Inspirational News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on inspiration
The most impressive performance at a Toronto marathon Sunday was turned in by the man who came in last place - and is 100 years old. Fauja Singh completed the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in approximately eight hours, making him the oldest person ever to finish one of the 26.2-mile races. It was the eighth marathon for Singh, who was born India in 1911 and did not start running marathons until he was 89, after he moved to England following the death of his wife and son. He says not smoking or drinking alcohol throughout his life, combined with a vegetarian diet and up to 10 miles of walking or running per day are the secrets to his health. The Association of Road Racing Statistician already had Singh as the oldest person to complete a marathon, for one he ran seven years ago. But the Guinness Book of World Records recognized Dimitrion Yordanidis, 98, who ran in Athens in 1976. Singh recently set eight world records for his age group in one day at a special invitational meet in Toronto. He ran the 100 meters in 23.14, 200 meters in 52.23, the 400 meters in 2:13.48, the 800 meters in 5:32.18, the 1500 meters in 11:27.81, the mile in 11:53.45, the 3000 meters in 24:52.47 and the 5000 meters in 49:57.39. "I have said it before: that I will carry on running, as it is keeping me alive," Singh told the marathon website.
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Carly Fleischmann has severe autism and is unable to speak a word. But ... this 13-year-old has made a remarkable breakthrough. Two years ago, working with pictures and symbols on a computer keyboard, she started typing and spelling out words. The computer became her voice. "All of a sudden these words started to pour out of her, and it was an exciting moment because we didn't realize she had all these words," said speech pathologist Barbara Nash. Then Carly began opening up, describing what it was like to have autism. Carly writes about her frustrations with her siblings, how she understands their jokes and asks when can she go on a date. "We were stunned," Carly's father Arthur Fleischmann said. "We realized inside was an articulate, intelligent, emotive person that we had never met. This ... opened up a whole new way of looking at her." This is what Carly wants people to know about autism. "It is hard to be autistic because no one understands me. People look at me and assume I am dumb because I can't talk or I act differently than them. I think people get scared with things that look or seem different than them." Carly had another message for people who don't understand autism. "Autism is hard because you want to act one way, but you can't always do that. It's sad that sometimes people don't know that sometimes I can't stop myself and they get mad at me. If I could tell people one thing about autism it would be that I don't want to be this way. But I am, so don't be mad. Be understanding."
While the ozone hole over Antarctica typically grows in September and October, scientists observed the smallest ozone hole since they first began observing it in 1982, according to a joint release by NASA and NOAA. Unusual weather patterns in the upper atmosphere limited depletion of ozone, the layer in our atmosphere that acts like sunscreen and protects us from ultraviolet radiation. On September 8, the ozone hole reached a peak of 6.3 million square miles and then shrank to less than 3.9 million square miles, according to the report. Usually, the hole would grow to reach 8 million square miles. The annual ozone hole forms when rays from the sun interact with the ozone and man-made compounds such as chlorine and bromine to deplete the ozone. This occurs during late winter in the Southern Hemisphere. Cloud particles in the cold stratosphere lead to reactions that destroy ozone molecules, which are made of three oxygen atoms. But when temperatures are warmer, these clouds don't form, which limits ozone destruction. This is only the third time in 40 years when warm temperatures caused by weather systems have actually helped limit the ozone hole. This also occurred in 1988 and 2002. But the scientists say there is no connection they've identified to link the patterns with climate change. The ozone layer over the Antarctic is expected to recover by 2070 as compounds used as coolants, called chlorofluorocarbons, decline. They were regulated 32 years ago by the Montreal Protocol.
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According to FDA estimates, the United States wastes 30 to 40% of its food. That's hard to swallow when you consider that one in 10 US households faced food insecurity in 2018. That means roughly 14 million families are struggling to put meals on the table while approximately 30 million tons of food are trashed. For 29 years Forgotten Harvest, a nonprofit in Detroit, has been rescuing food destined for landfills and redirecting it to the hungry. Forgotten Harvest CEO Kirk Mayes says it's taken that long to develop the logistics for his program, which now rescues and delivers 130,000 pounds of food a day. "This operation is set up so that our fleet of about 27 trucks and our drivers can leave our warehouse in the morning and go to about 12 to 14 different stops ... for our donations." Mayes says. Drivers collect food from local bakers and butchers and national chains, he says. "And then these drivers redistribute the food to three to four community partners on a daily basis." A rotating army of 16,000 volunteers makes this daily event happen. "At our warehouse, our volunteers are working with commodities that are coming off of our farm and from other commodity partners like the food manufacturers and other farms and donations," Mayes says. "All this (food) is inspected, sorted and set to go out." The result? Last year Forgotten Harvest redistributed 41 million pounds of food, Mayes says. That's 41 million pounds that filled stomachs instead of landfills.
