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.
A friendly smile. A food pantry donation. Such acts of kindness have a self-serving upside ... as science has conclusively shown they also make you healthier. UCLA is poised to advance that science with the ... launch of the world’s first interdisciplinary research institute on kindness, which will explore, for instance, how and why being nice to others reduces depression and the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Research by UCLA scientists already has shown that mindfulness and kindness actually alter the behavior of genes, turning down those that promote inflammation, which can lead to heart disease or certain cancers, and turning up the activity of genes that protect against infections. But the ultimate goal of the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute is to spread kindness and promote a more humane world. It will develop training tools to help practice kindness and spread them through online programs, public lectures, media outreach and a free app called UCLA Mindful. When it comes to kindness, the intention, rather than the outcome, is key. In other words, it’s the thought that counts, as the adage goes. “Cultivating kind thoughts increases the frequency of kind actions, and both the thoughts and the experience of engaging in the actions have positive effects on the well-being of the individual,” said Daniel Fessler ... the institute’s inaugural director. The institute’s work ... will focus on three themes: the roots of kindness, how to promote it, and how to use it as a therapeutic intervention to improve mental and physical health.
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The University of California is dumping fossil fuel investments from its nearly $84 billion pension and endowment funds because they are a financial risk, its top financial officers announced. “Our job is to make money for the University of California, and we’re betting we can do that without fossil fuels investments,” said an opinion article in the Los Angeles Times written by Jagdeep Singh Bachher, UC’s chief investment officer and treasurer, and Richard Sherman, chair of the Board of Regents Investments Committee. UC’s $13.4 billion endowment fund will be “fossil free” by the end of the month and its $70 billion pension fund “will soon be that way,” the article said. The article appeared the same day that UC announced its president and chancellors had signed a letter declaring a “climate emergency,” joining more than 7,000 colleges and universities around the world. The UC leaders agreed to increase climate research and environmental education and to achieve climate neutrality by 2025. “We have a moral responsibility to take swift action on climate change,” UC President Janet Napolitano said. The 10-campus system has been shedding fossil fuel investments for several years. It previously dumped several hundred million dollars’ worth of investments in coal, tar sands and companies building a Dakota-to-Illinois oil pipeline.
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The first gas station in the U.S. that has been completely transitioned from a petroleum station to exclusively charging EVs opened Thursday in Takoma Park, Maryland. RS Automotives, the local gas station, has been around since 1958. Depeswar Doley, owner of the station since 1997, said he was already unhappy with the way oil and gasoline companies structure contracts — such as limiting the use of multiple suppliers, including clauses that extend contracts when a certain volume of sales is not met and limiting maintenance support. These business factors already were pushing him to consider other options. A nudge from his daughter was the final step in convincing Doley to make the switch to EV charging. “My daughter, who is 17, she is the one who convinced me after I told her that I was going to talk to the [Electric Vehicle Institute] guys,” Doley said. There are more than 20,700 registered EVs in Maryland, and the area also has an electric taxi service in need of more chargers for their business. The gas station conversion was jointly funded by the Electric Vehicle Institute and the Maryland Energy Administration, which provided a grant of $786,000. The station will feature four dispensers that connect to a high-powered, 200kW system. The system will allow four vehicles to charge simultaneously and reach 80% battery charge in 20 to 30 minutes. Drivers can go inside and sit in an automated convenience store with screens that allow drivers to track their vehicle’s charging progress.
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Najah Bazzy can pinpoint the moment her life changed. In 1996, she was working as a nurse when she visited an Iraqi refugee family to help care for their dying infant. She knew the situation would be difficult, but she wasn't prepared for what she encountered. "There, at the house, I got my first glimpse of poverty," she said. That day, Bazzy and her family gathered all the furniture and household items that they could - including a crib - and delivered everything to the family. She hasn't stopped since. For years, Bazzy ran her goodwill effort from her home, transporting donated goods in her family's minivan. Eventually, her efforts grew into Zaman International, a nonprofit that now supports impoverished women and children of all backgrounds in the Detroit area. The group has helped more than 250,000 people. Today, Zaman operates from a 40,000-square-foot facility in the suburb of Inkster. The group's warehouse offers aisles of food, rows of clothes and vast arrays of furniture free to those in need. The group's case managers help clients access housing and other services. "We work to stabilize them as quickly as we can," Bazzy said. "Women walk in and they are in desperate need, and they walk out with their basic needs met." The group's donated clothing and furniture are also available to the public through its Good Deeds Resale Shop. "Our mothers are able to come. They get a voucher and have the same dignified shopping experience as somebody else, but (do) not have to pay for it," she said.
