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.
With the world’s population at 7 billion and still growing we often look at the future with dread. In Don’t Panic - The Truth About Population, world famous Swedish statistical showman Professor Hans Rosling presents a different view. We face huge challenges in terms of food, resources and climate change but at the heart of Rosling’s statistical tour-de-force is the message that the world of tomorrow is a much better place than we might imagine. Professor Rosling reveals that the global challenge of rapid population growth, the so-called population explosion, has already been overcome. In just 50 years the average number of children born per woman has plummeted from 5 to just 2.5 and is still falling fast. This means that in a few generations’ time, world population growth will level off completely. In Bangladesh ... families of two children are now the norm. We meet Taslima Khan who travels through rural villages dispensing contraceptives and advice on how to deal with difficult husbands. Deep in rural Mozambique – one of the poorest countries in the world – we meet subsistence farmers Andre and Olivia who’ve been saving for two years to buy a piece of life-transforming technology – a bicycle. Even in these countries, economic growth, investment in healthcare and infrastructure are paving the way to huge improvements in living standards. Globally, the proportion of people in extreme poverty is at its lowest ever, and now the United Nations is setting itself the goal of eradicating extreme poverty completely.
Professor Hans Rosling, the statistician and epidemiologist who brought dramatic flair to animated visualizations of dry public health data, has died. For much of the public not steeped in the arcana of epidemiological data sets or data visualization techniques (a.k.a. normal people), Rosling burst onto the scene in 2010 as part of the BBC special “The Joy of Stats.” “Hans Rosling's famous lectures combine enormous quantities of public data with a sport's commentator's style to reveal the story of the world's past, present and future development,” the BBC wrote at the time. Rosling's work was a driver of some of the explosion of interest in data visualization in the news and nonprofit sectors starting in the early 2000s. His BBC special and TED Talks sparked an interest in “storytelling with data,” rather than just with words. Not every data set tells as clear or compelling a story as Rosling's wealth and life expectancy numbers. Rosling's genius wasn't just in the flashy presentations he gave. It also derived from knowing exactly what type of data would lend itself to such flair. The other thing Rosling's moving chart did incredibly well was to allow viewers to grapple with multiple dimensions simultaneously, with ease. The loss of Rosling hurts especially in this moment, as politicians and media outlets wrestle over what's fake and what's real. Above all Rosling was an advocate for a “fact-based worldview,” one which his family says they'll carry on at the foundation he started.
Pedestrians in 10 cities worldwide this holiday season have a chance to give in a whole new way, thanks to a set of innovative “Giving Machines” placed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The rollout of the machines has been staggered since mid-November, with the final two machines set to be revealed today in New York City (Manhattan New York Temple) and London (Hyde Park Visitors’ Center). ‘Items’ in the machine range from $2 to $320, and include food, clothing, medicine, hygiene supplies, sporting equipment and livestock. According to a press release from the church, items will be supplied through partner charities such as UNICEF, Church World Service, WaterAid, Water For People, and International Medical Corps. This is the third year for the giving machines; in 2018, they raised more than $2.3 million for local and global charities. The church’s website includes a live running total of donations, which have already exceeded $650,000 at press time. The machines are the focus of the church’s #LightTheWorld social media campaign, “encouraging people to perform instant acts of service that make a difference in others’ lives.” The machines do not take any fees—all donations go directly to partner charities for the purchased item, or for items or services of greater need based on their discretion. “These Giving Machines are an example of the big things that can happen when many people give just a little,” [said] Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women general president.
