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Barcelona, Spain, tops innovative cities contest
17 September 2014 - Barcelona, Spain, captured the grand prize in a competition that spurs cities to develop novel approaches to improve urban life, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced Wednesday. Barcelona was awarded 5 million euro ($6.5 million) as top finisher. Four others were awarded 1 million euros ($1.3 million) each: the metropolitan area of Kirklees, England, and the cities of Stockholm; Warsaw, Poland; and Athens, Greece. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the winners, selected from 21 finalists, in Paris. The prizes came from the billionaire businessman-turned-politician's personal foundation for innovative ideas that could also potentially spread to other cities. (more)

Excitement and relief in landmark Fiji election
17 September 2014 - There was excitement among thousands of voters and relief from the international community Wednesday as Fijians cast ballots in a landmark election they hope will end more than a quarter-century of political turmoil and eight years of autocratic rule. The 100 or so international election observers reported no problems by the time polling closed at 6 p.m. In the morning, voters lined up at polling stations, with just over half a million of the nation's 900,000 citizens registered to vote. (more)

Vancouver, Canada: Pedestrian deaths at lowest level in 80 years -- police data
17 September 2014 - Pedestrian deaths in Vancouver's streets this year are at their lowest point since the city began tracking them in 1934, according to new police data. About 12 per cent of people in Vancouver walk to work, one of the highest shares among several Canadian and international cities, according to a 2012 city staff report. The 2012 report also found nearly half of all pedestrian fatalities in Vancouver take place in January and February. (more)

US: Poverty rate drops for the first time since 2006
16 September 2014 - The poverty rate in the United States has dropped for the first time since 2006. The US Census Bureau, in its annual look at poverty in the United States, said that the poverty rate in 2013 was 14.5 per cent, down from 15 per cent in 2012. The decrease in the poverty rate was attributed to the growth in year-round employment by 2.8 million jobs in the United States, government officials said. White House officials cheered the positive information in the census release. (more)

US: Big cities take aim at prescription painkillers
16 September 2014 - Some of America's largest cities are ratcheting up their criticism of prescription painkillers, blaming the industry for a wave of addiction and overdoses that have ravaged their communities and busted local budgets. On Tuesday, health commissioners from Chicago, New York, and Boston came to Washington to lobby Congress and the White House on efforts to combat prescription opioid abuse. Chicago leaders say other cities and counties have expressed interest in joining what they say is a movement similar to the landmark legal action against tobacco companies in the 1990s. (more)

Canada: British Columbia Premier urges cooperation, not more litigation, as government and natives reach 'new fork in road'
15 September 2014 - Premier Christy Clark said Thursday that a Supreme Court of Canada decision recognizing aboriginal title represents a new 'fork in the road' for improved government relations with native people. 'I'm not here to tell you I have all the answers,' she told representatives from more than 200 First Nations at a Vancouver hotel. 'I am not here to tell you about all the progress we're making and all the good things that are happening and only that ... We're not where we need to be yet.' (more)

Thailand: Master plan eyes huge emissions cuts
15 September 2014 - Thailand will vow to cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 20% over the next six years as part of a new plan to combat global warming. Pattarachit Choompol Gozzoli, spokeswoman for the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning said that the new environmental master plan is currently being drafted by officials. (more)

US: Green team builds rain gardens, nurtures neighbourhoods
15 September 2014 - The Green Team of Milwaukee, Wisconsin was the brainchild of the Building Neighbourhood Capacity Programme, a federally and locally funded effort to revitalize distressed neighbourhoods, implemented in collaboration with the city, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, and Groundwork Milwaukee, a local nonprofit organization that focuses on environmental issues. (more)

US: In Vermont, a milestone in green-energy efforts
14 September 2014 - Vermont's largest city has a new success to add to its list of socially conscious achievements: 100 per cent of its electricity now comes from renewable sources. 'It shows that we're able to do it, and we're able to do it cost effectively in a way that makes Vermonters really positioned well for the future,' said Christopher Recchia, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service. It's also a growing movement across the country, as governments and businesses seek to liberate themselves from using power produced by environmentally harmful fossil fuels. (more)

