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.
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.”
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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.”
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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.
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[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.
The chain of command at PV Squared, a solar panel installation company in Massachusetts’s Pioneer Valley, is admittedly convoluted. “Technically, I’m Kim’s boss,” says general manager Jonathan Gregory of bookkeeper Kim Pinkham. But “Kim’s on the board, and the board oversees my position, so technically she’s my boss.” As members of a worker-owned cooperative, the 40-plus employees elect their own board of directors and make decisions based not on majority rule, but by consensus. When they’re not holding the microphone, members at meetings express themselves with hand signals: a flat palm for a question or statement, a raised index finger for direct response, and a hand cupped in a “C” for a clarification. Currently, worker-owned entities employ about 17 million people, or 12% of the U.S. workforce. Such business can take a variety of forms, from equity-sharing plans like those found at Publix super markets, Land O’Lakes, and King Arthur Flour, to more radical models, like at PV Squared. By far the most common are employee stock ownership plans, or ESOPs. On the other end of the spectrum are workers collectives ... where there is no hierarchy. Collective Copies, a copy shop with 11 workers and locations in Amherst and Florence, Massachusetts, operates according to this model. After a trial period of six months, new hires are invited to become owners. “Everyone’s on the board of directors,” says Matt Grillo, a worker-owner who has been with Collective Copies for 20 years.
A Danish bank has launched the world’s first negative interest rate mortgage – handing out loans to homeowners where the charge is minus 0.5% a year. Negative interest rates effectively mean that a bank pays a borrower to take money off their hands, so they pay back less than they have been loaned. Jyske Bank, Denmark’s third largest, has begun offering borrowers a 10-year deal at -0.5%, while another Danish bank, Nordea, says it will begin offering 20-year fixed-rate deals at 0% and a 30-year mortgage at 0.5%. Under its negative mortgage, Jyske said borrowers will make a monthly repayment as usual – but the amount still outstanding will be reduced each month by more than the borrower has paid. The mortgage is possible because Denmark, as well as Sweden and Switzerland, has seen rates in money markets drop to levels that turn banking upside-down. Hřegh said Jyske Bank is able to go into money markets and borrow from institutional investors at a negative rate, and is simply passing this on to its customers. In Denmark, interest rates on savings deposited in Jyske ... have already fallen to zero. In reality, the Jyske mortgage borrower in Denmark is likely to end up paying back a little more than they borrowed, as there are still fees and charges to pay to compensate the bank for arranging the deal, even when the nominal rate is negative.
Amazon is threatening third-party sellers with fines for using excessive packaging for large items, in an effort to reduce waste, minimize shipping costs and ensure that customers can open boxes more easily. Third-party sellers who violate the rules can be fined $1.99 per order. The new fines, announced in a letter to sellers in September, were supposed to take effect on Aug. 1, giving sellers nearly one year to become compliant. However, Amazon is delaying implementing the rules until Sept. 3 because some sellers want Amazon to first certify their packaging as being acceptable. In the ramp up to the new rules, Amazon has been giving sellers a $1 per order credit to get them on board with the new shipping guidelines. The new rules in September only apply to items that are larger than 18 x 14 x 8 inches, or over 20 pounds. It's all part of Amazon's broader environmental push. Amazon revamped its own packaging in 2010 with its so-called Frustration-Free Packaging initiative, which aims to cut down on waste and ensure that customers can open packages without box cutters and scissors. It has also cleared some products to be shipped without extra packaging. Also as part of its environmental efforts, Amazon says it has avoided using 244,000 tons of packing materials over the past decade, or as many as 500 million boxes.
When Ronald Braunstein conducts an orchestra, there’s no sign of his bipolar disorder. He’s confident and happy. Music isn’t his only medicine, but its healing power is potent. Scientific research has shown that music helps fight depression, lower blood pressure and reduce pain. The National Institutes of Health has a partnership with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts called Sound Health: Music and the Mind, to expand on the links between music and mental health. It explores how listening to, performing or creating music involves brain circuitry that can be harnessed to improve health and well-being. Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said: “We’re bringing neuroscientists together with musicians to speak each other’s language. Mental health conditions are among those areas we’d like to see studied.” Mr. Braunstein, 63, has experienced the benefits of music for his own mental health and set out to bring them to others. Mr. Braunstein reached out to [Caroline Whiddon] about creating an orchestra that welcomed musicians with mental illnesses and family members and friends who support them. Mr. Braunstein called his new venture the Me2/Orchestra, because when he told other musicians about his mental health diagnosis, they’d often respond, “Me too.” In 2014, a second orchestra, Me2/Boston, was created. At each performance, a few musicians briefly talk about their mental illnesses and take questions from the audience.
