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.
Mathematical analysis of the electrical signals fungi seemingly send to one another has identified patterns that bear a striking structural similarity to human speech. Previous research has suggested that fungi conduct electrical impulses through long, underground filamentous structures called hyphae – similar to how nerve cells transmit information in humans. It has even shown that the firing rate of these impulses increases when the hyphae of wood-digesting fungi come into contact with wooden blocks, raising the possibility that fungi use this electrical "language" to share information about food or injury with distant parts of themselves, or with hyphae-connected partners such as trees. Prof Andrew Adamatzky at the University of the West of England's unconventional computing laboratory in Bristol analysed the patterns of electrical spikes generated by four species of fungi – enoki, split gill, ghost and caterpillar fungi. The research, published in Royal Society Open Science, found that these spikes often clustered into trains of activity, resembling vocabularies of up to 50 words, and that the distribution of these "fungal word lengths" closely matched those of human languages. The most likely reasons for these waves of electrical activity are to maintain the fungi's integrity – analogous to wolves howling to maintain the integrity of the pack – or to report newly discovered sources of attractants and repellants to other parts of their mycelia, Adamtzky suggested.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Correctional systems throughout much of Scandinavia are guided by a general set of philosophical principles. In Norway, core values of safety, transparency and innovation are considered fundamental to the idea of creating normality in prison, the feeling that life as part of a community continues. Incarcerated people can wear their own clothes, work in jobs that prepare them for employment and cook their own meals. Cells in Norway are also for a single person – not multiple people, as in most cases in the U.S. Importantly, correctional officers have at least a two-year, university-level education and are directly involved in rehabilitation and planning for the incarcerated person's re-entry into the world outside of prison. In the U.S., most officers receive just a few weeks of training. Recidivism rates in Scandinavia are low. In Norway ... less than half of people released from prison are rearrested after three years. In Pennsylvania, that figure is closer to 70%. In State Correctional Institution Chester, known as SCI Chester, a medium-security prison located just outside of Philadelphia, a correctional officer-guided team has worked since 2018 to incorporate Scandinavian penal principles into its own institution. Six men in SCI Chester – each sentenced to life in prison – were selected to participate. They then moved on to the new housing unit, which had come to be known as "Little Scandinavia." SCI Chester shows that it is, in fact, possible to adapt Scandinavian-style penal philosophies.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Washington State prisoners were recently forced to gather in a janitor's closet to organize and facilitate college education for people incarcerated in several prisons across the state. New official restrictions are jeopardizing a liberating, prisoner-led program known as Taking Education And Creating History, or TEACH. TEACH's goal is to democratize education for people with long sentences. Between community support and financial backing outside the correctional system, TEACH successfully circumvented the Department of Corrections, or DOC, policy of excluding long-term prisoners from education. Since 2013, over 300 incarcerated individuals across three state prisons have become college students. Progressively, TEACH began breaking down barriers between various racial and cultural groups – contradicting administrative beliefs that the Black Prisoners Caucus would further racial tension. Prisoners who would've never interacted with one another were now sitting at tables thumbing through books, while preparing for exams. When asked how TEACH has impacted the prison environment, Darrell Jackson, co-chair of the TEACH program at Washington Correction Center, said, "It has reduced the violence in prison, while creating a positive educational community for everyone – regardless of one's crime, race or affiliation." He added, "Those with lengthy sentences were given a sense of purpose, something that many are stripped of when they enter into prison."
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Every weekday at 5280 High School in Denver starts the same way. Students in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction gather on the steps of the school's indoor auditorium to discuss a topic chosen by staff members. One recent morning, they talked about mental health and sobriety. The students attend Colorado's only recovery high school – one of 43 nationwide. These schools are designed for students who are recovering from substance use disorder and might also be dealing with related mental health disorders. Compared with their peers at regular schools who have gone through treatment, recovery high school students have better attendance and are more likely to stay sober, and their graduation rate is at least 21% higher, according to one study. Recovery high schools often weave components of treatment into the school day – activities like 5280's daily recovery program meeting. In the afternoon, the school offers wellness electives such as spiritual principles and journaling. The school also employs a director of recovery and recovery coach to work with and counsel the students individually. "The No. 1 step is just letting them know out of the gate, no matter what's going on, that we love them," said Brittany Kitchens, the school's recovery coach. "We are here for them." Kitchens teaches students how to navigate recovery and regulate their emotions. She likens herself to a hall monitor, constantly checking in with students and looking for changes in behavior.
