Good News

Finland’s progressive policies

By Jerry Brownstein

Finland’s prime minister Sanna Marin is the youngest female head of government in the West, and she has spearheaded an acceleration of her country’s progressive policies. Ms Marin leads a coalition gov-ernment in which all five parties are led by women, and they are aiming to set Finland on a course that uses innovative ideas to improve people’s lives. One of those ideas is a four day work week with six hour working days. Marin said, “I believe people deserve to spend more time with their families, loved ones, hobbies and other aspects of life. This could be the next step for us in working life.” [...]

Pope Francis appoints women to high positions

By Jerry Brownstein

In his latest show of support for improved gender equality, Pope Francis has appointed two women to Vatican posts that had previously only been held by men. These appointments at the beginning of 2021 were his boldest moves yet in giving women more empowerment in the male-dominated Holy See. Nathalie Becquart was named as co-undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, with the right to vote in the assemblies of bishops. Francis Summaria became the first woman Promoter of Justice in the Vatican’s Court of Appeals.Pope Francis has made gradual progress in his efforts to have women and lay people [...]

The generous “baby cuddler”

By Jinny Throup

Louis Mapp is in his 80’s and a great-grandfather, but he still volunteers in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of a hospital in Alabama (US). Once a week he drives to the hospital to hold, rock, feed and burp newborn babies whose families are unable to be there 24/7. His attention and love provides them with the vital human touch that newborns need. In addition to donating his time, Louis and his wife Melinda have donated one million dollars to the NICU. The Mapps are a heart warming and inspirational example of how important it is to help others.

Bon Jovi’s ‘Soul Kitchens’

By Jerry Brownstein

World famous rock star Jon Bon Jovi is making a new name for himself by opening special restaurants that care for people in need. He already has three ‘Soul Kitchens’ in New Jersey (US), and has plans to keep opening more of them. These restaurants give customers the option to either pay for their food, or volunteer to work in the kitchen if they do not have money. Bon Jovi’s aim is to help people who are facing economic despair. “It is obviously not the same as performing on stage, but after a long night of volunteering at the restaurant I feel a similar sense of fulfilment. It feels good to [...]

Moving company helps abused women

By María V.R.

Getting out of an abusive relationship isn’t easy, and moving away from it can be even more daunting. Hundreds of women in California now have the owners of a special moving company to thank for coming to their rescue. When Meathead Movers first started their business in 1997, they were two brothers in high school who were simply looking for a way to earn some extra money. They would occasionally get phone calls from women with little money who wanted to quickly relocate before their abusers returned home. They always declined any compensation and rushed to the address to load their belongings. [...]

Yo-Yo Ma brightens a vaccination centre

By Jerry Brownstein

Internationally acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma used the time while waiting to get his COVID-19 vaccination to perform an impromptu concert. He brought his cello because, “I simply wanted to give back.” So he treated healthcare workers and the others waiting to be vaccinated to a virtuoso performance of selections by Bach and Schubert. Medical staff said that a hush fell over the clinic as Ma began to play. “It was amazing how peaceful the whole building became.”Yo-Yo Ma has recorded more than 90 albums and received 18 Grammy Awards. He has been a United Nations Messenger of Peace since 2006 [...]

Mexico to legalize cannabis

By Jerry Brownstein

Lawmakers in Mexico have approved a bill to legalize recreational marijuana - a milestone for this country which has been plagued by drug wars. The law allows individual users to carry up to 28 grams of marijuana and grow six cannabis plants at home. Cannabis can be purchased by adults over 18 at authorized businesses, and licenses will be granted for small farms and large commercial growers to cultivate and sell it. Mexico will join Canada and Uruguay on a growing list of countries that have legalized marijuana.This trend is a great boost to individual freedom. It will also free law enforcement [...]

A Whale Tail Tale

By Jerry Brownstein

A fatefully placed whale sculpture in the Netherlands saved a careening train from certain devastation by catching the lead carriage on the graceful arc of its mammoth tail. This amazing incident happened at a metro station when the train’s brakes failed and it overran the track. It would have crashed ten metres to the ground, but was stopped by one of two whale tail sculptures at the end of the track. The driver of the train was able to escape, and there were no other passengers aboard. The sculpture was created in 2002, and it is made out of strong plastic. Its designer, Maarten Struijs, was [...]

More recess is better for education

By Jinny Throup

The Eagle Mountain Elementary school in Forth Worth, Texas (US) has tripled recess time by giving children four 15 minute breaks per day, and the results have proven to be very positive. There were initial worries from the teachers about losing classroom time, and thus not being able to cover all the material they needed to in the time left. However, they have found that the kids are actually learning more because they are better able to pay attention in class without fidgeting. In addition, the children follow directions better, attempt to learn more independently and have fewer disciplinary [...]

Laundry truck for the homeless

By Jinny Throup

Laundry Truck LA is a mobile laundry service for homeless people in Los Angeles (US). It was founded by Jodie Dolan who was a volunteer at the Shower of Hope charity that offers free mobile showers. Jodie was inspired to take action after seeing homeless people benefitting from this mobile shower service, only to have to put their dirty clothes back on their clean bodies. Today Laundry Truck LA and Shower of Hope operate side by side, giving homeless people the opportunity to take a shower and then change into warm, clean clothes. But Laundry Truck LA provides more than just clean clothes. They [...]

Women world leaders promote well-being

By Jerry Brownstein

A refreshing stance on world politics and leadership is coming from a new wave of powerful women. Among them is the Prime Minister of Iceland, Katrin Jakobsdottir, who is standing up for the planet and also urging governments to prioritize the happiness and well-being of their country’s citizens over money and the economy. She says that the forefront of government policy should be social justice, economic security and protecting the environment. These should be the top priorities for all nations of the Earth, and not simply a list of goals as to how they can support their economies. Katrin’s [...]

Woman chief stops child marriages

By María V. R.

Theresa Kachindamoto, senior chief in the Dedza District in Central Malawi (Africa), was tired of seeing 12 year-old girls walking around with babies on their hips. She decided to take action on the matter by enforcing new procedures to prevent child marriage… and she is doing it with serious gusto. The first part of her plan was to make 50 of her sub-chiefs sign an agreement to end child weddings in their areas of authority. Despite initial resistance this was accomplished, and then she went even further by forcing the local leaders to annul many existing underage unions, and to send all of the [...]

Donation to study compassion

By Jerry Brownstein

Banking billionaire Denny Sanford (US) has donated €100 million to the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) for the scientific study of empathy and compassion. This gift was inspired by a private meeting that Sanford had with the Dalai Lama. “I have great respect for the work and teachings of the Dalai Lama, whose interest in the intersection of science and faith is deep and profound,” Sanford said in a statement. “I have had the opportunity to see how grace, humanity and kindness can change people and the world. This gift extends that vision.” Mr Sanford’s net worth is over €2.5 billion, [...]

A homeless man’s success story

By Jinny Throup

Drew Goodall, owner of the Sunshine Shoeshine company, may seem like any successful businessman, but his is an inspirational story of triumph over hardship and deprivation. When he was in his twenties, Drew was on the brink of a promising acting career after securing roles in some important movies. Sadly, after this initial success, work began to dry up. Drew eventually ran out of money and, after being evicted from his home, was forced to live rough on the streets of London. In order to earn some money he had the idea to offer a shoe polishing service to the city’s affluent business community. [...]

A Spanish town promotes happiness

By María V. R.

The municipality of Oia in Galicia has created the first government council in Spain that is dedicated to promoting the happiness of its citizens. Its objective is to give emotional satisfaction to the population and support residents in their personal fulfillment. The mayor of Oia, Cristina Correa, explains that their programs will include cultural and leisure activities for people of all ages, from the youngest to the elderly. Cristina believes that happiness is an historical right that was recognized almost three centuries ago in the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. This is one of her [...]

