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Britain's unemployment plunges to five-year low, pay grows
16 April 2014 - Britain's unemployment rate unexpectedly dropped in the three months to February, and wages also caught up with inflation for the first time in nearly four years. It was the first time since April 2010 that pay growth had not lagged the consumer price index. Britain's labour market rebounded in 2013. (more)

US: Vermont steps closer to passing GMO food-labelling law
16 April 2014 - The Vermont Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would make it the first US state to enact mandatory labelling of foods made with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Unlike bills passed last year in Maine and Connecticut, which require other states to pass GMO labeling laws before they can be enacted, Vermont's contains no such trigger clause. Vermont's bill, approved 28-2 by the Senate, has already passed the state House of Representatives. It now goes back to the House to see whether members will approve changes made by the Senate. If passed, the law would take effect 1 July 2016. (more)

Ground-breaking Good Friday mass signals thaw in Cyprus
16 April 2014 - For the first time in more than half a century, a church in northern Cyprus will host Good Friday mass in a sign of a thaw in relations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Off limits to Greek Cypriots for 58 years, the Church of Saint George Exorinos in the medieval city of Famagusta will host a liturgy on what is one of the most important religious dates in the Greek Orthodox calendar. An ancient port city which inspired Shakespeare's tragedy 'Othello', Famagusta was once the Mediterranean island's premier coastal resort. Liturgies at Saint George Exorinos stopped before Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960, after clashes between Greek and Turkish Cypriots broke out. (more)

BlackBerry's meltdown sparks start-up boom in Canada's Silicon Valley
16 April 2014 - BlackBerry: the crash that launched 1,000 start-ups. The troubles at BlackBerry Ltd, which fired more than half its staff and lost more than 90 per cent of its market value as consumers shunned its smart phones, might have spelled disaster for the company's hometown of Waterloo, Ontario. Instead, there are hot sports cars in the streets and new companies filling the refurbished office buildings. More than 450 start-ups opened for business in the twin cities of Waterloo and Kitchener last year, more than four times the number begun in 2009, according to Communitech, a local company that advises them. Often, the new companies are being founded by former BlackBerry employees chasing their entrepreneurial ambitions in a community that's Canada's answer to technology hubs in California and elsewhere. (more)

Turkey: For tourism, it's business as usual
16 April 2014 - Istanbul, the noisy metropolis on the Bosporus Strait lauded by many a travel ranking, has much more to offer than grand mosques and bazaars. Away from the din of typical tourist haunts, a walk around several neighbourhoods will peel back the surface to reveal the city's multilayered history, and the lifestyles of those who've lived it. And while headlines persist on Turkey's uneasy political situation, protests have dwindled for now. For tourism, it's business as usual, with the government counting 35 million people visiting last year, a 10 per cent increase over the previous year. As proof of Turkey's popularity among travellers, TripAdvisor just named the country the world's top destination, based on the website's ratings and user reviews. (more)

US: Major League Baseball marks 67th anniversary of Jackie Robinson debut
16 April 2014 - Marking the 67th anniversary of the day Jackie Robinson broke baseball's colour barrier on 15 April, the Rev Jesse Jackson praised Commissioner Bud Selig for the strides the sport has taken in minority opportunities over the past two decades. Jackson said Jackie Robinson Day had become 'a national holiday for all practical purposes'. Commissioner Selig said 'Today all of our players league-wide will wear No 42 to celebrate the man who helped change the future course of our game and more importantly our country.' In 1947, Jackie Robinson, baseball's first black major league player, made his official debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers on opening day. (The Dodgers defeated the Boston Braves, 5-3.) (more)

Bulgaria recovers ancient gold artefacts from smugglers
16 April 2014 - Bulgaria's state security agency said it had recovered a trove of 15,000 priceless gold artefacts dating back to the third millennium BC from a smuggling ring. Officials said the collection, which included three gold necklaces worn by women of high social status, would be given to Bulgaria's National Museum of History. 'These amazing golden findings are 1,500 years older than the Trojan War and 2,500 years older than all Thracian treasures we know,' Bozhidar Dimitrov, the director of the museum, told a news conference on Monday. (more)

Asia shares rise, shrug off slower China growth
16 April 2014 - Shares rose Wednesday in Asia as positive sentiment from strong corporate earnings outweighed Ukraine's crisis and slower economic growth in China. Japan's Nikkei jumped 2.5 per cent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained, and South Korea's Kospi index edged up. Elsewhere in Asia, the Shanghai Composite added 0.3 per cent. Markets also rose in Southeast Asia, Australia, and India. (more)

Greek economy may grow in 2014, unemployment to dip - IOBE think tank
16 April 2014 - Greece's economy will stabilize this year after a six-year recession and may manage a small expansion, think tank IOBE said on Wednesday. The Foundation of Economic and Industrial Research forecast that last year's 15.5 per cent tourism surge in terms of foreign visitors would continue this year, without providing numerical forecasts. (more)

Lower inflation boosts UK households' morale - Markit
16 April 2014 - British households feel under the least financial pressure in more than five years, due to lower inflation and the prospect of higher wages, a monthly survey showed on Wednesday. (more)

UK: Persimmon says housing demand picking up across Britain
16 April 2014 - British housebuilder Persimmon said demand for new houses continued to strengthen, helped by government intervention to help first-time buyers. Persimmon, which builds homes across the country apart from central London, said its new financial year had started well, with private sale rates per site up 25 per cent in the first 15 weeks of its year compared to a year ago. (more)

