for all students, but most states went back to charging all but the neediest kids for meals. Increases in money from California's state government have made it possible for Mount Diablo to buy fresher local ingredients and hire the chef, Josh Gjersand, a veteran of Michelin-starred restaurants. Local farms, bakers, creameries and fishermen now supply most ingredients to the district, which serves 30,000 students from wealthy and low-income communities east of San Francisco. Making food from scratch isn't just healthier, it's cheaper, many school nutrition directors say. In 2021, California committed to spending $650 million annually to supplement federal meal reimbursements – money for food, staff, new equipment and other upgrades.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


What The Future Could Look Like: Jacque Fresco's Venus Project
2021-09-01, The Pulse
https://thepulse.one/2021/09/01/what-the-future-could-look-like-jacque-fresco...

Jacque Fresco is an inspiration to many, with his innovative ideas and blue prints for a sustainable society and planet that reject the current models of mass consumerism and self-destruction. His latest venture, called The Venus Project, advocates what Fresco has coined as a "resource-based economy", a society which runs on socio-cooperation and which utilizes the methodology of science and the advancements in technology in one of the cleanest and most energy efficient systems ever conceptualized. Located in Venus, Florida, The Venus Project is a research center which develops innovations in the fields of freelance inventing, industrial engineering, and conventional architectural modeling. The Venus Project aims to answer the question, how can we utilize technology wisely so that there is more than enough for everyone on our planet? To make this happen, Fresco proposes that a planning process must first occur, where the entire infrastructure of the planet is re-worked. This means the planet working together as one, eliminating the false borders that separate continents and countries and looking at our planet as an open trading highway system. The Venus Project works to showcase the amazing and inspiring potential of computers and technology, and to help people understand that it is not technology that is responsible for the deterioration of the planet and society, but rather it is the abuse and misuse of machines and automated technology for selfish benefits that we should be weary of.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Once an Open Sewer, New York Harbor Now Teems With Life
2022-12-30, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/30/opinion/new-york-harbor-clean-water-act.html

Fifty years ago, Congress voted to override President Richard Nixon's veto of the Clean Water Act. It has proved to be one of the most transformative environmental laws ever enacted. At the time of the law's passage, hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage was dumped by New York City into the Hudson River every day. This filth was compounded by industrial contaminants emptied into the river along much of its length. The catch basin for all of this was New York Harbor, which resembled an open sewer. At its worst, 10 feet of raw human waste blanketed portions of the harbor bottom. Health advisories against eating fish from the Hudson remain, but its ecology has largely recovered, thanks to the law, which imposed strict regulations on what could be discharged into the water by sewage treatment plants, factories and other sources of pollution. Today people swim in organized events in New York Harbor, which would have been unthinkable in 1972 when the law was passed. Across the country, billions of dollars were also spent to construct and improve sewage treatment plants, leading to recoveries of other urban waterways. Cleaner water has made the harbor far more hospitable, and other steps have helped to rebuild life there, like fishing restrictions and the removal of some dams on tributaries in the Hudson River watershed. The bald eagle has made a strong comeback, taking advantage of the harbor's resurgent fish life. In December 2020 a humpback whale was seen in the Hudson just one mile from Times Square.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


A Monthly Ritual of Selflessness Has Transformed Rwanda
2021-12-06, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/umuganda-rwanda-community-improvement-proje...

Luc, along with just about every able-bodied Rwandan aged 18 to 65, participates in the monthly activity known as "Umuganda," a Kinyarwanda word that means "coming together in common purpose." On the last Saturday of every month, from 8 to 11 a.m., Rwandans across the country gather together to partake in community improvement projects. In Luc's neighborhood, this has meant trimming back bushes that attract malaria-spreading mosquitoes, and making sure roads are clear. According to Luc, these monthly gatherings have helped his community recover from a long, devastating period of genocide, making it clean, innovative, loving and self-reliant. Across the country ... the tradition of Umuganda has unfolded in similar fashion, helping Rwanda to piece itself back together and recover from ruin. Though Umuganda is a national phenomenon, the mobilization of it takes place at the community level – specifically, in "cells" of at least 50 households called Umudugudu. Spearheaded by a community leader, members of a cell often use the mobile messaging service WhatsApp to work out the logistics. This small-scale organizational structure is key to making Umuganda work. Luc thinks Umuganda has value beyond the projects themselves, promoting self-reliance among Rwandans. "When you see something wrong within your surroundings, you do not wait for someone else to come and do it for you, you just go for it and do it," he says. "Do Umuganda. Solve the problem yourselves."

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


This Kenyan Slum Has Something to Teach the World
2023-01-11, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/11/opinion/kenya-development-slum.html?action...

Here in the Kibera slum, life sometimes seems a free-for-all. Yet this is an uplifting slum. Kennedy [Odede] taught himself to read ... then formed a Kibera self-help association called Shining Hope for Communities, better known as SHOFCO. Let's just acknowledge that development is hard, particularly in urban slums that are growing fast around the world. Billions of dollars are poured into the poorest countries, and in Haiti and South Sudan one sees fleets of expensive white S.U.V.s driven by aid organizations; what's missing is long-term economic development. International aid keeps children alive, which is no small feat. But it has had less success in transforming troubled places. That's where SHOFCO is intriguing as an alternative model. "Development has been part of imperialism – you know better than anybody else because you're from America or Europe," Kennedy [said]. He thinks international aid sometimes is ineffective partly because it feels imposed by the outside. SHOFCO has spread through low-income communities across Kenya and now boasts 2.4 million members, making it one of the largest grass-roots organizations in Africa. It provides clean water, fights sexual assault, runs a credit union, coaches people on starting small businesses, runs libraries and internet hot spots, mobilizes voters to press politicians to bring services to slums, runs public health campaigns and does 1,000 other things. It exemplifies a partnership: local leadership paired with a reliance on the best international practices.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Pets in prison: the rescue dogs teaching Californian inmates trust and responsibility
2021-04-19, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/apr/19/pets-in-prison-the-rescu...

Zach Skow [is] a man on a mission to bring dogs into every US prison. Skow is the founder of Pawsitive Change, a rehabilitation programme that pairs rescue dogs with inmates. He began a pilot programme at California City Correctional Facility in January 2016, teaching inmates to become dog trainers, and it's now been rolled out to four more California state prisons and one female juvenile correction centre. To date more than 300 men have graduated from the programme and roughly 200 dogs from "high-kill" shelters have been rescued and adopted as a result of the inmates' work with them (the shelters accept any animal [and] euthanise a certain percentage if they can't rehome them). Seventeen of the programme's human graduates have been paroled and so far none has returned to prison (at a time when the US recidivism rate stands at 43%). Working with the dogs and seeing what the animals are going through prompts the men to speak of their own experiences. When one student relates how his dog didn't want to come out of the kennel in the first few days, another shares how he too didn't want to leave his cell when he first came to prison. Many of these men have been told repeatedly from a young age that they're not to be trusted, that they make a mess of things, that they're not fit to take charge of anything. This message is then reinforced ... through the penal system. This programme challenges the "branding" these men have had imposed on them from an early age. It allows them to create new narratives.

Note: Watch a beautiful 4-minute video of an inmate and his beloved pup. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


"You Are Watching the Power of Music Changing Brain Chemistry"
2022-05-27, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/dementia-music-healing-brain-neurology/

Music, it turns out, is medicine for the mind. [A 2021 study] set out to see what happens in the brain when a person with mild cognitive impairment or early Alzheimer's disease listens to their favorite playlist for an hour every day. The 14 participants had brain scans and took neuropsychological tests that involved memory exercises. At the end of the trial the participants showed a small but statistically significant improvement in memory – something that is extremely unusual. New connections had formed between different regions of the brain ... that actually changed brain plasticity and also improved function in relaying information. Thaut says the research shows that while music is in no way a cure for Alzheimers, it can provide a "cognitive boost." That's why a person with memory impairment may not recall their daughter's name but may remember all the lyrics to her favorite lullaby. "It's pulling from emotions, it's pulling from feelings, it's pulling from interpersonal associations, it's pulling from a date or time or period of one's life – historical things," [Concetta] Tomaino says. Music serves as a clue, coaxing the brain to fill in the blanks. "It is painful to watch your beloved slip away inch by inch," [Carol Rosenstein] says. "And if it weren't for the music, I wouldn't be sitting here today. As a caregiver and first responder, I can tell you, I would have never survived the journey."

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


In Holland People With Dementia Can Work on a Farm
2022-03-07, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/netherlands-care-farms-aging-dementia-work/

On Dutch ‘care farms,' aging folks tend to livestock, harvest vegetables and make their own decisions. Boerderij Op Aarde is one of hundreds of Dutch "care farms" operated by people facing an array of illnesses or challenges, either physical or mental. Today, there are roughly 1,350 care farms in the Netherlands. They provide meaningful work in agricultural settings with a simple philosophy: rather than design care around what people are no longer able to do, design it to leverage and emphasize what they can accomplish. Studies in Norway and the Netherlands found that people with dementia at care farms tended to move more and participate in higher-intensity activities than those in traditional care, which can help with mobility in daily life and have a positive impact on cognition. Dementia is often linked to social isolation, and care farms were found to boost social involvement. In traditional dementia care settings ... the focus tends to be on preventing risk. There's often a fixed schedule of simple activities, like games or movies, and the only choice attendees are given is whether to participate or not. In the course of his research, [Jan] Hassink has spoken to countless people with dementia. Common to many of them is a desire to not only participate in society, but contribute to it. "We don't focus on what's missing, but what is still left," says Arjan Monteny, cofounder of Boerderij Op Aarde, "what is still possible to develop in everybody."

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


New Mexico's governor just signed a bill to make college tuition-free
2022-03-07, CNN News
https://edition.cnn.com/2022/03/07/us/new-mexico-college-tuition-free-cec/ind...

For most New Mexico residents, college will now be officially tuition-free. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed on Friday Senate Bill 140, otherwise known as the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship Act. First introduced in 2019, the plan will waive tuition for any students attending any in-state public school or tribal college, including community colleges. "For over a quarter of a century, New Mexico has been a national leader in providing free college to its residents. A fully funded Opportunity Scholarship opens the door for every New Mexican to reach higher, strengthening our economy, our families and our communities," Lujan Grisham said. "Signing this legislation sends a clear message to New Mexicans that we believe in them and the contributions they will make for their families and the future of our great state." Eligible students must enroll in a minimum of six credit hours and maintain a grade point average of at least 2.5 during their time in college. The scholarship has already been awarded to more than 10,000 students over the last two years, but now $75 million has been allocated to the fund. That could support up to 35,000 students this fall alone ... and allows part-time students and adult learners to take advantage, as well. Across the country, many states have moved to provide some sort of tuition-free college education, typically at the community college level. In 2019, California waived tuition for first-time, full-time students attending two years of community college.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Medical Debt Is Being Erased in Ohio and Illinois. Is Your Town Next?
2022-12-29, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/29/us/toledo-medical-debt-relief.html

In the next few weeks, tens of thousands of people in Cook County, Ill., will open their mailboxes to find a letter from the county government explaining that their medical debt has been paid off. Officials in New Orleans and Toledo, Ohio, are finalizing contracts so that tens of thousands of residents can receive a similar letter. In Pittsburgh on Dec. 19, the City Council approved a budget that would include $1 million for medical debt relief. More local governments are likely to follow as county executives and city councils embrace a new strategy to address the high cost of health care. They are partnering with RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit that aims to abolish medical debt by buying it from hospitals, health systems and collections agencies at a steep discount. About 18 percent of Americans have medical debt that has been turned over to a third party for collection. Cook County plans to spend $12 million on medical debt relief and expects to erase debt for the first batch of beneficiaries by early January. In Lucas County, Ohio, and its largest city, Toledo, up to $240 million in medical debt could be paid off at a cost of $1.6 million. New Orleans is looking to spend $1.3 million to clear $130 million in medical debt. The $1 million in Pittsburgh's budget could wipe out $115 million in debt, officials said. These initiatives are all being funded by President Biden's trillion-dollar American Rescue Plan, which infused local governments with cash to spend on infrastructure, public services and economic relief programs.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


An Indigenous reservation has a novel way to grow food – below the earth's surface
2022-12-03, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/dec/03/south-dakota-reservation-...

Near the southern border of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, a curved translucent roof peeks out a few feet above the dusty plains. Below ground, at the bottom of a short flight of stairs, the inside of this 80ft-long sleek structure is bursting with life – pallets of vivid microgreens, potato plants growing from hay bales and planters full of thick heads of Swiss chard and pak choi. This is an underground greenhouse, or walipini, and the harvesters are members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. It is one of at least eight underground greenhouses that, over the past decade, have been built or are being constructed on the reservation – which has one of the highest poverty rates in the US. Some hope they can help solve the interconnected problems of the lack of affordable, nutritious food and the difficulties of farming in the climate crisis. Today, more than half of the residents of Oglala Lakota county, one of three counties within the boundaries of the reservation, live below the poverty line. Food access is a huge problem. The 2.1m-acre reservation is classified as a "food desert" with only a handful of grocery stores. And health outcomes, including diet related diseases, are poor – about 50% of adults over 40 have diabetes. Neil Mattson, professor and greenhouse extension specialist at Cornell University's School of Integrative Plant Science, says underground greenhouses could help to usher in more year-round food production across the northern US but they are still fairly new in the country.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


South Korea has almost zero food waste. Here's what the US can learn
2022-11-20, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/nov/20/south-korea-zero-food-was...

Beginning in the late 1990s, as landfills in the crowded capital area approached their limits, South Korea implemented a slate of policies to ease what was becoming seen as a trash crisis. The government banned burying organic waste in landfills in 2005, followed by another ban against dumping leachate – the putrid liquid squeezed from solid food waste – into the ocean in 2013. Universal curbside composting was implemented that same year, requiring everyone to separate their food from general waste. In 1996, South Korea recycled just 2.6% of its food waste. Today, South Korea recycles close to 100% annually. Ease-of-use and accessibility have been crucial to the success of the South Korean model. "South Korea's waste system, especially in terms of frequency of collection, is incredibly convenient compared to other countries," says Hong Su-yeol, a waste expert and director of Resource Recycling Consulting. "Some of my peers working at non-profits overseas say that disposal should be a little bit inconvenient if you want to discourage waste but I disagree: I think that it should be made as easy as possible as long as it goes hand-in-hand with other policies that attack the problem of reducing waste itself." National and municipal governments in South Korea have been actively investing in urban farming programs, which include composting courses. These sort of community-based efforts might be where the US can shine, increasing initial access to composting options in cities that presently have few other options.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


What if Instead of Calling People Out, We Called Them In?
2020-11-19, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/19/style/loretta-ross-smith-college-cancel-cu...

Loretta J. Ross [identifies] the characteristics, and limits, of call-out culture: the act of publicly shaming another person for behavior deemed unacceptable. Civil conversation between parties who disagree has also been part of activism, including her own, for quite some time. "I am challenging the call-out culture," Ross said. "I think you can understand how calling out is toxic. It really does alienate people, and makes them fearful of speaking up." The antidote to that ... Professor Ross believes, is "calling in." Calling in is like calling out, but done privately and with respect. "It's a call out done with love," she said. That may mean simply sending someone a private message, or even ringing them on the telephone to discuss the matter, or simply taking a breath before commenting, screen-shotting or demanding one "do better" without explaining how. Calling out assumes the worst. Calling in involves conversation, compassion and context. "I think we overuse that word ‘trigger' when really we mean discomfort," she said. "And we should be able to have uncomfortable conversations." Ross told the students ... "I think we actually sabotage our own happiness with this unrestrained anger. And I have to honestly ask: Why are you making choices to make the world crueler than it needs to be and calling that being woke?" She thought of what her organization's founder, the Rev. C.T. Vivian ... told her: "When you ask people to give up hate, you have to be there for them when they do."

Note: Watch Ross's powerful Ted Talk on simple, yet deeply inspiring tools for calling people in instead of calling people out.


In Baltimore, Healing Trauma Is Now Official Policy
2022-12-02, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/in-baltimore-healing-trauma-is-now-official...

In the year since Donna Bruce started working at the Baltimore public library's Penn North branch, she has connected more than 400 visitors to housing programs, food assistance and substance abuse recovery options – and saved a man from dying of a drug overdose by administering the emergency treatment Narcan. Poverty is pervasive in the neighborhoods around the Penn North library, and many people come in simply looking for heat or shelter. Bruce is leading a team of "peer navigators" in the library system trained to provide trauma-informed engagement and support to the public. All navigators have personal experience with mental health challenges or substance abuse disorders and act as role models in the community. Peer Navigators is the first city agency program that owes part of its origin story to Baltimore's 2020 Elijah Cummings Healing City Act. The goal of the groundbreaking legislation is to help departments reckon with and change policies that have caused – and continue to cause – trauma, while charting a new path rooted in healing. The act mandates that city employees receive training, to gain awareness and learn how to help those who have been harmed. At the same time, agency leaders must evaluate their practices and procedures to determine if they are causing trauma and how to change those that are to better serve Baltimore's communities. Evidence shows the approach can improve social environments, decrease violence, and reduce other negative encounters.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


First ever EU-wide limits for underwater noise
2022-11-29, European Commission
https://environment.ec.europa.eu/news/zero-pollution-and-biodiversity-first-e...

Underwater noise due to human activities at sea can harm marine biodiversity, leading for example to hearing impairment and behavioural disturbances. EU experts have adopted recommendations on maximum acceptable levels for impulsive (for example from oil and gas exploration and extraction) and continuous (such as from shipping) underwater noise. The new limits mean, that to be in tolerable status, no more than 20% of a given marine area, can be exposed to continuous underwater noise over a year Similarly, no more than 20% of a marine habitat can be exposed to impulsive noise over a given day, and no more than 10% over a year. These underwater noise pollution limits deliver on the Zero Pollution Action Plan and are the first of this kind at global level. The threshold values will contribute to set limits on where and for how long marine habitats can be exposed to underwater noise. Impulsive underwater noise, such as from oil and gas exploration, occurs in about 8 % of the EU's seas: it is particularly present in large areas of the Baltic, North and Celtic Seas, and the Mediterranean area. Maritime traffic is the main source of continuous underwater noise. With 27% of its area subject to shipping, the Mediterranean Sea sees the highest shipping traffic in the EU. This is followed by the Baltic Sea (19 % of the area). Overall, only 9% of the EU's sea area has no shipping traffic. EU Member States will now need to take these threshold values into account when they update their marine strategies.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


A Device That Literally Generates Electricity Out of Thin Air
2022-10-20, The Pulse
https://thepulse.one/2022/10/20/a-device-that-literally-generates-electricity...

A study published in Nature in February 2020 entitled "Power generation from ambient humidity using protein nanowires" discovered an interesting way to harvest energy from the environment, creating the potential for another clean power generating system that is self-sustaining. According to the authors, "Thin-film devices made from nanometre-scale protein wires harvested from the microbe Geobacter sulfurreducens can generate continuous electric power in the ambient environment. The devices produce a sustained voltage of around 0.5 volts across a 7-micrometre-thick film, with a current density of around 17 microamperes per square centimetre. We find the driving force behind this energy generation to be a self-maintained moisture gradient that forms within the film when the film is exposed to the humidity that is naturally present in air." The study also mentions that "connecting several devices linearly scales up the voltage and current to power electronics" and that their results "demonstrate the feasibility of a continuous energy-harvesting strategy that is less restricted by location or environmental conditions than other sustainable approaches." One of the electrical engineers, Jun Yao, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, stated that they are "literally making electricity out of thin air." They are calling it the "Air-gen" and it generates clean energy 24/7, thanks to the electrically conductive protein nanowires produced by Geobacter.

Note: As the article states, why do none of the truly "free" energy sources we keep hearing about never come to market? Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Scientists Have Used Mushrooms to Make Biodegradable Computer Chip Parts
2022-11-15, CNN News
https://www.cnn.com/2022/11/15/world/mushroom-skin-electrical-circuits-scn-sc...

New research has shown that mushroom skins could provide a biodegradable alternative to some plastics used in batteries and computer chips, making them easier to recycle. Researchers from the Johannes Kepler University in Austria were working on flexible and stretchable electronics, with a focus on sustainable materials to replace non-degradable materials, when they made their discovery, published in the journal Science Advances. "There was a fair share of serendipity involved," Martin Kaltenbrunner ... co-author of the paper, told CNN. At the time, a member of the team had been looking at using fungus-derived materials for use in other areas. This work led to the latest study, which shows how Ganoderma lucidum mushroom skin could work as a substitute for the substrate used in electrical circuits. A substrate is the base of a circuit that insulates and cools the conductive metals sitting on top of it. Typically, they are made of non-degradable plastics, which are discarded after use. The mushroom ... forms a compact protective skin made of mycelium, a root-like network, to protect its growth medium (the wood). The skin has many properties that set it apart from other biodegradable materials, Kaltenbrunner said, "but most importantly, it can simply be grown from waste wood and does not need energy or cost intensive processing." "Our mycelium ... can last a long time if kept dry, but in just a standard household compost, it would degrade entirely within two weeks or less," he added.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Wales's "One Planet" Policy Is Transforming Rural Life
2021-02-12, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/one-planet-development-policy-wales-rural-s...

In Wales, the average citizen uses almost three times their share of the world's resources. But Cassandra [Lishman] and her family are part of a groundbreaking scheme launched by the Welsh government in 2011 that aims to address that imbalance. The One Planet Development Policy (OPD) and its predecessor, Pembrokeshire's Policy 52, allow people to bypass tight planning laws and move to protected areas to live ecologically sustainable lifestyles. So far, 46 individual smallholdings have signed on to the programs, which require residents to sustain themselves using the resources available on land they inhabit. The policy aims to combat an array of problems: rising temperatures, soil degradation, rural depopulation, a rampant housing crisis and wasteful global supply chains. But ... by limiting consumption and allocating resources wisely, ecologically responsible development is possible, even in pristine environments. To qualify for the scheme, there are four requirements. First, each household must use only their global fair share of resources, which has been calculated by the Welsh government as equivalent to six acres of land. Second, applicants must show that within five years this land can fulfill 65 percent of their basic needs, including food, water, energy and waste. Third, they must come up with a zero-carbon house design using locally sourced and sustainable materials. Finally, they must set up a land-based enterprise to pay the sort of bills ... that can't be met with a subsistence lifestyle.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


How a Bronx Community Is Winning the Census
2020-06-01, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/bronx-co-op-city-winning-census-participation/

Co-Op City is amazing. A massive housing development on the eastern edge of the Bronx, it has its own schools, power plant, newspaper, even a planetarium. It was built by a clothing workers union and the United Housing Federation in the 1960s to provide affordable middle-class housing in New York City. From the beginning, it embraced a social justice mandate that included participatory self-government, ethnic diversity and a sharing of resources. Just 49 percent of New York City households have responded to the 2020 Census so far – well behind the national average of nearly 60 percent. At stake are potentially billions of dollars in desperately needed federal funds as well as seats in the House of Representatives. But not all Census tracts are created equal. In Co-Op City, the world's largest co-operative housing complex, with more than 15,000 apartments, residents are not only well ahead of the rest of the Bronx and of New York City – they also outpace much of the nation. Among Co-Op City's seven tracts, five exceed 70 percent in participating, and the others are not far behind – making "the city in a city" an outlier in the Bronx, where fewer than 40 percent in many tracts have responded to Census Bureau mailings. Noel Ellison, 67, general manager for Co-Op City's property management company, Riverbay Corporation, said the coronavirus crisis has galvanized residents, bringing an already tight community even closer. So did Co-Op City's unusual inclusiveness, he suggested.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Blind man runs New York half marathon with three guide dogs
2019-03-18, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47616376

Thomas Panek has completed 20 marathons, however, he made history on Sunday at the New York City Half Marathon. While visually impaired runners usually use human guides, Mr Panek became the first person to complete the race supported by guide dogs. A trio of Labradors - Westley, Waffle and Gus - each accompanied him for a third of the race. The team finished in two hours and 21 minutes. Mr Panek, who lost his sight in his early 20s, told CNN that while he appreciated the support of human volunteers, he missed the feeling of independence. "It never made sense to me to walk out the door and leave my guide dog behind when I love to run and they love to run," he said. "It was just a matter of bucking conventional wisdom and saying why not. In 2015, Mr Panek established the Running Guides programme which trains dogs to support runners. "The bond is really important. You can't just pick up the harness and go for a run with these dogs," Mr Panek told CNN. "You're training with a team no matter what kind of athlete you are, and you want to spend time together in that training camp." Each dog wears a special harness and set of running boots, to protect their paws. Before the race, Mr Panek told Time magazine that guide dogs give visually impaired people the freedom to "do whatever it is a sighted person does, and sometimes, even run a little faster than them".

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring disabled persons news articles.


Athlete with Down syndrome becomes first to complete the Ironman World Championship
2022-10-08, USA Today
https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/2022/10/08/athlete-down-syndrome-first-...

Chris Nikic became the first athlete with Down syndrome to complete the Ironman World Championship when he crossed the finish line during Thursday's event in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. The Ironman involves three events: a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run. Nikic finished in 16 hours, 31 minutes and 27 seconds. He completed the swim in one hour, 42 minutes, the bike ride in eight hours, five minutes and the run in six hours and 29 minutes, placing 2,265th out of 2,314 athletes that competed that day. Nikic, who celebrated his 23rd birthday after crossing the finish line with his volunteer guide, accomplished the feat during Down syndrome awareness month. Nikic's perseverance has won him many admirers and his dedication won him the 2021 Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the ESPYs after he became the first person with Down syndrome to finish an Ironman triathlon after completing the Florida Ironman in November 2020. In a video, Nikic explained his motivation in competing in the grueling events. "I rarely saw anyone who looks like me in mainstream sports. And now, we're changing that," Nikic said. "Running changed my life, but now I want everyone like me to see it's possible for them, too."

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring disabled persons news articles.


Why Our Movements Need to Start Singing Again
2022-12-04, Common Dreams
https://www.commondreams.org/views/2022/12/04/why-our-movements-need-start-si...

Social movements are stronger when they sing. That's a lesson that has been amply demonstrated throughout history, and it's one that I have learned personally in working to develop trainings for activists over the past decade and a half. In Momentum, a training program that I co-founded and that many other trainers and organizers have built over the last seven years, song culture is not something we included at the start. And yet, it has since become so indispensable that the trainers I know would never imagine doing without it again. We developed a session within Momentum devoted to reviving song culture. We named it "Why did we stop singing?" This module teaches how to bring more music to our movements by breaking down common barriers like self-consciousness, discomfort with vulnerability, and lack of a shared repertoire. Once Momentum began incorporating it into its curriculum, "Why did we stop singing?" quickly became one of the most popular parts of the training. Over several years, many of the organization's trainers and leaders worked to develop the module and, as they did, some important lessons emerged. Chief among them: Music is a powerful tool that we have too often neglected in our organizing–and members of our movements are hungry to bring it back. The training was designed to promote a more sustainable culture of direct action, as well as to put traditions of mass protest in dialogue with longer-term models of structure-based organizing.

Note: The above was written by Paul Engler, a co-founder of Momentum Training, which instructs hundreds of activists each year in the principles of effective protest. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Helsinki Built a Library That Brings a Whole City Together
2022-12-01, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/oodi-library-helsinki-future/

When Andy Johansen first visited Helsinki's Oodi Library in early 2020 he was struck with amazement by the elegant three-story mass of wood, steel and glass, and the labyrinth of wonders within it. "I think it's so creative and innovative," says Johansen. Two steel arches span over 100 meters to create a fully enclosed, column-free public entrance space; the timber facade is clad with 33-millimeter-thick Finnish spruce planks. There are all manner of curious, Alice in Wonderland-esque places to sit – or indeed, lie down – while leafing through a book. Among the vast number of amenities, what caught Johansen's attention were the library's 3D printers, laser cutters and equipment to digitally sculpt wood. But over time, he realized that there was a more radical and increasingly rare service that the library provides: a free and egalitarian public space. "Students can sit and study and just hang out," he explains. "Or you can have your kid walking around, playing around. I always spend time there with my daughter. It's more of a cultural space. You don't need to consume anything." Since opening in December 2018, Oodi has begun to write a new chapter in the history of public space. Instead of being merely a repository for books, it is an alternative working and learning space, a cultural and community center, and a platform for democracy and citizen initiatives. Anyone can enter and use the facilities, many of which are free, without needing to provide ID.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Jim Harris Was Paralyzed. Then He Ate Magic Mushrooms.
2022-11-09, Yahoo News
https://sports.yahoo.com/jim-harris-paralyzed-then-ate-103056289.html

Against all odds, Jim Harris was walking. There he was, at a music festival, getting around with the assistance of a walker, eight months out from a spinal-cord injury that left him paralyzed from the chest down. In November 2014, a snowkiting accident in Chile changed how the mountaineering instructor turned adventure photographer moved through the world. His days ... were now filled with rehabilitation exercises. A friend and former physical therapist invited him to the High Sierra Music Festival. "The disability made me feel like an outsider," he says. Then someone offered him magic mushrooms, which are packed with the psychoactive compound psilocybin. He commandeered an acquaintance's padded knee scooter so he could rest one leg at a time and still sway to the music. In the middle of a switch, he discovered that he could pick up his right foot and pull it back toward his butt. He tapped his right hamstring with a finger and the muscle contracted - a muscle that had been completely unresponsive since his injury, even in the low-gravity environment of a pool, despite eight months of physical therapy. With wonder and some degree of hesitation, he showed his physical-therapist friend. They marveled together at what had been impossible for Harris earlier that day. The next morning, Harris woke up afraid he'd imagined the whole thing, or that he'd lost his newfound ability while he slept, but his hamstring was still firing. The neuromuscular connection that had formed the night before wasn't going anywhere.

Note: Read more about the healing potentials of psychedelic medicine. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


‘It's like a place of healing': the growth of America's food forests
2021-05-08, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/may/08/its-like-a-place-of-heali...

America's biggest "food forest" is just a short drive from the world's busiest airport, Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson. When the Guardian visits the Urban Food Forest at Browns Mill there are around a dozen volunteers working. Food forests are part of the broader food justice and urban agriculture movement and are distinct from community gardens in various ways. They are typically backed by grants rather than renting plots, usually rely on volunteers and incorporate a land management approach that has a focus on growing perennials. The schemes vary in how they operate in allocating food ... but they are all aimed at boosting food access. Organizers in Atlanta stress that they properly distribute the food to the neighborhoods that the food forest is intended to support and it's not open to the public beyond volunteer workers. Other schemes have areas where the public is free to take what they want. Celeste Lomax, who manages community engagement at the Brown Mills forest and lives in the neighborhood, believes education is key to the forest's success and beams like sunlight when sharing her vision for the fertile soil she tends. "We're using this space for more than just growing food. We have composting, beehives, bat boxes, and this beautiful herb garden where we're teaching people how to heal themselves with the foods we eat. We'll be doing walkthrough retreats and outside yoga. This is a health and wellness place. It's so much more than just free food."

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Dad Wakes From Coma to Discover Artistic Skills He Never Had Before
2022-11-07, Yahoo News
https://uk.news.yahoo.com/dad-wakes-month-long-coma-092327320.html?guccounter=1

A dad has left medics baffled after waking from a coma with extraordinary artistic talents he never had before - and he's now a professional carpenter and model maker. Moe Hunter, 38, spent more than a month in a coma where his heart even stopped after being diagnosed with a rare form of bacterial meningitis and tuberculosis in his brain. He awoke from brain surgery with no memory but soon left his friends and family gobsmacked when he started to display a special gift he didn't possess before. Moe suddenly discovered he had a newfound creative flair and an inexplicable talent for drawing, painting and model building - despite being 'rubbish' at art at school. He used his new skills to embark on a career as a self-employed carpenter and began building intricate life-size model replicas from the world of TV and film. Married dad-of-one Moe has since sold pieces of his artwork and has displayed his amazing creations at Comic-Con events. Moe said: "I really wasn't creative before in the slightest, in fact people used to laugh at my drawings. "Even to this day some of my family can't believe it. When I spoke to the neurologist he just said 'enjoy it' and said there's so much about the brain they still can't decipher and this is just a phenomenon. I look at all of my stuff now and I'm like 'never in a trillion years could I do this stuff'. I have no idea how it happened. "My doctor said that I was a walking miracle to be able to recover as quickly as I did - but when I started displaying these new artistic talents they were just stumped."

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In Barcelona, Kids Bike to School in Large, Choreographed Herds
2022-11-07, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/students-ditch-school-buses-for-bicycles-in...

With breakfast finished and backpacks prepped for the day, children across Spain's Barcelona province strap on their helmets and, at around 8 a.m., head to school not by bus or car, but in a critical mass of bikes dubbed "bicibĂşs." As with traditional bus lines, each bicibĂşs route has stops where other cycling students can join along the way. Parents, teachers and other volunteer adults ride, too, to ensure the kids' safety. BicibĂşs is just a couple years old, but already more than 1,200 kids pedal 90-plus routes to more than 70 schools across 25 cities in Catalonia. (Barcelona is one of four provinces in the region, in addition to being a major city.) Biking in groups increases awareness of riders on the road, especially where dedicated infrastructure is lacking. And families around the world, from Portland, Oregon to Edinburgh, Scotland, have embraced this commuting alternative. "The idea for bicibĂşs came from the mix of my two passions: the bike and education," says Helena Vilardell, the elementary school teacher who started bicibĂşs in February 2020. She subsequently launched the nonprofit Canvis en Cadena ("change in chain") to widely promote bicycles as a healthier, more sustainable commute for all. Fewer gas-powered vehicles on the road decreases pollutants that contribute to unhealthy air. "I have been working as a teacher for many years. The children in my class who arrive by bike are more active during the first hours, more attentive and participatory," [Vilardell] says.

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A Partnership With the Philippines Brings Composting to Detroit
2022-10-24, Yes! Magazine
https://www.yesmagazine.org/environment/2022/10/24/detroit-zero-waste-composting

[Pamela] McGhee and her neighbors are participating in a pilot program to build zero-waste systems for Detroit. It's something they say the city sorely needs. For decades, Detroit was home to one of the country's largest waste incinerators. East Side residents formed Breathe Free Detroit, one of several groups behind a successful campaign to shut down the incinerator; the plant closed in 2019. Now, that same group is working with the city to develop a composting system. Many ... see a direct line between composting and recycling and improving their community health. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food waste is the most common material found in landfills and sent to incinerators in the U.S., comprising 24% of landfill materials and 22% of combusted municipal solid waste. But Detroit organizers didn't have much experience with communitywide composting, so when they began developing a program, they turned to an unlikely mentor more than 8,000 miles away: the Mother Earth Foundation in the Philippines. Over the past 20 years, the organization has earned a reputation for training low-income communities, government agencies, civic organizations, and businesses in zero-waste practices. The two groups organized monthly calls, in which Mother Earth Foundation organizers offered advice based on their experiences setting up community composting systems. Members of Mother Earth Foundation and community organizers in Detroit plan to visit each other's cities early next year.

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India's Retired Sex Workers Get a Second Act
2022-11-15, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/india-older-sex-workers-supreme-court/

In May, India's Supreme Court ruled that sex work is a legitimate profession. Now, its older practitioners are finding ways to start their life anew. 47-year-old [Jyoti] is a former sex worker from the brothels of Delhi's biggest red light district ... who has left her previous life behind. "I was sold to a brothel by an aunt when I was only 12 years old, so there never was any time to learn anything else," she says. Now, Jyoti not only has a job, she is earning enough to give her children a promising future: $250 a month through Savhera, a women-led organization that connects and provides retired sex workers with jobs. As a result of the capacity building training by Savhera, the workers have successfully launched their own collective, WePower, with technical support from Shakti Vahini, an anti-trafficking NGO. The collective aims to manufacture handmade goods that provide ongoing employment and empowerment to the women. Savhera and similar organizations are helping aging and retired Indian sex workers transition into their new lives with jobs, bank accounts and ID cards. Now, as one of the core members of WePower, Jyoti makes handmade goods like candles, bags, and jewelry. She intends to use the money she earns to build a fund for her daughter's future education. Like Savhera, the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), a group of 67,000 sex workers in West Bengal, helps aging sex workers ... and even runs its own bank, USHA co-operative, for sex workers without ID cards.

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New Rooftop Wind Energy Invention Is Up To 16X More Efficient Than Solar Panels
2022-11-03, The Pulse
https://thepulse.one/2022/11/03/a-new-rooftop-wind-energy-invention-is-16x-mo...

A new rooftop wind harvesting device is capable of generating 50 percent more electricity than solar panels for the same cost, according to its inventors, a Texas-based startup called Aeromine Technologies. The new technology replaced the blades found in traditional wind turbines with an aerodynamic system that harvests energy from the airflow that's created above a building, which makes it silent and safe for birds and other wildlife. These units produce the same amount of power as up to 16 solar panels. As their company website states: "Aeromine's patented aerodynamic design captures and amplifies building airflow in wind speeds as low as 5 m.p.h., similar to the airfoils on a race car. Unlike turbines that require rotating rotor blades and many moving parts, making them prone to maintenance issues, the motionless and durable Aeromine solution generates more energy in less space." This is a game-changer ... helping corporations meet their resilience and sustainability goals with an untapped distributed renewable energy source. The Aeromine system can utilize a small footprint on a building's roof, leaving ample space for existing solar and utility infrastructure. It provides commercial property owners, who are facing increased energy costs and rising demand for features such as electric vehicle charging stations, with an effective new tool. Aeromine's patented technology was validated through joint research with Sandia National Laboratories and Texas Tech University.

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Mushroom walls and waste-fuelled stoves: inside the self-sufficient home of tomorrow
2022-11-09, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2022/nov/10/mushroom-walls-and-waste...

Joost Bakker believes a house can be more than a place to live: it can be a self-sustaining weapon against the climate crisis. A new Australian documentary explores his bold blueprint. Bakker – a multi-disciplinary designer, no-waste advocate and the film's eponymous protagonist – has long been something of a provocateur. In 2020, the Dutch-born, Australian-raised designer's two decades of high-concept sustainability projects came to a head when he hit go on the construction of Future Food System. Erected in one of the busiest areas of Melbourne, the off-grid, three-storey house and urban farm produced all of its own power and food. Even the cooking gas was generated from human and food waste. "We can have it all," Bakker [says]. "We can have houses covered with biology, plants, ecosystems and waterfalls. It's not necessary for us to be destroying the planet or killing each other with materials that are making us sick. The infrastructure is already there. It's just about reimagining our suburbs and reimagining our buildings." Shadowing Bakker throughout the project from set-up to pack-down, was film-maker Nick Batzias ... who squeezes plenty of action into the pacy 90-minute documentary. The bulk of the film focuses on the building's green-thinking initiatives. Steam from the showers is used to grow mushrooms; the foundation-less building is anchored by self-watering garden beds filled with 35 tonnes of soil.

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Voters in 4 states reject forced work for prisoners
2022-11-09, Washington Post/Associated Press
https://www.washingtonpost.com/kidspost/2022/11/09/voters-reject-forced-labor...

Voters in four states approved ballot measures that will change their state constitutions to prohibit slavery and forcing someone to work against their will as punishment for crime. The initiatives won't force immediate changes in the states' prisons, but they may invite legal challenges over the practice of pressuring prisoners to work under threat of punishment or loss of privileges if they refuse the work. The results were celebrated among anti-slavery advocates, including those pushing to further amend the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits enslavement and forced work except as a form of criminal punishment. Nearly 160 years after enslaved Africans and their descendants were released from bondage through ratification of the 13th Amendment, the slavery exception continues to allow jails and prisons to use inmates for low-cost labor. U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Representative Nikema Williams of Georgia, both Democrats, reintroduced legislation to revise the 13th Amendment to end the slavery exception. If it wins approval in Congress, the constitutional amendment must be ratified (approved) by three-fourths of the states. After Tuesday's vote, more than a dozen states still have constitutions that include language permitting slavery and forced labor for prisoners. Prison labor is a multibillion-dollar practice. Workers usually make less than $1 per hour, sometimes only pennies. Prisoners who refuse to work can be denied privileges such as phone calls and visits with family.

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India's ‘Open Prisons' Are a Marvel of Trust-Based Incarceration
2022-05-12, Reasons to be Cheerful
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/india-open-prisons-escape-trust/

Though the people held at Sanganer open prison are technically incarcerated, they can leave the facility during the day and travel within the city limits. Almost immediately upon his arrival, Arjiram's sense of self-worth grew. "It didn't feel like I was in a prison," he says. "I could go out and work and come back, and the best thing was they trusted me." After being faceless and nameless for over a decade, he felt like a person again. According to the country's National Crime Records Bureau, there are about 88 open prisons in India, the largest share of which are in the state of Rajasthan, where the model is being pioneered. India's open prisons are defined by minimal security. They are run and maintained by the state, and those incarcerated within them are free to come and go as they please. At Sanganer, the prison is open for up to 12 hours each day. Every evening, prisoners must return to be counted at an end-of-day roll call. Designed to foster reform as opposed to punishment, the system is based on the premise that trust is contagious. It assumes – and encourages – self-discipline on the part of the prisoners. Letting incarcerated folks go to work also allows them to earn money for themselves and their families, build skills, and maintain contacts in the outside world that can help them once they're released. In addition to allowing inmates to support themselves, open prisons require far less staff, and their operating costs are a fraction of those in closed prisons.

