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Central African Republic's rebels sign cease-fire
24 July 2014 - Representatives of the Muslim and Christian factions battling in Central African Republic signed a cease-fire agreement on Wednesday in neighbouring Republic of Congo. The ceremony was carried live on the Republic of Congo's state television. A civilian transitional government is now tasked with organizing national elections by February although violence is still raging in the country's provinces. (more)

US: S&P 500 ekes out record high as earnings roll in
24 July 2014 - The stock market eked out a record high Wednesday, as investors weighed positive earnings from the technology industry against disappointing news from Boeing and other companies. Among big tech names, Apple's earnings topped Wall Street expectations, helped by rising shipments of iPhones. Microsoft also announced results that beat forecasts. About 72 per cent of Standard & Poor's 500 companies that have reported earnings have beaten expectations, and 73 per cent have beaten sales forecasts. (more)

Scotland: Tartan-tastic ceremony opens Glasgow Games
24 July 2014 - Glasgow welcomed a large part of the world and remembered recent tragedies as a diverse and colourful opening ceremony signalled the start of the 20th Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on Wednesday. As the sun set on the hottest day of the year in Scotland's biggest city, a vibrant display of tartan-clad dancers, pipe bands and kilted entertainers kicked off 11 days of sporting endeavour. Famed singers Rod Stewart and Susan Boyle, along with over 3,000 volunteers, helped provide the entertainment for a packed stadium as they welcomed the 6,500 athletes from 71 mostly former British colonies. (more)

China: Beijing shuts big coal-fired power plant to ease smog: Xinhua
24 July 2014 - Beijing has closed the first of four large coal-fired power plants set to be decommissioned as part of the city's efforts to cut air pollution, official news agency Xinhua reported on Wednesday, citing the local planning agency. In the face of growing public anger about persistent smog in the Chinese capital, the government has been under intense pressure to cut coal use and relocate industry. Beijing's three remaining coal-fired power plants are all to be closed by the end of 2016. (more)

US: Jobless claims fall to lowest level since early 2006
24 July 2014 - The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level in nearly 8-1/2 years last week, suggesting the labour market recovery was gaining traction. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits declined 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 284,000 for the week ended 19 July, the US Labor Department said on Thursday. That was the lowest level since February 2006, and confounded economists' expectations for a rise to 308,000. (more)

'Jazz in Albania 2014' to promote cultural heritage
24 July 2014 - The third edition of the International Festival 'JAZZ in ALBANIA' 2014, will be held from 23 July until 27 July in Albania, according to the Albanian Telegraphic Agency. Nine national and international bands will be in Albania. Their music is expected to create a special atmosphere in the country. The festival is supported by the Ministry of Culture, as well as by the respective municipalities. (more)

Canada: Running on electricity
24 July 2014 - Electric car company Tesla Motors opened its first Supercharger in Canada this week to serve the Sea to Sky Highway that connects Vancouver and Whistler. The California-based company says the Supercharger station, at the Garibaldi Shopping Centre, supports zero-emission trips between Vancouver and Whistler. The charging stations, which Tesla S owners can use free of charge, is one of 102 in North America. There are also 32 Supercharger stations in Europe and one in China, with more planned to open soon. (more)

Qatar, Saudi rulers meet for Gaza cease-fire talks
24 July 2014 - For the first time since an unprecedented diplomatic rift among Gulf powerhouses, Qatar's emir flew to Saudi Arabia late Tuesday in a surprise visit and met with King Abdullah to discuss cease-fire efforts in the Gaza Strip. The meeting brought together two influential Arab brokers backing different cease-fire initiatives. Saudi Arabia is supporting an Egyptian cease-fire initiative that Israel accepted but Hamas rejected. Qatar, on the other hand, is the main conduit of Hamas conditions for a cease-fire that include guarantees for the lifting of a seven-year blockade of Gaza, enforced by Israel and Egypt. (more)

Global economy starts second half on solid footing - PMIs
24 July 2014 - China's factory activity expanded at its fastest in 18 months in July as new orders surged while the euro zone's private sector also perked up, suggesting the global economy started the second half of 2014 on a solid footing. (more)

Indian shares hit record high
24 July 2014 - Indian shares rose to record highs on Thursday after cabinet approval for a higher foreign direct investment limit in insurance and a rejig in foreign debt limits reinforced optimism about the government's reform agenda. (more)

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: Volunteers plant city's first 'food forest' in river valley
24 July 2014 - Seventy-five volunteers recently gathered to plant the river valley's first food forest. The plan was to plant 3,000 native, food-producing trees and shrubs on the slope, including gooseberries, saskatoon berries, currants, and choke cherries. The trenches -- or swales -- were the first step, designed to maximize water absorption for the plants. (more)

EU seeks energy efficiency to lower gas imports
24 July 2014 - The European Union's executive is proposing legislation to curb the energy use of households and firms by almost one third by 2030 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower its dependence on gas imports, particularly those from Russia. The Commission proposed Wednesday to increase energy efficiency by 30 per cent, an upward revision of its earlier target of 20 per cent by 2020. (more)

