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EU nations approve ratification of climate change pact
30 September 2016 - The European Union's environment ministers on Friday approved the ratification of the landmark Paris climate change pact, paving the way for the agreement to take effect in November. After years of negotiations, governments agreed in Paris last December to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that scientists say are warming the planet. (more)

US: California to ban some pesticides near schools
30 September 2016 - California is moving to ban farmers from spraying pesticides into the air near schools and day care centers under a newly proposed rule that will be among the nation's toughest, regulators told The Associated Press on Thursday, 29 September (more)

Australia: Smoking rates at 'all-time lows' as number of daily smokers almost halves over 20 years
29 September 2016 - Australians are lighting up in fewer numbers than ever before, and tobacco use is continuing to decline, a new report into cigarette smoking has revealed. 'The most pleasing result probably is the fact that 11 of the 14 indicators are moving in what we'd look at as a positive direction,' AIHW spokesman Tim Beard said. The report also said fewer high school students were experimenting with cigarettes. (more)

UK government to ban microbeads from cosmetics by end of 2017
29 September 2016 - Tiny pieces of plastic in personal beauty products, that end up in the oceans and are swallowed by marine life, will be banned from sale in the UK by the end of 2017, the government is to announce on Saturday. The move comes just days after MPs called for a ban on so-called microbeads, and sees the UK following in the footsteps of the US, which has banned them beginning in mid-2017. Environment groups welcomed the news of the ban. (more)

Viet Nam sees significant advances in sustainable development goals
29 September 2016 - Viet Nam has made significant advances in achieving the United Nation's health-related sustainable development goals (SDG) as its SDG index score increased 59 last year, up from 38 in 2000, according to a baseline analysis from the international Global Burden of Disease Study 2015 published in the The Lancet journal last week. (more)

Facility to convert non-recyclable plastic to fuel planned for Canberra
29 September 2016 - A facility that converts non-recyclable plastics into liquid fuel is being planned for Canberra, Australia. The facility would be the first of its kind, using new Australian-patented technology to take the processing a step further than overseas facilities. 'Plastics originally come from oil in the first place so it's really just reversing it -- chemically it's not a major change,' FOY Group managing director Stuart Clark said. (more)

US consumer confidence jumps in September
28 September 2016 - U.S. consumer confidence in September rose to the highest level in nine years, a hopeful sign that economic growth will accelerate in coming months. Consumers' views about current economic conditions and expectations about future economic conditions both rose in the survey, a development which economists said should help boost consumer spending and the overall economy in coming months. (more)

India: Dasara flower show to be bigger this year
28 September 2016 - This year's Dasara flower show, one of the major attractions of the annual festivities here, will have new concepts to engross and educate visitors. Even as preparation for the show at Kuppanna Park is under way, with only a few days for the festivities to commence from October 1, the organisers of the show, have set out to put up an impressive show...The special attraction of the show this year is the mock-up of 'Gateway of India' crafted in an array of flowers, mainly roses and orchids. (more)

India: Sanskrit Shloka Competition at JMA Pilani
28 September 2016 - Sanskrit is undoubtedly the repository of India's cultural, literary, philosophical and scientific heritage and there can be no quarrel with attempts for its promotion. In its heyday it was spoken and used in all regions of India. Sanskrit is perhaps the oldest language in the world to be recorded. Considering the importance of Sanskrit, JMA Pilani [school] conducts a Sanskrit shloka recitation competition every year for the enrolled students. (more)

US: Philadelphia Flower Show wins 20 international awards
28 September 2016 - The 2016 Philadelphia Flower Show -- 'Explore America: 100 Years of the National Park Service' -- has won 20 international awards for excellence, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society announced Wednesday. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, a nonprofit organization based in Philadelphia, runs the Philadelphia Flower Show, America's largest and longest-running horticultural event. (more)

Colombia embarks on path to peace with historic accord
27 September 2016 - After a half-century of combat . . . Colombians have embarked on a new, but difficult path to settle their political differences with the signing of a historic peace accord between the government and leftist rebels. President Juan Manuel Santos removed from his lapel a pin shaped like a white dove that he has been wearing for years and handed it over to his former adversary, who fastened it to his own shirt. (more)

US: Doctors 'prescribe' fresh produce with help from food banks
27 September 2016 - The idea is simple: Load fresh fruits and vegetables into a refrigerator truck and drive it to a health clinic, then have a doctor write a 'prescription' for food to improve the diets of low-income people with diabetes and high blood pressure. U.S. food banks -- the organizations on the front lines of fighting hunger -- increasingly are promoting 'food as medicine' strategies designed to address, not exacerbate, the high rate of chronic health problems among the poor. (more)

US: Goodbye to homework for some elementary schools and classes
27 September 2016 - A small but growing number of elementary schools and individual teachers are doing away with the after-school chore to allow kids more time to play, participate in activities, spend time with families, read, and sleep. (more)

Colombia, FARC sign historic peace deal ending long conflict
26 September 2016 - Colombia's government and its largest rebel movement signed a historic peace accord Monday in an emotional ceremony that seeks to put an end to a half-century of combat and put the war-weary nation on the path to reconciliation. President Juan Manuel Santos and Rodrigo Londono, leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, signed the agreement before a crowd of 2,500 foreign dignitaries and special guests, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. (more)

