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.
The private prison industry is set to be upended after California lawmakers passed a bill on Wednesday banning the facilities from operating in the state. The move will probably also close down four large immigration detention facilities that can hold up to 4,500 people at a time. The legislation is being hailed as a major victory for criminal justice reform because it removes the profit motive from incarceration. It also marks a dramatic departure from California’s past, when private prisons were relied on to reduce crowding in state-run facilities. Private prison companies used to view California as one of their fastest-growing markets. As recently as 2016, private prisons locked up approximately 7,000 Californians, about 5% of the state’s total prison population, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. But in recent years, thousands of inmates have been transferred from private prisons back into state-run facilities. As of June, private prisons held 2,222 of California’s total inmate population. The state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, must still sign AB32, but last year he signaled support for the ban and said during his inaugural speech in January that the state should “end the outrage of private prisons once and for all”. The bill’s author, the assemblymember Rob Bonta, originally wrote it only to apply to contracts between the state’s prison authority and private, for-profit prison companies. But in June, Bonta amended the bill to apply to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s four major California detention centers.
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Jahiem Morgan knew he was too young to be living on his own at 15 years old, but he didn't have much of a choice. Morgan found himself among the nearly 1.3 million young people across the United States who are classified as "unaccompanied youths" and can't get foster care because they chose to leave a situation rather than be removed by social services. Some of these young people are runaways; others leave abusive homes; and many identify as LGBTQ. They're out on their own, and many end up in dangerous situations -- living on the streets or in abandoned buildings. "Most people don't even know these kids exist," said Vicki Sokolik, who helps these teens in Tampa, Florida. Sokolik was first introduced to this population in 2006, when her then-teenage son told her about a classmate who was in danger of becoming homeless. Sokolik helped the girl, securing her a place to live and providing the resources she needed. The experience inspired Sokolik to do more. In 2007, she founded "Starting Right, Now," a nonprofit that helps unaccompanied youth ages 15 to 19 get permanent housing, graduate from high school and move on to their next goal. At-risk students in two Florida counties are referred to the program by their school guidance counselors. The program provides two homes where the students can live until they go to college or start their career. They also have access to tutoring, therapy and life skills classes. The organization has helped more than 200 young people, and 97% have graduated high school.
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Global investment in new renewable energy capacity over this decade — 2010 to 2019 inclusive — is on course to hit USD 2.6 trillion, with more gigawatts of solar power capacity installed than any other generation technology. This investment is set to have roughly quadrupled renewable energy capacity (excluding large hydro) from 414 GW at the end of 2009 to just over 1,650 GW when the decade closes at the end of this year. Solar power will have drawn half — USD 1.3 trillion — of the USD 2.6 trillion in renewable energy capacity investments made over the decade. Solar alone will have grown from 25 GW at the beginning of 2010 to an expected 663 GW by the close of 2019 — enough to produce all the electricity needed each year by about 100 million average homes in the USA. The global share of electricity generation accounted for by renewables reached 12.9 per cent, in 2018, up from 11.6 per cent in 2017. This avoided an estimated 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions last year alone — a substantial saving given global power sector emissions of 13.7 billion tonnes in 2018. Including all major generating technologies (fossil and zero-carbon), the decade is set to see a net 2,366 GW of power capacity installed, with solar accounting for the largest single share (638 GW), coal second (529 GW), and wind and gas in third and fourth places (487 GW and 438 GW respectively).
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The following achievements stand as examples for what humanity is capable of when the end result benefits both the self and the other. In other words, they are examples of when nations decided to cooperate with each other for self-interested reasons, yet still produced results that benefited the rest of humanity. In 1985, a group of British scientists warned the world that the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) was wreaking havoc on the ozone layer. A treaty known as the Montreal Protocol was drawn up, and for the first time in history, it was universally ratified (197 countries have signed on to date). As a result, the world successfully phased out 99% of ozone-depleting chemicals. If this hadn’t been created, the Earth’s ozone layer would have collapsed by 2050. The Human Genome Project was an international effort to map out the DNA sequence of the entire human genome. The knowledge gained from the project has led to better treatment, detection and prevention of human disease. It has opened doors to a greater understanding of the code that determines so much of our lives, and has provided key clues for further unraveling the human mystery. The International Space Station is, of course, a classic example of global collaboration in pursuit of knowledge and discovery. Research at the ISS has resulted in everything from the creation of advanced water filtration systems, to developing drugs for muscular dystrophy, to robotics used in surgery, to the development of better vaccines.
New research finds that individuals with higher optimism tend to live longer and also have greater odds of living 85 years and more. A recent PNAS paper describes how the researchers assessed the link between higher optimism and longer lifespan, with a particular focus on the chances of reaching "exceptional longevity." The team carried out the study because most research on exceptional longevity has tended to focus on the effect of "biomedical factors." More recently, however, scientists have become interested in the role of nonbiological factors. "While research has identified many risk factors for diseases and premature death," says first and corresponding author Lewina O. Lee, Ph.D., "we know relatively less about positive psychosocial factors that can promote healthy aging." She and her colleagues defined optimism as the "general expectation that good things will happen or the belief that the future will be favorable because one can control important outcomes." For the analysis, the team brought together data on 69,744 females ... and 1,429 males. The questionnaires that they completed ... included items on optimism. When the researchers analyzed the data, they found that the females and males with the highest levels of optimism ... lived on average 11–15% longer than those with the lowest levels of optimism. In addition, [those] with the highest levels of optimism had a 50–70% greater likelihood of living until their 85th birthday and beyond.
Among the heavily trafficked streets of Atlanta, a massive urban food forest is growing to provide fresh produce for the public. But what exactly is a food forest? In the fight against food deserts - low income areas that lack access to fresh, whole foods - a food forest is a public space in the city where fresh produce will grow in trees, bushes, plants, and community garden beds for the community to enjoy. And at 7.1 acres, the site in Atlanta will become the city's first and the nation's largest. In the Lakewood-Browns Mill community, which will house the Urban Food Forest, more than a third of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the USDA, who has assisted in the project. "Residents still talk about the land's former owners, who left excess produce from their farm on fence posts for neighbors to claim and enjoy," the USDA said. "Now this land will celebrate that history and make new memories for the community." A city ordinance passed in the beginning of the month grants money for the city to purchase the plot from the Conservation Fund, which currently owns and has helped develop the land. In addition to community outreach and education, the forest is meant to make strides in the city's goal of putting 85% of residents within a half mile of fresh food by 2021.
Two complementary studies recently found that noninvasive and extremely mild brain stimulation could be used to improve episodic and working memory in older adults. "We can make these 60 and 70-year-olds look strikingly like our 20-year-old participants," researcher Robert Reinhart [said]. The first study used a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to induce mild neural firing in the brain. The research team stimulated the participants' brains for half an hour a day for five days. They then measured the adults' memory ability 24 hours after the final day of stimulation and found their recall ability on a memory test had improved 31 per cent. The second study, led by Robert Reinhart from ... Boston University, used a different technology, and stimulated different regions of the brain. Using electroencephalography, or EEG, which records the electrical activity of the brain, Reinhart found evidence that older adults' brain waves were out-of-sync in critical brain regions used by working memory or short-term memory. Reinhart then tried to ameliorate the problem by using a precise and customizable electrical stimulation technology called "high definition transcranial alternating current stimulation," or HD-tACS for short. The team applied current for 25 minutes to 42 older participants' brains, and saw improvements during this time on a memory test that they did before they received stimulation. As in Voss' study, the subjects' performance increased to the point that it was equal to that of 20-year-olds.
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.”
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.”
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.
[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.