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.
Andrew Short lives with spastic cerebral palsy, which he contracted during birth. Cerebral palsy is a disorder that effects muscle tone, movement and motor skills, but despite impaired speech Andrew’s disability doesn’t impair his mind, and he learned to read early. “I speak three languages,” said Andy. “English, German, and spastic. Spastic is my mother tongue." Andrew is currently completing a Masters Degree in Disability Studies, but his most impressive achievement has been walking the Kokoda Trail, which he describes as “the toughest physical challenge of [his] life”. In Andy’s late twenties, his motor function appeared to begin deteriorating. “We were told to accept that that's what it would be,” said [Andrew's father] David. Instead, David and Andrew began researching the emerging field of neuroplasticity ... inspired by the seminal [book], “The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science”. Andrew’s physical condition is due in part to his trainer, Lee Campbell, a former army trainer and Sydney Swans team member. The two have been training together for five and a half years, and in that time Lee estimates that his physical condition has risen from 2.5 to a 7 or 8. “You watch Andy pull a sled with 20 or 30 kilos of weights in it, he stands up, his posture is corrected,” said Lee. “His finer motor skills now are getting refined. He can hold things, he can cook, he can do his buttons up.” Right now, they’re training together for Andy’s next endeavour, walking the Great Wall of China.
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A Facebook post written by a white police officer who had recently pulled over a black man for texting while driving has gone viral. Garden City Lieutenant Tim McMillan writes he pulled over the man and, when he approached his vehicle, the man was visibly shaken and seemed terrified. The man asked McMillan what he wanted him to do. McMillan told the man he just didn’t want him to get hurt. The man asked if McMillan wanted him to exit the vehicle, and McMillan told him no and he didn’t want him to text and drive. He continued, saying he wanted his mother to “always have her baby boy.” McMillan also writes in the post he doesn’t care who is at fault for young black men being afraid of police officers but he wishes somebody would fix it. The post has over 1,500 likes and has been shared over 1,000 times. Many people have sounded off around the world, including Girlie Waaka in New Zealand, who commented “I live in New Zealand and your heart warming story has given me a little more faith in humanity. We only hear all of the bad things that are going on in the world, I wish there were more people like you out there Lt. Tim McMillan, you are truly a hero ... God Bless you & your family.”
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Sunshine and seawater. That’s all a new, futuristic-looking greenhouse needs to produce 15,000 tonnes of tomatoes per year in the South Australian desert. It’s the first agricultural system of its kind in the world and uses no soil, pesticides, fossil fuels or groundwater. As the demand for fresh water and energy continues to rise, this might be the face of farming in the future. An international team of scientists have spent the last six years fine-tuning the design – first with a pilot greenhouse built in 2010; then with a commercial-scale facility that began construction in 2014 and was officially launched today. Seawater is piped ... to Sundrop Farm. A solar-powered desalination plant removes the salt, creating enough fresh water to irrigate 180,000 tomato plants inside the greenhouse. Scorching summer temperatures and dry conditions make the region unsuitable for conventional farming, but the greenhouse is lined with seawater-soaked cardboard to keep the plants cool enough to stay healthy. In winter, solar heating keeps the greenhouse warm. There is no need for pesticides as seawater cleans and sterilises the air, and plants grow in coconut husks instead of soil. The farm’s solar power is generated by 23,000 mirrors that reflect sunlight towards a 127-metre high receiver tower. On a sunny day, up to 39 megawatts of energy can be produced – enough to power the desalination plant and supply the greenhouse’s electricity needs. Tomatoes produced by the greenhouse have already started being sold in Australian supermarkets.
