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Australia: Sunshine Coast builds Queensland's first-ever council solar farm
28 April 2016 - Queensland's first large-scale solar farm run by a local government -- saving that council $22 million in electricity costs over 30 years -- is now being built on the Sunshine Coast. It is the first local government in Australia to finance a solar plant itself. More than 57,800 solar panels will be built on stands three to four metres high above an abandoned canefield owned by the council. They will generate power by early 2017. (more)

China, U.S. pledge to ratify Paris climate deal this year
25 April 2016 - China and the United States, the world's top producers of greenhouse gas emissions, pledged on Friday to formally adopt by the end of the year a Paris deal to slow global warming, raising the prospects of it being enforced much faster than anticipated. (more)

175 states signing landmark Paris deal on climate change
22 April 2016 - Leaders from at least 175 countries were signing the Paris Agreement on climate change Friday as the landmark deal took a key step forward, potentially entering into force years ahead of schedule. Many now expect the climate agreement to enter into force long before the original deadline of 2020. Some say it could happen this year. After signing, countries must formally approve the Paris Agreement through their domestic procedures. The agreement will enter into force once 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global emissions have formally joined it. China, the world's top carbon emitter, announced it will 'finalize domestic procedures' to ratify the Paris Agreement before the G-20 summit in China in September. The United States also has said it intends to join the agreement this year. Maros Sefcovic, the energy chief for another top emitter, the 28-nation European Union, has said the EU wants to be in the 'first wave' of ratifying countries. (more)

Face time with Queen, Princes completes Obama's royal visit
22 April 2016 - President Barack Obama plunged into a whirlwind of royal socializing Friday that began over a birthday lunch with Queen Elizabeth II and ended at a dinner hosted by the trio of young royals who represent the future of the British monarchy. President Obama, accompanied by his wife, Michelle, arrived by helicopter on the verdant grounds of Windsor Castle, where the Queen celebrated her 90th birthday a day earlier. 'The Queen has been a source of inspiration for me,' President Obama said later at a news conference alongside British Prime Minister David Cameron. 'She is truly one of my favorite people ... an astonishing person.' The Obamas brought as a gift a photo diary of the Queen's many visits with U.S. Presidents and First Ladies. The album opens with her 1951 visit when, as Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh, she toured George Washington's estate at Mount Vernon in Virginia and met President Harry Truman at the White House. (more)

U.S. President Obama pays tribute to 'jewel' Queen Elizabeth after 90th birthday
22 April 2016 - U.S. President Barack Obama flew to Queen Elizabeth's castle on Friday to wish happy birthday to the world's oldest monarch a day after she turned 90, calling her one of his favorite people. The Obamas later had dinner with a younger generation of royals, the Queen's grandson Prince William, his wife Kate, and his brother Prince Harry, at Kensington Palace in London. Queen Elizabeth, the oldest monarch in British history, has met 11 U.S. Presidents. 'Should we be fortunate enough to reach 90, may we be as vibrant as she is,' Obama said. 'She is an astonishing person and a real jewel to the world and not just the United Kingdom.' (more)

Crowds celebrate Queen Elizabeth's 90th birthday walkabout
21 April 2016 - Queen Elizabeth greeted thousands of well-wishers from across Britain and beyond as she celebrated her 90th birthday on Thursday, demonstrating the world's oldest monarch's intent to keep doing the job she has performed for more than six decades. To mark Thursday's milestone, a beaming Elizabeth mingled with crowds during a lengthy walkabout near her Windsor Castle home, west of London. (more)

Flood of tributes for Queen Elizabeth on her 90th birthday
21 April 2016 - Fate unexpectedly made her Queen. Duty and endurance have made her an institution and an icon. Queen Elizabeth II turned 90 on Thursday as Britain's oldest and longest-reigning monarch, drawing crowds of well-wishers and floods of tributes to the stamina and service of a woman who can claim to have given her name to the age. Elizabeth's father became King George VI and, at 10, she became heir to the throne. When she was 21 -- almost five years before she became Queen -- she promised the people of Britain and the Commonwealth that 'my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.' She kept the promise, and it has struck a chord with people in Britain and around the world. (more)

South Korea's President to visit Iran for 1st summit talks
18 April 2016 - South Korean President Park Geun-hye is to visit Iran early next month for what would be the two countries' first summit talks. Park's office said Monday that she will visit Iran from May 1-3 for talks with her Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani. It said the leaders would discuss regional issues including the Korean Peninsula and ways to promote bilateral ties. (more)

Turkey and Iran seek closer economic cooperation
16 April 2016 - Turkey and Iran agreed Saturday to boost economic cooperation between their neighboring nations, aiming to triple their trade to reach $30 billion annually, Turkey's President said. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, speaking Saturday at a joint press conference in Ankara, prioritized banking cooperation and easing custom duties to foster investment and increased trade. They also hope to boost tourism between their citizens. (more)

