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France: Office workers turn urban gardeners on Paris luxury store rooftops
26 August 2016 - Le Bon Marche and La Grande Epicerie, two landmark Paris luxury stores, have turned their joint rooftops into an urban garden for staff to grow their own crops in their free time. In the past months, the LVMH-owned adjoining stores on Paris's residential left bank have built planter boxes on a 700 square meter (7,500 square feet) roof area. The stunning views over Paris and the chance to learn about gardening have attracted 200 of the stores' 1,500 employees, selected by lottery, and put the stores at the forefront of the city's urban gardening drive. (more)

Philippine rebels agree to indefinite cease-fire
26 August 2016 - Philippine communist rebels on Friday agreed to an indefinite cease-fire in peace talks with government officials aimed at ending one of Asia's longest-running insurgencies. After a weeklong meeting in Norway, negotiators for the Maoist rebels and the government issued a joint statement pledging to accelerate the peace process for a conflict that has killed tthousands since the late 1960s. (more)

Scientists find Earth-like planet circling sun's nearest neighbor
26 August 2016 - Scientists have discovered a planet that appears to be similar to Earth circling the star closest to the sun, potentially a major step in the quest to find out if life exists elsewhere in the universe, research published on Wednesday (24 August) showed. An international team of 31 scientists found the planet after careful and repeated measurements of slight shifts in the color of the light coming from its host star, Proxima Centauri, which is a small, dim star in the Alpha Centauri system. (more)

This unusual galaxy is actually 99.99 percent dark matter
26 August 2016 - Astronomers have discovered a galaxy as big as the Milky Way that consists almost entirely of dark matter, a mysterious and invisible substance that scientists have been trying to figure out for decades. Only one-hundredth of one percent of the galaxy is ordinary, visible matter like stars and planets. The other 99.99 percent of the stuff in this galaxy can't be seen. This dark galaxy, named Dragonfly 44, was first detected in 2015, through the use of the Dragonfly Telephoto Array in New Mexico. Dragonfly 44 is one of 47 ultradiffuse, or 'fluffy' galaxies that Pieter van Dokkum of Yale University and colleagues found in the Coma Cluster, a group of at least 1,000 galaxies around 300 million light-years from Earth. (more)

Ancient Greece's restored Tower of Winds keeps its secrets
25 August 2016 - It is said to be the world's first weather station, to date back more than 2,000 years, and to have been used by merchants to tell the time -- even in darkness. The Tower of the Winds, still standing on a slope on Athens's ancient Acropolis hill despite attempts by Lord Elgin to move it to Britain, has been restored and re-opened to the public for the first time in nearly 200 years. It is credited to the architect and astronomer Andronikos of Cyrrhus, but all these years later no one knows exactly how it worked. (more)

Scientists find Earth-like planet at star next door (+ AP video)
25 August 2016 - After scanning the vast reaches of the cosmos for Earth-like planets where life might exist, astronomers have found one right next door. A planet that's rocky like Earth and only slightly bigger has been discovered orbiting Proxima Centauri , the nearest star to our solar system, scientists reported Wednesday. It is probably in the not-too-hot, not-too-cold Goldilocks Zone where liquid water -- a key to life -- is possible, if the planet has an atmosphere. (more)

Solar power brings northern Mali much needed light
22 August 2016 - Residents in Kidal in northern Mali are finding it easier to work and study into the night thanks to a solar lighting project recently introduced to the area. About 1,500 households are now able to switch on their lights thanks to a 50,000 US dollar project funded by the U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali. National energy company, Energie du Mali (EDM) has begun to add solar power capacity to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, which provide around half the West African nation's power. (more)

Hidden codex may reveal secrets of life in Mexico before Spanish conquest
21 August 2016 - One of the rarest manuscripts in the world has been revealed hidden beneath the pages of an equally rare but later Mexican codex, thanks to hi-tech imaging techniques. The Codex Selden is one of a handful of illustrated books of history and mythology that survived wholesale destruction by Spanish conquerors and missionaries in the 16th century. The codex is one of fewer than 20 dating from before or just after the colonisation which were saved by scholars who realised the importance of the images. (more)