[Gabor] MatĂ© was born in January 1944; in May of that year, the deportation of Hungary's Jews to Auschwitz began. By the end of the Holocaust, 565,000 Hungarian Jews had been murdered, MatĂ©'s maternal grandparents among them. When he was 11 months old, his mother sent him with a stranger to be cared for by his aunt. MatĂ© says trauma, from the Greek for "wound", "is not what happens to you; it is what happens inside you as a result of what happens to you. It is not the blow on the head, but the concussion I get." That, he says, is the good news. "If my trauma was that my mother gave me to a stranger ... that will never not have happened. But if the wound was that I decided as a result that I wasn't worthwhile as a human being, I wasn't lovable, that's a wound that can heal at any time." There can be two types of wound, he says. "There's the capital-T traumatic events," which include things like being abused as a child and the loss of a parent. Then there are "small-T traumas". "You can wound a kid not only by doing bad things to them, but by also not meeting their needs," he says. MatĂ© has a heightened level of compassion. For him, the real villain is our culture. Many of the plights of modern society are, he says, natural responses to an unhealthy culture. Take addiction. His view is that there is no such thing as an "addictive personality". Nor is addiction a disease. His mantra is: "Don't ask why the addiction, ask why the pain. Addiction is a normal response to trauma."
Note: The Wisdom of Trauma is a powerful film that travels alongside Dr. Gabor MatĂ© in his quest to discover the connection between illness, addiction, trauma, and society. Deeply touching and captivating in its diverse portrayal of real human stories, the film also provides a new vision of a trauma-informed society that seeks to "understand the sources from which troubling behaviors and diseases spring in the wounded human soul." Anyone can watch this donation-optional film at the above link.
Our brains are made up of billions of cells that work together to create our every ability. Wipe out those cells, through a stroke or other brain trauma, and you may no longer be able to read, but you might still be able to speak, sing or write. It's all about where the brain is damaged – which systems of cells are traumatized and which are not. The three-pound mass of neurological tissue that we call the brain has the power not only to create every ability we have but also to manifest our perception of reality. Our brains have a two-pronged defense mechanism that kicks in when brain trauma occurs. Not only are we able to grow some new neurons – a process called neurogenesis – especially in the sites where physical trauma has occurred, our brain cells are capable of neuroplasticity, which means they can rearrange which other neurons they are in communication with. That's why, whenever I meet someone who has experienced a brain trauma of any sort, I don't focus on what abilities that person has lost, but rather I marvel at what insights that person might have gained because of the experience. Few things have greater impact on how people choose to live their lives than neurological trauma or near-death experiences. And when we find ourselves to be neurologically impaired, we become vulnerable and need others to support us rather than criticize or judge us. I became a much more compassionate and empathetic person following my stroke and recovery. Perhaps I am not the only one.
Note: The above was written by Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroscientist and the author of "My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey." Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Practising mindfulness is much better than taking part in talking therapies at helping people recover from depression, a British study has found. People who used a mindfulness self-help book for eight weeks and had six sessions with a counsellor experienced a 17.5% greater improvement in recovery from depressive symptoms than those who underwent cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) while being supported by a mental health practitioner. Their results have been published in JAMA Psychiatry. The NHS says mindfulness involves people paying attention to "what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment" and "the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment" as well as being aware of their thoughts and feelings as they happen. People using mindfulness in the LIGHTMind 2 trial spent eight weeks following the advice in The Mindful Way Workbook, which helps them build up their mindfulness skills by guiding them on what they should do every day in order to be aware of their thoughts, feelings and physical sensations in a non-judgmental way. Doing that helps people address some of the behaviours that can maintain feelings of depression. They also had six one-to-one half-hour "support sessions" on the telephone with a therapist discussing their progress, experience of practising mindfulness and asking questions. Mindfulness-based treatment is also a cheaper way of tackling depression because people using it needed on average Ł526 less of subsequent treatment.