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The architect helping sinking cities fight flooding
2022-10-28, CNN News
https://www.cnn.com/style/article/kotchakorn-voraakhom-landscape-architect-sp...

When floods devastated Bangkok more than a decade ago, Thai landscape architect Kotchakorn Voraakhom became determined to help her sinking hometown fight this deadly climate threat. The floods "changed my life," said Voraakhom. "I started using the tools of landscape architecture (to tackle) climate change." The 2011 floods killed hundreds and displaced millions. "For us, climate change is primarily a water crisis," she said. "Our people can feel its impacts in their daily lives, each year through worsening floods, rising sea levels, and severe drought." In many sinking cities, including Bangkok, the current urban infrastructure is not fit for purpose and is "reducing our ability to adapt," said Voraakhom, noting that many of Bangkok's waterways and canals have been destroyed or have fallen into disrepair. "For us, as a city of water, the only way is to go back to our amphibious culture and reclaim the relationship with water." The architect said she integrates nature and water into her designs to create landscapes that help alleviate flooding and add greenery to densely populated cities. Voraakhom also created Asia's largest rooftop farm, Siam Green Sky, transforming 22,400 square meters (241,000 square feet) into a lush haven. The farm, which recycles food waste from restaurants in the building below and uses it as plant fertilizer, also slows down, soaks up and stores large amounts of rainwater. It is then used to grow vegetables, herbs and fruit, as well as rice.

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No pooh-poohing poo: Researchers envision an extreme circular economy
2022-09-06, CNN News
https://www.cnn.com/2022/09/06/world/repurposed-poop-waste-natural-resource-s...

Imagine you're eating dinner on a ceramic plate and drinking water from a plastic cup while sitting in a brick house – a seemingly ordinary scenario except that your plate, cup, and your home are all fashioned in part from recycled feces. In my upcoming book, "Flush: The Remarkable Science of an Unlikely Treasure," I describe how the misunderstood byproduct of our daily living is a vastly undervalued natural resource. Try to reimagine wastewater treatment plants ... doubling as multipurpose resource recovery facilities. As an alternative to plastics made from fossil fuels, for example, researchers are making headway in producing safe and biodegradable bioplastics from existing waste streams. Creating planet-friendly bottles, containers, and other bioplastic products from what we leave behind is still a work in progress, said Zeynep Cetecioglu Gurol ... at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology. Developing an efficient and affordable method for recovering new products from wastewater could help offset the money, time, and effort spent by treatment plants to meet pollution limits in discharged water. "It's a win-win," she said. Engineers ... have focused on relieving the environmental problem of excavating clay soil for brick production, in part by exploring how to incorporate treated sewage solids, or biosolids, into fired bricks. Bricks with varying amounts of treated biosolids from Melbourne residents weren't quite as strong as traditional counterparts. But they were lighter and better insulators.

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A ‘game-changer' for millions of Americans: You can now buy hearing aids over the counter
2022-10-17, CNN News
https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/17/health/over-the-counter-hearing-aids-available...

For the first time, adults with mild to moderate hearing loss in the US will be able to buy over-the-counter hearing aids. Those who are under 18 or who have severe hearing loss will still need a prescription. In July, President Joe Biden signed an executive order meant to promote competition; it encouraged the US Food and Drug Administration allow over-the-counter, prescription-free hearing aids, and the FDA announced the long-awaited rule change in August. The move ushers in options that should be cheaper and possibly even better. Now, instead of getting a prescription and having a custom fitting with a hearing health professional, adults can buy hearing aids directly from a store or online. Some doctors estimate that 90% of the population with hearing loss could benefit from these over-the-counter devices. Experts say the move is a "game-changer." The number of people with hearing loss is substantial. About 1 in 8 people in the US ages 12 and older has hearing loss in both ears. About a quarter of people 65 to 74 have hearing loss. On average, people spend at least $4,000 out of pocket for devices for both ears, according to a 2020 study published in the medical journal JAMA. Prices can vary: Large retailers may offer a pair for about $1,400, but some can cost as much as $6,000 per ear. Until now, five companies have controlled 90% of the global marketplace for hearing aids. That kind of consolidation meant there was little price competition.

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U.S. military suicides drop as leaders push mental health programs
2022-10-20, PBS/Associated Press
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/u-s-military-suicides-drop-as-leaders-pus...

Suicides across the active duty U.S. military decreased over the past 18 months, driven by sharp drops in the Air Force and Marine Corps last year and a similar decline among Army soldiers during the first six months of this year, according to a new Pentagon report. The numbers show a dramatic reversal of what has been a fairly steady increase in recent years. The shift follows increased attention by senior military leaders and an array of new programs aimed at addressing what has been a persistent problem in all the services. The numbers provide a glimmer of hope that some of the recent changes – which range from required counseling visits to stress relief education and recreational outings – may be working. According to the data, the number of suicides in the Air Force and Marine Corp dropped by more than 30 percent in 2021 compared with 2020, and the Navy saw a 10 percent decline. The Army saw a similar 30 percent decrease during the first six months of this year, compared with the same time period last year. The National Guard and the Reserves both saw a small dip in suicides, from 121 in 2020 to 119 in 2021. And there were also fewer Guard deaths in the first half of 2022, compared with last year. The Guard has worked over the last year to reduce suicides through outreach and other changes, including policies to destigmatize getting mental health help and a program that provides firearms locks for service members who keep weapons at home.

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Psychedelics And Mental Health: What Does The Science Say?
2022-09-02, Forbes
https://web.archive.org/web/20221021092440/https://www.forbes.com/health/mind...

Psychedelic therapy is the use of psychedelic substances, often alongside traditional talk therapy (psychotherapy), as a treatment for mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, suicidality and PTSD. Michael Mithoefer, M.D. ... at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), likens psychedelic therapy to applying a cast to a broken bone. "[Psychedelic]-assisted therapy engages the mind's innate power to heal itself–the participants' ‘inner healing intelligence,'" claims Dr. Mithoefer, going on to explain that "the source of the healing process is the person themselves–the psychedelic and therapists are catalysts." In the U.S., psychedelics continue to undergo medical trials, with some being granted a "breakthrough therapy" designation by the FDA, indicating that preliminary clinical evidence has shown the drug can demonstrate substantial improvement over currently available therapy. COMPASS Pathways, a mental health treatment company, received the designation for its psilocybin therapy for treatment-resistant depression in 2018. In 2019, Usona Institute ... received the designation to continue its testing of psilocybin as a treatment for major depressive disorder. Psilocybin-assisted therapy is also being tested as a treatment for various addictions ... as well as certain conditions such as anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), cluster headaches, migraines and chronic pain.

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What Do Athletes Get From Ayahuasca, Mushrooms and Ecstasy?
2022-08-12, Sports Illustrated
https://www.si.com/more-sports/2022/08/12/psychedelics-sports-aaron-rodgers-d...

Aaron Rodgers and Kenny Stills are among the few who have spoken publicly about their use of psychedelics for mental health purposes. But a future where the treatment is more widespread across sports may not be so far away. "Some people still ... don't recognize these as legitimate, life-saving medical medicines," [NBA agent Daniel] Poneman says. "There are athletes that I know who have had life-changing experiences with these medicines, but only a few of them are brave enough to speak out for fear of being stigmatized." There's still stigma around taking medication of any kind for mental illness, but it's slowly lessening. Aaron Rodgers said on a recent podcast that he has taken psychedelics to improve his mental health. The Packers' quarterback said he does not identify as having a mental illness like depression or anxiety, but that his most recent psychedelic experience–with ayahuasca, in March 2020, in Peru–has helped increase his "self-love." Before Rodgers spoke out, NFL free-agent wide receiver Kenny Stills was thought to be the only active professional athlete vocal about his psychedelic use. Stills, who last season played for the Saints, says his case of depression in 2016 felt like a "permanent cloud." Last year he went to a clinic run by Field Trip Health, a for-profit that provides people with ketamine-assisted psychotherapy–meaning they have to take the medication under supervision of a licensed therapist and debrief with them afterward.

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How Taiwan's 'civic hackers' helped find a new way to run the country
2020-09-21, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/27/taiwan-civic-hackers-polis-cons...

It came to be known as the Sunflower movement, a sudden three-week stand-off in 2014 between the government and Taiwanese protesters. Months later, government officials arrived at a ... university campus to ask for the help of a group that few knew even existed: the civic hackers. Taiwan's civic hackers were organized around a leaderless collective called g0v (pronounced "gov zero.") Many believed in radical transparency ... and in the idea that everyone who is affected by a decision should have a say in it. They preferred establishing consensus to running lots of majority-rule votes. These were all principles, incidentally, that parallel thinking about how software should be designed – a philosophy that g0v had begun to apply to the arena of domestic politics. As g0v saw it, the problem of politics was essentially one of information. They needed a way not to measure division, but construct consensus. The hackers' answer was called vTaiwan. The platform invites citizens into an online space for debate that politicians listen to and take into account when casting their votes. As people expressed their views, rather than serving up the comments that were the most divisive, it gave the most visibility to those finding consensus. Soon, vTaiwan was being rolled out on issue after issue, especially those related to technology, and each time a hidden consensus was revealed. The system's potential to heal divisions, to reconnect people to politics, is a solution made for the problems of our age.

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Postcards from Kamikatsu, Japan's ‘zero-waste' town
2022-04-27, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/interactive/2022/japan-zero-...

Tucked away in the mountains of Japan's Shikoku island, a town of about 1,500 residents is on an ambitious path toward a zero-waste life. In 2003, Kamikatsu became the first municipality in Japan to make a zero-waste declaration. Since then, the town has transformed its open-air burning practices for waste disposal into a system of buying, consuming and discarding with the goal of reaching carbon neutrality. Now, the town estimates it is more than 80 percent of its way toward meeting that goal by 2030. The Zero Waste Center is the town's recycling facility, where residents can sort their garbage into 45 categories – there are nine ways to sort paper products alone – before they toss the rest into a pile for the incinerators. Residents clean and dry dirty items so they are suitable for recycling. The town offers an incentive system in which people can collect recycling points in exchange for eco-friendly products. There are signs depicting what new items will be made out of those recycled items, and how much money the town is saving by working with recycling companies rather than burning the trash. It's a way to remind them of their social responsibility. Attached to the Zero Waste Center is a thrift shop where residents can drop off items they don't want anymore, and others can take them free. All they need to do is weigh the item they take from the shop and log the weight in a ledger so the shop can keep track of the volume of reused items. In January alone, about 985 pounds' worth of items were rehomed.

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Braver Angels: Seeking to de-polarize America
2022-10-16, CBS News
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/braver-angels-seeking-to-de-polarize-america/

Michigan is a battleground state, in every sense of the word. Here, purple doesn't mean moderate; it means the 50-50, Red/Blue split is a chasm. On a recent Saturday in Traverse City, Mich., people gathered – half of them Red, the other half Blue – brought together by Braver Angels, a not-for-profit attempting to narrow the divide. "I'm here out of concern for our country, and our democracy," said one attendee, Jane. Started in 2016, Braver Angels now holds sessions nationwide. It was shaped by Bill Doherty, who teaches relationships at the University of Minnesota. He's also a marriage counselor. Correspondent Martha Teichner asked Doherty, "Is it a proper analogy: Reds and Blues in America, and couples on the brink of divorce?" "There is an analogy to couples on the brink," Doherty replied. "A big difference is that divorce is not possible in America." In Traverse City, participants arrived uneasy at first, defensive. Task #1 at a Red/Blue workshop: stereotypes. Reds and Blues, seated in separate rooms, are asked to list what "they" call "you." Facilitators then ask each side if there's is a kernel of truth in those stereotypes. Tim said, "The passion for the pro-life cause sometimes seems not to hear women." And so it goes, for three hours, peeling back the onion of opinion, looking for common ground. No trying to change anybody's mind. Divided they were, but they showed up, because they wanted to know each other not by label, but by name. Braver Angels has held more than 2,000 workshops and is growing.

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This Styrofoam-eating ‘superworm' could help solve the garbage crisis
2022-06-17, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/06/17/plastic-eating-superworm...

A plump larva the length of a paper clip can survive on the material that makes Styrofoam. The organism, commonly called a "superworm," could transform the way waste managers dispose of one of the most common components in landfills, researchers said, potentially slowing a mounting garbage crisis that is exacerbating climate change. In a paper released last week in the journal of Microbial Genomics, scientists from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, showed that the larvae of a darkling beetle, called zophobas morio, can survive solely on polystyrene, commonly called Styrofoam. The findings come amid a flurry of research on ways bacteria and other organisms can consume plastic materials, like Styrofoam and drinking bottles. Now, the researchers will study the enzymes that allow the superworm to digest Styrofoam, as they look to find a way to transform the finding into a commercial product. Industrial adoption offers a tantalizing scenario for waste managers: A natural way to dispose and recycle the Styrofoam trash that accounts for as much as 30 percent of landfill space worldwide. Among plastics, Styrofoam is particularly troublesome. The material is dense and takes up a lot of space, making it expensive to store at waste management facilities, industry experts said. The cups, plates and other materials made from it are also often contaminated with food and drink, making it hard to recycle. Polystyrene fills landfills, where it can often take 500 years to break down.

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Wax worm saliva rapidly breaks down plastic bags, scientists discover
2022-10-04, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/oct/04/wax-worm-saliva-rapidly-b...

Enzymes that rapidly break down plastic bags have been discovered in the saliva of wax worms, which are moth larvae that infest beehives. The enzymes are the first reported to break down polyethylene within hours at room temperature. The discovery came after one scientist, an amateur beekeeper, cleaned out an infested hive and found the larvae started eating holes in a plastic refuse bag. The researchers said the study showed insect saliva may be "a depository of degrading enzymes which could revolutionise [the cleanup of polluting waste]". Polyethylene makes up 30% of all plastic production and is used in bags and other packaging that make up a significant part of worldwide plastic pollution. The only recycling at scale today uses mechanical processes and creates lower-value products. Chemical breakdown could create valuable chemicals or, with some further processing, new plastic, thereby avoiding the need for new virgin plastic made from oil. The enzymes can be easily synthesised and overcome a bottleneck in plastic degradation, the researchers said, which is the initial breaking of the polymer chains. That usually requires a lot of heating, but the enzymes work at normal temperatures, in water and at neutral pH. Previous discoveries of useful enzymes have been in microbes, with a 2021 study indicating that bacteria in oceans and soils across the globe are evolving to eat plastic. It found 30,000 different enzymes that might degrade 10 different types of plastic.

Note: This research was published in the journal Nature Communications. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Australia to set aside at least 30% of its land mass to protect endangered species
2022-10-04, Reuters
https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/australia-set-aside-least-30-its-l...

Australia will set aside at least 30% of its land mass for conservation in a bid to protect plants and animals in the island continent famed for species found nowhere else in the world, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said. Australia has lost more mammal species than any other continent and has one of the worst rates of species decline among the world's richest countries, a five-yearly environmental report card released in July by the government showed. That report showed the number of species added to the list of threatened species or in a higher category of risk grew on average by 8% from the previous report in 2016. "The need for action to protect our plants, animals and ecosystems from extinction has never been greater," Plibersek said in a statement. By prioritising 110 species and 20 places, Plibersek said the areas managed for conservation will be increased by 50 million hectares. Australia ... is home to unique animals like koalas and platypus although their numbers have been dwindling due to extreme weather events and human encroachment into their habitats. Koalas along much of the east coast were listed as endangered in February. Australia has been battered recently by frequent extreme weather events including the devastating bushfires in 2019 and 2020 in the east that killed ... billions of animals and burned an area nearly half the size of Germany.

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Tsunamika, the dolls that give voice to the ocean, livelihood to women
2019-11-10, CNBC (India affiliate)
https://www.cnbctv18.com/buzz/tsunamika-the-dolls-that-give-voice-to-the-ocea...

She gave birth to Tsunamika, the doll that brought hope to hundreds of women who had lost everything in their life to the devastating 2004 tsunami that hit the southern India coast. Fifteen years down the line, she, again through Tsunamika is giving hope to the same ocean that once took away much from many. Uma Prajapati, 50, an entrepreneur-cum-social activist, who built the fashion garment company Upasana Design Studio in Auroville, now plans to carry out her business to sustain the future of the planet. Prajapati's mission is now to protect the environment and promote sustainable living for those dependent on it. Her fashion garments only uses khadi, organic cotton and handloom. "When I visited the tsunami-affected fishing villages in Puducherry, I saw the women staring emptily and silent. It suddenly struck me to ask them whether they would like to make dolls. My idea was to make them to focus on something else and ignite the fire of hope in their minds." When the fisherwomen agreed, Prajapati brought loads of garment waste from Upasana and taught them how to make tiny dolls - these were named 'Tsunamika'. She took the doll idea to several fishing villages in Puducherry and soon had thousands of dolls on hand giving rise to the concept of a 'gift economy'. The Tsunamika dolls are not sold but given as gifts. The recipient of the gift or others can make a donation as per their capacity. Donations received were used for making more dolls and payments made to the fisherwomen.

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Goodbye, Columbus? Here's what Indigenous Peoples' Day means to Native Americans
2022-10-10, NPR
https://www.npr.org/2021/10/11/1044823626/indigenous-peoples-day-native-ameri...

For only the second time, a U.S. president has officially recognized Indigenous Peoples' Day. President Biden issued a proclamation on Friday to observe this Oct. 10 as a day to honor Native Americans, their resilience and their contributions to American society throughout history, even as they faced assimilation, discrimination and genocide spanning generations. The move shifts focus from Columbus Day, the federal holiday celebrating Christopher Columbus, which shares the same date as Indigenous Peoples' Day this year. The idea was first proposed by Indigenous peoples at a United Nations conference in 1977 held to address discrimination against Natives. But South Dakota became the first state to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples day in 1989. Ten states and Washington, D.C., now recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day via proclamation. More than 100 cities celebrate the day, with many of them having altogether dropped the holiday honoring Columbus to replace it with Indigenous Peoples' Day. Oregon marked its first statewide recognition of Indigenous Peoples' Day, in place of Columbus Day, in 2021 after its legislature passed a bill brought by its Indigenous lawmakers. Rep. Tawna Sanchez, one of those lawmakers, said the movement to recognize the day is an ideal time to capitalize on the momentum of political recognition. "History is always written by the conqueror," said Sanchez. "How do we actually tell the truth about what happened?"

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Can plants think? The burgeoning field of plant neurobiology has a lot to say on the matter
2022-09-30, Salon
https://www.salon.com/2022/09/30/can-plants-think-the-burgeoning-field-of-pla...

Recent research suggests that plants are far from the stationary automatons that most of us think of them as. And though they don't have brains in the same way most animals do, plants seem to possess a different set of evolutionary tools that suggest they may experience consciousness, albeit in a radically different way from us. Dr. Paco Calvo has an upcoming book, co-authored with Natalie Lawrence, called "Planta Sapiens: Unmasking Plant Intelligence." Calvo works at the MINT Lab (Minimal Intelligence Lab) at the University of Murcia in Spain. "Sentience, we may say, makes sense for life, as an essential underpinning to the business of living," Calvo explained. "And it is very unlikely that plants are not far more aware than we intuitively assume." To the "skeptics" who insist that consciousness must be tied to a central nervous system, and that plants would not need to evolve consciousness in the first place, "even if 'consciousness', as understood in vertebrates, is generated by complex neuronal systems, there is no objective way of knowing that subjective experience has not evolved with entirely different kinds of hardware in other organisms," Calvo argued. "We have no evidence to conclude that no brain means no awareness. It is certainly true that we cannot yet know if plants are conscious. But we also cannot assume that they are not." Calvo added, "Plants ... might well have significant conscious experience, although there is no way for us to intuit it nor for them to communicate it to us."

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4-Day Workweek Brings No Loss of Productivity, Companies in Experiment Say
2022-09-22, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/22/business/four-day-work-week-uk.html

Most of the companies participating in a four-day workweek pilot program in Britain said they had seen no loss of productivity during the experiment, and in some cases had seen a significant improvement, according to a survey of participants. Nearly halfway into the six-month trial, in which employees at 73 companies get a paid day off weekly, 35 of the 41 companies that responded to a survey said they were "likely" or "extremely likely" to consider continuing the four-day workweek beyond the end of the trial in late November. All but two of the 41 companies said productivity was either the same or had improved. Remarkably, six companies said productivity had significantly improved. Talk of a four-day workweek has been around for decades. In 1956, then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon said he foresaw it in the "not too distant future," though it has not materialized on any large scale. But changes in the workplace over the coronavirus pandemic around remote and hybrid work have given momentum to questions about other aspects of work. Are we working five days a week just because we have done it that way for more than a century, or is it really the best way? More than 3,300 workers in banks, marketing, health care, financial services, retail, hospitality and other industries in Britain are taking part in the pilot, which is one of the largest studies to date. Experiments similar to the one conducted in Britain are being conducted ... in the United States, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia.

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Belgium to offer employees four-day working week
2022-02-16, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/02/16/belgium-four-day-work-week/

Belgium is the latest country to announce plans to offer employees the option to request a four-day workweek, as the government seeks to boost flexibility in the workplace amid the coronavirus crisis after what Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said had been two "difficult years." The overhaul of the country's labor laws will give workers more freedom – and the right to ignore their bosses and work emails after working hours, another growing trend in the coronavirus era. The agreement, which was struck by the seven-party coalition federal government, aims "to be able to make people and businesses stronger," De Croo said during a news conference Tuesday, adding that the country was seeking to become "more innovative, sustainable and digital." De Croo said his administration aims to incentivize more people to work. The employment rate in Belgium stood at roughly 71 percent at the end of last year, and the government hopes to increase that proportion to 80 percent by 2030. If trade unions agree, employees can opt to work for a maximum of 10 hours a day to accrue hours that will help them earn a three-day weekend. Previously, workdays were capped at eight hours. They can also choose to work more during one week and less the next. Employees will not be paid any less, and the decision will be theirs to make. "This has to be done at the request of the employee, with the employer giving solid reasons for any refusal," Labor Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne said.

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Success of experimental Alzheimer's drug hailed as ‘historic moment'
2022-09-28, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/sep/28/alzheimers-disease-progressio...

An experimental drug has slowed the rate of decline in memory and thinking in people with early Alzheimer's disease. The cognition of Alzheimer's patients given the drug, developed by Eisai and Biogen, declined by 27% less than those on a placebo treatment after 18 months. This is a modest change in clinical outcome but it is the first time any drug has been clearly shown to alter the disease's trajectory. "This is a historic moment for dementia research, as this is the first phase 3 trial of an Alzheimer's drug in a generation to successfully slow cognitive decline," said Dr Susan Kohlhaas, the director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK. "Many people feel Alzheimer's is an inevitable part of ageing. This spells it out: if you intervene early you can make an impact on how people progress." In the study, which enrolled roughly 1,800 patients with early stage Alzheimer's, patients were given twice-weekly infusions of the drug, called lecanemab. It was also shown to reduce toxic plaques in the brain and slow patients' memory decline and ability to perform day-to-day tasks. The results offer a boost to the "amyloid hypothesis", which assumes that sticky plaques seen in the brains of dementia patients play a role in damaging brain cells and causing cognitive decline. A series of previous drug candidates had been shown to successfully reduce levels of amyloid in the brain, but without any improvement in clinical outcomes, leading some to question whether the research field had been on the wrong track.

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The Unexpected Power of Random Acts of Kindness
2022-09-02, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/02/well/family/random-acts-of-kindness.html

In late August, Erin Alexander, 57, sat in the parking lot of a Target store in Fairfield, Calif., and wept. Her sister-in-law had recently died, and Ms. Alexander was having a hard day. A barista working at the Starbucks inside the Target was too. The espresso machine had broken down and she was clearly stressed. Ms. Alexander – who'd stopped crying and gone inside for some caffeine – smiled, ordered an iced green tea, and told her to hang in there. After picking up her order, she noticed a message on the cup: "Erin," the barista had scrawled next to a heart, "your soul is golden." The warmth of that small and unexpected gesture, from a stranger ... moved her deeply. New findings, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology in August, corroborate just how powerful experiences like Ms. Alexander's can be. Researchers found that people who perform a random act of kindness tend to underestimate how much the recipient will appreciate it. And they believe that miscalculation could hold many of us back from doing nice things for others more often. "People tend to think that what they are giving is kind of little, maybe it's relatively inconsequential," [study co-author Amit] Kumar said. "But recipients are less likely to think along those lines. They consider the gesture to be significantly more meaningful because they are also thinking about the fact that someone did something nice for them." What skills and talents do you already have? And how can you turn that into an offering for other people?"

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A little good goes an unexpectedly long way: Underestimating the positive impact of kindness on recipients
2022-08-18, Journal of Experimental Psychology
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35980709/

Performing random acts of kindness increases happiness in both givers and receivers, but we find that givers systematically undervalue their positive impact on recipients. In both field and laboratory settings (Experiments 1a through 2b), those performing an act of kindness reported how positive they expected recipients would feel and recipients reported how they actually felt. From giving away a cup of hot chocolate in a park to giving away a gift in the lab, those performing a random act of kindness consistently underestimated how positive their recipients would feel, thinking their act was of less value than recipients perceived it to be. Givers' miscalibrated expectations are driven partly by an egocentric bias in evaluations of the act itself (Experiment 3). Whereas recipients' positive reactions are enhanced by the warmth conveyed in a kind act, givers' expectations are relatively insensitive to the warmth conveyed in their action. Underestimating the positive impact of a random act of kindness also leads givers to underestimate the behavioral consequences their prosociality will produce in recipients through indirect reciprocity (Experiment 4). We suggest that givers' miscalibrated expectations matter because they can create a barrier to engaging in prosocial actions more often in everyday life (Experiments 5a and 5b), which may result in people missing out on opportunities to enhance both their own and others' well-being.

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The Surprise of Reaching Out: Appreciated More than We Think
2022-06-13, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4115683

People are fundamentally social beings and enjoy connecting with others, sometimes reaching out to others–whether simply to say hello and to check in on how others are doing with a brief message, or to send a small gift to show that one is thinking of the other person. Yet despite the importance and enjoyment of social connection, do people accurately understand how much other people value being reached out to by someone in their social circle? Across a series of pre-registered experiments, we document a robust underestimation of how much other people appreciate being reached out to. We find evidence compatible with an account wherein one reason this underestimation of appreciation occurs is because responders (vs. initiators) are more focused on their feelings of surprise at being reached out to; such a focus on feelings of surprise in turn predicts greater appreciation. We further identify process-consistent moderators of the underestimation of reach-out appreciation, finding that it is magnified when the reach-out context is more surprising: when it occurs within a surprising (vs. unsurprising) context for the recipient and when it occurs between more socially distant (vs. socially close) others. Altogether, this research thus identifies when and why we underestimate how much other people appreciate us reaching out to them, implicating a heightened focus on feelings of surprise as one underlying explanation.

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New York woman loses job, leads pantry feeding thousands
2021-02-25, Associated Press
https://apnews.com/article/ny-woman-loses-job-feeds-others-ce69e9893fcb464f2a...

While dozens of New Yorkers lined up outside in the rain, shopping carts at the ready as they waited for free food, Sofia Moncayo led her team in prayer. During the coronavirus pandemic, Moncayo has led the food distribution program through Mosaic West Queens Church in the Sunnyside neighborhood. The initiative began in March; Moncayo took charge a month later, as it expanded to serve hundreds of people. Since then, Moncayo has had her own struggles. She was furloughed from her job at a construction company and remains unemployed. And she also owes five months of rent for the martial arts studio that she owns with her husband in the neighborhood. But she has continued to lead fundraisers and coordinate dozens of volunteers who distribute more than 1,000 boxes of food to families twice a week. "I think helping others has to do something to your brain chemically because if we had not being doing everything that we're doing, I think this would have been a much scarier time," she said. "Being able to dig in and help others, it really gives you perspective and helps you believe that you're going to be OK too. One of the things that we wanted to make sure is that we don't look at people on the pantry line as people that need food, and really focus on, ‘hey, these are our neighbors.'" Carol Sullivan lost her stage manager job when Broadway theaters closed because of the virus. She was hesitant at first about receiving food from a pantry, but she said that Moncayo and the other volunteers made her feel welcome.

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Patagonia founder just donated the entire company, worth $3 billion, to fight climate change
2022-09-14, CNBC News
https://www.cnbc.com/2022/09/14/patagonia-founder-donates-entire-company-to-f...

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, his spouse and two adult children are giving away their ownership in the apparel maker he started some 50 years ago, dedicating all profits from the company to projects and organizations that will protect wild land and biodiversity and fight the climate crisis. The company is worth about $3 billion. In a letter about the decision, published on the Patagonia website on Wednesday, Choiunard wrote of "reimagining capitalism," and said: "While we're doing our best to address the environmental crisis, it's not enough. We needed to find a way to put more money into fighting the crisis while keeping the company's values intact. One option was to sell Patagonia and donate all the money. But we couldn't be sure a new owner would maintain our values or keep our team of people around the world employed. Another path was to take the company public. What a disaster that would have been. Even public companies with good intentions are under too much pressure to create short-term gain at the expense of long-term vitality and responsibility. Truth be told, there were no good options available. So, we created our own." The privately held company's stock will now be owned by a climate-focused trust and group of nonprofit organizations, called the Patagonia Purpose Trust and the Holdfast Collective respectively, the company said in a statement, noting "every dollar that is not reinvested back into Patagonia will be distributed as dividends to protect the planet."

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The inspirational story of how a single mum has toured the world carrying her disabled son on her back - after vowing to give him a life of adventure when she gave birth at 17
2022-01-01, Daily Mail (One of the UK's popular newspapers)
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-10294493/Meet-inspirational-mother...

From Hawaii to Bali and the ski-slopes of Perisher, 26-year-old Jimmy Antram has seen plenty of the world. But it has all been from the vantage point of his mother's back. Fulfilling a promise she made to herself as a 17-year-old first-time mum to give her disabled son the best life she possibly could, Niki Antram has spent years travelling the globe with Jimmy clinging to her shoulders. Jimmy was born with physical and mental disabilities, including blindness, and requires round the clock care from Ms Antram and his support workers. He has a wheelchair, but Ms Antram has never enjoyed using it. She's content to carry him while she's physically able and helps him walk short distances on his own. Incredible photographs taken around the globe show him clinging on as they hike through mountains and rainforests. 'Planning big holidays, I always make sure I have plenty of nappies, clothes, and even bed pads, sheets and pillowcases,' she [said]. Ms Antram plans a meticulous itinerary and calls ahead for every venue she wants to visit - whether it be a restaurant, hotel or daredevil adventure. 'Even if I know we will be okay I like to inform the companies to give them a heads up about us to make sure they understand and are okay with having us there,' she says. Sometimes, they can't accommodate. This is usually because of risks associated with Jimmy's condition or logistical difficulties. Ms Antram said the exception to this was in Hawaii, where 'everyone wanted [Jimmy] to join'.

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Fights erupted at a high school in Louisiana. So these dads took matters in their own hands
2021-11-08, CNN
https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/29/us/dads-on-duty-louisiana-school-cec/index.html

A violent week of fistfights at a Louisiana high school led to the arrests of at least 22 students last month. So a group of concerned fathers decided enough was enough. They formed a volunteer group, Dads on Duty, and began roaming the halls of Southwood High School in Shreveport to calm students, spread positivity and keep the peace. So far it's working. The group of about 40 fathers, wearing Dads on Duty T-shirts, patrol the campus every weekday on different shifts, working as community leaders and liaisons. Since they started the initiative, there's been no fighting at the school. "I immediately knew that [this violence] ... isn't the community that we're raising our babies in," said Michael LaFitte, [one] of the dads. The dads showed up at the school at 7:40 a.m., balancing their work schedules to patrol the campus in the morning, during lunch and after school. Shreveport has seen an uptick in violence and crime in recent months [as a consequence of] socioeconomic issues made worse by the lingering pandemic. The city's mayor, Adrian Perkins, credits the fathers with helping to combat violence involving local youth. He turned up at the school for a Dads on Duty shift when the fathers first started, and said he was impressed by their commitment. Dads on Duty has been working closely with the Caddo Parish School Board and local law enforcement, LaFitte said. The dads say their focus is not criminal justice - they let sheriff's deputies handle that - but an additional layer of parenting. "We are armed with love," LaFitte said.

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California graduate honors immigrant parents with senior photo shoot in strawberry fields
2021-06-18, USA Today
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/06/18/california-graduate-far...

Throughout high school and college, Jennifer Rocha would plant strawberries with her parents from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. Then she'd sleep a few hours and get ready for school. On June 13, Rocha graduated from the University of California, San Diego, and she wanted to honor her parents' hard work. So she coordinated a photo shoot in the strawberry fields they worked night after night. "Through drops of sweat, tears, back aches, they were able to get their three daughters through college. They deserve all the recognition in the world and for them to be an inspiration to other immigrant parents ... that it is not impossible for their kids to chase their dreams," Rocha [said]. In her college career, when she felt like quitting Rocha said she'd think back to her work in the fields and what her degree would mean to her family. Rocha hopes her photos bring awareness to the farmworker community and the impact of their work. She said it's easy for Americans to pick up vegetables and fruits from the grocery store without appreciation for the workers who made it possible. "Farmworkers do not deserve to be paid minimum wage. They worked throughout the whole pandemic risking their health and risking the health of their families not knowing if they would come home with something," Rocha said. "No matter if your parents work in domestic labor jobs where the pay is minimum wage, with hard work, sacrifice, discipline, and dedication it can be done."

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MIT researchers develop cost-effective battery made of common materials
2022-09-12, Optimist Daily
https://www.optimistdaily.com/2022/09/mit-researchers-develop-cost-effective-...

The environmental benefits of using electricity rather than fossil fuels to power our world goes without saying– however, the process of electrifying everything has its obstacles. Many in the tech world are excited about the new A1-S battery ... declaring that "MIT has produced yet another breakthrough technology that is set to change the world for the better." Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently innovated batteries that are made of cost-effective and abundant materials. Instead of using lithium, [MIT Professor Donald] Sadoway and the team ... selected aluminum for one electrode, which he asserted is "the most abundant metal on Earth… no different from the foil at the supermarket." He combined the aluminum with ... sulfur, which he said is "often a waste product from processes such as petroleum refining." Both the charging and discharging cycles generate enough heat that the battery can heat itself and doesn't require an external source. On top of being a fraction of the price of conventional batteries, they can also be charged very quickly with no risk of forming dendrites. It's important to note that this new battery isn't without problems. For instance, the process of extracting alumina out of bauxite is not the easiest or cleanest, and ... researchers are concerned that we may one day run out of [sulfur]. That said, Sadoway made it clear that these issues don't compare to the problems that come with sourcing ingredients for lithium-ion batteries.

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California to install solar panels over canals to fight drought, a first in the U.S.
2022-08-30, CBS News
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/california-solar-panels-canals-drought/

In an effort to combat the devastating drought conditions hitting California, the Golden State will become the first in the nation to install solar panel canopies over canals. It will consist of an estimated 8,500 feet of solar panels installed over three sections of Turlock Irrigation District (TID) canals in Central California. According to TID, the project aims to use water and energy management hand-in-hand. The project is designed to increase renewable power generation, while reducing water evaporation and vegetative growth in canals. A 2021 University of California, Merced study [revealed] that covering all of the approximately 4,000 miles of public water delivery system infrastructure in the state with solar panels could save an estimated 63 billion gallons of water annually, as well as  result in significant energy and cost savings. "According to the study, the 13 gigawatts of solar power the panels would generate each year would equal about one-sixth of the state's current installed capacity," TID wrote on its website. TID also says the project will also support California Gov. Gavin Newsom's call for 60% of the state's electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030. California has taken multiple steps to combat drought conditions and climate change impacting the state [including moving] forward with a plan to ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035. Officials [also] announced that California would receive $310 million in federal funding to address the drought.

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Work begins to turn 99,000 hectares in England into 'nature recovery' projects
2022-05-26, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/may/26/work-begins-to-turn-99000...

Up to 99,000 hectares of land in England, from city fringes to wetlands, will be focused on supporting wildlife in five major "nature recovery" projects, the government has said. The five landscape-scale projects in the West Midlands, Cambridgeshire, the Peak District, Norfolk and Somerset aim to help tackle wildlife loss and the climate crisis, and improve public access to nature. They will share an initial Ł2.4m pot from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Natural England, for work to create new habitats, manage land for nature and carbon storage and increase footpaths and connect with communities, with further funding expected from other sources and partners. Work in the projects will range from converting farmland into chalk grassland to restoring "dewponds" and managing wetlands and other land sustainably. Projects will also develop plans to work with communities in cities and deprived areas to improve their access to nature, including creating new green areas and improved footpaths and bridleways. The environment minister Rebecca Pow said: "These five projects across England are superb examples of exciting, large-scale restoration that is critically needed to bring about a step-change in the recovery of nature in this country. "They will significantly contribute to achieving our target to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030 and our commitment to protect 30% of our land by 2030, enabling us to leave the environment in a better state than we found it."

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S.C. Gives Highest Civilian Honor To Principal Who Got A Walmart Job To Help Students
2021-02-09, NPR
https://www.npr.org/2021/02/09/965887446/s-c-gives-highest-civilian-honor-to-...

It was supposed to be a secret. But word got out about what North Charleston High School Principal Henry Darby was doing – and the state has now presented him with its highest civilian honor. Darby took on a part-time job at Walmart, stocking shelves from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., three nights every week. He's been using the paychecks from that work to help make sure kids from his school have food and basic supplies, or help their families pay their bills. Some money has also gone to former students who need help, or to teachers at his school who need a boost. "Principal Darby personifies the best of South Carolina, a selfless person who goes above and beyond for others," Gov. Henry McMaster said on Tuesday. "It was an honor to present him with the Order of the Palmetto yesterday," the governor added. In addition to being a principal, he serves on the Charleston County Council. "I decided to get another job because the kids, they really need help," Darby told the paper, which noted that despite Darby's efforts to stay under the radar, one of his students recognized him on the first night he worked at Walmart. His shifts ended just in time for him to drive to North Charleston High before morning classes started. In the weeks since people realized how much Darby was doing to help others, many have stepped forward both to praise him and to help him raise money for families who need it. Walmart gave his school a $50,000 check. Together, two crowdfunding pages devoted to his cause have raised more than $195,000.

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This group's wiped out $6.7 billion in medical debt, and it's just getting started
2022-08-15, NPR
https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2022/08/15/1093769295/this-groups-w...

Soon after giving birth to a daughter two months premature, Terri Logan received a bill from the hospital. She recoiled from the string of numbers separated by commas. Then a few months ago â₏¦ Logan received some bright yellow envelopes in the mail. They were from a nonprofit group [RIP Medical Debt] telling her it had bought and then forgiven all those past medical bills. The nonprofit has boomed during the pandemic, freeing patients of medical debt, thousands of people at a time. Its novel approach involves buying bundles of delinquent hospital bills – debts incurred by low-income patients like Logan – and then simply erasing the obligation to repay them. It's a model developed by two former debt collectors, Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton, who built their careers chasing down patients who couldn't afford their bills. RIP buys the debts just like any other collection company would – except instead of trying to profit, they send out notices to consumers saying that their debt has been cleared. A surge in recent donations – from college students to philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, who gave $50 million in late 2020 – is fueling RIP's expansion. To date, RIP has purchased $6.7 billion in unpaid debt and relieved 3.6 million people of debt. RIP is one of the only ways patients can get immediate relief from such debt, says Jim Branscome, a major donor. "As a bill collector collecting millions of dollars in medical-associated bills in my career, now all of a sudden I'm reformed: I'm a predatory giver," Ashton said.

Note: To understand the corruption in healthcare that results in expensive medical bills, read this revealing 10-page summary of medical doctor Marcia Angell's book The Truth About Drug Companies. To further explore stories that help create the world we want to live in, check out our inspiring news articles collection and our Inspiration Center.


California man scales Machu Picchu in off-roading wheelchair
2022-01-07, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's Leading Newspaper)
https://www.sfgate.com/california-news/article/California-man-scales-Machu-Pi...

