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AP Poll: Support grows among Americans for stricter gun laws
23 July 2016 - Americans increasingly favor tougher gun laws, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. Nearly two-thirds of respondents expressed support for stricter laws, with majorities favoring nationwide bans on the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons such as the AR-15 and on the sale of high-capacity magazines holding 10 or more bullets. The percentage of Americans who want such laws is the highest since the AP-GfK poll started asking the question in 2013. (more)

China installed 20 GW of solar power in first-half; triple from a year ago
22 July 2016 - China installed 20 gigawatts (GW) of solar power capacity in the first half of 2016, three times as much as during the same period a year ago, state news agency Xinhua reported late on Thursday citing the country's largest solar industry lobby. China surpassed Germany as the largest solar power generator worldwide last year, with installed PV capacity totaling 43 GW as of the end of 2015. (more)

US: Route 66 becoming green with charging stations, solar panels
22 July 2016 - Route 66, the historic U.S. highway made famous for attracting gas-guzzling Chevrolet Bel Airs and 1957 Cadillacs traveling from Chicago to Los Angeles, is turning green. The Mother Road has seen in recent months a growing number of electric car charging stations along the 2,500-mile path, and some states even are pushing for solar panels and electric buses. (more)

African honeyguide birds aid hunters in rare, sweet partnership
22 July 2016 - A small African bird that guides people to bees' nests hoping to share honey and wax responds to hunters' special calls in a rare example of a partnership between wild animals and humans, scientists said on Thursday, 21 July. Cooperation between the greater honeyguide bird and hunters was first written about by a Portuguese missionary in 1588, but was widely dismissed as pure hearsay. In recent years, however, researchers have found ever more evidence of the bond. (more)

US: Obama administration offers EV charging loan guarantees
22 July 2016 - The White House on Thursday (21 July) said it was expanding a federal loan guarantee program to include companies building electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, part of a broader effort to boost electric vehicle sales. The Obama administration also unveiled a partnership with nearly 50 automakers, utilities, states, and electric vehicle charging companies to get more EVs and charging stations. (more)

New map lays out brain's cerebral cortex
21 July 2016 - Neuroscientists acting as cartographers of the human mind have devised the most comprehensive map ever made of the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain responsible for higher cognitive functions such as abstract thought, language, and memory. Using MRI images from the brains of 210 people, the researchers said on Wednesday they were able to pinpoint 180 distinct areas in the cerebral cortex, the brain's thin, wrinkly outermost layer made of so-called gray matter. (more)

Wal-Mart names eight chemicals to be removed from products
21 July 2016 - Wal-Mart Stores Inc said on Wednesday, 20 July, it was pushing suppliers to remove or restrict the use of eight hazardous chemicals from products including household cleaning, personal care, and beauty items. Target Corp also moved last year to remove more than 1,000 chemicals from its household cleaning, personal care, and beauty products, and has been promoting the products that comply. (more)

Iran: UN chief hails Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as 'historic achievement'
21 July 2016 - In a statement on Wednesday, the UN chief congratulated Iran and the participants in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the first anniversary of the 'historic achievement' and commended progress made so far. On 20 July last year, the Council adopted resolution 2231 (2015), endorsing the JCPOA under which Iran pledged that it would not seek, develop, or acquire nuclear weapons. (more)

Newly developed wheel converts any bicycle into an electric vehicle
21 July 2016 - Right off the bat, Michael Burtov said he and his team at technology startup GeoOrbital did not re-invent the wheel. But, in a sense, they did. After two years and five prototypes, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup has developed a new type of electric bicycle wheel. (more)

Santas from all over the world meet in Denmark
21 July 2016 - With just five months until Christmas, Santas from around the world are gathering in Copenhagen for a mid-season break at the annual World Santa Claus Congress. This year 140 Santas from 12 countries gathered in the Danish capital for the three-day event. 'A successful Santa is not just about the costumes and the clothes. You have to have Christmas in your heart. You have to have the love of children and caring and giving in your hear to be a really successful Santa and it's not something you can make up.' said Santa Cherry from Canada. (more)

US: California breaks solar record, generates enough electricity for 6 million homes
21 July 2016 - The San Francisco Chronicle calculated that California's solar power plants on Tuesday [briefly] generated enough electricity for more than 6 million homes. On July 12, several large solar plants produced a record 8,030 megawatts of electricity, according to the California Independent System Operator (ISO), the organization that runs most of the state's power grid. That is nearly twice the amount of solar energy [California] produced two years ago. (more)

Fish can recognise human faces, study finds
20 July 2016 - Scientists have shown for the first time how a species of tropical fish can distinguish between human faces. The archerfish used in experiments could demonstrate the ability to a high degree of accuracy; despite lacking the crucial neocortex part of the brain which other animals use for sophisticated visual recognition. The research was conducted by scientists from the University of Oxford and Australia's University of Queensland. (more)

US: Yosemite celebrates 150th anniversary
20 July 2016 - It was during the throes of the Civil War, with lots of brutal fighting still ahead, when President Abraham Lincoln turned his attention to the Mariposa Grove and the Yosemite Valley areas of California. Lincoln's signature on the Yosemite Land Grant bill on June 30, 1864, set a precedent for the preservation of the country's wilderness. That act 150 years ago was the first instance of the U.S. government setting aside scenic wilderness for public use and preservation. The act put both tracts of land in trust for the state of California, and set the stage for the 1872 establishment of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho as the first national park. (more)