"Nelson Mandela – I'd never heard the name before in my life," a former prison guard to the South African icon recalls. Christo Brand casts his mind back to 1978, and his first night guarding one of the most influential people of the past century. He was just 19 years old. A sergeant informed him the ageing man sleeping uncomfortably on the floor of the Robben Island jail cell was "a terrorist trying to overthrow your country". Mr Brand ... soon became close with Mandela. He began to spend days and nights with Mandela, who he says remained charming even after some 16 years as prisoner 466/64. In time he saw virtue in the older man's crimes. Reflecting after years at Mandela's side, years in which he saw his friend slowly but surely topple the old order, Mr Brand says: "Mandela was fighting for the freedom of the country, he was prepared to go to the gallows for freedom for his people". "When Mandela was in prison," Mr Brand says, "he studied Martin Luther King and Gandhi, he tried to follow their footsteps and try to bring a change." In his memoir Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela hints at why he kept his prison officer at his side even after being freed. Mr Brand, he writes, "reinforced my belief in the essential humanity even of those who had kept me behind bars". Mandela emerged from prison in 1990 already negotiating with South Africa's leadership for the changes that would see the country's first democratic election a few years later.
Note: Read more on Nelson Mandela's powerful capacity for empathy, and how he served as a striking role model for addressing the hearts, not minds, of people we deem as opponents or oppressors.
In 2018, the military, struggling to meet enlistment goals, began invading gaming communities as part of a larger, digital-first strategy. Recruiters who had once stalked school assemblies and shopping malls began streaming games on social media and competing in tournaments to court new enlistees online. Since then, the military's online recruiting strategy has expanded to the Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch, which attracts 140 million active users per month. The Army, Navy, and Air Force churn out hours of Twitch content per week, including streams of popular first-person-shooter games. The Armed Forces claim their gamers ... aren't technically recruiters. But anti-war advocates say they might as well be. To counter this, [Marine veteran Chris] Velazquez became a community developer for Gamers for Peace (GFP), the first peace organization formed to mirror the military's online recruiting practices: While streaming popular games like Halo and Rocket League, its members–many of them veterans–offer career advice and mentorship to teens, talk politics, and discuss the realities of war. They also share information about online military recruitment tactics at in-person gaming conventions such as PAX Unplugged. These initiatives, members say, give prospective recruits the tools and knowledge to see other options and reconsider enlisting. The group has already accrued nearly 600 Twitch followers as well as 400 members on the popular messaging service Discord.
The recent launch of a new mobile phone service introduced significant new privacy protections into the mobile phone system. This exciting new approach highlights the failure of the existing mobile phone infrastructure to protect privacy, and points the way forward for a wide variety of technologies. Today's cellphones are generally a privacy disaster. Partly that's the result of the two companies that control the operating system software on the vast majority of the world's pocket computers. In order for your carrier to route calls and data to your phone, the network needs to constantly know which cell tower your phone is near. And when you make a call or use data, the provider can see where that traffic is going. Cell carriers track and store this accidental byproduct of the technology in order to record people's location history and network activity for marketing purposes and, in certain circumstances, for sharing with law enforcement. The new phone service, called Pretty Good Phone Privacy (PGPP), uses encryption techniques to deliberately blind itself so that it can't know that the user of a mobile device is you, or what data you are sending from that phone. You connect to the PGPP service for payment, and that's all. With PGPP's approach, the carrier simply does not have the data to turn over to anyone. It cannot be sold, leaked, or hacked, let alone offered to overreaching law enforcement agencies. Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and their smaller competitors could be offering such a privacy-protecting service, but don't want to.