US: Large number of salmon return to Columbia River
13 September 2014 - Hundreds of thousands of salmon are making their way from the ocean up the Columbia River this month. It's one of the largest runs since dam construction blocked fishes' river passage. The run is forecast at 1.5 million adult and young adult salmon by year's end, although fish managers say the final number may turn out to be lower. 'It's an indication that a lot of work we're doing has been benefiting the fish,' said Jason Sweet, fisheries biologist with the Bonneville Power Administration. 'It's thanks to the partnership between federal, tribal, state and nonprofit organizations in the region.' (more)

Success of Maharishi's Programmes
10 Short Summaries of Top Stories

Guardian Liberty Voice: Research shows group meditation can reduce crime rates
11 April 2014 - A recent article in the US publication Guardian Liberty Voice took an in-depth look into scientific research on the coherence-creating effect of group meditation, detailing how it 'was not only able to reduce the crime rate, but also can save cities millions of dollars'. Noting more than 50 research studies on this phenomenon, known as the Maharishi Effect, the article explains that it is produced by a specific form of meditation--the Transcendental Meditation Sidhi Programme, an advanced practice of Transcendental Meditation. In one study in Merseyside, England, 'During periods when a meditating group slightly larger than the square root of one percent of the population held sessions the monthly data showed a 13.4 percent drop in crime. This was very significant in contrast to the national crime rate, which had actually increased by 45 percent.' (more)

Belgium: Peace Assemblies in Brussels create harmonious atmosphere for EU leaders' summits
10 March 2014 - European Union Summit meetings bring together heads of state in Brussels, Belgium, every few months to make important decisions for the whole EU. Brussels is also the seat of the European Commission, European Council, and European Parliament. A few hundred metres away, special Peace Assemblies of advanced Transcendental Meditation practitioners have been held coinciding with the summits, with the aim of creating a coherent, harmonious atmosphere for EU leaders' deliberations, so that they will have the most life-supporting effect for all of Europe. (more)

Hundreds in Albania and Kosovo learn Transcendental Meditation
9 September 2013 - Dr Bevan Morris, President of Maharishi University of Management in Iowa, USA, toured Kosovo and Albania in the past year to present the latest developments and research regarding the Transcendental Meditation programme around the world. At the time of Dr Morris's visit, for the past few months a foundation started by a wealthy businessman had sponsored about 700 people to learn Transcendental Meditation in Albania and Kosovo. Because of this, several officials and educators Dr Morris met with had already heard of the technique. (more)

Fiji receives a visit from President of Maharishi University of Management
20 July 2013 - Dr Bevan Morris, President of Maharishi University of Management in the USA, visited Fiji this year, meeting with government and education officials, presenting the wide range of scientifically verified applications of the Transcendental Meditation programme to improve all areas of society. (more)

US: Senator supports MUM's substantive research on cardiovascular health
12 July 2013 - In a recent review of the past year's developments, Dr Bevan Morris, President of Maharishi University of Management, described the appreciation, help and support given to the university through the years by Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, the home state of MUM in the USA. Senator Harkin, a member of the United States Senate for 28 years, gave the 2013 commencement address at the MUM graduation ceremonies last spring. He has assisted the university particularly in the area of its substantive research on alternative approaches to treating and preventing heart disease. (more)

Study at military academy finds Transcendental Meditation improves cadets' resilience
23 April 2013 - In a study conducted at Norwich University, America's first private military college, researchers found that practising Transcendental Meditation quickly increased resilience among cadets in training. 'Very quickly we saw a huge shift in increase in resilience,' said Marguerite Meyer, Ed.D. Dr Meyer is the director of the Academic Achievement Center at Norwich University. (more)

US Senator Harkin to deliver 2013 commencement address at Maharishi University of Management
3 April 2013 - Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, who has served in the United States Senate since 1985 and in the House of Representatives from 1975-1985, will deliver the 2013 commencement address at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, on 25 May. Known for his strong interest in alternative medicine and sustainability, Senator Harkin has visited the MUM campus twice. In 2004, when he was working on health care legislation, he came to learn more about the university's prevention-oriented wellness programme and the National Institutes of Health-funded research in natural medicine. He also visited the new Sustainable Living Center last August.