In 2011, [Ropert Kapen] suffered a brain stem stroke that left him paralyzed. Doctors told his family that he had a 1% chance of survival, and that if he lived, he'd likely be in a vegetative state. Kapen beat those odds. His mental faculties were unscathed, and he slowly regained some movement and speech through therapy. Eventually, he was able to communicate, eat, operate a motorized wheelchair and write a book. He had another big dream, too. "Growing up, I fell in love with hiking, being outdoors and the beauty of nature," he says. That was taken away from him for 10 years, Kapen says, but very recently, a new set of wheels has allowed for his return. It's called the AdvenChair [which] recently enabled Kapen to visit Machu Picchu. The orange, "all-terrain" wheelchair is human-powered and designed to help people with mobility challenges to venture into the wild. Its wheels, tires, brakes and handlebars are all premium mountain bike parts, and the large tires and suspension system offer a comfortable ride. Thanks to a versatile system of pulleys, bars and straps, teams of one to five people can assist in navigating the AdvenChair over just about any landscape. "It's rejuvenating to be outside, especially as a person with a disability, because these resources are not exactly the most accessible," [Isaac] Shannon says. "So when there is a tool that allows a person to be able to experience life in the most average way possible, I think it's healing, and it's nice to be out in nature where you're not around people."

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of inspiring news articles, including ones specifically on disabled people who have made their mark in our world.


Human bones, stolen art: Smithsonian tackles its ‘problem' collections
2022-07-27, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/arts-entertainment/2022/07/27/smithsonian-coll...

Last month, the Smithsonian approved the return of 29 exquisite bronze sculptures from the Kingdom of Benin that were looted by the British military in 1897. The attack remains one of the most painful in the long history of colonialism and the return of the priceless objects has become a symbol of the global effort to push museums to face their ugly pasts. [Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie] Bunch was referring to a new collections policy that requires Smithsonian museums to collaborate with the communities represented by their holdings and to return or share ownership of items that might have been previously stolen or acquired under duress. It directs them to make their collections publicly accessible and to fully vet future acquisitions to prevent items with questionable provenance from entering the collection. The updated policy does not require its museums to systemically review their collections, said Undersecretary for Museums and Culture Kevin Gover. A complete review would be a powerful gesture, [university professor Tracy] Ireland said, even as she acknowledged the burden on staff and budget that it would cause. "It means they are still in charge of the narrative," Ireland said. "[A review] is important for source communities who simply do not know what's in these collections, what's missing, what has been buried away. Real ethical action puts the power back in the hands of the communities." While not the first, the Smithsonian's actions still resonate.

Note: To further explore stories that help create the world we want to live in, check out our inspiring news articles collection.


The consciousness of bees
2022-07-29, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2022/07/29/bee-cognition-insect-intell...

We are learning just how smart insects can be. As I show in my new book, "The Mind of a Bee," the latest research indicates that even tiny-brained bees are profoundly intelligent creatures that can memorize not only flowers but also human faces, solve problems by thinking rather than by trial and error, and learn to use tools by observing skilled bees. They even appear to experience basic emotions, or at least something like optimism and pessimism. Bees have a "dance language" by which they can inform others in the hive of the precise location of a rewarding flower patch. The symbolic language involves repeating the motor patterns ("dances") of a knowledgeable bee on the vertical honeycomb. The movements make reference to gravity and the direction of the sun; since it's dark in the hive, bees that want to learn from the dancer need to touch its abdomen with their antennae. Sometimes, such dances are displayed at night, when no foraging takes place: The dancer appears to think about locations visited on the previous day, without an obvious need to do so at the time. The observation that bees are most likely sentient beings has important ethical implications. Many species of bees are threatened by pesticides and wide-scale habitat loss, and that this spells trouble because we need these insects to pollinate our crops. But is the utility of bees the only reason they should be protected? I don't think so. Bees have a rich inner world and unique perception, and, like humans, are able to think, enjoy and suffer.

Note: Watch an amazing, highly educational PBS documentary on the life of bees. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Experts Share The Wellness Benefits Of Golden Girls-Inspired Co-Living And Cohousing Arrangements
2022-07-19, Forbes
https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamiegold/2022/07/19/experts-share-the-wellness-...

"Shady Pines, Ma!" If that quip sounds familiar, it's probably because you spent some happy half hours laughing at the hit Golden Girls sitcom. The character played by Bea Arthur was related to one other roommate – her mother Sophia. The other two characters, Rose and Blanche, were, like Dorothy in their late 40s to mid-50s. Why were these women sharing a single family house? What are the housing alternatives for older and middle-aged singles? For many, it's co-living, which provides advantages well beyond the financial. "The number one benefit ... is the social aspect of shared housing," explains Maria Claver [of] California State University. "More than any other lifestyle factor (including smoking, diet and exercise), we know that having social support is the most important predictor of morbidity (or illness) and mortality. Having housemates is not the ideal living arrangement for everyone. For those wanting their own space, but seeking the benefits of community and camaraderie, cohousing is a viable alternative. Cohousing offers all of the benefits of living in community – connection, common meals, frequent activities, knowing your neighbors – but with the added benefit of privacy that isn't always available in shared homes. When we have access to a social safety net, neighbors who care about us, people who can drive us to doctor's appointments or bring us meals during a difficult time in life, we are more likely to experience stability and wellbeing.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Coral levels in some parts of the Great Barrier Reef are at the highest in 36 years
2022-08-04, NPR
https://www.npr.org/2022/08/04/1115539492/coral-great-barrier-reef-australia

The amount of coral in some areas of the Great Barrier Reef is at its highest in 36 years, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Marine Science. From August 2021 to May 2022, the central and northern regions of the Great Barrier Reef had hard coral cover levels of 33% and 36%, respectively. Coral cover decreased by 4% in the southern region, due to an outbreak of crown-of-thorns starfish. The Australian agency found that 87 coral reefs generally had low levels of acute stress from things such as cyclones and increases in the crown-of-thorns starfish population. The area surveyed represents two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef. Almost half of the reefs studied had between 10% and 30% hard coral cover, while about a third of the reefs had hard coral cover levels between 30% and 50%, the report said. While higher water temperatures led to a coral bleaching event in some areas in March, the temperatures did not climb high enough to kill the coral, the agency said. Coral in the Great Barrier Reef is resilient, and has been able to recover from past disturbances, the Institute said. But the stressors impacting it have not gone away for long. The agency's outlook shows more frequent and long-lasting heatwaves, cyclones and crown-of-thorns starfish. "Therefore, while the observed recovery offers good news for the overall state of the [Great Barrier Reef], there is increasing concern for its ability to maintain this state," the report said.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Nepal tiger population roars back after conservation drive
2022-07-29, New Straits Times
https://www.nst.com.my/world/world/2022/07/817596/nepal-tiger-population-roar...

Nepal has nearly tripled its wild tiger population, officials announced Friday, in a victory for the Himalayan country's efforts to help the big cats claw their way back from extinction. Deforestation, human encroachment on habitats and poaching have devastated tiger populations across Asia, but Nepal and 12 other countries signed a pledge in 2010 to double their numbers by this year. The Himalayan republic is the only country to meet or beat the target and a survey in 2022 counted 355 of the creatures, up from around 121 in 2009. "We have succeeded in meeting an ambitious goal... I thank everyone involved in conservation of tigers," Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba said at an event unveiling the figures in Kathmandu. Conservationists surveyed the population with thousands of motion-sensitive cameras set up across a vast stretch of Nepal's southern plains, where the majestic predators roam. Wildlife experts combed through thousands of images to identify individual animals by their unique stripes. More than 100,000 tigers roamed the world at the turn of the 20th century, but that number fell to an all-time low of 3,200 in 2010. The 2010 Tiger Conservation Plan signed by Nepal is backed by several celebrities, including actor Leonardo DiCaprio. The plan quickly began bearing fruit, and in 2016 the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Tiger Forum announced that the wild tiger population had increased for the first time in more than a century.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Altering Perceptions on Psychedelics
2022-04-01, Harvard Medicine
https://hms.harvard.edu/magazine/viral-world/altering-perceptions-psychedelics

Growing evidence for the safety and efficacy of psychedelics could lead to better treatments for anxiety, depression, pain, and other often intractable conditions. Jerry Rosenbaum was intrigued when he first heard about the effect that psilocybin–the hallucinogenic compound found in certain species of mushrooms–was purported to have on the brain's "resting state," what neuroscientists call the default mode network. The default mode network encompasses any neural function that has some bearing on our autobiographical tendencies. When people take psilocybin at low doses, the default mode network becomes less active. That is, the drug appears to tame self-reflection and all but ruin rumination, that obsessive mental state characterized by excessive, repetitive thoughts. Rumination is a hallmark cognitive symptom of depression. Neuroscientists are observing that, when taken in a controlled setting, these substances are beneficial to the brain, especially for people who have certain psychiatric disorders. Landmark studies in 2014 and 2016 showed that LSD and psilocybin alleviated existential anxiety in patients with life-threatening illnesses for up to a year after beginning the treatment. Other studies have shown that ketamine may strengthen neurons against the damage from chronic stress by preventing synapses from being flooded with glutamate, an amino acid that, in excess, withers dendrites. And researchers continue to investigate whether psychedelics are useful as anti-inflammatory agents.

Note: Read more about the healing potentials of psychedelic medicine. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


MAPS Raises Nearly $1.6 Million in Christie's NFT Auction
2022-06-30, Yahoo News
https://www.yahoo.com/now/maps-raises-nearly-1-6-191900137.html

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has announced that Cartography of the Mind: A Curated NFT Sale raised $1,569,960. Proceeds of the auction, presented by Christies in collaboration with Ryan Zurrer, founder of Dialectic and Vine Ventures, will benefit MAPS. Throughout the week, the physical exhibition at Christie's new gallery on 6th Avenue drew impressive crowds of enthusiastic visitors. With competitive bidding, the sale realized over $1.5 million. It was 100% sold, and 130% sold hammer over low estimate. Beeple, David Choe, Sarah Meyohas, Refik Anadol, Mad Dog Jones, IX Shells, and more donated art to support MAPS. The research, education, and advocacy organization ... remains the leading body at the vanguard of research into potentially life-saving psychedelic-assisted therapies. Psychedelic Healing is an artistic interpretation of the MAPS logo by renowned artist Alex Grey to celebrate MAPS' 35th anniversary in 2021. It was purchased by Ryan Zurrer and donated back to MAPS for additional fundraising. Founded in 1986, MAPS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit research and educational organization developing medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana. MAPS is sponsoring the most advanced psychedelic therapy research in the world funded primarily by philanthropic donors and grantors who have given more than $130 million for research and education.

Note: Read more about the healing potentials of psychedelic medicine. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Man travels the world, relying on strangers' kindness. Here's what he learned
2017-06-28, Today
https://www.today.com/money/leon-logothetis-travels-world-relying-kindness-st...

For many travelers, setting a budget marks one of the first steps of a journey. But for Leon Logothetis' globe-trotting adventure, his allowance was simple, and stark: $0. Logothetis, 40, instead relied on the generosity of strangers for food, transportation and lodging – a journey documented in the Netflix series "The Kindness Diaries." Though the show's travels took place in 2013, Logothetis is comfortable on the open road, having quit his job as a London broker back in 2005. So far, he's visited nearly 100 countries. "I started doing this because I was in a lot of pain – emotional pain," he told TODAY. As someone who worked in finance, Logothetis appeared to have everything he could possibly want, but it was a different story on the inside. "I was wearing a mask, as many of us do," he said. "I felt very alone, very depressed, (with) no real sense of purpose." One of the most emotional moments on Logothetis' journey involved a homeless man named Tony. Though he had almost nothing, Tony shared what little he did have, including his shelter and some of his belongings. "The greatest lesson I learned was that we're all the same," said Logothetis. "It doesn't matter what religion you are, doesn't matter what color you are, doesn't matter where you live. Each person wants to be seen, wants to be loved, wants to be valued, wants to be heard." He added, "The most important thing is what you give to another human being and what you give to yourself: how you treat others and how you treat yourself."

Note: Watch an inspiring presentation by this amazing man. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Can Listening to the Beatles Improve Your Memory? New Research Says Music Just Might Stir the Brain
2022-07-18, Northeastern University
https://news.northeastern.edu/2022/07/18/music-impact-memory-brain-pathways/

When Paul McCartney wrote "Get Back," he never would have predicted how useful or relevant the song would become for music therapists. In new research, Psyche Loui, an associate professor of music ... found that for older adults who listened to some of their favorite music, including The Beatles, connectivity in the brain increased. Specifically, Loui–and her multi-disciplinary team ... discovered that music bridged the gap between the brain's auditory system and reward system, the area that governs motivation. "There's something about music that is this functional connectivity between the auditory and reward system, and that's why music is so special and able to tap into these seemingly very general cognitive functions that are suddenly very engaged in folks with dementia who are hearing music," said Loui. The original idea for this research came out of Loui's own experiences playing music in nursing homes. She recalled how people who couldn't finish a sentence or thought would suddenly harmonize and sing along to a song she was playing. "[Music] seems to engage the brain in this way that's different than everything else," Loui said. What the researchers found was striking: Music was essentially creating an auditory channel directly to the medial prefrontal cortex, the brain's reward center. Music that was both familiar and well-liked tended to activate the auditory and reward areas more. The music that participants selected themselves provided an even stronger connection.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Biden Administration Plans for Legal Psychedelic Therapies Within Two Years
2022-07-26, The Intercept
https://theintercept.com/2022/07/26/mdma-psilocybin-fda-ptsd/

As twin mental health and drug misuse crises kill thousands of people per week, the potential of psychedelic-assisted therapies "must be explored," urges a federal letter on behalf of the U.S. health secretary. President Joe Biden's administration "anticipates" that regulators will approve MDMA and psilocybin within the next two years for designated breakthrough therapies for PTSD and depression, respectively. The administration is "exploring the prospect of establishing a federal task force to monitor" the emerging psychedelic treatment ecosystem, according to the letter sent by Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use. The move followed [the] introduction of a bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., to force the DEA to stop barring terminally ill patients from trying controlled drugs which have passed early trials. The right to try experimental therapies has been enshrined in federal law since 2018, but the DEA currently blocks its use among people with late-stage cancer who wish to be treated with psilocybin, a Schedule I controlled substance. "Studies have shown that psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety among patients with life-threatening cancer," Booker wrote. "While typically terminally ill patients are allowed to access drugs that are in FDA clinical trials, they are barred from accessing Schedule I drugs, despite their therapeutic potential."

Note: Read more about the healing potentials of psychedelic medicine. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


A large new study offers clues about how lower-income children can rise up the economic ladder.
2022-08-01, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/01/briefing/economic-ladder-rich-poor-america...

Social scientists have made it a priority in recent years to understand upward mobility. Money itself is ... important. Other factors – like avoiding eviction, having access to good medical care and growing up in a household with two parents – may also make upward mobility more likely. Now there is another intriguing factor to add to the list, thanks to a study ... in the academic journal Nature: friendships with people who are not poor. "Growing up in a community connected across class lines improves kids' outcome," [said] Raj Chetty ... one of the study's four principal authors. The study ... compares two otherwise similar children in lower-income households – one who grows up in a community where social contacts mostly come from the lower half of the socioeconomic distribution, and another who grows up in a community where social contacts mostly come from the upper half. The average difference between the two, in terms of their expected adult outcomes, is significant. It's the same as the gap between a child who grows up in a family that makes $27,000 a year and one who grows up in a family that makes $47,000. There seem to be three main mechanisms by which cross-class friendships can increase a person's chances of escaping poverty. The first is raised ambition: Social familiarity can give people a clearer sense of what's possible. The second is basic information, such as how to apply to college and for financial aid. The third is networking, such as getting a recommendation for an internship.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Humour and healthcare: how medical clowns are making an impact
2022-06-30, Kinder
https://kinder.world/articles/solutions/humour-and-healthcare-how-medical-clo...

Robin Williams brought a lot of great characters to life on screen. But it's his role as the titular character in the award nominated 1998 biographical film Patch Adams that helped bring attention to a (then) relatively young therapeutic field: medical clowning. In early 19th century France, a famous clown trio by the name of "the Fratellini Brothers" began visiting hospitalised children to improve their moods. It wasn't until 1986 when the presence of professional clowns as members of hospital health care teams started. This happened when professional clown Michael Christensen of ‘Big Apple Circus' founded ‘Big Apple Circus Clown Care' in New York; a program with the aim of preparing professional clowns to use humour and clowning skills in visits to hospitals to assist in patient healing. By parodying the work of medical doctors, "clown doctors" made young patients less afraid of what the doctors were doing. These clowns were able to bring smiles and laughter to patients using their circus skills, tricks, and improvisation. Since [then], other clown care units have been formed across the United States ... and beyond. In 2020 there were at least 40 Healthcare Clowning Organisations operating in 21 countries in Europe. The aim of the medical clown goes beyond humour. Clown doctors have therapeutic relationships with patients and on top of reducing the negative effects associated with illness, medical clowns contribute to patients' well-being and help create a lighter atmosphere in the hospital.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


USPS will make 40% of its new trucks electric, up from 10%
2022-07-20, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2022/07/20/usps-electric-trucks/

The U.S. Postal Service pledged Wednesday to electrify at least 40 percent of its new delivery fleet, an increase that climate activists hailed as a major step toward reducing the government's environmental footprint. The Postal Service had been set to purchase as many as 165,000 vehicles from Oshkosh Defense, of which 10 percent would have been electric under the original procurement plan. Now it will acquire 50,000 trucks from Oshkosh, half of which will be EVs. It will also buy another 34,500 commercially available vehicles, with sufficient electric models to make 4 in 10 trucks in its delivery fleet zero-emission vehicles. The announcement comes after 16 states, the District of Columbia, and four of the nation's top environmental groups sued the mail agency in the spring to prevent the original purchase plan, or compel it to buy more electric trucks. The mail agency's combined purchase of 84,500 trucks – which begin hitting the streets in late 2023 – will go a long way toward meeting President Biden's goal for the entire government fleet to be EV-powered by 2035. The Postal Service's more than 217,000 vehicles make up the largest share of federal civilian vehicles. Congress in March also passed a $107 billion agency overhaul, freeing up money that postal leaders had long sought for capital improvements. Lawmakers ... pointed to the agency's need for new trucks – its fleet now is 30 years old, and has neither air bags nor air conditioning – to keep up with private-sector EV investments in approving the legislation.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Miami janitor quietly feeds thousands, and love's the reason
2021-03-09, Associated Press
https://apnews.com/article/miami-haiti-us-news-cooking-coronavirus-pandemic-f...

Doramise Moreau toils long past midnight in her tiny kitchen every Friday – boiling lemon peels, crushing fragrant garlic and onion into a spice blend she rubs onto chicken and turkey, cooking the dried beans that accompany the yellow rice she'll deliver to a Miami church. She's singlehandedly cooked 1,000 meals a week since the pandemic's start – an act of love she's content to perform with little compensation. Moreau, a 60-year-old widow who lives with her children, nephew and three grandchildren, cooks in the kitchen of a home built by Habitat for Humanity in 2017. Her days are arduous. She works part-time as a janitor at a technical school, walking or taking the bus. But the work of her heart, the reason she rises each morning, is feeding the hungry. As a little girl in Haiti, she often pilfered food from her parents' pantry – some dried rice and beans, maybe an onion or an ear of corn – to give to someone who needed it. Her mother was furious, constantly scolding and threatening Moreau, even telling the priest to refuse to give her communion. But she was not deterred. Decades later, Moreau is still feeding the hungry. She borrows the church truck to buy groceries on Thursday and Friday and cooks into the wee hours of the night for Saturday's feedings. Notre Dame d'Haiti Catholic Church pays for the food, relying on donations. Moreau prepares the meals singlehandedly, while church volunteers serve or deliver them to shut-ins.

Note: Enjoy a wonderful compilation of inspiring stories from the pandemic times on this webpage. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Spain announces completely free train travel to deal with cost-of-living crisis
2022-07-14, Yahoo News
https://news.yahoo.com/spain-announces-completely-free-train-travel-to-deal-w...

Spain has announced it will make some short- and middle-distance train journeys completely free as the government seeks to combat the impact of the cost-of-living crisis. Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez said on Tuesday that all Cercanías (commuter trains), Rodalies (commuter routes in Catalonia) and Media Distancia routes (mid-distance regional lines which cover distances less than 300km) run by the national rail system will be free from 1 September 1 to 31 December this year. The 100% discount will only apply to multi-trip tickets. The new scheme comes in addition to the government funding a discount of between 30-50% on all public transport - including metros, buses and trams. Spanish inflation has accelerated in the past few months and surpassed 10% for the first time in 37 years during the 12 months to June. Sanchez said soaring inflation was the biggest challenge for Spain, likening it to "a serious illness of our economy that impoverishes everyone, especially the most vulnerable groups". He also announced 100 euros a month in complementary scholarships for students older than 16 years who already receive scholarships. "I am fully aware of the daily difficulties that most people face. I know that your salary is getting less and less, that it is difficult to make ends meet, and that your shopping basket is becoming more and more expensive", Sánchez said. On Thursday, the European Commission warned inflation could hit historic highs of 7.6%, up from last month's prediction of 6.1%.

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What the ‘Active Grandparent Hypothesis' Can Tell Us About Aging Well
2022-02-02, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/02/well/move/aging-exercise-grandparents.html

Why is physical activity so good for us as we age? According to a novel new theory about exercise, evolution and aging, the answer lies, in part, in our ancestral need for grandparents. The theory, called the "Active Grandparent Hypothesis" and detailed in a recent editorial in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that in the early days of our species, hunter-gatherers who lived past their childbearing years could pitch in and provide extra sustenance and succor to their grandchildren, helping those descendants survive. The theory also makes the case that it was physical activity that helped hunter-gatherers survive long enough to become grandparents – an idea that has potential relevance for us today, because it may explain why exercise is good for us in the first place. Early humans had to move around often to hunt for food, the thinking goes, and those who moved the most and found the most food were likeliest to survive. Over eons, this process led to the selection of genes that were optimized by plentiful physical activity. Evolution favored the most active tribespeople, who tended to live the longest and could then step in to help with the grandchildren, furthering active families' survival. In other words, exercise is good for us ... because long ago, the youngest and most vulnerable humans needed grandparents, and those grandparents needed to be vigorous and mobile to help keep the grandkids nourished.

Note: Learn more about the importance of grandparents in this Smithsonian article. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


India bans single-use plastic to combat pollution
2022-07-01, CNN News
https://www.cnn.com/2022/07/01/india/india-bans-single-use-plastic-intl-hnk/i...

India on Friday imposed a ban on single-use plastics on items ranging from straws to cigarette packets to combat worsening pollution in a country whose streets are strewn with waste. Announcing the ban, the government dismissed the demands of food, beverage and consumer goods companies to hold off the restriction to avoid disruptions. Plastic waste has become a significant source of pollution in India, the world's second most populous country. Rapid economic growth has fueled demand for goods that come with single-use plastic products, such as straws and disposable cutlery. But India, which uses about 14 million tons of plastic annually, lacks an organized system for managing plastic waste, leading to widespread littering. India's ban on single-use plastic items includes straws, cutlery, ear buds, packaging films, plastic sticks for balloons, candy and ice-cream, and cigarette packets, among other products, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government said. PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, India's Parle Agro, Dabur and Amul had lobbied for straws to be exempted from the ban. In a relief to consumers, the government has for now exempted plastic bags but it has asked manufacturers and importers to raise the thickness to promote reuse. Some experts believe that enforcing the ban might be difficult. The government has decided to set up control rooms to check any illegal use, sale and distribution of single-use plastic products.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


The green revolution sweeping Sweden
2022-06-29, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/interactive/2022/sweden-gree...

Claes Nordmark, mayor of Boden, steps out into a vast clear-cut area. He ... motions toward an electrical substation nearby. "Listen to that," he says. "The atmosphere in Boden is crackling, just like that switchgear." If all goes to plan, in July start-up H2 Green Steel (H2GS) will start building the world's first "fossil-free" steelworks in this Swedish town of 17,000, just below the Arctic Circle. It's a multibillion-dollar project that would make a multimillion-ton impact on the climate, cutting over 90 percent of a regular steel factory's carbon dioxide emissions. A boom of renewable-powered industries has given rise to what has been dubbed a "green revolution." A massive revamp is underway to decarbonize the state-run mines. Besides steel mills, the region hosts Europe's first battery mega factory, called Northvolt Ett, along with fossil-free fertilizer and aviation biofuel factories. In the coming two decades, an estimated $100 billion to $150 billion will be invested and up to 100,000 jobs created in this sparsely populated and often overlooked region. Put together, this is the centerpiece of Sweden's 2045 net-zero carbon pledge and the country's ambitions to become a front-runner in the quest for a fossil-free economy. "We need a shift from an administrative mind-set to a courageous one," says CEO Henrikkson, a gust of wind rearranging his hair while he walks near the H2GS office in Stockholm. Nowadays, Henriksson says, major projects often grind to a halt because politicians and bureaucrats fear making mistakes.

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Officer, once beaten by colleagues, to lead Boston police
2022-07-13, San Francisco Chronicle/Associated Press
https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Officer-once-beaten-by-colleagues-to-lead...

A former Boston police officer who was beaten more than 25 years ago by colleagues who mistook him for a shooting suspect will be the new leader of the city's police department, Mayor Michelle Wu announced. Michael Cox, 57, will return to his hometown of Boston after working as the police chief in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to lead the same force he once brought a civil rights case against over his beating by fellow cops. Cox, who is Black, will take over as commissioner next month. Before becoming chief in Ann Arbor in 2019, Cox was part of the Boston police force for 30 years, where he rose through the ranks after fighting for years to get justice over his beating that left him seriously injured. Cox was working undercover in plainclothes as part of the gang unit in January 1995 when officers got a call about a shooting. Cox, dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, spotted the suspect. The suspect started to scale a fence and Cox was struck from behind just as he was about to grab the man. He was kicked and punched by fellow officers, suffering head injuries and kidney damage. Cox has described facing harassment in an effort to silence him after the beating became public despite efforts by his colleagues to cover it up. A department injury report said Cox lost his footing on a frozen puddle, causing him to fall and crack his head. Cox chose to stay in the police force after what happened to him and try to improve things instead of walking away from a job he loved.

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EU plan to halve use of pesticides in ‘milestone' legislation to restore ecosystems
2022-06-22, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jun/22/eu-legislation-restoratio...

For the first time in 30 years, legislation has been put forward to address catastrophic wildlife loss in the EU. Legally binding targets for all member states to restore wildlife on land, rivers and the sea were announced today, alongside a crackdown on chemical pesticides. In a boost for UN negotiations on halting and reversing biodiversity loss, targets released by the European Commission include reversing the decline of pollinator populations and restoring 20% of land and sea by 2030, with all ecosystems to be under restoration by 2050. The commission also proposed a target to cut the use of chemical pesticides in half by 2030 and eradicate their use near schools, hospitals and playgrounds. Frans Timmermans, executive vice-president of the commission, said the laws were a step forward in tackling the "looming ecocide" threatening the planet. Around â‚Ź100bn (Ł85bn) will be available for spending on biodiversity, including the restoration of ecosystems. The target of 2030 to cut the use of pesticides will give farmers time to find alternatives. The proposals, which campaigners have hailed as a potential milestone for nature, could become law in around a year. Member states would have to create restoration plans to show the commission how they would reach the targets set, and if they fail to follow through they would face legal action. Priority ecosystems include those with the greatest power to remove and store carbon, as well as buffer the impacts of natural disasters.

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EU unveils plan for ‘largest ever ban' on dangerous chemicals
2022-04-25, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/apr/25/eu-unveils-plan-largest-e...

Thousands of potentially harmful chemicals could soon be prohibited in Europe under new restrictions, which campaigners have hailed as the strongest yet. The EU's "restrictions roadmap" published on Monday was conceived as a first step to transforming this picture by using existing laws to outlaw toxic substances linked to cancers, hormonal disruption, reprotoxic disorders, obesity, diabetes and other illnesses. Industry groups say that up to 12,000 substances could ultimately fall within the scope of the new proposal, which would constitute the world's "largest ever ban of toxic chemicals", according to the European Environmental Bureau (EEB). Tatiana Santos, the bureau's chemicals policy manager, said: "EU chemical controls are usually achingly slow but the EU is planning the boldest detox we have ever seen. Petrochemical industry lobbyists are shocked at what is now on the table. It promises to improve the safety of almost all manufactured products and rapidly lower the chemical intensity of our schools, homes and workplaces." The plan focuses on entire classes of chemical substances for the first time as a rule, including all flame retardants, bisphenols, PVC plastics, toxic chemicals in single-use nappies and PFAS, which are also known as "forever chemicals" because of the time they take to naturally degrade. All of these will be put on a "rolling list" of substances to be considered for restriction by the European Chemicals Agency. The list will be regularly reviewed and updated.

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China Reduced Air Pollution in 7 Years as Much as US Did in Three Decades
2022-06-13, Bloomberg
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-06-14/china-s-clean-air-campaign...

China has reduced air pollution nearly as much in seven years as the US did in three decades, helping to bring down average global smog levels in the process. The amount of harmful particulates in the air in China fell 40% from 2013 to 2020, according to the University of Chicago's Energy Policy Institute, which would add about two years to average life expectancy if sustained. While smog in large swathes of the country still significantly exceeds safe levels, its experience shows how quickly progress can be made, researchers including Professor Michael Greenstone said in a report. About 97% of the world's population live in areas where air quality is usually worse than World Health Organization guidelines, according to the researchers. Smog reduces global life expectancy more than cigarette smoking, alcohol or poor sanitation. "China's success in reducing pollution is a strong indication of the opportunities that could lie ahead for other nations if they were to impose strong pollution policies," they said. Even in the US and Europe ... more than 90% of people live in areas that don't meet WHO guidelines, which were tightened last year. China's success, led by restrictions on car use and coal burning in major cities, has been rapid, with its 40% decline in seven years nearly equaling a 44% drop in US pollution over 30 years from 1970, after the landmark Clean Air Act was passed. Without China's declines, the world would have seen average pollution levels increase since 2013 instead of drop.

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Blue Planet 'shark dancer' reveals how she's able to relax the predators simply by rubbing an area around their mouths
2019-03-27, Daily Mail (One of the UK's popular newspapers)
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-6855429/Blue-Planet-star-turns-sha...

A professional diver has revealed how she uses a little known technique to placate sharks so she can remove hooks from their mouths. Italian-born Cristina Zenato, 47, who is known as 'the shark dancer' is often filmed on the ocean floor with 8ft sharks playing around her and nestling into her knees. The conservationist, who lives on Grand Bahama, has perfected the technique of relaxing the sharks, which is part of her efforts to save them by removing hooks that are caught in their fins. She induces the 'tonic' state in the shark using a little-known technique of rubbing the ampullae of Lorenzini - the name given to hundreds of jelly-filled pores around the animal's nose and mouth. A 'tonic' state is where a shark enters a natural state of paralysis, often by being turned upside down, for up to 15 minutes. The pores act as electroreceptors detecting prey moving in the electromagnetic field around the shark - but also for some reason rubbing them turns 'Jaws' into a sleeping baby. This gives Cristina the time she needs to remove the hooks. 'The first time I put a shark to sleep was my second dive with them,' Cristina [said]. 'This big female swam straight into my lap. The most amazing thing was this 8ft shark just swimming into me and resting her head on me. 'I started crying into my mask because it was so amazing, so unique.' Over the years Cristina has collected more than 200 hooks that have been caught in sharks, and has built up so much trust she's been able to put her whole arm into a shark's mouth to pull out a hook.

Note: Don't miss this awesome 3-minute video of Cristina removing hooks from the sharks who then snuggle her. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Monarch butterfly populations are thriving in North America
2022-06-10, UGA Today (Newspaper of the University of Georgia)
https://news.uga.edu/monarch-butterfly-populations-are-thriving/

For years, scientists have warned that monarch butterflies are dying off in droves because of diminishing winter colonies. But new research from the University of Georgia shows that the summer population of monarchs has remained relatively stable over the past 25 years. Published in Global Change Biology, the study suggests that population growth during the summer compensates for butterfly losses due to migration, winter weather and changing environmental factors. "There's this perception out there that monarch populations are in dire trouble, but we found that's not at all the case," said Andy Davis, corresponding author of the study. "It goes against what everyone thinks, but we found that they're doing quite well. In fact, monarchs are actually one of the most widespread butterflies in North America." The study authors caution against becoming complacent, though, because rising global temperatures may bring new and growing threats not just to monarchs but to all insects. This study represents the largest and most comprehensive assessment of breeding monarch butterfly population to date. The researchers compiled more than 135,000 monarch observations from the North American Butterfly Association between 1993 and 2018 to examine population patterns and possible drivers of population changes, such as precipitation and widespread use of agricultural herbicides. The team found an overall annual increase in monarch relative abundance of 1.36% per year.

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A doctor said he wouldn't live past two, but he just graduated as valedictorian
2021-11-14, Channel News Asia
https://www.channelnewsasia.com/singapore/jonathan-tiong-nus-valedictorian-gi...

When Jonathan Tiong was an infant, a neurologist told his parents that he wouldn't live past the age of two. He was diagnosed with type two spinal muscular atrophy, a rare genetic condition that causes muscles to become weak and break down. It is also a progressive disease, meaning he has become ... weaker with time. But in October, the same day he turned 24 years old, he was crowned valedictorian for the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Class of 2021, with the equivalent of a first class honours. He has also landed a prestigious job at sovereign wealth fund GIC, where he currently works full-time as an editorial writer. Speaking to CNA in his home, Mr Tiong candidly described himself as "a very plain and average student" throughout university. In his spare time, he immerses himself in the online game Runescape and watches Twitch streams. He regularly pens columns and blogposts, owing to a love of writing sparked in recent years. "I didn't think I'd be valedictorian for the simple reason that I was not a typical valedictorian. I didn't lead a (co-curricular activity), I wasn't the captain of some sports team, that kind of thing. "I studied a lot, got good grades, but so did a lot of other people. So I didn't really feel outstanding." This is despite the extra challenges he had to grapple with throughout school – namely, fatigue and accessibility in a world mostly built for able-bodied people. Poking fun at NUS' infamously hilly terrain, Mr Tiong joked that the university is also known as the "National University of Stairs".

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The Joy Workout
2022-05-24, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/24/well/move/joy-workout-exercises-happiness....

It's no secret that exercise, even in small doses, can improve your mood. Researchers even have a name for it: the feel-better effect. And while any physical activity – a walk, a swim, a bit of yoga – can give you an emotional boost, we wanted to create a short workout video specifically designed to make people happy. What would a "joy workout" look like? I'm a psychologist fascinated by the science of emotion. I've also taught group exercise classes for more than 20 years. To design a happiness workout, I turned to the research I leverage in those classes, to maximize the joy people get from moving their bodies. Imagine fans erupting when their team clinches a playoff spot. Researchers have identified several movements like this that are recognizable in many cultures as inspired by joy: reaching your arms up; swaying from side to side, like concertgoers losing themselves in the music; other rhythmic movements, such as bouncing to a beat; or taking up more space, like dancers spinning, arms outstretched. These physical actions don't just express a feeling of joy – research shows they can also elicit it. The resulting eight and a half–minute Joy Workout lets you test these effects yourself. It leads you through six joy moves: reach, sway, bounce, shake, jump for joy and one I named "celebrate" that looks like tossing confetti in the air. I based these moves on research and on the movements that produce the most joy in my classes, among people of all ages and abilities.

Note: Watch a video of the the Joy Workout at the link above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


How Houston Moved 25,000 People From the Streets Into Homes of Their Own
2022-06-14, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/14/headway/houston-homeless-people.html

A handful of people were living in tents and cardboard lean-tos. As a vice president of Houston's Coalition for the Homeless, Ms. Rausch was there to move them out. For more than a month, Ms. Rausch and her colleagues had been coordinating with Harris County officials, as well as with the mayor's office and local landlords. They had visited the encampment and talked to people living there, so that now, as tents were being dismantled, the occupants could move directly into one-bedroom apartments, some for a year, others for longer. In other words, the people living in the encampment would not be consigned to homeless shelters, cited for trespassing or scattered to the winds, but, rather, given a home. During the last decade, Houston, the nation's fourth most populous city, has moved more than 25,000 homeless people directly into apartments and houses. The overwhelming majority of them have remained housed after two years. The number of people deemed homeless in the Houston region has been cut by 63 percent since 2011. Even judging by the more modest metrics registered in a 2020 federal report, Houston did more than twice as well as the rest of the country at reducing homelessness. "Before I leave office, I want Houston to be the first big city to end chronic homelessness," Sylvester Turner [commented]. Mr. Turner, who is serving his final term as mayor, joined Harris County leaders in unveiling a $100 million plan that would ... cut the local homeless count in half again by 2025.

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Lincoln Crowley appointed Australia's first Indigenous supreme court justice
2022-05-26, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/may/27/lincoln-crowley-appoin...

Barrister Lincoln Crowley QC will become the first Indigenous judge to preside over an Australian superior court, after he was appointed to the supreme court of Queensland. Colleagues said Crowley, a well-regarded barrister and former crown prosecutor who was made Queen's Counsel in 2018, had broken a significant barrier for First Nations people. "It has taken a long time for Indigenous people in Australia to be appointed to any superior court and it's very significant that Lincoln Crowley is the first such appointment," said Tony McAvoy, who in 2015 became the first Indigenous Australian appointed senior counsel. "It is a matter of some significant shame and embarrassment for the legal professional in Australia that there are not more First Nations judicial officers through all levels of the court. "I have watched Lincoln rise through his career and he's always struck me as a very compassionate person and a fantastic lawyer and it comes as no surprise to me that the attorney-general of Queensland has appointed him to this position." Crowley, a Warramunga man ... was expelled from a private school in year 11 after a run-in with a teacher. "The deputy principal called me into the office one day and said to me: ‘Your family is Aboriginal aren't they? They're the type that end up in jail'," he said. "He was picking on me and trying to put me down, basically saying I had no prospects in the future and that's where I was going to end up. "I remember thinking, ‘you wait and see, mate'."

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Buddha seems to bring tranquility to Oakland neighborhood
2014-09-15, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/johnson/article/Buddha-seems-to-bring-tranquil...

Dan Stevenson is neither a Buddhist nor a follower of any organized religion. The 11th Avenue resident in Oakland's Eastlake neighborhood was simply feeling hopeful in 2009 when he went to an Ace hardware store, purchased a 2-foot-high stone Buddha and installed it on a median strip in a residential area at 11th Avenue and 19th Street. He hoped that just maybe his small gesture would bring tranquility to a neighborhood marred by crime: dumping, graffiti, drug dealing, prostitution, robberies, aggravated assault and burglaries. What happened next was nothing short of stunning. Area residents began to leave offerings at the base of the Buddha: flowers, food, candles. A group of Vietnamese women in prayer robes began to gather at the statue to pray. And the neighborhood changed. People stopped dumping garbage. They stopped vandalizing walls with graffiti. And the drug dealers stopped using that area to deal. The prostitutes went away. I asked police to check their crime statistics for the block radius around the statue, and here's what they found: Since 2012, when worshipers began showing up for daily prayers, overall year-to-date crime has dropped by 82 percent. Robbery reports went from 14 to three, aggravated assaults from five to zero, burglaries from eight to four, narcotics from three to none, and prostitution from three to none. To this day, every morning at 7, worshipers ring a chime, clang a bell and play soft music as they chant morning prayers.

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A nonspeaking valedictorian with autism gives her college's commencement speech
2022-05-12, NPR
https://www.npr.org/2022/05/12/1098506522/nonspeaking-valedictorian-autism-co...

She didn't say a word – and that only made her message resonate more powerfully. Valedictorian Elizabeth Bonker recently delivered the commencement speech at Rollins College in Florida, urging her classmates to serve others and embrace the power of sharing. Bonker, who is affected by nonspeaking autism, hasn't spoken since she was 15 months old. But thanks to an accepting attitude from her peers and teachers and help from technology, she has overcome many challenges and graduated at the top of her class at the Orlando-area school. Bonker used text-to-speech software to deliver the commencement address – an honor for which she was chosen by her fellow valedictorians. "I have typed this speech with one finger with a communication partner holding a keyboard," she said. "I am one of the lucky few nonspeaking autistics who have been taught to type. That one critical intervention unlocked my mind from its silent cage, enabling me to communicate and to be educated like my hero Helen Keller." In her speech, Bonker also evoked another hero: Fred Rogers, the Florida college's most famous alumnus. Last year, the school unveiled a statue of the man widely known as Mister Rogers. And it has long embraced his lessons. "When he died, a handwritten note was found in his wallet," Bonker said. "It said, 'Life is for service.'" She urged her classmates to rip off a piece of paper from their program, write those words down, and tuck the message away in a safe place.

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Israeli orchestra performs in Egypt for the first time in 40 years
2022-05-25, Times of Israel
https://www.timesofisrael.com/israeli-orchestra-performs-in-egypt-for-the-fir...