Grow vegetables in your home

By Jerry Brownstein

If you want to grow some of your own food, but do not have the land to do it, then Ikea’s indoor hydroponic garden system may be just what you are looking for. This simple kit allows you to grow fresh produce at home without the need for soil or any previous gardening experience. Here’s how it works: Seeds are placed in absorbent foam plugs that keep them moist with just the right amount of water. This enables the seeds to sprout, and then the foam plugs are transferred into a small pot that is filled with pumice stones. The pots are placed in a growing tray that is equipped with a solar lamp [...]

Michael Jordan supports racial equality

By Jerry Brownstein

Michael Jordan, regarded by most experts as the greatest basketball player of all time, recently pledged $100 million to improve “racial equality, social justice and greater access to education.” This came in the wake of protests over the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. “We have been beaten down as African Americans for so many years. It sucks your soul. You can't accept it anymore. This is a tipping point. We need to make a stand. We've got to be better as a society regarding race.” The six-time NBA champion hopes that his work will help people take a deep look at themselves [...]

3D road crossings in Spain

By María V. R.

Setting a trap for our brains is one way to control traffic. In 2017 a small Icelandic town tested the effect of optical illusions on road safety. They painted a crosswalk in 3D so that it looked like it was floating in the air. Drivers instinctively stopped because it looked like they would hit a solid wall. This idea has come to Spain, and Valencia now has the country’s first three-dimensional hot-melt crosswalk. This 3D step has been installed on one of the streets with the highest traffic of vehicles and pedestrians, near the Health Centre and the Cultural Centre. The Spanish company TECNOL [...]

Mobile classroom

By Michelle Robertson

With the aim of ensuring that no one misses out on getting an education, a project in San Francisco (US) brings a classroom to the people who need it the most - both kids and adults. The ‘Self-Determination Project Bus’ is a mobile learning centre that was launched by a local school. It travels through some of the poorest neighborhoods of the San Francisco area, offering its facilities to disadvantaged residents - particularly single parents, students who don’t have access to transportation, and youngsters who are afraid to cross gang territories. The refurbished bus is fully fitted with everything [...]

Curing racism with knowledge

By María V. R.

Rather than punishing a group of juveniles for a racist act of vandalism, a prosecutor in the state of Virginia (US) wanted them to understand the error of their ways by reading books - and it worked! In September of 2016 five teenagers were charged with painting graffiti on a historic old schoolhouse which had been used to teach black children during segregation. The school had been covered in swastikas and racist statements. The County Prosecutor, Alexandra Rueda, felt that there was a chance to turn this ugly incident into an educational opportunity. “None of the boys had any prior record, [...]

Berlin rental solution?

By Jinny Throup

Thousands of Berlin residents have joined massive protests over surging rents, and they are demanding the expropriation of more than 200,000 apartments which were sold to big private landlords. They blame this for not only raising rents, but also for changing the character of the city. In the years after German unification in 1990, Berlin became a magnet for artists, musicians and students drawn by housing costs that were far less expensive than in other major European cities. Around 85% of Berliners rent their homes rather than own them. But with an influx of some 40,000 people a year in [...]

Water activated street murals

By Michelle Robertson

No longer does the rainy season make the streets of Seoul, Korea look depressingly dreary. ‘Project Monsoon’ is transforming those grey days with spectacular bursts of colour. When the roads get wet they come alive with bright and colourful murals depicting an underwater world that is teeming with exotic sea life. The project was created in collaboration with the School of the Art Institute in Chicago (US). They use a specially designed hydrochromic paint that only becomes visible when wet. The streets are painted with exuberant designs that beautifully capture the natural beauty of the sea and [...]

Massive donations to protect the planet

By Jinny Throup

The Swiss businessman and philanthropist, Hansjorg Wyss, has donated one billion euros to the Wyss Campaign for Nature as part of an initiative to conserve 30% of the planet’s land and oceans by 2030. Supported by conservation groups including the National Geographic Society and The Nature Conservancy, this campaign has already selected nine conservation projects across thirteen countries to help protect four million hectares of land and 17,000 square kilometres of ocean. Aid will also be given to marine conservation work in the Caribbean and efforts to protect migratory birds in Australia. The [...]

Cruise ships for housing the homeless?

By Jinny Throup

American entrepreneur Ken Capron has come up with the unique idea of using a retired cruise ship, which would be docked in the harbour at Portland, Maine (US), as housing for the homeless. The project is called ‘Hope Harbour’, and though it may seem a little far-fetched, Capron has given the concept a lot of thought, and his initial idea has received some positive reactions. Even the mayor of Portland is impressed with this creative potential solution to the problem of affordable housing options. The cruise ship would be repurposed and split into 5 decks, each providing a minimum of 100 [...]

A massive ‘Women’s Wall’ for equal rights

By Jerry Brownstein

In perhaps the world’s largest ever demonstration for women’s rights, over five million women lined up across the length of the Indian state of Kerala to protest limitations on their freedoms. The events that led to this were a series of violent actions against women trying to enter Kerala’s Sabarimala temple, a popular Hindu pilgrimage site. The Indian Supreme Court had reaffirmed that the temple’s doors had to be open to women of all ages in a sensational blow to religious tradition. The judgement said, “Where a man can enter, a woman can also go. What applies to a man, applies to a woman.”  [...]

The Pope supports indigenous people

By Michelle Robertson

Pope Francis has voiced his support for native people who are trying to protect their lands from being violated for solely economic purposes. He spoke with numerous representatives at the third Indigenous Peoples’ Forum held by the UN in Rome. After those consultations the Pope said that he believed the central issue was “how to reconcile the right to development, both social and cultural, with the protection of the particular characteristics of indigenous peoples and their territories.” He concluded by saying that nothing should happen on their lands without their permission. These sentiments [...]

Amazon owner's ex-wife pledges billions

By Jerry Brownstein

MacKenzie Bezos became the world’s 22nd richest person thanks to her divorce settlement from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. She has recently signed the “Giving Pledge” which means that she has promised to give away at least half of her €33 billion fortune to good causes. MacKenzie, who married Jeff Bezos in 1993 – a year before he started Amazon from his garage in Seattle (US) – said that she had “a disproportionate amount of money to share” and promised to work hard at giving it away to help people. The Giving Pledge is a philanthropic initiative created by the investor Warren Buffett and [...]

Luxembourg to legalize marijuana

By Jerry Brownstein

Luxembourg has called on its EU neighbours to relax their drug laws as it confirmed plans to become the first European country to legalise cannabis production and consumption. Health Minister Etienne Schneider declared, “The drug policy that we have had over the past 50 years did not work. Forbidding everything just made it more interesting to young people, so we are instituting a more open-minded attitude toward drugs.” A government coalition agreement between the Liberals, Social Democrats and Green parties provides for full legalization by 2024. Luxembourg had already legalised the use [...]

No GMOs on Canary Islands

By María V. R.

The government of the Canary Islands has declared by law that they will be free of the production of genetically modified crops (GMOs). This proposal was initiated by the agricultural sector which feared the risk of contamination of their natural seeds by GMOs. In a limited territory such as the islands, the likelihood of unnatural GMO seeds accidently mixing with natural crops is much greater. Once the natural seeds are contaminated, the lawyers of the GMO companies (like Monsanto/Bayer) claim that all of your crops are GMO, and they force the farmers to pay them for all future seeds. The [...]

Artists protest Trump’s border wall

By Jerry Brownstein

As the Trump administration (US) pushes forward with plans to build a comprehensive wall on their southern border, American and Mexican artists are using their talents to paint a brighter picture. Mexican-born, American-educated artist Enrique Chiu is leading this effort to turn the xenophobic fence into a work of art that spreads a message of hope. He launched The Mural of Brotherhood by enlisting more than 2,600 volunteers to paint uplifting messages on the Mexican side of the existing US fence. Their goal is to paint a mural celebrating peace and unity that will stretch over 10 km on the border [...]

