Inspirational News StoriesExcerpts of Key Inspirational News Stories in Major Media
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In an effort to combat the devastating drought conditions hitting California, the Golden State will become the first in the nation to install solar panel canopies over canals. It will consist of an estimated 8,500 feet of solar panels installed over three sections of Turlock Irrigation District (TID) canals in Central California. According to TID, the project aims to use water and energy management hand-in-hand. The project is designed to increase renewable power generation, while reducing water evaporation and vegetative growth in canals. A 2021 University of California, Merced study [revealed] that covering all of the approximately 4,000 miles of public water delivery system infrastructure in the state with solar panels could save an estimated 63 billion gallons of water annually, as well as result in significant energy and cost savings. "According to the study, the 13 gigawatts of solar power the panels would generate each year would equal about one-sixth of the state's current installed capacity," TID wrote on its website. TID also says the project will also support California Gov. Gavin Newsom's call for 60% of the state's electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030. California has taken multiple steps to combat drought conditions and climate change impacting the state [including moving] forward with a plan to ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035. Officials [also] announced that California would receive $310 million in federal funding to address the drought.
Up to 99,000 hectares of land in England, from city fringes to wetlands, will be focused on supporting wildlife in five major "nature recovery" projects, the government has said. The five landscape-scale projects in the West Midlands, Cambridgeshire, the Peak District, Norfolk and Somerset aim to help tackle wildlife loss and the climate crisis, and improve public access to nature. They will share an initial Ĺ2.4m pot from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Natural England, for work to create new habitats, manage land for nature and carbon storage and increase footpaths and connect with communities, with further funding expected from other sources and partners. Work in the projects will range from converting farmland into chalk grassland to restoring "dewponds" and managing wetlands and other land sustainably. Projects will also develop plans to work with communities in cities and deprived areas to improve their access to nature, including creating new green areas and improved footpaths and bridleways. The environment minister Rebecca Pow said: "These five projects across England are superb examples of exciting, large-scale restoration that is critically needed to bring about a step-change in the recovery of nature in this country. "They will significantly contribute to achieving our target to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030 and our commitment to protect 30% of our land by 2030, enabling us to leave the environment in a better state than we found it."
It was supposed to be a secret. But word got out about what North Charleston High School Principal Henry Darby was doing – and the state has now presented him with its highest civilian honor. Darby took on a part-time job at Walmart, stocking shelves from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., three nights every week. He's been using the paychecks from that work to help make sure kids from his school have food and basic supplies, or help their families pay their bills. Some money has also gone to former students who need help, or to teachers at his school who need a boost. "Principal Darby personifies the best of South Carolina, a selfless person who goes above and beyond for others," Gov. Henry McMaster said on Tuesday. "It was an honor to present him with the Order of the Palmetto yesterday," the governor added. In addition to being a principal, he serves on the Charleston County Council. "I decided to get another job because the kids, they really need help," Darby told the paper, which noted that despite Darby's efforts to stay under the radar, one of his students recognized him on the first night he worked at Walmart. His shifts ended just in time for him to drive to North Charleston High before morning classes started. In the weeks since people realized how much Darby was doing to help others, many have stepped forward both to praise him and to help him raise money for families who need it. Walmart gave his school a $50,000 check. Together, two crowdfunding pages devoted to his cause have raised more than $195,000.