In most people, speech and language live in the brain's left hemisphere. Mora Leeb is not most people. When she was 9 months old, surgeons removed the left side of her brain. Yet at 15, Mora plays soccer, tells jokes, gets her nails done, and, in many ways, lives the life of a typical teenager. "I can be described as a glass-half-full girl," she says, pronouncing each word carefully and without inflection. Her slow, cadence-free speech is one sign of a brain that has had to reorganize its language circuits. Yet to a remarkable degree, Mora's right hemisphere has taken on jobs usually done on the left side. It's an extreme version of brain plasticity, the process that allows a brain to modify its connections to adapt to new circumstances. People like Mora represent the upper bounds of human brain plasticity because their brains were radically altered very early in life – a period when the wiring is still a work in progress. During an interview with Mora, both her abilities and deficits were apparent. So was her outgoing personality and curiosity about the world. Mora began by telling me a joke: "How do you make a hot dog stand?" she asks. "You take away its chair." What scientists still want to know is precisely what allowed Mora's brain to rewire so extensively. One thing is clear: Understanding the basis of this sort of extreme plasticity, they say, could help millions of people whose brains are still trying to recover from a stroke, tumor, or traumatic injury. And Mora is helping scientists deepen their understanding, simply by being herself.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring disabled persons news articles.
Our capacity to care about others may have very, very ancient origins, a new study suggests. It might have been deep-rooted in prehistoric animals that lived millions of years ago, before fish and mammals like us diverged on the tree of life, according to researchers who published their study Thursday in the journal Science. Scientists are usually reluctant to attribute humanlike feelings to animals. But it's generally accepted that many animals have moods, including fish. The new study shows that fish can detect fear in other fish, and then become afraid too – and that this ability is regulated by oxytocin, the same brain chemical that underlies the capacity for empathy in humans. The researchers demonstrated this by deleting genes linked to producing and absorbing oxytocin in the brains of zebrafish. Those fish were then essentially antisocial – they failed to detect or change their behavior when other fish were anxious. But when some of the altered fish received oxytocin injections, their ability to sense and mirror the feelings of other fish was restored – what scientists call "emotional contagion." "They respond to other individuals being frightened. In that regard, they behave just like us," said ... neuroscientist Ibukun Akinrinade, a co-author of the study. The study also showed that zebrafish will pay more attention to fish that have previously been stressed out – a behavior the researchers likened to consoling them. Previous research has shown that oxytocin plays a similar role in transmitting fear in mice.
The brew is so potent that practitioners report not only powerful hallucinations, but near-death experiences, contact with higher-dimensional beings, and life-transforming voyages through alternative realities. Often before throwing up, or having trouble at the other end. Now, scientists have gleaned deep insights of their own by monitoring the brain on DMT, or dimethyltryptamine, the psychedelic compound found in Psychotria viridis, the flowering shrub that is mashed up and boiled in the Amazonian drink, ayahuasca. The recordings reveal a profound impact across the brain, particularly in areas that are highly evolved in humans and instrumental in planning, language, memory, complex decision-making and imagination. The regions from which we conjure reality become hyperconnected, with communication more chaotic, fluid and flexible. "It is incredibly potent," said Robin Carhart-Harris, a professor of neurology and psychiatry. "People describe leaving this world and breaking through into another that is incredibly immersive and richly complex, sometimes being populated by other beings that they feel might hold special power over them, like gods." He added: "DMT breaks down the basic networks of the brain, causing them to become less distinct from each other. The major rhythms of the brain – that serve a largely inhibitory, constraining function – break down, and in concert, brain activity becomes more entropic or information-rich."