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19-year-old Gabe Adams was born with Hanhart syndrome, a rare medical condition characterised by underdeveloped limbs, mouth and jaw. In Gabe’s case, none of his limbs grew at all. At school Gabe tried out for the dance team as a way of making friends – discovering he could use his limbless body to his advantage in the art of break dancing. After graduating from high school he has continued to prove his independence, moving out of the family home and embarking on a career as a motivational speaker. From a young age Gabe started using a wheelchair but his parents were determined that their son would be as independent as possible. At school Gabe would wedge a pencil or pen between his shoulder and cheek to write in class. ‘The day of the dance tryouts they called us all in a line and they said, “okay dancer remember to full out extensions and point your toes”. What am I gonna point? My nose!? ‘I am just standing there in front of the judges and then I see girls do the spins and I am like, “I can do that”, so I do the spins. ‘The next day at school and I hear two girls talking behind me and they say: “They are only gonna put him on the stage because he is handicapped’”and that crushed me. ‘I ran to the dance coach and I said “please do not put me on the team because you feel sorry for me”, and she said: “I would not put you or anybody else on the team because I felt sorry for them, you get a spot on this team because you deserved it”. ‘And that was just a huge opening moment for me.’
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One day, during her usual chat with her eight-year-old son about school, Tracey Cooney got an answer she didn't expect. "There was nobody to play with. Everyone was playing in their own little groups," he confided. She was surprised because he was usually outgoing and confident. Cooney felt a little upset, but remembered something she had seen on social media and wondered if it could help children in his situation. It's called a Buddy Bench. The idea is simple - if a child feels lonely, they can go to the bench as a signal that they need someone to play with. Another child will see them, go and talk to them and include them in their games. So Cooney asked other parents and the head teacher at Castlemartyr National School in Cork, Ireland, whether they would be interested in getting one - their answer was, "Yes." "We use the bench as a reminder for children of things like communication, mutual support and opening up about feelings," says Judith Ashton, a psychotherapist and co-founder of ... Buddy Bench Ireland. Apart from reducing social isolation and improving mental wellbeing, the hope is that the benches can tackle another problem: bullying. But do children actually use the bench? "They don't see it as stigmatised," says Sinead McGilloway ... who led a study of 117 pupils at three schools which have benches. Forty per cent of the children she questioned said they had used the bench, and 90% said if they saw someone else sitting on it they would talk to them.
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Teenagers in Kenya and Mexico are more optimistic about their future than those in France and Sweden, according to polling across 15 countries, which found young people in developing nations have more positive outlooks. The survey, conducted by Ipsos ... found young people across all countries were more optimistic than adults, though there was widespread dissatisfaction with politicians. More than nine in 10 teenagers in Kenya, Mexico, China, Nigeria and India reported feeling positive about their future. Their responses contrasted with those of young people in France and Sweden, the most pessimistic of countries surveyed. Dr Alex Awiti, from Aga Khan University, who has researched youth attitudes across east Africa, said young people in the region are optimistic because they know that their voices count. “If young people want to mobilise, all the governments in east Africa could be toppled within a matter of days,” he said. “What is impressive is young people across east Africa really know what they want.” Awiti pointed to the large numbers of youth-led organisations in countries such as Kenya, where under-35s make up about 80% of the population. Young people are still, however, under-represented in politics.