UK: Annual Royal 'Swan-Upping' takes place on River Thames
18 July 2016 - A census of the British Queen's swans has taken place annually on the River Thames for the last 800 years. On Monday, 18 June, a group of Boats led by the Queen's Swan Marker continued the tradition, known as 'Swan Upping.' It takes them five days to cover the stretch of the Thames between Sunbury near London out to Abingdon near Oxford. Cygnets are individually tagged, as part of conservation efforts to protect the young birds. Those who carry out the tradition hope that it helps conserve the future of the birds and educates younger generations. (more)

World-class Mexican Museum being built in San Francisco
18 July 2016 - San Francisco is getting another cultural treasure -- a world-class museum to showcase the largest collection of Mexican and Latino art in the nation. The 60,000-square-foot Mexican Museum will be the downtown home of the collection that includes 800 works of Mexican folk art donated by the family of Nelson Rockefeller and pieces by Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and painter Miguel Covarrubias. (more)

Iraq's marshes named world heritage site
17 July 2016 - A wetland in southeast Iraq, thought to be the biblical Garden of Eden and almost completely drained during Saddam Hussein's rule, has become a UNESCO world heritage site, Iraqi authorities said on Sunday, 17 July. Fed by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the marshlands of Mesopotamia are spawning grounds for Gulf fisheries and home to bird species such as the sacred ibis. They also provide a resting spot for thousands of wildfowl migrating between Siberia and Africa. (more)

US: In Saratoga Springs, reviving the wells that made it famous
17 July 2016 - More than a century after scores of Saratoga Springs' famous mineral wells were capped in an early example of environmental conservation, a few of them could soon be flowing with naturally carbonated water once again. Saratoga Springs has been known for its natural mineral springs since Colonial times, when Mohawk Indians introduced Europeans to the carbonated waters bubbling up from the ground in the Adirondack foothills. (more)

Chinese tourists spend record amounts in Australia
15 July 2016 - Chinese tourists visiting Australia are spending record amounts of money. Shopping in Australia is a favourite past time for many Chinese tourists who seek quality products, with the prevalence of counterfeit goods an ongoing issue back home. According to Tourism Australia, Chinese visitors collectively shelled out a record $8.9 billion over the year to March, up nearly 40 per cent. Visitors from China and Hong Kong have overtaken New Zealand as Australia's biggest market, with nearly 1.4 million visitors over the year to May. (more)

Could fruit and veg boost happiness?
15 July 2016 - The reasons experts usually give for eating more fruit and vegetables tend to be about long-term health benefits, but piling on the produce may also improve wellbeing in the shorter term, researchers say. Based on national surveys in Australia, the study team linked increases in fruit and vegetable servings per day to rising happiness over two years. With the addition of eight portions of fruit and vegetables daily, the change in wellbeing was about equivalent to going from unemployment to a job, researchers report in American Journal of Public Health. (more)

Technology gives unique voice to those who can't speak
15 July 2016 - The technology for voice via speech synthesis, or the artificial production of human speech, has been around for decades; but as devices shrink in size, efforts to customize them are expanding. Multiple companies and research groups are using speech synthesis engines to create voices from spoken samples, usually thousands of recorded sentences. To read about what different companies are doing, see (more)

US economy looks resilient as retailers, industry surge
15 July 2016 - Americans spent more money at retailers and factories revved up production in June, offering encouraging signs of the U.S. economy's resilience in the face of global headwinds. The new reports Friday came a week after the government's blockbuster jobs report, which showed the economy created 287,000 jobs in June. Analysts said the strong job growth in June and solid consumer spending should provide good momentum for the economy heading into the second half of the year. (more)

US: Rare sea turtles pass 50-year recovery milestone in Georgia
15 July 2016 - Rare loggerhead sea turtles reached a conservation milestone on the coast of Georgia in the midst of a strong nesting season on southern Atlantic beaches. Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina are all reporting robust nest numbers since the nesting season for loggerheads began May 1. The giant turtles can grow to weigh up to 300 pounds. (more)

US: Venture capital investments rebound for tech startups
15 July 2016 - Venture capital investments in startups rebounded in the second quarter, as a general stock market recovery helped restore confidence, according to a new report published on Friday, 15 July. In terms of total dollars, second-quarter investments outpaced all but three quarters since 2000, the height of the dot-com boom. 'It's not heading straight to the moon and it's not going off a cliff,' said Tom Ciccolella, who leads the venture capital practice for PwC, a consulting firm. (more)

At heavily fortified DMZ, South Korean troops swap boots for ballet shoes
14 July 2016 - Once a week, a group of South Korean soldiers near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the Korean peninsula trade army boots for ballet shoes in a class intended to ease the stress of guarding the world's most heavily fortified border. As the suntanned, crew-cut dancers practiced movements to classical music, outside the studio, another group of soldiers played soccer. But ballet toughens you up too, said Lieutenant Colonel Heo Tae-sun. (more)

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