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A new opera star emerges from the 'vocal breadbasket' of South Africa
22 October 2016 - In recent years, South Africa's rich choral tradition has produced a wave of talented opera singers who are making their mark on the world stage. Soprano Pretty Yende wowed opera enthusiasts in 2013, when she debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, while bass-baritone Musa Ngqungwana will open next year's Glimmerglass Festival as Porgy in the American classic, 'Porgy and Bess.' Now, South Africa is pinning its hopes on another rising opera star - 25-year-old Noluvuyiso Mpofu. (more)

One of Australia's rarest plants, the spiny daisy, coming back from the brink at Riverland sites
22 October 2016 - It was once believed to be extinct, but the native spiny daisy is now blooming strongly across parts of South Australia's Riverland. A program to replenish the critically-endangered species started at Banrock Station in the Riverland in 2014. Wetland manager Christophe Tourenq said the program had been designed to bring the small, prickly plant back from the brink of actual extinction, and had so far enjoyed incredible success. 'It's one of the rarest plants in Australia and on Earth. There are only six [genetic] individuals left in the wild,' Mr. Tourenq said. 'We always talk about species disappearing and it's all doom and gloom, [but] I think the future is pretty bright.' (more)

UN: Wonder Woman has been appointed Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls
22 October 2016 - The comic book character Wonder Woman has been appointed Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls, in support of Sustainable Development Goal 5 -- to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. The Wonder Woman campaign will highlight what we can collectively achieve if women and girls are empowered -- along with examples of women and girls who have made and are making a difference every day by overcoming barriers and beating the odds to reach their goals. (more)

Soyuz capsule docks with international space station
21 October 2016 - A Soyuz space capsule carrying astronauts from Russia and the United States has docked with the International Space Station after a two-day voyage. The docking took place smoothly Friday and the crew entered the space laboratory after a lengthy procedure to open its hatches. The mission is set to last four months. (more)

Serbia: Pianists in the spotlight at Belgrade's classical festival
21 October 2016 - Now in its 48th year, the Belgrade Music Festival, BEMUS, will again showcase some of the best classical musicians, including works by young Serbian talents as well as the great composers. All the great masters will be covered, including performances of pieces by Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Brahms, Stravinsky, Debussy, and many more. (more)

US: Conservative desert town on the cusp of emerging solar trend
21 October 2016 - The city of Lancaster, California requires solar on new homes. San Francisco is California's biggest city to approve a solar requirement. It follows others. The city wants to cut greenhouse gases in the city 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. In addition to other efforts on reducing waste and switching buses to clean transportation, San Francisco wants to increase the use of electric vehicles. (more)

Ecuador: These solar panels pull clean drinking water straight from the air
20 October 2016 - When a family in Guayaquil, Ecuador turns on the tap for a glass of water, it doesn't flow from city pipes -- there are no city pipes. Instead, a new type of solar panel in the backyard turns moisture in the air into clean drinking water and sends it inside the family's simple bamboo home. 'We started this company to provide water to everyone, everywhere,' says Cody Friesen, CEO of Zero Mass, the startup making the new solar panel, called Source. (more)

Investing in girls could unlock billions of dollars for national economies - UN agency
20 October 2016 - Developing countries could reap a dividend of $21 billion a year if all 10-year-old girls completed secondary education, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said in a report. 'Education is the world's best investment. Whenever a girl's potential goes unrealized, we all lose,' Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of UNFPA, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview. (more)

US: A vision for a Chicago unified by rivers
20 October 2016 - As the 15-year Chicago Riverwalk project draws to a close, the city hopes to use its waterways to bridge neighborhoods. Since the first section opened in 2009, the Riverwalk has pulled visitors to its many new restaurants and bars and public sites, like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza. Carol Ross Barney, the founder of Ross Barney Architects, worked with Sasaki Associates on the design for the project. In a press release, Ross Barney said that the goal of the Riverwalk is to 'return the river to Chicago and return Chicagoans to the river.' (more)

US: Puget Sound in line for environmental health boost
20 October 2016 - Advocates for a healthier Puget Sound have long contented that it needs to be treated as a nationally significant water body, just like the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay. And the first big step toward that goal was taken Tuesday. Officials from the Obama Administration joined Washington's Governor Jay Inslee, tribal leaders and members of the state's congressional delegation in Seattle for the announcement that they would be coordinating efforts to improve the health of the Northwest's inland sea. That includes putting a combined $800 million into various environmental projects. (more)

US: Tesla to make all its new cars self-driving
20 October 2016 - Electric carmaker Tesla says all cars it now builds will have hardware needed to drive completely on their own. Tesla founder Elon Musk said its hardware was 'basically a super-computer in a car,' but added it would be up to regulators and the public to decide when self-driving vehicles could actually be used on the roads. (more)

Netherlands: Falling crime rates and prison closures
19 October 2016 - The closure of five prisons in as many years against the background of a falling crime rate, is the kind of news many governments would give their eye teeth for, but opinions are mixed depending on politics and point-of-view. The official figures indicate that recorded crime has been falling for around a decade. Between 2014 and 2015, the most recent year for which statistics are available, recorded crime was down by nearly 5%, according to national statistics office CBS -- statistics Netherlands. In total, recorded crime has shrunk by 25% over the past eight years. (more)

Yemen: UN envoy announces restoration of nationwide cessation of hostilities
19 October 2016 - On 17 October, the United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, announced a plan for the resumption of a comprehensive cessation of hostilities in the war-torn Gulf nation. Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed welcomed the restoration of the cessation of hostilities, and he called on all Yemeni parties, the region, and the international community to encourage full respect for the cessation of hostilities and to ensure that it leads to a permanent and lasting end to the conflict. (more)

