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Morocco unveils massive solar plant
5 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)

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)

US: Hotels expand options to keep guests healthy on the road
5 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)

British Airways to resume flights to Iran
4 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
4 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)

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)

Irish tourism reaches record year with month to spare
4 February 2016 - Ireland attracted more tourists in the first 11 months of 2015 than in any year on record, official data showed, as the European Union's fastest-growing economy reaped the benefit of a weak euro. Five years after Ireland required an international bailout, its economy could grow by as much as 7 percent this year, a recovery that has been increasingly boosted by improved consumer spending and growth in labour-intensive areas such as tourism. (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)

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)

Britain to take in unaccompanied refugee children from conflict areas
28 January 2016 - Britain will take in some unaccompanied refugee children from Syria, North Africa, and other conflict areas, the Home Office (interior ministry) said on Thursday, but it did not say how many. This is in addition to the 20,000 Syrian refugees the government has pledged to take in by 2020. More than 1,000 of them -- around half of them children -- have already been resettled in Britain under this scheme, the government says. (more)

Knowing all the angles: Ancient Babylonians used tricky geometry
28 January 2016 - Ancient Babylonian astronomers were way ahead of their time, using sophisticated geometric techniques that until now had been considered an achievement of medieval European scholars. That is the finding of a study published on Thursday that analyzed four clay tablets dating from 350 to 50 BC featuring the wedge-shaped ancient Babylonian cuneiform script describing how to track the planet Jupiter's path across the sky. Babylon was an important city in ancient Mesopotamia, located in Iraq about 60 miles (100 kilometers) south of Baghdad. (more)

New U.S. single-family home sales race to 10-month high
27 January 2016 - New U.S. single-family home sales surged in December to their highest level in 10 months, the latest indication that the housing sector remains on a firmer footing despite a massive stock market sell-off and slowing economic growth. 'Don't count the economy out yet with the darkening skies seen in January as world stock markets fell on worries over China and crude oil and world growth. Worries don't become reality,' said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York. (more)

Scotland: Playing bagpipes helps youngster's health
27 January 2016 - A little boy with cystic fibrosis has been given a new lease of life -- after learning to play the bagpipes. Vincent Forkner has battled the life-threatening lung condition since birth. But after becoming 'obsessed' with Scotland on a family holiday, the eight-year-old joined a Highland band last year and was determined to master the country's national instrument. His family say they cannot believe what positive impact they have made. His mother said his lung capacity has drastically improved since he took up the instrument. Vincent, who also has the debilitating muscle disorder cerebral palsy, has also used the pipes to regain the use of his left hand, which was previously unable to work. (more)

Thailand is top Asia-Pacific tourist stop thanks to Chinese
27 January 2016 - Chinese tourists can't seem to get enough of Thailand, with visitor numbers to the Southeast Asian kingdom surging over the past year at one of the fastest clips in the Asia-Pacific region. Chinese tourists helped turn Bangkok into the region's most-visited destination in 2015, according to the first-ever MasterCard Asia Pacific Destinations Index published on Wednesday. All three Thai destinations in the 10 most-visited list recorded more than 10 percent year-on-year growth in international arrivals, outpacing other locations like Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, which were at No.2 and No.4, respectively. The survey ranked 167 islands, towns, and cities in 22 countries across the Asia-Pacific. Japanese destinations recorded the fastest growth in 2015, the index also showed. (more)

Iranian President Rouhani begins 4-day European visit
26 January 2016 - Italy's Premier said Monday that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, kicking off the first state visit to Europe by an Iranian President in nearly two decades, 'can play a fundamental role in the stability' of the Middle East. Iran's President Rouhani told reporters the political talks leading to the nuclear deal could provide the blueprint for pursuing peace in the Middle East. Europe was Iran's largest trading partner before the sanctions, and a range of business and trade deals are on the table. The trip is also aimed at expanding tourism as Rouhani's administration is planning to diversify its revenue sources. (more)

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