Tanyaradzwa 'Tanya' Muzinda is not your average teenager. At 15, she is already one of Zimbabwe's Motocross champions. Held on off-road circuits, Motocross is a form of motorbike racing that is dangerous, expensive and requires a lot of training. But these challenges have not stopped Tanya from competing. She came in third place at the 2017 HL Racing British Master Kids Championships at the Motoland track in England, which she says is still her most memorable race. In 2018, Muzinda was named Junior Sportswoman of the year in South Africa by the Africa Union Sports Council Region Five Annual Sports Awards. Her father, Tawanda Muzinda, says his daughter faces substantial challenges in her chosen field because it is an expensive sport. Muzinda often misses championships because of a lack of funds. The financial difficulties she faces [have] not stopped Muzinda from giving back to people in her community. In August, she paid tuition for 45 students to attend school in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, and hopes to pay for at least 500 more students by the end of 2020. "There have been many times I didn't race for months because of financial difficulties. I thought of the children who also don't have a chance to go to school because of money and decided to do something about it," she said. Muzinda uses donations and her Motocross prize money to support children from poorer families, especially girls who are often kept home from school. Muzinda also helps fundraise for an orphanage.
Billionaire Robert Smith is extending his goodwill months after he pledged to erase college loan debt for Morehouse College's 2019 graduating class. The technology investor and philanthropist is also paying off loan debt amassed by parents to send their children to the college, the school said on Friday. Morehouse College announced ... that Smith and his family donated $34 million to a fund that wipes away student debt for parents whose children attend the university. "This liberation gift from Robert Smith — the first of its kind to be announced at a graduation in higher education — will be life-changing for our new Morehouse Men and their families," said Morehouse College president David A. Thomas. Known as the Morehouse Student Success Program, the initiative was established as a national investment strategy to curb student loan debt and help graduates prosper faster, according to the release. Under the new plan, Morehouse will solicit and accept donations made specifically to reduce or eliminate the loan debt of students and their parents or guardians. More than 400 students, parents and guardians of the Class of 2019 will receive the inaugural gift under the initiative. The fund will cover education loan balances as of August 28. According to the release, six types of loans will be repaid: federal subsidized loans, federal unsubsidized loans, Georgia Student Access Loans, Perkins Loans, Parent Plus Loans and certain private student loans processed through Morehouse College.
“Happy hour” at the S-market store in the working-class neighborhood of Vallila happens far from the liquor aisles and isn’t exactly convivial. Nobody is here for drinks or a good time. They’re looking for a steep discount on a slab of pork. Or a chicken, or a salmon fillet, or any of a few hundred items that are hours from their midnight expiration date. Food that is nearly unsellable goes on sale at every one of S-market’s 900 stores in Finland, with prices that are already reduced by 30 percent slashed to 60 percent off at exactly 9 p.m. It’s part of a two-year campaign to reduce food waste that company executives in this famously bibulous country decided to call “happy hour” in the hopes of drawing in regulars, like any decent bar. About one-third of the food produced and packaged for human consumption is lost or wasted, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. That equals 1.3 billion tons a year, worth nearly $680 billion. The figures represent more than just a disastrous misallocation of need and want, given that 10 percent of people in the world are chronically undernourished. All that excess food, scientists say, contributes to climate change. Mika Lyytikainen, an S-market vice president, explained that the program simply reduces its losses. “When we sell at 60 percent off, we don’t earn any money, but we earn more than if the food was given to charity,” he said. “On the other hand, it’s now possible for every Finn to buy very cheap food in our stores.”
There’s a factory in Asia that uses only a single litre of water to make a pair of jeans. That’s 346 litres less than Levi-Strauss estimated it took to make a pair of its jeans in 2015. The manufacturer in question does not want to tell anyone about its groundbreaking water-conserving techniques – not even the companies it supplies. It is one of many practicing “secret sustainability”, whereby innovations are silently enacted and kept from the rest of the industry. This phenomenon is not limited to the clothing industry. Why would firms spearheading sustainable practices not publicise their good work? It’s a question that puzzles Professor Steve Evans ... at Cambridge University’s Institute for Manufacturing, who suggests that such examples are widespread. He believes this stems from a common perception that there must be some kind of downside to the introduction of sustainable practices: either a reduction in product quality, or an increase in the price of manufacturing, or both. Companies and consumers seem unable to accept that sustainability does not have to cost more to create an equally good product. This is despite an increase in evidence that actively investing in sustainable practices helps business thrive. An example is provided by the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices, a series of benchmarks assessing the sustainability of companies around the world. Research has repeatedly shown that those at the top end of the benchmark outperform those at the bottom.
