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Israel and Turkey agree to normalize ties: senior Israeli official
26 June 2016 - Israel and Turkey on Sunday reached agreement to normalize ties, a senior Israeli official said, to end a six-year rift over the Israeli navy's killing of 10 Turkish pro-Palestinian activists who tried to sail to the blockaded Gaza Strip in 2010. The once-firm allies had been quietly mending fences in trade and tourism since their leaders held a conciliatory phone call in 2013 and negotiations have intensified over the past six months to clear the way for a mutual return of ambassadors. (more)

U.S. jobless claims, factory data point to firming economy
26 June 2016 - The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell last week to near a 43-year low, suggesting labor market resilience even though hiring slowed sharply in May. Other data on Thursday also gave a fairly upbeat assessment of the economy. (more)

Germany imposes limits on fracking
25 June 2016 - Germany imposed limits on fracking on Friday, dealing a blow to efforts to develop shale gas. Under legislation passed by its lower house of Parliament, fracking will be banned in clay formations, which typically lie between 1,000 and 2,500 meters deep. In tightening its rules on fracking Germany follows France, which has banned the practice, and the Netherlands, which last year introduced a moratorium on shale exploration until 2020. (more)

Indigenous Bolivians welcome Aymara New Year in dawn ceremony
25 June 2016 - Hundreds of indigenous Bolivians raised their hands to the sun rising over the Cordillera Real mountain range and danced to music around a blazing fire to usher in the Aymara New Year. The celebration on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca included offerings to Pachamama, or mother earth, for a bountiful crop. About 2 million Bolivians trace their heritage totally or partially to the Aymara (more)

Cities forge world's largest alliance to curb climate change
24 June 2016 - Cities in six continents joined up to form the world's largest alliance to combat climate change on Wednesday, a move intended to help making ground-level changes to slow global warming. More than 7,100 cities in 119 countries formed the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, a network for helping exchange information on such goals as developing clean energy, organizers said. (more)

Dutch test 'Ocean Cleanup' plan to collect floating plastic
24 June 2016 - A Dutch foundation has developed floating barriers to try to collect trash from the world's oceans, and will launch a 100 meter-long prototype in the North Sea this week to see how it fares during storms. The Ocean Cleanup Foundation's 21-year-old Chief Executive Boyan Slat, who first had the idea for the system as a teenager, hopes to use the technology in an enormous area where trash circulates in the northern Pacific Ocean, from 2020. (more)

Romania - One of Europe's most active technology hubs
23 June 2016 - Romania has emerged as one of Europe's most active technology hubs, with the IT industry posting stellar growth and benefiting from a highly-skilled local labor pool as well as one of the fastest internet speeds in the world. Multinational companies such as Oracle, IBM, and Intel have set up in the former communist country in customer support, business process outsourcing, and software development, and young entrepreneurs have launched a wave of new startups. (more)

Dutch prototype clean-up boom brings Pacific plastics solution a step closer
22 June 2016 - A bid to clear the Pacific of its plastic debris has moved a step closer with the launch of the biggest prototype clean-up boom yet by the Dutch environment minister at a port in The Hague. On Thursday, 23 June, the 100m-long barrier will be towed 20km out to sea for a year of sensor-monitored tests. If tests are successful, it could be deployed at a larger scale in the 'great Pacific garbage patch'. A fully scaled-up barrier would be the most ambitious ocean cleansing project yet, capturing around half of the plastic soup that circles the Pacific gyre within a decade. That at least is the plan. (more)

New technology speeds massive coral reef survey
22 June 2016 - Scientists using facial recognition technology and 360-degree underwater photos said Wednesday they have developed new software to quickly assess coral bleaching and other damage to the world's imperiled reefs. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials say the technology will provide an unmatched resource for assessing the growing problem. The survey crew also partnered with Google Street View to provide interactive underwater reef experiences for users all around the world. Now, with the click of a mouse people can immerse themselves in a world they may never have been able to see. (more)

Prime Minister Modi leads India into second International Day of Yoga celebrations
21 June 2016 - Prime Minister Narendra Modi today led over 30,000 participants at a mass yoga [asana] demonstration in Chandigarh. Modi joined participants for the second International Yoga Day celebrations as he pitched for treating diseases like diabetes through the ancient discipline [of yoga asanas]. In the run up to the event, Prime Minister Narendra Modi released a commemorative postal stamp on Surya Namaskara in the national capital yesterday. (more)

International Day of Yoga: Make yoga a part of your life, says Prime Minister Modi
21 June 2016 - Yoga is not a religious activity, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday, as he participated in a mass yoga [asana] demonstration camp in Chandigarh to mark the International Day of Yoga. In his brief address, the Prime Minister said the International Yoga Day had become a mass movement like no other in the world. 'Just as the mobile phone is now a part of your life, make yoga too a part of your life,' he said, drawing applause. (more)

Americans drinking less soda, eating more whole grains and nuts
21 June 2016 - Americans are adding more whole grains, nuts and seeds to their diets and cutting back on sodas and sugary drinks, a U.S. study suggests. (more)

German government agrees to ban fracking indefinitely
21 June 2016 - Germany's coalition government agreed to ban fracking for shale gas indefinitely on Tuesday, after years of fractious talks over the issue, but environmental groups said the ban did not go far enough and vowed to fight the deal. If the law is approved by Parliament, Germany will follow France, which has banned fracking. Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and the left Social Democrats (SPD) agreed on Tuesday to an indefinite ban. Fracking involves blasting chemicals and water into rocks to release trapped gas. (more)

