Inspirational News StoriesExcerpts of Key Inspirational News Stories in Major Media
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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.
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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.
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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."
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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.
Sound is so elemental to life and survival that it prompted Tel Aviv University researcher Lilach Hadany to ask: What if it wasn’t just animals that could sense sound - what if plants could, too? The first experiments to test this hypothesis ... suggest that in at least one case, plants can hear, and it confers a real evolutionary advantage. Hadany’s team looked at evening primroses (Oenothera drummondii) and found that within minutes of sensing vibrations from pollinators’ wings, the plants temporarily increased the concentration of sugar in their flowers’ nectar. In effect, the flowers themselves served as ears, picking up the specific frequencies of bees’ wings while tuning out irrelevant sounds like wind. A sweeter treat for pollinators, their theory goes, may draw in more insects, potentially increasing the chances of successful cross-pollination. Indeed, in field observations, researchers found that pollinators were more than nine times more common around plants another pollinator had visited within the previous six minutes. As the team thought about how sound works, via the transmission and interpretation of vibrations, the role of the flowers became even more intriguing. Though blossoms vary widely in shape and size, a good many are concave or bowl-shaped. This makes them perfect for receiving and amplifying sound waves, much like a satellite dish. This single study has cracked open an entirely new field of scientific research, which Hadany calls phytoacoustics.
In 1965, Poppy Northcutt was the only female engineer at NASA’s Houston Mission Control. As she gazed at the men around her she thought to herself, I’m as smart as they are. Although she belonged among them, it was undeniably difficult to be the only woman in what sometimes felt like the domain of men. As isolated as Northcutt felt in the historic control center, she was one of thousands of women who began their careers at NASA as computers. It was a job created before the advent of electronic machines, when human aptitude was required to perform all the mathematical calculations needed for experiments. Women have historically filled these positions, as exemplified by the groups of female computers who worked at the Harvard Observatory and the Royal Observatory Greenwich in the late 1800s. At NASA, these women came from all over the world, working at centers across the United States, and comprising a diverse and potent force in space exploration. Their calculations would ultimately be responsible for sending astronauts to the moon. Unlike Northcutt, Sue Finley noticed the ubiquitous presence of female employees when she started work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. Not only was her supervisor a woman, but all of her coworkers in the computing section were as well. Finley, who started in 1958, before NASA’s formation, is still working for the space agency today. At age 83 and with a career spanning six decades, she is NASA’s longest serving female employee.
Wind turbines in Scotland generated 9,831,320 megawatt hours between January and June 2019, WWF Scotland said Monday. The numbers, which were supplied by WeatherEnergy, mean that Scottish wind generated enough electricity to power the equivalent of 4.47 million homes for six months. That is almost double the number of homes in Scotland. “Up and down the country, we are all benefiting from cleaner energy and so is the climate,” Robin Parker, climate and energy policy manager at WWF Scotland, said in a statement Monday. “These figures show harnessing Scotland’s plentiful onshore wind potential can provide clean, green electricity for millions of homes across not only Scotland, but England as well,” Parker added. By 2030, the Scottish government says it wants to produce half of the country’s energy consumption from renewables. It is also targeting an “almost completely” decarbonized energy system by 2050. As a whole, Europe is home to some of the world’s most ambitious wind energy projects. September 2018 saw the official opening of the Walney Extension Offshore Wind Farm in the Irish Sea. With a total capacity of 659 MW, it’s currently the world’s largest operational offshore wind farm and capable of powering nearly 600,000 homes in the U.K..
Using the power of ocean waves, innovators from Boston, U.S., have developed a technology that can produce fresh water off-grid and without the costly infrastructure of desalination plants. This invention could help many of the 2.1 billion people around the world who struggle to access safe drinking water, most of those in low-income countries. The technology, Wave2O, was developed by start-up company Resolute Marine Energy. Chief Operating Officer Olivier Ceberio says it “targets ‘off-grid’ coastal communities in developing nations where a solution to persistent water shortages is urgently needed”. Importantly, it fills a gaping hole between industrial-scale utilities that are costly and time-consuming to build, and micro-scale solutions for individual households. The only technology currently offered in between involves diesel-powered desalination systems. And Wave2O can be delivered competitively because it uses “free energy from a consistent and inexhaustible renewable energy resource: ocean waves,” says Ceberio. By eliminating the need for diesel generators, the invention not only saves money but reduces carbon dioxide emissions. “Each 4,000 [cubic meter per] day plant that displaces an equivalently sized diesel-powered plant will cut CO2 emissions by 4,300 tons per year,” explains Ceberio, “the equivalent of taking 936 cars off the road or of the carbon sequestered by 2,070 hectares of forest.”