New research shows the meditative exercise improves mental health, reduces stress and can prevent reoffending. The power of yoga to change [a prisoner's] life is backed by two Swedish studies that found it may reduce reoffending. The new study, led by Professor Nóra Kerekes at University West, Trollhätten, in Sweden, and published last week in Frontiers in Psychiatry, found that 10 weeks of regular yoga can lead to a significant reduction in obsessive-compulsive and paranoid thinking, which in turn, say researchers, can make reoffending less likely. This effect is specific to yoga, and not to exercise in general, they found. It can also lead to a decrease in “somaticisation” (mental distress leading to physical symptoms such as breathing problems, heart pains and stomach upsets). The study of 152 volunteers in nine medium- and high-security prisons in Sweden builds on a 2017 study of the same volunteers that showed that yoga improved stress levels, concentration, sleep quality, psychological and emotional wellbeing, as well as reducing aggression and antisocial behaviour. A Prison Service spokeswoman says: “Research shows activities like this can make prisoners less likely to reoffend, keeping the public safer.” She was unable to explain why, given this evidence, it wasn’t government policy to make yoga available to all prisoners, but said it was up to individual prison governors to decide which activities to offer.
What’s good news for those concerned with climate change, and bad news for electric utilities? That’s grid parity. It exists when an alternative energy source generates electricity at a cost matching the price of power from the electric grid. As grid parity becomes increasingly common, renewable energy could transform our world and slow the effects of climate change. Advances in solar panels and battery storage will make it more realistic for consumers to dump their electric utility, and power their homes through solar energy. A 2013 Deutsche Bank report said that 10 states are currently at grid parity: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Vermont. Germany, Spain, Portugal and Australia have reached grid parity. This shift has benefited from a dramatic drop in the price of solar panels, which dropped 97.2 percent from 1975 to 2012. As solar energy gets cheaper, traditional electric utilities are doing the opposite. The cost of maintaining the electric grid has gotten more expensive, but reliability hasn’t improved. If customers leave electric utilities, it starts a downward spiral. Fewer customers will mean higher rates, which encourages remaining customers to jump ship for a solar-battery system. Energy upstarts are led by forward thinkers with disruptive track records and eyes on society’s big problems.
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Gymnast Johanna Quaas, 86, displays a grace and agility that belies her years as she takes to the parallel bars in a pre-Olympics German gymnastics event. Quaas performed an impressive parallel bar and floor demonstration after finals concluded at Germany's Cottbus Challenger Cup. Displaying balance, strength and flexibility that would be the envy of someone a quarter her age, Quaas's floor routine included a handstand forward roll, cartwheel, backward roll and headstand while on the bars she performed a full planche, holding her body taught and parallel to the ground. A multiple time senior champion of artistic gymnastics in Germany, Quaas, from Halle in Saxony only took up gymnastics when she was 30, putting paid to the belief that the sport is the preserve of the young.
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The Better Angels of Our Nature takes a thesis I would love to believe; indeed, have casually believed for most of my life. It is that humans have grown less horrible with time. The 20th century, the century of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, of Mao in China and Mobutu in the Congo, was appalling, but the number of deaths by violence as a proportion of the total population remained modest compared with the ferocious cruelties of the wars of religion in the 17th century. The modern nation state – the Leviathan of the philosopher Hobbes – has had a civilising effect almost everywhere. Education has helped, as has the empowerment of women, and the idea, too, of human rights. Within the epic sweep of history from ice age hunter gatherers to modern suburban householders, [author Steven] Pinker examines both the big picture and the fine detail, with surprises on every page. Overall ... he finds examples of falling murder rates everywhere (including among male English aristocrats 1330-1829). Murder rates as a percentage of population were far higher among the supposedly peace-loving and cooperative hunter-gatherer communities – the Inuit of the Arctic, for instance, the !Kung of the Kalahari and the Semai of Malaysia – than in the trigger-happy US in its most violent decade. Unexpectedly, deaths in warfare, once again as a percentage of total population, were far higher among the Gran Valley Dani of New Guinea, or in Fiji in the 1860s, than in Germany in the whole of the 20th century.
Evidence of our bloody history is not hard to find. Consider the genocides in the Old Testament and the crucifictions in the New, the gory mutilations in Shakespeare's tragedies and Grimm's fairy tales, the British monarchs who beheaded their relatives and the American founders who dueled with their rivals. Today, the decline in these brutal practices can be quantified. A look at the numbers shows that over the course of our history, humanity has been blessed with ... major declines of violence. The first was a process of pacification: the transition from the anarchy of the hunting, gathering, and horticultural societies in which our species spent most of its evolutionary history to the first agricultural civilizations, with cities and governments, starting about 5,000 years ago. On average, about 15% of people in prestate eras died violently, compared to about 3% of the citizens of the earliest states. Centuries ago, the great powers were almost always at war, and until quite recently. Western European countries tended to initiate two or three new wars every year. The cliche that the 20th century was "the most violent in history" ignores the second half of the century. Though it's tempting to attribute the Long Peace to nuclear deterrence, non-nuclear developed states have stopped fighting each other as well. Political scientists point instead to the growth of democracy, trade and international organizations - all of which, the statistical evidence shows, reduce the liklihood of conflict.