The private prison industry is set to be upended after California lawmakers passed a bill on Wednesday banning the facilities from operating in the state. The move will probably also close down four large immigration detention facilities that can hold up to 4,500 people at a time. The legislation is being hailed as a major victory for criminal justice reform because it removes the profit motive from incarceration. It also marks a dramatic departure from California’s past, when private prisons were relied on to reduce crowding in state-run facilities. Private prison companies used to view California as one of their fastest-growing markets. As recently as 2016, private prisons locked up approximately 7,000 Californians, about 5% of the state’s total prison population, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. But in recent years, thousands of inmates have been transferred from private prisons back into state-run facilities. As of June, private prisons held 2,222 of California’s total inmate population. The state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, must still sign AB32, but last year he signaled support for the ban and said during his inaugural speech in January that the state should “end the outrage of private prisons once and for all”. The bill’s author, the assemblymember Rob Bonta, originally wrote it only to apply to contracts between the state’s prison authority and private, for-profit prison companies. But in June, Bonta amended the bill to apply to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s four major California detention centers.
Jahiem Morgan knew he was too young to be living on his own at 15 years old, but he didn't have much of a choice. Morgan found himself among the nearly 1.3 million young people across the United States who are classified as "unaccompanied youths" and can't get foster care because they chose to leave a situation rather than be removed by social services. Some of these young people are runaways; others leave abusive homes; and many identify as LGBTQ. They're out on their own, and many end up in dangerous situations -- living on the streets or in abandoned buildings. "Most people don't even know these kids exist," said Vicki Sokolik, who helps these teens in Tampa, Florida. Sokolik was first introduced to this population in 2006, when her then-teenage son told her about a classmate who was in danger of becoming homeless. Sokolik helped the girl, securing her a place to live and providing the resources she needed. The experience inspired Sokolik to do more. In 2007, she founded "Starting Right, Now," a nonprofit that helps unaccompanied youth ages 15 to 19 get permanent housing, graduate from high school and move on to their next goal. At-risk students in two Florida counties are referred to the program by their school guidance counselors. The program provides two homes where the students can live until they go to college or start their career. They also have access to tutoring, therapy and life skills classes. The organization has helped more than 200 young people, and 97% have graduated high school.
Global investment in new renewable energy capacity over this decade — 2010 to 2019 inclusive — is on course to hit USD 2.6 trillion, with more gigawatts of solar power capacity installed than any other generation technology. This investment is set to have roughly quadrupled renewable energy capacity (excluding large hydro) from 414 GW at the end of 2009 to just over 1,650 GW when the decade closes at the end of this year. Solar power will have drawn half — USD 1.3 trillion — of the USD 2.6 trillion in renewable energy capacity investments made over the decade. Solar alone will have grown from 25 GW at the beginning of 2010 to an expected 663 GW by the close of 2019 — enough to produce all the electricity needed each year by about 100 million average homes in the USA. The global share of electricity generation accounted for by renewables reached 12.9 per cent, in 2018, up from 11.6 per cent in 2017. This avoided an estimated 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions last year alone — a substantial saving given global power sector emissions of 13.7 billion tonnes in 2018. Including all major generating technologies (fossil and zero-carbon), the decade is set to see a net 2,366 GW of power capacity installed, with solar accounting for the largest single share (638 GW), coal second (529 GW), and wind and gas in third and fourth places (487 GW and 438 GW respectively).
The following achievements stand as examples for what humanity is capable of when the end result benefits both the self and the other. In other words, they are examples of when nations decided to cooperate with each other for self-interested reasons, yet still produced results that benefited the rest of humanity. In 1985, a group of British scientists warned the world that the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) was wreaking havoc on the ozone layer. A treaty known as the Montreal Protocol was drawn up, and for the first time in history, it was universally ratified (197 countries have signed on to date). As a result, the world successfully phased out 99% of ozone-depleting chemicals. If this hadn’t been created, the Earth’s ozone layer would have collapsed by 2050. The Human Genome Project was an international effort to map out the DNA sequence of the entire human genome. The knowledge gained from the project has led to better treatment, detection and prevention of human disease. It has opened doors to a greater understanding of the code that determines so much of our lives, and has provided key clues for further unraveling the human mystery. The International Space Station is, of course, a classic example of global collaboration in pursuit of knowledge and discovery. Research at the ISS has resulted in everything from the creation of advanced water filtration systems, to developing drugs for muscular dystrophy, to robotics used in surgery, to the development of better vaccines.