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Soon after giving birth to a daughter two months premature, Terri Logan received a bill from the hospital. She recoiled from the string of numbers separated by commas. Then a few months ago Ä‚ËĂ˘â€šĹą¦ Logan received some bright yellow envelopes in the mail. They were from a nonprofit group [RIP Medical Debt] telling her it had bought and then forgiven all those past medical bills. The nonprofit has boomed during the pandemic, freeing patients of medical debt, thousands of people at a time. Its novel approach involves buying bundles of delinquent hospital bills – debts incurred by low-income patients like Logan – and then simply erasing the obligation to repay them. It's a model developed by two former debt collectors, Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton, who built their careers chasing down patients who couldn't afford their bills. RIP buys the debts just like any other collection company would – except instead of trying to profit, they send out notices to consumers saying that their debt has been cleared. A surge in recent donations – from college students to philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, who gave $50 million in late 2020 – is fueling RIP's expansion. To date, RIP has purchased $6.7 billion in unpaid debt and relieved 3.6 million people of debt. RIP is one of the only ways patients can get immediate relief from such debt, says Jim Branscome, a major donor. "As a bill collector collecting millions of dollars in medical-associated bills in my career, now all of a sudden I'm reformed: I'm a predatory giver," Ashton said.
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In 2011, [Ropert Kapen] suffered a brain stem stroke that left him paralyzed. Doctors told his family that he had a 1% chance of survival, and that if he lived, he'd likely be in a vegetative state. Kapen beat those odds. His mental faculties were unscathed, and he slowly regained some movement and speech through therapy. Eventually, he was able to communicate, eat, operate a motorized wheelchair and write a book. He had another big dream, too. "Growing up, I fell in love with hiking, being outdoors and the beauty of nature," he says. That was taken away from him for 10 years, Kapen says, but very recently, a new set of wheels has allowed for his return. It's called the AdvenChair [which] recently enabled Kapen to visit Machu Picchu. The orange, "all-terrain" wheelchair is human-powered and designed to help people with mobility challenges to venture into the wild. Its wheels, tires, brakes and handlebars are all premium mountain bike parts, and the large tires and suspension system offer a comfortable ride. Thanks to a versatile system of pulleys, bars and straps, teams of one to five people can assist in navigating the AdvenChair over just about any landscape. "It's rejuvenating to be outside, especially as a person with a disability, because these resources are not exactly the most accessible," [Isaac] Shannon says. "So when there is a tool that allows a person to be able to experience life in the most average way possible, I think it's healing, and it's nice to be out in nature where you're not around people."
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Last month, the Smithsonian approved the return of 29 exquisite bronze sculptures from the Kingdom of Benin that were looted by the British military in 1897. The attack remains one of the most painful in the long history of colonialism and the return of the priceless objects has become a symbol of the global effort to push museums to face their ugly pasts. [Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie] Bunch was referring to a new collections policy that requires Smithsonian museums to collaborate with the communities represented by their holdings and to return or share ownership of items that might have been previously stolen or acquired under duress. It directs them to make their collections publicly accessible and to fully vet future acquisitions to prevent items with questionable provenance from entering the collection. The updated policy does not require its museums to systemically review their collections, said Undersecretary for Museums and Culture Kevin Gover. A complete review would be a powerful gesture, [university professor Tracy] Ireland said, even as she acknowledged the burden on staff and budget that it would cause. "It means they are still in charge of the narrative," Ireland said. "[A review] is important for source communities who simply do not know what's in these collections, what's missing, what has been buried away. Real ethical action puts the power back in the hands of the communities." While not the first, the Smithsonian's actions still resonate.
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We are learning just how smart insects can be. As I show in my new book, "The Mind of a Bee," the latest research indicates that even tiny-brained bees are profoundly intelligent creatures that can memorize not only flowers but also human faces, solve problems by thinking rather than by trial and error, and learn to use tools by observing skilled bees. They even appear to experience basic emotions, or at least something like optimism and pessimism. Bees have a "dance language" by which they can inform others in the hive of the precise location of a rewarding flower patch. The symbolic language involves repeating the motor patterns ("dances") of a knowledgeable bee on the vertical honeycomb. The movements make reference to gravity and the direction of the sun; since it's dark in the hive, bees that want to learn from the dancer need to touch its abdomen with their antennae. Sometimes, such dances are displayed at night, when no foraging takes place: The dancer appears to think about locations visited on the previous day, without an obvious need to do so at the time. The observation that bees are most likely sentient beings has important ethical implications. Many species of bees are threatened by pesticides and wide-scale habitat loss, and that this spells trouble because we need these insects to pollinate our crops. But is the utility of bees the only reason they should be protected? I don't think so. Bees have a rich inner world and unique perception, and, like humans, are able to think, enjoy and suffer.
