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China: Smog-hit Beijing plans 'green necklace' to block pollution
24 March 2017 - Beijing and the surrounding province of Hebei will plant trees, establish green belts, and make use of rivers and wetlands to create a 'green necklace' to protect China's smog-hit capital from pollution, the Hebei government said on Thursday. The city has also promised to curtail coal consumption and decommissioned its last coal-fired power plant earlier this month. (more)

Europe poised for total ban on bee-harming pesticides
24 March 2017 - The world's most widely used insecticides would be banned from all fields across Europe under draft regulations from the European commission, seen by the Guardian news. The documents are the first indication that the powerful commission wants a complete ban and cite 'high acute risks to bees'. A ban could be in place this year if the proposals are approved by a majority of EU member states. (more)

Night parrot sighting in Western Australia shocks birdwatching world (+ ABC News video)
24 March 2017 - A group of four birdwatchers from Broome has photographed Australia's most mysterious bird, the night parrot, in Western Australia. The men's discovery is the first confirmed sighting of a night parrot in Western Australia for nearly a century. There have been other rumours of sightings throughout the 2000s, but no evidence accompanied them. (more)

Access to nature reduces depression and obesity, finds European study
23 March 2017 - People living close to trees and green spaces are less likely to be obese, inactive, or dependent on anti-depressants, according to a new report. Overall, nature is an under-recognised healer, the paper says, offering multiple health benefits from allergy reductions to increases in self-esteem and mental wellbeing. (more)

Ganges and Yamuna rivers granted same legal rights as human beings
23 March 2017 - The Ganges river, considered sacred by more than 1 billion Indians, has become the first non-human entity in India to be granted the same legal rights as people. A court in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand ordered on Monday (20 March) that the Ganges and its main tributary, the Yamuna, be accorded the status of living human entities. ... The court in the Himalayan resort town of Nainital appointed three officials to act as legal custodians responsible for conserving and protecting the rivers and their tributaries. It ordered that a management board be established within three months. (more)

Night parrot sighting confirmed in Western Australia for first time in 100 years
23 March 2017 - A night parrot has been photographed in Western Australia, adding another twist to the mysterious history of the species that was presumed extinct until it was rediscovered in Queensland four years ago. It is the first verified sighting of the bird in WA for almost 100 years...The discovery was made by a group of four friends from Broome who have dedicated the better part of seven years to locating the bird, examining detailed maps, trekking into likely habitats, and spending evenings in the state's arid interior listening for unusual bird calls. (more)

Solar boreholes, irrigated crops throw lifeline to Kenyan herders
22 March 2017 - At the only borehole with water for miles around, the troughs are under siege in Saretho village as hundreds of camels, cattle, sheep, and goats await their turn. On the other side of the solar-powered well, women and children fetch water for household use ... Two years ago, the scene would have been different. Without the solar-powered pump they have now, the villagers found the local boreholes difficult and costly to operate. But since the Kenya Red Cross installed a solar system in 2014, they no longer have problems getting water. Elsewhere in the county, a group of former pastoralists have taken to growing fruit and vegetables. Its chairman Mathar Shale said he hasn't kept livestock since he started planting bananas, tomatoes, and cabbages. 'I can earn 70,000 shillings ($680) in a good month,' he said. (more)

Dubai completes solar plant to power 50,000 homes
22 March 2017 - Dubai today [20 March] completed a solar plant big enough to power 50,000 homes as part of a plan to generate three-quarters of its energy from renewables by 2050. The 200 megawatt plant sprawls over 4.5 square kilometres of desert and includes some 2.3 million photovoltaic panels. The project is the 'largest and first solar power project of its kind in the region', said Dubai Electricity and Water Authority chief Saeed al-Tayer. Dubai is part of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, but has few oil reserves itself. (more)

UK group expanding campaign to curb antibiotics in meat production
22 March 2017 - A shareholder coalition founded in the U.K. is recruiting investors for a campaign to convince KFC parent Yum Brands Inc and other [US] food companies to protect public health and corporate profits by reducing the use of antibiotics in the meat they serve in the United States and around the world. Members noted that chains like Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc and McDonald's USA have used strict antibiotic policies to elevate their brands. (more)

US: When CVS stopped selling cigarettes, some customers quit smoking
22 March 2017 - The US retail pharmacy company CVS Health helped its customers quit smoking by pulling cigarettes off the shelves two years ago, a new study suggests. Smokers who purchased cigarettes exclusively at CVS stores were 38 percent less likely to buy tobacco after the national chain stopped selling cigarettes, the study shows. (more)

US: Go natural - Class teaches how to clean with green products
22 March 2017 - Homemade green cleaners are the topic of a workshop ... presented by Bluegrass Greensource [Kentucky]. It's part of a series called Green Living Lab, designed to teach specific environmentally friendly skills including sustainable cooking, starting native plants from seed, creating monarch butterfly way stations, litter abatement, traditional composting, and vermicomposting ... Most essential oils are natural disinfectants, said Deb Larkin, a Greensource environmental educator who will teach the class. They can be used in diffusers to kill airborne germs. Or put seven drops in one cup of warm water to wipe down surfaces in the kitchen. (more)

Stolen Van Gogh paintings back in Amsterdam after 14 years
21 March 2017 - Two paintings by Vincent Van Gogh were unveiled, barely damaged, at an Amsterdam museum on Tuesday, 14 years after they were stolen in a mafia heist. The works ... are from a period that was crucial to the post-impressionist master's development as a painter. 'They are back,' said Van Gogh museum director Axel Rueger ahead of the unveiling of the paintings, each valued by investigators on their recovery by Italian police six months ago at 50 million euros ($53.97 million). 'I never thought I'd be able to say these words.' (more)