China, Myanmar vow closer ties as Suu Kyi visits Beijing
20 August 2016 - China and Myanmar said Saturday that they have pledged to forge closer ties as 'blood brothers,' as Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi got set to wrap up a visit to Beijing, her first diplomatic trip since taking power in March. China has been on a diplomatic charm offensive in the past year toward its fast-growing neighbor, while Myanmar under Suu Kyi has shown a willingness to embrace its top trading partner and major investor. (more)

Mauritius raises 2016 tourism earnings forecast after surge in visitors
19 August 2016 - Mauritius said on Friday that tourism revenue in 2016 will be 1.8 percent higher than it had previously forecast, after a surge in visitors during the first half. Tourism is a valuable source of foreign exchange for the tiny Indian Ocean country known for its luxury spas and beaches. (more)

UK: Frog Bikes bring manufacturing back home to Wales to beat the business cycle
19 August 2016 - From this month, brightly coloured children's Frog Bikes destined for stores around the UK and the rest of the world will be painstakingly assembled from 120 parts, packed up and shipped out from a brand new factory in Pontypool, south Wales. Until now, the bikes have been assembled in China using components from around the world. Now the company is 'reshoring', following the lead of other manufacturers in moving the bulk of their production back to the UK to get better control over lead times and quality. (more)

US: Obama administration to phase out some private prison use
19 August 2016 - The Obama administration is phasing out its use of some private prisons, affecting thousands of federal inmates. In a memo Thursday to the Bureau of Prisons, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates told the bureau to start reducing 'and ultimately ending' the Justice Department's use of private prisons. The announcement follows a recent Justice Department audit that found that the private facilities have more safety and security problems than government-run ones. (more)

French unemployment rate falls below 10 per cent for first time since 2012
18 August 2016 - France's unemployment rate has fallen below 10 per cent for the first time since 2012. Unemployment was down in all age categories, but the fall in youth unemployment was sharper. (more)

Most fatal type of stroke declining along with smoking rates
18 August 2016 - The type of brain bleeding that causes the most lethal kind of stroke has declined substantially since 1998, possibly as a result of falling smoking rates, according to researchers in Finland. (more)

Scientists unravel mystery of osprey migration
18 August 2016 - Scientists have long known ospreys make an epic journey each summer from New England to South America. But the details of their dangerous trip remained a mystery -- until now. Starting in August, the birds travel as much as 5,000 miles down the Atlantic Coast and across the Caribbean before they end up in the northern part of South America and the Amazon basin, where they spend the winter. Scores of male birds have been equipped with trackers, nearly 500 so far in the United States and Europe. The matchbox-size devices use miniature GPS-enabled transmitters to show the birds' precise location, altitude, speed, and time it takes for them to complete the trip. (more)

Foreign ministers of Japan, China, South Korea likely to meet next week: media
17 August 2016 - Japan, China, and South Korea are in talks to hold a meeting of their foreign ministers next week, despite rows between Tokyo and Beijing over China's maritime expansion in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, a Japanese daily said on Wednesday, 17 August. The foreign ministers' meeting is expected to lay the groundwork for a three-way summit Tokyo is set to host this year. (more)

25 years on, Russians tell of how they defeated a coup
17 August 2016 - On August 19, 1991, a group of eight senior hard-line Communist leaders, including the KGB chairman, had seized power from Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, declaring that Gorbachev was unable to continue as head of the party due to illness. In fact, Gorbachev was under arrest and the 'Gang of Eight' intended to roll back his reformist policies of glasnost and perestroika, which they believed had set the Soviet Union on a path of disaster. For a few days, the fate of the superpower hung in the balance. As the 25th anniversary of the August Coup draws near this Friday, The Associated Press has talked to participants and witnesses of those critical days when Muscovites turned out to defend the spirit of democracy that Gorbachev had unleashed, and many Soviet officers defied their orders and sided with the people, ensuring that that the plotters failed. (more)