An Israeli orchestra has performed in Egypt for the first time in 40 years, surprising locals by playing Egyptian classics from the 50s and 60s. The event took place as part of Israel's 74th Independence Day celebrations at the Israeli embassy in Cairo, according to a Tuesday report by public broadcaster Kan. Ariel Cohen, the conductor and co-founder of the Firqat Alnoor orchestra, described the excitement of being able to perform in the Arab country, which signed a peace deal with Israel in 1979, but has seen relations remain frosty. "I couldn't believe it," Cohen said during an interview with the Kan public broadcaster. "I couldn't hold in my tears," he added, noting the warm welcome the group received wherever they went. "Egyptian music has always been a big part of my artistic life. Personally, performing there for me was a dream come true," Cohen said. "The Egyptian audience that attended the event were astonished to see an [Israeli] orchestra performing Egyptian music, and not pop or fusion, but the DNA of Egyptian music… and to play it as it was played in Egypt in the 50s or the 60s – they really appreciated it and complimented us. It was a great pleasure to perform in front of such an audience," he said. And while Cohen said he wasn't sure if music alone could create a warm relationship between Egyptians and Israelis, he said that "music, when it's done properly, can bring people together, and that's what we saw when we performed there."

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A Cancer Trial's Unexpected Result: Remission in Every Patient
2022-06-05, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/05/health/rectal-cancer-checkpoint-inhibitor....

It was a small trial, just 18 rectal cancer patients, every one of whom took the same drug. But the results were astonishing. The cancer vanished in every single patient, undetectable by physical exam, endoscopy, PET scans or M.R.I. scans. Dr. Luis A. Diaz Jr. of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, an author of a paper published Sunday in the New England Journal of Medicine describing the results ... said he knew of no other study in which a treatment completely obliterated a cancer in every patient. "I believe this is the first time this has happened in the history of cancer," Dr. Diaz said. Dr. Alan P. Venook, a colorectal cancer specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved with the study, said he also thought this was a first. A complete remission in every single patient is "unheard-of," he said. These rectal cancer patients had faced grueling treatments – chemotherapy, radiation and, most likely, life-altering surgery that could result in bowel, urinary and sexual dysfunction. Some would need colostomy bags. They entered the study thinking that, when it was over, they would have to undergo those procedures because no one really expected their tumors to disappear. But they got a surprise: No further treatment was necessary. "There were a lot of happy tears," said Dr. Andrea Cercek, an oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and a co-author of the paper. Another surprise, Dr. Venook added, was that none of the patients had clinically significant complications.

Note: Will this amazing treatment be suppressed, like so many others before it? Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Honeybees Trained to Sniff Out Cancer
2013-11-25, ABC News
https://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2013/11/25/honeybees-trained-to-sniff-out...

Bees may soon be able to take some of the sting out of cancer by detecting it early and getting patients into treatment sooner. Honeybees are known for their exquisitely sensitive sense of smell. They don't have noses, but their feet, tongues and antennae are packed with olfactory glands. They can also be quickly trained to do their "waggle dance" when they associate a specific smell with a food source. Taking advantage of these facts, Portuguese scientist Susana Soares has invented a two-chambered glass dome that uses bees to snuff out cancer. "The glass objects have two enclosures: a smaller chamber that serves as the diagnostic space and a bigger chamber where previously trained bees are kept for the short period of time necessary for them to detect general health," Soares wrote on her website. "People exhale into the smaller chamber, and the bees rush into it if they detect on the breath the odor that they were trained to target." Soares said she could train bees in 10 minutes to identify cancer and other diseases, such as tuberculosis and diabetes in their early stages. By exposing the insects to the odor molecules produced by an illness and then feeding them sugar, they learn to associate the smell with a food reward. Soares said that her bee chamber was an inexpensive, sustainable and highly accurate diagnostic tool. And, she points out, bees, as well as wasps, are already used regularly to sniff out land mines and illegal drugs.

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The workers getting 100% pay for 80% of the hours
2022-06-06, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/news/business-61570021

About 70 companies are taking part in what is thought to be the world's biggest pilot scheme into the working pattern over the next six months. The experiment has been organised by a group campaigning for a shorter working week, but for no loss in wages. During the trial, employees will get 100% pay for 80% of the hours they would usually work, with the aim of being more productive. Academics from Oxford and Cambridge universities, as well experts at Boston College in the US, will manage the experiment in partnership with the think tank Autonomy. Companies ranging from office-based software developers and recruitment firms to charities and a local fish and chip shop are taking part. "The UK trial is historic", said Juliet Schor, the lead researcher on the Global 4-day week project. "The basis of this movement is that there's activity going on in many workplaces, particularly white collar workplaces, that's low-productivity and that you can cut without harming the business." She said the trouble with the five-day week is that work can simply expand to fit the time available. "Sticking to a rigid, centuries-old, time-based system doesn't make sense," Ms Schor added. "You can be 100% productive in 80% of the time in many workplaces, and companies adopting this around the world have shown that." Even if workers are just 10% more productive the economics can still stack up, she argued, if it leads to lower sickness rates, fewer staff leaving and making it easier to attract new recruits.

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New Mark Cuban Company Slashes High Drug Prices: 'Life Changing'
2022-06-07, Newsweek
https://www.newsweek.com/mark-cuban-company-slashes-high-drug-prices-praise-s...

Celebrity investor Mark Cuban is receiving praise on social media after he launched a new company that provides patients access to affordable medications. Cuban launched the Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company (MCCPDC), a direct-to-consumer online company that offers more than 100 generic medications at discounted prices. The investor said ​​he aims to "be the low-cost provider of medications to patients." He continued: "If you don't have insurance or have a high deductible plan, you know that even the most basic medications can cost a fortune. Many people are spending crazy amounts of money each month just to stay healthy. No American should have to suffer or worse–because they can't afford basic prescription medications." The company's low costs are achieved by working directly with partners, which "allows us to only markup our costs by 15 percent," Cuban explained. Explaining the business model, Cuban cited the drug prescribed for hookworm, Albendazole, which can cost as much as $500 per course. "Our cost for Albendazole is $26.08 per course. We mark that price up by 15 percent so we can continue to run the company and invest in disrupting the pricing of as many drugs as we possibly can," he explained. "That makes the base price of the drug $30. Then we add on the actual cost, $3.00, that our pharmacy partners charge us to prepare and provide your prescription to you. "That makes the sales price on this website $33. Far, far lower than the pricing available in the marketplace."

Note: As big Pharma rakes in the huge profits, Marc Cuban has created a new company called CostPlus which brings many expensive drugs to you at a fraction of the price. Sadly, very few of the major media are reporting on this. Cuban says, "Everyone should have safe, affordable medicines with transparent prices."


Findings from largest public study on kindness
2022-03-18, Optimist Daily
https://www.optimistdaily.com/2022/03/findings-from-the-largest-public-study-...

The Kindness Test involved over 60,000 people from 144 different countries around the world, making it the largest public study of kindness ever carried out. You can listen to the full rundown of the results in the three-part BBC Radio 4 documentary, The Anatomy of Kindness, airing this month. The research will also soon be submitted for publication so their findings can be used to forward research in the future. Here are a few interesting findings from the test. Kinder people, or simply people who are more aware of kindness experience higher levels of life satisfaction and wellbeing. Two-thirds of participants believe the pandemic has made people kinder, perhaps by giving us a collective struggle that increased our empathy for each other. The study also found that nearly 60 percent of the people who partook in the research claimed to have received an act of kindness within the previous day. "It is a big part of human nature, to be kind – because it's such a big part of how we connect with people and how we have relationships," says Claudia Hammond, study collaborator. "It's a win-win situation, because we like receiving kindness, but we also like being kind." The overarching trend from the data is that your personality determines how kind you are to others and also how kind they are to you. People who are open to new experiences, agreeable, like talking to strangers, or are extraverted all reported higher levels of kindness in their lives.

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Counties Pledge to Break the Cycle Between Jail and Homelessness
2022-05-18, Bloomberg
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-05-18/the-costs-of-criminalizing...

San Francisco and Sioux Falls might seem to share little beyond an abbreviation, but the cities wrestle with a common problem: homelessness. Now the two regions are set to test a new approach to controlling homelessness by targeting the link between housing instability and incarceration. The Just Home Project, devised and funded by the MacArthur Foundation, and coordinated by the Urban Institute, will provide resources and technical assistance to four jurisdictions across the U.S. that struggle with different variations on the jail-to-homelessness cycle: South Carolina's Charleston County, Oklahoma's Tulsa County, South Dakota's Minnehaha County, and the city and county of San Francisco. The broader goal is to get counties to address the specific barriers that recently incarcerated individuals face when trying to access existing housing. "Homelessness, housing insecurity and participation in the criminal justice system are just simply deeply intertwined, in part because of the criminalization of homelessness itself," said Kelly Walsh, a principal policy associate at the Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center. Laurie Garduque, the director of criminal justice at the MacArthur Foundation, stresses that the initiative is designed specifically to support the jail population. Garduque hopes that learning from these local projects could help secure national-level solutions. "We think that if the barriers to housing can be addressed, the footprint of the criminal justice system will shrink," she said.

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The long shot that saved Belize's coral
2021-05-04, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210430-the-woman-who-rescues-caribbean-c...

The underwater world at Laughing Bird Caye National Park off the coast of Belize looked nothing like the vibrant and colourful place that had thrived with life before Hurricane Iris swept across it in 2001. [Lisa] Carne immediately wanted to start replenishing the reefs by planting corals, but it took many years to convince any funders that her idea was viable. People argued, and still do, that without solving the problems that cause corals to die, putting them back on the reef made no sense. Carne began pitching her restoration ideas in 2002, but for several years had no luck. Then in 2006, the US listed Caribbean acroporid corals (the fastest growing type of branching coral in the Caribbean, and the main reef-building one) as endangered, and a local funder approved Carne's proposal to restore the reef. Carne began with transplanting 19 elkhorn coral fragments from the main barrier reef around 19 miles (31km) away in a trial. Because the initial 2006 transplants' survival was high (more than 80% still alive today) she continued to identify surviving corals and started reseeding the reefs with them in 2010. In 2009, Illiana Baums, professor of molecular ecology at Penn State University, advised on the appropriate distance to plant different individuals of each coral species apart to encourage spawning. So far over 85,000 corals have been planted in the Laughing Bird Caye National Park. Long-term monitoring shows 89% survived after 14 years – much higher than typical survivorship after restoration.

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Future Healers of Tomorrow
2020-01-15, Harper's Magazine
https://harpers.org/2020/01/future-healers-of-tomorrow-lily-dale-assembly-chi...

Don't you remember having an imaginary friend? That friend was not imaginary–you were talking to Spirit," said Patricia Bell. Bell, seventy years old with sinewy arms, aqua eyes, and straw-colored hair, is the director of Children's Week at the Lily Dale Assembly, a hamlet in upstate New York that serves as the headquarters of Spiritualism, an American religion based on communication with the dead. Approximately twenty-two thousand pilgrims pass through Lily Dale's guarded gate each summer. In July, when many American children go to soccer camp, or horse-riding camp, or coding camp, the Spiritualists of Lily Dale welcome kids for a week of animal communication, dream interpretation, body tapping, qigong, and contact with deceased ancestors. Founded in 2003, Bell's camp is the only Spiritualist camp in the nation dedicated to teaching young mediums and psychics. Bell ... believes that the otherworldly abilities she's nurturing in herself as well as the children aren't rare gifts, but innate skills, as reflexive as breastfeeding. These skills are typically educated out of people as they age. She formed the camp to let kids exercise their craft and to make it less daunting for them to talk to those on the "spirit plane." Kylie ... has been coming to camp for nine years. "They teach us how to focus," she said. "We go into our heart and take a few breaths, and, like, you talk to God for a few seconds and say thank you. My hands start tingling a lot and that's when I know where the pain of the other person is."

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A study gave cash and therapy to men at risk of criminal behavior. 10 years later, the results are in.
2022-05-31, Vox
https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/23141405/violence-crime-cbt-therapy-cash-s...

What if someone told you that you could dramatically reduce the crime rate without resorting to coercive policing or incarceration? it sounds too good to be true. But it's been borne out by the research of Chris Blattman, Margaret Sheridan, Julian Jamison, and Sebastian Chaskel. Their new study provides experimental evidence that offering at-risk men a few weeks of behavioral therapy plus a bit of cash reduces the future risk of crime and violence, even 10 years after the intervention. Sustainable Transformation of Youth in Liberia ... offered men who were at high risk for violent crime eight weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy. [Economist Chris] Blattman wanted to formally study just how effective this kind of program could be. He decided to run a big randomized controlled trial with 999 of the most dangerous men in Monrovia, recruited on the street. The 999 Liberian men were split into four groups. Some received CBT, while others got $200 in cash. Another group got the CBT plus the cash, and finally, there was a control group that got neither. A year after the intervention, the positive effects on those who got therapy alone had faded a bit, but those who got therapy plus cash were still showing huge impacts: crime and violence were down about 50 percent. 10 years later ... crime and violence were still down by about 50 percent in the therapy-plus-cash group. Blattman estimates that there were 338 fewer crimes per participant over 10 years. [The program] cost just $530 per participant. That works out to $1.50 per crime avoided.

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Free college is now a reality in nearly 30 states
2022-04-08, CNBC News
https://www.cnbc.com/2022/04/08/free-college-is-now-a-reality-in-nearly-30-st...

Even though the Biden administration's plan to make community college tuition-free for two years was stripped from the federal Build Back Better bill, the push for free college is alive and well in many parts of the country. While the White House has turned its focus to extending the student loan payment pause, states have been quietly moving forward with plans to pass legislation of their own to make some college tuition-free. Most recently, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, signed the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship Act, establishing the most extensive tuition-free scholarship program in the country. Like New York's Excelsior Scholarship, it covers four years of tuition, including career training certificates, associate and bachelor's degrees. But New Mexico's Opportunity Scholarship goes a step further by opening up access to returning adult learners, part-time students and immigrants, regardless of their immigration status, in addition to recent high school graduates. Maine's Gov. Janet Mills ... has proposed a plan to make two years of community college free for recent high school graduates. If passed, that would bring the total number of statewide free-college programs to 30, which means 60% of states would have free tuition opportunities. "If we get to 50, it's mission accomplished," said Morley Winograd ... of the Campaign for Free College Tuition. Most are "last-dollar" scholarships, meaning students receive a scholarship for the amount of tuition that is not covered by existing state or federal aid.

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The secret world beneath our feet is mind-blowing – and the key to our planet's future
2022-05-07, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/may/07/secret-world-beneath-our-...

Beneath our feet is an ecosystem so astonishing that it tests the limits of our imagination. It's as diverse as a rainforest or a coral reef. We depend on it for 99% of our food, yet we scarcely know it. Soil. Under one square metre of undisturbed ground in the Earth's mid-latitudes ... there might live several hundred thousand small animals. One gram of this soil – less than a teaspoonful – contains around a kilometre of fungal filaments. But even more arresting than soil's diversity and abundance is the question of what it actually is. Most people see it as a dull mass of ground-up rock and dead plants. But it turns out to be a biological structure, built by living creatures to secure their survival, like a wasps' nest or a beaver dam. Microbes make cements out of carbon, with which they stick mineral particles together, creating pores and passages through which water, oxygen and nutrients pass. The tiny clumps they build become the blocks the animals in the soil use to construct bigger labyrinths. Plants release into the soil between 11% and 40% of all the sugars they make through photosynthesis. They don't leak them accidentally. They deliberately pump them into the ground. These complex chemicals are pumped into the zone immediately surrounding the plant's roots, which is called the rhizosphere. They are released to create and manage its relationships. The rhizosphere lies outside the plant, but it functions as if it were part of the whole. It could be seen as the plant's external gut.

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California runs on 100 per cent clean energy for the first time
2022-05-02, The Independent (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/california-clean-energy-sol...

Clean energy powered 100 per cent of California's electricity demand on Saturday – a first for the state, according to an environmental group. Much of the renewable power came from vast solar farms, south of Los Angeles. The milestone, set on 30 April, was celebrated by environmental groups. "California busts past 100% on this historic day for clean energy!" tweeted Dan Jacobson, co-founder of the activist thinktank EcoEquity. Daniel M Kammen, a professor of energy at UC Berkeley, also wrote: "California achieved 100% renewable energy today. Very clear we can achieve clean energy everyday before 2030 if we cut the fossil fuel subsidies and political inertia." According to the tracker app from the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which oversees the state's power grid, energy demand reached 18,672 megawatts(MW) mid-afternoon on Saturday, with 37,172 MW available. The record was held for nearly 15 minutes, then dropped to 97 per cent of clean energy output. Solar power makes up the majority of California's renewables followed by wind energy then to a lesser extent, geothermal, biomass, biogas and small hydro. The state of California, the world's fifth largest economy, produces more renewable energy than any other US state, helped along by its near year-round sunshine. Governor Gavin Newsom's budget proposal for next year includes around $2bn to boost the transition to 100 per cent electricity. California has set a goal of achieving 100 per cent clean electricity by 2045.

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Press 3 for a pep talk from kindergartners. A new hotline gives you options for joy
2022-03-06, NPR
https://www.npr.org/2022/03/06/1084800784/peptoc-hotline-kindergarteners

Amid a crush of heavy news from around the world, who couldn't use some sage advice right now? Call a new hotline, and you'll get just that – encouraging words from a resilient group of kindergartners. Kids' voices will prompt you with a menu of options: If you're feeling mad, frustrated or nervous, press 1. If you need words of encouragement and life advice, press 2. If you need a pep talk from kindergartners, press 3. If you need to hear kids laughing with delight, press 4. For encouragement in Spanish, press 5. Pressing 3 leads to a chorus of kids sounding off a series of uplifting mantras: "Be grateful for yourself," offers one student. "If you're feeling up high and unbalanced, think of groundhogs," another chimes in. Peptoc, as the free hotline is called, is a project from the students of West Side Elementary, a small school in the town of Healdsburg, Calif. It was put together with the help of teachers Jessica Martin and Asherah Weiss. Martin, who teaches the arts program at the school, says she was inspired by her students' positive attitudes, despite all they've been through – the pandemic, wildfires in the region and just the everyday challenges of being a kid. "I thought, you know, with this world being as it is, we all really needed to hear from them – their extraordinary advice and their continual joy," she said. Martin says she hopes the hotline will give callers a little respite from whatever it is they're going through, which – judging from the thousands of calls the hotline gets each day – is quite a lot. So the next time you need a little boost, dial Peptoc at 707-998-8410.

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Teen Inventors Create Live Closed-Captioning Glasses for the Deaf
2015-12-16, Smithsonian Magazine
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/teen-inventors-create-live-closed-c...

It's a common misconception that most hearing-impaired people can easily read lips. But while many are indeed practiced lip readers, only 30 to 40 percent of English can be understood through watching the mouth. Much of spoken English occurs without lip movement. This leaves many hearing-impaired people at a loss when communicating with the hearing. Now, a company is hoping to help the hearing-impaired in a more seamless way. The Live-Time Closed Captioning System (LTCCS) instantly turns speech into scrolling text displaying on a tiny screen clipped to a pair of glasses. LTCCS's founders say it "restores the user's ability to engage in a naturally flowing conversation." LTCCS creator Daniil Frants was inspired to design the device when his guitar teacher asked him if he thought Google Glass might be able to somehow help him communicate with his hearing-impaired father. "I started messing around with Google Glass, seeing if it could do some closed captioning function," he says. "But after six months it became obvious that there was no way to do that effectively using Glass." So Frants decided to do it himself. He created a system built from existing or modified parts–a Raspberry Pi microcomputer, a voice recognition system and a display. The user wears a microphone, which is connected to the microcomputer. The microcomputer picks up sounds and translates them to text using the voice recognition software, then sends them up to the display in a pair of glasses.

Note: Two other versions of glasses allowing voice to text for the deaf can be found on this webpage and this one. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


California leads effort to let rivers roam, lower flood risk
2022-04-19, Associated Press
https://apnews.com/article/floods-climate-science-business-wildlife-502590d61...

Between vast almond orchards and dairy pastures in the heart of California's farm country sits a property being redesigned to look like it did 150 years ago, before levees restricted the flow of rivers that weave across the landscape. The 2,100 acres (1,100 hectares) at the confluence of the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers in the state's Central Valley are being reverted to a floodplain. That means when heavy rains cause the rivers to go over their banks, water will run onto the land, allowing traditional ecosystems to flourish and lowering flood risk downstream. The Dos Rios Ranch Preserve is California's largest single floodplain restoration project, part of the nation's broadest effort to rethink how rivers flow as climate change alters the environment. The land it covers used to be a farm, but the owners sold it to the nonprofit River Partners to use for restoring wildlife habitat. The state wants to fund and prioritize similar projects that lower risks to homes and property while providing other benefits, like boosting habitats, improving water quality and potentially recharging depleted groundwater supplies. By notching or removing levees, swelling rivers can flow onto land that no longer needs to be kept dry. For projects like Dos Rios, land that farmers no longer want to manage is being turned into space where rivers can breathe. Farther north, barriers on the Feather River have been altered to allow more water to flow into an existing wildlife area.

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Three amazing ways science can measure kindness
2021-11-12, BBC News
https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/articles/z2xbbqt

Kindness is great to give, and especially nice to receive. But isn't something you can see, or touch. So how can science research it? There is a way, and it's concerned with how our brains are behaving when we're doing a good deed for someone else - behaviour that can be recorded and analysed. Have you ever done a selfless act for someone and felt great about it afterwards? That's because part of ... something called the reward pathway. Dr Dan Campbell-Meiklejohn, a senior psychology lecturer ... described that reaction as: "At the moment when you help someone, you donate to charity, etc, the processes that happen in your brain are quite similar to other positive experiences. It activates the reward processing areas of the brain." The brain rewards us for being kind - in the nucleus accumbens - but there is another part where we can learn to be good to others. In 2016, [Dr Patricia Lockwood] led a study at University of Oxford that uncovered a part of the brain which lights up when we help others, compared to when we help ourselves. In the experiment, volunteers made use of a series of symbols. One symbol rewarded them, while another only benefited others. The part of the brain that activated when people deliberately chose to help others is called the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex. When the study was published, it became known as the 'generosity centre'. Dr Lockwood said: "Put another way, the subgenual anterior cingulate seems to be especially tuned to benefiting other people."

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What we do and don't know about kindness
2021-09-21, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210921-what-we-do-and-dont-know-about-ki...

Kindness might once have been considered something of a soft topic, but it has begun to be taken seriously within academic research. When developmental psychologist Robin Banerjee ... surveyed past research, he found just 35 papers on kindness in psychology journals in the whole of the 1980s. In the past decade, there were more than 1,000. But there is still plenty to discover. One morning, people walking down a street in the Canadian city of Vancouver were asked to take part in an experiment. They were given an envelope containing either a $5 or $20 note. Half the people were instructed to spend the money on themselves. The other half were instructed to use the money to buy a present for someone else or to donate the money to charity. Whether they had $5 or $20 made no difference. The people who had spent it on someone else felt significantly happier than those who treated themselves. This is just one of many studies which has found that acting kindly can improve your wellbeing. In a meta-analysis, Oliver Scott Curry ... found that behaving kindly can have a small to medium effect on our wellbeing. On the BBC radio programme The Kindness Test ... neuroscientist Dan Campbell-Meiklejohn told me that this can seem counterintuitive. "Kindness can cost us, yet we experience a sense of reward in parts of our brain when we are kind to others, just as we do when eat yummy food or have a pleasant surprise. These parts of the brain become active and motivate us to do them again and again."

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From seawater to drinking water, with the push of a button
2022-04-28, MIT News
https://news.mit.edu/2022/portable-desalination-drinking-water-0428

MIT researchers have developed a portable desalination unit, weighing less than 10 kilograms, that can remove particles and salts to generate drinking water. The suitcase-sized device, which requires less power to operate than a cell phone charger, can also be driven by a small, portable solar panel, which can be purchased online for around $50. It automatically generates drinking water that exceeds World Health Organization quality standards. The technology is packaged into a user-friendly device that runs with the push of one button. Unlike other portable desalination units that require water to pass through filters, this device utilizes electrical power to remove particles from drinking water. Eliminating the need for replacement filters greatly reduces the long-term maintenance requirements. This could enable the unit to be deployed in remote and severely resource-limited areas, such as communities on small islands or aboard seafaring cargo ships. It could also be used to aid refugees fleeing natural disasters or by soldiers carrying out long-term military operations. "This is really the culmination of a 10-year journey that I and my group have been on. We worked for years on the physics behind individual desalination processes, but pushing all those advances into a box, building a system, and demonstrating it in the ocean, that was a really meaningful and rewarding experience for me," says senior author Jongyoon Han, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science and of biological engineering.

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This Guy Invented Shoes That Grow Five Sizes In Five Years For Kids In Developing Countries
2015-04-17, BuzzFeed
https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/emaoconnor/five-sizes-in-five-years

Kenton Lee was working at an orphanage in Kenya when he noticed a little girl with the ends of her shoes cut off and her toes sticking out. It was then that he came up with the idea for The Shoe That Grows. "For years the idea of these growing shoes wouldn't leave my mind," he told BuzzFeed News. Lee and his team at first tried to give the idea to companies like Nike, Crocs, and Toms, to no avail. Eventually they found a "shoe development company" called Proof of Concept who agreed to help them with the design. The shoe is made out of a high quality soft leather on top, and extremely durable rubber soles similar material to a tire, Lee said. They expand through a simple system of buckles, snaps, and pegs. The shoes are predicted to last a minimum of five years, and expand five sizes in that time. The small size will fit preschoolers through fifth graders, while the large will fit fifth through ninth graders. "I had no idea how important shoes were before I went to Kenya," Lee said. "But kids, especially in urban areas, can get infections from cuts and scrapes on their feet from going barefoot, and contract diseases that cause them to miss school." The 30-year-old ... said he wanted to put these kids in the best possible position to succeed in their lives. "If I can provide a kid with protection so they stay healthy and keep going to school, I'll have done my part." Donors can either buy shoes to distribute themselves, or buy a pair of shoes and choose one of five American nonprofit organizations to distribute them.

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She's Summited Everest 9 Times: Meet Lhakpa Sherpa, A World Record-Holder
2022-04-05, The Travel
https://www.thetravel.com/lhakpa-sherpa-female-world-record-holder-nine-evere...

We've all heard stories about extraordinary climbers. These are people who defy the stakes in an attempt to beat the odds every time they summit a mountain that others have only seen in photos. Whereas the average hiker has seen upwards of only 10,000 feet, extreme athletes and professional alpinists have explored the summits of mountains towering well over 18,000 feet. For some, the ultimate summit sits at a harrowing height of 29,032 feet. It's unimaginable: A temperature so cold that few living organisms can survive its inhospitable conditions. A lack of oxygen at its highest peak, where not even a helicopter can reach those who might be stranded. Despite all of those dangers, one woman holds the world record for surviving this not once, but nine times. That remarkable woman is Lhakpa Sherpa, a Nepali native born in the small Himalayan village of Balakharka who is about to reset her own record this year. Lhakpa Sherpa currently holds the Guinness World Record for the female climber with the most successful ascents of Everest to date. This is a record that she has held consistently for more than two decades now. Lhakpa is one of 11 children, five of whom have summited Everest. It was here that her love began, and it would become a lifelong affair with the mountains that she grew up admiring every single day. As an adult, Lhakpa is a single parent of three children, with whom she also shares her love for mountain climbing and hiking.

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The French town where the lighting is alive
2022-04-10, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20220407-the-living-lights-that-could-redu...

In Rambouillet, a small French town around 30 miles (50km) south-west of Paris, a soft blue light emanated from a row of cylindrical tubes. Members of the public ... were invited to bathe in the glow for a few minutes. Soon, the same azure glow will illuminate the nearby, tree-lined Place AndrĂ© ThomĂ© et Jacqueline ThomĂ©-PatenĂ´tre, located just across from the aptly named La Lanterne performance hall, at night. These ethereal experiments are also underway across France. But unlike standard streetlamps, which often emit a harsh glare and need to be hooked up to the electricity grid, these otherworldly lights are powered by living organisms through a process known as bioluminescence. This phenomenon – where chemical reactions inside an organism's body produce light – can be observed in many places in nature. Organisms as diverse as fireflies, fungi and fish have the ability to glow through bioluminescence. The turquoise blue glow bathing the waiting room in Rambouillet ... comes from a marine bacterium gathered off the coast of France called Aliivibrio fischeri. The bacteria are stored inside saltwater-filled tubes, allowing them to circulate in a kind of luminous aquarium. Since the light is generated through internal biochemical processes that are part of the organism's normal metabolism, running it requires almost no energy. "Our goal is to change the way in which cities use light," says Sandra Rey, founder of the French start-up Glowee, which is behind the project in Rambouillet.

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Chilean start-up, 'Wheel the World,' broadens horizons for disabled
2019-09-17, Reuters
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-chile-tourism-idUSKBN1W21OK

A Chilean start-up has been launched to open up some of the world's most iconic tourist attractions to disabled visitors. The idea for Wheel the World was borne out of an expedition three years ago to Chile's Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia by a group of friends from the University of California at Berkeley. The group crowd-funded a special wheelchair for their friend, Álvaro Silberstein, who was left quadriplegic following a car accident when he was 18. They documented their trip [and] began investigating other bucket-list vacations that could be adapted for the disabled. Since its inception last year, Wheel the World's seven-man team has arranged trips for more 900 people, including to Chile's driest desert, San Pedro de Atacama, scuba diving off Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean, ziplining in Costa Rica and a trek along the Inca Trail to Peru's Machu Picchu. Today, the group has 16 destinations both in Chile and four other countries on its online platform, and aims to increase that to 150 by 2020. Silberstein, the firm's chief executive, said the Patagonian trip had made him realize that nothing was impossible. "We realized that with the right equipment and the right information, we can help people with disabilities have these kind of experiences, to open their minds to see that we are capable of anything," he said. "There are many initiatives to make tourism more accessible ... but no one is doing it on a global level, matching tourism services with the specific needs of disabled people. That's what we do," he said.

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He won $217 million in the lottery, then spent nearly all of it to help save the planet
2022-04-09, CNN News
https://www.cnn.com/2022/04/09/world/france-lotto-winner-spends-on-planet-cli...

A lucky Frenchman has decided to dedicate most of his record-breaking $217 million lottery jackpot to a nature foundation he created. The winner, nicknamed "Guy" by French lottery group Françaises des Jeux (FDJ), won the sum in December 2020. "From my point of view, the priority today is saving the planet," Guy [said]. "We must act. It is an absolute emergency. If nothing is done in this regard, all other actions will be in vain. We will no longer exist." Revisiting the moment of his win, Guy [said] he could still remember his doubts and disbelief. After it became clear he was indeed the winner, he said, he made up his mind to put the money to good use. "The minute I found out I was the lucky winner of the EuroMillions, I had the will to share my luck," he said. He was already determined to create his own foundation at the time of his win. The result of Guy's determination is Anyama, a foundation named after a town in Côte d'Ivoire where he spent several years during his childhood. "I have passed on most of my prize money and will gradually give away almost all of it," he said. The Anyama foundation website explained it was Guy's memory of watching trucks loaded with trees in Côte d'Ivoire which motivated him to create an environmental foundation. "This procession of trucks left a deep impression on me and filled me with outrage," he said. The lottery group FDJ welcomed Guy's decision to donate most of his prize to saving the environment ... calling it an exceptional and generous gesture.

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Can magic mushrooms be used to treat racial trauma?
2022-03-28, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2022/mar/28/magic-mushrooms-racial-t...

Evan, a middle-class Black man, doesn't come across as a psychedelic enthusiast. He's a 23-year-old quantitative economics graduate student who takes pride in steaming his sweater vests to maintain a studious appearance. In 2015, Evan's father was arrested for misdemeanor drug possession. A teenager at the time, he swore off drugs forever. But six years later, magic mushrooms have become Evan's remedy to cope with racial trauma. Like most Americans, Evan followed the widespread media coverage of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor's deaths in 2020. And like many Black Americans, he experienced traumatic-stress symptoms triggered by the constant exposure to cases of police brutality and racial discrimination. Debilitating panic attacks incapacitated him multiple times a day; insomnia drained his ... energy. After unsuccessfully trying three different anti-anxiety medications, he finally stumbled upon a study on psychedelics for racial trauma. He wondered: could psychedelic therapy be the solution? Psilocybin, the active compound in magic mushrooms, has been found to mitigate acute anxiety among patients with life-threatening cancer. A state-sponsored study in Texas is investigating psychedelics as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans. But one lesser-known benefit has been documented by researchers at the University of Ottawa: psychedelics may alleviate symptoms of race-based traumatic stress.

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TESLA, AT 78, BARES NEW 'DEATH-BEAM'; Invention Powerful Enough to Destroy 10,000 Planes 250 Miles Away, He Asserts.
1934-07-11, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/1934/07/11/archives/tesla-at-78-bares-new-deathbeam-i...

Nikola Tesla, father of modern methods of generation and distribution of electrical energy, who was 78 years old yesterday, announced a new invention, or inventions, which he said, he considered the most important of the 700 made by him so far. He has perfected a method and apparatus, Dr. Tesla said yesterday ... which will send concentrated beams of particles through the free air, of such tremendous energy that they will bring down a fleet of 10,000 enemy airplanes at a distance of 250 miles from a defending nation's border and will cause armies of millions to drop dead in their tracks. This "death-beam," Dr. Tesla said, will operate silently but effectively at distances "as far as a telescope could see an object on the ground and as far as the curvature of the earth would permit it." It will be invisible and will leave no marks behind it beyond its evidence of destruction. An army of 1,000,000 dead, annihilated in an instant, he said, would not reveal even under the most powerful microscope just what catastrophe had caused its destruction. Dr. Tesla said this latest invention of his would make war impossible. It would make every nation impregnable against attack by airplanes or by large invading armies. But while it will make every nation safe against any attack by a would-be invader, Dr. Tesla added, the death-beam by its nature could not be employed similarly as a weapon for offense. For this death-beam, he explained, could be generated only from large, stationary and immovable power plants.

Note: To read the full article, visit this webpage. Learn more about this prolific inventor in Nikola Tesla's Autobiography.


Scientists figure out how to store solar energy for 18 years
2022-04-13, The Independent (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.independent.co.uk/tech/solar-power-renewable-energy-climate-b2056...

Scientists have discovered a way to capture solar energy and store it for nearly two decades, before releasing it when it is needed. Using a system called molecular solar thermal energy storage (MOST), researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China developed an ultra-thin chip to act as a thermoelectric generator. "This is a radically new way of generating electricity from solar energy," said Kasper Moth-Poulsen, a professor at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers who led the research. "It means that we can use solar energy to produce electricity regardless of weather, time of day, season, or geographical location." The MOST system uses a specially designed molecule that reacts to sunlight in order to capture the Sun's energy. After loading it with solar energy in Sweden, Chalmers University sent it to their colleagues in Shanghai where they were able to convert it into electricity. "Essentially, Swedish sunshine was sent to the other side of the world and converted into electricity in China," said a statement released by Chalmers University. The researchers hope the technology can lead to self-charging electronics that use stored solar energy on demand, as well as holding the potential to transform renewable and emissions-free energy production. More research and development is required before the system can be implemented at scale, thought Chalmers University said it has already attracted "great interest worldwide."

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The grass really IS greener! NASA discovers 'ambitious tree planting programs' in China and India has made the world more leafy now than it was 20 years ago
2019-03-01, Daily Mail (One of the UK's popular newspapers)
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-6759901/NASA-discovers-China-...

China and India have planted so many trees that the world is now greener than it was 20 years ago, a counterintuitive new study claims. The superpowers are two of the world's top three most polluting nations and the increase in foliage is mostly a result of 'ambitious tree planting programs'. NASA research discovered there is five per cent more greenery every year compared to the 2000s, resulting in more than two million square miles of extra greenery - the equivalent of more than the Amazon rainforest. Chi Chen from Boston University, who led the research, said China and India 'account for one-third of the greening, but contain only 9 percent of the planet's land area covered in vegetation'. The greening on the planet was first detected in the mid-1990s and from images provided by NASA'S MODIS tool which orbits the Earth on two satellites and provides high resolution images of Earth's surface. China is responsible for a quarter of the overall increase in green leaf area but has only 6.6 per cent of all the world's foliage. India has contributed a further 6.8 per cent rise in green leaf area. Scientists say it is important to factor in this latest finding into future climate change prediction models. 'This long-term data lets us dig deeper,' said Rama Nemani, a research scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, and a co-author of the work. The research was published in the journal Nature Sustainability.

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The Human Library Is Tackling Diversity And Inclusion One Person At A Time
2020-07-13, Forbes
https://www.forbes.com/sites/kimelsesser/2020/07/13/the-human-library-is-tack...

The Human Library challenges stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue. In the Human Library, people, instead of traditional books, are on loan to readers. Founder, Ronni Abergel says the Human Library was started to create a space "where you can walk in, borrow a human being and talk to them about a very challenging topic. Ideally, we wanted people to talk about issues that they normally would not talk about, or potentially don't like to talk about, but that we need to talk about." These human "books" are volunteers that come from diverse backgrounds and have experiences that they are willing to share with their human readers. Just like traditional books, the human books have titles that describe their experiences like Black Activist, Chronic Depression, Survivor of Trafficking, Muslim, Latino, Transgender and many more. Sometimes one-on-one and sometimes in small groups, the Human Library creates a safe space where people can engage with someone different from themselves. When the library aids in corporate diversity and inclusion efforts, the readers are the organization's employees who are encouraged to ask difficult questions of the human books–things they always wanted to know but never had the opportunity to ask."It's easy to hate a group of people, but it's harder to hate an individual, particularly if that person is trying to be friendly and open and accommodating and totally non-threatening," says Bill Carney, a volunteer book in the Human Library.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Giraffe populations are rising, giving new hope to scientists
2022-01-12, National Geographic
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/giraffe-populations-rising...

Giraffe numbers have increased across Africa, new research shows, a rare spot of good news in the conservation world. According to a recent analysis of survey data from across the African continent, the total giraffe population is now around 117,000, approximately 20 percent higher than it was thought to be in 2015, when the last major survey was published. This rise is a result of genuine growth in some areas, but also stems from more accurate census data, says Julian Fennessy, executive director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, based in Namibia. "It's great to see these numbers increasing," says Fennessy, a co-author of the new research. Giraffes were once considered a single species. But recent genetic evidence shows there are likely four species of giraffe, three of which have increased considerably in number: northern, reticulated, and Masai giraffes. The fourth, southern giraffes, have remained relatively stable. Data were collected during the last few years across 21 countries, by governments, researchers, nonprofits, and even citizen scientists. Fennessy and six co-authors then analyzed this vast trove of information and published the results ... in the peer-reviewed research volume Imperiled: The Encyclopedia of Conservation. Northern giraffes, the most threatened species, live in isolated populations across Central and West Africa, as well as Uganda and parts of Kenya. The new paper estimates there are more than 5,900 of this species, a significant increase from 2015, when there were 4,780.

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The deep seafloor is filled with entire branches of life yet to be discovered
2022-02-05, Live Science
https://www.livescience.com/deep-ocean-floor-teeming-with-unknown-life

The deep-ocean floor is teeming with undiscovered life-forms that help to regulate Earth's climate, a new study finds. Researchers sequenced DNA from deep-sea sediments around the world and found that there is at least three times more life on the seafloor than there is higher up in the ocean. What's more, nearly two-thirds of that life has not been formally identified yet. "It's been known since the 1960s that species diversity is very high in the deep sea, so very high numbers of species," co-author Andrew Gooday [said]. "What was new about this study was that there was a lot of novel diversity at the higher taxonomic level." In other words, there are a lot of unknown evolutionary lineages – like whole families of species – waiting to be discovered. The deep-ocean floor covers more than half of Earth's surface but is home to some of the least-studied ecosystems, according to the study. Previous research analyzed DNA collected through the water column, from above the ocean floor up to the surface, so this latest study sought to complete the picture and give a global view of biodiversity in the ocean by looking at seafloor DNA within deep-sea sediments. The researchers also learned more about the role the deep ocean plays in the so-called biological pump, the process by which ocean organisms such as phytoplankton absorb carbon from the atmosphere near the surface and sink to the deep sea, where the carbon is sequestered in the sediments.

