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Panasonic grappling with criticism to LGBT policy shift

TOKYO — Panasonic, the first major Japanese company to start recognizing same sex partnerships in its ranks, has gotten both praise and harshly negative responses to the new policy. "I never felt this much how different a response can get by nation," Tetsuya Senmatsu, a human resources manager, told reporters Friday, while declining to specify the nations where the change was poorly received. The policy was welcomed in the U.S. and Europe, he said. Panasonic Corp. has offices around the world, including the U.S., China, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The policy, which kicks off on April 1, recognizes same sex partnerships as the equivalent of marriage in Japan, where Panasonic Corp. is headquartered. Details of how the policy will be applied in each nation are still under consideration, he said. Senmatsu said the …

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SeaWorld to stop breeding orcas, making them perform tricks

ORLANDO, Florida — After years of pressure, SeaWorld made a surprise announcement: It no longer breeds killer whales in captivity and will soon stop making them leap from their pools or splash audiences on command. Surrendering Thursday to a profound shift in how people feel about using animals for entertainment, the SeaWorld theme parks have joined a growing list of industries dropping live animal tricks. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is retiring all of its touring elephants in May. Once-popular animal shows in Las Vegas have virtually disappeared. "Society's attitude toward these very, very large, majestic animals under human care has shifted for a variety of reasons, whether it's a film, legislation, people's comments on the Internet," SeaWorld Entertainment CEO Joel Manby said. "It wasn't worth fighting that. We needed …

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Victoria Beckham launches Hong Kong store

HONG KONG, China -- Fashion designer Victoria Beckham launched her first shop outside Britain in Hong Kong on Friday (March 18, 2016) as she seeks to tap the Asia market despite a downturn in luxury spending. Beckham's store in Hong Kong's Landmark building lies at the heart of the upmarket Central district, a cluster of high-end brands and five-star hotels. The British designer did a final check of the store on Friday morning as crowds of fans waited outside, before sweeping out in a fitted black turtleneck dress and oversized sunglasses, surrounded by security. Beckham's designs are already available in the region, which is the brand's fastest-growing market. Hong Kong is Beckham's first bricks and mortar store outside the UK, designed by London-based architect Farshid Moussavi. "The process wasn't easy... opening a store is a …

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What to know about the tropical Zika virus in Latin America

    By Mike Stobbe NEW YORK  — A rare tropical disease has become epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean. The mosquito-borne Zika virus usually causes a mild illness but is now suspected in an unusual birth defect and other health issues. Some things to know: WHAT IS ZIKA? The Zika (ZEE'-ka) virus was first discovered in monkeys in Uganda in 1947; its name comes from the Zika forest where it was first discovered. It showed up in Brazil last year and has since been seen in many Latin American countries and Caribbean islands. HOW IS IT SPREAD? It is mainly transmitted through bites from the same kind of mosquitoes that can spread other tropical diseases, like dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever. But investigators are also finding cases that have been passed on through sex. ARE …

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In fight against Zika, Brazil battles neglect, cash crunch

  By Joshua Goodman and Mauricio Savarese CAMPINA GRANDE, Brazil — In May, as the first cases of the Zika virus were being detected in Brazil, Rossandra Oliveira stopped receiving a critical tool she needed to do her job: insecticide. Monthly shipments from the government to her office at the epicenter of the outbreak stopped. Oliveira, who manages mosquito control for this city of 400,000, was left helpless. The shortages continued even after President Dilma Rousseff's government declared the mosquito-borne virus a national health emergency Nov. 11. It wasn't an isolated case. For several months last year cities and states on the front lines of the epidemic in Brazil's northeast ran out of larvicide, and supplies nationwide had to be rationed, according to interviews with local health officials and documents obtained by The Associated …

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Nothing ‘virtual’ about climate impact of emails, tweets

  by Marlowe Hood  Paris, France  -- Even as people the world over symbolically dim lights to fight global warming this Saturday, many will join email and social network campaigns that invisibly contribute to climate change. The 10th edition of Earth Day, origanized by the WWF and backed by other NGOs to raise awareness about the threat of climate change, will see landmark monuments -- from the Eiffel Tower to the Empire State building to Taipei 101 in Taiwan -- go dark at 8:30 p.m. local time. Individuals are also encouraged to participate and adjust lifestyles to trim their carbon footprints, thus incrementally reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that drive global warming. Biking or car-pooling to work, eating less meat, turning down the thermostat a notch in winter, becoming an 'eco-responsible' consumer -- these are some of …

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Guinea confirms 2 new Ebola cases, 3 probable in southeast

CONAKRY, Guinea — Two bodies tested positive for Ebola in Guinea, the government said Thursday, months after the outbreak was declared over in the West African country and hours after Sierra Leone announced the end of the recent flare-up of the virus there. The cases emerged from the same family out of Koropara, in the N'Zerekore prefecture, about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) southeast of Guinea's capital, Conakry, said Ibrahima Sylla, a spokesman for the national coordination for the fight against Ebola. Sylla said there are three other probable cases, and health authorities are taking appropriate measures to contain the spread. An emergency meeting will be held Friday with the Ministry of Health, said Dr. Sakoba Keita, the national coordinator of the fight against Ebola. Earlier Thursday, the deputy director general of the N'Zerekore …

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Air pollution alert for greater Mexico City lifted

MEXICO CITY — A four-day air pollution emergency alert in Mexico City was lifted Thursday after authorities ordered some cars off the road and atmospheric conditions improved. Even so, smog on the city's northern edge reached 1.3 times acceptable limits in the afternoon. Rafael Pacchiano, the federal environment secretary, said new pollution-control standards would be considered after the city's first pollution alert in 11 years. He said that a working group would be established to lower the threshold at which alerts are declared, and find ways to make it easier to detect polluting vehicles. Pacchiano also said Mexico City and neighboring Mexico State had reached an agreement over garbage disposal. The state had begun refusing to accept the city's garbage this week after Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera blamed surrounding states for sending pollution …

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N. Korea test fires two mid-range ballistic missiles

North Korea test fired what appeared to be two medium-range ballistic missiles on Friday, just days after leader Kim Jong-Un promised a series of nuclear warhead tests and missile launches. Military tensions have been soaring on the divided Korean peninsula since the North carried out its fourth nuclear test on January 6, followed a month later by a long-range rocket launch that was widely seen as a disguised ballistic missile test. US defence officials said they had tracked two launches -- both believed to be medium-range Rodong missiles fired from road-mobile launch vehicles. The Rodong is a scaled-up Scud variant with a maximum range of around 1,300 kilometres (800 miles). South Korean military officials said the first missile was launched from Sukchon in the country's southwest at 5:55 am (2055 GMT Thursday) and flew …

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Global temperatures soar, setting new heat record

Temperatures across the planet soared again last month, setting a new heat record for the warmest February since modern records began, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday, March 17, 2016. "The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for February 2016 was the highest for the month of February in the NOAA global temperature dataset record, which dates back to 1880," said a NOAA statement. With an average temperature that was 2.18 degrees Fahrenheit (1.21 Celsius) above the 20th century average, the month marked "the highest departure from average among all 1,646 months in the record." The latest heat record continues a string of troubling warming trends, which US government scientists say are driven by man-made climate change and the burning of fossil fuels that spew greenhouse gases into the …

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