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Kenyan woman, 26, sets up country's first digital car insurance company
28 January 2020 - Jihan Abass, a 26-year-old Kenyan woman, often walks into meetings full of puzzled faces as people crane past her looking for the boss of her new digital motor insurance company. Abass is founder and CEO of Griffin Insurance, which released its flagship mobile application on Friday [24 January]. Griffin is Kenya's first digital-only car insurance company, which lets customers pay in instalments and pause coverage if they travel abroad. Griffin will process claims in a week rather than the industry standard of 30 days, she said. (more)

Oscars go green with plant-based menus, no plastic bottles
28 January 2020 - Food at this year's Oscar events will be almost entirely plant-based, the Academy of Motion Pictures said on Monday [27 January], in line with other celebrity dinners during Hollywood's 2020 awards season. Menus for the annual luncheon for Oscar nominees on Monday, as well as finger food served before the Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood on February 9, will be 100 percent plant-based, the academy said. (more)

Tata launches 'ecosystem' to kickstart Indian clean vehicles
28 January 2020 - India's Tata Group is making its biggest push yet toward clean vehicles with plans to make electric cars and batteries, set up charging stations and build a battery recycling plant, senior executives said on Tuesday [28 January]. To try to curb pollution and reduce its fuel import bill, India is pushing automakers to produce electric vehicles, but has faced resistance from some that say the charging infrastructure needs to be set up first and battery costs are too high to allow the manufacture of affordable EVs. Companies from the steel-to-autos Tata conglomerate plan to address some of these issues. (more)

One six-week expedition discovered ten new songbird species and subspecies in Indonesia
27 January 2020 - A six-week expedition to three small island groups near Sulawesi, Indonesia has yielded five new songbird species and five new subspecies. The new species and subspecies were described in a paper published in Science last week. Frank Rheindt, a professor at the National University of Singapore who led the research team, suggests that the methods employed by his team could be successfully applied to other regions and other types of wildlife. (more)

Polly share a cracker: Study finds grey parrots are good Samaritans
27 January 2020 - An experiment with eight African grey parrots shows the birds are intrinsically motivated to help one another like humans. The parrots, famed for their ability to mimic human speech, spontaneously helped their partners to obtain treats in a token-exchange experiment whose findings were published in the journal Current Biology. (more)

'Jumping genes' help stabilize DNA folding patterns
26 January 2020 - 'Jumping genes' -- bits of DNA that can move from one spot in the genome to another -- are well-known for increasing genetic diversity over the long course of evolution. Now, new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis indicates that such genes, also called transposable elements, play another, more surprising role: stabilizing the 3-D folding patterns of the DNA molecule inside the cell's nucleus. (more)

Has physicist's gravity theory solved 'impossible' dark energy riddle?
26 January 2020 - Since the big bang, the universe has been expanding, but the known laws of physics suggest that the inward tug of gravity should be slowing down this expansion. In reality, though, the universe is ballooning at an accelerating rate. Scientists have come up with a name -- dark energy -- for the mysterious agent that is allowing the cosmos to expand so rapidly and which is estimated to account for 70 percent of the contents of the universe. But ultimately nobody knows what the stuff actually is. Change could be afoot. Claudia De Rham has pioneered a radical theory that could hold the key to why the universe is expanding faster and faster and explain the nature of dark energy. (more)

US: Electric vehicle maker Rivian: expect prices lower than previously announced
25 January 2020 - Electric vehicle startup Rivian on Saturday, 25 January, displayed its pickup truck and SUV at an event in San Francisco's Bay Area and said that when their prices are unveiled soon they will be lower than has been previously announced. Rivian is working on rolling out a network of charging stations at key locations such as national parks, but that the vehicles can charge on most charging networks available today. (more)

Happy New Year in Chinese and other greetings
25 January 2020 - There are multiple blessings and greetings for Chinese New Year. But there are variations even for the most basic 'Happy New Year!' It can be said that Chinese culture is based off of Confucianism. This philosophy emphasizes manners, politeness and respect. Age, status and rank are ingrained in actions. This is especially clear during Chinese New Year. At the traditional dinner: no arguments, crying, bickering, or fights. It'll bring bad luck and ruin the mood. (more)

UK: Agriculture Bill to boost environment and food production
24 January 2020 - A future where farmers are properly supported to farm more innovatively and protect the environment is a step closer following the introduction of the Agriculture Bill in the UK. It sets out how farmers and land managers in England will in the future be rewarded with public money for 'public goods' -- such as better air and water quality, higher animal welfare standards, improved access to the countryside, or measures to reduce flooding. This will contribute to the government's commitment to reaching net zero emissions by 2050, while at the same time, helping to boost farmers' productivity and protect nature and biodiversity. (more)

Ocean cleanup device successfully collects plastic for first time
23 January 2020 - A huge floating device designed by Dutch scientists to clean up an island of rubbish in the Pacific Ocean that is three times the size of France has successfully picked up plastic from the high seas for the first time. The vast cleaning system is designed to not only collect discarded fishing nets and large visible plastic objects, but also microplastics. (more)