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What if College Were Free? This State Is Trying to Find Out.
2022-03-31, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/31/us/new-mexico-free-college.html

As universities across the United States face steep enrollment declines, New Mexico's government is embarking on a pioneering experiment to fight that trend: tuition-free higher education for all state residents. After President Biden's plan for universal free community college failed to gain traction in Congress, New Mexico, one of the nation's poorest states, has emerged with perhaps the most ambitious plans. A new state law approved in a rare show of bipartisanship allocates almost 1 percent of the state's budget toward covering tuition and fees at public colleges and universities, community colleges and tribal colleges. All state residents from new high school graduates to adults enrolling part-time will be eligible regardless of family income. The program is also open to immigrants regardless of their immigration status. Some legislators and other critics question whether there should have been income caps, and whether the state, newly flush with oil and gas revenue, can secure long-term funding to support the program beyond its first year. The legislation, which seeks to treat college as a public resource similar to primary and secondary education, takes effect in July. Although nearly half the states have embraced similar initiatives that seek to cover at least some tuition expenses for some students, New Mexico's law goes further by covering tuition and fees before other scholarships and sources of financial aid are applied, enabling students to use those other funds for expenses such as lodging, food or child care.

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Amid war and disease, World Happiness Report shows bright spot
2022-03-18, McGill University
https://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/channels/news/amid-war-and-disease-world-happi...

In this troubled time of war and pandemic, the World Happiness Report 2022 shows a bright light in dark times. According to the team of international researchers, including McGill University Professor Christopher Barrington-Leigh, the pandemic brought not only pain and suffering but also an increase in social support and benevolence. "COVID-19 is the biggest health crisis we've seen in more than a century," says Professor John Helliwell of the University of British Columbia. "Now that we have two years of evidence, we are able to assess not just the importance of benevolence and trust, but to see how they have contributed to well-being during the pandemic." Helliwell adds "We found during 2021 remarkable worldwide growth in all three acts of kindness monitored in the Gallup World Poll. Helping strangers, volunteering, and donations in 2021 were strongly up in every part of the world, reaching levels almost 25% above their pre-pandemic prevalence. This surge of benevolence, which was especially great for the helping of strangers, provides powerful evidence that people respond to help others in need, creating in the process more happiness for the beneficiaries, good examples for others to follow, and better lives for themselves." For the fifth year in a row Finland takes the top spot as the happiest in the world. This year its score was significantly ahead of other countries in the top ten. Denmark continues to occupy second place, with Iceland up from 4th place last year to 3rd this year.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Trees Talk To Each Other. 'Mother Tree' Ecologist Hears Lessons For People, Too
2021-05-04, NPR
https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/05/04/993430007/trees-talk-to-...

Trees are "social creatures" that communicate with each other in cooperative ways that hold lessons for humans, too, ecologist Suzanne Simard says. Trees are linked to neighboring trees by an underground network of fungi that resembles the neural networks in the brain, she explains. In one study, Simard watched as a Douglas fir that had been injured by insects appeared to send chemical warning signals to a ponderosa pine growing nearby. The pine tree then produced defense enzymes to protect against the insect. "This was a breakthrough," Simard says. The trees were sharing "information that actually is important to the health of the whole forest." In addition to warning each other of danger, Simard says that trees have been known to share nutrients at critical times to keep each other healthy. She says the trees in a forest are often linked to each other via an older tree she calls a "mother" or "hub" tree. The study of trees took on a new resonance for Simard when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. During the course of her treatment, she learned that one of the chemotherapy medicines she relied on was actually derived from a substance some trees make for their own mutual defense. "One of the main chemotherapy medicines that was administered to me was paclitaxel [also called Taxol]," [she said]. "Paclitaxel is a defense agent – actually a defense chemical – that is produced by the Pacific yew tree, or all yews around the world, actually. It was essential to my recovery."

Note: Watch a great TED Talk by this intrepid scientist showing how forests are much more interconnected than we might imagine. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Solar paint offers endless energy from water vapor
2017-06-04, Phys Org
https://phys.org/news/2017-06-solar-endless-energy-vapor.html

Researchers have developed a solar paint that can absorb water vapour and split it to generate hydrogen - the cleanest source of energy. The paint contains a newly developed compound that acts like silica gel, which is used in sachets to absorb moisture and keep food, medicines and electronics fresh and dry. But unlike silica gel, the new material, synthetic molybdenum-sulphide, also acts as a semi-conductor and catalyses the splitting of water atoms into hydrogen and oxygen. Lead researcher Dr Torben Daeneke, from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, said: "We found that mixing the compound with titanium oxide particles leads to a sunlight-absorbing paint that produces hydrogen fuel from solar energy and moist air. "Titanium oxide is the white pigment that is already commonly used in wall paint, meaning that the simple addition of the new material can convert a brick wall into energy harvesting and fuel production real estate. "Our new development has a big range of advantages," he said. "There's no need for clean or filtered water to feed the system. Any place that has water vapour in the air ... can produce fuel." His colleague ... Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, said hydrogen was the cleanest source of energy and could be used in fuel cells as well as conventional combustion engines as an alternative to fossil fuels. "This system can also be used in very dry but hot climates near oceans. The sea water is evaporated by the hot sunlight and the vapour can then be absorbed to produce fuel.

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Cool to be kind: being nice is good for us – so why don't we all do it?
2022-03-13, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2022/mar/13/cool-to-be-kind-being-nice-is...

What is it, exactly, that makes us kind? Why are some of us kinder than others – and what stops us from being kinder? The Kindness Test, a major new study involving more than 60,000 people from 144 different countries, has been looking into these and other questions. It is believed to be the largest public study of kindness ever carried out in the world. The results, which are currently the subject of a three-part Radio 4 documentary The Anatomy of Kindness, suggest that people who receive, give or even just notice more acts of kindness tend to experience higher levels of wellbeing and life satisfaction. Other encouraging findings are that as many as two-thirds of people think the pandemic has made people kinder and nearly 60% of participants in the study claimed to have received an act of kindness in the previous 24 hours. Luke Cameron, dubbed the "nicest man in Britain", once spent a year doing a good deed every day. It taught him that sometimes offering some help, reassurance or a kind word can make a huge difference. "It's made me more aware of things that happen in front of me. If someone falls over in the street, there's always going to be people who go and help and others who stand back. It's made me one of those people who go and help. Consciously, I now just do it." He became that person, he says, after a "mindset shift" where he realised: "Actually, if it was me, I'd want somebody to help me. That makes you think differently about how you are with people."

Note: Listen to "The Anatomy of Kindness" on BBC4. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Cancer Without Chemotherapy: ‘A Totally Different World'
2021-09-27, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/27/health/breast-cancer-chemotherapy-lung.html

Dr. Seema Doshi was shocked and terrified when she found a lump in her breast that was eventually confirmed to be cancerous. "That rocked my world," said Dr. Doshi, a dermatologist in private practice. "I thought, ‘That's it. I will have to do chemotherapy.'" She was wrong. Dr. Doshi was the beneficiary of a quiet revolution in breast cancer treatment, a slow chipping away at the number of people for whom chemotherapy is recommended. Chemotherapy for decades was considered "the rule, the dogma," for treating breast cancer and other cancers, said Dr. Gabriel Hortobagyi, a breast cancer specialist. But data from a variety of sources offers some confirmation of what many oncologists say anecdotally – the method is on the wane for many cancer patients. Genetic tests can now reveal whether chemotherapy would be beneficial. For many there are better options with an ever-expanding array of drugs, including estrogen blockers and drugs that destroy cancers by attacking specific proteins on the surface of tumors. And there is a growing willingness among oncologists to scale back unhelpful treatments. The result spares thousands each year from the dreaded chemotherapy treatment, with its accompanying hair loss, nausea, fatigue, and potential to cause permanent damage to the heart and to nerves in the hands and feet. The diminution of chemotherapy treatment is happening for some other cancers, too, including lung cancer.

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The Five Biggest New Energy Trends In 2022
2022-03-01, Forbes
https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2022/03/01/the-five-biggest-new-ener...

2022 is set to be a record year in terms of the scale at which the switchover from fossil fuels to renewable sources will take place. It's also a year in which we will see new and exotic sources of energy emerge from laboratory and pilot projects. Artificial intelligence (AI) is having transformative effects across energy and utilities. It is used to forecast demand and manage the distribution of resources, to ensure that power is available at the time and place it's needed with a minimum of waste. Hydrogen is the most abundant material in the universe and produces close to zero greenhouse gas emissions when burnt. Green [hydrogen] is created by a process involving electrolysis and water, and generating the required electricity from renewable sources like wind or solar power effectively makes the process carbon-free. This year, a number of major European energy companies, including Shell and RWE, committed to creating the first major green hydrogen pipeline from offshore wind plants in the North Sea throughout Europe. In solar, companies including Dutch startup Lusoco are finding new ways to engineer photovoltaic panels using different reflecting and refracting materials – including fluorescent ink - to concentrate light onto the solar cells, leading to more efficient harvesting of energy. This results in panels that are lighter as well as cheaper, and less energy-intensive to produce and install. New materials are also being developed that convert energy more effectively.

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The marvel of old-growth forests that once cloaked the Pacific Northwest
2022-03-14, Seattle Times
https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/the-marvel-of-old-growt...

Pools and streams and springs course and seep and drip. The waters sparkle with clarity and are achingly cold. Moisture glazes the rocks with an ineffable shine. The air is scented with wet, the tread underfoot softened with it. The tiered branches and filtered light create a realm of soft sounds and the feeling of a living dream of green, blue and brown, one ridge and hill of forest easing to the next. There are trees from sprouts to the ancients that have gained a look attained only at great age. Their bark flakes and shreds, and trunks soar to an apse raised over centuries. The soil is darker than coffee grounds, inky, sweet and redolent of fructifying forest funk. "This is the gold," [forest ecology professor Suzanne] Simard said, as she crumbled the soil in her hands, and teased apart filaments within it, finer than a human hair. These are fungal threads. Simard discovered in pioneering research they wind through these soils in a web of connections from tree to tree, sharing nutrients and water. Simard and others have revealed that trees also can recognize their own kin in seedlings they preferentially shuttle nutrients to, through the fungal network. In research published in the New Phytologist in 2016, Simard and her collaborators demonstrated carbon transfer – crucial food – was three to four times greater in kin than in nonkin pairings of Douglas fir seedlings. Kinship increased both the likelihood of establishment of a symbiotic relationship between kin linked by a fungal network, and its robustness.

Note: Watch a great TED Talk by this intrepid scientist showing how forests are much more interconnected than we might imagine. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Remote Bolivian tribe has lowest dementia rates worldwide
2022-03-18, Optimist Daily
https://www.optimistdaily.com/2022/03/remote-bolivian-tribe-has-lowest-dement...

A remote and unique indigenous population in the Bolivian Amazon called the Tsimane (pronounced chee-MAH-nay) sparked the interest of scientists when they were found to show almost no cases of age-related heart disease. Since then, scientists have carried out various studies into the Tsimane community due to their exceptional health even in old age. In 2017, researchers from The Tsimane Health and Life History Project were astonished to find that the elderly Tsimane experienced unusually low levels of vascular aging, and a study in The Lancet reported that the average 80-year-old Tsimane adult demonstrated the same vascular age as a 55-year-old American. Researchers are now looking into the brain health of the Tsimane community, in particular the prevalence of dementia. Only five cases of dementia were detected, which equates to about one percent of the population studied–significantly below the 11 percent of the equivalent American population known to be living with dementia. Researchers also studied 169 individuals hailing from the Moseten community, a community genetically and linguistically similar to the Tsimane. The Moseten also showed very low levels of dementia, even though they lived in closer proximity to modern Bolivian society. "Something about the pre-industrial subsistence lifestyle appears to protect older Tsimane and Moseten from dementia," says Margaret Gatz, lead author of the study.

Note: The profoundly inspiring documentary "Alive Inside" presents the astonishing experiences of elderly individuals with severe dementia who are revitalized through the simple experience of listening to music that meant something to them in their earlier years. Featuring experts including renowned neurologist/best-selling author Oliver Sacks and musician Bobby McFerrin, this beautiful portrait of senile patients coming back to life was the winner of Sundance Film Festival Audience Award.


Thousands of calls later, Denver's acclaimed program that provides an alternative to police response is expanding
2022-02-20, Denver Post
https://www.denverpost.com/2022/02/20/denver-star-program-expansion/

Since June 2020, the mental health clinicians and paramedics working for Denver's Support Team Assisted Response program have covered hundreds of miles in their white vans responding to 911 calls instead of police officers. They've responded to reports of people experiencing psychotic breaks. They've helped a woman experiencing homelessness who couldn't find a place to change, so she undressed in an alley. They've helped suicidal people, schizophrenic people, people using drugs. They've handed out water and socks. They've helped connect people to shelter, food and resources. The program, known as STAR, began 20 months ago with a single van and a two-person team. More than 2,700 calls later, STAR is getting ready to expand to six vans and more than a dozen workers – growth the program's leaders hope will allow the teams to respond to more than 10,000 calls a year. The Denver City Council last week voted unanimously to approve a $1.4 million contract with the Mental Health Center of Denver for the program's continuation and expansion. The contract means the program that aims to send unarmed health experts instead of police officers to certain emergency calls will soon have broader reach and more operational hours. "STAR is an example of a program that has worked for those it has had contact with," Councilwoman Robin Kniech said. "It is minimizing unnecessary arrests and unnecessary costs – whether that be jail costs or emergency room costs."

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Delivery driver works 7 days a week to create library at former elementary school in Ghana
2021-08-28, CTV News
https://vancouverisland.ctvnews.ca/saanich-b-c-delivery-driver-works-7-days-a...

Isaac Oduro will never forget the day he was doing deliveries and received a $100 tip. It was so different than what Isaac experienced back in Africa. Isaac moved to Canada alone and worked for years to support his wife and sons in Ghana before they could join him. Two years ago, he returned to his hometown. "I feel so sad when I went back," Isaac says of the old elementary school he last attended 30 years ago. "(It) was in a deplorable state." Issac says the problems ranged from a roof filled with holes to classrooms empty of books. "I wasn't happy about what I saw, so I decided I'm going to do something." Isaac immediately bought seven whiteboards for the school, before making a commitment to do even more later. "I'm going to go back to Canada," Isaac says, after posing for pictures in the school with the new boards. "And in two years I'm going to come back and build a library." When Issac isn't working two jobs (10 hours a day, seven days a week) to earn funds for the renovations, he's requesting book donations from local companies. "Right now, I have 3,000 books," Isaac says. Isaac has packed up most of the books and arranged for them to be shipped to Ghana, along with bags of new school supplies. The library is slowly but surely being transformed, with a new roof, floor, paint and fans. It's on schedule for Isaac's return this fall to help finish the project and fill the school with with hope again. "(I hope) to keep them reading, to keep them learning," Isaac says.

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Hero Driver Sacrifices His Own Car To Save Another Driver Who Is Having A Seizure
2021-11-22, Sunny Skyz
https://www.sunnyskyz.com/good-news/4469/Hero-Driver-Sacrifices-His-Own-Car-T...

A motorist in the Netherlands sacrificed his own vehicle to save another motorist who was having a seizure on the highway. Henry Temmermans from Nunspeet was driving on the A28 highway near Harderwijk on Friday afternoon when he saw another car driving in the grass on the highway. He peered into her window and realized she was unconscious. "I didn't hesitate for a moment. I had to do something," he [said]. He sped up to get in front of the woman's car and then slowed down so she would crash into him. His plan worked. The woman crashed into the back of his car and came to a complete stop. Behind them was another motorist who managed to record the entire incident on his dashcam. "We both got out immediately. He called 112 and then we looked in the car together," Temmermans said. An ambulance arrived 10 minutes later and took the woman to the hospital. She suffered a few broken ribs but will be okay. Temmermans had to call a [tow] truck as his vehicle was no longer drivable. "The other driver took me home. That turned out to be an old acquaintance from 25 years ago, when we were both young and wild," he said. The next day, the daughter and husband of the woman contacted Temmermans. "They were very grateful to me," he said.

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Congress Has Closed The Loophole That Allowed Federal Officers To Claim Sex With A Detainee Is Consensual
2022-03-16, Yahoo! News
https://news.yahoo.com/congress-closed-loophole-allowed-federal-155928392.html

Congress passed a bill last week explicitly prohibiting federal law enforcement officers from having sex with people in their custody, closing a loophole that previously allowed them to avoid a rape conviction by claiming such an encounter was consensual. The legal loophole gained widespread attention in 2018, after an 18-year-old woman in New York, Anna Chambers, said that two detectives raped her inside their police van. The detectives, who have since resigned, said she consented. Prosecutors ultimately dropped the sexual assault charges, and the men were sentenced to five years of probation after pleading guilty to bribery and official misconduct. In February 2018, BuzzFeed News reported that laws in 35 states allowed police officers to claim that a person in their custody consented to sex, and that of at least 158 law enforcement officers charged with sexual assault, sexual battery, or unlawful sexual contact with somebody under their control from 2006 to 2018, at least 26 were acquitted or had charges dropped based on the consent defense. Last week ... the Closing the Law Enforcement Consent Loophole Act passed the House and Senate as part of a broader appropriations bill. The act also requires states that receive certain federal grants to annually report to the Department of Justice the number of complaints alleging a sexual encounter between a local law enforcement officer and a person in their custody. The ... Act applies to the 100,000 or so law enforcement officers across all federal agencies.

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Here's Who MacKenzie Scott Donated To So Far In February
2022-02-12, Forbes
https://www.forbes.com/sites/rachelsandler/2022/02/12/heres-who-mackenzie-sco...

MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, is giving away her $46 billion fortune faster than anyone in history. In February alone, nine organizations announced gifts from Scott totaling $264.5 million. The largest donation, $133.5 million, went to Communities in Schools, a non-profit that helps keep at-risk children in schools. Another education nonprofit, Leading Educators, got $10 million to provide professional development for teachers. Scott donated to two organizations combatting addiction: $5 million to Shatterproof and $3 million to Young People in Recovery. Two groups focusing on reproductive rights, the Guttmacher Institute and the Collaborative for Gender + Reproductive Equity, received $15 million and $25 million respectively. The National Council on Aging got $8 million, while mental health nonprofit the Jed Foundation got $15 million. Additionally, the National 4-H Council, an agriculturally focused youth organization, received $50 million. Since divorcing Bezos in 2019, the 51-year-old Scott has emerged as one of the most secretive and prolific philanthropists in the world. Including February's gifts, she has given away a total of $8.8 billion in less than two years to more than 780 organizations–more than four times what her ex-husband has donated so far in his lifetime. Scott's gifts come in the form of unrestricted grants, meaning that nonprofits can spend the money however they want rather than on particular programs.

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Alzheimer's Disease: Music Brings Patients 'Back to Life'
2012-04-11, ABC News
https://abcnews.go.com/Health/AlzheimersCommunity/alzheimers-disease-music-br...

Henry Dryer sits slumped over the tray attached to his wheelchair. He doesn't speak, and rarely moves, until a nursing home worker puts his headphones on. Then Dryer's feet start to shuffle, his folded arms rock back and forth, and he sings out loud in perfect sync with his favorite songs. "I feel a band of love, dreams," said Dryer, 92, who has dementia. "It gives me the feeling of love, romance!" Henry is one of seven patients profiled in the documentary "Alive Inside," a heartwarming look at the power of music to help those in nursing homes. "There are a million and a half people in nursing homes in this country," director Michael Rossato-Bennett told ABC News. "When I saw what happened to Henry, whenever you see a human being awaken like that, it touches something deep inside you." Rossato-Bennett said he took on the documentary project to promote Music & Memory, a nonprofit organization that brings iPods with personalized music to dementia patients in nursing home care. "When I end up in a nursing home, I'll want to have my music with me," said Dan Cohen, executive director of Music & Memory. "There aren't many things in nursing homes that are personally meaningful activities. Here's the one easy thing that has a significant impact." Cohen said the personalized playlists, chosen by loved ones, make patients light up. "They're more alert, more attentive, more cooperative, more engaged," he said. "Even if they can't recognize loved ones and they've stopped speaking, they hear music and they come alive."

Note: Don't miss this profoundly touching and inspiring documentary available here. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Can MDMA Save a Marriage?
2022-02-08, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/08/well/mind/marriage-molly-mdma.html

After 10 years of marriage, Ree, 42, and her husband were ready to call it quits. Then a friend suggested that they try the illegal drug MDMA, popularly known as Ecstasy or Molly. For Ree ... the answer was an "immediate no." Six months later, after reading "How to Change Your Mind," the best-selling book by Michael Pollan that details his transformative experience with psychedelics, Ree reconsidered. And that's how they found themselves in a secluded area of Utah at a large, rented house with a beautiful view of the mountains to trip on MDMA with five other couples. During their first trip on MDMA, Ree said she and her husband tearfully discussed things they had trouble speaking about for the last decade: How his emotional withdrawal had affected her self-esteem, and how sorry she was that she had continually pushed him to open up without understanding the pain he held inside. "My husband started sharing with me for the first time all these thoughts and emotions," Ree said. "It was him without the walls," she added. They also cuddled in bed for hours, skin to skin, describing all the things they loved about one another. "For a person who has always had body image issues, to allow him to touch me – touch my stomach, the part of me I don't love, was incredibly healing," she said. They continued using MDMA about twice a year to help them have difficult conversations. They both started seeing therapists. Now, about three years after they first tried MDMA ... they no longer need the drug to speak openly with one another.

Note: Read more about the healing potentials of mind-altering drugs. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Alive Inside documentary shows the healing power of music
2012-04-12, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/us-news-blog/2012/apr/12/alive-inside-docum...

Henry Dryer, 92, is one of seven patients profiled in the documentary Alive Inside, a look at the power of music to help those with Alzheimer's. A clip of Dryer, who suffers from dementia, appears in an extraordinarily moving rough cut of the documentary that went up online this week. In the clip, which has been viewed 3 million times already, Dryer is largely mute and slumped over. He does not recognize his own daughter. But when a caregiver places a pair [of] headphones on him, he undergoes an astonishing transformation. His face, formerly slack and inert, lights up. His eyes beam, and he sways in his chair, keening along to the music of his youth. The effect lasts even after the headphones are removed. "I'm crazy about music," Dryer says. "I guess Cab Calloway was my number one band guy." Music "gives me the feeling of love", Dryer says. Author and neurologist Oliver Sacks, who has written extensively about the effects of music on the human brain, watches Dryer. "In some sense, Henry is restored to himself. He remembers who he is. He has reaquired his identity for a while through the power of music," Sacks says in the Alive Inside clip. "There are a million and a half people in nursing homes in this country," Alive Inside director Michael Rossato-Bennett told ABC News. "When I saw what happened to Henry, whenever you see a human being awaken like that, it touches something deep inside you."

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Life may actually flash before your eyes on death - new study
2022-02-23, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-60495730

New data from a scientific "accident" has suggested that life may actually flash before our eyes as we die. A team of scientists set out to measure the brainwaves of an 87-year-old patient who had developed epilepsy. But during the neurological recording, he suffered a fatal heart attack - offering an unexpected recording of a dying brain. It revealed that in the 30 seconds before and after, the man's brainwaves followed the same patterns as dreaming or recalling memories. Brain activity of this sort could suggest that a final "recall of life" may occur in a person's last moments, the team wrote in their study, published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. Dr Ajmal Zemmar, a co-author of the study, said that what the team, then based in Vancouver, Canada, accidentally got, was the first-ever recording of a dying brain. "I never felt comfortable to report one case," Dr Zemmar said. And for years after the initial recording in 2016, he looked for similar cases to help strengthen the analysis but was unsuccessful. But a 2013 study - carried out on healthy rats - may offer a clue. In that analysis, US researchers reported high levels of brainwaves at the point of the death until 30 seconds after the rats' hearts stopped beating - just like the findings found in Dr Zemmar's epileptic patient. The similarities between studies are "astonishing", Dr Zemmar said. They now hope the publication of this one human case may open the door to other studies on the final moments of life.

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A Psychedelic May Soon Go to the FDA for Approval to Treat Trauma
2022-02-01, Scientific American
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-psychedelic-may-soon-go-to-the-f...

Berra Yazar-Klosinski [is the] chief scientific officer at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). I ... committed to working with her on the phase 3 program that would assess the efficacy and safety of MDMA–known recreationally as Molly or Ecstasy–for severe PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Although more than half a dozen phase 2 studies have demonstrated the effectiveness and safety of MDMA for PTSD, early trials often fail to accurately predict the outcome of the larger, multisite phase 3 trials that follow. In the case of MDMA, we have been lucky. At 15 study sites across three countries, working with more than 70 different therapists and with study participants with childhood trauma, depression and a treatment-resistant subtype of PTSD, we have obtained incredibly promising results. Phase 3 study participants receiving MDMA-assisted therapy showed a greater reduction in PTSD symptoms and functional impairment than participants receiving placebo plus therapy. In addition, their symptoms of depression plummeted. By the end of the study more than 67 percent of the participants in the MDMA group no longer met criteria for PTSD. An additional 21 percent had a clinically meaningful response–in other words, a lessening of anxiety, depression, vigilant mental states, and emotional flatness. MDMA-assisted therapy did not increase measures of suicidal thinking or behavior. MDMA also did not demonstrate any measurable misuse potential.

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Congress approves sex harassment bill in #MeToo milestone
2022-02-14, San Francisco Chronicle/Associated Press
https://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/article/Congress-approves-sex-harassment...

Congress on Thursday gave final approval to legislation guaranteeing that people who experience sexual harassment at work can seek recourse in the courts, a milestone for the #MeToo movement that prompted a national reckoning on the way sexual misconduct claims are handled. The measure, which is expected to be signed by President Joe Biden, bars employment contracts from forcing people to settle sexual assault or harassment cases through arbitration rather than in court, a process that often benefits employers and keeps misconduct allegations from becoming public. Significantly, the bill is retroactive, nullifying that language in contracts nationwide and opening the door for people who had been bound by it to take legal action. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has spearheaded the effort, called it "one of the most significant workplace reforms in American history." "No longer will survivors of sexual assault or harassment in the workplace come forward and be told that they are legally forbidden to sue their employer because somewhere in buried their employment contracts was this forced arbitration clause," she said. Gillibrand, who has focused on combating sexual harassment and sexual misconduct in the military, originally introduced the legislation in 2017. The legislation had uncommonly broad, bipartisan support. That allowed the bill to be passed in the Senate by unanimous consent – a procedure almost never used for significant legislation, especially one affecting tens of millions of Americans.

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Why Finland's schools are great (by doing what we don't)
2011-10-13, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/ravitch-why-finlands-s...

For the past decade, 15-year-old Finnish students have consistently been at or near the top of all the nations tested in reading, mathematics, and science. And just as consistently, the variance in quality among Finnish schools is the least of all nations tested, meaning that Finnish students can get a good education in virtually any school in the nation. That's equality of educational opportunity, a good public school in every neighborhood. What makes the Finnish school system so amazing is that Finnish students never take a standardized test until their last year of high school, when they take a matriculation examination for college admission. There is a national curriculum – broad guidelines to assure that all students have a full education – but it is not prescriptive. Teachers have extensive responsibility for designing curriculum and pedagogy in their school. Teachers are prepared for all eventualities, including students with disabilities, students with language difficulties, and students with other kinds of learning issues. The schools I visited reminded me of our best private progressive schools. They are rich in the arts, in play, and in activity. Finland has one other significant advantage over the United States. The child-poverty rate in Finland is under 4 percent. Here it is 22 percent and rising. It's a well-known fact that family income is the most reliable predictor of academic performance. Finland has a strong social welfare system; we don't. It is not a "Socialist" nation, by the way. It is egalitarian and capitalist.

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Amazing Facts About Finland's Unorthodox Education System
2011-12-14, Business Insider
https://www.businessinsider.com/finland-education-school-2011-12

Finland's school system has consistently come at the top for the international rankings for education systems. So how do they do it? It's simple – by going against the evaluation-driven, centralized model that much of the Western world uses. Finnish children don't start school until they are 7. Compared with other systems, they rarely take exams or do homework until they are well into their teens. The children are not measured at all for the first six years of their education. There is only one mandatory standardized test in Finland, taken when children are 16. All children, clever or not, are taught in the same classrooms. Finland spends around 30 percent less per student than the United States. 30 percent of children receive extra help during their first nine years of school. 66 percent of students go to college. The difference between weakest and strongest students is the smallest in the World. Science classes are capped at 16 students so that they may perform practical experiments every class. 93 percent of Finns graduate from high school. 17.5 percent higher than the US. Elementary school students get 75 minutes of recess a day in Finnish [schools] versus an average of 27 minutes in the US. Teachers only spend 4 hours a day in the classroom, and take 2 hours a week for "professional development". Teachers are effectively given the same status as doctors and lawyers. In an international standardized measurement in 2001, Finnish children came top or very close to the top for science, reading and mathematics.

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The Power of Placebos
2022-02-12, Daily Good
https://www.dailygood.org/story/2889/the-power-of-placebos-elissa-h-patterson...

Did you ever feel your own shoulders relax when you saw a friend receive a shoulder massage? For those of you who said "yes," congratulations, your brain is using its power to create a "placebo effect." For those who said "no," you're not alone, but thankfully, the brain is trainable. Since the 1800s, the word placebo has been used to refer to a fake treatment, meaning one that does not contain any active, physical substance. Today, placebos play a crucial role in medical studies in which some participants are given the treatment containing the active ingredients of the medicine, and others are given a placebo. These types of studies help tell researchers which medicines are effective, and how effective they are. Surprisingly, however, in some areas of medicine, placebos themselves provide patients with clinical improvement. Research suggests that the placebo effect is caused by positive expectations, the provider-patient relationship and the rituals around receiving medical care. Depression, pain, fatigue, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, Parkinson's disease and even osteoarthritis of the knee are just a few of the conditions that respond positively to placebos. In addition to the ever-increasing body of evidence surrounding their effectiveness, placebos offer multiple benefits. They have no side effects. They are cheap. They are not addictive. They provide hope when there might not be a specific chemically active treatment available. They mobilize a person's own ability to heal through multiple pathways.

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Joe Biden Formally Backs Consumers' Right to Repair Their Electronics
2022-01-24, Vice
https://www.vice.com/en/article/qjbzpw/joe-biden-formally-backs-right-to-repair

President Biden became the first sitting president to give extensive comments supporting the right to repair and acknowledging the anticompetitive practices of electronics manufacturers that have spent the last decade creating repair monopolies and making it difficult for consumers to fix the things they own. At a cabinet meeting Monday, Biden gave an update on the executive order he issued last year that directed the Federal Trade Commission to create right to repair rules that would enforce against anticompetitive practices. "Too many areas, if you own a product, from a smartphone to a tractor, you don't have the freedom to choose how or where to repair that item you purchased," Biden added. "It's broke. Well, what do I do about it if it's broke, you had to go to the dealer and you had to pay the dealer's cost, the dealer's price. If you tried to fix it yourself, some manufacturers actually would void the warranty." Biden was referring here to practices by John Deere and Apple, as well as by video game console manufacturers, who as Motherboard reported violate the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act with "Warranty Void if Removed" stickers. Biden ... also took credit for recent moves from Amazon and Microsoft that will, in theory, make it easier for people to gain access to repair parts and manuals for their devices. "It's going to make it easy for millions of Americans to repair their electronics instead of paying an arm and a leg to repair or just throwing a device out."

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Billionaire Mark Cuban's Discounted Pharmacy Has Launched: 'Bypass Middlemen and Outrageous Markups
2022-01-25, People
https://people.com/human-interest/mark-cuban-discounted-pharmacy-has-launched/

Mark Cuban has opened up a new online pharmacy to help make generic drugs more affordable. The Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company (MCCPDC) officially launched last week, claiming to offer the "lowest prices on 100 lifesaving prescriptions, according to a press release. The company is able to offer lower prices because it's a registered pharmaceutical wholesaler, meaning MCCPDC can "bypass middlemen and outrageous markups," per the press release. "The pharmacy's prices reflect actual manufacturer prices plus a flat 15% margin and pharmacist fee," the press release states. The company also "refuses to pay spread prices" to pharmacy benefits managers, which manage prescription drug benefits on behalf of health insurers. One of the medications available is Imatinib, a leukemia treatment that has a retail price of $9,657 a month and costs around $120 a month with a common voucher, per the press release. However, the MCCPDC offers a steep discount, making the drug available for $47 per month. Two other notable prescriptions available at a significantly reduced price are Mesalamine, used for ulcerative colitis treatment, as well as gout treatment drug Colchicine. "Not everyone sets the goal of being the lowest cost producer and provider," the billionaire [said]. "My goal is to make a profit while maximizing impact." "We will do whatever it takes to get affordable pharmaceuticals to patients," CEO Alex Oshmyansky said.

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Seeing 1,000 glorious fin whales back from near extinction is a rare glimmer of hope
2022-01-17, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/jan/17/glorious-fin-whales-ext...

Good news doesn't get any more in-your-face than this. One thousand fin whales, one of the world's biggest animals, were seen last week swimming in the same seas in which they were driven to near-extinction last century due to whaling. It's like humans never happened. This vast assembly was spread over a five-mile-wide area between the South Orkney islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. A single whale is stupendous; imagine 1,000 of them, their misty forest of spouts, as tall as pine trees, the plosive sound of their blows, their hot breath condensing in the icy air. Their sharp dorsal fins and steel-grey bodies slide through the waves like a whale ballet, choreographed at the extreme south of our planet. The sight has left whale scientists slack-jawed and frankly green-eyed in envy of Conor Ryan, who observed it from the polar cruiser, National Geographic Endurance. Ryan, an experienced zoologist and photographer, says this may be "one of the largest aggregations of fin whales ever documented". His estimate of 1,000 animals is a conservative one, he says. Fin whales are surprisingly slender, serpentine creatures when you see them underwater, and so long that they seem to take for ever to swim past. Like blue, humpback and minke whales, they're baleen whales, distinguished by food-filtering keratinous plates in lieu of teeth. Unlike toothed whales, such as sperm whales and killer whales, they are not usually seen as social animals.

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British rower with incurable cancer sets new world record for Atlantic crossing
2022-01-24, The Independent (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/atlantic-cancer-research-uk-british-dol...

Three British women, one of whom has incurable cancer, have shattered the world record for rowing across the Atlantic. Kat Cordiner, who has secondary ovarian cancer, and teammates Abby Johnston and Charlotte Irving, arrived in Antigua on Sunday evening. The women completed the 3,000-mile crossing from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to English Harbour in 42 days ... knocking an astonishing seven days off the female trio record in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Rowing the world's second largest ocean is acknowledged as the ultimate endurance race. More people have summitted Mount Everest than have successfully rowed the Atlantic and fewer than 20% of ocean rowers are women. It is thought Ms Cordiner is the first person to tackle this challenge as a cancer patient. The women are raising money for Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support and The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. Race organisers said they had shown the impossible was possible. Ms Cordiner, 42, Ms Irving, 31, and Ms Johnston, 32, were on a 25ft boat – called Dolly Parton – rowing two hours on and two hours off. During their epic trip they experienced scorching heat, enormous night-time waves, sleep deprivation, blisters and callouses on their hands, and sharks trailing their small boat. Ms Cordiner said: "The doctors have told me I don't have decades, I have years, so I really want to make the most of them. I don't want to muck around doing stuff that doesn't matter – I want to do things that are challenging and fun."

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Windows giant Andersen leads $30M funding of solar window company
2022-01-12, Electrek
https://electrek.co/2022/01/12/windows-giant-andersen-leads-30m-funding-of-so...

Ubiquitous Energy claims that its technology, UE Power, is the only patented and transparent photovoltaic glass coating that uses solar power to generate energy while remaining visibly indistinguishable from traditional windows. The transparent solar panels can produce up to about 50% of the power of rooftop solar per given surface area, so it's designed to complement solar panels, not replace them. Ubiquitous Energy ... was started by a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Michigan State University scientists and engineers looking for new ways to integrate solar power technology into everyday products and surfaces. The company has begun a US site selection process for its first high-volume manufacturing line. Ubiquitous Energy says that "broad adoption of UE Power within architectural glass has the opportunity to offset up to an estimated 10% of global emissions, greatly reducing the 40% of global carbon emissions that come from buildings and improving their energy efficiency at the same time." Jay Lund, chairman and chief executive officer of Andersen Corporation, said: "Ubiquitous Energy's transparent photovoltaic technology is revolutionary and represents a new horizon for the fenestration industry."

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Forest schools flourish as youngsters log off and learn from nature
2021-10-31, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/education/2021/oct/31/forest-schools-flourish-as-...

After more than a year of lockdowns, with limited access to nature, Magdalena Begh was delighted when her six-year-old daughter came home from forest school and informed her she had found three rat skeletons. Since Alia and her sister Hana, nine, started going to the Urban Outdoors Adventures in Nature after-school club in north London in June, they have used clay, learned about insects and made campfires, marmalade and bows and arrows. They are part of a wave of children across the UK who have joined forest schools since the start of the pandemic. Of more than 200 forest schools surveyed by the Forest School Association (FSA), about two-thirds said demand for their services had increased since March 2020. Among the reasons cited were increased awareness of the benefits of the outdoors, especially in relation to stress and anxiety, Covid safety, and dissatisfaction with the school syllabus after months of pandemic homeschooling. Forest schools, which centre around unstructured play, exploration and intrinsic motivation, arrived in the UK in 1993. Inspired by the outdoors culture – or friluftsliv – of Scandinavia, sessions are usually held either entirely or mostly outdoors and are intended to supplement, rather than replace, traditional education. State schools are increasingly putting on forest school sessions for pupils within the school day because they are considered to be beneficial to mental and physical health, behaviour and academic attainment – as well as being relatively "Covid-proof".

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An 8-year-old boy paid off the lunch debt for his entire school by selling key chains
2020-02-04, CNN News
https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/04/us/boy-pays-off-lunch-debt-trnd/index.html

You may have heard of celebrities or multibillion-dollar companies donating money to cover students' lunch debt. But Keoni Ching from Vancouver, Washington, is just your normal 8-year-old who wanted to help his schoolmates. With his handmade key chains that go for $5 each, Keoni raised $4,015 to erase the lunch debt of students from his school and six others. It all started because Keoni wanted to do something special for "Kindness Week" at his school, Benjamin Franklin Elementary. With his mother, April, and father, Barry, by his side, Keoni thought about projects that would truly reflect kindness. Keoni said he decided to make key chains because, "I love key chains. They look good on my backpack." Once word of Keoni's key chains and his heartwarming cause got out, people from all over the country started sending in their requests for one of the custom key chains. "We have sent key chains to Alaska, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Arizona, all over the country," April Ching told CNN. "There was one lady who said she wanted $100 worth of key chains so that she could just hand them out to people. There were several people who bought one key chain and gave (Keoni) a hundred bucks. It was absolutely amazing how much support the community showed for his whole project." With the help of not only his parents, but also his grandparents, Keoni made and sold more than 300 key chains. Keoni delivered the $4,015 check to Franklin Elementary last week.

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Fish in the driver's seat: Israeli scientists teach goldfish to operate vehicle
2022-01-11, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/01/11/israel-goldfish-drives-car/

Israeli researchers have taught goldfish to drive, according to a study that offers new insights into animals' ability to navigate – even when they're literally fish out of water. For the study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Behavioural Brain Research, the goldfish were trained to use a wheeled platform, dubbed a Fish Operated Vehicle. The FOV could be driven and have its course changed in reaction to the fish's movements inside a water tank mounted on the platform. Their task was to "drive" the robotic vehicle toward a target that could be observed through the walls of the fish tank. The vehicle was fitted with lidar, short for light detection and ranging, a remote sensing technology that uses lasers to collect data on its ground location and the fish's location within the tank. The researchers, from Ben-Gurion University, found the fish were able to move the FOV around unfamiliar environments while reaching the target "regardless of their starting point, all while avoiding dead-ends and correcting location inaccuracies." The goldfish in the tank were placed in a test arena and tasked with driving toward a target. Upon successfully hitting the target, they received a food pellet reward. After a few days of training, the fish were able to navigate past obstacles such as walls, while eluding efforts to trick them with false targets. "The study hints that navigational ability is universal rather than specific to the environment," said Shachar Givon, one of the study's authors.

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‘Blind date' for political rivals? TV show is breaking down barriers.
2021-05-05, Christian Science Monitor
https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2021/0505/Blind-date-for-political-r...

It's called "Political Blind Date." And far from being a hokey reality show for the political set, the popular Canadian series aims to break down walls around contentious issues from gun rights to climate change. At a time when political exchanges are often caustic and unyielding, a Canadian TV show is modeling a different approach. It creates space for rival politicians to share views and experiences respectfully – and viewers love it. With filming of a fifth season underway, about 50 politicians have participated, spending two days together with each other's constituents. The show has been optioned to the United Kingdom, France, Israel, and South Africa, and is being shopped in the United States. "It's a moment," says director Mark Johnston, "where people are trying to heal and listen to each other." Getting beyond the media scrum, the yelling during parliamentary question periods, the sound bites on nightly news, and the callous swipes over social media, producers set the stage for participants to engage one another with the time and respect that complex problems require. "Respect is at the heart of it. Not only are politicians, in the way they are using political rhetoric, not respecting each other; they're disrespecting their citizenry," says Mark Johnston, showrunner of "Political Blind Date." The goal is not to get the two politicians to reverse their positions, something that rarely happens. It's to slow down and study policies in all their complexity, and to hear the human concerns and perspectives that lie behind their support.