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"Shady Pines, Ma!" If that quip sounds familiar, it's probably because you spent some happy half hours laughing at the hit Golden Girls sitcom. The character played by Bea Arthur was related to one other roommate – her mother Sophia. The other two characters, Rose and Blanche, were, like Dorothy in their late 40s to mid-50s. Why were these women sharing a single family house? What are the housing alternatives for older and middle-aged singles? For many, it's co-living, which provides advantages well beyond the financial. "The number one benefit ... is the social aspect of shared housing," explains Maria Claver [of] California State University. "More than any other lifestyle factor (including smoking, diet and exercise), we know that having social support is the most important predictor of morbidity (or illness) and mortality. Having housemates is not the ideal living arrangement for everyone. For those wanting their own space, but seeking the benefits of community and camaraderie, cohousing is a viable alternative. Cohousing offers all of the benefits of living in community – connection, common meals, frequent activities, knowing your neighbors – but with the added benefit of privacy that isn't always available in shared homes. When we have access to a social safety net, neighbors who care about us, people who can drive us to doctor's appointments or bring us meals during a difficult time in life, we are more likely to experience stability and wellbeing.
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The amount of coral in some areas of the Great Barrier Reef is at its highest in 36 years, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Marine Science. From August 2021 to May 2022, the central and northern regions of the Great Barrier Reef had hard coral cover levels of 33% and 36%, respectively. Coral cover decreased by 4% in the southern region, due to an outbreak of crown-of-thorns starfish. The Australian agency found that 87 coral reefs generally had low levels of acute stress from things such as cyclones and increases in the crown-of-thorns starfish population. The area surveyed represents two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef. Almost half of the reefs studied had between 10% and 30% hard coral cover, while about a third of the reefs had hard coral cover levels between 30% and 50%, the report said. While higher water temperatures led to a coral bleaching event in some areas in March, the temperatures did not climb high enough to kill the coral, the agency said. Coral in the Great Barrier Reef is resilient, and has been able to recover from past disturbances, the Institute said. But the stressors impacting it have not gone away for long. The agency's outlook shows more frequent and long-lasting heatwaves, cyclones and crown-of-thorns starfish. "Therefore, while the observed recovery offers good news for the overall state of the [Great Barrier Reef], there is increasing concern for its ability to maintain this state," the report said.
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Nepal has nearly tripled its wild tiger population, officials announced Friday, in a victory for the Himalayan country's efforts to help the big cats claw their way back from extinction. Deforestation, human encroachment on habitats and poaching have devastated tiger populations across Asia, but Nepal and 12 other countries signed a pledge in 2010 to double their numbers by this year. The Himalayan republic is the only country to meet or beat the target and a survey in 2022 counted 355 of the creatures, up from around 121 in 2009. "We have succeeded in meeting an ambitious goal... I thank everyone involved in conservation of tigers," Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba said at an event unveiling the figures in Kathmandu. Conservationists surveyed the population with thousands of motion-sensitive cameras set up across a vast stretch of Nepal's southern plains, where the majestic predators roam. Wildlife experts combed through thousands of images to identify individual animals by their unique stripes. More than 100,000 tigers roamed the world at the turn of the 20th century, but that number fell to an all-time low of 3,200 in 2010. The 2010 Tiger Conservation Plan signed by Nepal is backed by several celebrities, including actor Leonardo DiCaprio. The plan quickly began bearing fruit, and in 2016 the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Tiger Forum announced that the wild tiger population had increased for the first time in more than a century.