Fashion magazine that features mature models

By María V. R.

A fashion and lifestyle magazine called ‘Renaissance’ is unique in that it only uses models aged 40 or older. Their aim is to break with the conventions of the youth-focused fashion industry by showing the beauty of mature women. They are inspired in part by the online movement “That’s Not My Age”. In each issue the magazine explores different aspects of timeless beauty in both style and appearance. The publication, which is based in Sydney, Australia, comes out twice a year, and it also covers mature angles on work, travel and relationships. Mikella Lowe created Renaissance as a 40th [...]

Good Samaritan arises in frigid Chicago

By Jerry Brownstein

In a story that has warmed the hearts of many, Candice Payne is being hailed for her act of kindness that snowballed into a bigger effort which helped Chicago’s homeless keep warm during the Arctic Polar Vortex last winter. This odd weather event sent temperatures plunging to record lows of -40C. The Salvation Army Charity had set up a makeshift camp to help protect the homeless, but it was closed when one of the gas tanks blew up. Ms Payne saw this on the news and realized how potentially deadly the sub-zero temperatures would be for these people who had nowhere to go. She immediately called [...]

Legal marijuana expanding in the US

By Jerry Brownstein

In 2014 Colorado was the first state in the US to fully legalize marijuana sales. Since that time total sales have been almost seven billion dollars, and the state has received more than one billion dollars from marijuana taxes and fees. This revenue funds public education and human services programs throughout the state. Governor Jared Polis said in a statement: "This industry is helping to grow our economy by creating jobs and generating valuable revenue that is going towards preventing youth consumption, protecting public health and safety and investing in public school construction." Colorado [...]

Women help to clear deadly landmines

By María V. R.

Christine Kachataryan clears mines from a disputed territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan. She and her female colleagues are pioneers in a profession that is usually dominated by men. The conflict in this area ended in 1994, but it left an explosive legacy beneath the ground. The Halo Trust, a mine clearance organization which has been operating in the area since 2000, aims to clear all of the mines by 2020, both to prevent further accidents and to make the land economically viable. Women began working for this NGO in 2015. It came as a shock in this patriarchal society where most people believe [...]

Scottish cafes build a village for the homeless

By Jinny Throup

The Scottish cafe chain, Social Bite, has built a village of 11 houses which will accommodate up to 20 homeless people. It is located just north of the country’s capital, Edinburgh, on land donated by the City Council. The village will be operated in conjunction with the Scottish homeless charity Cyrenians. The intention of this project is not just building houses, but building a community. Its aim is to create a village that will provide support and enable these homeless people to begin to rebuild their lives. Social Bite is one of a growing number of business enterprises that aim to help society [...]

Working to end child marriages

By María V. R.

A UN report states that child marriage is a serious problem that affects over 600 million young women and girls throughout the developing world. In India it is a deep-rooted tradition for adult men to marry girls who have not yet reached the age of 15. These girls are given by their relatives in exchange for a dowry, and with the expectation that the union will bring a higher social status for the entire family. Many of these girls are not even sexually developed, but after getting married their husband has the right to force them to have non-consensual sex, which in other countries would be classified [...]

Happiness Lessons in Finland

By Jinny Throup

Finland, which is considered in surveys to be the happiest country in the world, is offering free trips to teach people the simple Finnish art of being happy. The project called Rent A Finn was organised by the ‘Visit Finland’ tourism bureau. It gives a select number of guests the opportunity to live in Finnish households for three days and to experience life as the Finns do. The Finns attribute their relaxed and cheerful lives to their connection with nature so guests will experience such things as visiting a national park, berry picking, boating, camping out and enjoying a proper Finnish sauna. [...]

Self-made billionaire pays it forward

By Jerry Brownstein

Robert F. Smith worked his way up from the poor black neighbourhood of his youth to become the chairman and CEO of the technology investment firm Vista Equity Partners. He was recently invited to give the commencement address at Morehouse College, a prestigious all-black university in Atlanta, Georgia (US). As he started delivering his speech the 400 graduates probably thought it would be the usual commencement message of how to go forth in life, etc... but then he surprised them. He stopped... stared at the crowd... and said, “My family and I are going to create a grant to eliminate all [...]

Progress ending torture of bulls in Spain

By Jerry Brownstein

A ruling by Spain’s Supreme Court has definitively brought an end to the traditional way of celebrating the Toro de la Vega, a medieval bull festival held in the town of Tordesillas in central Spain. No longer will a bull be lanced to death by a spear-wielding crowd after having been chased to the banks of the River Duero. It is the final chapter in a long-running legal battle by animal rights groups to outlaw this bloody tradition. The Supreme Court upheld a regional law that outlawed the death of a bull as part of fiestas in all towns throughout the region. They rejected an appeal from the Tordesillas [...]

Texas city pays the homeless

By Jinny Throup

The city of Fort Worth, Texas has created a program whereby homeless people are being paid $10 per hour to clean up the streets. The Clean Slate program is run by the Presbyterian Night Shelter charity with the help of city funding. It aims to give dignity to homeless people by providing them with an income which will ultimately allow them to move out of homeless shelters, whilst simultaneously keeping the neighbourhood clean. Similar programs are in place in several cities across the United States including Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, Albuquerque and Portland, Maine.

New Zealand responds to hate with positive action

By Jerry Brownstein

New Zealand's parliament voted almost unanimously in favour of changing the country's gun laws, less than a month after a mass shooting that left 50 innocent people dead. The passage of the bill was a direct response to that horrendous event which took place at two Christchurch mosques on 15 March, 2019. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described that incident as "the darkest of days in New Zealand's history." Members of parliament voted 119 to 1 to completely ban all military-style semi-automatic weapons. Ms Ardern told lawmakers that in passing this ban they were giving a voice to those killed [...]

Village for the homeless in Scotland

By Michelle Robertson

The café chain Social Bite is tackling homelessness in Scotland head on by building a small village near Edinburgh that is just for people without a roof over their heads. This is the next step in the continuing charitable work being done by this group. Over 25% of the staff in their six restaurants are homeless people, and they donated about 100,000 items of food to those in need during 2018. In addition, customers can prepay for meals that homeless people can then claim later. Social Bite founder Josh Littlejohn thinks that homeless people have been ignored politically for too long. “They're [...]

Free train ride with a book in Holland

By Michelle Robertson

Encouraging passengers of all ages to put down their phones and pick up a book, the Dutch state railway gives free travel on special days to anyone who presents a book to the ticket inspectors. Boekenweek is the name of this celebration of literature. As part of the Netherlands’ literary celebrations, every year a well-known Dutch author writes a special novel – the “book week gift” – which is given free to people who buy books during the festivities. Those who present this special book can ride the tram and train network for free the whole day. The Dutch state railway [...]

A very special blood donor

By María V. R.

James Harrison's extraordinary blood has helped to save the lives of 2.4 million babies. Every two weeks for over 60 years he has made a trip to the Red Cross blood bank in Central Coast, Australia. He has a very rare antibody in his bloodstream that is used to make a life-saving medication called Anti-D, which babies need if they have an Rh blood factor different than their mother’s. When a pregnant woman with an Rh negative blood type is carrying a baby with Rh positive blood, her body registers the baby’s red blood cells as a foreign threat like an invading virus or bacteria. This produces [...]

Donation of billions to help students

By Jinny Throup

In what is being hailed as a historic gift for higher education, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has donated $1.8 billion (€1.6 billion) to help low-income students at Johns Hopkins University. Whilst Bloomberg has made dozens of donations to benefit underprivileged university students in the past, this most recent one is the single largest donation ever to be made to an American university. Unlike in most European countries, the cost of attending university in the US is extremely high, and this is a serious barrier to the higher education of those who are less advantaged. It is particularly [...]

