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Belgrade: Resilient capital finds new energy to rebuild once again
18 December 2014 - In the heart of Belgrade, the vibrant and resilient capital of Serbia, a slow and colourful transformation is taking place. Once ugly and industrial, the historic neighbourhood of Savamala is now blossoming back to life. Belgrade has been destroyed and rebuilt around 40 times. Today Belgrade is stepping up its efforts to rebuild once again. (more)

Five signs America is falling in love with public transit
18 December 2014 - After decades of embracing car culture, experts report growing movement out of the driver's seat and into transit stations. Ridership aboard US public transportation in 2014 is expected to top last year's figures. 2013 saw more riders on public transportation than any year since 1956, according to the American Public Transportation Association. (more)

Global population living six years longer than in 1990: study
18 December 2014 - Global life expectancy has risen by more than six years since 1990 thanks to falling death rates from cancer and heart disease in rich countries and better survival in poor countries. (more)

US jobless aid applications decline to 289,000
18 December 2014 - Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, a sign of solid job security and growing confidence among employers. Hiring is accelerating. In the first 11 months of this year, employers have added 2.65 million jobs. That already makes 2014 the best year for hiring since 1999. Employers added 321,000 jobs in November, the most in nearly three years. (more)

President Obama: US re-establishing relations with Cuba
17 December 2014 - President Barack Obama announced the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba on Wednesday and declared an end to America's 'outdated approach' to the communist island in a historic shift aimed at ending a half-century of Cold War enmity. 'These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked,' President Obama said in remarks from the White House. 'It's time for a new approach.' (more)

US, Cuba plan restored relations after 50 years of hostility
17 December 2014 - The United States plans to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba more than 50 years after they were severed, a major policy shift after decades of hostile ties with the communist-ruled island, President Barack Obama said on Wednesday. Announcing the end of what he called a 'rigid' policy of isolation of Cuba that had been ineffective, President Obama said the United States planned to move toward normal ties and would open an embassy in Cuba. (more)

US: New York will move to prohibit fracking
17 December 2014 - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration will move to prevent fracking in the state, citing unresolved health issues and dubious economic benefits of the widely used gas-drilling technique. Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens said Wednesday that he was recommending a ban, and Cuomo said he would defer to Martens and Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker in making the decision. Zucker and Martens on Wednesday summarized the findings of environmental and health reviews that concluded that shale gas development using high-volume hydraulic fracturing carried unacceptable risks that haven't been sufficiently studied. (more)

Asian business sentiment rebounds in fourth quarter with India most optimistic
17 December 2014 - Business sentiment among Asia's top companies rebounded in the fourth quarter to the second-highest level in almost three years, a Thomson Reuters/INSEAD survey showed, helped by a stronger US economy and a plunge in oil prices. Indian businesses provided the biggest boost to the index, with companies reporting a maximum score of 100 for the third consecutive quarter. (more)

Thomson Reuters/INSEAD fourth-quarter Asian Business Sentiment Survey - by economy
17 December 2014 - Business sentiment among Asia's top companies rose in the fourth quarter with Indian firms, buoyed by hopes Prime Minister Narendra Modi would live up to his market-friendly reputation, showing the most positive outlook for a third straight quarter. Confidence among companies in Australia was second only to India. Sentiment in China was unchanged, South Korea rebounded strongly, and the outlook index of Taiwanese corporations turned positive in the fourth quarter, jumping from 33 to 71. (more)

Thomson Reuters/INSEAD fourth-quarter Asian Business Sentiment Survey - by sector
17 December 2014 - Business sentiment among Asia's top companies rose in the fourth quarter with builders switching to most optimistic from least just three months earlier due in part to increased new orders, while property developers also showed a rise in sentiment. Sentiment among retailers hit its highest since the survey began in 2009, food firms were their most bullish since early 2013 with most showing higher orders and sales, and sentiment among automakers held steady at a three-year high. Financials outlook steadied. (more)

Canada hosted secret meetings between Cuba and US
17 December 2014 - Canada hosted about seven meetings between the US and Cuba that helped lead to President Barack Obama's announcement Wednesday that the two countries will establish full diplomatic relations, a senior Canadian government official said. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada did not play a role in the discussions themselves. Senior US officials said Canada was 'indispensable' in hosting the majority of the secret talks, and Obama thanked Canada earlier Wednesday. (more)

