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Russian Buddhist monks to restore giant 19th Century Buddha statue
29 November 2014 - Monks of the Aginsky Datsan in Russia's TransBaikal Territory have begun to restore a giant 19th Century statue of Maitreya Buddha, or Buddha of the Future, Tatiana Zherebtsova, a deputy minister of culture of the TransBaikal Territory, has stated. She said the local authorities have allocated more than $1.1 million to sponsor the restoration works. Aginsky Datsan monks will put together all remaining fragments of the 16-meter statue originally made by Chinese craftsmen and will make new elements to substitute for missing fragments. (more)

Canada: Far north to get a big boost
29 November 2014 - A pair of new solar power projects in Saskatchewan's far north will see if an alternative energy source can reduce massive power bills in a pair of First Nations communities. First Nations Power Authority (FNPA), along with the Fond du Lac Denesuline First Nation and Hatchet Lake Denesuline First Nation, announced they have secured $150,000 in new funding from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada's ecoENERGY for Aboriginal and Northern Communities Programme to install two 50kw solar power systems at the two schools in those communities. (more)

Germany to introduce legal quotas for women on company boards
29 November 2014 - Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition has agreed a draft law requiring Germany's top listed companies to give women 30 per cent of seats on non-executive boards from 2016. SPD Family Minister Manuela Schwesig said she expected the law to lead to a fundamental change in Germany's corporate and management culture. (more)

Switzerland moves to boost number of women executives
29 November 2014 - Switzerland's government released an early draft of a law on Friday recommending that women occupy at least 30 per cent of management and board posts at top listed companies, in a tentative move to use legislation to boost numbers. Under the draft law, which still has to be debated by other parties and bodies, companies would have to adapt to the new requirements within five years. Norway became the first country in the world to impose a gender quota in 2003, requiring at least 40 per cent of public limited company board members to be women. (more)

Australia: Orange bellied parrots' wild population doubles after scientific recovery programme
29 November 2014 - One of the world's rarest species, the orange bellied parrot, has bucked its long-term trend of decline and almost doubled its wild population. The critically endangered birds, which spend winter in South Australia and Victoria, have just migrated to the remote Melaleuca outpost in Tasmania's Wilderness World Heritage Area for the breeding season. Twenty-four birds were released at Melaleuca and now 34 have returned for the summer breeding season, which Rosemary Gales from Tasmania's environment department said was a significant boost. (more)

Peruvian inventor hopes to clean Lima's air with giant purifiers
29 November 2014 - In Peru's notoriously polluted capital, Lima, a local inventor is deploying giant air purifiers that double as billboards to suck up carbon dioxide and freshen the city's sometimes choking air. Jorge Gutierrez, a retired naval engineer, calls the 15-foot high (5 meters) box-like steel contraptions he helped design a 'super tree' and says each one can convert as much carbon dioxide into oxygen as 1,200 trees. The machines, which each cost $100,000 to build but just $6 a day to run, suck in the dirty air and trap contaminants in water. Residual solids are eventually packed into secure containers that can be deposited at a landfill. (more)

US EPA seeks tighter ozone standards to cut pollution
29 November 2014 - The Obama administration on Wednesday proposed stricter curbs on ground-level ozone, a pollutant linked to several serious health conditions. The Environmental Protection Agency said it would set National Ambient Air Quality Standard between 65 and 70 parts per billion concentration of ozone and consider public comments on standards within a 60 to 75 ppb range. Health advocates and environmentalists hailed the plan as a way to cut down on asthma, heart disease and other respiratory illnesses. (more)

Canadian holiday retail sales expected to be robust: analysts
29 November 2014 - Canadian holiday retail sales are expected to be the strongest in three years, helped by lower unemployment, falling gasoline prices, and weaker currency. Retail data from Statistics Canada showed that on a quarterly basis, store merchandise sales hit a four-year high, which also bodes well. (more)

Bangladesh farmers turn back the clock to combat climate stresses
28 November 2014 - Indigenous varieties of rice are making a comeback in Bangladesh as farmers abandon high-yielding hybrid rice in favour of more resilient varieties that can cope with more extreme climate conditions, researchers say. About 20 per cent of the rice fields planted in the low-lying South Asian nation now contain indigenous varieties that can stand up to drought, flooding, or other stresses, said Jiban Krishna, director general of the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute. (more)

US smoking rate hits historic low
28 November 2014 - Cigarette smoking among American adults has hit at an all-time low, health officials said Wednesday. The percentage of smokers over the age of 18 dropped from 20.9% in 2005 to 17.8% in 2013, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report. That's the lowest rate of smoking adults since the CDC started tracking the numbers via its National Health Interview Survey in 1965. Over the course of eight years, the number of US smokers dropped from 45.1 million to 42.1 million, the report reveals. (more)

Neonicotinoid pesticide use to be reduced by 80% in Ontario, Canada
28 November 2014 - The Ontario government has moved to limit the use of neonicotinoid pesticides amid growing evidence that the substances are responsible for drastic reductions in bee populations in the province. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs laid out a three-point initiative Tuesday that it says will ensure 'healthy ecosystems' and a 'productive agricultural sector' while reversing the downward trend of pollinator numbers. (more)