Michelle Obama joins Snapchat as 'MichelleObama' to promote upcoming education for girls trip
21 June 2016 - Michelle Obama joined the popular messaging app Snapchat on Tuesday to promote her upcoming trip to Liberia, Morocco, and Spain to encourage education for girls. Her Snapchat account will be used to give 'young people a fun way to follow her trip' with her teen daughters Malia and Sasha to promote girls' education, one of her signature issues as the First Lady of the United States, the White House said. She begins her trip at the end of June. (more)

Millions exercise together for global Yoga Day
21 June 2016 - Millions of people twisted their bodies in celebration of International Yoga Day on Tuesday. At the United Nations in New York, various yoga [asana] poses were projected on a side wall of the U.N. headquarters building to highlight the role yoga [asanas] can play in helping the U.N. achieve its sustainable development goals. (more)

Smithsonian to host first major US Quran exhibition
21 June 2016 - The Quran, revered by Muslims, is the centerpiece of a first-of-its-kind exhibition in the United States as the Smithsonian displays exquisitely decorated manuscripts from one of the top Quran collections. The Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery announced Tuesday that 'The Art of the Qur'an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts' will bring 48 manuscripts and folios from the museum in Istanbul together with manuscripts from the collection of the Sackler and Freer Gallery of Art, which are together the Smithsonian's museum of Asian art. (more)

US: Last California nuclear power plant to close
21 June 2016 - California's largest utility and environmental groups struck a deal Tuesday, June 21, to shutter the last nuclear power facility in the state. The rooftop panels and churning turbines of booming solar and wind energy are helping make U.S. plants, with all the safety fears and rising costs they bring, obsolete, some experts say. (more)

France to vote against continued EU use of weedkiller glyphosate
20 June 2016 - France will vote on Friday (24 June) against the continued use of weedkiller glyphosate, its environment minister said, adding to uncertainty over the future of widely-used products such as Monsanto's Roundup in the European Union. (more)

US: Neglected horses now rehabbed to help veterans with PTSD
19 June 2016 - After [an injury] from a 2013 rocket attack in Afghanistan, retired U.S. Army Maj. Dan Thomas recovered with help from an equine therapy program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. After purchasing two neglected horses that were seized by the state of Connecticut from a breeder and rehabilitated through a state program involving female prison inmates, Thomas and his wife plan to create a program similar to the one he experienced at the couple's 160-acre ranch in Alabama. (more)

US: Recovery schools help teens graduate
19 June 2016 - About 36 recovery high schools nationwide pair traditional classes with addiction support groups, drug testing, and a community of peers committed to recovery. Though such schools have been around since 1979, they have become an increasingly popular option. Advocacy groups, legislators, and researchers are now working to make them more sustainable. (more)

In Morocco's Atlas mountains, Berber girls find the way out of rural poverty: an education
18 June 2016 - lliteracy rates for rural women and girls in Morocco remain as high as 90 per cent. Girls, especially those in areas such as the High Atlas, are more likely to drop out after primary school. Only 26 per cent of girls in rural areas enrol for secondary education, according to the World Bank. These problems disproportionately affect the Amazigh, commonly known as Berbers, the indigenous people of Morocco. A small Moroccan NGO, Education For All (EFA), is helping. EFA's solution is to bring the girls to the schools, an approach which is beginning to change the lives of Berber girls in a way that could transform the region's future. Their boarding houses, which are run solely by Berber women, provide accommodation, healthy food, support with homework, and extra French and English lessons. On average, the pass rate for all academic years is 97 per cent. (more)

Singing dune draws visitors to Kazakh steppe
17 June 2016 - Rising incongruously above the steppes of southeastern Kazakhstan is a structure as famed for the myths that surround as for the sound it produces -- a single, singing dune. The dune generates a low-pitched, organ-like rumble in dry weather, and is one of the main attractions of the Altynemel national park. Adjacent to Altynemel isanother national park, Charyn. The part frequented by tourists is called the Valley of Castles, where some rocks are shaped like the towers of a mediaeval fortress. (more)

Rajshahi, Bangladesh: the city that took on air pollution - and won; and in Tezpur, India the air is getting cleaner
17 June 2016 - In Bangladesh, one of the world's most polluted cities has led the way globally in ridding itself of harmful PM10 particles. Once, Rajshahi's sweltering summers were made worse by a familiar problem on the Asian subcontinent: windows would have to be shut, not because of the wind or monsoon, but because of the smog. Then suddenly Rajshahi, in Bangladesh, hit a turning point so dramatic that it earned a spot in the record books: last year, according to UN data, the town did more than any other worldwide to rid itself of air particles so harmful to human health. The small city of Tezpur in east India has traditionally had little to brag about. The holy Brahmaputra river roars at its edges and the mighty Himalayan mountains adorn its skyline, but couched between these geographical marvels, Tezpur itself is little more than a layover stop for travellers in the state of Assam. But while many of India's industrial towns have reached peak pollution levels, Tezpur's air is getting cleaner. (more)

Netherlands landlord offers tenants euro 100 rent cut for helping refugees
16 June 2016 - A social landlord in the Netherlands is offering to cut rents by euros 100 a month if tenants help refugees integrate into society. The Trudo housing corporation, based in Eindhoven, says residents will receive the discount if they agree to spend 10 hours a week helping new migrants navigate Dutch bureaucracy and guiding them through their host country's rules and customs. The initiative is one of scores across Europe in which ordinary people are seeking to help refugees adjust, integrate, and even find work. (more)

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