German business confidence surges to highest since May 2014
26 September 2016 - A closely watched survey shows that business confidence in Germany, Europe's biggest economy, has increased sharply to its highest reading since May 2014 amid signs that concerns related to Britain's vote to leave the European Union have dissipated. The Ifo institute said the German economy is set for 'a golden autumn.' (more)

India to ratify Paris Agreement on climate change
25 September 2016 - India's Prime Minister said Sunday that his country will ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change early next month. India accounts for around 4.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said this month that 60 countries accounting for about 48 percent of emissions had already joined the agreement. The Paris Agreement asks both rich and poor countries to take action to curb the rise in global temperatures that is melting glaciers, raising sea levels, and shifting rainfall patterns. On Sunday, Modi said global warming especially poses a threat to coastal countries and cities. (more)

Hopes high about 'once in a lifetime' chance to reunify Cyprus
24 September 2016 - The prospect of a breakthrough ending the decades-old division of Cyprus could be delivered at a much-anticipated meeting between the leaders of the island's two estranged communities. Reunification hopes are expected to be reinvigorated on Sunday when the president, Nicos Anastasiades, who heads Greeks in the south, and Mustafa Akıncı, who heads Turks in the north, hold talks in New York with the United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon. That the meeting is taking place at all is a breakthrough in itself. (more)

The American diplomat who helped bring an end to Colombia's war
24 September 2016 - When the Colombian government and Marxist rebels ink a final peace accord Monday to end a 52-year guerrilla war, an American envoy will be one of the special guests at the signing ceremony. Last year, the Obama administration dispatched veteran U.S. diplomat Bernard Aronson to Havana, Cuba, the site of the Colombian peace talks. The negotiations had turned contentious and had dragged on for nearly three years. But Aronson was a reassuring presence and helped the two sides overcome numerous roadblocks as they moved toward a final accord. He called the peace treaty 'the final chapter of a very, very long drama.' The war ... began in the 1960s as the rebels pushed for land reform and social justice. But over the years, the FARC became deeply involved in drug trafficking, extortion, and illegal gold mining. The fighting ... uprooted more than 5 million from their homes. In a recent interview with NPR, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos expressed his gratitude. 'The personal participation of Bernie Aronson has been a great contribution, not only to the process but to me, personally,' President Santos said. (more)

Unity gives Jerusalem a prayer: Jews, Muslims, and Christians join for worship
24 September 2016 - Last week, and for just eight days, a music school in the lowest valley of Jerusalem was transformed into a communal house of prayer, named Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim, and Christian religious leaders and their congregations to worship together in one room. It was a sight rarely seen in this segregated city. The eight religious leaders all met again on Wednesday for a special ceremony to mark International Peace Day. (more)

Colombia rebels unanimously approve peace accord with govt
23 September 2016 - Leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia pledged their unanimous support on Friday to a peace agreement reached last month with the government. In ... conferences on the FARC's care for the environment and interviews with international media who were invited to attend the normally clandestine conference for the first time, rebel leaders largely shunned the antagonizing, ideological rhetoric Colombians have grown to expect from them to embrace a softer, more inclusive image. President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC leader known as Timochenko are expected to sign the agreement Monday in the Caribbean city of Cartagena. (more)

Colombia's FARC rebels ratify peace accord to end 52-year war
23 September 2016 - Colombia's FARC rebel group voted unanimously to approve a peace deal with the government on Friday, declaring an end to the five-decade war as it prepares to transition into a new political party. The peace accord is due to be signed on Monday by President Juan Manuel Santos and rebel leader Rodrigo Londono, who uses the nom de guerre Timochenko. Colombians will vote on the deal in an October 2 plebiscite, the final go-ahead for rebels to demobilize. (more)

Safety project cuts accidents on deadly Bangladesh highway
23 September 2016 - A pilot project that installed basic road safety infrastructure such as bus stops and speed bumps on one of the world's most dangerous highways -- the N2 between Dhaka and Sylhet in Bangladesh -- has cut road deaths by more than 60 per cent in the first year, according to a study. Almost 100 per cent of local people surveyed said they thought the road was safer than it had been before. (more)

US: 6 Portland health providers give $21.5M for homeless housing
23 September 2016 - Five major hospitals in Portland, Oregon, and a nonprofit health care plan said Friday they will donate a combined $21.5 million toward the construction of nearly 400 housing units for the city's burgeoning homeless and low-income population -- a move hailed by national housing advocates as the largest private investment of its kind in the nation. Studies have shown that 70 percent of a person's health outcome is determined by social factors, such as their housing status, income, level of education, and support network, said Robert Friant, spokesman for the New York City-based Corporation for Supportive Housing. (more)

Bangkok edges out London as world's top travel destination: Mastercard
22 September 2016 - The Thai capital of Bangkok has beaten London to be crowned the world's most popular travel destination this year, according to an annual ranking by global payments and technology company Mastercard released on Thursday, 22 September. Bangkok topped the 2016 listing of 132 cities, beating London, Paris, and Dubai to become the city most visited by international travelers in the Mastercard Index of Global Destination Cities. (more)

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