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Standing Bear was born sometime between 1829 and 1834 in the Ponca tribe’s native lands in northern Nebraska. In 1876 ... Congress declared that the Poncas would be moved to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. More than a third of the Poncas died of starvation and disease — including Standing Bear’s sister and his beloved son. Standing Bear and his burial party evaded capture while they traveled home but were caught and detained after visiting relatives at the Omaha reservation. The man who caught them, Brig. Gen. George Crook ... was moved by Standing Bear’s reasons for leaving the Indian Territory and promised to help him. The civil rights case that resulted was called Standing Bear v. Crook. The U.S. attorney argued that Standing Bear was neither a citizen nor a person. On the second day, Chief Standing Bear was called to testify, becoming the first Native American to do so. He raised his right hand and, through an interpreter, said: “My hand is not the color of yours, but if I pierce it, I shall feel pain. If you pierce your hand, you also feel pain. The blood that will flow from mine will be the same color as yours. The same god made us both. I am a man.” The judge agreed, ruling for the first time in U.S. history that “the Indian is a ‘person’ ” and has all the rights and freedoms promised in the Constitution. The judge also ordered Crook to free Standing Bear and his people immediately. Standing Bear ... buried his son alongside his ancestors. When he died there in 1908, he was buried alongside them, too.
The death rate from cancer in the United States saw the largest ever single-year decline between 2016 and 2017 since rates began declining in 1992, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society. [A] deceleration in lung cancer deaths spurred an overall drop in cancer mortality of 2.2% from 2016 to 2017, according to the report. Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer in the United States, accounting for about 27% of all cancer deaths — more than breast, prostate, colorectal, and brain cancers combined. Lung cancer is also the most common cause of death due to cancer among men age 40 and older and women age 60 and older. The decline in mortality from melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, was also dramatic. Dr. William Cance, chief medical and scientific officer for the American Cancer Society, attributed [decreased] mortality from lung cancer and melanoma to treatment advances made in the past 10 years. "They are a profound reminder of how rapidly this area of research is expanding, and now leading to real hope for cancer patients," Cance said. As of 2017, cancer deaths have dropped 29% from 1992 numbers — meaning an estimated 2,902,200 fewer cancer deaths, according to the ACS report. "This steady progress is largely due to reductions in smoking and subsequent declines in lung cancer mortality, which have accelerated in recent years," reads the report.
Here's a list of some of the good things that happened this year. The Indian Navy welcomed its first-ever woman pilot. People around the world united to save a 2-year-old's life. Austria named its first female chancellor. The European Commission elected its first female President. Women now lead five of the major parties in Finland's parliament. For the first time, all major pageants were won by women of color. Macedonia was renamed, bringing an end to a decades-long dispute with Greece. President Donald Trump made history as the first sitting US leader to set foot in North Korea. Pope Francis became the first pontiff to visit an Arab Gulf state. The 116th Congress became the most diverse in US history. Chicago elected its first African-American female mayor. Animal cruelty is officially a federal felony. California is now the first state to offer health insurance to some undocumented immigrants. Montgomery, Alabama, elected its first black mayor in 200 years. New York banned the so-called gay and trans "panic" defense. The largest mass commutation in US history took place. The Little Shell Tribe became the newest Native American tribe to receive federal recognition. Indonesia raised [the] minimum age for brides to end child marriage. Saudi Arabian women are finally allowed to travel independently. Taiwan became the first place in Asia to pass a same-sex marriage legislation. Botswana ruled to decriminalize consensual same-sex relations. Northern Ireland legalized same-sex marriage.
