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After 1,000-year split, Pope and Russian Patriarch embrace in Cuba
12 February 2016 - Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill embraced on Friday in a historic meeting. Nearly 1,000 years after the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity split apart, the meeting at an airport terminal in Cuba was the first ever between a Roman Catholic Pope and a Russian Orthodox Patriarch. (more)

Einstein's gravitational waves detected in landmark discovery
12 February 2016 - Scientists for the first time have detected gravitational waves, ripples in space and time hypothesised by Albert Einstein a century ago, in a landmark discovery announced on Thursday that opens a new window for studying the cosmos. The researchers said they identified gravitational waves coming from two distant black holes.The scientific milestone was achieved using a pair of giant laser detectors in the United States, located in Louisiana and Washington state, capping a decades-long quest to find these waves. The two instruments, working in unison, are called the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). (more)

Breakthrough: Scientists detect Einstein's gravity ripples
11 February 2016 - In an announcement that electrified the world of astronomy, scientists said Thursday that they have finally detected gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago. Astronomers hailed the finding as an achievement of historic proportions, one that opens the door to a new way of observing the universe and the violent collisions that are constantly shaping it. For them, it's like turning a silent movie into a talkie because these waves are the soundtrack of the cosmos in action. An all-star international team of astrophysicists used an excruciatingly sensitive, $1.1 billion set of twin instruments known as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO, to detect a gravitational wave generated by the collision of two black holes 1.3 billion light-years from Earth. (more)

Christian, Muslim leaders in Cyprus support peace talks
10 February 2016 - Christian and Muslim leaders in Cyprus on Wednesday repeated their full support for ongoing talks aimed at reunifying the ethnically-split country, saying their united stand for peace serves as a strong example of cooperation in a region where conflict is often fueled by religion. Cyprus was split into an internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup aiming at union with Greece. (more)

UAE picks woman to be first 'happiness' minister
10 February 2016 - The United Arab Emirates Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, took to Twitter on Wednesday to announce a new Cabinet that includes the country's first-ever 'minister of state for happiness.' Sheikh Mohammed insisted that happiness was more than a wish and would be guided by 'plans, projects, programs, (and) indices.' (more)

Top euro zone economy forecaster optimistic on growth
10 February 2016 - The recent pickup in euro zone economic growth will be maintained this year, according to the top forecaster for the currency bloc in Reuters polls last year. Johannes Mayr, head of economic research at BayernLB in Munich, is optimistic Germany will lead Europe in 2016 and while Chinese growth may disappoint, there is no risk of a sharp slowdown or recession. (more)

UK consumer spending growth hits 8-month high in January
10 February 2016 - British consumer spending grew at its fastest rate in 8 months in January, helped by a rebound in clothing and footwear sales, figures from payment card company Visa Europe showed on Monday, 8 February. Seasonally adjusted consumer spending rose by 2.7 percent year-on-year, the fastest rate since May 2015, according to the monthly survey. The figures, compiled by data company Markit, cover spending on travel, entertainment, and going out as well as retail sales. (more)

Smoking bans lead to better national health
9 February 2016 - People living in countries with public smoking bans have lower exposure to secondhand smoke and better health, according to a fresh look at past research from 21 nations. Smoking bans were tied to a decrease in health problems and deaths -- especially those related to heart disease, researchers report in the journal Cochrane Library, online February 4. Researchers did their analysis for the Cochrane Collaboration, which is known for reviewing medical evidence and determining its quality. (more)

UK retail sales growth picks up unexpectedly in January
9 February 2016 - British retail spending growth hit a four-month high in January, as consumers splashed out on big-ticket items like furniture, an industry body said on Tuesday. The British Retail Consortium said retail spending increased 3.3 percent in January compared with a year ago. (more)

US labor market strengthens
9 February 2016 - U.S. job openings surged in December and the number of Americans voluntarily quitting work hit a nine-year high, pointing to labor market strength despite a slowdown in economic growth. 'If the labor market is tightening, can the economy really be faltering?' said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pennsylvania. (more)

Chinese visit temples, fairs to ring in Year of the Monkey
8 February 2016 - Chinese flocked to temples and fairs to pray for good health and fortune on Monday, the first day of the Lunar New Year. Monday marks the first day of the Year of the Monkey -- the ninth animal on the Chinese zodiac calendar. The weeklong holiday, known as the Spring Festival in China, is focused on family reunion and is a time when students and migrant workers return to their hometowns. It is the country's most important holiday, equivalent to Christmas for many in the West. (more)

Pope Francis visit to celebrate Mexico's indigenous church
7 February 2016 - Pope Francis' visit to the heavily indigenous Mexican state of Chiapas appears to be aimed at celebrating the region's 'Indian church,' a mix of Catholicism and indigenous culture once considered a thorn in the side of standard liturgy by the Vatican. In Chiapas, Francis is scheduled to visit the diocese of San Cristobal, home to two of the most famed religious defenders of indigenous people in Mexican history. (more)