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Two undergraduate students at the University of Washington have worked to invent a new way to communicate. Navid Azodi and Thomas Pryor won a $10,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize - a nationwide search for the most inventive ... students - for their invention, SignAloud gloves, which can translate American Sign Language into speech or text. “Our purpose for developing these gloves was to provide an easy-to-use bridge between native speakers of American Sign Language and the rest of the world,” Azodi told UW Today. “The idea initially came out of our shared interest in invention and problem solving. But coupling it with our belief that communication is a fundamental human right, we set out to make it more accessible to a larger audience.” Each of the SignAloud gloves has sensors that record movement and gestures then transmit the info wirelessly to a central computer. The computer then looks at the data, and if it matches a gesture, then the associated word or phrase is spoken through a speaker. “The sign language translation devices already out there are not practical for everyday use. Some use video input, while others have sensors that cover the user’s entire arm or body,” Pryor [said]. “Our gloves are lightweight, compact and worn on the hands, but ergonomic enough to use as an everyday accessory, similar to hearing aids or contact lenses.”
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As the Syrian peace accord has crumbled - even threatening to reignite the Cold War - and barrel bombs continue to fall on the rebel-held city of Aleppo, many are fleeing the death and destruction. But one group of residents has vowed to stay behind and help. They are the "White Helmets," a volunteer team of first responders who plunge head-first into crumbling buildings to save civilians trapped in the rubble of Syria's brutal civil war. Named after their iconic protective headgear, the group of about 3,000 rescue workers have reportedly saved more than 60,000 lives since the civil war began. In August, their courage garnered international attention when they rescued 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh, the stunned little boy covered in dust and blood whose photo shocked the world. They have since been nominated for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize. The heroism of these ordinary citizens - former doctors, shopkeepers, and teachers - is profiled in a 40-minute Netflix documentary. "These are very normal, ordinary people who now do one of the most extraordinary jobs on this planet," said the film's director, Orlando von Einsiedel. "They represent the best of what humanity can be," he said. "It has given us faith in humanity and has made us want to be better people."
Note: When the media seems to want us to hate Muslims, it's so important to read about the beautiful examples of these heroes. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
There's increasing evidence to show that trees are able to communicate with each other. More than that, trees can learn. When you discover how trees talk to each other, feel pain, nurture each other, even care for their close relatives and organise themselves into communities, it's hard to be sceptical. The support they give each other is not random. Research by Professor Massimo Maffei at the University of Turin shows trees can distinguish the roots of their own species from other plants, and even pick out their own relations from other trees. Some are so tightly connected at the roots that they even die together, like a devoted married couple. Diseased or hungry individuals can be identified, supported and nourished until they recover. They can also send warnings using chemical signals and electrical impulses through the fungal networks that stretch under the soil between sets of roots. These fungi operate like fibre-optic internet cables. Their thin filaments penetrate the earth, weaving through it in almost unbelievable density. One teaspoon of forest soil contains many miles of these tendrils. Over centuries, if left undisturbed, a single fungus can cover many square miles and create a network throughout an entire forest. Through these links, trees can send signals about insects, drought and other dangers. News bulletins are transmitted by chemical compounds and also by electricity. Most of us see trees as practically inanimate. But the truth is very different. They are just as intensely alive as we are ... and for much, much longer.
Note: The above article was adapted from Peter Wohlleben's book, "The Hidden Life Of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate - Discoveries From A Secret World." Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
In the face of a changing climate and the challenges that come with it, companies the world over have been attempting to pull solutions out of thin air - literally. There are firms turning air into fuel and others transforming it into stone. Some are even extracting clean drinking water from it. Israel’s Water-Gen has built devices that create and store drinking water by harvesting condensation from the air. It was among a group of Israeli firms that presented their technological innovations at the United Nations General Assembly last week. “Put simply, [our technology] leverages the same process as a dehumidifier, but instead captures and cleans the moisture,” said Arye Kohavi, Water-Gen’s CEO. “This ‘plug-and-drink’ technology is fully independent of existing water infrastructure. All we require is an electrical outlet and the humidity found in the air.” Water-Gen isn’t the only company to market such a technology, but it says its machines ... are far more energy-efficient than any other water production device. “Our technology takes one-fifth of the amount of energy used by other methods,” Kohavi said. Water-Gen estimates the water its machines generates would cost less than 10 cents per gallon. The smallest device can yield up to 5 gallons daily, while the largest can produce more than 800 gallons a day. “We think it’s possible to bring drinking water to all countries,” Maxim Pasik, Water-Gen’s chairman, [said] in an interview. “What’s important for us is to bring water to the people. This is a basic human right.”