A ‘Design for Change’ in education

By María V. R.

Kiran Bir Sethi from India has developed an innovative educational system called ‘Design for Change’ (DFC). It is a teaching model in which the children are given more freedom to express themselves as they are guided to learn in a way that encourages self confidence. Kiran decided to dedicate herself to the world of education after visiting her son's school and realizing that he was being treated as merely a number – just part of the country's educational statistics. She decided to create DFC in order to offer a much more personalized form of education, and she started her own school called the [...]

India decriminalizes homosexuality

By María Vila Rebolo

Indian’s Supreme Court has passed a historic ruling which insures that homosexuality is no longer a criminal offense. Homosexuality featured prominently in the religious texts and sculptures of India prior to 1850. This changed during British colonial rule when a law was passed which made consensual “sexual activity that went against the laws of nature” punishable by up to life in prison. Although there have not been many prosecutions under this law, members of the LGBT community claim that it has been used to ostracize and stigmatize them. Years of hard work by the Naz Foundation and [...]

Amazing journey from refugee to US Congress

By Jerry Brownstein

Ilhan Omar, who lived in a Somali refugee camp when she was a girl, was recently elected to be the first Muslim women to serve in the US Congress. Ilhan and her family fled the civil war in Somalia in 1991, and she spent four years in the squalid Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. At the age of 12 she and her six brothers and sisters were fortunate to be chosen for the US resettlement programme. In America she found freedom and the opportunity for advanced education. She became a community organizer dedicated to making life better for those who are disadvantaged, and this has led to her groundbreaking [...]

Pay what you can

By María V. R.

Over 10% of households in Toronto, Canada don’t have access to nutritious and affordable food. Initiatives like the pay-what-you-can grocery that recently opened there, are an innovative way to improve that situation. Everything in this market was donated by food terminals, farms, restaurants, cafés, supermarkets and bakeries. None of it is expired or rotten, but the companies are giving it away because, either they have too much to store, or the produce is bruised or misshapen. So they give it to Feed It Forward, which in turn allows customers to come in, shop, and pay whatever they can… or nothing [...]

Music at 432 Hz: Nature’s vibration

By Jerry Brownstein

Most of the world’s music is tuned to the level of 440 Hz (Hertz), which means that the music vibrates 440 times per second. However, a growing number of musicians and researchers feel that this level is not in harmony with the vibrations of the universe. Science tells us that everything in the universe has a vibration – the stars, the planets, our bodies, DNA... everything. So if the music we hear is not in synch with our natural rhythms, perhaps it is not generating the best effects in our consciousness. This has led to a trend of tuning music to 432 Hz which is said to be consistent with the [...]

Free health care for India’s poor

By Michelle Robertson

In a bid to give the poorest people of India basic health care, the government has declared that they will pay for around 500 million citizens to be covered by private health insurance. This is the largest government health plan of its kind in the world. Prime Minister Narendra Modi says that he wants to improve the country´s health so that together they can “reach our full potential”. The current situation is dire with public hospitals strained to the point of collapse, and medical costs contributing to the poverty that plagues India. The new National Health Protection Mission – also [...]

Education for Cameroon’s women

By María V. R.

The Spanish NGO Zerca y Lejos (Z&L) sponsors a program in northern Cameroon (Africa) that gives academic scholarships to girls without financial resources, so that they can attend university. The aim is to help these young women avoid the trap of early marriage and a dependent life. Traditionally, the women in Cameroon have had very limited opportunities to advance their education. Poor families usually prefer to give their daughters in marriage in order to collect the dowry. Monika Tasou'ou' is one of the lucky ones who will realize her dream of studying at the University of Maroua. Z&L [...]

A 102-year-old woman skydiver

By María V. R.

Breaking stereotypes about old age, 102-year-old Irene O’Shea of South Australia has created a new world record by becoming the oldest skydiver in the world. Age and altitude are nothing but numbers for this extraordinary woman. She chose to celebrate her birthday by going skydiving for a local charity - a yearly tradition that she has followed since turning 100. As in years past, the centenarian dedicated her fearless jump to her late daughter, who died from Motor Neuron Disease (MND). O’Shea has since partnered with the MND Association of South Australia to raise awareness and funds [...]

The #trashtag challenge goes viral

By Jerry Brownstein

Beaches, parks, nature trails, and other outdoor spaces are getting a lot cleaner thanks to a popular organizing challenge on social media. The #trashtag challenge involves taking photos of a littered area before and after cleaning it up. Facebook user Byron Román ignited the trend with a viral post which said: “Here is a new challenge for all you bored teenagers. Take a photo of an area that needs some cleaning or maintenance, and then take a photo after you have done something about it, and post it.” That original Facebook post was shared 314,000 times, and it has created a wave of imitators. [...]

A milestone for women’s rights

By Jerry Brownstein

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern became the first elected leader in history to take maternity leave. Ardern took office in October, 2017 after a rapid political rise that saw her approval ratings rise to historic heights. Three months later she announced that she was pregnant with her first child and intended to take maternity leave. Her partner, Clarke Gayford, will be a stay-at-home dad for their daughter. The 38-year-old Ardern gave birth to her daughter in June of 2018, and the Deputy Prime Minister assumed her duties during for the six weeks that she was off. The prime minister [...]

The value of autistic employees

By Jinny Throup

London based Auticon is an information technology (IT) consultancy with a difference. The company, which topped the “one to watch” category at the UK Social Enterprise Awards of 2017, has a workforce made up entirely of people with various levels of autism and Asperger’s (a syndrome closely related to autism). Launched in 2016, Auticon helps autistic adults find work by coaching them and then connecting them with major companies across the UK. They also give potential employers advice on how to create an autism-friendly work environment. They have placed clients with many top firms including Channel [...]

A revolution of women artists

By María V. R.

The Guerrilla Girls is a group of women artists whose goal is to combat sexism and racism in the art world. In their public protests they wear gorilla masks, using humor and irreverence to denounce the prejudices against gender and race. This movement took its first steps back in 1985 with a campaign of posters that directly attacked the museums, galleries and critics responsible for the exclusion of women and black people from exhibitions and publications. In those days only 5% of the collections of contemporary art had works by women artists. Thirty years have passed since the first [...]

Supermarkets with ‘quiet shopping’

By Jinny Throup

The UK supermarket chain Morrisons has introduced a “quiet hour” in order to create a calmer shopping experience for customers who have autism. Every Saturday morning between 9:00 and 10:00, all of the chain’s 493 branches will switch off the music, avoid public address announcements, dim the lights, reduce the movement of trolleys and turn the volume of checkout beeps down. The initiative was devised in collaboration with the National Autistic Society and came about after a survey by Morrisons revealed that one in five of its customers has a friend or family member with autism. Whilst the quiet [...]

Saudi woman climbs to new heights

By Jerry Brownstein

Raha Moharrak was born into the Saudi Arabian culture which harshly suppresses women, but that has not stopped her from climbing the highest mountains in the world - including Mount Everest. When she was 25 her parents felt it was time for her follow custom and get married, but Raha had different ideas. She wanted to go with a friend to climb Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa, but her family and the Saudi society were completely against that idea. "It enraged me that the colour of my passport dictated my capabilities. It enraged me that my gender made them think they can tell me what I can and cannot [...]

Tiny homes improve lives

By Jinny Throup

A ‘tiny home’ community is being developed in Detroit, US, to help the city’s low-income population by allowing them to become homeowners. According to Reverend Faith Fowler, author of “Tiny Homes in a Big City,” the goal is to give these people the security of having a place to live, plus a solid asset that they can use to borrow money to start a business or get over a financial emergency. The houses, all of which are architecturally different, vary between 75 and 120 square metres. Some are studios, some have a separate bedroom and others have a loft. They are well insulated and feel much more [...]

