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Chinese visit temples, fairs to ring in Year of the Monkey
8 February 2016 - Chinese flocked to temples and fairs to pray for good health and fortune on Monday, the first day of the Lunar New Year. Monday marks the first day of the Year of the Monkey -- the ninth animal on the Chinese zodiac calendar. The weeklong holiday, known as the Spring Festival in China, is focused on family reunion and is a time when students and migrant workers return to their hometowns. It is the country's most important holiday, equivalent to Christmas for many in the West. (more)

Taiwan: Electric scooters, and a network
8 February 2016 - Across Asia, motorized two-wheeled vehicles provide mobility for the masses, but emissions from hundreds of millions of scooters and motorcycles are responsible for more than half of traffic pollution in many cities. This year, a Taiwan-based startup called Gogoro has been using the scooter-filled streets of Taipei to test its Smartscooter, an electric scooter with an efficient all-electric drive train, sleek design and Internet of Things ingenuity. But Gogoro doesn't want to be called a scooter company. It sees itself as an energy services company at heart. Gogoro scooters are powered by two lithium-ion batteries that use the same Panasonic cells as Tesla batteries. When it's time to swap in fresh batteries, a smartphone app offers directions to the closest station with available batteries. The Taipei government is actively promoting electric scooter purchases. A subsidy of up to $800 is available to those who replace their gas motorcycles with electric scooters. (more)

Chinese using carpooling apps to get ride home for holidays
7 February 2016 - The hundreds of millions of Chinese heading home for Lunar New Year have a relatively new travel option this year: mobile apps to find carpool partners to share costs in what is a novel concept for most Chinese. The apps give an alternative to pricey airfares and hard-to-score train tickets. Carpooling is still unusual in China, but government officials welcome the idea as a way to alleviate the enormous burden placed on the public transportation system during the Lunar New Year holidays, China's most important vacation period when hundreds of millions travel to their hometowns. All told, Chinese will make a total of 2.9 billion trips this holiday season, and 2.5 billion of them will be by road, according to official estimates. (more)

Glimpse of Lunar New Year: Lion dance tradition thrives in Malaysia
7 February 2016 - The traditional art of the Chinese lion dance is nowhere near perishing in Muslim-majority Malaysia. It's a centuries-old tradition dating back the Han Dynasty. These days, it is kept alive by an ethnic Chinese minority that makes up 22 percent of Malaysia's 30 million people -- and by people like master craftsman Siow Ho Phiew. Siow isn't worried that the tradition will die out. 'This lion dance is a culture. It's not something new, it dates back for thousands of years,' he said. 'I believe that if it is good and beautiful art, I'm sure there will be people who will continue it.' (more)

Pope Francis visit to celebrate Mexico's indigenous church
7 February 2016 - Pope Francis' visit to the heavily indigenous Mexican state of Chiapas appears to be aimed at celebrating the region's 'Indian church,' a mix of Catholicism and indigenous culture once considered a thorn in the side of standard liturgy by the Vatican. In Chiapas, Francis is scheduled to visit the diocese of San Cristobal, home to two of the most famed religious defenders of indigenous people in Mexican history. (more)

Pope, Russian Orthodox Patriarch to hold historic meeting in Cuba
6 February 2016 - Pope Francis and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church will meet in Cuba next week in what could be a landmark step towards healing the 1,000-year-old rift between the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity. The Vatican and the Moscow Patriarchate announced on Friday that Francis will stop in Cuba on February 12 on his way to Mexico to hold talks with Patriarch Kirill, the first in history between a Roman Catholic Pope and a Russian Orthodox Patriarch. (more)

U.S. labor market on solid ground as jobless rate hits eight-year low
6 February 2016 - U.S. employment gains slowed more than expected in January as the boost to hiring from unseasonably mild weather faded, but rising wages and an unemployment rate at an eight-year low suggested the labor market recovery remains firm. The U.S. unemployment rate slipped to 4.9 percent, the lowest since February 2008. (more)

Hopeful sign for US economy: Job hunting ticks up
5 February 2016 - The percentage of Americans working or looking for a job rose for the third time in four months. It's now at its highest level since May. In addition, Americans appear to have a modestly rosier view of the job market. Their perception of the availability of jobs has recovered to nearly its pre-recession level, according to the Conference Board's consumer confidence survey. (more)

Morocco unveils massive solar plant
4 February 2016 - Morocco's King Mohammed VI unveiled one of the world's biggest solar plants Thursday, taking advantage of the Sahara sunshine and a growing global push for renewable energy. (more)

Iran says good commercial relations with Britain can resume
4 February 2016 - Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Thursday that good economic and commercial relations could resume with Britain. 'Iran and Britain have had traditionally good commercial and economic relations and I think those can resume,' Zarif said at Chatham House in London. 'We need to work together on moving the political relations forward.' (more)

British Airways to resume flights to Iran
3 February 2016 - British Airways will resume direct flights from London to Tehran from July, renewing links with the Iranian capital after sanctions were lifted. The British airline followed Air France-KLM in confirming its intention to restart flights to Tehran after Iran curbed its nuclear program in return for the lifting of U.S., EU and United Nations sanctions in January. British Airways said it had a long history of flying to Tehran and offered its first scheduled flights to the city in 1946. (more)