Thinking about aging conjures unpleasant imagery of becoming weak and frail, losing our autonomy, and being placed in a nursing home to live out the remainder of our days alone. Self-described “Nursing Home Abolitionist” Dr. Bill Thomas has been working on changing that, and his ideas and philosophy are reforming the traditional long-term care model. After graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1986, Dr. Thomas worked in emergency care. He went on to become the medical director of [a] nursing home in upstate New York. The institutionalized and depressing atmosphere of the facility prompted him to take action. Even though animals in nursing homes were illegal at the time, Dr. Thomas brought in two dogs, four cats, hens, rabbits, 100 parakeets, a multitude of plants, a flower garden, and vegetable patch. The Washington Post reported that the illegal act was a resounding success. There was a 50% drop in medical prescriptions along with a dramatic decrease in death rates – but most importantly, the residents were simply happier. It inspired Dr. Thomas to create The Green House Project, a national non-profit organization that creates alternative living environments to traditional nursing home care facilities. Traditional nursing homes are torn down and replaced with small, home-like environments where people can live a full and interactive life. In 2005, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation awarded ... a five-year $10 million grant to help the organization create Green House projects in all fifty states.
Students who are misbehaving are usually taken out of class and sent to the principal, who punishes the child by revoking privileges, calling home or sometimes suspending them. But students in some Baltimore schools are sent somewhere different when they are acting out: a designated meditation room where they can calm down and decompress. The Mindful Moment room is equipped with bean bags and dim lighting, and students go through calming exercises with trained staff. At Robert W. Coleman Elementary School, teachers and staff can refer students to the room for an emotional “reset” when they are worked up. The student is led through breathing exercises and is encouraged to discuss the emotions that led to an outburst. They work with the adult to come up with a plan to use mindfulness in a similar situation in the future, to prevent an outburst. After about 20 minutes in the room, they rejoin classmates. Students usually show “visible signs of relaxation and emotional de-escalation after guided practices” in the room. The program also includes a “Mindful Moment” twice a day, which leads students in breathing exercises for 15 minutes over the PA system. Students can also participate in yoga classes. It has drastically reduced suspensions, with zero reported in the 2013-14 school year. The program has also been implemented with older students, including those at Patterson High School, [which] has also seen a decrease in suspensions both in the hallways and in class.
In January, Oregon became the first state in the country to begin automatically registering eligible citizens to vote when they obtain or renew their driver’s licenses or state IDs, completely shifting the burden of voter registration from the individual to the government. Four other states have passed similar laws and more than half have considered doing so this year - more than two decades after the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 directed states to make it easier for citizens to register to vote at offices that provide public assistance, including motor vehicle agencies. In Oregon, DMV customers ... who show up in the department’s computer system as eligible but unregistered, are added by default to voter rolls without party affiliation; they later select a political party or opt out using a form sent to them in the mail. That subtle difference - requiring people to take an extra step to opt out if they don’t want to be registered - is producing results. “So far, it’s working,” said Jonathan Brater, of the Brennan Center of Justice at the New York University School of Law, an advocate for the modernization of voter registration. Just two years ago, barely a handful of states were considering this form of voter registration. But technology has made it easier to seamlessly transfer data between agencies, and states increasingly are taking advantage of it. Legislatures in three other states have passed automatic voter registration laws: West Virginia, Vermont, and California.