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The number of girls undergoing female genital mutilation has fallen dramatically in east Africa over the past two decades, according to a study published in BMJ Global Health. The study, which looked at rates of FGM among girls aged 14 and under, suggests that prevalence in east Africa has dropped from 71.4% in 1995, to 8% in 2016. The reported falls in the rates of FGM are far greater than previous studies have suggested. The rates of FGM practised on children have fallen in north Africa, from 57.7% in 1990 to 14.1% in 2015. In west Africa, prevalence is also reported to have decreased from 73.6% in 1996 to 25.4% in 2017. The study aimed to assess if FGM awareness campaigns targeted at mothers had been successful. Unlike many other studies, older teenagers and adult women – who tend to have higher rates of FGM – were not included. The research developed estimates by pooling and comparing FGM data by proportion across countries and regions. The report did not examine the reasons why FGM rates had fallen, but said it was likely to have been driven by policy changes, national and international investment. National laws banning FGM have been introduced in 22 out of 28 practising African countries, according to the campaign group 28 Too Many. The report concluded that if the goal of eliminating FGM was to be reached, further efforts were urgently needed, including working with religious and community leaders, youth and health workers.
On a recent chilly night in Wisconsin, a Milwaukee bus driver extended an act of kindness to a homeless rider. Natalie Barnes was driving her usual route when a man named Richard ... got on and told her that he had just lost his home. Natalie offered to buy him dinner, but when the proud man refused, she pivoted — offering, instead, a place where Richard could stay safe and warm for the night. "Well, I'm on this bus 'til 2:44," she [said]. "You want to stay with me then?" "OK," he responds. So, for hours, as she drove and picked up passengers throughout the city, Richard sat quietly in the first row. And finally, when it was time for Natalie's break, the two spent some time talking. Then he let the kind bus driver buy him dinner. She also reached out to a community organization that was able to help Richard find temporary housing and supportive services. "The community really needs to help with the homeless people that are outside," Natalie Barnes later said. "There are a lot of people who are looking in garbages for food. They're underdressed. They don't have anywhere to go... They still should have basic necessities, like food and like clothing, just to survive." So, on that chilly night in October, that's what she gave a man in need. And since then, she's given him something even better — a friend. "Richard has become a friend of mine," she said, breaking into a huge smile. "We talk every couple of days. And he thanks me every time he talks to me for helping him. He calls me his little guardian angel."
Social trends among California youth have been spectacular. Over the last generation, rates of arrests of Californians under age 20 have fallen by 80 percent, murder arrest by 85 percent, gun killings by 75 percent, imprisonments by 88 percent, births by teen mothers by 75 percent, and school dropout by more than half while college enrollments have risen 45 percent. Back in 1980, teenagers comprised 27 percent of California’s criminal arrests. Today, 9 percent. Anecdotes of kids gone wrong remain, but they’re rarer than ever. Modern youth trends challenge traditional theories of what makes teenagers act better. Family stability and adult behaviors have not improved; in fact, epidemics of drug abuse, criminal arrest, and incarceration plague middle ages (the parents of adolescents). High levels of poverty among youth remain. Recurring panics over video games, smartphones, and other made-up teenage dangers need to yield to efforts to improve education and reduce poverty. Today’s more education-oriented, activist youth deserve to contribute to political decisions and leadership. By their behavior changes and survey evidence, young people are better adapted to today’s rapidly changing world than their elders.