The revolution in renewable power hit a new milestone in April. Last week the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released it's latest Energy Infrastructure Update (EIU), with data through April 2019. According to ... the non-profit SUN DAY Campaign, which analyzed the data, "that was enough to push renewable energy's share of total available installed U.S. generating capacity up to 21.56%. By comparison, coal's share dropped to 21.55% (down from 23.04% a year ago)." Of course it's important to note that capacity doesn't equal generation. Coal still generates more electricity than renewables. But, the trends indicate it's just a matter of time before that picture changes as well. But it is natural gas that is still the king of generation. Although renewable capacity additions are forecast to be well ahead of natural gas additions through 2022, it is likely that natural gas will continue to be the top source of U.S. power for quite some time. The EIU indicates that natural gas now represents 44.44% of total installed capacity. Because of the higher capacity factors for natural gas-fired generation, Energy Information Administration data show that natural gas provided 36% of U.S. power over the past 12 months, well ahead of coal's 27%. Further, the share for natural gas has grown in recent years, while that of coal continues to decline. But given the current trends, it won't be long before renewables supply the largest share of U.S. power.
Go to your happy place. Take a deep breath and hold it in your mind's eye for a long, joyful moment. My happy place looks and feels ... like a cabin in the woods. Family and friends are there. I have everything I need to be fully connected. The kind of experience I'm describing is something of a national pastime in Norway. They even have a word that snugly wraps all these ideas up: "koselig." You could roughly translate koselig (pronounced "koosh-lee"), as "coziness," but that leaves out crucial components of it, like enjoying the company of others and a connection with nature. There's no direct English translation, but there are regional equivalents such as the Swedish "mys," the Dutch "gezelligheid" and the most well-known of these, the Danish "hygge." Hygge (pronounced "hoo-gah") [is] defined as "a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being." It's that well-being part that gives us reason to replicate koselig ... even as the research slowly confirms what those cold, northern happiest countries have known for a long time: Darkness and isolation can be celebrated because they provide the need for their relief. The act of creating our own light and warmth produces peace and contentment. The case for koselig as a health practice seems obvious. You already know how it feels to be cozy, or in nature, or with friends. Social connections give our life purpose, and ... anything that decrease stress ... has numerous mental and physical health benefits.
An 8-year-old living in a homeless shelter has won the New York State chess championship for his age bracket. “I want to be the youngest grandmaster,” Tanitoluwa Adewumi, a Nigerian refugee who goes by Tani, [said]. Tanitoluwa placed first in the New York State Scholastic Championships tournament for kindergarten through third grade — a remarkable win for anyone. “It’s unheard of for any kid, let alone one in a homeless shelter,” [said] Russell Makofsky, who oversees Manhattan's P.S. 116 chess program. Tanitoluwa hasn't had an easy life. His family left northern Nigeria in 2017 fearing attacks on Christians, The New York Times reports, and moved to New York City over a year ago where the boy learned how to play chess at school. He and his family live in a homeless shelter. School chess coach Shawn Martinez saw Tanitoluwa's potential after observing him excel in the game a few weeks after first learning it early last year. He reached out to Tanitoluwa's family about joining the school's chess program, and learned they were unable to pay costs associated with membership. Makofsky decided to waive Tanitoluwa's fees, which can easily exceed thousands with travel and chess camp admissions. Seven trophies later, the elementary school boy is one of the top players in the country for his age group. Makofsky, who set up a GoFundMe for Tanitoluwa, said the family has received offers for a car, legal services, jobs and even housing.
A breakthrough can come from the least expected - perhaps like an 81-year-old eccentric from Massachusetts who toiled in isolation with no financial support for more than a decade. His focus? A challenge that has stumped scientists for many years: how to transform inedible plant life into environmentally friendly transportation fuels in a clean and cost-effective way. 25 years ago, [Marshall Medoff] became obsessed with the environment and decided to abandon his business career and become an amateur scientist. "What I thought was, the reason people were failing is they were trying to overcome nature instead of working with it," [said Medoff]. He knew that there's a lot of energy in plant life. It's in the form of sugar molecules that once accessed can be converted into transportation fuel. The key word is "access." This sugar is nearly impossible to extract cheaply and cleanly since it is locked tightly inside the plant's cellulose. What's so tantalizing is that sugar-rich cellulose is the most abundant biological material on earth. Medoff's novel idea [was to use] machines called electron accelerators to break apart nature's chokehold on the valuable sugars inside plant life - or biomass. Machines like these are typically used to strengthen materials. Medoff's invention was to use the accelerator the opposite way - to break biomass apart. This process, Medoff's remarkable invention, releases plant sugars that he's now using to make products he claims will solve some of the world's most intractable problems.
Three New York City police officers were working on the Fourth of July when they decided to stop by a Manhattan Whole Foods supermarket. The cops — now identified as Lt. Louis Sojo and Officers Esnaidy Cuevas and Michael Rivera — were on the way to grab a snack and cold drink in the store when security guards told them a woman was stealing food. The cops approached her to assess the situation. "I asked her, 'What's going on?' She told me she was hungry," said Sojo."So, I looked in her bag. I decided — we decided — to say 'We'll pay for her food.'" Sojo said the security guard was shocked by the kind response, but brought the officers over to the cashier to pay for the woman's food. "At that moment, she was extremely emotional," said Sojo. "She did thank us, but she was pretty much speechless at what happened." Sojo said the officers did not expect the good deed to receive so much positive attention and that they were "extremely humbled" by the response. He added that it isn't uncommon for officers to pay for someone's food. "You know, I've been doing this for 22 years. This is not the first time I've paid for food. This is not the first time they've paid for someone's food," he said referring to the two other cops."We don't go out and do it all the time, but, you know, when you look at someone's face and you notice that they need you, and they're actually hungry. It's pretty difficult as a human being to walk away from something like that. We weren't raised like that. So, it's the right thing to do."