Coherence-creating conference of advanced meditators convenes in Brussels 'to support unity and stability in Europe' during EU summit
6 March 2013 - A four-day conference of advanced Transcendental Meditation practitioners is in progress in Brussels, Belgium--'to support unity and stability in Europe' during the current summit of European Union leaders, organizers said. Scientific research has found that large groups practising these advanced technologies of consciousness reduce social stress and create a measurable influence of coherence and harmony in the surroundings. Similar conferences held during EU summits last year had 'remarkable' effects, said Dr Stijn van den Bosch, director of the Transcendental Meditation programme in Belgium. The first was held in June during an important EU summit meeting about the financial crisis. 'Although expectations for a good outcome were very low, heads of state came to an agreement on the first day.' A news article commented, 'After 20 failed EU summits, here is finally one that has some good results.' (more)

Belgium: Transcendental Meditation group established to create coherence, harmony for EU
21 January 2013 - In Brussels, Belgium, where many key institutions of the European Union are based, a group of advanced Transcendental Meditation practitioners dedicated to supporting unity and stability in Europe has been established nearby in two adjacent, dignified city-centre buildings. The group's purpose is to create through their daily meditation practice an influence of coherence and harmony in the collective consciousness of Europe--one of many initiatives of Maharishi's Invincible Defence programmes in Belgium and other countries around the world. (more)

Great Britain most powerful, positively influential nation in the world, newspaper reports
19 January 2013 - A recent article in The Independent newspaper in Great Britain reported that the country is now considered to be the most powerful nation in the world. But this power is distinct from the military power that dominated in the past. The article states, 'For the first time, Britain has beaten the US to the top spot in an annual survey of global soft power. Coined by a Harvard academic in 1990, the term describes how countries use attraction and persuasion, rather than coercion or payment, to change behaviour.' (more)

10 Short Summaries of Top Stories

As many as 700 migrants feared drowned in Mediterranean
15 September 2014 - More than 700 people fleeing Africa and the Middle East may have drowned in shipwrecks in the Mediterranean over the last week, bringing the death toll this year to almost 3,000, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said on Monday. In the worst incident, as many as 500 migrants are believed to have died after traffickers rammed their ship off Malta's coast last week, an event that only came to light this weekend in testimony from two of nine survivors. The survivors said the traffickers ordered the migrants to change vessels in the middle of the Mediterranean. The migrants refused, leading to a confrontation that ended when traffickers rammed the ship carrying the migrants, causing it to sink, IOM spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume told Reuters in Geneva. 'Some 500 people were on board -- Syrians, Palestinians, Egyptians, and Sudanese. They were trying to reach Europe,' Berthiaume said. 'That means that 700 people perished at sea these last days in the Mediterranean, the deadliest incidents in the space of a few days,' she said. (more)

Peru: Assassinations in the Amazon
13 September 2014 - 'Martyrs', 'true guardians of the Amazon', 'defenders of the rainforest. . .' These are just some of the terms used to describe four Peruvian indigenous leaders who were assassinated earlier this month, but 'Dead Friends of the Earth', a term used by NGO Global Witness for people killed defending their land or the environment, might be another. The four men -- Edwin Chota Valera, Leoncio Quincima Melendez, Jorge Ríos Perez, and Francisco Pinedo, from the Asheninka people -- are widely believed to have been killed by loggers, although regional indigenous organisation Orau acknowledges 'narco-traffickers' may have been responsible. Led by Chota Valera, the Asheninkas had been fighting for years to gain legal recognition of their territory and had repeatedly denounced illegal logging and logging concessions on land claimed by their community, Alto Tamayo-Saweto. Several recent reports by European NGOs -- Global Witness, Friends of the Earth, Front Line Defenders -- have highlighted the rise in the number of people being killed for defending their land or the environment, or the risks associated with doing so. As of 31 December 2013 Global Witness placed Peru in fourth position globally, with almost 60 such killings since 2002, behind Brazil way out in first place, Honduras in second, and the Philippines in third. (more)