Agri-tech start-up, Perfect Day, released a line of real ice cream made with lab-grown dairy that costs $20 a pint on Thursday — and it sold out in hours. Perfect Day’s cultured dairy is created by taking cow’s milk DNA and adding it to a micro-organism like yeast to create dairy proteins, whey and casein, via fermentation. Those dairy proteins are then combined with water and plant-based ingredients to create a dairy substitute that can be used to make ice cream, cheese, yogurt and a slew of other dairy products. [Co-founder Perumal] Gandhi ... says the dairy substitute is nutritionally identical to cow’s milk and tastes just like it. In fact, while Perfect Day Foods at least considers its product “vegan” and lactose-free (since lactose is a sugar found only in mammals’ milk), federal law actually requires them to put “contains milk” on any labeling because its protein is identical to cow’s milk on a molecular level and could cause allergies. Co-founder Rayan Pandya, 27, says the process to make the dairy is similar to what plant-based “meat” start-up Impossible Foods is doing using heme, a molecule in soy plants that’s identical to the heme molecule found in meat. Using heme, Impossible Foods is able to make its vegetarian meat substitute taste and feel like beef without using animals. The limited edition run of 1,000 three-packs of Perfect Day ice cream ... was the first and only product released by Perfect Day Foods (which has been working with the Food and Drug Administration since 2014) to drum up buzz.
Sound is so elemental to life and survival that it prompted Tel Aviv University researcher Lilach Hadany to ask: What if it wasn’t just animals that could sense sound - what if plants could, too? The first experiments to test this hypothesis ... suggest that in at least one case, plants can hear, and it confers a real evolutionary advantage. Hadany’s team looked at evening primroses (Oenothera drummondii) and found that within minutes of sensing vibrations from pollinators’ wings, the plants temporarily increased the concentration of sugar in their flowers’ nectar. In effect, the flowers themselves served as ears, picking up the specific frequencies of bees’ wings while tuning out irrelevant sounds like wind. A sweeter treat for pollinators, their theory goes, may draw in more insects, potentially increasing the chances of successful cross-pollination. Indeed, in field observations, researchers found that pollinators were more than nine times more common around plants another pollinator had visited within the previous six minutes. As the team thought about how sound works, via the transmission and interpretation of vibrations, the role of the flowers became even more intriguing. Though blossoms vary widely in shape and size, a good many are concave or bowl-shaped. This makes them perfect for receiving and amplifying sound waves, much like a satellite dish. This single study has cracked open an entirely new field of scientific research, which Hadany calls phytoacoustics.
In 1965, Poppy Northcutt was the only female engineer at NASA’s Houston Mission Control. As she gazed at the men around her she thought to herself, I’m as smart as they are. Although she belonged among them, it was undeniably difficult to be the only woman in what sometimes felt like the domain of men. As isolated as Northcutt felt in the historic control center, she was one of thousands of women who began their careers at NASA as computers. It was a job created before the advent of electronic machines, when human aptitude was required to perform all the mathematical calculations needed for experiments. Women have historically filled these positions, as exemplified by the groups of female computers who worked at the Harvard Observatory and the Royal Observatory Greenwich in the late 1800s. At NASA, these women came from all over the world, working at centers across the United States, and comprising a diverse and potent force in space exploration. Their calculations would ultimately be responsible for sending astronauts to the moon. Unlike Northcutt, Sue Finley noticed the ubiquitous presence of female employees when she started work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. Not only was her supervisor a woman, but all of her coworkers in the computing section were as well. Finley, who started in 1958, before NASA’s formation, is still working for the space agency today. At age 83 and with a career spanning six decades, she is NASA’s longest serving female employee.
Wind turbines in Scotland generated 9,831,320 megawatt hours between January and June 2019, WWF Scotland said Monday. The numbers, which were supplied by WeatherEnergy, mean that Scottish wind generated enough electricity to power the equivalent of 4.47 million homes for six months. That is almost double the number of homes in Scotland. “Up and down the country, we are all benefiting from cleaner energy and so is the climate,” Robin Parker, climate and energy policy manager at WWF Scotland, said in a statement Monday. “These figures show harnessing Scotland’s plentiful onshore wind potential can provide clean, green electricity for millions of homes across not only Scotland, but England as well,” Parker added. By 2030, the Scottish government says it wants to produce half of the country’s energy consumption from renewables. It is also targeting an “almost completely” decarbonized energy system by 2050. As a whole, Europe is home to some of the world’s most ambitious wind energy projects. September 2018 saw the official opening of the Walney Extension Offshore Wind Farm in the Irish Sea. With a total capacity of 659 MW, it’s currently the world’s largest operational offshore wind farm and capable of powering nearly 600,000 homes in the U.K..