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Growing evidence for the safety and efficacy of psychedelics could lead to better treatments for anxiety, depression, pain, and other often intractable conditions. Jerry Rosenbaum was intrigued when he first heard about the effect that psilocybin–the hallucinogenic compound found in certain species of mushrooms–was purported to have on the brain's "resting state," what neuroscientists call the default mode network. The default mode network encompasses any neural function that has some bearing on our autobiographical tendencies. When people take psilocybin at low doses, the default mode network becomes less active. That is, the drug appears to tame self-reflection and all but ruin rumination, that obsessive mental state characterized by excessive, repetitive thoughts. Rumination is a hallmark cognitive symptom of depression. Neuroscientists are observing that, when taken in a controlled setting, these substances are beneficial to the brain, especially for people who have certain psychiatric disorders. Landmark studies in 2014 and 2016 showed that LSD and psilocybin alleviated existential anxiety in patients with life-threatening illnesses for up to a year after beginning the treatment. Other studies have shown that ketamine may strengthen neurons against the damage from chronic stress by preventing synapses from being flooded with glutamate, an amino acid that, in excess, withers dendrites. And researchers continue to investigate whether psychedelics are useful as anti-inflammatory agents.
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has announced that Cartography of the Mind: A Curated NFT Sale raised $1,569,960. Proceeds of the auction, presented by Christies in collaboration with Ryan Zurrer, founder of Dialectic and Vine Ventures, will benefit MAPS. Throughout the week, the physical exhibition at Christie's new gallery on 6th Avenue drew impressive crowds of enthusiastic visitors. With competitive bidding, the sale realized over $1.5 million. It was 100% sold, and 130% sold hammer over low estimate. Beeple, David Choe, Sarah Meyohas, Refik Anadol, Mad Dog Jones, IX Shells, and more donated art to support MAPS. The research, education, and advocacy organization ... remains the leading body at the vanguard of research into potentially life-saving psychedelic-assisted therapies. Psychedelic Healing is an artistic interpretation of the MAPS logo by renowned artist Alex Grey to celebrate MAPS' 35th anniversary in 2021. It was purchased by Ryan Zurrer and donated back to MAPS for additional fundraising. Founded in 1986, MAPS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit research and educational organization developing medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana. MAPS is sponsoring the most advanced psychedelic therapy research in the world funded primarily by philanthropic donors and grantors who have given more than $130 million for research and education.
For many travelers, setting a budget marks one of the first steps of a journey. But for Leon Logothetis' globe-trotting adventure, his allowance was simple, and stark: $0. Logothetis, 40, instead relied on the generosity of strangers for food, transportation and lodging – a journey documented in the Netflix series "The Kindness Diaries." Though the show's travels took place in 2013, Logothetis is comfortable on the open road, having quit his job as a London broker back in 2005. So far, he's visited nearly 100 countries. "I started doing this because I was in a lot of pain – emotional pain," he told TODAY. As someone who worked in finance, Logothetis appeared to have everything he could possibly want, but it was a different story on the inside. "I was wearing a mask, as many of us do," he said. "I felt very alone, very depressed, (with) no real sense of purpose." One of the most emotional moments on Logothetis' journey involved a homeless man named Tony. Though he had almost nothing, Tony shared what little he did have, including his shelter and some of his belongings. "The greatest lesson I learned was that we're all the same," said Logothetis. "It doesn't matter what religion you are, doesn't matter what color you are, doesn't matter where you live. Each person wants to be seen, wants to be loved, wants to be valued, wants to be heard." He added, "The most important thing is what you give to another human being and what you give to yourself: how you treat others and how you treat yourself."