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While it is easy to be aware of all the bad things happening in the world, it’s harder to know about the good things. The silent miracle of human progress is too slow and too fragmented to ever qualify as news. Over the past 20 years, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has almost halved. But in online polls, in most countries, fewer than 10% of people knew this. Our instinct to notice the bad more than the good is related to three things: the misremembering of the past; selective reporting by journalists and activists; and the feeling that as long as things are bad, it’s heartless to say they are getting better. Stories about gradual improvements rarely make the front page even when they occur on a dramatic scale and affect millions of people. And thanks to increasing press freedom and improving technology, we hear about more disasters than ever before. This improved reporting is itself a sign of human progress, but it creates the impression of the exact opposite. How can we help our brains to realise that things are getting better? Think of the world as a very sick premature baby in an incubator. After a week, she is improving, but ... her health is still critical. Does it make sense to say that the infant’s situation is improving? Yes. Does it make sense to say it is bad? Yes, absolutely. Does saying “things are improving” imply that everything is fine, and we should all not worry? Not at all: it’s both bad and better. That is how we must think about the current state of the world.
There is a natural human bias toward bad news. The title of a 1998 article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology sums it up: “Negative Information Weighs More Heavily on the Brain.” Negative stimuli get our attention much more than positive stimuli — which makes evolutionary sense for survival. Nice things are enjoyable; bad things can be deadly, so focus on them. And given that, in the news media, attention equals money, we can see the commercial reason for a lack of headlines such as “Millions not going to bed hungry tonight.” Frequently, however, the bad-news bias gives us a highly inaccurate picture of the world. For example, according to a 2013 survey, 67% of Americans think global poverty is on the rise, and 68% believe it is impossible to solve extreme poverty in the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, starvation-level poverty has decreased by 80% since 1970, according to economists at Columbia University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The truth is that while there is plenty to worry about on any given day, the world is generally getting better. Fresh, comprehensive evidence of progress comes in the new Legatum Prosperity Index, based on data from 167 countries ... on 300 social and economic indicators of well-being. Across those dimensions, from 2009 to 2019, 148 of the 167 countries have seen net progress — much of it dramatic, and especially so among the poorest countries in the world.
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Doctors have used ultrasound to successfully treat prostate cancer in a new study promising a new alternative to surgery. Prostate is the second most deadly type of cancer in men, with lung cancer the only variant to claim more lives. Treatment is challenging because surgery and radiation can leave men incontinent or impotent. However, a pioneering new technique avoids the risks by using a rod-shaped device inserted into the urethra while guided by magnetic resonance to administer precise bursts of ultrasound. The sound waves heat and destroy the tumour, leaving surrounding areas unharmed. The new study was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America and involved 115 men with localised prostate cancer. After treatment with ultrasound, clinically significant cancer was eliminated in 80 per cent of the group, with 65 per cent having no signs of cancer after one year. Most of the men also saw reduced blood-antigen markers for prostate cancer, and overall no bowel complications were reported. Study co-author Steven Raman, professor of radiology and urology at the University of California at Los Angeles, said: “It’s an outpatient procedure with minimal recovery time. “We saw very good results in the patients, with a dramatic reduction of over 90 per cent in prostate volume and low rates of impotence with almost no incontinence.” The process, called Tulsa-Pro, has been approved for clinical use in Europe.
Note: Why isn't this exciting new development approved or even reported in the US? And learn about a man who developed a similar treatment almost a century ago only to have it quashed by the medical establishment.
Greg Smith and Kouhyar Mostashfi are perhaps two of the strangest political bedfellows imaginable. Smith, a retired police chief and construction worker from rural southwest Ohio, is a devout evangelical Christian and ardent Trump supporter. Mostashfi, on the other hand, is an Iranian immigrant who works as a computer engineer in suburban Dayton and is an active member of the local Democratic Party. And yet, these two men with seemingly irreconcilable differences became friends through a group called Better Angels, which brings Republicans, Democrats and independents together with the goal of depolarizing America. The group got its name from President Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address. Delivered in the middle of the Civil War, Lincoln told his fellow Americans: "We are not enemies but friends" and appealed to the "better angels of our nature." That appeal for national unity resonated with Smith and Mostashfi when they met at their first Better Angels gathering. "When you get past the stereotype part of everything, you've got it beat," Smith said. "It was nice to also see this other side [and] that he wants to listen to me and learn about my background," Mostashfi said. The founder of Better Angels said the group was growing faster than he'd anticipated. In the 18 months since it started, the group says it has 3,100 members nationwide and is adding more.