Colombian rebels announce unilateral cease-fire
17 December 2014 - Colombian rebels at peace talks with government representatives in Cuba have announced an indefinite, unilateral ceasefire as long as military units don't attack them. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) made the announcement in a communique published on its Twitter account Wednesday. (more)

Cubans cheer historic renewal of US relations
17 December 2014 - Bells tolled in celebration and teachers halted lessons midday as President Raul Castro told his country Wednesday that Cuba was restoring relations with the United States after more than a half-century of hostility. (more)

Key dates in US relations with Cuba
17 December 2014 - Following are key events in US-Cuba relations from the start: Fidel Castro's rebels take power as dictator Fulgencio Batista flees Cuba on 1 January 1959. The United States soon recognizes the new government. But relations begin to sour as Americans criticize summary trials and executions of Batista loyalists. (more)

UK households' optimism over finances hits six-year high - Markit
17 December 2014 - British households were more optimistic in December about their financial prospects in the coming 12 months than at any point in the last six years, a monthly survey showed on Wednesday. The Markit household finance survey's measure of financial well-being for the next 12 months rose to its highest level since the survey started six years ago. (more)

UK unemployment rate at 6-year low of 6 per cent
17 December 2014 - Official figures show Britain's unemployment rate was 6 per cent in the three months to October, its lowest level since the 2008 financial crisis. (more)

US factory production accelerates in sign of economy's strength
17 December 2014 - US manufacturing output recorded its largest increase in nine months in November as production expanded across the board, pointing to underlying strength in the economy. The upbeat factory data joined bullish employment and retail sales reports in suggesting strength in the economy. (more)

Eight-day Jewish festival of Hanukkah begins
16 December 2014 - Jews are celebrating the eight-day festival of Hanukkah with traditions that commemorate ancient miracles and symbolize triumph over oppression. The holiday began after sundown Tuesday. Hanukkah is also known as the festival of lights, (more)

People who feel younger may live longer
16 December 2014 - A new study says feeling sprightly might suggest a person has more time left than people who feel their age or older. 'Perhaps the beliefs and feelings that people have tell us something that our other measures of health and wellbeing do not capture,' said study coauthor Andrew Steptoe of the epidemiology and public health department at University College London. (more)

Arab woman aims to blaze a trail in Israel's high-tech sector
16 December 2014 - Israel is proud to call itself a 'Start-up Nation', with more tech firms listed on Nasdaq than any other country outside the United States and China. But two elements are often missing from that success story: women and Arabs. Doctor Amal Ayoub is hoping to change that. An Arab-Israeli from the town of Nazareth, Ayoub is the founder and chief executive of Metallo Therapy, a biomedical start-up that has developed technology to better monitor the development of malignant tumors. (more)

US teens' use of alcohol, cigarettes at 40-year low, study finds
16 December 2014 - Fewer US teenagers are consuming alcohol or smoking cigarettes than at any time in at least 40 years, according to a national study released on Tuesday. Growing peer disapproval may be a top factor in the drop in drinking and smoking in 2014, according to the study by the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future programme. (more)

'Culture' gets nod as Merriam-Webster's 2014 word of the year
16 December 2014 - Whether popular, corporate, or entitled, 'culture' was named word of the year by US dictionary Merriam-Webster on Monday as a flexible catch-all that can easily identify a subject, idea, or issue. It was chosen for its large amount of online lookups and significant increase in lookups from last year, Merriam-Webster said. (more)

IllRideWithYou: Aussies offer support to Muslims
15 December 2014 - Some Australian social media users sent a message of solidarity to Muslims as the Sydney cafe siege went on for almost a day, offering to accompany anyone who felt intimidated on public transit. The Twitter hashtag (hash)IllRideWithYou had been used more than 90,000 times by early Tuesday, as tweeters tried to allay fears of anti-Islamic attacks on Australia's streets. (more)

14 cities get Bloomberg 'innovation team' grants
15 December 2014 - Fourteen cities ranging from Long Beach, California, to Jerusalem are getting up to $3 million from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's foundation to create 'innovation teams' to jump-start new approaches to poverty, public safety, job growth, and other issues, the foundation announced Monday. The Bloomberg Philanthropies grants range from $400,000 to $1 million annually for three years, expanding and internationalizing awards to five US cities in 2011. (more)

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