New research finds that individuals with higher optimism tend to live longer and also have greater odds of living 85 years and more. A recent PNAS paper describes how the researchers assessed the link between higher optimism and longer lifespan, with a particular focus on the chances of reaching "exceptional longevity." The team carried out the study because most research on exceptional longevity has tended to focus on the effect of "biomedical factors." More recently, however, scientists have become interested in the role of nonbiological factors. "While research has identified many risk factors for diseases and premature death," says first and corresponding author Lewina O. Lee, Ph.D., "we know relatively less about positive psychosocial factors that can promote healthy aging." She and her colleagues defined optimism as the "general expectation that good things will happen or the belief that the future will be favorable because one can control important outcomes." For the analysis, the team brought together data on 69,744 females ... and 1,429 males. The questionnaires that they completed ... included items on optimism. When the researchers analyzed the data, they found that the females and males with the highest levels of optimism ... lived on average 11–15% longer than those with the lowest levels of optimism. In addition, [those] with the highest levels of optimism had a 50–70% greater likelihood of living until their 85th birthday and beyond.
Among the heavily trafficked streets of Atlanta, a massive urban food forest is growing to provide fresh produce for the public. But what exactly is a food forest? In the fight against food deserts - low income areas that lack access to fresh, whole foods - a food forest is a public space in the city where fresh produce will grow in trees, bushes, plants, and community garden beds for the community to enjoy. And at 7.1 acres, the site in Atlanta will become the city's first and the nation's largest. In the Lakewood-Browns Mill community, which will house the Urban Food Forest, more than a third of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the USDA, who has assisted in the project. "Residents still talk about the land's former owners, who left excess produce from their farm on fence posts for neighbors to claim and enjoy," the USDA said. "Now this land will celebrate that history and make new memories for the community." A city ordinance passed in the beginning of the month grants money for the city to purchase the plot from the Conservation Fund, which currently owns and has helped develop the land. In addition to community outreach and education, the forest is meant to make strides in the city's goal of putting 85% of residents within a half mile of fresh food by 2021.
Two complementary studies recently found that noninvasive and extremely mild brain stimulation could be used to improve episodic and working memory in older adults. "We can make these 60 and 70-year-olds look strikingly like our 20-year-old participants," researcher Robert Reinhart [said]. The first study used a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to induce mild neural firing in the brain. The research team stimulated the participants' brains for half an hour a day for five days. They then measured the adults' memory ability 24 hours after the final day of stimulation and found their recall ability on a memory test had improved 31 per cent. The second study, led by Robert Reinhart from ... Boston University, used a different technology, and stimulated different regions of the brain. Using electroencephalography, or EEG, which records the electrical activity of the brain, Reinhart found evidence that older adults' brain waves were out-of-sync in critical brain regions used by working memory or short-term memory. Reinhart then tried to ameliorate the problem by using a precise and customizable electrical stimulation technology called "high definition transcranial alternating current stimulation," or HD-tACS for short. The team applied current for 25 minutes to 42 older participants' brains, and saw improvements during this time on a memory test that they did before they received stimulation. As in Voss' study, the subjects' performance increased to the point that it was equal to that of 20-year-olds.
Monica Gagliano says that she has received Yoda-like advice from trees and shrubbery. She recalls being rocked like a baby by the spirit of a fern. She has ridden on the back of an invisible bear conjured by an osha root. These interactions have taken place in dreams, visions, songs and telekinetic interactions, sometimes with the help of shamans or ayahuasca. Dr. Gagliano’s scientific research ... has broken boundaries in the field of plant behavior and signaling. Currently at the University of Sydney in Australia, she has published a number of studies that support the view that plants are, to some extent, intelligent. Her experiments suggest that they can learn behaviors and remember them. Her work also suggests that plants can “hear” running water and even produce clicking noises, perhaps to communicate. She believes, like many scientists and environmentalists do, that in order to save the planet we have to understand ourselves as part of the natural world. It’s just that she also believes the plants themselves can speak to this point. “I want people to realize that the world is full of magic, but not as something only some people can do, or something that is outside of this world,” she said. “No, it’s all here.” At the [world science] festival, a young woman asked Dr. Gagliano how her scientific work had changed her understanding of the world. “The main difference is that I used to live in a world of objects, and now I live in a world of subjects,” she said. There were murmurs of approval. “And so, I am never alone.”