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Better Angels is a citizens' organization that aims to unite red and blue Americans in a working alliance to depolarize America. We try to understand the other side's point of view, even if we don't agree with it. We engage those we disagree with, looking for common ground and ways to work together. We support principles that bring us together rather than divide us. Meetings frequently include five to eight Republican-leaning citizens ("Reds") and five to eight Democratic-leaning citizens ("Blues") who gather together for a half-day or full-day of structured conversations. Independents are also welcome to attend. We only ask that for the purposes of the workshop they identify as leaning either Red or Blue or attend as observers. There are two types of Red/Blue workshops: three-hour workshops that cover two exercises, and six-hour plus lunch workshops that cover all four exercises. Two moderators, trained by Better Angels, lead the workshop, ensuring that ground rules are followed and that everyone is treated respectfully. The stereotypes exercise has red and blue groups generate, discuss, and report back on the most common false stereotypes or misconceptions of their side, why these stereotypes are wrong, what is true instead, and whether there is a kernel of truth in the stereotype. Red/Blue workshops [are held] so that citizens of different political beliefs and different backgrounds can get to know each other as individuals and begin to heal the divisions that are endangering our country.
Evidence of our bloody history is not hard to find. Consider the genocides in the Old Testament and the crucifictions in the New, the gory mutilations in Shakespeare's tragedies and Grimm's fairy tales, the British monarchs who beheaded their relatives and the American founders who dueled with their rivals. Today, the decline in these brutal practices can be quantified. A look at the numbers shows that over the course of our history, humanity has been blessed with ... major declines of violence. The first was a process of pacification: the transition from the anarchy of the hunting, gathering, and horticultural societies in which our species spent most of its evolutionary history to the first agricultural civilizations, with cities and governments, starting about 5,000 years ago. On average, about 15% of people in prestate eras died violently, compared to about 3% of the citizens of the earliest states. Centuries ago, the great powers were almost always at war, and until quite recently. Western European countries tended to initiate two or three new wars every year. The cliche that the 20th century was "the most violent in history" ignores the second half of the century. Though it's tempting to attribute the Long Peace to nuclear deterrence, non-nuclear developed states have stopped fighting each other as well. Political scientists point instead to the growth of democracy, trade and international organizations - all of which, the statistical evidence shows, reduce the liklihood of conflict.
Note: The WSJ requires a subscription to read this article. You can find it free on the website of the author, Steven Pinker. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
The Better Angels of Our Nature takes a thesis I would love to believe; indeed, have casually believed for most of my life. It is that humans have grown less horrible with time. The 20th century, the century of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, of Mao in China and Mobutu in the Congo, was appalling, but the number of deaths by violence as a proportion of the total population remained modest compared with the ferocious cruelties of the wars of religion in the 17th century. The modern nation state – the Leviathan of the philosopher Hobbes – has had a civilising effect almost everywhere. Education has helped, as has the empowerment of women, and the idea, too, of human rights. Within the epic sweep of history from ice age hunter gatherers to modern suburban householders, [author Steven] Pinker examines both the big picture and the fine detail, with surprises on every page. Overall ... he finds examples of falling murder rates everywhere (including among male English aristocrats 1330-1829). Murder rates as a percentage of population were far higher among the supposedly peace-loving and cooperative hunter-gatherer communities – the Inuit of the Arctic, for instance, the !Kung of the Kalahari and the Semai of Malaysia – than in the trigger-happy US in its most violent decade. Unexpectedly, deaths in warfare, once again as a percentage of total population, were far higher among the Gran Valley Dani of New Guinea, or in Fiji in the 1860s, than in Germany in the whole of the 20th century.