Note: Enjoy a wonderful compilation of inspiring stories from the pandemic times on this webpage. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


At age 70, Yankees fan gets to live out her dream of being a bat girl
2021-06-28, Today.com
https://www.today.com/news/yankees-fan-serve-bat-girl-60-years-after-being-tu...

It was a field of dreams come true. On Monday, Gwen McLoughlin, 70, served as bat girl for the New York Yankees when they hosted the Los Angeles Angels, 60 years after she was rejected when she wrote a letter to the team as a 10-year-old asking if she could serve in the role. "It's been an amazing opportunity. A day of a lifetime," she said after the game. "I can't put it into words." In 1961, McLoughlin, then Gwen Goldman, received a response from Roy Hamey, who was general manager of the team after she wrote a letter asking to be a bat girl. "While we agree with you that girls are certainly as capable as boys, and no doubt would be an attractive addition on the playing field, I am sure you can understand that in a game dominated by men a young lady such as yourself would feel out of place in a dugout," Hamey replied. Fast forward six decades and McLoughlin's daughter Abby forwarded the letter to the team, which caught the eye of current general manager Brian Cashman, who replied with a more favorable reaction inviting her to be the honorary bat girl during the game as part of the Yankees' annual HOPE Week, which shines a light on inspiring stories and people. "Although your long-ago correspondence took place 60 years ago – six years before I was born – I feel compelled to resurrect your original request and do what I can to bring your childhood dream to life," he said. "It is my honor and my dream and I can't thank you enough for making this come true," a choked up McLoughlin said.

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Oklahoma imam left 'emotional' over Jewish teen's act of kindness
2021-06-01, Today.com
https://www.today.com/news/oklahoma-imam-left-emotional-over-jewish-teen-s-ac...

An Oklahoma City imam highlighted interfaith unity in his community after a teenage girl, who identified as Jewish, asked him at his mosque to donate her babysitting money to help Palestinians. The imam, Imad Enchassi, said he was working outside his mosque last week when a car dropped off a teenager in search of the imam. She arrived Wednesday between prayers before sunset, and the only person there was Enchassi, who was wearing gym clothes and a cap while he did yard work. He said the teenager was carrying an envelope with $80 and told him that she wanted it to help a family in Gaza. "I want you to tell them this is from a young Jewish girl that worked all week babysitting. And that we love them and feel their pain," Enchassi said she told him. The gesture, which caught Enchassi off guard, inspired him to write about it in a Facebook post that has been shared 4,400 times and has received hundreds of comments. "Humanity is marvelous indeed," he wrote. "Your post made me cry," a Facebook user wrote in response. "Crying with you," Enchassi responded. "Kindness, humility and love has no boundaries of religion, race, ethnicity or nationality," another wrote. Enchassi, who is Palestinian American, said one of his congregants lost several relatives in Gaza during violence between Israel and Hamas. So when Enchassi was given the gift, it left him "emotional," he said. The imam said the teenager didn't give her name when he asked, which he interpreted to mean she wanted to remain anonymous.

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A man strung Christmas lights from his home to his neighbor's to support her. The whole community followed.
2021-12-21, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/12/21/baltimore-rodgers-forge-c...

It started last November with a single string of Christmas lights on a Baltimore County street. Kim Morton was home watching a movie with her daughter when she received a text from her neighbor who lives directly across the road. He told her to peek outside. Matt Riggs had hung a string of white Christmas lights, stretching from his home to hers in the Rodgers Forge neighborhood, just north of the Baltimore city line. He also left a tin of homemade cookies on her doorstep. The lights, he told her, were meant to reinforce that they were always connected despite their pandemic isolation. "I was reaching out to Kim to literally brighten her world," said Riggs. He knew his neighbor was facing a dark time. Morton had shared that she was dealing with depression and anxiety. Riggs could relate. A bit of brightness was in order, he decided, but he certainly did not expect that his one strand of Christmas lights would somehow spark a neighborhood-wide movement. Neighbor after neighbor followed suit, stretching lines of Christmas lights from one side of the street to the other. Leabe Commisso ... wanted in. "I said to my neighbor: ‘Let's do it, too,' " she recalled. "Before we knew it, we were cleaning out Home Depot of all the lights." Quickly, other neighbors caught on. "Little by little, the whole neighborhood started doing it," said Morton, 49, who has lived in Rodgers Forge for 17 years. "The lights were a physical sign of connection and love." For the first time in a long time, a feeling of togetherness – and light – had returned.

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Community buys grieving Red Deer family's classic car at auction – then gives it back
2018-09-11, CBC (Canada's public broadcasting system)
https://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-tuesday-edition-1.4818811/...

Ben and Marilyn Keryluke didn't want to sell their late son's 1973 Pontiac Parisienne, which he painstakingly repaired and refurbished in the hopes of passing it on to his own children. But when Brent and Nicole Keryluke were killed in a motorcycle crash on May 5, the Red Deer, Alta., couple suddenly found themselves raising two small grandchildren with special needs. So they took Brent's prized car to Electric Garage Auctions on Saturday, hoping to earn at least $14,000. But when the auctioneer introduced the item, he told the whole story of what happened to the Kerylukes. "They told the story of why it was being sold and that we wanted to keep the car but, unfortunately, if you can't, you can't," Keryluke said. "Then they started the auction and what happened from there was nothing short of amazing." The auction house had previously promoted the item heavily in local media using the Keryluke family story. And the community came out in full force. The bids immediately soared past the family's expectations and the car sold for $29,000 to Rod McWilliams. McWilliams turned around and donated the car right back to the auction house, so it could go back on the block immediately. It sold in the second round for $30,000 to Danny Fayad from Edmonton, who also gave it back. Finally, it sold for $20,000 to Bob Bevins from Bulldog Metals, who returned the car, at no cost, to the Kerylukes. The donations ... are still pouring in, and so far the family has earned $100,000 from the auction – and they got to keep the car.

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"There are no unimportant jobs": This retired FBI boss became a school bus driver amid shortage
2021-10-15, CBS News
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/steve-hartman-on-the-road-mike-mason-fbi-school-...

If anyone has earned a coffee break, it's 63-year-old Mike Mason of Midlothian, Virginia. He has served his country for decades – first as a captain in the Marines and later as the No. 4 man at the FBI. Mason left the bureau in 2007 and went to work as an executive at a Fortune 500 company, and then retired. But Mason said retirement did not sit well with him. [Yet] if he was going to start a new chapter, he knew it would have to be something really important. The choice was clear: He became a school bus driver. "When I gave them my resume, I actually got called by a very senior person in the county and he said, 'Just checking, why do you want to be a bus driver?' And I told him," Mason said. Mason had heard the Chesterfield County Public School District was short 125 drivers. It's part of a national crisis, with more than half of school districts in the U.S. reporting "severe" driver shortages. So Mason stepped up. "This is important work," he said, adding that he believes the work is just as important as what he was doing at the FBI. "I think in our society we need to get next to the idea that there are no unimportant jobs. I mean, what could be more important than the attention we pay to our education system?" As for the salary, Mason said he has already donated all of what he expects to make this year. But, of course, the much bigger gift is far less tangible. Mason had climbed to the highest level, but by ... beginning a completely new career in a time of need, he is demonstrating the greatest leadership of all.

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China, US, UK, France and Russia pledge to avoid nuclear war
2022-01-04, CNN World
https://www.cnn.com/2022/01/04/world/p5-nations-nuclear-pledge-intl-hnk/index...

Five of the world's largest nuclear powers pledged on Monday to work together toward "a world without nuclear weapons" in a rare statement of unity amid rising East-West tensions. "A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought," said the joint statement, which was issued simultaneously by the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France. "As nuclear use would have far-reaching consequences, we also affirm that nuclear weapons - for as long as they continue to exist - should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war." The statement also stressed the importance of preventing conflict between nuclear-weapon states from escalating, describing it as a "foremost responsibility." The statement released by the five powers ... as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, called on all states to create a security environment "more conducive to progress on disarmament with the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons with undiminished security for all. The five pledged to adhere to the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) which obligates them "to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament." Some of the text of the statement ... echoes a statement issued by the five nations after a December conference in Paris that laid the groundwork for the since delayed review of the treaty.

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Bridging America's political divide with conversations, one small step at a time
2022-01-09, CBS News
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/one-small-step-storycorps-60-minutes-2022-01-10/

Dave Isay has created a program called "One Small Step" to get Americans from across the political spectrum to stop demonizing one another and start communicating - face to face, one conversation at a time. It has taped more than half a million Americans telling their stories – to become the largest single collection of human voices ever recorded. StoryCorps is an important part of adding history and context and the individuals who make history. Not just the ones that we see on the news, but the people who are part of the fabric of our American life. Around the time of the 2016 presidential election, Dave Isay says he got the idea for a new kind of StoryCorps that could perhaps help unite a country becoming increasingly divided. He decided to call it "One Small Step." "So we match strangers who disagree politically to put them face-to-face for 50 minutes," [said Isay]. "It's not to talk about politics, it's just to talk about your lives." Facilitators begin by asking the participants to read one another's biography out loud. The project tries to match people who may be from different political parties but have something else in common. The format is derived from a psychological concept developed in the 1950s called contact theory. When you have two people who are enemies and you put them face-to-face under very, very specific conditions , and they have a conversation and a kind of visceral, emotional experience with each other, that hate can melt away. And people can see each other in a new way.

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Canada reaches $31.5 billion deal over Indigenous children put in foster care unnecessarily
2022-01-04, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/01/04/canada-indigenous-foster-care...

Canadian officials said Tuesday they have reached $31.5 billion in agreements in principle with Indigenous groups to compensate First Nations children who were unnecessarily taken from their homes and put into the child welfare system, a major development in a dispute that has long been a sticking point in Ottawa's efforts to advance reconciliation with Indigenous people. Under the agreements, half of the money would go to children and families harmed by an underfunded and discriminatory child welfare system on First Nations reserves and in the Yukon, while the rest would be earmarked over five years for long-term reforms, the Indigenous services ministry said. "This is the largest settlement in Canadian history, but no amount of money can reverse the harms experienced by First Nations children," Marc Miller, Canada's Crown-Indigenous relations minister, told reporters. "Historic injustices require historic reparations." The dispute dates to 2007, when several Indigenous advocacy groups claimed in a human rights complaint that the federal government's "inequitable and insufficient" funding of child welfare services on First Nations reserves was discriminatory. In 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal agreed with the advocates. The panel said the federal government's funding formula was based on "flawed assumptions about children in care," resulting in a system that incentivized the removal of First Nations children from their homes and their cultures.

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Washington state governor OKs bill banning for-profit jails
2021-04-14, ABC News
https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/washington-state-governor-oks-bill-...

One of the country's largest for-profit, privately run immigration jails would be shut down by 2025 under a bill signed Wednesday by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. The measure approved by the Washington Legislature bans for-profit detention centers in the state. The only facility that meets that definition is the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, a 1,575-bed immigration jail operated by the GEO Group under a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "Washington has not supported use of private prisons, and this bill continues that policy by prohibiting private detention facilities from operating in the state," Inslee said before signing the bill. Washington joins several states, including California, Nevada, New York and Illinois, that have passed legislation aiming to reduce, limit or ban private prison companies from operating. But Washington is only the third – following Illinois and California – to include immigration facilities as part of that ban. "Widespread civil immigration detention is one of the greatest miscarriages of justice that currently exists in our political system," Matt Adams, legal director at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, said. "This bill is an important step towards rejecting the privatization and profiteering model of immigration detention centers that has pushed the massive expansion of immigration detention." President Joe Biden has instructed the Justice Department not to renew contracts with private prisons, but that order doesn't apply to the immigration detention system.

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The rise of the human library: How lending people out for conversations is tackling prejudice
2021-05-29, Image
https://www.image.ie/self/the-rise-of-the-human-library-how-lending-people-ou...

The Human Library is, in the true sense of the word, a library of people. Against the backdrop of a rise in curiosity and the thirst for authenticity, the idea of learning and being transported by a person telling their story rather than reading it from a book, is growing in popularity. The human "books" in these cases are volunteers. Those with a story to tell. And the way they are dispersed is tailored to each individual's own biases and prejudices. In other words, they're tackling diversity and inclusion, one person ("book"), at a time. The original event was open eight hours a day for four days straight and featured over fifty different titles. The broad selection of books provided readers with ample choice to challenge their stereotypes and so more than a thousand readers took advantage leaving books, librarians, organisers and readers stunned at the reception and impact of the Human Library. One such volunteer, Bill Carney's book title is "Black Activist". He told Forbes magazine his motivation for getting involved. "It's easy to hate a group of people, but it's harder to hate an individual, particularly if that person is trying to be friendly and open and accommodating and totally non-threatening." "I'm not pompous enough to believe that a 25-minute conversation with me is going to change anybody," he [said]. "What I am pompous enough to believe is that if I can just instill the slightest bit of cognitive dissonance, then their brain will do the rest for me. And it will at least force them to ask questions."

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8 Trends from 2021 We'll Carry to the New Year
2021-12-30, Optimist Daily
https://www.optimistdaily.com/2021/12/8-trends-from-2021-well-carry-to-the-ne...

There is no question that 2021 was another unpredictable year and we are still living in uncertain times. And so, as we say adieu to this turbulent year, we are highlighting eight positive trends that we see sticking around! The pandemic allowed us to slow down and reevaluate our work-life balance with new work patterns that are here to stay. Some people are now permanently working from home, and some returned to the office, even if for just a few days a week, under a hybrid model. We also saw an even greater, and much-deserved appreciation for our frontline workers. We have developed an increased respect for service industry workers and those people employed to keep our health care, infrastructure, and education systems running. Even on the world's biggest stage, mental health became a number one priority this year, and helped recenter the conversation around the globe around what makes a person thrive. With the loss and altering of life over the past almost two years, many of us have looked at ways to improve our overall health and extend our days. Maybe more of us can even achieve new heights such as this 105-year-old setting the world-record for the 100 meter dash earlier this year! Speaking of health, many people over the course of the pandemic wisely decided to bring more houseplants into their lives. This bit of green lifted moods and gave us plant parents new purpose as we spent more time in our homes working or learning remotely and social distancing.

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Rapper Logic's
2021-12-15, CBS News
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/logic-1-800-273-8255-song-suicide-prevention/

Four years ago, rapper Logic released his hit song "1-800-273-8255" – a reference to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – in hopes of helping others. A new study released this week found it did just that: researchers say the song potentially helped saved hundreds of lives. The study, published Monday in the BMJ, found almost 10,000 calls went to the Lifeline – a 6.9% increase over the expected number – during 34 days in 2017 and 2018 when the song was receiving heightened public attention. And an estimated 245 fewer suicides took place in that same time period – 5.5% below the expected number. The study authors' looked at the days immediately following the song's release, Logic's performance at the 2017 MTV Awards with singers Alessia Cara and Khalid, and their act at the 2018 Grammys. According to the research, those events were also linked to a surge of activity connected to the song on Twitter. "To know that my music was actually affecting people's lives, truly, that's what inspired me to make the song," Logic said in a statement to CNN. "We did it from a really warm place in our hearts to try to help people. And the fact that it actually did, that blows my mind." The song centers around a high school student struggling with his sexuality and contemplating suicide. However, after a call to a hotline, he realizes he wants to live. The song went quintuple platinum and remained Logic's best performing song on Spotify.

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Dunkin' customer surprised beloved employee with fully furnished home after eviction
2021-12-07, Today.com
https://www.today.com/food/people/dunkin-customer-surprised-employee-fully-fu...

Ebony Johnson's enthusiastic service at a Dunkin' location in Ohio is so memorable that regular customer Suzanne Burke noticed when she had not been working the drive-thru for a few weeks in March. When Johnson, 33, returned to work at the Mount Healthy location, where she's been employed for three years, she shared with Burke that she had been struggling financially while also trying to find housing for her and her three children following an eviction. Burke left Johnson a note saying that if Johnson wanted help, Burke would gladly do her best. Johnson accepted, and Burke, who has done work with social services in her career, got to work on reaching out to different businesses and organizations. It all led to a moment nine months in the making on Dec. 3 when Johnson broke down in tears and her young children broke out in smiles when they moved into a fully furnished apartment in Cincinnati. "Oh my God, it was so amazing, I just busted out crying," Johnson said. "I never had a full furnished house. I never had help like this. I had been asking God to put us in a home before Christmas, and He really did. I'm just so thankful." "It was so exciting, we all cried," Burke told TODAY. "I've got three kids, and I can't imagine not having a home to go to and then to have to get up, get the kids to school, and show up at work with a positive, happy attitude? I've been in awe of her." Johnson was able to secure the apartment through the help of the Cincinnati-based organization Strategies to End Homelessness.

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Clever canines can understand an average of 89 words
2021-12-09, BBC News
https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/59580613

We all talk to our dogs, whether it's calling their name, playing fetch or teaching them new tricks. But do they actually understand the words we're saying? Well according to a new study, they do! The research has found that dogs can recognise an average of 89 words or phrases. The study asked 165 owners of different dog breeds to note down words that they thought their dogs responded to. The results showed the most common words the pooches understood were commands like sit, stay and wait. The research was carried out by Catherine Reeve and Sophie Jacques, from the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience, Dalhousie University, in Canada. During the study, dog owners were asked to say if they thought their pup responded to the words or commands they were giving. The owners then had to record if their pet got excited, looked for something, looked up or did an action in response to a command. The research found that 89 words was the average number that the dogs could understand - one clever canine is believed to have understood 215 words in total - but the worst performing pooch knew only 15. Nearly all of the dogs that took part in the study reacted to their own name and many gave a response when being praised. The researchers said: "Those of us who have owned dogs would not be surprised to see most dogs respond with an enthusiastic tail wagging or a treat-seeking response on hearing, good girl/good boy."

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Random acts of kindness have helped them since their son died
2021-11-11, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/11/11/grief-death-random-act-ki...

Brenda Thomas's heart became a shell when her 21-year-old son died in a motorcycle accident. But she has found something that helps her grief: She keeps folded pieces of paper, tucked in her purse at all times. They are "acts of kindness" cards. Whenever she does a good deed for a stranger – which is about once a week – she passes along a card with a message: "If you receive this card, then you must be a recipient of a random act of kindness." At the top of each note is her son's name, Trevor Paul Thomas. He died in September 2019. His most standout quality was his compassion for others, no matter who they were or how well he knew them. "He was always kind to everyone," said Thomas. "That's just who he was." Trevor regularly shoveled snow off the driveways of older neighbors, delivered hot meals to those in need and befriended classmates who struggled to fit in, she said. The Thomas family decided to create cards and distribute them around their community, in the hope that it would encourage people to do a good deed as part of Trevor's legacy. The goal, they said, was to launch an ongoing chain of kindness. "We not only want people to understand that they're a recipient of an act of kindness, but we also want them to pay it forward," said Whitney Thomas. On each card they wrote the hashtag #liveliketrev23, and urged recipients to consider sharing their experience on social media so that the family could read about the heartwarming gestures.

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After decades, some of America's most toxic sites will finally get cleaned up
2021-12-17, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2021/12/17/superfund-clean...

The laboratories and other buildings that once housed a chemical manufacturer here in New Jersey's most populous city have been demolished. More than 10,000 leaky drums and other containers once illegally stored here have long been removed. Its owner was convicted three decades ago. Yet the groundwater beneath the 4.4-acre expanse once occupied by White Chemical Corp. in Newark remains contaminated, given a lack of federal funding. But three decades after federal officials declared it one of America's most toxic spots, it's about to get a jolt. This plot in Newark is among more than four dozen toxic waste sites to get cleanup funding from the newly-enacted infrastructure law, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday, totaling $1 billion. "This work is just the beginning," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said. President Biden signed legislation reviving a polluter's tax that will inject a new stream of cash into the nation's troubled Superfund program. The renewed excise fees, which disappeared more than 25 years ago, are expected to raise $14.5 billion in revenue over the next decade and could accelerate cleanups of many sites that are increasingly threatened by climate change. The Superfund list includes more than 1,300 abandoned mines, radioactive landfills, shuttered military labs, closed factories and other contaminated areas across nearly all 50 states.

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5 environmental victories from 2021 that offer hope
2021-12-08, National Geographic
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/5-environmental-victor...

As the year draws to a close, there are reasons to feel cautiously optimistic about areas in which the environment scored victories in 2021. Delayed by a year as a result of COVID-19, November's COP26 - the United Nations Climate Change Conference, held in Glasgow - welcomed the world's second-largest fossil-fuel emitter, the United States, back to the negotiating table after four years of inaction on climate change. By the summit's end, the U.S. and China had made a surprise joint declaration to work together on meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. The biggest news in forest conservation was the pledge at the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow to end deforestation by 2030; the commitment includes a pledge to provide $12 billion in funding to "help unleash the potential of forests and sustainable land use." The Biden administration spent part of its first year restoring habitat protections that had been rolled back by its predecessor. Perhaps the most prominent was the re-establishment of full protection for the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments in southern Utah, as well as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument off New England. Populations of some of the world's most iconic species are showing some improvement as a result of protective measures. Humpback whales, whose haunting songs helped build support for the "Save the Whales" campaign that ushered in the modern environmental movement, are increasing in number in many parts of their range.

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Tropical forests can regenerate in just 20 years without human interference
2021-12-09, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/dec/09/tropical-forests-can-rege...

Tropical forests can bounce back with surprising rapidity, a new study published today suggests. An international group of researchers looking at a number of aspects of tropical forests has found that the potential for regrowth is substantial if they are left untouched by humans for about 20 years. For example, soil takes an average of 10 years to recover its previous status, plant community and animal biodiversity take 60 years, and overall biomass takes a total of 120, according to their calculations." This is due in part to a multidimensional mechanism whereby old forest flora and fauna help a new generation of forest grow – a natural process known as "secondary succession". These new findings ... suggest that it is not too late to undo the damage that humanity has done through catastrophic climate change over the last few decades. "That's good news, because the implication is that, 20 years ... that's a realistic time that I can think of, and that my daughter can think of, and that the policymakers can think of," said Lourens Poorter ... lead author of the paper. This idea of natural regeneration is frequently disregarded in favour of tree plantations, but according to Poorter, the former yields better results than restoration plantings. "Compared to planting new trees, it performs way better in terms of biodiversity, climate change mitigation and recovering nutrients." The takeaway message is that we don't necessarily need to plant more trees when nature is doing it by itself, Poorter said.

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Grandmother and teen she mistakenly texted to reunite for 6th Thanksgiving
2021-11-15, Today.com
https://www.today.com/food/food/grandmother-teen-mistakenly-texted-reunite-6t...

The sweetest Thanksgiving tradition this side of candied yams is back! Jamal Hinton and Wanda Dench will once again get together for the holiday, six years after she accidentally sent him a text inviting him to Thanksgiving dinner, believing she had texted her own grandson. "We are all set for year 6!" Hinton posted Sunday on Twitter, acknowledging that it will be the sixth straight year they have spent Thanksgiving together. He also posted a text message Dench shared inviting him, his girlfriend and his family to dinner. "It would bring my great joy if you, Mikaela and your family would come to my house on Thanksgiving day to share good food and great conversation. Your friend always, Wanda." Hinton, who accepted the invitation, also posted a selfie featuring him and Dench. Hinton and Dench went viral in 2016 after she texted him, saying she's hosting Thanksgiving dinner and would love it if he could attend, thinking she was texting her grandson. They then swapped photos. "You not my grandma," he wrote. "Can I still get a plate tho" Dench didn't miss a beat. "Of course you can," she replied. "That's what grandma's do ...feed every one." Last year, Dench and Hinton (along with Mikaela) met up prior to Thanksgiving, along with a small group of her family, including "the grandson that originally started all of this by changing his phone number and not telling me he changed it," [she said]. "He's changed my life a lot, I know that."

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Italian street artist battles racism by turning swastikas into cupcakes
2021-11-24,
https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/italian-street-artist-battles-racism-by-tur...

Swastikas on the wall become giant cupcakes with purple icing, and the words "my Hitler" are transformed into "my muffins". All in a day's work for the Italian street artist who fights racism by turning nasty graffiti into food. "I take care of my city by replacing symbols of hate with delicious things to eat," says the 39-year-old artist, whose real name is Pier Paolo Spinazze and whose professional name, Cibo, is the Italian word for food. On a recent sunny morning he had been alerted by one of his 363,000 Instagram followers that there were swastikas and racial slurs in a small tunnel on the outskirts of Verona. Up he turned, wearing his signature straw hat and necklace of stuffed sausages. He took out his bag of spray paints and set to work, while cars drove by beeping. He covered up the slurs with a bright slice of margherita pizza and a caprese salad - mozzarella, tomatoes and basil. A swastika was transformed into a huge red tomato. As he has become a local celebrity in Verona, he has also made enemies: "Cibo sleep with the lights on!" someone spray painted on a wall. He turned the threat into the ingredients of a gnocchi recipe. "Dealing with extremists is never good, because they are violent people, they are used to violence, but they are also cowards and very stupid," Spinazze said. "The important thing is to rediscover values that we may have forgotten, especially anti-fascism and the fight against totalitarian regimes that stem from the Second World War," he said.

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New therapy with ‘special scaffold' reverses paralysis in mice
2021-11-12, The Independent (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/therapy-scaffold-paralysis-mice-re...

Scientists have developed a novel therapy that promotes recovery from spinal cord injury and reverses paralysis in mice. In the research published in the journal Science ... scientists administered a single injection to tissues surrounding the spinal cords of paralysed mice. Just four weeks later, the rodents could walk again. The therapy, administered in the form of a gel, works by organising molecules at the injury site into a complex network of nanofibers mimicking the natural matrix found in all tissues that play a major role in wound healing and cell to cell communication, the study noted. This gel tunes the motion of molecules at the injury sites, enabling them to find and properly engage with constantly moving receptors on cells, said the researchers. "The key innovation in our research, which has never been done before, is to control the collective motion of more than 100,000 molecules within our nanofibers," study co-author Samuel I Stupp from Northwestern University said. One of the challenges in administering wound healing drugs, the scientists said, is that the receptors sticking out of nerve cells and other types of cells constantly moves around. The novel gel fine-tunes the motion of molecules which "move, ‘dance' or even leap temporarily out of these structures", enabling them to connect more effectively with receptors, Dr Stupp explained. With further studies and clinical trials, the scientists believe that the new therapy could be used to prevent paralysis after major trauma.

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San Francisco public schools add mindfulness meditation to curriculum
2021-09-08, KCBS News
https://www.audacy.com/kcbsradio/news/local/san-francisco-school-district-add...

The San Francisco Unified School District has introduced mindfulness meditation as part of its curriculum this year. Susi Brennan instructed first graders on Wednesday at Daniel Webster Elementary School in Potrero Hill. Mindfulness focuses on slow and deliberate breathing, and Brennan's students sat on the floor as they listened to her calming voice. "When we're focusing on our breath, we can use it as an anchor," Brennan told the students. "So if our mind starts to wander away, we just gently bring it right back and notice our breathing." Over 57,000 students attend school in the district, and each of them will learn about mindfulness this year. The district said it introduced the technique into every grades' curriculum for the 2021-22 school year. Dr. Vincent Matthews, the district's superintendent, joined in on Wednesday's lesson. He took deep breaths alongside a class of 6-year-olds, participating in a social and emotional learning technique Matthews said is focused on the whole student. Brennan said teachers and staff also benefit from this calming technique. "It's an opportunity for them to also sit with their thoughts, and also for them to notice sounds and their breath," she told KCBS Radio. "It's a moment of pause for the teachers as well." You can learn more about the mindfulness meditations practiced in the San Francisco Unified School district by clicking here.

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Company Mimics Spiders to Create Lustrous Faux Silk That is 1,000x More Energy Efficient
2021-06-26, Good News Network
https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/company-mimics-spiders-to-create-faux-silk-10...

By mimicking how a spider spins silk at room temperature, an Oxford University venture has created a high performance, biodegradable textile that is 1,000 times more efficient than current methods for making man-made fabrics, which emit tons of carbon. Over the course of millions of years, spiders have evolved the ability to create one of the world's strongest and most adaptable materials–silk. The secret to a spider's ability to create silk lies within their spinnerets, a specialized organ that turns the liquid silk gel within the spider's abdomen into a solid thread. After years of research into this unique mechanism, Spintex has managed to mimic the spider's amazing ability: The company has created a process to spin textile fibers from a liquid gel, at room temperature, with water and biodegradable textile fibers as the only outputs. Last week, the nonprofit Biomimicry Institute awarded $100,000 to the English researchers, naming Spintex the winner of this year's Ray of Hope Prize, which honors the world's top nature-inspired startups. More than 50% of silk's environmental footprint lies in the raw material processing, which uses thousands of liters of water that must be boiled every day, so it's very energy intensive. Currently, there are no sustainable alternatives to traditional silk. "Spintex provides the only truly sustainable option for silk production that can produce bers with the quality, performance and luster of traditional silk," says the company website.

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13-year-old boy granted a "Make-A-Wish" uses it to feed the homeless every month for a year
2021-11-10, CBS News
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/abraham-olagbegi-a-make-a-wish-feed-homeless/

Last year, 13-year-old Abraham Olagbegi found out he was born with a rare blood disorder and needed a bone marrow transplant. About a year later, he found out better news: His transplant was successful, and he qualified for Make-A-Wish, an organization that grants wishes to children will serious illnesses. Abraham wanted a long-lasting wish, and he had an idea that he shared with his mom. "I remember we were coming home from one of his doctor appointments and he said, 'Mom, I thought about it, and I really want to feed the homeless,'" Abraham's mom, Miriam Olagbegi, told CBS News. "I said, 'Are you sure Abraham? You could do a lot ... You sure you don't want a PlayStation?'" Unlike many teenage boys, the PlayStation did not entice Abraham. He was sure of his wish to feed the homeless. Abraham's dad thought it was an awesome idea, too, Miriam said. "So, of course, we weren't going to miss an opportunity like that because we always tried to instill giving into our children." In September, Make-A-Wish helped Abraham organize a day to hand out free food in Jackson, Mississippi, with food and supplies donated from local businesses. Abraham said they ended up feeding about 80 people that day. "When the homeless people get the plate, some of them would come back and sing to us and thank us," he said. "And it just really feels good, it warms our hearts. And my parents always taught us that it's a blessing to be a blessing." Make-A-Wish will help Abraham feed the homeless every month for a year.

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Maine just voted to become the nation's first ‘right to food' state
2021-11-03, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/11/03/maine-right-to-food/

Maine voters approved an amendment Tuesday that enshrines the "right to food" – the first of its kind in the United States. The amendment to the state's constitution declares that all people have a "natural, inherent and unalienable right" to grow, raise, produce and consume food of their own choosing as long as they do so within legal parameters. Maine, a state with a bustling agricultural industry, has been at the forefront of the food sovereignty movement, which envisions a food system where producers also have control over how their goods are sold and distributed. The referendum was meant to ensure local communities have more agency over their food supply. "Power over our food supply is concentrated in a few individuals and corporations," [livestock farmer and advocate Heather] Retberg said. "Global companies dominate our food system and policy at the expense of our food self-sufficiency. This concentration of power threatens Mainers' individual rights to grow, raise, harvest, produce, and consume the food of our choosing now and in the future." Maine state Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham, a Republican legislator who sponsored the legislation, has called it the "Second Amendment of food," empowering people to fight hunger and regain command over the food supply in an era of corporate domination. The nonprofit WhyHunger called the vote "a transformative step in ensuring the protection of food as an unequivocal basic human right."

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"It's just the beginning": Maryland high school teacher wins $1 million award
2021-11-18, CBS News
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/keishia-thorpe-global-teacher-prize/

Growing up poor in Jamaica, Keishia Thorpe never thought she would graduate college, let alone become a visionary high school English teacher and win a $1 million prize. The Maryland educator and track coach, who works with immigrant and refugee students, just won the Global Teacher Prize, beating out 8,000 others from 121 countries. "Because I am an immigrant and because I understand their story, I do not ever lower my expectations for my students," she said. "I let them rise to my expectation. And they do." And through her foundation, the former Howard University track star has helped hundreds of students get college scholarships, including senior Isatu Bah. "I know she's always going to be here for me, and I will make her proud," Bah said. Thorpe said, "Teaching just is not something that happens in the classroom – be their coaches, be their mentor, be that safe space for them." She says she'll use her winnings to help even more students. She says the award is "just the beginning."

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‘I wanted less than a minute': 105-year-old unsatisfied after 100m world record
2021-11-11, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/nov/11/julia-hurricane-hawkins-100m-sp...

Like all elite athletes, Julia "Hurricane" Hawkins has a ruthless streak. So, despite setting a 100m world record on Sunday at the Louisiana Senior Games, she still wants to go faster. "It was wonderful to see so many family members and friends. But I wanted to do it in less than a minute," the 105 year-old said after the race, where she recorded a time of 1:02.95, a record for women in the 105+ age category. When someone pointed out that 102 is less than her age and asked if that made her feel better, Hawkins answered: "No". The retired teacher is no stranger to athletic excellence. She started competing at the National Senior Games when she was 80, specialising in cycling time trials. She eventually ended her cycling career saying that "there wasn't anyone left my age to compete with". When she turned 100 she took up sprinting. In 2017 she set the 100m world record for women over the age of 100 with a time of 39.62. When her record was broken in September by Diane Friedman, Hawkins decided to compete in a new age category. "I love to run, and I love being an inspiration to others," Hawkins said. "I want to keep running as long as I can. My message to others is that you have to stay active if you want to be healthy and happy as you age." Several age records for the 100m have tumbled this year. In August, Hiroo Tanaka of Japan blazed home in 16.69 to set the male record in the 90 and over category. In women's competition Australia's Julie Brims broke the 55+ record in a time of 12.24.

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This Colorado 'solar garden' is literally a farm under solar panels
2021-11-14, NPR
https://www.npr.org/2021/11/14/1054942590/solar-energy-colorado-garden-farm-land

With close to two billion dollars devoted to renewable power in the newly passed infrastructure bill, the solar industry is poised for a win. But there have long been some tensions between renewable developers and some farmers. According to NREL, upwards of two million acres of American farmland could be converted to solar in the next decade. But what if it didn't have to be an either or proposition? What if solar panels and farming could literally co-exist, if not even help one another. That was what piqued [Byron] Kominek's interest, especially with so many family farms barely hanging on. Kominek installed the solar panels on one of his pastures. They're spaced far enough apart from one another so he could drive his tractor between them. Still, when it came time to plant earlier this year, Kominek was initially skeptical. But he soon discovered that the shade from the towering panels above the soil actually helped the plants thrive. That intermittent shade also meant a lot less evaporation of coveted irrigation water. And in turn the evaporation actually helped keep the sun-baked solar panels cooler, making them more efficient. By summer, Kominek was a believer. Walking the intricately lined rows of veggies beneath the panels, he beams pointing out where the peppers, tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, lettuces, beets, turnips, carrots were all recently harvested. The farm is still bursting with chard and kale even in November. "Oh yeah, kale never dies," Kominek says, chuckling.

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Charles Sams III becomes first Native American to head National Park Service in its 105-year history
2021-11-20, CBS News
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/charles-sams-iii-first-native-american-to-head-n...

The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Charles "Chuck" Sams III as the next director of the National Park Service on Thursday. He will be the first Native American to lead the agency in its 105-year history. Sams, who is Cayuse and Walla Walla, is a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. The Oregon-based Confederated Tribes is comprised of individuals from the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla tribes. Sams told the Confederated Tribes' newspaper, the Confederated Umatilla Journal, on Friday that he's "deeply honored" to serve as the 19th director of NPS. "I am also very deeply appreciative of the support, guidance and counsel of my Tribal elders and friends throughout my professional career," Sams told the newspaper. "I look forward to carrying on the responsibility of being a good steward of our natural resources and in joining the dedicated and dynamic staff of the National Park Service." Sams' confirmation marks the first time in nearly five years that the department will have an official director. The position has been filled with various people serving as acting heads since January 2017. Sams has worked in state and tribal governments, as well as in natural resource and conservation management, for more than 25 years. In a press release on Friday, tribal leaders commended the confirmation, with Confederated Tribes trustee member Kat Brigham saying that Sams "knows the outdoors." "He understands the importance of helping families develop a relationship with the land," Brigham said.

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Researchers say new blood test can spot more than 50 types of cancer – many hard to detect early
2021-11-03, CBS News
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/cancer-blood-test-early-detection/

The sooner most cancers are discovered, the better the odds they can be successfully treated. Mayo Clinic participated in research on a test that can detect more than 50 cancers. "My dad, he was a healthy guy. He didn't have any known risk factors for cancer," Dr. Julia Feygin said. Feygin lost her 40-year-old father to pancreatic cancer when she was 13. Diagnosed at stage three, he lived for nine more months. "I strongly believe that purpose can be found in everything that happens," Feygin said. She's now part of a team at a Menlo Park, California-based company called GRAIL that's introducing the blood test, called Galleri. She says can it catch hard-to-detect, aggressive and often deadly cancers like pancreatic, ovarian and esophageal. "If cancers can be detected early, we can dramatically improve patient outcomes," Feygin said. Feygin explains that our blood contains a DNA signature. The blood test tracks the DNA a cancer cell sheds. Two tubes of blood are drawn and sent to GRAIL's lab for analysis. "We can find and sequence these tiny bits of tumor-derived DNA in the blood and, based on the patterns we see, we can reveal if there is a signal for cancer present. We can predict with very high accuracy where in the body this cancer signal is coming from," Feygin said. An interventional study that included Mayo Clinic with 6,600 participants returned 29 signals that were followed by a cancer diagnosis. Another study found a less than 1% false positive rate.

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Indigenous peoples to get $1.7bn in recognition of role in protecting forests
2021-11-01, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/nov/01/cop26-indigenous-peoples-...

At least $1.7bn of funding will be given directly to indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) in recognition of their key role in protecting the planet's lands and forests, it will be announced at Cop26 today. The governments of the UK, US, Germany, Norway and the Netherlands are leading the $1.7bn (Ł1.25bn) funding pledge, which is being announced as part of ambitious global efforts to reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030, with campaigners cautiously hopeful that this conference of the parties (Cop) could be the first to properly champion indigenous peoples' rights. Tuntiak Katan, a leader of Ecuador's indigenous Shuar people who serves as general coordinator of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities, said: "We are happy with the financing announcement, but we will be watching for concrete measures that will reveal whether the intent is to transform a system that has directed less than 1% of climate funding to indigenous and local communities. What matters is what happens next." Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, said the aim was to give IPLCs more of a voice in policymaking and discourse. It is hoped more funding will follow. Walker said: "It's a first step, it's a down payment." The money will support IPLCs' capacity to govern themselves collectively, assist with mapping and registration work, back national land reform and help resolve conflict over territories. It will continue until 2025.

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Puppet of a Syrian girl walks the path of refugees to offer hope for the future
2021-11-02, NPR
https://www.npr.org/2021/11/02/1051577603/puppet-of-a-syrian-girl-walks-the-p...

"Little Amal," a 9-year-old Syrian refugee girl, has big, expressive eyes and loves jumping in puddles as she travels on foot to the UK in search of a new home. But Amal isn't just any girl – she's a giant puppet more than 11 ft. tall. She's the centerpiece of The Walk, a traveling arts festival. It's the latest project by London-based theater company Good Chance, in collaboration with Handspring Puppet Company. For the past three months, Amal and the crew have travelled from the Syrian-Turkish border to the UK in an effort to bring hope to the plight of refugees. Today, they reached Manchester, England, completing a 5,000-mile journey through more than 65 cities, towns and villages. Through accompanying events along the route, like installations and performances, it was important that the walk recognize the range of Amal's experiences – not just one of hardship, but resilience too, Zuabi says. "I don't want anybody to feel sad for refugees. I want people to see themselves when they see a refugee. And that's why puppets are gorgeous. Because a puppet doesn't exist until you give it life. You need to go 'she is a refugee' and the minute you treat a refugee like this, you go 'he is me. They are us.'" Even Amal's size at 11 ft. – or 3.5 meters – is deliberate. To Zuabi, visibility is the first step towards empathy. He says "to see that people are moved by a small gesture she does in the middle of a street, and suddenly you look around and people are wiping their tears – that's very, very beautiful to see," Zuabi says.


