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Turkey: Istanbul bookshop that transports young Syrians back home
23 January 2017 - Founder of city's first Arabic bookshop lets children read in their own language and escape the isolation of refugee life. Tucked in a corner across from Istanbul's Kariye museum is a haven for young Syrians who want to do one simple thing: read. Pages, a bookstore and cafe, represents one man's ambitious quest to change the lives of Syrian youth. More than three million refugees, the vast majority of them Syrian, live in Turkey. With Pages, Kadri hopes to create a space for young Syrians curious about the world, who want to escape the isolation of refugee life, and, for a fleeting moment, pretend they are back in their homeland. (more)

India: Delegation in city of Indore to promote use of solar energy
23 January 2017 - A delegation comprising around 60 solar energy enthusiasts who visited the city [of Indore] over the weekend, said an international level symposium may soon be hosted in Indore. The delegation studied the practical utilities and workings of solar energy plants at Barli Institute here Sunday and at Sanawadia village on Saturday. They came to the city as an extended part of an international conference held in Goraj Gujarat over the past week. [This would have been the 6th Solar Cookers International World Conference held 16-22 January, 2017.] (more)

India: Solar energy to power Sambalpur University with 245 Kilowatt plant
23 January 2017 - The Sambalpur University has planned to set up a 245 KW solar power project on its premises in its bid to move towards harnessing eco-friendly sources of energy. M Muthukumar, the registrar of the university, said: 'The Rural Electrification Corporation Limited (REC), under the central ministry of power, will provide the fund for the solar energy project as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR).' (more)

U.S. takes step to boost organic food production
22 January 2017 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday (11 January) took a step toward increasing the production of organic foods -- which has not kept pace with demand -- by launching a program to certify farmland that growers are in the process of switching to organic. Obtaining certification under the program will allow farmers to sell products raised in accordance with organic guidelines for higher prices than conventionally-grown goods, according to the Organic Trade Association, an industry group. That should help growers cover the extra costs associated with transitioning to organic farming, the group said. (more)

Australia: Melbourne tram network to use solar energy by end of 2018, government says
22 January 2017 - A new solar energy plant to be built in regional Victoria will run Melbourne's entire tram network by the end of 2018, the State Government has said. About half of the energy produced by the farms will offset the amount of electricity needed to run 401 trams on Melbourne's network. Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio said the plan was a world first. (more)

US: Vermont's new governor sticking with renewable energy goal
22 January 2017 - Vermont's new Republican governor said Monday he would stick with his Democratic predecessor's long-term goal of getting 90 percent of the energy needed in the state from renewable sources by 2050. For several years, Vermont has been working toward some of the most aggressive renewable energy goals in the country. (more)

British village gets solar battery boost in green energy trial
21 January 2017 - Villagers in northern England may soon see their electricity bills slashed by as much as 50 percent in a pilot project allowing them to use solar power around the clock. The project, financed by energy supplier Northern Powergrid, is the first to analyze how linking batteries can allow more households to install solar panels without expensive upgrades to the grid. (more)

Eco-huts attract tourists, and cash, to Kenyan herding communities
21 January 2017 - 'Eco-manyattas' [are] an environmentally friendly version of a traditional Maasai one-room hut normally built with mud and wood. The eco-manyatta, a solid structure made of bricks and cement, comes equipped with a solar panel, a digester to produce biogas, a water harvesting tank, and a bathroom . . . While maintaining the oblong shape of the traditional building, it is well ventilated thanks to windows in the bedroom and sitting area. And solar power means it has lighting both day and night. The modern manyattas do not require frequent repairs . . . The Twala women's group has decided to add more eco-manyattas on its 40-acre (16-hectare) plot of land in Laikipia County in Kenya's Rift Valley, to expand tourism as a source of income. Since they started welcoming guests in 2007, they have hosted close to 1,000 visitors. Kenyans and foreigners are attracted by the opportunity to experience the Maasai tribal culture but cannot be accommodated in old huts. Nina Kosen Soila, managing director of Eco-Manyatta Afrika, said the tourism business of the Twala women's group was bringing more money into the community -- especially to the benefit of women . . . This can offer girls a different perspective on life, she added. With a higher income, their mothers can pay their school fees and avoid them being married off due to poverty. (more)