When four Republicans and five Democrats got together at a high-end condominium complex to talk for seven hours in San Francisco this fall it was such a curiosity that a crowd of more than a dozen gathered just to watch. The host was a nonprofit called Better Angels, which is putting on half a dozen events around the country every week through the election. The polarized were at a square table supervised by two moderators, a therapist and a retired psychiatrist. They were mostly in their 50s and 60s, and wore red and blue name tags to correspond with their political leanings. The moderators referred to them as the reds and the blues. The conservatives were surprised the liberals thought at all about religion. The liberals were surprised the conservatives were so anxious about being seen as racist. Over a lunch break ... the two groups stayed largely separate. Many of the blue side said they came just for the opportunity to meet and question someone who disagreed with them politically. “Outside of this group, I’ve got no Republican friends,” said Monty Worth. People on the red side said they came to the workshop to be in a safe space where they could be open about their politics and argue their case. After the 2016 election, [David Blankenhorn] and two friends got together and led the first Better Angels workshop in Ohio. Now more than 15,000 people have gone through one of their programs (8,000 have joined as dues-paying members), and the group has trained more than 620 volunteer workshop moderators.
When Stephanie Walsh and her husband were looking to buy a home in Atlanta, GA, they had a pretty unusual set of qualifications for their new home: They wanted to have access to local, organic produce (and not just from the grocery store); they wanted a neighborhood that was easily walkable; and they wanted to be true friends — not just smile and nod acquaintances — with their neighbors. On a whim, she searched the internet for “ecofriendly neighborhoods near Atlanta” and happened upon the website for Serenbe, a community of 270 “green” homes and 30 retailers planned around a 25-acre organic working farm and 15 miles of trails. “I fell in love immediately,” she says. They’ve now lived in Serenbe for over four years, and Walsh says they hardly ever leave. Serenbe is what’s known as an “agrihood,” a community that is usually planned around a farm and offers access to unblemished landscapes, locally grown food, and homes built to environmentally friendly standards. The planning of agrihoods is done in a way that fosters community and interaction between the people who live there. In Arizona’s Agritopia, fences aren’t any higher than 5 feet, making it very easy to have a conversation with the family next door when you see them in their backyard. “Every house has a front porch, and the houses are closer to the street,” says resident Katie Critchley. “You can be sitting on your porch and be able to have a normal-decibel-level conversation with someone walking their dog. It forces you to say hello.”
Another trend has entered the urban agricultural scene: agrihoods, short for agricultural neighborhoods. The Urban Land Institute defines agrihoods as master-planned housing communities with working farms as their focus. Overwhelmingly, they have large swaths of green space, orchards, hoop houses and greenhouses, and some with barns, outdoor community kitchens, and environmentally sustainable homes decked with solar panels and composting. Agrihoods, which number about 90 nationwide, are typically in rural and suburban areas. Within the city of Detroit, home to nearly 1,400 community gardens and farms, there is one officially designated agrihood, Michigan Urban Farming Initiative. The Michigan initiative is a 3-acre farm focusing on food insecurity in one of Detroit’s historic communities that was once home to a thriving Black middle class. Now the median home value is under $25,000, and about 35% of the residents are homeowners. The Detroit agrihood model plans to provide a Community Resource Center with educational programs and meeting space across from the garden, a café, and two commercial kitchens. “For us, food insecurity is the biggest issue,” says, Quan Blunt, the Michigan initiative’s farm manager. “The closest [fresh] produce store to this neighborhood is Whole Foods [4 miles away in Midtown], and you know how expensive they can be.” At MUFI, produce is free to all. The farm is open for harvesting on Saturday mornings.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that feeding the homeless is “expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment.” The decision revives a challenge brought by a local chapter of Food Not Bombs, which sued Fort Lauderdale, Florida for requiring a permit to share food in public parks. Originally started in the early 1980s by anti-nuclear activists in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Food Not Bombs protests war and poverty. Today, this network of social justice pacifists claims over 5,000 chapters worldwide. Writing for the court, Judge Adalberto Jordan explained that for the Fort Lauderdale chapter, “providing food in a visible public space” is “an act of political solidarity meant to convey the organization’s message.” But in October 2014, Fort Lauderdale enacted an ordinance that bans sharing food in public parks, unless the hosts obtain a “conditional use permit” from the city. In February 2015, Food Not Bombs sued the city. Having ruled that Food Not Bombs does have a First Amendment right to share food, the 11th Circuit sent the case back down to the lower court. “The court’s opinion recognized sharing food with another human being is one of the oldest forms of human expression,” said Kirsten Anderson, litigation director at the Southern Legal Counsel and lead attorney on the case. “This decision strengthens our message to cities across the country that they need to invest in constructive solutions to homelessness instead of ... punishing people who seek to offer aid.”