The 17-year-old making films fun for deaf children
2021-10-30, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-58972808

For eight-year-old Toby, who is deaf, watching films or TV on streaming platforms can sometimes be a bit pointless - because so many of them don't have sign language versions. "We have captions but they don't really do anything for him because it goes quite fast. He would just watch and not get much from it," his dad Jarod Mills [said]. But now, Toby has some help thanks to an app developed by a 17-year-old A-level student. Mariella Satow, who has dual UK-US citizenship, lives in the UK but has been stuck in New York since summer 2020 because of Covid travel restrictions. In that do-something-new phase of lockdown, Mariella created a signing app called SignUp. She got the idea when she was teaching herself American Sign Language (ASL) - one of hundreds of sign languages used across the world. Mariella wanted to watch TV shows to help her learn, so was disappointed to discover how few had signed versions. It's taken a year for Mariella to develop the technology, with lots of help from ASL teachers and the deaf community. The app is available in the US as a Google Chrome extension - with an interpreter appearing in a box once the film starts playing. It only works on Disney Plus films at the moment, because that's where Mariella thought she could help the most children. Jarod, who works in Kentucky at a school for deaf children, says it was "exciting" watching Toby use Mariella's invention. "The app creates a level playing field," he says. "Kids are getting that understanding and information like any hearing child does."

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Bystanders will intervene to help victims of aggressive public disputes
2019-06-26, Science Daily
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190626125049.htm

Bystanders will intervene in nine-out-of-ten public fights to help victims of aggression and violence say researchers, in the largest ever study of real-life conflicts captured by CCTV. The findings overturn the impression of the "walk on by society" where victims are ignored by bystanders. Instead, the international research team of social scientists found that at least one bystander - but typically several - did something to help. And with increasing numbers of bystanders there is a greater likelihood that at least someone will intervene to help. A team of researchers from the University of Copenhagen, the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement and Lancaster University examined unique video recordings of 219 arguments and assaults in inner cities of Amsterdam (Netherlands), Lancaster (UK) and Cape Town (South-Africa). Lead author Dr Richard Philpot ... said: "According to conventional wisdom, non-involvement is the default response of bystanders during public emergencies. Challenging this view, the current cross-national study of video data shows that intervention is the norm in actual aggressive conflicts. The fact that bystanders are much more active than we think is a positive and reassuring story for potential victims of violence and the public as a whole." The research further showed that a victim was more likely to receive help when a larger number of bystanders was present.

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The Norwegian Secret To Enjoying A Long Winter
2015-11-06, Fast Company
https://www.fastcompany.com/3052970/the-norwegian-secret-to-enjoying-a-long-w...

As the days get darker and colder in much of the northern hemisphere, it's easy to indulge in gloom. The gloom leads to a common question: What can I do to cope with the dark and cold? Changing your mindset can do more than distracting yourself from the weather. That's the takeaway from research done by Kari Leibowitz ... who spent August 2014 to June 2015 on a Fulbright scholarship in Tromsø in northern Norway. Leibowitz went to study the residents' overall mental health, because rates of seasonal depression were lower than one might expect. It turns out that in northern Norway, "people view winter as something to be enjoyed, not something to be endured," says Leibowitz, and that makes all the difference. First, Norwegians celebrate the things one can only do in winter. Norwegians also have a word, koselig, that means a sense of coziness. It's like the best parts of Christmas, without all the stress. People light candles, light fires, drink warm beverages, and sit under fuzzy blankets. There's a community aspect to it. Leibowitz reports that Tromsø had plenty of festivals and community activities creating the sense that everyone was in it together. And finally, people are enamored with the sheer beauty of the season. Leibowitz grew up near the Jersey shore, and "I just took it as a fact that everyone likes summer the best." But deep in the winter in Norway ... the sun doesn't rise above the horizon. Against the snow, "the colors are incredibly beautiful," she says.

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Biden, other G-20 world leaders formally endorse groundbreaking global corporate minimum tax
2021-10-30, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2021/10/30/biden-g20-global-minimum-...

President Biden and the other national leaders gathered for the Group of 20 summit formally endorsed a new global minimum tax on Saturday, capping months of negotiations over the groundbreaking tax accord. The new global minimum tax of 15 percent aims to reverse the decades-long decline in tax rates on corporations across the world, a trend experts say has deprived governments of revenue to fund social spending programs. The deal is a key achievement for Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who made an international floor on corporate taxes among the top priorities of her tenure and pushed forcefully for swift action on a deal. Nearly 140 countries representing more than 90 percent of total global economic output have endorsed the deal. The minimum tax will be coupled with a broader change to global taxation intended to prevent countries and companies from undercutting the new floor. Under the pact, corporations trying to evade taxation by shifting profits to low-tax countries will face a "top-up" tax, which would require them to pay the difference between the tax haven's tax rate and the 15 percent minimum tax rate of the companies where they are headquartered. Supporters of the deal are also optimistic companies will not move to relocate their headquarters abroad, in part because so much of the world has committed to the new minimum. Treasury officials have said new "enforcement provisions" will impose tax penalties based in countries refusing to join the deal.

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Alphabet designed a low-cost device to make drinking water from air. Now it's open-sourced
2021-10-27, Fast Company
https://www.fastcompany.com/90690242/alphabet-designed-a-low-cost-device-to-m...

Last year, on the roof of a parking lot at Google's headquarters, engineers from X–Alphabet's "moonshot factory"–set up a panel to begin its first tests. The design, called an atmospheric water harvester, pulls in outside air, then uses fans and heat from sunlight to create condensation, producing clean drinking water drip by drip. In a new paper published today in Nature, the team calculates how much this type of device could potentially help give more people access to water that's safe to drink. Globally, as many as one in three people still drink unsafe water that can spread diseases. The study found that 1 billion people who currently don't have safe drinking water live in places where the device would function well. Because larger water infrastructure projects, like desalination plants, take many years to plan and build, the small devices could help fill the gap in the meantime. "This can leapfrog a lot of that and go directly to the source with a small device that's solar powered," says Jackson Lord, lead author of the paper. Alphabet ... wanted to be able to produce water at a cost of just one cent per liter. The team saw a path to reach 10 cents per liter, but not as low as one cent–so X decided to stop working on the project. But because the design could have a meaningful impact even at 10 cents, it's now opening up its data, prototypes, software, and hardware documentation ... so anyone can use the intellectual property and keep moving the work forward.

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Merck Will Share Formula for Its Covid Pill With Poor Countries
2021-10-27, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/27/health/covid-pill-access-molnupiravir.html

Merck has granted a royalty-free license for its promising Covid-19 pill to a United Nations-backed nonprofit in a deal that would allow the drug to be manufactured and sold cheaply in the poorest nations, where vaccines for the coronavirus are in devastatingly short supply. The agreement with the Medicines Patent Pool, an organization that works to make medical treatment and technologies globally accessible, will allow companies in 105 countries, mostly in Africa and Asia, to sublicense the formulation for the antiviral pill, called molnupiravir, and begin making it. Merck reported this month that the drug halved the rate of hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk Covid patients who took it soon after infection in a large clinical trial. Affluent nations, including the United States, have rushed to negotiate deals to buy the drug, tying up large portions of the supply even before it has been approved by regulators and raising concerns that poor countries could be shut out of access to the medicine, much as they have been for vaccines. Generic drug makers in developing countries are expected to market the drug for as little as $20 per treatment (a 5-day course), compared to the $712 per course that the U.S. government has agreed to pay for its initial purchase. "The Merck license is a very good and meaningful protection for people living in countries where more than half of the world's population lives," said James Love, who leads Knowledge Ecology International, a nonprofit research organization.

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Éléonore Laloux helps France see disability differently
2021-10-15, Christian Science Monitor
https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2021/1015/Eleonore-Laloux-helps-France...

City council member ÉlĂ©onore Laloux barely fills out her desk chair but her persona and vision outsize any of the Arras giants. "I'm a very committed and dynamic person, and I like to be out working with people," says Ms. Laloux. She's become a household name in Arras and regularly receives congratulations from locals for her dedication to her work. Ms. Laloux is the first and so far only person with Down syndrome to be elected to public office in France. Last year, she was put in charge of inclusion and happiness in Arras, bringing an effervescent energy to city decisions. Alongside Mayor FrĂ©dĂ©ric Leturque, Ms. Laloux has utilized her lived experience and innovative ideas to make sure inclusion and accessibility are a part of every city initiative – from education to transportation to tourism. Ms. Laloux is not just helping the city rethink what inclusion means, but also changing minds about what it's like to live with a disability as well as what those with cognitive disabilities are capable of. "Inclusion isn't something that we just think about; it's not a generous act. It's our duty," says Mr. Leturque, who put forward Ms. Laloux as a candidate last year. "ElĂ©onore has helped the entire town progress in terms of how we see disability." France doesn't take census-type statistics on people with disabilities, but Ms. Laloux is one of the few French people with a visible disability to hold a political position here. Her mere presence has transformed Arras into a model of accessibility and inclusion, and can have an impact on towns across France.

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Student Develops Supercharged Extinguisher in Response to California Wildfires
2021-08-25, Yahoo! News
https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/f-c-e-student-develops-210018209.html

Wildfires have plagued California to an unusual extent in recent years. Imagine a device that could suppress these fires before they blossomed out of control, actively fighting them and preventing them from spreading. Such a device could act as an important stopgap measure for homes and businesses and proactively address fires at their source. Enter high school student Arul Mathur, a New Jersey transplant who moved to California and witnessed firsthand the devastation of the fires, with his family nearly having to evacuate their own home in 2019. As Mathur says, that made it "personal." Inspired to come up with some sort of solution, Mather designed "F.A.C.E.," or the Fire Activated Canister Extinguisher. A new type of firefighting equipment, F.A.C.E. is a completely self-contained device; i.e. no human is necessary to operate it. It's also heat-activated, akin to a fire alarm, albeit activated with a rise in temperature instead of the presence of smoke. Think of it as a fire alarm version 2.0: easily portable, easily installable, and containing its own fire suppression materials like a super-charged sprinkler. However, it's not water that comes from F.A.C.E. when it's activated, its an eco-friendly fire retardant called Cold Fire that sprays the surrounding area (in a 5-6 foot radius) with the help of a built-in a sprinkler. The only human element involved in F.A.C.E. is its simple installation along a home or business' outdoor wall or fence, and the easy refilling of the fire retardant (if necessary).

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The Shorter Work Week Really Worked in Iceland. Here's How
2021-10-14, Time Magazine
https://time.com/6106962/shorter-work-week-iceland/

Even as the Covid-19 pandemic forced companies around the world to reimagine the workplace, researchers in Iceland were already conducting two trials of a shorter work week that involved about 2,500 workers – more than 1% of the country's working population. They found that the experiment was an "overwhelming success" – workers were able to work less, get paid the same, while maintaining productivity and improving personal well-being. The trials also worked because both employees and employers were flexible, willing to experiment and make changes when something didn't work. In some cases, employers had to add a few hours back after cutting them too much. Participants in the Iceland study reduced their hours by three to five hours per week without losing pay. The shorter work hours have so far largely been adopted in Iceland's public sector. Those who worked in an office had shorter meetings. Fewer sick days were reported. Workers reported having more time to spend with their families and on hobbies. Many appreciated gaining an extra hour of daylight, especially during the winter. Arna Hrönn AradĂłttir, a public-health project manager in Reykjavik's suburbs, was one of the first to trial shorter hours. "I feel like I'm more focused now," said AradĂłttir. "Before the pandemic, I spent a lot of time going to a meeting by car, but now I can sit in my office and have meetings through my computer. So I have gained four hours in my work day."

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Time millionaires: meet the people pursuing the pleasure of leisure
2021-10-12, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2021/oct/12/time-millionaires-meet-t...

When the pandemic began, Gavin, now working as a software engineer, realised, to his inexhaustible joy, that he could get away with doing less work than he had ever dreamed of, from the comfort of his home. He would start at 8.30am and clock off about 11am. To stop his laptop from going into sleep mode – lest his employers check it for activity – Gavin played a 10-hour YouTube video. "I work to pay my bills and keep a roof over my head," he says. "I don't see any value or purpose in work. Zero. None whatsoever." Gavin's job is an unfortunate expediency that facilitates his enjoyment of the one thing that does matter to him in life: his time. "Life is short," Gavin tells me. "I want to enjoy the time I have. We are not here for a long time. We are here for a good time." And for now, Gavin is living the good life. He's a time millionaire. First named by the writer Nilanjana Roy in a 2016 column in the Financial Times, time millionaires measure their worth not in terms of financial capital, but according to the seconds, minutes and hours they claw back from employment for leisure and recreation. "Wealth can bring comfort and security in its wake," says Roy. "But I wish we were taught to place as high a value on our time as we do on our bank accounts – because how you spend your hours and your days is how you spend your life." Perhaps time isn't a bank account, but a field. We can grow productive crops, or things of beauty. Or we can simply do nothing, and let the wildflowers grow. Everything is of beauty, everything is of equal value.

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Colrerd Nkosi, the Malawian self-taught electrician who powered up his village
2021-08-31, Africa News
https://www.africanews.com/2021/08/31/colrerd-nkosi-the-malawian-self-taught-...

Fifteen years ago, when darkness used to fall in Yobe Nkosi, a remote village in northern Malawi, children did their school homework by candlelight: there was no electricity. But that started to change in 2006, when villager Colrerd Nkosi finished secondary school in Mzimba, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) away, and returned home -- and found he could no longer live without power. Aged 23 at the time, Nkosi soon figured out that a stream gushing past the house where he grew up had just enough force to push the pedals on his bicycle. He created a makeshift dynamo that brought power into his home. Word spread quickly among the cluster of brick houses and neighbours began paying regular visits to charge their mobile phones. "I started getting requests for electricity (and) decided to upgrade," said Nkosi, now 38, sawing through machinery on his veranda in blue overalls. With no prior training, he turned an old fridge compressor into a water-powered turbine and put it in a nearby river, generating electricity for six households. Today, the village is supplied by a bigger turbine, built from the motor of a disused maize sheller - a machine that skims kernels of corn off the cob. The gadget has been set up on the village outskirts. The power is carried along metal cables strung from a two-kilometre (one-mile) line of tree trunks topped with wooden planks. The users pay no fee for the power but give Nkosi some money for maintenance - slightly more than $1.00 (0.85 euros) per household per month.

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Hope and connection: La Jollan plans to make a tradition of inviting messages on her ‘wishing trees'
2021-10-08, La Jolla Light
https://www.lajollalight.com/news/story/2021-10-08/hope-and-connection-la-jol...

After collecting hundreds of wishes the past year and a half on the trees outside her home, a La Jolla resident is sending her "wishing trees" into hibernation. Molly Bowman-Styles began her wishing trees in May 2020 as a response to the first weeks of isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. "One morning I woke up and I thought, ‘This is awful," she said of the pandemic and the concurrent, unrelated illnesses of her father and dog. "I just felt so disconnected and out of sorts." Bowman-Styles said she looked for a way to "feel connected to other people but at the same time help them to express how they're feeling through all this, because I know I'm not alone." She looked through her windows at her trees and had the idea to hang colorful index cards in leftover envelopes from the branches, with markers and paper clips to enable passersby to write on the cards and rehang them. "I wrote on the envelopes, ‘Make a wish for our world' and ‘Share a message of hope,'" Bowman-Styles said. And many people did. "I was excited, because in the morning I'd wake up and I had more cards and I read each and every one of them," Bowman-Styles said. In the first few weeks the cards were hung, Bowman-Styles lost both her father and dog. "I cannot tell you how [the trees] helped me so much with my grief," she said. Bowman-Styles said one of her favorite cards, written by a child during the divisive 2020 presidential election, read, "I love everybody."

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The U.S. solar industry posted record growth in 2020 despite Covid
2021-03-16, CNBC News
https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/16/the-us-solar-industry-posted-record-growth-in...

U.S. solar installations reached a record high in 2020 as favorable economics, supportive policies and strong demand in the second half of the year offset the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Installations grew 43% year over year, reaching a record 19.2 gigawatts of new capacity, according to a report released Tuesday from the Solar Energy Industries Association and Wood Mackenzie. In the fourth quarter alone, the U.S. added just over 8 GW of capacity – a quarterly record. That's more than the capacity added in all of 2015, which was 7.5 GW. California, Texas and Florida were the top three states for annual solar additions for the second year running. Virginia and North Carolina rounded out the top five. In the U.S., solar represented 43% of all new electricity generating capacity added in 2020, its largest ever share of new generating capacity. Solar is also the cheapest form of new power in many places. "Residential solar sales continue to exceed expectations as loan providers roll out attractive products, interest in home improvement surges, and customers suffering through power outages from extreme weather events seek energy resilience," the report said. The report also looked for the first time at growth forecasts through 2030, projecting that the U.S. solar market will quadruple from current levels by the end of the decade. The growth is expected to be spread across markets as customers, utilities, states and corporations push to decarbonize the grid.

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The homecoming queen gave away her crown to comfort a grieving family and set an example for us all
2021-10-08, CNN News
https://edition.cnn.com/2021/10/07/us/homecoming-queen-crown-student/index.html

Brittany Walters made a promise to her mother the day she passed away from cancer: Brittany and her father would go to homecoming, where the high school senior was nominated for queen. Walters, who aspires to become a nurse, didn't win homecoming queen that night, but thanks to an act of kindness that has shined a healing light on a grieving family and community, she ended the night in a crown. Senior Nyla Covington was voted homecoming queen by fellow students at a school football game in late September. But moments after being crowned, [she] felt called to crown someone else. After asking permission from school officials to do so, Covington walked over to Walters, standing beside her cowboy hat-clad father, and put the crown on her. "I just felt like it was something that was put on my heart," Covington told CNN. "It was really just for her, to bring up her day a little bit, and she'd rather have her mom than a crown... but the point was, I was telling her that she was her mom's queen and I was just letting her know that she was loved by many and especially me." "I just felt so like so much love from her, and I just felt so much love for her and the whole school," Walters said of Covington. "As soon as I got off the field, I just got hundreds of hugs from every single person in the stands." There were tears on and off the field. Forrest County AHS School's principal Will Wheat tells CNN he is proud of the young women. "That wasn't preplanned, this was all on the kids, that's the beautiful thing about it," Wheat said.

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ABB launches world's fastest charger to plug into surging e-car market
2021-09-30, Reuters
https://www.reuters.com/business/autos-transportation/abb-launches-worlds-fas...

ABB has launched the world's fastest electric car charger, the Swiss engineering company said on Thursday, to plug into the booming demand for electric cars made by Tesla, Hyundai and other automakers. The company is launching the new Terra 360 modular charger as it presses ahead with plans to float its electric vehicle (EV) charging business, which could be valued around $3 billion. The device can charge up to four vehicles at once, and can fully charge any electric car within 15 minutes, ABB said, making it attractive to customers worried about charging times which can run to several hours. "With governments around the world writing public policy that favours electric vehicles and charging networks to combat climate change, the demand for EV charging infrastructure, especially charging stations that are fast, convenient and easy to operate, is higher than ever," said Frank Muehlon, president of ABB's E-mobility Division. Globally the number of electric vehicles registered increased by 41% during 2020 to 3 million cars, despite the pandemic-related downturn in the total number of new cars sold last year. The growth trend has accelerated in 2021, with electric car sales rising by 140% in the first three months of the year. ABB's Terra 360, which can deliver a charge giving 100 kms (62 miles) of range in less than three minutes, will be available in Europe by the end of the year. The United States, Latin America and the Asia Pacific regions are due to follow in 2022.

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The worldview-changing drugs poised to go mainstream
2021-09-06, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210906-what-if-everyone-took-psychedelics

In the last 10 years, psychedelic drugs like LSD, magic mushrooms, DMT, a host of "plant medicines" – including ayahuasca, iboga, salvia, peyote – and related compounds like MDMA and ketamine have begun to lose much of their 1960s-driven stigma. Promising clinical trials suggest that psychedelics may prove game-changing treatments for depression, PTSD and addiction. The response from the psychiatric community ... has been largely open-armed. The drugs may well mark the field's first paradigm shift since SSRIs in the 1980s. In 2017, for example, the US Food and Drug Administration designated MDMA a "breakthrough therapy", which meant it would be fast-tracked through to the second stage of Phase-3 trials. Psychedelics remain Schedule-1 drugs federally in the US and Class-A in the UK, but rules are relaxing. This wave of psychedelic enthusiasm in psychiatry isn't the first. They were originally heralded as wonder drugs in the 1950s. Across some 6,000 studies on over 40,000 patients, psychedelics were tried as experimental treatments for an extraordinary range of conditions: alcoholism, depression, schizophrenia, criminal recidivism, childhood autism. And the results were promising. From as little as a single LSD session, studies suggested that the drug relieved problem drinking for 59% of alcoholic participants. Experimenting with lower, so-called "psycholytic" doses, many therapists were amazed by LSD's power as an adjunct to talking therapy.

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Magic Mushrooms May Be the Biggest Advance in Treating Depression Since Prozac
2021-09-22, Newsweek
https://www.newsweek.com/2021/10/01/magic-mushrooms-may-biggest-advance-treat...

For most of his adult life, Aaron Presley, age 34, felt like a husk of a person, a piece of "garbage." Then, all at once, the soul-crushing, depressive fog started to lift, and the most meaningful experience of his life began. The turning point for Presley came as he lay on a psychiatrist's couch at Johns Hopkins University. He had consumed a large dose of psilocybin, the active ingredient in what's more commonly known as magic mushrooms, and entered a state that could best be described as lucid dreaming. Visions of family and childhood triggered overwhelming and long-lost feelings of love, he says. Presley was one of 24 volunteers taking part in a small study aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of a combination of psychotherapy and this powerful mind-altering drug to treat depression–an approach that, should it win approval, could be the biggest advance in mental health since Prozac in the 1990s. Depression ... affects 320 million people around the world. Roughly one-third of those who seek treatment won't respond to verbal or conventional drug therapies. Magic-mushroom therapy is offering some hope for these hopeless cases. In the Hopkins study, published last year in JAMA Psychiatry, the therapy was four times more effective than traditional antidepressants. Two-thirds of participants showed a more-than 50-percent reduction in depression symptoms after one week; a month later, more than half were considered in remission, meaning they no longer qualified as being depressed.

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The unexpected magic of mushrooms
2019-03-15, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190314-the-unexpected-magic-of-mushrooms

[Jim] Anderson is standing in an unassuming patch of woodland in Crystal Falls, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. He is revisiting an organism living under the forest floor that he and his colleagues discovered nearly 30 years ago. This is the home of Armillaria gallica, a type of honey mushroom. When Anderson and his colleagues visited Crystal Falls in the late 1980s, they discovered that what at first appeared to be a rich community of Armillaria gallica flourishing beneath the mulch of leaf litter and top soil of the forest floor was – in fact – one giant individual specimen. They estimated it covered an area about 91 acres, weighed 100 tonnes and was at least 1,500 years old. Analysis produced [a] surprising insight, one that could help us humans in our fight against ... cancer. The Canadian researchers discovered what may be the secret behind the Armillaria gallica's extraordinary size and age. It appears the fungus has an extremely low mutation rate – meaning it avoids potentially damaging alterations to its genetic code. As organisms grow, their cells divide into two to produce new daughter cells. Over time, the DNA in the cells can become damaged leading to errors, known as mutations, creeping into the genetic code. This is thought to be one of the key mechanisms that causes aging. But it seems the Armillaria gallica in Crystal Falls might have some inbuilt resistance to this DNA damage.

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The people who believe plants can talk
2021-08-31, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210831-the-people-who-believe-plants-can...

Laura Beloff's plant seemed to be clicking. She had rigged its roots up to a contact microphone in order to detect faint, high-pitched clicks in the soil. With the help of software she had written for her computer, the frequency of the clicks had been lowered, making them audible to humans. Beloff first had the idea of listening to her plants' roots after reading about experiments by Monica Gagliano. Over the last decade or so, Gagliano, at the University of Western Australia, has published a series of papers that suggest plants have an ability to communicate, learn and remember. She has long argued that scientists should pay greater attention to the fact that plants can transmit and retrieve information acoustically. In a 2017 study, Gagliano and colleagues showed that plants appear to be able to sense the sound of water vibrating via their roots, which may help them to locate it underground. And Gagliano has also raised eyebrows with claims that, in non-experimental settings, she has heard plants speak to her using words. She says that this experience is "outside the strictly scientific realm" and that a third-party observer would not be able to measure the sounds she heard with laboratory instruments. But she is quite certain that she has perceived plants speaking to her on multiple occasions. "I have been in situations where not just me but several others in the same space heard the same thing," she says. But the precise mechanisms through which plants might perceive or sense sound remain mysterious.

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CEO on why giving all employees minimum salary of $70,000 still "works" six years later: "Our turnover rate was cut in half"
2021-09-16, CBS News
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/dan-price-gravity-payments-ceo-70000-employee-mi...

It was six years ago when CEO Dan Price raised the salary of everyone at his Seattle-based credit card processing company Gravity Payments to at least $70,000 a year. Price slashed his own salary by $1 million to be able to give his employees a pay raise. He was hailed a hero by some and met with predictions of bankruptcy from his critics. But that has not happened; instead, the company is thriving. "So you've almost doubled the number of employees?" CBS News' Carter Evans asked. "Yeah," Price replied. He said his company has tripled and he is still paying his employees $70,000 a year. "How much do you make?" asked Evans. "I make $70,000 a year," Price replied. To pay his own bills, Price downsized his life, sold a second home he owned, and tapped into his savings. According to the Economic Policy Institute, average CEO compensation is 320 times more than the salaries of their typical workers. "This shows that isn't the only way for a company to be successful and profitable," Hafenbrack said. "Do you pay what you can get away with? Or do you pay what you think is ideal, or reasonable, or fair?" Price said despite the success his company has had with the policy, he wishes other companies would follow suit. Bigger paychecks have lead to fiercely loyal employees. "Our turnover rate was cut in half, so when you have employees staying twice as long, their knowledge of how to help our customers skyrocketed over time and that's really what paid for the raise more so than my pay cut," said Price.

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China declared officially malaria-free by WHO
2021-06-30, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-57670189

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared China malaria-free, after a 70-year effort to wipe it out. China used to report 30 million cases a year during the 1940s. Since then, eradication efforts have driven down case numbers. The country used various methods to break the cycle of transmission of the parasite via mosquitos. The WHO said the country had now gone four years without registering a case, giving it malaria-free certification. China's success was hard-earned, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and came only after decades of targeted and sustained action. Although preventable and mostly curable if diagnosed and treated promptly, the World Health Organization estimates there were 229 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2019 and 409,000 deaths. Around 94% of all infections were reported in Africa. China's government has brought malaria cases down by using anti-malarial drugs, spraying mosquito breeding grounds, and distributing insecticide-treated nets. Countries can apply to the WHO for certification as malaria-free after they report four consecutive years of no indigenous cases. They must then present evidence of this, and demonstration their ability to prevent any future outbreak. According to the WHO, China has become the 40th country to be declared malaria-free.

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We're ‘interrupting violence' in Minneapolis, one lawn chair at a time
2021-09-08, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/09/08/were-interrupting-violence...

On May 28, Gloria Howard, an elder with Shiloh Temple, opened a lawn chair and sat down on one of the most dangerous street corners in North Minneapolis. Every day since, as part of the 21 Days of Peace community organizing project, she and others like her in our city have sat on street corners that are threatened by violence. Through the simple act of publicly taking a seat – staking their claim to a peaceful neighborhood by interrupting violence – they have undoubtedly saved lives. The campaign began after three children were shot in Minneapolis over a period of a few weeks: 6-year-old Aniya Allen, 9-year-old Trinity Ottoson-Smith and 10-year-old Ladavionne Garrett Jr. Aniya and Trinity died; Ladavionne was critically injured. Tragic stories such as theirs are occurring in cities across the country, as alarm bells ring in city halls and state capitols about rising violent crime. The problem is due in large part to a loss of trust between communities and law enforcement; disinvestment in neighborhoods and schools where more help, not less, is needed; and decades of failure to keep guns off the streets. What makes this simple act of sitting apparently so powerful? The people sitting on these corners in their chairs are members of the community. We know our young people, and they know us. But more important, we represent one of the strongest bastions of moral authority left in these areas: the Black church. We draw on the power of congregation – of family, of friends and of community – to try to interrupt the violence.

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How a holistic approach helps India's beggars build a better life
2021-09-09, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/sep/09/i-feel-more-secure...

Pandit Tulsidas, 52, was resting under a tree by a road junction in Jaipur, Rajasthan, where he had begged for years. When an official approached him about a government scheme that would teach him job skills, he rejected the offer. "But when he told me I was guaranteed a job, I accepted," he says, fearing that otherwise: "After the training, I'd end up back on the streets, because how can I eat without an income?" Six months on and Tulsidas works at a snack stand outside a Jaipur hospital. Getting people off the streets is usually done by bundling them into a police van and hauling them away to a crowded, dirty shelter. Keeping them off the streets is a problem India has so far failed to crack. The Rajasthan Skill and Livelihood Development Corporation (RSLDC) has developed a four-month scheme for 100 men interested in developing their skills and who have families to support. After an assessment, it's established that some can cook, some know a little bookkeeping, others can bake and so on. For four months, trainers then work to build on these skills. Employers are enlisted to provide jobs and can visit the training centre. The men are given shelter and food and receive 230 rupees (Ł2.30) a day, slightly more than India's minimum wage. Without counselling, many of the men would drop out. Rakesh Jain, RSLDC's deputy general manager, believes it is a crucial aspect of rehabilitation. "The counselling is as important as the training," says Jain. It is this holistic aspect that accounts for its initial success.

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Tiny Home Village offers path out of homelessness
2021-09-01, Christian Science Monitor
https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2021/0901/Tiny-Home-Village-offers-path...

Having learned from other cities' attempts to address homelessness, Albuquerque, New Mexico, has opened a village of tiny homes (THV). It hopes fostering a sense of community will prepare residents for permanent housing. But villagers aren't supposed to spend too much time in their new homes. The center of the community is the "Village House," where residents can cook, do laundry, hold meetings, go to the library, and watch television. They also do chores and help run the village. When people experiencing homelessness move off the street, "they lose [their] community," says Ilse Biel, resource manager for the THV. "It takes forever to forge a new community." "With this model we're almost trying to force the issue," she adds. The THV provides access to an occupational therapist and psychiatric nurse, as well as volunteers who help residents with computer skills, rĂ©sumĂ© building, and mock interviews. What Henry Esquivel likes most about his new house is the blast of cold air it delivers when he walks in. It's a big change from the Ford F-150 he used to sleep in. It's more spacious too, despite his new house being just one room. And it comes with neighbors – all of whom, like him, recently experienced homelessness. A few doors down is Mark Larusch. The father of three has potted plants and an Adirondack chair on his patio. A few doors further away is the woman whose large, black Labrador, Dottie, greets Mr. Esquivel excitedly every day.

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The millionaire rewilding the countryside, one farm at a time
2021-09-05, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/sep/05/the-millionaire-rewilding...

Julia Davies had one only goal in mind when she sold her share of the outdoor equipment company Osprey Europe a few years ago. The entrepreneur decided she was going to spend her millions ... by returning swathes of the British farmland to wilderness. Nature is in crisis in the UK, she argues, and its threatened wildlife needs all the protection it can get. A few months ago, the first steps towards her rewilding dreams were taken with the purchase of 170 hectares of fields and meadows that surround Court Farm, near Bere Regis, Dorset. The land cost almost Ł4m but thanks to the prospect of a bridging loan from Davies, Dorset Wildlife Trust has been able to acquire ownership. Pastures where Friesian cattle once grazed and fields of wheat, maize and barley – which fed the Court Farm herd – will now be returned to nature. New woodland will spread over the pastures, wildlife and plants from hedgerows will colonise fields while a network of deep ditches which have drained the farm for decades will be filled in and blocked. Wetlands will return to the landscape – along with populations of frogs and newts. Crucially, the plan adopted by Davies – a commercial lawyer turned green activist – could serve as a template for future rewilding projects as the UK struggles to counter its mounting biodiversity crisis. "Rather than buy my own piece of land to rewild it, I decided to lend money so that conservation groups such as wildlife trusts could get control of a piece of land. Then they could pay me back."

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What are community fridges? Inside the effort to reduce hunger amid COVID-19
2020-10-23, Today
https://www.today.com/food/what-are-community-fridges-inside-effort-reduce-hu...

More and more people are going hungry, with food bank lines stretching for blocks. One solution has been popping up in cities of all sizes: community fridges. The fridges, usually colorfully painted, can be found in public spaces like sidewalks and storefronts. Volunteers and community members keep them stocked with donated food and other supplies, and people can take what they need – no questions asked. While the pandemic and subsequent economic difficulty may have accelerated their use, community fridges aren't a unique idea; Ernst Bertone Oehninger, the co-founder of Freedge, a network that provides resources and information to community fridge operators around the world, said that he believes he first started hearing about the concept in 2012. Currently, Freedge's database lists nearly 200 fridges in the United States. When it comes to starting a community fridge, organizers described the process as surprisingly easy. The most difficult part, according to Sandra Belat, 24, who is preparing to open a fridge in Denver, Colorado, is securing a location, but the community has been eager to support the initiative. Community fridge organizers are responsible for more than just putting food in fridges: They also need to keep them clean, ensure that the items inside the fridge are safe and healthy and keep the fridges stocked. In addition to food donations, many community fridges are given supplies and financial donations, so the operators can purchase items to put in the fridges.

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‘Green steel': Swedish company ships first batch made without using coal
2021-08-18, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/aug/19/green-steel-swedish-company-s...

The world's first customer delivery of "green steel" produced without using coal is taking place in Sweden, according to its manufacturer. The Swedish venture Hybrit said it was delivering the steel to truck-maker Volvo AB as a trial run before full commercial production in 2026. Volvo has said it will start production in 2021 of prototype vehicles and components from the green steel. Steel production using coal accounts for around 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Hybrit started test operations at its pilot plant for green steel in Lulea, northern Sweden, a year ago. It aims to replace coking coal, traditionally needed for ore-based steel making, with renewable electricity and hydrogen. Hydrogen is a key part of the EU's plan to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Hybrit is owned by the steelmaker SSAB, state-owned utility Vattenfall and miner LKAB. SSAB accounts for 10% of Sweden's and 7% of Finland's carbon dioxide emissions. It said the trial delivery was an "important step towards a completely fossil-free value chain. The goal is to deliver fossil-free steel to the market and demonstrate the technology on an industrial scale as early as 2026." Another green steel venture, H2 Green Steel, is planning to build a fossil fuel-free steel plant in the north of Sweden, including a sustainable hydrogen facility, with production starting in 2024.

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The Sounds of Healing
2021-08-02, Next City
https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/the-sounds-of-healing

What Washington musician Yoko Sen describes as the "soundtrack of her life" is not one of the songs she wrote for the band Dust Galaxy, but the alarm of the heart monitor at her hospital bedside. When the U.S.-based Japanese artist fell ill in 2012 and had to spend weeks in hospitals, she found the jarring sounds there detrimental to her healing. "I thought it was torture, the cacophony of alarms, beeps, doors slamming, the squeaking of carts, people screaming." At the time, it wasn't clear if Sen would make a full recovery. She was connected to four different machines, and each emitted a different sound. Her sensitive ears were especially bothered by the constant beeping of her heart monitor. "Sound is largely ignored in healthcare even though the aesthetics of it could have a great impact on our sense of wellbeing and dignity," Sen realized. When Sen recovered, she was determined to follow her new mission: to "humanize" hospital sounds. How does healing sound? Or love? Are there tunes that foster recovery? She founded SenSound in 2015, a social enterprise to reimagine the acoustic environment in hospitals. [The] 41-year-old Sen is addressing a massive, often overlooked problem. On average, a patient endures 135 different alarms each day, hospitals are often louder than a highway during rush hour and sleep deprivation is a common complaint. Many wish for the sounds of nature, the laughter of children, or the voice of a loved one.

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That time America almost had a 30-hour workweek
2021-09-06, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2021/09/06/40-hour-work-week-fdr/

The nature of work has undergone a lot of changes during the coronavirus pandemic. In Congress, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) has introduced legislation to make a 32-hour workweek standard. This "great reassessment" of labor feels revolutionary. But we have been here before. In 1933, the Senate passed, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt supported, a bill to reduce the standard workweek to only 30 hours. In the 1830s, workers in manufacturing were on the job roughly 70 hours a week, often in horrendous and even deadly conditions. By the 1890s that had dropped to about 60 hours. This period also saw the rise of labor unions [and] the creation of Labor Day as a national holiday. The eight-hour day picked up in popularity in the decades preceding the Great Depression. Federal workers, railroad workers and Ford Motor employees all moved to eight-hour shifts. As soon as Roosevelt took office on March 4, 1933, he called Congress into a special session. On April 6, the Senate passed [Sen. Hugo] Black's 30-hour week bill. Meanwhile at the White House, as Roosevelt worked on a comprehensive recovery plan, he began to turn against the 30-hour week. What if, rather than sharing available work, there was just more work? As the plan for a massive public works program took shape, support for the 30-hour week collapsed. Instead, Roosevelt used the threat of it as leverage to get industry leaders to agree to ban child labor, set a modest minimum wage and limit the standard workweek at 40 hours.

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Solar power in Australia outstrips coal-fired electricity for first time
2021-08-22, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/aug/23/solar-power-in-austral...

The national electricity market reached a new milestone on Sunday, with solar power outstripping energy generation from coal for the first time since the market was set up two decades ago. The crossover point lasted for only a few minutes, as low demand and sunny skies on Sunday meant the contribution from coal dropped to a record low of 9,315MW just after noon, while solar provided the dominant share with 9,427MW. Dylan McConnell, a research fellow at the University of Melbourne's climate and energy college, said that for a brief moment renewable energy represented 57% of national electricity generation. "This is what I unofficially call ‘record season'," McConnell said. "It's actually still pretty early in the season [to get these numbers] but in spring or the shoulder seasons you have the combination of low demand, because there's no heating or cooling, and then nice weather on the weekend. "Those factors combine, and you get these giant shares of renewable energy that generally push out coal." While McConnell said it was only "fleeting" and that "Australia was a long way from peak renewable energy", energy prices also went negative on Sunday from 8.30am through to 5pm. It means ... energy producers were paying to keep running. Unlike more nimble solar and wind producers, coal generators are particularly hurt when prices turn negative. The costs associated with shutting down and restarting coal generators are prohibitive.

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Why whales in Alaska have been so happy
2021-08-05, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-58032702

During a normal summer, Glacier Bay and the surrounding area buzzes with traffic, as vessels of all sizes, from massive, 150,000-tonne cruise liners to smaller whale-watching boats, ply the waters as part of Southern Alaska's massive tourism industry. The Covid-19 pandemic brought all of that to a sudden halt. Overall marine traffic in Glacier Bay declined roughly 40%. According to research by [Christine] Gabriele and Cornell University researcher Michelle Fournet, the level of manmade sound in Glacier Bay last year dropped sharply from 2018 levels, particularly at the lower frequencies generated by the massive cruise ship engines. Peak sound levels were down nearly half. All this afforded researchers an unprecedented opportunity to study whale behaviour in the kind of quiet environment that hasn't existed in the area for more than century. Gabriele has already noted changes. She compared whale activity in pre-pandemic times to human behaviour in a crowded bar. They talk louder, they stay closer together, and they keep the conversation simple. Now, the humpbacks seem to be spreading out across larger swathes of the bay. Whales can hear each other over about 2.3km (1.4 miles), compared with pre-pandemic distances closer to 200m (650ft). That has allowed mothers to leave their calves to play while they swim out to feed. Some have been observed taking naps. And whale songs - the ghostly whoops and pops by which the creatures communicate - have become more varied.

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Church buys and cancels medical debt of families in New Mexico and Arizona
2021-07-12, Yahoo! News
https://www.yahoo.com/now/church-buys-cancels-medical-debt-213100578.html

Hundreds of households in New Mexico and Arizona recently had their medical debts eliminated, thanks to St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Santa Fe. The church worked through a nonprofit organization called RIP Medical Debt that buys up medical debt and then uses donations to pay it off. "The driving force behind this was our pastor, Rev. Catherine Volland," said Peg Maish, a spokeswoman for St. Bede's. "She was really advocating for it. In all, it was about a year and a half in the making, from researching it to making a final decision." In total, 234 households in New Mexico and 548 in Arizona had their medical debt paid off. St. Bede's settled all of the New Mexico debt held by RIP Medical Debt, enabling the church to also reach out to Arizona. St. Bede's paid off medical debt in Arizona areas with a heavy Native American population. Native American areas are often poor and have many healthcare problems. St. Bede's settled all the debt for $15,000, even though the actual debt was $1,380,119. The reason is that RIP Medical Debt purchases the debt for pennies on the dollar. RIP Medical Debt was founded in 2014 by Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton, two former debt collection executives. The nonprofit organization selects families and individuals whose income is no more than twice the federal poverty level and whose debts exceed their assets. RIP sends a letter to each debtor and contacts credit agencies to inform them that the debt has been paid.