The Dalai Lama inspires a class in happiness

By Michelle Robertson

India is leading the way in helping its children to overcome negative emotions by introducing a ‘happiness curriculum’ for students... and none other than the Dalai Lama is heading up the initiative. This class seeks to improve the students’ physical and mental wellbeing by alleviating emotions like anger, hate and jealousy. Speaking about the plan the Dalai Lama said: “Only India has the ability to combine modern education with ancient knowledge to achieve the fulfilment of human emotions.” He added that, “Such a combination will pave the way for physical and mental wellbeing, solving troubles [...]

Iceland abolishes the gender wage gap

By Carmen Loren

Iceland is the first country in the world to prohibit by law the practice of men being paid more than women for jobs of the same category. At the beginning of 2018 this law came into force, and it establishes that salary differences by gender are illegal in both private and public companies with more than 25 employees. Before this law, Icelandic women were paid an average of between 14 and 20% less per hour than their male colleagues who had the same job category and equal studies. After years of struggle and demonstrations led by women, the government has finally taken action. This new law requires [...]

Catalonia legalizes marijuana clubs

By Jerry Brownstein

The days of Catalonia’s cannabis clubs operating in a legal limbo are coming to an end, as the Catalan Parliament approved new laws to regulate the cultivation, consumption, and transport of adult-use cannabis. This marks the first time that a major European region will effectively make cannabis a legal commodity. It took three years to craft this law because “We did not want to do something halfway,” said Alba Vergés, of the Ministry of Health of the Parliament. They wanted to avoid the type of “backdoor law” which has existed for decades in Amsterdam, where selling marijuana is legal but cultivation [...]

Banning sexist ads in the UK

By María V. R.

Advertisements in the UK will no longer be able to depict gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm or widespread offence. This change to the Advertising Codes applies to broadcast and non-broadcast media, and it follows a public consultation and review of gender stereotyping in ads. The review found evidence that harmful stereotypes can restrict people’s choices, aspirations and opportunities, and these prejudices are reinforced by some forms of advertising. Under the new rules, British companies will no longer be able to create promotions that depict men and women engaged in gender-stereotypical [...]

Vast ancient cities discovered in Cambodia

By Jerry Brownstein

Archaeologists from Australia have used cutting-edge airborne laser scanning technology to reveal cities between 900 and 1,400 years old beneath the tropical forest floor near Angkor Wat in Cambodia. This is one of the most significant archaeological discoveries in recent years, and experts think that these densely populated cities could have been the largest empire on earth in the 12th century. Dr Damian Evans was the lead researcher on this project, and his results were published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.   The new cities were found using a ‘Lidar Survey’, which [...]

Head injury creates a musical genius

By Jinny Throup

When Derek Amato suffered a major concussion after diving into the shallow end of a swimming pool, he had no idea how drastically his life was about to change. A few days after the injury Derek went to visit a musician friend, and Derek suddenly felt overwhelmingly drawn to his friend’s piano. He sat down and started to play, and even though he had never played the piano before, it was as though he’d been doing it his entire life. To both his friend’s and his own astonishment, he found himself producing a fluid melody that they had never heard before. Derek reported that after the accident [...]

Kenyan women are changing traditional taboos

By María V. R.

Not long ago Mary Auma and her three children were living in a one-room house and struggling to survive in rural Kenya. But their lives changed for the better when she was able to raise the €1,300 required to purchase 4,000 square metres of land and two cows. She now has financial security with a sustainable income, and has moved with her family to a nicer neighborhood. This is all because two years ago Ahero joined one of the groups known as ‘table banking’. This is a system backed by NGOs which brings women together to ‘put their finances on the table’. By pooling their assets they are able [...]

Pavement lights for ‘smartphone zombies’

By Jerry Brownstein

The lights that signal pedestrians when to cross the street are no longer just at eye-level in several cities across Europe. In order to catch the attention of people looking down at their smartphones, these municipalities have installed LED lights directly into the pavement at several intersections. These light strips are designed to change colour to match traffic signals, and their purpose is to ensure the safety of ‘smartphone zombies’, who are so addicted to their phones that they rarely look up. This aspect of smartphone addiction has become quite a problem. In 2017 over 250 pedestrians [...]

Refugees counsel refugees

By Jinny Throup

Refugees in Germany are being trained as mental health counsellors to offer psychological support in the mother tongue of asylum seekers with similar backgrounds. After noticing a distinct lack of mental health support for refugees, the charity Médecins Sans Frontières launched this pilot project at a hospital in Bavaria. Many arriving asylum seekers have experienced severe trauma and, project coordinator Henrike Zellman says, “that is why we wanted to start a pilot project like this.” Newly arrived refugees are offered psychological support in their own language. Their counsellors are [...]

Teenager aims to plant one trillion trees

By Jinny Throup

Felix Finkbeiner is a young man of extraordinary ambition whose aim is to restore the world’s forests by planting one trillion trees. This lofty goal started when Felix was just nine years old and was given a school assignment on climate change. His research led him to understand the importance of reforesting the planet to slow down the earth’s warming. He also saw that immediate action was imperative to save the future of his own, and subsequent generations. Naturally articulate and inspirational, Felix’s presentation on trees was a hit, and as a dramatic closing phrase, he laid down the challenge [...]

Billionaire gives away his fortune to save the oceans

By Jerry Brownstein

A man who has profited from the abundance of the oceans through his fishing business, now wants to give back to the waters that gave him so much. Kjell Inge Røkke, a Norwegian billionaire, is investing “the lion’s share” of his $2.7 billion fortune to build the Research Expedition Vessel (REV) - a 600-foot ship that will travel the oceans sucking up plastic waste. It is capable of accumulating and recycling up to five tons of plastic per day, and it will also double as a mobile laboratory for scientists to monitor and observe the oceans’ ecosystems. The ship was designed in collaboration [...]

University classes in happiness

By Jerry Brownstein

Yale University (US) is famous for academic excellence in a wide range of complex subjects like organic chemistry, classic literature, economic theory, etc., etc.. Yet the most popular course at this storied institution is ‘Psychology and the Good Life’ – or as the students call it ‘Happiness 101’. One fourth of the University’s students have enrolled in this course for the current year. That’s nearly 1,200 students, which is the largest enrolment reported for a single class in Yale’s 317 year history!Psychology professor Laurie Santos teaches the students how to live more fulfilling and [...]

Meditation expands in schools

By Javier Alcaraz

A growing number of schools and colleges worldwide have started to introduce meditation to the classroom with techniques such as Transcendental and Mindfulness Meditation being practiced more and more. These practices are not linked to philosophical nor religious teachings, but are aimed at calming the mind. They bring many benefits to the students and teachers that use them: stress reduction, improved academic performance, better concentration, reinforcement of self-esteem and social skills. Over 340 scientific studies have confirmed the effectiveness of meditation in improving health and learning. [...]

Afghan girl creates a ‘sweet’ business

By María Vila Rebolo

In war-torn Afghanistan honey is regarded as a traditional cure-all, but for a 19 year old girl named Frozan, honey has allowed her to create a business in a country where very few women are able to do that. Three years ago she obtained a small loan to buy two beehives, and she learned about beekeeping through a non-profit organization called Hand in Hand International. In her first harvest she collected 16kg of honey which enabled her to pay back the loan and still have money left over. Frozan now has 12 beehives, and last year she collected 110 kg of honey which earned her 100,000 Afghanis (€1,200) [...]