Using the power of ocean waves, innovators from Boston, U.S., have developed a technology that can produce fresh water off-grid and without the costly infrastructure of desalination plants. This invention could help many of the 2.1 billion people around the world who struggle to access safe drinking water, most of those in low-income countries. The technology, Wave2O, was developed by start-up company Resolute Marine Energy. Chief Operating Officer Olivier Ceberio says it “targets ‘off-grid’ coastal communities in developing nations where a solution to persistent water shortages is urgently needed”. Importantly, it fills a gaping hole between industrial-scale utilities that are costly and time-consuming to build, and micro-scale solutions for individual households. The only technology currently offered in between involves diesel-powered desalination systems. And Wave2O can be delivered competitively because it uses “free energy from a consistent and inexhaustible renewable energy resource: ocean waves,” says Ceberio. By eliminating the need for diesel generators, the invention not only saves money but reduces carbon dioxide emissions. “Each 4,000 [cubic meter per] day plant that displaces an equivalently sized diesel-powered plant will cut CO2 emissions by 4,300 tons per year,” explains Ceberio, “the equivalent of taking 936 cars off the road or of the carbon sequestered by 2,070 hectares of forest.”
The revolution in renewable power hit a new milestone in April. Last week the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released it's latest Energy Infrastructure Update (EIU), with data through April 2019. According to ... the non-profit SUN DAY Campaign, which analyzed the data, "that was enough to push renewable energy's share of total available installed U.S. generating capacity up to 21.56%. By comparison, coal's share dropped to 21.55% (down from 23.04% a year ago)." Of course it's important to note that capacity doesn't equal generation. Coal still generates more electricity than renewables. But, the trends indicate it's just a matter of time before that picture changes as well. But it is natural gas that is still the king of generation. Although renewable capacity additions are forecast to be well ahead of natural gas additions through 2022, it is likely that natural gas will continue to be the top source of U.S. power for quite some time. The EIU indicates that natural gas now represents 44.44% of total installed capacity. Because of the higher capacity factors for natural gas-fired generation, Energy Information Administration data show that natural gas provided 36% of U.S. power over the past 12 months, well ahead of coal's 27%. Further, the share for natural gas has grown in recent years, while that of coal continues to decline. But given the current trends, it won't be long before renewables supply the largest share of U.S. power.
Go to your happy place. Take a deep breath and hold it in your mind's eye for a long, joyful moment. My happy place looks and feels ... like a cabin in the woods. Family and friends are there. I have everything I need to be fully connected. The kind of experience I'm describing is something of a national pastime in Norway. They even have a word that snugly wraps all these ideas up: "koselig." You could roughly translate koselig (pronounced "koosh-lee"), as "coziness," but that leaves out crucial components of it, like enjoying the company of others and a connection with nature. There's no direct English translation, but there are regional equivalents such as the Swedish "mys," the Dutch "gezelligheid" and the most well-known of these, the Danish "hygge." Hygge (pronounced "hoo-gah") [is] defined as "a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being." It's that well-being part that gives us reason to replicate koselig ... even as the research slowly confirms what those cold, northern happiest countries have known for a long time: Darkness and isolation can be celebrated because they provide the need for their relief. The act of creating our own light and warmth produces peace and contentment. The case for koselig as a health practice seems obvious. You already know how it feels to be cozy, or in nature, or with friends. Social connections give our life purpose, and ... anything that decrease stress ... has numerous mental and physical health benefits.
An 8-year-old living in a homeless shelter has won the New York State chess championship for his age bracket. “I want to be the youngest grandmaster,” Tanitoluwa Adewumi, a Nigerian refugee who goes by Tani, [said]. Tanitoluwa placed first in the New York State Scholastic Championships tournament for kindergarten through third grade — a remarkable win for anyone. “It’s unheard of for any kid, let alone one in a homeless shelter,” [said] Russell Makofsky, who oversees Manhattan's P.S. 116 chess program. Tanitoluwa hasn't had an easy life. His family left northern Nigeria in 2017 fearing attacks on Christians, The New York Times reports, and moved to New York City over a year ago where the boy learned how to play chess at school. He and his family live in a homeless shelter. School chess coach Shawn Martinez saw Tanitoluwa's potential after observing him excel in the game a few weeks after first learning it early last year. He reached out to Tanitoluwa's family about joining the school's chess program, and learned they were unable to pay costs associated with membership. Makofsky decided to waive Tanitoluwa's fees, which can easily exceed thousands with travel and chess camp admissions. Seven trophies later, the elementary school boy is one of the top players in the country for his age group. Makofsky, who set up a GoFundMe for Tanitoluwa, said the family has received offers for a car, legal services, jobs and even housing.