"Don't get dirty!" was once a constant family refrain, as parents despairingly watched their children spoil their best clothes. Today, many parents may secretly wish their children had the chance to pick up a bit of grime. According to recent research, the dirt outside is teaming with friendly microorganisms that can train the immune system and build resilience to a range of illnesses, including allergies, asthma and even depression and anxiety. Certain natural materials, such as soil and mud ... contain surprisingly powerful microorganisms whose positive impact on children's health we are only beginning to fully understand. Our brains evolved in natural landscapes, and our perceptual systems are particularly well suited to wild outdoor spaces. Supporting this theory, one study from 2009 found that children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were better able to concentrate following a 20-minute walk in the park, compared to a 20-minute walk on the streets of a well-kept urban area. People who grow up on farms are generally less likely to develop asthma, allergies, or auto-immune disorders like Crohn's disease [due to] their childhood exposure to a more diverse range of organisms in the rural environment. Michele Antonelli, a doctor from Italy ... has researched the ways that mud therapies can influence health. People with [skin] disorders ... seem to have an impoverished community of organisms. "These microorganisms can play a major role in many major chronic diseases," he says.
Mental states can have a profound impact on how ill we get – and how well we recover. Understanding this could help to boost the placebo effect, destroy cancers, enhance responses to vaccination and even re-evaluate illnesses that, for centuries, have been dismissed as being psychologically driven. Neuroscientist Catherine Dulac and her team at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have pinpointed neurons in an area called the hypothalamus that control symptoms including fever, warmth-seeking and loss of appetite in response to infection. "Most people probably assume that when you feel sick, it's because the bacteria or viruses are messing up your body," she says. But her team demonstrated that activating these neurons could generate symptoms of sickness even in the absence of a pathogen. An open question, Dulac adds, is whether these hypothalamic neurons can be activated by triggers other than pathogens, such as chronic inflammation. The insula ... is involved in processing emotion and bodily sensations. A 2021 study ... found that neurons in the insula store memories of past bouts of gut inflammation – and that stimulating those brain cells reactivated the immune response. Such a reaction might prime the body to fight potential threats. But these reactions could also backfire. This could be the case for certain conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, that can be exacerbated by negative psychological states.
As food prices rise around the world and access to healthy nutrition falls, trials in France and Belgium are experimenting with a unique "social security" for food. The affordability of food is a growing concern for increasing numbers of households worldwide as people struggle to cope with the greatest cost of living crisis in a generation. With some forced to cut back on food to meet other essential expenses, food insecurity is on the rise around the world. The idea of social security for food might sound far-fetched. But through recently launched projects in Montpellier in France and Brussels in Belgium, burgeoning collectives of NGOs, farmers, researchers and citizens are experimenting with the idea that quality, nutritious and organic food should be accessible to everyone – regardless of income. "Eating healthy and having access to quality food is expensive and only a minority of the population can afford to do so," says Margherita Via, project manager at BEES Coop. Inspired by universal healthcare systems such as those in France and Belgium, civil society groups have proposed establishing a new branch of social security, under which each citizen would receive a monthly allowance enabling them to buy food meeting certain environmental and ethical criteria. At its heart, the idea is about moving away from food as a commodity. "A total overhaul of [the agro-industrial food] system based on the right to food is necessary," says agronomist Mathieu Dalmais, who has led the movement since its inception.
Last month, a small warehouse in the English city of Nottingham received the crucial final components for a project that leverages the power of used EV batteries to create a new kind of circular economy. Inside, city authorities have installed 40 two-way electric vehicle chargers that are connected to solar panels and a pioneering battery energy storage system, which will together power a number of on-site facilities and a fleet of 200 municipal vehicles. Each day Nottingham will send a combination of solar-generated energy – and whatever is left in the vehicles after the day's use – from its storage devices into the national grid. What makes the project truly circular is the battery technology itself. Funded by the European Union's Interreg North-West Europe Programme, the energy storage system, E-STOR, is made out of used EV batteries by the British company Connected Energy. After around a decade, an EV battery no longer provides sufficient performance for car journeys. However, they still can retain up to 80 percent of their original capacity, and with this great remaining power comes great reusability. "As the batteries degrade, they lose their usefulness for vehicles," says Matthew Lumsden, chairman of Connected Energy. "But batteries can be used for so many other things, and to not do so results in waste and more mining of natural resources." One study ... calculated that a second life battery system saved 450 tons of CO2 per MWh over its lifetime.