UK car production boosted by new models in first half of 2014
24 July 2014 - British car production showed annual growth of more than 3 per cent in the first six months of 2014 thanks to new models and further expansion is expected, an automotive industry body said on Thursday. Britain made 1.5 million cars in 2013, returning to levels seen before the 2008-09 financial crisis after which they nose-dived, and is expected to surpass an all-time high of 1.92 million by 2017. (more)

Afghanistan: Bridge in Baghlan and new school buildings in Bamiyan
24 July 2014 - Construction work on a bridge has started in Afghanistan's Baghlan province, according to the Bakhtar News Agency (BNA). The new bridge should be completed in 9 months. With this new bridge, transportation problems faced by the residents of Qandahari village as well as other neighbouring villages will be resolved. In other good news, the residents of central Bamiyan province are celebrating as construction has been completed on three new school buildings. (more)

Algeria to host women's African Nations volleyball championships
24 July 2014 - The Confederation of African Volleyball (CAVB) has announced Algeria as the host of the 2014 Girls' U-18 African Nations Championship and the inaugural Women's U-23 African Nations Championship. According to a statement from CAVB on Wednesday, both events will hold from 5 to 11 September. (more)

American Samoa to burn waste for fuel
24 July 2014 - The American Samoa Power Authority has signed a waste to energy power agreement with a US company to set up a plant that will use garbage to produce fuel oil. The contractor will design, build, and operate the plant at the sanitary landfill at Futiga with construction to begin this year. From the 62 tons of waste a day, the facility will produce enough fuel to generate a net 15 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year. (more)

Chinese leader signs accords, wraps up Cuba visit
24 July 2014 - Chinese President Xi Jinping is wrapping up his visit to Cuba after signing dozens of agreements for such things as investment by Chinese firms on the island. The official newspaper Granma on Wednesday published a description of the agreements signed by the Chinese leader and Cuban President Raul Castro. One calls for joint construction of a multipurpose port terminal in the eastern city of Santiago, while another would form a real estate firm associated with a golf course in Havana's Bellomonte section. (more)

Eight small countries in Europe join forces to improve health
24 July 2014 - Eight European countries with populations of under 1 million have committed themselves to cooperating on a new project to improve their citizens' health and well-being, and implement the European policy framework, Health 2020. Health ministers and other high-level officials from the countries participating in the project -- Andorra, Cyprus, Iceland, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro and San Marino -- met for the first time in San Marino in early July, to put their plans into action. (more)

Thailand: Interim constitution receives royal endorsement
24 July 2014 - His Majesty the King has endorsed the Interim Constitution, submitted by Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) General Prayut Chan-o-cha. The Interim Constitution states that there will be a National Legislative Assembly consisting of no more than 220 members appointed by the King. Members of the National Legislative Assembly will come from various groups of people -- from the public, private, social, academic, professional, and other sectors. (more)

Trans-boundary tourism experience across Angola, Botswana, and Namibia
24 July 2014 - There are many trans-boundary tourism experiences across the Southern Africa region, particularly, in the Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA). A TFCA is a component of a large ecological region that straddles the boundaries of two or more countries encompassing one or more protected areas as well as multiple-use areas. Many renowned tourism destinations are situated within TFCAs, positioning them as prime areas for development of tourism which has the great potential to generate employment in the rural areas, thereby contributing to poverty reduction. (more)

Canada: Vancouver community garden hosts free beekeeping workshops
23 July 2014 - Vancouver's first free public beekeeping mentorship programme opened in mid-July. It was hosted by Hives for Humanity. Dozens of people turned up to enjoy breakfast with thousands of honeybees. The bees are residents of the Main Street-based pollinator sanctuary in two hives, surrounded by more than 130 boxes of flowering herbs and vegetables. (more)

Denmark's near-zero-waste wonder
23 July 2014 - When we look closely at systems in nature -- coral reefs or rainforests, for instance -- we see something we don't often see in human systems: mutually beneficial relationships and energy flows among the various elements, such as air, water, rocks, soil, and plant and animal life. If we emulate these relationships in our cities and in our industrial infrastructure, we can vastly improve the sustainability of natural resources and energy use. That's exactly what the municipality of Kalundborg, 64 miles west of Copenhagen, is doing. In fact, for over 50 years, Kalundborg has been home to the first -- and still the most advanced -- example of this concept: the Kalundborg Symbiosis. (more)

US: Stocks rise on solid earnings, S&P sets new record high
23 July 2014 - Of the 149 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported results, 68.5 per cent have beat expectations, a bit better than the past four quarters and five percentage points above the 20-year average of 63 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters data. Shares in Europe, in emerging markets, and most of Wall Street rose, with the benchmark S&P 500 closing at a new record high as results continued to top forecasts. (more)

US: PSE&G initiative lets employees at New Jersey firms charge electric cars at work
23 July 2014 - In a programme aimed at encouraging employers in New Jersey to provide employees with a way to charge electric cars while at work, Public Service Electric and Gas is offering approximately 150 free plug-in stations to businesses in its franchise territory. The so-called smart-charging equipment will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis to businesses that secure a commitment from a minimum of five employees that they will use an electric car for their commute. (more)

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