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His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

 

 

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Vatican and Rome's Jewish Museum team up for menorah exhibit
21 February 2017 - Rome's Jewish community and the Vatican have teamed up to produce an exhaustive exhibition on the menorah* . . . an enduring symbol of Jewish culture and religion, in a collaboration that leaders of the two communities described as a further step in solidifying their ties. 'This is a historic event,' Ruth Dureghello, the president of Rome's Jewish community, said at a news conference on Feb. 20. The menorah has connections to Rome, she added, 'so such an important exhibit could only start here.' Jews and Catholics have a long history of mutual suspicion and conflict, but relations between the two religions have been increasingly positive [in the last fifty years]. The exhibit, 'Menorah: Worship, History, Legend,' which includes about 130 artifacts, will open in May and will be presented at the Vatican Museums and at Rome's Jewish Museum. (more)

'Forest cities': the radical plan to save China from air pollution
20 February 2017 - When Stefano Boeri imagines the future of urban China he sees green, and lots of it. Last week, the Italian architect, famed for his tree-clad Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) skyscraper complex in Milan, unveiled plans for a similar project in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing. The [project] will be composed of two neighbouring towers coated with 23 species of tree and more than 2,500 cascading shrubs. 'Such a large number of plants, trees and shrubs is contributing to the cleaning of the air . . . absorbing CO2 and producing oxygen,' the architect said. The structures will reportedly house offices, a 247-room luxury hotel, a museum and even a green architecture school, and are currently under construction, set for completion next year. But Boeri now has even bolder plans for China: to create entire 'forest cities' in a country that has become synonymous with environmental degradation and smog. (more)

Enel Green Power gives renewable energy to new paediatric surgery hospital in Uganda
19 February 2017 - Enel Green Power (EGP) is participating in the project of Emergency [an NGO] and the architect Renzo Piano for the construction of a paediatric surgery hospital in Entebbe, Uganda, which is planned to be a model of paediatric excellence, environmental sustainability, and energy independence in Africa. EGP will provide 2,600 thin-film photovoltaic [solar] modules manufactured at its 3Sun factory in Catania (Italy), for a total of 289.24 kWp (kilowatt peak). The plant, which can be connected to the local medium voltage distribution grid, will give the new hospital energy autonomy and sustainability. The photovoltaic system will be installed on the roof of the hospital in such a way as to ensure its integration with the hospital's architecture, and it will also shelter the underlying structures from sunlight and rain. (more)

Thailand: This company makes food packaging out of bamboo to cut down on trash
18 February 2017 - After growing rapidly in recent decades, Thailand has become one of Asia's biggest economies. But like many other countries in the region, it's been slow to try to combat the millions of tons of trash produced each year. One company is turning to the country's plant life. Universal Biopack makes packaging that it sells to restaurants, organic farmers, and manufacturers. But rather than plastic, it uses a mixture of bamboo and cassava, crops that are widely found across the country. The company is using a technology devised at a Bangkok university to make its zero-waste packaging. It hopes it will eventually replace many of the Styrofoam boxes and plastic bags that end up in huge garbage dumps across Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries. (more)

No alcohol, no violence: life inside the Bolivian community led by women
17 February 2017 - Visually, there is little to distinguish the barrio of Maria Auxiliadora from the other barrios of the working-class southern periphery of Cochabamba, Bolivia. Despite its innocuous appearance, a remarkable history sets this neighbourhood apart: since 1999, Maria Auxiliadora has worked to create a safe environment free from domestic violence, under the leadership of women. Families wishing to live there have to abide by the rules established in the community: no sales of alcohol, and no gender-based attacks. [Its success] has been recognised on an international level. The community was a finalist in the 2008 World Habitat Awards, run by Building and Social Housing Foundation in partnership with UN Habitat. The nomination explicitly recognised the project's success in reducing domestic violence and promoting female leadership in a traditionally patriarchal culture. (more)