Antong Lucky and Def D had nearly identical childhoods: both were raised in underprivileged neighborhoods in Dallas, both experienced gang violence at an early age, and both had family members who were in gangs. There was, however, one notable difference: they were raised one mile apart, in different neighborhoods. This mile meant the difference between friend and foe: Antong was in the Bloods’ territory, and Def D was in the Crips’. In prison, both came to recognize the devastation that gang violence was wreaking on young people and their families. After both men were released from prison, the former enemies met together to create OGU (Original Gangsters United), an organization that tries to help young people in Dallas from falling into the same cycle of gang violence that Antong and Def D experienced growing up. OGU, which now has more mentors than the original duo, spend their days hanging out with Dallas youth, looking for kids at risk of gang violence — or, rather, those most in need of a positive relationship in their lives. Just this year, OGU mentors have reached 470 youth. There are many organizations that try to help at-risk teenagers escape gang violence, but what makes OGU so unique is the relationship that Antong and Def D share. They’re a real-life example of how two people from different neighborhoods can forge a meaningful relationship and use their common experiences to do good for others.
Heart attack prevention and outcomes have dramatically improved for American adults in the past two decades, according to a Yale study in JAMA Network Open. Compared to the mid-1990s, Americans today are less likely to have heart attacks and also less likely to die from them, said the researchers. Tracking more than four million Medicare patients between 1995 and 2014, this is the largest and most comprehensive study of heart attacks in the United States to date. Its two key findings are that hospitalizations for heart attacks have declined by 38%, and the 30-day mortality rate for heart attacks is at an all-time low of 12%, down by more than a third since 1995. In the words of Dr. Harlan Krumholz, lead author and Yale cardiologist, these gains are “remarkable.” The Yale cardiologist also believes these gains are no accident. Krumholz explained that the last 20 years have been marked by national efforts to prevent heart attacks and improve care for those who suffer them. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the American College of Cardiology, and the American Heart Association — along with other organizations and “legions of researchers and clinicians and public health experts” — have focused on reducing risk by promoting healthy lifestyles, addressing risk factors, and improving the quality of care, the researchers noted.
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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.
Harriette Thompson, the irrepressible nonagenarian who in 2015 became the oldest woman to finish a marathon, died Monday in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was 94. A two-time cancer survivor, Thompson was a regular at the San Diego Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon, running with Team in Training for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She started running the marathon in San Diego in 1999, and ran the race every year through 2015, except for 2003, when she was undergoing treatment for cancer. She raised more than $115,000 for cancer research through her efforts. In 2015, at 92 years and 93 days, she finished the marathon in 7:24:36, breaking the record for oldest woman to run a marathon previously held by Gladys Burrill, who at 92 years and 19 days ran 9:53 at the Honolulu Marathon in 2010. Thompson was slowed by many admirers who sought pictures with her during races. “Since I’m so old, everybody wants to have their picture taken with me,” Thompson told Runner’s World in 2015. “Brenny says, ‘Don’t stop her, just take a selfie,’ rather than stop and take pictures all the time, because I’d never get to the end. But it’s funny, all you need to do is get to be 90-something and you get lots of attention.” In June, at age 94, Thompson completed the half marathon at San Diego in 3:42:56, also a record for oldest woman to complete the 13.1-mile distance. “I never thought of myself as an athlete, but I feel like running is just something we all do naturally,” Thompson said.
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If you’re depressed by the state of the world, let me toss out an idea: In the long arc of human history, 2019 has been the best year ever. The bad things that you fret about are true. But it’s also true that since modern humans emerged about 200,000 years ago, 2019 was probably the year in which children were least likely to die, adults were least likely to be illiterate and people were least likely to suffer excruciating and disfiguring diseases. Perhaps the greatest calamity for anyone is to lose a child. That used to be common: Historically, almost half of all humans died in childhood. As recently as 1950, 27 percent of all children still died by age 15. Now that figure has dropped to about 4 percent. The news media and the humanitarian world focus so relentlessly on the bad news that we leave the public believing that every trend is going in the wrong direction. A majority of Americans say in polls that the share of the world population living in poverty is increasing — yet one of the trends of the last 50 years has been a huge reduction in global poverty. The proportion of the world’s population subsisting on about $2 a day or less has dropped by more than 75 percent in less than four decades. Every day for a decade, newspapers could have carried the headline “Another 170,000 Moved Out of Extreme Poverty Yesterday.” Or if one uses a higher threshold, the headline could have been: “The Number of People Living on More Than $10 a Day Increased by 245,000 Yesterday.”
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