Scottish kestrel numbers in rapid decline
12 September 2014 - Conservationists are calling for urgent investigations as a new survey shows kestrels are disappearing from Scotland more rapidly than any other birds. Numbers of the raptors have plummeted by two thirds in under 20 years, according to the latest annual Breeding Bird Survey from the conservation charity RSPB. Early research suggests intensification of farming could be partly to blame, with changing agricultural practises affecting populations of smaller creatures the birds feed on. Climate change, competition for nest sites, and a rise in the use of some rat poisons are other possible causes. (more)

Why the Kashmir floods have been so deadly
12 September 2014 - The latest floods in Kashmir have already cause the deaths of an estimated 200 people on the Indian side and another 250 on the Pakistani side. As rescue operations continue, the number is only going up. How can there have been so many fatalities in a region long known to be flood-prone? It happened because of a combination of urban policy and program failures, says Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator at the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People. The flood zones surrounding the waterways that run through the Kashmir region are not clearly demarcated. Because of this, no clearly defined rules or regulations exist about where it's safe to build. The result is what Thakkar calls 'encroachment' of the river bed-residential and government buildings (even hospitals) have been cropping up on vulnerable areas near the Jhelum River. The river 'embankments,' meant to stop the flooding, only give a 'false sense of security,' he says. Local water bodies such as lakes have also been neglected, and so their water-holding capacity is negligible. Existing and future hydropower projects are partly responsible. (more)

Brazil confirms Amazon deforestation sped up in 2013
10 September 2014 - The destruction of the world's largest rainforest accelerated last year with a 29 per cent spike in deforestation, according to final figures released by the Brazilian government on Wednesday that confirmed a reversal in gains seen since 2009. Fighting the destruction of the Amazon is considered crucial for reducing global warming because deforestation worldwide accounts for 15 percent of annual emissions of heat-trapping gases, more than the entire transportation sector. Besides being a giant carbon sink, the Amazon is a biodiversity sanctuary, holding billions of species yet to be studied. Preliminary data released late last year had indicated deforestation was on the rise again. The largest increases in deforestation were seen in the states of Para and Mato Grosso, where the bulk of Brazil's agricultural expansion is taking place. More than 1,000 square km (390 square miles) has been cleared in each state. Other reasons for the rebound in deforestation include illegal logging and the invasion of public lands adjacent to big infrastructure projects in the Amazon, such as roads and hydroelectric dams. (more)

Illegal loggers suspected in death of Peruvian activist
10 September 2014 - Edwin Chota wanted to stop illegal loggers from operating on his community's land in the Peruvian Amazon, he advocated that land that was being illegally logged should be given to indigenous groups. His efforts gained international attention and also death threats. This week we learned he and three other community leaders were killed at the beginning of the month. The news of the murders was delayed because of the remote location where they occurred. People in the area say illegal loggers are suspected in the killings. His friend, David Salisbury, a professor of geography and the environment at the University of Richmond, discusses Chota's life and legacy. (more)