The Monroe Institute [is] a cluster of buildings perched on more than 300 acres in the Virginia foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The institute uses audio technology to help induce different states of consciousness. The technology is touted as creating optimal conditions for the brain, leading to “peak human performance.” A successful radio-broadcasting executive whose company produced 28 shows a month, [founder Robert] Monroe dedicated an arm of his firm to research and development. Monroe and his team ultimately developed Hemi-Sync, an audio technology based on the premise that certain tones can encourage the two hemispheres of the brain to synchronize and move into different states of consciousness. Monroe made numerous recordings that, when used with headphones, send slightly different tones through each ear, helping the brain to create a third “binaural” beat. The result: a collection of compact discs that purportedly can be used for everything from inducing sleep to increasing memory retention to, as the institute entices on its Web site, reaching “extraordinary” states. Over the years, Hemi-Sync has garnered three patents and been the subject of research both at the institute and by independent medical professionals, scientists and academics. University studies have discovered that the audio technology can improve the focus of children with developmental disabilities. By the institute’s estimates, 30,000 people from around the world have attended its programs, and millions have purchased Hemi-Sync compact discs. For many, the experience is “life changing."
Note: Founder Robert Monroe wrote two fascinating, popular books, “Far Journeys” and “Ultimate Journey,” which describe his amazing journeys out of body. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
A Louisiana woman was brought to tears after her father captured a heartwarming moment between a store employee and her little brother while shopping at a Rouse's grocery store. In a video post shared to Facebook, Delaney Alwosaibi says her father was at a Baton Rouge area Rouses with family when her little brother, Jack Ryan Edwards, 17, who she affectionately calls Ziggy, expressed an interest in stocking the shelves. Jack, who is on the autism spectrum, was aided by a store employee, who helped him stock shelves for over 30 minutes, encouraging him as he finished each task. Within hours, the Facebook post was shared over 1,500 times and had amassed nearly 4,000 likes. Alwosaibi says she's overwhelmed by the response. "I've just been crying happy tears for hours and I'm in shock at the response the video has gotten. There's so much ugly in this world we live in, but today gave me a swift kick and reminder that there are still great people out there. Humble people, kind people, patient people, accepting people." In the video, the employee, Jordan Taylor, 20, can be heard discussing plans to re-enroll in school. An outpouring of support from Facebook users wishing to support Taylor both emotionally and financially continues to grow. After the incredible encounter, Alwosaibi started a GoFundMe to help send Jordan to school after he expressed interest in doing so. In the first nine hours, the community raised more than $6,000 [over $100,000 as of July 2019].
Note: See the beautiful video of this encounter at the link above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
According to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), unsubsidized renewable energy is now most frequently the cheapest source of energy generation. The report finds that the cost of installation and maintenance of renewables, which was an important stumbling block to mass adoption, continues on a downward trajectory. These new statistics demonstrate that using renewable energy is increasingly cost-effective compared to other sources, even when renewables must compete with the heavily-subsidized fossil fuel industry. These lower costs are expected to propel the mass adoption of renewables even further. Among other findings the IRENA report highlights that: Onshore wind and solar PV [photovoltaic] power are now, frequently, less expensive than any fossil-fuel option, without financial assistance. New solar and wind installations will increasingly undercut even the operating-only costs of existing coal-fired plants. Cost forecasts for solar PV and onshore wind continue to be revised as new data emerges, with renewables consistently beating earlier expectations. Further data from REN21's Renewable Global Status Report show that over one fifth of global electrical power production is now generated from renewables. Promising signs in the IRENA report show that ... an increasing number of corporates are entering the renewable energy industry ... meanwhile more than 10 million people are now employed in the global renewable energy industry.
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.
We all know how good being in nature can make us feel. In Japan, we practice something called forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku. Shinrin in Japanese means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses. This is not exercise, or hiking, or jogging. It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world. Numerous studies I’ve conducted have shown that shinrin-yoku has real health benefits. So how does one go about forest bathing? First, find a spot. Make sure you have left your phone and camera behind. You are going to be walking aimlessly and slowly. You don’t need any devices. Let your body be your guide. Listen to where it wants to take you. The key to unlocking the power of the forest is in the five senses. Let nature enter through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands and feet. Listen to the birds singing and the breeze rustling in the leaves of the trees. Look at the different greens of the trees and the sunlight filtering through the branches. Smell the fragrance of the forest. Taste the freshness of the air as you take deep breaths. You can forest-bathe anywhere in the world – wherever there are trees ... in rain, sunshine or snow. You don’t even need a forest. Once you have learned how to do it, you can do shinrin-yoku anywhere – in a nearby park or in your garden.
Note: The above is excerpted from the book "Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness" by Dr. Qing Li. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.