Bringing life to abandoned villages

By María Vila Rebolo

For all those who currently have problems in finding decent housing, perhaps the latest news about abandoned villages in Spain offers you a good opportunity. It has been said that "houses without people are for people without houses". Most of these villages became empty due to decades of gradual abandonment caused by their location in places with difficult climates and geographies, which only gave them the capacity for subsistence economies. But in the 21st century - with all of its technological advantages including solar panels that provide electricity - it is now possible to harmonize economic [...]

Spain moves to curb gender violence

By Carmen Loren

The Spanish Congress of Deputies has, for the first time ever, approved guidelines to guard against gender violence. This summer it has passed a package of 200 measures which include: a mistreated woman will not have to file a denuncia at the police in order to access social assistance and receive support; the confession of the abuser will no longer be cause for reducing his sentence; a ban on prison visits by the children to a mistreating father. On the educational level, it will be required that school curriculums include specific content on gender equality and against gender-based violence.This [...]

Helping the homeless with tiny houses

By Jinny Throup

The city of Austin, Texas (US) is striving to give its homeless citizens a better life with an innovative residential program. It’s called the Community First Village, and this 11 hectare development provides affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community for the homeless and disabled of Austin. In addition to its mix of small affordable housing options, the Village offers a variety of amenities including a medical facility, community gardens, a market and even an outdoor cinema. The mission of this heart-warming initiative is not only to give the people [...]

Inmates teach other prisoners to read

By Jinny Throup

There are several charities in the UK that teach prisoners how to read, but one called Shannon Trust has something that makes it unique… all of its 2,000 or so teachers are prisoners themselves. About 50% of all prisoners in England are “functionally illiterate” which means that they have a reading age of eleven or lower… and many of them are completely illiterate. This is particularly isolating in a prison environment because inmates who are unable to read or write letters are cut off from their friends and family who are a valuable source of mental and social support. Shannon Trust inmate [...]

Successful chef to help women in her home country

By Carmen Loren

María Marte is a chef who has worked extremely hard to achieve two of the coveted Michelin Stars, and she is the only woman in Spain to hold that honor. Yet she will temporarily leave her job at the prestigious Madrid restaurant, Club Allard, to set up a catering school in her home country of the Dominican Republic – a school which gives women without resources the chance to have a better life. At the age of 24, Marte had to leave her two children in order to come to Spain in search of a better life for them and for herself. Her new life began by scrubbing floors and dishes in one of Madrid's [...]

Dissolving violence with music

By María Vila Rebolo

Some people may not believe that music can properly combat terror, but Karim Wasfi, the renowned conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, is proving otherwise. When car bombs shook the population of Baghdad, Karim played his cello the very next day at the site of the explosions, to show resilience against terrorism. Images and video clips of the man some simply call "maestro" quickly went viral - not only on Iraqi social media, but further abroad. His aim is to show that music and culture are very important in times of turmoil, as they give people reasons to focus on how they want to [...]

Peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea

By María Vila Rebolo

After decades of military clashes, and the absence of diplomatic relations, Eritrean President Isaias Agwerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed signed a declaration of peace between the two countries in July of 2018. This opens the door to a new era of political, economic, social and cultural cooperation. The Horn of Africa is a key area of international geopolitics, so peace between these countries is essential to stability in the region. For many years Eritrea struggled to become independent from Ethiopia, and finally achieved a peaceful separation in 1993. However, several points of demarcation [...]

A famous chef feeds the homeless

By Michelle Robertson

Michelin-starred chef Massimo Bottura is opening two new restaurants in Paris and Naples that are solely dedicated to the people who need them the most. In a huge contrast from his other establishments – which charge around €250 per head – the new eateries will feed about 100 people a day using leftovers from supermarkets. Instead of the food going to waste, it is made into hearty meals for predominantly homeless people. The first of these restaurants was opened in Milan. It is housed in an old theatre on the outskirts of the city that has been converted into a comfortable place to eat. In addition [...]

Silent fireworks

By Jinny Throup

A town in Italy has recently introduced new legislation which mandates that only silent fireworks can be used at celebrations. For the people of Collecchio in the province of Parma, this is a way of respecting their animals, and also reducing the stress that is caused by the loud explosions of a typical fireworks display. With their highly sensitive hearing, animals are often confused as to where the loud noises are coming from. This can result in heart problems, tremors and often running away in panic. But this is not just about animals. Many people would prefer [...]

Spiderman to the rescue in Paris!

By Jerry Brownstein

As an undocumented migrant in France, Mamoudou Gassama knew it was best to not draw attention to himself, but when he spotted a young child dangling from the balcony of a fourth-floor Paris flat he felt he had to act. In that split second Gassama, 22, did not think of himself or the threat of discovery and deportation back to Mali. Instead, in an extraordinary feat of strength and bravery that has earned him the nickname “Le Spider-Man”, he pulled himself up from balcony to balcony, before lifting the crying four-year-old to safety.Video of his heroic act went viral and [...]

Victory for the rights of women in Ireland

By Jerry Brownstein

Ireland has voted by a landslide to lift the ban on abortion that had been in its constitution for three decades. Voters in a nationwide referendum were asked if they wished to scrap a 1983 amendment to the constitution that effectively banned abortion by giving an unborn child and its mother equal rights to life. The outcome of this vote on 24 May, 2018 was a complete turnaround from the original 1983 referendum. Thirty five years ago 67% of the Irish electorate voted for the ban, and now 67% have voted to give women full reproductive rights. Young voters were overwhelmingly in favour of [...]

A generous man changes a girl’s life

By María Vila Rebolo

In order to help his 10-year-old son who lacks an arm, Callum Miller found an online charity called Team UnLimited that uses 3D printers to make robotic arms. But the waiting list for the prosthesis was 18 months, and this ingenious father refused to wait that long. He decided to buy his own 3D printer, and he downloaded different models of artificial arms until he was able to create the perfect one for his son. The most beautiful part of this story is that Callum not only transformed the life of his son, but also that of Keira Campbell and her family in Hardwick, UK. Callum [...]

Women without veils revolutionize Iran

By María Vila Rebolo

The Girls of the Revolution’s Street is a broad peaceful movement of Iranian women who do not want to cover themselves with a veil, as is currently mandatory under Iranian law. They carry out their protests in the main streets of Iran. At the end of January 2018 the women chose visible locations where they stood and shook their veils that are tied at the end of a stick. It is the first time, since the big protests during the early years of the Islamic Republic in the 1980s, that a generation of Iranian women has expressed their personal freedoms in an organized way. [...]

World Bank stops funding oil and gas projects

By Michelle Robertson

In a piece of enlightening news for our environment, the World Bank has announced that it will stop all of its funding for the exploration and extraction of oil and gas by the end of 2019. They will focus instead on ways to promote financing for projects in the developing world that shift energy production away from traditional fossil fuels. Spokesmen for the Bank said that the decision was taken in conjunction with their desire to assist countries to achieve lower greenhouse gas levels in line with the pledges they made in the 2015 Paris Agreement. That agreement [...]

People like to read Good News!

By Jerry Brownstein

The Ibiza Optimista is based on the idea that people like to read good news. This seems like common sense, and the Guardian newspaper in the UK set out to see if it was true. Over a year ago they launched a project to see how their readers would respond to 150 stories which they wrote about good things happening in the world. They carefully analyzed the reactions to these articles and came to the conclusion that good news is greatly appreciated. The results showed that when you write about positive events people take notice; they read to the end; they share it more often with their friends; [...]

France bans smartphones in schools

By Michelle Robertson

Children under 15 in France are no longer allowed to use their smartphones in school thanks to a new policy that began at the beginning of this school year (2017/18). The country's education minister Jean-Michel Blanque says that mobile phones have been prohibited not only in classrooms, but at breaks, lunchtimes and between lessons as well. In explaining the policy he said: “These days, the children don’t play at break time anymore. They are all just in front of their smartphones, and from an educational point of view, that’s a problem.” He went on to say that this is a bid to establish a “healthier [...]