US: Neurons light up Times Square for Midnight Moment
28 November 2014 - Brain City is playing at Times Square at 11.57 every night until the end of November. Along with its street performers and endless crowds of tourists, New York's Times Square is best known for a huge array of electronic billboards. What's less well known -- to both NYC residents and passing tourists -- is that every night, at three minutes to midnight, many of the occupying brands give up their prized real estate for three minutes in the name of art, as part of the Times Square Advertising Coalition's Midnight Moment project. This November, the screens have been hijacked by Brain City, a short computer-generated movie that captures imagery from some of the world's leading neuroscience labs, presenting a journey through the vast avenues of the human brain. (more)

France: Shakespeare First Folio discovered in French library
28 November 2014 - A Shakespeare First Folio has been discovered in a library in a small French town where it lay undiscovered for two centuries. It is only the second known copy in France of a publication that is seen as one of the most valuable books in the English language and which can sell for millions on the rare occasions a copy comes up for auction. The First Folio was published by two of the Bard's fellow actors and closest friends and includes 36 of Shakespeare's 38 known plays. (more)

Australia: Fruit bats rescued from destroyed homes receive rehabilitation
28 November 2014 - A Northern Beaches volunteer is rehabilitating 80 fruit bats, which are also known as flying foxes, rescued from a destroyed habitat in Casino. When fruit bats stop to eat fruit, sticky yellow grains of pollen become caught on their fur and then rubs off onto other flowers that the bats visit. That's how bats pollinate flowers, which allows the trees to develop fruits and seeds. (more)

Ontario export markets growing thanks to surging US economy
28 November 2014 - A new report suggests a surging US economy will help Ontario, Canada exports realize growth of seven per cent this year and five per cent in 2015. The report, from Export Development Canada, says the increase is being driven primarily by strong US demand for industrial machinery. The EDC says those exports are projected to grow by 10 per cent this year and jump to 17 per cent in 2015, making it the biggest mover in Ontario's economic forecast. (more)

Latin American art auctions set record-high sales for 31 artists
28 November 2014 - Blistering sales this week of Latin American art set auction records for 31 artists spanning three centuries, ranging from creators in the Spanish colonial period to living artists like Colombia's Fernando Botero. 'Our November sale series has been a glorious celebration of Latin American art,' said Alex Stein, Sotheby's Latin American art chief. (more)

US consumer sentiment climbs in November
27 November 2014 - US consumer sentiment rose in November to its highest level in more than seven years on improvements in the current economic condition, including lower gas prices and improving job prospects, a survey released on Wednesday showed. 'Consumers more frequently reported hearing about positive rather than negative economic developments in the November survey, with reports of improving employment the dominant news item,' survey director Richard Curtin said in a statement. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's final November reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment came in at 88.8, its highest reading since July 2007 on a final basis. (more)

Canada economy stronger than thought in first-half 2014
27 November 2014 - The Canadian economy grew at a stronger pace in the first half of the year than previously thought, revised data from Statistics Canada showed in early November. The revised figures raised second-quarter growth in gross domestic product to 3.6 per cent from the 3.1 per cent first reported by Statscan. (more)

Scotland: Music has charms to soothe criticism
27 November 2014 - The core purpose of the Big Noise orchestra under the banner of Sistema Scotland is to bring about social transformation, empowering children to succeed in every area of their lives. Musical accomplishment, albeit important, is only part of the story. There will be a minority for whom playing in the orchestras will pave the way for a musical career but for the overwhelming majority the programme is designed to imbue children and parents with a sense of hope and purpose. (more)

Improving system for person with disabilities good for all says US advocate on tour of UN accessibility centre
27 November 2014 - On a tour of the United Nations Accessibility Centre for the audio, visual, and physically impaired, United States Senator Tom Harkin said that 'when you make a system better for a person with a disability it makes it better for people without disabilities'. The United Nations Accessibility Centre, which opened in December 2013, is equipped with state-of-the-art assistive information and communication technology to support audio, visual as well as physical impairments. (more)

India: All temple towers to sport new look with environment-friendly paint
27 November 2014 - The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department has decided to apply environment-friendly painting on all towers (gopurams) and the rajagopuram of the Srirangam Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple. This is the first time that the emulsion paint is being used. It is more durable and can withstand bad weather conditions also particularly heat during summer. (more)

Ontario, Canada banning smoking on patios, playgrounds starting first of January
27 November 2014 - The Ontario government is strengthening its anti-smoking laws in the new year to make it illegal to light up in children's playgrounds, publicly owned sports fields, and restaurant and bar patios. The ban will take effect starting 1 January the government has announced. On the same date, the Smoke-Free Ontario Act will be revised to bar the sale of tobacco on university and college campuses. (more)

Canada Sept retail sales surge, may prompt GDP rethink
27 November 2014 - A surge in the auto sector helped retail sales in Canada to power ahead by 0.8 per cent in September, a stronger-than-expected result that may cause analysts to boost their projections for gross domestic product (GDP). Retail trade is the last major piece of the puzzle before Friday's release of GDP data for September and the third quarter. Statistics Canada has already reported strong manufacturing, wholesale, export, and building permits data for September. (more)

Kerala, India protected forest area rich in biodiversity
27 November 2014 - Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala, India is a notable tiger reserve as well as an elephant reserve. A recent survey, however has shown that the protected forest area rich in biodiversity is also home to 246 species of butterflies, proving once again that protecting a tiger's territory helps conserve a number of species including the small and spectacular butterflies. (more)

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