Refugee teachers go back to school to train for work in Germany
14 April 2016 - Syrian asylum seeker Alaa Kassab can't believe her luck. Four months after arriving in Germany, the 23-year-old English instructor has joined a programme that gives refugee teachers German lessons and qualifies them to work in German schools. Some politicians argue the record influx could help alleviate a labour shortage caused partly by the ageing of the population, but many newcomers lack the training and language skills that Europe's largest economy needs. (more)


Success of Maharishi's Programmes
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Rio de Janeiro's elite police learning Transcendental Meditation in preparation for 2016 Olympics
24 November 2015 - With Olympic Games just a year ahead, the pressure is mounting on Rio de Janeiro police. Security has remained a major challenge in preparation for the grand international event. To prevent stress-induced burnout, last week a group of 400 Rio police officers started a course of Transcendental Meditation. An official explained that a policeman who is less stressed will have a better capacity to make decisions. If TM is proven to reduce the stress, the goal is to expand teaching the technique to the whole troop. The courses are supported by the David Lynch Foundation, which was founded to prevent and eradicate the effects of traumatic, toxic stress among at-risk populations. (more)

US: Women's Prison Association brings Transcendental Meditation to women with criminal justice involvement
28 October 2015 - The Women's Prison Association, a social service organization based in New York City that works with women at all stages of criminal justice involvement, has partnered with the David Lynch Foundation to offer Transcendental Meditation to clients and staff. One participant says, 'I meditate everyday, twice a day. I see the benefits everyday when dealing with my child or anyone else. I have more patience and understanding. I have more energy. Since meditation, my sugar levels have regulated (I am diabetic). It seems like everything has fallen into place. . . .' (more)

1001 Benefits of Transcendence
11 January 2015 - For the past five years, Blaze Compton and colleagues have been teaching inmates in several major US state prisons to practise Transcendental Meditation. 'Just 16 weeks of transcending is enough to begin a major reordering of the brain and nervous system to a more normal style of functioning that dramatically supports pro-social thinking and behavior,' he says. Mr Compton presents an extensive collection of research articles on TM ('1001 Benefits of Transcending'), 211 research institutions that have investigated TM, and 176 medical and scientific journals that have published research on the technique. (more)

Meditation sessions a hit in US Congress
25 October 2014 - The success of programmes for veterans and other at-risk groups has inspired a congressional leader to organize meditation sessions for people working in Washington, DC at the US Congress. Rep Tim Ryan began the meditation sessions, which he calls, 'Quiet Time Caucus' two years ago and the New York Post is calling the sessions 'wildly popular' with members of Congress and staffers.
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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)


Flops
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Firms that paid for Clinton speeches have US gov't interests
21 April 2016 - It's not just Wall Street banks. Most companies and groups that paid Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to speak between 2013 and 2015 have lobbied federal agencies in recent years, and more than one-third are government contractors, an Associated Press review has found. Their interests are sprawling and would follow Clinton to the White House should she win election this fall. The AP's review of federal records, regulatory filings, and correspondence showed that almost all the 82 corporations, trade associations, and other groups that paid for or sponsored Clinton's speeches have actively sought to sway the government -- lobbying, bidding for contracts, commenting on federal policy, and in some cases contacting State Department officials or Clinton herself during her tenure as secretary of state. (more)

Ecuador quake toll rises to 350; rebuilding to cost billions
18 April 2016 - Ecuador's earthquake death toll rose to 350 on Monday as rescuers hunted for survivors, victims clamored for aid, and looting broke out in the Andean nation's shattered coastal region. (more)

North Koreans: Brutal work abroad better than life back home
12 April 2016 - One North Korean who worked abroad says that as a waitress in China, she was forced to put up with male customers who groped her and tried to get her drunk. Two others recall the frozen bodies of their countrymen stored in Russian logging camps. Another says he toiled for up to 16 hours a day at a Kuwaiti construction site surrounded by wire fences. As difficult as those lives were, the four workers told The Associated Press, it beat staying in the North. North Korea has sent tens of thousands of workers abroad with a mission to bring in foreign currency. Human-rights organizations have called those workers modern-day slaves, while also decrying human-rights abuses North Koreans face back home. To the workers themselves, there is little debate about which plight is more favorable. The average monthly wage for ordinary North Korean workers is less than $1, according to defectors. (more)