New pet protection laws in Spain

By Jinny Throup

In February 2018, new protection laws came into effect that will hopefully end the suffering of many animals in Spain. Ratification of the European Convention was first proposed in 2007, and the National Association for the Defence of Animals has applauded the fact that Spain has finally ratified the agreement to protect pets. Under this agreement the disgusting torture of animals by drowning, suffocation, electrocution and the use of poison or drugs will finally be made completely illegal. In addition, surgery for no medical purpose, such as the amputating (docking) of tails, sectioning [...]

Prisoners create storybooks for their children

By Jinny Throup

The Inside Stories project helps prisoners to maintain relationships with their young children by creating original illustrated storybooks and CDs for them.The prisoners work together with skilled professional writers, artists and musicians to write, illustrate and record their stories. Each child receives a copy of the book his or her father has created, along with a recording on CD which allows them to hear their dad’s voice. Nicky Goulder is the co-founder and chief executive of the charity Create which runs The Inside Stories. She explains [...]

Peace march in Palestine

By Michelle Robertson

"We are allowed to say this out loud – we are lovers of peace!” was the statement that summed up the feelings of more than 30,000 Israeli and Palestinian women who took part in the 2017 edition of the Women Wage Peace marches in Palestine. Dressed in white, the women marched together through the desert to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, to demand an end to the conflict. After two weeks of events there was optimism that the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would take another step forward in finding a solution for [...]

Virtual reality for seniors

By Jinny Throup

A group of elderly residents took part in a study designed to measure virtual reality’s impact on the emotional well-being of seniors. For many people, growing older often leads to a lack of mobility, and it can be harder to get out and about. This, in turn, can create feelings of isolation, frustration and sadness. A virtual reality company in the US called Visual carried out this experiment. It was designed to provide seniors with an experience that actually improved the quality of their lives - not just give them a one-time diversion. Twenty five residents at a retirement living centre took [...]

Crowdfunding to help the homeless

By Jinny Throup

Entrepreneur Alex Stephany has launched a new digital platform called Beam which allows people to fund employment training for homeless people in the UK. It’s a new way to use crowdfunding technology to help the homeless rebuild their lives by getting them back to work. Donors can either support a specific individual or have their donation benefit the overall campaign. All the money raised goes towards employment training, career advice and the search for stable work opportunities. Full details of exactly how the money is spent can be found on the Beam website.Homeless people are nominated [...]

Canada to legalize marijuana

By Jerry Brownstein

The Canadian government legalized marijuana on 1 July, 2018, in a move that fulfilled a campaign promise made by prime minister Justin Trudeau. Mr Trudeau has often spoken out about the need to decriminalise and regulate recreational marijuana, arguing that it would help ensure that it is kept away from children and that profits don’t end up in the hands of “criminal elements”. Medical marijuana was already legal throughout the country, and this new law  make Canada the first major industrial nation to fully legalise marijuana use.The new legislation cover the licensing [...]

Positive thinking improves performance

By Jerry Brownstein

Many self-help and motivational programs use positive thinking and affirmations to change peoples’ lives for the better - and now there is scientific proof to back that up. According to a recent study of over 44,000 people, just telling yourself “I can do better” can make you more successful at a given task. This experiment was designed to see if motivational techniques really help performance. In conjunction with the BBC Lab UK, Professor Andrew Lane and his colleagues tested to see which physiological skills would help people improve their scores in an online game.The study examined [...]

Thousands march in Barcelona to support refugees

By Jerry Brownstein

About 160,000 people marched through the streets of Barcelona on 18 February 2017, in protest of the Spanish government’s failure to meet its pledge to take in thousands of refugees. Ada Colau, the mayor of Spain’s second largest city, had called on Barcelona residents to fill the streets and march under the slogan “volem acollir” (“We want to welcome them” in Catalan). Many of those flooding the major Via Laietana thoroughfare carried signs reading “Enough excuses, welcome them now”.The protesters were urging the government in Madrid to take action on its pledge to take in about 16,000 [...]

Basic Income to be tried in Finland

By Jerry Brownstein

Finland has launched an experiment in which some citizens who are on unemployment benefits will begin to receive a monthly basic income of €560. This pilot study will run for two years, and it aims to assess whether basic income can help reduce poverty and bureaucracy, while also boosting the economy. The scope of the program was originally much more ambitious and would have tested the concept of a complete universal basic income (UBI). In such a system every citizen has the right to start getting a monthly payment the day they turn 21, and they continue receiving it for the rest of their life. [...]

Millions march in protest of Trump

By Jerry Brownstein

In January 2016, about four million people responded to the inauguration of President Donald Trump by gathering the next day for the Women’s March in Washington DC, and at sister marches in cities across the country and around the world. The march was a protest in support of gender equality and other civil rights that they feel are threatened by the incoming administration. In Washington DC about 500,000 filled the National Mall, and there were similar sized crowds in both New York and Los Angeles. Every major city had large demonstrations, and Women’s Marches were also held in cities throughout [...]

Heimlich comes to the rescue

By Jerry Brownstein

When a women began to choke while having dinner at a restaurant in Ohio (US), a man from a nearby table jumped up and saved her by applying the famous Heimlich Manoeuvre. What makes this story such a twist of fate is that the man who saved her was a 96-year-old retired surgeon named... Henry Heimlich... the doctor who invented this procedure 40 years ago! Though the manoeuvre bears his name, Dr Heimlich had never performed it on someone choking – until now.Before he created this method in the 1970s, choking was a major cause of death. After reading about thousands of [...]

Meals for the needy... with style

By Michelle Robertson

At the Kansas City (US) Community Kitchen, the diners are welcomed at the entrance and led to a table where their orders are taken by the staff. This would be the normal procedure at any regular restaurant, but in this case it’s the needy and homeless who are being given the opportunity to dine with a certain level of respect and grace. The traditional waiting in line with a tray associated with such places has been replaced by the feeling of a contemporary restaurant – a place where people can raise their heads high and enjoy the experience of ‘dining out’.    This [...]

Holland closes prisons for lack of criminals

By Michelle Robertson

In what has been described as ‘a national blessing’, the Dutch government has announced that, thanks to a continual decline in serious crimes, it will permanently close 19 of its prisons. According to Ard van der Steur, the country’s minister of security and justice, the reason is twofold: judges are granting shorter sentences because the crimes are less serious, and the overall crime rate has steadily declined in recent years.There is even more good news, as this trend doesn’t stop in Holland. Sweden has also closed a number of its jails because it doesn’t have enough [...]

Palestinian woman wins prize for teaching non-violence

By Jerry Brownstein

More than 8,000 teachers from around the world were nominated to be Global Teacher of the Year, and the winner for 2016 was a former refugee who decided to teach children about self respect and non-violence. Hanan al-Hroub grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp and as an adult, saw her own children changed by the violence on the West Bank. Playing games with her kids helped them to readjust, and this inspired her to return to school and get a degree in Elementary Education.She opened her own primary school where she uses playful academic lessons to teach non-violence while building [...]

The ‘Marijuana Nuns’ of California

By Jane Charilaou

An order of non-denominational nuns known as the Sisters of the Valley who’ve been cultivating medical Marijuana since 2008, are defying a ban imposed since 1 March 2016, by the town of Merced, California. Medical Marijuana has been legal in California for 19 years, but a typing mistake in a new law has given this local city the chance to shut it down in their community. However, the three rebellious ‘nuns’ who make up the ‘order’, were undeterred, declaring that they’re “Not accepting this ban. It’s against the will of the people, and that makes it unnatural and immoral.”The ‘Holy Order’ [...]

