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European Union to open its third Gulf delegation in Kuwait 

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But the move is also strategic for Europe, given its desire to be closer to key negotiations affecting stability in the region. Kuwait and the EU broadly see eye to eye on the issue of the Qatar blockade, launched in 2017 by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. Kuwait, which did not take part in the blockade, maintains smooth relations with Doha and has made several attempts to mediate between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors in attempts to quell the conflict, though so far to no avail.

“Kuwait has shown willingness to play a diplomatic role in some of the most complex contexts in the region including Qatar and Yemen,” Cinzia Bianco, GCC analyst at London-based Gulf State Analytics, told CNBC Thursday. These are issues that are of high importance to Europe, but in which it lacks significant means to have a real impact, she said. “Therefore, closer coordination with Kuwait for the EU is also a way to stay closer to negotiations on key issues.”

Kuwait also shares the EU’s desire for a stable and economically developed Iraq, and it hosted the International Conference for the reconstruction of Iraq in February of this year. The country of 4 million was the victim of a brutal invasion by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1990, but 15 years after his ouster is pledging billions of dollars toward its reconstruction, seeking to prevent further instability that it fears could spill over its borders.

Importantly, the country lacks the sectarian agenda often ascribed to regional powers Saudi Arabia and Iran, and prides itself on the relative harmony between its Sunni and Shia communities, the latter of which constitutes around 40 percent of its population.

“Kuwait regards the tuning down of sectarianism in Iraq and the region as highly beneficial for its own stability and is, to that end, willing to at least have a conversation with Iran,” Bianco said. “The EU also regards the tuning down of sectarianism as crucial to stability in the region.”

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Trump nominates Kelly Knight Craft as UN ambassador

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Kelly Craft, U.S. ambassador to Canada, speaks during Fortune's Most Powerful Women International Summit in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Kelly Craft, U.S. ambassador to Canada, speaks during Fortune’s Most Powerful Women International Summit in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

President Donald Trump on Friday announced that he intended to nominate Kelly Knight-Craft, the current U.S. envoy to Canada and a former businesswoman, to the vacant post of United Nations ambassador.

Posting on Twitter, the president said that Craft would do “an outstanding job representing our nation and I have no doubt that, under her leadership, our Country will be represented at the highest level.”

If confirmed, Craft, a GOP donor and a Kentucky native, will fill the post vacated by former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who drew frequent praise as an aggressive defender of U.S. interests at the world body. Haley, who was the Trump administration’s highest-ranking woman, was a relentless critic of Russia and Syria.

Craft became a front-runner for the position based on a recommendation by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. She helped facilitate the high-stakes renegotiations of the trade pact between the United States, Mexico and Canada, and once served as a member of the US delegation to the UN General Assembly under President George W. Bush. She is also friends with McConnell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

–Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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Vertical farming could transform the way our greens are grown

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We all know that a bowl of fresh green salad represents a healthy addition to any meal. And while the benefits of eating your greens are well-known, the way that they’re grown is changing.

Vertical indoor farming is becoming popular, with an increasing number of businesses using the technique to grow produce such as salad leaves and micro herbs.

One such company is Crop One Holdings, which is headquartered in San Mateo, California. The business recently launched a $40 million joint venture with Emirates Flight Catering.

The aim is to build the planet’s largest “vertical farming facility” in Dubai and produce herbicide and pesticide free greens. That farm, according to the business, will produce three tons of produce per day.

Crop One Holdings’ production technique is advantageous for several reasons, according to its CEO.

“Most field grown produce is grown in soil and we don’t use any soil, we only use water as our growth medium,” Sonia Lo told CNBC’s Sustainable Energy. “That means that we can have quite precise control on the nutrients,” she added.

The company’s chief scientific officer, Deane Falcone, echoed Lo’s sentiment. “Being indoors you have the ability to control all the environmental variables, for example temperature, humidity (and) carbon dioxide levels that we feed to the plants.”

Having control over those variables meant that producers could control the way plants grow, Falcone added. “The second thing is that you can grow at very high density and… that leads to a very high output for the same amount of growth area.”

Indeed, the business says that just one of its 320 square foot “growing units” can act as a substitute for as much as 19 acres of farmland, using less water than “field-based growing.”

CEO Sonia Lo added that in terms of productivity, Crop One Holdings’ facilities can produce 32 harvests per year, on average, compared to a field-based farmer’s “one or two” harvests.

For the University of Cambridge’s Steve Evans, changes in the agriculture sector are set to play an important role going forward.

“In a world where there’s a large number of people and they’re becoming increasingly prosperous and they want to eat more and more rich diets, we have to learn how to grow the food with the land that’s available,” Evans, who is director of research in industrial sustainability at the university’s Institute of Manufacturing, explained to CNBC.

“The world isn’t expanding, so we’re going to go vertical simply because of that need,” he added.

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Virgin Galactic astronauts describe ‘surreal’ spaceflight

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This was Virgin Galactic’s second revenue generating flight, Whitesides told CNBC. Thanks to the NASA payloads on board this flight and the previous one in December, his company is already beginning to reap the benefits of their efforts.

“Now we can be flying on a rapid basis, and we think it’s really exciting for science and obviously it’s a great thing for our business as well,” Whitesides said.

Part of the advantage of using rapid reusable spaceflight “is that people can get access to their experiments and their technologies right after we land and they can be looking at their data a few minutes after we land,” he added.

Branson’s company is now a step ahead of fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos in the space tourism business. Bezos’ company Blue Origin is in the final stages of testing its New Shepard rocket. He recently addressed the budding competition,saying “one of the issues” Virgin Galactic must address “is that they are not flying above the Karman Line, not yet.” The Karman Line is 100 kilometers of altitude, an internationally recognized boundary of space.

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo flies above 80 kilometers, a boundary which the U.S. military and NASA use to recognize astronauts. When asked about those various definitions, Whitesides pointed to the opportunity that Virgin Galactic is offering.

“I think that there are folks who would love to fly, and who recognize that the only other way to do this right now is flying with the Russians and paying $50 to $70 million a seat,” Whitesides said.

“So the idea that you can go to space for some hundreds of thousands of dollars is an incredible value and it’s part of the revolution that’s going on in space as we literally make the costs by orders of magnitude,” he added.

“Opening up space is going to take up lots of companies and it’s going to take lots of innovation,” Whitesides said. “We need to fly more people because we think flying a lot of people into space is going to have a profound impact on the Earth.”

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