Inspiring News Articles
Excerpts of Highly Inspiring News Articles in Major Media
Below are one-paragraph excerpts of highly inspiring news articles from the major media. Links are provided to the original inspiring news articles on their media websites. If any link fails, read this webpage. The most inspiring news articles are listed first. You can also explore the news articles listed by order of the date posted. For an abundance of other highly inspiring material, see our Inspiring Resources page. May these inspiring news 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.
Scientists have recently begun to investigate [whether] food can have as powerful an impact on the mind as it does on the body. Research exploring the link between diet and mental health “is a very new field; the first papers only came out a few years ago,” said Michael Berk, a professor of psychiatry at the Deakin University School of Medicine in Australia. “But the results are unusually consistent, and they show a link between diet quality and mental health.” “Diet quality” refers to the kinds of foods that people eat, how often they eat them and how much of them they eat. In several studies ... Berk and his collaborators have found lower rates of depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder among those who consumed a traditional diet of meat and vegetables than among people who followed a modern Western diet heavy with processed and fast foods or even a health-food diet of tofu and salads. “Traditional diets — the kinds of foods your grandmother would have recognized — have been associated with a lower risk of mental health issues,” Berk said. The association between diet and mental well-being may start even before birth. A 2013 study of more than 23,000 mothers and their children, led by Berk’s frequent collaborator and Deakin colleague Felice Jacka, suggests a link between a mother’s consumption of sweets and processed foods during pregnancy and behavioral and mental health issues in her child at age 5.
Note: For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
We're in the midst of a popular obsession with mindfulness as the secret to health and happiness. And a growing body of evidence suggests it has clear benefits. A curriculum called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was developed in 1979 by Jon Kabat-Zinn, an MIT-educated scientist. The techniques ... are intended to help practitioners quiet a busy mind, becoming more aware of the present moment and less caught up in what happened earlier or what's to come. Many cognitive therapists commend it to patients as a way to help cope with anxiety and depression. Its strength lies in its universality. It is gaining acceptance with ... Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, FORTUNE 500 titans, Pentagon chiefs and more. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said his meditation practice was directly responsible for his ability to concentrate and ignore distractions. Though meditation is considered an essential means to achieving mindfulness, the ultimate goal is simply to give your attention fully to what you're doing. One can work mindfully, parent mindfully and learn mindfully. Think of your attention as a muscle. As with any muscle, it makes sense to exercise it ... and like any muscle, it will strengthen from that exercise. There are hundreds of mindfulness and meditation apps available from iTunes. Scientists have been able to prove that meditation and rigorous mindfulness training can lower cortisol levels and blood pressure, increase immune response and possibly even affect gene expression. Scientific study is also showing that meditation can have an impact on the structure of the brain itself.
Note: If the above link to the full article fails, click here. For another great article on mindfulness, click here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
A mother of four has surprised her children, husband and his new fiancée with heartbreaking Christmas letters two years after her death from ovarian cancer. Brenda Schmitz was 46 when she passed away in September 2011. As a parting gift, she entrusted a letter to a friend, who remains anonymous, to deliver when the time was right. A month before she lost her battle to the disease, Schmitz wrote the letter to KSTZ Star 102.5, which runs a Christmas wishes program each year. Listeners send in their Christmas wish letters, and the station elicits the help of sponsors to grant a select few. Brenda's wishes were finally revealed two years later when the station brought her husband, David, into the studio and read the note to him on air last week. "When you are in receipt of this letter, I will have already lost my battle to ovarian cancer," the letter from Brenda began. "I told [my friend] once my loving husband David had moved on in his life and had met someone to share his life with again, to mail this letter to all of you at the station." David had recently become engaged again and Brenda's first wish was a request for the station to give his "new lifelong partner," Jane, a pampering session. "She deserves it, being a stepmother to all those boys," the letter read. "Make her smile and know her efforts are truly appreciated from me. "Thank you," Brenda added. "I love you, whoever you are."