Proof that happiness is healthy

By Jerry Brownstein

All of us feel better when we are happy, and now medical science is exploring the health benefits of positive emotions. A recent review of more than 200 studies has found that positive psychological well-being is linked to less risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, normal body weight, and overall good health. The studies also showed that among those 60 and over, feelings of happiness and enjoyment were associated with improved mobility and a lower risk of developing a disability. It's even been scientifically proven that happiness can alter your genes. A team of researchers at the University [...]

Obama visited Cuba

By Jerry Brownstein

US President Barack Obama’s trip to Cuba in 2016 was a very big step in the efforts to mend relations between these two neighbouring countries. The visit was made possible when Obama's administration formally reopened ties with Havana in late 2014, following over 50 years of alienation. The US and Cuba had been closely linked for the first half of the 20th century, but friction began to build in 1959 when Fidel Castro’s revolution overthrew the dictator Fulgencio Batista. Diplomatic relations were broken off in 1961, and they became enemies throughout the Cold War. There are about two million [...]

Gender equality education for refugees

By Jerry Brownstein

When he first arrived in Norway, Abdu Osman Kelifa, a Muslim asylum seeker from Eritrea in Africa, was shocked to see women in skimpy clothes drinking alcohol and kissing in public. He said that back home only prostitutes act like that. Mr Kelifa was a perfect candidate to take part in a program that seeks to prevent sexual and other violence, by helping male immigrants from cultures where women are treated as less than equals, to adapt to the freedom of European societies.With more than a million asylum seekers coming to Europe, an increasing number of activists and politicians realize [...]

African refugee immigrant is a big lottery winner

By Michelle Robertson

Sometimes good fortune smiles on those who really, really need it. One such example is a Senegalese man who had absolutely nothing... until winning €400,000 in the Spanish lottery. His name is Ngame, and he arrived in Almeria, Spain, eight years ago, after being rescued from the sea by authorities. Since that time, he and his wife have tried to survive by doing agricultural work and picking vegetables in the greenhouses that cover much of that region. Life had been hard and to make it worse, he had recently been laid off by his current employer.So the big win could not [...]

Historic agreement at Global Warming Summit

By Jerry Brownstein

After years of preparation, and two weeks of furious negotiations, the Global Warming Summit in Paris finally produced an agreement that has been hailed as “historic, durable and ambitious”. On 12 December 2015, the representatives of all 196 countries pledged to limit their carbon emissions to relatively safe levels that would keep global warming below two degrees Celsius. They also agreed to regular reviews of these commitments to ensure that they can be increased in line with future scientific advice. Both developed and developing countries will be bound by these accords, and the rich [...]

Columbia reaches a peace deal

By Jerry Brownstein

A final peace agreement in 2018 between the Colombian government and the leftwing Farc guerrillas heralds the end of the world’s longest-running war, and provides a new model for reconciling bitter enemies. This conflict dates all the way back to 1948, and during that time both sides have committed countless violent crimes against innocent people. To make this deal work each side had to overcome seemingly insurmountable differences over how to create a transitional justice process to deal with these crimes.They eventually reached a judicial framework that drew heavily on [...]

Classrooms in a box

By Michelle Robertson

An ingenious project to provide a compact yet highly developed green energy space to educate children in rural Kenya has been revealed in the form of a 6 x 3 metre ‘classroom in a box’. These structures are strongly built to withstand the extreme conditions of Africa, and yet they contain all the equipment that is needed for education. Each box is a fully equipped classroom that houses not only 11 computers, a server and projector, but runs entirely on solar power.They [...]

CEO shares success with his employees

By Michelle Robertson

In a shining example of sharing success with the team that helped you get there, the owner of an online food ordering company has changed the lives of his employees forever with a staggering €220,000 payout for each and every one of them. Nevzat Aydin’s sold his Turkish company, Yemeksepeti, for a large amount of money, and as a thank you to his 114 employees he set aside €25 million to share among them. It meant a huge bonus equalling 150 times their normal monthly wage. A generous surprise and a reward for their hard work and talent, many of the staff were crying with happiness when they received [...]

The project 'Pay it Forward' changes a city

By Michelle Robertson

People in the US city of Philadelphia have shown great generosity with the success of a ‘pay it forward’ scheme to feed their fellow citizens. Rosa’s Pizza gives its customers the opportunity to pre-pay for a slice of pizza that will be given free to those less fortunate. In less than a year this initiative has provided over 30,000 meals for poverty stricken and homeless people.The idea started with just one customer who left an extra dollar with a Post-it note saying to “use it to buy a slice of pizza for the next person who can’t afford to eat”. Many customers who saw this note posted [...]

Utopia in a Spanish Town

By Jerry Brownstein

The town of Marinaleda in Andalusia looks on the surface like many other towns in the picturesque Campiña valley, but in fact it is remarkably unique. Despite being located in Spain’s poorest region where unemployment is about 37 percent, this town has virtually full employment through its farming cooperative where labourers earn equal wages of 1,200 euros per month. Marinaleda, with a population of 2,700, has virtually no police, no crime, and no poverty – it has been described as “a democratic socialist utopia”. Full employment is a great achievement, but [...]

Norway’s progressive prison system

By Jerry Brownstein

About 75 kilometres off the coast of Oslo in Norway is an island that is home to 120 criminals, including some of the country’s most dangerous who have been convicted of crimes such as murder and rape. Yet there are no barbed-wire-topped walls or electrified fences around the island, nor do armed guards and attack dogs patrol the grounds. This is the Bastoy Island Prison, and it is emblematic of Norway’s dedication to using prisons as a way to rehabilitate and reintegrate criminals into society.At Bastoy the prisoners live in brightly painted wooden cottages, and [...]

Israel and Jordan sign historic water treaty

By Jerry Brownstein

The Israeli and Jordanian governments have signed a bilateral agreement to exchange water and jointly funnel Red Sea brine to the shrinking Dead Sea. As part of the agreement a large desalination plant will be constructed in Aqaba, on the Red Sea where the southern borders of the two countries meet. They will share the potable water that will be produced by the new plant, while a pipeline will send the discarded saltwater to replenish the Dead Sea. In return for its portion of the desalinated water in the South, Israel will double the amount of water that it supplies to Jordan from the Sea [...]

Billionaire gives away his entire fortune

By Jerry Brownstein

Chuck Feeney spent the first 50 years of his life working hard to become incredibly wealthy, and he has spent the last 30 years giving it all away. In 1984 Feeney put all of his money into Atlantic Philanthropies; a foundation he set up with specific instructions to dispense his entire fortune before his death. So far he has donated over five billion euros to various projects that support education, science, health care, aging and civil rights in the US, Australia, Vietnam, Bermuda, South Africa and Ireland. No one at his wealth level has ever given away their entire fortune so completely [...]

US and Cuba restore ties after 53 years

By Jerry Brownstein

President Barack Obama has announced that the United States and Cuba have begun to normalize their diplomatic relations reversing a half-century-old rift between the two countries. According to the agreement, signed in July of 2015, the US and Cuba will not only renew diplomatic ties, but will also undertake a series of friendly actions that include: the US will review Cuba's current status as a state sponsor of terrorism; more Americans will be given permission to travel to Cuba; certain goods and services, such as technology and construction materials will be allowed to export to Cuba. At the [...]

Sweden's prostitution solution

By Jerry Brownstein

In recent years Sweden has dramatically reduced the number of women involved in the sex trade. In the capital Stockholm and other major cities, street prostitution has been reduced by two thirds, and the number of male clients soliciting sex has gone down by 80%. As a result, the trafficking of foreign women into Sweden for prostitution has almost completely stopped. Since the 1970’s Sweden had been renowned for its legal brothels and massage parlors, but that trade has also been greatly reduced. The reason for all of these drastic changes was a groundbreaking law that reversed the way prostitution [...]