Women are making major gains in enrollment in engineering and computer science at some of the nation’s most prominent colleges and universities. While men still far outnumber women nationally — 4 to 1 in engineering, 5 to 1 in computer science — female students are gaining ground slowly at many schools and rapidly at others. The federal government and industry leaders acknowledge that more should be done to bring women into science, technology, engineering and math, known as the STEM fields, and they have pushed programs such as Girls Who Code to boost interest among girls at a young age. Samantha Horry, 18, from the suburbs of Philadelphia, is one of 80 young women among 165 new computer science students this fall at Carnegie Mellon. She fell for the subject in high school, taking eight classes. Almost always, she was the only girl. “Just me and some guys,” she recalled. That didn’t deter her from winning admission to one of the country’s most prestigious programs to pursue her interests in machine learning and artificial intelligence. Now Horry is startled at how many young women on campus are following her path in a field where the stereotype of the male teenage computer geek, obsessed with gaming and programming, looms large. She looks around in class and sees, for the first time, gender balance. “It’s crazy and awesome,” Horry said. “I don’t feel out of place.”
While electric vehicles are quickly proliferating throughout the world, most electric engines are still relegated to smaller vehicles. But then there's the Elekto Dumper - the world's largest EV - which flouts the rule that EVs can't handle serious work. The truck is used to haul lime and marlstone, which contains clay and silt, from the sides of mountains in Switzerland. Then, the material is transported directly to a cement factory. But here's the really impressive piece of engineering—this heavy dump truck never needs to be charged. Here's how it works: The dump truck, itself, weighs 45 tons and ascends a hill at a 13 percent grade, in one scenario. On the way back down, it's more than twice as heavy, carrying 65 tons of ore. To rectify that scenario, the truck's "regenerative braking system" actually recaptures the energy created by going downhill, refilling the battery's charge for the next time the truck travels uphill. The dump truck is officially called the Elektro Dumper, but the German manufacturer, Kuhn Schweitz, made life a lot easier by naming it eDumper for short. The eDumper was modeled on a Komatsu HB 605-7, a massive dump truck: It's 30 feet long, 14 feet wide, and 14 feet tall. Kuhn Schweitz said that making the trip from quarry to cement factory 20 times in one day produces a surplus of 200 kilowatt-hours of energy (or 77 megawatt-hours per year). Your average dump truck, by contrast, uses between 11,000 and 22,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year.
[Rodney] Robinson, who teaches at Virgie Binford Education Center, a school inside the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center in Virginia, was just named the National Teacher of the Year by the Council of Chief State School Officers. "He creates a positive school culture by empowering his students - many of whom have experienced trauma - to become civically minded social advocates who use their skills and voices to affect physical and policy changes at their school and in their communities," the council said in a statement. After seeing his mom "transform" while pursuing her GED, Robinson decided to become a history and social studies teacher. He has been teaching for 19 years. In 2015, Robinson moved to teaching at the juvenile detention center because he wanted to understand the school-to-prison pipeline, which refers to strict school policies that can push students from disadvantaged backgrounds to leave school and become incarcerated. Many of the students at Virgie Binford come from impoverished backgrounds, live in high-crime areas and have had negative contact with schools and the judicial system, Principal Ta'Neisha Ford said. The educators' goal is to help these students fall back in love with school. "(Robinson) allows students to really shine and he gives them the tools to succeed," Ford said. Robinson said he's honored to have won the teacher of the year title. He is working on programs to lower high school dropout rates.
Twice a week, before the sun comes up, Judge Craig Mitchell runs the mile from his office at the county courthouse to The Midnight Mission, a social services organization centered in Downtown's Skid Row - the notorious area where the city's largest homeless population resides. At the mission, he meets a group of 30 to 40 people, and together they run through East L.A. The group includes runners from all walks of life and all levels of athleticism. Some members are homeless or in recovery, and others are lawyers, social workers, students or off-duty LAPD officers. Mitchell developed the program in 2012 after a man he'd once sentenced to prison returned to thank him. "He was paroled to The Midnight Mission and decided to come back and say, 'Thank you, Judge Mitchell, for treating me like a human being.' "The president of the mission at the time asked me if there was something that I could do to contribute to the mission's program, and I thought of starting a running club. That was the inception," Mitchell said. Between 300 and 500 people have since run with the group, now an official nonprofit. Every year, Mitchell takes his most dedicated Skid Row runners on a free trip to participate in an international marathon. In recent years, Mitchell and club members have participated in marathons in Ghana, Rome, Vietnam and Jerusalem. Mitchell says he's seen participants turn their lives around, attending college, securing full-time employment and maintaining sobriety.