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Radio DJ Helps Raise Money to Fix Broken Truck of 20-Year-Old Who Walks 6 Hours to Work Each Day
2021-07-15, MSN News
https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/good-news/radio-dj-helps-raise-money-to-fix-br...

Local radio personality Ray "Ramblin' Ray" Stevens was driving when he passed 20-year-old Braxton Mayes multiple times, and noticed Mayes was walking for a long period of time. When Stevens reportedly stopped to offer him a ride, he soon learned the story of the former high school football player. Mayes told Stevens that his 2006 GMC truck recently broke down and, in the meantime, he was walking to work each day, a 12-mile journey (24 total) that took three hours each way. Mayes explained to the DJ that he would leave for work at 4 a.m. in order to arrive on time at 7 a.m. "This guy checks all the boxes," Stevens [said]. "He's a good, solid human being. People are having a hard time finding people to work and here's a guy walking three hours one way just because his truck broke down." After hearing his story, Stevens created a GoFundMe page in order to raise funds to fix Mayes' truck. The fundraiser has already earned over $8,000. According to Stevens, any additional money raised past the amount needed to repair the truck will be donated to local Chicago food banks. Mayes [said] that because he was raised with a strong work ethic, he was perfectly fine walking each day, but is grateful for the donations and support he's received. "It brought me to tears," Mayes said. "I didn't know when I would come up with the money to fix it or how many times I would have to walk." Repairs to Mayes' truck will likely be finished soon – and until then, his employer will give him a ride.

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Netflix documentary 'Fantastic Fungi' explores the many magical properties of mushrooms
2021-08-16, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
https://www.sfgate.com/streaming/article/Netflix-documentary-Fantastic-Fungi-...

Fungi have been around for billions of years, setting the stage for humanity by supporting, carrying and converting life. But for complex political reasons, these organisms are still shrouded in mystery. One man, however, is determined to lift the veil on the magical world of mushrooms. Enter Stamets, a bespectacled author and researcher whose mission to decode nature's hidden language and explore "altered states of consciousness" is chronicled in the documentary "Fantastic Fungi," which was recently made available to stream on Netflix. While the film aims to destigmatize hallucinogenic mushrooms, it also demonstrates why we should legitimize the studies of all mushrooms. Contemporary experts in neurology, psychiatry and biology in the film show that fungal genomes can solve a host of mental, physical and environmental problems. From healing bacterial infections to cleaning petroleum spills, fungi possess unique, almost godlike properties that are otherwise unseen in nature. For instance, lion's mane, an edible white mushroom that tastes like lobster, stimulates nerves in order to grow, suggesting that it could potentially cure degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. Ultimately, when Stamets discusses altered states of consciousness, it's ... about accepting a different state of being. For some people – especially those who live in pain – the film posits that mushrooms can be the answer they've been looking for.

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Can Fruits and Vegetables Boost Brain Health?
2021-08-09, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/09/well/brain-health-fruits-vegetables.html

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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This Bengaluru Zero-Power Sewage Treatment Plant was Inspired by Cows
2021-08-16, CNN (News18 India affiliate)
https://www.news18.com/news/buzz/this-bengaluru-zero-power-sewage-treatment-p...

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].

Note: Watch a BBC News video on this amazing invention. Why isn't this getting more attention?


Have old broken stuff? These people will fix it for you
2019-01-15, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2019/01/15/dont-throw-out-that-old-c...

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.

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This radio station plays songs made by trees as they grow
2021-08-03, Fast Company
https://www.fastcompany.com/90661294/this-radio-station-plays-songs-made-by-t...

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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This was once the largest steel mill in the world. Now it's going to build clean energy infrastructure
2021-08-04, Fast Company
https://www.fastcompany.com/90662395/this-was-once-the-largest-steel-mill-in-...

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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At an extraordinary Olympics, acts of kindness abound
2021-08-02, ABC News
https://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/wireStory/extraordinary-olympics-acts-kindne...

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.

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Native Hawaiians 'reclaim' surfing with Moore's Olympic gold
2021-08-05, ABC News
https://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/wireStory/native-hawaiians-reclaim-surfing-m...

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."

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European Renewables Just Crushed Fossil Fuels. Here's How It Happened
2021-07-23, Forbes
https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidrvetter/2020/07/23/european-renewables-just...

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.

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Herbicide Roundup to be pulled from U.S. store shelves in response to lawsuits
2021-07-29, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Herbicide-Roundup-to-be-pulled-fr...

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.

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California launches largest free school lunch program in U.S.
2021-07-19, PBS News
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/california-launches-largest-free-schoo...

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.

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Missouri Inmates Sew Custom Quilts for Foster Children
2021-07-12, U.S. News & World Report
https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/missouri/articles/2021-07-12/missouri...

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.

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Connecticut becomes first state to make calls free for inmates and their families
2021-06-22, CNN News
https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/22/us/connecticut-free-prison-phone-calls-trnd/in...

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.

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Walmart Offering Full College Tuition And Books For Employees
2021-07-27, NPR
https://www.npr.org/2021/07/27/1021380394/walmart-offering-full-college-tuiti...

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.

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Can this 'marriage' be saved? How conservatives and liberals can learn to trust again
2021-07-24, Yahoo! News
https://news.yahoo.com/marriage-saved-conservatives-liberals-learn-100036260....

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.

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Man on a mission to become first double amputee to sail around world
2020-08-07, ABC (Rhode Island affiliate)
https://www.abc6.com/man-on-a-mission-to-become-first-double-amputee-to-sail-...

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.

Note: Listen to an inspiring podcast of this courageous, caring man and his intense journey through life. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring disabled persons news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


A Second Life for North Carolina's Shuttered Factories
2021-06-15, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/15/business/north-carolina-factories-redevelo...

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.

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From McDonald's to the Olympics: How Jumper Quanesha Burks Made Her Way to Team USA
2021-07-09, Sports Illustrated
https://www.si.com/olympics/2021/07/09/quanesha-burks-long-jumper-mcdonalds-o...

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."

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Norwegian Cohousing Project Is Designed Around 'Gaining by Sharing'
2021-06-22, Tree Hugger
https://www.treehugger.com/vindmollebakken-coliving-project-helen-and-hard-ar...

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 Vindmøllebakken in Stavanger, Norway. Vindmøllebakken 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.

Note: Learn more about this fascinating new movement on this webpage. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Four-day week 'an overwhelming success' in Iceland
2021-07-06, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/news/business-57724779

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."

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Animals to be formally recognised as sentient beings in UK law
2021-05-12, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/12/animals-to-be-formally-recognis...

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."

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20 million Americans still don't have enough to eat. A grass-roots movement of free fridges aims to help.
2021-06-28, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/06/28/hunger-philadelphia-free-f...

Darrell Brokenborough opened the bright yellow refrigerator that stood on the sidewalk outside a row home at 308 N. 39th St., smiled and said, "It's full." He balanced on his cane so he could take a closer look at the apples, yogurt, greens, pasta, cheese and chicken inside. On the front of the fridge was written: "Free food" and "Take what you need. Leave what you don't." Philadelphia now has more than 20 of these refrigerators sitting outside homes and restaurants, offering free food to anyone passing by. Volunteers keep the fridges clean and stocked with food donated from grocery stores, restaurants, local farmers and anyone with extra to share. The concept of the community fridge ― sometimes called a "freedge" ― has been around for more than a decade, but it exploded during the pandemic as hunger spiked in the United States and worldwide. There are now about 200 of these community fridges in the United States, up from about 15 before the pandemic. "What we're learning is when you do something like this, people will support it. People do have goodness and kindness, and they will bring food," said Michelle Nelson, founder of Mama-Tee.com, which now runs 18 bright yellow fridges in Philadelphia and has been inundated with requests to put more in place throughout the country. Nelson said the effort is part of the movement known as "mutual aid," where people, even those struggling, want to help one another and have a stake in the project.

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Two women chatted in a bathroom. They soon realized they were each a match for the other's husband, who needed a kidney
2021-06-28, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/06/29/kidney-donate-transplant-...

Tia Wimbush and Susan Ellis have been co-workers for a decade, and while they didn't know each other well, they learned two years ago that their spouses each needed a kidney transplant. Then ... something remarkable happened. The women saw each other in a restroom at work and started chatting as they washed their hands. They had a lot in common, both working in information technology at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and dealing with the same medical stress at home. Neither was a match to be an organ donor for her own husband, and the transplant waiting lists are impossibly long. Wimbush casually asked Ellis what her husband's blood type was. He's type O, Ellis replied. Wimbush said her husband was type AB. The women paused for a moment and looked at each other. Then Wimbush realized they might have stumbled upon something that might help save both of their husbands' lives. Wimbush thought she might be a match for Ellis's husband, and – incredibly – she thought Ellis could be a match for her husband. Antibody tests revealed that each woman was an excellent match for the other's spouse. So in March, seven months after that chance conversation, Wimbush donated one of her kidneys to Lance Ellis, 41, and Susan Ellis donated one of hers to Rodney Wimbush, 45. Both transplants done at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital went so well that the men have almost fully recovered and are going on weekend hikes with friends and family, Tia Wimbush said.

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This mini car beats Tesla Model 3 to become the world's bestselling EV
2021-03-21, MSN News
https://www.msn.com/en-in/autos/news/this-mini-car-beats-tesla-model-3-to-bec...

Wuling Hong Guang Mini EV is a small mini electric vehicle that is giving Tesla Model 3 run for the money. This made-in-China small electric car has become the world's bestselling EV in January and February 2021, by beating the Tesla Model 3 electric sedan. The Hong Guang Mini EV sells in China at a price of 28,800 yuan, which is nearly $4,500. On the other hand, the Tesla Model 3 rear-drive Standard Range Plus variant's price starts at $38,190. Despite the small electric car lagging behind Tesla Model 3 in terms of battery capacity, range, and performance, Wuling Hong Guang Mini EV convenience and affordable pricing have made it the world's bestselling electric vehicle. According to The Verge, Wuling Hong Guang Mini EV has sold more than 36,000 units in January 2021, as compared to the Tesla Model 3 that sold around 21,500 units in the same month. In February 2021 as well, Wuling Hong Guang Mini EV sold more than 20,000 units, as compared to just 13,700 Tesla Model 3. Dimensionally, the Wuling Hong Guang Mini EV is just 115 inches long, 59 inches wide, and has a height of nearly 64 inches. The car ... weighs just 665 kg. The electric car is claimed to have a range of 170 kilometres on a single charge. In comparison, the 2021 Tesla Model weighs 1,587 kg and has a length of 185 inches. The electric sedan is 73 inches wide and 57 inches tall. The Tesla Model 3 is claimed to be capable of running 402 km on a single charge.

Note: Learn more about his inexpensive new EV in this CNN article. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


These Families Wanted a Village, So They Built Their Own
2021-06-22, Bloomberg
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-06-23/how-cohousing-is-making-li...

When Madrid's schools were closed in January due to the coldest weather in fifty years, parents living in the Entrepatios cooperative housing development already had a model that would have made many parents struggling through pandemic closures jealous. Their onsite "school" was inaugurated. "It's like a village," says Cintia DĂ­az-Silveira, who moved into the new cooperative housing apartment block at the end of 2020 with her partner and two children. For DĂ­az-Silveira and her fellow inaugural residents, their new living situation is their answer to the refrain "it takes a village to raise a child." "We have our own bar, our own hairdressers, our own consumer group. We don't need to go shopping because everything gets delivered," she joked of the apartment building she shares with 16 other families and 23 children. The complex is the first of its kind in Madrid, and part of a cooperative housing movement that's starting to expand in Spain and elsewhere. By "the bar," DĂ­az-Silveira is referring to Friday afternoons, when fellow residents have band practice, and many more residents go up to the terrace to enjoy a beer and live music. The "hairdresser" is a neighbor who's good at cutting the children's hair. "Someone gives great massages and someone else does yoga. We share our know-how with the group, and all our needs when it comes to parenting too," she said. There's not much need to hire babysitters, either, with some parents banding together to cover child care.

Note: Learn more about this fascinating new movement on this webpage. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Extinct Tree From Christ's Time Rises From the Dead
2008-06-12, Live Science
https://www.livescience.com/2602-extinct-tree-christ-time-rises-dead.html

Scientists have grown a tree from what may be the oldest seed ever germinated. The new sapling was sprouted from a 2,000-year-old date palm excavated in Masada, the site of a cliff-side fortress in Israel where ancient Jews are said to have killed themselves to avoid capture by Roman invaders. Dubbed the "Methuselah Tree" after the oldest person in the Bible, the new plant has been growing steadily, and after 26 months, the tree was nearly four-feet (1.2 meters) tall. The species of tree, called the Judean date, (Phoenix dactylifera L.), is now extinct in Israel, but researchers are hoping that by reviving the plant they may be able to study its medicinal uses. "The medicinal plants from this region are very important because they are historically mentioned in the Bible and the Koran," said Sarah Sallon, director of the Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine Research Center at the Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem, which initiated the experiment to grow the tree as part of its Middle East Medicinal Plant Project. Carbon dating of the seeds found at Masada revealed that they date from roughly the time of the ancient fortress' siege, in A.D. 73. The seeds were found in storage rooms, and appear to have been stockpiled for the Jews hiding out against the invading Romans. The seeds were excavated about 40 years ago, along with skeletons of those who died during the siege. Since then, the seeds had been languishing in a drawer until Sallon and her team decided to attempt to grow them anew.

Note: Watch a fascinating 8-minute video of this miraculous occurrence and the small forest of these trees that has since grown. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


European Parliament votes to ban caged animal farming by 2027
2021-06-22, Optimist Daily
https://www.optimistdaily.com/2021/06/european-parliament-votes-to-ban-caged-...

Last week, the European Parliament made its stance on animal welfare clear by calling for a ban on caged animal farming, after voting overwhelmingly in favor to end the practice. The non-binding resolution hopes to change animal agriculture and reinvent the food supply chain across Europe by removing cages. The Parliament vote – passed by an overwhelming majority voting in favor of the ban, with 558 members in favor to 37 votes against – sought to implement a ban on caged farming across the European Union. The vote followed a European Citizens' Initiative that started three years ago, and which gathered 1.4 million signatures in at least 18 member states in support of animal welfare. Olga Kikou, Head of Compassion in World Farming EU and one of the citizens leading the ‘End the Cage Age' petition told Euronews that some animals never leave their cages during their lifetime: "We have estimated, and this is a very conservative number, that over 300 million animals, farmed animals, spend most of their life or their entire life in cages in Europe, every year." Following the committee's debate regarding the ‘End the Cage Age' petition, the parliament decided in favor of the ban that aims to completely dismantle caged animal farming by 2027.

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The rise of the human library: How lending people out for conversations is tackling prejudice
2021-05-29, Image
https://www.image.ie/self/the-rise-of-the-human-library-how-lending-people-ou...

The Human Library is, in the true sense of the word, a library of people. Against the backdrop of a rise in curiosity and the thirst for authenticity, the idea of learning and being transported by a person telling their story rather than reading it from a book, is growing in popularity. The human "books" in these cases are volunteers. Those with a story to tell. And the way they are dispersed is tailored to each individual's own biases and prejudices. The original event was open eight hours a day for four days straight and featured over fifty different titles. The broad selection of books provided readers with ample choice to challenge their stereotypes. One such volunteer, Bill Carney's book title is "Black Activist". He told Forbes magazine his motivation for getting involved. "It's easy to hate a group of people, but it's harder to hate an individual, particularly if that person is trying to be friendly and open and accommodating and totally non-threatening." "I'm not pompous enough to believe that a 25-minute conversation with me is going to change anybody," he [said]. "What I am pompous enough to believe is that if I can just instill the slightest bit of cognitive dissonance, then their brain will do the rest for me. And it will at least force them to ask questions." The walk-in-someone-else's-shoes concept also has merit in social science. Such interactions have been proven to decrease prejudice and increasingly open minds.

Note: To explore how prejudice is so apparent to blacks yet so hidden from white people, don't miss the most profound "This American Life" podcast titled "Warriors in the Garden."


Americans gave a record $471 billion to charity in 2020, amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, job losses and racial justice
2021-06-15, Yahoo! News
https://www.yahoo.com/now/americans-gave-record-471-billion-132113077.html

A flood of donations to support COVID-19 relief and racial justice efforts, coupled with stock market gains, led Americans to give a record US$471 billion to charity in 2020. The total donated to charity rose 3.8% from the prior year in inflation-adjusted terms, according to the latest annual Giving USA report from the Giving USA Foundation, released in partnership with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI. In contrast, total charitable giving only grew 2.8% in 2019 – a year of economic expansion and stock gains. As two of the lead researchers who produced this report, we observed that giving bucked historical trends in three ways. The total increased despite a recession; foundations' giving surged; and gifts to a variety of nonprofits providing social services, supporting people in need and protecting civil rights grew the most. Food banks, homeless shelters, youth programs and other organizations that meet basic needs, collectively known as human services groups, received an outpouring of support in 2020. Those donations grew 8.4%, in inflation-adjusted dollars, to $65 billion. This additional giving responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic troubles it brought about, as well as broad calls for racial justice. Giving to public-society benefit organizations grew the most, a 14.3% increase to $48 billion. This broad category includes the United Way and its local branches, which pool donations raised in workplaces, from corporations and other sources.

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Magawa, the Explosives-Sniffing Rat Who Uncovered 71 Land Mines, Retires
2021-06-11, Popular Mechanics
https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/a36687356/magawa-explosives...

Magawa the rat is retiring. And while most rats step away from their active careers with little to no fanfare, this rodent is a bit different: he's directly responsible for saving the lives of untold numbers of men, women, and children. Magawa - who spent five years (2016-2021) sniffing out hazardous, unexploded weapons of war dotting the Cambodian countryside - is credited with leading his handlers to more than 100 buried explosive devices. This hero is a Gambian pouched rat. Like many rodents, Gambian rats have poor eyesight, but make up for it with an exceptional sense of smell. Magawa's trainers at the Belgian nonprofit APOPO taught him to sniff out military-grade explosives. The rat is essentially a living sensor, capable of detecting land mines, bombs, and other explosives. Minefields have proven especially deadly in postwar Cambodia. Experts believe that military forces left behind somewhere between 4 and 6 million idle land mines at the close of the Cambodian Civil War. Between 1979 and 2020, abandoned mines and other explosive devices killed 19,789 Cambodians and injured or maimed 45,102 others. Magawa completed his training in Africa, and then traveled to Cambodia, where he spent five years searching for whiffs of explosives. In his half-decade career, the big rat "helped clear over 225,000 square metres of land," according to APOPO. All in all, he led his handlers to 71 land mines and 38 other items of unexploded ordinance.

Note: Along with sniffing out land mines, rats have also been trained to detect tuberculosis. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


In emotional reunion, Jewish victim of Arab mob thanks Arab nurse who saved him
2021-05-25, Times of Israel
https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-emotional-reunion-jewish-victim-of-arab-mob-...

A Jewish man who was badly injured when he was beaten by an Arab mob has told of his joy at reuniting with the Arab nurse who saved him. Fadi Kasem, a nurse at the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, went to a riot scene in Acre two weeks ago, during a spike in Arab-Jewish violence, accompanying a sheikh who was appealing for calm. An 11-day conflict between Israel and terror groups in the Gaza Strip, which ended Friday, sparked violent riots in Jewish-Arab cities within Israel, including communities long seen as models of coexistence. When Kasem arrived at the scene in Acre he was shocked to see a Jewish man lying on the ground after he had been surrounded in his car and then attacked outside the vehicle by a mob wielding stones, sticks and knives. "I was scared he was going to die," said Kasem. "There was lots of blood and a head injury." Kasem administered first aid to the victim, Mor Janashvili, 29, and saw him taken to the hospital. Janashvili ... is back home in Haifa, still in a wheelchair and in significant pain, but recovering and convinced that Kasem's intervention made all the difference. Just before Janashvili was discharged from the hospital, Kasem paid a visit to his room. Janashvili said to him: "You saved my life. I don't know what I would have done without you." Kasem replied modestly: "I did what had to be done." "It was a very moving meeting," Janashvili recalled. "After all, in a place where people weren't showing humanity, he showed such great humanity."

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New Device Taps Brain Signals To Help Stroke Patients Regain Hand Function
2021-06-13, NPR
https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/06/13/1005556094/new-device-ta...

People recovering from a stroke will soon have access to a device that can help restore a disabled hand. The Food And Drug Administration has authorized a device called IpsiHand, which uses signals from the uninjured side of a patient's brain to help rewire circuits controlling the hand, wrist and arm. NeuroLutions ... was founded by Dr. Eric Leuthardt. Leuthardt had been puzzled by something he often heard from patients who'd lost the use of hand after a stroke. "If you talk to a stroke patient, they can imagine moving their hand," he says. "They can try to move their hand. But they just can't actually move it." So Leuthardt had been looking for the source of those thoughts. Usually ... the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body. But ... control signals [are] also present on the ipsilateral side – the same side of the brain as the limb being controlled. Leuthardt's team built a system that could detect and decode those ipsilateral signals. Then they connected it to a device that would open and close a patient's disabled hand for them when they imagined the action. But a mechanical hand wasn't Leuthardt's ultimate goal. He wanted to help his patients regain the ability to move their hand without assistance. And that meant answering a question: "Can we use this device that controls their affected limb to essentially encourage the brain to rewire?" Early experiments suggested the approach worked. NeuroLutions tested the device on 40 patients for 12 weeks. All of them got better.

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Saudi women allowed to live alone without permission from male guardian
2021-06-11, The Independent (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/saudi-women-live-alone-m...

Saudi Arabia will allow women to live alone without permission from a male "guardian", bringing an end to a rule that attracted condemnation from human rights campaigners internationally. According to The Gulf News, single, divorced or widowed women are now able to live independently without permission from a male guardian. The development comes after the Kingdom introduced a legal amendment to grant women the right to live in separate accommodation, the newspaper reported. Judicial authorities have replaced a legal statute stipulating that a male guardian has authority over a woman's living circumstances with a new text stating: "An adult woman has the right to choose where to live. A woman's guardian can report her only if he has evidence proving she committed a crime." The development follows a 2019 decree allowing women to travel abroad without approval from a guardian, following a series of attempts by women in the Kingdom to escape their guardians. Under the kingdom's guardianship system, women are considered to be legal minors, giving their male guardians authority over their decisions. Often a woman's male guardian is her father or husband and in some cases a woman's own son. Under the 2019 reforms, a Saudi passport should be issued to any citizen who applies for it and that any person above the age of 21 does not need permission to travel. The amendments also granted women the right to register child birth, marriage or divorce.

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High School Runner with Cancer Crosses Finish Line with Help from Her Teammates in Uplifting Video
2021-05-26, MSN News
https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/good-news/high-school-runner-with-cancer-cross...

Yeva Klingbeil, a senior at Shenendehowa High School who was diagnosed with cancer in November 2019, had help from a few of her teammates in crossing the finish line at a meet on Monday. "What a great moment to see Senior Yeva Klingbeil at today's girls track & field meet," the school's athletic department wrote, posting the video on Twitter. "Yeva's teammates help her across the line in the 4X1 relay," the post continued. "Yeva continues her fight with cancer and we continue to be amazed by her spirit!!" The video has been viewed more than 180,000 times and counting, showing Klingbeil walk arm-in-arm with three of her teammates as they helped her finish the race. The rest of the team and runners from other schools rushed to congratulate her after, chanting her name in unison. Klingbeil was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that affects muscle tissue, mostly in adolescents. She began chemotherapy in 2019 for a cancerous mass around her jaw, followed by radiation treatments, which damaged her brainstem. After weeks in the ICU and work with several specialists, she's regained some of her function, and the tumor has shrunk to half of its original size. "Yeva and her family pray her brain will continue healing and she'll be able to breathe, walk, and eat once again," her coach Rob Cloutier [said]. "While Yeva has gone through all of this and more, she has never stopped caring about her friends and family and has never given up hope of recovery."

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Tasmanian devils born on Australian mainland for first time in 3,000 years
2021-06-03, CNN News
https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/26/australia/tasmanian-devil-baby-intl-scli-scn/i...

Tasmanian devils have been born in the wild in mainland Australia, more than 3,000 years after they died out in the country. Seven baby Tasmanian devils - known as joeys - were born at the 988-acre Barrington Wildlife Sanctuary in New South Wales, Australian NGO Aussie Ark said. Tasmanian devils died out on the mainland after the arrival of dingoes - a species of wild dog - and were restricted to the island of Tasmania. However, their numbers suffered another blow from a contagious form of cancer known as Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD), which has killed around 90% of the population since it was discovered in 1996. Last September, Aussie Ark introduced 11 of the creatures back into the wild in mainland Australia, following an earlier trial involving 15 of the marsupials, bringing the total of Tasmanian devils on the mainland to 26. And now, just months after their release, the creatures have successfully reproduced - and conservationists have identified the tiny marsupials, which they say are the size of shelled peanuts, inside the pouches of the mothers. Female Tasmanian devils give birth to between 20 and 40 joeys at once, according to Tourism Australia. The joeys race to the mother's pouch, which only has four teats. Those that make it to the pouch carry on living there for around three months. Tasmanian devils are the world's largest carnivorous marsupials. Their reintroduction will help control populations of feral cats and foxes that hunt other endangered species.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


What Germany Can Teach America About Renewable Energy
2021-05-31, Slate
https://slate.com/technology/2021/05/germany-renewable-energy-energiewende-fe...

Earlier this month, U.N. Secretary-General AntĂłnio Guterres joined virtual visitors to Berlin at the 12th Annual Petersberg Climate Dialogue, where the German government hoped to further negotiate technical details of the Paris Agreement. During the event, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged governments to continue investing into our shared climate despite budgetary shortfalls related to the COVID-19 crisis. Germany has walked that walk. Over the past two decades, it has embarked on a remarkable, expensive transition from coal and nuclear energy, to renewable energy sources. The set of policies to encourage this rise of green energy is known as energiewende–or "energy transition." Energiewende has its roots in the foundation of Germany's Green Party in the late 1970s and early 1980s and enjoys broad public support. It is one of the most ambitious green energy proposals in the global North, and represents a fundamental paradigm shift from the fossil fuel-obsessed status quo. Massive fossil fuel subsidies and planned expansions of natural gas means the United States has failed to embrace the same spirit of energiewende. But that doesn't mean it never can. One good way to start would be with a central component of German energiewende: a feed-in-tariff to promote less developed renewable technologies. It works through phase-out subsidies that provide a fixed price for every kilowatt hour for a specific period following a renewable plant's construction.

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The dancer aged 106 who bans the word 'old'
2021-06-01, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-57250509

At 106, Eileen Kramer seems more productive than ever. She writes a story a day from her Sydney aged-care facility, publishes books and has entered Australia's most prestigious painting competition. After decades living abroad, Ms Kramer returned to her home city of Sydney aged 99. Since then, she's collaborated with artists to create several videos that showcase her primary talent and lifelong passion: dancing. Ms Kramer still dances - graceful, dramatic movements mostly using the top half of her body. She has also choreographed. "Since returning to Sydney I've ... performed three big dance pieces at NIDA [the National Institute for Dramatic Art] and independent theatres. "I've participated in two big dance festivals ... I've been in a film, given many smaller performances, written three books, and today I'm having a free day!" she says. Something she often gets asked is where all her energy comes from - and whether there's a secret to dancing into old age. Her response is that she banishes the words "old" and "age" from her vocabulary. "I say: I'm not old, I've just been here a long time. I don't feel how people say you should feel when you're old. My attitude to creating things is identical to when I was a child." Ms Kramer trained as a dancer then toured Australia with the Bodenwieser Ballet for a decade. She travelled to India, and later settled in Paris and then New York - where she lived until she was 99. Her dance career spans four continents and one century, and it has always been her first love.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Teenager's bridge notes 'help save six lives' in Sunderland
2018-07-22, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-tyne-44916409

A teenager who attached uplifting messages to a bridge to help people facing a mental health crisis has helped save six lives, police said. Paige Hunter, 18, tied more than 40 notes to Sunderland's Wearmouth Bridge. One note says: "Even though things are difficult, your life matters; you're a shining light in a dark world, so just hold on." Northumbria Police Ch Supt Sarah Pitt said it was an "innovative way to reach out to those in a dark place". She said it was important to encourage people to speak out about mental health problems, adding: "Paige has shown an incredible understanding of vulnerable people in need of support. "For somebody so young, Paige has shown a real maturity and we thought it would only be right to thank her personally. She should be very proud of herself." The East Durham College student, who also works at Poundworld, was given a commendation certificate from the force. Paige said: "Since I put the messages up I've had a lot of comments from people. They've said it's been really inspiring. "It's just amazing, the response it has had. I wasn't doing this for an award; it was just something that I wanted to do." Since 2013, Northumbria Police's Street Triage service has seen a team of dedicated officers and mental health nurses work alongside each other to respond to people experiencing a mental health crisis.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


16 years ago a judge gave a young trafficker a second chance. Today he returned to court to become a lawyer
2021-06-01, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
https://www.sfgate.com/business/article/16-years-ago-a-judge-gave-a-young-tra...

When Edward Martell went to court in 2005 to plead guilty to selling and manufacturing crack, he thought his life was over. However, Bruce Morrow, a Michigan judge decided to give him a second chance. Martell, then 27, had had several run-ins with the law until he was arrested in a counternarcotics operation. When he pleaded guilty to selling and manufacturing crack, he knew he could face 20 years in jail. Judge Morrow saw young Martell and understood the circumstances that had led the young man to life in crime. So he gave him a three-year probation sentence and a challenge: to return to that same court with an achievement. Last week ... Edward returned to the same courthouse as Bruce Morrow, but this time to fulfill his promise: to be sworn in as a lawyer in the same courtroom where he pleaded guilty. "It was kind of a joke, but [Edward] understood that I believed he could be whatever he wanted," Judge Morrow [said]. After his first meeting with the magistrate, Edward earned a high school degree and then a scholarship to study law. He always kept in touch with the judge who had inspired him. Martell underwent a strict background check in order to join the Michigan Bar Association, but the board determined that his past should not determine his future. That's how Martell, now 43, returned to court to become a lawyer. That is the power of mentoring.

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Remember the Homeless Chess Champion? The Boy Is Now a Chess Master.
2021-05-08, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/08/opinion/sunday/homeless-chess-champion-tan...

Once upon a time a 7-year-old refugee living in a homeless shelter sat down at a chess board. Tanitoluwa Adewumi – better known as Tani – enjoyed chess as an escape from the chaos of the homeless shelter, and his skills progressed in stunning fashion. After little more than a year, at age 8, he won the New York State chess championship for his age group. I wrote a couple of columns about Tani at that time, and readers responded by donating more than $250,000 to a GoFundMe campaign for Tani's family, along with a year of free housing. This month, as a fifth grader, Tani ... emerged with a chess rating of 2223, making him a national master. When Tani won the state championship, several private schools offered him places, but the family decided to keep him in the public school that had nurtured him. The Adewumis also used the $250,000 contributed by readers to start a foundation that helps other homeless people and refugees. The larger lesson of Tani's story is simple: Talent is universal, while opportunity is not. In Tani's case, everything came together. His homeless shelter was in a school district that had a chess club, the school waived fees, he had devoted parents who took him to every practice, he won the state tournament (by a hair) and readers responded with extraordinary generosity. My challenge as a columnist is that readers often want to help extraordinary individuals like Tani whom I write about, but we need to support all children – including those who aren't chess prodigies.

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Brain Implant Enables Paralyzed Man To Type Using Only His Thoughts
2021-05-15, Forbes
https://www.forbes.com/sites/saibala/2021/05/15/brain-implant-enables-paralyz...

Researchers achieved a breakthrough in brain-computer interface (BCI) technology. As outlined in a statement by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and published in a Nature journal article, scientists state that they have created a system to translate mental thoughts of handwriting into real-time text. HHMI investigator ... Krishna Shenoy is hopeful that this technology can, "with further development, let people with paralysis rapidly type without using their hands." If scientists can indeed innovate a way where thoughts and imagination alone could be used to effectively communicate, this would be [an] unparalleled resource to millions of individuals facing paralysis or a wide variety of other neurological conditions which may cause loss of speech or movement. Brain-computer/machine interface technology is potentially a significant boon for patients affected by neurological conditions. For many, it may become a source of improved mobility, communication, or expression. Although much work still remains to be done in this industry, if innovators are indeed able to create this technology in a scalable manner that prioritizes patient safety, it may potentially provide much-needed respite for millions of people.

Note: The Howard Hughes Medical Institute published a video outlining this experiment. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


'Tiny' house village for St. Louis homeless coming to Downtown West, mayor announces
2020-11-18, St. Louis Post-Dispatch (A leading newspaper of St. Louis)
https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/tiny-home-village-for-c...

A collection of 50 "tiny" homes will begin sheltering some of St. Louis' homeless population as soon as next month, Mayor Lyda Krewson announced. The city plans a 29-month lease of property for the new community at 900 N. Jefferson Avenue on the edge of Downtown West. There the rows of colorful, simple homes ranging from 80 to 96 square feet will serve as transitional housing for residents for about four to five months while case workers try to find them permanent shelter. "Tiny houses are a lot safer, more secure and comfortable than living in a tent," Krewson said ... adding that the homes will create a "stronger foundation" for homeless people to rebuild their lives. The mayor will request $600,000 to fund the construction of the homes and the first year of the land lease from the approximately $35 million in federal coronavirus relief funding St. Louis received this spring to address the impact of COVID-19. "Folks are much more vulnerable to COVID if they're living on the street, if they are living in a group setting," Krewson said. "So this is assistance to prevent COVID transmission." Krewson's chief of staff, Steve Conway, said the city is also concerned that there may be an increase in the homeless population caused by the economic fallout from the pandemic. With the tiny homes included, the city has created 385 new beds to house the homeless population since the start of the pandemic. Each [tiny home] will have a bed, desk, chair, shelving unit, heat and air conditioning, and a charging unit for electronics.

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How Food May Improve Your Mood
2021-05-06, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/06/well/eat/mental-health-food.html

As people across the globe grappled with higher levels of stress, depression and anxiety this past year, many turned to their favorite comfort foods. But ... the sugar-laden and high-fat foods we often crave when we are stressed or depressed, as comforting as they may seem, are the least likely to benefit our mental health. Instead, whole foods such as vegetables, fruit, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes and fermented foods like yogurt may be a better bet. Historically, nutrition research has focused largely on how the foods we eat affect our physical health, rather than our mental health. But ... a growing body of research has provided intriguing hints about the ways in which foods may affect our moods. A healthy diet promotes a healthy gut, which communicates with the brain through what is known as the gut-brain axis. Microbes in the gut produce neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which regulate our mood and emotions, and the gut microbiome has been implicated in mental health outcomes. "The gut microbiome plays a shaping role in a variety of psychiatric disorders, including major depressive disorder," a team of scientists wrote in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry. "Mental health is complex," said Dr. Jacka ... at Deakin University in Australia. "Eating a salad is not going to cure depression. But there's a lot you can do to lift your mood and improve your mental health, and it can be as simple as increasing your intake of plants and healthy foods."

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Developer Of Aluminum-Ion Battery Claims It Charges 60 Times Faster Than Lithium-Ion, Offering EV Range Breakthrough
2021-05-13, Forbes
https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeltaylor/2021/05/13/ev-range-breakthrough-a...

Range anxiety, recycling and fast-charging fears could all be consigned to electric-vehicle history with a nanotech-driven Australian battery invention. The graphene aluminum-ion battery cells from the Brisbane-based Graphene Manufacturing Group (GMG) are claimed to charge up to 60 times faster than the best lithium-ion cells and hold three times the energy of the best aluminum-based cells. They are also safer, with no upper Ampere limit to cause spontaneous overheating, more sustainable and easier to recycle, thanks to their stable base materials. Testing also shows the coin-cell validation batteries also last three times longer than lithium-ion versions. GMG plans to bring graphene aluminum-ion coin cells to market late this year or early next year. Based on breakthrough technology from the University of Queensland's (UQ) Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, the battery cells use nanotechnology to insert aluminum atoms inside tiny perforations in graphene planes. GMG Managing Director Craig Nicol insisted that while his company's cells were not the only graphene aluminum-ion cells under development, they were easily the strongest, most reliable and fastest charging. "It charges so fast it's basically a super capacitor," Nicol claimed. "It charges a coin cell in less than 10 seconds." The new battery cells are claimed to deliver far more power density than current lithium-ion batteries, without the cooling, heating or rare-earth problems they face.

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Bunny, the dog that can "talk," starts asking existential questions
2021-05-09, Salon
https://www.salon.com/2021/05/09/are-dogs-becoming-self-aware-bunny-existenti...

When Bunny, TikTok's beloved talking Sheepadoodle, stared at herself in a mirror and asked "who this?" using her augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device's buttons, many believed she was having an existential crisis. Since then, the Internet-famous dog has seemingly only become more interested in her own – dare we say – sense of self. The canine Bunny, who has 6.5 million followers on TikTok, is one of nearly 2,600 dogs and 300 cats enrolled in a project called "They Can Talk." The study's aim is to understand if animals can communicate with humans through AAC systems. AAC systems, such as Bunny's giant labeled buttons that speak a single word when pressed, were originally designed to help humans with communication disorders. Yet they have been adapted to be used in language experiments with animals, such as the study Bunny is enrolled in, which is led by Federico Rossano, director of the Comparative Cognition Lab at the University of California–San Diego. In Rossano's study, participants receive instructions on how to set up their AAC buttons for their pets; generally, pets begin with easy words like "outside" and "play." Pet parents set up cameras to constantly monitor the animals when they are in front of their boards, data which is sent to the lab so that researchers examine what they say. Now, Bunny's followers have become obsessed with the notion that her language-learning is making her develop some kind of self-awareness.

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Don't Underestimate the Power of Kindness at Work
2021-05-07, Harvard Business Review
https://hbr.org/2021/05/dont-underestimate-the-power-of-kindness-at-work

This past year, most management advice has focused on how to sustain productivity during the pandemic, yet the power of kindness has been largely overlooked. Practicing kindness by giving compliments and recognition has the power to transform our remote workplace. A commitment to be kind can bring many important benefits. First, and perhaps most obviously, practicing kindness will be immensely helpful to our colleagues. Being recognized at work helps reduce employee burnout and absenteeism, and improves employee well-being, Gallup finds year after year. Second, practicing kindness helps life feel more meaningful. For example, spending money on others and volunteering our time improves wellbeing, bringing happiness and a sense of meaning to life. Third, as we found in a new set of studies, giving compliments can make us even happier than receiving them. We paired up participants and asked them to write about themselves and then talk about themselves with each other. Next, we asked one of them to give an honest compliment about something they liked or respected about the other participant after listening to them. Consistently, we found that giving compliments actually made people happier than receiving them. When people receive an act of kindness, they pay it back, research shows – and not just to the same person, but often to someone entirely new. This leads to a culture of generosity. Simply knowing that one is appreciated can trigger the psychological benefits of kindness.

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The future of the food supply chain lives on a rooftop in Montreal
2021-02-06, Fortune
https://fortune.com/2021/02/06/brainstorm-reinvent-rooftop-farming-lufa-farms...

The world's biggest commercial rooftop greenhouse sits atop a former Sears warehouse in a semi-industrial northwestern quarter of Montreal. Early every morning, staff pick fresh vegetables, then bring them downstairs, where they get packed into heavy-duty plastic totes along with the rest of the day's grocery orders. Whatever Lufa doesn't grow in its four greenhouses comes from local farms and producers, mostly from within 100 miles. This is a modern foodie's dream: a tech-forward online shop full of locally grown, pesticide-free, ethically-sourced products at reasonable price points, delivered once a week to either your doorstep or a local pickup point in your neighborhood. Customers - Lufavores, as the company calls them - typically place their orders a few days before delivery through the online store, dubbed "the Marketplace," which Lufa built from scratch in 2012. That's how Lufa's suppliers know how much product to provide: They get forecasts first, then final order numbers, through their Lufa software. Technology is the underpinning of Lufa's success, and the owners know it. "We see ourselves as a technology company, in the sense that we solve with software," [cofounder Lauren] Rathmell, 32, says. "Nothing off-the-shelf can be applied to what we do, because it's so complex. We harvest food ourselves; we gather from farmers and food makers throughout the province; most of it's arriving just in time throughout the night to be packed in baskets for that day, and every order is fully unique."

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‘Insanely cheap energy': how solar power continues to shock the world
2021-04-24, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/apr/25/insanely-cheap-energy-...

In the year 2000, the International Energy Agency made a prediction that would come back to haunt it: by 2020, the world would have installed a grand total of 18 gigawatts of photovoltaic solar capacity. Seven years later, the forecast would be proven spectacularly wrong when roughly 18 gigawatts of solar capacity were installed in a single year alone. Ever since the agency was found