Chinese using carpooling apps to get ride home for holidays
5 February 2016 - The hundreds of millions of Chinese heading home for Lunar New Year have a relatively new travel option this year: mobile apps to find carpool partners to share costs in what is a novel concept for most Chinese. The apps give an alternative to pricey airfares and hard-to-score train tickets. Carpooling is still unusual in China, but government officials welcome the idea as a way to alleviate the enormous burden placed on the public transportation system during the Lunar New Year holidays, China's most important vacation period when hundreds of millions travel to their hometowns. All told, Chinese will make a total of 2.9 billion trips this holiday season, and 2.5 billion of them will be by road, according to official estimates. (more)

Hopeful sign for US economy: Job hunting ticks up
5 February 2016 - The percentage of Americans working or looking for a job rose for the third time in four months. It's now at its highest level since May. In addition, Americans appear to have a modestly rosier view of the job market. Their perception of the availability of jobs has recovered to nearly its pre-recession level, according to the Conference Board's consumer confidence survey. (more)

Pope, Russian Orthodox Patriarch to hold historic meeting in Cuba
5 February 2016 - Pope Francis and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church will meet in Cuba next week in what could be a landmark step towards healing the 1,000-year-old rift between the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity. The Vatican and the Moscow Patriarchate announced on Friday that Francis will stop in Cuba on February 12 on his way to Mexico to hold talks with Patriarch Kirill, the first in history between a Roman Catholic Pope and a Russian Orthodox Patriarch. (more)

U.S. labor market on solid ground as jobless rate hits eight-year low
5 February 2016 - U.S. employment gains slowed more than expected in January as the boost to hiring from unseasonably mild weather faded, but rising wages and an unemployment rate at an eight-year low suggested the labor market recovery remains firm. The U.S. unemployment rate slipped to 4.9 percent, the lowest since February 2008. (more)

Morocco unveils massive solar plant
4 February 2016 - Morocco's King Mohammed VI unveiled one of the world's biggest solar plants Thursday, taking advantage of the Sahara sunshine and a growing global push for renewable energy. (more)

Glimpse of Lunar New Year: Lion dance tradition thrives in Malaysia
4 February 2016 - The traditional art of the Chinese lion dance is nowhere near perishing in Muslim-majority Malaysia. It's a centuries-old tradition dating back the Han Dynasty. These days, it is kept alive by an ethnic Chinese minority that makes up 22 percent of Malaysia's 30 million people -- and by people like master craftsman Siow Ho Phiew. Siow isn't worried that the tradition will die out. 'This lion dance is a culture. It's not something new, it dates back for thousands of years,' he said. 'I believe that if it is good and beautiful art, I'm sure there will be people who will continue it.' (more)

Iran says good commercial relations with Britain can resume
4 February 2016 - Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Thursday that good economic and commercial relations could resume with Britain. 'Iran and Britain have had traditionally good commercial and economic relations and I think those can resume,' Zarif said at Chatham House in London. 'We need to work together on moving the political relations forward.' (more)

British Airways to resume flights to Iran
3 February 2016 - British Airways will resume direct flights from London to Tehran from July, renewing links with the Iranian capital after sanctions were lifted. The British airline followed Air France-KLM in confirming its intention to restart flights to Tehran after Iran curbed its nuclear program in return for the lifting of U.S., EU and United Nations sanctions in January. British Airways said it had a long history of flying to Tehran and offered its first scheduled flights to the city in 1946. (more)

Growth in India's services activity at 19-month high in January - PMI
3 February 2016 - Activity in India's services sector increased at its fastest pace in over a year and a half in January as demand accelerated, allowing firms to build up a much bigger backlog of orders, a business survey showed on Wednesday, 3 February. The Nikkei/Markit Services Purchasing Managers' Index rose to 54.3 in January from 53.6 in December, the seventh straight month above the 50-level that distinguishes growth from contraction. January also marked the seventh consecutive month of expansion in new business, with that sub-index rising to an 11-month high of 54.1. Respondents cited better weather and stronger underlying demand as the main drivers. (more)

US: Laser imaging helps University of New Hampshire researchers see forests
3 February 2016 - University of New Hampshire researchers are looking at data from laser imaging of forests with the goal of helping foresters and landowners track tree inventories to save them from the time-consuming practice of heading into the woods with tape measures. Data from such projects as aerial mapping of New Hampshire, which is being done as part of a national effort announced in 2014 by the Obama administration, can be used to see what's in the forests. (more)

Refugees bring entrepreneurial spirit to risk-shy Germany
1 February 2016 - Syrians Hiba Albassir and her husband Khaled arrived in Germany two years ago with only the bags they could carry. But that didn't stop them from setting up their own business. The latest influx of refugees -- many of whom like Albassir ran a business back home -- is seen as an opportunity to make Germany more enterprising. Migrants are already responsible for one in five new businesses set up in recent years, according to KfW, a government-owned development bank. This is higher than their share of the population. Around a third of those who applied for asylum last year came from Syria, where a culture of entrepreneurship is widespread. The biological father of Steve Jobs, who co-founded Apple, emigrated to the United States from Syria. (more)

Historic deal to protect Canada rainforest from logging
1 February 2016 - British Columbia on Monday unveiled a historic agreement to protect a massive swath of rainforest along its coastline, having reached a deal that marries the interests of First Nations, the logging industry, and environmentalists after a decade of often-tense negotiations. The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the world's largest temperate rainforests and the habitat of the Spirit Bear, a rare subspecies of the black bear with white fur and claws. It is also home to 26 Aboriginal groups, known as First Nations. (more)

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