US: Most voters say 'meh' -- at best -- on the Presidential field
12 April 2016 - Most American voters say 'meh' -- at best -- about the 2016 field of Presidential candidates in both parties. That's according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll, which shows that a majority of Americans believe none of the remaining candidates for President represents their opinions at least somewhat well. At least half of Americans say they would be disappointed or even angry if either of the front-runners -- Donald Trump for the Republicans or Hillary Clinton for the Democrats -- are nominated, the survey shows. Among all registered voters, 63 percent say they wouldn't consider voting for Trump and half say the same about Clinton. (more)

Why is Honduras the world's deadliest country for environmentalists?
7 April 2016 - Honduras now has the highest murder rate for environmental activists in the world, and conflict over land rights is the primary driver. Rampant inequality, a weak judicial system, cozy relationships between political and business elites, and near total impunity for crimes against human rights defenders have contributed to 101 murders of environmental activists between 2010 and 2014, according to the British NGO Global Witness. It's an upward trend: there were three times as many killings in 2012 as a decade earlier, and 2015 is likely to be the deadliest year on record for environmental defenders in Honduras, according to Billy Kyte, author of a 2015 report by Global Witness spotlighting the dangers faced by activists. 'The environment is the new battleground for human rights, and disputes over land form the backdrop to almost all the killings,' says Kyte. The Global North's 'rapacious demand' for natural resources is fueling conflict on indigenous lands throughout the developing world, says Kyte. But in Honduras, corruption, organized crime, political instability, and increasingly militarized policing have created a particularly acute crisis. (more)

Bangladesh failing to spare millions from arsenic poisoning
6 April 2016 - An estimated 20 million people in Bangladesh are still being poisoned by arsenic-tainted water -- a number that has remained unchanged from 10 years ago despite years of action to dig new wells at safer depths, according to a new report released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch. The New York-based rights group blames nepotism and neglect by Bangladeshi officials, saying they're deliberately having new wells dug in areas convenient for friends, family members, and political supporters and allies, rather than in places where arsenic contamination is highest or large numbers of poor villagers are being exposed. Arsenic also kills about 45,000 Bangladeshis every year. Scientists first discovered arsenic in Bangladesh's groundwater in 1993, sounding alarm bells worldwide about a massive public health crisis pouring from the millions of hand-cranked tube wells tapping water from underground. (more)

Poverty in Russia rising at fastest pace since 1990s turmoil
6 April 2016 - Poverty is rising in Russia at the fastest pace since the dark days of financial and political crisis in the 1990s, the World Bank warned Wednesday. The organization, which slashed its economic growth forecasts, said 20.3 million people are this year expected to be living at or below the official poverty level of 9,662 rubles ($142) a month. Last month, the Russian statistics service said the number of people officially living in poverty spiked nearly 20 percent in 2015 to 19.2 million -- some 13 percent of the population. (more)

Brazil justice orders impeachment process for VP, heightens crisis
5 April 2016 - A Supreme Court judge ordered Brazil's Congress on Tuesday to start impeachment proceedings against Vice President Michel Temer, deepening a political crisis and uncertainty over leadership of Latin America's largest country. Justice Marco Aurelio Mello told the lower house to convene an impeachment committee to consider putting Temer on trial on charges he helped manipulate budget accounting as part of President Dilma Rousseff's administration. Mello, who has a record of controversial decisions that later have been overturned by the full court, criticized the shelving of a request to impeach the vice president by lower house Speaker Eduardo Cunha, who in December launched impeachment proceedings against Rousseff on the same grounds. (more)

Iceland's leader resigns, first casualty of Panama Papers
5 April 2016 - Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson resigned on Tuesday, becoming the first casualty of leaked documents from a Panamanian law firm which have shone a spotlight on the offshore wealth of politicians and public figures worldwide. According to media that have seen Mossack Fonseca's files, more than half of the 200,000 companies set up by the firm were registered in the British Virgin Islands, where details of ownership do not have to be filed with the authorities. Panama is one of the most secretive of the world's offshore havens and has refused to sign up to a global transparency initiative. U.S. President Barack Obama said the Panama Papers showed tax avoidance was a major problem and urged the U.S. Congress to take action to stop U.S. companies from taking advantage of loopholes allowing them to avoid paying taxes. 'We've had another reminder in this big dump of data coming out of Panama that tax avoidance is a big, global problem,' President Obama told reporters. 'It's not unique to other countries because frankly there are folks here in America that are taking advantage of this same stuff. A lot of it's legal, but that's exactly the problem.' (more)

US: Control of state courts becomes a top political battleground
3 April 2016 - Much attention is being paid to the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy, but equally partisan battles are being waged for control of state courts around the nation. In states where voters elect Supreme Court judges, millions of dollars are being spent to reshape the courts for years to come. Lawmakers also are weighing changes to their systems of electing, appointing, or retaining judges, mostly trying to limit the power of state courts to overrule them. (more)

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