Not many 25-year-olds can claim to get up at 4am and work weekends to save the world from an impending Armageddon that could cost tens of millions of lives. But for the past three years, Shu Lam, a Malaysian PhD student at the University of Melbourne, has confined herself to a scientific laboratory to figure out how to kill superbugs that can no longer be treated with antibiotics. She believes that she has found the key to averting a health crisis so severe that last week the United Nations convened its first ever general assembly meeting on drug-resistant bacteria. The overuse and incorrect use of antibiotics has rendered some strains of bacteria untreatable, allowing so-called “superbugs” to mutate. Last Wednesday, the problem was described by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as a “fundamental threat” to global health and safety. [Lam] believes her method of killing bacteria using tiny star-shaped molecules, built with chains of protein units called peptide polymers, is a ground-breaking alternative to failing antibiotics. Her research, published this month in the prestigious journal, Nature Microbiology, has already been hailed by scientists as a breakthrough that could change the face of modern medicine. Lam successfully tested the polymer treatment on six different superbugs in the laboratory, and against one strain of bacteria in mice. Even after multiple generations of mutations, the superbugs have proven incapable of fighting back.
For the second year in a row, Natural Resources Defense Council and several other organizations rated the 25 largest American fast-food and fast-casual restaurants on their policies toward antibiotics use. While the majority got failing grades in the “Chain Reaction” report, many chain restaurants have made progress, especially when sourcing antibiotic-free chicken - though Chipotle, Panera and now Subway also have strong policies on beef and pork. “We were really encouraged to see that twice as many restaurant chains had adopted new policies,” said Kari Hamerschlag ... one of the report’s authors. An estimated 70 percent of medically important antibiotics are used in livestock production, often given routinely to healthy animals to prevent illness or stimulate growth rather than to cure disease. Between 2009 and 2014, livestock and poultry farms increased their use of these antimicrobial drugs by 23 percent, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA discourages producers from using antibiotics routinely in feed to promote growth, but does not prohibit the practice. McDonald’s grade improved from a C last year to a C-plus because it announced it had fully switched over to antibiotic-free chicken in its U.S. stores. Subway, based in Milford, Conn., which leapt from an "F" grade last year to a "B" grade this year, was listed as the only chain to adopt policies that apply to all types of meat sold. The report said now roughly 67 percent of its chicken is now raised without antibiotics, with turkey to follow.
Two dolphins have been recorded having a conversation for the first time after scientists developed an underwater microphone which could distinguish the animals' different "voices". Researchers have known for decades that the mammals had an advanced form of communication. But scientists have now shown that dolphins alter the volume and frequency of pulsed clicks to form individual "words" which they string together into sentences in much the same way that humans speak. Researchers at the Karadag Nature Reserve, in Feodosia, Ukraine, recorded two Black Sea bottlenose dolphins, called Yasha and Yana, talking to each other in a pool. Each dolphin would listen to a sentence of pulses without interruption, before replying. Lead researcher Dr Vyacheslav Ryabov, said: “Essentially, this exchange resembles a conversation between two people. “Each pulse represents a phoneme or a word of the dolphin's spoken language. “The analysis of numerous pulses registered in our experiments showed that the dolphins took turns in producing [sentences] and did not interrupt each other, which gives reason to believe that each of the dolphins listened to the other's pulses before producing its own. “This language exhibits all the design features present in the human spoken language, this indicates a high level of intelligence and consciousness in dolphins, and their language can be ostensibly considered a highly developed spoken language, akin to the human language.”