When Paul McCartney wrote "Get Back," he never would have predicted how useful or relevant the song would become for music therapists. In new research, Psyche Loui, an associate professor of music ... found that for older adults who listened to some of their favorite music, including The Beatles, connectivity in the brain increased. Specifically, Loui–and her multi-disciplinary team ... discovered that music bridged the gap between the brain's auditory system and reward system, the area that governs motivation. "There's something about music that is this functional connectivity between the auditory and reward system, and that's why music is so special and able to tap into these seemingly very general cognitive functions that are suddenly very engaged in folks with dementia who are hearing music," said Loui. The original idea for this research came out of Loui's own experiences playing music in nursing homes. She recalled how people who couldn't finish a sentence or thought would suddenly harmonize and sing along to a song she was playing. "[Music] seems to engage the brain in this way that's different than everything else," Loui said. What the researchers found was striking: Music was essentially creating an auditory channel directly to the medial prefrontal cortex, the brain's reward center. Music that was both familiar and well-liked tended to activate the auditory and reward areas more. The music that participants selected themselves provided an even stronger connection.
As twin mental health and drug misuse crises kill thousands of people per week, the potential of psychedelic-assisted therapies "must be explored," urges a federal letter on behalf of the U.S. health secretary. President Joe Biden's administration "anticipates" that regulators will approve MDMA and psilocybin within the next two years for designated breakthrough therapies for PTSD and depression, respectively. The administration is "exploring the prospect of establishing a federal task force to monitor" the emerging psychedelic treatment ecosystem, according to the letter sent by Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use. The move followed [the] introduction of a bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., to force the DEA to stop barring terminally ill patients from trying controlled drugs which have passed early trials. The right to try experimental therapies has been enshrined in federal law since 2018, but the DEA currently blocks its use among people with late-stage cancer who wish to be treated with psilocybin, a Schedule I controlled substance. "Studies have shown that psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety among patients with life-threatening cancer," Booker wrote. "While typically terminally ill patients are allowed to access drugs that are in FDA clinical trials, they are barred from accessing Schedule I drugs, despite their therapeutic potential."
Social scientists have made it a priority in recent years to understand upward mobility. Money itself is ... important. Other factors – like avoiding eviction, having access to good medical care and growing up in a household with two parents – may also make upward mobility more likely. Now there is another intriguing factor to add to the list, thanks to a study ... in the academic journal Nature: friendships with people who are not poor. "Growing up in a community connected across class lines improves kids' outcome," [said] Raj Chetty ... one of the study's four principal authors. The study ... compares two otherwise similar children in lower-income households – one who grows up in a community where social contacts mostly come from the lower half of the socioeconomic distribution, and another who grows up in a community where social contacts mostly come from the upper half. The average difference between the two, in terms of their expected adult outcomes, is significant. It's the same as the gap between a child who grows up in a family that makes $27,000 a year and one who grows up in a family that makes $47,000. There seem to be three main mechanisms by which cross-class friendships can increase a person's chances of escaping poverty. The first is raised ambition: Social familiarity can give people a clearer sense of what's possible. The second is basic information, such as how to apply to college and for financial aid. The third is networking, such as getting a recommendation for an internship.
Robin Williams brought a lot of great characters to life on screen. But it's his role as the titular character in the award nominated 1998 biographical film Patch Adams that helped bring attention to a (then) relatively young therapeutic field: medical clowning. In early 19th century France, a famous clown trio by the name of "the Fratellini Brothers" began visiting hospitalised children to improve their moods. It wasn't until 1986 when the presence of professional clowns as members of hospital health care teams started. This happened when professional clown Michael Christensen of â€Big Apple Circus' founded â€Big Apple Circus Clown Care' in New York; a program with the aim of preparing professional clowns to use humour and clowning skills in visits to hospitals to assist in patient healing. By parodying the work of medical doctors, "clown doctors" made young patients less afraid of what the doctors were doing. These clowns were able to bring smiles and laughter to patients using their circus skills, tricks, and improvisation. Since [then], other clown care units have been formed across the United States ... and beyond. In 2020 there were at least 40 Healthcare Clowning Organisations operating in 21 countries in Europe. The aim of the medical clown goes beyond humour. Clown doctors have therapeutic relationships with patients and on top of reducing the negative effects associated with illness, medical clowns contribute to patients' well-being and help create a lighter atmosphere in the hospital.