Argentina: The caterers with Down's syndrome - video
16 February 2017 - After years of facing social and work-related discrimination, four friends with Down's syndrome started their own pizza company in Buenos Aires in 2016. Los Perejiles now has 24 employees and caters for parties across the Argentine capital, supporting people with Down's syndrome to overcome social stigma. 'I started Los Perejiles so I could work, and to make people happy,' said one of the founders. (more)

2016 was US solar's biggest year to date with record-breaking 95% growth
15 February 2017 - In 2016, the US solar market nearly doubled its annual record, installing 14,626MW [megawatts] of solar PV [photovoltaic systems]. This represents a whopping 95% growth increase over 2015's cumulative 7,493MW, according to latest figures from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Last year was a record-breaking year for US solar on many counts; as it ranked as the number one source of new electric generation capacity additions on an annual basis for the first time ever in 2016. Solar accounted for 39% of new capacity additions across all fuels sources. 'What these numbers tell you is that the solar industry is a force to be reckoned with,' said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA's president and CEO. '. . . More than 260,000 Americans [are] now employed in solar.' (more)

UPS announces $18 million investment in onsite solar energy, 5x onsite solar growth
14 February 2017 - The shipping giant UPS will be investing around $18 million in new onsite solar photovoltaic (PV) projects expected to be completed by the end of the year in the US. The new projects will increase UPS's total onsite solar energy production capacity nearly 5-fold once completed. Altogether, these projects will reportedly total around 10 megawatts (MW) in nameplate electricity generation capacity. The company claims that [the] projects will offset around 8,200 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year. Solar panels have the ability to generate electricity for more than 25 years. UPS will purchase over 26,000 solar panels during the expansion. Once installed, each building will effectively produce 50% of its daily energy use via the sun. (more)

Marine bacteria produce an environmentally important molecule with links to climate: New study
13 February 2017 - Scientists from the University of East Anglia (UK) and Ocean University China have discovered that tiny marine bacteria can synthesise one of Earth's most abundant sulfur molecules, which affects atmospheric chemistry and potentially climate. This molecule, dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) is an important nutrient for marine microorganisms and is the major precursor for the climate-cooling gas, dimethyl sulfide (DMS). It was previously widely thought that only eukaryotes - 'higher' organisms with complex cells, such as seaweeds and phytoplankton - produced DMSP. However, researchers have discovered that many marine bacteria also produce this sulfur compound, and have identified the key gene in the process. (more)

Dutch get creative to solve a prison problem: Too many empty cells
12 February 2017 - The Netherlands has a problem many countries can only dream of: a shortage of prison inmates. While countries like Belgium, Britain, Haiti, Italy, the United States and Venezuela have grappled with prison overcrowding, the Netherlands has such a surplus of unused cells that it has rented some of its prisons to Belgium and Norway. It has also turned about a dozen former prisons into centers for asylum seekers. About a third of Dutch prison cells sit empty, according to the Ministry of Justice. Criminologists attribute the situation to a spectacular fall in crime over the past two decades and an approach to law enforcement that prefers rehabilitation to incarceration. . . . Recorded crime has shrunk by about a quarter over the past nine years, according to the country's national statistics office, and that is expected to translate into a surplus of 3,000 prison cells by 2021. The government has shuttered 19 of nearly 60 prisons over the past three years. (more)

Latest record-low bids underscore solar's vast commercial viability: IEEFA India
11 February 2017 - The record low bids for solar power projects in India may not be a threat to the sector after all. According to a report by Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), these bids are not only commercially viable, they are replicable and sustainable as well. 'This trend is not occurring in a policy vacuum. India's new draft National Electricity Plan, released in December, calls for a fivefold expansion to 258 Gigawatt of renewable capacity by 2027, an expansion that would reduce thermal power capacity share to 43 per cent of India's total from 66 per cent today,' the report said. It added that the solar-auction results mean this target just got substantially easier and more cost effective to implement. 'Costs per unit of power to purchase are tumbling, and - of critical importance - it can now be shown that these prices are not only commercially viable but are likely to be beaten again in 2018, and again in 2019 as total solar costs continue to decline globally at a rate of 10 percent annually,' IEEFA said. (more)