Around the world, people have been turning to swapping, trading and bartering during the coronavirus pandemic, whether to do their bit for the local community, save money or simply source hard-to-find baking ingredients. With economic uncertainty looming and anxiety levels soaring, barter is becoming an emerging alternative solution to getting by – and staying busy. The increase in bartering is nowhere better exemplified than in Fiji. The country has a long tradition of barter, known as â€veisa' ... and Fijians have harnessed modern technology to connect even more people. "I knew that money would be tight to stretch out and even harder to come by. I asked myself what happens when there's no more money? Barter was a natural solution to that," says Marlene Dutta, who started the Barter for a Better Fiji group on 21 April. Its membership is just under 190,000 – more than 20% of Fiji's population. Items changing hands have run the gamut – pigs for kayaks, a violin for a leather satchel and doughnuts for building bricks – but the most commonly requested items have been groceries and food. Bartering isn't just for individuals looking for baking items or help with grocery shopping, however. Businesses are increasingly interested in joining barter exchanges, which have "doctors, lawyers, service companies, retailers – you name it", says Ron Whitney, President of the US-based International Reciprocal Trade Association, a non-profit organisation founded in 1979 that promotes and advances modern trade and barter systems.
Swarms of honeybees can generate as much electrical charge as a thunderstorm, new research shows. In a study published in the journal iScience on Monday, researchers from the University of Bristol ... discovered this phenomenon by chance. Biologist Ellard Hunting [said] that the Bristol team was studying how different organisms use the static electric fields that are everywhere in the environment. Atmospheric electricity has a variety of functions, mainly in shaping weather events and helping organisms, for example in finding food. "Flowers have an electric field and bees can sense these fields. And these electric fields of flowers can change when it has been visited by a bee, and other bees can use that information to see whether a flower has been visited," Hunting explained. Having set up equipment to measure atmospheric electric fields at the university's field station, which features several honeybee hives, Hunting and his team noticed that whenever the bees swarmed, there was "a profound effect on atmospheric electric fields," even though the weather hadn't changed. All insects create a charge during flight as a result of friction in the air, with the size of the charge varying between species. Individual bees carry a charge that is small enough to be overlooked by researchers, so "this effect (in swarming bees) came as a surprise," Hunting said. They found that, depending on the swarm density, the atmospheric charge could be similar to that of a storm cloud, thunderstorm or electrified dust storm.
For the past couple of years, I've been working with researchers in northern Greece who are farming metal. They are experimenting with a trio of shrubs known to scientists as "hyperaccumulators": plants which have evolved the capacity to thrive in naturally metal-rich soils that are toxic to most other kinds of life. They do this by drawing the metal out of the ground and storing it in their leaves and stems, where it can be harvested like any other crop. As well as providing a source for rare metals – in this case nickel, although hyperaccumulators have been found for zinc, aluminium, cadmium and many other metals, including gold – these plants actively benefit the earth by remediating the soil, making it suitable for growing other crops, and by sequestering carbon in their roots. Hyperaccumulators are far from being the only non-humans that we might learn from. Physarum polycephalum, a particularly lively slime mould, can solve the "travelling salesman" problem – a test for finding the shortest route between multiple cities – faster and more efficiently than any supercomputer humans have devised. Spiders store information in their webs, using them as a kind of extended cognition: a mind outside the body entirely. A new conception of intelligence is emerging from scientific research: rather than human intelligence being unique or the peak of some graduated curve, there appear to be many different kinds of intelligence with their own strengths, competencies and suitabilities.
Note: This was written by James Bridle, an artist and technologist who was able to paralyze a self-driving car using salt and road markers. For more on his work, check out his fascinating perspective on how artificial intelligence technologies could be designed based on cooperation and relationships naturally reflected in living systems, as opposed to competition and domination.