Many dog parents already know their pets communicate with them, but what EXACTLY are they trying to say? A speech-language pathologist with an 18-month-old dog is working to find out, and she’s already discovered that her dog Stella can literally tell her things — like she’s tired after playing and now would like a nap, or that instead of playing at this moment she would prefer to eat, and that she would like to go outside, specifically to the park. It’s all possible through the use of an adaptive device Christina Hunger, 26, devised to help Stella communicate not only words but her thoughts and feelings too. When the Catahoula/Blue Heeler mix wants to “talk,” she steps on buttons corresponding with words Hunger recorded and programmed into the device. And Stella is already putting her language skills to work. One day, the pup was whining at the front door and started pacing back and forth. Hunger assumed that she needed to go outside. Instead, Stella walked to her device and tapped out, “Want,” “Jake” “Come” then stood in front of the door until Hunger’s fiancé, Jake, came home a few minutes later and then Stella immediately pressed “Happy” and rolled over for a belly rub. Hunger, who works in San Diego with 1- and 2-year-old children, many of whom also use adaptive devices that help them communicate, began teaching Stella words when the canine was about 8 weeks old. The 50-pound dog now knows at least 29 words and can combine up to five words to make a phrase or sentence.
Note: Watch a video of this amazing feat at the link above and an CNN interview with the owner.
Standing Bear was born sometime between 1829 and 1834 in the Ponca tribe’s native lands in northern Nebraska. In 1876 ... Congress declared that the Poncas would be moved to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. More than a third of the Poncas died of starvation and disease — including Standing Bear’s sister and his beloved son. Standing Bear and his burial party evaded capture while they traveled home but were caught and detained after visiting relatives at the Omaha reservation. The man who caught them, Brig. Gen. George Crook ... was moved by Standing Bear’s reasons for leaving the Indian Territory and promised to help him. The civil rights case that resulted was called Standing Bear v. Crook. The U.S. attorney argued that Standing Bear was neither a citizen nor a person. On the second day, Chief Standing Bear was called to testify, becoming the first Native American to do so. He raised his right hand and, through an interpreter, said: “My hand is not the color of yours, but if I pierce it, I shall feel pain. If you pierce your hand, you also feel pain. The blood that will flow from mine will be the same color as yours. The same god made us both. I am a man.” The judge agreed, ruling for the first time in U.S. history that “the Indian is a ‘person’ ” and has all the rights and freedoms promised in the Constitution. The judge also ordered Crook to free Standing Bear and his people immediately. Standing Bear ... buried his son alongside his ancestors. When he died there in 1908, he was buried alongside them, too.