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When researchers sent plants to the International Space Station in 2010, the flora wasn't meant to be decorative. Instead, the seeds of these small, white flowers - called Arabidopsis thaliana - were the subject of an experiment to study how plant roots developed in a weightless environment. Gravity is an important influence on root growth, but the scientists found that their space plants didn't need it to flourish. The research team from the University of Florida in Gainesville thinks this ability is related to a plant's inherent ability to orient itself as it grows. Since the flowers were orbiting some 220 miles (350 kilometers) above the Earth at the time, the NASA-funded experiment suggests that plants still retain an earthy instinct when they don't have gravity as a guide. "The role of gravity in plant growth and development in terrestrial environments is well understood," said plant geneticist and study co-author Anna-Lisa Paul. "What is less well understood is how plants respond when you remove gravity. [The] bottom line is that although plants 'know' that they are in a novel environment, they ultimately do just fine." The finding further boosts the prospect of cultivating food plants in space and, eventually, on other planets. "There's really no impediment to growing plants in microgravity, such as on a long-term mission to Mars, or in reduced-gravity environments such as in specialized greenhouses on Mars or the moon," Paul said. The study findings appear in the latest issue of the journal BMC Plant Biology.
The story of how Utah solved chronic homelessness begins in 2003. The number of chronic homeless had surged since the early 1970s. And related costs were soaring. In 2005, Utah had nearly 1,932 chronically homeless. By 2014, that number had dropped 72 percent to 539. Today, explained Gordon Walker, the director of the state Housing and Community Development Division, the state is “approaching a functional zero.” How Utah accomplished this didn’t require complex theorems or statistical models. For years, the thought of simply giving the homeless homes seemed absurd, constituting the height of government waste. But that’s exactly what Utah did. “If you want to end homelessness, you put people in housing,” Walker said in an interview. “This is relatively simple.” The state started setting up each chronically homeless person with his or her own house. Then it got them counseling to help with their demons. Such services, the thinking went, would afford them with safety and security that experts say is necessary to re-acclimate to modern life. Homelessness is stressful. It’s nearly impossible, most experts agree, to get off drugs or battle mental illness while undergoing such travails. These days, Walker says the state saves $8,000 per homeless person in annual expenses. “We’ve saved millions on this,” Walker said. And now, the chronic homeless are no longer tallied in numbers. They’re tallied by name. The last few are awaiting their houses.
A recent report by the communities and local government committee on homelessness pointed out that the “housing first” model “appears to have had a positive impact in Finland”. The ... model is quite simple: when people are homeless, you give them housing. The idea stems from the belief that people who are homeless need a home, and other issues that may cause them to be at risk of homelessness can be addressed once they are in stable housing. Homeless people aren’t told they must conquer their addictions or secure a job before being given a home: instead it is accepted that having a home can make solving health and social problems much easier. Finland is the only European country where homelessness has decreased in recent years. At the end of 2015 the number of single homeless people was for the first time under 7,000 and this number includes people living temporarily with friends and relatives, who constitute 80% of all homeless people. This development is mainly due to a national programme to reduce long-term homelessness. The main explanation for this success is quite simple: when the national programme started housing first was adopted as a mainstream national homelessness policy. This costs money, but there is ample evidence from many countries that shows it is always more cost-effective to aim to end homelessness instead of simply trying to manage it. Investment in ending homelessness always pays back, to say nothing of the human and ethical reasons.
Aidan Dwyer, 13, went to the woods and had a eureka moment that could be a major breakthrough in solar panel design. The 7th-grader ... noticed a pattern among tree branches, and determined (as naturalist Charles Bonnet did in 1754) that the pattern represented the Fibonacci sequence of numbers. Aidan wondered why, and figured it had something to do with photosynthesis. In a pretty innovative experiment, this intrepid young scientist set about duplicating an oak tree, comparing its sunlight-capturing abilities to a traditional rooftop solar panel array. He copied the pattern using a computer program, and built an oak tree-shaped solar array out of PVC pipe. He next built a flat-panel array mounted at 45 degrees, like a typical home rooftop array, and attached data loggers to each model to monitor voltage. Aidan's award-winning essay ... walks you through his experiment design and his results. But the short story is that his tree design generated much more electricity - especially ... when the sun is at its lowest point in the sky. At that point, the tree design generated 50 percent more power, without any adjustments to its declination angle. He determined the tree's Fibonacci pattern allowed some solar panels to collect sunlight even if others were in shade, and prevented branches on a tree from shading other branches. Now Aidan is studying other tree species and improving his PVC model to determine how it could be used to make more efficient solar arrays.