Sweden: Art raises awareness about humanity's impact on nature
18 October 2016 - A growing body of artwork addressing climate change includes exhibits at the Artipelag in Stockholm, Sweden where sustainable design is used. At the Artipelag in Stockholm, exhibits such as one showcasing sustainable design are hosted in a building that regulates its temperature with a heat exchange system using seawater. Glass expanses bathe galleries in natural light, cutting down on electricity use. 'You have to start in your everyday life and make small changes,' says Bo Nilsson, director of Artipelag's exhibition hall. (more)

US: Philadelphia's prison system is fighting food waste and recidivism with an organic farm
17 October 2016 - Sustainability has not been a high priority in most prison systems. But in 2011, the National Institute of Corrections began encouraging 'the greening of correctional facilities' through actions on energy consumption, waste, and re-use, and offering incarcerated people green job training. The Washington State Department of Corrections was an early leader on all these fronts with its Sustainability in Prisons Project and, now, sustainability is becoming a reality in Philadelphia, too. These institutions, which didn't even recycle a decade ago, now boast a state-of-the-art composting system, a farm, and an organic agriculture vocational program through which inmates earn certificates from Temple University. (more)

US: Young girl takes the stage to urge Native values of taking care of land, each other
17 October 2016 - In a soft, clear voice, an 11-year-old girl from a small village on Kodiak Island described a vision Monday for living Alaska Native values, for embracing environmental causes, and for connecting with other people in this electronic age. She gave the opening keynote speech for the First Alaskans Institute Elders and Youth Conference held in Fairbanks, Alaska. (more)

US: High school graduation rate hits record high of 83.2 percent
17 October 2016 - The nation's high school graduation rate has reached a record 83.2 percent, continuing a steady increase that shows improvement across all racial and ethnic groups, according to federal data released Monday. President Barack Obama welcomed the higher rate as good news . . . [but] also emphasized there was more work to do. The White House said money invested through a grant program called Race to the Top has helped improve some of the nation's lowest-performing schools. (more)

Nearly 200 nations agree binding deal to cut greenhouse gases
15 October 2016 - Nearly 200 nations have agreed a legally binding deal to cut back on greenhouse gases used in refrigerators and air conditioners, a major move against climate change that prompted loud cheers when it was announced on Saturday. The deal, which includes the world's two biggest economies, the United States and China, divides countries into three groups with different deadlines to reduce the use of factory-made hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) gases, which can be 10,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as greenhouse gases. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the deal was 'a monumental step forward' as he left the talks in the Rwandan capital of Kigali late on Friday. (more)

Cave etchings 14,500 years old found in northern Spain
15 October 2016 - More than 50 cave etchings thought to be around 14,500 years old have been found in the northern Spanish town of Lekeitio. Bizkaia regional official Unai Rementeria announced the discovery in a press conference Thursday, saying the etchings were ... 'of exceptional technical quality and visibility.' He said experts have praised the etchings as the 'most spectacular' in the Iberian peninsula. (more)

Nations reach deal to reduce HFCs, environmental groups say
14 October 2016 - Environmental groups early Saturday said nations have reached a deal to limit the use of greenhouse gases far more powerful than carbon dioxide as part of efforts to fight climate change. At issue are hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which are used in air conditioners and refrigerators and have been described as the world's fastest-growing climate pollutants. (more)

Banning the 'super' greenhouse gas
14 October 2016 - Hydrofluorocarbons were meant to be an environmentally friendly replacement to their ozone-depleting predecessors, CFCs -- but HFCs have since proved disastrous for climate change. Now, countries are aiming for a ban. It would be a historic achievement in the fight against global warming: Envoys from around 150 nations signed up to the Montreal Protocol have been gathered for a high-level meeting in the Rwandan capital Kigali this week, trying to strike a crucial deal to phase out the use of the potent greenhouse gas, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs are compounds consisting of hydrogen, fluorine, and carbon atoms, produced synthetically and used primarily for cooling. (more)

Early editions of Shakespeare's plays get rare public view
14 October 2016 - The public is getting a rare peek at first and early editions of some of William Shakespeare's most beloved plays. The Boston Public Library's free exhibition opens on Friday. The library holds a copy of the so-called 'First Folio,' the earliest published collection of Shakespeare's works. The last time the library showcased many of the materials was 100 years ago. (more)

Experiment to weigh 'ghost particles' starts in Germany
14 October 2016 - Scientists in Germany have flipped the switch on a 60 million euro ($66 million) machine designed to help determine the mass of the universe's lightest particle. The Karlsruhe Tritium Neutrino experiment, or KATRIN, began tests Friday and is expected to begin making actual measurements next year. Physicists hope the device will narrow down or even pinpoint the actual mass of neutrinos. (more)

Thailand: People pay respects to Thai King at Grand Palace
14 October 2016 - Buddhist ceremonies began Friday in Bangkok's Grand Palace complex for King Bhumibol Adulyadej before his body is displayed for people to pay respects to the revered monarch. Most Thais have known no other King. Bhumibol, the world's longest-reigning monarch, had been on the throne for 70 years. Television channels were running non-stop programs devoted to the life of the King. Although a constitutional monarch, Bhumibol wielded enormous political power and served as a unifying figure during Thailand's numerous political crises. He anchored the Southeast Asian country . . . with a blend of majesty and a common touch. So revered was Bhumibol that his portraits are displayed in virtually every Thai home and business, generally depicting him in arduous travels to remote villages, where he often went to see the situation of his subjects first hand. (more)

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