German investor morale buoyed by improved situation in Europe
21 January 2017 - The mood among German analysts and investors improved slightly in January, with rising expectations 'a leap of faith for 2017' after a stronger-than-expected performance by Europe's largest economy in 2016, the ZEW economic institute said on Tuesday. 'The slight increase of the ZEW indicator of economic sentiment is mainly due to the improved economic situation across European countries,' ZEW President Achim Wambach said. The German economy expanded at the fastest pace in five years in 2016 and the growth momentum is expected to continue this year. (more)

Peru to begin cleaning up South America's largest lake
20 January 2017 - South America's largest lake is about to get a major clean up after years of uncontrolled pollution. Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said the construction of 10 treatment plants on rivers emptying into Lake Titicaca will carry a price tag of $437 million. He made the announcement Friday during a visit to the high-altitude lake straddling the border with Bolivia. (more)

Mauritius tourist arrivals climb 11 pct in 2016: stats office
20 January 2017 - Visitor numbers to Mauritius rose 11 percent in 2016 compared with the previous year, driven by more arrivals from Europe, official data showed on Tuesday (10 January). Tourism is an important component of the Mauritian economy and a key source of hard currency for the Indian Ocean island state, best known for its luxury spas and beaches. (more)

U.S. makes $500 million grant to climate change fund: State Department
20 January 2017 - The United States has made a $500 million grant to the Green Climate Fund, meant to help developing nations combat climate change, the State Department said on Tuesday, 17 January. (more)

Hawaii bill aims for 100 percent renewable transportation
19 January 2017 - Hawaii has the most aggressive renewable energy targets in the nation, aiming for its utilities to get 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2045. Now advocates want to extend that goal to the transportation sector to urge all forms of ground transportation to fuel up using renewable sources by 2045. The bill is being introduced in the Hawaii Legislature, which began Wednesday (18 January). If passed, Hawaii would be the first in the nation to set such a high goal for its transportation sector. Vermont also has an aggressive goal for renewable fuel in transportation ... (more)

US jobless lowest level in more than 43 years
19 January 2017 - The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped last week to the lowest level in more than 43 years, another sign that most American workers enjoy job security. Unemployment claims are a proxy for layoffs. They have now come in below 300,000 for 98 straight weeks. The low totals suggest that businesses are confident about their prospects that they are holding on staff. (more)

Colombia ELN rebels agree to free captive, start peace talks
18 January 2017 - Colombia's second-largest rebel group has agreed to free a prominent politician held captive for almost a year, clearing the way for repeatedly postponed peace talks to begin next month. The agreement worked out during months of backchannel talks with the National Liberation Army was announced at a news conference Wednesday in Quito, Ecuador. The two sides have been holding exploratory peace talks for more than three years. President Juan Manuel Santos praised the breakthrough from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. (more)

Zambia tries new way to beat drought: solar grain mills
17 January 2017 - Across Zambia, drought that swept across the region last year, leading to widespread crop failure, has sent cereal prices soaring. the result of lack of rainfall hitting hydropower -- mean many small grain mills are charging higher prices for milling, or don't have sufficient capacity. But Zambia's government hopes it has an answer: Since 2015 it has been installing hundreds of small solar-powered mills in rural areas as a way to help hold down the price of producing food. (more)

In latest move, China halts over 100 coal power projects
17 January 2017 - China's energy regulator has ordered 11 provinces to stop more than 100 coal-fired power projects, with a combined installed capacity of more than 100 gigawatts, its latest dramatic step to curb the use of fossil fuels in the world's top energy market. Putting the power projects on hold is a major step towards the government's effort to produce power from renewable sources such as solar and wind, and wean the country off coal, which accounts for the majority of the nation's power supply. (more)