[ISIS Foundation’s Audette Exel] built a career on making millions for the rich, but her true achievement has been using her legal and financial [prowess] to make money for the world’s poorest. A monkey passes Exel’s [Katmandu, Nepal] hotel room as she works via email on a half-billion-dollar sale of a European banking group. The negotiations are crucial. If successful, they will represent one of the biggest European financial transactions of 2012. This is just before breakfast. After breakfast, Exel visits some of the children she and her organisation, the ISIS Foundation, have rescued from child traffickers in the remotest part of the country, children taken from their homes under false pretences and imprisoned in appalling conditions. The children are hugging her, squeezing her, holding her hand. An 11-year-old boy who almost died from a hole in the heart before being saved by Exel and her team won’t let her go. Later that afternoon, Exel works on forging ties between her Nepalese staff and her manager in Uganda, the other country where her organisation has saved the lives of thousands of mothers and their children. This is the woman who, ... leading international finance lawyer James Watkins says, gave up millions of her own income to help some of the most impoverished people in the world. The same woman again who high-flying lawyer John Atkinson believes puts him and other bankers and lawyers to shame. “When I examine my life and I compare it to Audette’s, you can quickly feel pretty humbled, even quite selfish. I guess in the scheme of things I look quite normal and Audette looks pretty extraordinary.”
Note: For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
If anyone could claim to be leading by example in an age of austerity, it is José Mujica, Uruguay's president, who has forsworn a state palace in favour of a farmhouse, donates the vast bulk of his salary to social projects, flies economy class and drives an old Volkswagen Beetle. But the former guerrilla fighter is clearly disgruntled by those who tag him "the world's poorest president" and – much as he would like others to adopt a more sober lifestyle – the 78-year-old has been in politics long enough to recognise the folly of claiming to be a model for anyone. "If I asked people to live as I live, they would kill me," Mujica said during an interview in his small but cosy one-bedroom home set amid chrysanthemum fields outside Montevideo. The president is a former member of the Tupamaros guerrilla group, which was notorious in the early 1970s for bank robberies, kidnappings and distributing stolen food and money among the poor. He was shot by police six times and spent 14 years in a military prison, much of it in dungeon-like conditions. Since becoming leader of Uruguay in 2010, however, he has won plaudits worldwide for living within his means, decrying excessive consumption and pushing ahead with policies on same-sex marriage, abortion and cannabis legalisation that have reaffirmed Uruguay as the most socially liberal country in Latin America. But the man who is best known as Pepe says those who consider him poor fail to understand the meaning of wealth. "I'm not the poorest president. The poorest is the one who needs a lot to live," he said. "My lifestyle is a consequence of my wounds. I'm the son of my history."
Note: For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Swedish prisons have long had a reputation around the world as being liberal and progressive. The head of Sweden's prison and probation service, Nils Oberg, announced in November that four Swedish prisons are to be closed due to an "out of the ordinary" decline in prisoner numbers. Although there has been no fall in crime rates, between 2011 and 2012 there was a 6% drop in Sweden's prisoner population, now a little over 4,500. A similar decrease is expected this year and the next. The Swedes [have] managed to maintain a broadly humane approach to sentencing, even of the most serious offenders: jail terms rarely exceed 10 years; those who receive life imprisonment can still apply to the courts after a decade to have the sentence commuted to a fixed term, usually in the region of 18 to 25 years. Sweden was the first country in Europe to introduce the electronic tagging of convicted criminals and continues to strive to minimise short-term prison sentences wherever possible by using community-based measures – proven to be more effective at reducing reoffending. The overall reoffending rate in Sweden stands at between 30 and 40% over three years – around half that in the UK. One likely factor that has kept reoffending down and the rate of incarceration in Sweden below 70 per 100,000 head of population – less than half the figure for England and Wales – is that the age of criminal responsibility is set at 15. Unlike the UK, where a life sentence can be handed down to a 10-year-old, in Sweden no young person under the age of 21 can be sentenced to life and every effort is made to ensure that as few juvenile offenders as possible end up in prison.
Note: For a Time magazine article showing how Norway's prisons actually rehabilitate prisoners so that they can more easily fit back in society, click here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
An American bishop who disguised himself as a homeless man to give a sermon about compassion was asked to leave his church by unknowing congregants. David Musselman, a Mormon cleric near Salt Lake City, Utah, said he wanted to teach members of his church to be kind to all people. “To be Christ-like, just acknowledge them,” he said. Mr Musselman recruited a professional makeup artist to transform his face and wore a wooly hat, thick spectacles, a false beard and a fake scar. Even his own family did not recognise him. “The main thing I was trying to get across was we don't need to be so quick to judge,” Mr Musselman told his local television news station. “Many actually went out of their way to purposefully ignore me, and they wouldn't even make eye contact,” he said. “I'd approach them and say, 'Happy Thanksgiving'.” After being asked to leave by five people, Mr Musselman walked to the pulpit during a service and disclosed his true identity by taking off his wig, fake beard and glasses. “It had a shock value that I did not anticipate,” he said. “I really did not have any idea that the members of my ward would gasp as big as they did.” Mr Musselman said he was touched by the reaction of younger members of the church. “I was impressed by the children,” he said. “I could see in their eyes they wanted to do more”. Mr Musselman, whose stunt came just before the Thanksgiving holiday, said that he did not intend to embarrass the members of his church or make them feel ashamed. Instead, he said, he wanted them to remember to be kind all year long to people from all walks of life.