Refugees integrating 'faster than expected' into Germany's labour market
23 January 2020 - The Institute for Employment Research (IAB) has revealed that around 400,000 refugees have jobs in Germany -- something which researcher Herbert Brucker, of the IAB, says has exceeded expectations. About 50 percent of refugees with jobs are employed as skilled workers, Brucker reported. (more)

Germany's 50Hertz power grid carried record 60 percent renewable energy in 2019: CEO
22 January 2020 - Three-fifths of the power carried by high-voltage grid firm 50Hertz in northeastern Germany last year came from renewable sources, a record high, chief executive Stefan Kapferer told Reuters on Tuesday [21 January]. The share of renewables in Germany's overall power supply mix rose to over 40 percent last year in the country's staged transition away from carbon-polluting fossil fuels. (more)

Community-generated green electricity to be offered to all in UK
21 January 2020 - UK homes will soon be able to plug into community wind and solar farms from anywhere in the country through the first energy tariff to offer clean electricity exclusively from community projects. The deal from Co-op Energy comes as green energy suppliers race to prove their sustainability credentials amid rising competition for eco-conscious customers and 'greenwashing' in the market. (more)

London launches green energy firm to fight climate change, poverty
21 January 2020 - London's mayor launched a green energy company that will provide 'fair-priced' electricity from renewable sources on Monday [13 January], seeking to reduce carbon emissions and make fuel more affordable. Profits will be invested into community projects that help tackle fuel poverty, fight climate change, and meet the British capital's goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. (more)

China moves to phase out single-use plastics
20 January 2020 - China is stepping up restrictions on the production, sale and use of single-use plastic products, the state planner said on Sunday [19 January], as it seeks to tackle one of the country's biggest environmental problems. (more)

Italy: Intesa Sanpaolo CEO says ready to fund 50 billion euros in green investments
20 January 2020 - Italy's biggest retail bank Intesa Sanpaolo is ready to fund 50 billion euros in green investments in Italy, Chief Executive Carlo Messina said on Thursday [16 January]. (more)

Kenya's first green bond starts trading on the bourse
20 January 2020 - Kenya's first green bond was listed for trading on the Nairobi Securities Exchange on Monday [13 January], offering investors the chance to put money into an environmentally-friendly fixed income security for the first time in the bourse's 65 year history. 'Our capital markets, our investors, and indeed our government have started to take climate change seriously,' said Kiprono Kittony, a member of the board of the Nairobi Securities Exchange. (more)

US: Door-knocking neighbors help avert home foreclosures in Detroit
20 January 2020 - Detroit has been ravaged by property tax foreclosures, now a group of people are warning homeowners in their communities whose properties are at risk. Foreclosures have fallen by more than 90 percent since their peak in 2015, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced on January 8, pointing to Neighbor to Neighbor as a major player in turning that tide. (more)

Factbox: Big Tech and their carbon pledges
19 January 2020 - Microsoft Corp said on Thursday [16 January] it would take out of the atmosphere as much carbon as the company had ever produced, joining U.S. tech giants in setting ambitious goals for combating climate change. [In this article, Reuters gives a] snapshot of the promises and achievements U.S. West Coast tech companies [Apple, Amazon, Alphabet Inc's Google, and Facebook] have made in the area. (more)

US: Florida agrees to buy swath of Everglades to protect it from oil drilling
19 January 2020 - The state of Florida has reached a deal with a private real estate firm to buy a large swath of environmentally sensitive wetlands in the heart of the Everglades to spare the tract from oil drilling, the governor announced on Wednesday [15 January]. ... Water flowing through that area also recharges the Biscayne Aquifer, the source of drinking water for all of South Florida, including the greater Miami metropolitan area, said Temperince Morgan, executive director of the Nature Conservancy's Florida chapter. The tract represents a critical remaining remnant of the original Everglades, a vast expanse of subtropical wilderness ... (more)

Colombia to increase monitoring to curb deforestation, minister says
18 January 2020 - Colombia's environment minister said on Thursday [16 January] the Andean country will increase monitoring of its jungles and forests to fight deforestation and protect the species that call these areas home. Colombia, home to glacial mountain peaks, the northern part of the Amazon jungle and other ecosystems, is one of the world's so-called mega-diverse countries according to the United Nations. (more)

US: Rhode Island Governor aims for 100 percent renewable power by 2030
18 January 2020 - Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo signed an executive order on Friday [17 January] aiming for renewable energy to provide all of the state's electricity by 2030 to fight climate change. With the order, Rhode Island joins several other states that have set 100 percent clean energy goals, including Hawaii, California, New Mexico, Maine, New York, Washington, and Virginia, according to Environment America. (more)

Papua New Guinea's Meri Seif bus program provides safe transport to women and girls
17 January 2020 - The pink and purple buses carrying women through the streets of Papua New Guinea's two major cities are as bold in purpose as they are in color. The buses launched in the capital city of Port Moresby in 2014 and expanded to Lae, the second-largest city in Papua New Guinea (PNG), in 2019. The two bus programs have ensured that some 170,000 women and girls annually ride safely to and from work and school each day. (more)

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