The U.S. Postal Service pledged Wednesday to electrify at least 40 percent of its new delivery fleet, an increase that climate activists hailed as a major step toward reducing the government's environmental footprint. The Postal Service had been set to purchase as many as 165,000 vehicles from Oshkosh Defense, of which 10 percent would have been electric under the original procurement plan. Now it will acquire 50,000 trucks from Oshkosh, half of which will be EVs. It will also buy another 34,500 commercially available vehicles, with sufficient electric models to make 4 in 10 trucks in its delivery fleet zero-emission vehicles. The announcement comes after 16 states, the District of Columbia, and four of the nation's top environmental groups sued the mail agency in the spring to prevent the original purchase plan, or compel it to buy more electric trucks. The mail agency's combined purchase of 84,500 trucks – which begin hitting the streets in late 2023 – will go a long way toward meeting President Biden's goal for the entire government fleet to be EV-powered by 2035. The Postal Service's more than 217,000 vehicles make up the largest share of federal civilian vehicles. Congress in March also passed a $107 billion agency overhaul, freeing up money that postal leaders had long sought for capital improvements. Lawmakers ... pointed to the agency's need for new trucks – its fleet now is 30 years old, and has neither air bags nor air conditioning – to keep up with private-sector EV investments in approving the legislation.
Doramise Moreau toils long past midnight in her tiny kitchen every Friday – boiling lemon peels, crushing fragrant garlic and onion into a spice blend she rubs onto chicken and turkey, cooking the dried beans that accompany the yellow rice she'll deliver to a Miami church. She's singlehandedly cooked 1,000 meals a week since the pandemic's start – an act of love she's content to perform with little compensation. Moreau, a 60-year-old widow who lives with her children, nephew and three grandchildren, cooks in the kitchen of a home built by Habitat for Humanity in 2017. Her days are arduous. She works part-time as a janitor at a technical school, walking or taking the bus. But the work of her heart, the reason she rises each morning, is feeding the hungry. As a little girl in Haiti, she often pilfered food from her parents' pantry – some dried rice and beans, maybe an onion or an ear of corn – to give to someone who needed it. Her mother was furious, constantly scolding and threatening Moreau, even telling the priest to refuse to give her communion. But she was not deterred. Decades later, Moreau is still feeding the hungry. She borrows the church truck to buy groceries on Thursday and Friday and cooks into the wee hours of the night for Saturday's feedings. Notre Dame d'Haiti Catholic Church pays for the food, relying on donations. Moreau prepares the meals singlehandedly, while church volunteers serve or deliver them to shut-ins.
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Spain has announced it will make some short- and middle-distance train journeys completely free as the government seeks to combat the impact of the cost-of-living crisis. Spanish prime minister Pedro SĂˇnchez said on Tuesday that all CercanĂas (commuter trains), Rodalies (commuter routes in Catalonia) and Media Distancia routes (mid-distance regional lines which cover distances less than 300km) run by the national rail system will be free from 1 September 1 to 31 December this year. The 100% discount will only apply to multi-trip tickets. The new scheme comes in addition to the government funding a discount of between 30-50% on all public transport - including metros, buses and trams. Spanish inflation has accelerated in the past few months and surpassed 10% for the first time in 37 years during the 12 months to June. Sanchez said soaring inflation was the biggest challenge for Spain, likening it to "a serious illness of our economy that impoverishes everyone, especially the most vulnerable groups". He also announced 100 euros a month in complementary scholarships for students older than 16 years who already receive scholarships. "I am fully aware of the daily difficulties that most people face. I know that your salary is getting less and less, that it is difficult to make ends meet, and that your shopping basket is becoming more and more expensive", SĂˇnchez said. On Thursday, the European Commission warned inflation could hit historic highs of 7.6%, up from last month's prediction of 6.1%.
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