What quantum mechanics tells us ... is surprising to say the least. It tells us that the basic components of objects – the particles, electrons, quarks etc. – cannot be thought of as "self-existent". The reality that they, and hence all objects, are components of is merely "empirical reality". This reality is something that, while not a purely mind-made construct as radical idealism would have it, can be but the picture our mind forces us to form of [a] mysterious, non-conceptualisable "ultimate reality", not embedded in space and (presumably) not in time either. The quantum mechanical formalism ... compels us to consider that two particles that have once interacted always remain bound in a very strange, hardly understandable way even when they are far apart, the connection being independent of distance. Even though this connection-at-a-distance does not permit us to transmit messages, clearly it is real. In other words space, so essential in classical physics, seems to play a considerably less basic role in quantum physics. [Erwin] Schrödinger had even given [this reality] a name: entanglement, and had claimed entanglement is essential. A real breakthrough took place [when John Bell] published his famous inequalities, which - for the first time - opened a possibility of testing whether or not entanglement-at-a-distance had experimentally testable consequences. Entanglement-at-a-distance does physically exist, in the sense that it has physically verifiable (and verified) consequences. Which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that some of our most engrained notions about space and causality should be reconsidered.
Note: For lots more intriguing scientific information suggesting reality is much more fluid and miraculous than most might suspect, click here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Gratitude ... makes you happier and healthier. If you can find any authentic reason to give thanks, anything that is going right with the world or your life, and put your attention there, then statistics say you're going to be better off. Does this mean to live in a state of constant denial and put your head in the sand? Of course not. Gratitude works when you're grateful for something real. What are you actually grateful for? It's a question that could change your life. Recent studies have concluded that the expression of gratitude can have profound and positive effects on our health, our moods and even the survival of our marriages. Dr. John Gottman at the University of Washington has been researching marriages for two decades. The conclusion of all that research, he states, is that unless a couple is able to maintain a high ratio of positive to negative encounters (5:1 or greater), it is likely the marriage will end. With 90 percent accuracy, Gottman says he can predict, often after only three minutes of observation, which marriages are likely to flourish and which are likely to flounder. The formula is that for every negative expression (a complaint, frown, put-down, expression of anger) there needs to be about five positive ones (smiles, compliments, laughter, expressions of appreciation and gratitude). Keep a daily journal of three things you are thankful for. This works well first thing in the morning, or just before you go to bed. Make it a practice to tell a spouse, partner or friend something you appreciate about them every day. To practice it further, join thousands of others in a transformative 21-Day Gratitude Challenge starting November 7th leading up to Thanksgiving.
Annie Leonard [has] been relentlessly explaining the absurdity of our throwaway culture [for] decades. While her mastery of detail is impressive, it's her passionate style that transforms bleak facts into emotive stories that compel you to take action. Leonard knew her story needed to reach as many people as possible to make a real difference. So, in 2007, she made it viral through an infectious online film called "The Story of Stuff". Within six months, more than 3 million viewers from around the world watched the film. "The Story of Stuff" effectively and often humorously explains where all our stuff comes from, what resources are used to create it, whose lives are affected during its production, and where it goes when we discard it. While this all sounds familiar enough, it's Leonard's poignant questions and provocative truth-telling that help us see the profound stupidity of this system. Leonard has spent the last 20 years raising awareness of environmental health and justice issues, working with organizations such as the Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance, Health Care Without Harm, Greenpeace International and the Funders Workgroup for Sustainable Production and Consumption, which brings together grant makers committed to building a more sustainable future. She has spent nearly half of her life traveling to more than 30 countries to witness the environmental impact of casual consumerism and the travails of those who make what we consume; and she has spent countless hours working to right these injustices. Which is why when Leonard talks trash, people cannot help but listen.