UK: BoE's Broadbent says sees signs business investment picking up
16 April 2014 - Bank of England policymaker Ben Broadbent said on Tuesday he is seeing signs that British businesses are investing more as the economy recovers. In an interview with BBC Radio Lancashire, Broadbent said there were signs of growth in 'pretty much every sector', with car sellers and construction companies among those leading the way. (more)

UK: Royal couple arrive in Sydney for Down Under tour
16 April 2014 - Britain's Prince William, his wife, Kate, and their baby son, George, arrived in sunny Sydney on Wednesday to the cheers of thousands of fans as they kicked off their tour of Australia. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge landed in Sydney after wrapping up a 10-day trip around New Zealand. They are on a three-week tour of New Zealand and Australia. (more)

UK: Wages poised to pass recovery milestone
16 April 2014 - Britain's recovery from its deepest recession in decades looks set to pass a milestone this week when a six-year run of declining living standards is expected to show a turnaround. An end to the erosion of earnings by inflation will be a welcome change for Prime Minister David Cameron. Analysts say the trend looks to be reverting back in favour of earners after Britain's economy picked up speed over the last year and unemployment fell fast. (more)

US factory output extended solid gains in March
16 April 2014 - US factory output rose further last month, extending strong growth from February after harsh weather had caused production to tumble in January. Manufacturing output has climbed a solid 2.8 per cent over the past 12 months. Higher factory output is a sign of greater demand by businesses and consumers. (more)

US: Fed survey shows growth picks up across most of America
16 April 2014 - A Federal Reserve survey shows economic growth picking up across most of the United States over the past two months as bitter winter weather subsided. In March and early April, consumers took advantage of better weather to go shopping. Manufacturing expanded across most of the country. Ports and highways were busier. Across most of the country, home prices rose modestly and homebuilding picked up. Tourism was 'generally positive'. In several districts, ski resorts reported record years. The job market has steadily recovered. The economy has now regained all the private sector jobs it lost during the Great Recession. (more)

US: Jill Biden promotes Post-9/11 GI Bill website
16 April 2014 - Jill Biden is promoting a new website designed to make it easier for service members, veterans, their spouses, and dependents to calculate their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits at thousands of schools and job training programmes. 'In just a couple easy steps they can figure everything out,' Mrs Biden told The Associated Press before she appeared Wednesday on a television programme to show off the GI Bill Comparison Tool. Previously, service members had to consult multiple sources to find the same information, said Mrs Biden, a military mom and English professor. The website launched in February, but Vice President Joe Biden's wife is highlighting its existence as she and First Lady Michelle Obama mark this month's third anniversary of Joining Forces. (more)

US: Obama, Biden to announce $600M for job grants
16 April 2014 - President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are hitting the road to trumpet $600 million in new competitive grants to spur creation of targeted training and apprenticeship programmes that could help people land well-paying jobs. Administration officials say they hear from too many businesses that they cannot find skilled workers for jobs they need to fill. (more)

US: Vermont lawmakers pass GMO labelling bill
15 April 2014 - The Vermont Senate passed a bill that would require labels to identify genetically modified ingredients, starting in 2016. Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell says people have a right to know what's in their food. The Burlington Free Press reports that the bill still needs approval from the Vermont House. Connecticut and Maine have passed labelling laws but delayed implementation. Vermont would be the first state to enact labelling. (more)

French parliament bans cultivation of genetically modified maize
15 April 2014 - France's lower house of parliament adopted a law on Tuesday prohibiting the cultivation of any variety of genetically modified maize, saying it posed a risk to the environment. France adopted a decree last month to halt the planting of Monsanto's insect-resistant MON810 maize, the only GM crop allowed for cultivation in the European Union. 'It is essential today to renew a widely shared desire to maintain the French ban,' Jean-Marie Le Guen, the minister in charge of relations with parliament, told the National Assembly. 'This bill strengthens the decree passed last March by preventing the immediate cultivation of GMO and extending their reach to all transgenic maize varieties,' he said. (more)

Austria: Vienna orchestra to return Nazi-looted painting
15 April 2014 - The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra will return to a French family a valuable painting that was looted by the Nazis and given to the orchestra as a gift in 1940 by a Viennese secret police official. The heirs of the painting's late owner, Marcel Koch, will receive 'Port-en-Bessin' by neo-Impressionist Paul Signac at a ceremony this year, the orchestra said on Saturday, announcing the latest step to address its past association with Nazism. (more)

Norway restores, donates 1927 silent film to China
15 April 2014 - Norway donated a restored Chinese silent film from the 1920s to China's national film archive on Tuesday, despite a prolonged diplomatic chill between the countries over the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. Two representatives of the National Library of Norway presented the film to the China Film Archive and a showing was planned, according to the official China News Service. (more)

China set to elevate environment over development in new law
15 April 2014 - Smog-hit China is set to pass a new law that would give Beijing more powers to shut polluting factories and punish officials, and even place protected regions off-limits to industrial development, scholars with knowledge of the situation said. Long-awaited amendments to China's 1989 Environmental Protection Law are expected to be finalized later this year, giving the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) greater authority to take on polluters. (more)

Canada: International builders soak up the Vancouver model
15 April 2014 - From a global perspective, Vancouver is booming, a leading example of a thriving foreign real estate investment market. But as Vancouverites are well aware there's been a price to pay, particularly in the form of unaffordable housing. Of the positives is the smart use of surplus industrial land. Areas that were once dead zones, such as the Olympic Village/Flats and Railtown areas, are now destination neighbourhoods, made interesting because of tech, design, and artisan industries that have set up shop. While several cities in the US still suffer the repercussions of the recession, they look to Vancouver as an example of a city that's at the top of its game. (more)

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