Inspired by Nepalese, UK architect rebuilds ancient temple
16 January 2017 - When a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Nepal last year, villagers in Changu Narayan ran up the steep rocky path that cuts through their town to their renowned temple. Seeing the piles of rubble, they figured their lives were over. Less than two years later, the community is cleaning up their World Heritage Site themselves, and one of the world's leading architects has taken on the recovery as his pet project. British architect John Sanday, who led the World Monuments Fund restoration of Cambodia's Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world, fell in love with the place decades ago. (more)

Want to learn Arabic, Korean, or Swahili? Refugee language tutors can help
16 January 2017 - Although he was a qualified dentist in Syria, Eiad Zinah is doing a postgraduate dentistry degree and English language tests so he can practice in Britain. He joins a growing number of newly-arrived, degree-educated refugees that Chatterbox has employed to teach languages, including Swahili, Arabic, Korean, and Farsi, to university students, businesspeople, and private clients. Former Afghan refugee Mursal Hedayat said she founded Chatterbox after watching her mother, a civil engineer, struggle to get relevant work when they first arrived in Britain in 1994. She now employs dozens of English-speaking refugees from countries like Iran, Syria, North Korea, Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Iraq -- many of whom have worked as lawyers, teachers, health workers, and translators. Hedayat said she hopes the Chatterbox program will expand across Europe and to Canada or the United States, so refugees can gain quality work experience and get to know the local population through language tutoring. (more)

US: President Obama celebrates World Series champion Chicago Cubs (+ videos)
16 January 2017 - President Barack Obama celebrated the World Series champion Chicago Cubs on Monday and spoke about the power sports has to unite people. 'Throughout our history, sports has had this power to bring us together even when the country is divided,' Obama said at a White House ceremony for his hometown team. 'Sports has changed attitudes and culture in ways that seem subtle but that ultimately made us think differently about ourselves.' (more)

US: Retail group launches training for entry-level job seekers
14 January 2017 - Trying to stem high turnover in store jobs, nonprofit groups and chains such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and the Home Shopping Network are launching a program to help people develop the skills to land entry-level jobs and advance in a retail career. More than 20 major retailers including Neiman Marcus and Ashley Stewart have pledged general support for the Rise Up program being launched Sunday [15 January]. It's part of a broader credential plan that would help workers move up that may include training for store supervisors and in specific areas like retail analytics. Thirty-two percent of all first jobs in the U.S. are in retail, the trade group says . . . (more)

Makar Sankranti 2017: From holy dip in Ganga to flying kites, here's how people are celebrating around India (in pictures)
14 January 2017 - India is a land of diversity and each region has its own share of festivals that are celebrated with utmost fanfare and galore. Makar Sankranti is one such occasion that is celebrated across the country -- with different names but with a common purpose. The harvest festival celebrated by Indians across the world, falls on January 14, this year. Here's how people around India celebrated the holy occasion (in pictures): (more)

Feasts with family mark Makar Sankranti celebrations
14 January 2017 - Celebrations, of multiple hues across different communities, will ring in Makar Sankranti, a festival that not only heralds the harvest season in Maharashtra, but also marks the transition of the sun into the zodiacal sign of Makara (Capricorn). The day is regarded as the beginning of an auspicious phase in Indian culture, known as the 'holy phase of transition'. Kite-flying remains the most popular activity among kids. The sessions are expected to get a boost with the festival coming on a weekend this year. (more)

Panera Bread removes artificial ingredients from U.S. menu
13 January 2017 - Bakery cafe operator Panera Bread Co said on Friday (13 January) it had removed artificial ingredients from its food menu and Panera at Home products in the United States. The company had said in August that by the year end it would remove artificial flavors and colors, preservatives and sweeteners from the food served at its 2,000 restaurants. (more)

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