Note: For Annie's excellent website filled with inspiring ideas on how you can make a difference, click here. For a longer article in Yes! Magazine written by Annie, click here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
A man slips behind someone else into a packed elementary school with an AK-47-type weapon. He goes into the office and shoots at the ground, then darts between there and outside to fire at approaching police. So what do you do? If you're Antoinette Tuff, who works in the front office at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy just outside Atlanta, you don't run. You talk. You divulge your personal struggles to the gunman, you tell him you love him, you even proactively offer to walk outside with him to surrender so police won't shoot. And then the nightmare ends with the suspect, later identified as Michael Brandon Hill, taken into custody and no one inside or outside the Decatur school even hurt, despite the gunfire. By the end -- with police themselves having never directly talked to him -- Tuff and the gunman were talking about where he would put his weapon, how he'd empty his pockets and where he'd lie down before authorities could get him. "It's going to be all right, sweetie," she tells Hill at one point [audible in the 911 call]. "I just want you to know I love you, though, OK? And I'm proud of you. That's a good thing that you're just giving up and don't worry about it. We all go through something in life." Tuff then let the gunman know that she'd been down before herself, but she'd picked herself up. He could, too. "I thought the same thing, you know, I tried to commit suicide last year after my husband left me," she said. "But look at me now. I'm still working and everything is OK." That day, for everyone at that school, everything did turn out OK. Shots were fired, but no one got hurt. The gunman never made it to the classroom area, deciding instead to give up and lay down.
In just a decade, and using a deceptively simple approach, Kaiser Permanente doubled the percentage of Northern California patients whose blood pressures were brought down to healthy levels. The Kaiser program relied on close monitoring by a team of health care workers and the use of cheaper, more efficient drugs to treat high blood pressure. Over the course of an eight-year study, the percentage of patients with high blood pressure who had it under control increased from 44 percent in 2001 to 80 percent in 2009. The rate continued to climb after the study ended, and as of 2011, 87 percent of patients had lowered their high blood pressure to a healthy level. The results are intriguing because high blood pressure ... is treatable with medication and lifestyle changes, but has remained stubbornly difficult to control in most patients, Kaiser doctors said. During the years of the Kaiser study, the number of heart attacks and strokes fell substantially. Dr. Don Conkling, a 63-year-old Kaiser member who was part of the study, managed to get his blood pressure into a normal, healthy range for the first time since his early 40s. He lost about 60 pounds, cut out sugar and meat from his diet, and started walking several times a day, often for miles at a time, with his dog Sophie. Conkling, a veterinarian in San Bruno, also meditates every day for 45 minutes or longer to help reduce stress from his job. Not all patients have to make such drastic lifestyle changes to lower their blood pressure, Conkling said.
Using techniques of exquisite sensitivity and technological finesse, astronomers have spent the past two decades on an astonishing voyage of cosmic discovery. They have found that the universe is full of planets: cold, small, and dark next to their large and glaring suns, these worlds have previously been hidden from us. To spot them represents a challenge that has been compared to looking across thousands of miles to see a firefly buzzing around a brilliant searchlight. They exert a gravitational pull, tugging their parent stars into a gently wobbling motion that we can now detect. We now have firm evidence for thousands of planets, around thousands of stars. We also know something about these worlds, their sizes, their orbits, often their ages. In a handful of cases ... we have even measured the temperature of their upper atmospheres and [determined] their gaseous chemistry, finding substances like sodium, methane and water. No matter how conservative or optimistic we are, the statistics tell us that something like an astonishing one out of every seven stars must harbor a planet similar in size to the Earth, and at roughly the right orbital distance to allow for the possibility of a temperate surface environment. In other words, roughly 15 percent of all suns could, in principle, be hosting a place suitable for life as we know it. Since our galaxy contains at least 200 billion stars, this implies a vast arena for the universe’s ubiquitous carbon chemistry to play in — a process that, as here on Earth, might lead to the complex machinery of life. Indeed, there is a 95-percent confidence — give or take a few percent — that one of these worlds could be within a mere 16 light years of us.