Mexico pollution, water disputes turn political.
10 September 2014 - Water pollution disasters in Mexico have turned into political battles as officials struggled Wednesday to blame each other for the problems. A town in western Jalisco state is fighting state officials over what caused the death of more than 200 tonness of fish at a local lake. Jalisco state inspectors said Tuesday that the fish, a species of chub, were killed by high levels of sewage dumped into Lake Cajititlan. The head of the state forensics office, Marco Antonio Cuevas Contreras, said fecal coliform levels were six times higher than permissible limits. 'The death of the fish ... was caused by the lack of oxygen due to the high level of pollution in the lake,' he said. The city government of Tlajomulco, which borders the lake and is responsible for water treatment, called the report 'false, irresponsible and inconsistent.' State governors in Mexico have a long history of using local resources as they please. Even some members of PAN, like former Sen. Javier Castelo Parada, questioned whether Padres was truly angry about the mine spill or was trying to divert attention from his family's dam and another controversial dam project he backed that draws water claimed by the state's Yaqui Indians. (more)

Battle for Benghazi could break up Libya
9 September 2014 - Pro-government Libyan forces, already reeling from the fall of the capital, are fighting to prevent Islamist militants from seizing the eastern city of Benghazi and splitting the North African country into three warring parts. Three weeks after losing Tripoli to a different militia, the army now faces an offensive in Libya's second-largest city from the Islamists of Ansar al-Sharia, which has overrun special forces bases and is attacking Benghazi airport. Losing the port city would not only leave the government looking impotent and irrelevant. It would also increase the risk of the country crumbling into de facto autonomous regions: the militants demand Islamist rule, while other armed groups want greater powers for the eastern region they call by its ancient name of Cyrenaica. Rebel factions that united in 2011 in an uprising to smash the 42-year-rule of autocrat Muammar Gaddafi have turned their guns on one another, plunging Libya into chaos as they fight for power, oil, and cash from the $47 billion state budget. (more)

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli police in Jerusalem
8 September 2014 - Scores of Palestinians rioted in East Jerusalem on Sunday after hearing that a youth from their neighbourhood had died of wounds suffered in a clash with Israeli police last week. Protesters in the neighbourhood of Wadi al-Joz close to the walled Old City threw rocks, petrol bombs, and flares at passing cars, and riot officers responded with rubber bullets during an afternoon of clashes that lasted for several hours. Street clashes with police in riot gear, military-style raids on homes late at night, and stone-throwing at Israeli vehicles have marked the most serious outbreak of violence in Jerusalem since a Palestinian uprising a decade ago. The violent protests in the city have been raging almost nightly beyond the spotlight on the Gaza war, leading to a crackdown by Israeli police in which hundreds of Palestinians have been detained. The seething tensions have underscored deepening divisions in the Israeli-occupied part of the city that Israel claims as its 'indivisible capital'. Repeated damage caused by Palestinians to a Jerusalem light railway, which links Arab and Jewish neighbourhoods and was once hailed by Israeli authorities as a symbol of coexistence, had put a third of its carriages out of commission. (more)

Water shortages lead to 'tanker mafia' in India
7 September 2014 - Every summer, when Minoo Phakey's water runs out, she does what most people do in her middle-class neighbourhood: She calls the mafia. Within an hour, a man in a tanker arrives, carrying a load of dubious water drawn illegally from the city's groundwater. With India's capital gripped by its annual hot season water shortage, the city's so-called tanker mafia is doing a roaring trade. An estimated 2,000 illegal tankers ply New Delhi's roads every day, lifelines to millions whose taps have run dry, and symptoms of a much bigger problem -- the city's desperately dysfunctional water system. The tankers don't come cheap. But some Delhi-ites have no choice. 'You need water, you will pay anything, right?' says Phakey, a marketing executive. She is hardly alone. In a city known for its vertiginous inequalities, the shortage affects people from both upscale gated communities and dust-blown slums, as every day, the city's supply falls more than 160 million gallons short. Most residents have piped water for just a couple hours a day, and almost a quarter have none at all. With a leaky water infrastructure long overwhelmed by new arrivals, New Delhi is grappling with a dizzying social and environmental challenge, worsened by chaotic management. For many, it is a distressing reminder of a daily reality that lags behind India's superpower dreams. (more)

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