With 17 million residents and 23 million bicycles, the Netherlands already has more bikes than people. Now, it wants to get even more cyclists on the roads - and will pay people to do it. The Dutch government recently announced that it will invest $390 million (€345 million) in cycling infrastructure to get 200,000 more people commuting by bike in three years' time. Fifteen routes will be developed into "cyclist freeways" (highways that cater to those on bikes), 25,000 bike parking spaces will be created and more than 60 bike storage facilities will be upgraded, according to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. "My ambition is to ensure that people can easily get to work or school, or visit family and friends," says Stientje van Veldhoven, state secretary for that department, who is spearheading the project. To get people to ditch their cars, money is being laid on the table. The Netherlands currently rewards commuting cyclists with tax credits of $0.22 (€0.19) per kilometer. Companies and employees would agree on the distance of a person's cycling route. However, this is currently a little-known benefit not supported by many employers, according to the infrastructure ministry. That's something the government is hoping to change by better promoting the scheme and getting more companies on board. There are already 11 major employers in the Netherlands committing to measures such as financing employees' bikes.
Jacinda Ardern’s sudden, spectacular rise to the position of New Zealand’s prime minister in 2017 propelled her into headlines around the world. Deservedly so. In an era defined by the emergence of populist leaders who are often authoritarian, reactionary, and male, Ardern stands out as progressive, collaborative, and female. In New Zealand, Ardern’s commitment to fighting child poverty and homelessness has come as a relief after years of relentless increases in both. Whereas the world’s right-wing populists stigmatize and stereotype marginalized people, Ardern has established kindness as a key principle for government policy and has worked to promote inclusion and social cohesion. A family tax package that took effect last July is forecast to reduce the number of children living in poverty by 41 percent by 2021. She has extended her values-based approach to foreign policy as well—most dramatically by offering New Zealand as a home for 150 of the refugees currently stranded in camps run by Australia in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Ardern has also identified climate change as the defining issue for her generation. On April 12, a little more than five months into her term, her government declared an end to new permits for oil and gas exploration in New Zealand’s waters, making it clear that the country was prepared to lead the way in this critical struggle.
When 6-year-old Eddie Writes decided the world needed a little more kindness, he did the only thing he thought would work ― he wrote to his city’s mayor and asked for help putting on an annual “Kindness Day.” Much to Eddie’s surprise, Wellington Mayor Justin Lester wrote back. On Nov. 16, New Zealand’s capital city will be holding its first Manaaki Day (manaaki being the Maori word for kindness), taking Eddie’s ideas of how to encourage and celebrate charitable acts ― “We can buy toys for children that don’t have any,” for example ― to improve the social well-being of citizens. The mayor’s support for the new holiday is part of a new wave of progressive, child-centred politics sweeping New Zealand, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, herself a new parent. Ardern was met with thunderous applause at the United Nations last month for her speech calling for kindness and cooperation from world leaders. Watched by her partner and their then 4-month-old daughter, Ardern pledged New Zealand would be “a kind and equitable nation where children thrive, and success is measured not only by the nation’s GDP but by better lives lived by its people.” Ardern also has her sights on New Zealand’s growing housing affordability problems. The country’s housing market is heated, with home prices rising more than 60 percent in a decade. Ardern blamed speculation from overseas buyers. The government responded with a law that took effect Monday banning foreign buyers from purchasing existing properties.
A growing number of smaller companies are adopting a four-day workweek. Now the results of a recent trial at Microsoft (MSFT) suggest it could work even for the biggest businesses. The company introduced a program this summer in Japan called the "Work Life Choice Challenge," which shut down its offices every Friday in August and gave all employees an extra day off each week. The results were promising: While the amount of time spent at work was cut dramatically, productivity — measured by sales per employee — went up by almost 40% compared to the same period the previous year, the company said in a statement. In addition to reducing working hours, managers urged staff to cut down on the time they spent in meetings and responding to emails. They suggested that meetings should last no longer than 30 minutes. Employees were also encouraged to cut down on meetings altogether by using an online messaging app. The effects were widespread. More than 90% of Microsoft's 2,280 employees in Japan later said they were impacted by the new measures, according to the company. By shutting down earlier each week, the company was also able to save on other resources, such as electricity. Microsoft ... says it will conduct another experiment in Japan later this year. It plans to ask employees to come up with new measures to improve work-life balance and efficiency, and will also ask other companies to join the initiative.