Note: For fascinating testimony from top military and government officials revealing a major cover-up of the existence of UFOs and ETs, click here. For more on the nature of reality, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
[On July 17 Delaware] Gov. Jack Markell is scheduled to sign a law creating a new “public benefit corporation” where directors must balance the interests of the owners with those of employees, the general public and the environment. Delaware becomes the 19th state to pass such a law, but it may be the most important one since it is home to half of all publicly traded U.S. companies. Not that Ford Motor Co. or Intel are likely to avail themselves of this new corporate structure. Under the Delaware law, 90% of shareholders must approve a shift to benefit status. The law will likely be more popular with closely held firms like Etsy, the online marketplace for handmade products with more than $500 million a year in sales. It gives them a chance to declare a broader set of objectives than profit alone, and a legal structure to pursue them without risking lawsuits by disgruntled shareholders who might prefer a fatter dividend, say, than the comfort of knowing no endangered species were wiped out by their company’s logging operations. Under the new Delaware law, the purpose of a public benefit corporation is to operate in a “responsible and sustainable manner.” Directors can’t be sued for pursuing objectives that advance “artistic, charitable, cultural …scientific or technological” goals. The benefit corporation movement has even formed the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board to come up with the equivalent of GAAP for the Birkenstock-wearing set.
Note: For more on this exciting development, see the Huffington Post article written by Delaware's governor at this link.
After I wrote an article about misogyny found on Facebook, people began to send me links to content that they had tried and failed to have removed by the site. Among these was a seven-minute video depicting a gang-rape of a girl by the side of the road. I began looking more deeply into the subject. I came across "humor" pages with names like "Raping Your Girlfriend." There were easily accessed pictures and videos of girls and women frightened, humiliated, bruised, beaten, raped, [and] bathed in blood. In one instance, Facebook declined to remove an image of a woman, mouth covered in tape, in which the caption read, "Don't tap her and rap her. Tape her and rape her." The photo went viral. Facebook's response ... "the photo ... did not violate our community standards." I joined [others] to launch a global campaign to confront institutionalized sexism in media. We wrote an open letter to Facebook, co-signed by more than 100 organizations, asking the company ... to train people to recognize violence against women as hateful. We encouraged users of Facebook to send messages to its advertisers encouraging them to boycott the social media network. Over seven days, men and women around the world sent more than 60,000 tweets ... and 5,000 e-mails to targeted advertisers, 16 of whom withdrew their advertising. Facebook responded, noting that its "systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively" as they would like. We are in the midst of a shifting cultural tide in which gender based violence -- historically kept private -- is better understood as a pandemic problem. Facebook's action represents an open acknowledgment that violence against women is a serious issue [that] deserves serious attention.
Note: How sad that it took facebook advertisers withdrawing their support to make this change. And how awesome that the writer of this article, Soraya Chemaly, had to the courage to stand up and do something about it by initiating this sexism campaign against facebook, and to inspire others to join her. Working together, we can make a difference.
Tesla Motors Inc.’s electric Model S, Motor Trend’s 2013 “Car of the Year,” received the highest rating from Consumer Reports in an evaluation of the luxury sedan that led first-quarter North American plug-in car sales. The Model S from Palo Alto, California-based Tesla scored 99 out of 100 points, the non-profit magazine said in an e-mailed statement. The $89,650 car bought by Consumer Reports “performed better, or just as well overall” as any vehicle it’s ever tested, the ... magazine said. “It accelerates, handles and brakes like a sports car, it has the ride and quietness of a luxury car and is far more energy efficient than the best hybrid cars,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ director of automotive testing. No rechargeable car has won a score as high as the Model S. The magazine last gave a vehicle 99 points in 2007, when Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus LS460L ranked that high. Model S shortcomings include limited range, long charge times and “coupe-like styling that impairs rear visibility and impedes access,” Consumer Reports said. Along with reliability that isn’t yet determined, Tesla still has a limited service network, the magazine said. The test vehicle had an 85-kilowatt/hour lithium-ion battery pack and averaged about 200 miles (322 kilometers) per charge in real-world driving, the magazine said. The Tesla “is easily the most practical electric car that has been tested to date,” Consumer Reports said.
Note: After undeniable suppression of the electric car by car manufacturers, independent upstart Tesla Motors has done it! Expect to see more breakthroughs from this great new company. For more on the company's amazing namesake and how his inventions were suppressed, click here.