LHC: Five new particles hold clues to sub-atomic glue
20 March 2017 - The Large Hadron Collider has discovered new sub-atomic particles that could help to explain how the centres of atoms are held together. Physicists had always believed the various types existed but had not been able to detect them -- until now. The discovery will shed light on the operation of the 'strong force', which glues the insides of atoms. (more)

Austria joins up charging points to boost electric car usage
20 March 2017 - Austria is creating a nationwide network of charging stations for electric cars, making it easier for drivers to charge up as part of the country's efforts to promote the vehicles to reduce CO2 emissions. The move means drivers can sign up with any one of the 11 suppliers and use all the stations within the combined network, rather than have separate contracts with each company. (more)

Happiness report: Norway is the happiest place on Earth
20 March 2017 - Norway is the happiest place on Earth, according to a United Nations agency report...The World Happiness Report measures 'subjective well-being' -- how happy the people are, and why. It looks at factors including economic strength (measured in GDP per capita), social support, life expectancy, freedom of choice, generosity, and perceived corruption. The World Happiness Report was released to coincide with the United Nations' International Day of Happiness on 20 March. (more)

Norway tops global happiness report
20 March 2017 - Norway jumped to top spot in the World Happiness Report despite the plummeting price of oil -- a key part of its economy -- but researchers said it's the 'human things' that matter, such as a feeling of community which is strong in the Scandinavian country of 5 million. In the report on 155 countries, Denmark fell to second, followed by Iceland, Switzerland, and Finland. (more)

US: Dominion announces 2 solar energy projects in South Carolina
20 March 2017 - Dominion Resources Inc [has] announced two large-scale solar energy projects in South Carolina. The Jasper County projects are expected to be completed in 2017 and would expand company's operating solar fleet to 9 states and over 1,500 megawatts by end of this year. (more)

How to revive a 500-year-old dying language
19 March 2017 - Until two years ago, university student Kevin Martens Wong had never even heard of his ancestral tongue, let alone spoken it. The Singaporean linguist was researching endangered languages when he stumbled upon Kristang in a book. As he dug deeper, he realised it was the language of his maternal grandparents. But today there may be as little as 50 fluent speakers left, according to researchers' estimates. ... But Mr Wong and a group of language enthusiasts hope to change things. (more)

Ireland: Mythic creatures dance through Dublin on St. Patrick's Day
17 March 2017 - Performers dressed as colorful creatures from Irish myth and legend danced Friday down the chilly streets of Dublin as Ireland commemorated its national saint in a St. Patrick's Day parade witnessed by hundreds of thousands. The spectacle was heavy on artistic flair and worldwide connections, featuring marching bands from Germany, France, Switzerland, the Bahamas, and the U.S. states of Illinois, Indiana, Oregon, and Washington. Firefighters from Berkeley, California, and Westchester, New York, also marched. This week, Prime Minister Enda Kenny and 27 government ministers -- virtually the entire government -- left Ireland to promote the country's business, arts, and culture at more than 100 events in 27 nations. (more)

Eating fruits and vegetables may help curb lung disease
16 March 2017 - For current and former smokers, eating more fruits and vegetables may lower the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a Swedish study suggests. Among more than 40,000 men, the current smokers who averaged five or more servings of fruit and vegetables daily were 40 percent less likely to develop COPD than smokers who ate two servings or less. Each additional serving of fruits and greens was tied to an 8 percent risk reduction. (more)

LHCb observes an exceptionally large group of particles
16 March 2017 - The LHCb experiment at CERN is a hotbed of new and outstanding physics results. In just the last few months, the collaboration has announced the measurement of a very rare particle decay and evidence of a new manifestation of matter-antimatter asymmetry, to name just two examples. In a paper released today [16 March], the LHCb collaboration announced the discovery of a new system of five particles all in a single analysis. The exceptionality of this discovery is that observing five new states all at once is a rather unique event. The particles were found to be excited states -- a particle state that has a higher energy than the absolute minimum configuration (or ground state) -- of a particle called 'Omega-c-zero'. This (Omega-c-zero) is a baryon, a particle with three quarks, containing two 'strange' and one 'charm' quark. ... the discovery cannot be just a statistical fluke of data. The next step will be the determination of the quantum numbers of these new particles. (more)

New Zealand river granted same legal rights as human being
16 March 2017 - After 140 years of negotiation, Māori tribe wins recognition for Whanganui river, meaning it must be treated as a living entity. The local Māori tribe of Whanganui in the North Island has fought for the recognition of their river -- the third-largest in New Zealand -- as an ancestor for 140 years. Two guardians will be appointed to act on behalf of the Whanganui river, one from the crown and one from the Whanganui iwi. (more)

Sierra Leone pastor discovers 706-carat diamond
16 March 2017 - A Christian pastor has found one of the world's largest uncut diamonds -- weighing 706 carats -- in Sierra Leone's eastern Kono region. A local chief from Kono handed the stone to President Ernest Bai Koroma on behalf of Emmanuel Momoh who made the discovery. The government plans to auction it. (more)

US: Snow forces two congressmen on a bipartisan road trip from Texas to D.C. - singing along the way (+ Wash Post video)
15 March 2017 - Two Texas congressmen from different parties, one Chevy Impala, 1,600 miles, live-streamed. What could possibly go right? . . . Just hours earlier, the men weren't much more than colleagues, brought together ... because they shared a common predicament and destination. A blizzard in the northeast had canceled (Will) Hurd's flight back to Washington and delayed (Beto) O'Rourke's. They were due in the House for floor votes by 6 p.m. Wednesday. So O'Rourke, who had spent Monday in San Antonio talking to veterans with Hurd, proposed a radical idea: a cross-country road trip, broadcast live via Periscope and Facebook for all of America. (more)

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