Growth in India's services activity at 19-month high in January - PMI
3 February 2016 - Activity in India's services sector increased at its fastest pace in over a year and a half in January as demand accelerated, allowing firms to build up a much bigger backlog of orders, a business survey showed on Wednesday, 3 February. The Nikkei/Markit Services Purchasing Managers' Index rose to 54.3 in January from 53.6 in December, the seventh straight month above the 50-level that distinguishes growth from contraction. January also marked the seventh consecutive month of expansion in new business, with that sub-index rising to an 11-month high of 54.1. Respondents cited better weather and stronger underlying demand as the main drivers. (more)

US: Laser imaging helps University of New Hampshire researchers see forests
3 February 2016 - University of New Hampshire researchers are looking at data from laser imaging of forests with the goal of helping foresters and landowners track tree inventories to save them from the time-consuming practice of heading into the woods with tape measures. Data from such projects as aerial mapping of New Hampshire, which is being done as part of a national effort announced in 2014 by the Obama administration, can be used to see what's in the forests. (more)

Refugees bring entrepreneurial spirit to risk-shy Germany
1 February 2016 - Syrians Hiba Albassir and her husband Khaled arrived in Germany two years ago with only the bags they could carry. But that didn't stop them from setting up their own business. The latest influx of refugees -- many of whom like Albassir ran a business back home -- is seen as an opportunity to make Germany more enterprising. Migrants are already responsible for one in five new businesses set up in recent years, according to KfW, a government-owned development bank. This is higher than their share of the population. Around a third of those who applied for asylum last year came from Syria, where a culture of entrepreneurship is widespread. The biological father of Steve Jobs, who co-founded Apple, emigrated to the United States from Syria. (more)

Historic deal to protect Canada rainforest from logging
1 February 2016 - British Columbia on Monday unveiled a historic agreement to protect a massive swath of rainforest along its coastline, having reached a deal that marries the interests of First Nations, the logging industry, and environmentalists after a decade of often-tense negotiations. The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the world's largest temperate rainforests and the habitat of the Spirit Bear, a rare subspecies of the black bear with white fur and claws. It is also home to 26 Aboriginal groups, known as First Nations. (more)

Thailand gears up for one million visitors during Lunar New Year
1 February 2016 - Thailand expects a million visitors during the upcoming Lunar New Year, 19 percent more than last year, the country's tourism authority said on Monday, 1 February. Nearly half were expected to come from neighboring countries -- China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia, the Tourism Authority of Thailand said. The Lunar New Year period falls from February 6-14 this year. Over 8 million Chinese traveled to Thailand in 2015, a record, and the country expects more this year. (more)

US construction spending hit 8-year-high in 2015
1 February 2016 - U.S. construction spending rebounded slightly in December, helping push total spending for 2015 to the highest level in eight years. A home construction boom peaked in 2006 before falling for the next five years. Construction spending has been climbing since 2012. Economists believe building activity, fueled by home construction, will bolster the overall economy this year. (more)

US: Hotels expand options to keep guests healthy on the road
1 February 2016 - Running concierges, a hotel mini bar stocked with produce from the local farmers market, and a training wall that comes standard in every room. The hotel industry is moving beyond basement gyms and basic spa menus to accommodate guests' growing requests to stay healthy while on the road. Rooftop yoga classes are all the rage at hotels across the country. The offerings come as guests, particularly younger ones, say it's one of the deciding factors on where they will stay. (more)

In India, government aid helps carmakers go green and cheap to fight smog crisis
31 January 2016 - Carmakers are gearing up to launch affordable hybrid and electric cars for India in the next few years, executives said, lured by government incentives for fuel-efficient vehicles as the country accelerates efforts to cut worsening air pollution. As the industry descends on smog-bound New Delhi for India's biggest car show, starting Wednesday, foreign firms like Toyota Motor Corp will join domestic players like Tata Motors and Mahindra and Mahindra in displaying green cars designed to reel in potential buyers. (more)

South Korea, Japan, China education ministers meet for 1st time
30 January 2016 - The education ministers of South Korea, Japan, and China on Saturday held the first three-way meeting among the countries that often spar over how their wartime past is described in textbooks. The ministers agreed to hold their gatherings annually and expand student exchanges and partnership programs between universities as well as elementary, middle, and high schools. (more)

US: Upper Midwest farmers transitioning to organic can get aid
29 January 2016 - North Dakota and Minnesota are helping farmers with the three-year transition from traditional crops to organic production, an effort that the industry's main trade group says could boost the acreage of organically grown crops in the U.S. if it takes root beyond the upper Midwest. Minnesota started its grant program first, in 2013, and North Dakota followed suit this year. Both programs assist with the transition costs -- everything from soil testing to education. (more)

Ancient Babylonians took first steps to calculus
29 January 2016 - Tracking and recording the motion of the sun, the moon, and the planets as they paraded across the desert sky, ancient Babylonian astronomers used simple arithmetic to predict the positions of celestial bodies. Now, new evidence reveals that these astronomers, working several centuries B.C.E., also employed sophisticated geometric methods that foreshadow the development of calculus. The Babylonians had developed 'abstract mathematical, geometrical ideas about the connection between motion, position, and time that are so common to any modern physicist or mathematician,' said astroarchaeologist (and astrophysicist turned historian) Mathieu Ossendrijver of Humboldt University in Berlin. (more)

Lunar New Year migration gets underway in China
29 January 2016 - Carrying luggage and queuing at Beijing's main railway station, tens of thousands of people in the Chinese capital began heading home on Friday for family reunions to mark the February 8 Lunar New Year. (more)

US: Environmental group says reaches accord to stop offshore fracking in California
29 January 2016 - A conservation group said the federal government must stop approving offshore fracking from oil platforms in California's Santa Barbara Channel under the settlement of a lawsuit it filed. (more)

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