Evidence of 2 billion years of volcanic activity on Mars: Meteorite found in Africa provides clues to evolution of the red planet
10 February 2017 - Analysis of a Martian meteorite found in Africa in 2012 has uncovered evidence of at least 2 billion years of volcanic activity on Mars. This confirms that some of the longest-lived volcanoes in the solar system may be found on the Red Planet. Tom Lapen, a geology professor at the University of Houston and lead author of a paper published Feb. 1 in the journal Science Advances, said the findings offer new clues to how the planet evolved and insight into the history of volcanic activity on Mars. (more)

Rare images shed light on a century of African-American life
9 February 2017 - Cornell University Library has just made its Loewentheil Collection of African-American Photographs - 645 rare images dating from the 1860s through the 1960s that show a slice of American life not widely visible or preserved - available online. Donated to the university by Stephan and Beth Loewentheil in 2012, the collection includes famous faces, like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali, but mostly historical images of African-Americans going about their daily business or commemorating occasions like graduations and weddings. (more)

IBM to train 25 million Africans for free to build workforce
8 February 2017 - International Business Machines Corp. is ramping up its digital-skills training program to accommodate as many as 25 million Africans in the next five years, looking toward building a future workforce on the continent. The U.S. tech giant plans to make an initial investment of 945 million rand ($70 million) to roll out the training initiative in South Africa, a country where 31 percent of 15-to-24 year-olds are unemployed, according to Statistics South Africa. At the same time, the program will be started at IBM's offices in Nigeria, Kenya, Morocco and Egypt, enabling an expansion of the project across the rest of the continent. (more)

UK changes tack with help for renters, not just homebuyers
7 February 2017 - Britain set out plans on Tuesday to make renting more affordable, protect tenants and punish developers for not building quickly enough, in a shift away from decades of policy almost solely promoting home ownership. In a white paper entitled 'Fixing our broken housing market', the government laid out proposals to build more homes for rent, extend the length of tenancies and change planning laws to encourage developers to boost supply for renters. The measures, including support for smaller developers, are designed to increase the number of new homes coming onto the market in England from 190,000 units a year to at least 250,000, after decades of falling short. (more)

Arctic Samis celebrate their national day centenary
6 February 2017 - With chants, poetry and traditional dress, the indigenous Sami people of Europe's Arctic north, formerly nomadic reindeer herders in Lapland, celebrated their national day Monday with hundreds of events across the Nordic lands. The Sami settled with their reindeer herds 9,000 years ago in Europe's Arctic and now number 70,000 people spread across Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Monday's start to the weeklong festivities - attended by Norwegian King Harald and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg in Norway, and Finland's president, Sauli Niinisto, in Finnish Lapland - marked the centenary of the Sami people's first congress in the Norwegian city of Trondheim in 1917. (more)

Storms Filled 37 Percent of California Snow-Water Deficit
5 February 2017 - The 'atmospheric river' weather patterns that pummeled California with storms from late December to late January may have recouped 37 percent of the state's five-year snow-water deficit, according to new University of Colorado Boulder-led research using NASA satellite data. Researchers at the university's Center for Water Earth Science and Technology (CWEST) estimate that two powerful recent storms deposited roughly 17.5-million acre feet (21.6 cubic kilometers) of water on California's Sierra Nevada range in January. Snowmelt from the range is a critical water source for the state's agriculture, hydropower generation and municipal water supplies. (more)

It's never 'Groundhog Day' at Jupiter - NASA's Juno flies by gas giant
4 February 2017 - NASA's Juno spacecraft mission completed its fourth flyby over Jupiter's mysterious cloud tops on Feb. 2, its latest science orbit of the mission. All of Juno's science instruments and the spacecraft's JunoCam were operating during the flyby to collect data that is now being returned to Earth. 'Tomorrow may be ''Groundhog Day'' here on Earth, but it's never Groundhog Day when you are flying past Jupiter,' said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, on Feb. 1. 'With every close flyby we are finding something new.' (more)