Avaaz - meaning "voice" in Farsi as well as several other European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages - describes itself as "a global web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision-making everywhere". According to the group's website, it was launched in 2007 with a mission to "organise citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want". It campaigns in 15 languages and is served by a small core team of 52 full-time staff worldwide and thousands of volunteers in all 192 UN member states, including Iran and China, where its website is illegal. "Our model of internet organising allows thousands of individual efforts, however small, to be rapidly combined into a powerful collective force," it says. Avaaz's founder and executive director, Ricken Patel, told the Times newspaper earlier this month: "There are two types of fatalism. The belief the world can't change, and the belief you can't play a role in changing it." The group employs a wide variety of tactics in its campaigns, including collating petitions with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of signatures; organising demonstrations and phone-ins; fundraising, and paying for advertising. It says its successes range from helping to uphold the EU ban on GM crops to helping to circumventing the Burmese government's ban on international aid after Cyclone Nargis.
Note: The membership of this great organization has rapidly grown to over 20 million worldwide. Consider joining them and making your voice heard at avaaz.org. You can start a petition there which just might draw millions of supporters and make a real difference in building a better world. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Most modern justice systems focus on a crime, a lawbreaker and a punishment. But a concept called “restorative justice” considers harm done and strives for agreement from all concerned — the victims, the offender and the community — on making amends. And it allows victims, who often feel shut out of the prosecutorial process, a way to be heard and participate. In this country, restorative justice takes a number of forms, but perhaps the most prominent is restorative-justice diversion. There are not many of these programs — a few exist on the margins of the justice system in communities like Baltimore, Minneapolis and Oakland, Calif. — but, according to a University of Pennsylvania study in 2007, they have been effective at reducing recidivism. Typically, a facilitator meets separately with the accused and the victim, and if both are willing to meet face to face without animosity and the offender is deemed willing and able to complete restitution, then the case shifts out of the adversarial legal system and into a parallel restorative-justice process. All parties — the offender, victim, facilitator and law enforcement — come together in a forum sometimes called a restorative-community conference. Each person speaks, one at a time and without interruption, about the crime and its effects, and the participants come to a consensus about how to repair the harm done. The methods are mostly applied in less serious crimes, like property offenses in which the wrong can be clearly righted. The processes are designed to be flexible enough to handle violent crime like assault, but they are rarely used in those situations.
Note: This deeply moving and highly educational piece from the New York Times Magazine about the power of restorative justice is well worth reading in its entirety at the link above.
Uruguay’s [president] José Mujica ... has shunned the country’s Residencia de Suárez for the cozy but modest quarters of his small home on the outskirts of the capital, Montevideo. Dubbed by many media organizations as the world’s “poorest” president, Mujica and his wife keep house on a small farm surrounded by other tiny homes and guarded by only two police officers and his three-legged dog, Manuela. "I've lived like this most of my life," Mujica told the BBC. "I can live well with what I have." Unlike his forebears and counterparts around the world who live in comfort and are chauffeured around in limousines, Mujica donates 90 percent of his $12,000 monthly salary to charity organizations benefiting the poor and small businesses, and his means of transport is a beat-up 1987 Volkswagon Beetle worth about $1,800 – or the equivalent of his annual personal wealth declaration. This year he bumped his wealth declaration up to $215,000 – only after declaring his wife’s assets of land, tractors and a house – which still pales in comparison to Vice-President Danilo Astori's declared wealth and former President Tabare Vasquez’s bank account. “I'm called 'the poorest president,' but I don't feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more," Mujica said. "This is a matter of freedom. If you don't have many possessions then you don't need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself."
Note: For more on this unusual and inspiring president, click here.
It's becoming clear that we can grow all the food we need, and profitably, with far fewer chemicals. Conventional agriculture can shed much of its chemical use - if it wants to. What may be the most important agricultural study this year ... was done on land owned by Iowa State University called the Marsden Farm. On 22 acres of it, beginning in 2003, researchers set up three plots: one replicated the typical Midwestern cycle of planting corn one year and then soybeans the next, along with its routine mix of chemicals. On another, they planted a three-year cycle that included oats; the third plot added a four-year cycle and alfalfa. The longer rotations also integrated the raising of livestock, whose manure was used as fertilizer. The results were stunning: The longer rotations produced better yields of both corn and soy, reduced the need for nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides by up to 88 percent, reduced the amounts of toxins in groundwater 200-fold and didn't reduce profits by a single cent. In short, there was only upside - and no downside at all - associated with the longer rotations. There was an increase in labor costs, but remember that profits were stable. So this is a matter of paying people for their knowledge and smart work instead of paying chemical companies for poisons. And it's a high-stakes game; according to the Environmental Protection Agency, about five billion pounds of pesticides are used each year in the United States.