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In 1973, a book claiming that plants were sentient beings that feel emotions, prefer classical music to rock and roll, and can respond to the unspoken thoughts of humans hundreds of miles away landed on the New York Times best-seller list. “The Secret Life of Plants,” ... described the experiments of a former C.I.A. polygraph expert named Cleve Backster, who ... found that simply by imagining [a houseplant] being set on fire he could make it rouse the needle of the polygraph machine. Much of the research on plant intelligence has been inspired by ... the ways in which remarkably brainy behavior can emerge in the absence of actual brains. “If you are a plant, having a brain is not an advantage,” Stefano Mancuso points out. Mancuso is perhaps the field’s most impassioned spokesman for the plant point of view. His somewhat grandly named International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology, a few miles outside Florence, occupies a modest suite of labs and offices. Giving a tour of the labs, he showed me maize plants, grown under lights, that were being taught to ignore shadows; a poplar sapling hooked up to a galvanometer to measure its response to air pollution; and a chamber in which ... an advanced kind of mass spectrometer continuously read all the volatiles emitted by a succession of plants. “We are making a dictionary of each species’ entire chemical vocabulary,” he explained. He estimates that a plant has three thousand chemicals in its vocabulary, while, he said with a smile, “the average student has only seven hundred words.”
Following 9/11, reports of hate crimes against Arab-Americans, or those perceived to be, went up 1,700 percent. While distrust and ignorance toward American Muslims remains a reality today, we found the opposite in one Tennessee community. On one recent Sunday morning in Cordova, Pastor Steve Stone was rocking along with his congregation, clapping and singing along with the choir. Heartsong Church, just outside Memphis, sits on a rural road - directly across the street from a Muslim worship center. When Dr. Bashar Shala, co-founder of the Memphis Islamic Center, or MIC, began construction two years ago, at best, he hoped to be ignored. Instead, Stone welcomed the Muslims with a surprise - a sign welcoming MIC to the neighborhood. When they saw the sign, Shala said, "We knew that we have good neighbors." Acting on the biblical phrase "love thy neighbor," the two sides forged a friendship that's now expanded to plans for building a park with land from both sides of the road, connected by a bridge or a tunnel, and to interfaith events, such as a joint Labor Day party. One church member, Lee Raines, looking at tables with Muslims and Christians together, called it "awesome." Stone and Shala say they hope others will practice being good neighbors as they do. Not only have they fed the homeless and organized food drives together, this Sunday, on the 9/11 anniversary, they're hosting a joint blood drive.
Note: Watch a wonderfully inspiring, three-minute video on this unusual friendship.
Creating the Atlantic Ocean's first marine national monument is a needed response to dangerous climate change, oceanic dead zones and unsustainable fishing practices, President Barack Obama said Thursday. The new Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument consists of nearly 5,000 square miles of underwater canyons and mountains off the New England coast. "If we're going to leave our children with oceans like the ones that were left to us, then we're going to have to act and we're going to have to act boldly," Obama said at a ... conference. More than 20 countries represented at the meeting were also announcing the creation of their own marine protected areas. Monument designations come with restrictions on certain activities. The designation will lead to a ban on commercial fishing, mining and drilling, though a seven-year exception will occur for the lobster and red crab industries. Others, such as whiting and squid harvesters, have 60 days to transition out. Recreational fishing will be allowed. The ... monument will include three underwater canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon and four underwater mountains. It is home to such protected species as the sperm, fin and sei whales, and Kemp's ridley turtles. Expeditions also have found species of coral found nowhere else on earth. Supporters of the new monument say protecting large swaths of ocean from human stresses can sustain important species and reduce the toll of climate change.