US home construction climbed to a 6-month high in July
16 August 2016 - Apartment construction in the Northeast fueled a jump in home building in July as the pace of housing starts nationwide reached the strongest pace in six months. 'Continued recovery in housing will be supported by historically low mortgage rates, coupled with a firming labor market that has begun to spur on wage gains for workers,' said Neil Shankar, an economist at TD Bank. Homebuilders appear optimistic that sales will continue to rise. (more)

US: Air Force to replace toxic fire fighting foam
16 August 2016 - The Air Force on Monday announced a move to replace firefighting foam -- the suspected source of chemicals that have contaminated area water supplies -- with more 'environmentally responsible' products. The move comes after harsh criticism from municipal officials and area residents about the military's response to water tainted by perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). (more)

US: White House sets new fuel-efficiency standards for heavy-duty trucks, vans and buses
16 August 2016 - The Obama administration on Tuesday finalized new fuel-economy standards for large trucks, buses and other heavy-duty vehicles, the latest in a series of efforts aimed at slashing greenhouse gas emissions and weaning the nation from its dependence on fossil fuels. These vehicles represent only about 5 percent of total highway traffic but account for 20 percent of transportation-related fuel consumption and carbon emissions. Administration officials said they expect that when the new standards are fully implemented in coming years, they will cut more than 1 billion tons of carbon pollution from the atmosphere, save nearly $170 billion in fuel costs, and reduce oil consumption by an estimated 84 billion gallons. (more)

Cheers! The Thai consumer's back
15 August 2016 - For three years, Thai consumers sat at home and nursed a debt hangover. That they're starting to go shopping again for things like secondhand bikes, restaurant meals, and energy drinks is both encouraging and just as clearly visible in company earnings and stock prices as in Monday's GDP announcement. Private spending jumped by 3.8 percent in the June quarter, its best year-on-year performance since early 2013. Thai stocks, Asia's best-performing so far this year, have been highlighting the change in sentiment for some time. (more)

Zimbabwe plans to use drones to fight elephant poaching
15 August 2016 - Zimbabwe plans to deploy aerial drones in its biggest wildlife sanctuary in the west to combat poaching of elephants, a parks official said on Monday, as the country aims to protect one of its top tourist attractions. Tourism contributes 11 percent to Zimbabwe's $14 billion economy, according to Ministry of Tourism data, with the country's wildlife parks popular with overseas visitors. (more)

Germany urges Russia and Ukraine to ease tension over Crimea, keep talking
15 August 2016 - Germany's foreign minister urged Russia and Ukraine on Monday to reduce tensions over Crimea and stick to the troubled Minsk peace accords as a way of ending hostilities in eastern Ukraine. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, at a news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the city of Yekaterinburg, said that even though the Minsk deal had stalled in places it should remain the focus of the peace process despite the alleged plot around Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Lavrov said Russia would play its part in ensuring the Minsk accords were honored. (more)

China's shopping army reboots Australia retail
14 August 2016 - Up to 40,000 Chinese 'daigou' in Australia are using social media and mobile payment apps to buy goods to order for mainland China customers. While daigou first made waves in the West shipping luxuries from Europe like Gucci handbags, the new Australia breed deals in consumer staples. More affluent, health-conscious Chinese shoppers want safe Australian goods, a trend stoked by tainted China food supply scandals. The scale of the new trade has alerted retail brands to potential new sales via daigou tie-ups that might otherwise be beyond the reach of mid-tier consumer goods makers. Daigou -- meaning 'on behalf of' in Chinese -- establish a network of prospective customers on popular online messaging app WeChat, owned by internet giant Tencent Holdings. (more)

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