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European Space Plane Set for February Launch

Europe's first-ever "space plane" will be launched on February 11 next year, rocket firm Arianespace said Friday after a three-month delay to fine-tune the mission flight plan.

The unmanned, car-sized vessel will be sent into low orbit by Europe's Vega light rocket, on a 100-minute fact-finding flight to inform plans to build a shuttle-like, reusable space vehicle.

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Nicaragua: Studies Say Canal Impact to be Minimal

Officials said Thursday that studies have determined a $40 billion inter-oceanic canal across Nicaragua will have minimal impact on the environment and society, and construction is to begin next month.

Work will start Dec. 22 as planned with a port on the country's southern Pacific coast, said Zhu Xiaoya, an official with China's HKND Group, which was picked to build the canal.

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Green Climate Fund Pledges Reach $9.3 Bn

Nations meeting in Berlin Thursday pledged $9.3 billion (7.4 bn euros) for a climate fund to help poor countries cut emissions and prepare for global warming, just shy of a $10bn target.

The South Korea-based Green Climate Fund (GCF) aims to help developing nations invest in clean energy and green technology and build up defences against rising seas and worsening storms, floods and droughts.

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Astronauts to Get 'ISSpresso' Coffee Machine

Ristretto or lungo? Not a question astronauts on the International Space Station normally have to contemplate, but that is about to change thanks to a new zero-gravity coffee machine being delivered this weekend.

The ISSpresso machine is set to boldly go to the orbital station this weekend, carried there by Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.

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Japanese Blueprint Sees Modern Atlantis Spiral Deep into Ocean

Forget colonies in space, one Japanese construction company says in the future human beings could live in huge complexes that corkscrew deep into the ocean.

Blue sky thinkers say around 5,000 people could live and work in a modern-day Atlantis, a sphere 500 meters (1,500 feet) in diameter that houses hotels, residential spaces and commercial complexes.

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Study: Banking Culture Creates the Crooks

A cesspool of fraud and lies in the banking industry has come to light since the financial crisis of 2008, raising questions about how such rogue behavior could have happened.

What caused traders, asset managers and others in the money business to behave dishonestly?

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Great Apes Facing 'Direct Threat' from Palm Oil Farming

The destruction of rainforests in Southeast Asia and increasingly in Africa to make way for palm oil cultivation is a "direct threat" to the survival of great apes such as the orangutan, environmentalists warned Thursday.

They said tropical forests were continuing to tumble at a rapid rate, with palm plantations a key driver, despite a decade-old drive by the industry's Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to encourage sustainable cultivation.

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Green Climate Fund Hopes to Raise Billions in Berlin

A meeting of donors in Berlin for a new global climate fund Thursday will aim to approach a $10-billion target to help poor countries cut emissions and prepare for global warming.

Hitting the initial financial goal for the so-called Green Climate Fund would be seen as a key step ahead of international talks in Peru next month, and in France a year later, on slashing worldwide carbon emissions.

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Australia PM Warns Global Climate Deal Must not Hit Economy

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Wednesday backed an "effective" climate pact being struck at global talks in France next year, but warned it could not come at the expense of the economy or jobs.

French President Francois Hollande, on a state visit to Australia, also laid out his aim of seeking the worldwide, binding agreement in Paris after world leaders failed to agree new curbs in Copenhagen in 2009.

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Small Volcanoes could Slow Global Warming

Small volcanic eruptions could be slowing global warming by spewing sulfur aerosols that reach the upper atmosphere and reflect sunlight away from the Earth, U.S. scientists said Tuesday.

Researchers have long known that volcanoes can protect against global warming, but they did not think that minor eruptions did much to the atmosphere.

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