South Pacific islands ban western junk food and go organic
3 February 2017 - A group of south Pacific islands are banning foreign junk food imports in favour of an all-local, organic diet as a way to combat future health problems. Torba province, part of Vanuatu, aims to impose restrictions on the import of western foodstuffs and instead take advantage of its productive agricultural land and rich natural resources. Father Luc Dini, a community leader and head of the local tourism council, said a ban on foreign food imports would improve the health and wellbeing of islanders. 'At the moment we have an infiltration of junk food from overseas,' he said. '. . . . There is no need to eat imported food when we have so much local food grown organically on our islands.' Torba aims to be Vanuatu's first organic province by the year 2020. (more)

Morocco rejoins African Union after more than 30 years
2 February 2017 - Morocco has been readmitted to the African Union more than three decades after it left when the continental body recognised the independence of the disputed territory of Western Sahara. Hopes that the move could pave the way for peace-building were bolstered after Western Sahara - regarded by Morocco as part of its historic territory - welcomed the readmission. Morocco's King Mohammed VI, who had been campaigning since last year to join the bloc, told African leaders at the AU summit in Addis Ababa: 'Africa is my home, and I am coming back home.' (more)

Dutch electric trains become 100% powered by wind energy
1 February 2017 - All Dutch electric trains are now powered by wind energy, the national railway company NS has said. Dutch electricity company Eneco won a tender offered by NS two years ago and the two companies signed a 10-year deal setting January 2018 as the date by which all NS trains should run on wind energy. 'So we in fact reached our goal a year earlier than planned,' said NS spokesman, Ton Boon, adding that an increase in the number of wind farms across the country and off the coast of the Netherlands had helped NS achieve its aim. (more)

The rare African park where elephants are thriving
31 January 2017 - Poaching has ravaged Africa's elephants, largely to feed the appetite for ivory in China and elsewhere in Asia. In 2002 Chad's Zakouma National Park was home to more than 4,000 elephants, but by 2010 that figure had plummeted to a mere 400 - a 90 percent drop. Experts predicted that Zakouma's remaining elephants would be gone within two or three years. Desperate for a solution, in 2010 the Chadian government called in African Parks, a South Africa-based nonprofit that specializes in rehabilitating failing protected areas around the continent. Rian and Lorna Labuschagne, who took over management of the park, have turned things around. Under their watch poaching has been dramatically reduced, and the elephant population is growing for the first time in years. Zakouma is now home to more than 500 elephants, believed to be the largest remaining herd in Africa. (more)

Inside India's first department of happiness
30 January 2017 - A village in India's Madhya Pradesh state was recently the venue for a government-sponsored programme to ''spread cheer and happiness''. . . . The fun and games were part of a week-long Happiness Festival in India's second largest state, home to more than 70 million people. They also provided a glimpse of the rollout of the country's first state-promoted project to ''to put a smile on every face''. . . . ''We are trying to get people out of homes, come together, and be happy. The aim is to forget the worries of life and enjoy together,'' said Shobhit Tripathi, a senior village council functionary. At the heart of this project is the newly-formed Department of Happiness - the first of its kind in India - helmed by the state Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The yoga-loving three-term 57-year-old leader of the ruling BJP believes the ''state can help in ensuring the mental well being of its people''. A newly formed State Institute of Happiness [is] tasked with the responsibility of ''developing tools of happiness'' and creating an ''ecosystem that would enable people to realise their own potential of inner well being''. The department also plans to run some 70 programmes and develop a Happiness Index for the state. (more)

Where are the trees? New 'Green View Index' helps find answer
29 January 2017 - Where are the trees? More important, where aren't the trees? A lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States) is helping some of the world's cities answer both questions in an attempt to make them more pleasant places to live and work. In an effort to enhance the critical role trees play in urban environments -- providing cooling shade, alleviating air and noise pollution, and easing the effects of climate change -- the school's Senseable City Lab has developed an online platform that maps out the canopy in some major cities to make it easier for urban planners and ordinary citizens to see where more are needed. (more)

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